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Sunday, January 22

Nothing has changed in Washington's approach to Pakistan; nothing can change. (UPDATED)

Added widely publicized quote from Ambassador Cameron Munter about ISI connection with Haqqani Network as further evidence that Rick Santorum's advisors should have known that the Haqqanis are in league with Pakistan's military and always have been, since the days they were fighting the Russians in Afghanistan.
If you think Rick Santorum's comments about Pakistan in a November 2011 Republican presidential hopeful debate were on the moon, you should read Michele Bachmann's comments in the same debate. They're so off the mark they'd leave anyone who is knowledgeable about Pakistan and the Haqqani Network stupified.

Were they lying or do their advisors get their information on Pakistan from the back of a cereal box? It doesn't matter; they were voicing the prevailing view in Washington among Republicans and Democracts alike. The view hasn't changed since the debate and can't change. Why? Because at the bottom of all the explanations is the fact that water seeks its own level.
Pp.6-7 Transcript, CBS-hosted Republican presidential primary candidates debate November 13, 2011 [quoting without making spelling corrections]


Scott Pelley (CBS): Senator Santorum -- if a Pakistani nuclear weapon goes missing, what do you do?

(Senator) Rick Santorum: Well, let me just step back and-- and-- and say I disagree with a lot of what was said up here [about Pakistan]. Pakistan must be a friend of the United States for the reason that Michele outlined. Pakistan is a nuclear power. And there are people in this-- in that country that if they gain control of that country will create a situation equal to the situation that is now percolating in Iran.

So we can't be indecisive about whether Pakistan is our friend. They must be our friend. And we much mut-- we must engaged them as friends, get over the difficulties we have, as we did with Saudi Arabia, with -- with respect to the events of 9/11. We-- they-- the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. And we said, "What-- you know what? It's important for us to maintain that relationship, in spite of those difficulties."

And it's important for us, with a nuclear power, with a very vast number of people in Pakistan, who are radicalizing, that we keep a solid and stable relationship and work through our difficulties. It is that important, and we must maintain that relationship.

Scott Pelley: But the Pakistanis back a terrorist network, the Hikani Network, that laid siege to the NATO headquarters and the U.S. embassy in Kabul for 20 hours, a few weeks ago.

Rick Santorum: And the Pakistanis--

Scott Pelley: How do you make friends out of Pakistan?

Rick Santorum: A lot of the Pakistanis and most of the government would say they don't back the Hikani Network and the Hikani Network causes as much trouble in Pakistan as it has caused us in-- in Afghanistan. We need to work with the elements of Pakistan, and there are elements in the government of Pakistan and the military.

We need to continue those joint exercises. We need to continue the -- the aid relationship. And of course, we all know the aid relationship, when it comes to military aid, is all spent in the United States. So it's not giving money away, it's-- it's-- it's sending military hardware, which creates jobs in this country, to those countries, creating nexus and relationships and dependency on our weapon systems that's important for those future relationships.
Note what everyone who knows anything about Pakistan already knows about the Haqqani Network, from this column from the Washington Post, which everyone in official Washington or their advisors reads [emphasis mine]:
What’s behind the U.S.-Pakistan rift
By David Ignatius
September 29, 2011
The Washington Post

Beyond the recent verbal confrontation between U.S. and Pakistani officials about the Haqqani network lies a delicate political-military effort to draw the Haqqanis into an end-game strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rebuked the Pakistani spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, for using the Haqqani network as its “veritable arm” in Afghanistan. But U.S. officials know the ISI also facilitated a secret meeting during the last several months between the United States and a representative of the Haqqani clan. This is the double game that’s always operating in U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Some U.S. officials believe that the recent wave of attacks by the Haqqanis on U.S. targets in Afghanistan may, in fact, reflect the determination of hard-line members of the clan to derail any move toward negotiation. The United States wants the Pakistani military’s help in isolating and destroying these “unreconcilable” elements of the network.

The sparring with Pakistan illustrates the wider dilemma of the Afghan war. How does the United States bring pressure on the Haqqanis and other Taliban factions, even as it withdraws troops with a 2014 deadline for completing its mission? As Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, has said: “The more the U.S. says it wants to leave Afghanistan, the harder it will be to leave.”

