The Road to Victory in Afghanistan Runs through Islamabad

July 10, 2017 | Husain Haqqani
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While Pakistan has a long history as an ally of the U.S., it has also given shelter to, and sometimes actively abetted, the Taliban and even al-Qaeda. Husain Haqqani argues that the Trump administration—which is currently reviewing its Afghan strategy and considering sending more troops—should start getting tough with Islamabad. Furthermore, he writes, the U.S. must not be satisfied with Pakistan’s persistent denials and evasions:

The George W. Bush administration erred in ignoring the regrouping of the Taliban in Pakistan after its defeat in Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11, considering Pakistan’s cooperation in capturing some al-Qaeda figures as sufficient evidence of its alliance with the United States. President Barack Obama . . . deployed armed drones to strike at Taliban targets inside Pakistan, but that proved insufficient in dealing with the leadership living in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar. . . .

The Bush administration gave Pakistan $12.4 billion in aid, and the Obama administration forked over $21 billion. These incentives did not make Pakistan more amenable to cutting off support for the Afghan Taliban.

The Trump administration should now consider taking away Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, which would limit its priority access to American military technology. Aid to Pakistan should be linked to a sequence and timeline for specific actions against Taliban leaders. Sanctions against individuals and institutions involved in facilitating Pakistan-based Taliban leaders and pursuing Taliban reconciliation talks without depending on Pakistan could be other measures signaling a firmer United States stance. . . .

Negotiating a peaceful settlement with the Taliban also remains desirable, but it is important to remember the difficulties 21st-century negotiators face while seeking compromise with 7th-century mindsets.

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