By Dr Subhash Kapila
Two weeks have passed since the November 26, 2011 border attacks incident involving Pakistan Army and NATO Forces and one would have normally expected for Pakistan Army tempers to calm down and work for retrieval of the breakdown in the strategic relationship.
Significantly, while the United States has made all the right noises and moves in this direction, the Pakistan Army Director General of Military Operations continues to accuse the United States of deliberately attacking the Pakistan border posts as a well-planned move.
Significantly, while the Pakistan Prime Minister has expressed that Pakistan wishes to repair its ties with the United States, no similar comments or sentiments stand expressed by the Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani.
What does this portend? Is it that the Pak Prime Minister was only making proforma remarks and that the Pakistan Army Chief’s reticence on the subject is in keeping with his known strand of standing-up to the United States on the Afghanistan issue which divides Pakistan Army from the United States currently?
The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey had personally spoken to Pak Army Chief, General Kayani after the incident ,emphasizing that restraint and patience be exercised till full investigations are completed.
The US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff had emphasized this on the strength of his official appointment as the top most US military commander and also in a personal capacity as both General Dempsey and Pak Army Chief General Kayani were course mates at the US Army Command and General Staff College in USA in the 1980s.
With that not forthcoming from the Pakistan Army side General Dempsey a couple of days back publicly asserted on two occasions his disillusionment with the United States strategic relationship with the Pakistan Army.
This needs to be noted analytically as the spin-off from this has an impact on the entire South Asian security environment.
US Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey’s Remarks on Pakistan
General Dempsey’s remarks on disillusionment with the United States strategic relationship with Pakistan stand reported in the media in great detail and the intention is not to repeat the same in this Paper. What is intended is to give the gist of his remarks on three major issues as follows (1) The United States detests Pakistan Army version of the border attack incident (2) United States disillusionment with Pakistan Army hostile postures following the border attack incident (30 United States calls off Pakistan Army bluff on closure of US military supply routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan.
Pakistan Army through its Director General of Military Operations had alleged that the NATO/ISAF attack on Pakistan Army Sallalah temporary borfer posts was deliberate and pre-planned. The US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff in a virtual detestation of this version refuted this allegation and clearly stated that the attacks were not intentional and that the United States did not stand to gain from these attacks.
Notwithstanding the fact that the United States had asked Pakistan Army to join in joint investigations of the incident and the latter had refused and the US statement above at the highest level, Pakistan Army DGMO in a change of tune before the Pakistan Senate Foreign Relations Committee made a more pointed attack on the United States when he said that NATO/ISAF forces were not involved but that attacks were launched by US Forces stationed in Afghanistan.
General Dempsey expressed wide disillusionment with the Pakistan Army hostile postures after the 26 November incident. The United States following the incident sincerely requested that the issue be resolved behind closed doors and without resolving the issue through the media. General Dempsey strongly stated that the United States had exercised abundant patience on this issue and expected that the Pakistan Army would follow likewise.
General Dempsey continuing in the same vein expressed that “What I am really concerned is about the deterioration of the relationship with Pakistan longtime, and not its immediate effect on any tactical actions.”
Virtually calling of Pakistan Army’s bluff on closure of US military supply routes to Afghanistan through Pakistan, the US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that Pakistan’s closure of supply routes reflected badly on its relationship with the United States and was not the done thing. General Dempsey asserted that the United States can afford alternate routes despite costs.
Rather significantly but less well known was the fact given out by General Dempsey that burning of oil tankers destined for Afghanistan within Pakistan territory did not hurt the United States as the United States pays for oil on delivery only. Obviously then the loss is borne by Pakistan, a point not registered within Pakistan and Pakistan Army militant surrogates.
The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey going public on remarks which were ctitical and shorn of erstwhile effusiveness of Pakistan Army being a staunch Major Non-NATO Ally reflects the total disillusionment of the United States at the highest levels with the Pakistan Army’s demonstrated hostile postures, actions and statements by the Pakistan Army Chief and his Generals.
Concurrent Disillusionment and Displeasure Aired at Political and Civilian Levels.
