Sunday, December 06, 2009

To share or not to share?

Pakistan is caught in an uncomfortable position: "Pakistan's government is under domestic pressure not to be seen simply taking orders from the United States and give the impression it has a say in any new Afghan policy." At the risk of irritating the strongest military power in the world fighting a counter insurgency war in a neighboring country, the Pakistani government continues to (attempt to) maintain face at home. Regardless of the substantial resources provided by the United States, cooperating with us is still vastly unpopular, if only because the Pakistan people fear something similar to the Bush/Blair relationship.

Good idea: By working closely with the Pakistan government we can not only have some idea of what they are planning but also prevent some public opinion backlash after the expected increase of Taliban insurgents to their country because of the 30,000 troop surge. This would also add legitimacy to Obama's commitment "to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust" as spelled out in his 12/2 speech announcing the new military plan.

Bad idea: Obama's 12/2 speech mentioned many things, but the expanded use of unmanned drones was not one of them. This is by far the most offensive and least popular move that the U.S. could make to win the hearts and minds in Pakistan. If we give the blueprints of further plans to use these drones it could lead to a worse political relationship, or worst case scenario: the Pakistan army could undermine our efforts.

Sharing highly sensitive national security information has never been a desirable action by any US administration, but if essential cooperation from Pakistan depends upon it, perhaps we should consider. A show of trust and commitment on the side of the U.S. may make it easier for what I think is the best solution to an armed Pakistan: U.S. troop presence. We won't go until we are invited, but the sooner the U.S. military has access to the whole known area of Taliban strongholds, we can't effectively carry out our mission with any hope for success.

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