It seems the Obama administration is pursuing a new strategy with Pakistan. In recent weeks, along with announcements for significant non-military aid for Pakistan, it has sent extended the proverbial hand to its opponents in Pakistan. This new approach, which was articulated by both President Obama and Secretary Clinton during the 2008 Presidential Campaign, repudiates the Bush administration’s singular dependence on General Musharraf to advance American interests. It recognizes that investing in the Pakistani people and the country’s civilian institutions is a far better long-term strategy for defeating extremism and terrorism. By finally building relations with Pakistani society, the United States can begin undermining the deep mistrust that makes Pakistanis reluctant to support the war against the Taliban.

Another component of the Obama administration’s new approach towards Pakistan–and one that has received little media coverage–is the transferring of unmanned drone technology to the Pakistani Air Force. This in effect shifts greater resources to the Pakistani establishment to fight the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan itself, instead of relying on the CIA to combat these elements. The battle against the the Pakistani Taliban has been criticized as essentially a foreign enterprise, one that routinely violated Pakistani sovereignty and killed innocent Pakistani civilians. If combating the Pakistani Taliban is sold as primarily an indigenous effort, with indigenous resources, then it is more likely to receive broad support. Already, in light of the Tehrik-e-Taliban’s advance close to Islamabad and the unveiling of the horrors committed by the group, Pakistani opinion is turning against the Pakistani Taliban.

Of course, all this contributes little to NATO’s battle against the Afghan Taliban, which has links to the Pakistani faction but is viewed in an entirely different strategic light. Accusations that Pakistan harbours Mullah Omar persist. Many in the Pakistani establishment, especially the intelligence agency (ISI), perceive the Afghan Taliban as a hedge against the growing power of the pro-Indian Afghan politicians (Hamid Karzai and his rival Abdullah Abdullah included).

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