Friday, July 20, 2007

Power Politics in Asia

The stalemate with Al Quaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan has more behind it than the fevered reactionary hatreds of medieval Wahhabi clerics. There is a grand poker game of power politics between the regime of General Musharraff, his internal secular opposition, the Pashtun nationalists of Afghanistan and Pakistan's arch enemy, India. Vali Nasr thinks it is time for the US to deal itself in:
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released this week paints a bleak picture of Al Qaeda's renewed strength and determination to attack America. And a major part of the blame, US officials charge, lies with someone President Bush has described as a critical ally in the war on terror: Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf.

Since 9/11, Washington has looked to President Musharraf to uproot Islamic extremism in South Asia. Nearly six years later, however, Pakistan is still a nuclear-armed crucible of jihadi culture, exporting terrorists and destabilizing its neighbors.

For too long, Washington has coddled the Pakistani general, turned a blind eye to his crushing of democracy, and read too much into his pro-West rhetoric. The US must change course. And there are signs it's about to. "There's no doubt that more aggressive steps need to be taken," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

After almost a decade under Mush-arraf's rule, Pakistan hasn't changed much. He has initiated reforms and revamped the economy. But where he was expected to do most, fighting Islamic extremism, Pakistan's record is most disappointing.


It was only when Pakistani-backed Afghan mujahideen or the Taliban ruled Kabul that Pakistan felt secure in its relations with Afghanistan. Pakistani generals counted on the "strategic depth" that their neighbor to the northwest would provide in a war against India.

These days, they see Afghanistan as an adversary. They are irked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai's strong ties to Delhi and the mushrooming of Indian consulates across Afghanistan. The territory that they "owned" until 9/11, thanks to the Taliban, is now at best neutral and at worst the playground of their arch rival, India. Pakistan does not view Afghanistan through the prism of the war on terror, but in the context of its own vulnerabilities in the competition for power and influence with India. That's why Islamabad has everything to gain by playing the Taliban card, giving its fighters and their Al Qaeda allies a lair in Pakistan's border region, to keep Kabul weak and southern Afghanistan free of Indian influence.

In dealing with Pakistan, Washington has preferred to see the logic of the war on terror as self-evident, not recognizing that even close allies will not cooperate if it does not serve their interests. It is only by addressing Pakistan's interests that Washington can secure greater cooperation from Islamabad.

Washington cannot give Pakistan the sphere of influence in southern Afghanistan that it desires to make sure it will not be encircled by India. However, Washington can give Pakistan greater interest in Afghanistan's stability than it has now by encouraging Kabul to include Pakistan's allies and clients in government; and more important, to finally recognize its international border with Pakistan.

No doubt the Pakistan situation poses the greatest downside challenge to US interests than any other world hot spot. I'm frankly rather pessimistic that a deal could be brokered that would nullify the Al Quaeda presence in Pakistan. The only options in this are are bad and worse.


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

When someone has declared war on you, one option is always to fight him.

We might want to try that.

July 20, 2007 7:15 PM  
Blogger erp said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 21, 2007 4:08 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Aren't we sending in the 'droids to handle the situation?

July 21, 2007 7:01 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Aren't we sending in the 'droids to handle the situation?

In thirty years, yes, which is why primitive societies, cultures, and peoples now have a very limited shelf-life.

July 21, 2007 3:51 PM  
Blogger erp said...

I thought I read that we're building a facility on a hill overlooking the area where we think the bad guys hang out and from which our unmanned aircraft which I thought was referred to as 'droids will be launched.

Just pie in the sky then? Bummer.

July 21, 2007 7:49 PM  
Blogger erp said...

I see my error, it's drones we're sending, not 'droids. So sorry.

July 21, 2007 8:08 PM  

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