Instead of coming down, the bitterness in Pak-US relations has escalated after the meetings of Gen Mike Mullen with Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani and that of Hina Rabbani Khar with Hillary Clinton. The way the war of words that has emerged after the poisonous statements of US officials against Pakistan and the tit for tat response of Hina Rabbani Khar that “you will lose an ally”, clearly show as to how relations between the two countries have become so delicate. Main reasons behind this situation is the US condition in Afghanistan and internal US politics.
In view of the deteriorating economy and also in view of the 2014 Presidential elcections, Obama must have in mind to capture Afghanistan before the 2014 deadline so that he should be able to withdraw most of the forces before that and still tighten his grip with the help of only a few thousand soldiers and a few bases. As 2014 approaches nearer, the activities of Taliban are accelerating. Tension between the two was already there during the Bush-era but Karzai government was with the US and harped an anti-Pakistan propaganda. Today Afghan relations with the US are under more strain than with Pakistan.
In ht Bush-era the US had foiled Pakistan’s plans that the former should not have a free hand in collusion with India in that country. Now the situation is different, Today Hamid Karzai is trying to foil US plans and conversely the US is trying to foil Afghanistan’s policies. Hamid Karzai is also not becoming part of the US strategy against Pakistan and is restraining himself from levelling accusations against Pakistan as in the past. The US tried to bypass Pakistan and Karzai to initiate dialogue with Taliban through Tayyab Agha, but failed. US officials are convinced that this plan was foiled by Hamid Karzai and Pakistan.
Washington has come to the conclusion that nothing can be achieved without Pakistan and the attitude of the Pakistan armed forces has also convinced her that they would not play to the US tunes. That explains why the US officials have increased pressure on Pakistan. The US armed forces and CIA had not been on the same page in the last wo years. The porcess planned to have a prolonged stay in Afghanistan and continued to ensure Obama that they can achieve the desired results with the use of force. But now after two years when the situation has deteriorated, President Obama is piqued, and it is for the first time that relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan are being handled directly by the White House.
On the other hand, in order to hide his failures, present CIA chief David Howell Petreaus is trying utmost to throw the dirt at the doos of Pakistan saying it has been playing a double game. Same has been the attitude of present Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta. The US armed forces chief Mike Mullen is going to return in the near future but without a medal to signify any success in Afghanistan. The credit of Killing Osama bin Ladin went to CIA and US Special Forces. It should therefore not be surprising if he too is throwing all the responsibility of his failure on Pakistan.
All this shows that an atmosphere of war has been created. However there is a difference this time. The Pakistan military establishment seems to be in no mood to play to the US tunes. Reliable sources say that prior to this wave of tensions, agreements between the two countries had been reached on visas for the American nationals and many other issues. Relations had become so warm that CIA and ISI had launched a joint operation against Al-Qaeda’s leader al-Moritani in Quetta. But now when the US has adopted a hostile attitude again, the military establishment, an on its urging the civilian administration too, are issuing tit for tat statements. This has created a storm in the media and a war like situation seems to be emerging .
The Americans are doing on the war front whatever is possible wand they cannot do more. They waste no time in hitting the targets in Waziristan or tribal areas with drones once they get intelligence about that. It is possible that in order to pressure Pakistan further, they make take some action on land too, or as a desperate measure they may hit certain urban areas outside the tribal belt. However one thing is certain they can never bear the consequences of sending forces to tribal areas or to create the hype of war with Pakistan.
Pakistani establishment understands that US has failed to control Afghanistan even with Pak cooperation, and if it withdraws its support situation in Afghanistan would become unbearable for the US forces within days. This thinking alone prompted them to talk tough with US> On the other hand the US is convinced that if Pakistan does not extend the expected cooperation, they are sure to face defeat in Afghanistan. They are also convinced that the desired cooperation from Pakistan can turn the tables for them and convert their defeat into victory. That is why they are exerting maximum pressure on Pakistan, whereas Pakistan is not scared of this pressure because its fully aware of the American difficulties in Afghanistan and also realises its upper hand in the scenario.
