Monday, October 18, 2010

US – Pak Spat: Another Repeat

US – Pak Spat: Another Repeat
Saeed Naqvi

US-Pak relations are like high risk aerobatics. The plane nosedives, loops up, cruises at varying altitudes, takes a few spins and steadies.

Relations are going through a similar turbulence these days following a helicopter strike which killed three Pak soldiers. Pakistan, in anger, blocked the supply route to the US deployments in Afghanistan. US, or NATO or ISAF (take your pick) trucks were set on fire by militants.

The US has been bending repeatedly in apology, looking rather like the Japanese handing someone a visiting card.

Shooting off target and bending over in apology is a routine ritual eversince the US entered the Af-Pak turf after 9/11.

The US troops are under pressure from the White House to show results in Afghanistan. Pakistan is equally adamant to demonstrate its indispensability towards this end.

The perilous path from Karachi port through Balochistan into Afghanistan is territory totally mapped by the Pak Army. That the route is never far from Kandahar and Quetta means it is within the surveillance range of Taleban and Quetta Shura on which a section of the Pak establishment would like to project as having some influence.

Billions that Pak receives from the US for this partnership and billions more it earns by being a supply route is not enough recompense.

Islamabad would like to have a decisive say on who occupies the gaddi in Kabul. Hamid Karzai does a the moment and he has obtained from the International Community, at the July Conference in Kabul, that he would remain on the throne till 2014.

If the Americans were to scale down in Afghanistan by 2011 as Barak Obama has ordained, who will protect Karzai in Kabul? The US will, ofcourse, because it is only “scaling” down not departing by that date.

What is the White House demanding Gen. David Petraeus to achieve that would help Democrats in the November Congressional elections? I bet Gen. Petraeus does not know. So he expands special operations, another expression for Commando raids and flies drones into Pakistan’s mischief areas like Waziristan and occasionally pulls out his handkerchief to wipe egg from his face when poor targeting dependent on poorer intelligence, kills Pak soldiers, civilians, children for the umpteenth time.

In this fashion, running to stand still, Gen. Petraeus will see the Congressional elections through. Should he still be at the job, he will see the US Presidential election through in 2012 too.

It is conceivable the choreography will look even more untidy with Hamid Karzai getting more strident in his studied anti Americanism. Finally American cartoonists appear to be getting a hang of things in Afghanistan. A recent cartoon shows Karzai, his Afghan cape over his shoulders, seated on a carpet with a bearded Taleban. Karzai says “Down with America”. The Taleban responds: “Death to the infidels”. Behind the foliage a grinning American and US military officer say to each other. “Good they are talking”.

Karzai has been complaining to all and sundry, that the Americans are not striking at Pak terrorist bases. Mullah Omar’s confident, Abdus Salaam Zaeef, and Karzai’s bitter critic, the former Tajik Head of the National Security Services, Amrallah Saleh, all converge on this point: the US is not striking at Pak bases.

Hence the recent Drone and Helicopter gunship attacks, inviting a roar of disapproval from Pakistanis for loss of military lives and invasion of sovereignty.

Every voice in Afghanistan says: the enemy is headquartered in Pakistan. But Pakistan says we are your allies in this war; don’t violate our sovereignty. The message from Washington is: show results in Afghanistan. What does Gen. Petraeus do in the circumstances? A little bit of this and a little bit of that – until the Congressional elections are over.

In the midst of all these complications, why is Karzai calling the US names? Because, the US is no longer out to defeat the Taleban. It wishes to weaken it. At that point Karzai can start negotiating with the Afghan Taleban. To harmonize with the broad Anti Americanism of the Taleban, Karzai must build an anti US plank too.

It is quite extraordinary, that Hamid Karzai, handpicked by the Americans nine years ago must now stoke anti Americanism in the interest of the US.

For how many more decades will successive US administrations succeed in keeping away from the American people the harsh truth that Zillions of dollars worth of their money is spent in expeditions in far off lands where their nations is hated? Pakistan is another such.

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