Tag Archives | US

The No Love chart

Pakistanis view of the United States (2002-2012)

2004 – US starts drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas

2005 – Massive earthquake in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. US rushes in with a big relief effort (also pushes in CIA and JSOC operatives)

2009 – Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill is passed by the US, promising $7.5 bn in civilian aid to Pakistan over next five years

2010 – Worst floods in Pakistan’s history. US is top-most aid provider to Pakistan for flood relief and rehabilitation

2011 – US kills Osama bin Laden in a raid at the Pakistan military town of Abbottabad. 24 Pakistani soldiers die at Salala on the AfPak border due to US military firing

Good, bad or ugly: US actions really don’t matter. Pakistanis continue to hold the US in an unfavourable light irrespective of what DC does. The feeling has now become so deeply entrenched that no political party in Pakistan can afford to be seen on the same side as the US. Forget political parties, now even the army — which has benefitted the most from US military aid, arms, equipment and support over the last 65 years — is scared to be seen as being a partner of the US.

There could be a new President in the US, a new government in Pakistan and a new army chief at Rawalpindi next year. But none of that will change the overwhelmingly unfavourable opinion Pakistanis have of the US. If I were a betting man, I would safely bet my house on that.

[N.B. - Data for the chart from Pew surveys. Idea for the chart courtesy a CRS report]

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Rawalpindi’s diplomatic service

Retired ISI chiefs as back-channel interlocutors

Forget the official Foreign Service of Pakistan. Rawalpindi’s very own diplomatic service is the next big thing in town. David Ignatius revealed last week that former ISI chief General Ehsan ul-Haq is acting as the back-channel interlocutor in Washington DC. He is supposedly trying to bring the US and the Taliban back to the negotiating table.

Now you have reports of another retired ISI chief acting as the back-channel interlocutor for Moscow. General Asad Durrani was received with much fanfare in Moscow last month as he laid the base for General Kayani’s ongoing visit to Russia. Russia’s former intelligence chief Vyacheslav Trubnikov reportedly said General Durrani’s visit had brought the “right man at the right time” to Moscow.

Of course, then you have the former ISI chief, General Hamid Gul who doesn’t believe in any back-channel stuff. He is the ‘front-channel’ interlocutor with all kind of jehadi groups and radicalised parties in Pakistan.

The message is simple. These retired generals have obviously been handpicked by the Pakistan army. For all the air-miles being earned by globetrotting Ms Hina Khar — and same soundbites delivered by her in various cities — the real control of Pakistan’s foreign policy remains with the General Headquarters at Rawalpindi. Not that it was ever a secret or needed further proof, but it helps to reestablish a fact many might have lost notice of, blinded by the glamorous presence of Pakistani foreign minister.

To end with, a quick question. Anyone on this list of retired ISI chiefs suited to be a back-channel interlocutor with India?


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What Hillary really waived for Pakistan

Clinton actually refused to certify that Pakistan wasn’t aiding terror groups

In yesterday’s Hindu, Praveen Swami scooped the waiver given by the US State department so that $2 billion in US economic and military aid continues unabated to Pakistan.

“In mid-August 2012,” its authors Susan Epstein and Alan Kronstadt said, “the State Department quietly notified Congress of its intention to cite U.S. national security provisions in waiving two certification requirements that placed conditions on U.S. assistance to Pakistan.”[Hindu]

This waiver actually means that Ms Clinton did not certify that Pakistan had met the conditions mentioned in the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act and the State Department’s 2012 budget. Ms Clinton was to certify the following about Pakistan.

The certification required by this subsection is a certification by the Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, to the appropriate congressional committees that–

(1) the Government of Pakistan is continuing to cooperate with the United States in efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials, such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks;

(2) the Government of Pakistan during the preceding fiscal year has demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups, consistent with the purposes of assistance described in section 201, including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as–

(A) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighboring countries;

(B) preventing al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighboring countries, closing terrorist camps in the FATA, dismantling terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high-level terrorist targets; and

(C) strengthening counterterrorism and anti-money laundering laws; and

(3) the security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.[Link]

Bloomberg reports that Ms Clinton didn’t disclose which specific prerequisites Pakistan failed to meet. Those details were classified.

