Sunday, December 7, 2008

America's Afghan War Effort Relies on Pakistan

Pakistan's significance in the US "global war on terror" was highlighted again yesterday as the media reported yet another major attack on US supply lines through Pakistan. In this attack, 96 flat trucks and six containers were destroyed, including a 40-foot container, armored jeeps, trucks and fire engines, according to Reuters.

Pakistani truckers say that more than 350 trucks carry an average of 7,000 tons of supplies over the Khyber Pass to Kabul every day. Almost 75% of all supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan, including 40 percent of the fuel sent to troops, the majority through Peshawar. Last month, militants looted a convoy of 12 trucks carrying Humvees and food supplies as they traveled through the Khyber Pass.

Following US strikes in Pakistan in November this year, Pakistan's decision to temporarily bar some trucks from a key passageway to Afghanistan threatened a critical supply route for U.S. and NATO troops and raised more fears about deteriorating security situation in the border region.

The U.S. military has been looking at alternate routes to send supplies to troops in Afghanistan in case Pakistan makes current supply lines unavailable, the Pentagon said last year. There have been reports of US contemplating longer but safer overland supply routes to Afghanistan through Europe. Apparently not much has changed in a year, indicating lack of success of the US efforts.

"The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country will be defended at all cost and no external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan," said Pakistan's General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in a strong statement against US military incursion in FATA. General Kayani, named by Time magazine among the 100 most influential people of the world, was commenting on a cross-border raid allegedly by US-led coalition troops based in neighboring Afghanistan in which 15 Pakistanis were killed. "Such reckless actions only help the militants and further fuel the militancy in the area," he was quoted as saying.

The U.S. is "running out of time" to win the war in Afghanistan, and sending in more troops will not guarantee victory, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, warned Congress recently. Mullen said he is convinced the Afghanistan war can be won but said the U.S. urgently needs to improve its nation-building initiatives and its cross-border strategy with Pakistan, according to CNN.

It is clear that there is growing resentment and impatience on both the US and Pakistani sides. Military leaders Kayani and Mullen seem to be indicating that the US and Pakistan are heading toward an unnecessary military confrontation. But is it inevitable?

To understand the Pakistani position, let me refer the readers to what Gary Leupp, a history professor at Tufts University has to say. According to him, Pakistan has provided more assistance to the United States than any other nation as it pursues its goals in southwest Asia. No country has been more dramatically destabilized as the price of its cooperation.

“But not only does the U.S. political class take this disastrous compliance for granted, it wants to further emphasize Islamabad’s irrelevance by attacking the border area at will,” he writes.

The US dilemma is captured well in what Admiral Mullen told Congress today. Mullen stressed that Afghanistan can't be referenced without "speaking of Pakistan," where, he said, the militant groups collaborate and communicate better, launch more sophisticated attacks, employ foreign fighters and use civilians as human shields.

"In my view, these two nations are inextricably linked in a common insurgency that crosses the border between them," he said, adding that he plans "to commission a new, more comprehensive strategy for the region, one that covers both sides of the border.

"I have pressed hard on my counterparts in Pakistan to do more against extremists and to let us do more to help them," he said.

There is a constant refrain from US and NATO urging Pakistan to "do more" while undermining its sovereignty by humiliating its government and military to make them both look weak and irrelevant. Such treatment meted out to its "ally" is not winning the US any friends or positively influencing people in Pakistan to support the US war on terror. On the contrary, it is reinforcing the terrorists and radicalizing Pakistanis to oppose the US presence in region.

Recently, the American officials and media completely ignored the fact that the growing admiration of Israel and the urge to emulate Israel often find expression in the Indian media. Those who argue for "doing a Lebanon" in Pakistan have once again found growing support in India with the government and the media joining the chorus of accusations of Pakistan's complicity in Mumbai attacks. Saber rattling has also started with India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee not ruling out military strikes in Pakistan. President-elect Obama has come out in support of India's right "to protect themselves". Asked if India had the right to “take out” high-value targets inside Pakistan with or without the permission of Islamabad, as he espousing in regard to the U.S. under his presidency, he said: “I think that sovereign nations, obviously, have a right to protect themselves". This is the same kind of language that President Bush has often used in support of Israel's attacks on Palestinians and Lebanese.

