Monday, December 14, 2009

The limits of cooperation

Apparently we've found them. Or at least, found them more explicitly than before. Not-so-suprisingly, the Pakistanis have come out and said what we all knew they were thinking: that they're hedging for the day the West pulls out of Afghanistan, and want to preserve their 'strategic assets,' namely those militant groups based in Pakistan that aren't allies of the TTP.

So, no, Mr. Obama, we won't be going after the Haqqani network, or other elements of the Quetta Shura that don't seek our overthrow. Because in our grand delusions, we still believe that we can control and direct the chaos on the other side of the border to our own advantage. And dammit, we will have 'strategic depth'!

Apparently this is "part of a mounting grievance in Pakistan that the alliance with the United States is too costly to bear." Umm, and what do you think the costs of abandoning that alliance will be?

Seriously, if Pakistan is concerned that it will be surrounded by Indians (or pro-Indian regimes) on all sides, why can't they see that the surest way to make that happen is to become the West's opponent? If it becomes an explicit proxy war between Pakistani and US-backed groups, why wouldn't the West align more closely with India?

Granted China may align with Pakistan against India again if the surge fails and there's a scramble in Central Asia, but isn't it just as likely to have second thoughts rooted in concerns about militants in Xianjang? Moreover, the Pakistani military still seem to think they can manage and control their militant clients. That strikes me as a deeply dangerous game to play between nuclear powers that seem at times to be itching to step into the street and settle 60 year old scores.

Perhaps more to the point, this brings into pretty sharp focus the unanswered questions about our Pakistan strategy. Even if the NYT story reflects attitudes in the military rather than civilian leadership, how do we simultaneously strengthen the civilian government's grip on its military (while not appearing to do so and thereby delegitimizing it (further) amongst the Pakistani electorate) while at the same time putting Hellfires into Waziri hillsides...or maybe the suburbs of Quetta?

Here's a question for all the Pakistan experts out there: in the eyes of the Pakistani military, what is the relative value of US military aid compared to taking out Haqqani? Would the threat of cutting off the former change the calculus, or simply reinforce the paranoia?


  1. Pakistan will not fight Haqqani because it sees some use in the network when we leave.

    Anbar tribes would not fight AQI because they foresaw some use in the network in the event we left.

    I'm not suggesting that Anbar = Pakistan, but I wonder if a similar blunder by Haqqani or similar folks could result in local leaders shifting their alliances.

  2. I ask because I don't know: have we ever really, really cut off aid to Pakistan? I mean, in a seriously meaningful way? If we did, what happened then?

    - Madhu

  3. Global trade means that there is a "natural" tilt toward India, regardless. It's not going away, unless something changes dramatically, which I know is not a revelation to anyone here.

    So, the only way the Pakistani elites, military or otherwise, can play the anti-India game is to keep milking the system for money and keep as many networks or proxies in play as possible. If, from time to time, they have to go further than they would like in the double game, it would have to come from just the calculation you posit in your last paragraph, and from *a lot* of outside pushing. It's not a new calculation. It's been going on for years, it's just more acute right now because there are coalition troops next door. It really is not a new strateg;, I mean ours and theirs. It's an intensification of what *has always been*. Leaving would be back to the old less intense status quo. Hmm, I seem to have talked myself into saying that the status quo is both staying and leaving? How can that be?

    As for getting particular elements in Pakistan to see that such games are against their interests, well, see zenpundit's "None Dare Call it a Rogue State" post (LUN). I don't know how you can do that. I mean, why did it take India so long to throw off the whole "Hindu rate of growth," stuff and free up her economy, a bit, so that we see the current results? I know there's a whole literature on it, but basically, that stuff ain't rational.

    - Madhu

  4. Okay, I'll stop after this and go back to work, I promise....

    Open thread on a sort of "hawkish" Indian blog about Indian troops to Afghanistan (a resounding "no" from most of the commenters, and not that anyone is asking. They seem fine with capacity building stuff.) Makes for sobering reading. And, as always with internet-y stuff, who knows how accurate it is? Reader be wary, always! (LUN)

  5. Schmedlap - I think the parallel goes deeper than utility, actually, to a perceived security dilemma on the part of Anbaris/Pakistan, in which the enemy of their existential enemy is assumed to be their friend. The question is in part whether either party perceived the source of the threat accurately (arguable and fluid in both cases).

    As to Haqqani alienating Pakistanis in the tribal agencies through attacks - perhaps, but I'm not sure it would have any impact on Pakistani government or military attitudes. Not exactly a lot of solidarity between officers from 'Pindi and Pathans from Miramshah, as I understand it. I think Haqqani would have to be implicated in attacks in the Pakistani heartland, like the Mehsuds. But I could be wrong. Calling all Pakistan hands...

  6. Yeah, what MK said: Pakistan hands, show up! My stupid comments don't help anyone. Smarter and more knowledgeable people need to step up to the plate!

    *I did look up the aid question, though. Duh, I knew it and forgot it! So, even during the time of sanctions (Glenn amendment, etc), some "paltry" millions got through, apparently, I mean non-military aid? I never really understand the math. It gets confusing.

    - Madhu