Spearhead Analysis - 27.04.11
The US-Pakistan Mosaic
In an address at the passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy, the Chief of Army Staff asked the nation to have confidence in the Armed Forces who would not let them down, and that the Armed Forces were aware of the internal and external dangers facing Pakistan. Earlier in Gwadar, Baluchistan he had stressed the importance of the economy for the country. The Armed Forces maintain operational readiness on the eastern border even as they are fighting a low intensity conflict against insurgents in the western border areas. The insurgency has links to Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and banned militant outfits within Pakistan, and it uses the landscape created by the thirty years of conflict in Afghanistan. Thus, a declining economy has implications for security just as poor internal and external security hampers economic turnaround.
The present difficulties in the US-Pakistan relationship and the impasse with the IMF could have serious consequences. Presently the drone attacks that are a part of US strategy have led to a stand-off primarily because of their unrestrained use. Speaking at the IISS, the Deputy Director of the US Army Joint Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence stated that if the Pakistan government denied the use of its territory to launch attacks the remotely Piloted Vehicles could be based in Afghanistan to execute attacks on Pakistan. This would have implications for Pakistan–Afghan relations as a precedent would be set for allowing third country or other elements to use Afghanistan for attacks within Pakistan. Other officials have, however, said that despite the rhetoric, there is no significant change to how either side does business. There has also been mention of contractors lighting up targets for Reaper and Predator strike,s implying their presence in Pakistan’s FATA just as the Davis affair confirmed CIA covert operations within Pakistan. The negative vibes about the US that all this creates in the political situation within Pakistan is leading to an exploitation of anti-US sentiment as politicians seek to use it for their own ends.
The ISI being targeted for links with the Taliban, just when greater cooperation is needed, is creating further problems—especially with a major political party also targeting it for meddling in political affairs. In both cases no proof has been offered. The Wikileaks that led to major stories in the New York Times and The Guardian only mention the interrogators at Guantanamo deciding that links to the ISI meant terrorist links, and from what is available, it seems that such links were actually sought during interrogations—a fact that those being brutally tortured could not have ignored. The Joint Task Force Guantanamo Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants is something that needs analysis just as the entire Guantanamo episode is being exposed for its ugly side. Unfortunately, there seems to be convergence between those who want to bring down the ISI, and those who want to use the present tangle in US relations to their own advantage. The ISI is, however, seen as an asset by the majority of Pakistanis—a fact whose impact will eventually prevail.
Just when the India-Pakistan Dialogue seemed to be taking off, there is a well timed release of information about headway in the Headley interrogation, and the indictment of more Pakistanis or Pakistani-origin people with links to a banned militant organization that the US and India see as having been behind the Mumbai attack and other planned or aborted attacks in the US and Europe. Here too an ISI link is being sought. It is important for India and Pakistan to ensure that the direction adopted by them transcends these developments, and that their joint cooperative investigative mechanism becomes institutionalized. This would be a departure from the mindsets of the past and a move towards the reality of the present environment.
The US and Pakistan need to find a mutually acceptable arrangement to get the relationship back on track. Rather than a procession of visitors travelling to and from Washington, the answer may come from a joint meeting of all major policy makers in DC and Islamabad. The concerns on both sides would have to be addressed and, more importantly, future plans would need to be put on the table to bring clarity and convergence on the ‘end conditions’ that are being vaguely discussed so far.
Spearhead analyses are the result of a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual
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