With only 4,000 additional American military trainers announced for the ongoing war in Afghanistan but $7.5 billion for Pakistan over the next five years, President Barack Obama’s new AfPak policy seems more about outsource than surge. True, a substantial increase in actual combatants had already been announced by Mr. Obama and his predecessor. But Washington has clearly recognised the limitation of throwing more and more men into the battlefield when their efforts are undermined by the deadly combination of poor governance in Kabul and wilful indifference in Islamabad. In his remarks, Mr. Obama described the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as the most dangerous place in the world. Extremists were a cancer that was eating Pakistan from within, he noted, adding that his administration was not giving Islamabad a blank cheque. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And Washington will insist that action be taken one way or another when it has intelligence about high-level terrorist targets. In other words, the money being promised in direct support to build schools, roads, and hospitals for the Pakistani people will not be coming free or cheap: the Pakistani establishment will have to do more to fight al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their support networks on their side of the border or else allow the Americans to do the job for them.
Even if there seems to be greater clarity in Washington about where the root of the problem in Afghanistan lies, President Obama’s somewhat gratuitous reference to the need to pursue constructive diplomacy with both India and Pakistan suggests the new administration continues to buy the line that the Kashmir issue is somehow constraining Islamabad’s ability to do more on the Afghan front. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The past four years have seen a considerable easing of tension along the line of control as India and Pakistan moved to narrow their differences over Kashmir. True, the peace process has come to a temporary halt but this is largely because of terrorist incidents like Mumbai. The American side knows full well the subterranean links that continue to exist between terrorist groups and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Unless those links are severed, cross-border terrorism will continue and tension with India will not go away. Internal reform in Pakistan and Afghanistan, coupled with a wider regional approach involving India, Iran, Russia, China, and other players is what will ultimately allow the international community to win what is otherwise a losing military battle in Afghanistan.