The Foreign Service Journal, September 2010

36 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 0 eyond the goal of stabilizing Afghanistan and precluding terrorists from using it as a sanctuary, many policymakers, security ex- perts and pundits insist that U.S. and NATO forces must prevent militancy in Afghanistan from spilling into neighboring, nuclear-armed Pakistan. Underpinning this argument is the assumption that if Washington were to abandon Afghanistan to its fate, militants in the region could fatally weaken the government of Pakistan and seize its nu- clear weapons. However, conflating a successful territorial pacification of Afghanistan with the suppression of tumul- tuous security conditions in Pakistan is misguided. Much of the confusion stems fromwishful thinking under the Bush administration, which assumed that a post-9/11 Pak- istan would radically alter its strategic ambitions and combat the very extremists it had previously nurtured to counter India, its primary enemy. But rather than sever ties to these militants (many of whom Pakistani governments had sup- ported for more than 30 years) then-President Pervez Musharraf and his military corps commanders decided to ally openly with the Bush administration in the “War on Terror” and preserve their proxy assets as a hedge against Indian in- fluence. Indeed, a new report from the London School of Economics claims that Pakistan’s military-dominated spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, not only funds Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially rep- resented on the militant movement’s leadership council. The clash of competing strategic interests between Islam- abad and Washington goes unanswered by present U.S. pol- icy, even though it is one of the many underlying sources of the Afghan mission’s vulnerability. In this respect, stability in Pakistan does not require — indeed, it does not benefit from — the presence of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. First, foreign troops neither resolve the ongoing rivalry be- tween Pakistan and India nor decrease either country’s in- centive to use the region as a proxy battleground. Second, Washington’s short- and long-term interests in the broader Asia-Pacific region provide policymakers with limited wiggle room for choosing sides in South Asia’s chief regional dispute. Finally, widespread suspicions that the United States and India are colluding to dismember Pakistan encourage Pak- istani countermeasures in Afghanistan, thereby undermining the viability of any government in Kabul supported by New Delhi. Long-term stability in this region will come about only after the United States scales down its Afghanistan policy to a much narrower counterterrorism mission and Pakistan is convinced that its future security does not lie in continuing its self-defeating support of Islamist proxies. To surmount this critical stumbling block, the United States must encourage the formation of a national government in Afghanistan that in- cludes a political buy-in from Islamabad. P AKISTAN : W ASHINGTON ’ S B LIND S POT IN A FGHANISTAN B Y IGNORING CORE ISSUES AND REALITIES IN S OUTH A SIA , U.S. POLICY IN A FGHANISTAN INADVERTENTLY CONTRIBUTES TO THE VERY INSTABILITY THAT LEADERS IN W ASHINGTON SEEK TO FORESTALL . B Y M ALOU I NNOCENT Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Insti- tute and a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Her primary research interests include Middle East- ern and Persian Gulf security issues and U.S. foreign policy to- ward Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. She has appeared on CNN, BBCNews, Fox News Channel, Al-Jazeera, the Voice of America, CNBC Asia and Reuters, and has written for nu- merous journals and newspapers. B