The point to note is that Ms Clinton has been providing this certificate to Pakistan so far. This is the first time she has refused to certify that Pakistan is not supporting terror groups. She has instead conveyed that while Pakistan continues to support terror groups, the US considers it to be “important to the national security interests of the United States” to still provide economic and military aid to Pakistan.

The US may be trying to tell Pakistan that by refusing to provide the certification and giving a waiver instead, it has ratcheted up the pressure on Pakistan . The next stage would be the blocking of military and economic aid to Pakistan. But Pakistan is likely to see it differently. The generals at Rawalpindi will conclude that they are absolutely indispendable to the US plans in Afghanistan. They can thus get away with murder while the US will go out of its way to keep the money flowing to Pakistan.

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Now we are just haggling over the price

What the price negotiations about NATO supply lines remind us of

Pakistan wants an additional $5000 for each truck that passes through its its territory carrying non-lethal supplies for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan. US is hoping to clinch the deal at $1500-1800 a truck of supplies. Pakistan also wants an indemnity waiver in case American cargo is damaged. US might end up discontinuing the Coalition Support Fund money it pays to Pakistan to balance out the new levy on supply trucks. And the haggling continues.

This reminds us of the story (often attributed to George Bernard Shaw) of a conversation between a very sophisticated gentleman and a very respectable lady at a party.

“Well,” says the gentleman, “just for the sake of our argument, suppose I offered you $100,000—would you spend the night with me?”

The lady, smiling coquettishly: “Who knows—I might very well!”

The gentleman: “Now suppose I offer you $10 for the night?”

The lady: “But what do you think I am?”

The gentleman: “We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

One wonders if that is the line someone from the US actually uses during the negotiations when the Pakistan rhetoric over sovereignty gets too much to bear: “We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

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Just do the maths

Of closing NATO supply lines through Pakistan

As per Washington Post, it costs the US $100 billion annually to keep 100,000 American troops on Afghan soil.

As per Dawn, using the Central Asian route for NATO supplies is costing the US an additional $38 million a month.

As per the Express Tribune, Pakistan has budgeted $1.1 billion in the next year’s budget as reimbursements from the United States on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The figure for the current fiscal year is $1.34 billion. And outstanding CSF dues at present amount to $2.5 billion.

Now do the maths. At $38 million a month, the losses sustained by not using supply routes in Pakistan over a year are $456 million. This is not even half a percent of the total amount being spent by the Pentagon in Afghanistan. Moreover, it is barely one-fifth of the CSF amount Pakistan wants from the US in the current and the next fiscal year. Do you still think the US is deeply hurt by the financial losses it is incurring by stoppage of NATO supply routes via Pakistan? In fact, Pakistan has done the US a favour by closing the supply lines. It is actually saving the US some money.

Perhaps this also explains John Kerry’s statement yesterday where he asked Pakistan to act against jehadi groups being provided sanctuary in that country. And he is the same John Kerry people expected would come and deliver a formal public apology to Pakistan.

[Hat Tip: @majorlyprofound for the idea]

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Spot the difference (US-Pakistan version)

US budget requests for Pakistan for FY 2012 and FY 2013

First the US budget request for aid to Pakistan and objectives for FY 2012:

The United States seeks to advance U.S. national security by deepening its long-term bilateral strategic partnership with Pakistan. This effort will support the U.S. goal to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in the region, as well as deny safe haven for the Taliban by helping to build a stable, secure, democratic, and prosperous country. The United States will partner with Pakistan to strengthen the capacity of the democratic government to meet the needs of its citizens better by rehabilitating critical infrastructure, stabilizing key areas contested by violent extremists, and fostering private-sector-led economic growth. [The Congressional Budget Justification Foreign Operations Annex: Regional Perspectives, FY2012, p. 660]

