Thursday, September 21, 2017

Does Pakistan Hold Any Cards in Dealing With Trump Administration?

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan has always been essentially transactional since the early days of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. What would the quid pro quo look like between Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Trump administration in the current differences over America's new Afghan policy? Let's try and answer this question.

Transactional History: 

Aid and cooperation has been forthcoming whenever successive American administrations needed something from Pakistan and then suddenly stopped and sanctions imposed on Pakistan when the US goals were accomplished. This happened in 1960s, 1990s and likely to happen yet again now under the Trump administration.

The history of the relationship is such that Pakistan has often been described variously as "the most allied ally" and "the most sanctioned ally" in the last few decades.

Trump's Tough Talk:

U.S. President Donald Trump, a real estate developer, sees all bilateral and multilateral negotiations with other nations through the lens of his experience in real estate deals. The Trump administration has shown itself to be far more transactional with US allies than any previous administration. President Trump is now threatening to get tough with Pakistan after 16 years of Afghan war with no end in sight as the Taliban continue to expand influence in the country. There's talk in Washington about cutting off aid and possible sanctions on Pakistan yet again. What cards does Pakistan hold in any negotiations with the Trump administration? Can Pakistan play hardball with the United States?

Pakistan's Cards:

Speaking at an event organized by the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the following:

"... the (US) military assistance (to Pakistan) is very limited at the moment. In the past, if you want to do an accounting of the past, that can also be done. But I’m telling you that today, for example, over a million (US) sorties are flown by coalition aircraft through Pakistan territory, and we never bill for that. Millions of tons of (US) equipment moves through Pakistan territory on the ground. We never bill for that, because we believe in the war against terror. We supported that coalition, we continue to support efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. So if we want to go back into history and start accounting for how many dollars were spent, Pakistan, as I said, post-9/11, the most conservative numbers: We lost $120 billion in economic growth."

US-Pakistan Negotiations:

If the Trump administration decides to cut whatever little aid Pakistan receives from the United States, Pakistan could demand significant fees for the use of Pakistani territory by the United States to supply its troops. If the US refuses, Pakistan could simply cut off the NATO supply route as it did back in 2011 after the Salala incident.


Given the transactional nature of the relationships the Trump administration seeks, what would a transaction look like between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi? It could be in the form of Pakistan continuing to allow the use of its airspace and land routes to supply US troops in Afghanistan for substantial fees that could add up to more than the US aid to Pakistan today. If the US balks at it, Pakistan could simply cut off US supply routes as it did back in 2011 after the Salala incident.

Here's a discussion related to this subject:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

What is the Haqqani Network?

Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?

Mullah Mansoor Akhtar Killing in US Drone Strike

Gen Petraeus Debunks Charges of Pakistani Duplicity

Husain Haqqani vs Riaz Haq on India vs Pakistan

Impact of Trump's Top Picks on Pakistan

Husain Haqqani Advising Trump on Pakistan Policy?

Gall-Haqqani-Paul Narrative on Pakistan

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-US-Japan

Robert Gates' Straight Talk on Pakistan


Moh said...

In dealing with Trump, Pakistan plays its trump card

Pakistan is learnt to have conveyed to the United States that it will call off its efforts in the Afghan reconciliation process if the Trump administration does not change its new policy of intimidation and coercion towards Islamabad.

Syed S.S. said...

The Americans have one trump card against Pakistan and that is corrupt leaders at he helms in Pakistan. They can dangle a green card to the man in charge and get anything they want from Pakistan.
There is so much ill-gotten Pakistani politicians money stashed in the USA, they dare not stand up to the demands from Trump.

Riaz Haq said...

#Mattis tells #India to moderate its support of #TTP #terrorism in #Pakistan. #Afghanistan #talibans #RAW

by Bharat Karnad in Hindustan Times

" a former head of the US Central Command Mattis appreciates Pakistan’s indispensability as base for military operations to bring the Taliban in Afghanistan to their knees. But Islamabad has insisted that India’s role in Afghanistan be restricted and complained about the Indian support for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) accused by Islamabad of terrorism in Pakistan. The RAW-TTP link was publicly revealed in April this year by its former commander, Ehsanullah Ehsan.

Mattis’ request that India moderate its support for TTP will put Delhi in a fix because TTP is useful as an Indian counterpart of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammad deployed by the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Jammu & Kashmir. Severing relations with TTP will mean India surrendering an active card in Pakistan and a role in Afghanistan as TTP additionally provides access to certain Afghan Taliban factions. This, together with the Abdul Ghani regime’s desire for India’s presence and the tested friendship with Abdul Rashid Dostum and his Tajik-dominated ‘Northern Alliance’, ensures that no solution for peace in Afghanistan can be cobbled together without India’s help.

Mattis’ returning home empty-handed will not hurt relations with the US at all because there’s China; and the US needs India to strategically hinder it."

Riaz Haq said...

Masters not friends
Expectations of Pakistani cooperation are disproportionate to the US commitment to Islamabad, even considering Washington’s generous aid budget
24-Sep-17 by Adam Weinstein

The relationship between the US and Pakistan is one of necessity rather than a common vision. It alternates between cooperation and hostility, occasionally teetering on the abyss of formally severed ties. Western observers of Pakistan have exhaustively and convincingly written about the dysfunction that Islamabad brings to the partnership and our latest squabble has solicited another dispatch of such articles. But what blame, if any, falls on Washington?

For decades Washington has misunderstood Pakistan’s political scene, miscalculated the nature of its security concerns, and all but ignored the complexities of its society. Expectations of Pakistani cooperation are disproportionate to US commitment to Islamabad, even considering Washington’s generous aid. Fears of an unlikely Islamist ascendancy followed by a loss of nuclear warheads garners too much concern while facilitating viable solutions for the Kashmir dispute are dismissed as impossible or irrelevant. And, Washington and Kabul’s own failings in Afghanistan have too often been pinned entirely on Pakistan even though the reality is much more complex.

During Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s administration, the US had the opportunity to assure Pakistan of future military aid but chose instead to adopt a risk-averse South Asia policy that would not upset India — the ally Washington wanted but could not have
Rather than forming a durable alliance with Pakistan, the US has consistently gauged assistance based on regional events.

Washington’s limited ability to dictate Islamabad’s foreign policy is the price of its unwillingness to commit to a monopoly over Pakistan’s security during the first quarter century of its statehood. Viewed exclusively as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, the US lacked the foresight to realise the permanent importance of Pakistan given its strategic location at the nexus of Iran, Afghanistan, India, and China. Over the years, Islamabad has periodically expressed its displeasure with Washington through publicised pivots toward Beijing, usually accompanied by major Chinese investment. For example, when relations cooled in the mid-1960s it led to closer economic ties with Beijing as illustrated by the construction of the Karakoram highway. This is again happening with CPEC, and Daniel Markey, a State Department veteran and Pakistan specialist recently wrote that “looking ahead, the United States will need to take China’s role and interests into account in ways that were unnecessary even just a decade ago.”


The question now is whether it is 2011 again? This was the year when Osama bin Laden was killed near Pakistan’s prestigious military academy and US aircraft killed twenty four Pakistani soldiers after allegedly firing from positions within Pakistan. Could Pakistan’s continued support for the Haqqani network combined with Washington’s unfair finger-pointing spark another incident like this? Possibly — but unlike 2011, the US administration does not have the diplomatic finesse to de-escalate the situation, and Pakistan is entering an election season where populism and standing up to Washington may win at the ballot box. Pakistan and the US do not have an indefinite number of resets available. Nobody within Pakistan’s political scene has offered a serious and practical alternative to the US. Meanwhile, Washington risks a war in Afghanistan where every restive province either borders Iran or an alienated Pakistan. Now more than ever diplomatic engagement is needed between the two nations and cool heads must prevail.

Riaz Haq said...

US Senator Larry Pressler whose infamous Pressler Amendment forced Pakistan to diversify arms sources and seek self-reliance in arms production is BACK!

Suggesting that both India and the US conduct pre-emptive strikes inside Pakistan to destroy its nuclear sites (where weapons have either already been stored or are being made), former US Senator Larry Pressler told TOI on Monday that Donald Trump may turn out to be the best American president yet for India as he had recently put Pakistan on notice for harbouring terrorists.

