Tuesday, October 19

Obama at War: First we get a sieve to empty the bathtub, then we keep the tub faucet on full blast

Yesterday Long War Journal gave their prestigious Captain Louis Renault Award to an unnamed NATO official. This was for his providing CNN with the shocking information that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, a branch of Pakistan's military, has been sheltering al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri.

The NATO official also thought to mention that the duo were not in North Waziristan, where CIA drones are ostensibly hunting for them, but in Pakistan's northwest in the region between Kurram and Chitral.

The official also provided the shocking information, which surely he stumbled upon just yesterday while getting out of the shower, that the two al Qaeda leaders were not roughing it in Pakistan ("Nobody in al-Qaeda is living in a cave") but in houses close to each other, where they were looked after by members of the ISI and tribal flunkies.

Pakistani officials were quick to categorically deny everything. One official told the U.K. Telegraph:
... that the latest allegations were designed to heap pressure on Islamabad ahead of talks in Washington this week that would focus on strengthening cooperation between the two countries.

"Every time something important is happening then things like this keep creeping out," he said. "If it's not bin Laden it's something else."
It's nice to know there's a little pressure on Islamabad ahead of the latest U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue, which from the following report is centered around the Obama administration's plan to give away the store to Pakistan -- at U.S. taxpayer expense, of course -- and asking nothing in return except that General Kayani politely twiddle his thumbs while listening to a few lectures about Pakistan's need to do better in future:
Meeting Pakistanis, U.S. Will Try to Fix Relations
Published: October 18, 2010, The New York Times

WASHINGTON — As Pakistani civilian and military leaders arrive here this week for high-level meetings, the Obama administration will begin trying to mend a relationship badly damaged by the American military’s tough new stance in the region.

Among the sweeteners on the table will be a multiyear security pact with Pakistan, complete with more reliable military aid — something the Pakistani military has long sought to complement the five-year, $7.5 billion package of nonmilitary aid approved by Congress last year. The administration will also discuss how to channel money to help Pakistan rebuild after its ruinous flood.

But the American gestures come at a time of fraying patience on the part of the Obama administration, and they will carry a familiar warning, a senior American official said: if Pakistan does not intensify its efforts to crack down on militants hiding out in the tribal areas of North Waziristan, or if another terrorist plot against the United States were to emanate from Pakistani soil, the administration would find it hard to persuade Congress or the American public to keep supporting the country.

“Pakistan has taken aggressive action within its own borders. But clearly, this is an ongoing threat and more needs to be done,” the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said Monday. “That will be among the issues talked about.”

The Pakistanis will come with a similarly mixed message. While Pakistan is grateful for the strong American support after the flood, Pakistani officials said, it remains frustrated by what it perceives as the slow pace of economic aid, the lack of access to American markets for Pakistani goods and the administration’s continued lack of sympathy for the country’s confrontation with India.

Other potentially divisive topics are likely to come up, too, including NATO’s role in reconciliation talks between President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Pakistani officials say they are nervous about being left out of any political settlement involving the Taliban.

Still, in a relationship suffused by tension and flare-ups — most recently over a NATO helicopter gunship that accidentally killed three Pakistani soldiers and Pakistan’s subsequent decision to close a supply route into Afghanistan — this regular meeting, known here as the strategic dialogue, serves as a lubricant to keep both countries talking.

At this meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will formally introduce the new American ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter. Mr. Munter, who recently served in Iraq, replaces Anne W. Patterson, who just wrapped up her tour of duty in Islamabad.

“No country has gotten more attention from Secretary Clinton than Pakistan,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s delegation will be led by its foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, but much of the attention will be on another official, the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is viewed by many as the most powerful man in Pakistan.

White House and Pentagon officials said one immediate goal of this meeting was to ease the tensions that led Pakistan to close the border crossing at Torkham, halting NATO supplies into Afghanistan. Officials on both sides said that acrimony from the border flare-up had already receded, soothed by the multiple apologies that American officials made to Pakistan last week.

Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that General Kayani had assured him that Pakistan’s army would tackle the North Waziristan haven, but on Pakistan’s timetable.

In an interview, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, “Our American partners understand that we have 34,000 troops in North Waziristan. Our soldiers have been engaged in flood relief after history’s worst floods. It is not a question of lack of will.”

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