The recent and regularly scheduled trilateral sessions between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States offer a valuable forum in which to discuss security and diplomatic concerns shared by the three countries. Yet transforming the United States’ critical relationship with Pakistan will ultimately require a far deeper and better coordinated bilateral structure for coordination and discussion. In recent years, the United States has signed comprehensive bilateral agreements with a range of countries aimed at establishing a framework for broad-based cooperation.
The Obama administration should apply the model of recent strategic framework agreements to Pakistan. The administration should work with a range of Pakistani leaders to agree on common goals for cooperating on military, intelligence, and security matters, as well as diplomatic, political, cultural, and economic cooperation. Working with Pakistani partners to set an official strategic framework agreement would help set the right context for cooperation on a broad range of issues of common concern to both countries.
Formalizing the goals for cooperation in a bilateral strategic framework agreement can help facilitate strategic planning on a range of fronts—and it can help both the United States and Pakistan break the cycle of transactional and reactive policymaking that has plagued the bilateral relationship for decades.
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