Monday, May 09, 2011

Pakistan and India: Comparison of Allies

Lawrence Wright's insightful piece in The New Yorker on India & Pakistan's role reversals in our foreign policy universe blames our foreign aid for producing preposterous contradictions in Pakistan which has helped the state to implode into its warring configurations---mainly the north/south divide between Punjab and Sindh & the east/west gulf between those two and the Baluchi/NWFP outliers in the Hindu Kush hinterlands.

Actually, Wright does nothing of the sort, but he does demonstrate conclusively that the huge amount of US aid is being disbursed to terrorist entities which strengthen Pakistan against India & support the Taliban fighting the US troops in Afghanistan, inferentially:
One day in March, 2004, when I was in Peshawar, in northern Pakistan, a firefight broke out in the tribal areas nearby. The newspapers said the Army was fighting Al Qaeda, and had surrounded Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy. Zawahiri escaped, but the troops captured a number of Al Qaeda fighters, including Zawahiri’s son Ahmed. The next day, a newspaper bore the headline “AHMED’S TALKING!” Yet Zawahiri doesn’t have a son named Ahmed. After that day, nothing more was said about Ahmed, but I kept puzzling over that tricked-up episode. I began to wonder, What would happen if the Pakistani military actually captured or killed Al Qaeda’s top leaders? The great flow of dollars would stop, just as it had in Afghanistan after the Soviets limped away. I realized that, despite all the suffering the war on terror had brought to Pakistan, the military was addicted to the money it generated. The Pakistani Army and the I.S.I. were in the looking-for-bin-Laden business, and if they found him they’d be out of business.
A number of investigative reports have suggested that the I.S.I. diverted American money designated for fighting terrorism to the Taliban. According to a 2007 document released by WikiLeaks, U.S. military interrogators at Guant√°namo implicitly acknowledged this problem when they placed the I.S.I. on an internal list of “terrorist and terrorist-support entities.”

For myself, personally, one of Wright's paras had personal irony:
n 2009, Senators Richard Lugar and John Kerry, recognizing that American military aid had given the Army and the I.S.I. disproportionate power in Pakistan, helped pass legislation in Congress sanctioning seven and a half billion dollars in civilian assistance, to be disbursed over a period of five years.

This brought me back to the days in the mid-'80s when I was in charge of raising money for Pakistan while a lobbyist in Denis Neill's shop in DC, a firm hired by Charlie Wilson of the eponymous best-seller fame who I learned later was the chief Democrat in charge of the secret war in Afghanistan. I had raised around $50,000 and Denis Neill told me to hand-walk a check to the DNCC---specifically the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee HQ on Capitol Hill where I handed a check to John Kerry's assistant---JK was the Senate Campaign Cte Chief that election cycle of '86---and afterwards, Charlie Wilson & Denis Neill personally congratulated me because that $50K had switched Kerry & Dodds' votes on the Foreign Rel Cte to give Pakistan $450 million in direct assistance. I got a big glass of single-malt scotch and a Cuban cigar as a reward at the Christmas Party that year. Wright goes on:
Another retired general on the podium, Talat Masood, responded that the losses Pakistan had suffered in the “so-called war on terror” amounted to more than forty billion dollars. “So please don’t harp on the eleven billion,” he said.
Pakistan has indeed suffered for its official alliance with the U.S. In 2006, there were six suicide bombings in the country; the next year there were fifty-six, with six hundred and forty people killed. Last year, twelve hundred people were murdered by suicide bombers. More than three thousand Pakistani soldiers and officers have been killed in the war, including eighty-five members of the I.S.I. Yet many of these wounds have been self-inflicted, for the military and the I.S.I. created and nurtured the very groups—such as the Taliban—that have turned against the Pakistani state. And the money used to fund these radical organizations came largely from American taxpayers.

