News / Asia

Analysts: Fraying US-Pakistan Ties Imperil Afghan Peace Efforts

U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, Pakistan Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani during a tour of Northern Pakistan, Jul. 2010.
U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, Pakistan Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani during a tour of Northern Pakistan, Jul. 2010.
TEXT SIZE - +
Gary Thomas

Pakistani officials sounded off with angry and categorical responses to Adm. Mike Mullen's allegations that their Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) is backing militant attacks on U.S. targets in Afghanistan.

Mullen sent shockwaves into the already strained relations between Washington and Islamabad by directly accusing ISI of backing a Taliban ally, the Haqqani network, in recent attacks on U.S. targets in Kabul and elsewhere.

Mullen's Pakistani counterpart, General Ashfaq Kayani, denied any ISI support for the Haqqanis and called comments by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “especially unfortunate” in light of what he called a “rather constructive” recent meeting between the two men in Spain.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar warned that Washington risks losing Pakistan’s strategic partnership in the war against terrorism if U.S. leaders continue to make such accusations.

“You will lose an ally, you cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people," said Rabbani. "If you are choosing to do so it will be at your own cost.”

Washington has long accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on militant groups in its territory.

A rocky relationship
The up-and-down U.S.-Pakistani relationship seemed to be on a slight upward curve recently after suffering a series of heavy blows. The arrest of a CIA contractor in Pakistan, repeated U.S. drone strikes on militant targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden had soured ties, but there was talk of new cooperation in battling terrorism.

Former State Department intelligence analyst Marvin Weinbaum, now a scholar with the Middle East Institute, says Mullen’s comments reflect official U.S. frustration with the twists and turns of Pakistan’s policies regarding Afghanistan and militancy.

“I think we just were exasperated with the people, particularly with those in the Pakistan military who we thought we had some kind of working relationship with," said Weinbaum. "We thought we understood one another and we've come to the conclusion that these relationships do not work anymore."

Weinbaum said Mullen's comments illustrate U.S. willingness to assume a confrontational stance with Islamabad, whose strategic interest in Afghanistan has always been complicated by concerns about the diplomatic, political and economic inroads made there by its archrival, India.

"[Pakistan] may believe that by using these proxies they are hedging their bets, or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power," Mullen said, alluding to what he calls Pakistan’s policy of using militant groups like the Haqqani network to secure influence in Kabul. "Only a decision to break with this policy can pave the road to a positive future."

Professor Christine Fair of Georgetown University, a longtime expert on South Asian affairs, says there may not much the U.S. can do.

"We do not have a lot of options in terms of the duplicity of the ISI," she said. "We do not have a lot of options in terms of the Haqqani network. We do not have a lot of options with regard to Lashkar-i-Taiba and other militant groups that Pakistan continues to groom. Even though the ISI is very clearly a foreign organization that sponsors terrorism, we are not going to declare it as such."

A pivotal moment

Mullen’s stark comments come against the backdrop of Obama administration plans to pull U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan in 2014 and turn security over to the Afghan government.

The U.S. has also pinned hopes on some political reconciliation between some elements of the Taliban and the Afghan government, and Pakistan has envisioned having some role in that process. Those hopes were dealt a severe blow by the recent assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who led the Afghan High Peace Council. Although claims of responsibility are murky, military and diplomatic fallout raise new questions about prospects for reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Weinbaum, however, believes U.S. hopes for such negotiated political settlement were always misplaced.

“It was self-delusion because we are so desperate to find a shortcut out of this mess that we are in in Afghanistan," he said, explaining that attacks on the U.S. embassy and the Rabbani killing only demonstrate that the Taliban have no appetite for reconciliation talks.

"That we are willing to say that maybe there is a formula out there, a political formula, which could wind this up more quickly," he said. "I do not see how anybody could have taken that seriously."

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid