The United States’ relationship with Pakistan has been complex and transactional to date. Things have drastically changed since 9/11 and have since been in a tumultuous state. Although they have been a strategic and invaluable ally in the War against Terror, they have also been selectively cooperative considering the copious aid they have been receiving from the U.S. since then. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations met on the morning of September 8th, 2016 to discuss this relationship with expertise from three scholars in the field. The senators in attendance include Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), Senior Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Senator David Perdue (R-GA), Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Senator James Risch (R-ID).
The hearing opened with remarks from the presiding chairman Senator Bob Corker followed by Senator Cardin. Both representatives made thoughtful commentary on the history of the United States’ relationship with Pakistan, as well as the current state of affairs between the two nations. The two senators also noted that while the information presented could inform the decisions made by the senators present, no policy changes would be implemented until after the election this November.
Testimony summaries were then given by three experts in their respective fields: Dr. Toby Dalton, Dr. Daniel Markey, and Robert Grenier.
Dr. Dalton, the Co-Director for the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for National Peace, began with a summation of the Nuclear development programs occurring in Pakistan. Important points include that Pakistan is the fastest growing developer of nuclear arms in the world, and the priorities he claims the U.S. ought to have when navigating this matter. Among these are slowing the development of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, and ensuring sufficient security for existing nuclear weapons. Further, Dr. Dalton notes that it is important to understand Pakistan’s motivations for building such an extensive arsenal; these include increasing perceived threat from India–both in terms of arms (including nuclear) and in light of a growing Indo-US relationship–and the “black hole of deterrence logic,” meaning that Pakistan uses nuclear weapons as an assurance against the Indian threat. Dr. Dalton states that it is important to a maintain strong working relationships between counterparts in the US and Pakistan, and also to be prepared for several different solutions to potential nuclear conflicts (including incentivizing less nuclear development), should the US wish to see improved stability in the region.
Dr. Markey is a Senior Research Professor in International Relations and the Academic Director of the Global Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University. He asserted that U.S. security and assistance to Pakistan are mutually exclusive, though the next administration should implement serious policy overhaul. He noted that tense cooperation is better than none at all; that the U.S. and Pakistan don’t see eye to eye on everything, but have some common goals and mutual benefits. He urged caution with sanctioning and attacking Pakistan for things the United States does not approve of, as it may ruin relations. He gave a prudent reminder that the U.S. and Pakistan face common enemies, and that by limiting our expectations and focuses on mutual goals, we could more clearly link our ends to our means.
Mr. Robert Grenier is currently Chairman at ERG Partners, and formerly served as the director of counterterrorism and Afghanistan/Pakistan Station Chief at the CIA. Grenier began by noting that Pakistan, in the past, has been on the verge of being formally identified as a state sponsor of terrorism–and that the United States has been aware of the dubious actions of the Pakistani government over the years. Whether it has been their non-democratic system, the question of nuclear proliferation, atrocities committed against civilians in Eastern Pakistan (1970), or a growing relationship between the Pakistani government and groups like Al Huqqani and the Afghan Taliban, the United States has compromised in allowing these actions to occur. The United States has found Pakistan very tactically invaluable for the war in Afghanistan, and in the general war on terror in that region. As the U.S. begins to look towards changing our reliance on the idea of degree of proximate threat to dictate US-Pakistani relations, Mr. Grenier stated that it is unrealistic to suppose that Pakistan can satisfy the US’s idea of what it should do–defeating the Afghani Taliban, for example–or to suppose that it actually wants to do what the US wants. Mr. Grenier suggests that it is time to reorient US foreign policy in Pakistan away from using it as a tool in Afghanistan, and towards addressing actual Pakistan’s problems and achievable goals within that: these may include social and educational reforms, and less so military involvement.
Then attending senators were given the opportunity to ask questions of the three experts, beginning with Senator Cardin, who brought up several interesting points questioning the purpose of sending 600 million U.S. taxpayer dollars to Pakistan when U.S. relations are so unstable. The senator noted that conditionality has yet to succeed when it comes to results with aid. Dr. Markey responded with a mindful reflection of how cooperative Pakistan has been in the War against Terror, and brought light to the Pakistani perspective when maneuvering these complex issues. He pointed out that the Pakistani point of view is such that fighting terrorism is much less of a moral imperative, and more of a national initiative. Additionally he observed Pakistan’s perception of the U.S. as an entity which does not appreciate the strain the War on Terror has put on their nation, among their very own countrymen. Dr. Dalton also pointed out the non-public assistance Pakistan has given to the U.S. in the form of drone strikes and in the resistance against Al Qaeda. He additionally pointed out the limitations Pakistan has imposed on terrorist and their access to nuclear weapons.
Senator Shaheen’s comments and questions to the panel were also of particular interest. She pointed out the simplicity and straightforwardness of Dr. Dalton’s system and questioned the panel as to why it had not already been implemented. She also asked if there were areas of assistance that had proved successful thus far. Dr. Markey commented that the United States justifies different programs for different purposes. Major universities, natural disaster assistance, and infrastructure assistance have changed the map of Pakistan, according to Dr. Markey, noting the impact made on Pakistan. She also questioned the experts as to the Pakistan’s state of concern regarding the buildup of nuclear weapons occurring in their nation. Dr. Dalton responded by saying Pakistan faces more urgent challenges.
Each senator was given the opportunity to ask questions of the scholars, to which they gave thoughtful and informative responses. For a full documentation of the hearing, visit http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/pakistan-challenges-for-us-interests-090816