Pakistan: Defense and Security Challenges

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Pakistan: Defense and Security Challenges

December 21, 2007 25 min read Download Report
Lisa Curtis
Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center
Lisa focuses on U.S. national security interests and regional geopolitics as senior research fellow on South Asia.

Delivered October 10, 2007

Pursuing a strong and stable relationship with Paki­stan will continue to be one of America's most impor­tant foreign policy objectives for several years to come. The range and complexity of issues involved in our relations-eliminating global terrorist networks, countering the rising tide of Islamic radicalism in Pakistan, securing and safeguarding Pakistan's nuclear assets, and facilitating the transition to civilian-led democracy-require focused and sustained U.S. attention and deft diplomacy.

Recent developments in Pakistan and the United States, however, are threatening to create misunder­standings between our two countries and to derail this critical partnership. Pakistan's inability to control a burgeoning terrorist safe haven in tribal areas border­ing Afghanistan is causing frustration in Washington, while recently passed U.S. legislation that conditions military assistance to Pakistan is causing doubts about the U.S. as a reliable long-term partner. Washington and Islamabad each have high expectations of the rela­tionship. In order to sustain the U.S.-Pakistan part­nership over the long term, we need to manage these expectations and seek to align our strategic perspec­tives of the region more closely. We should not repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing our ties to Islam­abad to weaken.

A second breach in the relationship, such as that caused by the Pressler Amendment that cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan in 1990, would seriously jeopardize U.S. interests in South Asia and have severe implica­tions for the global fight against terrorism.  

Political Transition

Pakistan is in the midst of an historic political transition that will determine the core direction of the country at a time when extremists are seeking to provoke an Islamic revolution. We have seen dra­matic developments in recent weeks, and the final outcome of the political changes is still uncertain. Washington should welcome the transition to civil­ian democratic rule without backing any particular individuals or political parties.

Given the perception that the U.S. has favored military over civilian rule in Pakistan in order to pursue its own counterterrorism objectives during the past six years, Washington will have difficulty convincing Pakistanis that it supports genuine democracy now. Unequivocal U.S. support for the democratic transition, such as recent U.S. state­ments criticizing the arrest of opposition politicians, as well as U.S. discouragement of a declaration of emergency rule in Pakistan, is necessary to try to defuse the increasingly shrill anti-Americanism that is gripping Pakistani civil society.

If the Supreme Court this week rules in President Pervez Musharraf's favor on cases challenging his eligibility for re-election to another five-year term, he will officially become president, and all eyes will begin to shift to the 2008 general election.

To lay a foundation for a credible election pro­cess, Musharraf will need to resign from the Chief of Army position. His lawyer has already announced to the Supreme Court that he will shed the military uniform before taking a new oath of office, and he has little choice but to follow through on the com­mitment. A second attempt to renege on his pledge, like he did in 2004, would meet with a domestic backlash and strong international condemnation. His recent announcement of a successor Chief of Army signals that he is serious about resigning his military post.

Other preparations for a free and fair election are also necessary. The Election Commission must work with the political opposition and international observers to correct voter rolls, which apparently fail to list millions of voters. Additionally, the gov­ernment must give all political parties a chance to participate fully in the process. Any attempt to manipulate the elections in favor of a particular political party would backfire and undermine the credibility of the entire process, fueling further political unrest.

Rising Extremist Violence

The increase in attacks in Pakistan during the past three months, which have killed over 300 civilians and security personnel, appears to be both retaliation for the July 10 military operation at the Red Mosque and aimed at taking advantage of the political unrest. Pakistan is now second only to Iraq in the number of suicide attacks during the past few months.

The attacks on government forces have mainly taken place in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where the Pakistan military has resumed operations against militants. Last week a suicide bomber killed 15 people when he blew himself up near a police checkpoint in the town of Bannu in the NWFP. Pakistan has reported killing 150 militants in clashes over the weekend in North Waziristan.

Support within the Pakistan Army to continue fighting in the tribal areas may be eroding. Circum­stances surrounding the capture of over 240 Paki­stani soldiers by Taliban fighters on August 30 are mysterious. Some observers speculate the soldiers may have surrendered.

