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Friday, October 22

Is there anything else you'd like us to do, Mr Khalilzad? Set up a colony on the moon by next April?

The people who get paid to crank out opinion on the Afghan War and the U.S.-Pakistan relationship are not even bothering to think anymore. They're recycling advice that everyone knows is useless. It's the same for the Op-ed contingent: just get your think-tank, university, consulting firm or latest book a mention in a major publication and bang out a few paragraphs to justify the advertisement. Then there's the Pakistani Dialing for Dollars crowd (Kick us, beat us, we'll do better if you give us more money) and the influence agents and propagandists, whose motives are evident after they've put out five of their hack jobs or played Talking Head a few times.

I know I should put the above paragraph at the end of this post, after I've sliced and diced Zalmay Khalilzad's October 19 op-ed for the New York Times, which is titled Get Tough on Pakistan. But it's a silly exercise to critique hot air; if I'm going to make an ass out of myself there are more entertaining ways I can do it.

The only reason I'm mentioning Khalilzad's piece, which I found while reading an unintentionally funny BBC report on U.S. aid to Pakistan, is that it's stuffed with so much misinformation it needs a fumigant more than a take-down. Look at this paragraph:
Pakistan has done, and continues to do, a great deal of good: many of the supply lines and much of the logistical support for NATO forces in Afghanistan run through Pakistan. Drones striking terrorists and militants in the tribal areas do so with the Pakistani government’s blessing and rely on Pakistani bases. And Pakistani security services have worked with the Central Intelligence Agency to capture hundreds of Qaeda operatives.
It's not doing good when you're charging an arm and a leg for services that allow you to rip off millions of dollars of supplies from NATO trucks -- supplies that end up for sale in your country's markets or in the hands of terrorists.

It's not doing good when the CIA is paying you a bounty for every person with a beard you kill and say, 'That's an al Qaeda terrorist.'

It's not doing good when you're paid a billion U.S. dollars a year to look the other way while the US carries out drone strikes inside your country.

None of that is "doing good." All of that is a cottage industry, and a very profitable one for Pakistan's military and the Pakistani mafias and Taliban gangs that filch from NATO supply trucks.

The above points are such old news that I won't bother to dig up links to news reports about them. But after explaining how much good Pakistan's military has done, Mr Khalilzad notes that Pakistan's military has also "hampered our military efforts; contributed to American, coalition and Afghan deaths; and helped sour relations between Kabul and Washington" and is hell-bent on messing up initiatives from Kabul that aren't in Pakistan's favor.

What does Mr Khalilzad propose as the solution?
Washington must offer Islamabad a stark choice between positive incentives and negative consequences.

The United States should demand that Pakistan shut down all sanctuaries and military support programs for insurgents or else we will carry out operations against those insurgent havens, with or without Pakistani consent. Arguments that such pressure would cause Pakistan to disintegrate are overstated. Pakistan’s institutions, particularly the country’s security organs, are sufficiently strong to preclude such an outcome.
Mr Khalilzad notes that before following his recommendation it would be necessary to consider the possible consequences and take preemptive action; e.g., arranging for alternate supply routes. Oh, snap! What does he think the NATO command has been trying to do?

And before we can wipe out the terrorists in Waziristan we first have to find them, which is not easy when they sneak over to Tajikistan or relocate to big cities in Pakistan every time the heat's on. Or is Mr Khalilzad suggesting that we carpet-bomb Karachi and Islamabad? Then what? Install a central provisional authority?

As to the positive incentives:
In exchange for demonstrable Pakistani cooperation, the United States should offer to mediate disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan; help establish a trade corridor from Pakistan into Central Asia; and ensure that Pakistan’s adversaries do not use Afghanistan’s territory to support insurgents in Pakistani Baluchistan.
Knock! Knock!

IRGC: Who's there?

It's the United States of America, here to demand you quit messing around in Baluchistan.


[banging her head on the keyboard] Okay. I'm going to explain once again, just for the benefit of Mr Khalilzad, that there are a few things about Pakistan that have to be understood by American decision-makers before they can hope to mount a winning war effort in Afghanistan that lasts longer than a few months. I will undertake the chore in the next post, which will be on Monday morning.

For now, here's what I find funny about the BBC report I mentioned above:
The US is set to announce a significant package of military and security aid to Pakistan on Friday [today], the final day of the latest US-Pakistan strategic talks.

The multi-year aid package will be "no-strings-attached", officials say.

But the Obama administration will make clear it expects Islamabad to do more in the fight against Islamic militants.

Since 2005, Pakistan has received more than $1bn (£636.4m) of military aid a year from the US - and received close to $2bn for the last fiscal year.
So, Pakistan's military and civilian regimes got their way. In a talk he gave in Washington on April 10, 2009 at the Atlantic Council of the United States, Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani
[...] questioned the amount of aid that the U.S. proposes to devote to Pakistani civilian institutions -- a soon-to-be-introduced Senate bill proposes $7.5 billion over five years -- in light of the recent government programs to takeover insurance giant AIG at a cost of $85 billion and extend a lifeline to General Motors with loans worth $13.4 billion, saying that Congress “needs to revisit” the relatively small amount of aid to a country that the Obama administration calls part of the “central front” in the war on al-Qaeda.

But Haqqani urged the United States not to apply strict benchmarks to the funding, as the administration has promised. “Pakistan understands the need for accountability,” he said. “At the same time, there is a difference between accountability and intrusiveness.”
In other words, Screw your benchmarks, just give us the money. Now what's changed since that time to make the Obama administration believe that throwing good money after bad will make a difference?

To pile hilarity on top of mirth, yesterday The New York Times reported with a straight face:
Pakistani Troops Linked to Abuses Will Lose U.S. Aid

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will refuse to train or equip about a half-dozen Pakistani Army units that are believed to have killed unarmed prisoners and civilians during recent offensives against the Taliban, senior administration and Congressional officials said Thursday. [...]
Well I guess it is abusive to murder people. But ignoring the Times tip-toeing around the 'atrocity' word, the question is how the U.S. government can prevent the Pak army from using aid money they receive from the American taxpayers to equip those abusive units. The answer is that they can't, so the U.S. rebuke is a meaningless gesture.

To top off a week of merriment: Yesterday CIA director Leon Panetta announced that the CIA's stepped-up operations in Pakistan had taken "a serious toll" on the al Qaeda network in Pakistan. Two days earlier Praveen Swami, the (U.K.) Telegraph's Diplomatic Editor, had filed a report for the Telegraph headlined:
Al-Qaeda training camp uncovered in Tajikistan

Tajik troops have waged close quarter battles with al-Qaeda terrorists after uncovering a training camp in a remote valley that triggered warnings militants are spreading out of Afghanistan into its Central Asian neighbours.[...]
Al Qaeda would have a very immediate reason for mucking around in Tajikistan: the country is part of a route for NATO supply convoys that skirts Pakistan. (See the report from Yaroslav Trofimov I quoted yesterday.)

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