The Pakistan Ultimatum

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by ejazr, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703385404576259110311433964.html

    So Pakistan now demands that the United States withdraw hundreds of American intelligence operatives and special-ops trainers from its soil and stop the CIA drone strikes on al Qaeda, Taliban and affiliated terrorists. Maybe the Obama Administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the U.S. will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan's cooperation.

    Relations between Washington and Islamabad historically have never been easy, and now they seem to have reached something of a watershed. The fault is not all one-sided. Congressional potentates have made a habit of criticizing Pakistan publicly even when it was cooperating with the U.S. and deploying thousands of troops to fight elements of the Taliban. And promised American aid has been haltingly disbursed.

    Then again, Pakistan's behavior hasn't exactly been exemplary. Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, has longstanding links to terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network. The government and military have made no move against the Quetta Shura, the operational nerve center in Pakistan of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

    Islamabad's U.S. cooperation has also been double-edged. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari allowed the U.S. to increase the number of drone strikes. Yet it has made a point of complaining about them publicly, playing a particularly cheap form of politics to shore up its waning popularity with a domestic constituency smart enough to see through the hypocrisy.

    The Pakistani army was also happy to cooperate with the U.S. when the targets of the strikes were members of the Pakistani Taliban who had their sights set on Islamabad. But the army has been less cooperative when the targets were the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan or the ISI's terrorist partners.

    Matters came to a head in January with Pakistan's arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, after he had shot and killed two armed pursuers. Mr. Davis, who carried an official passport, ought to have been released immediately to U.S. custody under the terms of the Vienna Convention. Instead he was held for 47 days, questioned for 14, and released only after the U.S. government agreed to pay a multimillion-dollar indemnity to the families of the pursuers.

    The failure to release Mr. Davis was an indication of how easily cowed Pakistan's civilian government has become in the face of an anti-American public. It also suggested a darker turn by Pakistan's military and the ISI, which were infuriated that Mr. Davis was investigating the activities of the Lashkar-e-Taiba now that it has expanded operations to include terrorism in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also complained bitterly about a drone strike in North Waziristan last month that it claims killed tribal leaders meeting with the Taliban.

    A more charitable explanation is that Pakistan's military is angry the CIA is sharing less intelligence with the ISI. In this reading, the mass expulsion of U.S. security officials is really a demand for closer cooperation, even if it's a peculiar way of eliciting it. It's also possible that Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is trying to burnish his own public image by way of an anti-American tantrum that will pass in time.

    Still, if the CIA doesn't trust the ISI, that's because it has demonstrated repeatedly that it isn't trustworthy. The Pakistani army has yet to reconcile itself to the idea that Afghanistan should be something other than its strategic backyard, preferably under the control of clients such as the Taliban, and it harbors paranoid illusions that India will encroach on Afghanistan to encircle its old enemy.

    Pakistan's civilian government has also done itself neither credit nor favor by failing to tell Pakistan's people the truth about drone strikes, which is that they strike with pinpoint accuracy and that claims of civilian casualties are massively inflated for the benefit of Taliban propaganda. The government could also add that insofar as those drones are taking out leaders of the Pakistan Taliban, they are safeguarding Pakistan's beleaguered democracy.

    However Islamabad chooses to act, the U.S. has a vital national interest in pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in their Pakistani sanctuaries, both for the sake of the war in Afghanistan and the security of the American homeland. Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India.

    In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration famously sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to Islamabad to explain that the U.S. was going to act forcefully to protect itself, and that Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It's time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.
     
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  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    I posted the first article mainly to reference Najam Sethi's take on the article which he wrote in The News today taking a hard stance on the military. A very interesting read.

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=42073&Cat=9&dt=4/17/2011

    Who could have imagined that a serving commander of the Pakistan Army in the Waziristan badlands would have consciously knocked the popular myth that American drone strikes in Fata are part of the problem and not part of the solution of terrorism? But that’s exactly what happened on March 8.

    Maj Gen Ghayur Mehmud, GOC 7th Div North Waziristan, did not mince words in his printed brief ‘“Myths and Rumours about US Predator Strikes” handed out to journalists from his command post in the area. He made two main points: (1) A majority of those killed by drone strikes are “hardcore Taliban or Al Qaeda elements, especially foreigners,” while civilian casualties are “few”. (2) But by scaring local populations and compelling displacement through migration, drone attacks create social and political blowbacks for law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the first consequence is good and welcome as part of the national “solution” strategy and the second is problematic and should be minimised because it creates local “problems” of a tactical nature.

    Gen Mehmud hasn’t been fired or reprimanded. This means he had the green signal from the GHQ to make his brief. His statement explains the consciously nurtured “duality” of official policy versus popular position on drone strikes and confirms the Wikileaks summary that both secret authorisation and popular criticism go hand in hand in Pakistan where both civilian and military leaders are on the same page.

    To be sure, the tactical issues are not insignificant. The Pakistani military would dearly love to own some Predators or at least have a measure of command and control over them, so the demand is worth making publically all the time even though it routinely falls on deaf American ears – for obvious reasons, this devastating technology isn’t available to any state except Israel.

