9 September 2017


Perhaps the most notable part of President Donald Trump’s new Afghan “strategy” has been its treatment of Pakistan, with the president saying out loud what was once largely debated and threatened in private. This has met with predictable glee in India, which was singled out for praise in the speech on Aug. 21, and angry defiance of a “false narrative” in Pakistan.

A number of experts have already weighed in on the viability of this approach. Several observers praised Trump’s willingness to threaten Pakistan in more forthright terms than ever before, potentially forcing it to reconsider the costs of its sponsorship of the Taliban and other groups. Others, including those under no illusions about Pakistan’s longstanding sponsorship of Islamist militants, have been more cautious. Christopher Clary outlined the risks in an excellent essay, concluding that “Pakistani support of groups that have targeted U.S. forces … may well be a moral travesty, but geopolitically it may be less costly than losing Pakistan’s cooperation in other areas.” Stephen Tankel, who has published some of the very best work on how to restructure the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, warned that there was “little evidence that coercion on its own will work.” Both sets of views deserve careful consideration.

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