What angered Mullen and other U.S. officials was Pakistan’s failure to act on intelligence reports about planned Haqqani attacks. A timeline helps untangle the threads of the dispute:

● On Sept. 8, Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, is said to have warned Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, that two truck bombs had been assembled in Miran Shah, the Haqqanis’ base in North Waziristan, and were headed for Afghanistan. Kayani is said to have pledged he would take action.

● On Sept. 10, one of those truck bombs struck a NATO base in Wardak, just east of Kabul, wounding 77 U.S. soldiers. That was a trigger for Mullen’s anger: Some senior officials concede that Pakistan may not have had enough time, or precise “actionable” intelligence, to stop the bomb-laden truck.

● On Sept. 13, insurgents from the Haqqani network attacked the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul. Though Mullen mentioned this attack in his denunciation of ISI-Haqqani links, U.S. officials don’t see clear evidence of a Pakistani role in planning or executing the operation, a message the CIA privately communicated to Islamabad. But in the days after the bombing, U.S. officials presented Pakistan with a series of “what ifs,” to convey the danger of the situation: What if the 77 soldiers at Wardak had been killed? What if the U.S. ambassador in Kabul had died? What then?

●On Sept. 18, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with the Pakistani foreign minister and delivered the first of a series of U.S. rebukes, asking how Pakistan could promote the Haqqanis as a prospective negotiating partner and yet sit by idly while they attacked Americans. On Sept. 22, Mullen delivered his blunt testimony. On Sept. 25 and 26, two longtime congressional supporters of Pakistan, Sens. Lindsey O. Graham and Mark Kirk, warned of a halt in military aid.

But scheduled military discussions continue, with Gen. James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, visiting Islamabad last weekend and warning that Pakistan had to choose sides.

The message seems to have gotten through to Pakistani military leaders, who reportedly concluded at a secret commanders’ conference on Monday that they don’t want a confrontation with the United States. [Pundita note: the confrontation came less than a month later, in the wake of NATO killing of Pakistani troops] But surely, this is a sick relationship when the partners have to go to the brink of open confrontation to get the other side to listen. If they were a married couple, you would send them to a counselor, or, failing that, a divorce lawyer.

With all the noise about the Haqqanis, it’s important to remember that the real issue here is the larger war in Afghanistan. President Obama’s goal remains a political settlement with “reconcilable” elements of the Taliban, and secret contacts have been continuing around the world. The message to the Haqqanis is that they can best protect political power in their ancestral homeland in Paktika, Paktia and Khost provinces by coming to the table now.

But does the Taliban — or the Pakistani government, for that matter — take the U.S. strategy seriously? How can the United States gain enough leverage to tip the process toward negotiation? That’s what this war of words was really about.
When it got to the point that Admiral Mullen was coming straight out about the connection between the Haqqanis and Pakistani's military (or ISI), the news was all over official Washington. There was also the strong comment from the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, and which was widely publicized in Washington. But the public statements by Mullen and Munter were only making official what everyone in Washington already knew. From AFP report September 17, 2011 headlined:
[...] US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed frustration that Islamabad has so far failed to crack down on Haqqani network militants that Washington suspects attacked the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul on September 13-14.

The raid was launched by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades at the heavily fortified embassy. At least a half dozen rocket-propelled grenades landed inside the compound, killing 15 people.

US ambassador to Islamabad Cameron Munter said Saturday that there was evidence linking the Pakistani government with the Taliban-allied Haqqani network of militants blamed for the attack.

"There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop," Munter told state-run Radio Pakistan.

Citing unnamed Afghan officials, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that mobile phones found on the slain attackers after the raid indicate they were in contact with people from "outside Afghanistan."

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Dear Pundita,
The Santoresque pearls of wisdom must be analysed in the Judeo-Christian context. It is but our need, in the face of Paradise lost, to find our brethren and bring the flock together.

Many have now partaken at the Sanctum Santorum and now invigorated with this nourishment they seek to fulfil their duty. As Santorum says: “They must be our friend.” What more can be added to this outpouring of brotherhood of all humankind.

But then again Pundita, are we not misjudging our future leaders, who in their immense wisdom and perspicacity that goes beyond the limited knowledge of us common folk, helping make this great country what it is?
Anon - Santorum's stated view of how the US should relate to Pakistan has as much to do with "Judeo-Christianity" as football has to do with knitting.
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