Pakistan – US Relations

in Program

By Michael Krepon – The US –
relationship could not have survived this long without the presence of vital
common interests.  But we are now close
to another divorce.

It would be a serious error of judgment, in my view, to
conclude that this relationship cannot be salvaged.  Pakistanis have great resilience, and their
military leaders are capable of good as well as bad decisions.  This relationship won’t be salvaged unless Pakistan gets its house in order and unless we
are clear about what we can and cannot expect from Pakistan.

is a weak country with strong powers to resist US pressures.  US
reliance on Pakistan for
logistical support for our troops in Afghanistan is a great source of
friction.  We argue over compensation, the
extent of the US presence
on Pakistani soil and the ground rules under which US personnel operate.

US and
Pakistani interests diverge on nuclear issues, India,
and Afghanistan.  Pakistan’s
sense of insecurity is growing, which translates into increased reliance on
nuclear weapons and continued links to groups that carry out deadly attacks in Afghanistan and India.

On Afghanistan,
we both seek a negotiated settlement, but we are backing different horses.  Our military forces in Afghanistan –
God bless them — are performing in an exceptional manner.  But we all know that their sacrifices will be
in vain unless tactical gains can be handed over to competent Afghan

If a lasting political settlement can be found in Afghanistan, it
will require extraordinarily difficult internal and regional deal making.  I doubt whether this heroic undertaking is
worthy of an annual US
military commitment in excess of $100 billion dollars.  Deal making will continue to be pursued at a
fraction of this cost and sacrifice.  The
results may well be modest or ephemeral, no matter how much we spend there.    

The future of Pakistan
matters far more than the future of Afghanistan.  Pakistan,
unlike Afghanistan,
is a hinge state in the Muslim world.   U.S. military and diplomatic investments do not
remotely correspond to the relative importance of Afghanistan
and Pakistan to vital US national
security interests.  Some US policies
are also increasing stress fractures in Pakistani society.

It will require a four-cornered bank shot to leave Afghanistan as
a reasonably functioning country.   Pakistan may also become lost to its own
pathologies regardless of U.S.
efforts there.  But it would be immensely
tragic if the loss of US blood
and treasure in this theater results in little better than the usual state of
affairs in Afghanistan
alongside far greater deterioration within Pakistan and in US- Pakistan

At best, we will continue to have a checkered track record
with Pakistan.  Pakistan’s
security apparatus will seek to increase its chances to influence Afghanistan’s
future no matter what we do.  Pakistan won’t
give up its nuclear weapons, but we may be able to promote more nuclear risk-reduction
measures in this region.  US ties with India will continue to improve, reflecting
our substantial and growing common interests. 
national security establishment will feel more insecure as a result.  We can’t convince Pakistan’s
military leaders to befriend India,
but we can promote more normal ties between Pakistan
and India,
especially in the areas of trade and regional development.

The biggest challenge facing Pakistan’s
national security establishment is to recognize how continuing links to
extremist groups mortgage Pakistan’s
future.  Outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba are
the leading edge of Pakistan’s
national demise.  If Pakistan’s
military leaders cannot re-think the fundamentals of its anti-India policy and
its increasing reliance on nuclear weapons, they will never know true security.

I do not expect a change in Pakistan’s
ties to the Afghan Taliban, but this would be a good time for Pakistan’s
military leaders to re-think any ties they may still have to the remnants of Al
Qaeda within their country.

We might also reconsider our present course.  In my view, our Afghan policies hurt, rather
than help, Pakistan
to find its balance.  If authorities in Afghanistan are
unable to safeguard our military’s hard-won gains, we are obligated to ask how
much more blood and treasure ought to be devoted to this cause.  I acknowledge that there are risks in
accelerating reductions in the US
level of effort in Afghanistan.  In my view, greater risks and costs are
incurred by remaining on our current glide path.

I therefore respectfully suggest that this committee
consider accelerating efforts to secure a political settlement in Afghanistan
alongside steeper reductions in our level of military effort there.

Editor’s note: This is a copy of Michael
Krepon’s public remarks before the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations on May 5, 2011.  His longer, written
testimony can be found at



Photo Credit: The turnover of the last US
Mobile Army Surgical
Hospital to the Pakistani
Army, Muzaffarabad, (Travlr, February 16, 2006).




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