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Pakistan's Counterterrorism Strategy: Separating Friends from Enemies

Author: Ayesha Siddiqa
Winter 2011

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This Washington Quarterly piece outlines the conflicting loyalties the Pakistani government faces in its efforts to forestall Taliban and Indian threats and preserve relations with the United States, and the resulting consequences for its international partners.

On October 1, 2010, the government of Pakistan shut down the supply route for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) after an incursion into Pakistanís territory by NATO forces, killing 16 Pakistanis in collateral damage. Two days later, militants torched 28 NATO supply trucks near Shikarpur in the southern province of Sindh. These events reflect the inherent tension both in Pakistanís counterterrorism strategy and in its relationship with the United States and its allies in fighting the war in Afghanistan. The future of U.S. military operations in South Asia depends on the convergence of policies between the United States and Pakistan, but since the war began in 2001, interpreting Islamabadís counterterrorism policy has been difficult.

Pakistanís counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan is rife with inherent contradictions, caught between an inclination to fight militant forces and yet having to partner with some to strengthen its future bargaining position. The policy flows out of Pakistanís multiple strategic requirements: its need to remain engaged with the United States, to save itself from the Taliban attacking the Pakistani state, and to fight Indiaís growing presence in Afghanistan. Caught between these three issues, Islamabadís counterterrorism policy and objectives continue to lack clarity. At best, the policy illustrates the tension between Islamabadís need to protect itself against an internal enemy and its sensitivity toward the external threat from India.

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