In a world full of national security challenges, none demands more urgent focus than the conundrum that is Pakistan. For at least a decade, Pakistan has consistently been one of the top three national security worries for the United States with issues ranging from being a center of nuclear proliferation to its inability to prevent its territory from serving as a sanctuary for the Taliban/Al Qaeda alliance launching attacks against US troops in Afghanistan.
The recent killing of Osama Bin Ladin revealed at best, a Pakistani regime either unwilling or unable to be an effective ally in our ongoing battle against Al Qaeda. Troubling questions need to be answered. What did Pakistani officials know about Bin Ladin’s presence and when did they know it? How effectively have Pakistani national security officials used $20 Billion in US aid to combat Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Why is the main debate in Pakistan today focusing on the US “violation” of their sovereignty in attacking Bin Ladin instead of on their own failure to find him? Is Pakistan worthy of the designation of major non-NATO ally and the steady stream of financial assistance provided by the American people?
To answer these questions and fashion a long term and sustainable approach to relations with Pakistan, Congress should authorize and the President should support the creation of a “Commission on US-Pakistan Relations”. Precedents are available for quickly moving forward with just such an effort.
The 9/11 Commission served as a thorough and credible fact finder concerning the events of 9/11. Its factual findings provided a necessary narrative on the events and raised questions that then could be answered with future policy action. The Iraq Study Group trained consistent attention on one national security challenge and provided a series of potential options for policy makers. In each of these instances the national security challenge to be confronted needed sustained focus and bi-partisan engagement. In a world of rapidly changing events demanding many responses, the President and the US Congress need the assistance of just such a Commission to provide the answers and options regarding our past and future relationship with Pakistan.
A “Commission on US-Pakistan Relations” should be provided with sufficient resources to gain a high level expert staff that is able to conduct interviews, investigations and support hearings that could culminate in a Final Report to be delivered within six months. The Commission Membership should be appointed by a combination of the President and Congress; two from the Speaker of the House, one from the Democratic Leader of the House, two from the Senate Majority Leader, one from the Senate Minority Leader, and five from the President of the United States.
Our relationship with Pakistan is too important for the security of our nation, and for the peace of the South Asia region, to let it be shaped by the pressures of cable talk shows and the necessarily shifting attention of senior policy makers. The creation of a “Commission on US-Pakistan Relations” can go far toward letting the American people know that policymakers are not satisfied with the status quo, are committed to finding answers and charting a new and sustainable way forward for protecting our interests in this most challenging part of the world.
Scott Bates is the former Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. Bates is currently Vice-President of the Center for National Policy and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.