Dr Ghulam Ashraf's Blog

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US Games with Pakistani ‘Friends’

 Mercifully, American public diplomacy can also get things right on occasion. On Sunday, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said: ‘Well, we don’t know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is. If we did, we’d go after him.’

More importantly, from a Pakistani perspective, Mr Gates also acknowledged that intelligence-sharing was not necessarily the problem between the US and Pakistan: ‘No. I think it’s because, if as we suspect, [Bin Laden] is in North Waziristan, it is an area that the Pakistani government has not had a presence in, in quite some time.’ Compare Mr Gates’s statements with what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on her trip to Pakistan in late October: ‘I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where [Al Qaeda’s leaders] are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to.’ Are the US secretaries of defence and state really operating with fundamentally different scripts for American policy towards Pakistan or is it part of a complex game of signalling, a good cop/bad cop routine, in which the US is trying to goad Pakistan into ‘doing more’?

We believe it is the latter, but seeing some method in the madness does not make it any less ill-advised. The Americans perhaps understand and acknowledge privately among themselves that the Pakistani state is moving in the right direction in terms of the regional fight against militancy but perhaps they are also suspicious that what the Pakistani side presents as ‘deliberate and measured’ actions against the militants is really ‘foot dragging’ by a security establishment that is hedging its bets and keeping its options open for the post-American phase in Afghanistan. So sometimes we hear the American side cautiously praising Pakistan’s actions, while at other times we hear their dark mutterings about Pakistan not being interested in defeating Al Qaeda. The Americans know that the Al Qaeda bogeyman is impossible to argue against — the world community is so completely unified against Al Qaeda that any mention of its existence anywhere immediately shuts down rational debate about realistic ‘do-ables’ and puts pressure on a state to ‘do more,’ whatever the reality and the realistic possibilities.

But what the Americans do not seem to understand is that their frequently skeptical posture towards Pakistan undercuts their claim that they are genuinely interested in a long-term relationship with Pakistan that goes beyond the need to defeat Al Qaeda.

If the Americans don’t even believe Pakistan wants to help defeat Al Qaeda — a group that serves no strategic purpose, however perverse, for Pakistan — is the present ‘friendship’ between the two countries nothing more than a mere illusion? Only more, realistic talk like that of Mr Gates’s from the American side can prove otherwise.

Source: Dawn News

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