Wednesday, April 2, 2008

American Tin ear doesn't hear the loud NO from Pakistan

We wrote an article with the above title last year and also several years ago. This sort of advice fell on deaf ears in Washington. Now the chickens have come home to roost. There are hundreds of opinions about every aspect of policy, strategy and tactics, however there is near consensus on one aspect of Pakistani Foreign policy.

1) The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is America's war and not Pakistans war

2) It is not in the interest of Pakistanis to keep on killing Pakistanis.

The Senate, the opposition, the government and the army are of the firm opinion that Pakistan should negotiate with the Taliban and bring peace to Pakistan. Boucher on his visit heard it loud and clear from the politicians. The press also has taken the government to task on why it is taking order from "low level officers of the US administration".

If this is news to the American administration then the $80 Billion Think Tank industry has simply been plagiarizing the current paradigm and the CIA should be fired, because it has been unable to see the volcanic activity in the Pakistani media and the Pakistani hearts and minds.

If immediate corrective actions are not taken immediately, Pakistan is headed for a divorce with the US and no amount of threats "to bomb them back to the stone age" will work.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO

By Karl F. Inderfurth

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The NATO summit meeting in Bucharest this week comes at a critical time for the 26-member alliance and its mission in Afghanistan. It also comes at a critical time for the one country that can make or break that mission: Pakistan.

NATO is collectively holding its breath as the Musharraf era comes to a close, replaced by a new and uncertain civilian political leadership and accompanied by a continuing rise in extremist violence. A month-long surge in suicide bombings has put the country on edge. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO's secretary general, said during his recent visit to Washington that as soon as the new Pakistan government is in place, he will travel to Islamabad. After Bucharest there is no better destination to reinforce NATO's Afghan mission.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are inextricably linked. There can be no successful outcome for Afghanistan if Pakistan is not a part of the solution. The future stability of both depends on the development of an effective regional strategy to counter and uproot the Taliban/Al Qaeda sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal border areas. Despite Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts over the last four years (or lack thereof according to the critics), the Taliban and Al Qaeda have developed a stronghold in this region that bolsters the Taliban's capabilities against coalition forces in Afghanistan, poses a direct threat to the Pakistani state itself, and facilitates Al Qaeda planning and execution of global terrorist plots, including those directed against the United States.

What can be done about this interconnected set of problems?

Countering cross border infiltration is the immediate priority. The Trilateral Afghanistan-Pakistan-NATO Military Commission is an important mechanism in this regard. So is the strengthening of the U.S. military presence along the Afghan side of the border, which the latest U.S. Marine contingent now arriving in Afghanistan will assist as will the opening of the first of six joint U.S.-Afghan-Pakistan military intelligence centers along the border. Washington also needs to work more closely with Pakistan in joint counter-terrorism operations. The possibility for collaboration exists, as evidenced by the missile strike in North Waziristan earlier this year that killed the senior Al Qaeda operative Abu Laith al-Libi. But these operations are highly sensitive and politically charged in the tribal areas and must be pursued through quiet, behind the scenes efforts with Pakistan political and military leaders.

In addition, any large-scale outside military intervention in Pakistan's tribal areas would be disastrous for the Pakistani state and U.S. interests and would not provide a lasting solution to the problem. A more effective strategy involves working cooperatively with Pakistan's new leadership to integrate these areas into the Pakistani political system and, once they are secure, provide substantial assistance (along with the European Union, the World Bank and other donors) to build up their economy and social infrastructure. As Pakistan's ambassador, Mahmud Duranni, says, what is needed in these areas is a "multipronged strategy. That is, military force, development and empowerment of the people. Using force alone is not the answer."

Over the longer term, the region requires a new compact that addresses Afghanistan and Pakistan's political, economic and security concerns and seeks to neutralize regional and great power rivalries. To accomplish this the UN should convene an international conference attended by all Afghanistan's neighbors and other concerned major powers, a task that should be added to the agenda of the newly appointed UN envoy for Afghanistan, the Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide.

