US hems and haws over Pakistan


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
US hems and haws over Pakistan

The US is unwilling to take on Pakistan for its role in aiding and abetting the Taliban and other terror outfits.

G. Parthasarathy

US vacillation with respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan has become a matter of concern. When the Afghanistan President, Mr Hamid Karzai, arrived in Washington on May 7, the Presidential Adviser, Mr Doug Lute, said: "There is a new compact between his (Karzai's) Government and the Afghan people."

Contrast this with the events two months ago. Just as Air Force One was readying to land at Afghanistan's Bagram airbase on March 28, President Obama's National Security Adviser, Gen. James Jones, was telling accompanying correspondents that the President would give his Afghan counterpart a dressing down on corruption and incompetent governance. Correspondents were later told that President Obama had spoken to his Afghan host about the need for "building a stronger Government and battling corruption".

Earlier, the US Ambassador, General Karl Eikenberry, had referred to President Hamid Karzai as being "not an adequate strategic partner". Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr Mike Mullen, had conveyed a "stern message" to Afghanistan's Head of State. Worse still, a senior Pentagon official, expressing dissatisfaction at the alleged links of the President's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, with the Taliban, had reportedly remarked that once these links were established "we can put him (Ahmed Karzai) on the target list and capture and kill him".

Unable to bear such sniping any longer, President Karzai, a proud Popalazai Pashtun, hit back, raising doubts publicly about the appropriateness of a proposed US military operation in Kandahar and hinting that he would go his own way on "reconciliation" with the Taliban. Then came the US U-turn.


The prevarications are evident even with respect to dealing with Pakistan's role as a hub of global terror. Shortly after the unsuccessful terrorist attack at New York's Times Square by Faisal Shahzad, evidence emerged that Shahzad had visited North Waziristan where the "Haqqani Taliban network" of the Afghan Taliban is located, together with the Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. US anger at the refusal of the Pakistan army to act against the Haqqani network was soon voiced.

The US Attorney General, Mr Eric Holder, asserted that if Pakistan did not take "appropriate action" against Taliban elements located on its soil, the US would do so.

The Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton, warned: "Some Pakistani officials know more about al Qaeda and Taliban than they actually let on. I believe that somehow in the (Pakistan) Government, there are people who know where bin Laden, al Qaeda, Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban leadership are." Ms Clinton said that the US expected more cooperation from Pakistan to help bring to justice, capture or kill, those who attacked it on 9/11, adding: "We cannot tolerate having people encouraged, trained and sent from Pakistan to attack the US."

The fact that the Obama Administration is a house divided, however, soon became clear.

The Defence Secretary, Mr Robert Gates, sought to justify Pakistan's terrorist connections by alluding to a "deficit of trust" between the US and Pakistan. Mr Gates also said there was "some justification" for Pakistan's concerns about past American policies, not only because of what the Americans did during Pakistan's "past wars with India", but also the imposition of US sanctions in 1992, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Former CIA official and Clinton White House aide, Mr Bruce Reidel, who played a key role in crafting the Obama Administration's "Afpak" policy, noted: "We can't eliminate the terrorist problem in Pakistan without Pakistan's help. And yet we have failed for decades now to get the Pakistanis to give us help, and we have not found the cure to make this happen."

Knowing this American dilemma, a hard-headed professional like General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — whom the CIA has noted as describing Afghan Taliban leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, as a "strategic asset"— is hardly likely to end his support for radical Islamic groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, merely on account of persuasion by some members of the US Army or administration. Afghan Taliban leaders will conveniently "disappear" if General Kayani commences military "Operations" in North Waziristan at US' behest.


The Pentagon's current Kayani-centric policy of acting as apologists for the Pakistani military establishment amounts to abetment of terrorism against their army in Afghanistan and their population at home. The US will hopefully realise this and discard its present policies of "all carrots and no stick", in dealing with Pakistan's military establishment.

Given the prevailing inconsistencies in US policies, India needs to widen its diplomatic options in dealing with developments in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al Faisal has been scathingly critical of US flip-flops on Afghanistan.

The time has come to initiate a regional initiative — involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China, together with the US that guarantees the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, free from all foreign interference, in its internal affairs.

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