Think tank warns US against intervention in Pakistan

By Umar Cheema

WASHINGTON: A US think tank has warned Washington against planning an invasion of Pakistan’s tribal areas, fearing such an action would invoke resistance from the Pakistan Army and 165 million people, who would perceive it as an attack on their national sovereignty. “As a consequence, US threats to unleash the military in Pakistan’s tribal areas … lack credibility and will accomplish little other than to confirm Pakistan’s suspicion about US intentions.”

It has also urged Washington to avoid criticising negotiations with militants. These should not be entirely written off because a ceasefire can offer a timely breather for Pakistan’s overstretched Army and other security forces. But Washington should certainly demand explanation (or negotiations) about precisely how specific settlements are likely to benefit the counterinsurgents more than the insurgents, it said.

The Council on Foreign Relations’ report titled “Securing Pakistan’s Tribal Belt” states the unilateral US intervention in Pakistan is not a serious option in any case. The US military would find Pakistan’s tribal areas extremely tough going and the primary challenge would come not from the militants or terrorists but from the overwhelming majority of Pakistani people.

Daniel Markey, former State Department policy planning member and expert on South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has authored the report. “Washington should clarify its specific preferences for future agreements, including a set of general principles (such as accords should include a transparent mechanism for assessing infractions, action timelines should be announced publicly, tribal signatories must put up real property as collateral etc).

The most successful US-Pakistan partnership cannot fix the tribal areas overnight, the report said. This is truly a generational challenge and it must be recognised from the outset. Both Pakistani and American expectations should be appropriately calibrated and institutional investments should be made to reflect the long-term commitment that will be required.

Washington’s close association with the recent military regime has convinced many Pakistanis that the US prefers pliant generals over fractious civilians, the report said. The next administration should counter these false perceptions by demonstrating a higher than normal degree of patience and generosity towards civilian leaders.

In its recommendations, the report states that Pakistan and the United States should establish a joint Security Coordination Committee and a working level cell based in Islamabad and staffed by military and intelligence officers would support the joint Security Coordination Committee with intelligence sharing, strategies for crisis management and long-range planning.

Pakistan’s extremists demonstrate a remarkable capacity to exploit the print and electronic media, undermining public faith in the government and security forces and building sympathy for anti-state causes. The Pakistan government, the report said, has so far missed opportunities to influence the message. The military’s approach to public relations has proven counterproductive in recent years because Army spokesmen are typically unwilling to admit the deficiencies of their own institution, they tend to raise false expectations that ultimately leave Pakistanis (and international observers) frustrated and confused, the report said.

Drawing upon its strategic communication experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report recommended that the US military should send advisers to the Pakistani security forces, including the Army and FC, besides offering to share relevant technical expertise in targeted FM radio broadcast jamming.

By many accounts, the popular appeal of Shariah is driven in large part by the breakdown of the provincial judicial process that is notorious for extreme case backlogs. There is a need for quick-hitting reforms of the existing legal structure to grant speedy justice, the report said. For political normalisation and integration in Fata, the report said, the Political Parties Act should be extended to the tribal areas and the FCR be amended to allow limited judicial appeal to decisions by political agents. Delivering resources to tribal leaders in the form of cash or small development projects like schools, wells, or a visiting health clinic might help them compete for public support against a new generation of militants.

The United States and other international partners should include trade routes through Pakistan’s tribal areas as an essential part of the regional development strategy for Afghanistan.

Also, Washington should support (with funding and training) the expansion of a new provincial rapid-reaction force, based on the recent NWFP proposal for 7,500 new officers with a capital cost of $70 million and annual recurring cost of $15 million.

The United States should support the establishment of a Pakistan-Afghanistan peace secretariat with a headquarters and permanent bi-national staff as a means to build upon bilateral meetings and Jirgas.

To address Pakistan’s concern about the US-India relationship, Washington should support and facilitate India-Pakistan normalisation efforts (primarily behind closed doors in New Delhi), the report said. And the US should continue to brief Islamabad at the DCG regarding US-India cooperation in a good faith effort to mitigate apprehensions despite obvious Pakistani perceptions.

Source: The News, 21/7/2008


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