Crossing the red line

Admiral Michael Mullen appends to his resolve not to let the bilateral equation collapse.


Editorial April 21, 2011

After the failure of the ISI-CIA meeting in Washington, the Pak-US military top brass, too, has apparently not seen eye to eye on their diverging policies on terrorism. US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen flew in seemingly holding an olive branch and saying the two countries could not afford to allow their anti-terrorism alliance to unravel, but ended up saying things that denote just such an unravelling. Before going in for the important meetings in Rawalpindi, he stuck to the red line often read out to Pakistan: “It’s fairly well-known that the ISI has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani Network. Haqqani is supporting, funding, training fighters that are killing Americans and killing coalition partners. And I have a sacred obligation to do all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

But he also appended to this his resolve not to let the bilateral equation collapse when he said: “The ability to sustain a very difficult period as we have recently, between Pakistan and the United States, is in some ways indicative of the strength of the relationship. That doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges to continue to address, because we do.” This ‘very difficult’ recent period was characterised by a furore in Pakistan over the arrest of a CIA agent who had killed two Pakistanis in Lahore and the subsequent demand by Pakistan that the CIA cut back on its activities in Pakistan and put on record the functions of American officials coming in on diplomatic passports. The US admiral, in fact, publicly admitted this, saying that it was a “setback” to relations between the two countries.

Part of Pakistan’s response to Admiral Mullen’s remarks, as reported in the press, may not be considered very convincing except to the Pakistanis, 70 per cent of whom express dislike of the US and some even recommend cutting off relations with it. Officials say the Haqqani connection is not there and that “even if you are enemies, you have a relationship”. The upshot is that Pakistan is not willing to change its current policy on North Waziristan and may not be interested in explaining the real reason why it doesn’t want to send in the troops to remove the Haqqanis and other foreign terrorists from there, in that they could be used as bargaining chips when the Afghan chessboard is reconfigured, say, following an American troops pullout. However, sooner or later, the militants who have found a safe haven in North Waziristan will have to be attacked. The more credible part of the response, that the military is too thinly spread since it is operating in other militancy-prone areas, might actually be a more fruitful subject of discussion with the Americans.

The US military chief could not be drawn out on drone attacks, but that is the burning issue in Pakistan on which the military again reiterated its stance, that they are harmful for security and peace in the region. In fact, the military is now backed by all political parties, both in power and those in the opposition. The widening opposition to the drones, coming now also from the PPP and the ANP, has perhaps been crystallised by the virtual non-implementation of the Kerry-Lugar funds after the legislation was passed in 2008. At that time, the fact that it would give a hefty allocation for civilian sectors in Pakistan was much-hyped, but so far only a tenth of the funds have actually made their way into Pakistan.

If Admiral Mullen thinks that both sides will equally strive not to allow the alliance from unravelling, he will have to make sure that advantages from this alliance are equally shared. Also, the Americans have to do something to negate the impression among many Pakistanis that when things get tough for them in Afghanistan, they start passing the buck to Pakistan. For the latter, it is important to separate ‘incapacity’ from ‘strategy’ and come clean on why it is not taking on the terrorists on its soil.



Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2011.

COMMENTS (12)

Hedgefunder | 10 years ago | Reply @Mir Agha: How much longer will the Donar nations take of all the BS that comes out of Pak Govt and Army in regards to their reluctance to take on NW???? People are not stupid !!! They are learning fast about what is said and done by the pakistanis!!!!! Hence the day is not far when they all will say " No More Money " for Pakistan!!!! Then we will see the results, very promptly i am sure!!!!
RAJU | 10 years ago | Reply Pakistanis always cross red lines in creating problems in neighboring countries weather India, Iran, Afg. or even China you will find Pak linked or trained or even Pakistani terrorist or terror plots. So author should not cry foul if some one is taking on these terrorists
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