Monday, March 30, 2009

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Scholars and policy analysts have been writing extensively about the tinderbox in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Putting more soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan to train local security forces and to work selectively with different elements of the Afghan insurgency are two policy recommendations that seem to be preferred by several observers that we have spoken to over the past month.

Whatever the issues in Afghanistan, the one thing that unites Afghans whatever their tribe and ethnicity is a deep seated antipathy towards all non-Afghan, outside forces--including the British, Russians, Americans, Canadians, NATO and al Qaeda. Against this background, the Afghan insurgency is not a monolithic opponent, and so there is room to maneuver and to tactically gain ascendancy towards rebuilding the society and state for Afghans.

Pakistan as a state, is near collapse and the policy choices here are not attractive, in the short run. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is a shadow government in Pakistan, operating outside of the control of a moribund civilian government and of the divided, discouraged military. Outside interests include India, China, Iran, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. A viable solution for Pakistan, and probably for Central Asia, has to include these players through multiple diplomatic channels. There are conversations to be held in April and May between Ambassador Holbrooke and state representatives; some of these conversations will also include international academic and policy experts as well. Here's hoping that the international credit crisis doesn't absorb all our national attention from this important area of strategic political, economic and humanitarian interest. American foreign policy will have to mobilize quickly on the Pakistan issue.

No comments: