The Solution Can Be Hard to See

Carlotta Gall has written a shocking expose of how Pakistani institutions undermined the US military effort in Afghanistan. It is shocking that a key ally of the US might be secretly undermining a key US foreign policy objective. And it is more than that. it is infuriating given that Pakistan is a major recipient of US aid.

Let’s assume for a moment that she is right. What should happen next? This is a matter of conflict management. The answer depends on the ultimate goal of US policy. If the goal is to promote certain values, then the strategy should be value oriented. Other goals might take policy makers in other directions.

But let’s assume for now that the goal is to promote the values of democracy and respect for human rights. In this scenario, one has to admit that the strategy so far has not produced sustainable results. Even if the US military were to stay and fight on in Afghanistan, US focus on fighting the taliban, who in turn are protected and resupplied inside Pakistan produces never ending cycles of violence. It is not a solution.

So what is the solution? Put rather bluntly, the solution has to be set back the control of those people who are driving current policy in Pakistan. Why? If that policy does not change, nothing will change. How will that happen? This type of change has to come from within Pakistan. It cannot be forced. A good start might be a complete review of US policy towards Pakistan, including but not limited to its assistance policy.

While this may not satisfy people who would like to get revenge for what has happened, it is a rather radical step towards something that might produce sustainable results. Managing conflict, in other words, does not mean banging your head against the wall in the hope that it will fall down.

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