Friday, December 30, 2016

Obama's Parting Shot Against Pakistan

The outgoing administration of lame-duck President Barack Obama has ordered sanctions against seven Pakistani entities for "acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States".

This parting shot by Obama confirms his legacy as an American chief executive most hostile toward the United States' cold war ally Pakistan.

The United States Federal Register has listed the following Pakistani entities on its sanctions list: National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM); three NESCOM subsidiaries: Air Weapons Complex (AWC), Maritime Technology Complex (MTC) and New Auto Engineering (NAE); and Universal Tooling Services. The sanctioned entities are involved in developing missiles and related systems for Pakistani military.

Salala Incident:

Prior to the latest Obama sanctions announcement, the Obama years have seen US-Pakistan relations sink to an all-time low in 2011 when the United States refused to apologize after the US troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an attack on two border posts on Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan responded by cutting off supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan. These supply routes were reopened only after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized to Pakistan in July 2012.

Pivot to Asia:

As part of the US "pivot to Asia" policy to counter China's rise, President Obama also courted India at the expense of America's cold war ally Pakistan. Mr. Obama visited India twice and never once visited Pakistan during his two terms. The US signed multiple agreements with India, including a nuclear deal and a military logistics deal. At the same time, the United States has pushed for India's inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group while keeping Pakistan out.

Pakistan-China Ties:

With growing distance from the United States, Pakistan has forged closer ties with China culminating in a massive $55 billion Chinese investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). If all goes well and on schedule, of the 21 CPEC-related agreements on energy– including gas, coal and solar energy– 14 will be able to provide up to 10,400 megawatts (MW) of energy by March 2018. According to China Daily, these projects would provide up to 16,400 MW of energy altogether. In addition, there will be a network of roads, rail-links and pipeline stretching several thousand kilometers from Pakistani ports on the Arabian Sea to landlocked Western China.

China-Pakistan defense cooperation is also growing with continuing collaboration on development of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets and Pakistan Navy modernization with the addition of nuclear-capable custom AIP submarines.

Pakistan-Russia Ties:

Pakistan ties with its cold war foe Russia have also warmed up. Russia has agreed to invest in building a gas pipeline in Pakistan. Russia has also lifted its arms embargo and agreed to sell attack helicopters to Pakistani military.  The two countries had first-ever joint military exercises in 2016. Recently, Pakistan, China and Russia held a trilateral meeting in Moscow on Afghanistan.

US-Pakistan Ties Under Trump:

Going by President-elect Donald Trump's initial friendly call with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in December 2016, it seems that the US-Pakistan ties are likely to be better, not worse what we have seen in the last 8 years with Washington-Islamabad relations sinking to a new low.


President Obama's two terms in office have seen the cooling of US-Pakistan ties.  In the same period, Pakistan has further cemented its close relations with China and warmed up ties with its cold war foe Russia. Will US-Pakistan ties warm up again under President Trump? Only time will tell.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-Japan-US

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Is Modi Isolating Pakistan?

Salala Incident Soured US-Pakistan Ties

China-Pakistan Defense Collaboration Irks West

Are Russia and Iran Supporting Afghan Taliban?

Pakistan 2nd Strike Capability

Pakistan Navy Modernization


Mayraj said...

Obama, I think as time goes by, will be seen as not a good President. He mad too many bad decisions at home and abroad, and the legacies if which will last a long time. Bailing out the banks and GM is what any president would have done, so they were not signature achievements. Obamacare's flaws, Opposition will use as excuse to shut it down. So what else is there that was positive? He was too cowardly to even raise the subject of local reform, despite urging and this when Dems had majority. I think he did not use majority property;and his do-little efforts lost him the Dem voters in swing states who voted in frustration with Dems for Trump. He will fail them, so they will sit out next election, and join others who are raising the number of eligible voters who sat out the election.

No amount of American help for India will save it from the actions of its bad and grossly inadequate leaders. America has not helped India. It has just encouraged India to spend on things that are not useful for it. Nuclear assistance just to create a market for US nuclear industry, because resistance in US to nuke plants. Could have instead provided instance with water recycling technology transfer far more useful assistance that India desperately needs. Tech transfer in other water conservation technology would also have been worthwhile.