But for this to happen, Trump would have to get around the Pentagon, which always encouraged Pakistan, he said. Such encouragement emboldened Pakistan to attack India as "the mother of terrorism" and "predator" at the UN general assembly session on Sunday, he added. Trump's description of the Pentagon as "a swamp" was a good sign, he noted, hoping the US president would drain it soon (as he'd promised).

A three-term Senator and twice a member of the House of Representatives, Pressler (75) authored the famous Pressler Amendment which in 1990 blocked US military aid to Pakistan when the then US President George H W Bush could not certify Pakistan was not developing nukes.

As the delivery of close to 30 F-16 aircraft to Islamabad was barred, Pressler, then a Republican and head of the Senate's arms control subcommittee, became something of a hero in India and, in his own words, "a devil in Pakistan." His new book, Neighbours in Arms, engagingly tells the story of the amendment and of the US foreign policy that enabled Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons and casts a severe spotlight on the culture of lobbying in Washington and the grip of the military-industrial state ("the Octopus") inside the US.

Pressler has long distanced himself from the Republican Party — he contested Senate polls as an Independent in 2014 and backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential polls — but despite differences with Trump, he feels the president is not doing half as badly as US media suggests.

Trump's warning to Pakistan on its sheltering and export of terror, linking of US aid to "action on terror" and his request to India to "help us more with Afghanistan" signalled a recasting of relations.
The ex-Senator hopes Trump will act on the notice.

"US must declare Pakistan a terrorist state, cut off all aid and must not treat India and Pakistan as equals. India is a democracy, Pakistan isn't. And Pakistan and especially the ISI have lied to us for decades," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

US Def Sec Mattis accuses #Russia and #Iran of supplying arms to the #Taliban in #Afghanistan. via @dcexaminer

During Mattis’ Afghanistan visit, he faulted Russia and Iran for supplying arms to the Taliban. “Those two countries have suffered losses to terrorism, so I think it would be extremely unwise if they think they can somehow support terrorism in another country and not have it come back to haunt them,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. Russia has denied sending weapons to the group.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan forging regional alliance with #Russia, #Iran against 'foreign presence' in #Afghanistan: ex-#ISI chief

Pakistan has held successful negotiations with at least four countries and a new regional alliance against the foreign presence in Afghanistan is fast emerging, a former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has claimed.

“Now this is the regional alliance that is emerging, not in the sense of an alliance, but at least they have started handling the foreign presence in Afghanistan in a coordinated manner,” Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, Pakistan’s ex-spymaster, told Russia Today’s Sophie Shevarnadze in an interview.

“In the meantime actually what we have done… is that [we have] found allies in the region starting with Iran, Russia, China and now lately Turkey,” he added.

Durrani said Pakistan does not care about the US sanctions anymore because it hardly gets any aid from the latter. “Sanctions are alright… Already there’s hardly anything we get from the US… Dependence on America — that finished long time ago,” he said, adding that Islamabad was rather looking for countries which would offer cooperation in economic development in the region “to ensure that this foreign presence from Afghanistan is vacated.”

Responding to a question over new US strategy on Afghanistan, the former intelligence chief denied there was a change in the American policy towards the war-torn nation, saying peace in Afghanistan was in the interest of the United States.

“The policy still continues to be run by, to use a Russian nomenklatura, the deep state in the US runs the policy. Obama used to speak softly and his representatives used to come and threaten us — Hillary Clinton and others, the generals. In this particular case, the roles are simply reversed, because Trump is not in the habit of talking softly, so they said ‘you can go ahead, see what you do, tweet whatever you like to, but we run the policy’,” he said, adding the job of the US president was to only shout at some countries.

Durrani said the US wanted to keep a military presence in Afghanistan at all costs. “Essentially, the policy remains the same, and that is — you have dig in Afghanistan, stay there, keep the bases, keep the military presence, that’s more important than either peace there or settlement there or whatever else.”

He went on to say that Pakistan pushed the Taliban leadership towards joining the Afghan peace process but the negotiation process was sabotaged either by the Kabul regime or the US itself.

Riaz Haq said...

#Taliban commander in #Afghanistan: “Taliban want to leave #Pakistan for #Iran. They don’t trust Pakistan anymore.”

