US – Pakistan Relations

Abbottabad Commission Report

Chapter 29

640: This is a relationship that had been on a roller coaster ever since it began. To some extent this is inevitable in a relationship with a world power that has a much larger canvas before it than Pakistan. It is a relationship about which governments in Pakistan have seldom been honest with their own people, leading to inevitable crises of expectations, disappointments and negative consequences. It has never been a genuine people to people, transparent or honest relationship. But it is a necessary relationship that needs to be rationalized, right-sized and freed from false assumptions. The US and Pakistan may share policy objectives but there is not sufficient basis for a strategic relationship between them. US policies towards the region in which Pakistan is situated make that impossible. The US War on Terror; it’s likely post 2014 policies in Afghanistan; its very real threat of war against Iran; its emerging hostility towards China; and it’s real; strategic partnership with India, taken together put definite and undeniable strategic limits to the relationship between Pakistan and the US. Once this is honestly accepted, a healthy, mutually beneficial and important bilateral relationship will become more feasible. It should also be an important stabilizing factor for the region.

641: Since it was the US that carried out the May 2 raid on Abbottabad, some detailed comments on the relationship between Pakistan and the United States in the run up to the incident are in order. The relationship has been based largely on US economic and military assistance on the one hand, and the contingent utility of Pakistan for the US on the other. It is a relationship that is not rooted in tradition of shared culture, political perceptions, and strategic interests. Nevertheless, at its best, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship. More often, it has pretended to be a strategic relationship without being one, except for brief durations of overlapping interests in dealing with common challenges. Pakistan’s major adversary, India, especially since the end of the Cold War, has been the US strategic partner of choice in South Asia. Pakistan also deplores the discriminatory policy of the US regarding civilian nuclear cooperation, its several violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty through border raids, drone attacks and special operations that have resulted in the death, injury and traumatizing of very significant numbers of its citizens. Many Pakistanis as a result, see the US as the primary external threat Pakistan faces today.

642: Prior to Sept 11, 2001, Pakistan under General Musharraf made a clear distinction between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and pursued a policy of support for the latter in the hope of achieving influence or a ‘chimerical’ strategic depth (i.e. leverage) in Afghanistan. However, immediately after 9/11, the General performed volte face for fear of the consequences of US wrath and accepted its war demands against the Taliban with little or no cavil. This paved the way for the American military invasion in Afghanistan on Oct 7, 2001 that led to the devastation of the country and created a veritable hell for the Afghan people, especially in the east and south of the country which adjoin Pakistan. Pakistan chose to become an unenthusiastic ally of the US in its War on Terror in Afghanistan. Even though there were several UN Resolutions on terror and apprehension of OBL, there was no specific resolution of the UN Security Council authorizing the military invasion of Afghanistan. For its connivance in the illegal US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistan was duly rewarded in 2004 with the status of a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) and substantial military and civilian assistance package. This soon led to a loose and largely unsupervised visa regime for Americans allowing the CIA to spread its tentacles throughout Pakistan. This was in fact a condition for American assistance. It ultimately facilitated the unilateral manhunt for OBL.

643: Cooperation between CIA and the ISI netted many hundreds of terrorists including high value targets (HVTs) belonging to Al-Qaeda. ISI has carried out 891 operations against Al-Qaeda in which it has killed 866 of its network operatives, including 10 key leaders. It has also apprehended 922 Al-Qaeda personnel including 96 high value targets and busted 42 networks.

644: The costs of such cooperation for Pakistan have been substantial, both in terms of blood, and treasure, as well as widespread alienation, instability within the country. Many tens of thousands of civilian lives, many thousands of military lives have been lost. Many more have been seriously wounded, crippled for life. Many hundreds of thousands of civilians were internally displaced from their homes by military operations. Similarly, illegal US drone attacks has taken their toll of human lives, and have inflicted massive physical injury, property destruction, psychological trauma and political alienation of Pakistan. These are real costs that are difficult for middle and upper-class Pakistanis living in the relative security and comfort of urban areas to comprehend even when they read about or view them in the media every day. These costs are estimated to add up to several multiples of the civilian and military assistance Pakistan has allegedly received from the US. Many Pakistanis believe that it has been a rotten bargain except for the ruling elite and the renter class.

645: Nevertheless, it would be wrong not to acknowledge the very considerable value and diversity of US assistance to Pakistan and its people. Even so, the conclusion is inescapable that to a great extent, there has been a shortage of mutual appreciation, regard and relationship, which, by and large, neither side has cared to, in a longer-term perspective, rhetorically.

646: In 2008, the US National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike McConnell reportedly cautioned ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, claiming that the ISI was tipping off Jihadis so that they could escape in advance of American attacks on them. President Obama reportedly also raised the issue with President Zardari. Western officials also alleged that nearly 70% of the aid given to the military during 2002-2007 had been ‘misspent’.

