Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hillary Clinton Remarks on Pakistan Security; Pakistan Replies

Hillary Clinton stood alongside Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna during a press conference in New Delhi Tuesday, and denounced Pakistan for its desultory effort in eliminating the jihadist and terrorist threat from its soil in the ‘badlands’ region of Waziristan (what the American military would call Indian Country, which, though very similar in meaning, has an entirely different connotation in that part of the world).
We look to the government of Pakistan to do more.  It needs to make sure that its territory is not used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks anywhere, including inside of Pakistan, because the great unfortunate fact is that terrorists in Pakistan have killed more than 30,000 Pakistanis.
Clinton’s lecture to the Pakistani government (who I expect is perfectly well aware of their casualty rate) is specifically targeted at the lack of progress shown in tracking down and apprehending Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (Urdu for ‘Army of the Pure’) or LeT, a terrorist group founded and protected by factions within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the main intelligence service of the country.  Though initially established in Afghanistan, it now maintains a presence in and around Peshawar and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), adjacent to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Waziristan, as well as in training camps in Pakistani Kashmir in conjunction with Jaish-e-Mohammed.  LeT has committed a series of terrorist attacks, the most notable of which have been the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and the massacre in Mumbai in 2008.

Pakistan was quick to reply.  Its foreign ministry reminded the world yet again that Pakistan has “made numerous sacrifices that are unparalleled.”  And Pakistani Lt Gen Khalid Rabbani, speaking a day after terrorists in Waziristan beheaded 13 soldiers, made the most extensive reply which included the accusation that Washington is trying to brand Pakistan as a “scapegoat”.
Why do they to raise their fingers toward Pakistan?  It is shifting the blame to others. . . .  Is Afghanistan free of Taliban?  It has hundreds of thousands of them.
His comments are reinforced by revelations that the US has secretly been releasing Taliban prisoners, or “high-level detainees”, from military prisons in Afghanistan for several years in an attempt at some sort of bizarre bakhshesh to plead with the Taliban to cooperate in a peace deal.  The explanation supplied by a US spokesman when this was revealed is that while the Taliban have been practically uncommunicative in this process, the steady release of prisoners is a way to send a message, a “live diplomatic channel” that can be used as a “bargaining chip”.  The spokesman did, however, admit that “there are no absolute guarantees” and he acknowledges that the programme does “pose substantial risks”.  (I am so heartened that he clarified that point, lest there be any doubt.)  He did reassure the press that these “often notorious fighters” had to promise to “give up violence”, and if they were to attack American troops, then they would be detained again.  (I have an image in my mind of our troops being issued Miranda cards in Pashto, and I expect that the Afghans are severely lacking in parole officers.) 

The spokesman, of course, would not say whether there have been any cases of released Taliban returning to the fight.  On a related note, we do have an acknowledgement from the administration that some 25% of those released from Guantánamo have recidivated and returned to battle.  Now, in this my avocation to yield an eventual second pension, I frequently deal with state government bureaucrats on the topic of recidivism, and this is an area rife with possibilities for creative statistics.  To limit my exasperation to only one riposte – if it isn’t already obvious – let me point out that the 25% figure represents the minimum number, the number we are sure about, who have taken up arms again.  Unless we have implanted biometric chips in these clowns, we have no earthly idea what they are doing.

This comes after this president dithered for months over the amount of support he would lend to the war effort (in this the “good war”, by his definition) and then sent far fewer troops for a surge effort than what was estimated by the military commanders in that theatre – some 30,000 as opposed to the minimum 40,000 as requested.  Simultaneously, he announced our specific withdrawal date – end of 2014 – so as to provide a sufficient time-table for Taliban strategic planning.  The date for end of combat operations was recently moved up (again to the surprise of theatre commanders) to the end of 2013.  We are also negotiating the release of high-level prisoners from Guantánamo in exchange for the Taliban opening an office in Qatar, moving at a glacial pace, where we will someday hope to hold direct negotiations.  In this respect, the Taliban are following the successful tactics of North Korea and Iran.  Even Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein admits that the Taliban is growing stronger.

So, to return to the comments of Lt Gen Rabbani, he has little time for comments from Hillary Clinton about holding fast in the fight against the Taliban when the US has been back-pedaling for years.  Obama seems to think that he can take the death of bin Laden (fully justifiable and celebratory righteous vengeance as that may be), declare the war to be over, pack up and have the press pump up how he is bringing the boys home in a showy way for election day (as the warriors still in Afghanistan are fighting a hidden rear-guard action).  The Pakistan government will do enough to maintain their power and internal control, effect the beneficial cooperation of whomever is in power in Afghanistan, and most effectively guard against moves by India, without regard to the interests of America.  And why shouldn’t they?  We are clearly on the way out.

To our benefit, at least, we are making our cooperation with India more obvious, continuing a hidden trend since at least the attacks of 2001, but seriously downplayed due to Pakistani sensitivities.  It is precisely these sensitivities that we are playing upon now, as we rightly take into account the rising power of already-preponderant India.  Managing the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the surrounding area, clearly in our national self-interest no matter what results from our accelerated withdrawal, must be in cooperation with India, as we totter between the two nuclear and antagonistic rivals.

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