General Kayani comes to town

March 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last week, Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Kayani made a visit to Washington, DC. The Western media has always portrayed the US-Pakistan relationship as troubled and lacking mutual trust, but the fact of the matter is that the US has always gotten along wonderfully with the Pakistani Army. That’s at least part of the reason for why Kayani’s visit didn’t generate the usual breathless headlines – because there was little tension accompanying the talks. But at least one another explanation for the relative lack of media attention was because the visit was of an entirely mundane nature: it was a shopping trip.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Kayani gave members of Congress a PowerPoint presentation which showed that the Pakistani Army has committed even more troops to going after the Taliban in FATA than the US has in Afghanistan. This estimate most likely includes paramilitary troops such as the Frontier Constabulary forces, but even so, this is a remarkable number if true; the US has close to 70,000 troops in Afghanistan. But that wasn’t the only reason for the visit. Kayani presented his US hosts with a shopping list which was 56 pages long – a wish-list of military hardware including helicopters and other “counter-insurgency” weapons. More from the Los Angeles Times:

According to U.S. officials, Kayani made a strong case that Pakistan can do more if it gets more modern military equipment from the United States, especially helicopters to ferry troops into the rugged badlands where Al Qaeda and the Taliban hide.

The United States has helped Pakistan acquire some helicopters, but not as many and not as quickly as the Pakistanis would like. U.S. officials said they would try to speed the delivery of more. In the past, U.S. officials complained that Pakistan used much of its U.S. military aid to bolster its eastern front with India instead of its fight with internal insurgents; but since Pakistan’s 2009 offensive in the Swat Valley, that criticism has been stilled.

The delegation also added a new item to Islamabad’s wish list: a nuclear agreement under which the United States would help Pakistan develop its civilian nuclear energy industry — to mirror a similar U.S. agreement with India, Pakistan’s longtime enemy.

So not only does Pakistani want more guns but also legitimacy for its hugely expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary nuclear weapons program. And what’s most amusing is that both Pakistani and US officials keep insisting that the Pakistan-US relationship is now no longer merely “transactional” but the dialogue between the two countries continues to focus on… shopping lists.

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