Up in Flames

By Hajari, Nisid; Moreau, Ron | Newsweek, October 18, 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Up in Flames

Hajari, Nisid, Moreau, Ron, Newsweek

Byline: Nisid Hajari and Ron Moreau

Pakistan's proxies are killing American troops and blowing up their supplies. So, how exactly are we allies again?

Of the two nations described jointly as "AfPak," one has nuclear weapons and the other doesn't. One has a population of 175 million and a GDP of $166 billion; the other has only 28 million citizens, a literacy rate under 30 percent, and an economy, if you don't count the opium trade, worth no more than $13 billion. One is a haven for Osama bin Laden and the remnants of the terror network that launched the 9/11 attacks. The 100,000 U.S. troops sent to root out Al Qaeda are in the other one.

By now the notion that Pakistan is the real "prize"--the strategic center of gravity--in the Afghanistan war hardly bears repeating. Yet in a telling moment in his book Obama's Wars, Bob Woodward notes that during the administration's deliberations last year, when then-national-security adviser Jim Jones suggested referring to the region as PakAf instead, the Pakistanis were immediately "distressed ... that the inversion might suggest that Pakistan was the main problem." Nobody wanted to upset our Pakistani allies; AfPak it has been ever since.

In America's relationship with Pakistan, carrots predominate, in part because we have so few sticks. After our almost unquestioned support for Pakistani dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf didn't elicit sufficient cooperation against the Taliban, we showered the civilian government that replaced him with $7.5 billion in aid, to little effect. American generals praise the very real sacrifices--in blood and treasure--made by the Pakistani Army in the fight against militants in Swat and South Waziristan; yet calls to broaden the campaign to North Waziristan, home to one of the deadliest Afghan insurgent groups, the Haqqani network, go unheeded. U.S. and Pakistani diplomats recite platitudes about "our common enemy, and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari repeatedly invokes his assassinated wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, to underscore his dedication to battling extremists. But that depends on whose extremists.

The events of the past week make clear why the United States has been so solicitous. After a U.S. helicopter attack across the border killed two Pakistani soldiers at a frontier outpost, Islamabad shut down one of the main crossings into Afghanistan in protest. Three quarters of nonlethal supplies intended for Coalition troops in Afghanistan travel through Pakistan. The crossing point quickly clogged with trucks that couldn't pass, making them easy targets. Militants torched more than 100 fuel tankers as Pakistani authorities largely stood aside and watched.

Impeding supply routes is not the strongest leverage Pakistan can bring to bear. The high-tech drone war that has eviscerated Al Qaeda's ranks--killing 17 commanders in the last nine months--is run out of Pakistan and is largely dependent on Pakistani intelligence for targeting. Islamabad publicly denies any role in the Predator strikes, and loudly protests the collateral damage when civilians are killed. But it hasn't grounded the CIA's drones--so far.

America's forbearance, though, is waning. In a report sent to Congress on Oct. 4, the Obama administration admitted that "the Pakistan military [has] continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda forces in North Waziristan." There is a reason for this--a "political choice," as the report says. The Pakistani military has long tolerated Afghan insurgents like the Haqqanis, who direct their attacks into Afghanistan only. Those groups--which include the Quetta Shura, led by the one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar--are Islamabad's insurance policy, agents who are meant to look after Pakistani interests when the United States eventually withdraws the bulk of its forces from the region. (Pakistan vehemently denies supporting any militant groups.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Up in Flames


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?