Candidate Obama was forthright and decisive about the real war in Afghanistan and the need to “attack” targets in Pakistan if that proved necessary.
Within two weeks of his inauguration, Pakistan has shown President Obama who rules the roost in the “Af-Pak” region, the new Washington slang for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Ironically, Pakistan was assisted in its efforts by Russia, its old adversary in Afghanistan.
The vast majority of supplies to the American forces in Afghanistan are delivered through Pakistan controlled Southern Afghanistan. To demonstrate this dependency to the Obama Administration, recently Pakistan closed the key Khyber pass and prevented American supplies from reaching the American forces.To bypass Pakistan, American Military was planning to use a northern route into Afghanistan by shipping supplies through an air base in Kyrgystan (see map below). This would enable America to call Pakistan’s bluff, it was believed. So it came as a shock to American planners when the President of Kyrgystan announced on Tuesday, February 3, 2009, that his government had decided to close this air base to America.
The significance of this event is demonstrated by the fact that Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times ran stories about an airbase that the vast majority of Americans had never heard of.
According to the Washington Post, the Kyrgystan leader made this statement in Moscow after his meeting with the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in which Russia agreed to extend $2 billion in loans to Kyrgystan. Mr. Medvedev said that the decision to shut the base was Kyrgyzstan’s alone and added that Russia remained “open to coordinated action” with the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan despite the base closure.
Clearly Russia is sending a message to the Obama Administration that former Soviet Republics are Russia’s turf and America needs to play ball with Russia if it wants an alternative to Pakistan.
(Taliban crossing the river after blowing the bridge)
Pakistan sent a message of its own this week. The Pakistani Taliban destroyed a key bridge forcing suspension of road shipments. This bridge, the major supply route for American forces in Afghanistan, was near Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan occupied southern Afghanistan. Peshawar is heavily guarded by a large contingent pf Pakistani Army troops. If any one believes that the Taliban operate near Peshawar without the consent of the Pakistani Military-ISI complex, they should recall a famous quote by a senior Taliban leader to the New York Times “The pakistanis even know what we eat for lunch” – meaning the Taliban can do nothing without the knowledge of the ISI.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is preparing to deploy as many as 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, pushing the U.S. military presence to its highest level since the start of the war in 2001. These troops are a part of the strategy for rural Afghanistan to protect the population and control Taliban from crossing over from Pakistan.
(source – wall street journal)
Pakistan squeezes the Obama Administration
Pakistan has clearly delivered a message to the Obama Administration that they are the only game in “Af-Pak” and that America cannot do much without Pakistan’s permission. In our opinion, Pakistan would not have dared to play this game with President Bush.
But the Obama Administration seems to be made of different mettle. According to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration has begun talking about a fundamentally different approach to Pakistan than the Bush Administration, who, they say, saw Pakistan (correctly we think) as a “platform” for Taliban and Al-Qaeda “platform” for attacks in Afghanistan and beyond. As a part of this fundamentally different approach of the Obama Administration, the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is expanded and deepened.The Financial Times reports that the Obama Administration is planning to triple the “civilian” aid to Pakistan (Since President Bush gave Pakistan $11 billion, does this mean President Obama will give Pakistan $33 billion?).This is a different approach? Every American President has followed this approach because, unless America is ready to confront Pakistan, the game belongs to Pakistan and has to be played according to Pakistan rules – Pay Pakistan lots of money, do not ask what Pakistan does with the money and hope that you get at least a portion of what you paid for.
Fareed Zakaria said recently in a Washington Post Article that to succeed in Afghanistan, the Obama Administration needs to solve Pakistan. However, it appears that it is Pakistan that has solved the Obama Administration.
(Militants gather in Pakistan occupied Kashmir)
Pakistan laughs at India
Even the Pakistani terrorists know that the old game is back. The above picture is of a rally in Pakistani occupied Kashmir of an alliance of militant groups, some of them banned in Pakistan. This was the first such rally after the Mumbai attacks. The Indian Government, in its usual practice, complained to the “world” that it amounted to a license to terrorist groups to operate in Pakistan.
What did Pakistan do? The next day, it allowed the outlawed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the front organization of the LeT blamed for the Mumbai attack, to resume its activities with a rally of thousands of its supporters in Lahore under the banner of a new outfit floated by its leaders. The old game is back for real:
- Pakistan bans a terrorist group under American pressure;
- The terrorists regroup and reorganize under a new name;
- The newly named organization (with the same terrorists) is no longer banned;
- American face is saved, India gets a moral victory of sorts and terrorists continue in their merry ways.
For a short time after the Mumbai attack, Pakistan was wary of a Indian military response and even more wary of President Bush’s support of such a response. Pakistan was never really concerned about the Indian Government but felt that the resolve of the Bush Administration might encourage Indian politicians to take some action.
The inauguration of President Obama has removed this risk and the Indian Government is reduced to to its old habit of beseeching the “world” to make Pakistan behave.
The wily Pakistani diplomats are already using this Indian habit of begging the world as a bargaining chip in their proposals to the Obama Administration. As Mr. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s smart Ambassador to Washington, said* “One understands India’s concerns about not having major powers intercede in the conduct of their foreign policy, but when the Mumbai attacks occurred India’s immediate response was that the international community should put pressure on Pakistan”.
Pakistan feels so confident about its power and leverage over the Obama Administration that it allowed the Pakistani courts to free Mr. AQ Khan, regarded by America as a dangerous nuclear proliferator for his assistance to Iran and North Korea. To add insult to injury, Ambassador Haqqani said* “But, let’s look at the bright side. Pakistan now has a genuinely independent judiciary and we have dismantled the AQ Khan network”.
How did the Obama Administration react? They have demanded (verbal) assurances from Pakistan that Khan will never be allowed to resume his former work. How did the Indian Government react? Mr. Anand Sharma, India’s minister of state for foreign affairs complained plaintively “Pakistan has deceived India again”.
Ambassador Haqqani also laughed at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who wants to impose clear conditions in military assistance to ensure that American money goes towards fighting terrorists rather than building up Pakistan’s defenses against India. He jeered* “There is no bullet that has been invented that Pakistan can be given to shot at terrorists that cannot be used in case of war with India”.
Go back and look at the past eight years. No Pakistani official ever dared to make such statements during the Bush Administration. If Pakistan can behave with the Obama Administration with such gall, does any one think it has the slightest iota of respect for the Indian Government?
* The quotes used in this section are from the article in the Financial Times titled “Islamabad woos US for long-term relationship” – www.ft.com/cms/s/0/287681d0-f481-11dd-8e76-0000779fd2ac.html
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