By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
President Barack Obama has ordered a sharp increase in drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan in recent months, anticipating the CIA may soon need to halt such operations in Pakistan’s territory, two U.S. officials said.
His decision reflects mounting U.S. frustration with Pakistan over a growing list of disputes — mirrored by Pakistani grievances with the U.S. — that have soured relations and weakened security cooperation. The U.S. is withholding at least $3 billion in reimbursements for counterinsurgency operations and security-related funding, according to congressional aides and Pakistani officials.
“We are reaching the limits of our patience, and for that reason it’s extremely important that Pakistan take action” to crack down on armed groups based there that attack American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday in Kabul. ….
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The United States is contemplating a total reversal of its highly ineffective Pakistan policy. This was stated by Prof Christine Fair, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service while delivering a talk on “The situation in the Af-Pak region” at Observer Research Foundation on June 4, 2012.
Frankly expressing her views from both Pakistani as well as American perspectives, Prof. Fair said that the US does not have a long-term policy for Pakistan, and the present practice of granting aid with the aim of fighting the roots of terrorism has not yielded any results. Consequently, despite fighting the Taliban, the US has inadvertently supported them while alienating the civilian population.
Prof. Fair said that the Pakistan’s decision to close ground supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan backfired as the NATO forces soon developed alternative air routes. This, in turn, led many Western leaders to recognise the futility of engaging Pakistan in the war on terror. She also pointed out that the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan further convinced policy makers in Washington of its duplicity.
Asked about the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s perceived lack of understanding about the situation in the West Asia and the Af-Pak region, Prof Fair said that presidential candidates learn very quickly once they take office. As an example, she pointed out Barack Obama’s similar naïveté four years ago and how he learnt and adapted his foreign policy within months into his presidency.
Prof. Fair said that President Obama is disappointed with Pakistan’s counter-terrorism performance, and that the US administration is contemplating containment to force it to abide to its obligations.
According to Prof. Fair, the futility of attempts to alter the pro-jihadist worldview of Pakistan’s foreign policy elite make a serious case of containment, which would hold Pakistan responsible for any terrorist attack with its ’signature’ on it.
Prof. Fair challenged the conventional wisdom that civilian governments in Islamabad are more responsible. She argued that past history suggests a linearity of foreign policy making between military and democratic regimes. This is compounded by a drastic transformation of the popular mindset towards fundamentalism and hatred against India.
By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
Syed Salahuddin, leader of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella group of Kashmiri militant groups which includes the Lashkar e Taiba, said they had been fighting “Pakistan’s war in Kashmir” but Islamabad now cares more about trade than jihad.
“We (militants) are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir and if it withdraws its support, the war would be fought inside Pakistan,” he said in an interview with the Arab News.
His threat emerged as India and Pakistan’s leaders prepare for talks in Islamabad on Monday on proposals to withdraw their troops from the disputed Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield close to the Line of Control which divides Kashmir.
Salahuddin and other Kashmiri militant leaders fear Pakistan’s leaders will withdraw its long-standing support for the military strikes against Indian forces in Kashmir as part of its diplomatic campaign to reduce trade barriers and ease movement between the old enemies.
Pakistan’s readiness to grant ‘Most-Favoured Nation’ trading status to India and the opening of new ‘cross-border’ trade routes in Kashmir had sent a message to insurgent leaders like his Hizbul Mujahideen that “Pakistan wants business with India.” Pakistan has long used group’s like Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar e Toiba as part of its proxy war with India over control of Kashmir, with military protection for their training camps in ‘Azad’ or ‘Free’ Kashmir.