If Pakistani support for the insurgents is curtailed, a definitive reduction of Afghanistan's conflict is achievable. With reduced levels of violence, Afghan forces should be able to handle the residual violence, greatly reducing the burden on U.S. and Coalition forces. Such a development in turn can lead the Taliban to realize that time is not on their side and that they should cooperate in a negotiated settlement, the outcome that the United States prefers. To achieve this turnaround, we need to remain firm and consistent in the imposition of coercive measures. And, in the event that Pakistan changes its policy, we should be ready to return to a positive relationship and encourage improved regional relations, including with Afghanistan, that respect legitimate Pakistani concerns.
Patience, positive incentives, and occasional feeble pressure have not induced Pakistan to end its double game. Yet, success against terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan and the region requires a change in Pakistan’s policy of support for such groups. To bring about such a change, the time has come to embrace a strategy that dramatically increases the cost to Pakistan of its current approach.
Zalmay Khalilzad, a former director of policy planning in the Department of Defense, was the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. He is the author of The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House: My Journey through a Turbulent World. St Martin's Press.