Reliable Security Information

Pakistan and NATO

Recent attacks on NATO supply lines in Pakistan and Pakistan's official suspension of access through the Khyber Pass really underscore the challenges facing NATO. Shuja Nawaz recently explained

This situation could easily careen out of control. The Obama administration, which is unhappy with what it perceives as Pakistan's lack of action against anti-American militants, is seriously miscalculating if it is using such tactics to pressure Pakistan to launch operations against its will. Better to argue your case behind closed doors, as allies should -- or risk a public split. Similarly, Pakistan risks overestimating its leverage over the United States and NATO by shutting down the coalition's supply routes across the Durand Line. If anything, this embargo will accelerate the U.S. drive to diversify its logistics chain -- while taking money out of Pakistanis' pockets.

"Losing Pakistan" would be huge tragedy. Pakistan not only has deep historical, social, and cultural connections to Afghanistan (there are more Pashtuns in Pakistan than Afghanistan), but the Pakistani port of Karachi is essential to NATO's logistics (75 percent of materiel travels through Pakistan). Further, Pakistan has a better relationship with the Taliban than the Kabul government, so any peace settlement begins in Quetta, Peshawar, or Islamabad. Given how important Pakistan is to NATO's efforts in Afghanistan, "What can NATO do to improve relations with Pakistan while increasing pressure on the Taliban?"

Pakistan has emerged as one of the largest recipients of U.S. international assistance, which includes over $3 billion in the current fiscal year. The United States provided substantial disaster relief assistance in response to the 2005 earthquake and is providing humanitarian assistance to ongoing flood relief efforts. In spite of these efforts, Pakistan's people and government have a long memory of previous unmet promises and worry about eventual NATO withdrawal beginning in 2011. To illustrate that NATO countries are committed to the long-term security and stability of Central and South Asia, NATO should invite Pakistan to join the Alliance. A bold move like this signals a long-term commitment that Pakistan will not be abandoned.

Pakistan would also fill a vital role in NATO too. First, its inclusion formally accepts that NATO is a global security organization not just an Atlantic one. Second, Pakistan provides NATO the peacekeeping experience it needs to confront contemporary security challenges (Pakistan is one of the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world). Third, Pakistan could shift its military focus from deterrence of India to the more natural counterterrorism and counterinsurgency roles its military can fill.

Admittedly, NATO membership is a long-shot. Yet, it would be the first step in becoming more comprehensive to bring stability to Central and South Asia.

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