The US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey has not been alone in expressing disillusionment with the Pakistan Army and more so after the November 26, 2011 incident. There is a growing clamor on Capitol Hill amongst Senators and Congresspersons that it is high time that the United States ties its military aid to Pakistan Army contingent with responsible and accountable behavior in delivering on its pledges to the United States. More pointedly emerging in such demands is that the Pakistan Army Chief rein-in his notorious intelligence outfit, the ISI which continues to finance and facilitate Taliban and its hostile operations against US/NATO Forces in Afghanistan. Senators have urged General Dempsey to play hardball with the Pakistan Army.
Evidently all of this is having effect as visible from the cuts of over US $ 700 million in military aid to Pakistan Army. Similar amounts of Coalition Support Funds and Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund are also said to be withheld.
In some US think-tank circles discussions have already commenced on options open to the United States for an effective containment poicy against Pakistan. These are the straws which reflect which way the wind is blowing in the Pakistan Army-United States strategic relationship.
Pakistan Army-United States Relations: What Does the Future Portend?
In my earlier Paper on the subject one has asserted that a meltdown of the Pakistan Army-United States strategic relationship was inevitable going by the transactional underpinnings of this strategic relationship. United States disillusionment with the Pakistan Army at the highest military level, even though the tones were muted is indicative of the impending harsh reality of a meltdown.
Also argued earlier in my Papers is the fact that those who assert that things will bounce back after a recriminatory period of time are betting heavily on optimism. Where is the scope for optimism when the Pakistan Army Chief threatens nuclear retaliation against the United States and issues command orders to shoot back at implicitly US forces and drones and the DGMO makes accusations of deliberate US attacks? The Pakistan Prime Minister under orders from the Pak Army Chief threatens that US logistics routes to Afghanistan would continue to be closed for quite some time.
Where is the scope for optimism where in policy circles in the United States are now in consequence examining US options for containment of Pakistan? Where is the scope for optimism when the US Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff in his latest statements publicly proclaims that terrorist’ havens in Pakistan need to be eliminated along with Pakistan’s controlling influence on Afghanistan? Is it not the Pakistan Army which is in the strategic cross-hairs of the topmost United States military commander?
In my earlier Papers one has dismissed for good reasons the myths of dangers of Talibanization of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army being the glue that holds Pakistan together. In actual fact the last decade of demonstrated actions of the Pakistan Army Chiefs should clearly highlight that in actual fact the Pakistan Army is the glue which binds, inflames and fans Anti-Americanism in Pakistan.
It is now being admitted in many circles that in the wake of the recent border incidents it was Pakistan Army’s notorious intelligence outfit, the ISI, which raised the emotions within Pakistan and inflamed nationalistic passions in the populace to a high pitch to achieve the domestic agenda of the Pakistan Army.
United States military operations in Afghanistan have started achieving substantial successes despite gloomy media portrayals. United States strategic blueprint for Afghanistan up to 2014 and even beyond is well charted out. It is this which is making the Pakistan Army flail around and against the United Sates on having been deprived of its imperial hold on Afghanistan.
Therefore, the future portents should be clearly evident with a major conclusion emerging that Pakistan Army-United States strategic relationship has reached a dead-end chiefly as the United States slowly realizes that Pakistan Army’s strategic utility to the United States, particularly in relationship to Afghanistan has waned. Not only has it waned but that the Pakistan Army is decidedly acquiring adversarial contours in its relationship with the United States over this issue.
Pakistan Army’s strategic relationship with the United States has deteriorated not only because of contradictory strategic agendas on Afghanistan but also because of diminution of Pakistan Army’s public image within Pakistan arising from United States Abbottabad liquidation of Osama bin Laden and now the alleged US attacks on Pakistan Army posts on the Pak-Afghan border.
Pakistan Army on both counts can ill-afford to compromise with the United States and therein lies the rub for the United States even if it wishes to go the extra mile to salvage the strategic relationship with Pakistan Army.
Against such a backdrop a grave air of unpredictability attends the future of Pakistan Army-United States strategic relationship. The Pakistan Army is known for its irrational and adventurist responses in crisis situations and not only the United States but India too need to be vigilant.