An enduring presence - Pakistan Today

An enduring presence

Not without cooperation between Pakistan and the USA
The Al-Qaeda and Taliban who were waiting out the departure of the US troops would be dismayed by Panetta’s determination to maintain an enduring presence in the country. The administration, according to the Defence Secretary, remains focused on its responsibility to disrupt, degrade, dismantle and ultimately defeat those who attacked America on 9/11. The US invested billions of dollars and suffered losses of over 1,600 military personnel in the longest conflict of its history. It cannot, therefore, afford to allow the Al-Qaeda to return to what it calls the ‘historic epicentre for violent extremism’. Panetta maintains that cooperation from Pakistan is highly important to achieve the aim. Cooperation, however, cannot be one sided. It always takes two to tango.
Pakistan and the US have two years to cleanse the region of the militants. Whatever the nature and shape of the post-2014 US presence in Afghanistan, the bulk of its fighting force and the state of the art military assets would no more be available after the cut-off date. A prolonged US military presence in Afghanistan, even if it is limited, would also be resented by China, Russia and Iran and pressures would start mounting to get it terminated. Once the foreign troops leave Afghanistan, the challenge of eliminating the Al-Qaeda, Taliban and TTP would have to be met entirely by the Afghan security forces. This is likely to lead to a situation where practically the wit of the Afghan government would be confined to Kabul. It suits neither the US nor Pakistan if militants, some with a global or a regional reach, were to establish control over vast areas in Afghanistan to use them as launching pads. While Panetta talks about the pockets of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan, he tends to forget that equally harmful for Afghanistan and the region are the militants who have taken shelter in Kunar, Nuristan and elsewhere after being defeated by the Pakistan army.
So far both the US and Pakistan have concentrated on fighting militants who directly target them and have generally tolerated the presence of those who only attack the other side. It is widely understood that the ISAF leaders know the precise location from where Fazlullah’s group has conducted attacks inside Pakistan, including the attempt to kill Malala Yuosafzai. Similarly, Pakistan has avoided taking on the highly lethal terrorists in North Waziristan. The US and Pakistan lack confidence in one another. It would simply be impossible to eliminate militancy from the region unless the two sides develop mutual trust and are able to work in coordination against the common enemy.

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