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'Pak a halfway ally in fighting terror'

Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment says that Pakistan is a "conflicted ally" of the US in the war on terror. A report by

world Updated: Dec 18, 2007 23:51 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

Pakistan is a "conflicted ally" of the US in the war on terror, said Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment at a seminar on Pakistan in Washington on Monday. Pakistan has both motivational and operational problems in pursuing, in particular, the Taliban leadership.

Motivationally, Pervez Musharraf was unwilling to go after a Taliban or Kashmir-directed groups like Lashkar-e Tayyeba, which are still seen as strategic assets of Pakistan. He therefore focussed on sectarian domestic terrorist groups like the Lashkar e Jhangvi and Al Qaeda.

Operationally, Pakistan was hampered by a sociological transformation among Pashtuns which saw power shift away from the government-friendly political agents and maliks to madrassa-educated maulvis — robbing Islamabad of human intelligence.

Its military were also woefully experienced in counterinsurgency and used the heavy-handed tactics that the Indian army had dropped 25 years ago. Finally the Taliban were no longer an Afghan body, they were also a domestic group that lived and attacked inside Pakistan.

There were three consequences of these Pakistani failures, said Tellis. One was the regeneration of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Two was that India-directed groups like Lashkar e Toiba were developing a "hazy coordination" with Al Qaeda. Finally, sectarian violence inside Pakistan has not been solved, though it may be experiencing "an intermission."

Tellis said the US had four policy options in tackling the terror resurgence. Two of them — tying conditions to aid or treating Pakistan as an adversary —were not options. Unilateral US strikes were best kept in the closet. The fourth option was the present policy, but with important modifications.

These, he said, included forcing Pakistan to refocus on the Taliban leadership, ensure money was given for predefined missions, and generally change the tenor of relations to something similar to what existed on September 13, 2001. "Since then the US has been far too generous to Islamabad," he said.

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