The question is that against such a background of helplessness and importance of Pakistani cooperation why is US threatening Pakistan. The answer is that there are two fronts where Pakistan is very weak while US is very stong. These ae the diplomatic and economic fronts. the Americans understand that if they are caught in the quick sand of Afghanistan, then on diplomatic and economic fronts Pakistan will not be able to wit stand the US pressure.. US understands that it can still playa key role in political adjustment tin Pakistan and teach a lesson too. Otherwise too the attitude of US is aggressive. To sum up, in one field Pakistan has the upper hand, that is in the battle field and US has an upper hand in diplomatic, economic and politcal fronts. It seems that Pak policy makers do not keep these in view while adopting an aggressive attitude. Neither the American charge of Pakistan having links with Haqqani Group is new nor is the response by Pakistan. The fact is that Haqqani Network is a term coined by the Americans themselves and no independent organisation with the name exists anywhere.
Jalauddin Haqqani has become a disciple of Mullah Mohammad Umar. He was a minister in the Taliban government. Even today Haqqani, his sons and his companions recognize Mullah Umar as Amirul Momineen and feel morally bound to accept the decisions taken by the Taliban Shoora. But the problem is that the entire Taliban structure is based on different commanders. The commander who has more power, he holds the sway in his area. Similarly the one commander of Ghazni will take care of Ghazni and so fort. SInce Haqqani clan has more historical power and influence in Khost, Paktia, Logar and adjacent areas including even Kabul, therefore his name is used for activities in Kabul and he has earned a distinguished name for himself in Taliban circles.
Many operations in Kabul city have been carried out by those under command of Sirajuddin Haqqani and they have a large number of suicide bomber stoo. But it woul dbe fallacious to draw the conclusion that ll operations are being carried out by Haqqani Network. THe detail of suicide attacks on US embassy issued by Taliban themselves contains only one name that can be said to be under Sirajuddin Haqqani pressure, whereas all others belonged to Zabul and other southern provinces. Mullah Mohammad Umar no doubt is the undisputed leader of Afghani Taliban, still there are many undercurrents of thought in Taliban. Some are strongly against Pakistan and are not prepared to have any confidence in them. SOme have moderate attitude towards Pakistan while some have soft corner for Pakistanis.
Jalauddin Haqqani and his sons fall under the last category. Similarly some of the Afghan Taliban leaders do not like to come anywhere near Pakistani border. Families and relatives of some have taken shelter in Pakistan therefore understandably they have a tilt towards Pakistan. Haqqani Sahib fall sin the second category, but that does not mean that he does everything at the behest of ISI. The American view that Haqqani is receiving real support for North Waziristan, and it is admitted that he has immense influence in North and South Waziristan.
If the American claim had been 100% correct, the Taliban have found refuge in Waziristan Agencies and persons like Colonel Imam and Khalid Khawaja would not have been murdered. Just like Americans, the officials of Afghan government too believe that the operations are being carried out by Taliban of Haqqani group. Afghan leader told reporters last month that the fidayeen who attacked the Hotel intercontinental were receiving instructions from Waziristan on telephone and the conversation has been recorded. THey have lodged a protest with Pakistan. However it beats imagination that while Pakistan was under immense pressure and UNGA was about to meet soon, those in ISI could never even think of committing the mistake of giving instructions to those who had been operating against the US embassy in Kabul.
The American charge could be correct up to the extent that the attack on US embassy in Kabul was made by Haqqani group, although Talibans killed in the attack do not belong to the areas under the influence of Haqqani. However the accusation that ISI had planned the attack does not hold water and seems to be concocted. One point that would support Pakistan point of view is that the Taliban launched the attack at a time when Pakistani ambassador for Kabul Mohammad Sadiq was holding a meeting with US officials within the embassy. SHould that mean that ISI has come so low in estimation that they did not know that their ambassador was in the US embassy at the time of the attack.
The real cause of bitterness in relations is that US is not talking Pakistan into confidence about its future plans and ambitions, but on the other hand because of its political, economic and diplomatic pressures, wants to force Pakistan into submission. Instead of realising its weakness on the Afghan front, flushed with its ascendancy in other fields US is twisting the arms of Pakistan. On the other hand Pakistan too is trying to be aggressive fully realizing that US needs Pakistan support to fight war in Afghanistan. That is a situation that could lead both to destruction. If better sense prevails and both adopt an attitude keeping in view the ground realities, some way can be found to defuse tensions and a way toward betterment can be found.