In the context of Pakistan's anti-American public opinion, the country's ongoing crises, and the growing US demands on Pakistan, the future of US-Pakistan relations and the chances of success in the "war on terror" do not look particularly bright. The only solution to this darkening mood in both nations is a serious and sincere effort by each to improve their bilateral relationship based on a recognition of mutual interests and genuine needs. The incoming Obama administration has an opportunity to change the US tone with Pakistan in January 2009 to make the friendship genuine and useful to both partners in the war on terror. Barack Obama's oft-repeated position that Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations can not be isolated from the "war on terror" in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in the world offers a good starting point for discussion.

As long as the Kashmir issue remains unresolved, Pakistan, India and the US can not win the "war on terror" and bring peace and stability to the South Asian region. Recent Mumbai attacks and the ostensible Kashmir link have confirmed that yet again. India's opposition to Mr. Obama's desire to mediate will test the Obama administration's resolve in seriously pursuing resolution of Kashmir.


Anonymous said...,0,5168309.story

Some more newspapers about Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

The Pakistani people do not believe that the attackers were from

Anonymous said...

New York times writes about pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Bruce Riedel and Barack Obama believe Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations can not be isolated from the "war on terror" in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. As long as the Kashmir issue remains unresolved, Pakistan, India and the US can not win the "war on terror" and bring peace and stability to the South Asia region. Mumbai attacks have confirmed that yet again.

Ameet said...

India does not need pakistan in its current form. As far as a war goes, we have too many problems of our own to contend with rather than obsess over Pakistan. India has lost over 60000 people to terrorism ever since the russians evacuated afghanistan and insurgency began in kashmir. As an economic superpower, we will absorb some more losses and move on. Maybe attack some terrorist bases in Pak territory with US Complicity, strengthen our borders and sea routes, Impose sanctions on Pakistan, Put an end to samjhauta etc. What does pakistan want for itself remains to be seen. Currently it just looks like a failed state waiting to implode. It doesnt help India, but for us in India, what choice do we have other than to wait and see how things play out.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan has a lot of political, economic and security challenges. But I don't agree that it is even close to being a failed state. Not only does it have a powerful, nuclear-armed military to keep it together, it also has a functioning bureaucracy that runs day-to-day government reasonably well. Examples of failed states are Afghanistan and Somalia, both represent a far cry from the situation in Pakistan.

Besides, it is not in anyone's interest, particularly its neighbors, to see Pakistan become a failed state. The consequences of such a failed state would be unimaginable compared to Afghanistan's or Somalia's failures.

Ameet, Instead of wishing for Pakistan to become a failed state, you should be praying and hoping that it does not fail. It would be disastrous for India, South Asia and the rest of the world, if it does fail.

Riaz Haq said...

According to The New York Times, The United States and NATO are planning to open and expand supply lines through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other goods to a military mission in Afghanistan that is expected to grow by tens of thousands of troops in the months ahead, according to American and alliance diplomats and military officials.

The plan to open new paths through Central Asia reflects an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass, which was closed by Pakistani security forces on Tuesday as they launched an offensive against militants in the region.

The militants have shown they can threaten shipments through the pass into Afghanistan, burning cargo trucks and American Humvees over recent weeks. More than 80 percent of the supplies for American and allied forces in Afghanistan now flow through Pakistan.

But the new arrangements could leave the United States more reliant on cooperation from authoritarian countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which have poor records when it comes to democracy and human rights.

The officials said delicate negotiations were under way not only with the Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan, but with Russia, as well, to work out the details of new supply routes. The talks show the continued importance of American and NATO cooperation with the Kremlin, despite lingering tension over Russia’s August war with Georgia.

American officials said they were trying to allay Central Asian concerns by promising that the supplies would be hauled by commercial shipping companies only and would not include weapons or munitions. Officials also say that no additional American bases will be required on their territory.

Some of Afghanistan’s neighbors, in particular Kyrgyzstan, already serve as staging areas for American supplies bound for Afghanistan, and officials involved in the talks said these countries appeared eager to increase their role, both to help bring stability in the region, and to benefit commercially from the arrangement.

Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan share Afghanistan’s northern border, and they have road transport routes into Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan, farther to the north, allows American military cargo planes access to its airfields, in a deal that has become more important since 2005, when the government of Uzbekistan ordered the United States to leave a base there in a dispute over human rights issues. American and NATO officials say concerns about Uzbekistan’s human rights record are less important to the current negotiations because no new bases are under discussion and any increased supply shipments would be handled by contracts with commercial trucking companies.

