Monday, November 28, 2011

US Military Undermining Interests in "AfPak"

The recent killings of 24 Pakistani soldiers by US forces have confirmed yet again that the US military tactics continue to undermine the overall strategy that leaders of both countries share. Professor Vali Nasr, former advisor to US State Dept, put it best when he told the New York Times, “It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog. U.S. commanders on the ground are deciding U.S.-Pakistan policy.”

The public reaction in Pakistan has been predictably swift and strong, forcing the nation's pro-American leadership to close critical land supply routes through Pakistan to 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. The next step will likely be a cut-off of the air-link over Pakistan airspace to US forces. On the diplomatic front, there could be tremendous damage to US efforts if the Pakistani government follows through on its threat to boycott the December 5 international conference on Afghanistan, at which 1,000 delegates from fifty countries are scheduled to convene in Germany to discuss plans to wind down the war.

In spite of the critical importance of relations with Pakistan, President Obama has been conspicuously silent, and the US politicians, including Senators John Kyl and Dick Durbin who spoke today, continue to treat this relationship carelessly by demanding "get tough" approach in the wake of the latest tragedy.

The US-Pakistan relations have been in a downward spiral since the passing of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a seasoned diplomat who helped build and implement a unified policy among various US departments and agencies dealing with Pakistan. His replacement Mark Grossman lacks Holbrooke's heft and behaves more as a subservient bureaucrat than a powerful diplomat. Grossman has been totally ineffective. President Obama's lack of interest combined with Grossman's lack of initiative are jeopardizing the entire US agenda in the region.

This is not the time to talk about "getting tough" with Pakistan. It's time for US to show contrition and apologize to the Pakistanis to assuage their anger. Once the anger has subsided, it'll be necessary for US to re-assess and re-engage with Pakistan with a more effective common and clear policy to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Is US-Pakistan Military Confrontation Inevitable?

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Military Mutiny in Pakistan?

Can US Aid Remake Pakistan?


Haseeb said...

Obama and most of the US congress have some kind of vendetta against Pakistan. I really don’t understand what that is and why? However, whatever that is it is not serving USA well. With this kind of ill-conceived behavior world is a more dangerous place to live. All the lives and money is not making US any safer. This troublesome situation must be dealt by US government very quickly. Letting US military commanders run the foreign policy is enormously dangerous and must not be allowed to continue any longer.

However, how come Zardari and Gilani have not said much in public against killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers? I find it mysterious. Is this whole thing being done to weaken Pakistani military to implement request made by Zardari in the infamous memo?

Riaz Haq said...

Haseeb: "Obama and most of the US congress have some kind of vendetta against Pakistan."

I have always been suspicious of Obama's problem solving capabilities and his attitude towards Pakistan.

Here's the link to a video of my 2008 interview on PBS Frontline:

Sher said...

True. but the only pressure Pakistan can place on U.S. is that of loosing a good fried. Will that work?

Suhail said...

The attack is in line with demands contained in the memo of HH/MI. It is improbable that Americans are acting on the memo; more likely they're independently pursuing the line of action and the memo a supporting part of the bigger picture. Most likely the Americans will apologize which will be face saving for Pakistani leadership, but such events will likely continue.

Please see below article which appeared in November 2007; the contents of which are quite plausible and many a time predictive of the events unfolding. The Americans may be sticking with carrying out the plan to whatever extent possible. This will depend on how much the Pakistani counter strategy allows them to. With the concentration span of Pakistani leadership, which may be slightly better than a chimpanzee, I'm not very sure if Pakistan has a counter strategy.

The Plan To Topple Pakistan & Pak Military

This is not about Musharraf anymore. This is about clipping the wings of a strong Pakistani military, denying space for China in Pakistan , squashing the ISI, stirring ethnic unrest, and neutralizing Pakistan 's nuclear program. The first shot in this plan was fired in Pakistan 's Balochistan province in 2004. The last bullet will be toppling Musharraf, sidelining the military and installing a pliant government in Islamabad . Musharraf shares the blame for letting things come this far. But he is also punching holes in Washington 's game plan. He needs to be supported.

ISLAMABAD , Pakistan — On the evening of Tuesday, 26 September, 2006, Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf walked into the studio of Comedy Central's 'Daily Show' with Jon Stewart, the first sitting president anywhere to dare do this political satire show.

Stewart offered his guest some tea and cookies and played the perfect host by asking, "Is it good?" before springing a surprise: "Where's Osama bin Laden?"

"I don't know," Musharraf replied, as the audience enjoyed the rare sight of a strong leader apparently cornered. " You know where he is?" Musharraf snapped back, "You lead on, we'll follow you."

What Gen. Musharraf didn't know then is that he really was being cornered. Some of the smiles that greeted him in Washington and back home gave no hint of the betrayal that awaited him.

As he completed the remaining part of his U.S. visit, his allies in Washington and elsewhere, as all evidence suggests now, were plotting his downfall. They had decided to take a page from the book of successful 'color revolutions' where western governments covertly used money, private media, student unions, NGOs and international pressure to stage coups, basically overthrowing individuals not fitting well with Washington's agenda.

This recipe proved its success in former Yugoslavia , and more recently in Georgia , Ukraine and Kazakhstan .

In Pakistan , the target is a Pakistani president who refuses to play ball with the United States on Afghanistan , China , and Dr. A.Q. Khan.
The Americans have been telling everyone in the world that they have paid Pakistan $10 billion dollars over the past five years. They might think this gives them the right to decide Pakistan 's destiny. What they don't tell the world is how Pakistan 's help secured for them their biggest footprint ever in energy-rich Central Asia .

If they forget, Islamabad can always remind them by giving them the same treatment that Uzbekistan did last year.

Umar said...

Pakistan has ordered US to vacate Shamsi in 15 days. What is Shamsi?

Shamsi Air base
Air Marshal Ayaz A Khan (R)

The disused Bhandari airstrip 200 miles south of Quetta in Balochistan was gifted to Shiekh Zahid Al-Nahyan the ruler of Abu Dhabi by the government of Pakistan in the 1990’s. The airstrip called Shamsi was developed by Emirates Shieks into a jet capable airfield , and was used for falcon hunting of rare Bustards in Balochistan. It was leased out to US Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 by UAE with President Musharraf’s approval, and was developed by the United States Air Force as a military air base in great secrecy for bombing of Afghanistan. CIA occupation of the base clearly had his approval. General Pervez Musharraf as President should have comprehended the long time strategic implications of handing over Shamsi air base to Washington! Development of of Shamsi for clandestine operations was kept a highly guarded secret, and Chief Minister Magsi and even Corps Commander were not allowed to visit it, when it was being developed for Drone operations and construction of the required infrastructure for this purpose was taking place. There is no evidence on record that the UAE government handed over Shamsi to the CIA for Drone operations. I was general Musharraf who handed over Shamsi and allowed US Air Force operations against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants from some other PAF bases including the Shahbaz Air Base. The PPP led government continued Musharraf’s policies till recently, and allowed CIA to launch Predator drones from Shamsi Air Base for the destruction of terrorist hideouts in FATA. Islamabad’s denials that the government was unaware of CIA drone operations from Shamsi till very recently, may be justified by being kept in the dark, by ally America, which has refused to share anti-terrorist intelligence with Pakistan.

