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Obama's Pakistan Policy





adamprisa
A consensus is emerging among intelligence analysts and pundits that Pakistan may be President-elect Barack Obama's greatest policy challenge. A base for terrorist groups, the country has a fragile new civilian government and a long history of military coups. The dramatic attack on Mumbai by members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Tayiba, the continued Taliban insurgency on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the frailty of the new civilian government, and the country's status as a nuclear-armed state have all put Islamabad on the incoming administration's front burner.

But does Obama understand what he's getting into? In his "Meet the Press" interview with Tom Brokaw on Sunday, Obama said, "We need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region -- Pakistan and India and the Afghan government -- to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community." Obama's scenario assumes that the Pakistani government is a single, undifferentiated thing, and that all parts of the government would be willing to "stamp out" terrorists. Both of those assumptions are incorrect.

Pakistan's government has a profound internal division between the military and the civilian, which have alternated in power since the country was born from the partition of British India in 1947. It is this military insubordination that creates most of the country's serious political problems. Washington worries too much about other things in Pakistan and too little about the sheer power of the military. United States analysts often express fears about an internal fundamentalist challenge to the chiefs of staff. The main issue, however, is not that Pakistan's military is too weak, but that it is too strong. And that is complicated by the fact that elements within the military are at odds, not just with the civilian government, but also with each other.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf ruled the country with an iron fist from the fall of 1999 (when he staged his coup against an elected prime minister) until he resigned under threat of impeachment in August of this year. His civilian rival, Asaf Ali Zardari, was elected president in September. Zardari had become the de facto head of the left-of-center Pakistan People's Party after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated while campaigning for Parliament in late December 2007. In the parliamentary elections of February 2008, which were relatively free and fair, the PPP emerged as the largest party in Parliament.

Zardari and his prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, have vowed to crack down on terrorism. Zardari is said to be committed to vengeance against the Pakistani Taliban, since he blames them for his wife's assassination. The possibility that a Western-educated woman liberal might again become Pakistan's prime minister had been unbearable for the fundamentalist Taliban. Since Zardari became president, the Pakistani military has vigorously pursued a massive campaign against the Taliban in the tribal agency of Bajaur. The fierce fighting is said to have displaced some 300,000 persons. Of these operations against the Pakistani Taliban, Obama said on "Meet the Press" that "thus far, President Zardari has sent the right signals. He's indicated that he recognizes this is not just a threat to the United States but is a threat to Pakistan as well."

Likewise, after the attack on the Indian financial and cultural center of Mumbai on Nov. 26-29 of this year, Zardari argued that Pakistan as well as India has been targeted by terrorism, and that it is a legacy of the ways in which the U.S. used radical Islam to fight the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Zardari wrote: "The Mumbai attacks were directed not only at India but also at Pakistan's new democratic government and the peace process with India that we have initiated. Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root."

But Zardari will find it difficult to get control of the entire Pakistani government and the various "non-state actors" it has spawned to pursue Pakistani military interests in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Among his biggest challenges will be to gain the loyalty not only of the regular military but also of those officers detailed to the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, an organization of some 25,000 that was founded in 1948 to promote information-sharing among the army, navy and air force. In the 1960s, military dictator Ayoub Khan used the ISI to spy on domestic rivals, and over time it developed a unit focusing on manipulating civilian politics. Zardari tried to abolish that political unit in late November.

During periods of military dictatorship, the ISI has tended to be given a much-expanded role, both domestically and abroad. During the 1980s, Gen. Zia ul-Haq created an Afghanistan bureau in the ISI, through which the Reagan administration funneled billions to the mujahedin to fight the Soviet occupation. In the late 1980s, dictator Zia initiated an ISI-led covert operation, Operation Tupac, aimed at detaching the disputed Muslim-majority state of Kashmir from India.

Kashmir had been a princely state in British India, ruled by a Hindu raja who took it into Hindu-majority India during partition. The Pakistanis fought an inconclusive war but failed to annex it to Pakistan, and the United Nations called for a referendum to allow the Kashmiris to decide their fate. India, which viewed Jammu and Kashmir as an Indian state, never allowed such a plebiscite to be held. Obama has suggested that he might send former President Bill Clinton as a special envoy in a bid to resolve the Kashmir dispute once and for all.
deanhills
adamprisa wrote:
Washington worries too much about other things in Pakistan and too little about the sheer power of the military. United States analysts often express fears about an internal fundamentalist challenge to the chiefs of staff. The main issue, however, is not that Pakistan's military is too weak, but that it is too strong. And that is complicated by the fact that elements within the military are at odds, not just with the civilian government, but also with each other.
Perhaps the United States ability to judge this situation is a bit underestimated? Perhaps it is deliberately non-vocal in this, as to not upset the Military in Pakistan?

adamprisa wrote:
Obama has suggested that he might send former President Bill Clinton as a special envoy in a bid to resolve the Kashmir dispute once and for all.
Oh noooooooo ..... another Carter Documentary in the making: Carry on Carter in Kashmir .... sort of rhymes nicely .... Laughing Rolling Eyes
raaeft1
I feel that Obama and his policy-makers are being rather soft towards Pakistan at the cost of relations with India.
Agreed, that Pakistan has a fragile democratic Government and it is making some half-baked attempts to take on the Taliban but it must not be forgotten by USA and Obama that Pakistan has been overtly or covertly encouraging terrorism in India ever since it came into being in 1947 as a result of partition.

Rather, I feel that Bush's policy was better and more fair towards India.
raaeft1
I feel that Obama and his policy-makers are being rather soft towards Pakistan at the cost of relations with India.
Agreed, that Pakistan has a fragile democratic Government and it is making some half-baked attempts to take on the Taliban but it must not be forgotten by USA and Obama that Pakistan has been overtly or covertly encouraging terrorism in India ever since it came into being in 1947 as a result of partition.

Rather, I feel that Bush's policy was better and more fair towards India.
deanhills
raaeft1 wrote:
I feel that Obama and his policy-makers are being rather soft towards Pakistan at the cost of relations with India.
I don't understand this statement. Can you explain?
donofindia
good post...thanks for information..................
Solon_Poledourus
Not to sound like a pseudo-moderator, but without quote tags, the OP comes off as plagiarism. This article can be found at the Salon website.
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