Despite the rising violence, Pakistanis are gener­ally ambivalent about taking on the extremist threat directly. A recent poll taken by Terror Free Tomor­row, a U.S. non-governmental organization, shows that an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis do not view the fight against terrorism as benefiting Paki­stan, nor do they see defeating al-Qaeda as a priority for their leaders. Instead they appear to blame the recent violence on Pakistani counterterrorism coop­eration with the U.S. Increasingly, they question the benefits of continuing to support U.S.-led anti-ter­rorism efforts in the region that, in their opinion, rely too heavily on military force.

Harmonizing U.S.-Pakistan Counterterrorism Efforts

The U.S. and Pakistan differ on how to achieve counterterrorism objectives. Our two countries share the overall goals of bringing stability to Afghanistan and preventing the rise of extremism in Pakistan. Moreover, we are in agreement that the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan would have a blowback effect in Pakistan.

However, for a variety of reasons, including fears of creating greater instability in the country, Paki­stani doubts about the U.S. long-term commitment to the region, and Islamabad's distrust of the Karzai government in Kabul, Islamabad is reluctant to crack down fully on the Taliban and other extrem­ists operating from its territory.

Also contributing to broader U.S.-Pakistan misun­derstanding on counterterrorism issues are the com­plex political and societal dynamics in Pakistan that prevent Islamabad from taking credit for some of its counterterrorism successes. Given the Pakistani pub­lic's opposition to the war in Afghanistan and pockets of sympathy for the Taliban, Islamabad has refrained from highlighting its recent contributions in targeting senior Taliban leaders. With the assistance of Pakistan, senior Taliban military commander Mullah Akhtar Osmani was killed last December in an air strike in Afghanistan, and Mullah Dadullah was killed in May in Helmand province in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis also arrested Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Obaid­ullah earlier in the year and eliminated key Pakistani Taliban leader Abdullah Masood in Pakistan's Bal­uchistan province in July. [1]

To garner the full counterterrorism cooperation the U.S. requires from Islamabad, Washington must develop a realistic and hard-nosed policy that takes on Pakistan's ambivalence toward going head-to-head with the extremists. Despite Pakistan having been one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid over the past six years-receiving well over $10 billion-the terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan is as dan­gerous as ever.

Many of those involved in recently foiled terror­ist plots across the globe received training and inspi­ration at terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and a recent United Nations report says that 80 percent of suicide bombers that have conducted attacks in Afghanistan from 2001-2007 were recruited, received training, or stayed in safe houses located in the North and South Waziristan agencies of Paki­stan's tribal areas.[2]

Pakistan believes the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan relies too heavily on military operations that result in collateral damage that further alienates the local population. Furthermore, Islamabad believes it is possible to negotiate with the Taliban to bring them into the political process. In his remarks at the clos­ing ceremony of the August peace jirga in Kabul, President Musharraf said the Taliban is part of Afghan society and can be brought into the political mainstream.

While promoting an inclusive political system that provides adequate representation of Pashtuns is important to stabilizing the country, there should be no doubt about the international commitment to preventing the Taliban from again gaining influence in Afghanistan. Advocating a Taliban role affirms extremism as an acceptable ideology and under­mines the establishment of pluralistic democracy in Afghanistan. Furthermore, a recent U.N. report asserts that overall support for the Taliban in Afghanistan remains "astonishingly low."[3]

Some observers believe Pakistan prefers to allow the Taliban to undermine the current dispensation in Afghanistan since the success of Hamid Karzai- perceived as a close ally of India-would be detri­mental to Pakistani security interests.[4] At the same time, however, the recent wave of terrorist attacks in retaliation for the Pakistan military's action against extremists at the Red Mosque in Islamabad on July 10 have led to the death of over 300 Pakistani civil­ians and security officials, demonstrating that the Taliban can be as threatening to the Pakistani state as it is to the Karzai government.

