You are here: Rediff Home » India » News » Photos
Search: The Web
  Email this Page  |   Write to us


'The US military is very unhappy with the situation in Afghanistan'

May 31, 2007

Stephen P Cohen, director of the South Asia programme at The Brookings Institution, one of the top-think tanks in Washington, DC, is considered the doyen of American experts on the subcontinent. He has written extensively on the region and published several books, including on the Indian and Pakistani armies.

Before he joined Brookings, Dr Cohen was professor of political science and history and founder-director of the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, He also served in the Reagan administration as a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff from 1985 to 1987.

In an exclusive interview with Rediff India Abroad Managing Editor Aziz Haniffa, he debunks US fears that Pakistan could implode or unravel, saying these are arguments that military dictators like Mohammed Zia-ul Haq and now President Pervez Musharraf have used repeatedly to garner American support.

While admitting that he is impressed with the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, he warns that any major terrorist strike against India by a Pakistan-based militant group could bring things back to square one. It is imperative that Pakistan "rebuild the political structure," because the military is no substitute for "organised political parties."

Several senior US military leaders, including General Peter Pace, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, have recently said that the US military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises -- among them, an internal collapse of Pakistan -- because of the high and growing demand for US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Is there an impending internal collapse in Pakistan?

No. I believe what they are doing -- people like Pace and others, who are also in a sense administration officials -- sort of reflects the Pakistani argument that only Pakistan's stability stands between us and chaos in Afghanistan. That's an argument that the Pakistanis have used for a long time -- for decades in fact. They have said, 'We are your only real allies, and you've got to support us. We may not be perfect but...'

You mean the (former president and military dictator Mohammed) Zia-ul Haq card that Musharraf seems to be playing over and over again?

Exactly. The American military is very unhappy with the situation in Afghanistan, and they are absolutely correct that there's not enough American forces there, and also that the Taliban is obviously being supported from Pakistan. But none of them that I know of -- except maybe (former General Anthony) Zinni, or maybe not even Zinni -- have really come out openly and criticiSed Musharraf. Privately, I am not sure what their views are. But there Is a difference between, certainly, the civilian observers of Pakistan and the US military.

Image: US President George W Bush greets Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf after a joint press conference in the East Room at the White House, September 22, 2006. Bush said he was 'taken aback' by a news report that the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan in late 2001, but stopped short of flatly denying the charge. 'I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words,' he said as he met at the White House with Musharraf, who made the allegation in an interview with CBS television earlier.
Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

  • Also see: Musharraf, Bush reaffirm friendship
  • Next
    © 2007 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.Disclaimer | Feedback