Pakistan Is Not America's Enemy A sustained U.S.-Pakistani partnership after
the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan could have produced a very different
history than the one we wrestle with today.
- By RYAN CROCKER<http://online.wsj.com/search/term.html?KEYWORDS=RYAN+CROCKER&bylinesearch=true>
The news from Pakistan is grim. NATO helicopters engage suspected
militants inside Pakistan, killing three, only to discover they are
Pakistani soldiers. The angry Pakistani government blocks NATO fuel
shipments at the Khyber Pass, and militants attack the stalled trucks. An
Obama administration report to Congress charges that the Pakistanis aren't
doing enough against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Press accounts quote unnamed
officials asserting that elements in Pakistani intelligence are encouraging
the Taliban to step up attacks on NATO forces. And Bob Woodward cites
President Obama as saying "the cancer is in Pakistan."
One could easily conclude that we are describing an enemy, not an ally. Many
in Pakistan feel the same way. And yet the prospects for stabilizing
Afghanistan, defeating al Qaeda and preventing further attacks on the United
States are a direct function of that strained alliance. It is time for a
collective deep breath.
Pakistan's historical narrative focuses on how the U.S. worked with
Pakistanis and Afghans to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s:
We succeeded—and then we left. And on our way out, we slapped sanctions on
Pakistan, ending all security and economic assistance because of the
country's nuclear program, which we had known about since 1974 when
Pakistan's prime minister announced it publicly. We left Pakistan alone to
deal with a destabilizing civil war in Afghanistan, and when the Taliban
emerged as a dominant force in the mid-1990s, Islamabad supported them as a
means of ending the conflict.
Then came 9/11 and the U.S. was back. Pakistanis welcomed the renewed
assistance. But a constant question I heard while serving as ambassador to
Pakistan from 2004-2007 was "How long will you stay this time, and what mess
will you leave us with when you go?" For a fragile state with innumerable
problems, including a vicious internal insurgency, these are existential
Never in Pakistan's six decades of existence has the U.S. sustained a
long-term, strategic commitment in the country. The Bush administration
recognized this and enacted security and economic assistance programs
designed to make a long-term difference in education, health care and
governance. In 2006, I argued successfully for a five-year assistance
package for Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which are
notable both for chronic underdevelopment and extremism. The Obama
administration has built on this, and last year's Kerry-Lugar bill provided
$7.5 billion in assistance over five years. So we have the architecture in
place to build a strategic relationship.
Still, short-term pressures risk undermining long-term strategy. When I was
ambassador, voices in Congress, the media and even the administration were
constantly calling for the U.S. to get tough on Pakistan, make Pakistanis do
more, threaten them with consequences. Such exhortations were—and
remain—generally counterproductive, as they fuel fears that the U.S. will
again abandon Pakistan.
The U.S. can better work with Pakistan if we improve our understanding of
history: Given its rivalry with India and its organic disunity, which dates
back to its founding, Pakistan fears for its basic survival. The country has
always had a difficult relationship with Afghanistan, not least because in
the 19th century the British deliberately drew the Pakistani-Afghan border,
the so-called Durand Line, in order to divide the Pashtun people. Today
Pashtuns make up Afghanistan's largest community, but there are more
Pashtuns in Pakistan.
The Durand Line also set the groundwork for the tribal areas, which are
legally distinct from the rest of Pakistan because the British could never
exert direct control over them. No central authority ever has. Winston
Churchill's first published work, "The Story of the Malakand Field Force,"
is about fierce tribesmen declaring jihad against a Western army. It could
be a contemporary account.
So what does this mean in concrete terms?
First, the U.S. should appreciate Pakistan's challenges and support its
government in dealing with them. This summer's devastating floods have
disappeared from the U.S. media but will continue to wreak havoc in Pakistan
for a long time to come. In 2005 and 2006, after an earthquake in Kashmir
killed almost 80,000 Pakistanis, the U.S. organized the largest relief
operation since the Berlin Airlift. The floods' death toll is lower, but
their long-term damage will be far greater. U.S. support should be
Second, the U.S. should not carry out cross-border military actions, which I
strongly resisted as ambassador. They are clearly counterproductive, and not
just because we hit the wrong target. If NATO can carry out military actions
in Pakistan from the west, Pakistanis wonder, what stops India from doing
the same from the east? There are other options, including drone strikes,
which the U.S. is now coordinating more closely with Pakistanis.
Third, with Pakistan's government (as with Afghanistan's), we must be
private in our criticism and public in our support. Private talks should
deepen regarding challenges like the insurgent Haqqani network in North
Waziristan, and we need to listen at least as much as we lecture.
Fourth, any talks between the U.S. or Afghanistan and the Taliban must be
transparent to the Pakistanis. A nightmare for Islamabad is the prospect
that the Americans and Afghans come to some accommodation with Taliban
elements that would leave them hostile to Pakistan. If Pakistan is not part
of the process, we will be working at cross-purposes and only the Taliban
Pakistan's arrest of Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar—at a time when he
had begun reconciliation talks with Afghan authorities—underscored the risks
of leaving Islamabad out of the loop. Going forward, the timing and nature
of talks with the Taliban should be set by Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans
None of this will be easy, but it is essential. A sustained U.S.-Pakistani
partnership after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan could have produced
a very different history than the one we wrestle with today. Writing a
different future requires making long-term commitments—on both sides of the
*Mr. Crocker, the dean of Texas A&M's George Bush School of Government and
Public Service, was U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007 and U.S.
ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009. *
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