Moazzam S. said...

Thanks Riaz for the insight. He turns out to be quite a sob.
My high regards for him just bit the dust.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Plays Down Defense-Related US Sanctions

Pakistan says that the United States did not share evidence of wrongdoing before placing recent sanctions against certain defense-related Pakistani entities, but that it has pledged to work with Washington to address all concerns.

A December 15 notification by the Department of Commerce named the entities and added them to the Export Administration Regulations list, saying "these government, parastatal and private entities in Pakistan are determined to be involved in activities that are contrary to the national security and/or foreign policy of the United States."

The facilities in question are thought to be associated with Pakistan's missile development program, though officials in Islamabad have not acknowledged it. The U.S. government has not revealed details of violations these entities are alleged to have committed.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria told VOA on Saturday that the government was aware of the sanctions.

"This means that for any transfers of technology to these entities, U.S. exporters will need a license," he said, adding that Pakistani authorities were examining the case to ascertain the facts behind the listing.

Ready for discussions

Zakaria called the timing of the sanctions "intriguing." He told VOA that Pakistan was ready to work with the U.S. at the level of experts to devise mutually agreed-upon procedures for end-use guarantees.

"This will help in assuring nondiversion of high-technology exports from the U.S. without hampering our legitimate imports for socioeconomic development activities," the Pakistani spokesman said.

Pakistan officials insist their missile and nuclear programs are "completely indigenous," and that U.S. sanctions will have "little bearing" on them.

"It means nothing for us," said a senior official associated with the projects. He requested not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The officials described the sanctions as a politically motivated move aimed at creating problems for the incoming Donald Trump administration's relations with Pakistan.

Islamabad has developed and equipped its armed forces with a variety of short-, medium- and long-range missiles, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.

The program has raised concerns in Washington about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, though Islamabad dismisses such issues as misplaced.

Riaz Haq said...

China blocks India's request for U.N. to blacklist militant chief

China has blocked India's request to add the head of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad to a U.N. Security Council blacklist of groups linked to al Qaeda, India said on Friday.

India has accused Jaish-e-Mohammad and its top leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, of masterminding several attacks, including a deadly assault on an Indian air base in January.

Pakistani security officials interrogated Azhar and his associates after the attack, and said they found no evidence linking him to it.

Jaish-e-Mohammad has already been blacklisted by the 15-nation Security Council, but not Azhar, an Islamist hardliner and long-time foe of India.

Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said that India had requested that Azhar be added to the list nine months ago and had received strong backing from all other members of the council.

But China, which put a hold on the move in April, had now blocked it, he said.

"We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism," he said in a statement.

Swarup added that the inability of the international community to take the step showed the "prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism".

China's foreign ministry said there were different views about the case, so China had put forward a "technical shelving" to give more time for consultation, but that regretfully no consensus had been reached.

China's aim is to maintain the authority and effectiveness of name listing by the committee discussing the case, which accords with Security Council resolutions and is the responsible thing to do, it said in a statement sent to Reuters.

China will continue to maintain communication with all parties, it added.

India has long accused its neighbour and rival Pakistan of using Jaish-e-Mohammad as a proxy to mount attacks on Indian soil, including in the disputed Kashmir region, and earlier gave what it called "actionable intelligence" to Pakistan, including telephone intercepts.

Pakistan denies giving any aid to Kashmir-based militants.

If Azhar was blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council, he would face a global travel ban and asset freeze.

Riaz Haq said...

#India may matter less in the world during #Trump presidency. #Pakistan, #China #Russia #Asia

The diplomatic cover afforded by the Obama administration allowed the Modi government to focus its energies on isolating Pakistan internationally and get away with a heavy-handed policy in Kashmir – both policies that served to bolster the BJP domestically. Russia and China were relatively marginal to India’s diplomatic considerations, even though Delhi valued Moscow as a source of weapons and energy while the enhanced trade with China created a measure of interdependence that managed tensions. Delhi could choose not to participate in China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructural initiative because the US, Western powers and Japan were envisaged as the primary sources of security, legitimacy and resources for India.

