Friday, 30 September 2011


Following the testimony of Adm. Michael Mullen, chair of the joints chiefs of staff, to the senate Armed Services Committee on 21 September 2011, about Pakistani tolerance of Afghanistan's Haqqani rebels, Sen. Lindsey Graham went on FOX NEWS and argued that all options were on the table, in essence threatening Pakistan with military action. Pakistani officials immediately criticized US suggestions that the country was destabilizing the region and called for calmer attitudes to prevail.
A number of journalists and political observers noted that the comments of both Mullen and Graham were just a rhetorical warning and nothing more. That assessment turns out to be less than accurate, for on 30 September 2011, the US launched a missile strike killing three suspected militants in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, an area where the US has been urging the Pakistanis to go in and engage the rebels.

The US has been active in drone warfare along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border for the past few years, launching at least 100 drone attacks in 2010 and at least 50 in 2011 in the region of North Waziristan where the US has been demanding that Pakistanis move in to wipe out Haqqani rebels. While the Pakistani government is adamantly against US ground troops chasing Afghan rebels on Pakistani soil, the idea of drone warfare seems as the lesser evil, although very much dreaded.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's intelligence chief denies that Pakistan has provided any kind of logistical or intelligence support to Haqqani rebels, and Pakistan's foreign minister insists the country has done all it could to fight terrorism. Evidently, US demands that Pakistan launch attacks along the border against Haqqani and Pakistan's refusal to become entangled in such a war is seen by Washington as 'helping' the Haqqani network. While Pakistani officials have been denying any links to Haqqani and argue that Pakistan has made many sacrifices in the last ten years, more than fifty religious leaders are now calling for jihad against the US. Even more significant, Pakistani officials have been showering China with praise. Interior Minister Rehman Malik pledged to a high-level Chinese official that China's enemy is Islamabad's enemy.Pakistan has also been trying to get closer to Saudi Arabia in this time of tensions with Washington.

The anxiety on the US and Pakistan's part stems from the futile and costly war in Afghanistan that is unlikely to yield the result the US wants. Moreover, the weariness of the war has caused a segment of Pakistani society, including officials and not just the poor and fanatic Muslims, to become even more nationalistic than they were before the US launched war against Afghanistan.

The question for the US now is damage control, or going all out as Sen. Graham would like perhaps.  Exactly what does the US want from Pakistan for the duration, not just this year but for the decade and beyond, and what is it willing to do - and not do -  in order to secure a solid relationship with Islamabad that so desperately looks to China for support? Even if the Haqqani network were to be wiped off the face of the earth, that would not change the situation in Afghanistan to the degree that a pro-West regime could sustain power for very long once NATO troops are out. So what exactly has the US won by alienating Pakistan?

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