And the US budget request for aid to Pakistan and objectives for FY 2013:

The United States seeks to foster economic and political stability in Pakistan through sustained assistance, which directly supports the core U.S. national security objective to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaida, as well as to deny safe haven to it and its affiliates in the region. Despite recent challenges in the relationship, the United States and Pakistan must continue to identify shared interests and cooperate on joint actions that will help achieve these objectives. [The Congressional Budget Justification Foreign Operations Annex: Regional Perspectives, FY2013, p. 687]

As far as the US is concerned, all the talk about deepening a bilateral strategic partnership with Pakistan is dead and buried. It isn’t there even on paper now. The dreams of building a stable, secure, democratic and prosperous Pakistan have also been replaced by more modest goals of identifying shared interests and cooperating on joint actions against Al Qaida and its affiliates. Such a difference a year makes in Washington DC!

But for whatever reason, this reminds me of that Goethe quote: “When ideas fail, words come in very handy.”

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The CSF money and Pakistan’s military expenditure

And the US assistance to Pakistan since 1962 in constant USD prices

Just in case you have forgotten what the Pakistan army is losing out on due to its breakdown of relationship with the US, here is a timely reminder.

These “coalition support funds” (CSF) have accounted for nearly half of U.S. financial transfers to Pakistan since 2001; as of May 2011, some $8.9 billion had been disbursed. The amount equals roughly one-fifth to one-quarter of Pakistan’s total military expenditures during this period. [Page 12, CRS-R41856]

Please do remember that CSF is Pentagon funding, which is not officially designated as foreign assistance by the US. Even Pakistan doesn’t show it as military assistance received from the US. Pretty neat, isn’t it?

PS – I came across this great chart about US assistance to Pakistan since 1947, not in nominal terms but in real terms — constant US dollar prices adjusted to 2011 rates.

Courtesy: CRS R41856

It is worth noting that the US aid in last three years has been close to the peak aid received by Pakistan in 1962, the year in which Pakistan signed two defence pacts with the US and its allies. So much for all the bluster about Pakistan’s sovereignty by the generals in Rawalpindi!

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A win for Suu Kyi in Myanmar

 But it’s not a loss for India

Recent events in Egypt should warn us of premature euphoria about the victory of people power in countries under authoritarian regimes. But the images of iconic pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest until November 2010 running for elections in a country that till an a year ago was a quiet, fearful military dictatorship are bound to leave most observers intoxicated. In any case, Myanmar is not Egypt, although the military junta still holds power in that country.

First the facts. Myanmar’s Lower House of parliament has 440 seats (of which 330 are elected) while the Upper House has 224 seats (of which 168 are elected). Before the bye-elections, the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) dominated with 348 seats while serving soldiers had 166 seats. By-elections have been held for 45 seats to fill vacancies of those elected in 2010 polls who became ministers and deputy ministers in the government. These by-elections have been contested by 176 candidates from 17 parties and eight independents. The most famous candidate running in these by-elections is Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) has put up candidates in 44 seats.

Although the official results are not yet out, NLD is expected to win 40 of those seats. Suu Kyi herself has reportedly got 99% of the vote and won at 128 out of 129 polling booths in Kawmhu, the seat where she contested from. More surprisingly, NLD is claiming to have won 3 out of 4 seats in the new capital city of Naypyidaw, which is populated largely by government employees believed to be sympathetic to USDP.

These by-elections have been largely free and fair, with few reports of rigging or electoral irregularities. The one rather interesting complaint has been about the use of wax in the NLD box of the ballot paper.

…reports from all around the country that wax had been fixed on the NLD box on the ballot paper, making it hard for voters to put a clear tick in the box. The idea being, presumably, that a lot of scratching to write a tick would disfigure, and thus invalidate, the ballot paper. Certainly, a couple of furious people whom I spoke to at polling stations complained of this, and said that when they asked for a new ballot paper they were told there were none spare.[Banyan]

Notwithstanding this allegation, even if the NLD wins most of the seats, Suu Kyi is not going to be in power: the army and the USDP will still hold about 80% of seats in parliament. Let us also not forget that when Suu Kyi’s NLD had won the multi-party elections in 1990 (winning 392 of the 492 seats), those results were never accepted by the army. Those elections were not meant to form a parliamentary government, but only to form a parliament sized constitutional committee to draft a new constitution for Myanmar. How different could it be now?

