DOD adviser: Pakistan flap likely to 'get papered over' by apology, aid 'bribe'

In 2009, Cordesman helped U.S. commanders in Afghanistan write a new war strategy that has been credited with helping turn around the trajectory of the decade-old conflict.

New bad blood bred by a Saturday airstrike by NATO and U.S. forces that killed as many as 24 Pakistani troops will further complicate Washington’s plans to transition control of Afghanistan to indigenous government and military officials by the end of 2014.

Pakistan’s prime minister on Monday said his nation will change how it deals with Washington in the wake of the strike, which The Associated Press reported could have been caused by the Taliban.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The U.S. will face even less prospect that Pakistan will really crackdown on insurgent groups in the border area,” Cordesman wrote, “or stop seeing Afghanistan as an area where it competes with India and which is useful for strategic depth in some future war with India.”

The “fundamental differences in strategic perspective” between Washington and Islamabad “will remain,” the Pentagon adviser wrote.

“New pledges and promises,” he wrote, “will not affect the reality that Pakistan now acts on the basis that the U.S. and other [International Security Assistance Force] allies will be gone at the end of 2014, and it must now serve its own interests in keeping ties to the Taliban,” the Haqqani Network and other Islamist groups.

Pakistani officials will emerge from the dust-up talking about “new efforts at regional cooperation and helping Afghanistan,” Cordesman said, but their ultimate goal will be creating “a zone of influence along its borders.”

And in a conclusion that likely will be alarming to congressional hawks who feel the U.S. should be moving more aggressively to counter China’s every move, Cordesman predicted the flap will lead Islamabad to reach out anew to Beijing.

“[Pakistan] will try again to reach out to China as a substitute for U.S. aid — although China is unlikely to be much more forthcoming than in the past,” Cordesman wrote. “It will ensure that any remaining U.S. advisory presence is narrowly constrained in ways that serve the Pakistani military, and place even more limits on U.S. intelligence and use of [drone aircraft].”