While hard-core Taliban elements with links to al-Qaeda will have to be defeated militarily in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Washington, Kabul, and Islamabad should devise together a strategy to siphon off "guns-for-hire" who would be willing to become part of civilian society. According to the British House of Commons Defense Committee Report on "United Kingdom Operations in Afghan­istan," British commanders in Helmand province reported that there were two levels of Taliban fight­ers: "tier one" fighters who are religious fundamen­talists who would never accept a compromise with government, and "tier two" fighters whose alle­giance was not based on ideology, but who were in effect hired guns and therefore more amenable to reconciliation.[5]

Pakistani Tribal Areas. Perhaps the greatest chal­lenge in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is to develop an effective strategy to root out the terrorists from the Tribal Areas. Senior U.S. intelligence officials revealed over the summer that the Pakistani peace deals in the FATA have not achieved the desired objectives and, in fact, have allowed the region to develop into an al-Qaeda stronghold. Pakistani extremists also took advantage of the decreased military pressure by attempting to institute strict Islamic edicts in the region-the same tactics employed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. The extremists have sought to close down girls' schools, barbershops, and video stores, and are increasingly challenging the writ of the government, even in some of the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province.

While focusing greater attention to combating this problem, it is important to acknowledge the tre­mendous losses the Pakistan Army has suffered in these areas over the last five years. The peace deals were implemented because of these losses, as well as the growing disillusionment among military cadre about fighting their own citizens. Part of the govern­ment's plan in initiating the peace deals was to restore the traditional form of governance in the region and to co-opt the tribal elders and political representatives through an infusion of economic assistance for new roads, hospitals, and schools.

U.S. revelations about al-Qaeda's safe haven in the border areas coincided with the Pakistan mili­tary's July 10 storming of the Red Mosque in Islam­abad, which left at least 100 dead. Reports indicate that there were links between the leadership of the Red Mosque and al-Qaeda elements in the Tribal Areas. The combination of events led Pakistan to send fresh military reinforcements to the region, reactivate military checkpoints, and resume limited military operations. 

While Pakistan's willingness to go back on the mil­itary offensive in the tribal areas is welcome, Islama­bad's efforts alone are unlikely to address the serious threat from the region. U.S. and Afghan forces repeat­edly have pursued insurgents to the border, but are banned from crossing into Pakistan in hot pursuit. Senior Pakistani military officials do not support the extremists in the tribal areas, yet they do not view the situation with the same urgency as the U.S. They also are reluctant to engage in a full-out confronta­tion with the extremists in these areas because of the risk that it would destabilize Pakistan.[6]

Washington must convince Islamabad to work more closely in joint operations that bring U.S. resources and military strength to bear on the situa­tion and employ a combination of targeted military operations and economic assistance that drives a wedge between the Pashtun tribal communities and the international terrorists. A large-scale U.S. troop invasion of Pakistan's Tribal Areas would have disastrous consequences for the Pakistani state and would not provide a lasting solution to the prob­lem. A more effective strategy involves working cooperatively with Pakistan's military to assert state authority over the areas. Once they are secure, substantial assistance could be provided to build up the economy and social infrastructure. The Bush Administration already is moving in this direction with a pledge of $750 million over five years to develop the Tribal Areas.

Over the long term, U.S. assistance should encourage political reform that incorporates the institutions of the tribal lands fully into the Paki­stani system. Some have argued that the Pakistan military is loath to implement political reform in these areas, and that only the democratic parties would move in this direction.

In late July, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto filed a petition with the Supreme Court, seeking enforcement of the Political Parties Act in the FATA that would extend Pakistan election laws to the region and encourage political activity. Political parties currently are prohibited from func­tioning in the FATA, although there are 12 seats reserved for FATA members in the National Assem­bly (the lower house of parliament) and eight in the Senate. The petition claims that since the political parties are not allowed to field candidates for elec­tions, the mosques and madrassahs (religious schools) have been able to assert undue political influence in the region.[7]

Washington should also prioritize development of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) that would build up industrial zones in the Northwest Frontier Province and other areas that would pro­duce textile goods receiving preferential access in the U.S. The ROZ initiative is an integral compo­nent to our overall strategy to develop the FATA and uproot terrorism from the border areas. The Bush Administration first announced this initiative over 18 months ago. The U.S. Administration and Con­gress should work together expeditiously to get this critical project off the ground.

