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November 24, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2643

Former Pakistani Ambassador: 'Washington's Ability to Secure Islamabad's Full Cooperation Will Rest on Credible Assurances That the New [Afghanistan] Strategy Will Not have Destabilizing Effects on Pakistan'

November 24, 2009
Pakistan, Afghanistan | Special Dispatch No. 2643

In a recent article, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. and U.K., examined three areas of emerging challenges in Pakistan-U.S. relations: the issue of U.S. drone attacks in violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, a tilt in U.S. foreign policy in favor of India, and the stringent conditions in the U.S. aid to Pakistan.

In the article, titled "Testing times for Pakistan-U.S. Relations," Dr. Lodhi noted that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's three-day Pakistan visit, which began October 28, 2009, "came against the backdrop of public furor in the country [Pakistan] over the intrusive Congressional conditions imposed on the U.S. security assistance to Pakistan by the Kerry-Lugar legislation."

The Kerry-Lugar legislation, now the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, requires the administration of President Barack Obama to frequently certify to the U.S. Congress that the U.S. aid for Pakistan is achieving its objectives, including the Pakistani military's compliance with the elected civilian government in Islamabad.

Following are some excerpts from the article: [1]

"Whichever Option [on Afghanistan] is Chosen by President Obama, Pakistan Will Be Expected To Play a Pivotal Role"

"The Clinton visit was all the more remarkable as it offered a stunning contrast to those undertaken by U.S. special envoy [for Afghanistan and Pakistan] Richard Holbrooke, whose patronizing style has left most Pakistanis underwhelmed.

"Whether the Clinton visit can help to 'turn the page' in relations depends on a number of factors, especially on how the two countries meet the critical tests that lie ahead. The challenges that loom are by no means easy to address, especially in the context of negative public perceptions and deep suspicions in both countries.

"At least three challenges will test relations in the months ahead. The first challenge will come when the Obama administration, now in the midst of intense internal deliberations, decides on a new strategy for the region. It is set to choose between three main options to deal with an increasingly dire situation in Afghanistan.

"Option one is to accede to the request of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, for a substantial troop surge to pursue a full-blown counterinsurgency campaign to stabilize Afghanistan.

"Option two is the narrower anti-terrorism strategy advocated by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, which involves reducing the military presence and switching from fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan to focus instead on defeating Al-Qaeda by the heavier use of airstrikes, drone attacks and Special Forces.

"The third option is predicated on the view that it is not feasible to separate the two approaches (counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism), and therefore represents a hybrid strategy involving a more modest troop surge with a stepped-up drone attacks/special forces campaign.

"Whichever option is chosen by President Obama, Pakistan will be expected to play a pivotal role. All three options involve military escalation of varying kinds albeit with a different focus. All entail serious ramifications for Pakistan, some more adverse in their fallout, which can complicate and undercut Islamabad's own counter-militancy efforts. This will confront the two uneasy allies with the challenge of coordinating actions, harmonizing their approaches and reconciling tactical differences to forge the cooperation that will be needed."

"The Ability to Minimize Potential Friction in [Pakistan-U.S.] Relations Will Also Turn on U.S. Respect for the Red Lines of Sovereignty that Pakistan has Specified..."

"It is unclear how far Pakistan's views and concerns have been factored into the ongoing U.S. policy review. But once decisions are made by President Obama, Washington's ability to secure Islamabad's full cooperation will rest on credible assurances that the new strategy will not have destabilizing effects on Pakistan - already reeling from the Afghan conflict bleeding into its border regions in the past eight years.

"The ability to minimize potential friction in relations will also turn on U.S. respect for the red lines of sovereignty that Pakistan has specified, especially in regard to the Predator drone strikes in the country's tribal areas."

"One-Sided [U.S.] Pressure on Pakistan in Relation to Kashmir Has Already Relieved India of its Responsibility to Pursue a Political Settlement of the Dispute"

"The second challenge will be posed by the dynamics of the triangular U.S.-Pakistan-India relationship. For all its efforts to de-hyphenate its relations from the Pakistan-India equation, Washington will continue to have to face up to the impact of Islamabad-Delhi tensions on its goals in the region.

"Already deeply suspicious that India's new activism in Afghanistan has tacit U.S. support, Islamabad will be closely scrutinizing the nature and direction of growing strategic ties between Washington and New Delhi and evaluating how these will impact on Pakistan's vital interests.

"Central to Islamabad's strategic calculus will be Washington's stance on Pakistan-India disputes, especially Kashmir, and its broader security concerns regarding India. One-sided pressure on Pakistan in relation to Kashmir has already relieved India of its responsibility to pursue a political settlement of the dispute and hardened Delhi's no-talks-with-Islamabad posture.

"If Washington continues to echo the Indian position on key issues, this will inject strains into the Pakistan-U.S. relationship, and affect the overall quality and quantum of cooperation Islamabad will be able to offer Washington in pursuit of its goals on Pakistan's western frontier.

"To deal with this challenge to the bilateral relationship, Washington will need to recognize that asking Pakistan to change its security paradigm - to switch its entire focus from the eastern border to the west - will not happen just because it says so. Only by changing the context and conditions on which Pakistan's security calculus is based can this happen over a period of time. And for that, Washington needs to overcome its aversion to engaging with the sources, instead of the symptoms, of longstanding Pakistan-India tensions."

"[The Kerry-Lugar Legislation] Will Mean Evaluation of Pakistan's Performance in a BroadRange of Areas - Which Are Precisely Those That Many Pakistanis Regard as an Infringement of Their Country's Sovereignty"

"The third test in relations will be presented by the onerous certification and reporting requirements that the Obama administration is obliged to undertake under the Kerry-Lugar law, formally called the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act. This will mean evaluation of Pakistan's performance in a broad range of areas, which are precisely those that many Pakistanis regard as an infringement of their country's sovereignty.

"Every six months, or in some cases 12, when the administration reports to Congress on the conditions and benchmarks Pakistan is expected to meet, the process could very likely become a source of discord between the two countries.

"Unless the two countries can work out a way to cooperatively deal with the issues that will emerge in this complex process, the Congressional requirements will expose ties to repeated stress at a critical time for both nations.

"Pakistani and U.S. officials will also have to work harder to convince each other, as well as their skeptical publics and legislatures, that their relationship has positive, intrinsic value and is not transactional and expedient, impelled by transient circumstances.

"The months ahead can either see the two countries setting about purposively to close their trust gap and give relations the consistency they have lacked, or encounter more turbulence with deleterious and destabilizing effects on their relations."

Endnote:

[1] The News, Pakistan, November 10, 2009. The article has been lightly edited for clarity.

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