For Pakistan, the West Remains a Scapegoat

by Dhruva Jaishankar
Wednesday, 6 October 2010

WASHINGTON — In recent days, the world’s attention has turned once again to the terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan. Last week, the American and British governments issued heightened travel alerts for continental Europe following revelations of an extremist plot hatched in Waziristan. The operationalization of this plot, which reportedly involved coordinated raids on European cities in the vein of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, resulted in a dramatic increase in U.S. drone strikes in northwestern Pakistan over the past month. On Monday, one such attack killed several German militants training in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Also last week, a cross-border strike by NATO forces resulted in three Pakistani military deaths and the subsequent closure by Pakistan of vital supply routes to Afghanistan. This was followed by multiple militant raids on depots in Pakistan and the destruction of fuel and other supplies intended for NATO forces.  And on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported the presence of a critical White House assessment that bluntly accused Pakistan of being unwilling to take action against militants on its soil.

The centrality of Pakistan has long been acknowledged by members of the counterterrorism community in the West. But Pakistan’s approach to the festering terror threat at home — alternatively defensive and lackadaisical — has, due to the incapability or unwillingness of its government and security forces to take further action, ultimately been ineffective. For several reasons, the international community has demonstrated a high level of tolerance for Pakistan’s apparent ambivalence. As underscored by the recent standoff, the United States and NATO remain dependent on Pakistan as a conduit for supplies to Afghanistan. The United States also lacks an adequate intelligence infrastructure in northwestern Pakistan and consequently relies on Pakistani agencies for their support. Additionally, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons — and the risks they pose both in terms of proliferation and escalation — further limit the leverage of the United States and its partners.

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