Are We Re­ally Over?

The na­ture of Us-pak­istan re­la­tions is such that it will never lead to a di­vorce.

Southasia - - Region - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

A “ques­tion has arisen,” as Ma­hatma Gandhi would say. In the wake of the strain caused by the Ray­mond Davis af­fair and es­pe­cially in the af­ter­math of the May 2 in­tru­sion into Pak­istan by US Spe­cial Forces, the ques­tion be­ing asked is whether it is go­ing to spell the end of a sixty-three year old “en­gage­ment.”

There is no ques­tion that Am­pak re­la­tions never went be­yond the level of en­gage­ment even though Pak­istan bent ever so back­ward to prove that it was Amer­ica’s “most al­lied ally.” But with­out ac­cept­ing the claim, per­haps be­cause it reeked of syco­phancy, the US be­gan to treat Pak­istan as a vas­sal, so Ayub Khan had to plead that they should be­have as “Friends not masters.”

Through­out the six decades mu­tual re­la­tions have been a mix­ture of high and low. But this time the level of ac­ri­mony seems to threaten a rup­ture.

Af­ter killing Osama, the US be­gan ac­cus­ing Pak­istan’s in­tel­li­gence agency of be­ing com­plicit in hid­ing OBL. Pak­istan sent back the US “train­ers” of the Fron­tier Con­stab­u­lary. This roiled Washington fur­ther be­cause the “train­ers” were a vi­tal source of in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing. Mean­while, there was a spike in Tal­iban at­tacks on US troops in Afghanistan. De­spite the troop surge, Amer­ica ap­pears to be stymied. The most au­da­cious at­tack so far was on Septem­ber 13, when the Tal­iban at­tacked the US em­bassy and UN head­quar­ters in Kabul and the fire­fight went on for about 20 hours. It so shook Washington that ev­ery­one who mat­tered went into con­nip­tion.

Soon there was a crescendo of an­gry out­bursts with the com­mon re­frain that the Haqqani net­work has been at­tack­ing US troops in Afghanistan and there­fore Pak­istan must take full scale mil­i­tary ac­tion to dis­lodge it from its safe haven in North Waziris­tan. They even ac­cused the Pak­istani govern­ment and par­tic­u­larly the ISI of abet­ting at­tacks by the “Haqqani net­work.”

On Septem­ber 17, the US am­bas­sador in Pak­istan, Cameron Munter, said there was “ev­i­dence link­ing the Haqqani net­work to the Pak­istani govern­ment. This,” he said, “must stop.” The next day in a meet­ing

with Pak­istan for­eign min­is­ter, Hina Rab­bani Khar, Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton de­manded that Pak­istan should take ac­tion on its own and jointly with the US in fight­ing the Haqqani net­work.

On Septem­ber 21, in a news brief­ing at Pen­tagon, both De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon Panetta and Chair­man Joint Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee Adm. Mullen, adopted a bel­li­cose pos­ture to­wards Pak­istan, with Panetta say­ing the US would take “what­ever steps are nec­es­sary to pro­tect our forces.” Later that day the new CIA chief David Pe­treus re­peated the same mes­sage to ISI chief, Ah­mad Shuja Pasha at their meet­ing in Washington.

On Septem­ber 22, the Washington Post car­ried a story, based on brief­ings by US of­fi­cials, say­ing that the United States had given “what amounts to an ul­ti­ma­tum” to Pak­istan to cut ties with the Haqqani group and had warned that the US would “act uni­lat­er­ally if Pak­istan does not com­ply.” The same day, Mullen told the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that the Haqqani net­work acted as a “ver­i­ta­ble arm” of the ISI and the agency had sup­ported Haqqani op­er­a­tives in plan­ning and con­duct­ing the at­tacks in War­dak and Kabul. “Ex­trem­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions serv­ing as prox­ies of the govern­ment of Pak­istan are at­tack­ing Afghan troops and civil­ians as well as US soldiers,” he said. “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.”

