US must turn up the heat on Pakistan. Here's how to make that work.
Pakistan’s duplicity further weakens the decaying US-Pakistan relationship. It also lessens chances for a successful outcome in Afghanistan and erodes the internal security of both the US and Pakistan. Fortunately, the US does have a few options.
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Still, opinions about the US are one thing. Recognizing that the terrorist and insurgent groups pose an existential threat to Pakistan is something else. The campaign should focus on what terrorist and militant group ambitions for power mean for Pakistanis.Skip to next paragraph
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The consequences of these insurgent ambitions have become increasingly obvious. Taliban aggressiveness in the Swat and Bruner areas of Pakistan was a wake-up call. Despite Pakistan Army chief Kayani’s possibly mixed views about the US, he won’t countenance the Taliban and other militant insurgent groups gaining enough influence to undermine the military establishment. His government is in a unique position to initiate a campaign that defines the threat and links the Taliban, which attacks Afghans, to the criminals that murder fellow Muslims at home in Pakistan.
Many Pakistanis refuse to believe that Muslims would murder fellow Muslims. The Taliban encourages this mistaken belief by blaming the US, India, or Israel for bombings. Pakistan must counter these fabrications.
There is precedent for military and media campaign against terrorists. When Kayani and President Zardari mounted an offensive in South Waziristan against the Taliban and Islamist militants operating in the region in 2009, they got the media, civilian officials, and the Army behind it. The Taliban was blocked from the media, while the messaging campaign framed the conflict as “us vs. them.” It was able to discredit violent Islamists, as influenced by foreigners opposed to Islam and the “motherland.”
Effort in Afghanistan needs Pashtuns
Finally, the US must recognize that any positive outcome in Afghanistan doesn’t just require Pakistani cooperation; it must also assure a central role for Pashtuns, the key ethnic group dominant in the Taliban and in parts of Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. While the Afghans must decide their future for themselves, American values mandate that Washington stand for assuring all ethnic groups a democratic voice in the future. Mediation makes sense on this issue, but the Afghans must decide who conducts that process.
In the ever-changing world of Pakistan politics, negotiations with the US, India, insurgents, or the Afghan government are always a moving target. These steps offer a realistic way forward.
James Farwell is the author of the recently released book "The Pakistan Cauldron: Conspiracy, Assassination, and Instability."