Courtesy Reuters

The Summer of Pakistan's Discontent

The events of the past four months have raised serious doubts about Pakistan's capacity to achieve progress in the war on terror and manage a smooth transition to civilian democratic governance simultaneously. This summer's crises--the storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque, clashes with militants along Afghanistan's border, the dismissal and reinstatement of Pakistan's chief justice, and the recent deportation of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif--have also raised concerns about Washington's ability to stand by Pakistan as a firm but supportive partner. The crucial question is not whether to pursue security or democracy in Pakistan, but how the United States might realistically seek both at the same time.

One of the central assumptions underpinning my argument for closer U.S.-Pakistani relations was the idea that the Pakistani army and intelligence services are now open to a new strategic mindset. In particular, I suggested that they are beginning to see their longstanding ties to militant Islamist groups as dangerous liabilities, rather than as assets for projecting power in the region. At the same time, they may be slowly recognizing the United States as a viable new ally. Only after making this shift will Pakistan's security forces, from the rank-and-file on up, be motivated to fight al Qaeda and other terrorists.

On July 10, after a siege of several months, Pakistan's security forces stormed Islamabad's Red Mosque, leaving at least 100 people dead. In a somber address to the nation, President Pervez Musharraf declared that the terrorists within the mosque compound had "challenged the government's writ as a whole," by seeking to introduce a Taliban-style legal system into the heart of Pakistan's capital city. His message was a clear articulation of the new strategic outlook: Pakistan's Islamist militants could no longer be viewed as pliant tools, but must instead be confronted as a threat to the nation.

Musharraf then backed his words with a renewed military offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Unfortunately, the militants responded with a series of deadly and demoralizing suicide attacks

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