A Harder Line on Pakistan

Many observers including myself have long suspected that much of the billions of dollars in military aid that the United States has sent Pakistan to battle militants has been diverted to projects more suited to fighting India or simply pocketed by Pakistani authorities. It is still stunning to learn that between 2002 and 2008 perhaps only $500 million of the $6.6 billion in American aid actually made it to the Pakistani military. That's $6.1 billion unaccounted for.

And yet lask week, Congress passed another $1.5 billion aid package to our beleaguered ally albeit this time with a number of stipulations. Among the stipulations in the aid package are a request that Pakistan cease supporting terrorist groups on its soil and that Pakstani authorities ensure that the Pakistani military  and intelligenc services do not interfere with civilian politics. Now the New York Times is reporting  on both the new harder line on Pakistan and the Pakistani resistance to the new toughen stance.

In a public statement, the American ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, suggested last week that Pakistan should eliminate the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, a onetime ally of the Pakistanis who Washington says is now based in Baluchistan, the province on the Afghanistan border. If Pakistan did not get rid of Mullah Omar, the United States would, she suggested.

Reinforcing the ambassador, the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, said Sunday that the United States regarded tackling Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan as "the next step" in the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in an unusually stern reaction last week said that missile attacks by American drones in Baluchistan, as implied by the Americans, "would not be allowed."

The Pakistanis also complain that they are not being sufficiently consulted over the pending White House decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The head of Pakistan's chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, met with senior officials at the Central Intelligence Agency last week in Washington, where he argued that more troops was not the answer in Afghanistan, a Pakistani official familiar with the visit said.

The Pakistani Army, riding high after its campaign to wrench back control of the Swat Valley from the Taliban, remains nervous about Washington's intentions in the region and the push against the new aid is reflective of that anxiety, Pakistani officials said.

Though the Zardari government is trumpeting the new aid assistance as a triumph, officials say the language in the legislation ignores long-held prerogatives about Pakistani sovereignty, making the $1.5 billion a tough sell.

"Now everyone has a handle they can use to rip into the Zardari government," said a senior Pakistani official involved in the American-Pakistani dialogue but who declined to be named because he did not want to inflame the discussion.

The expanding American security presence has become another club. DynCorp has attracted particular scrutiny after the Pakistani news media reported that Blackwater, the contractor that has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, was also present in Pakistan.

Tags: al qaeda, pakistan, US-Pakistani Relations (all tags)


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