Pakistani Regional Relationships

Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations. Our ability to defeat al-Qaeda's capabilities and ideology rests on a strategy that integrates our diplomatic and security efforts toward Afghanistan and Pakistan and that focuses more intently on improving these two key countries' relations with each other. The Afghani­stan Freedom and Security Support Act of 2007 that is now before the U.S. Senate acknowledges this linkage and authorizes the President to appoint a special envoy to promote closer Afghanistan-Paki­stan cooperation. This is an important initiative and should be taken up as quickly as possible. 

This senior envoy would need to take a pro-active role in mediating disputes between Afghani­stan and Pakistan, prodding both countries to develop a fresh strategic perception of the region based on economic integration, political reconcilia­tion, and respect for territorial boundaries.

To achieve stability in the region, Pakistan will have to root out Taliban ideology from its own soci­ety and close down madrassahs and training camps that perpetuate the Taliban insurgency. For its part, Afghanistan will have to acknowledge the sanctity of the border dividing Pashtun populations between the two countries and ensure adequate representa­tion of Pashtuns in the Afghan government.

Pashtuns in Afghanistan number about 12 mil­lion, making up 42 percent of the Afghanistan pop­ulation, while the Pashtun population in Pakistan stands at about 25 million, constituting around 15 percent of the total Pakistani population. British colonialists purposely divided the ethnic Pashtun tribes in 1893 with the Durand Line, which now constitutes the 1,600-mile porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.[8] Afghanistan at one time claimed Pashtun tribal areas in Pakistan and has never officially recognized the Durand Line. In the past, Pakistan has countered Pashtun nationalism within its own borders by promoting pan-Islamic extremism in Afghanistan.  

The Afghanistan-Pakistan peace jirga that was held in early August in Kabul was a first step in bringing local leaders together from both sides of the border in face-to-face talks. While no one expected immediate breakthroughs, the gathering represented an important step in beginning to build confidence between the hostile neighbors. Pakistani and Afghan delegates, numbering around 700, focused on terrorism as a joint threat to the two nations and urged their governments to make the War on Terrorism an integral part of their national policies and security strategies.

One highlight of the jirga was President Mushar­raf's admission during the closing ceremonies that Afghan militants received support from within Paki­stan. His statements represented a welcome depar­ture from past rhetorical barbs blaming Afghanistan's woes entirely on President Karzai. Musharraf's remarks demonstrate that the two sides have made some limited progress in improving relations since the historic tri-partite meeting hosted by President George W. Bush in September 2006.

Pakistan-India Relations. India and Pakistan have achieved tangible progress in the peace talks that started in January 2004. They have held dozens of official meetings, increased people-to-people exchanges, increased annual bilateral trade to over $1 billion, launched several cross-border buses and train services, and liberalized visa regimes to encour­age travel between the two countries. During a meet­ing in September 2006-just two months after the Mumbai commuter train blasts that killed nearly 200-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Presi­dent Musharraf established a joint terrorism mecha­nism and agreed to expedite resolution of disputes over the Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek, a narrow strip of marshland separating the province of Sindh in Pakistan and the state of Gujarat in India.

      Perhaps the most significant progress has been the narrowing of differences about how to address the seemingly intractable issue of Kashmir. Presi­dent Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh are begin­ning to craft their statements on Kashmir in ways that narrow the gap between their countries' long-held official positions on the disputed territory.

President Musharraf declared last December in an Indian television interview that Pakistan would give up its claim to Kashmir if India agreed to a four-part solution that involves keeping the current boundaries intact and making the Line of Control (LOC) that divides Kashmir irrelevant, demilitariz­ing both sides of the LOC, developing a plan for self-governance of Kashmir, and instituting a mech­anism for India and Pakistan to jointly supervise the region. In 2003, Musharraf dropped Islamabad's long-held insistence on a United Nations plebiscite to determine the status of Kashmir.

It is critical that the two sides maintain momen­tum in the peace process, since the state of Paki­stan-India ties will be a major determinant of overall regional stability. The peace process has understandably slowed due to the recent political instability in Pakistan. In a welcome development, Indian and Pakistani officials agreed to meet in New Delhi to discuss nuclear confidence building and expand on their counterterrorism joint mechanism. If, as expected, Pakistan holds general elections ear­ly next year, the peace process could become vul­nerable if new leaders fail to express commitment to the peace talks early on in their administration. 

