Pakistan’s deep state, the military establishment and Inter-Services Intelligence are playing a double game with the United States and do not appear to have any intention of handing over power to the civilian government, a panel of experts concluded Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute. Kamran Shafi of Pakistan’s Express Tribune drove home the distinction between Pakistan and the military-run “deep state.” He stressed that a vast majority of Pakistanis are against the concepts of jihad and nuclear proliferation and argued that the U.S. needs to engage the civilian government rather than the military establishment. The U.S. has failed to craft a Pakistan policy consistent with American goals in Afghanistan, asserted Georgetown University’s Christine Fair. Despite evidence that Pakistan has undermined U.S. interests and acted as a U.S. enemy, she said, Washington continues to placate the military establishment, undermining U.S. leverage. Eli Lake of Newsweek and The Daily Beast argued that the U.S. does have a strategy in Pakistan: funding, through the CIA, an alternative “deep state” within the Pakistani military that is sympathetic to U.S. goals and willing to collaborate on the fight against al-Qaida. The U.S. cannot disengage with Pakistan, emphasized AEI’s Thomas Donnelly. He argued that Washington needs to both recognize the fundamental difference in U.S.-Pakistan relations and develop a new set of carrots and sticks to incentivize Pakistan’s power brokers to act in line with U.S. interests. All panelists asserted South Asia’s vital importance to U.S. national security interests and argued for continued engagement, noting that there are no short-term solutions to the conundrum Pakistan presents.
Last week’s resignation of Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and protests over a NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers have once again spotlighted the Pakistani army. How it responds to a weakened elected government in Islamabad and rising anti-U.S. sentiment on the streets will help determine both the tenor of U.S.-Pakistan relations and the nature of Pakistani democracy.
How can the United States continue to cooperate with the military while strengthening Pakistan’s fledgling democracy? Do U.S. allies such as Chile, Indonesia and South Korea offer lessons on how to professionalize Pakistan’s military by getting it out of politics? What does the future hold for civil-military relations in the nuclear-armed country? A panel of experts discusses these important questions.