September 26, 2011 § 1 Comment
The current war of words between the U.S. and Pakistani governments is just the latest installment of the soap opera that is U.S.-Pakistani relations. The pattern is typical, predictable, and actually quite stable: the U.S. makes demands on Pakistan; Pakistan rebuffs the demand; the U.S. responds with “evidence” of Pakistani complicity in fomenting terror (usually in Afghanistan but also in India); Pakistan negotiates on the initial demand, giving in to some of what the U.S. wants but still rejecting some part of the demand.
So too is the case with the latest “revelation” last week by Admiral Mike Mullen and other U.S. officials that the Pakistani government is actively sponsoring terror in Afghanistan via the Haqqani clan. According to this formulation, the Haqqani network is a state asset that is activated by the ISI in order to maintain leverage against Afghanistan and, by extension, the United States. That is seemingly explosive stuff, but predictably, as early as the next day, we were seeing statements by U.S. and Pakistani officials that they were still interested in “working with each other.” And today, we see that the U.S. State Department spokesperson has stated that “State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said that the US government was committed to its relationship with Pakistan and wants to work constructively with Pakistan on the Haqqani Network.” Ah yes, “work constructively” – that lovely phrase that hides the ugliness of just how much pressure is applied to other countries in order to coerce them to do the bidding of the U.S.
On the same day, Republican Senator Mark Kirk did his part to play the role of bad cop by stating that the U.S. government should “cut military assistance to Pakistan in the light of the allegations made by the US administration and military about Pakistan having links with the Haqqani network.” We have lost count of the number of times that Some Important Person or the other has called for cuts to U.S. aid to Pakistan in the last couple of years. It’s amusing to note that despite such threats and protests, the aid continues to flow, mostly in very generous proportions (Pakistan still remains the second largest recipient of U.S. aid, after Israel). Maybe, just maybe, there’s something in it for the Americans?
All of this is certainly not to minimize the sheer venality and, frankly, stupidity of the Pakistan establishment, in its attempt to manipulate various domestic and foreign actors and try to maintain leverage against the U.S. The Army, the ISI, Zardari and the other civilian politicians – they would sell their own mothers down the river before they would do what’s right for the Pakistani people. And sadly it’s the Pakistani people who continue to pay the price of this absurd but very costly soap opera.
September 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Pentagon recently released its annual assessment of global security, and the report predicts an era of perpetual war in which peace is the exception rather than the norm. Of course, unsaid in the report is that the cause of war is the Pentagon itself. Instead, war is framed as the means by which to achieve peace. Somewhere, George Orwell is weeping.
An excellent analysis of the report and its coverage in the Washington Post is at Keating’s Desk. Do check out the full entry, it’s worth the read.
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.