Among other states, Kazakhstan is viewed as a potentially important supply hub, while the Caspian Sea port of Baku, Azerbaijan, could be a potential transit point for shipments of fuel and other goods arriving from Europe by sea or by rail.

Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, chief of the American military’s Transportation Command, quietly visited nations along Afghanistan’s northern border last month, according to American military officials who declined to identify the countries by name because of diplomatic sensitivities.

“These countries of Central Asia recognize that this is their struggle, too, in Afghanistan,” said one State Department official, who said those border nations had responded positively to talks on “how to improve, regularize, expand and find additional routes in.”

NATO officials say the attacks in Pakistan have not yet presented a strategic threat to the American supply lines, but they also say planning for alternative routes is warranted.

“We always want flexibility,” said Gen. John Craddock, NATO’s military commander. “There is work ongoing in NATO to see what can be done about alternative lines of communication.”

President-elect Barack Obama has said that he intends to send more American troops to Afghanistan in the months ahead, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this month that 20,000 to 30,000 American troops could be added to the mission, with a large portion being sent in the first six months of next year.

About 31,000 American troops are currently in Afghanistan, including 14,000 who are part of a NATO-led mission that has more than 51,000 troops. The other 17,000 American troops operate independently of NATO to carry out combat, counterterrorism and training missions.

The increase outlined by Admiral Mullen could nearly double the size of the American presence, which would require not just more war-fighting equipment, food and fuel, but large increases in lumber, concrete and other construction materials to build barracks and other support structures. Officials say that because of Afghanistan’s land-locked status and its relatively primitive infrastructure of roads, it costs several times more to sustain an individual soldier there than in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, deputy commander of American forces in Afghanistan, said, “There’s a very huge building campaign that has already begun” to prepare for the arrival of those additional troops.

Under plans described by the American military, a goal would be to purchase significant amounts of supplies locally from those Central Asian economies. Other supplies could be shipped to Central Asia by air, but heavy construction equipment and fuel would be sent by rail to Central Asia, where it would then be loaded on trucks for the final journey into Afghanistan.

Some supplies could be sent directly from Europe or through Baltic ports, then sent overland along Russia’s well-developed rail system to Central Asia. Russia today is the principal source of fuel for the alliance’s needs in Afghanistan, and the Kremlin already allows shipment of other nonlethal supplies bound for Afghanistan to travel across Russian territory by ground.

In a new development, NATO and Russian representatives now are discussing whether NATO might be allowed to move military equipment through Russian airspace, alliance officials said.

“Talks are now under way for a NATO-wide air transit for military goods, not specified as nonlethal,” said James Appathurai, NATO’s chief spokesman.

“Those talks are going well,” Mr. Appathurai added. “The Russian Federation has publicly and repeatedly made it clear that this is an issue of strategic interest to them, and that despite disagreements we have over other issues, this area of cooperation has been walled off and preserved. We expect it to be deepened.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the latest on alternative Central Asia/Russia supply roue for US/NATO forces in Afgha

Patreus said the Pakistan route had been flowing "generally freely" in recent weeks but that the US and Nato had sought "additional logistical routes from the north".

He added: "There have been agreements reached and there are transit lines now and transit agreements for commercial goods and services in particular that include several countries in the Central Asian states and also Russia."

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says most of Nato's supplies are transported overland through Pakistan, but support for the Nato war effort in Afghanistan is unpopular in Pakistan and supply trucks have increasingly been attacked by local militants.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from "Playing the China Card: Has the Obama Administration Miscalculated in Pakistan?" by Dilip Hiro, as published in The Huffingon Post:

Washington often acts as if Pakistan were its client state, with no other possible patron but the United States. It assumes that Pakistani leaders, having made all the usual declarations about upholding the “sacred sovereignty” of their country, will end up yielding to periodic American demands, including those for a free hand in staging drone attacks in its tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. This is a flawed assessment of Washington’s long, tortuous relationship with Islamabad.

A recurring feature of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been its failure to properly measure the strengths (as well as weaknesses) of its challengers, major or minor, as well as its friends, steadfast or fickle. To earlier examples of this phenomenon, one may now add Pakistan.