This entire calculus now stands upended. Trump is keen on dismantling the pillars of US foreign policy in a manner that makes the US’ political and bureaucratic machinery deeply uncomfortable. He wants to scale back American commitments abroad, he’d like to focus on an ‘America first’ policy and is expected to be explicitly transactional in his dealings with other countries. He has chosen a pro-Russian figure in Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State and picked China hawk Peter Navarro to head the National Trade Council, leading many to anticipate serious tensions with China on trade issues.

Some in Delhi may believe that an aggressive US that counters an assertive China works for India. But policymakers will know that it is one thing to play geopolitical chess in peace time, i.e. strengthen regional partnerships to counter a rising power, and quite another being on the cusp of a US-China conflict in Asia and having to choose sides. It’s not clear if such developments will materialise soon, but the scene of global politics will move to great power dynamics between US, Russia and China. India will be peripheral to the concerns of all three for different reasons.

As far as the US is concerned, it is not clear how much attention Trump will devote to India while he is preoccupied with the inevitable domestic turbulence his presidency will generate and the resetting of ties with Russia and China. India’s leverage abroad now appears to depend on the Washington security establishment’s ability to normalise Trump and make him aware of Delhi’s utility to American strategy in Asia. But that establishment itself will take time recovering and coping with the changes he wants and India as a priority could slip in the process. Trump did not mention India in his foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016 and it is not clear if he has any definite ideas as to what to do with the relationship.

Riaz Haq said...

#Obama's actions speak louder than words. 3 US bombs an hour were dropped in 2016 on 7 Muslim nations incl #Pakistan

The U.S. dropped an average of 72 bombs every day — the equivalent of three an hour — in 2016, according to an analysis of American strikes around the world.

The report from the Council of Foreign Relations comes as Barack Obama finishes up his presidency — one that began with promises to withdraw from international conflicts.

According to the New York City-based think tank, 26,171 bombs were dropped on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan during the year.

CFR warned that its estimates were "undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single 'strike,' according to the Pentagon's definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions."

Related: U.S. Airstrikes Kill Twice the Civilians Previously Thought

Some 24,287 bombs were used in Iraq and Syria, where the U.S. is helping drive ISIS militants from swaths of both countries. In 2015, the U.S. dropped 22,110 bombs in Iraq and Syria, CFR reported.

Last year saw a sharp uptick in strikes in Afghanistan, with 1,337 compared with 947 in 2015, CFR found.

The study, which drew data from a variety of military and press sources, showed that three bombs were dropped on Pakistan during 2016, 14 in Somalia and 34 in Yemen.

A similar study looking at 2015 showed that 11 bombs were dropped in Pakistan during the year, 58 in Yemen and 18 in Somalia. The 2015 analysis did not include Libya.

When he was campaigning for president in 2008, Obama pledged that when he became commander-in-chief he would "set a new goal on day one: I will end [the Iraq] war."

Upon accepting the Democratic nomination that year, Obama again outlined priorities that would make the country safer, saying: "I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan."

However, ISIS later seized parts of Syria and Iraq — and the Taliban won back territory in Afghanistan as the number of NATO troops in the country dwindled.

Riaz Haq said...

#China makes worldwide ports' investments as great maritime power. #CPEC #Gwadar #Pakistan … … via @F

Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Gwadar is perched on the world’s energy jugular. Sea lanes nearby carry most of China’s oil imports; any disruption could choke the world’s second-largest economy.

Owned, financed and built by China, Gwadar occupies a strategic location. Yet Islamabad and Beijing for years denied any military plans for the harbour, insisting it was a purely commercial project to boost trade. Now the mask is slipping.

“As Gwadar becomes more active as a port, Chinese traffic both commercial and naval will grow to this region,” says a senior foreign ministry official in Islamabad. “There are no plans for a permanent Chinese naval base. But the relationship is stretching out to the sea.”

Gwadar is part of a much bigger ambition, driven by President Xi Jinping, for China to become a maritime superpower. An FT investigation reveals how far Beijing has already come in achieving that objective over the past six years.

Investments into a vast network of harbours across the globe have made Chinese port operators the world leaders. Its shipping companies carry more cargo than those of any other nation — five of the top 10 container ports in the world are in mainland China with another in Hong Kong. Its coastguard has the globe’s largest maritime law enforcement fleet, its navy is the world’s fastest growing among major powers and its fishing armada numbers some 200,000 seagoing vessels.