One reason for continued Pakistani ambivalence toward the Taliban stems from the concern that India is trying to encircle it by gaining influence in Afghanistan. In this context, the Taliban offers the best chance for countering India's regional influ­ence. Pakistan believes ethnic Tajiks in the Afghan government receive support from New Delhi. India, in cooperation with Russia and Iran, supported the Afghan Northern Alliance against the Taliban in the late 1990s and almost certainly retains links to Northern Alliance elements now in the Afghan gov­ernment. Pakistan also complains that the Indian consulates in the border cities of Jalalabad and Kan­dahar are involved in fomenting insurgency in its Baluchistan province.

Because of the regional rivalry between Pakistan and India, Islamabad has been reluctant to allow Indian trans-shipment of goods across its territory into Afghanistan. The U.S. should encourage India and Pakistan to work toward greater economic cooperation in Afghanistan as a way to defuse their tensions. Participants in unofficial talks on improv­ing Indo-Pakistani ties have suggested that the two countries add Afghanistan as an agenda item in their formal dialogue.[9]  

Pakistan-China Relations. Pakistan and China have had long-standing strategic ties. China is Paki­stan's largest defense supplier, and the Chinese view Pakistan as a useful counterweight to Indian power in the region. In the run-up to Chinese President Hu Jin­tao's visit to Pakistan last November, media reports speculated that Beijing would sign a major nuclear energy cooperation agreement with Pakistan.[10]
In the end, however, the Chinese leader provided a general pledge of support to Pakistan's nuclear energy program but refrained from announcing plans to supply new nuclear reactors. China has helped Pakistan build two nuclear reactors at the Chasma site in the Punjab Province and has provid­ed Pakistan with nuclear technology as far back as the 1970s. China also is helping Pakistan develop a deep-sea port at Gwadar in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, near the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

One source of tension between Beijing and Islam­abad that has surfaced in the past has been about the issue of rising Islamic extremism in Pakistan and the ability of Chinese Uighur separatists to receive sanc­tuary and training among other radical Islamist groups on Pakistani territory. To mollify China's con­cerns, Pakistan in recent years has begun to clamp down on Uighur settlements and on religious schools used as training grounds for militant Islam­ists.[11] Their tensions over Islamic extremism flared earlier this year when Islamic vigilantes from the Red Mosque kidnapped several Chinese citizens they accused of running a brothel in Islamabad. Many believe Islamabad's decision to use military force against the extremists at the Red Mosque stemmed largely from the incident with the Chinese citizens, which greatly embarrassed the Musharraf regime.

Pakistan-Iran Relations. Pakistan's relations with Iran have been far from smooth during the last three decades. Relations soured following the 1979 Iranian Revolution due to Pakistani President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq's previous support of the Shah's regime and his encouragement of Sunni militant organizations that pushed a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam and tar­geted the minority Shia population in Pakistan. Iran, in turn, began to export to Pakistan Shiia militants to counter the Sunni extremists. Sectarian violence has ebbed and flowed during the last fifteen years in Pakistan and continues to have a chilling impact on Iranian-Pakistani relations.

Pakistan's support of the Sunni Taliban in the mid-1990s significantly raised tensions between Tehran and Islamabad. These tensions climaxed in August 1998 when the Taliban killed several Iranian diplomats in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Iran responded by amassing its military along the border with Afghanistan. If fighting had broken out between Iranian forces and the Taliban, Pakistan would have likely been drawn into the conflict in support of the Taliban.

It is difficult to imagine Pakistan would have officially sanctioned nuclear cooperation with such an unsteady neighbor, although some analysts believe the bulk of the nuclear cooperation occurred in the early 1990s before the Taliban had emerged and shortly after the U.S. had cut off assistance to Pakistan.

Pakistan's halt to official support for the Taliban fol­lowing 9/11 has helped to improve Pakistani-Iranian ties, and both countries are actively engaged in talks on developing an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Nuclear Issues

Preventing Pakistan's nuclear weapons and tech­nology from falling into the hands of terrorists is a top priority for the U.S. President Musharraf recent­ly made a series of promotions to key Army posts aimed at ensuring continuity in Army policies dur­ing the political transition. The round of promo­tions is critical to maintaining the professionalism and institutional integrity of the Army and reassur­ing the international community that the military remains committed to the fight against terrorism and to the protection of the country's nuclear assets.

