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Ex-Pakistan Interior Minister Rejects Joint Border Patrols

I spent the morning at a lecture delivered by Aftab Sherpao, a former Pakistani interior minister whom Islamic extremists have recently been trying to murder.

Sherpao came to the U.S. Institute of Peace to discuss the increasing instability emanating from the Pakistani tribal areas — a danger he said is metastacizing into an “insurgency” throughout Pakistan, with “a network of faciitators in nearly all major urban centers” — and offer some potential solutions. Interestingly, one that he rejected was a seemingly promising proposal by Afghanistan’s defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, for joint U.S.-Afghan-Pakistani patrols along the mostly unguarded border area where I was last month.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why Sherpao rejects the idea. He seemed to suggest it was a problem of Afghan lassitude. “There are 1,000 checkpoints on our side, but what is on the other side? Only 80 checkpoints,” Sherpao said. “If there is a question of cross-border movement [by militants], they accuse us of that, but they need to look at that” themselves. This came, incidentally, amid a talk in which Sherpao urged greater cooperation with the U.S. and its allies on counterterrorism.

The ex-minister had some interesting ideas, including expanding a traditional tribal role as primary interlocutors with the provincial government agencies in the tribal areas, something that he said had eroded over the past several years to the extremists’ advantage. But the problem with joint U.S.-Afghan-Pakistani military cooperation on the border remains frustratingly unclear.

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