American Perception of Pakistan Military and Its Interest in The Strategic Depth
The U.S. ambassador-designated to Pakistan, Richard Olson recently expressed his viewpoints as to where Pakistan stand with reference to the Strategic Depth. According to him, “Islamabad has moved away from the old concept of finding strategic depth in Afghanistan”. A few recent comments by both Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman had inspired him to think this way, the latter saying that “Pakistan has no desire to treat Afghanistan as its strategic backyard”.
He also cited Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s move on deploying forces internally on the Afghanistan border to fight threats from there. Thus noticing this change in both Pakistan’s politicians and its military’s standpoint on the strategic depth toward Afghanistan, he called it a “move away”. He viewed this as a renewal to Pakistan’s perception of the South Asian strategic importance. Richard Olson was formerly a senior diplomat in Kabul
and so speaking from his “experience”, he wants Pakistan to get rid of this “old concept” of strategic thinking.
Hence, looking away from Afghanistan and being fixated only at India is just how the U.S. wants Pakistan to be strategically thinking, that is away from its western borders. The U.S. wants Pakistan to think of Afghanistan independently without counting in the balance its relations with the superpower. Being Pakistan’s age-old “traditional friend”, the U.S. still wants to seek “long- term ties” with Pakistan, as if all of these years, there were not to be counted. Could it be a
realization on the American part that in this relationship with Pakistan, it had not had an equation of balance for which now it seeks a longer and deeper ties? However, the day the U.S. will realize this it would change its own strategic outlook of South Asia rather than ask Pakistan to strategically rethink its position.
One comforting realization though that does come from the U.S. is the recognition of Pakistan’s fight against terror in which it had suffered a lot, economically, politically and socially. Thus, these constant reports which circulate in the media making headlines that Pakistan military is not doing enough, hence making the U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton to ask to “do more”, and that Pakistan military is not being honest in handling these terrorists and their networks
because of the very strategic depth it seeks in Afghanistan against India, shows either a gross misunderstanding of Pakistan’s standing on the issue or proves the double standards with which the media spreads Pakistan’s military image around the globe.
The dichotomy has always existed in world affairs and in political relationships between states. But what Pakistani state and its military needs to do is to stand firmly on its views for its own national interest and national security. Finding a “middle ground” in political and military relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, something which Sherry Rehman purports every day sitting in Washington, D.C., and something which the new ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam is
making his first visit to the Capitol Hill for, means that neither party is getting what they want and perceives their interests to be, but are lingering on other ways to somehow equate their political and military relationships. Will it really help make matters easy or will it just postponethe inevitable? This question will be answered in the next couple of strategic moves that both Pakistan and the U.S. make for South Asia.