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This is why America has grown frustrated with Pakistan. Even if the specific Pakistani official that is dealing with Americans is sincere and truthful, it’s impossible to know if they speak for the entire government, or just one fraction of it. America has rightly continued acting against terrorist targets inside Pakistan without bothering to consult with Pakistan’s military in advance — a sure sign that the U.S. believes that any such intelligence provided to the Pakistanis will probably be leaked to the terrorists, giving them advanced warning and increasing the risk to U.S. forces. And in a shocking sign of just how badly broken the relationship between Washington and Islamabad has become, President Obama was ready to engage the military forces of Pakistan in battle if they had tried to intervene during the mission to kill bin Laden.
This reality is proving more and more difficult to ignore — and equally difficult to resolve. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen faced tough scrutiny on Capitol Hill Wednesday in the wake of the news of the informants’ arrests. Republican and Democratic law-makers particularly questioned US financial support to Pakistan — some $2 billion per year — for dubious geopolitical gain. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham even asserted that the US was on “a collision course with Pakistan.” However, while acknowledging the “more than warranted” frustrations with Pakistani conduct, the consensus of the senior military officials was that the US was better off suffering the rocky relationship. ”If we walk away from it, it’s my view it’ll be a much more dangerous place a decade from now, and we’ll be back,” Adm. Mullen told a Senate Appropriation’s Committee hearing on Wednesday.
Clearly, the Pakistanis have lost America’s trust. And it is in Pakistan’s strategic interest to at least pretend to be aligned with Washington, to ensure that the money and military supplies keep flowing from the American taxpayer into Pakistani coffers. But by arresting the men that had co-operated with the United States in the finding and killing of a madman, Pakistan does little to improve its internal security and does much to blatantly insult its major ally. If Pakistan had wished to get rid of these pro-American agents, a quiet diplomatic deal to move these men and their families to the United States (or some other Western country) could have been agreed to. With new identities and a bit of cash (a gift of the grateful United States), this latest diplomatic flare up could have been avoided. Everyone would have won.
Instead, Pakistan chose to undermine its delicate relationship with the US. Given Pakistan’s history of refusing to co-operate with America, and even recent efforts to make life difficult for the CIA (including arresting one agent after a self-defense incident and leaking the name of another), their willingness to provoke America’s wrath should be expected. But new reports indicate that this latest rebuke is in fact a reflection of the increasing combativeness between the two governments. In addition to the arrest of the informants, elite military leaders are considering ousting their army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, for being overly cooperative with the US — and Kayani is working desperately to appease them. The political winds in Pakistan are turning to anti-Americanism and protectionism for Islamic terrorists. What this portends for the future is worrisome, to say the least.
Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. He can be reached on Twitter @mattgurney.
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