Vector Check: Prospects for U.S. and Pakistan Air Power Engagement
(Source: Rand Corp.; issued April 5, 2018)
As U.S. military action in Afghanistan stabilizes at levels well below the Operation Enduring Freedom peak, the security relationship between the United States and Pakistan will enter a new phase.

Formulating a strategy for future engagement requires a deep understanding of Pakistan's own security imperatives — i.e., the factors that determine what types of partnership are realistic, and the geopolitical and historical forces that shape Pakistan's cooperation with the United States.

This report examines such factors from a variety of angles: It discusses the historical context of U.S.-Pakistan engagement, highlighting the two prior cycles of deep partnership and precipitous downgrade; it outlines Pakistan's strategic calculus with five nations (India, China, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran), which inform most important security decisions, and highlights Pakistan's overarching focus on potential conflict with India; and it looks at future trends for partnering, while examining several potential scenarios.

A key finding presented is that U.S. leverage over Pakistan's security choices is limited, and that the U.S. Air Force effectively serves as the "loss leader" in the relationship.

A key recommendation is for U.S. planners to be mindful of the cyclical pattern of the relationship. Given the growing security relationship between the United States and India, any future partnership with Pakistan may face a new set of challenges.

If history is a guide, however, the United States would be well advised to maintain its engagement in the interim rather than ramping up next time from a standing start.

Click here for the full report (128 PDF pages) on the Rand Corp. website.


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