Whatever their strength, American troops will not determine success in Afghanistan. Nor will the newly formed Afghan National Army. As U.S. forces are gradually withdrawn over the next three years, it is Pakistan’s 600,000-strong army that will become the dominant military force in the region and will try to shape its future. But that military is undergoing a deep internal crisis of identity, its most serious since Pakistan’s founding in 1947. How it resolves this crisis will determine its future, the future of the Afghan war — and much else.This week’s news that a Pakistani brigadier general has been arrested for his ties to a radical Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, is only the latest in series of events that have rocked that nation. In the past year, two senior Pakistani officials have been gunned down, one by his own security guard. Last month, well-armed militants attacked a key naval base in Karachi, an operation that required inside assistance. Also last month, a brave Pakistani journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, who detailed the growing extremist presence within the Pakistani military, was tortured and killed, almost certainly by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (which denied the allegation). And then there is the case of Osama bin Laden, who was for years comfortably ensconced in an army town.
Pakistan’s military has traditionally been seen as a secular and disciplined organization. But the evidence is now overwhelming that it has been infiltrated at all levels by violent Islamists, including Taliban and al-Qaeda sympathizers.
There is also strong evidence of a basic shift in the attitude of the Pakistani military. Last month, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, was invited to speak at the country’s National Defense University. Addressing a large gathering of officers, Haqqani asked the audience, “What is the principal national security threat to Pakistan?” He offered three categories: “from within [Pakistan],” “India,” and, “the United States.” A plurality voted for the third option. …..
….. Pakistan is drifting into a strategic black hole. Does the country really think its best path forward is as an adversary of the United States, currying favor with militants and becoming a vassal of China? Are its role models North Korea and Burma? Or does it want to crush the jihadist movements that are destroying the country, join the global economy, reform its society and become a real democracy? These are the questions Pakistan has to ask itself. The United States, for its part, having disbursed $20 billion in aid to Pakistan in the past decade — most of it to the military — needs to ask some questions of its own.