Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pakistan Wants Drones

The Independent interviewed Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. In the interview Zardari talked about U.S. drone strikes, and said he couldn't condone violations of Pakistani sovereignty, even from an ally. Instead, he had a suggestion:
We would much prefer that the US share its intelligence and give us the drones and missiles that will allow us to take care of this problem on our own."
On the surface that sounds plausible. U.S. drone strikes are causing all sorts of political problems for Pakistan, to the point of threatening the stability of the regime, as it tries to walk a fine line between cooperating with the U.S., while keeping a lid on internal elements who sympathize with Islamic extremists. An agreement with Pakistan that provides them with drones, funnels intelligence to Pakistan, and allows them to eliminate the same targets we are currently attacking through cross-border strikes, would alleviate some of the issues. But unfortunately such a strategy has major problems of its own.

Pakistan does not lack for military forces. It has a standing army of 520,000. The problem is inherently political, not military. Providing the country with new weapon systems will not affect its inability to take effective action against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militants. It will not remove Islamist sympathizers from Pakistan's military and intelligence services. And it won't stop Pakistan from making deals with its internal enemies, such as in the Swat valley. Supplying advanced drones to Pakistan will likely provide little benefit, and instead have significant costs to U.S. relations with India. The bulk of Pakistani forces are aligned against India, rather than committed to operations designed to secure the western frontier. U.S. drones in Pakistani hands will inevitably be seen as a potential threat to India. 

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