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Commentary: Black swans galore

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   Dec. 2, 2011 at 6:12 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- For Pakistanis, arguably the world's most anti-U.S. population in the world, the NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a military post at Salala in the Mohmand Tribal Agency on the Afghan-Pakistan border, was deliberate.

The U.S. and NATO command immediately said they regretted the loss of life but held back any formal apology pending a thorough investigation as they say the Pakistanis -- who may have been mistaken for Taliban partisans -- were the first to open fire.

The suspicion is that the Pakistanis were harboring the insurgents who first opened fire and then retreated into the army base appropriately named Camp Volcano.

The latest crisis in the rocky Pak-U.S. relationship escalated quickly on the Pakistani side. Islamabad demanded that the only CIA drone base in the country pack up and leave, which the United States was preparing to do anyway since the May 2 U.S. Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The elimination of the al-Qaida leader in Abbottabad, where he had been in hiding for several years in a compound a short walk from Pakistan's military academy, proved to be an acute embarrassment for the Pakistani high command.

The twin NATO supply routes from Karachi into Afghanistan that supply 30 percent of Afghan war requirements, were closed, immobilizing hundreds of tanker trucks over two 1,000-mile routes to Kandahar and Kabul.

Compounding the crisis is the absence of Pakistan's exceptionally brilliant ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, brought down by a shameless self-promoter, Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American.

Ijaz had given an alleged memo from Haqqani to former national security adviser James L. Jones for relay to U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memo, according to Ijaz, asked for U.S. help in heading off a possible Pakistani military-coup and promised concessions in return.

Haqqani an ultra-shrewd operator at the highest levels of the Obama administration, from the Department of State to the Defense Department, CIA, and the White House, wouldn't have used two intermediaries to relay a top secret message that asked for such U.S. help. Insiders say it was classic entrapment by Haqqani's many jealous detractors.

Mullen said he had read the document and ignored it. It didn't sound plausible, neither the alleged original sender, nor the language used.

Leaked to the media in Pakistan, Haqqani, a former journalist and professor, denied authorship of the secret memo and was immediately recalled to Islamabad where he was forced to resign. His replacement: Sherry Rehman, 50, a member of the National Assembly who was also information minister and adviser to President Asif Ali Zardari.

Rehman played a key role in speaking out against religious extremism and tamping down the highly explosive situation in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks orchestrated by extremist groups once controlled by Pakistani operatives.

Haqqani now faces the threat of being tried on a variety of trumped up charges, perhaps even treason. He once wrote a book titled "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military." Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's all-powerful military and civilian agency, where Haqqani once served, had scores to settle with him.

In his book, Haqqani clearly held ISI in contempt. And when he was a professor at Boston University, his many op-ed articles infuriated Pakistan's spooks. Before Boston, he had a fellowship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, where he slammed President Pervez Musharraf's military regime.

The distaste for businessman Mansoor Ijaz was also widespread and, some insiders argue, even greater than for Haqqani.

And no one can understand why and how Haqqani trusted Ijaz and implicated himself with e-mail and text messages that led to his dismissal and possible trial for treason.

Teresita C. Schaffer, who served in South Asia for 30 years for the U.S. State Department, says: "The amazing thing is that the coverage of this sorry episode has entirely focused on Haqqani and not on Ijaz, who acknowledged being the person who got the memo to Admiral Mullen. Ijaz has a long history of exaggerating his role in similar conspiratorial ventures and representing himself, I believe incorrectly, as some kind of secret negotiator."

Ijaz once used his friendship with former CIA Director James Woolsey in building up his profile as a troubleshooter in the world's trouble spots. Those who know him said he had a special talent for ingratiating himself with the intelligence communities of the United States and Pakistan. He seemed equally at ease on Capitol Hill and in Washington's think tank community.

Rehman is a staunch defender of democracy, the democratic process, human rights and civilian control of the military. But her ultra poor giant of a country of 187 million people still cannot afford a decent high school system as the military absorb almost 40 percent of the budget.

Some 12,000 Madrassas, flat-earth Koranic schools for boys 6 to 16, is where they learn to recite the entire holy book by heart in Arabic (which they also have to learn), interspersed with messages of hate about the United States, India and Israel. Between 100,000 and 500,000 such teenagers are graduated yearly, easy recruits for further religious training -- or unholy war recruits for suicide missions.

Pakistan has lost some 35,000 killed in the past three years to terrorist bombings.

Rehman has her hands full trying to put Pakistan's relations with the United States back on the track of mutual distrust from the slough of outright hostility where it now wallows.

Gone, too, is the notion that there is no solution to the Afghan war without Pakistan and for Pakistan without Taliban. We cannot afford to ignore the lessons of Vietnam. Henceforth the solution must include Afghan neighbors Iran, China, Russia and India.

That's what Henry Kissinger advocates today. But we have no new Kissinger to make it happen. And we can't wait till the end of 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama's final exit deadline.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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