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It Will Get Worse, if the U.S. Leaves

Reuel Marc Gerecht
13th April 2011 - New York Times

It is entirely possible that the Central Intelligence Agency may have been a bit heavy-handed with the Pakistani military, as with the “unauthorized” drone attacks (the vast majority of these missile strikes inside Pakistan have unquestionably been coordinated and cleared by Islamabad). But it is increasingly clear that the primary problem between the two countries is the stubborn Pakistani dream that time can be reversed.

The Pakistani military liked the 1990s. Virulent anti-regime Islamic militancy was rare; Pashtun Islamic fervor, the spiritual backbone of both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban movements, was aimed at the conquest of Afghanistan; the North-West Frontier Province and its all-important trade hub Peshawar were peaceful and were pleasant weekend escapes for the elite of Islamabad; the economy was decent; and the nation became a nuclear power. The rise of Al Qaeda and its marriage to the Pakistani-supported Afghan Taliban movement weren’t Islamabad’s problems -- they were ours.

Since 2001, in Pakistani eyes things have gone seriously downhill. Islamic militancy is now a threat in the Punjab and the Sindh, the two all-critical provinces. Peshawar and large swaths of the North-West Frontier Province have become dangerous for those with open allegiances to the central government. Thousands of Pakistanis — hundreds of soldiers and intelligence officers — have died in the fight against the country’s homegrown holy warriors, some of whom had a fraternal relationship with the Pakistani army. Even though many Pakistanis may realize that the government’s aid to the Afghan Taliban was profoundly counterproductive, it’s still extremely difficult to give up the belief that Americans — not the Taliban — are the primary problem.

And the intelligence contretemps between the two countries will likely get much worse if Islamabad senses that the Obama administration really does intend to draw down troops in Afghanistan. It will feed the dream that the Americans will be gone (much of their financial and military aid, inshallah, will remain), the Afghan Taliban will again gain ground, and Pakistan’s increasingly violent jihadists will calm down and aim their hatred toward their primary targets: Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun minorities, American soldiers and a C.I.A. officer now and then.


cia, pakistan, war-on-terror