'150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us': Taliban fighters defiant in Afghanistan

Squatting on the floor, a brown shawl draped over his shoulders, the Taliban commander and his bodyguard swiped on their phones through attack footage edited to look like video games, with computerised crosshairs hovering over targets. “Allahu Akbar,” they said every time a government Humvee hit a landmine.

Mullah Abdul Saeed, who met the Guardian in the barren backcountry of Logar province where he leads 150 Taliban militants, has fought foreign soldiers and their Afghan allies since the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan when he was 14. The Taliban now controls its largest territory since being forced from power, and seems to have no shortage of recruits.

By prolonging and expanding its military presence in Afghanistan, the US aims to coerce the Taliban to lay down arms, but risks hardening insurgents who have always demanded withdrawal of foreign troops before peace talks.

In interviews with rank-and-file Taliban fighters in Logar and another of Afghanistan’s embattled provinces, Wardak, the Guardian found a fragmented but resilient movement, united in resistance against foreign intervention.

Referring to Barack Obama’s surge, Saeed said: “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us.” And an extra 4,000 US soldiers, as Donald Trump will deploy, “will not change the morale of our mujahideen,” he said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.” For the Taliban to consider peace, he said, “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to sharia.”

The war America can't win: how the Taliban are regaining control in Afghanistan

Arriving on a motorbike kicking up dust, Saeed and his Kalashnikov-carrying bodyguard, Yamin, were aloof at first but warmed as the conversation evolved. Saeed said that as the war has changed, the Taliban have adjusted, too. US soldiers now predominantly train Afghans, and have ramped up airstrikes.

“It’s true, it has become harder to fight the Americans. But we use suicide bombers, and we will use more of them,” Saeed said. “If the US changes its tactics of fighting, so do we.” That change has meant ever-fiercer attacks, with large truck bombs in populated areas and audacious assaults on military bases.

In April, Taliban fighters in army uniforms stormed a northern army academy and killed at least 150 soldiers in the biggest assault on the army of the entire war. This month, suicide bombers wiped out a whole army unit, ramming two Humvees packed with explosives into a base in Kandahar.

As Saeed spoke, three young boys from the civilian family at the house where the interview took place brought tea. They giggled as they listened in on the fighters’ radio. Saeed spoke with a calm, professorial demeanour but his words brimmed with the anger of a man who has spent his adult life fighting a generation-long war, and lost 12 family members doing it.

Pressed on the record-high number of civilian deaths in the war, he said the Taliban “make mistakes” and try to avoid harming civilians, but added: “If there is an infidel in a flock of sheep, you are permitted to attack that flock of sheep.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: Mad Dog #Mattis Will Bark, but #Islamabad Won't Bite. #Afghanistan #Trump #terrorism #TTP via @Stratfor Worldview

As President Donald Trump's administration searches for an exit from the war in Afghanistan after over 16 years of U.S. involvement, the United States is making another high-level diplomatic outreach to Pakistan. On Dec. 4, Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Islamabad for meetings with Pakistan's top military and civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. In these meetings, Mattis' mission is to convince Pakistani leadership to do more to attack militant safe havens and, in the long term, facilitate peace talks with the Taliban to end America's longest-running war. But Pakistan's leaders won't be easy to convince.

In the discussions, Mattis adopted a conciliatory approach by acknowledging Pakistan's sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, but he also reiterated Washington's demands. The United States has called for Pakistan to take more action against the militants that find refuge on its soil. Among them, crucially, is the leadership of the Taliban operating in Afghanistan.

Diplomatic outreach is just one of the ways the United States is trying to compel a change in Pakistan's behavior. Military aid is another. Last week, the latest report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service showed that the United States would further trim its annual aid package to Pakistan. In 2017, Washington doled out $526 million to Islamabad in exchange for its cooperation, which includes providing overland NATO supply route access through Pakistani territory. In 2018, that number is projected to drop to $345 million.

The United States has gradually trimmed the amount of aid it provides to Pakistan over the last several years. In 2014, for example, U.S. aid to Pakistan amounted to nearly $2.2 billion. For now, it appears that the U.S. strategy is to pursue incremental punitive measures against Pakistan, rather than pursue harsher tactics such as revoking Pakistan's non-NATO major ally status or cutting aid altogether. The United States isn't fully ready to bring out the stick, but the carrot is slowly being drawn back.

