Editorial : Possible compromise? - Friday 15th April 2011

AMIDST the conflicting claims made anonymously by Pakistani and American security officials over the issue of drone strikes and secret US operatives on Pakistani soil, there appear to be hints about the possibility of compromise by both sides. On drone strikes, `expanded cooperation` may be on the cards while the US may share some information on its intelligence operations inside Pakistan. This would partially meet the security establishment`s desire to limit the American `footprint` and the scale of its operations in the country while allowing the Americans to continue covert programmes with enhanced Pakistani assistance/knowledge. If there is any truth to the speculation about both sides working towards a compromise — it is difficult to say with certainty what may be happening behind the scenes — then it should be welcomed for several reasons.
First, the very public bickering and recriminations between the US and Pakistan will almost certainly be hampering the fight against militancy. If principals on both sides are arguing, it means they are distracted from thinking about fresh ways to squeeze the militants. Since the Raymond Davis spanner in relations, countless hours have been lost arguing over flaccid rules of cooperation and poorly demarcated red lines that should never have been in doubt in the first place. At some point, a dispute over tactics needs to be put to rest, and that point has surely come. Second, anything that helps clarify the apparently flaccid rules of cooperation and poorly demarcated red lines is a good thing going forward, particularly since the end game in Afghanistan is imminent and strategic tensions are expected to flare up again. It is difficult to say which side is painting an accurate picture about the drone strikes. An American `go it alone` approach on drone strikes in Fata would suggest that the US has developed an intelligence capability in the area previously considered unlikely. Frankly, that would be an alarm-ing development. While drone strikes have some limited counter-terrorism potential — particularly when it comes to taking out high-level targets — they seem to have become a particularly addictive tool for the Americans. Perhaps lacking any good options, the drone strikes are a way of `doing something`. So the capability to independently launch strikes may tempt the US to use the drones even more, irrespective of their efficacy. That can in no way be a good thing for Pakistan.
Finally, arguing over activities in Pakistan will almost certainly be delaying thorny debates over the future of Afghanistan, where arguably the real differences lie. Afghanistan is an intractable enough problem without letting distractions in Pakistan get in the way.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/15/possible-compromise.html

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