Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mullen's Comments on Pakistan Changed Everything ... and Nothing

Every few months, it seems, relations between the United States and Pakistan reach a new low --just this week, in fact, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment they had reached their lowest point yet. And yet, behind the scenes, officials with both government continue to communicate and cooperate on a number of different fronts.

Retiring Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen’s testimony to Congress last month that one of the region’s most notorious militant groups was a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence is likely to make that dialogue more difficult. In a piece for this week's CQ Weekly magazine, I looked into the ways that Mullen's remarks strengthen the hardliners on Pakistan in Congress, and the likelihood they will force cuts in aid to Islamabad.

What still remains in question whether just some or all of the approximately $5 billion aid requested for fiscal year 2012 will be cut, and whether policymakers will try to go further, perhaps pushing for inclusion of the Haqqani network on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations, among other measures. Such moves would increase the pressure on elements inside Pakistan, but they also are bound to make it more difficult to build a cooperative, regional solution to the war across the border in Afghanistan. Because there's still no getting around the fact, experts say, that Islamabad will need to play an integral part in any such settlement.

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