An op-ed piece in today’s Boston Globe by Karl F. Inderfurth, entitled, “Afghanistan, Pakistan, and NATO,” discussed the upcoming NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit that will be held this week in Bucharest and its ramifications for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to Inderfurth, the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 1997 to 2001, the summit comes at a critical time for Pakistan, the “one country that can make or break” NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. He wrote, “NATO is collectively holding its breath as the Musharraf era comes to a close, replaced by a new and uncertain civilian political leadership and accompanied by a continuing rise in extremist violence.” I have written countless briefs and pieces on the extremist threat in the country, but have so far focused my analysis mainly on the ramifications for Pakistan. However, Afghanistan and Pakistan are “inextricably linked,” a fact highlighted by Inderfurth in his piece on Tuesday. On Saturday, news sources, including Pakistan’s Daily Times, reported that six U.S.-Pak-Afghan joint military centers were opened along the countries’ border as “a giant step forward in co-operation, communication, and co-ordination.” According to the Daily Times, “The centers represent the next step in American efforts to encourage the South Asian neighbors to work together to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who take refuge in the region.”
Inderfurth, in his Globe piece, further noted, “There can be no successful outcome for Afghanistan if Pakistan is not a part of the solution. The future stability of both depends on the development of an effective regional strategy to counter and uproot the Taliban/Al Qaeda sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal border areas.” The counterinsurgency efforts by the Pakistani government in the last four years (or lack thereof), have allowed the Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban to establish and bolster their stronghold in the FATA, which poses not only a threat to NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan, but to the Pakistani state. According to Inderfurth, this also has ramifications for the much broader Al Qaeda-central, facilitating the organization’s ability to plan and execute global terrorist plots, “including those directed at the United States.”
On Tuesday, media outlets reported that NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer congratulated Pakistan’s new prime minister Gilani after the new cabinet was sworn in [see yesterday’s post], and expressed his hope for strong ties with the new government. The AFP quoted the official stating, “Pakistan, Afghanistan and NATO have established strong ties of practical cooperation in recent years; these ties can and should deepen, as the political dialogue between NATO and Pakistan also matures…I am very much in favor of establishing a good political dialogue with the Pakistani government as soon as it has settled down.”
These overtures and international pressures are in stark contrast to the “conditions for talks” voiced by members of the Pakistan Taliban, namely the umbrella organization, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakitan (TTP). On Saturday, PM Gilani said that fighting terrorism would be his top priority but offered to hold talks with militants who laid down their weapons. On Tuesday, an editorial in the Daily Times noted the TTP welcomed this offer, but said the new government must give up their “pro-U.S. stance first.” The Times added that some newspapers reported it as “sever ties with the U.S.” The editors noted, “The TTP warriors also demanded implementation of sharia law and the jirga system for their territory…They added, however, that ‘jihad against America would continue in Afghanistan”, but that they were ready ‘to end their activities and improve law and order in Pakistan if the government showed flexibility.'” The Daily Times assessed, “Pakistan may delink itself from the global war against terror but it will be obliged to end any cross-border attacks into Afghanistan from its soil in general and the Tribal Areas in particular. It remains to be seen how it can meet this obligation under international law without retaining some kind of coordination of strategy with the Afghan government and the ISAF-NATO troops stationed there under a UN mandate.” Basically, negotiations with the TTP, given their demands, coupled with the pressures from NATO, the U.S., and the international community, translates to a bit of a conundrum for the Pakistani government.