Understanding the situation fully, Suu Kyi has promised to use her voice to push for further reforms. But she will need to continue her engagement with the President, Thein Sein. Both have taken big risks over the last year to get to this stage and the response from the international community should encourage them to go further.

What is in this for India? Unlike the Chinese or the Americans — and despite tremendous pressure from the US, India has maintained a working relationship with both the sides: Suu Kyi and the army. This will keep India in good stead in that country in the foreseeable future. India has three goals in Myanmar. One, to deny insurgents from India’s Northeastern states a sanctuary in Myanmar, and deny the Maoists access to arms smuggled via Kachin rebels in Myanmar. Two, to prevent China from gaining complete control in Myanmar, thereby countering China’s growing regional influence. Three, to use Myanmar as a gateway for furthering its relationship with other South-East Asian countries, as part of its Look East policy.

Of course, India can also help nurture Myanmar on to a path of full democracy. Peace and stability in Myanmar will allow India to focus on the development of Northeastern states. For once, India seems to be playing its cards right with a neighbouring country. It has been announced that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will soon visit Myanmar — the first visit to that country by an Indian PM in 25 years. This is one move which will allow the two countries to further strengthen their relationship. From here, it will take something out of the ordinary for India to mess it up with Myanmar. That’s some solace. Because anything out of the ordinary is beyond the current government in Delhi.

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Demand and supply (The Pakistan-US version)

What Pakistan wants to open the supply routes, and what the US can give

This one has been in the offing for a few months now. And it is finally here — the review of Pakistan’s relations with the US by Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). For months, everyone including the man who really matters in Pakistan, the army chief, General Kayani has sworn to abide by the directions of the parliamentary review. There is some meat, a lot of rhetoric and a few unintentionally funny demands in the 40-pointer Guidelines for Revised Terms of Engagement with the US/ NATO/ ISAF and General Foreign Policy (pdf).

Ignoring the rhetoric in the PCNS review report, let us focus on the meaty ones — Pakistani demands, and the likely US reaction.

#2 – The US must review its footprints in Pakistan. This means (i) the cessation of drone strikes inside the territorial borders of Pakistan,

= It is impossible that the US will agree to stop drone strike inside Pakistan. These drone strikes are low-risk, low-cost means to effectively target al Qaeda and other jehadi groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Having seen them deliver good results so far, these strikes form the very basis of US strategy in Pakistan. The best that the US can perhaps agree to is to stop using Pakistani airbases to fly its drones, and operate them only from bases in Afghanistan.

What happens if the US refuses to accede to this demand? Will Pakistan muster up its aircrafts and anti-aircraft weapons to shoot these drones inside Pakistani airspace? Or it will continue to be nudge-nudge, wink-wink as hitherto.

#5 – The Government of Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident dated 25th-26th November, 2011, in Mohmand agency…

= It has been reported that the US President was about to offer an apology to Pakistan around the time the Quran burning incident occurred in Afghanistan. His apology to Afghanistan put him in a political spot domestically and has made it difficult for him to apologise to Pakistan now. However, it is possible that a senior US military official could call up General Kayani and apologise for the Salala incident. Of course, Pakistan Army will spin it as an “unconditional apology”  which will then give it an excuse to carry on with its ghairat (pride) intact.

#11 – Taxes and other charges must be levied on all goods imported in or transiting through Pakistan for use of infrastructure and to compensate for its deterioration.

= This is something which will be negotiated between US and Pakistan. Pakistan, more particularly the Pakistani Military-Business Complex, needs US dollars and wants to milk the NATO supply routes to the maximum possible extent. The US military needs the supply routes through Pakistan not to supply its troops in Afghanistan but to bring the military equipment out of the theatre, consequent to the planned troop drawdown.

