Where Is Pakistan Headed?

In the wake of the successful mission to kill Osama Bin Laden relations with Pakistan are strained. The U.S. is expecting that Pakistan is going to sharply reduce the number of U.S. military trainers allowed in their country. Intelligence sharing has been dramatically reduced and the government in Islamabad looks to be warming up to China.

The Pakistanis claim that their sovereignty was violated by the American mission–and so it was. But the Pakistani military and intelligence ranks are filled with extremist sympathizers. The mission would have been compromised had information been shared with Pakistani authorities.

It might be very tempting to let Pakistan go its own way, or let the Chinese handle the mess. But we should not give into that temptation. There is a dangerous civil war going on in the country between Islamists and moderates. There are pro-American factions inside the Pakistani government and within the population. We should support them.

Why should we? Well, let me begin with two words: nuclear weapons. Pakistan has them and we don’t want extremists to get control of them. If the extremists do take over, don’t expect the U.S. nuclear arsenal to deter them. This is an ideology that promotes suicide bombers. Deterrence would probably not work very well with these guys. Mushroom clouds can represent the gateway to paradise to militants.

It’s a delicate balance calling out Pakistani coddling of terrorists and trying to maintain a somewhat cooperative working relationship. We need to be firm in expecting them to act as our allies, while also recognizing that they are literally the frontline in the battle against militant Islam.

A good sign that the relationship might be on the upswing (for now) is the news that the U.S. and Pakistan have agreed to a new intelligence sharing arrangement that will include joint intelligence teams. Remember, our enemies want us to be impatient and grow frustrated. But we need to be patient, steady, and above all strong.

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