More on Pakistan

May 8, 2009 at 9:24 am | Posted in foreign policy | Leave a comment
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Some readers/watchers have written back with more questions on Pakistan. There’s so much I wanted to put in the video, but its hard to talk about Pakistan in 3 minutes or less. So, here’s an explanation I wrote to one reader who argued Obama was taking a different approach albeit subtle. I wrote back and I think my response better sums up how I feel about the situation there. It’s a topic I’m really interested in, so any more feedback, especially any holes in my argument, are much appreciated.

Dear [Redacted],
Yeah, I think you’re right that there is a difference, even if it is subtle. I guess I had expected change from Obama on Pakistan to be more apparent, more obvious. From what I’ve read the situation there seems to becoming more precarious, as Clinton bluntly said recently, the situation is “dire”. Part of that reason is because the Taliban and Pakistan’s military are not exactly at odds and at times working together. This is happening for two reasons: 1. growing anti-American sentiment throughout Pakistan and within its military 2. containing India’s presence in Afghtanistan, for the Taliban acts as a proxy for Pakistan in keeping India out.

I think the root of the problem here is that Pakistan’s military gives the US the illusion that it’s fighting the Taliban and chasing them out of its borders. But what one official inside Pakistan’s military told Dexter Filkins, they often head into these towns taken over by the Taliban, shoot at a few empty buildings as a show, to appease the US, and leave. And the fact that a growing number of members in the military are taking on a more Islamo-facist ideology complicates the situation even further–they aren’t at ideological odds. There are accounts that the Taliban and the military attend each other’s funerals.

The government turns a blind eye because, as I said in the video, there’s no incentive to root out the Taliban. As one source in Filkin’s piece wrote, the money would dry up. In this way, the show, this performance of fighting the Taliban with dull swords continues.

Moreover, the Taliban is on to the game, and playing the system. From what I’ve read, there are two wings of the Taliban right now in Pakistan. There’s the wing that has promised not to head back into Afghanistan to fight their “holy war” against the US, in return for being left alone by the military, while rival wings continue to fight, set up training camps, etc. I think that these pacts that the Pakistan’s military has made with various chieftans is evidence that the Taliban is being recognized and tolerated–very much against US policy and what Pakistan’s leaders have told the US in the past.

I agree the situation is enormously complicated and all Obama can do right now is make subtle differences from Bush. He can’t circumvent the leaders from Pakistan who come to Washington because then it looks like an undermining of their power, which, as you know, is already pretty flimsy back home. I guess I did the video because the theatrics and performance of empty promises to the US and Obama/Clinton’s display of acceptance of these promises really struck a nerve. Plus, I don’t see the situation getting marginally better if we continue down a path that resembles that of Bush, even if it is subtly different.



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