An important op-ed in the New York Times (a phrase one doesn’t hear all that frequently these days) makes some points I’ve been making on this blog about the need for the US to develop a new Pakistan policy. Pakistan’s army is in direct opposition to the US on core strategic issues in Afghanistan, and we need to deal with that. Author Bruce Reidel led the Obama administration’s strategic review; his shift from engagement to containment as a Pakistan policy will have weight. Reidel’s suggestions may not all work, but no policy is going to make us 100 percent happy in this very difficult situation. As he puts it:
AMERICA needs a new policy for dealing with Pakistan. First, we must recognize that the two countries’ strategic interests are in conflict, not harmony, and will remain that way as long as Pakistan’s army controls Pakistan’s strategic policies. We must contain the Pakistani Army’s ambitions until real civilian rule returns and Pakistanis set a new direction for their foreign policy.
I still think there is grounds to hope that Pakistan may change its policy if and when it understands that the US is seriously ready to shift directly and forcefully toward limiting Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but there is no assurance that anything we do can change Islamabad’s mind. Reidel’s approach may be the best guide to where US policy in this region is going, whether we like it or not.