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Obama's Covert Clash with Pakistan

By       Message Gareth Porter     Permalink
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When Obama met with his national security team in a decisive meeting on Nov. 29, he knew that the pressure tactic had failed. Lute, Obama's Afghanistan coordinator, warned that Pakistani policy was one of four major, interacting risks of a troop surge policy.

But Obama approved a plan for 30,000 additional troops anyway, suggesting that the decision was driven by the political-bureaucratic momentum of the war rather than by a rational assessment of cost, risk and benefit.

Throughout 2010, the Pakistani military continued to make clear its refusal to compromise on its interests in Afghanistan. In late January 2010, U.S. and Pakistani authorities picked up Mullah Ghani Baradar, the second-ranking official in the Taliban Quetta Shura, in a raid in Karachi -- apparently without realizing in advance that Baradar was present.

But when the United States sought to extradite Baradar to Afghanistan, the Pakistanis refused. And Baradar and several other members of the Quetta Shura who had been detained by the Pakistanis were reported in October 2010 to have been released.

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In a January 2011 interview with Public Broadcasting System's "Frontline," Gen. David Petraeus, by then the commander in Afghanistan, was asked about Pakistan's release of top Taliban leaders. "We've actually had a conversation on this very recently," said Petraeus blandly, "and in fact there has been a request for information."

Two National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan in December 2010 pointed once again to the centrality of Pakistani policy to the outcome of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.

The NIE on Afghanistan concluded that the United States was unlikely to succeed in Afghanistan unless Pakistan changed its policy to take military action against insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan. But the estimate on Pakistan made it clear that no such change in Pakistani policy could be expected.

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In mid-December, the Obama administration issued a five-page summary of its December 2010 review of the Afghanistan War, which concluded that the "gains" were "fragile and reversible" and that consolidating those gains "will require that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries for violent extremist networks."

Immediately after that review, the New York Times reported a military proposal for cross-border raids into Pakistan aimed at capturing Taliban commanders for interrogation back in Afghanistan.

Beginning in late 2010, moreover, the U.S. infiltrated hundreds of unilateral intelligence agents into Pakistan, suggesting an intention to carry out further cross-border raids.

Those moves had already alarmed Pakistan's military leaders well before the U.S. raid against bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad.

And in a classified report sent to Congress in early April, the Obama administration strongly criticized Pakistan's failure to attack insurgent safe havens in Mohmand in northwest Pakistan for three straight years, as reported by the New York Times on April 5.

Moeed Yusuf, director of the South Asia program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, who has been leading a study of Pakistani elite opinion on relations with the United States, believes the crisis in U.S.-Pakistan relations can be blamed on a failure of both governments to acknowledge explicitly the existence of a fundamental conflict of interests.

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"If there is a strategic divergence of interests, I think Pakistan needs to put it on the table," said Yusuf. Pakistani leaders "need to be very candid about why it's not in their interests" to do what Washington wants, he said.

If the interests at stake are not brought into the open, Yusuf suggested, "a rupture is possible."

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Gareth Porter (born 18 June 1942, Independence, Kansas) is an American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst on U.S. foreign and military policy. A strong opponent of U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, he has also (more...)
 

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