The United States spent billions of dollars on the development of Shamsi air base. The USAF developed Bandari airstrip into a jet capable airfield with long runways for handling bombers and heavy transport aircraft. Shami has taxiways, tarmacs and refueling facilities for sustained bomber, fighter and drone operations. By 2006 Predator drones began to be launched against Taliban hideouts and selected targets in the tribal belt. Shamsi has remained a busy base for anti-terrorist operations in FATA. Few weeks back Washington post reported that three months ago the US had stopped air and drone strikes from Shamsi base. This was soon after the Raymond Davis dispute exploded into a full fledged fiasco. The Post reported that US-CIA personnel and the Predator drones remain at Shamsi air base till further decision. Recently Google Earth showed three predator drones parked on the Shamsi tarmac, next to a hangar.
As a first step, Pakistan could urge the US by diplomatic means, to share the Shamsi air base with Pakistan Air Force, for joint operations against terrorists. ISI may offer to cooperate with the CIA for sharing intelligence information about Taliban and Al-Qaeda fugitives. This is a difficult exercise, but we cannot and should not allow permanent occupation of a strategic air base by a foreign power. Shamsi air base is being used for launching drone attacks by the CIA. While Pakistans sovereignty has been trampled under foot, The collateral damage has killed hundreds of innocent civilians. This must stop.

Mayraj said...
Pakistan to boycott vital talks with U.S. on Afghanistan despite claims Nato was lured into attack that killed 24 by Taliban trap

Pakistan decides not to attend international talks on Afghanistan in Bonn
U.S. preliminary reports on attack look at possibility of Taliban involvement
Nato describes the deaths as 'tragic and unintended'
Effigy of Barack Obama burnt as thousands take to the streets in protest
Pakistan army demanded the attack should cease - but it continued

Riaz Haq said...

Here are parts of Time magazine blog by Chuck Spinney refering to a Tariq Ali article on the latest developments in US-Pak relations:

Attached is a very important essay analyzing the political aspects of the current crisis with Pakistan, written from the point of view of leftist Pakistani intellectual. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the author, Tariq Ali graduated from Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics, and was President of the Oxford Union. He is now based in London, writes widely, has published many books, and is a frequent contributor the London Review of Books, The Guardian, and Counterpunch.

While he writes from the perspective of the left, he is a well-recognized authority on the history, politics, and culture of Pakistan, and has been particularly critical of the ubiquitous corruption in its military and civilian government. He has many sources inside the Pakistani government, military, and even the ISI. In other words, Ali's views are both learned and important, and should be studied by anyone interested in this part of the world, regardless of his/her political orientation. The editors of Counterpunch have graciously given me permission to post his essay on Battleland, and I urge you to read carefully this very important essay.

by TARIQ ALI, Counterpunch, 28 November 2011

The Nato assault on a Pakistani checkpoint close to the Afghan border which killed 24 soldiers on Saturday must have been deliberate. Nato commanders have long been supplied with maps marking these checkpoints by the Pakistani military. They knew that the target was a military outpost. [CS note: I don think one should dismiss the possibility of a screw up or a false flag operation, but even if was a screw up, it does not change essence of Ali's argument, which centers on what the Pakistanis think.] The explanation that they were fired on first rings false and has been ferociously denied by Islamabad. Previous such attacks were pronounced ‘accidental' and apologies were given and accepted. This time it seems more serious. It has come too soon after other ‘breaches of sovereignty', in the words of the local press, but Pakistani sovereignty is a fiction. The military high command and the country's political leaders willingly surrendered their sovereignty many decades ago. That it is now being violated openly and brutally is the real cause for concern.
Motives for the attack remain a mystery but its impact is not. It will create further divisions within the military, further weaken the venal Zardari regime, strengthen religious militants and make the US even more hated than it already is in Pakistan.
The Nato attack comes on the heels of another crisis. One of Zardari and his late wife's trusted bagmen in Washington, Husain Haqqani, whose links to the US intelligence agencies since the 1970s made him a useful intermediary and whom Zardari appointed as Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, has been forced to resign. Haqqani, often referred to as the US ambassador to Pakistan, appears to have been caught red-handed: he allegedly asked Mansoor Ijaz, a multi-millionaire close to the US defense establishment, to carry a message to Admiral Mike Mullen pleading for help against the Pakistani military and offering in return to disband the Haqqani network and the ISI and carry out all US instructions....

Read more:

Akbar said...

Sam should not only apologize but compensate $ 10 million per person killed. Even if the US sells everything that it has, the money will not be able to bring back a single life. The day Sam meets somebody more powerful than him, he will srtart shivering in his pants, until then he wants to continue behave like a monster.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are parts of a Christian Science Monitor story on US-NATO non-apology to Pakistan:

What is missing in both the NATO and US military apologies is not just the word “sorry,” but also any actual taking of responsibility for the actions. Calling for “investigations” or “committing to transparency” are ways for diplomats to suggest that the US or NATO will take future action. Expressing “grave concern” or “regret” shows an emotional reaction, but it doesn’t indicate that the US or NATO admit any sort of guilt for an action they have taken.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US military joint chiefs of staff, joined US diplomats in “regret,” but said that an apology would not be forthcoming until a full investigation was conducted.

By falling into a mumbly nonequivocation – look for the phrases “reaffirm partnership” or “reaffirm commitment” in the coming days of awkwardness – US policymakers are looking for ways to keep temperatures down and to prevent an escalation of rhetoric past the point of no return. The US and NATO may never be able to get that “loving feeling” back with Pakistan. But soothing words, without strings attached, can help both sides to save face and to back down.

Anonymous said...

"The general stood up in disgust. “That’s the best thing America has done in 10 years here,” he said. "

DKT said...