Again, I had dinner at Talaat Masood's house in 'Pindi back in the mid-eighties on a trip for a company trying to sell Gulfstream Jets to the government and also met him in NYC during a visit by President Zia to the UN much later. He is not the most effective apologist for Paki pleas for more money, as he does have a tendency to want a personal cut of the pie, but that is part of the landscape in a country where personal and public interests are virtually indistinguishable. His claim of losses of over $40 billion from "terror" sound wildly inflated, for instance, and much more has been lost by peculation and corruption from public officials, particularly the army and the intelligence services---not to mention the losses of brave young American soldiers killed by conniving Paki kickbacks and direct aid to the Taliban which in turn arm their insurgency. The bitter fruits of the treachery of the so-called Paki allies has presented the US policy makers with a Hobson's choice:
Many foreign-policy experts maintain that America cannot, at this juncture, cut off military aid to Pakistan—even if elements of the I.S.I. turn out to have harbored bin Laden. There are two prongs to this argument. One is that America needs Pakistan’s support in order to defeat the Taliban. If the U.S. withdraws aid, it is argued, Pakistan might insist that we can no longer fly drones over tribal areas. But Pakistan has covertly supported the drone program for years, in return for the U.S.’s targeting of Taliban forces that it cannot vanquish on its own. Without U.S. aid, the Pakistani military will need drone assistance more than ever.
The more pressing concern is that radical Islamists will somehow get their hands on a nuclear bomb, either through covert means or by actually coming to power. “The military is playing on this fear,” a Pakistani reporter, Pir Zubair Shah, told me.
As much as half of the money the U.S. gave to the I.S.I. to fight the Soviets was diverted to build nuclear weapons. The father of Pakistan’s bomb, A. Q. Khan, later sold plans and nuclear equipment to Libya, North Korea, and Iran. A month before 9/11, Pakistani nuclear scientists even opened a secret dialogue with Al Qaeda. The government of Pakistan has denied knowledge of what Khan and his associates were doing.

The irony of the situation is even more pathetic when Wright exposes the deep hole that the Paki military has dug itself into:
Not only has American military aid been wasted, misused, and turned against us; it may well have undermined the Pakistani military, which has feasted on huge donations but is far weaker than its nemesis, the Indian military. If the measure of our aid is the gratitude of the Pakistani people and the loyalty of their government, then it has clearly been a failure. Last year, a Pew Research Center survey found that half of Pakistanis believe that the U.S. gives little or no assistance at all. Even the Finance Minister, Hafiz Shaikh, said last month that it was “largely a myth” that the U.S. had given tens of billions of dollars to Pakistan. And if the measure of our aid is Pakistan’s internal security, the program has fallen short in that respect as well. Pakistan is endangered not by India, as the government believes, but by the very radical movements that the military helped create to act as terrorist proxies.

And the Pakistani business community has more reason to get the US to drop textile barriers which prevent the massive importation of "bar wipes," for instance, of which Pakistan is the leading producer in the world, and other lowly commodities mass-produced but subject to high tariff barriers.
Eliminating, or sharply reducing, military aid to Pakistan would have consequences, but they may not be the ones we fear. Diminishing the power of the military class would open up more room for civilian rule. Many Pakistanis are in favor of less U.S. aid; their slogan is “trade not aid.” In particular, Pakistani businessmen have long sought U.S. tax breaks for their textiles, which American manufacturers have resisted. Such a move would empower the civilian middle class. India would no doubt welcome a reduction in military aid to Pakistan, and the U.S. could use this as leverage to pressure India to allow the Kashmiris to vote on their future, which would very likely be a vote for independence. These two actions might do far more to enhance Pakistan’s stability, and to insure its friendship, than the billions of dollars that America now pays like a ransom.

In the meantime, the head of the army Kayani must resort to bluster and strutting about to save face which his preposterous incompetence has exposed him as a complete military dunce and nutcase, if not an out-and-out traitor:
Within the I.S.I., there is a secret organization known as the S Wing, which is largely composed of supposedly retired military and I.S.I. officers. “It doesn’t exist on paper,” a source close to the I.S.I. told me. The S Wing handles relations with radical elements. “If something happens, then they have deniability,” the source explained. If any group within the Pakistani military helped hide bin Laden, it was likely S Wing.
Eight days before Osama bin Laden was killed, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani Army, went to the Kakul military academy in Abbottabad, less than a mile from the villa where bin Laden was living. “General Kayani told the cadets, ‘We have broken the backbone of the militants,’ ” Pir Zubair Shah, the reporter, told me. “But the backbone was right there.” Perhaps with a touch of theatre, Hamid Gul, the former I.S.I. chief, publicly expressed wonder that bin Laden was living in a city with three army regiments, less than a mile from an √©lite military academy, in a house that appeared to have been built expressly to protect him. Aside from the military, Gul told the Associated Press, “there is the local police, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, the I.S.I. They all had a presence there.”

I wonder why "wonder" is what Gul expressed. There is something wonderful about the comeuppance of imbeciles and double-dealing frauds whose cover stories now seem to be sillier than even a movie script writer could ever put over on an audience.

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