Thursday, May 26

Rawalpindi strikes another blow at US by closing 3 US military intell centers in Pakistan (UPDATED 1:30 AM ET)

May 27, 2011:
David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times, reporting from Washington— In a clear sign of Pakistan's deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.[..]
I do not believe this move is "a clear sign of Pakistan's deepening mistrust of the United States," any more than I believe the raid on Mehran naval air base in Karachi was in revenge for bin Laden's killing.

Dear God, what is it going to take for the U.S. civilian government and military command to grasp the concept that Pakistan's military wants control of Afghanistan and that for years they received assurancs from the highest levels of military and civilian government that this was going to happen?

When in the name of God are American advisors to the White House and military going learn that there are peoples in this world who become extremely angry and wreak horrific vengeance if they feel at the mercy of those who repeatedly change their minds?

When will the people prosecuting this war in Afghanistan come to understand that the simple acts of being unequivocally clear and unfailing consistent are worth more in that part of the world than all the high-tech weapons in their arsenal?

When, when, O Lord tell me when, will Barack Obama, Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton and Mike Mullen stop acting like Antebellum southern belles? [tapping General Parvez Kayani on the chest with their fans] Now, honey, I know I promised you this dance but you just run and get me a mint julep while I squeeze in this one little dance and I'll be yours again in no time.

[throwing up her hands] I don't know what use it is to keep repeating myself but to repeat:
[...] Secondly, while Amrullah Saleh speaks with frankness during the interview he avoids stating the obvious, which is that Afghanistan's 'Pakistan problem' is a U.S. problem spelled backward. The problem is that Washington can't make up its mind from one day to the next about how it deals with Pakistan.

It's because of Washington's incoherence that I don't agree with Saleh's recommendation that the U.S./NATO "bomb" Pakistan, nor do I support the drone strikes. Or rather I think such actions put the cart before the horse.

Washington and its most powerful NATO partners should first change their tune toward Pakistan and make the tune consistent, then see if Pakistan's military/ISI continue to support terrorism in Afghanistan. Then take it to the next level if they don't abandon the support.

But it's only recently that Washington has demonstrated real opposition to the Pakistani military's support of terror sponsoring groups -- and even then the demonstration is part of a passive-aggressive approach that sends conflicting signals to Pakistan's military and civilian leaders.

Let me show you something:

October 8, 2009
US leaders say no intention to interfere in Pakistan's affairs

[...] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States has no intention of interfering in Pakistan's internal affairs through the [civilian] aid programme, as some critics have suggested. "Those who have questions or doubts should read the legislation, which is very clear in its intent. [...]
January 8, 2011
Islamabad - The US has the right to interfere in Pakistan’s economic and governance affairs as Washington provides funds to it, the American envoy here has asserted. US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said the US was the largest aid giver to Pakistan and, therefore, it has the right to interfere in economic and governance affairs, Geo News reported Saturday.[...]
[flipping her pen in the air] Who acts like this? Only crazy people can afford the luxury of changing their minds whenever it suits them. A policy, particularly one that's written into legislation, means an assurance that's consistently applied. Policies can change but if 'change' is the operative term, one is no longer making policy. [...]
If Americans ask what we can do to improve the situation, I would return the question. One doesn't need to be Pakistani to blow a gasket about constantly being jerked around. So what would you do, if you'd spent years flip-flopping in your relationship with someone, lying in your teeth at every turn then saying, 'I wasn't lying to you; I just had to keep changing my mind?'

How would you proceed if you wanted to assure the person that this time, you were sincere and this time, you wouldn't keep changing your mind?

Now I invite you to read or re-read my October 2010 post, Stay out of the bazaar,. Maybe this time around those in Washington who got a chuckle from the first reading will see the advice I gave with new eyes.

Washington needs to get clear on this much: Pakistan's leaders are nearly beside themselves with fury about the following issue because they thought Afghanistan was promised to them and that the U.S. was going to withdraw from the country. So although they're denying they're trying to influence U.S.-Afghan relations, this is all anyone needs to know in order to interpret many recent events in Pakistan. Pakistan's leaders are determined to do everything they can to block or at least heavily influence the final version of this draft agreement:
No permission needed for accord with US: Spanta
The Frontier Post [Pakistan]
May 18, 2011

KABUL (NNI): Signing a strategic agreement with the US does not need any permission from neighbouring countries, a presidential advisor said.

”Afghanistan is an independent country and can sign any strategic agreement with any country it wants to,” Rangin Dadfar Spanta, national security advisor to the president, told parliamentarians.

He added Afghanistan has the right to fight terrorism in partnership with its allies. Under the proposed strategic agreement with the US, he said, Afghanistan would be independent in all activities, including arrest of suspects and search of civilian houses. The US would train and equip Afghan forces as part of the agreement until the country’s security problems were addressed, he explained.

Any decision about the accord would be taken by the Parliament and the traditional Jirga would only advise the Afghan government, he said.

On permanent US military bases in Afghanistan, Spanta said the American government had not yet decided anything in this regard. Foreign minister, Zalmay Rassoul, said it would be the parliament to decide on permanent US military bases in the country. He said the bases would not be allowed to use Afghan soil against its neighbours.The strategic cooperation agreement with America was aimed at bringing political and economical stability and improved security situation, he said.
It's possible that the Pakistani delegation that visited Kabul in April now believes that Karzai misled them -- although if they believe that, from what I know about Karzai, they misled themselves. Karzai probably just listened to their arguments to dump the U.S. and said, 'Uh huh uh huh uh huh.' His family's skill at diplomacy goes back such a long way that he has a diplomat's instincts in his bones and blood. In any case, this report from the Wall Street Journal's April 29 edition bears repeating and merits close attention, if one wants to understand the maneuvering in Pakistan that's happening today (note that the head of the ISI was part of the delegation):
Karzai Told to Dump U.S.
By Matthew Rosenberg

Pakistan Urges Afghanistan to Ally With Islamabad, Beijing

Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan's president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally—for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.

The pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting. Mr. Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country, Mr. Gilani said, according to the Afghans. Pakistan's bid to cut the U.S. out of Afghanistan's future is the clearest sign to date that, as the nearly 10-year war's endgame begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America's prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms.

With the bulk of U.S.-led coalition troops slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the country's neighbors, including Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia, are beginning to jockey for influence, positioning themselves for Afghanistan's post-American era.

Pakistan enjoys particular leverage in Afghanistan because of its historic role in fostering the Taliban movement and its continuing support for the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Washington's relations with Pakistan, ostensibly an ally, have reached their lowest point in years following a series of missteps on both sides.

Pakistani officials say they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard. "Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest," said a senior Pakistani official. "We're not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the U.S. If they're leaving, they're leaving and they should go."

Mr. Karzai is wavering on Pakistan's overtures, according to Afghans familiar with his thinking, with pro- and anti-American factions at the presidential palace trying to sway him to their sides.

The leaks about what went on at the April 16 meeting officials appear to be part of that effort. Afghans in the pro-U.S. camp who shared details of the meeting with The Wall Street Journal said they did so to prompt the U.S. to move faster toward securing the strategic partnership agreement, which is intended to spell out the relationship between the two countries after 2014. "The longer they wait…the more time Pakistan has to secure its interests," said one of the pro-U.S. Afghan officials.

A spokesman for Mr. Karzai, Waheed Omar, said: "Pakistan would not make such demands. But even if they did, the Afghan government would never accept it."

Some U.S. officials said they had heard details of the Kabul meeting, and presumed they were informed about Mr. Gilani's entreaties in part, as one official put it, to "raise Afghanistan's asking price" in the partnership talks. That asking price could include high levels of U.S. aid after 2014. The U.S. officials sought to play down the significance of the Pakistani proposal. Such overtures were to be expected at the start of any negotiations, they said; the idea of China taking a leading role in Afghanistan was fanciful at best, they noted.

Yet in a reflection of U.S. concerns about Pakistan's overtures, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Gen. David Petraeus, has met Mr. Karzai three times since April 16, in part to reassure the Afghan leader that he has America's support, and to nudge forward progress on the partnership deal, said Afghan and U.S. officials.

The Afghan president, meanwhile, has expressed distrust of American intentions in his country, and has increasingly lashed out against the behavior of the U.S. military. Afghanistan's relations with Pakistani are similarly fraught, though Mr. Karzai has grown closer to Pakistan's leaders over the past year. Still, many Afghans see their neighbor as meddlesome and controlling and fear Pakistani domination once America departs.

Formal negotiations on the so-called Strategic Partnership Declaration began in March. Details of talks between U.S. and Afghan negotiators so far remain sketchy. The most hotly contested issue is the possibility of long-term U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to buttress and continue training Afghan forces and carry on the fight against al Qaeda.

U.S. officials fear that without a stabilizing U.S. hand in Afghanistan after 2014, the country would be at risk for again becoming a haven for Islamist militants seeking to strike the West.

The opening of talks in March was enough to raise alarms among Afghanistan's neighbors. Senior Iranian and Russian officials quickly made treks to Kabul to express their displeasure at the possibility of a U.S. military presence after 2014, Afghan officials said. The Taliban have always said they wouldn't sign on to any peace process as long as foreign forces remain.

Yet no other party has been as direct, and as actively hostile to the planned U.S.-Afghan pact, as the Pakistanis. Along with Prime Minister Gilani, the Pakistani delegation at the April 16 meeting included Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. U.S. officials accuse the ISI of aiding the Taliban, despite it being the Central Intelligence Agency's partner in the fight against Islamist militants in Pakistan. Pakistani officials deny the accusations.

After routine pleasantries about improving bilateral ties and trade, Mr. Gilani told Mr. Karzai that the U.S. had failed both their countries, and that its policy of trying to open peace talks while at the same time fighting the Taliban made no sense, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Gilani repeatedly referred to America's "imperial designs," playing to a theme that Mr. Karzai has himself often embraced in speeches. He also said that, to end the war, Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to take "ownership" of the peace process, according to Afghans familiar with what was said at the meeting. Mr. Gilani added that America's economic problems meant it couldn't be expected to support long-term regional development. A better partner would be China, which Pakistanis call their "all-weather" friend, he said, according to participants in the meeting. He said the strategic partnership deal was ultimately an Afghan decision. But, he added, neither Pakistan nor other neighbors were likely to accept such a pact.

Mr. Gilani's office didn't return calls seeking comment. A senior ISI official, speaking about the meeting, said: "It is us who should be cheesed because we are totally out of the loop on what the Americans are doing in Afghanistan.…We have been telling President Karzai that we will support any and all decisions that you take for Afghanistan as long as the process is Afghan-led and not dictated by outside interests."

Although a U.S. ally, Pakistan has its own interests in Afghanistan, believing it needs a pliant government in Kabul to protect its rear flank from India. Pakistani officials regularly complain of how India's influence over Afghanistan has grown in the past decade. Some Pakistani officials say the presence of U.S. and allied forces is the true problem in the region, not the Taliban.

—Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.
Got all that? So fasten your seat belts because we're in for a wild ride until this issue shakes out.

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