Mr. Riaz,
If Pakistan will sever itself from war on terror, it is likely that Americans may respond with some severe action. Still more than half of Pakistan's export goes to NATO countries and they may put trade embargo and replace it with some other regional players from Asia and Africa. Similarly, the NATO countries also control majority votes in IMF and World Bank, they can also block aid. I was reading in Dawn Newspaper that another 2008 type economic crisis may be hitting Pakistan in another 5-6 months.

When we see Pakistan's neighbor Iran, they have huge oil and natural gas deposit which give them immunity from sanction imposed from West. Americans prepared itself for worst with two alternate supply routes on Northern Distribution Network, first one a direct rail line from Riga to Mazar-e-Sharif and other through Georgia-Azerbaijan-Uzbekistan bypassing Russia.

But for Pakistan, is it wise decision to sever all relation with US/NATO countries when Pakistan's economy is in deep chaos. Like Americans and Iranians, they don't seems well prepared for worst days.

Still I see nobody in Pakistan who is discussing economic aspects of severing the relations with US or alternate preparations.

Riaz Haq said...

NATO & Pakistan cooperated to prevent escalation of another border incident Tue, according to a media report:

Pakistan resumed some cooperation with U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan following NATO strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers by working with the coalition to prevent another cross-border incident from escalating, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Pakistan is still outraged by the soldiers' deaths and has retaliated by closing its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies, demanding the U.S. vacate an air base used by American drones and boycotting an international conference aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan.

But NATO said Islamabad communicated with the alliance to prevent an exchange of artillery fire late Tuesday from turning into another international incident.

German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, expressed hope that Pakistan's cooperation in resolving the incident in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province signaled the two sides could recover from the recent tragedy. He did not provide more details about targets or who was doing the shooting but said no damage or injuries were reported.

"We are continuing operations and it is of great importance that the incidents of Saturday, as tragic as they were, do not disrupt our capability to operate in the border area and cooperate with the Pakistani side," said Jacobson.

The Pakistani military did not immediately respond to request for comment on the latest incident.

Pakistani and American officials have offered different accounts of how NATO aircraft attacked two Pakistan army posts before dawn Saturday, killing 24 soldiers. But it seems clear that a breakdown in communication contributed to the tragedy.

Read more:

Mayraj said...

This was the report mentioned in the Spinney article:
Strategic Failure? Talk Without Hope? Tactical Success? Spend Not Build (And Then Stop Spending)?
Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
November 15, 2011
The Good, the Bizarre and the Ugly

It is becoming increasingly clear that the AF-PAK war will end in yet another grand strategic defeat for the United States. To date, President Obama, has been able to distract attention from this issue, but given the stakes in 2012, that dodge is unlikely to last. Get ready for an ugly debate over “who lost the Afghan War.”

To those readers who disagree with my opening line, I urge you to study Anthony Cordersman’s most recent situation report on the AF-PAK War, THE AFGHANISTAN- PAKISTAN WAR AT THE END OF 2011: Strategic Failure? Talk Without Hope? Tactical Success? Spend Not Build (And Then Stop Spending)? It was issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on November 15. Reading the report is heavy slogging but I urge readers to download and examine it — at the very least, take a few minutes to read the executive summary.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story about Obama's reluctance to apologize to Pakistan because of internal US politics:

The White House has decided that President Obama will not offer formal condolences — at least for now — to Pakistan for the deaths of two dozen soldiers in NATO airstrikes last week, overruling State Department officials who argued for such a show of remorse to help salvage America’s relationship with Pakistan, administration officials said.

On Monday, Cameron Munter, the United States ambassador to Pakistan, told a group of White House officials that a formal video statement from Mr. Obama was needed to help prevent the rapidly deteriorating relations between Islamabad and Washington from cratering, administration officials said. The ambassador, speaking by videoconference from Islamabad, said that anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the United States needed to move to defuse it as quickly as possible, the officials recounted.

Defense Department officials balked. While they did not deny some American culpability in the episode, they said expressions of remorse offered by senior department officials and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were enough, at least until the completion of a United States military investigation establishing what went wrong.

Some administration aides also worried that if Mr. Obama were to overrule the military and apologize to Pakistan, such a step could become fodder for his Republican opponents in the presidential campaign, according to several officials who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

On Wednesday, White House officials said Mr. Obama was unlikely to say anything further on the matter in the coming days.

“The U.S. government has offered its deepest condolences for the loss of life, from the White House and from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, referring to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, “and we are conducting an investigation into the incident. We cannot offer additional comment on the circumstances of the incident until we have the results.”
America’s strained ties with Pakistan have been buffeted by crises this year, from the killing of two Pakistanis by a C.I.A. contractor to the raid inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

The headaches of the relationship have meant that Pakistan has few friends inside the administration. As one former senior United States official who has been briefed on the administration’s recent deliberations put it, “Right now there are no Pakistan friendlies” at the White House.

But the administration desperately needs Pakistan’s cooperation in the American plan to withdraw militarily from Afghanistan by 2014. Several senior American officials have said Pakistani help is essential to persuade the Taliban to negotiate for peace.

Twice recently, the administration has solicited help from Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to deliver messages to Islamabad to help defuse crises in the relationship.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kerry was guarded in his comments about the border episode. “We all appreciate how deeply this tragedy has affected the Pakistani people, and we have conveyed our heartfelt condolences through multiple channels,” Mr. Kerry said in an e-mail. “Ultimately, the only way to move the ball forward is to focus on areas where our interests align and where we can really make progress. Our two countries need each other.”

I. KAMAL said...

'This is not the time to talk about "getting tough" with Pakistan. It's time for US to show contrition and apologize to the Pakistanis to assuage their anger.'

Great piece of advice, Riaz Saheb.This would be the prudent course. Unfortunately, with the next US elections in sight, people's better judgement is likely to be clouded by political expediency.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan changes rules of engagement for Pak troops on Afghan border, according to Reuters:

Pakistan's commanders in the wild Afghan border region can return fire if under attack without waiting for permission, the army chief said on Friday, a policy change that could stoke tensions after Saturday's NATO strike killed 24 Pakistani troops.

Exactly what happened in the attack is unclear. Two U.S. officials told Reuters early indications were that Pakistani officials had cleared the NATO air strike, unaware they had troops in the area. A Pakistani official denied this.

The attack sparked fury in Pakistan and further complicated U.S.-led efforts to ease a crisis in relations with Islamabad, still seething at a secret U.S. raid in May which killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and stabilize the region before foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.

"I do not want there to be any doubt in the minds of any commander at any level about the rules of engagement," Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani said in a communique on Friday.

"In case of any attack, you have complete liberty to respond forcefully using all available resources. You do not need any permission for this."

