Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Prof. C. Christine Fair is incensed that a book she authored was found in bin Laden's library.

The research project that culminated in the 2006 publication of Fortifying Pakistan began in 2004, when I was a new researcher at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). My boss, Paul Stares, (now at the Council on Foreign Relations) hired me to initiate a South Asia research program. This project was not an easy sell. Most of Washington had long decided that Pakistan was our most allegiant ally in the war on terrorism. That attitude endured until the Obama administration came into office.

Simply put: It was blasphemous to suggest, in 2004, that then-president Musharraf was playing a both sides with Washington. The Bush administration could not countenance such a possibility, or even consider the plausibility of it, given that its attention and resources were focused on Iraq.

Historians will judge the American Pakistan policy with confusion and contempt. They will logically ask why the Americans continued to treat Pakistan as a partner when it undermined so many salient American interests in the region. They will ask why the American tax payer continued to aid and arm Pakistan, even though it was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans and NATO allies in Afghanistan and the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghan allies, in and out of uniform. They will ask why the US government was unable or unwilling to see that Pakistan was not a problematic ally, but rather, a hostile state that cynically manipulated and exploited an impotent and incompetent America.

For years, I hoped that American policy makers would begin appreciating these facts, and change course, rather than wait for our sons and daughters to write this scathing history long after such revelations ceased to matter.

With the US military presence in Afghanistan winding town, there is still time to hold Pakistan to account and begin treating it like the hostile state it is, rather than as the challenging ally so many policy makers delude themselves into believing. This will require courage and leadership across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, such qualities seem chronically lacking in the contemporary American landscape.