The Obama Administration’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan offers peculiar challenges and potential opportunities for Pakistan. The challenges pertain to Pakistan’s alleged reliance on irregular warfare in South Asia as an instrument of national security policy, especially the continuing external perception regarding its security establishment’s dual approach of practicing toughness towards home-grown domestic terrorists and leniency towards home-based regional terrorists. The opportunities include the possibility of a long-term relationship with the United States and the creation of a regional security environment addressing Pakistan’s pervasive sense of national insecurity, especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India. This article first critically reviews the Af-Pak strategy’s Pakistan-relevant features and then analyses Pakistan’s corresponding counter-terrorism performance. It also discusses what the US and Pakistan need to do to harmonise their counter-terrorism approaches.
The article argues that during the time the Af-Pak strategy has been in operation, the counter-terrorism policies of the United States and Pakistan have converged in some areas while noticeable incompatibilities remain in others. The Obama Administration has kept up the pressure on Pakistan to undertake strategic shift in its regional counter-terrorism policy and target even those terrorist groups which use its territory to commit terrorism in Afghanistan and India. The simultaneous offer of US incentives and disincentives to Pakistan are meant to encourage or force its security establishment to undertake the required strategic shift in its regional counter-terrorism policy.
An additional argument in this study pertains to the uncertainties involved in the evolving US-led counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan—including the possibility of a US-sanctioned compromise political resolution of the Afghan conflict to facilitate the withdrawal of international troops from the country. Pakistan is likely to play a pivotal role in realizing such settlement. In that case, the US pressure on Pakistan to bring about the said shift in its regional counter-terrorism approach is likely to recede overtime. However, for such an eventuality not to have destabilizing consequences for the region, Pakistan’s relations with both Afghanistan and India may have to simultaneously experience sustained progress. Full Text