A military source explained that this amounted to a change in the rules for Pakistani forces guarding the Western border against militant movements to and from Afghanistan.

"In the past, we were only guarding ourselves or reacting against militants," said the source, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

"We have given our posts some more space to respond. If they are under attack, they should not wait for orders from above on whether to return fire or not."

The increase in autonomy for local commanders is likely to raise tensions in the unruly and mountainous border region, which is porous and poorly marked. Militants and tribespeople alike move back and forth daily.

"There are certain inherent risks in the delegation of authority," said defense analyst and retired general Talat Masood. "There could be unintended consequences."...

Riaz Haq said...

US CIA's fake vaccine ploy to get bin Laden has hurt Pakistan's polio fight, reports the Wall Street Journal:

The United Nations says a reportedly fake vaccination campaign conducted to help hunt down Osama bin Laden has caused a backlash against international health workers in some parts of Pakistan and has impeded efforts to wipe out polio in the country.

A number of families across Pakistan refused vaccinations from July, when news of the reportedly fake campaign broke, to September, said Dennis King, chief of polio vaccinations in Pakistan for Unicef. "Following the early reports, some families in the provinces did refuse to have their children vaccinated citing the fake campaign as the cause," Mr. King said.

The refusals, he added, have declined since September due to vigorous campaigning by international and local health workers to ensure families they are working only to vaccinate against polio, a disease eradicated in most of the world but still prevalent in Pakistan.

Pakistan military intelligence in July detained a local doctor, Shakeel Afridi, on charges of involvement with the reportedly fake vaccination campaign, supposedly involving vaccine against hepatitis B. Pakistan officials believe the campaign was an attempt to get DNA samples from bin Laden's family to confirm his location in a house in Abbottabad.

In May, U.S. Navy SEALs raided the house, killing bin Laden. A Pakistani judicial committee has recommended Dr. Afridi be charged with treason, which carries the death penalty. He hasn't been made available to comment since his arrest.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which Pakistani officials say carried out the purportedly fake program, hasn't publicly commented. Officials familiar with the bin Laden operation say the CIA did indeed institute a mock vaccine program with a local doctor who had previously been an informant in the tribal areas. The plan was to obtain DNA from residents of the Abbottabad compound as they got a vaccine injection, helping confirm bin Laden's presence there....
Ghulam Rasool, a laborer from Khyber, found out in March that his 18-month-old son had polio after militants had warned off health workers.

"I know my child's future has been ruined, but I won't let it happen to my other kids," he says. "Now I have brought eight children of my extended family to Peshawar to get them vaccinated despite threats."

Senior Pakistani health officials condemn Mr. Afridi's role as unethical.

"Everybody in the medical profession resented his deceptive role. Defeating polio in Pakistan is challenging anyway, and this created negative associations," says Janbaz Afridi, deputy director at Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's provincial health department in Peshawar.

Pakistan is one of the last significant polio reservoirs in the world, imperiling global eradication efforts, Unicef warns.

Riaz Haq said...

Opposing views in Washington Post blogs on US-Pak relations:

“In other words, as much as some might like it to be otherwise, writing Pakistan out of the U.S. foreign policy script is not an option. This is true even in the aftermath of last weekend’s NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, triggering yet another crisis in the tortured U.S.-Pakistan relationship,” write Jane Harman and Robert Hathaway. (Washington Post)

“Instead of relying heavily on Pakistan as a supply corridor, the United States should expand its cooperation with Russia, which has been playing an increasingly important role in military transit to and from Afghanistan. This would serve as both a hedge and a warning to the generals who control Pakistan,” write Dov Zakheim and Paul Saunders. (New York Times)

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story on tensions within Obama admin on relations with Pakistan:

Nonstop crises between the United States and Pakistan this year have fueled tensions within the Obama administration over what kind of relationship the two countries should have and who should be in charge of it.

The State Department has long smarted over the preeminence of military and intelligence priorities, which seems to leave diplomacy in a distant third place. The result, diplomats say, is that there is little goodwill to cushion blows such as the U.S. airstrike last month that left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead along the Afghanistan border.

More than a week after the attack, President Obama called Pakistan’s president on Sunday to say that the deaths were “regrettable,” stopping short of an apology that many in Pakistan have called for.

The airstrike has cast a shadow over a major diplomatic gathering Monday in Bonn, Germany, that the administration hoped would help facilitate plans to wind down the Afghanistan war. Pakistan has said that it will not attend the meeting, which brings together more than 100 countries and international organizations and whose agenda includes regional and Afghan development and peace talks with the Taliban.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will lead the U.S. delegation, unsuccessfully appealed for a change of heart in a telephone call Saturday to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The U.S.-Pakistan breach has also set back Obama administration attempts to improve the brittle relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine on the eve of the Bonn meeting that he thought Kabul’s closest neighbor was trying to sabotage the possibility of peace negotiations.
Until his retirement in September, Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the most public face of the bilateral relationship. Mullen’s trips to Pakistan for face-to-face meetings with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, were far more frequent than Clinton’s visits with the civilian authorities.

When an exasperated Mullen publicly accused Pakistan’s military of supporting Afghan insurgent groups in congressional testimony just before leaving office, some State Department officials said they felt blindsided.

On a subsequent visit to Pakistan in October, Clinton insisted on leading a delegation that included CIA Director David H. Petraeus and Mullen’s replacement, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

But the State Department’s efforts to assert at least the appearance of control over U.S. policy are regularly undermined by a steady stream of congressional visitors to Pakistan who “all want to visit Kayani,” an administration official said. “They don’t want to talk to their civilian counterparts” in Pakistan’s Parliament, “and they only want to stay a few hours,” the official said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, a former national security adviser to Gilani and Pakistani ambassador to the United States, agreed with that reality and the impression it leaves in Pakistan. “You look at the visitors from Washington,” Durrani said. “They would go and spend time with the president, then most of the serious discussions they had with the army chief.”

“In my view,” he said, “there is one and only one issue” between Pakistan and the United States, “and that is counterterrorism. And that is in the lap of the security establishment. So that, in itself, is a problem.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on US Congressman Kucinich speaking to Pakistani-American doctors in America:

WASHINGTON: A United States Congressman from Ohio has called on his government to apologise to Pakistan, and for NATO to pay compensation to the families of 24 soldiers killed in a NATO air strike on a Pakistani border check post on November 26.

Speaking at an event organised by the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, a Democrat, said relations with Pakistan was a critical issue. “We need to apologise to the people of Pakistan, NATO must pay reparations to the families of the soldiers.”

