A Bit More on Pakistan

I thought it might be opportune to say a bit more about the Pakistan situation. One good place to start for context is a pair of columns Brian Katulis wrote a month and a half ago, before the current political crisis really started but when the untenability of the status quo was clear. In this piece he says we need to make sure that the assistance we give to Pakistan delivers the goods to a broad range of people and not just some key generals:

To move beyond this narrow debate, the next U.S. president needs to make a shift from the Bush freedom agenda and take a more comprehensive approach to Pakistan — one that uses the full range of America’s considerable powers. The strategy should put at its central focus the positive lesson learned from the Bush administration’s best foreign policy moment — the earthquake relief in 2005 — and prioritize the policies that most directly improve the prosperity of the Pakistani people.

The second item focuses more directly on the al-Qaeda issue, and cites the important RAND study on counterterrorism that noted that improved efforts by local security forces are by far the most likely way of stopping a group like al-Qaeda. Which of course leaves hanging the question of how to secure those improved efforts.

Suffice it to say that that’s a difficult issue. Unlike in some other parts of the world where the Bush administration has been blundering, in Pakistan administration policy has been confronting a situation that’s genuinely very complicated and where I’m not sure anyone has flawless solutions for moving forward. Broader engagement definitely seems like a good idea to me. I would also emphasize the need to look at the region in a more Pakistan-oriented context and recognize that for Pakistan everything is inevitably really about India rather than about the United States or al-Qaeda. Whatever it is we want the Pakistani security services to be doing, we need to make sure than in a broad sense the incentives are aligned correctly so that them doing it makes them more secure vis-à-vis India, whereas them not doing it would make them less secure.