The emergence of China as a maritime superpower is set to challenge a US command of the seas that has underwritten a crucial element of Pax Americana, the relative period of peace enjoyed in the west since the second world war. As US President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take power, strategic tensions between China and the US are already evident in the South China Sea, where Beijing has pledged to enforce its claim to disputed islands and atolls. Rex Tillerson, the Trump nominee for US secretary of state, said on Wednesday that Washington should block Beijing’s access to the islands. Relations were also dented over Mr Trump’s warm overtures toward Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province.

China understands maritime influence in the same way as Alfred Thayer Mahan, the 19th century American strategist. “Control of the sea,” Mr Mahan wrote, “by maritime commerce and naval supremacy, means predominant influence in the world; because, however great the wealth of the land, nothing facilitates the necessary exchanges as does the sea.”

Drummed into military service

The Gwadar template, where Beijing used its commercial know-how and financial muscle to secure ownership over a strategic trading base, only to enlist it later into military service, has been replicated in other key locations.

In Sri Lanka, Greece and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, Chinese investment in civilian ports has been followed by deployments or visits of People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels and in some cases announcements of longer term military contingencies.

“There is an inherent duality in the facilities that China is establishing in foreign ports, which are ostensibly commercial but quickly upgradeable to carry out essential military missions,” says Abhijit Singh, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “They are great for the soft projection of hard power.”

Data compiled or commissioned by the Financial Times from third-party sources show the extent of China’s dominance in most maritime domains.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Is the Crisis Flying Under the Radar. #Trump needs to increase #military, #economic #aid to #Pakistan

First, the Trump administration should recognize that our levers to influence Pakistan are limited — but not entirely impotent. While we can and should be working to strengthen national ties with India, this must be done in a way that is not threatening to Pakistan. Thus, the first best option to help achieve stability in South Asia is to do all we can to encourage India to try to resolve differences with its neighbor. Washington’s role could include top-level official visits to both capitals; offering unofficial “Track 2” negotiating programs; and explicitly making peace and stability in South Asia a U.S. strategic interest, identified in our national strategic planning documents.

Second, the Trump administration should increase military assistance to Pakistan in the counterterrorism fight on the Afghan-Pakistani border. A long source of frustration for U.S. military planners — including during my time as NATO’s supreme allied commander responsible for combat operations in Afghanistan — has been Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban. Developing a package of counterterrorism incentives for Pakistan that requires a quid pro quo of their reducing and eventually dropping support for insurgents within Afghanistan is key. Such incentives could include more robust intelligence sharing; better surveillance and strike technology; and joint operations. Washington’s efforts to sell weapons, surveillance, and intelligence systems to Islamabad have been uneven to say the least. Setting out a coherent, reliable pipeline of military assistance and sales would be very helpful.

A third idea would be to increase soft-power support in Pakistan. When the United States and NATO led relief efforts following the massive earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, it had a significant and positive impact on America’s image in the country. Providing more financial aid tied to education, medicine, and humanitarian projects could help. This is an area where much suspicion lingers following medical programs that are perceived to have been tied to intelligence gathering. We need effective strategic communications alongside the aid to help recover.

A question that arises in the context of soft power is whether to impose conditions on Pakistan in return for the aid it receives. While Republicans in Congress have pushed a more conservative approach to use aid as a tactic to pressure Pakistan, it is unclear how the new administration will approach this. In general, it would be wise to consider both our short- and long-term priorities in the region: Too often, a focus on eradicating terrorism today fails to address the circumstances that drive people to extremism in the first place.Too often, a focus on eradicating terrorism today fails to address the circumstances that drive people to extremism in the first place. Using aid to strengthen democratic stability, create opportunities for citizens, and increase investments to grow the economy will translate into long-term benefits that help minimize incentives to turn to extremism.

Fourth and finally, it would make sense to internationalize our efforts. Working with other nations — Britain or Germany, for example — could leverage the impact of our efforts. There are also international organizations, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, that exercise considerable influence in Pakistan. Strategizing jointly with international partners can help.

Riaz Haq said...

