The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Pakistan on the hot seat, again

December 15, 2006

Over the past few months, more and more analysts have noticed that Afghanistan is looking more and more like Iraq. That’s not good. Talk has turned from how best to build a nation to how to counter insurgency and stop suicide bombings.

Earlier this week, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai reacted in this way to a suicide bombing in a governor’s compound:

“The problem is not Taliban. We don’t see it that way. The problem is with Pakistan,” Karzai told foreign journalists.

He said the Taliban took power with support from Pakistan, calling it “more than a boss.”

“The state of Pakistan was supporting the Taliban, so we presume if there is still any Taliban, that they are being supported by a state element.”

An American spokesperson for the State Department somewhat undramatically called the border situation between Pakistan and Afghanistan “a mess” of “real concern.”

Let me offer a contrast. Consider this statement by President Bush in September 2001:

…we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

Now, compare that to State Department spokesperson Scott McCormack’s reply to a question about Pakistan’s negotiated deal earlier this year with the Taliban:

“… this is a Pakistani programme, so you can talk to the Pakistani government about whether or not they feel as though they’ve met their targets and their metrics and their expectations. I do know it’s relatively new, so they’re still working through it,” McCormack said.

“And I think when it first came out we talked about the fact that we had been briefed up on the programme and certainly it seemed as though it was a workable model. But as with most things, the true effectiveness of it comes down to its implementation and in exactly what manner it is implemented.”

“I think that everybody is aware of the problem of ceding territory to extremists, to terrorists, and you don’t want to do that. The Pakistanis don’t want to do that. That’s why they came up with this programme, because the federal administrated tribal areas were an area that has not officially been under the control of the central Pakistani government,” he said.

This is something to watch.

After all, Pakistan is playing the role of Iran in this particular saga, and the Joint Chiefs apparently just proposed using US troops to guard the Iraqi borders as a means to address that problem.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.