The U.S. scaling back its military mission in Afghanistan will threaten Pakistan’s stability and jeopardize control of its nuclear arsenal.
A prolonged and unwinnable war is more likely to undermine stability in Pakistan than would the prompt scaling down of the U.S. military mission. There are many other steps that the United States could take to help secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal that would be far less expensive and more effective than keeping a large military force in Afghanistan.
Fortunately, the danger of a radical takeover of the Pakistani government is small. Islamist extremism in Pakistan is concentrated within the tribal areas in its northwest frontier, and largely confined to its Pashtun minority (which comprises about 15 percent of the population). The Pakistani army is primarily Punjabi (roughly 44 percent of the population) and remains loyal. At present, therefore, this second strategic interest is not seriously threatened.