27 January 2010

SecDef's Road Trip to Pakistan

The ever-suspicious Pakistani intellectual establishment is wary of what the SecDef is selling. Because, y'know, their alternatives have worked so well for so long for so many of their citizens.

Despite a string of high-profile visits designed to reassure Pakistan of Washington's commitment, U.S. officials have failed to win over a military and civilian establishment here that remains suspicious of U.S. ties to India and reluctant to plunge into war with Afghan militants who may outlast the U.S. presence.

Here's a thought - why don't the Pakistanis make an effort to outlast the Afghan militants.
Nevertheless, the responses he received from the army and the press here were either skeptical or defiant. Washington has been urgently pressing military officials to take on Islamic militants in the tribal area of North Waziristan, but the officials announced during Gates's visit that they could not launch any operation for at least six months.

In a speech at the National Defense University in Islamabad, Gates acknowledged that the United States had made a "grave mistake" by abandoning Pakistan in the past and said it now seeks to rebuild relations with "a new generation of Pakistani officers." But once journalists were ushered out, the military audience peppered him with skeptical questions. According to several sources, one questioner even asked him, "Are you with us or against us?"

The Pakistani media focused their coverage on a gaffe by Gates on the sensitive topic of private U.S. security firms working here. Answering a question, he inadvertently implied that the security company formerly known as Blackwater is working for the U.S. government in Pakistan, which U.S. and Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied. The secretary's slip dominated the national airwaves for 48 hours, and fueled already rampant speculation that the firm's employees are serving as spies.

Yeah, that's us - outsourcing our national intelligence framework to Blackwater. C'mon, people. We only outsource our intel work to guys like Booz-Allen-Hamiton.
One major obstacle, analysts said, is the close relationship between the United States and India. India-Pakistan relations are mired in mistrust, with India suspecting Pakistan of colluding in a terrorist attack in Mumbai in late 2008, and Pakistan suspecting that India uses Afghanistan to launch anti-Pakistan subversion.

For some Pakistanis, the message of support delivered by Gates and other recent visitors, including special envoy Richard Holbrooke, has been discredited by similar U.S. messages of support for India. Washington sees India's active role in Afghanistan as a force for stability, but Pakistan sees it as a threat and has been reaching out to other regional powers, including Iran, for counterbalancing support.

Yeah, we're gonna be close with India. Why not? Pakistan's nukes fall into the wrong hands and it'd be nice to know we've got friends in the area. That doesn't mean we're shipping ammo to India for an invasion of Baluchistan. And being friends with both is not incompatible. We're just don't gonna invite 'em both to the same state dinner.

By: Brant

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