Making Nice

Posted by Lex, on October 19, 2010


In the wake of serial apologies for the killing of Pakistani border guards that had initiated fires on US forces, the Pakistani government’s closure of the crucial supply line supporting the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, continued tolerance of a Taliban presence in the Northwest tribal region crossing into Afghanistan to wreak mayhem and the duplicitous malfeasance committed by elements of the Pakistani security apparatus, Washington decides that it’s time to make further reparations:

As Pakistani civilian and military leaders arrive here this week for high-level meetings, the Obama administration will begin trying to mend a relationship badly damaged by the American military’s tough new stance in the region.

Among the sweeteners on the table will be a multiyear security pact with Pakistan, complete with more reliable military aid — something the Pakistani military has long sought to complement the five-year, $7.5 billion package of nonmilitary aid approved by Congress last year. The administration will also discuss how to channel money to help Pakistan rebuild after its ruinous flood.

But the American gestures come at a time of fraying patience on the part of the Obama administration, and they will carry a familiar warning, a senior American official said: if Pakistan does not intensify its efforts to crack down on militants hiding out in the tribal areas of North Waziristan, or if another terrorist plot against the United States were to emanate from Pakistani soil, the administration would find it hard to persuade Congress or the American public to keep supporting the country.

“Pakistan has taken aggressive action within its own borders. But clearly, this is an ongoing threat and more needs to be done,” the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said Monday. “That will be among the issues talked about.”

The Pakistanis will come with a similarly mixed message. While Pakistan is grateful for the strong American support after the flood, Pakistani officials said, it remains frustrated by what it perceives as the slow pace of economic aid, the lack of access to American markets for Pakistani goods and the administration’s continued lack of sympathy for the country’s confrontation with India.

Other potentially divisive topics are likely to come up, too, including NATO’s role in reconciliation talks between President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Pakistani officials say they are nervous about being left out of any political settlement involving the Taliban.

1) US foreign aid to Pakistan went from $24 million in 2000 to $977 million in 2007. A total of $20 billion will be transferred in both military and non-military aid through 2010. Much of that may have been wildly misspent. Little of it appears to be appreciated by the Pakistani people, who are so violently opposed to the United States that non-governmental organizations have begged for USAID deliveries to be anonymized for fear that the locals will set upon them. I think we’ve been fair.

2) Pakistan’s exports to America have increased nearly 60% since 2002. The country’s chief export to the US is cotton. Its chief imports consist of finished goods such as airliners, computers and industrial equipment. It takes a lot more cotton by weight to offset the purchase of airliners, and still the 2009 US trade deficit was $1.9 billion. You can buy cotton anywhere. I think we’ve been fair.

3) Always with India. To remain fair, the two nuclear armed states have fought three major wars, and one minor one, since the wrenching dissolution of the British Raj. Pakistan having nothing that India wants, all of these conflicts were initiated by Pakistan. Pakistan has a population of 170 million, India a population of 1.2 billion. The broader West has had its full of religious wars, and the US has little understanding of them. But it is hard to be sympathetic when a smaller country repeatedly goads a larger one to violence over a meaningless sliver of land through direct confrontation, indirect sponsorship of militants and outright terrorism.

4) The Pakistani army is the most powerful institution in the country, but nevertheless needs a plausible raison d’etre to retain public support in an impoverished land. They have chosen India. Because of that DNA-encoded enmity against a vastly larger foe, they need “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, hence the ISI’s support for the Pakistani Taliban, who now cross the border to mingle and fight with their Afghan counterparts, killing US and coalition soldiers. It’s hard to know whether the whole thing is a product of some bizarre circular logic chain or merely a sordid and toxic self-licking ice cream cone.

5) The Taliban may have been born of the US efforts to dislodge the Soviets from Afghanistan, but they have been carefully nurtured by elements within the ISI. Afghanistan may well be a chocolate mess, but it is still a sovereign country fighting against a determined and brutal insurgency: Pakistan no more has a right to a “seat at the table” between those two foes than Afghanistan would have between Pakistan and India in Jammu and Kashmir.

6) Perceptive readers will now understand why your host received no calling for a diplomatic career.

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