His remarks come a day after US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for Pakistan’s funding to be reviewed.

(Read: Key US Senators urge review of Pakistan funding)

Pakistani doctors face visa wall to working in US

Dr Zaffar Iqbal, a member of the 17000-member strong APPNA said “Last year, only 90 doctors came to work in the US.”

Speaking to The Express Tribune on the sidelines of an event organized by APPNA at the Rayburn House Office Building to highlight to Congressmen the issues faced by Pakistani physicians applying for visas to work in the US, Dr Iqbal said numerous young physicians applying for visas to work in the US are facing delays or are being rejected by the US embassy and consulates. “They don’t get their visas on time, and hence can’t join their residencies that they’ve been offered.” Dr Iqbal said that hospitals then become reluctant to offer residencies to Pakistani physicians.

He added that due to less Pakistanis being given visas, the number of Indian doctors coming to the US to work has more than doubled in the past few years.

Dr Manzoor Tariq, President of APPNA, said that they had held meetings with the State Department and Homeland Security to urge them to facilitate the process.

The event also saw a number of members of Congress attending, and looking at APPNA posters highlighting statistics of the decrease in Pakistani physicians coming to the US. APPNA says that a majority of Pakistani doctors work in the rural areas of the US, and provide a vital service to the country.

Addressing the event, Congressman Kucinich said, “I’m aware of complexities around US-Pakistan relations, but you are our brothers and sisters, and we need to help facilitate those who want to take care of people here”.

Paying tribute to the Pakistani community in her district of Nevada, Congresswoman Birkley added that the US was facing a shortage of medical professionals, and offered her support to APPNA to push for more visas for Pakistani doctors.

Other members of Congress who attended the event and lent support to APPNA included Senator Bob Casey, Claire McCaskill, Congressman Guthrie and others.

Addressing the event, Tim Lenderking, the head of the Pakistan desk at the State Department, said that it was important to talk to the Embassy. “Pakistan has done a great job in contributing to healthcare in the United States, and we want to support that.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Dr Iqbal that this year 90 doctors from Pakistan came to the US. Also Congressman Kucinich was listed a Republican. This is incorrect. The error is regretted.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign Policy is reporting that President Asif Ali Zardari may be on his way out for health reasons:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari left Pakistan suddenly on Tuesday, complaining of heart pains, and is now in Dubai. His planned testimony before a joint session of Pakistan's parliament on the Memogate scandal is now postponed indefinitely.

On Dec. 4, Zardari announced that he would address Pakistan's parliament about the Memogate issue, in which his former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani stands accused of orchestrating a scheme to take power away from Pakistan's senior military and intelligence leadership and asking for U.S. help in preventing a military coup. Haqqani has denied that he wrote the memo at the heart of the scheme, which also asked for U.S. support for the Zardari government and promised to realign Pakistani foreign policy to match U.S. interests.

The memo was passed from Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz to former National Security Advisor Jim Jones, to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen on May 10, only nine days after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad.
Early on Tuesday morning, Zardari's spokesman revealed that the president had traveled to Dubai to see his children and undergo medical tests linked to a previously diagnosed "cardiovascular condition."

A former U.S. government official told The Cable today that when President Barack Obama spoke with Zardari over the weekend regarding NATO's killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers, Zardari was "incoherent." The Pakistani president had been feeling increased pressure over the Memogate scandal. "The noose was getting tighter -- it was only a matter of time," the former official said, expressing the growing expectation inside the U.S. government that Zardari may be on the way out.

The former U.S. official said that parts of the U.S. government were informed that Zardari had a "minor heart attack" on Monday night and flew to Dubai via air ambulance today. He may have angioplasty on Wednesday and may also resign on account of "ill health."

"This is the ‘in-house change option' that has been talked about," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, in a Tuesday interview with The Cable. Nawaz said that this plan would see Zardari step aside and be replaced by his own party, preserving the veneer of civilian rule but ultimately acceding to the military's wishes to get rid of Zardari.

"Unfortunately, it means that the military may have had to use its muscle to effect change yet again," said Nawaz. "Now if they stay at arm's length and let the party take care of its business, then things may improve. If not, then this is a silent coup with [Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza] Gilani as the front man."

In Islamabad, some papers have reported that before Zardari left Pakistan, the Pakistani Army insisted that Zardari be examined by their own physicians, and that the Army doctors determined that Zardari was fine and did not need to leave the country for medical reasons. Zardari's spokesman has denied that he met with the Army doctors.
On May 2, the day after bin Laden was killed, Wajid Hasan, Pakistan's high commissioner to the United Kingdom, said in an interview with CNN that Pakistan, "did know that this was going to happen because we have been keeping -- we were monitoring him and America was monitoring him. But Americans got to where he was first."..

Riaz Haq said...

US working hard to re-engage with Pakistan, reports Times of India:

WASHINGTON: The US has said it is working hard to keep open channels and get back to work with Pakistan, as Islamabad continued to block the crucial NATO supply routes and announced to strengthen its air defence system on the Af-Pak border.

"This relationship is complicated. But it's also essential to both the United States and Pakistan. We are working very hard to keep open channels and to get back to work together," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

The US officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Pakistan, the latest being the meeting between the US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter with foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

"We are continuing our intensive engagement including through the recent meeting between ambassador Munter and foreign minister Khar. Obviously we are both trying to roll up our sleeves and get back to work together," Nuland said.

"With regard to what might emerge from any internal review, I would refer you to the government of Pakistan on that. We are obviously making very clear that we think we have hard work to do together and we need to get back to it as quickly as we can," she said.

Nuland said there is no reason to believe that the Dubai visit of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has anything to do other than his health issue. "We wish him a speedy recovery and a speedy return back to his country," she said.

"We believe that this relationship, while complicated, is essential to both of us. So, we're going to continue to work on it," the US official added.

Riaz Haq said...

US Council on Foreign Relation elevates risk of conflict with Pakistan in 2012, according to AFP:

WASHINGTON: A conflict with Pakistan, the euro crisis, and a political instability in Saudi Arabia and have emerged as top potential threats facing the United States in 2012, an influential think-tank said Friday.

The Council on Foreign Relation’s Center for Preventive Action anonymously surveyed US officials and experts to compile an annual list of the most plausible conflicts for the United States in the new year.

The 2012 list elevated several contingencies to the top tier of risks: a US conflict with Pakistan prompted by an attack or counter-terrorism operation; an intensified euro crisis, which could plunge the United States back into recession; and a Saudi instability, which would threaten global oil supplies.

