June 26th, 2011
03:21 PM ET

Fareed's Take: Pakistan holds the key to peace in Afghanistan

This week, we got a real insight into the way Barack Obama's strategic mind works.

From his campaign on, Obama has clearly felt that the United States has a lopsided foreign policy with too large a military commitment to certain crisis points on the globe.

He has wanted to rebalance American foreign policy to shift the focus away from the problems of the past - Iraq and Afghanistan - and toward the challenges of the 21st Century - the rise of China and Asia more generally.

This week he made good on those ideas, announcing a significant drawdown of troops from Afghanistan and effectively reversing the surge that began 18 months ago.

When he came into office, the United States had almost 200,000 troops engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By next year it will have half that number, most of them in non-combat operations. Some would wish this drawdown was slower, others faster, but Obama has basically made the right call.

The United States cannot disengage instantly from a war it has fought for a decade with allies from dozens of other countries, international institutions, and commitments made to those allies and the Afghan people. Henry Kissinger once said getting out of a war is not like switching off the channel on a television set.

I understand that General Petraeus and other key advisers wanted a smaller drawdown to consolidate the gains that American forces have made in Afghanistan. But there will never be the perfect time.

Afghanistan is a troubled country in which some progress has been made. But parts of the country remain unsettled, beyond Kabul's control and with some Taliban control. That would be true now; it will be true two years from now.

The Taliban cannot be defeated purely militarily. They will reconstitute.

At some point, you will have to find a way to bring them into the governing structures of the country. They are an indigenous force in Afghanistan, representing part of the large Pashtun community.

The much bigger problem with stabilizing Afghanistan is that the solution does not lie in the number of American troops or Afghan troops.

It lies with getting Pakistan - specifically the Pakistani army - to cooperate in this endeavor.  Right now the signs in that direction are troubling.

There are signs everywhere that the Pakistani military has been infiltrated by radical Islamists who view the Taliban as their natural allies and the United States and the west as their natural enemies. This week, a brigadier general was arrested for his ties to the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Last month, well armed militants stormed an important naval base in Karachi - an operation that clearly required internal help.

Also last month, a brave Pakistani journalist who had detailed this Jihadi infiltration into the military was tortured and killed almost certainly by the Pakistani Intelligence Services, which does deny it.

And, of course, Osama Bin Laden could not have been happily ensconced in a villa in an army cantonment without some help from some elements of the Pakistani military.

The Pakistani military has been trying to deflect attention from these problems by stoking anti-Americanism at home. It has been trying to cozy up to China. It has been trying to thwart or sabotage any serious investigation into its problems.

If it continues on this path - a path of conflict, isolation and geopolitical games - it will mean backwardness for Pakistan and it will mean no peace for Afghanistan.

soundoff (286 Responses)
  1. Cassy

    1) Pakistan has no interest in a stable and democratic Afghanistan. Since the start of war, triggered by Afghan resistance against Russian invasion in 1980th and in 1990th leading to civil war and Taliban role in Afghanistan and up to now for support of US war against terror, Pakistan has profited in a major scale financially and politically from the turmoil in Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan makes Pakistan useless and isolated, because Pakistan has no strategic importance as it was the case with SEATO pact.
    2) Additionally Pakistan is very concerned about the influence of India in a stable Afghanistan.
    Unfortunately the disputed Kashmir region remains a source of conflict between India and Pakistan and here both countries, India and Pakistan must recognize that this problem is not sustainable and must be resolved politically. India hates to be associated with this problem, but sorry India own this problem.
    3) The Pashtoons are not integrated into the Pakistan political and economical nomenclature and this unresolved situation is a source of conflict for Pakistan and for Afghanistan. In fact there is currently the Pashtoon population in Pakistan higher than in Afghanistan as a result of enforced Durand border line between Afghanistan and then British India in 1893 by British Empire.
    I don't have a solution, but the problems are known and both India and Pakistan must be taken into consideration for finding a solution for this regional conflict.

    June 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Reply
    • Jeff

      Caseey, digging up SEATO, that's a term I havent heard in a long time. Pakistan's strategic value comes from where it is located. Look it up and you will know. Let me answer you point by point:

      1. If stability in Afghanistan means Indian influence, yes Pakistan is, will be and should be nervous. In the 70's, there was a terrorist organization that was propped up from Afghanistan sponsored by your country India and your country best pal the communist USSR. I can totally understand if Pakistan will fight tooth and nail not to have history repeat itself where it is under terrorist attack via Afghanistan on India's proxy war as was the case in the past.

