Time for a rethink


The pressure on Pakistan to do more has increased after the recent review of President Obamas Afghan policy. First it was the persistent demand that Pakistan launch an operation in North Waziristan, now there are suggestions that Washington could ask Islamabad to allow it to carry out ground raids by special operations troops across the border into Pakistan. Meanwhile the CIA has expanded its secret war through drone attacks to Khyber Agency as well. There is a perception that the increased pressure has resulted from a significant change in policy, revealed a couple of days back by Vice President Joe Biden, requiring the return of all US troops from Afghanistan by 2014 come hell or high water. With the US in a hurry to pack up and leave, there is a need for Washington and Islamabad to coordinate their policies through consultation.

Pakistan is as much in need of stamping out terrorism as the US, if not more. It is here that Islamabads interests coincide with those of Washington. This explains why the government has not gone beyond routine periodic protests despite drone strikes continuing to increase during the 33 months of its incumbency, averaging at more than 12 per month since September. There is, however, a widespread resentment in the country against the strikes which are seen as the violation of Pakistans sovereignty. Any operation inside FATA by the US troops or by Afghan Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams could lead to a public reaction that might be well beyond anybodys expectations.

There is a need on the part of both Washington and Islamabad to agree on a joint strategy aimed at helping each other in the eradication of the common enemy. Many think the new demand could in fact be a pressure tactic to force Pakistan to urgently initiate an operation in North Waziristan. Knowing that the operation will have political implications, Pakistan army has left the decision to the civilian government. What is required is for Washington to address the reservations expressed by Pakistan in this regard. Unless this is done, the operation could produce unintended results.