Drone strikes will fail to influence outcome of Afghan settlement: US expert


The US drone strikes against suspected militants targets in Pakistani tribal areas will fail to influence the outcome of an Afghan settlement but they have seriously damaged America’s reputation in the South Asian country, observes a Washington-based expert on South Asia.
Writing in The Washington Post, Michael Krepon, Director South Asian Program at the Stimson Center, also underscores the point that Afghanistan’s future matters more crucially to Pakistan than to the United States.
“Afghanistan’s future matters much more to Pakistan than to the United States. This elemental truth is forgotten in U.S. deliberations about how best to leverage Pakistan to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan,” he wrote in an opinion piece.
On the unmanned predator drone strikes against militant sanctuaries, the expert claims that the longer the Pakistanis protected those who would presumably serve their interests in a future Afghan government, the more strikes Washington authorized on their havens.
“These strikes will ultimately fail to influence the outcome of an Afghan settlement — but they have already succeeded in making the United States more hated in Pakistan than India.”
The expert interprets that Pakistani establishment is willing to risk ties with Washington to achieve a friendly government on the country’s western border.
Pakistan, he says, will tirelessly pursue a government in Kabul that, after most U.S. troops withdraw in 2014, will be friendlier to them than to Indians.
If the Pakistanis fail to ensure this negotiated outcome, they will employ allies to upend an Afghan government that they deem unfriendly, the analyst speculates.
Pakistani resolve is rooted in the assumption that, if India gains a strong foothold in Afghanistan, then Pakistan’s largest and most resource-rich province, Baluchistan, would be ripe for an India-supported insurgency.
Pakistani distrust, Krepon recalls, is heightened by events of four decades ago: India severed East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from West Pakistan in their 1971 war.
“Pakistani leaders will not abide another territorial loss or an extended, foreign-backed insurgency, not when they are feeling so vulnerable. Pakistan has suffered the second-highest number of mass-casualty attacks — behind only Iraq — over the past five years. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services firmly believe that sooner or later, New Delhi will be unable to resist the temptation to dismember their country again. In fact, Pakistan’s dissolution would jeopardize Indian growth and security. And Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities have frozen a territorial status quo, which serves Indian interests. The prospect of a clash would be raised only if spectacular acts of terrorism originate from Pakistan.”
Regarding US-Pakistan relations since Sept. 11, 2001, the writer asserts the United States and Pakistan have maintained a strained, transactional partnership.
“When faced with the George W. Bush administration’s ultimatum — Are you with us or against us? — Gen. Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan’s chief executive, agreed to a limited U.S. presence at air bases, restricted use of Pakistani airspace and a logistical supply corridor for U.S. troops.