Pakistan wants to maintain its relationship with the United States, but it's willing to suffer the cost of deteriorating ties. From Islamabad's perspective, supporting the Taliban follows a rational calculation to ensure post-conflict Afghanistan is friendly to Pakistani interests. Support for Taliban leaders is aimed at denying Pakistan's rival, India, a foothold in Afghanistan. Because of this, Mattis' visit probably won't convince Pakistan to change its behavior, especially considering the Trump administration's calls for India to play a greater economic role in Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan says it needs no financial assistance from #US. #USAID #Trump #Afghanistan

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Saturday that the country needs no financial assistance from the US, which it accuses of ignoring Pakistan’s effective operations in the war on terror.
“We do not need any financial assistance from the United States. We do not care about it. If America wants to stop it, we will loudly say go ahead,” Dr. Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, told Arab News in an interview.
“Pakistan receives a paltry amount in terms of Coalition Support Fund from the US, and if the Trump administration withholds it, it will hardly make any difference to a country of 207 million people,” he said.
The Coalition Support Fund is a reimbursement to Pakistan from the US of expenses incurred in operations against militants and compensation for logistical facilities made available to the coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.
As relations between the US and Pakistan have soured in recent months, the Trump administration, according to a New York Times report, is contemplating withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan as “a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there.”
“We will insist that Pakistan take decisive action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its soil,” the US said in its National Security Strategy announced by President Donald Trump on Dec. 18.
“The United States continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan,” it said. “We will press Pakistan to intensify its counterterrorism efforts, since no partnership can survive a country’s support for militants and terrorists who target a partner’s own service members and officials.”
Dr. Mohammad Faisal, however, vehemently rejects the US allegations, saying that Pakistan’s security forces have undertaken indiscriminate and effective operations against terrorism and extremism in recent years.
“Pakistan is a more stable, peaceful and secure country after these operations,” he said. “We have repeatedly informed the US that no organized structure of any terrorist outfit exists in Pakistan.”
He advised the US to focus on factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, breakdown of governance and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan instead of pressuring Pakistan to do more.
“We remain committed to protect our sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest determined by the people of Pakistan,” he said.
Relations between Pakistan and the US soured after President Donald Trump accused the country of providing a “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror” while launching the US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on Aug. 21.
Air Marshal (retd) Shahid Latif told Arab News that the US has been blaming Pakistan for its failure in the war against terror in Afghanistan and is threatening Pakistan with dire consequences — action that is unbecoming of an ally such as the US.
“We will do no more to support the United States in our region,” he said while fully endorsing Pakistan’s attitude toward the US.
“The Trump administration has been threatening Pakistan instead of acknowledging our tremendous sacrifices in the war against terror and this is totally unacceptable to us,” he said.
Ayaz Wazir, a former diplomat, told Arab News that Pakistan is a sovereign country and the Trump administration cannot cow it down through threats of unilateral actions against militants and stopping of financial aid.
“The US has totally failed in restoring law and order in Afghanistan and it wants to make Pakistan a scapegoat by accusing it of harboring militants on its soil,” he said. “Around 22 terrorist outfits including Daesh are still active in Afghanistan despite the presence of the US troops since 2001.”

Riaz Haq said...

Directorate S author Steve Coll with Terry Gross on NPR Fresh Air

When the Bush administration went into Afghanistan right after September 11, in those conversations, they said, well, what are our really important, vital interests that justify this war? And they said there are really two. One is al-Qaida. We've got to disrupt them, got to destroy them. And the other was, we've got to keep Pakistan stable so that its nuclear weapons don't fall into the wrong hands.


the Obama administration came back to the same question of war aims that had really befuddled the Bush administration. The reviews concluded that there were really only two vital interests in Afghanistan, the kinds of interests that would justify putting young American men and women in harm's way. One was al-Qaida and the other was the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. But in 2009, when these reviews were taking place, neither of those problems really existed in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida had left Afghanistan and was now in Pakistan in a serious way.

