Diplomatic relations with Pakistan have always been tricky for the United States, even before 9/11. As one of the more volatile members of the club of countries who own nuclear weapons and as a country with very testy relations with its neighbor India, Pakistan poses a variety of foreign policy challenges.
After 9/11, the war in Afghanistan and the mobility of the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups has only intensified the diplomatic challenges in Pakistan.
However, the apparent accidental attacks that U.S. drones carried out on a Pakistan border outpost, killing at least 24 Pakistani soldiers may have just made diplomacy close to impossible with one of the most volatile, dangerous and important countries in the world.
Details of the attack are murky at best. What is not murky are the crystal clear demands made by the Pakistani government for the U.S. to leave the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan and its move to cut off critical NATO supply lines to Afghanistan.
The northern tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the current state of both countries, make the accuracy of northern borders and allegiance of military personnel uncertain at best.
Combine that with the reality that warfare, despite the use of the most up to date technology, can be messy and imperfect, and you create the situation that the Obama administration finds itself in right now.
Details of the attack will continue to be worked out over the next few days, but the fact of the matter is that dealing with Pakistan in the political world has markedly changed.
And while the relations with Pakistan have changed overnight, changing the political relations back to ally status will take much longer.
Our status with Pakistan is not only important when it comes to the war in Afghanistan. Even if all of our troops left that country tomorrow, we would need to maintain a complicated relationship with Pakistan.
Some cynical bystanders may think that the key to getting ourselves out of hot water will simply be increased foreign aid. While I am sure that will be part of the solution, increased aid won’t be enough to save the situation entirely.
We also can’t write off relations with the country completely if we intend to continue to fight the war on terrorism effectively. Terrorists still exist and frankly still proliferate in the region. Osama bin Laden may have been public enemy number one, but there are plenty behind him that would love to follow in his footsteps.
However difficult, the United States must do something substantial to address the situation. Proving that the attack was warranted will be complicated, and the proof may not be effective in changing political opinion. Foreign aid may help, but the U.S. also cannot be seen as so crass as to pay blood money for the attack.
This is the kind of situation when the top foreign policy minds in the administration will earn their pay. And while this incident shouldn’t define the foreign policy legacy of President Obama, it may very well define the future of the war in Afghanistan and the war on terror.
In a nutshell, this foreign policy Rubik’s cube will make many administration officials look forward to solving something simple, like the American economy.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.