Stratfor recommends #America use divide-and-conquer strategy in the #MidEast #Iran #SaudiArabia #Sunni #Shia #ISIS …

From the beginning of American history, the U.S. has used the divisions in the world to achieve its ends. The American Revolution prevailed by using the ongoing tension between Britain and France to convince the French to intervene. In World War II, facing Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union, the United States won the war by supplying the Soviets with the wherewithal to bleed the German army dry, opening the door to American invasion and, with Britain, the occupation of Europe.
Unless you have decisive and overwhelming power, your only options are to decline combat, vastly increase your military force at staggering cost and time, or use divergent interests to recruit a coalition that shares your strategic goal. Morally, the third option is always a painful strategy. The United States asking monarchists for help in isolating the British at Yorktown was in a way a deal with the devil. The United States allying with a murderous and oppressive Soviet Union to defeat another murderous and oppressive regime was also a deal with the devil. George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt both gladly made these deals, each knowing a truth about strategy: What comes after the war comes after the war. For now, the goal is to reach the end of the war victorious.

In the case of the Middle East, I would argue that the United States lacks the forces or even a conceivable strategy to crush either the Sunni rising or Iran. Iran is a country of about 80 million defended to the west by rugged mountains and to the east by harsh deserts. This is the point where someone inevitably will say that the U.S. should use air power. This is the point where I will say that whenever Americans want to win a war without paying the price, they fantasize about air power because it is low-cost and irresistible. Air power is an adjunct to war on the ground. It has never proven to be an effective alternative.
The idea that the United States will simultaneously wage wars in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and emerge victorious is fantasy. What is not fantasy is the fact that the Islamic world, both strategically and tactically, is profoundly divided. The United States must decide who is the enemy. “Everybody” is an emotionally satisfying answer to some, but it will lead to defeat. The United States cannot fight everyone from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush. It can indefinitely carry out raids and other operations, but it can’t win.
To craft an effective strategy, the United States must go back to the strategic foundations of the republic: a willingness to ally with one enemy to defeat another. The goal should be to ally with the weaker enemy, or the enemy with other interests, so that one war does not immediately lead to another. At this moment, the Sunnis are weaker than the Iranians. But there are far more Sunnis, they cover a vast swath of ground and they are far more energized than Iran. Currently, Iran is more powerful, but I would argue the Sunnis are more dangerous. Therefore, I am suggesting an alignment with the Iranians, not because they are any more likable (and neither were Stalin or Louis XVI), but because they are the convenient option.
The Iranians hate and fear the Sunnis. Any opportunity to crush the Sunnis will appeal. The Iranians are also as cynical as George Washington was. But in point of fact, an alliance with the Sunnis against the Shiites could also work. The Sunnis despise the Iranians, and given the hope of crushing them, the Sunnis could be induced to abandon terrorism. There are arguments to be made on either side, as there is in Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump admin requests #US #Congress for $743 million in #aid to #Pakistan for FY2017, up from $662 million last year

PRESIDENT DONALD Trump’s administration has put in place a modest enhancement of military and civilian aid to Pakistan — the first reversal of a uninterrupted five-year decline — for the 2017 financial year, requisitioning $743 million, against a post 9/11 low of $662 million in 2016, according to figures released by the authoritative Congressional Research Service on Friday.
Aid to the civilian sector makes up the larger part of the increase, rising from $352 million last year to $423. Of that $400 million is made up of the Economic Support Fund, a programme the State Department says is meant to encourage countries facing terrorism to join “the community of well-governed states that act responsibly in the international system”.
However, military assistance has also increased marginally, from $310 million to $320 million. The figures do not include Coalition Support Funds, or CSF-reimbursements made for logistical and operational support of US troops in theatres like Afghanistan.
In 2017, the National Defence Authorisation Act allows the US to pay Pakistan up to $1.1 billion in CSF, of which $400 million is subject to the condition that it has taken action against the Taliban-linked network of Sirajuddin Haqqani. In 2015, the US paid $550 million in CSF to Pakistan.
Aid to Pakistan declined sharply since 2011, reflecting a downturn in relations, when the country received $2.463 billion in aid. In 2012, the total fell to $1.916 billion, and further to $1.195 billion in 2013, before dipping to $979 million in 2014.