While a US congressional delegation was on its way to Islamabad and expected to repeat the do more mantra, the usual demand that Pakistan launch a crackdown on the Haqqani network, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in an interview with a foreign news agency explained the difficulties involved.
The military, he said, was acting without distinction between good and bad Taliban but that “there are risks involved of how far we can go, and in what sequence we should go and on what scale we should go.”
A large-scale crackdown on all at once, he pointed out, would overstretch the armed forces and lead to more terrorist attacks.
Islamabad’s key concern of course is, and should be, ensuring the security of its own people. Already the blowback from the war in Afghanistan has claimed more than 60,000 Pakistani lives.
No other country, therefore, has a greater interest in seeing an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself.
Much as Pakistan would want to see the war come to an orderly finish, it cannot achieve what the US, the world’s mightiest military power, has failed to achieve: comprehensive defeat of the Taliban.
And there is a reason any reference to the Haqqani network by Western media reports almost always comes with the prefix ‘powerful’.
Taking on the group would mean pushing them to join hands with the Pakistani Taliban, who have been challenging the writ of this state and playing havoc with the lives of its people.
Hence as Aziz said, “we have to move in a decisive way, but at a measured pace and according to our capacity, and ensuring the blowback is manageable.”
The truth of the matter is that even if it tries, Pakistan cannot subdue the Haqqanis without inviting an exponential rise in terrorist attacks against its own people, and endangering its security.
Then there is the contradiction in the US’ own policy. On the one hand it expects Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiations table, and on the other hand demands a crackdown on them-something undo able concurrently.
Notably, Senator McCain is one of the critics of President Obama’s drawdown policy, and wishes US to maintain permanent bases in Afghanistan while the Taliban say peace and stability is impossible as long as foreign forces are in Afghanistan.
On the ground situation shows they are gaining the upper hand. At best the US can maintain the status quo, but not defeat the Taliban completely.
The only way out for the country to end its longest war in history is to resolve it at the negotiations table. Senator McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam War, should be able to grasp the complexity of the situation, and also appreciate Pakistan’s position.
Instead of repeating the ‘do more’ mantra, he and the US administration need to focus on better cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad, and bringing an end to an endless war in Afghanistan. -Business Recorder