US Engagement in Pakistan – learning from history & mistakes of the past

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the US State Department to discuss US commitment in Central Asia. At a joint press conference, Qureshi urged the United States to pursue a long-term vision, “not just for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the entire region.” He went on to highlight the importance of understanding the region’s history and “learning from mistakes of the past.”

One year ago, we published an edition of the World Savvy Monitor on Pakistan, which provides useful insight into the history and key players internally and externally in Pakistan as well as an in-depth examination of the history of relations between the US and Pakistan. One excerpt from that section stands out as particularly helpful in understanding this recent meeting between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Qureshi:

In the view of multiple experts from across the international political spectrum, one of the most important dynamics over the past half century influencing Pakistan’s relationship with the United States has been the US view that Pakistan is “a means to an end, not so important in and of itself, but as a way to get other things done,” in the words of Council of Foreign Relations expert Daniel Markey. The US has never had what could be characterized as a coherent Pakistan policy.  Instead, the US has used the strategically-located Central Asian country to facilitate US foreign policy agendas regarding other nations and entities in the region.  Proxy is a word commonly used to describe the way in which Pakistan has been, and continues to be, engaged by the US:  as a proxy against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and again against the Taliban in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.  Today, Pakistan continues to serve as a proxy for fighting the larger myriad Mujahideen forces of global terror networks coalescing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

In a commentary on Minnesota Public Ratio today, retired foreign service officer William Davnie offered these words of caution:  “We need to treat Pakistan and Afghanistan as a linked set of issues centered on Pakistan, or we risk choosing policies that will worsen, not improve, Pakistan’s stability and that of the region as a whole.”

Last week, US Congress approved a $7.5-billion U.S. civilian aid program conditioned on Pakistan ending support for extremist groups and its military staying out of civilian politics. Pakistan’s parliament is due to begin a debate this bill after concerns that the conditions attached to it are a humiliating violation of sovereignty. Is this aid a step in the right direction, or just another way to sideline the country as discussions of increasing our military engagement in neighboring Afghanistan take center stage? Take a look the history of US engagement with Pakistan and let us know what you think.

One Response

  1. Iraq invasion using fabricated intelligence tells us that the Americans learnt no lesson from the past.

    The US is stuck in the quagmire of AfPak region in an attempt to achieve a much larger strategic objective of establishing its influence over entire Central Asia and the Middle East.

    They desperately need Pakistan for this reason, and will not change their policy of appeasing them in near future.

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