AFPAK: Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan

September 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

A Political and Diplomatic Minefield

Map: CIA World Factbook

The Washington Post, in its third installment of highlights from Bob Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars,” has a telling passage that summarizes the contradictory relationship the U.S. has with Pakistan — and why it is so important, so maddening and so dangerous:

“…the most pressing U.S. interests were in Pakistan, a nuclear power with a fragile civilian government, a dominant military and an intelligence service that sponsored terrorist groups.”

Much of the news this week has been about, or from, Pakistan and every new story raises questions about that country’s stability. And that has got to weigh heavily on U.S. decision makers.

Going Nuclear

First comes the news that the United Nations’ atomic energy agency has elected the head of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission as its new chairman. Dr. Ansar Parvez was selected to chair the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency for the next year.

IAEA photo

As Bloomberg news points out, Pakistan is also the home of nuclear weapons-trafficker Abdul Qadeer Khan. Parvez, who is not linked in any way to the Khan network that sold nuclear bomb-building information to Iran, North Korea and Libya, is not the first Pakistani official chaired the IAEA’s governing board. But he is the first since Pakistan joined the nuclear club in 1998.

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Wanted: Better Leadership

We think the New York Times may have buried the lead in its front page story Wednesday that Pakistan’s military is very unhappy with the poor performance of the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari. The generals, led by Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, have been underwhelmed – as have most Pakistanis – by the government’s sluggish response to catastrophic flooding that has killed nearly 2,000 people and left millions homeless.

They’re not exactly thrilled with how Zardari and his cabinet are handling the struggling nation’s economy, either.

Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani talks with U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen (Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

But what we think is quite remarkable is that the generals – unlike former military commanders, Pervez Musharraf and Zia -ul-Haq, among others – don’t want to take over the government.Civilian governents have fallen three times to military coups over Pakistan’s 63-year history. This time, however, the generals are too busy fighting homegrown insurgents.

But at a meeting Monday “that was played on the front page of Pakistan’s newspapers,” the army chief, confronted the president and his prime minister over incompetence and corruption in the government.

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Not Wanted: al Qaeda and the Taliban

The U.S. has stepped up missile attacks on militant strongholds in Pakistan in recent weeks, prompting a outcry from some segments of the public about violations of Pakistani sovereignty. Adding to the controversy, U.S. and/or NATO helicopters have crossed the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan – operating under the “hot pursuit” of bad guys doctrine – to attack armed individuals that fired on them.

CIA World Factbook

CIA Director Leon Panetta is meeting with his counterpart, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, to discuss Islamabad’s increasing unhapiness with the U.S. airstrikes. Pasha heads the Inter Services Intelligence agency, which  supported Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. And segments of the ISI are reportedly still supporting some of those groups – even though they are targeting coalition forces.

Pakistan shut down the crucial land route into Afghanistan for NATO supplies after accusing NATO of killing three Pakistani guards at a checkpoint in the most recent cross-border attack, according to Voice of America.

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Here We Go Again

There are reports that at least some of those missile strikes into Pakistani territory were aimed at disrupting militants planning attacks in cities across Europe and possibly in the United States.

U.S. Air Force photo via Wikipedia

Intelligence officials in Britain and France said they had disrupted plots to conduct low-tech raids by heavily-armed militants to kill and take hostages, similar to the attack in Mumbai two years ago that left 166 dead and hundreds more injured, according to Sky News and other news outlets.

Several outlets reported the stepped up activity by missile-firing drones along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was, in part, an attempt to disrupt  further planning meetings. But according to NPR, some U.S. officials say that was not the case.

Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Counter Insurgency, International Relief, National Security and Defense, Pakistan. Tags: , , , , , , , .

AFPAK: Flood Relief Update FRIDAY FOTO (Oct. 1, 2010) Updated

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September 2010


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