      2. Refernce Kashmir, I have read enough history to know that India is least bit sorry about holding on to Kashmir. If the plebicite was held, which accoding to UN interlocuters couldnt be held because India put up frivilous objections to subterfuge the effort, Kashmiris would have overwhelming voted to join Pakistan. You write as though India is reluctant participant in Kashmir dispute. It is not. But you are right, it is the bain of all issues between two countries.

      3. Pashtoons are not integrated into Pakistan??? Did you know that who was the President of Pakistan during the 1965 war with India? It was a pushtoon named Field Marshall Ayub Khan. No doubt Pakistan's history is not great when it comes to minorities but heck, it was Musharraf, a mohagir who was president recently. Before that Benazir was a Sindhi prime minister, before that her father. On the other hand, India just got their first minority prime minister. I dont know the solution but USA has to bring its weight into the equation and if I were Obama, I would tell the Indian to get the hell out of Afghanistan. Then I will tell the Pakistanis to get the hell out of Afghanistan. Then I will tell the Afghan that think about who lives next door to you and who doesnt before you choose your friends – and it aint India. Solution will come when the proxy wars are stopped in the god forsaken country of Afghanistan.

      June 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Reply
      • Cassy

        India is not my country. The only association I had with India was a vacation long time ago. I am not bias toward any of these countries, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are enough emotions in this subject, just look above almost 100% of the comments are useless hate speeches. Now back to the issues:
        1) I am not sure about India was sending terrorist to Pakistan in 1970s, but I know for fact that Pakistan is now harboring and supporting a all kind of terrorists, including the Godfather itself that was recently captured...
        Exporting terrorist is not in the best interest of Pakistan in log-term. Sorry everybody must accept this fact!
        2) We both agree that India cannot ignore the Kashmir occupation problem. Here a solution must be found in interest of Kashmiri people not in best interest of India and Pakistan
        3) Pashtoons are not integrated into Pakistan. Their territory is not controlled, administered and is underdeveloped. Pashtoons are the loser in Pakistan as a minority and loser in Afghanistan as a majority. The political and economical power is in the hand of other ethnic groups in Afghanistan after the fall of Taliban, I am sorry for Pashtoons they have relied on Terrorists and ISI to stay in power and this was not sustainable. Nevertheless a solution must be found to give the Pashtoons some perspective in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

        June 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
      • curious mind

        A representative from India at UN began his speech about Kashmir conflict: 'Before beginning my talk I want to tell you something about Rishi Kashyap of Kashmir, after whom Kashmir is named. When he struck a rock and it brought forth water, he thought, 'What a good opportunity to have a bath.' He removed his clothes, put them aside on the rock and entered the water. When he got out and wanted to dress, his clothes had vanished. A Pakistani had stolen them.'
        The Pakistani representative jumped up furiously and shouted, 'What are you talking about? The Pakistanis weren't there then.' The Indian representative smiled and said, 'And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my speech. 'And they say Kashmir belongs to them"

        About Kashyapa(from wiki): was one of the seven Sages for that manvantara. The Indian valley of Kashmir in the himalayas is named after him. Legend states that the vale of Kashmir was a vast high altitude lake which was drained by Kashyap rishi, out of which the beautiful valley of Kashmir emerged, hence the name Kashyapmira which corrupted overtime to become Kashmir.

        June 28, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
      • Cassy

        curious mind,
        this a nice and romantic fairy tale your wrote about Kashmir, but let’s talk about the realities in the ground.
        The Kashmiri people doesn’t want to be occupied by India or Pakistan and they will by end of the day achieve this goal.
        Doesn’t matter how much India likes this beautiful valley, but the majority of Kashmiri people hate to live under this condition.
        Transferring occupied Kashmir to Pakistan is absolutely not a solution. Kashmiri people doesn’t want to be occupied by Pakistan as well.
        It is a painful reality for both, India and Pakistan that Kashmir will be eventually an independent region.
        I think separating Kashmir from Pakistan and India and forming an independent country is a very difficult process and therefore there is no resolution and all this pain and grievances.
        The most suffering people are people of the Kashmir in this proxy war between India and Pakistan.
        Here is a solution:
        Both parts of Kashmir will remains part of Indian and Pakistani territory as status quote, but given both Kashmir parts on both side of dividing line total internal autonomy and let them run their own affairs.
        Line of control between Azad Kashmir & Indian Kashmir should be a soft border with people of Kashmiri descent allowed to cross the border.
        What belongs together will eventually grow together! The artificial Berlin wall could not be sustained, even a super power tried to keep it in place for long time.
        Don’t start to separate the Hindu and Moslem population of Kashmir after the Indian and Pakistanis model. The problem is not here the Hindus and Moslems or Sikhs, but creating an environment of less suppression, less manipulation and giving all the people of Kashmir the opportunity to prosper is the solution.
        Both people the Indians and Pakistani’s could be proud to have a peaceful region of Kashmir under their administration, which belong to both of them and both the Pakistani’s and Indian could enjoy the cool mountain air of Kashmir, when it is getting hot in the plains.
        In the other hand the Kashmiri people as part of India and Pakistan will prosper economically by hosting the Pakistani and Indian tourist.
        Is this not a better romantic notion compare to your old Sages about Kashmir, that will not resolving any problems?

