Pakistan and the Bush Doctrine

Yesterday, I linked with arithmetic snark but without comment to TX Hammes’ Small Wars Journal post on the broadening of the Afghanistan War into Pakistan. It’s a very important piece, because it points out the danger of seeing Pakistan exclusively through the lens of our own tactical needs in Afghanistan, while ignoring the fact that for Pakistan, managing the Taliban (whether in Afghanistan or its own tribal areas) is part of the broader strategic calculus of its rivalry with India. Hammes argues that until we develop a strategy for handling this broader regional architecture, our efforts in Afghanistan (which he also characterizes as lacking a coherent strategic framework) will only put pressure on the Pakistani government without resolving the problem.

That problem tends to be formulated Stateside as a failure of the Pakistani civilian government to rein in the rogue elements of the military and ISI intelligence agency that play the Taliban and the U.S. against each other in order to hedge against India. Today, Arif Rafiq at the Pakistan Policy blog fills in the contours of what’s at stake in the civilian-military turf war:

Zardari lacks the legitimacy and power with which to assert himself over the military. While the Pakistani public supports the cessation of the ISI’s political role, there is no support for tying the organization’s hands in other matters. If pressed by Zardari, Gen. Kayani would be forced to enter the political realm, against his will, because of civilian excess. Zardari should be wiser and focus on his self-proclaimed mandate of roti (bread), kapra (clothing), and makan (a home).

And so, Gen. Kayani is delineating the parameters of acceptable discourse on Kashmir, and at a broader level, Pakistan’s national security issues. Gen. Kayani has given the civilians free reign over non-security matters. He has, however, drawn a line in the sand. The civilians cannot pass the line of control into his own domain. Given Zardari’s consolidation of power and the absence of checks and balances upon him, a foolish press against the military would compel that institution to intervene, making his presidency the shortest in Pakistan’s history.

Hammes points out the dual nature of our Afghanistan mission and the lack of strategic integration between NATO nation-building efforts and American counterterrorism efforts. He doesn’t say so explicitly, but the fact that the needs of the former are increasingly leading the latter to target the Pakistani tribal areas makes it clear that the Casus Belli that initially led us to invade Afghanistan has essentially jumped the border. There’s been some discussion lately about what exactly the Bush Doctrine is. But the question is increasingly becoming, Does it apply to what Hammes reminds us is “a nuclear-armed nation with 170 million people”?

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