Shine coming off US-Pakistan relations

That old business of trusting Musharraf

According to Stratfor’s George Friedman and Kamran Bokhari, there is a crisis over US-Pakistan relations. They report that poor coordination among various American agencies on the ground in Pakistan coupled with the duplicitous support from Musharraf’s regime is leaving attempts to capture Osama bin Laden ‘stagnant’.

Stratfor’s analysis is very much on the ball.

Clearly, cooperation from the country’s intelligence and security apparatus — a major cog in the machine built to hunt down al Qaeda in Pakistan — is not happening. There are four reasons for this:

1. The insistence by top leadership that U.S. forces cannot operate any more prominently on Pakistani soil than they already are.

2. Calculated moves by influential figures at the middle and lower levels of Pakistan’s intelligence and security apparatus to thwart offensives against the militants.

3. The Pakistani military’s desire to hide its past links with the militants and its current ties to certain Islamist groups — which it views as assets of the state to be used in pursuit of Islamabad’s geopolitical goals.

4. Recognition within Islamabad that Pakistan’s importance as a U.S. ally likely will dissolve if bin Laden is captured or killed. [Stratfor | requires subscription]

While the authors conclude by asking the right question, their proposed answer is effectively a cop-out.

Islamabad’s response to the pressure is predicated on one unanswered question: Is Musharraf lying to the United States, or is he being lied to by his own people? In other words, is he in control of the obstructionism, or is he a victim of it? We believe the reality is somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, the outlook is troubling. [Stratfor | emphasis added]

There is no middle path. Even if Musharraf is partially in control of the obstructionism, he is lying to the United States.

One of the most baffling phenomena in contemporary foreign affairs is the desire among so many analysts and leaders to trust Musharraf, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that weighs against it.

10 thoughts on “Shine coming off US-Pakistan relations”

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  2. They have a desire to trust him – or at least treat him as something of a partner – because the alternative, to treat a Muslim nuclear power with 140 million people, long borders with Iran and Afghanistan, and long-standing defense ties with China as an enemy state, is very ugly to contemplate.

    It’s fine and well to criticize American support for Musharraf, given the General’s track record. And I’d be the first to say that the US has been too lenient with him on certain matters (reforming the Madrassas, shutting down the camps in POK, repealing the Hudood Ordinances, etc.). But with all due respect, if you’re going to suggest that the US simply withdraw its support, then you need to consider what the geopolitical consequences of such a decision would be, and how palatable those consequences would be from an American standpoint.

  3. Americans bought into the notion that the General works in tough environment and has hard shoes to fill ignoring the fact the General himself help create this environment in recent years. (Musharraf’s assassination plotters were given a quick death sentence, but Daniel Parle killers seem to be in and out of jail for years.) This is the typical line of military dictators around the world and is typically bought into by Americans (and the rest of the west) despite its propaganda that it wants democracies around the world. It worked for the dictators in the 70s and 80s and it works now.

    In any case, once you buy into the idea that the country will not survive without this one man, it is easy to believe blatant lies and stuff that is made up. And you don’t even have to be a dictatorial regime apologist to do. This is especially true since the General seems to have promised to help when US needs it (Osama is a special bargaining chip that will never be parted with) but in turn US has to ignore the other terror training camps for strategic interests – i.e. killing Indians.

  4. I don’t think the fear is that the Pakistani regime won’t survive if the US withdrew its support, but rather the direction the regime would go down. If the US decided to treat Pakistan as a pariah state, then perhaps the country wouldn’t receive American aid money, and wouldn’t be sold F-16s and Orions. But in return, the Pakistani government, whether led by Musharraf or some other Army general, would likely:

    a) turn a blind eye to Taliban activities along its western border
    b) only care about Al-Qaeda to the extent that it threatened Pakistan’s stability
    c) feel even less inhibited about supporting terrorist camps in PoK
    d) be drawn more firmly into the Chinese sphere of influence
    e) probably draw closer to Iran
    f) feel no pressure whatsoever to reform its education system

    After taking all of this into account, I don’t think it’s hard to understand why the US has decided that providing some support to Musharraf is the better of two poor options. And you can argue that it works out better for India as well, as much as Indians might justifiably object to the sale of F-16s and other such hardware. Like I said, I still think the US is too accomodating of Musharraf on certain issues, but the more sensible option is to expect more from Pakistan in return for American support, not to withdraw the support altogether.

  5. Eric

    the US is too accomodating of Musharraf on certain issues, but the more sensible option is to expect more from Pakistan in return for American support, not to withdraw the support altogether.

    That’s well put. The United States cannot be faulted for leaning on Musharraf after 9/11. But it is already four years since, and there is no sign that the United States is doing anything to create more alternatives for itself in Pakistan.

    Musharraf was always part of the problem. Even if he helps the US and India solve some immediate problems (of the symptomatic sort), as long as he and his ilk control power in Pakistan, the problems are bound to recur. That’s one lesson from the anti-Soviet jihad.

  6. The question is less of whether the US has to support Pakistan – it very well should, but should it necessarily turn a blind eye to Musharraf regime’s fallibilities?
    The US has to clearly differentiate between supporting the Pakistani people and supporting a dictatorship that doesnt want to eschew its terror links.

  7. “He might be a bon bon but atleast he is our bon bon”

    Gaurav :-))

    PS… 1971 rocked, why not have a repeat ??

  8. Eric, it is true that there are not too many leaders of choice as an alternative to General Musharraf other than perennial choices of western media – the utterly corrupt Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif. And all the things you list that Pakistan may do if not supported by US are currently happening…I am not sure how else Pakistan can do worst other than an outright declare of war on US.

    I guess my question is what else has to happen in order for US policy to change visa vie Pakistan. My guess is nothing will change US policy because it completely predicated on the fear of Pakistani nuclear weapons. It is this fear that puzzles me not only because US has vast experience dealing with not-so-friendly-countries with nuclear weapons but other countries seem to conduct foreign policy without complete appeasement because of fear of nuclear weapons. And US better get used to an enemy country having nuclear weapons because it is going to happen sooner than it may want.

  9. Chandra, I don’t think it’s simply a fear of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. I think there’s also considerable fear that a hostile Pakistan would result in the US seeing a repeat of the Soviet experience of Afghanistan. Also, there’s a fear that the country would become an anti-American Chinese client state in a manner similar to North Korea or Myanmaar.

    Lastly, there’s a concern that a a virulently Islamist Pakistani regime would be much less rational in its nuclear weapons policies than the Soviet Union or even North Korea. Though I don’t think the odds of the Army losing power are very high.

  10. I am POI based in Europe. I can understand India’s frustration with Pakistan.
    However, I agree it is better that Pakistan is under US influence rather China.
    There is no quick fix for a country like Pakistan. In Pakistan if person leaves Islam
    then he/she is killed. Morover it is culturally acceptable for a man to kill his wife,
    daughter or female relative. How can such a brutalised society be democratic ? democracy
    is based on freedom of choice, Pakistanis do not understand this concept. Is Islam compatible with
    democracy ?
    read for some stunning insights.

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