And of course, Pakistan's nuclear weapons were across the border. So they talked themselves into fighting a kind of indirect war. Well, we'll go to Afghanistan, we'll fight the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan from collapsing because if it collapsed, al-Qaida would come back. And the general instability of that war might mess up Pakistan and jeopardize the security of its nukes. So it's a very convoluted conclusion. And at the heart of it was President Obama, who really did not want to fight a war against the Taliban.

Some of his generals did. President Obama saw that that was a very long slog, and he didn't see that the U.S. public would support such a war indefinitely. We were in the middle of the recession at that point. So...


You know who our boss is, President Obama. Who are you (Taliban rep Tayyab Agha)? We don't even know that you know who Mullah Mohammed Omar is or that you have anybody's authority to be doing this. How can you prove to us that you have authority to really negotiate toward an end to the war? And so they work out these secret protocols where he places messages in the Taliban's media system in the name of Mullah Mohammed Omar.

He brings them a proof-of-life video of Bowe Bergdahl, the Army specialist who had been captured by part of the Taliban, the Haqqani network. And even at one point, he brought a letter from Mullah Mohammed Omar addressed to President Obama. It was sort of on Taliban stationery. But it wasn't, you know, very formal stationery. And the gist of the letter was, Mr. President, you know, I've had to take a lot of hard decisions to talk peace. You should take some hard decisions. Let's get this done.

And the negotiations went on for, let's see, three years or so until they reached a point where there was a deal to open a Taliban office in Qatar, which was the step that would proceed what the Americans hoped would be very serious negotiations to end the war and find a settlement. And the whole negotiation over that office was a fiasco. It alienated President Karzai. It blew up and the Taliban walked away from the whole deal.


In Afghanistan, for some reason, we just don't seem to have the capacity - haven't had the capacity to do that. And I do fear that the Trump administration, which doesn't seem to think the State Department is a very important part of its foreign policy, is pretty much the last administration that's going to take on the really complicated and uncertain challenges of that kind of negotiation.

Riaz Haq said...

Q&A with Steve Coll on ‘America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan’

Q: What is India’s role in Afghanistan?

A: It’s nowhere near as significant as Pakistan thinks it is. It has had a long relationship with the Afghan government, and supported Afghanistan when the government was reconstituted in 2001. It’s soft power — roads, hospitals, some military training. They don’t want to … further provoke the paranoia of ISI. As long as we (the United States) are in there fighting the terrorists, they can free-ride on our military commitment.

Q: Your book shows how officers within the ISI have continued to support the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite numerous deadly attacks within Pakistan and on Pakistanis by branches of the Taliban operating there. What is the motivation?

A: The Pakistani officer class — and they are ultimately the directors of the spy service as well — have a proud nationalistic tradition. There’s a conviction that India is under every pillow, that it’s out to destroy Pakistan. Over the years that (belief) has become a rationale for army influence in Pakistani politics … the whole country has moved to the right as the years have gone by.

The practical reason is that Pakistan feels vulnerable to Afghanistan. They share a long and open border, and the people along the border don’t even recognize its legitimacy. The fear is that without a buffer strategy of political influence, that India will use Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan.

Q: Islam is the state religion of Pakistan — how does religious faith affect the motives of the ISI?

A: It’s a very diverse officer corps. The junior officers are more pious; the senior officers are ardently nationalist, more nationalist than even 20 years ago, given the violence and pressure they have come under. When you talk nationalism you’re talking about a country that was founded on the basis of Islam. I think Americans have always struggled to figure out how personal faith among Pakistani officers may affect their political judgment. The lazy way is to take them out for a drink. That doesn’t work with these guys.

Q: How do you see Afghanistan’s future unfolding?

A: I’m not a great forecaster, but I don’t think anything is likely to change. The presence of the U.S. military makes it very difficult for the Taliban to win. They don’t have an air force, they don’t have anti-aircraft weapons. They don’t have the amazing technology of the opposition.

The Afghan government is stuck. In 40 percent or more of the country’s rural districts, the Taliban are embedded. They are present in other parts of the country where they don’t have ethnic or religious roots … It’s even more complicated, because now all this violence has created an ethnic polarization in the rest of the country, and there’s a constitutional crisis in Kabul that’s been going on for three-and-a-half years.