WikiLeaks: Pakistan military cast in favourable light

Published: December 1, 2010

The success achieved by Pakistani forces under General Kayani has been appreciated by then US Centcom Commander General David Petraeus and the US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. PHOTO: EPA

KARACHI: While the leaked US State Department memos reveal that President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have been described as ‘dirty’ and ‘dangerous’ respectively, Saudi Arabia “sees Zardari and other leading Pakistani politicians as corrupt”, and the US is “astonished” that Zardari remained in power, Pakistan’s military appears to have won over US officials and world leaders.

The role of Pakistan Army

Even though some French officials in particular are sceptical of the military, US officials have praised the military over the years.

Similarly, older memos have revealed support for former president and chief of army staff Pervez Musharraf from various countries, including the UAE and Israel. A 2007 memo says, “The United States Government will continue to support Pakistani President Musharraf, and is seeking to boost his military defensive capabilities.”

Even though US officials describe the changes in Pakistan as ‘dramatic’ and ‘encouraging’, the credit is given to the Pakistan Army. Global support for the civilian set-up appears almost non-existent. According to a March 2009 memo, “The Saudis say they have been holding back economic and political support pending evidence that the political situation in Pakistan is stabilising.”

The head of France’s interagency Afghanistan-Pakistan cell Jasmine Zerinini told a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in January 2010, “General Kayani has ‘learned the lesson of Musharraf’ and was staying behind the scenes.”

“However, he is manipulating the government and parliament, to prevent change on Pakistan’s policy towards Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border, and also to stir up controversy regarding the Kerry-Lugar bill that ties continued US aid to increased civilian control of the military.”

The Pakistan Army’s reservations about the Kerry-Lugar bill are a matter of public record.  A press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations on October 7, 2009 about the 122 Corps Commanders Conference stated, “Kerry Lugar bill also came under discussion during the conference. The forum expressed serious concern regarding clauses impacting National Security. A formal input is being provided to the Government. However, in the considered view of the forum, it is the Parliament, that represents the will of the people of Pakistan, which would deliberate on the issue, enabling the Government to develop a National response.”

Zerinini is also quoted as saying that France “does not want to return to a  relationship (with Pakistan) based on military equipment sales, as in the 1980s, and is instead focusing on counter terrorism in addition to economic and trade links.”

In a briefing memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009, France’s relationship with Pakistan was described as “relative newcomers who have requested close cooperation with the UK and US, particularly in areas of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency assistance.”  However, the memo also states, “Paris officials complain that Pakistani cooperation in combating the Afghan Taliban refuged in their country is weak, if not non-existent.”

Jasmine Zerinini also “argued that the west had missed its opportunity to push the Pakistani military to crush the Afghan Taliban taking refuge in Pakistan.  Citing Jalaladin Haqqani as an example, Zerinini said in 2004 he had standing as a leader in the jihadi community, but did not have the organisation to represent a significant military threat. However, since then, large amounts of funding, predominately from Gulf donors, have allowed Haqqani to create a network that would be difficult for the Pakistani military to defeat, even if it had the will to do so.”

Memos released by WikiLeaks support the theory that Gulf donors are funding militancy.

US officials highlighted the success of Pakistan’s military operations in several meetings. The chief of the Turkish General Staff General Ilker Basbug met with US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates in Ankara on February 6, 2010. The memo states, “Basbug also raised Pakistan, recalling his October visit at the invitation of General Kayani. During his visit to Swat he had witnessed a hundred-fold improvement in security since his previous visit, citing the return of civilian populations to the region as a clear success for Pakistani forces. Gates agreed, observing that the degree of success by Pakistani forces ran counter to all of our intelligence predictions.”

Gates praised the Pakistan Army in a meeting with France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on February 8, 2010. The memo states, “SecDef (Gates) described the dramatic changes that had taken place over the past year.”

Gates also noted that it was “astonishing that President Zardari had remained in power and that the Pakistanis had conducted such effective COIN (counter-insurgency) operations.”

According to the memo, Gates “noted that coordination between ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and Pakistan’s armed forces was improving – and this was creating a more difficult situation for the Taliban along the border. The Pakistan operation in South Waziristan had flushed out Taliban and al Qaeda elements; they were more vulnerable on the move. Moreover, Pakistan’s aggressive campaign against the insurgency had won broad political support among all political parties.  Operations in the West and North-West had begun to accrue respect for Pakistan Army that Musharraf had squandered.  It is important for all of us to talk to the Pakistanis and provide economic assistance.  SecDef commented that one can never be an optimist about Pakistan, but that the changes had been striking.  Kouchner agreed with SecDef’s analysis that the changes in both the political and military spheres were ‘nothing short of a miracle’.”

However France’s Minister of Defence Herve Morin struck a different tone in his meeting with Gates the same day. Morin “expressed doubt about the willingness of the Pakistani government to fight extremists at home.” Morin said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had told France that if the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was closed, it would largely solve issues in Afghanistan.

According to the memo, “SecDef replied that he had told the Pakistani government two weeks earlier that al Qaeda was helping the Pakistan Taliban to destabilise Pakistan.  SecDef highlighted the dramatic changes in Pakistan over the past 18 months, especially in Swat and Bajaur provinces, which offered some hope of progress.  SecDef said that there was increasing coordination between US and Pakistani forces across the border.”

