The late Benazir Bhutto speaks at an AEI event in February 2007
On January 2, AEI's South Asia experts Danielle Pletka and Thomas Thomas Donnelly joined former Bhutto adviser Husain Haqqani, currently a professor at Boston University, and the Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon for a discussion of the crisis in Pakistan and how the United States should respond.
Haqqani claimed that "Pakistan's crisis was predicted" but that the West did not listen. The Western view of Musharraf after 9/11 as indispensable was a mistake, he said; the military and intelligence services are part of the problem, not the solution. Haqqani argued that Musharraf claims to fight Islamists within Pakistan but that he also props them up to leverage ever more U.S. assistance--and to use them as a force multiplier in Pakistan's long-simmering conflict with India. He compared Musharraf to Bhutto, saying that the latter was "the first Pakistani leader since 9/11 to go to the Pakistani people and say that terrorism is their problem," whereas Musharraf pointed to U.S. pressure as a reason to fight terrorists. The United States has supported Musharraf and the military for too long, Haqqani said, and it should now push for civilian rule.
O'Hanlon offered a worst-case, last-ditch military scenario should the Pakistani government collapse. Pakistan is much more populous than Iraq; he predicted that we would need 2 million troops to occupy the country, far more than we currently have. Any intervention would need to be part of an international coalition with Pakistan's express consent. "I don't see any militarily practical means to deal with a collapse in Pakistani stability," he said. O'Hanlon also emphasized the importance of continuing to work with Pakistan to protect its nuclear arsenal.
Donnelly argued that after 9/11, Musharraf allowed the United States access to Afghanistan to bolster his own self-perceived strategic interests: Kashmir and the nuclear arsenal. He commented on the nature of military rule: "The army's long-term rationale has been as a defender of the state against India." The army is not as nationalist as portrayed: 20 percent are Pashtun and reluctant to fight against their tribal brethren. Donnelly recommended refocusing U.S. aid to Islamabad toward missions the United States supports--namely, counterterrorism. If we step back now, he said, other countries--like China and Russia--will fill the gap.
Pletka looked at U.S. policy toward Pakistan, which she described as a "classic love-hate relationship." We leveraged Pakistan against the Soviet Union, she said, until we found Pakistan dispensable in the 1990s. After 9/11, Islamabad became indispensable again. "End the bipolar foreign policy," she added. Pletka then examined what might be done to achieve a stable Pakistan. After donating billions in aid, she said, "we have not gotten very good value for money." Just because Musharraf was a problem does not mean that Bhutto was the solution. The civilian governments of Pakistan had plenty of their own faults. Aid should be redirected toward civil society reform and democratic development, and we should assure Pakistan that we are paying attention, she concluded: "It should not require another 9/11 for us to wake up and deal with this problem."
AEI's Frederick W. Kagan moderated the event and commented that the Pakistani counterinsurgency is not working, partly because the United States has created "perverse incentives" in that it helps Pakistan to the extent that the latter fights terrorists, making it in Pakistan's interests to keep the terrorist problem in its tribal areas simmering.
For a video and transcript of this event, visit www.aei.org/event1628/.