Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
US-Pakistan ties : bleeding America in Afghanistan
U.S.- Pakistan ties are entering an even more dangerous phase, going by the language that the two sides are employing ever since a public airing of differences over covert U.S. activities in Pakistan
It’s a game of smoke and mirrors and some of it could be bluff and bluster, but there is little doubt that Pakistan and America are stuck in an unhappy relationship, attacking each other as much as the militants they joined forces against ten years ago.
Foreign Policy has a piece which quotes an unnamed official as saying that Pakistani leaders want the United States to “bleed a little like the Soviets “ in
Afghanistan just as it prepares to withdraw from the country. America will abandon the region once again, the leaders are convinced, ending the flow of aid to Pakistan and leaving it in the lurch.
More immediately, the NATO supply line for the troops in Afghanistan that runs through Pakistan is a tempting target, and some in Pakistan are already plotting to use that to get back at the United States for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty with impunity. The Foreign Policy piece says ex-Pakistani servicemen are planning to disrupt the supply line by organising civilians and political groups to block highways that are used by the trucks carrying everything from fuel to water for the troops, if Washington ignores Pakistan’s demands on curtailing its covert war inside Pakistan. These include reducing drone strikes to only high-value targets, greater transparency about CIA activities, and a reduction in the number of U.S. military trainers. If Pakistan adopted such a plan to choke off the re-supply routes, Pakistan can turn Afghanistan into a graveyard for U.S. troops, former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt.General Hamid Gul boasted in a TV appearance.
The supply line has been targeted in the past, including last year when the Torkham crossing was blocked in retaliation for a cross-border U.S. helicopter strike in which three members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps were killed. But Pakistan was forced to reopen them under U.S. pressure and it’s hard to see Islamabad resist Washington beyond a point.
In any case the language from America’s supporters is also getting equally menacing. Here’s an editorial from The Wall Street Journal that says Washington must present Pakistan with a stark choice, in the manner it did immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks when it reportedly threatened to bomb the country into the Stone Age if it didn’t cooperate in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in next door Afghanistan. Regardless of how Pakistan acts, the United States has a vital national interest in going after al Qaeda and the Taliban who hide in sanctuaries inside Pakistan and that fight must go on, the newspaper said in the editorial titled The Pakistan Ultimatum.
Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration famously sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to Islamabad to explain that the U.S. was going to act forcefully to protect itself, and that Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.
With that kind of mood in Washington, it’s hard to see the allies burying the feud anytime soon.