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Cablegate: Reviewing Our Afghanistan - Pakistan Strategy

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O 231509Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4975
INFO AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI IMMEDIATE
NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY
AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY
AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY LONDON
USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL

S E C R E T ISLAMABAD 002295

NOFORN

EO 12958 DECL: 09/23/2034
TAGS PGOV, PREL, PTER, PINR, MOPS, EAID, PK
SUBJECT: REVIEWING OUR AFGHANISTAN - PAKISTAN STRATEGY

Classified By: Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (S/NF) Summary: In response to queries posed by the National Security Council, Embassy Islamabad believes that it is not/not possible to counter al-Qaeda in Pakistan absent a comprehensive strategy that 1) addresses the interlinked Taliban threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2) brings about stable, civilian government in Afghanistan, and 3) reexamines the broader role of India in the region. As the queries presuppose, the ending of Pakistani establishment support to terrorist and extremist groups, some Afghan-focused and some India-focused, is a key element for success. There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups, which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India. The only way to achieve a cessation of such support is to change the Pakistan government’s own perception of its security requirements. End Summary.

2. (S/NF) Al-Qaeda can operate in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) largely because the Taliban-related groups in these areas continue to challenge the writ of the Pakistani government. Unilateral targeting of al-Qaeda operatives and assets in these regions is an important component of dealing with the overall threat. It is not/not, however, sufficient in and of itself to force al-Qaeda out of the FATA, so long as the territory remains largely ungoverned space. Increased unilateral operations in these areas risk destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis in Pakistan without finally achieving the goal. To be effective, we must extend the writ of the Pakistani state into the FATA in such a way that Taliban groups can no longer offer effective protection to al-Qaeda from Pakistan’s own security and law enforcement agencies in these areas. We should be under no illusion, however, that this effort will not require a multi-year, multi-agency effort.

3. (S/NF) Taliban groups in Pakistan and the regional threat posed by al-Qaeda, however, cannot be effectively dealt with absent a broader regional strategy that leads to stability in Afghanistan. Fear that the ISAF mission in Afghanistan will end without the establishment of a non-Taliban, Pakhtoon-led government friendly to Pakistan adds to the Pakistani establishment’s determination not to cut its ties irrevocably to the Afghan Taliban. They fear that withdrawals of NATO countries on a date certain from Afghanistan is only the thin edge of a wedge that will be followed by other coalition partners, including the United States. Discussions of deadlines, downsizing of the American military presence, or even a denial of the additional troops reportedly to be requested by Gen. McChrystal are taken as evidence that reinforces this perception. General Kayani has been utterly frank about Pakistan’s position on this. In such a scenario, the Pakistan establishment will dramatically increase support for Taliban groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which they see either as ultimately likely to take over the Afghan government or at least an important counter-weight to an Indian-controlled Northern Alliance.

4. (S/NF) Most importantly, it is the perception of India as the primary threat to the Pakistani state that colors its perceptions of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s security needs. The Pakistani establishment fears a pro-India government in Afghanistan would allow India to operate a proxy war against Pakistan from its territory. Justified or not, increased Indian investment in, trade with, and development support to the Afghan government, which the USG has encouraged, causes Pakistan to embrace Taliban groups all the more closely as anti-India allies. We need to reassess Indian involvement in Afghanistan and our own policies towards India, including the growing military relationship through sizable conventional arms sales, as all of this feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them closer to both Afghan and Kashmir-focused terrorist groups while reinforcing doubts about U.S. intentions. Resolving the Kashmir dispute, which lies at the core of Pakistan’s support for terrorist groups, would dramatically improve the situation. Enhanced USG efforts in this regard should be considered.

5. (S/NF) Money alone will not/not solve the problem of al-Qaeda or the Taliban operating in Pakistan. A grand bargain that promises development or military assistance in exchange for severing ties will be insufficient to wean Pakistan from policies that reflect accurately its most deep-seated fears. The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with the nuclear test, does not view assistance -- even sizable assistance to their own entities -- as a trade-off for national security vis-a-vis India. The lack of faith in USG intentions in Pakistan and in relation to India makes such a bargain untenable in the eyes of the Pakistani establishment. Development assistance in the context of the Pakistani counter-insurgency strategy must be accelerated and refined in order to extend the government writ to the FATA, to stabilize regions at-risk for insurgent activity and recruitment, and to offer incentives for those that desire to leave terrorist groups. It can and should not/not be viewed as a pay-off for behavior change by the Pakistani establishment.

6. (S/NF) In the final analysis there is no short-cut to dealing with the al-Qaeda problem in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is inextricably linked to and cannot be divorced from the Taliban problem in both countries. Nor can we hope to develop a strategy for minimizing Taliban influence and thereby al-Qaeda operational space in Pakistan’s FATA absent a strategy that brings about stability in Afghanistan; the notion that precision or long-range counter-terrorism efforts can suffice are equally illusory. Afghan instability by definition leads the Pakistani establishment to increase support for the Taliban and thereby, unintentionally, create space for al-Qaeda. No amount of money will sever that link. Rather, we must reassess our regional approach and find ways to reassure the Pakistanis that they can address their long-standing national security objectives most effectively -- both to the east and to the west -- by working closely with the U.S. PATTERSON
SECRET

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