With much public attention focused on troops in Afghanistan, the Administration and Congress have quietly worked together to forge and implement a new strategy toward Pakistan, whose challenges of extremist groups, poor governance, nuclear weapons, poverty and regional instability pose daunting challenges for the United States and our national security.As Congressional leaders move to ease these tensions, it is critical that the comprehensive strategy keep moving forward, as already exemplified by the work of Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, new support for Pakistan’s civilian authorities and the rule of law, and significant military progress by Pakistanis against the Taliban insurgency and US forces choking Al Qaeda’s ability to operate.
As President Obama meets today with Pakistani President Asif Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the Pakistani Army prepares for a new offensive on the Swat Valley, there is little question that instability in Pakistan presents one of the most urgent threats facing the United States. The priority must be on looking forward – supporting Pakistan’s governing institutions and its military in fighting the insurgency and helping stabilize the country.
Pakistan’s fragile, democratically-elected coalition government drew closer to collapse today, as one of the main parties withdrew. As Pakistan also experienced one of the worst suicide attacks in its history, the coalition was challenged to reject a Taliban ceasefire offer and instead ban the group – a possible sign of progress against terror but a certain harbinger of more violence.