That country has an active partnership with another major power, potentially a viable substitute for the U.S. should relations with the Obama administration continue to deteriorate. The Islamabad-Washington relationship has swung from close alliance in the Afghan anti-Soviet jihad years of the 1980s to unmistaken alienation in the early 1990s, when Pakistan was on the U.S. watch list as a state supporting international terrorism. Relations between Islamabad and Beijing, on the other hand, have been consistently cordial for almost three decades. Pakistan’s Chinese alliance, noted fitfully by the U.S., is one of its most potent weapons in any future showdown with the Obama administration.

Another factor, also poorly assessed, affects an ongoing war. While, in the 1980s, Pakistan acted as the crucial conduit for U.S. aid and weapons to jihadists in Afghanistan, today it could be an obstacle to the delivery of supplies to America’s military in Afghanistan. It potentially wields a powerful instrument when it comes to the efficiency with which the U.S. and its NATO allies fight the Taliban. It controls the supply lines to the combat forces in that landlocked country.

Taken together, these two factors make Pakistan a far more formidable and independent force than U.S. policymakers concede publicly or even privately.

The Supply Line as Jugular

Angered at the potential duplicity of Pakistan in having provided a haven to Osama bin Laden for years, the Obama administration seems to be losing sight of the strength of the cards Islamabad holds in its hand.

To supply the 100,000 American troops now in Afghanistan, as well as 50,000 troops from other NATO nations and more than 100,000 employees of private contractors, the Pentagon must have unfettered access to that country through its neighbors. Among the six countries adjoining Afghanistan, only three have seaports, with those of China far too distant to be of practical use. Of the remaining two, Iran -- Washington’s number one enemy in the region -- is out. That places Pakistan in a unique position.

Currently about three-quarters of the supplies for the 400-plus U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan -- from gigantic Bagram Air Base to tiny patrol outposts -- go overland via Pakistan or through its air space. These shipments include almost all the lethal cargo and most of the fuel needed by U.S.-led NATO forces. On their arrival at Karachi, the only major Pakistani seaport, these supplies are transferred to trucks, which travel a long route to crossing points on the Afghan border. Of these, two are key: Torkham and Chaman.


Operated by some 4,000 Pakistani drivers and their helpers, nearly 300 trucks and oil tankers pass through Torkham and another 200 through Chaman daily. Increasing attacks on these convoys by Taliban-allied militants in Pakistan starting in 2007 led the Pentagon into a desperate search for alternative supply routes.

Riaz Haq said...

The closure of Pak routes poses a problem for withdrawing Canadian troops in Afghanistan, according to Montreal Gazette:

Hundreds of cargo containers of Canadian war supplies are stranded in volatile southern Afghanistan, thanks to an ongoing Pakistani blockade of routes exiting the landlocked country.

And with Pakistani officials preparing to impose steep tariffs on all NATO shipments transiting the country, the cost of Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan could increase by more than a half million dollars.

The Canadian Forces are trying to bring home thousands of tonnes of war equipment used during the nearly 10-year combat mission. Packed into some 446 sea containers, most of this cargo is currently stored at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.

High priority items — such as all armoured vehicles and ammunition — have already been flown out of Afghanistan on Canada's giant CC-177 Globemaster transport aircraft.

Nevertheless, much of the army's gear remains stuck in Afghanistan, Lt.-Col. John Nethercott told Postmedia News. He said the remaining items are "low priority in nature," and include tools, tents, forklifts, barbed wire and engineering equipment.

The Department of National Defence has granted a contract to move the containers from Afghanistan to Pakistan to A.J. Maritime, a Montreal-based freight forwarding firm.

It is believed the remaining 446 containers were supposed to exit Afghanistan's southeastern border post at Spin Boldak, then cross the deserts of Balochistan to the port of Karachi. Once at the port, the containers would be loaded onto ships for the sail home to Canada.

But Imran Ali, Pakistan's deputy consul general in Toronto, told Postmedia News Wednesday that the Afghan-Pakistan border is shut tight for now.

"No containers are passing as of today," he said. "There is a total sealing of the border."

Ali said this problem began when United States forces bombed two Pakistani border posts in late November, leaving 24 soldiers dead and 13 wounded. After a day of frenzied meetings about the "unprovoked attack," Pakistani officials announced they would take steps to disrupt NATO supply lines in and out of the Afghan theatre.

