Conrad Barwa has an insightful post at the Head Heeb on the structural and strategic elements in Pakistan’s policy towards the tribal areas and Afghanistan. Here is his conclusion:
What does seem clear is that the production of any ‘HVTs’ [high-value targets, i.e. terrorist leader] will not be an easy task and will only be accomplished, if at all, with painstaking care and effort as well as, where ever possible co-operation and neutralization of any distrustful actors on the ground. Given the absence of usual governance structures and the relative autonomy enjoyed from any centralized state authority that has historically predominated this belt on both the Afghan and Pakistani borders, any other approach, unless reinforced by a substantial investment of manpower, resources and time will not bear fruit. Moreover, it runs the risk of weakening the faultlines within the polity with the possibility of a serious breakdown of order and expanded domestic conflict. The debilitating linkages between foreign and domestic policy, noted by Jalal and cited earlier, that have put in place a structural conflict between external security goals and internal stability need to be severed and re-articulated. Such drastic de-linking between the external and internal spheres involving foundational changes in definition of ‘national interest’ have occurred before, most notably with the re-orientation of Egyptian foreign policy in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Such wholesale changes in how foreign policy is conducted and the ‘national interest’ defined, in order to be successful need to obtain the acquiescence of the state policymaking elites and crucial sections of the political leadership, in order to overcome the opposition to change. Usually, such redirections are carried out by authoritarian nationalist leaders, who can ride roughshod over any domestic resistance; but in this case for a real peace dividend to be achieved for the region and the domestic population as a whole, only a democratic government has a realistic long-term chance of successfully enacting such a change and carrying it through to its conclusion.
I think the strategic factors in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship do not get commented on frequently enough here in the US as opposed to the religious and ideological ones. Conrad’s post is useful since it focuses on the the “Great Game” which continues unabated.
Quite some time ago, I touched upon the acrimonious history of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations before the Soviet invasion.
And finally an Amnesty International report on human rights abuses by Pakistani army in its South Waziristan operation:
Amnesty International is concerned that during the two-week long operation in March 2004 intended to remove people believed to be associated with the Taleban and al-Qa’ida from South Waziristan in the tribal region of Pakistan, a range of human rights violations were committed. They included arbitrary arrest and detention, possible unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions and the deliberate destruction of houses to punish whole families when some of their members were alleged to have harboured people associated with the Taleban or al-Qa’ida. Tribal fighters who may be associated with the Taleban or al-Qa’ida appear to have taken —- and in some cases killed —- hostages.