Paging Richard Armitage
The New York Times has a devastating article detailing how Pakistan is seeking to integrate the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network into a power-sharing deal with the Afghan government:
Though encouraged by Washington, the thaw heightens the risk that the United States will find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee Washington’s prime objective in the war: denying Al Qaeda a haven.
It also provides another indication of how Pakistan, ostensibly an American ally, has worked many opposing sides in the war to safeguard its ultimate interest in having an Afghanistan that is pliable and free of the influence of its main strategic obsession, its more powerful neighbor, India.
The Haqqani network has long been Pakistan’s crucial anti-India asset and has remained virtually untouched by Pakistani forces in their redoubt inside Pakistan, in the tribal areas on the Afghan border, even as the Americans have pressed Pakistan for an offensive against it.
General Kayani has resisted the American pleas, saying his troops are too busy fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other parts of the tribal areas.
But there have long been suspicions among Afghan, American and other Western officials that the Pakistanis were holding the Haqqanis in reserve for just such a moment, as a lever to shape the outcome of the war in its favor.
Your tax dollars at work.
Pakistani officials cite the Obama administration's timetable as one of the reason's they're cutting their own deals, but seeing as they've been playing a double game with the U.S. since 2001, it's difficult to credit that. Short of making Afghanistan the 51st state or radically transforming India-Pakistan relations, there's little evidence that the U.S. could stay inside Afghanistan long enough to make Pakistan fundamentally reorient their strategic interests. It would take a blockbuster peace deal with India and years worth of mutual trust-building before Pakistan stopped viewing India as a threat and Afghanistan as an essential strategic bulwark.
That leads to the question of what other levers, if any, the U.S. can use to influence Pakistan behavior in the short term. One is tempted, after reading this news, to dust off the Richard Armitage playbook and explain to Pakistan that they will be held responsible for any future attacks by al Qaeda that originate inside any area of Afghanistan controlled by the Haqqani network.