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Pakistan: New US security paradigm and Pakistan.

Pakistan, June 27 -- THE new national security strategy (NSS) of the United States, which outlines the fundamental concerns and objectives of the domestic and foreign policies of the American administration for years to come, has significant implications for Pakistan.

In the words of a US diplomat, the new strategy is a "dramatic departure from its predecessor" - the one announced by the George Bush administration in September 2002. President Bush's NSS was based on the doctrine of pre-emption, which committed his administration to acting against emerging 'threats' before they were fully formed. "We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best..In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action," said the Bush era NSS document. The doctrine of pre-emption implied indubitable belief in the power of America to alter the course of the world. It was by invoking this doctrine that the US forces invaded Iraq.

By contrast, the new NSS of President Obama is more realistic in substance and more conciliatory in tone. "To succeed, we must face the world as it is," admits the opening paragraph of the NSS document. The strategy reiterates America's role in shaping a global order capable of grappling with the 21st century challenges including wars over religion and ethnicism, nuclear proliferation, and economic instability and inequality. However, the NSS acknowledges that no single country can meet these challenges alone. Hence, American interests are to be pursued through a rule-based international system in which all nations have rights and obligations. In a departure from George Bush's pr-emption doctrine, Obama's security strategy embraces engagement with 'hostile' nations and collective action as the means to pursuing American strategic objectives.

"While the use of force is sometimes necessary, we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can, and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of inaction," the document says. 'Enlightened self-interest' is to serve as the basis of US engagement. However, the NSS warns of 'consequences' for the nations who break the rules. Though the US will reserve the right to act unilaterally to defend its interests, it will adhere to the standards that govern the use of force.

The economy is recognised as 'the wellspring' of American power and to maintain Washington's economic pre-eminence, the NSS stresses the need to contain the growing fiscal deficit, which is likely to reach $1.5 trillion by the close of this year. Needless to say, containing fiscal deficit necessitates avoiding 'overreach', which means the US will have to be far more prudent in its military campaigns oversees.

"To disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and its affiliates" remains a key strategic objective of the US, which is to be achieved through a 'judicious' use of American power both military and civilian. In a message of conciliation for Muslims, the NSS notes that the war against Al Qaeda is not against Islam but against a specific network and its affiliates. It rejects the notion that Al Qaeda represents any religion and observes that Islam does not condone the killing of innocent people.

The NSS document stresses the need of denying Al Qaeda safe havens and maintains that the organisation's "core in Pakistan remains the most dangerous component of the larger network." Pakistan together with Afghanistan is termed the 'epicentre' of terrorism. Recognising the importance of Islamabad in defeating Al Qaeda, the strategy seeks to "foster a relationship with Pakistan founded upon mutual interests and mutual respects."

The US will shore up Pakistan's capacity to target 'violent extremists' within its borders and sustain a long-term partnership, which entails providing 'substantial' assistance to Islamabad and deepening bilateral cooperation in a broad range of areas with a view to addressing both security and civilian challenges that Pakistan faces.

Given the importance of Pakistan in defeating Al Qaeda, the NSS will seek stepped-up US engagement with Pakistan - an engagement which, unlike in the past, will go beyond addressing military needs of Pakistan. This means that Islamabad will be under increased pressure to crack down on militants and smash networks involved in proliferation of nuclear weapons. This also means greater US interest, as well as interference, in political developments in Pakistan.

Recently, the US media reported that Washington has reviewed options for unilateral strikes against Pakistan in the event of a terror attack on America which is traced to Islamabad. This is hardly surprising as during his election campaign, Mr Obama had declared that he would attack the Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuaries inside Pakistan if its government was unwilling or unable to hunt them down.

As the NSS brings out, the US wants to preserve the existing unipolar global order based on the philosophy of liberalism, whose political expression is democracy and economic manifestation is free market economy. America realises that although it is the lone superpower, it cannot control world affairs independently. It needs regional partners or allies, particularly those believing in economic and political liberalism, to control the world.

Already Pak-US strategic dialogue has been elevated to the ministerial level and its third round was held in Washington in March last. The shored-up military campaign by Pakistan against the militants in which some top Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders have been killed or apprehended shows the seriousness of the Pakistan government in stamping out militancy.

These efforts have been duly acknowledged by American leadership. In a statement before a congressional committee a few months back, US secretary of state observed that US efforts in Pakistan were important for her country's success in Afghanistan.

To quote Mrs Clinton, "In Pakistan, our efforts are vital to success in Afghanistan, but also to our own American security..We have made it a strategic priority to strengthen our partnership with the Pakistani people."

The joint statement issued at the conclusion of the strategic dialogue acknowledged the role that Pakistan was playing in rooting out religious militancy, which, it noted, posed a threat to global, regional and local security. It reaffirmed US commitment to provide technical and economic assistance to Pakistan and their commitment to "wide-ranging, long-term and substantive strategic partnership."

The Kerry-Lugar law passed in 2009 commits the US to providing annual economic assistance of $1.5 billion to Pakistan for the period 2010-2014 and possibly for another five years, in addition to unspecified amount of security or military assistance. In return, Pakistan has to demonstrate its commitment to fight extremism, terrorism and proliferation of nuclear weapons - the major items on Washington's national security agenda.

However, the claims of a long-term, multi-faceted partnership notwithstanding, trust deficit continues to characterise the relations between the two countries. On the part of Washington, the trust deficit is on two counts: One, the suspicion that the security establishment of Pakistan is not going all-out in tracking down Al Qaeda leadership; two, the apprehension that Pakistan's nuclear material may reach terrorists, who may use it against the US.

Despite their convergence of interest - fight against religious extremism and terrorism - the two countries do differ as to the locus of the threat. In the context of terrorism, Pakistan's immediate threat emanates from the Taliban and it is the Taliban insurgency that the security forces are putting down in Waziristan.

On the other hand, the US regards Al Qaeda as its main enemy. The 9/11 incident was planned and executed by Al Qaeda and not the Taliban, though Al Qaeda leadership was reportedly operating in Afghanistan under the umbrella of the Taliban regime.

There is a strong nexus between the Taliban and Al Qaeda as both profess the same ideology of 'militant Islam'. But they are not the same. Whereas the Taliban are a local organisation, Al Qaeda is a global outfit. The demise of the Taliban will not root out Al Qaeda, though it may weaken the latter.

The Taliban do not pose a direct threat to US security, though they are a menace to Pakistan's security. For Washington, the dismantling of the Taliban is merely a means to that of Al Qaeda. It may even embrace the Taliban if they cease their support to Al Qaeda.

The US suspects that religious elements in the security establishment of Pakistan have a soft corner for Al Qaeda. It is this suspicion which accounts for stringent conditions contained in the Kerry-Lugar law for US security assistance to Pakistan.

In particular, the provisions of the Act relating to strengthening of democracy in Pakistan, non-interference of the armed forces and spy agencies in political matters and civilian control over military affairs are rooted not in US love for democracy in Pakistan but in its perception of the involvement of security forces of Pakistan in terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Whether this perception is correct or not is beside the point. What is important is that this perception exists

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The Friday Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at

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Publication:The Friday Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Jun 27, 2010
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