A joint ISI-CIA operation has led to the arrest of high profile Al Qaeda operatives from urban Quetta. This should remind us of the post 911 period when the Al Qaeda leadership fled to Pakistan’s cities in the wake of the US attack on Afghanistan. At that time Pakistan had carried out intensive operations to arrest and eliminate these important hard core terrorists—a fact that is sometimes forgotten. In fact Pakistan has never had second thoughts on acting against Al Qaeda and the various extremist groups supported by it that are active against Pakistan. In this context the US decision to take out Osama bin Laden without informing Pakistan or enlisting its support stands out as an act that defines the US-Pakistan relationship or at least the US view of this relationship. The full implications of this action and its effect on Pakistan have not been understood especially because it came after the Raymond Davis fiasco, the drone attack on a tribal gathering soon after that and the insulting ‘complicit or incompetent statement ‘from the then CIA chief. There is a new CIA chief now and this successful joint operation is an opportunity to mend fences, understand each others concerns and develop cooperative strategies.

None of those who carried out the 911 attack were Pakistanis or Afghans and most Al Qaeda leaders arrested or killed have also not been Afghans or Pakistanis. Their origin needs to be noted and understood. It is also important to discern between those who have an intra border domestic agenda like ‘liberating’ their homeland and those with trans-border ambitions and ideologies. Such an understanding is important for the end game strategy if it is to be based on reconciliation and a political transition. The specific area of US-Pakistan cooperation will then become clearer.

The Dushanbe declaration is significant because it highlights the need for enhancing Afghan capacity—a precondition for US/NATO/ISAF withdrawal—and it focuses on energy and other cooperation that can be meaningful only if there is stability in Afghanistan. Permanent or prolonged US presence on bases in Afghanistan could trigger a Russian quest for bases in the areas north of Afghanistan that it considers its sphere of influence. Far more important are the economic stakes for Afghanistan and Pakistan and these depend on a stable bilateral relationship. For this reason and keeping the end game in sight it is important for Pakistan to forge links with the Afghan government and not repeat the mistake of backing a particular group to the exclusion of all others.

For Pakistan its bilateral relationships are extremely important especially the relationships with the US and India. The other constants are political stability and internal harmony. Without these Pakistan will not realize its potential within the region and beyond.

Spearhead Analyses are the result of a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual.

*** ** ***