Coping With Pakistan's "Paranoid Style"

Intuition always tells us that we need to look closer at things that baffle us. Steve Coll's Senate testimony last Thursday is a reminder that sometimes we need to step back -- far enough back, in the case of Afghanistan, to bring India and Pakistan into our field of view.

Coll, who writes for The New Yorker and heads a D.C. public-policy institute, is the author of the Pulitzer-winning Afghanistan book Ghost Wars. Coll used his New Yorker blog to excerpt last week's testimony before the Senate Foreign relations committee.

In his full testimony, Coll twice refered to a "paranoid style in Pakistani security doctrine." He elaborated:

"Alternatively or concurrently, sections of the Pakistani military and civilian elite also fear that the United States may collaborate with India, naively or deliberately, to weaken Pakistan, by supporting governments in Kabul that at best are hostile to Pakistani interests or at worst facilitate Indian efforts to destabilize, disarm or even destroy the Pakistani state."

This dynamic, which others such as Descent Into Chaos author Ahmed Rashid have also documented, has had clear and tangible effects on the strength and sophistication of the enemy U.S. forces have faced in Afghanistan.

Looking ahead, Coll testified:

"... if the United States signals to Pakistan’s military command that it intends to pursue very long-term policies designed to promote stability and prosperity in South Asia and Central Asia, and that it sees a responsible Pakistan as a decades-long strategic ally comparable to Turkey and Egypt, then it will have a reasonable if uncertain chance to persuade the Pakistani security establishment over time that the costs of succoring the Taliban and like groups outweigh the benefits."

Coll spoke with Big Think last year.

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