"The (Defence Committee of Cabinet) has decided to close with immediate effect the NATO/ISAF logistics supply lines," said a Nov. 26 statement by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

Following the closure of the border, Pakistan began a comprehensive policy review of its relations with NATO. Ali said the national security committee of the Pakistani parliament is "in the final stages of drawing out a policy" that will be published within three to four days.

Ali said Pakistan is considering levying a tax on all NATO containers passing through the country, and that officials have discussed a $1,500 U.S. charge per shipping container.

"Customs officials, along with foreign policy officials in Pakistan, are discussing the amount of levy to enforce," Ali said.

Such a tariff, applied to 446 containers, would cost Canada some $660,000 U.S..

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Global Post story on NATO using smugglers to supply its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan:

With few other options available to it since Pakistan closed its border crossings almost two months ago, NATO has at times resorted to paying local smugglers to get much-needed supplies to its troops fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials say.

The Pakistani and Afghan smugglers, who must pay bribes to militants to travel safely through some areas, navigate treacherous routes over the 1,800-mile mountainous divide that separates the two countries to bring containers of oil, food and other essential items — all at a price — to soldiers on the other side.

“Borders mean nothing to us. We have been crossing in and out for centuries,” Sahib Khan, a smuggler who said NATO had hired him, told GlobalPost.

The hiring of illegal smugglers came after a failed attempt by NATO to pay private companies, which truck goods across the border under the Pakistan-Afghanistan Free Trade Agreement (PATA). These private companies, Pakistani officials said, were secretly swapping out their normal cargo for NATO supplies until Pakistani security forces caught wind of the scam.

A senior officer for the Frontier Corps, an elite military unit that is responsible for security along the border, told GlobalPost that a total ban on the movement of containers under PATA, which was signed in 2010 to promote bilateral trade, eventually foiled the strategy.

“We had concrete evidence that some of the containers being imported by private companies, under PATA, were being used to smuggle supplies for NATO troops under cover of commercial imports,” the official said.
Smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan has long been a profitable and vibrant business. Various trade agreements have been signed between the two neighbors in a bid to contain the practice, but high import and export taxes coupled with little government oversight, thwarted those attempts.

Mostly items like flour, edible oil, lentils, dried vegetables, contraband cigarettes, and animals for meat are smuggled into Afghanistan, while spare auto parts, electronics and unregistered vehicles are smuggled the other direction.

Smuggling is so widespread that it has become the backbone of the economy in towns and villages along the border, where locally it is treated simply as normal trade. The mountainous terrain provides an edge over security to smugglers who regularly trickle across the border without any trouble.

Sahib said that most of the food and oil supplies he has carried across the border for NATO originate from the southern port city of Karachi, and are moved through Peshawar and Quetta, and finally through Pakistan’s tribal areas, which are largely under the authority of various militant groups.

For those militants, the smugglers have been an important source of income. Smugglers are required to pay “rahdari,” or “passage,” an unofficial tax that allows them safe passage.

“Once we are onto the route, it’s the responsibility of those who receive rahdari to ensure we are able to safely enter into Afghanistan,” Sahib said.

Any smuggling that is done on behalf of NATO can in no way make up for the closed borders, however. Smugglers say they carry between 20 and 25 small containers a day while, when the border crossings were open, NATO shipped an average of 250 large containers a day — making the reopening of the borders essential to the war effort.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's US Army Times on the importance of Pakistani routes for withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan:

Cargo lines through Pakistan need to reopen for the U.S. to bring troops and equipment back on schedule as the war draws down, the top general of Transportation Command told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Despite increased support from European, Central Asian and Baltic countries to open the Northern Distribution Network to Afghanistan, the U.S. and allied forces need the Pakistan Ground Line of Communication, or GLOC, as the drawdown in Afghanistan ramps up, Gen. William Fraser said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“With the amount of equipment we need to move ... we need the Pakistan GLOC open,” Fraser said. “Because of the large numbers that we are talking about that we need to bring out in a timely manner.”

TRANSCOM moved an average of 40 percent of cargo through a network of truck, water, rail and air routes — approximately 27,000 containers in 2011, he said. While this was an increase of 15 percent from 2010, the U.S. moved more than 35,000 containers through Pakistan by ground transportation before the border was closed in November. The governments that agreed to the Northern Distribution Network have given permission to move armored vehicles and other eligible commodities, but not weapons, Fraser said.

