Why Pakistan may be more willing to help US target Taliban than it appears
A briefing on what the US wants from Pakistan – and why Pakistan might be more willing than it publicly indicates to help the US tackle the Afghan Taliban hiding in Pakistan.
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Simply to continue its current operations, the Army needs more weapons, communications technology, and funding, says Gen. (Ret.) Talat Masood, a security analyst based in Islamabad. Pakistan says its war against militants costs $8.5 billion a year. Since 2001, the US has given Pakistan $7.6 billion in counterterrorism military aid.Skip to next paragraph
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Pakistan also wants the US to help improve ties with India by helping resolve their dispute over Kashmir. Such a settlement might persuade Pakistan to redeploy troops guarding against India to fight the Taliban.
It also wants the US to prevent Afghan Taliban from pouring into Pakistan even as it escalates the fight against them. While these militants may not supply the Pakistani Taliban with more fighters or weapons, they could push them to fight harder. Afghan refugees may also flood Pakistan to avoid the rise in violence.
Though the US and Pakistan worry about this spillover, both say they lack the manpower to guard the 1,600-mile-long border.
Just how important is Pakistan’s help?
The Obama administration has repeatedly stressed how critical Pakistan’s cooperation is to its success in Afghanistan. But some Pakistani analysts – even those who agree the Army should fight the Afghan Taliban – question how much influence the Quetta Shura wields on the battlefield.
Some accuse the US of using Pakistan as a scapegoat for its failure in Afghanistan. When the US was losing in Vietnam, it blamed Cambodia, says former Interior minister Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Hamid Nawaz. In Iraq, it blamed Syria and Iran, he says. Now America has failed to cripple the insurgency in Afghanistan and is blaming Pakistan “just to take the pressure off itself.”
At the least, the US relies heavily on Pakistan to protect the supplies it sends to its forces in Afghanistan. Seventy percent of goods are shipped over the Afghan-Pakistani border, and deliveries will mount as more US soldiers arrive.
How is the US-Pakistani relationship?
The Obama administration is balancing between respecting a sovereign nation and key ally, and pushing it to assist the US’s agenda. Military officials on both sides have signaled frustration with the other, according to media reports.
In recent weeks, American officials appear to have softened their rhetoric from “do more or else” to partnership and appreciation. But the US is still applying pressure, for example, reserving the option to launch airstrikes in Balochistan without a green light.
Pakistan is pushing back by trying to convince the US how damaging such actions might be.
“There’s a convergence of interest on both sides” to restrict the movements of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan, says Masood. But the US “should also understand there are a lot of limitations.”