Pakistan has nuclear weapons, an active jihadist movement, a weak civilian government, a history of backing the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a military focused on fighting another American ally, India. Pakistan probably is harder than Iraq to “fix.”
Unfortunately, the gulf between the U.S. and Pakistani governments is vast. Starting with the respective assessments of the greatest regional threat, Gen. David Petraeus has given Islamabad some unwanted advice.
The United States is urging Pakistan’s military to focus more on the Taliban and extremists advancing inside their borders instead of the nation’s longtime enemy — India.
The top U.S. commander in the region told Congress Friday that extremists already inside Pakistan pose the greatest threat to that nation.
Gen. David Petraeus (pet-TRAY’-uhs) was asking a House Appropriations subcommittee for funding to help the Pakistani military root out and stop insurgents, saying he wants Pakistani leaders to realize they need to learn how to fight internal extremists.
Petraeus called India a “conventional threat” that should no longer be Pakistan’s top military focus.
Gen. Petraeus is obviously right, from America’s standpoint. But try explaining that to Pakistan, which has fought and lost three wars with India. Indeed, Pakistan was dismembered in one of those conflicts, leading to the creation of Bangladesh.
Enlisting Pakistan more fully in combating the Taliban and al Qaeda will require recognizing, not dismissing, Islamabad’s other security concerns. Squaring the circle won’t be easy.But doing so will require more creative diplomacy and less preemptive demands, more regional cooperation and less military escalation.