Threats that remained at the top of the list from last year included a potential incident between the United States and China, internal instability in Pakistan, intensified nuclear crises with Iran or North Korea, and a spillover of drug-related violence from Mexico.

Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who focuses on conflict resolution, said that the survey was designed to fill a gap as the US government has a poor record forecasting future instability and conflict.

“It is a perennial problem to get policymakers to focus on future challenges when dealing with the tyranny of the inbox,” Zenko said, referring to the overwhelming flow of messages.

“But in an age of austerity it has never been more important to forecast, prevent or mitigate plausible contingencies that could result in an expensive and long-lasting US military involvement,” he said.

The survey elevated the risk of conflict with Pakistan amid high tensions in 2011 following the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden. But the think-tank removed the potential for military escalation between Pakistan and arch-rival India from the top tier of risks.

The survey also added Bahrain as a “tier-two” risk to the United States, citing fears that growing instability in the Sunni-ruled kingdom could spur fresh military action by Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Other risks that were downgraded or removed from last year included:

- Intensified military conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

- Renewed military conflict between Russia and Georgia.

- Violent instability in Thailand.

- Violent instability in Myanmar.

- A succession crisis in Zimbabwe.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an APP report on US Ambassador Cameron Munter on US-Pak tied after Nov 26 tragic border incident:

United States Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter Monday said Mohmand Agency incident was a setback for the ties of Pakistan and the United States, and his country wanted to rebuild cooperation in areas of economy, military and intelligence sharing.In an interview to a private television channel, he said Mohmand Agency incident happened when the two countries were having military and intelligence cooperation and they were collaborating on economic matters.He said the events of November 26 were a real tragedy and President Obama called President Zardari, Secretary Hillary Clinton called Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the US military leadership contacted Pakistani army chief to share their sorrow.

“In fact when people die, whether they are Pakistanis or Americans, it is too many and it was a tragedy that it happened. We have really tried to make it clear how sorrowful we are about this event. We feel the pain of the Pakistani people,” he added.
Munter said the US has pledged full investigation of the incident and “in the coming days, most of all we want to make sure that we learn from this and this never happens again.”
He said the NATO attack was not intentional and the mechanism which should have stopped the incident failed on that day.
“The mechanism that should have prevented this failed. We need to work together to make sure that mechanisms are in place and this should not happen again.”
Munter said it was not true that there was no investigation into the case of Raymond Davis and said there was a group of officials of Department of Justice who were following up as promised
by Senator John Kerry and by him.
“These officials have come to Pakistan and they are talking to Pakistani officials to do their best to convince the Pakistani people that we are following up as we promised,” he added.When asked to respond to continuing halt of NATO supplies, Munter said he was hopeful that the stoppage will not last. “As we work through this tragic incident, which should never have happened, we find a way to work together and this stoppage would not be necessary.”
He said US, Pakistan and all of their friends are trying to fight militants to protect their way of life and values that they share and they need to work together to fight them.
“We are in constant contact with Pakistan people to find out how we can work together in the fight against militants and how you understand our sorrow about this tragedy.”
The ambassador said the US Central Command has formed a commission led by Brigadier General Clarke to investigate the NATO attack.
“We do not want to judge what he has found and there is difference of opinion about what happened that day. We do not want to judge until that investigation is finished and when that investigation is finished we want to be able to share it with you,” he remarked when asked why the US is not offering an apology.
To a question, he said there are two investigations, one being run by NATO and the other by the US Central Command into the Mohmand Agency incident and they will share information and findings with Pakistan.
He stressed that the NATO attack on Pakistani troops in Mohmand Agency was not deliberate and even President Obama and General Dempsey told this to their Pakistani counterparts.
“We are terribly distressed. It should not have happened it was not done on purpose.”....

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpts from a VOA report on Pakistan's reaction to $700m aid freeze by US Congress:

The Pakistani government has criticized the move by the U.S. Congress, saying it is not based on facts and takes a "narrow vision of the overall situation."

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar says that the aid suspension is not a matter of concern for her country because the Pakistani parliament is currently redefining future terms of engagement with Washington and international forces following what she called the "unprovoked" cross-border air attack by NATO last month.

"Pakistan is currently going through a process of re-assessment and re-evaluation," said Khar. "And what matters today to Pakistan and to all its institutions is the mandate that will be given by the parliament of Pakistan. So I think we are less concerned about what [the U.S.] Congress is doing today and more concerned about what the parliament of Pakistan is doing today because that is what redefines this relationship."

Pakistan's uneasy relationship with the United States has plunged to new lows since NATO's deadly cross-border air attack in late November. The country has retaliated by cutting supply lines for U.S. and allied forces fighting the Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. It has evicted American personnel from an airbase in the country's southwest, and the Pakistani government has asked the parliament to define future terms of anti-terrorism cooperation with both the United States and the coalition forces. The U.S. military and NATO deny Pakistani troops were deliberately targeted in the attack and have launched investigations of the incident.

The Pakistani foreign minister says she is confident that once approved by the country's parliament, the renewed terms of engagement with allied nations, including the United States, will lead to productive relationships.

"It will also strengthen the partnership that we pursue with any country because it will be a partnership which is on a clearly defined mandate, it will be a partnership which has less grey areas and has a clear mandate of the public and parliament of Pakistan and therefore we will be able to pursue this partnership much more vigorously," added Khar.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued a clarification Thursday evening, saying reports that Congress has cut $700 million dollars in military aid to Pakistan are not correct. It says that the draft legislation currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress includes a reporting requirement and that once the U.S. secretary of defense certifies that Pakistan is cooperating in the joint efforts to combat IEDs, the funds will be released. It says setting conditions on assistance with reporting requirements is not new, nor is it Pakistan specific.

Taliban insurgents are increasingly using the IEDs to attack U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. American military officials say that most of the material used to make the bombs is coming from Pakistan, charges officials here deny.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Jim Koury (Eurasia Review) on the NATO supply situation in Afghanistan:

“It’s almost impossible to succeed in beating al-Qaeda and the Taliban without access to Pakistan or having the Pakistan security forces as a U.S. ally,” said former military intelligence officer and police commander Mike Snopes.

The United States had expressed deep regret over the NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near Afghanistan’s border with that nation November 25-26, and offered to compensate the families of those killed and wounded in the incident, but ground supply routes through Pakistan remained closed to coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to Cheryl Pellerin of the American Forces Press Service.

“We conducted a thorough investigation into the border incident, we have acknowledged and take responsibility for the mistakes we made on 25-26 Nov, [and] … we have expressed our deepest regret to the Pakistani people, to the families of those who were lost and those who were wounded,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

“We are hopeful,” he added, “that our Pakistani partners will reopen the ground supply routes.”

