Achieve Counter-insurgency Cooperation in Afghanistan by Resolving the Indo-Pakistani Rivalry

Achieve Counter-insurgency Cooperation in Afghanistan by Resolving the Indo-Pakistani Rivalry

by Abdulkader H. Sinno
December 1, 2008

This essay examines post–September 11 Afghanistan-Pakistan relations in the context of the ongoing militant threat faced by each country.

This essay explores Afghan perspectives, interests, and options regarding Afghan- Pakistani relations from the angle of the conflicts taking place on both sides of the Durand Line. It argues that there are no short-term solutions to the challenge posed to the United States and the Karzai government by the presence of safe havens for the Taliban and other mujahideen across the border in Pakistan. Both the Afghan and Pakistani states are weak and, as of now, are incapable of engaging in effective counter-insurgency in Pashtun areas, let alone of coordinating a complex and draining counter-insurgency campaign. Many key players in Pakistan, including some within state institutions, see no reason to engage in counter-insurgency because of complex and intertwined interests, sympathy toward the insurgents, differing priorities, concern over India, dislike of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, and the likelihood that the Taliban will outlast the U.S. occupation and the Karzai government in Afghanistan. The Afghan government is perceived as weak and unlikely to survive long enough to encourage Pakistani leaders and other actors on both sides of the border to form an alliance to defeat the Taliban.

As for the United States, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and inside of Pakistan is so unpopular in both countries that the U.S. government cannot play a high profile role in bringing Afghan and Pakistani leaders together without discrediting these leaders within their own constituencies. The United States should resist the temptation to expand the military conflict into Pakistan in order to avoid breaking up that country and producing a disastrous regional conflict. The only reasonable course for the United States to gain the support of Pakistanis is to reduce Indian involvement in Afghanistan; actively push for a comprehensive and final agreement on Kashmir; commit to a large, long-term aid program ($2–3 billion per year over ten to fifteen years) in order both to help Pakistan develop economically and to consolidate Pakistani institutions; and provide guarantees that a strong Afghanistan state will not woo Pashtun support across the Durand Line.

The first section of this essay describes the key actors and their preferences on both sides of the border in order to explain the current situation and forecast the possibility for change. The second section describes the current state of U.S.-Afghan-Pakistani relations. The essay concludes with a discussion of policy alternatives available for the United States and the Karzai government to deprive the…