US and Pakistan: On a Collision Course?

Echoing comments made by Secretary of State Robert Gates last week, CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus has warned that Pakistan must deal with its growing militancy or face a threat to its very existence. Gen. Petraeus was hopeful that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari recognizes the danger and “can deal with it in a comprehensive manner.”

But the US and Pakistan both have very different priorities when it comes to combat in the tribal regions. US officials see the battle centering around North and South Waziristan, and the relative lack of Pakistani military action in that area has led the US toward a policy of unilateral strikes. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military has focused its efforts on Bajaur, which it sees as the source of “65 percent of the Taliban.” Pakistani officials complain that the Bajaur offensive is being prolonged by the militants and supplies pouring into Bajaur from Afghanistan.

All this had led several experts quoted by the Daily Times to conclude that the situation is only going to get worse and the two powers are on a “collision course.” As casualties in Afghanistan continue to mount, they anticipate increased pressure for the next administration to ratchet up the attacks in Pakistan even further. With Pakistan already bristling at the unilateral actions of the past month, the increased tensions have already led to one cross-border firefight between the two forces: are there more to come?

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.