There has been plenty of tub-thumping over this week’s capture of Taliban commander Mullah Baradar, but all it really signifies is that Pakistan holds all the cards in the strategic game being played out across central and southern Asia.
President Barack Obama is well-known for his love of poker. It is a comforting image for the rest of the world: the stony-faced thinker, calculating the odds, in the game for the long haul. But when it comes to the bluff, no one can touch Pakistan’s military establishment. Consider the complexity of the game it is playing.
America’s enemies are based in their country, but they can still wring $7.5bn in aid from Washington. Their population hates the idea of colluding with the Americans, but Pakistan quietly allows US drones, platoons of marines and CIA agents to operate in its territory. It fights its own insurgency with some parts of the Pakistani Taliban while doing deals with its affiliates. Known terrorists are free to hold public rallies in broad daylight calling for attacks on India, and yet India still finds itself pressured into holding a new round of peace talks.