Foreign Policy Blogs

Pakistan before & after Obama's big Afghan speech!

So far, in 2009 alone, 9000 Pakistanis have died in Pakistan because of terrorism – that is bombings, suicide attacks and other acts of extreme violence against Pakistan, and Pakistani society by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Yes, 9000 (nine thousand) Pakistanis have died because of terrorism in 2009 alone. This terrorism according to Pakistan is the direct result of failed American strategy in Afghanistan.

Long before Obama’s speech, everyone knew that Obama is going to send additional troops. It was also known that Obama would talk tough, demand accountability, ask the Afghans to take more responsibility, etc. and, this is precisely what Obama said. Sadly, it was also believed that right after the speech, the focus would automatically shift to Pakistan because it is easy to find excuses for failures. And regretfully, this is how it played out here in America – radio, television, and newspapers are full of analysis, opinions and news that unjustifiably link American inability to win in Afghanistan with Pakistan’s ‘failed efforts’ to control Afghan Pakistan border. And you know how people in Pakistan respond to this border question now? Ha ha, yes, ha ha because despite having access to everything imaginable, i.e. technology, manpower, resources, and all the funding, Americans have not been able to secure its own border with Mexico, but somehow, with nothing as for as the technology, equipment and funding goes, Washington and the media pundits want Pakistan to miraculously succeed where Americans have failed. Is it fair?

Of course not.

The situation is Afghanistan is not good and we know it. It is also a fact that Afghanistan has been deteriorating for years, and this has directly disturbed Pakistan. Today’s Pakistan is different from 2002’s Pakistan and the same can be said of Afghanistan. Therefore, it is a reality that the United States has dropped the ball when it comes to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now, after years of neglect, it is almost comical to suggest that 30, 000 more troops would transform Afghanistan.

It just doesn’t make any sense.

So, here is what happens if you look at the history of Afghan war so far. Things get tough in Afghanistan, everyone starts blaming Pakistan. Taliban gain momentum and strength in Afghanistan, and the pressure is mounted on Pakistan to ‘do more.’ In other words, Pakistan is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Even though Pakistan has launched two wars against the Taliban within Pakistan’s borders, somehow, Pakistan is still accused of not doing enough.

Interestingly, or perhaps ironically, almost everyone is unhappy with Obama’s decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan. And to be fair, Obama’s choices were awful anyway. If he withdraws, he is accused of surrendering to the enemy. If he adds troops like he announced last night, it does not guarantee success in Afghanistan, regardless of how success is defined. So, it is lose lose for Obama from the start – whatever decision he was going to make, people were going to have issues with it. And obviously, adding 30, 000 troops to a country that has been at war in one way or the other for decades is not going to yield anything positive if we look at the history of Afghan war so far.

On the other hand Pakistan is paying a terrible price for America’s failures in Afghanistan. Bombings, suicide attacks and growing anti-Americanism among the civilian population in Pakistan is alarming. And when Islamabad tries to present a different point of view to Washington, their view is not taken seriously. Simply dismissing views that make Washington uncomfortable, especially criticism from Islamabad must be understood in the right context. But, instead of listening to Pakistan, Pakistan is asked to ‘do more.’

Talk about a brilliant strategy to win (read lose) hearts and minds.

Yes, it is critical to succeed in Afghanistan, no question about it. But at the same time, It is equally important to help Pakistan crush the militants. And currently, America runs the risk of losing Pakistan while the policy makers here in Washington focus heavily on Afghanistan. Today, most of Washington’s energy, money and time is being consumed by Afghanistan, when in fact, Washington’s top priority should be Pakistan. Pakistanis have seen enough speeches. Now, It is time to act.



Bilal Qureshi

Bilal Qureshi is a resident of Washington, DC, so it is only natural that he is tremendously interested in politics. He is also fascinated by the relationship between Pakistan, the country of his birth, and the United States of America, his adopted homeland. Therefore, he makes every effort to read major newspapers in Pakistan and what is being said about Washington, while staying fully alert to the analysis and the news being reported in the American press about Pakistan. After finishing graduate school, he started using his free time to write to various papers in Pakistan in an effort to clarify whatever misconceptions he noticed in the press, especially about the United States. This pastime became a passion after his letters were published in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and his writing became more frequent and longer. Now, he is here, writing a blog about Pakistan managed by Foreign Policy Association.

Areas of Focus:
Taliban; US-Pakistan Relations; Culture and Society