The goal would be a multilateral accord that recognizes Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan (the Durand Line of 1893 is still in dispute); pledges noninterference in Afghanistan's internal affairs; affirms that, like the Congress of Vienna accord for Switzerland, Afghanistan should be internationally accepted as a permanently neutral state; and establishes a comprehensive international regime to remove obstacles to the flow of trade across Afghanistan, the key to establishing a vibrant commercial network that would benefit the entire region.

And such an agreement would have another positive corollary - it would provide the basis for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. and NATO military forces from a stable and secure Afghanistan.

Karl F. Inderfurth, a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 1997 to 2001.

Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune |

A Balancing Act in Pakistan
March 31, 2008

Jayshree Bajoria

Pakistani paramilitary officials examine confiscated weapons along the Afghan border. (AP/Shah Khalid)

The new government in Islamabad has wasted little time making clear its disapproval of Washington’s policy toward Pakistan and its strategy on counterterrorism. The visit by two top U.S. State Department officials on the same day the new Pakistani prime minister was sworn in was widely criticized (CNN) in Pakistan. New York Times correspondent Jane Perlez writes that the three-day trip by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte “turned out to be [a] series of indignities and chilly, almost hostile, receptions,” signaling challenges ahead in engaging Pakistan’s newly elected government.

Islamabad’s new leaders have asserted the decision-making process will now involve more than one man (Guardian), implying Washington will have to broaden its regular contacts within Pakistan beyond President Pervez Musharraf. The new government has also made it clear that it will no longer tolerate the death of civilians in anti-militant operations, and further, it prefers negotiating with militants as a strategy to counter extremism.

Yet while the Bush administration’s official statements stressed cooperation, the Washington Post reported it continued to step up unilateral strikes against suspected militant hideouts inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Post report says Washington wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al-Qaeda’s network inside Pakistan before the new government puts a stop to U.S. air strikes. CFR’s Daniel Markey says Pakistan’s government needs to come to grips with the threat posed by internal militants but he also cautions against any heavy-handed U.S. approach to the threat. “The last thing we ultimately want to do is alienate the Pakistanis for short-term benefits,” he says. “Killing another top-level [extremist] leader is probably not worth losing the relationship with Pakistan as a partner.”

Experts say a shift in Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy could be worrisome for Washington at a time when militants from Pakistan’s tribal areas continue to feed instability across the border, posing challenges to the NATO alliance in Afghanistan (NPR). Some have questioned Pakistan’s willingness to fight this war. Matthew Cole, writing in Salon, revisits charges that Pakistani security forces have been abusing U.S. aid by double-dealing and assisting Taliban forces, allegations denied by Pakistani officials.

For much of the Bush administration, U.S. policy toward Pakistan has hinged on supporting Musharraf. “One of the chief drivers of Bush’s foreign policy has been the president’s own tendency to personalize diplomacy,” writes Joshua Kurlantzick in the New Republic. This approach is drawing some critics in Washington and has been singled out by front-runners in the U.S. presidential campaign. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) have both been critical of Bush’s policy and have advocated moving away from Musharraf. They have also said that future U.S. policy toward Pakistan must focus on economic aid that extends beyond counterterrorism efforts. The presumptive Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), has also pressed for economic development and education in Pakistan.

While this may signal a more comprehensive strategy for a future Pakistan policy, experts say Washington has to walk a bit of a tightrope in the country. No matter who calls the shots in Islamabad, the Pakistani army and its intelligence services remain important players in the U.S.-led “war on terror.” Pakistani journalist Ayaz Amir writes in Pakistan-based The News that the “rethinking of the American alliance will have to come as much from General Headquarters as from the new National Assembly.” The U.S. government has a long-standing relationship with Pakistan’s military, as this timeline shows, and experts say it’s unlikely the Pakistani army will be willing to cut these ties or forego U.S aid.

Pakistan rethinks US policy on militants

By Barbara Plett, BBC News, Islamabad

There is a buzz of excitement in the wood-panelled assembly hall of Pakistan's parliament.

After eight years of military rule, the new legislators feel empowered by an enormous popular mandate.

And they are ready to tackle unpopular policies, especially Pakistan's participation in what is called the War on Terror.

