Thursday, September 22, 2011

So, what will America do?

The fact remains that the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity...

Pakistan’s military and political establishment, one often indistinguishable from the other, have for long been disingenuous if not outright deceitful while claiming to dismantle the sprawling jihad complex which is the mainstay of that country’s established policy of using terrorism to further its ‘strategic objectives’.

Those ‘strategic objectives’ range from “inflicting a thousand cuts” on India to gaining control over Afghanistan; from blackmailing Western donor countries, especially the USA, to simply terrorising the world.

That in the process thousands of Pakistani citizens have fallen victim to the insatiable appetite for flesh and blood of the monster the Pakistani state has bred is of no consequence to the Generals in Rawalpindi and their handmaidens in Islamabad.

Strangely, or perhaps not so, Pakistanis continue to live in denial of this reality. The Pakistani military and the Government, or what passes for it, deny any links with terrorist organisations. If confronted with evidence, they either brazen it out or slyly ask for more dole to do what is expected of them.

The world is aware of how Pakistan has emerged as the epicentre of global terrorism. The US, which is the principal benefactor of Pakistan, knows that the hand which reaches out for civilian and military aid is also the hand which loving rocks the cradle of jihad’s nursery.

But that has not stopped the US from writing out billion-dollar cheques to Pakistan. Nor has it made Washington, DC demand answers to some tough questions.

On the contrary, the US continues to describe Pakistan as its ‘staunch ally’, its ‘frontline ally’ in the war on terror. Pakistan remains the US’s ‘most-favoured non-Nato ally’. Pakistan has America wrapped around its little finger.

In a sense, if Pakistanis are living in denial, so are the Americans.

That Osama bin Laden was found living in a ‘safe house’ at Abbottabad, obviously protected by the Pakistani military and its terror-sponsoring agency, the ISI, has not shaken America’s faith in Pakistan.

That other Al Qaeda leaders have been traced – and killed through targeted drone attacks – in Pakistan has not deterred Washington from standing by Islamabad.

That Pakistan continues to flout UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions aimed at defanging terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is of no seeming relevance to the US Administration.

Occasionally we are told that the US has read out the riot act to Pakistan, that senior Pakistani politicians and Generals have been admonished, that Islamabad has been sternly told thus far and no further. That’s so much finger-wagging amounting to nothing.

For instance, we are told that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was less than pleasant with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (of Birkin bag fame) who did look discomfited in the customary photo of the recent meeting in Washington that was released to media. Hillary is supposed to have told Hina that the Pakistani military-political establishment was working hand-in-glove with the Haqqani network to unleash terror in Afghanistan.

In response, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik (who is partial towards flashy ties) has, in his characteristically belligerent style, demanded, “Where is the evidence?” That’s not the first time Pakistan has sought ‘evidence’ of its misdeeds.

Interestingly, in separate testimonies before the US Senate Armed Forces Committee on September 22, 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta have spoken in great detail of the nexus between jihadi terror and the Pakistani state.

Mike Mullen says in his testimony:

“The fact remains that the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity. Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers. For example, we believe the Haqqani Network — which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency — is responsible for the September 13th attacks against the US Embassy in Kabul. There is ample evidence confirming that the Haqqanis were behind the June 28th attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and the September 10th truck bomb attack that killed five Afghans and injured another 96 individuals, 77 of whom were US soldiers. History teaches us that it is difficult to defeat an insurgency when fighters enjoy a sanctuary outside national boundaries, and we are seeing this again today. The Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network are hampering efforts to improve security in Afghanistan, spoiling possibilities for broader reconciliation, and frustrating US-Pakistan relations. The actions by the Pakistani government to support them — actively and passively — represent a growing problem that is undermining US interests and may violate international norms, potentially warranting sanction…”

The full text of Mullen’s testimony can be read here.

Leon Panetta was understandably more tactful:

"We have a difficult campaign ahead of us in the east, where the topography, cultural geography, and continuing presence of safe havens in Pakistan give the insurgents advantages they have lost elsewhere in the country. Additionally, as relations with Pakistan have become strained over the past year, and as we have met Pakistan’s requests to reduce our training and liaison presence in their country, our diminished ability to coordinate respective military operations in the border regions has given insurgents greater freedom of movement along the border. Our forces are working in the east to cut off insurgent lines of communication and deny their ability to threaten Kabul and other population centres. Nonetheless, progress in the east will likely continue to lag what we see elsewhere in the country..."

The full text of Panetta’s testimony can be read here.

So what does the US plan to do? Pretend that its ‘staunch ally’, its ‘frontline ally’, its ‘most-favoured non-Nato ally’ remains committed to waging war on terror?

That’s more than likely. Which prompts the question, after such knowledge, what forgiveness?


On Friday, September 23, Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations issued the following statement:

While taking note of the recent statements made by Admiral Mullen, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff United States, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, termed these as very unfortunate and not based on facts. This is especially disturbing in view of a rather constructive meeting with Admiral Mullen in Spain.

On the specific question of contacts with Haqqanis, the COAS said that Admiral Mullen knows fully well which all countries are in contact with the Haqqanis. Singling out Pakistan is neither fair nor productive.

Categorically denying the accusations of proxy war and ISI support to Haqqanis, the COAS wished that, the blame game in public statements should give way to a constructive and meaningful engagement for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, an objective to which Pakistan is fully committed.

It would be interesting to know what "Admiral Mullen knows fully well" as to which all countries are "in contact with the Haqqanis".

Why doesn't Gen Kayani spill the beans? Or, get an ISPR affiliated journalist, of whom there is no dearth, to tell all?

[Time has an interesting story on the massacre of Shias of Balochistan by Pakistan's Sunni militia, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.]


Anonymous said...

This is very tricky for the Americans with the current election mood being largely inward focused on the economy. But dont rule out some action, if Obama wants to lurch Left on the economy he wouldnt mind lurching Right on national security to win back some of those independent voters.

Anonymous said...

It is because of Indian spine less ruling class including BJP which has sold its soul to Americans that Pakistan is having this time in the great game winning inspite of all those terrorist attacks inside its borders.It is India, Russia,Iran combination which kept the northern alliance and Taliban at bay but the untrustworthy Americans even today want to have Pashthun leadership which is beholden to Pakistan to come in power and we have lost Iran and Russian friendship for some verbal lollies like"greatest democracy" "seat in security council" etc while Pakistan is winning.