Barriers to Dismantling Militancy in Pakistan
WOTR readers may be interested in a newly released report I wrote for the U.S. Institute of Peace entitled Domestic Barriers to Dismantling the Militant Infrastructure in Pakistan.
The report is based on interviews conducted in Pakistan and D.C., as well as on primary and secondary source material material collected via field and desk-based research. They key points:
- Pakistani concerns about threats to the state from a subset of its Islamist militants have been building for several years, but the military remains preoccupied with using jihadist proxies to achieve geopolitical aims. Many other barriers reinforce the status quo as well.
- Perceptions about the U.S. role in the insurgency, the belief that foreign powers support anti-state militants, that some militants will not attack if not provoked, and that others have domestic as well as geopolitical utility collectively inform the security establishment’s strategic calculus for how it engages with militants in Pakistan.
- Even sincere counterterrorism efforts are hampered by capacity shortfalls and systemic infirmities.
- Political will is also lacking. Elites remain preoccupied with power and their collective interests.
- Pakistan needs a national strategy to counter militancy, a legislative overhaul, improved coordination among counterterrorism agencies, and a coherent narrative against extremism. The recently elected civilian leadership must build its own intellectual capacity on security matters and find the political will to act.
- The election of a new civilian government in Pakistan, growing concerns about the jihadist threat to the state, and the planned NATO drawdown in Afghanistan mean the United States will need to reformulate aspects of its engagement.
- The overall U.S. approach should be geared toward maintaining influence to maximize convergence on narrow security issues and exploit opportunities to reinforce positive structural change within Pakistan.
- Specifically, the United States should revise its South Asian counterterrorism architecture, maintain a transactional military-to-military relationship focused on convergent interests, boost the capabilities and confidence of the new civilian government, modify security sector assistance, and devise more realistic metrics to assess progress.
Stephen Tankel is a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks. He is an Assistant Professor at American University and a non-resident scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is the author of Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba.