US Wavering Approach towards Pakistan

Sajjad Shaukat

In the modern world, every country follows a stable foreign policy, taking unanimous stand on some key issue as reflected by their top officials who do not show contradictions in their statements. Politicians may deny their on statements, but it is not the job of statesmen to eat their own words.









Although in the past few years, the United States has been acting upon a wavering approach towards Pakistan, yet the same has intensified in the post-Osama scenario. In this respect, clear-cut paradoxes could not only be noted in the same statements of the US high officials, but also those of others who contradict each other regarding Pakistan.

In the recent days, a rift further widened between the Pak-US relations when after meeting Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Kayani, the US retiring Admiral Mike Mullen said that in the discussion, he had pressed Pakistan to break its links with the Haqqani network, based in North Waziristan, which is waging a ‘proxy war’ in Afghanistan with the assistance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He also accused the Haqqani network’s “acts as a veritable arm” of ISI, blaming for the recent bombing on the US embassy in Kabul.

US vacillating strategy towards Islamabad could also be judged from the statements of the then CIA Chief Leon Panetta who pointed out on June 9, this year, “continuing cooperation with Pakistan is critical to keep a tremendous amount of pressure on Al Qaeda networks that provide it support and safe havens.” But on September 14, 2011, after becoming the US Defense Secretary, Panetta warned that the US would retaliate against militants based in Pakistan, accusing of attack in the Afghan capital—alleging that they “are killing our forces in Afghanistan.” However, Admiral Mullen’s tough statement was also repeated by the other US top officials.

On the other side, on September 23, Gen. Kayani, while rejecting the statement of Admiral Mike Mullen, stated that Mullen’s statement after positive talk in Spain was deplorable. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani also categorically ruled out the allegations of White House and Pentagon leveled against Pakistan and ISI, supporting Haqqani network.

In this regard, on October 6, while addressing a White House news conference, US President Barack Obama accused Pakistan in relation to Afghanistan, saying that there were “some connections” between Pakistan’s intelligence services and extremists. Obama explained that the United States would not be comfortable in a long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan, if it felt Islamabad was not mindful of US interests. But at the same time, Obama remarked that the United States and Pakistan were cooperating on a “whole range of issues” and admitted that recent successes against Al Qaeda-linked forces in the region would not have been possible without Pakistani help. Obama further said that the United States remained committed to helping Pakistan confront its own problems despite concern over ties.

On September 30, while speaking in optimistic language, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disclosed that the US wants to continue to work to put its relationship with Pakistan on a stronger footing, but at the same time, she blamed that, the Obama administration would like to have an end to safe heavens in Pakistan.

However, these statements of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton show an ambivalent policy of the US towards Islamabad.

On the other side, on October 7, AP quoted the US Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper as pointing out, “ISI has been cooperative and helpful after a series of blunt meetings between intelligence chiefs. Pakistan has recently arrested several Al Qaeda suspects at the CIA’s request.” On the same day, the US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the American diplomats in Pakistan are trying to improve the low public opinion about the United States in Pakistan. The spokesperson added that US continues to engage Pakistanis at various levels to work on “absolutely essential” issues and to support Pakistan’s own democratic reform efforts, education, quality of life etc.

Besides, in wake of Pak-US strained relations, some senior officials of the Obama administration clarified that cooperation between the both countries in counter-terrorism continues and the relationship between them has not come to the breaking point.

Notably, in the past too, US has been indicating a wavering approach towards Pakistan, by blaming Islamabad for cross-border terrorism and safe havens of militants.

It is mentionable that in 2009, when the heavy-armed Taliban entered Buner, Hillary Clinton had stated that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, endangering the security of the West. Admiral Mike Mullen and Gen. David Petraeus had also expressed similar thoughts. Surprisingly, when Pakistan’s armed forces ejected the Taliban insurgents out of Swat, Dir, Buner and South Waziristan by breaking their backbone, then the same American high officials started admiring the Pak Army.

These conflicting statements of the US high officials which still continue in one or the other way, indicate American duplicity with Pakistan—sometimes cajoling the latter with economic and military aid and sometimes threatening to stop the same. Meanwhile, White House adviser David Plouffe stated that the Obama administration is considering various options to persuade Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, which could include suspension of aid, or which could be made conditional on cooperation against the network—including the latest package of $ 1 billion. On July 10, America withheld $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan.

Taking cognisance of the public backlash, intensity of CIA-operated drone attacks, violation of country’s sovereignty, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has flatly refused act upon the US old maxim to ‘do more’ against the Taliban militants—especially in North Waziristan. In this respect, on September 29, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani convened the All Parties Conference (APC) which was participated by the top political and military leaders. Addressing the APC, Prime Minister Gilani, while rejecting the US assertions, said that Pakistan cannot be pressurised to “do more.”

ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha told the participants of the APC that the Haqqani network, to which Pakistan is blamed for having links, operated independently in seven provinces of Afghanistan. He vowed that Pakistan would not launch any military offensive on the behest of others. Pasha further explained that the Haqqani network was not operating from Pakistani territory. Before him, on June 9, Gen. Kayani also said that military operation in North Waziristan will not be launched under foreign dictate.

No doubt, in the recent past, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has rejected American unnecessary demands. Knowing the American double game and its real intentions, Islamabad sent home 120 US military trainers.

Here, question arises as to why America is acting upon an unstable policy about Pakistan by wavering between fact and skepticism. In fact, to justify its defeat in Afghanistan, the US seeks to make Pakistan a scapegoat. Besides, while playing a double game with Islamabad, American CIA with the help of Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad has continuously been weakening Pakistan through subversive events which keep on going in the country as the latter is the only nuclear state in the Islamic World.

Confused in its goals, America has also been shifting Afghan war in Pakistan, and after leaving Afghanistan, it wants to totally entangle this country in an allout war with the Taliban and Al Qaeda-related fighters. In this context, without bothering for internal backlash and rapidly growing resentment against America, drone attacks continue inside Pakistan coupled with the threat of high-value targets in this country—and infiltration of highly-trained militants from Afghanistan, who attack on Pakistan’s security forces.

Americans must think that if they throw Pakistan in anarchy by exporting Afghan war, a vast territory from Afghanistan to the Indian-Held Kashmir will be radicalised because non-state actors like Al Qaeda activists are likely to develop links with each other, also shifting Afghan war to India. Thus American dream to strengthen India—making it market for the west will badly be jeopardised. Such a drastic phenomenon is likely to sabotage the US regional and global interests, giving a greater setback to especially American economy which is already facing severe financial crisis.

Nonetheless after abandoning its wavering approach towards Pakistan, the US must follow a clear and realistic strategy towards Islamabad by stabilising the latter through more economic and military aid as a stable Pakistan is essential for American interests in connection with Afghanistan and India.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations



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