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Thursday, December 16, 2010 STRATFOR.

COM Diary Archives

The White House on Thursday released an overview of the much awaited Afghanistan and
Pakistan Annual Review ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama last year as a National
Security Staff (NSS)-led assessment of the war effort. Perhaps the most significant (and
expected) aspect of the report is the extent to which the success of the American strategy relies
on cooperation from Pakistan. The report acknowledges recent improvement in U.S.-Pakistani
coordination in the efforts to bring closure to the longest war in U.S. history, but also points out
there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of Pakistani assistance.

Indeed, this is an issue that has been at the heart of the tensions between the two allies since the
beginning of the war. However, the United States ² now more than ever before ² needs
Pakistan to offer its best, given that Washington has deployed the maximum amount of human
and material resources to the war effort that it can feasibly allocate. To what extent such
assistance will be forthcoming is a function of how Islamabad is looking at the war.

From the Pakistani point of view, this war has been extremely disastrous. The U.S. invasion of
Afghanistan in late 2001 to deny al Qaeda its main sanctuary led to the spillover of the war into
Pakistan. Al Qaeda¶s relocation east of the Durand Line and Islamabad being forced to side
with Washington against the Afghan Taliban laid the foundation for the Talibanization of

Any Pakistani effort to effectively counter this threat is dependent upon the U.S. strategy on the
other side of the border. Just as the United States is dealing with a very difficult situation where
it has no good options, Pakistan is also caught in a dilemma. There are two broad and opposing
views among the Pakistani stakeholders in regard to what the United States should do that, in
turn, would also serve Pakistani interests.

On one hand are those who argue that the longer U.S. and NATO forces remain in Pakistan¶s
western neighbor the longer the wars will continue to rage on both sides of the border. The
thinking is that since there is no military solution, Western forces should seek a negotiated
settlement and exit as soon as possible. Once a settlement takes place in Afghanistan, Pakistan
will be in a better position to neutralize its own Taliban rebellion and restore security on its side
of the border.

Yet there are those who ² while they accept that a continued presence of foreign occupation
forces in Afghanistan will continue to fuel the jihadist fire ² are more concerned about the
ramifications of a premature withdrawal of Western forces. The fear is that a Taliban comeback
in Afghanistan will only galvanize jihadists on the Pakistani side. At a time when it is
struggling to re-establish its writ on its side of the border, Islamabad is certainly not in a
position to exert the kind of influence in Afghanistan it once was able to in the pre-9/11 years.

In other words, an exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan will not restore the old arrangement.
Islamabad is therefore in uncharted waters. What the Pakistanis hope for is some form of
negotiated settlement that will help restore some semblance of security on their western
periphery and allow for some measure of influence in a post-NATO Afghanistan. How to get
from the current situation to that endgame state is quite opaque and what lies beyond is fraught
with uncertainty, given the destabilization that has taken place in the last five years. What
makes this situation even more problematic for the Pakistanis is that they feel that they are not
the only ones who are without options. Their benefactor, the United States, is in the same boat.