647:  On June 11, 2008, the Gora Prai airstrike on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border killed 10 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The Pakistan Military condemned the air strikes as an act of aggression. There were several military confrontations also along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border including skirmishes between American and Pakistan’s forces. These culminated after the Abbottabad raid on May 2 in the deliberate, serial murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers by American forces on Nov 26, 2011 in the Salala border area. The US President refused to apologize for the loss of life and the American military investigation disingenuously blamed both sides, which further outraged opinion in Pakistan. Conversely American comment and opinion was adamantly opposed to the idea of a President apology to Pakistan. Both sides in fact saw the incident as a deliberately intended message to the Government of Pakistan that the US would brook no defiance of its demands on issues that affected the security of US forces in Afghanistan. It will not be wrong to say that there have been moments when, despite the patron-client relationship, the two countries have seen each other as adversaries if not enemies.

648: Less than 3 months before the US raid on Abbottabad, there was the infamous Raymond Davis case. The American ‘private security contractor’ (a euphemism for privately hired hit men, goon, thug) shot dead two Pakistani motorcyclists in Lahore in broad daylight whom he claimed were threatening him. Later, the US demanded the killer goon be considered a diplomat on their say so, even though he had not been designated by the US or listed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as a diplomat. The US suspended high-level contacts with Pakistan because the temerity of MoFA not to accede to its arrogant and unlawful demand which was nothing less than an affront to the sovereignty and dignity of Pakistan. However, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan lost his job because of his principled stand.  

649: Revelations from Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars”. The White House approved insider author Bob Woodward makes it clear in his book, ‘Obama’s Wars’ that President Obama and his top advisors had the most negative perceptions regarding Pakistan’s policy makers. Pakistan was regarded as a ‘dishonest partner’ and its leadership was ‘living a lie.’ The ISI was behaving ‘as if it had six or seven personalities.’ It’s Directorate ‘S’ was financing and nurturing the ‘Taliban’. The ISI and the military ‘could not or would not control their own people. They had ‘paranoid mindset’. They neither wanted the US to succeed in Afghanistan nor to leave Afghanistan. They feared ‘encirclement by India’ more than ‘extremists at home’. There were more than 150 Taliban training camps in FATA.  The Haqqani network had ‘virtual immunity’ in Pakistan and ‘Al-Qaeda was free to set up and train.’ Accordingly, the question for US was: ‘How do we change Pakistan’s calculus?’ If ‘you do not get Pakistan right you cannot win.’ According to President Obama ‘changing Pakistan’s calculus is key to our core goals. The safety of the US hinges on Pakistan.’ What did changing Pakistan’s calculus entail?650: According to Bruce Reidel, a senior adviser to the US President on terrorism, “Pakistan was the most dangerous country in the world. It was ‘the epicenter of Al-Qaeda’s fight.’ The cancer had spread there and it had to be ‘excised’.” The US had to be ‘on both sides of the Afghan border’ to be effective. The focus had to shift to Pakistan, which was ‘the patron, the victim and the safe haven all at once.’ “A Retribution Plan to bomb 150 ‘known terrorist’s safe havens’ inside Pakistan were reportedly drawn up. General Petraeus said he was ‘worried’ Pakistan was emerging as a necessary war.

651: Shortly after the New York Times Square bombing attempt, the US conveyed to Pakistan that US could “no longer tolerate Pakistan’s a la carte approach in going after some terrorist groups and supporting, if not owning others. Pakistan is playing Russian roulette. The chamber has turned out empty last several times. But there will be a round in the chamber someday.” (That day was May 2, 2011)652: So, what could the US do to ‘impact Pakistan’s attitude?” According to Reidel, “one, raid across the border, and two, bomb the extremists in Pakistan.” What would be the consequences? “Pakistan would probably be pissed off” and “take some actions against us, but would eventually adjust to the situation.” The US “could get away with it.” (This is strikingly like what happened after Abbottabad, and later Salala.)

653: Bob Woodward’s book was published a year before the US raid on Abbotabad and was and still is widely available in Pakistan. But the DG ISI told the Commission no one reads or even thinks in Pakistan. In the period between the publishing of the book and May 2, 2011, the Pakistan-US relationship if anything got worse. The Raymond Davis incident, the unilateral drone attacks without consulting Pakistan and several other actions of the US made clear how aggressive and ‘kinetic’ its policies had become in brazen disregard for human rights and international law. Thus, in the run up to the Abbotabad incident, the US and Pakistan bilateral relationship, while based on wide ranging military, economic and other cooperation was also significantly marred by ‘mutual’ perceptions of each other’s involvement in violence against their respective forces, conflicting interests in the region, escalating tensions, and opinion polls that indicated the two countries deeply disliked and distrusted each other. Nevertheless, those whose direct responsibility was the defense of Pakistan, ‘could not even dream’ that the US would “stab Pakistan in the back.”

Excerpts from the Abbottabad Commission Report

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s