        June 29, 2011 at 8:10 am |
      • curious mind

        No more partition in the name of religion period. No more justification of terror support in the name of freedom fighters period. Dialogue is the the only way to go and that too not under a gun. Everything can be discussed in mutual coordial approach with no controversial agenda. By the way Kashmir is a non issue among Indians.

        June 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Cassy

      curious mind,
      your are right in all your points about dialog, putting down the guns and start a common sense discussion.
      You are maybe right that Kashmir is a non issue among Indians, when it comes to ordinary people.
      But the fact is that Indian government is very hawkish about Kashmir and avoiding that this issue is discussed and isolating the Kashmir problem as anon issue.
      Kashmir is part a regional conflict and the relationship between India and Pakistan has a big influence on Afghan conflict!
      It is not a coincident that all the comments above in response to Mr. Zakaira's blog has less to do with Afghanistan conflict, but is more related to the problems between India and Pakistan and Kashmir is the core of this problem.

      June 29, 2011 at 11:07 am | Reply
      • curious mind

        Kashmir is just symptom, the root cause is religious inspired thuggism. The religious inspired parties in Pak is like active volcano trying to find an easy route to show their destructivity. No way you can compromise if religion is brought into the scenario. We need to fail such insane ideas in order to maintain sanity. Do you still wanted to hedge such ideas? It is never a win-win situation, never going to sell in secular India since minorities bein the weaker party too have stake in the outcome.

        Why did the Paks have to send tribes in 1947-48, start war in the name of Kashmir by their generals or worst send terrorist since 1987 after Soviet collapse. This is pure insanity and evil.

        June 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Cassy

      That's Exactly What I Meant.
      Indian side is trivializing this issue and starting the blame game and Pakistanis are not helping the discussion by supporting the radicals and encouraging more division.
      Where is the common sense, where are the brilliant minds to help resolving this problem.
      Where are the leaders who have a vision and the guts to give up hatred and make something good happens.

      June 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Reply
      • curious mind

        Give me one reason why Kashmir is so important for Paks, is it stopping them from crushing Talibans or stabilize Afghan? By the way do USA wants to use their service again in future for similar Soviet like issue, let us suppose another rogue communist? I can hear loud and clear NO.

        June 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  2. Jeff

    BTW, Farid Zakaria's grand parent was a highly anti-parition guy and authored books on the subject. If I am wrong in my memory recall then I am sorry. But since I think I am rightly recalling reading about it, I can understand how Farid Zakaria can use his smarts and intellect to hide his biased inner feeling towards Pakistan and present them in camoflagued words. India's only interest in Afghanistan at this time is to keep Pakistani army and subsequently resources spread around on western flank. From the west, India can prop up terrorist organization such as BLA (Balooch Liberation Army) that the former USSR KGB higher ups have admitted to create in collusion with Indians and Pre-Taliban Afghan governments. So India is back to palying games and Fareed is talking selective logic. I hope Obama doesnt listen to Fareed and use his own instinct and brain to formulate Pakistan strategy. Fareed, either your analysis have been flawed or you have compromised your integrity to pacify your biases in India Pakistan issues.

    June 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Reply
    • loveamerica



      June 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  3. loveamerica













    June 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  4. curious mind

    Give me one reason why Kashmir is so important for Paks, is it stopping them from crushing Talibans or stabilize Afghan? By the way do USA wants to use their service again in future for similar Soviet like issue, let us suppose another rogue communist country? I can hear loud and clear NO.

    June 29, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Reply
    • Jeff

      Curios mind, you are a very typical indian who is not aware of any history other than the hindutva propaganda they teach in your schools. You should be curious about why you are so ill-informed. Furthermore, dont let no one tell you there are no stupid questions because yours are fairly incoherent mixed with ignorance and stupidity. You must be one of those billion indian idiots I ran into while travelling through banglore, delhi etc.

      You know why conflicts arise and exists, it is because of greed and ignorance as depicted by indians like you.

      June 30, 2011 at 11:15 am | Reply
  5. Ahmed-Bombay

    Zakaria is a pr-pakistani Bastartd. he is anti indian, anti american, pakistania, and islamic pig.

    November 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Reply
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