    Similarly, the Pakistan military would like to have a critical advance say on the choice of drone targets so that “hardcore Al-Qaeda elements and foreigners” noted by Gen Ghayur are usefully targeted but some Pakistani “assets” among the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omer, Gulbudin Hekmatyar’s Hizbe Islami and Siraj Haqqani’s Taliban network are spared for long-term application in Afghanistan. Disagreement with the Americans over this particular issue compels military spokespersons to blow hot (in public) and cold (in front of the Americans) over all drone strikes.

    Sometimes, when it gets uncomfortably hot under the collar, then General Ashfaq Kayani has to weigh in for public consumption – as he did recently when, the day after Raymond Davis was freed (courtesy ISI) amidst howls of protest from the media, a drone strike killed over 40 pro and anti-military tribesmen in a jirga for local conflict resolution in Fata.

    Pakistan and America have some strategic interests in common, like eliminating Al-Qaeda from Waziristan. But there are disagreements about who is a “good” Taliban and who is not. This is not strange at all. The answer to this question will determine who will rule or share power in Afghanistan in the next five years and who will not. It will also have a bearing on Afghanistan’s strategic and tactical allies in the neighbourhood in the future – India or Pakistan. Therefore Pakistan’s military, which loves to hate India even as America is itching to embrace India, believes it cannot shrug away any openings or opportunities for leveraging its concerns and interests.

    This perspective explains how the Raymond Davis case was handled (exploited) by the ISI and the import of DG-ISI’s recent dash to Washington for a meeting with the CIA chief. The ISI wants greater tactical input/output into CIA operations in Pakistan (to protect its strategic assets at home like the Lashkar-e-Tayba and the Haqqani network) even as it strategically allows the US to operate drones and run special agents freely from two bases in Pakistan where visas and landing rights are not an issue. Who knows how many Americans land or take off from these bases, how many carry weapons and what they do in their bulletproof SUVs when they cruise the length and breadth of Pakistan?

    Under the circumstances, the DG-ISI’s “request” in Langley was about reposing “trust” in joint operations rather than any overt threat to deny existing facilities and rights. The US has responded with a drone strike in South Waziristan which is supposed to be strictly out of bounds. This signals its intention to remain focused on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda even as it “considers” Gen Pasha’s request for greater sensitivity to Pakistan’s needs and interests. No more, no less.

    A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, a pro-US establishment paper, sums up the American position bluntly. It is titled: The Pakistan Ultimatum: choose whose side it is on. “Maybe the Obama Administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the U.S. will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan’s cooperation... Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India... After 9/11 Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.

    So it’s time for Pakistan’s military leaders to make up their minds and deal with its consequences. They must be upfront with America – because it’s a greatly beneficial “friend” to have and a deadly “enemy” to make – and honest with Pakistanis – because they’re not stupid and can eventually see through duplicity, as they did in the Raymond Davis case.

    The military cannot forever hunt with America and run with an anti-American Pakistani public they have helped to create. They cannot instruct the DG-ISPR in Islamabad to convey the impression of tough talking in Langley while asking the GOC 7 Division in Waziristan to give a realistic brief to the media about the critical benefits of drone strikes amidst all the “myths and rumours” of their negativity. This double-dealing confuses the public, annoys a strategic partner, and discredits the military all round when it is exposed.

    More significantly, it makes it difficult for Pakistanis to swallow the hard realities and the harder decisions necessary to change them for the sake of the state’s survival and the nation’s growth.

    The duality or contradiction in the military’s private and public position vis a vis its relationship with civilians in Pakistan and its relationship with America is a direct consequence of two inter-related factors: First, the military’s threat perception of India’s rising military capability, and second, its fear of losing control over India-centred national security policy to the civilians who are keen to start the process of building permanent peace in the region, thereby diluting the military’s pre-eminent role in Pakistan’s polity.

    The military’s scheme of things requires a permanent state of relative hostility towards, and distrust of, India. That is why its national security doctrine is fashioned on the premise that it is India’s military capacity to harm Pakistan rather than its intentions to build a permanent peace that matter.

    Of course, this is a perfect and unending rationalisation of its economic and political hold over Pakistan since India’s conventional weaponry is forecast to grow by leaps and bounds on the basis of a robust economy and nationalist unity. But Pakistan’s limping economy is groaning under the burden of the arms race engendered by this philosophy and its civilian polity is fracturing in the grab for diminishing resources. That is why its civilians are increasingly plucking up the courage to stare the army in the face for their political, provincial and economic rights.

    The military’s policy of renting itself out to America for its own sake and also complaining about it at the same time for the sake of the Pakistani public is clearly bankrupt. Isn’t it time, therefore, to consider a different paradigm, one in which conflict resolution and peace with India deliver an economic dividend that can be reaped by all in an environment free from destabilising extremism and war in the neighbourhood? In pursuit of an untenable philosophy, what use are dubious non-state “assets” that can become extreme liabilities in an impending national meltdown?

    Under the circumstances, General Kayani could do worse than go on the national hookup and defend the truth of the briefing given by his subordinate Maj Gen Ghuyur Mehmud. He will be surprised how quickly a majority of Pakhtuns in particular and Pakistanis in general will back him to the hilt and help change the national paradigm. This is more our war than it is America’s because we live and die here and not far away across two great oceans.
     

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