Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
US and Pak: Sleeping with the enemy

US and Pak: Sleeping with the enemy

Author: Chidanand Rajghatta
Publication: times of India
Date: November 29, 2001

Washington: In all but name, the United States is at war with Pakistan.

Despite all the protestations about military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf's "bold and courageous stand" and Islamabad's status as a frontline ally, there is a growing sense in Washington that Pakistan has worked against US interests in Afghanistan. There is also anger in sections of the administration over what is seen as Pakistani perfidy over issues ranging from deployment of its troops, agents and private militia in Afghanistan to its dangerous game of nuclear weapons proliferation.

As a result, the Bush administration has begun to quietly punish Pakistan even while publicly upholding a facade of goodwill, just as Islamabad is also maintaining a pretense of cooperation in the fight against terrorism while pursuing its own agenda. Several incidents bear this out, including the latest episode involving two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists, who have now been detained again at Washington's insistence over suspicion that they were involved in planning an "Anthrax Bomb."

The US has also allowed the Northern Alliance to decimate those euphemistically known as "foreign fighters" - who it now turns out are mostly Pakistani irregulars and jehadists with some serving army personnel and agents directing them. Western journalists in the region have now exposed the smokescreen that referred to these fighters as "Arab, Chechen and Pakistani," by reporting that they are almost exclusively Pakistani. In some cases, Washington itself has joined in by using air power to bomb the Pakistani fighters. US air power has also been directed against jehadis operating in the tribal areas within the Pakistani borders.

While publicly continuing to endorse and applaud the military regime of Gen. Musharraf - to the extent of ignoring his announcement that he will continue to be Pakistan's president even after the proposed October 2002 elections - Washington has begun to ignore a growing list of Pakistani gripes. Starting with Musharraf's plea to shorten the bombing campaign to not to bomb the Taliban frontlines and not to allow the Northern Alliance to take over Kabul, it now extends to the request to allow evacuation of Pakistani fighters trapped in Afghanistan.

In each case, the US has gone ahead and done pretty much what suits its war aims, forcing Musharraf to fall in line and handle the domestic fall-out. On the issue of safe passage to Pakistani fighters though, there appears to have been a split in the administration. Reports that the US winked at Pakistani aircraft evacuating from Kunduz its armed forces personnel, agents, and jehadis with domestic connections, persist. Officially, state department mandarins insist they have no knowledge of any such evacuation but western reporters in the region have confirmed the evacuation based on first-hand accounts from locals.

However in the case of other fleeing Pakistani fighters, US officials, especially those manning the war machine and therefore less connected to diplomatic concerns that the state department is sensitive to, have made it clear they would rather see them surrender or die than head back home to Pakistan. Comments to this effect, especially one from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has raised hackles in Pakistan where some officials termed it "callous." In one instance at least, accounts by Northern Alliance fighters that they executed scores of Pakistani fighters "before the eyes of US military personnel," after they refused to surrender, has enraged Islamabad. Several prominent Pakistani commentators have called for an investigation into the episode. But US officials in Islamabad say the deaths occurred in a pitched battle and not in a massacre. "To try to make it appear as a massacre does not accord with the facts," spokesman Kenton Keith told reporters.

The strange dissonance between the official positions of the two sides and the private differences is the subject of much discussion in Washington diplomatic parlours and among its power brokers. "It's like a bad marriage. Or like two colleagues who mistrust each other but are forced to work together," a Congressional aide who works on regional issues said.

Pakistanis are working overtime to salvage the situation. It's energetic ambassador Maleeha Lodhi is turning on the charm and deploying its familiar supporters and lobbyists, many of them relics from the Cold War era who are tapping into their old contacts in the Republican establishment.

But they are weighing against the overwhelming reports coming in everyday from the war front showing Pakistanis fighting the US, with or without official connivance. "It's not a happy situation," one US official conceded in private. "We have to work our way through a lot of problems."

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements