Pakistan the Problem

Nikolas Gvosdev makes a good point. Dealing with Pakistan’s military hasn’t necessarily been straightforward these past seven years. They’ve got their own agenda, and haven’t been afraid to pursue policies — both overt (ie. negotiated peace deals with Pakistani-based Taliban) and covert (ie. support for Afghan-based Taliban) — that are at odds with American interests. But at least they couldn’t use claims of democratic legitimacy as cover.

Now with the return of civilian rule in Islamabad, we’ve got to consider the possibility that not only are we not going to get what we want from the Pakistanis, but that they won’t be afraid to say so. As Gvosdev puts it:

Just as in Turkey in 2003, Washington seems unprepared for the contigency that a democratic government won’t endorse its policy objectives–and then wonders why the military won’t override the civilians.

We’ve still got plenty of leverage, as well as the ability to carry out covert operations in the tribal areas without Islamabad’s green light. But how long before we stop hearing Pakistan, a country we’ve supplied with $10 billion of military aid, referred to as an problematic ally and begin hearing it referred to as a problem?

More World Politics Review