The editor’s of the Washington Post don’t need to pay any attention to commentary from bloggers in order to realize that their recommendations on Pakistan are way off target. All they have to do is read reports in their own newspaper.
U.S. officials in Pakistan have spent much of the past year toiling to bolster the country’s elected government and perhaps improve the United States’ image along the way. But much of the progress made toward those goals may have been swept away with the firing of two NATO missiles last week, officials and politicians here said.
The helicopter strike, which Pakistan says killed three of its soldiers, is widely seen here as proof that the U.S. alliance with Pakistan is based solely on self-serving security interests. And it may have put the United States in the position of destabilizing the weak government it wants to fortify, by giving President Asif Ali Zardari’s many critics another reason to say he is allowing Pakistan to be an American pawn.
It did not help that the airstrike came at the end of a month in which the CIA targeted Pakistan’s militant-riddled tribal areas with a record number of drone strikes, which are secretly sanctioned by Pakistan but deeply unpopular. It also followed reports, confirmed by Pakistani officials, depicting the powerful army chief and U.S. officials as trying to play puppet master by presenting Zardari with lists of incompetent ministers and aides they think should be dismissed to improve governance.
A joint investigation into the airstrike is underway, with results expected to be released sometime Wednesday. U.S. and Pakistani officials said the incident had strained but not fractured the nations’ relationship. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said the allies are “working energetically” to resolve the issues.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell struck an upbeat tone with reporters earlier this week, saying that the relationship between the Pentagon and the Pakistani military is “stronger than it has ever been.”
Privately, though, the Obama administration and U.S. military have appeared exasperated by Pakistan’s response to last week’s missile strike. Senior military officials eschewed the effusive apologies and compensation that normally follow inadvertent coalition killings of civilians, noting that the three killed were not civilians and that the United States is not in the habit of compensating the families of soldiers who fire on U.S. forces. The officials said no substantive move will be taken until the probe is completed.
Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for Zardari, said Tuesday that Pakistan is satisfied with the U.S. response. In the public’s eyes, though, she said, the incident “only bolsters the arguments and popularity of the terrorists.” The Taliban has asserted responsibility for a string of retaliatory attacks on NATO supply convoys.
On Wednesday, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Peterson, apologized for last week’s attack and said in a statement that a joint investigation has established that U.S. helicopters mistook the Frontier Corps soldiers for insurgents they had been pursuing.
When it comes to respect for sovereignty, America’s double standards are glaringly obvious to Rafia Zakaria writing in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
On Oct 1, just days after the Nato incident in Pakistan, US forces engaged in an armed standoff with Mexican forces that had crossed the international bridge in pursuit of a vehicle related to a drugs case. US forces at the Texas border at Progresso shut down the international crossing when the Mexican military was reported to have crossed the border.
While no shots were fired, the US customs and border police refused to admit that the Mexican military had the right to cross into the US while in pursuit of criminals. This despite the fact that drug-related crimes caused nearly 5,500 deaths in Mexico in 2008 and the US supplies 90 per cent of the weapons used by drug cartels in Mexico to carry out these murders. All these would seem good reason to allow the doctrine of hot pursuit to apply when Mexican police or military are engaged in an operation against the deadly cartels and cross into the US.
Of course, such is not the case. Mexico is not permitted to fly drones into US territory, searching for intelligence on the drug trade or to thwart arms deals that cause deaths of their citizens. Similarly, Pakistan has to look the other way when the US chooses to ignore the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in search of terrorists. Crudely stated, the rules of the game in the current case are being dictated not by any existing legal doctrine in international law but rather at the will and whims of the most powerful player.
As Robert Baer notes in Time magazine:
Pakistanis scoff at the argument often heard in Washington that the U.S. needs to remain at war in Afghanistan partly in order to stabilize Pakistan — instead, they see the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the load that it has placed on Islamabad as being the major cause of the instability in their country. In other words, they have a very different idea of what another 10 years of war in Afghanistan or a full-fledged bombing campaign against the tribal areas will do for Pakistan’s security.