02 May 2011

With Friends Like Pak...

As US government officials reacted to the operation which eliminated Usama bin Laden, there has been a concerted effort to present the Pakistanis in as positive light as possible.  But the facts belie that bunkum.

The UBL operation was kept extremely close to the vest so that only a few US officials knew of the operation.  In fact, the Pakistanis were not told until after the operation occurred.  Yet the US government flacks claimed that Pakistani information supplemented the intelligence for the operation.  Right.

The Pakistani military scrambled to get jets in the air in response to intercept the U.S. Special Forces helicopters as they retreated from the operation in Abbottabad.  But the remaining Navy Seal helicopter was safely across the border in Afghanistan before they were engaged by the Pakistani military.

It is inconceivable to believe that the Pakistani’s were ignorant about Osama’s presence.  The abode where bin Laden had been held up was built five years ago at an estimated cost of $1 Million by owners who had no discernable income.  The compound was nicknamed the Waziristan Mansion by locals because the land had been secured by a mysterious buyer from Waziristan.

The Waziristan abode had several series of 12 foot high security  fences that should have attracted attention of the police or military officials. Hell, the police station was across the street and Pakistan’s West Point where three military divisions are stationed nearby. But this domicile had been tolerated for five years by Pakistani officials. Go figure.

Every single plot of land in the neighborhood of this compound was originally owned by the Pakistani military and sold off at bargain prices to well connected Pakistani military and ISI officers.  These circumstances lead Steve Cole of the New Yorker to conclude that Usama bin Laden had effectively been housed under Pakistani state control.

This makes U.S. foreign policy towards Pakistan somewhat perilous.  Retaining rights to flyover Pakistani airspace is crucial for continuing to supply NATO military operations in Afghanistan.  Perhaps President Obama will use the UBL assassination as a rationale for accelerating the withdrawal of combat military operations in Afghanistan even as the Taliban is starting its Spring offensive.  But withdrawing effective US/NATO combat forces may subject Afghanistan to the lawless state where terror operations like al Qaeda can again flourish.

Aside from geopolitical considerations for their neighbor, relations with Pakistan are complicated because they are a nuclear power in an unstable region and the Pakistani history of nuclear proliferation to the axis of evil and possibly jihaddist forces for the right price.  Since the 2011 al Qaeda terrorist attack, the US has pumped Billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan, which may be significantly squandered to corruption.  There were hackles raised when Congress tried to attach accountability to the $2 Billion of Pakistani aid in the last fiscal year until it was declared that the aid would have no strings attached.  But despite trying to buy Pakistan’s cooperation on the war on terror, we see how we have been duped.  Part of the problem may be that the Pakistan military and intelligence is not under civilian control, so there way be some disparity in cooperation with the US.

If the United States were to retreat from the region, this would leave Pakistan vulnerable to destabilization by jihadists.   It is reasonable to presume that the Pakistani military and ISI are playing both sides, which may line their pockets and ensures a continued gravy train.  But if the Pakistani military loses control, that gives the nuclear option to jihadists who may proliferate to their comrads in arms in other regions.  Another plausible scenario is that the Pakistani military placates Islamist agitators by heightening tensions with India as a power saving diversion.

While Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) was careful not to blame civilian officials in Islamabad, he may hold hearings about the role of the Pakistani military as Levin asserts that “They have lots of explaining to do”.

These South Central Asian complications ought to inspire lots of lucubrations in Foggy Bottom for the foreseeable future.

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