Pages: 1 2
In her phone call to Foreign Minister Khar, Clinton said:
I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.
But what exactly was America apologizing for? The military investigation into the incident uncovered these facts:
The combined international and Afghan force was initially fired upon by unidentified forces, then believed not to be Pakistani military, and legitimately responded in self-defence. The investigation has ascertained that a series of mistakes were made on both sides in failing to properly co-ordinate their locations and actions, both before the operation and during the resulting engagement.
The combined force did not knowingly fire at the Pakistani forces. The investigation has substantiated that close air support was employed in self-defense in response to intense, heavy machine gun and mortar fire initiated by what turned out to be Pakistan forces near the border in the vicinity of Salala.
Politically, it was impossible for the Pakistani government to accept those findings. But the acceptance of the US apology has roiled Pakistani politics as opposition politicians, militant Islamists, and extremists associated with the military want the government to reverse the decision to open the GLOC.
“The US has not apologized formally,” said Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League. Another opposition leader, Imran Khan, said, “The decision isn’t only against national interest but can also stir unrest within the ranks of the armed forces.” A coalition of Islamist parties have called for a nationwide demonstration on July 8 to protest the decision to re-open the supply routes. Syed Munawwar Hassan, the leader of the conservative Jamaat-e-Islami, said that Pakistan’s leaders signed a “document of slavery,” and that an apology isn’t enough.
Not all the Pakistanis believe that government did the wrong thing. An editorial in Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper said that “Pakistanis forgot their more pressing crises and focused on America’s apology, which they thought should be self-demeaning to the extreme.” And there was celebrating in the streets of Karachi where truck drivers hired by NATO to deliver supplies can now get back to work. While the job is extremely dangerous (the Taliban regularly attack the convoys), the pay — about $200 a month — is far above what the ordinary Afghan worker usually makes.
Now that the resupply issues have been resolved, the two countries can turn their attention to other pressing issues that have soured relations. Pakistan has become more and more agitated at the US drone strikes that have proved highly successful in killing terrorists, but that Pakistan sees as an affront to its sovereignty since the US only informs Islamabad after the strikes take place. There is good reason for this. The US believes that there are sources in the Pakistani military and intelligence community who would alert the terrorists to any drone strike targeting them.
Pakistan believes that the US doesn’t give it credit for what they’ve been doing to fight the terrorists. Hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters and other terrorists have been killed or captured as the result of US-Pakistani cooperation. Clearly, there are grounds for continuing this cooperation. The US is aiding the Pakistani military to fight the terrorists to the tune of more than a billion dollars a year.
But there are other terrorists who regularly infiltrate across the border into Afghanistan — aided by Pakistan — who target NATO and Afghan forces. Pakistan supports these terrorists so that when NATO leaves, they will have some influence in a post-war Afghanistan that is sure to be chaotic and violent. While the military denies this support, terrorists like the Haqqani network operate freely in Pakistan and no move has been made to attack them. Of course, it is widely believed that Osama bin Laden hid in plain sight in Pakistan for many years, despite denials by the military and civilian government.
Until the US and Pakistan begin to trust each other, these issues will not be resolved and are likely to worsen in the near future. The problem is partly due to internal Pakistani politics where a powerful military dictates security policy to the civilian government. Even if the civilian government wanted to fight Haqqani, kick the Afghan Taliban out of the Northwest Frontier Provinces, and police the border more vigorously to prevent the infiltration of terrorists into Afghanistan, it is likely they would be stymied by a military who has their own agenda — an agenda that doesn’t include helping America pacify Afghanistan.
In the end, telling Pakistan the US is “sorry” about killing their troops changes little except the resupply problem. For the rest, the long, slow, painful process of rebuilding a shattered relationship will have to wait for changes in Pakistan’s internal power relationships — a prospect not likely to be realized any time soon.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.
Pages: 1 2