The aptly-named “long war” in the AfPak theatre is likely turning perpetual as the “trust deficit” between the U.S. and Pakistan widens.
Pakistani leaders gathered on Thursday to denounce U.S. allegations the country’s spy agency has been complicit in recent attacks against American targets in Afghanistan.
The L.A. Times reported over 50 of Pakistan’s senior-most political and military leaders met in Islamabad in a show of unity against escalating rhetoric emanating from the Pentagon – specifically with respect to U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen’s recent charges in which he called the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.
Mullen believes the ISI helped Haqqani militants carry out a 20-hour siege of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and a truck bombing in Wardak province that injured more than 70 American troops.
Senator Lindsey Graham warned Pakistan’s recalcitrance at conducting military operations against the Haqqanis could force the U.S. to broaden its military operations within Pakistan.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was adamant about his country’s resolve, publicly declaring Pakistan would do anything “to defend the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of our sacred motherland.”
According to Reuters, Pakistani spy chief Lt. General Pasha denied his organization has aided and abetted militants, saying: “There are other intelligence networks supporting groups who operate inside Afghanistan. We have never paid a penny or provided even a single bullet to the Haqqani network.”
Pakistan claims its hands have been full fighting its own war against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), otherwise known in Rawalpindi as the “bad Taliban”, preventing them from taking on the Haqqanis.
Pakistan underlined that its country has sacrificed more lives than any other involved in the post-9/11 “war on terror”. Not unlike claims it made during the 1980s of being a “front line” state against the Soviets, which was reason enough for the U.S. to allow Pakistan a certain amount of latitude.
Not only is Congress reevaluating a $7.5 billion civilian aid package, but Washington is also considering pulling billions in security assistance it provides to Pakistan earmarked for rooting out militants like the Haqqanis.
It is highly unlikely Pakistan will end its decades-old relationship with the Haqqanis, whom they envision being an anti-Indian asset in the looming post-NATO world.
Pepe Escobar in The Asia Times was critical of U.S. plans to expand its military scope in Pakistan:
The Pentagon’s “long war”, also known as the “war on terror”, may have cost the Pakistani economy up to a staggering $100 billion – and over 30,000 casualties, a large number of them civilians. Under “no bomb left behind”, expect “collateral damage” to keep piling up.
Expect deadly, eternal Pashtun vengeance against Americans to be as irreversible as death and taxes.
David Ignatius spoke to Mullen in an interview for The Daily Star in which the Admiral expressed doubts the situation in Pakistan is resolvable in the near future because the country’s problems were embedded in its economic, political and cultural fabric. Mullen claimed Pakistan was on “a declining glide slope” – a descent America cannot fix.
Perhaps the U.S. does need to pull its aid so Pakistan will be forced to forge a closer relationship with India, and together the neighbors can secure a mutually beneficial economic-security pact.
Recent signs of cooperation between the two rivals have been encouraging. The BBC reported on Wednesday that Pakistan and India agreed to double their trade within the next three years in an attempt to boost relations, as India promised to end its opposition to European Union trade concessions sought by Pakistan.
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