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Christine Fair on Pakistan

Christine Fair of RAND runs through some of the reasons why militancy has grown in Pakistan despite something like $10 billion in mostly military aid coming from the U.S. since 9/11.

She makes a Prince joke (!) about the “terrorist formerly known as Beitullah Mehsud,” head of the Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud is launching “absolutely unprecedented” attacks on the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan, which birthed the Taliban in the 1990s.

There are retaliatory strikes against the Pakistani military around the country emanating from the Federal Administered Tribal Areas. “What happens in FATA doesn’t stay in FATA,”she says.

No one reacts, to Fair’s dissatisfaction. “What, you don’t watch commercials?”

Big laughs.

OK, no laughing matter: “$13 billion later, we should not be expecting Beitullah Mehsud to be giving interviews to journalists from the BBC,” Fair says.

Part of the problem is — contrary to classic counterinsurgency doctrine, which privileges the need for local forces to fight insurgents — the Frontier Corps of the Pakistani military. These are the same guys who “still work with the Taliban… an ongoing problem,” and one the U.S. hasn’t been able to solve. Plus, we’re returning to “the ISI working with the Taliban,” as evidenced by the ISI bombing the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

“It doesn’t appear as if Pakistan has strategically abandoned militancy as a tool of foreign policy,” Fair says. “And they’re under attack because of their embrace of the United States.”

It’s easy to say that Pakistan shouldn’t appease Al Qaeda, but there seems to be not much of a constituency in the country for attacking Al Qaeda because “most Pakistanis don’t feel that Al Qaeda is a threat” to them.

Lessons of the last eight years: Don’t support the Pakistani Army and expect it to provide either support to civil society or anything more than grudging opposition to Al Qaeda.

So, instead “forge a real working relationship with the Pakistan Army” instead of a “highly-transactional one” that we currently have. “We pay them for operations that we don’t jointly plan and hope they’ll be executed.”

What’ll be different?

Fair doesn’t really say. But we “have to build at the same time, strategically, the institutions that can support democracy in Pakistan.”

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