In a June 2009 meeting between then US Centcom Commander General David Petraeus and Egyptian General Intelligence Service Chief Omar Soliman, Petraeus is quoted as saying he was “encouraged by the Pakistani military’s operations in the Swat Valley and Northwest Frontier Province, including their focus on holding and rebuilding affected areas.”

Soliman, according to the memo, “credited the Pakistani government for doing a better job of convincing people that extremists pose a real threat to Pakistani national security.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • IZ
    Dec 1, 2010 - 11:28AM

    Umm, you may want to have a look at these wikileaks documents as well, including the Musharraf govt. siphoning off funds meant for the military, the poor state of the army and its desperate need for help from the Americans.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/30/america-pakistan-barbed-wire-bill

    Also, Pakistani army’s extrajudicial killings in Swat:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/30/us-pakistani-army-swat-murders-secretRecommend

  • IZ
    Dec 1, 2010 - 11:33AM

    Here is the actual embassy cable:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/208478

    Embassy is aware that U.S. engagement with the Pakistani military has been frustrating. Transparency is often non-existent. Offers of assistance go unanswered or are overruled at headquarters, even as Pakistan’s maintenance and training are inadequate. Still, the success of our own troop surge in Afghanistan and the stability of Pakistan’s government depend on rolling back the terrorist threat in Swat and eliminating the terrorist safehavens in the Waziristans. The inability of the GOP to control North and South Waziristan has enabled terrorists to operate throughout the country. Kayani confided to an American visitor recently that he would not be able to move to Waziristan until late summer.Recommend

  • IZ
    Dec 1, 2010 - 12:14PM

    Musharaf’s use of American money for the military:
    .
    “Despite $55m for helicopter maintenance, sometimes only two Cobra helicopter gunships were ready to fly. Although $335m had been given for medical care and a fleet of 26 helicopters, the frontier corps still had no medical rescue service. The army claimed $70m for radar maintenance even though the Taliban have no air attack capability, and a “highly suspect” $26m for barbed wire.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/30/america-pakistan-barbed-wire-bill?intcmp=239Recommend

  • shoaib wattoo
    Dec 1, 2010 - 3:45PM
  • Rizwan
    Dec 1, 2010 - 5:12PM

    @ IZ
    so what are you actually trying to prove here?
    SecDef Robert Gate admitted that performance of Pakistani forces was much better than our expectations and all the intelligence we have been collecting in the region.
    In reply your even as Pakistan’s maintenance and training are inadequate i would say what NATO’s highly adequate and highly trained forces have acheived in previous 9 years of insurgency in Afghanistan.
    In my honest opinion they really need Pakistani trainer for the counter insurgency at least in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • IZ
    Dec 1, 2010 - 9:08PM

    @Rizwan – I’m trying to say that the headline which claims that the Leaks only show the Pak army in a positive light is not the entire truth. Have they done an excellent job in S. Waziristan? Yes. But there are some dark areas as well.Recommend

  • Plato
    Dec 2, 2010 - 8:29PM

    @Rizwan
    You observation of NATO vs Pak COIN is ridiculous.Pak is doing COIN in their own country,every soldier/police is of same ethnicity,culture,tribe and language.NATO has invaded a completely strange country for them 100s of years behind ideas and technology(majority of them).90% of Afghans dont know Soviets left Afghanistan(That is the level of political awareness and quality of literacy&debate)there according to recent surveys.Of course,Pak army training is probably as good as NATO in military tactics and maneuvers.But,they have won actual conventional Wars where Pakistan Army is yet to win a single war.Afghanistan is still an open game with NATO and Taliban stalemated.Situations can change dramatically as in US’s success in Iraq.There is nothing concrete in a guerrilla warfare/terrorism in terms of success and failure since any group of 100 ppl can start it all over again in a vast country like we see in Iraq or Pakistan today.US current objective is to install a relatively stable regime which wont harbor terrorist training camps from all over the world and Taliban will ultimately “get” it when its intransigent leaders are decapitated and more amenable leaders come in some point of time in future.Recommend

  • Dec 6, 2010 - 2:25PM

    This news is just fake just fake Recommend

  • Azhar
    Dec 28, 2010 - 7:49PM

    Salam, wikkileaks tells us that in real who is controling the country.And that is ARMY of PAKISTAN.Nothing In the hands of politicians.They are just performing their role in rubber stamp parliment.Recommend

  • Dec 29, 2010 - 7:17PM

    You observation of NATO vs Pak COIN is ridiculous.Pak is doing COIN in their own country,every soldier/police is of same ethnicity,culture,tribe and language.NATO has invaded a completely strange country for them 100s of years behind ideas and technology(majority of them).90% of Afghans dont know Soviets left Afghanistan(That is the level of political awareness and quality of literacy&debate)there according to recent surveys.Of course,Pak army training is probably as good as NATO in military tactics and maneuvers.But,they have won actual conventional Wars where Pakistan Army is yet to win a single war.Afghanistan is still an open game with NATO and Taliban stalemated.Situations can change dramatically as in US’s success in Iraq.There is nothing concrete in a guerrilla warfare/terrorism in terms of success and failure since any group of 100 ppl can start it all over again in a vast country like we see in Iraq or Pakistan today.US current objective is to install a relatively stable regime which wont harbor terrorist training camps from all over the world and Taliban will ultimately “get” it when its intransigent leaders are decapitated and more amenable leaders come in some point of time in future.Recommend

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