While there is no immediate threat to the securi­ty of Pakistan's nuclear weapons during the current political transition, Washington will need to be dil­igent in pursuing policies that promote the safety and security of Islamabad's nuclear assets. The results of investigations into Pakistani nuclear scien­tist Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear black market and proliferation network demonstrate the devastating consequences of nuclear proliferation by individu­als with access to state-controlled nuclear programs.

Although A.Q. Khan avoided engaging al-Qaeda on nuclear issues, earlier revelations about a group of former Pakistani military officials and nuclear sci­entists who met with Osama bin Laden around the time of 9/11 remind us of the continuing threat of the intersection of terrorism and nuclear weapons in Pakistan.

On October 23, 2001, acting on an American request, Pakistani authorities detained Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majeed, two retired Paki­stan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) officials. Since their retirement from the PAEC in 1999 they had been involved in relief work in Afghanistan through a non-governmental organization they established called Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN). In November 2001, the coalition forces found doc­uments in Afghanistan relating to UTN's interest in biological weapons. This prompted Pakistani secu­rity forces to arrest seven members of UTN's board, most of whom were retired Pakistani Army officials and nuclear scientists.[12]

Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet speculates in his memoirs that UTN's contacts with the Taliban and al-Qaeda may have been sup­ported by some elements within the Pakistani mili­tary and intelligence establishment. Tenet says Pakistani interrogations of the seven board mem­bers were initially insufficient. He further notes that despite CIA warnings to Pakistani officials about UTN's activities before 9/11, it was only when Pres­ident George W. Bush dispatched him to Pakistan in November 2001, following revelations of a meeting between bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and UTN leaders, that Musharraf took serious action.[13]
What Should Be Done

      Washington is unlikely to succeed in stabilizing Afghanistan and preventing the Taliban from regaining influence in the country unless it address­es Pakistani stakes in Afghanistan and integrates U.S. security and diplomatic policies toward these two key countries. In this regard, the U.S. should follow through with suggestions to establish a senior envoy to focus solely on working with both Pakistani and Afghan officials to address their polit­ical and historical tensions and encourage greater security and economic cooperation.

As part of this effort, the U.S. will need to spur Pakistan to adjust its security perceptions of the region and demonstrate U.S. sensitivity to Pakistan's core security interests and willingness to use influence with both Kabul and New Delhi to address these con­cerns. Washington should continue and expand the Pakistan-Afghanistan jirga process as a way to bring together local leaders from both sides of the border. 
Washington should encourage New Delhi and Islamabad to engage directly with one another on the issue of Afghanistan and help identify regional eco­nomic or political initiatives on which the two can cooperate. Pakistan should not expect the U.S. to dis­courage India from having a role in Afghanistan, since Washington views New Delhi's example of a pluralis­tic democracy as a positive influence in helping Afghanistan develop itself into a stable democracy.

Washington should consider fostering regional trade cooperation initiatives among Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan that would encourage Pakistan to allow India to trans-ship goods destined for Afghan­istan reconstruction programs through its territory as stipulated in H.R. 2446. The U.S. could support a high-profile regional trade initiative with Indian, Pakistani, and Afghan representatives somewhere in the region that also involves participation by U.S. companies currently involved in the Afghan recon­struction effort.

The U.S. will need to build up Pakistan's capacity to take on the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Tribal Areas and focus substantial attention on developing these areas economically. Washington must con­vince Islamabad to work more closely in joint efforts that bring U.S. resources and military strength to bear on the situation in North and South Waziristan and employ a combination of targeted military operations and economic assistance programs that drives a wedge between the Pashtun tribal commu­nities and the international terrorists.

A large-scale U.S. troop invasion of Pakistan's Tribal Areas could have disastrous consequences for the Pakistani state and would not provide a lasting solution to the problem. A more effective strategy involves working cooperatively with Pakistan's mili­tary to assert state authority over the areas. Once they are secure, substantial assistance should be pro­vided to build up the economy and social infrastruc­ture. Washington's pledge of $750 million to develop the Tribal Areas over the next five years is welcome, but the aid should not be delivered until it is clear the Pakistani authorities have the upper hand in the region and can ensure the aid does not fall into the wrong hands. This will require U.S. access to the region and a clear commitment from the Pakistan government to counter Taliban ideology. 