At the same time Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee mem­ber, Sen. Lind­say Gra­ham, said that Pak­istan must choose be­tween Amer­ica and Haqqani as its part­ners and Con­gress­man Ted Poe from Texas in­tro­duced the Pak­istan Ac­count­abil­ity Act that seeks to “freeze all US aid to Pak­istan with the ex­cep­tion of funds that are des­ig­nated to help se­cure nu­clear weapons.” Even Pres­i­dent Obama weighed in. Ad­dress­ing a news con­fer­ence he said, “I think that they have hedged their bets in terms of what Afghanistan would look like. And part of hedg­ing their bets is hav­ing in­ter­ac­tions with some of the un­sa­vory char­ac­ters who they think might end up re­gain­ing power in Afghanistan af­ter coali­tion forces have left,” adding, “But there’s no doubt that, you know, we’re not go­ing to feel com­fort­able with a long-term strate­gic re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan if we don’t think that they’re mind­ful of our in­ter­ests as well.”

The blow hot blow cold game goes on. Side by side with the vir­u­lent at­tacks salve is of­fered as the White House dis­tances it­self from Mullen’s di­a­tribe. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton says about Pak­istan, “They have in fact given us co­op­er­a­tion in the op­er­a­tions of try­ing to con­front Al-qaeda in (tribal ar­eas)… And they con­tinue to work with us.” The dis­agree­ment be­tween the two coun­tries was over “the re­la­tions they main­tain with some of the mil­i­tant groups in that coun­try.” Clin­ton said in an in­ter­view with Reuters: “We view the Haqqa­nis and other of their ilk as, you know, be­ing ad­ver­saries and be­ing very dan­ger­ous to Amer­i­cans, Afghans and coali­tion mem­bers in­side Afghanistan, but we are not shut­ting the door on try­ing to de­ter­mine whether there is some path for­ward.” And ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, US of­fi­cials have held meet­ings with Haqqani net­work rep­re­sen­ta­tives as part of their ef­forts to strike a peace deal.

On the other hand, US Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Pak­istan and Afghanistan, Mark Gross­man, tells Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani that Pak­istan must go af­ter the Haqqani Net­work and its al­leged safe havens in North Waziris­tan. “We have con­cerns about the Haqqa­nis and Pak­istan needs to ad­dress them.” Obama’s national se­cu­rity ad­viser, Thomas E. Donilon, also con­veyed Washington’s re­solve to Gen. Ash­faq Kayani at a se­cret meet­ing in Saudi Ara­bia re­cently. “The U S wanted a re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan, but it also wanted the Haqqani at­tacks to stop,” he said of­fer­ing Kayani three choices: “kill the Haqqani lead­er­ship, help us kill them, or per­suade them to join a peace­ful, demo­cratic Afghan govern­ment.”

The first two of the three choices are prima fa­cie ab­surdly sim­plis­tic. Kayani can­not agree to ei­ther be­cause it would spell dis­as­ter for Pak­istan. It is also doubt­ful if Pak­istan en­joys the lever­age with the Haqqa­nis to per­suade them to “join a peace­ful, demo­cratic Afghan govern­ment” in­stalled by the United States. How­ever, though Kayani con­tin­ues to re­ject mil­i­tary ac­tion in North Waziris­tan, there have been signs of thaw in the re­la­tions. Pak­istan has agreed to take the “train­ers” back. It has also qui­etly given a nod to un­lim­ited drone at­tacks. Fur­ther­more, the ISI re­cently cap­tured five Al Qaeda sus­pects in co­op­er­a­tion with the CIA and de­liv­ered them to the US. Amer­ica and Pak­istan can­not live “with­out” each other. This is the hard truth both re­al­ize. Hope­fully, Washington will see rea­son be­fore mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion murkier by tak­ing any di­rect mil­i­tary ac­tion in­side Pak­istan.

Freez­ing eco­nomic and mil­i­tary as­sis­tance also may not yield the de­sired re­sult. In­stead of forc­ing Pak­istan to sup­pli­cate, it would bol­ster self-re­liance and pride among the peo­ple in their in­de­pen­dence. How­ever, if Pak­istan “re­thinks” its re­la­tions with the US as re­solved in the All Par­ties Con­fer­ence, the pol­icy should be trade not aid. The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and former editor of Southa­sia Mag­a­zine.

Pak­istan for­eign min­is­ter, Hina Rab­bani Khar, with U.S. Sec­re­tary of State, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

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