I think we need to have a short-term plan that temporarily keeps us close to Pakistan, followed by a much different long-run strategy that cuts us loose from this wreck of a state.
In the short run, our goal should be to collect our winnings. Pakistan screwed up, bigtime. We have them off balance, and the blustering of their officials isn't helping their cause. Over the next several months, we should aim to use this situation to get the terrorists and information we want.
And then get out. In the long run, we should back away from Pakistan. They believe they have us over a barrel, that (as Steve Coll has observed) they are too big to fail. They have nuclear warheads and they stand on our supply route to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. So I think we need to accelerate the troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and move from a large footprint of conventional troops to a smaller footprint of Special Operators and support units conducting counterterror missions. (But note Petraeus' pushback over the weekend: "Targeted military strikes don't produce security on their own.")This reduced force of perhaps 20,000 troops could be supplied by air and through Central Asia. Expensive, yes. But cheaper than giving billions of dollars annually to Pakistan and seeing it spent on its nuclear program and corruption. We also should encourage ties between Afghanistan and Central Asia.
With our military posture in Afghanistan shifted, we then could move to a purely transactional aid plan with Pakistan: "For doing X, you get Y amount of money." No more money for promises, and certainly not $4 billion a year for being a frenemy. In the long run, our interests are much more with India, anyway. If Pakistan wants to retaliate by allying with China -- knock yourselves out, fellas.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.