Pakistan's allegiance in the now nine-year effort in Afghanistan has never been certain, as the country stands repeatedly accused of sponsoring some of the same militant groups who fight the U.S., and even of sabotaging peace talks. Now President Barack Obama's already scant patience for the U.S.-Pakistani partnership looks to be running out. Bob Woodward's much-discussed new book on "Obama's Wars" includes a quote of the president saying, "We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan." What is Obama doing to address this monumental foreign policy challenge, and what problems does he face?
Pakistan Military Too Focused on India The Washington Post's Bob Woodward explains the problem by looking at "Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chief of the Pakistani army and the most powerful figure in the country." He writes, "Although Kayani had graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., he was a product of the Pakistani military system - nearly 40 years of staring east to the threat posed by India, its adversary in several wars since both countries were established in 1947. This was part of a Pakistani officer's DNA. It was hard, perhaps impossible, for a Pakistani general to put down his binoculars, turn his head over his shoulder and look west to Afghanistan."
- Pakistani Government Could Face Ouster The New York Times' Jane Perlez writes, "The Pakistani military, angered by the inept handling of the country's devastating floods and alarmed by a collapse of the economy, is pushing for a shake-up of the elected government, and in the longer term, even the removal of President Asif Ali Zardari and his top lieutenants. ... American officials, too, say it has left them increasingly disillusioned with Mr. Zardari, a deeply unpopular president. ... As the military demands the overhaul, the Supreme Court is also pushing the government on the issue of corruption by threatening to remove the president's immunity from prosecution, a move that would expose him to charges of corruption in an old money-laundering case in Switzerland."
- U.S. Perceived as Part of the Problem The Washington Post's David Ignatius sighs, "Whether you're talking with flood-stricken farmers or businessmen at an Islamabad cricket club, you hear the same basic comments: The country's problems are getting worse, and the weak civilian government can't cope. Everyone wants stronger political leadership, but nobody seems to know where to find it. ... The U.S. military has been working hard to provide flood assistance, but most of that is invisible to Pakistanis. They read about American drone attacks but not about helicopters bringing food supplies. That lack of recognition upsets U.S. officials, but they haven't been able to change it."
- Floods and Corruption Render Pakistan Helpless Foreign Policy's David Kenner writes, "The Pakistani government's sluggish response to the floods has damaged the public's trust in its capabilities. Zardari in particular has been the target of public ire for traveling to France just as the crisis was mounting, and for not visiting the flood-devastated regions of his country for weeks after the crisis broke out. Both Washington and Pakistan's military also remain concerned about the perilous state of the government's finances. The United States has been pushing Pakistan, where only an estimated 2 million out of a population of 170 million pay an income tax, to raise taxes on its wealthiest citizens as a precondition for continuing to receive international assistance."
- Look to Bangladesh The Wall Street Journal's Sadanand Dhume sees an unlikely model for Pakistan's reform. "Not long ago, when you thought of a South Asian country ravaged by floods, governed by bumblers and apparently teetering on the brink of chaos, it wasn't Pakistan that came to mind. That distinction belonged to Bangladesh. ... No longer. ... Bangladesh ought to be held up as a role model, especially for the subcontinent's other Muslim-majority state. Arguably no two countries in the region share as much in common as Pakistan and Bangladesh." Dhume cites an aggressive pursuit of foreign investment and secular politics.