There have been developments just since this Register editorial on Pakistan was published, but the fundamentals don't seem to have changed. Following a secret order signed by Bush, the U.S. has decided to conduct cross-border attacks against suspected al-Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan, including crossing the border from Afghanistan.
A raid Sept. 9 has been acknowledged, but the Pakistani government has said it will forcibly prevent further foreign fighters from coming into its sovereign territory, and there may even have been a shots-in-the-air confrontation between the Paki and U.S. militaries. Joint Chiefs chief Mike Mullen went over to reassure the Pakis, but an attack occurred anyway. We suggest stopping the attacks, and say the next president will have to do a ground-up reassessment of our relationship with Pakistan, with the option of a strategic withdrawal that would include an end to aid on the table. We're unlikely to neutralize al-Qaida the way we're going anyway. It's very complicated, and I'll expand on it for this weeks Antiwar.com column.
I particularly enjoyed talking to Christine Fair of RAND for this piece. She's a pretty clear-eyed realist. Sovereignty, she scoffed, is a concept used only when it's convenient. Is Hamid Karzai really the sovereign ruler of Pakistan when he wouldn't last five minutes without foreign troops to bolster him? No Pakistani government has had effective control over the laughably named Federally Administered Tribal Areas, so is it really sovereign there? The Durand Line that marks the Afghan-Paki border was drawn by a British colonial official who probably didn't know that it ran right through a Pashtun tribal area. It not only might not deserve to be treated as sacred, it almost certainly creates conflict.