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Introduction: Emerging Trends and Developments in Pakistan's FATA—Implications for the United States

Robert G. Wirsing


This introduction provides a U.S. perspective on the findings and analyses emerging in the following essays on the challenges facing Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations and development initiatives in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The first essay, authored by Ijaz Khan, addresses the challenges facing development in the FATA. The second essay, authored by Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, addresses the challenges facing a counter-militant campaign in the FATA.

This introduction also examines recent political developments in Pakistan, including the extraordinary upsurge in suicide bombings and the ousting of President Pervez Musharraf ’s "King’s party" in the 2008 parliamentary elections. This introduction further notes that important differences in the strategic outlooks of the United States and Pakistani governments regarding the FATA are becoming increasingly apparent. These differences have far-reaching consequences not only for Pakistan’s regional and domestic political interests but also for U.S. policy. The introduction is divided into three sections: a contrastive analysis of the key findings of the two essays, including the salient points of agreement and disagreement; the presentation of a U.S. perspective on these findings; and a concluding section with policy implications for the United States.

Key Findings of the Essays

Points of Agreement

Khan and Cheema understand the circumstances of the FATA very differently and tackle these circumstances from different angles. In fact, the authors seem agreed on only two important points. First, the authors agree that militancy in the FATA has reached dangerous dimensions. Second, Khan and Cheema agree that no strictly military solution to the problem is at hand, either because Pakistan lacks the will or capacity to attempt such a solution (according to Khan) or because a more aggressive military effort would likely worsen matters (according to Cheema). Both authors argue that Pakistan’s security forces should aim at eliminating the militants. Not to eliminate the insurgency leaves the field open for continued militant activity and expansion. Khan, however, asserts that the Pakistani government has thus far been content merely to contain rather than to eliminate the militants. Cheema, in contrast, maintains that Pakistan’s current heavy reliance on military force is not likely to succeed in the absence of major political and economic reforms. In particular, Cheema argues that the military actions of "foreign" (meaning Western, or U.S. and NATO) forces, both in Afghanistan and in the FATA, are already too aggressive and are, in fact, one of the root causes of the ongoing insurgency...

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