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Factsheet #92 on Pakistan and Afghanistan

October 13, 2011

PAKISTAN: Time for Plan B

The Main Obstacle to Progress in Afghanistan Is Pakistan

  • Pakistan Proxies Conducting Brazen Attacks on U.S. Interests: The Pakistan-based Haqqani network of Afghan insurgents, which Admiral Mike Mullen called a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, was behind the attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul on September 13. While Haqqani forces have conducted attacks against U.S. and NATO soldiers in the past, the embassy attack represents an escalation against U.S. interests in Afghanistan.
  • Pushing the Region into Deeper Conflict: Pakistan’s support of insurgent groups in Afghanistan is the most significant obstacle to achieving stability. Refusal by the Pakistani military to take action against the Haqqani network seriously undermines U.S. and NATO success in the Afghan mission.

White House Needs to Shift Strategy

  • Ground Zero Lights Reverse Afghan Withdrawal Plan: President Obama’s aggressive withdrawal strategy to remove 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by next September only reinforces the Pakistani view that the U.S. will turn its back on the region. We cannot afford to leave a void the Taliban can again fill. We should make clear that the U.S. will remain engaged.
  • Pursue Other U.S. Supply Options: Half of all supply routes to the NATO mission go through Pakistan, which could cut them off at any time. The U.S. should develop additional supply routes into Afghanistan to reduce that leverage.
  • Freeze Aid: Freeze aid until Pakistan takes actions against perpetrators of the U.S. embassy attack and helps shut down the Haqqani network. Congress is taking steps to condition all U.S. aid to Pakistan on certain counterterrorism benchmarks, which is a welcome tactic, but it may be insufficient.
  • Designate the Haqqani Network a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO): Failure to designate the Haqqani network as an FTO following the embassy attack would signal U.S. weakness and invite additional attacks on U.S. interests in Afghanistan.
  • Establish a Congressional Commission: Congress should investigate Pakistan’s role in fomenting the insurgency in Afghanistan and the extent to which its actions are preventing the U.S. and NATO from achieving their security objectives in the region.
  • Step Up Drone Strikes: The increased tempo in drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas has severely downgraded the al-Qaeda leadership and disrupted its ability to attack the U.S. Washington should pursue the same kind of aggressive drone campaign against the Haqqani network.

Actions Must Have Consequences for Pakistan

  • U.S. Should React: As The Wall Street Journal recently noted in an editorial: “The U.S. cannot be seen before the world, or more especially by the American people, turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s complicity in the murder of U.S. citizens serving in Afghanistan.”
  • Firm Stance Necessary: The Obama Administration is contradicting itself on the extent to which Pakistan supports U.S. enemies in the region. This is leading to speculation that the Administration is reluctant to rock the boat with Pakistan in the middle of its drawdown of forces from Afghanistan and before the next election. The U.S. cannot afford to allow its security interests in the region to be dictated by Pakistan, whose strategic objectives differ from America’s.
  • Prevent Another 9/11: The 9/11 attacks derived partially from the inability of the U.S. during the late 1990s to prevail on Pakistan and its Taliban proxies to deal with Osama bin Laden and the growing al-Qaeda threat in the region. The U.S. should not place itself in a similar position this time around.

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