In the meantime, Fraser said, the NDN is adequate and airlift crews are identifying and moving excess equipment from Afghanistan now.

“As every aircraft goes in, if it has pallet positions, if it has capacity on it, then we are making sure we put something on that aircraft and bring it back out,” Fraser said.

TRANSCOM is also working with commercial agencies to get around the closed border. In November, 39 ships with hundreds of containers headed for Afghanistan were diverted to Dubai and Aqaba, Jordan, where they were stored and airlifted into Afghanistan, Fraser said in his testimony.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Asia Times Op Ed by Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar on Chinese & Russian envoys' visits to Pakistan:

The back-to-back visits to Pakistan this week by China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and the Russian president's special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, are rich in political symbolism and strategic content.

The consultations came at a time when Pakistan is reeling under pressure from the United States, the future of Afghanistan remains complicated and regional security is in flux.

The timing of the consultations will draw attention - since they were sandwiched between the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Chicago on May 20-21 and the forthcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Beijing on June 6-7. Afghanistan is a burning issue for both international groupings.
Yang underscored that China will unwaveringly pursue the policy of further strengthening its friendship with Pakistan and is willing to work together to deepen practical cooperation and strengthen the strategic coordination and elevate the partnership to new heights.

Xinhua news agency reported that China and Pakistan have agreed to "strengthen multilateral coordination and to safeguard the common interests of both sides." The reference seems to be to Pakistan's role in the SCO, whose forthcoming summit in Beijing will be attended by Zardari.

While Yang's official visit had a broad-ranging agenda, Kabulov's consultations were focused and purposive. He came to Islamabad primarily to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the forthcoming visit to Pakistan by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kabulov is Moscow's ace diplomatic troubleshooter on Afghanistan. The Pakistani accounts quoted him as saying to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani that "enormous commonalities" existed between Russia and Pakistan on regional issues and bilateral cooperation. Clearly, the reference is to the situation surrounding the Afghan problem, where both Russia and Pakistan have been seeking a bigger role while the US selectively engages them for specific roles.

Putin's visit to Pakistan, which is expected "soon", will be the first by a Russian head of state in the six-decade long history of relations between the two countries. It will consolidate the remarkable makeover in the two countries' relations in the past two to three years.

The fact that Putin picked Pakistan to be one of his first visits abroad after taking over as president in the Kremlin itself testifies to the "mood swing" in the geopolitics of the region. Many trends need to be factored in here.

Russia is gearing up to play an effective role in world affairs. Its assertive stance on Syria and Iran can be expected to extend to Pakistan and Central Asia. Russia kept its participation over the NATO summit on a low-key and saw to it that none of the Central Asian leaders who were invited - from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - attended either. Meanwhile, Moscow also hosted a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Putin is undertaking visits to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan during the week ahead and is virtually launching his Eurasian project.
The utter failure of the US strategy in Afghanistan stands exposed in terms of its exceptionalism and the stark absence of a regional consensus. Yang and Kabulov could and should have been the US's best allies in urging Pakistan to work with the international community for an enduring peace in Afghanistan. The paradox is that even in the prevailing situation of high volatility in the US's relations with Russia and China they might well have done that, but without Washington's bidding.

Riaz Haq said...

Senators McCain (R-Az) and Feinstein (D-CA) have both said US should apologize to Pakistan for Salala incident.

Now here's a Counterpunch piece by Brian Cloghley:

With respect to the Sudeten German problem my patience is now exhausted! I have made Mr Benes an offer, which contains nothing but the realization of what he himself assured us would be done. The decision is in his hands! Peace or war!

Adolf Hitler, Berlin, September 26, 1938

We are reaching the limits of our patience here, and for that reason it is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place [sic] and allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces.

Leon Panetta, Kabul, June 7, 2012

So what is Leon Panetta going to do if militant attacks on US forces in Afghanistan continue? Of course it’s easy to blame Pakistan for the outcome of the war begun by America in Afghanistan. After all, somebody has to take the blame for the shambles, and it can’t possibly be Washington. But Mr Panetta and the rest of the blame-shifters had better take care, because if they try to do to Pakistan what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia in 1939 they will find rather stiffer opposition than that offered by the poor bullied Czechs.

