British Prime Minister David Cameron on his first visit to Pakistan since assuming office, has spoken of wanting a fresh start in relations. Armed with a $650 million aid package for Pakistans education sector and an offer to further security cooperation between Britain and Pakistan, Cameron obviously came with an olive branch.
His comments about Pakistans security agencies in India last year had created significant upset across the border. This is why the British leader now sought to enact damage control by pledging a new era in relations and clearing past misunderstandings. While acknowledging Pakistans efforts in counter-terrorism, Cameron also emphasised the need to challenge extremist ideology feeding such activities.
Even as Cameron sought to ease tensions with Pakistan, Washington has come out with a rejoinder. A new White House report states that Pakistan still lacks a clear strategy on how to defeat militancy. According to US authorities, Pakistan’s lack of a “clear path” in integrating “hold” and “build” planning, despite heavy deployment of security forces has frustrated any progress made in clearing operations aimed at wresting control from militants. The ongoing security operations in some tribal agencies stand testimony to this problem, thus impacting counter-insurgency efforts. Moreover, Pakistan and Afghanistan have to work towards greater cooperation to destroy insurgent havens on either side of the border.
While insurgents may not have eliminated in Pakistans tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, their control is largely reduced. At the same time their capability to launch suicide attacks in affiliation with other like-minded groups remains a challenge. The use of young boys in many of these terror attacks is also a significant reminder of how vital it is for the government to bolster its education system and provide employment opportunities for millions such who are the target of extremists. It is positive therefore to see how Britain has prioritised education in getting the lion’s share in the recent aid package.
The pressure on the US/NATO Coalition is growing as a highly intensive phase of conflict is anticipated. Besides, the exit deadline for the start of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan looming ahead in July will also play a key role. It is thus understandable that Washington will apply greater pressure on Pakistan to facilitate its efforts by waging operations in contentious hotspots like North Waziristan and consolidating hold in other key areas.
The issue is not whether the US concerns are valid but the lack of an implementable strategy and time plan that is in consonance with Pakistan’s environmental dynamics. Unless both allies sit together and jointly decide on how and when to go about it, little will be achieved in terms of the success, hoped for.