Saturday, January 22, 2011

RE: What To Do With Pakistan

I take issue with the pros that Jason believes will fall out of disengagement with Pakistan. It is not clear to me that our current engagement in Pakistan in anyway constrains U.S. or NATO freedom of action in Afghanistan. What constraints the U.S. faces have more to do with the role the Afghan government plays in coordinating or approving operations or, in cases like Marjah, the Afghan government’s inability to find Afghan civilians to fill key governmental positions. As far as I can tell, the United States concerns itself little if at all with Pakistan when operating on the Afghan side of the border. Indeed, there is a least some evidence that the United States concerns itself little with Pakistan when operating on the Pakistani side of the border!

That brings me to my next point of departure with Jason’s assessment: concern for Pakistani public opinion. I do not see much evidence that the United States has been concerned a great deal with Pakistani public opinion. The United States drone operations in Pakistan are unsurprisingly very unpopular among the Pakistani public. Despite this, drone strikes are increasingly common. There were 118 drone strikes in 2010, more than double the 2009 tally and triple the 2008 tally.

Finally, I do not see how disengaging will afford greater mission clarity, which is not to say that there is presently any mission clarity.

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