"We've gone through enough problems because of following different agendas of different countries - we need to follow our own agenda," said one parliamentarian from the governing coalition, speaking to a crush of reporters outside.

"Pakistan must get out of America's fatal embrace," said another.

Out of the loop

Comments like these alarm the Americans, because Pakistan is crucial to their Afghan policy.

Since 9/11 they have relied on President Pervez Musharraf and the army for cooperation against al-Qaeda and the Taleban, in exchange for billions of dollars.

Until now parliament was out of the loop.

"No one in this country knows what General Musharraf has agreed with the Americans or anyone else!" says Ahsan Iqbal, a minister in the new cabinet.

The president apparently agreed to an increase in US air strikes in the Taleban strongholds near the Afghan border.

These have killed around 50 people this year, including militants.

Like everyone else, Mr Iqbal read about the tacit understanding in the newspaper.

Such heavy handed tactics "give a cause for these militants to fight for", he says, "so therefore I think whatever strategy we work out, the sovereignty of Pakistan must be respected and we should not give more fuel to these militants".


Pakistanis believe a deadly bombing campaign in the country is the price they are paying for missile strikes and large scale army operations against the militants.

Nearly a thousand people were killed in suicide attacks last year.

And massive injections of American aid have made little difference to their security.

"The general perception in Pakistan is that the deal over the War on Terror was favourable only to one party and unfavourable to Pakistan," says Aseff Ahmad Ali, a member of the governing Pakistan Peoples' Party and a former foreign minister.

If the armed force is withdrawn, there may be a resurgence
Retired General Shujaat Ali Khan

"The Americans give us a billion dollars a year for the War on Terror. But where has the money gone? We don't know, maybe to the army.

"But we do know there's been no trickle-down effect - there is neither internal (security) nor food security nor development.

"To the common man the US-Pakistan deal looks absolutely awful. It has to be renegotiated."


In a speech outlining the government's policies, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani emphasized social and political reforms to address the causes of militancy.

He also said the government would negotiate with those who laid down their arms.

Some of his coalition partners go further, like the Pashtun Awami National Party (ANP), which has gained power in the North West Frontier Province near the Afghan border.

"This problem is not going to be solved by my going to talk to the tribal elders only," the provincial chief minister, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, told the Dawn newspaper.

"Unless we somehow approach the one who has taken up arms, or is involved in suicide bombing or has gone to the other extreme, and reach an understanding with him, the problem would not be solved."

'Clear and present danger'

This is a long term solution, but does America have the patience to wait? The head of its Central Intelligence Agency is sounding very impatient.

"The situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border presents a clear and present danger to... the West in general and the United States in particular," Michael Hayden said during a recent interview on NBC television.

"It's very clear to us that al-Qaeda has been able for the past 18 months or so to establish a safe haven along the border area that they have not enjoyed before.

"Operationally, we are turning every effort to capture or kill that leadership from the top to the bottom."

Tanvir Ahmed Khan, a former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan argues that "the Americans have leverage (in Pakistan), but not the same degree as before".

"There would be a restive parliament. There is no strong opinion in parliament for reversing the policy, but there is a strong opinion for moderating it, for a better mix between military and diplomatic measures."

Military wary

But will Pakistan's powerful army agree?

President Musharraf's attempts at peace deals only strengthened the militants and put the military on the back-foot, says retired General Shujaat Ali Khan. The military would be wary of going down the same path again.

"There may be an (initial) agreement on the part of the militants, to sort of pull back their punches", he says, "but during this two or three month period there is a danger that they may regroup.

"And if the armed force is withdrawn, there may be a resurgence, and they'll strike again."

Many here also believe that peace inside Pakistan will be difficult, as long as American and Nato troops remain in Afghanistan.

On Sunday the Pakistan Taleban Movement (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) responded to the government's overtures.

It said it was ready to end attacks inside Pakistan if the authorities showed flexibility, but the 'jihad' against America would continue in Afghanistan.

"Our war is with America", local Taleban leader Maulvi Faqir Muhammed told a rally. "Whenever Pakistan will work for American interests as its ally, we will oppose it."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/04/01 10:59:19 GMT

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