INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

January 27, 2009

OBAMA’S NEW AMERICAN ERA: PAKISTAN’S POLICY OPTIONS

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:34 pm

Rabia Akhtar

The question that needs to be raised post the 20 January inauguration of the new US administration is not how Obama will deal with Pakistan but rather how Pakistan should revise its foreign policy agenda with this transition in US government and reject eight gruesome years of US coercive diplomacy. The change to achieve regional security and stability rests with Pakistan taking a wiser course of action and reversing the chips for once.

Obama has a foreign policy agenda to pursue in which the GWOT will see a clear shift of focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, with a promise of thinning of troops from Iraq to concentration of more forces in Afghanistan. Not because Iraq is in the settling phase, far from it, but because the projected face of global terrorism suggests that Al Qaeda’s center has shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan onto Pakistan, with the allegiance of the Taliban. It seems like that the US is looking for a scapegoat in Afghanistan and in this case Pakistan fits the bill. With continuous reports on Pakistan being at the crossroads of terrorism and a nuclear threat, pressure is being generated whereby it is expected that Pakistan should adopt an apologist stance instead of a more realistic one against the US policies in the region.

What Pakistan at this moment can do, is to reflect on the US‘ amoral policies and pressurize the new US Obama administration to revise its failing strategy in Afghanistan and show them the mirror of history. This war of eight years has proven to be very costly for the US leading it to the brink of moral and financial bankruptcy. Pakistan however faces a twin dilemma – with India ready to fill the US shoes in case a withdrawal becomes imminent in coming years, Pakistan needs to think long and hard as to how can it cash in on the ‘alliance’ it has sacrificed part of its sovereignty for and build its credibility with the international community so that in case of US withdrawal, it is trusted to take the lead in helping Afghanistan deal with terrorism through networking of forces across the Durand Line.

Pakistan has various policy options which it should pursue now that the new US administration is in power. What Pakistan needs to understand is that it is strategically being encircled into ‘accepting’ that it has become the hub of terrorism, a safe haven for Al Qaeda, a nuclear terrorist threat for the rest of the world, a centre of extremist Islamist militancy, a failing state with fragile democracy, incapable of making peace with its neighbor and a disaster in the making. Therefore, officially distancing itself from these ‘allegations’ and raising a public consensus on the amorality of this war waged on Pakistan will help set the pace for the new Pakistan-US foreign policy agenda for the first term of Obama’s administration.

Second, despite the new US foreign policy strategy for Afghanistan, an additional 30,000 troops in Afghanistan are not going to help curb the resurgence of Al Qaeda and Taliban. The US must understand that there is no military solution to ideology and it cannot be fought through weapons. In this regard, Pakistan must emphasize the lack of understanding that is undermining the morals of humanity and help bridge the gap through raising dialogue and negotiating peace on terms acceptable to all parties in the conflict.

In order for this to happen, Pakistan must pressurize the new US administration for setting a time line for ultimate withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and promising a peaceful transition of power to Afghanistan truly representative of the factions representing various parties. President Karzai’s statement in this regard of taking more control of US operations inside Afghanistan is a step in the right direction which should be supported by Pakistan. A timeline for US withdrawal is also crucial for Pakistan‘s long term strategy vis-a-vis Afghanistan and India for it will help chalk out its role in the region as a lead player in enhancing strategic stability in the region.

Some right noises have already been made by Pakistan post-Obama inauguration through officially signaling a halting of drone attacks inside Pakistan, respecting its sovereignty and reviewing its policy options if the new US administration’s policies are not positive towards Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan should accept a ‘tripling of non-military aid’ offer by the US on the condition of de-linking aid from its ‘performance’ in GWOT and dropping the rhetoric on ‘do more’ because over the past eight years, Pakistanis have lost more lives from the US-waged war on terrorism inside Pakistan’s territory than the 9/11 victims combined. This should be enough proof of its commitment to GWOT as a frontline state and requires no apology where ‘performance’ is concerned. If a change is warranted, Pakistan must take the lead.


Chairperson, Department of Defense and Diplomatic Studies, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi

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1 Comment »

  1. A very timely and suggestive essay.

    Comment by sharafs — January 27, 2009 @ 6:43 pm


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