Supplies are adequate to continue the war effort in Afghanistan, Little said, adding that supplies are coming into Afghanistan through air routes and through the northern distribution network, a series of commercially based logistic arrangements connecting Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

“The relationship with Pakistan is important on many levels. They’re an important partner, and we cooperate with them on counterterrorism and other efforts,” the press secretary said.

“That being said, we know there have been rough patches, particularly over the past year,” he added. “But it remains an essential relationship, and we’re committed to improving that relationship over time.”

On Dec. 26, U.S. Central Command released an unclassified version of an investigation report of the cross-border incident by its investigating officer, Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments for Air Force Special Operations Command.

A copy of the report was delivered to the Pakistani government, Little said. Pakistani officials were invited to participate in the investigation, but they declined.

According to the report, on the night of November 25-26, an Afghan army commando company, partnered with U.S. Army Special Forces, landed in the Khas Kunar district of Afghanistan’s Kunar province in an area of operations assigned to the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East.

The ground forces were executing an operation approved by ISAF Joint Command headquarters when they came under fire from positions on a ridge near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In self-defense, the report said, they used air support to engage the ridgeline positions.

The air engagement ended 90 minutes later and had included about 45 minutes of fire. Eventually, it became clear from various information exchanges that those engaged at the ridge were Pakistani military personnel.

In the early hours of Nov. 26, the report said, supporting aircraft pulled back from the border area and Pakistani authorities reinforced their border positions and reportedly removed 24 dead and 13 wounded....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AHN report on US intelligence assessment of US-Pak relations:

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, top U.S. intelligence officials were candid in admitting that the bilateral relationship with Pakistan is essential but strained at present.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, categorized the relationship as “challenging … but important one,” citing Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power.

Replying to a question from chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Clapper said, “Their existential threat continues to be India,” stressing that, “Pakistan and our interests are not always congruent.”

“Sometimes our interests converge and sometimes they differ,” said Clapper, adding, “I would characterize the relationship is crucial — we have one and have a positive relationship even though we have gone through some trying times.”

Accepting the fact that present U.S.-Pakistan relations are at their nadir, CIA Director David Petraeus said, “The relationship is very important but relationship right now is quite strained.” He added, “The most recent cause of that, of course, is the 26 November border incident between ISAF and Pakistani forces.”

Petraeus highlighted the ongoing domestic tensions among different political, judicial and military players within Pakistan, saying, “The activities right now are also complicated because of the difficulties in the domestic context there where there is a bit of tension between the Supreme Court, between the Army Chief and the ISI director and the government of president and the prime minister.”

There were positive signs of change in internal political equations in Pakistan, according to Petraeus.

The intelligence chief said it was “worth noting that the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States — Ambassador [Husain] Haqqani was allowed to leave and he did arrive in the UAE this morning.”

Haqqani was forced to resign late last year after Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed Haqqani had asked him to pass on a memo, on behalf of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, to the American government calling for their help to oust Islamabad’s military leadership.

Ijaz has since hesitated to return to Pakistan to appear before the Pakistani agencies investigating the truth behind the claims.

Citing “awareness there that this is a critically important relationship,” Petraeus said, “There is a committee (in the Pakistani Parliament) that is determining recommendations to make for the government for the way forward between United States and Pakistan.”

On the ongoing refuge and safe heavens in Pakistan for terrorists, Clapper said, “During the past year, the Taliban lost some ground, but that was mainly in places where the International Security Assistance Forces … were concentrated,” adding that “the Taliban’s senior leaders continued to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan.”

Clapper argued that for success Afghanistan needed support from ISAF and its neighbors — particularly Pakistan. “And although there’s broad international political support for the Afghan government,” he added, “there are doubts in many capitals, particularly in Europe, about how to fund Afghanistan initiatives after 2014.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Atlantic magazine saying that the"State Department has resurrected the idea after repudiating the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, early on when he pressed for an immediate apology following the incident last November. A Pentagon official, asked about the possibility of a statement of apology or contrition last month, at first said he was unaware there was any discussion going on, then a few days later acknowledged that it was. Now the White House is mulling the language and timing of such a statement, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

The internal disagreement over whether to assuage the Pakistanis with a face-saving expression of apology or contrition is part of a larger debate within the administration as it puzzles its way through the Afghan endgame. With the United States pushing for talks with the Taliban ahead of a planned withdrawal that is to be phased in starting in 2013, Washington knows that without some help from Islamabad, America could end up bequeathing a huge safe haven to the Taliban in Pakistan, which has sought to support the Islamist group as a strategic asset.

Making matters even stickier, the debate comes in an election season when President Obama is being regularly accused of appeasement and, as Mitt Romney regularly puts it, "apologizing for America." Until now the farthest the U.S. government has gone is to "express our deepest regret" for "the loss of life, and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses," according to a Defense Department statement issued after the report.

New rifts have also emerged in the administration over the details of the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some White House officials working on the Afghanistan problem were taken aback when, on Feb. 1, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters about U.S. plans for a partial withdrawal from lead combat roles by mid-2013, before even consulting with other NATO officials. While the plan was generally agreed upon within the administration, the details had still not been clarified.

On Wednesday State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, responding to harsh comments about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship from Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman earlier in the day, said that "divorce is not an option with Pakistan. We have strategic interests in common, we have a lot of work to do together." Nuland added: "We're looking forward to the completion of Pakistan's internal review of our military-to-military relationship so we can get back to all the important work we have together."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg editorial opinion on Pak parliament's vote on relations with US:

Beyond the drone ban, Parliament resolved to bar the U.S., and other nations, from conducting any overt or covert military operations there. As a rule, of course, sovereign countries don’t allow foreign security agencies to function on their soil without permission. Yet it happens all the time.

The issue is, what are the consequences of their actions, if made public? Parliament’s vote suggests the repercussions will be increasingly painful. That, again, is an argument for the U.S. to tread less heavily on Pakistan. The costs of breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty last year to kill Osama bin Laden were plainly worth it. But can the same be said for the intelligence being pursued by CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who caused a diplomatic furor after killing two Pakistanis on a street in Lahore? We’ll probably never know, but it’s a question we hope the intelligence community is asking.

