Almost every security and foreign policy analyst in Washington agrees that in order to prevent the increase of extremist threats, there is a need for a comprehensive approach to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as well as toward the individual countries themselves. The U.S. needs to properly engage with Afghanistan and Pakistan to help enable the countries to fight the extremists within their borders and prevent those threats from spreading across the region and the globe.The real question is--how to get the job done?
Too often the issue is framed as a choice between "fighting terrorists" and "building civil society." Casting the debate that way is simply wrongheaded.
Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Lisa Curtis testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that Afghanistan and Pakistan often focus on security perceptions that lead to "zero-sum geopolitical calculations that fuel religious extremism and terrorism." The U.S. should continue to encourage and push "efforts such as the Peace Jirga process started in 2007; the trilateral military commission between NATO, Pakistan, and Afghanistan; and the establishment of border-crossing centers that are jointly manned by NATO, Afghan, and Pakistani intelligence and security officials" as "useful initiatives that can begin the process of changing regional security perception."
Curtis argues, the U.S. should support democratic development in Pakistan as well as a way to fight extremism. In a recent paper on "Reviving Pakistan's Pluralist Traditions to Fight Extremism," Curtis and Haider Mullick call on the U.S. to assist with Pakistan's development of civil institutions. She also reminds Pakistan in "Coming to Grips with an Expanding Extremist Threat in Pakistan" that the Taliban and the extremists threaten the type of justice and rule of law that Pakistani citizens demanded when they protested for the reinstatement of Chief Justice Chaudhry after being unceremoniously removed two years ago by former President Pervez Musharraf.
Part of the enhancement of civil society is to increase the opportunities and possibilities of religious pluralism within Pakistan. Curtis and Mullick recommend Pakistan "integrate policies promoting religious tolerance into its counterinsurgency policy." By pushing education reform and religious understanding, it will enable Pakistan and the military to hold the territory regained from the extremists and reduce the possible recruitment tactics by the terrorists.