AZIZ HANIFFA, managing editor: Several senior US military leaders, including General Peter Pace (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) recently in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee have acknowledged that because of the high and growing demand for US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises—among them, an internal collapse of Pakistan. Is there an impending internal collapse in Pakistan, with all what’s been going on in the country in the past couple of months?
STEPHEN COHEN: No. I believe what they are doing—people like Pace and others, who are also in a sense administration officials—sort of reflects the Pakistani argument that only Pakistan’s stability stands between us and chaos in Afghanistan. That’s an argument that the Pakistani’s have used for a long time—for decades in fact. They have said, “We are your only real allies, and you’ve got to support us. We may not be perfect but?”
[While China was initially focused on former premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N,] Beijing has diversified its contacts and investments in Pakistan... Khan does not have a lot of wiggle room...We may continue to see a gradual trend of Pakistan drifting closer to China and more distant from the United States. But that would have to do with a number of factors beyond Imran Khan’s election.