Af/Pak: What Now?
The recent revelations by Wikileaks regarding the Afghanistan conflict raises many issues, but one, and in my view the most important, is not new - and it is the strength of jihadism in Pakistan. And at the highest levels. The NYTimes reported:
Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistanís military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday.
The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.
That powerful forces in the Pakistani government are strongly tied to the Taliban should comes as no surprise to anyone. This has been at the heart of the issue. As a supporter of the President's policy in Afghanistan, I hope, and indeed, feel confident that this is understood. Now what to do about it? Let's discuss on the flip.
On both occasions, I stressed the importance of Pakistan, both as a potential fallout area and the key to success in Afghanistan itself. In his December 2009 speech, the President said:
[W]e will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.
[. . .] We're in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That's why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.
In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who've argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned. The Pakistani army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.
In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.
The Wikileaks revelations are of the past six years, not about what has happened in the last six months. Has the Obama strategy worked? I certainly do not know. But I still believe it provides the best chance for success.
Speaking for me only
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