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Is Pakistan a Challenge or Opportunity for the US?

October 30, 2017

Ambassador Douglas Lute, Robert McDermott Distinguished Chair of Social Sciences at United States Military Academy at West Point
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, former US Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Moderated by Shamila Chaudhary, Foreign Policy Institute Fellow

The Foreign Policy Institute held a panel discussion with former senior diplomats on challenges and opportunities for US relations with Pakistan.

Ambassador Lute argued that the US should focus on short-term security issues and on aligning US interests with Pakistan. He recommended the US ought to understand Pakistan’s perspective and not engage solely in a superior-to-subordinate relationship. He also urged Pakistan to improve its complex environment of ethnic relations, notably with its Pashtun community. Regarding Afghanistan, Lute advised breaking the current stalemate through political means within Afghanistan but also by engaging key regional players including India, Iran, and Pakistan. He commented that the current number of troops stationed in Afghanistan have not yet delivered their goal of long-term stability, therefore, diplomacy remains a necessary tool. Pressuring the Taliban to participate in talks, strengthening domestic unity in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and understanding their interests in the region, are potential adjustments to unlock the current impasse.

Ambassador Khalilzad’s perspective focused on implementing a tougher policy to ensure the extermination of terrorist sanctuaries within Pakistani borders and strip the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from personnel who support terrorist groups. He explained that the current US administration’s roadmap for Pakistan was finding a way to guarantee much-needed Pakistani cooperation. Khalilzad was wary of Pakistan’s expansionist tendencies and fearful of its increasing nuclear capacity. In regards to Afghanistan, he shared that conditions were not effective for diplomacy and that a change of balance is required to create an ideal environment for diplomacy. He explained that there is a time for diplomacy and a time for setting conditions, and that unfortunately, today was a time for setting conditions both in regards to the Taliban and Pakistan.

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