Pakistan and the US: A too-close embrace?

Published on AlJazeera, by Asad Hashim, June 3, 2011.

New leaked US embassy cables reveal further evidence of states’ dysfunctional relationship.

It is of little surprise that in the weeks following the killing of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s leader, in a Pakistani military garrison town, the Pakistani relationship with the United States has been described using various analogies of romantic dysfunction: as an abusive relationship, as one partner cheating on another, and as a failing marriage where the partners stay together for the sake of the children.

The children, in this case, being various distinct (but linked) violent, armed groups that are waging war on both parties, separately and at times in concert.

But if the relationship between these states really is a romantic entanglement gone wrong, then the latest batch of US embassy cables to be leaked by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks is like having access to the email and text message exchanges between the two, revealing the many faces of the partnership.

In short, the cables show that while the Pakistani government wears a certain face in public, rejecting US missile strikes on its territory and military cooperation on Pakistani soil with aggressive rhetoric about sovereignty, in private, both military and civilian officials approve (or “acquiesce”, to use a term from one of the cables) to both of these.

The result is a relationship that is one thing in the confines of closed door meetings and quite distinctly another in the harsh light of day. There is repeated reference in the cables, released through the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, to the potential fallout of any of the topics of conversation (from US drone strikes to the presence of US Special Forces providing Pakistani paramilitary troops with intelligence support) becoming public: an understanding that were the private face to impinge on the public, it would have to retaliate.

First, however, the facts.

The faces of co-operation: … //

… Maintaining the divide:

In several places, the cables note the precarious balance of the two-faced nature of Pakistan’s position on cooperation with the United States.

After the 2008 drone strike on Jani Khel, in Bannu, referenced in the earlier mentioned November 24, 2008, cable, Patterson noted that the strike was being seen publically as a “watershed event”, since it was on a settled area in “Pakistan proper”.

She warns that the strike had drawn condemnation from across the political board, and could push Pakistan’s “private acquiescence” to the strikes to breaking point. Indeed, since that strike, only one other such strike has taken place outside of the tribal areas: it was again in Jani Khel, Bannu, in March 2009.

Wherever US deployments are mentioned, there is usually a quick reminder that if this information were to be made public, it would likely have negative political consequences and force the Pakistanis into adopting a harsher stance in working with the US.

In fact, in one cable, dealing with the United States’ sale of F16 aircraft to Pakistan, Patterson suggests that despite the fact that Pakistan will likely not be in a position to fully pay for the aircraft it has ordered, “walking away from this symbol of renewed post-9/11 cooperation would cause enormous political consequences”, adding that it would make it more difficult to continue counterinsurgency co-operation along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

In the 2008 meeting with Admiral Mullen, Kayani cautions against the Pakistani need for US military trainers being publicised “because it implied that the Pakistani Army was not capable of facing down the militant threat”. Kayani repeatedly asks for equipment over training, the cables show, while the US takes the contrary view, suggesting that counterterrorism training for Pakistani forces is both desirable and necessary.

Tensions at melting point: … (full long text).

Link: Asif Ali Zardari on en.wikipedia, and on fr.wikipedia.

Comments are closed.