National Defence Minister Peter MacKay speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 7, 2012. (REUTERS/Blair Gable)
By Peter Worthington
Whatever one thinks of Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s penchant for taking military helicopters on fishing trips, the country should support him chiding elements in Pakistan for helping the Taliban.
While there’s nothing new in NATO leaks that elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service and military are helping co-ordinate Taliban attacks on coalition forces, the fact these reports keep surfacing has to be upsetting.
Pakistani denials ring hollow — nearly 10 years of denials.
Good on MacKay for not brushing the NATO leaks aside. He said if such reports are reliable, and if Pakistan wants western allies to continue working for “peace and security” throughout the region, then Pakistan’s co-operation is not only required, but is demanded. And “demand” is what MacKay is doing. But is anyone listening?
That’s fairly tough talk. Ever since Navy SEALs took out Osama bin Laden at his Pakistani retreat, there’s been substantial evidence Pakistan is playing a double game.
There are even suggestions China hopes to exploit a rift between western allies and Pakistan — a possibility that makes traditional diplomats shudder. But, if true, Pakistan and China cuddling each other seems destined to be an enormous headache for both these hypersensitive, paranoid, nuclear states.
U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has made the curious observation that after next year, U.S. policy in Afghanistan will be one of “advise and assist,” rather than actually fighting. What on earth does that mean? One supposes it means that by 2014, Panetta hopes the Afghan National Army and National Police being trained by coalition troops, including Canadians, will be able to handle Taliban incursions.
Don’t bet on it.
By having a safe haven in Pakistan, and a seemingly endless supply of fighters, the future has got to look encouraging for the Taliban. They can lose battles indefinitely against American forces — and win the war once the Americans have had a bellyful.
Time is on the Taliban’s side. And patience is their virtue.
There’s not much that can be done. Clearly, coalition countries don’t intend to stay in Afghanistan, and the U.S. especially wants out with an election looming in November.
When Barack Obama’s predecessor, George Bush, was president and flailing away in Iraq, Obama made Afghanistan (relatively quiet at the time) the war he’d prosecute. Well, Afghanistan has turned bad for Obama. So he wants out, and has fired those generals who thought they could win the damn thing.
MacKay says he doesn’t give much credence to the so-called secret NATO report that says the Taliban are gaining confidence and are sure they’ll win in the end.
He thinks that’s what the Taliban would say no matter what — “an overly optimistic view of what’s happening on the ground … in battlefield skirmishes they always lose.” But the Taliban leadership is not in disarray — although coalition leadership may be approaching that state.
If the U.S. were realistic, it would consider cutting aid to Pakistan — $12 billion in military aid, $7 billion in economic aid over the last 10 years.
That may be the only way to get the attention of those who rule Pakistan.
Like hitting a mule on the head with a two-by-four.
The problem is not the Taliban, but the Pakistan leadership which seems hell-bent on wrecking relations with western allies, and gambling we are too timid to do anything about it.
Courtesy: Toronto sun