Commentary: Geopolitical conundrum


WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- When three out of four Pakistanis consider the United States "the enemy," it's Mission Impossible to build an alliance worth the name.

Retaliating for the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, Pakistan closed NATO's supply route into Afghanistan for seven months last year. It cost the United States an additional $100 million a month to detour supplies from German ports through Russia and former Soviet republics into northern Afghanistan.


This month, a reverse flow of U.S. equipment, expected to last through the end of 2014, left Afghanistan homeward bound to the United States via the Pakistani port of Karachi.

After 10 years of denials that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, a U.S. Navy SEALs team choppered into Abbottabad the night of May 1, 2011, landed next to his large mansion, killed al-Qaida's founder and leader less than a mile from Pakistan's top military academy.


Those who have had many decades of experience in Pakistan say it would be impossible for Inter-Services Intelligence -- the all-seeing, all-knowing Pakistani intelligence service -- not to know bin Laden's precise location at all times.

Almost the entire world cheered -- except the usual suspects: the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas and Hezbollah. Unsurprisingly, most Pakistanis were deeply resentful. A Pew Foundation survey found 80 percent of Pakistanis asked say they are anti-American and 74 percent see the United States as the enemy.

In Pakistan's border town near Afghanistan, we saw posters of bin Laden on the back of buses that read, in both English and Urdu, "Freedom Fighter."

By the tens of thousands, young Pakistani males graduate from madrassas, free Koranic schools where they are taught to recite the Koran by heart, interspersed with slogans decrying the United States, India and Israel as heathen enemies of Islam.

Their poor, underprivileged parents, now the majority in a population of 190 million, cannot afford to pay for normal schooling.

The most prominent recent victim of Pakistan's anti-U.S. imbroglio was its ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

The plot to silence him, dubbed "memogate," presumably originated with ISI, an organization in which he had worked in the early part of his career. The alleged evidence was a memo he had given to a Pakistani to give to former national security adviser U.S. Marines Gen. James L. Jones to give to U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


In the wake of the SEALs raid that killed bin Laden, the memo sought help from the Obama administration to avert a military takeover of the civilian government in Pakistan.

A key actor in the alleged plot, presumably engineered by ISI, was Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz. He wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times that said that his friend Haqqani had asked him to deliver a confidential memo with a request from President Asif Zardari to Mullen.

The request was for U.S. assistance against an imminent military coup against Zardari.

On April 19, 2012, a petition landed at Pakistan's Supreme Court to arrest Haqqani through Interpol for his refusal to return to Pakistan to face charges of treason. ISI was -- and presumably still is -- plotting to even old scores with Haqqani.

Preposterous in the plot scenario is the number of intermediaries Haqqani allegedly went through to get a message to Mullen. He could pick up the phone and reach anyone instantly throughout the upper echelons of the Obama administration.

Haqqani and administration topsiders shared tete-a-tete meals in Georgetown restaurants. His wife is a member of Parliament in Pakistan and he went to the movies with the late "Afghan-Pak" coordinator Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose wife lived in New York.


Outside of the British ambassador, no foreign envoy was as well plugged in from the White House to the U.S. State Department to the Pentagon to Congress.

Back at Boston University as professor of International Relations, Haqqani is also a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is a polished speaker and popular on the rubber chicken circuit.

In the new "Foreign Affairs" quarterly, Haqqani's 13-page piece is headlined, "Breaking Up Is Not Hard to Do," followed by, "Why the U.S.-Pakistani Alliance Isn't Worth the Trouble."

The alliance has been an on-and-off affair since independence in 1947. This reporter has known almost all the Pakistani ambassadors to the United States since 1950.

Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, a retired general, now 92, speaks 11 languages, served as foreign minister and ambassador to the Soviet Union, France and the United States and ranks as the best.

In the Washington access scale, Haqqani was certainly among the top five.

In his Foreign Affairs article, Haqqani writes that "Pakistanis tend to think of the U.S. as a bully. In their view, Washington provides desperately needed aid and intermittently, yanking it away whenever U.S, officials want to force policy changes. Pakistanis believe that Washington has never been grateful for the sacrifice of thousands of Pakistani military and security officials who have died fighting terrorists in recent decades, nor mourned the tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians whom those terrorists have killed."


Before getting in to the list of U.S. complaints, Haqqani says that Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani "recognize that Pakistan has at times gone off the American script, but they argue that the country would be a better ally if only the U.S. showed more sensitivity to (its) regional concerns."

On the other side, writes Haqqani, "Americans see Pakistan as the ungrateful recipient of almost $40 billion in economic and military assistance since 1947, $23 billion of it for fighting terrorism over the last decade alone.

"Pakistan has taken American dollars with a smile," Haqqani says, "even as it covertly developed nuclear weapons in the 1980s, passed nuclear secrets to others in the 1990s and supported Islamist militant groups more recently."

The killing of bin Laden, "brought the relationship to an unusually low point, making it harder than ever to maintain the illusion of friendship."

The United States and Pakistan "should acknowledge that "their interests simply do not converge enough to make strong partners," he says.

"By coming to terms with this reality," Haqqani concludes Washington would be freer to explore new ways of pressuring Pakistan and achieving its own goals in the region."


Pakistan, meanwhile, "could finally pursue its regional ambitions, which would either succeed once and for all or, more likely, teach Pakistani officials the limitations of their country's power."

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