The U.S. Agency for International Develop­ment (USAID) has implemented assistance pro­grams in the FATA for several years, including road building and school construction, and through opium cultivation eradication programs that were successful in the 1980s. Although the U.S. will have to provide aid initially through Pakistani government channels, USAID should seek out potential non-governmental organiza­tions that could work in these areas so that even­tually it can work through them rather than relying solely on the local administration.

The U.S. should conduct counterinsurgency training programs for the Pakistan military, especial­ly the Frontier Corps, whose troops know the terrain of the FATA, but have little counterinsurgency train­ing. This training will both build trust and stronger ties between the U.S. military and its Pakistani coun­terparts, as well as better prepare the Pakistan Army to fight al-Qaeda in the Tribal Areas. 

To address rising Islamic extremism, Washing­ton should encourage the Pakistan government to enforce the rule of law against militants who use the threat of violence to enforce Taliban-style edicts and close down madrassahs that are teaching hatred against the West that leads to terrorism. Washington, in coordination with the United King­dom and European allies, should make clear to Pakistan that the Taliban does not have a place in any future government in Afghanistan, and that only those who firmly renounce violence and par­ticipate in the current political process will have a say in running the country.

The U.S. should refrain from conditioning assis­tance to Pakistan because it sends a wrong signal at a time when we need to demonstrate that the fight against terrorism is a joint endeavor that benefits Pakistan as much as it does the U.S. and global com­munity. Given the abrupt cutoff of U.S. aid to Paki­stan in 1990 because of nuclear concerns, the U.S. lost valuable leverage with Pakistani leaders and created a feeling of mistrust between our two coun­tries that still plagues the relationship.

Because of the 1990 aid cutoff, Pakistan views the U.S. as a fickle partner that could exit the region at any time. This lack of faith in U.S. commitment to the region hurts our ability to garner the kind of counterterrorism cooperation we require from the Pakistani government. Pakistani soldiers are dying in the battle against terrorism, and average Paki­stanis are beginning to question whether these sac­rifices are being made solely at the behest of the U.S. rather than to protect their own country. Condition­ing assistance only fuels the idea that Pakistan is taking action to fight terrorism under coercion, rather than to protect its own citizens.

The U.S. should encourage the current transition to civilian-led democratic rule, yet not try to micro­manage it from Washington. The Pakistani people, by and large, do not support extremist policies and would likely vote into power one of the secular democratic parties-so long as they have a range of political choices and perceive the elections as trans­parent and free.

Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation. These remarks were delivered before the House Armed Services Committee.

[1] Richard Boucher, "Briefing on Pakistan," U.S. Department of State, July 17, 2007, at (December 11, 2007).

[2] United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, "Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan," September 9, 2007, at
(December 11, 2007), pp. 67-68.

[3] Ibid., p. 12.

[4] 7/ page7.shtml (subscription required).

[5] British House of Commons, "United Kingdom Operations in Afghanistan," Defense Committee Report, July 18, 2007, at
  (December 11, 2007), page 28.

[6] Moeed Yusuf, "Tackling Pakistan's Extremists: Who Dictates, Us or Them?" The Brookings Institution, September 6, 2007, at (December 11, 2007).

[7] "BB Moves SC for Politicking in FATA," Daily Times, July 31, 2007, at
(December 11, 2007).

[8] K. Alan Kronstadt, "Pakistan-U.S. Relations," Congressional Research Services Report RL33489, August 24, 2007, at (December 11, 2007), p. 16.

[9] Chandan Mitra, "J & K: Out of the Box," The Pioneer, September 13, 2007 at
(December 11, 2007).

[10] Jo Johnson, Farhan Bokhari, and Edward Luce, "U.S. Fears China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal," The Financial Times, November 16, 2006, at
(September 12, 2007).

[11] Ziad Haider, "Clearing Clouds Over the Karakoram Pass," YaleGlobal Online, March 29, 2004, at display.
(September 12, 2007).

[12] Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 154-155.

[13] George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007), p. 286.


Lisa Curtis
Lisa Curtis

Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center