President Barack Obama had nothing but good things to say about Pakistan’s military, cheering them for recognizing the “misguided” concern with a prospective Indian invasion and recognizing, in his words, “that their biggest threat right now comes internally.”
But with regards to the nation’s civilian government, Obama was anything but supportive. While criticizing it as “very fragile” and incapable of delivering basic services, the US president declared “We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.”
While pressuring Congress to support “urgent” aid to Pakistan, the Obama Administration intends to significantly expand the nascent US military training program in the nation. Reportedly the president will discuss the matter with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari during his visit next week, but senior officials say that Pakistan has already agreed in principle to the idea.
The United States started a small training program for Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in October, though officials in February also confirmed a “secret task force” of over 70 military advisers were also dispatched to provide direct training and advisory functions.
Historically, growing US training commitments have been a prelude to more direct US military intervention. The US military was involved in training the South Vietnamese army in 1954, an escalating commitment in which the United States ultimately committed more than 500,000 ground troops to a bloody and ultimately failed war.
What the president’s somewhat ominous comments about wanting to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty will ultimately come to remains to be seen, but recent history certainly is not on the side of the United States in creating a “stable” nation where none exists.