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Afrah Jamal |

The master plan chalked out in a piece, ‘Calling Pakistan’s Bluff’ by Whitney Kassel and Philip Reiner in Foreign Affairs (14 July 2017) came laden with glaring flaws. And not just because it decided to present some decidedly soggy looking carrots paired with far too many sticks that threatened to expand U.S. boots on the grounds while pacifying Pak leadership with a limited supply of shiny new military hardware. The pros and cons of such an approach have also been explored by the writers but the overarching theme appeared to support such a move.  The piece can now be seen in tandem with recent attempts to strong arm Pakistan by the U.S. Congress that call for curbs on military aid among other things. Some of it has already come to pass with 50 million dollars reimbursement held back from the Coalition Support Fund because Pentagon doesn’t feel enough has been done to justify the hefty price tags.

Read more: Of promises, meddling and delusions: the story of Pak-USA ties

No to Boots on the Ground

“The United States must rethink its approach to neighboring Pakistan, whose active and passive support for terrorist groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network undermines Afghanistan’s stability. Whether one believes—as many do—that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is directly funneling weapons and money to these groups”-Whitney Kassel and Philip Reiner in Foreign Affairs

The article proposed a set of recommendations that question the wisdom of alienating Pakistan yet at the same time put forth suggestions that could potentially lead to a complete breakdown of relations, a move that both countries can ill afford at the moment. “The United States should covertly and overtly attack the insurgent groups that threaten its interests across Pakistan, without apology or concern for the fallout in the U.S.–Pakistani relationship.”

 “The United States should covertly and overtly attack the insurgent groups that threaten its interests across Pakistan, without apology or concern for the fallout in the U.S.–Pakistani relationship.”–Whitney Kassel and Philip Reiner in Foreign Affairs

The Abbottabad raid was a one off thing. Drone attacks in the tribal belt considered the wild west of the region, with or without tacit support/agreement of Pak leadership is within bounds. But the counterproductive nature of NATO led operations that push that agreement beyond the badlands to urban centers, without Pakistan’s support/knowledge / say so is precisely why they have not been attempted before. Also, such a measure would be in direct conflict with proposed plans for conducting coordinated operations with Afghanistan formulated to pursue targets on both sides of the divide.

Read more: Pakistan Army engagement in Middle East: Walking a fine line 

The True Cost of an Alliance

While the article did try to imagine the consequences and the futility of such a step, it continued to keep that option open, alongside military aid made conditional to Pakistan’s willingness to target insurgents within its borders.

Given that Khyber-4 (an offshoot of Radd-ul-Fassad) launched to deny Daesh a foothold in the region is already underway, a lack of communication and failure to coordinate with all security forces in the region would seriously compromise the integrity of Pak led missions and jeopardize the safety of friendly forces operating in that area.

Both these scenarios are problematic for a multitude of reasons. Given that Khyber-4 (an offshoot of Radd-ul-Fassad) launched to deny Daesh a foothold in the region is already underway, a lack of communication and failure to coordinate with all security forces in the region would seriously compromise the integrity of Pak led missions and jeopardize the safety of friendly forces operating in that area.  The enemy would have a field day with such a hair-brained offensive. Moreover, support for the war effort would start to fade, as the article fears.

Read more: India’s hybrid warfare in Pakistan

There were opposing ideas running parallel in the narrative – that ran counter to the building blocks of the alliance and would essentially override the conventional wisdom needed to see it through. One dealt with initiating a reward system should Pak leadership deliver the NATO approved military objectives in Afghanistan. The other was about breaching sovereignty, undermining Pak military’s standing and questioning its capabilities and loyalty to such alliances.

Sane voices chimed in to warn of the hidden dangers of leaving the field open for Russian, Chinese, or Iran based interest groups, to swoop in and take their place. This was followed by suggestions of restoring and/or broadening precious aid should Pakistan successfully clear out the havens.

Restricting military support and making it conditional to tangible results became a recurring cry. Sane voices chimed in to warn of the hidden dangers of leaving the field open for Russian, Chinese, or Iran based interest groups, to swoop in and take their place. This was followed by suggestions of restoring and/or broadening precious aid should Pakistan successfully clear out the havens. There was even a well-reasoned reply to placate worried Indians by spelling out the win-win side of the equation, the end of militancy in the region would bring for all.

Preventing a Relationship in Freefall from Crashing & Burning

But is this so called reward system ensuring Pakistan’s compliance supposed to work in conjunction with NATO – led attacks in urban centers and how realistic is such an option? Since this proposed mix of “aggressive action and diplomacy” appears to have neglected its own warnings and hidden dangers of such misadventures. It has also forgotten that it is no longer dealing with a Pakistan of 2001 when it became a glorified wingman albeit reluctantly for Afghan based NATO forces, or 2011 when it took the hit for a manned mission to Bin Laden’s lair reportedly made possible because of their intelligence sharing.

It has also forgotten that it is no longer dealing with a Pakistan of 2001 when it became a glorified wingman albeit reluctantly for Afghan based NATO forces, or 2011 when it took the hit for a manned mission to Bin Laden’s lair reportedly made possible because of their intelligence sharing.

Six years later, targeted operations to dismantle terror cells, border fencing initiatives to check suspicious movement and Chinese sponsored development projects ensure it is perhaps less susceptible to pressure tactics and name calling  – Benedict Arnold, really? and more inclined towards a grown up meeting to discuss the next phase of the ‘special relationship’.

Read more: Exclusive Interview: Pakistan an integral part of the Afghan solution

The Limits of Leverage

At times the tone approaches something bordering on sympathy as it notes concerned parties’ misgivings, yet ultimately displays a clear contempt for Pakistan’s concerns, challenges, the level of commitment as well as credentials as a once trusted bulwark against communism. Now that Washington seems adamant upon field testing that vision in the hopes of aligning Islamabad’s counter-terrorism objectives with their own, a parting of ways, however amicable will have ramifications for the entire region.

A remarkable document that understands, and at the same time undermines Pakistan’s position is a rare find. That builds a strong foundation for reaching across the aisle and acknowledging its concerns and attempts to burn the very bridges it needs to succeed in its prime objectives. At times the tone approaches something bordering on sympathy as it notes concerned parties’ misgivings, yet ultimately displays a clear contempt for Pakistan’s concerns, challenges, the level of commitment as well as credentials as a once trusted bulwark against communism. Now that Washington seems adamant upon field testing that vision in the hopes of aligning Islamabad’s counter-terrorism objectives with their own, a parting of ways, however amicable will have ramifications for the entire region. A change in strategy may be the need of the hour but it should be one that can appreciate the magnitude of the task at hand and the limits of leverage that can be wielded.

Afrah Jamal is a freelance writer. She is the editor of “In Conversation with Legends – History in Session”. She had also been writing for Daily Times, Lahore, and was the editor of Social Pages, Karachi. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Afrah Jamal is a freelance writer. She is the editor of “In Conversation with Legends – History in Session”. She had also been writing for Daily Times, Lahore, and was the editor of Social Pages, Karachi.

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