Zalmay Khalilzad, the former ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad, and the UN, writes in the New York Times:
WHEN I visited Kabul a few weeks ago, President Hamid Karzai told me that the United States has yet to offer a credible strategy for how to resolve a critical issue: Pakistan’s role in the war in Afghanistan.
Not an auspicious start (note the name-dropping, the parachute punditry, the shallow use of an intermediary to frame his argument). Khalilzad goes on to argue that in order to convince the Pakistanis to become constructive partners in resolving the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. must “offer Islamabad a stark choice between positive incentives and negative consequences,” as if we were an angry school teacher and Pakistan a miscreant child acting out for attention.
Khalilzad’s idea that the U.S. should demand an immediate halt to Pakistan’s support and sheltering of the insurgency is great, except that the U.S. has been toothlessly demanding that since about 2001 or so, when we consented to the so-called “Airlift of Evil” and proved we won’t (more accurately: cannot) take strong action to force their hand. While Khalilzad says a unilateral response to a Pakistani refusal to turn against its allies must involve preparing for a response–say to the closure of supply lines–his ideas of stockpiling and ramping up the NDN are shallow and unworkable in a practical way (the transit countries of the NDN, for example, will react against the large scale importation of weapons and war equipment through their territory).
Khalilzad’s proposals to entice Pakistan into playing along are similarly shallow and unworkable:
In exchange for demonstrable Pakistani cooperation, the United States should offer to mediate disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan; help establish a trade corridor from Pakistan into Central Asia; and ensure that Pakistan’s adversaries do not use Afghanistan’s territory to support insurgents in Pakistani Baluchistan.
Does he not realize that Pakistan stands a better chance of achieving all of those things through continued support to a winning insurgency than it does to a long and drawn out series of reconciliation talks? There’s no incentive for Pakistan to subordinate its dominant position within Afghan power-politics in exchange for a toothless U.S.-led effort; and since the U.S. lacks the means to cut out Pakistan from the process, we don’t have any trump cards or credible threats to force their hands. Khalilzad also offers this:
More fundamentally, the United States needs to demonstrate that, even after our troops depart Afghanistan, we are resolved to stay engaged in the region. To that end, the United States should provide long-term assistance to Pakistan focused on developing not only its security apparatus, but also its civil society, economy and democratic institutions.
I’m scratching my head to figure out how our billions of dollars in military assistance, combined with the hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked through Kerry-Lugar, do not do precisely that.
Most of Khalilzad’s ideas are not ideas at all, but rather an advocacy for the continuation of the status quo. That is not in and of itself a bad thing, but his ideas for “tweaking” the current state of affairs–more unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory, a general tone of “forcing” Pakistan to do something that is clearly against its interests, and so on–simply don’t make any sense. The last nine years of U.S.-Pakistani relations have been variations on that same theme: forcing Pakistan to do things it is not otherwise inclined to do. The result is a strained relationship and deep, perhaps permanent opposition to the U.S. in domestic Pakistani politics. We are worse off because of it.
Then again, given Zalmay’s habit of forcing himself on the region, first by meddling with Karzai’s early administration and later by conniving Benazir Bhutto into her ill-fated run on Pakistan’s prime ministership in 2007, and then by publicly trying to insert himself as a proconsul in the Afghan government, none of this is terribly surprising. What is so ridiculous and infuriating about this piece isn’t Khalilzad’s ideas, but rather that a man with such a consistent record of failure, of putting his own personal enrichment ahead of any interests including the U.S. (shall we forget when he was shilling for Unocal and the Taliban while on Unocal’s payroll in the late 90s?), continues to have a platform and space to insert his toxic ideas into the mix. We are better off ignoring him, not soberly considering his tired old ideas once again.
Zalmay’s shallow joke of a reading list.
Zalmay’s wretched idea to become “National CEO” of Afghanistan.
Zalmay deliberately undermines President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy.
Zalmay’s power-hungry plans to rule Afghanistan.
Zalmay tricks Bhutto into returning to Afghanistan.
And much, much, much more.