Pakistan’s strategic assault on Obama administration.
John Kerry and Atlantic Council Chairman Chuck Hagel, the co-chairs of the Council’s Pakistan Task Force will release its report on Pakistan — Needed: A Comprehensive U.S. Policy Towards Pakistan — later today. The report:
…calls for an additional $4-5 billion dollars of immediate financial aid for Pakistan to avert an economic meltdown and suggests that Pakistan has the ability to alter its destiny, given this support. If the US and its Atlantic partners do not provide Pakistan with this assistance, the country may be placed on a downward trajectory whose consequences will be dire.
There is nothing new about this Pakistani “holding a gun to my head” approach. But the timing of the release of this report is significant. The White House has ordered as 60-day review of AfPak under Bruce Riedel, while the exhaustive study on the region ordered by General Petraeus is also in progress now.
Meanwhile NYT comes out with a report from Islamabad highlighting the dangers posed by Al Qaeda and how it continues to be a threat. It conveniently misses out on the Taliban – Al Qaeda connection, which tends to convey the impression that the real threat to the US is posed by Al Qaeda and not Taliban. While the heavyweight Pakistani delegation, comprising the Foreign minister, army chief and head of ISI among others, is meeting the officials in the Pentagon and the State department, the Taliban has displayed its large-heartedness by agreeing to an indefinite ceasefire in Swat.
Earlier this month, Richard Holbrooke had clearly identified the two opposing points of view in the Obama administration on trusting the Pak army-ISI to deliver against their own jehadi Frankenstein’s monster. All these indicators now point to a concerted lobbying offensive by the Pakistani establishment to influence Obama administration’s policy over Pakistan: to get more money, conventional military equipment and eventually try for a peaceful settlement with the “good” Taliban, that is, the Taliban that is good for certain sections of the Pakistani establishment.
More than the Zardari government, it is in the interest of the Pakistani army that some kind of negotiated settlement is reached with Taliban. It would not only prevent the sheen going off the myth of professional competence of the most hallowed institution in Pakistan and salvage the Pakistan army’s image; it would also allow the GHQ to hedge the Taliban as an strategic asset against Afghanistan and India, while placating the increasingly radical rank and file of the Pakistan army by restoring the religious-ideological cord between the Pak army and the jehadis.
Needless to say, it would be a grave mistake on part of the US to differentiate between various types of jehadis and negotiate with “good” Taliban as a long-term strategy. Even if the US actually negotiates with Taliban for short-term gains (say, a peaceful Presidential elections in Afghanistan), it might only end up emboldening and strengthening the jehadis further. This will entail a greater and bloodier effort when the fight to the finish between the multinational forces and the jehadis actually begins.
Pakistan has clearly demonstrated where it stands in this debate over US policy in the region. An Indian delegation is supposed to be visiting Washington next month. One hopes that they display a similar clarity of thought and steadfastness of purpose while making India’s case about the US policy in AfPak.