- Author’s Response:The United States Needs a New Policy toward Pakistan
First, I would like to extend my appreciation for all the thoughtful constructive criticism offered by my colleagues in this roundtable. This is truly an opportunity for learning from some of the finest thinkers on this complex subject, and I hope to incorporate these suggestions and challenges in future work on this topic. In this essay, I would like to address a few suggestions that deserve special attention or response.
John Gill is most certainly spot on when he suggests that scholars need to better understand how the Pakistan Army manages its image and how its obsession with this influences the army’s domestic and international behavior. As Gill noted, I made some efforts to contend with this complex puzzle. However, obtaining relevant data is extremely challenging. Given that I am blacklisted by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, I have little expectation of ever being able to return to the country to take on this puzzle more robustly. Hopefully, other scholars who are better positioned to do so may answer Gill’s important call.
Marvin Weinbaum, in his review, is absolutely correct to note that none of our books “cast much light on the interactions between the military and extremist groups.” He finds missing “discussion about how those values and beliefs associated with Islamic groups may have contributed to forming the military’s thinking, including policies toward India, Afghanistan, and the West.” I do spend considerable space discussing aspects of this complex set of relations, but the data sources that I used for the book do not illuminate this issue to his or my satisfaction. My current work in progress, which focuses on the writings of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), will in some measure elucidate the vast similarities between official army publications and those of this proscribed terrorist organization. However, LeT is only one of numerous militant groups employed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies to prosecute Pakistan’s policies at home and abroad. Weinbaum and I will likely not be able to resolve our differences in opinion regarding the degree to which the Pakistan Army’s thinking has evolved either about the need for strategic depth or about the utility of the zoo of militants that the army and intelligence agencies have cultivated. Weinbaum is much more optimistic than I am, and [End Page 178] only time will tell which view is more accurate. I would argue that it is less injurious to U.S. interests to err on the side of skepticism. In the past, the United States’ cupidity and propensity to see the best in Pakistani intentions only rewarded Islamabad for its perfidy while undermining Washington’s interests at the expense of the American taxpayer.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, like Weinbaum, is also skeptical about the durability of “strategic depth” in the army’s thinking. He specifically argues that the introduction of nuclear weapons obviates such a requirement. However, the facts belie this claim. As I note in my book, we now know that Pakistan had a crude nuclear device from about 1980. However, during the 1980s and 1990s, there is wide scholarly consensus that Pakistan continued to view Afghanistan through this lens of strategic depth. Moreover, only one general—Mirza Aslam Beg—understood strategic depth as affording Pakistan with a physical space. As chief of the Pakistan Army between 1988 and 1991, Beg was a fierce proponent of strategic depth in the physical sense, and his tenure was marked by considerable nuclear proliferation. More generally, the cultivation of strategic depth in Afghanistan has not been viewed as a strategy for developing a physical sanctuary for Pakistan’s forces and war materiel; rather, it has been...