Should the U.S. Give Up on Pakistan?

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For months, U.S. pundits have wondered if the long-held U.S.-Pakistan partnership is in trouble, even asking if Pakistan is still really our ally. Now, eight days after Pakistan began blocking a crucial U.S. supply route into Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reports that Pakistan's spy service is pushing the Taliban to keep fighting, telling them, in the words of one Taliban commander, "to kill everyone—policemen, soldiers, engineers, teachers, civilians—just to intimidate people." In response, some U.S. observers are throwing up their hands, arguing that the U.S. should disengage with Pakistan. Here's what they have to say.

  • U.S.-Pakistan Breakdown 'Real and Dangerous Possibility'  The Economist declares, "It is hard to say which is deteriorating faster: the Pakistani government’s ability to deal with the country’s innumerable problems, or its scratchy, ambivalent relationship with America. ... Given the reluctance of the Pakistani authorities to take on the terrorist groups in North Waziristan, particularly the brutal Haqqani network that is believed to have links with Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence agency), and given growing public fury over encroachments on the country’s sovereignty, the tension is unlikely to go away. Even the one potentially hopeful development this week—reports of American-backed secret talks between the Afghan Quetta Shura Taliban and the government of Hamid Karzai—could cause new strain if Pakistan reacts badly to being left out. A breakdown in relations between America and Pakistan is a real and dangerous possibility."
  • Is U.S. Ready to Give Up on Pakistan?  Foreign Policy's Tom Ricks reports from an important source. "My gut feeling is that U.S. officials are beginning to give up on getting serious anti-Taliban help from the government of Pakistan. My guess is that there won't be any official change stated, but more actions that Pakistani officials haven't been consulted about. ... My speculation isn't based on any leaks or anything, just a reading of a series of recent newspaper articles. Shorting Pakistan is kind of a no-brainer: In the long one, which is the better ally to have, India or Pakistan?"
  • U.S. Aid Gives Pakistan Incentives to Be Bad  Think Progress' Matthew Yglesias writes, "Our current policy, after all, is to give the Pakistani military a lot of aid that’s predicated on the existence of an Islamist militant threat. If the threat went away, the aid would probably dry up and even if it didn’t dry up it would be redirected away from military matters—we wouldn’t be interested in explicitly funding an arms race with India. When the Pakistanis give us a desultory effort it seems to me that we’re just getting what we paid for." In other words, our financial aid makes it in Pakistan's interests to keep the insurgency going.
  • U.S. Pushing Pakistan Will Backfire  Imtiaz Gul writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Reconciling the conflicting Pakistani and U.S. policy objectives therefore represents a formidable challenge. Most Pakistani analysts believe that Gen. Petraeus has shifted the focus of war from Afghanistan to their country in an effort to suck the Pakistan army into North Waziristan. But it is highly questionable whether a frontal assault by the Pakistan army on militants there would bring stability to Afghanistan. Pakistan has paid a high price for America's long and unpopular war across its border. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship may not be at the breaking point yet. After all, Pakistan remains a crucial link in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. But Pakistan's own instability is also a source of concern to the administration. Washington has to remember that progress in Afghanistan will be fleeting if it comes at the cost of creating more enemies for Pakistan's weak and unpopular government in the border regions"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.