Mr Panetta’s complaint is that militants based in Pakistan (mainly tribal Afghans, Arabs of various weird persuasions, and gangs of thugs from the Central Asian Republics) cross into Afghanistan and join their comrades there to conduct attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. But before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 there were no Afghan Taliban or other foreign extremists in Pakistan. There were no militant bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region was hardly tranquil, simply because the tribes continued to be as hot-blooded as they have been for centuries, but there was nothing approaching the insurgency that now exists — that was caused entirely by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Before the US invasion of Afghanistan there had been one single suicide bombing in Pakistan (in 1995, and that was by an Egyptian loony). Last year there were over forty. And since the US invasion of Afghanistan the entire border region has been destabilized and Pakistan’s internal security situation has become dire. In the years after the US invasion of Afghanistan drove Taliban and other militants out of the country the Pakistan army and the para-military Frontier Corps have lost 3,019 soldiers killed in operations against them along the Afghan border. 9,681 have been wounded. (US deaths in Afghanistan: 2,002.)
So, Adolf Panetta, you loud-mouthed bullyboy with eroding patience : Just what are you going to do? Take on the Pakistan army? If you do, you had better expect “full force” against you. I’ve known the Pakistan army for over thirty years and I tell you that every single member of it will fight to the death against any forays you order when you “reach the limits of your patience.”

It’s a pity that you and Obama Hosanna have not the slightest understanding of the front line of combat, with real soldiers. You might alter your views about patience if you had experienced actual fear. But you are both just bullies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times' behind-the-scenes story on re-opening of NATO supply lines thru Pakistan:

The breakthrough, American and Pakistani officials say now, was not won through the high diplomacy efforts that dominated headlines through that stretch, but rather through an unconventional back channel run by a low-key duo: Thomas R. Nides, a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Pakistan’s finance minister.
“The bean counters did it,” said a senior American official, in comments intended to convey admiration rather than disparagement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as did several others interviewed about the talks.

The channel between Mr. Nides and Mr. Shaikh was established in late May amid secrecy after months of mishaps and missed opportunities on the part of more seasoned players. Much of it revolved around the vexed notion of an American apology.

At first Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, asked the Americans to stall their apology until Parliament met. But by the time she met Mrs. Clinton in London in February, anti-American riots had seized Afghanistan after an episode in which American troops burned copies of the Koran. Mr. Obama’s expression of regret for that caused his aides to caution against a similar gesture to Pakistan, amid fears that the president’s rivals could label him as “apologizer-in-chief.”

A major NATO conference in Chicago in May stirred hopes of a breakthrough. But on the first day of the meeting, an article in The Chicago Tribune by the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Sherry Rehman, listed five Pakistani demands, annoying Mr. Obama, said senior officials on both sides. “It really set us back,” one American said.

A day later, Mrs. Clinton and President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the channel between Mr. Nides and Mr. Shaikh. “Make it happen” she told Mr. Nides. Secrecy was paramount: only a tiny group of insiders on both sides was privy to the talks.

Through e-mails, conference calls and discreet meetings, at least four drafts of the American apology went back and forth. The two men played on their personal chemistry and shared business background, often eschewing the traditional posturing of diplomacy. They also had to contend with significant resistance in their own camps.

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, rejected early American offers of an apology for deaths “on both sides.” Mr. Nides pushed to bring around skeptics in the White House, where anti-Pakistan sentiment was hardening.

The president and his advisers were swayed, however, by money and geopolitics. The alternate supply route, through Central Asia, was costing the American military an extra $100 million per month, or about $17,000 per truck. That route was also, to some degree, hostage to the dissipating good will of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Positions shifted. At a barbecue at Pakistan’s Washington embassy residence in late June, the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, signaled to Ms. Rehman that the White House was ready to move. Mr. Shaikh invited Mr. Nides and an American team to Islamabad. On July 1, the two sides gathered in Ms. Khar’s Islamabad home for a fateful five-hour meeting.

It got off to a rocky start. General Kayani opened the meeting with a new draft apology that the Americans had not seen; Mr. Nides exploded with anger in protest, according to several people present, and officials from both sides took a break, venturing into the garden for fresh air.

On resuming, both sides calmed down and reworked the text, line by line. Two days later, in a carefully orchestrated maneuver, Mrs. Clinton phoned Ms. Khar and said “sorry” for the deaths of the 24 soldiers.

Days later, the first trucks rumbled out of a Karachi port, headed for Afghanistan.