Now, there are a number of points and questions that immediately come to mind here. Let me go through them one by one.
1. The Afghanistan surge could very well be a bad idea
Just because the ISI and Pakistan military say something, doesn't necessarily make it wrong. In this instance, it might be wise to consider the wider strategic implications of President Obama and his decision to basically bet his presidency on Afghanistan. As Stephen Walt said the other day, it is quite curious how drastically the American mission has changed from "targeting al-Qaeda and its leadership" to "nation-building in Afghanistan and defeating the Taliban". In any event, it's unclear to me what exactly the job additional troops are supposed to do. I have to tell you, I've been reading a lot on insurgencies and civil wars and guerrilla conflicts for my dissertation, and the more I read, the more I question what exactly the U.S. is trying to do in Afghanistan.
2. How deliberately managed does a leak have to be before the NYT tells its readers so?
The most shocking thing about the article for me was not the actual revelations contained therein, but the process by which those revelations were made. This is how the article itself describes it:
Pakistan’s critical assessment was provided as the Obama administration’s special envoy for the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday night.
The country’s perspective was given in a nearly two-hour briefing on Friday for The New York Times by senior analysts and officials of Pakistan’s main spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. They spoke on the condition of anonymity in keeping with the agency’s policy. The main themes of the briefing were echoed in conversations with several military officers over the past few days.
One of the first briefing slides read, in part: “The surge in Afghanistan will further reinforce the perception of a foreign occupation of Afghanistan. It will result in more civilian casualties; further alienate local population. Thus more local resistance to foreign troops.”
Note three points: one, this is right before Richard Holbrooke's visit to Pakistan and follows closely Hillary Clinton's visit to India. Two, the ISI organized a bloody briefing for the NYT. Three, they used Power Point ("one of the first briefing slides") -- this instantly makes me respect them more. I really didn't think they had it in them. Well done, guys. Well done.
Anyway, this is so clearly a deliberate and manipulated leak that I don't even know what to say. And the NYT has done the ISI a nice little favor by dutifully publishing it on the front page of the most famous newspaper in the world.
Everything I have ever read within the fields of international relations and security studies suggests that the possession of nuclear weapons guarantees a state's core interests. There is a quite a bit of disagreement on what else nuclear weapons guarantee, but this much is pretty much a consensus: a rival state will not launch an invasion of your homeland as long as you have nuclear weapons. The reason is simple: doing so risks nuclear annihilation for the potential invader.
With that in mind, I have to ask: what are Pakistan's nuclear weapons for? It is clear that even in times of relative calm (such as the present, as opposed to the period immediately following the Mumbai 26/11 attacks or the parliament attack in December 2001), Pakistan's military establishment is wary of thinning the military presence on the Indian border even slightly. Again, I am not asking why Pakistan doesn't completely demilitarize its border -- that's obviously out of the question.
But what exactly was the point of the costs of international sanctions, pariah status, and everything else attendant with testing nuclear weapons, when Pakistan refuses to trust the very core purpose they are supposed to fulfill? If Pakistan treats its eastern border as so at risk that it deems it completely out of the question to scale back its presence, then it is basically acting as if it doesn't possess nuclear weapons, correct? Or am I missing something?
I'm not trying to be snarky here. I'm genuinely curious: what are Pakistan's nuclear weapons for?
UPDATE: Before the jokers amongst you start giving me your one-liners, please note responses such as "to guarantee A.Q. Khan and his family an untold fortune" and "to scare the shit out of the rest of the world" won't be appreciated.