#15 – A new fast-track process of billings and payments/ reimbursements with regard to CSF and other leviable charges shall be adopted.

= US has not given a penny to Pakistan as Coalition Support Funds (CSF) reimbursement since November 2010. Pakistan’s perilous economic situation necessitates an early transfer of CSF money from the US. While US might release some old dues as a one-time sop after the supply lines resume through Pakistan, it is unlikely to amend the process of audit and verification of bills submitted by Pakistan Army towards CSF reimbursement. Audit and verification of bills is a Congressional requirement and the US Department of Defense can’t afford to bypass that stipulation.

To sum up, out of these four demands, the one on drones will not be accepted by the US. Two will be met partially — the apology may not be unconditional but would still be an apology, and some old CSF dues may be released by the US while the process remains unchanged. The demand on levying new taxes and charges will be — or has perhaps already been — negotiated by the US.  This is how the final score sheet looks like : one No, one Yes, and two Maybe. If that one No is not a Veto, NATO supply lines through Pakistan should resume next month.

Now to the unintentional levity in the PCNS report. There are a few but this one is absolutely hilarious:

#9 – There should be prior permission and transparency on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan.

Really! Now dear PCNS, did you really need to prove that talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand?

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Get these MRAPs from the US

India needs mine-resistant vehicles for its anti-Maoist operations. US has a surplus of them.

The equation is simple. The United States has a surplus of MRAPs — mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles — the heavily armoured military truck that was used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce casualties from roadside bombings and IEDs. And it doesn’t know what to do with them now, as wars in both these countries come to an end.

The MRAP’s signature V-shaped undercarriage helped deflect the impact of blasts from improvised explosives and made the armored vehicle exactly what troops needed in Iraq. In 2007, the military began ordering almost 28,000 MRAPs, most of which went to Iraq, though some were designed for Afghanistan and its more challenging terrain.

…What to do with the vehicles now is a complicated matter, particularly for the Army, which owns most of the MRAPs, and the Marine Corps, which has a sizable number.[WaPo]

India, in contrast, has manufactured its own version of MPV — Mine Protected Vehicle — for use in anti-Maoist operations. These MPVs have been spectacularly disastrous in preventing police and CAPF casualties due to IED blasts. In fact, they have been discarded by almost all forces and are now often used to only transport rations and other supplies.

Last year, the CRPF seized a Maoist military magazine, Awam-e-Jung from the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border which revealed the Maoist tactics against the MPV. In an article titled ‘Mine-proof Vehicle — Its Shortcomings’, the Maoists identified the vulnerabilities in the MPV while advising the cadres in great detail on how to ‘handle’ it. “It is an utter lie to call it a mine-proof vehicle. The vehicle is being propagated as mine-proof to boost the morale of forces that have lost it,” the article said.

The Maoists are right. The MPV has failed to boost the morale of our forces. A senior CRPF official labeled the MPVs, “coffins on wheels”. Obviously, most paramilitary and police forces are reluctant to use the vehicle in Maoist-affected areas.[Mid-day]

Media reports suggest that India needs around 1,500 of such protected vehicles. With the approved acquisition figure of  25, 700 MRAPs, the US should be easily be able to spare many times that number from the surplus held by it. The Government of India, and particularly the union Home Ministry, should be actively pursuing this lead to defeat IEDs, the most effective weapon in the armoury of the Maoists.

More interestingly, it is not something that India may have to necessarily pay heavily for. The US has a provision of transferring EDA — or Excess Defense Articles — to various countries. India has earlier availed of that scheme when it got Ex-USS Trenton (LPD-14) for the Indian Navy — now rechristened INS Jalshwa –  in 2005.

The acquisition of MRAPs from the US military as Excess Defense Articles for Indian security forces deployed in anti-Maoist operations seems like a win-win proposition for both India and the US. The initiative though will have to be taken by the Indian government. India can not — and must not — let this opportunity go waste.

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