tensions between U.S. and Pakistani forces along the
Afghan-Pakistani border threaten to play into al-Qaeda's agenda of
fueling anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani population and
causing confusion within the ranks of the Pakistani military about
the primary threat to their country. Coalition military strategy
must preserve the ability of military forces to defend themselves
and defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Additionally, this strategy
must promote cooperation with Pakistan to jointly address
transnational terrorist threats in the region. Finally, the U.S.
must proactively support a comprehensive regional strategy that
enhances cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
under Fire-Pakistan at Risk
officials admitted yesterday that Pakistani forces fired in the
direction of two U.S. reconnaissance helicopters flying near the
border, an altercation that prompted U.S.-led forces to return fire
from their positions in Afghanistan. The incident follows several
weeks of escalating tensions between the two militaries as the U.S.
steps up the frequency of its Predator missile attacks against
terrorist targets in the tribal areas and recently allowed U.S.
ground forces to raid a suspected terrorist hideout in South
Waziristan. The U.S. strikes have helped eliminate key terrorist
targets and likely disrupted terrorists' ability to plan, train
for, and conduct lethal operations against Coalition forces and the
civilian population in Afghanistan. The U.S. previously avoided
sending ground forces into Pakistan without Islamabad's permission
to prevent the potential for serious deterioration in U.S.-Pakistan
ties and destabilization of the central government.
Pakistani forces would deal with the terrorist threat in their
tribal areas, while Coalition forces defeat them in Afghanistan.
Pakistani government peace deals earlier this year worsened the
situation in the tribal areas, however, and led to an upsurge in
attacks in Afghanistan. Moreover, Pakistan has failed to completely
sever links to deadly terrorist networks in the region, and
well-sourced media reports indicate its intelligence service may
have been involved in the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in
Kabul. All of this likely convinced the Bush Administration to
finally give the green light in July for more aggressive U.S.
military action to degrade the terrorist threat in the
U.S. may need to continue to rely on unilateral military action in
the tribal areas to protect its troops fighting across the border
in Afghanistan as well as to prevent a potential future
catastrophic international terrorist attack. But the U.S. must
carefully calibrate its military action, recognizing that each
unilateral strike-especially if it involves civilian
casualties-undermines U.S. broader goals of garnering cooperation
from Pakistani leaders and preventing the strengthening of radical
forces within Pakistani society.
U.S. and other coalition forces have a right to self-defense, but
the U.S. should also be guided by overarching policies that
acknowledge that the global war on terror will be won by gaining
the support of local populations and through close cooperation and
coordination with governments also threatened by the terrorist
commander of U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus said
yesterday that a comprehensive approach was needed to quell the war
in Afghanistan, including reconciliation with the population and
"absolute engagement" with Pakistan. He also noted that Pakistan
faces an existential threat from terrorism and called for
"coordination, cooperation, and constructive dialogue" with
Tensions and Step Up Regional Diplomacy
civilian and military leaders must be clear with the Pakistani
population that the greatest threat to the future of the country
comes from terrorists like those who perpetrated the bombing of the
Marriott hotel in Islamabad on September 19. For its part, the U.S.
needs to use discretion in carrying out unilateral strikes,
recognizing that they also undermine long-term U.S. objectives of
building a partnership with Pakistani leaders against the mutual
terrorist threat and preventing the strengthening of radical forces
within Pakistani society.
tensions to build between U.S. and Pakistani military officials
helps al-Qaeda by fueling anti-Americanism and strengthening
support for its radical supporters in Pakistan; such tension serves
neither American nor Pakistani national security interests.
Military cooperation between Islamabad and Washington must remain
strong and retain trust to ensure accurate intelligence sharing
that is so critical to defeating terrorist threats. The U.S. and
Pakistan must close the gap that al-Qaeda is attempting to wedge
between them by doing the following:
two countries must engage in direct and respectful dialogue that
seeks to address each side's core concerns.
must demonstrate more clearly that it is taking steps to uproot the
terrorist safe haven in the tribal areas, while the U.S. must be
willing to address Pakistan's concerns regarding the situation
U.S. must better integrate its policies toward both Afghanistan and
Pakistan and focus more attention on building better ties between
them. Their antagonism is driven in part by Afghanistan's failure
to formally recognize their international border and Pakistan's
continued support of Taliban elements that tap into the Afghan
Pashtun population's sense of alienation from the central
government. There is an opportunity with the establishment of a new
democratic government in Pakistan for the two sides to manage their
regional rivalry through confidence-building measures-including
trade, economic, and cross-border initiatives-that can begin to
douse the fires feeding extremism and terrorism. Afghan President
Hamid Karzai has agreed to meet with new Pakistani President Asif
Ali Zardari in Turkey for the second trilateral meeting of the
three countries. This is a positive initiative that the U.S. should
such as the establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones
(ROZs) in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan can also
help defuse regional tensions. ROZ legislation now before the U.S.
Congress has been supported jointly by Pakistani Ambassador to the
U.S. Husain Haqqani and Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Said T.
Jawad. The two leaders have called for expeditious passage of this
legislation that would create industrial zones to produce and
export textiles and other items to the U.S. duty-free. Most
importantly, they argue, the establishment of ROZs in these regions
would draw the Afghan and Pakistani economies closer together,
increasing their cooperation and integration. Initiatives like ROZs
will give each country a vested interest in the stability of the
other and help defuse conflict that fuels support for radical
ideologies and terrorism.
the global war on terror will require far more than capturing and
killing terrorists. U.S. strategy must allow our forces to defend
themselves and proactively go after the enemy. At the same time, it
will require the U.S. to engage in more robust regional diplomacy
to defuse deep-seated animosities and to generate economic and
trade initiatives that build support among local populations for
uprooting the terrorists among them.
Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in
the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.