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What happened in Abbottabad a week ago made it clear that the slowly failing state of Pakistan must now make a choice: get its act together or enter a kind of strategic netherworld. Walter Mead’s cold and clear-headed analysis says publicly what US policy-makers, defence officials and intelligence analysts are saying privately. Here are the opening four paragraphs:
The taking of Osama was a defeat for Al Qaeda. It was a disaster for Pakistan.
The Assassination in Abbottabad was a strategic catastrophe for the military rulers of this slowly and painfully failing state. On the one hand, it leaves the reputation of Pakistan as an effective partner against fanatical terror groups in ruins. The debate in Washington and around the world now is whether the Pakistani state is in league with Al Qaeda or whether it is so weak, divided and incompetent that rogue factions within the state have escaped all control. The rich intelligence haul the US gathered in Osama’s lair will help the US learn more about Osama’s protectors in Pakistan; in the meantime it is transparently clear that whether incompetence or malfeasance is more to blame, the government of Pakistan cannot safely be trusted — by anyone, on anything.
The argument for a continued US-Pakistani alliance took a body blow. If Pakistan can’t or won’t help us with the capture of Osama bin Laden, what possible justification does the alliance have? Arguably, the two people who have done the greatest damage to American interests in the last 20 years have been A. Q. Khan, ringmaster of the nuclear proliferation circus that helped countries like North Korea, Libya, Syria and Iran advance their nuclear ambitions, and Osama bin Laden. What country produced one and sheltered both?
From the ISI/military point of view, trust is not just a problem when it comes to relations with the US. The Pakistani military has to have foreign patrons; without foreign aid it cannot pretend even to itself to be a serious competitor to India. India is too big, and Pakistan is too small, too unstable, too divided by bitter internal fault lines, too poorly developed and too incompetently governed to hold its own without outside help.
Read the whole thing.