"It is all about undermining Karzai": Pakistan's "New" Relationship?

05/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is there really a "new" relationship between the US and Pakistan? It seems that not much has changed in Pakistan, at least when it comes to its military and intelligence services. If anything, the emphasis remains on maintaining power in the region. What seems to be cooperation in the form of capture of Taliban leaders has more to do with destabilizing the Karzai government than stopping terrorist networks.

These and other observations came out in a discussion with C. Christine Fair, professor in Georgetown's Center for Peace and Security Studies.

The US, Dr. Fair noted, has not been completely mercenary of late:

The Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation for the first time lays out a strategy for the US government to be supporting and engaging Pakistan's civilian components, as opposed to just the military.

At the same time, their discussions continue to be fraught:

Both sides walk away thinking, on the Pakistani part, "Boy these guys are suckers," and the Americans walk away saying, "Boy these guys are a dishonest bunch of rats who think we're stupid."

Above all, the US has to contend with an entrenched Pakistani intelligence service that has the power to sway public opinion:

[You can see the power of the intelligence community] in evidence over the orchestrated public outrage over what was really an unprecedented display of American generosity and a very sincere attempt to make amends for the fact that over the past six decades the US has primarily aided Pakistan's military and has inadvertently contributed to the over-militarization of the state and the crowding out and evisceration of civilian institutions.

Even more problematic for the US, forces within Pakistan have an interest in working against the Afghan government's attempts to create stability through negotiations with the Taliban:

The reality is that Pakistan has wrapped up those members of the Afghan Taliban that have been trying to seek a deal directly with Karzai, circumventing Pakistan's interests. . . . The truth is, Pakistan is handing over select members of the Quetta Shura, actually now more pertinently called the Karachi Shura, has a lot more to do with Pakistan's own interest in trying to preserve them in Afghanistan, than it does any sort of contrition over supporting the Taliban.

Ultimately, they have no desire to see Karzai, or the US, succeed in their current strategies:

It is all about undermining Karzai, not supporting him. I was really surprised that the New York Times fell for the canard that this was a new day.

There appears to be a fundamental incoherence:

Pakistan's problem is that it still wants to say some terrorists, or militants, are good, and others are bad, and yet that distinction is untenable when you look at the overlapping nature of many of these militant networks, and what they do, and why they do it.

At the same time, American policy is not without its problems. Dr. Fair went on to discuss the perception of US support for Israel in the wider region. Although it has little sway in Afghanistan, in the Muslim world more generally, US policies can aid militant groups in their recruitment efforts. Dr. Fair notes that,

Unless we are seen doing the right thing, and actually are doing the right thing, I think it is very difficult to get out of or to depopulate the jihad landscape.

"Daily Briefing with Ian Masters" appears on the Pacifica Network, originating at KPFK-FM Los Angeles. It streams live at Monday-Thursday from 5:00-6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, Sundays 11-Noon, and any time on the archives page here.