Pakistan’s Parliament also demanded an “unconditional apology” from the U.S. for the Nov. 25 border clash. Obama, as well as the secretary of State and senior military officials, have already expressed regret and condolences over the loss of life. And the Pakistani military hasn’t invited sympathy with its refusal to participate in the U.S. investigation, its dismissal of the ensuing report blaming a lack of coordination on both sides, and its paranoid charges that the attack was “deliberate at some level.” Still, a clear apology by the Defense secretary would be appropriate given the loss of life; the U.S. military’s responsibility for relying on incorrect maps and failing to communicate timely, accurate information to its counterpart; and the importance of the larger relationship.
Recognizing Sacrifices

That would signal to the Pakistani people that the U.S. military is committed to repairing its relationship with its Pakistani counterpart and recognizes the sacrifices local forces have made in pursuing shared goals, while correctly keeping any blame at the operational rather than the national level.

The parliamentary resolutions do offer one bright spot: They would allow the U.S. to again use Pakistani roads to resupply U.S. troops in Afghanistan with nonlethal equipment. Since the Nov. 25 incident, the U.S. has had to use expensive alternate routes. Parliament did not tie resumption of the traffic to satisfaction on its other decrees. But it might, in the future, or the government might, in its negotiations with the Obama administration. This is an added reason for the U.S. to repair ties with Pakistan before they become irreparable.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a Reuters' blog on "US War in FATA":

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is using increasingly forthright terms to describe the spillover of the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in its campaign of drone strikes. “We are fighting a war in the FATA, we are fighting a war against terrorism,” he said during a visit to India. The idea that the United States is at war inside Pakistan, albeit in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, is not new. But the use of language is significant, requiring as Spencer Ackerman noted at Danger Room, “a war-weary (US) public to get used to fighting what’s effectively a third war in a decade, even if this one relies far more on remote controlled robots than ground troops”.

Panetta’s choice of words (and venue for delivering them) may not go down too well with Pakistani authorities in Islamabad/Rawalpindi. It is not particularly promising for the people of FATA either, who find themselves caught in the middle of a shadow war between the United States and Pakistan. But in one respect, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Rarely has the United States fought a war in a place about which it knows so little. If Panetta’s comments force people to learn about FATA, it might even lift us out of what until now has been a polemical debate between supporters and opponents of drone strikes, with little attention paid to the voices of people who actually live there.
This week I unearthed a book I had borrowed in order to return it – a 1938 edition of the British ”Handbooks for the Indian Army” dealing with “Pathans”. Coming from a generation who grew up learning to be ashamed of colonialism, I expected it to appal me. What I found was a tract which was sympathetic and respectful. It cautioned against using stereotypes about the Pathans, as the British used to call the Pashtun. It admired their history and poetry, commended them as soldiers; noted their respect for democracy and justice and insisted on paying attention quickly to their grievances. Avoiding the trap of
thinking that all people of FATA are the same, it described in detail the different tribes – their lifestyles often influenced by availability of arable land. The British liked to study and classify their imperial subjects all the better to control them - rather as a collector pins rare butterflies to a wall – so let’s not get carried away with the supposed benevolence.

But consider what it said about the need for political reform. “Pathans have often been stimatized as combining some of the worst traits of human character,” it noted, when describing their violent lifestyle and endless blood feuds. “But it is difficult to perceive in what other manner the tribesman is to protect himself, and his property and family, unless there is a complete social change of the conditions under which he lives; and as long as there is no settled government, and the principle of might being right prevails, this cannot occur.”

Remember that was 1938 and the British had already acknowledged the need for “settled government” even if they did not implement it. By now, one would have thought we would have become more aware. If nothing else, in the long years since the Sept 11 attacks on New York and Washington we might have studied the region where the United States is, as Panetta said, “at war”. Yet we know less about FATA now than the British did more than 70 years ago. These are the “tribal badlands”, the terms of their isolation defined by us rather than them, a place we choose not to know. Rather than knowledge we have polemics on drones. What have we become?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg Op Ed titled "No More Bullying Pakistan" written by former State Dept official Vali Nasr:

It took eight months, but the U.S. has finally apologized for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in a firefight on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

With that, the U.S. military is again able to use routes through Pakistan to supply its forces in Afghanistan without paying exorbitant fees. Plus the threat that Pakistan will bar U.S. drone strikes is for now moot.
However, the main implication of the apology, a triumph of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over both the White House and the Pentagon, is that it ends the experiment of the U.S. trying to bully Pakistan into submission.

The clash in November between U.S. and Pakistani forces was a mess, with miscommunication on both sides but fatalities on only one. Pakistan, still seething over the U.S. breach of its sovereignty in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, closed U.S. military supply routes to Afghanistan when the U.S. initially refused to apologize. The U.S., in turn, froze $700 million in military assistance and shut down all engagement on economic and development issues. In a further deterioration of ties, the Pakistani Parliament voted to ban all U.S. drone attacks from or on Pakistani territory.
No Sympathy

The Pakistanis held firm in their insistence on an apology. Officials at the Pentagon thought the case didn’t merit one. Many had no sympathy for the Pakistanis, whom they regarded as double-dealers for stoking the insurgency in Afghanistan and providing haven to the notorious extremists of the Haqqani Network. The White House feared that an apology would invite Republican criticism. Throughout the crisis, Clinton and her senior staff argued that the U.S. should apologize. She supported re-engaging with Pakistan to protect a critical relationship while also holding Pakistan accountable for fighting the Taliban and other extremists, a point she has raised in each of her conversations with Pakistani leaders.

Clinton’s recommendations were contrary to the policy the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency put in place in early 2011. Relations had soured when the Pakistanis held CIA operative Raymond Davis after he shot two Pakistanis. Frustrated with Pakistan’s foot-dragging on counterterrorism, the two agencies successfully lobbied for a strategy to reduce high-level contacts with Pakistan, shame Pakistan in the news media, and threaten more military and intelligence operations on Pakistani soil like the bin Laden assassination. It was a policy of direct confrontation on all fronts, aimed at bending Pakistan’s will.

It failed. Pakistan stood its ground. Far from changing course, Pakistan reduced cooperation with the U.S. and began to apply its own pressure by threatening to end the drone program, one of the Obama administration’s proudest achievements.
The conclusion: Open conflict with Pakistan was not an option. It was time to roll back the pressure.

The apology is just a first step in repairing ties deeply bruised by the past year’s confrontations. The U.S. should adopt a long-term strategy that would balance U.S. security requirements with Pakistan’s development needs. Managing relations with Pakistan requires a deft policy -- neither the blind coddling of the George W. Bush era nor the blunt pressure of the past year, but a careful balance between pressure and positive engagement. This was Clinton’s strategy from 2009 to 2011, when U.S. security demands were paired with a strategic dialogue that Pakistan coveted. That is still the best strategy for dealing with this prickly ally.