Emma Nelson
November 2016.

What is the West getting wrong in its dealings in Pakistan?

AsiaGeopoliticsGlobal politicsWar on TerrorUSA
1 answer

The West – by which I mean the US – used Pakistan to a very successful degree in the campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan. They used jihadists to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. But the training that Pakistan provided for these jihadist groups who went into Afghanistan ultimately led to the creation of the Taliban and al-Qaeda .

"The West gets it wrong by wanting Pakistan to get over the fact that it was abandoned after helping the US expel the Russians from Afghanistan."

I think the US recognises that after the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan, the US basically left Pakistan high and dry. At one point, it even imposed sanctions on Pakistan. The Pakistanis haven't forgotten that and are hurt by that. And although George Bush and Pervez Musharraf had very close relations, Pakistan was playing this so-called double game where they had what they say in Pakistan is ‘Good Taliban/Bad Taliban’. Good Taliban are the armed groups that they could control. Bad Taliban are groups that would attack the state and would attack the military and so on and so forth.

The West gets it wrong by wanting Pakistan to get over the fact that it was abandoned after helping the US expel the Russians from Afghanistan. Pakistan suddenly had thousands of jihadists inside its borders and it didn't know what to do with them. A lot were allowed to go to Afghanistan, ultimately leading to the creation of the Taliban, which , in turn, ultimately led to safe havens for al-Qaeda.

But Pakistan decided to start using what it had learned from the CIA to start fighting India in Kashmir. And then sanctions in the 90s didn't help either. Plus the fact that the Pakistan has always felt that the US has supported military dictatorships over democracies. I think that's what the West gets wrong because it's probably true. I think the US is far happier dealing with a military dictator than with a civilian, democratically elected government.

Therefore, the US uses Pakistan when it's expedient in the region and then it's quite happy to drop Pakistan. The Americans also tend to bruise the Pakistani ego by saying: "we give you X billions of dollars. Therefore you need to do what we tell you.”

In saying that, I would still say that the relationships between Pakistan and the US and its other Western allies are extremely strong.