U.S. suspending security aid to Pakistan: State Department, Part 1

Reuters: U.S. suspending security aid to Pakistan: State Department.

The top question for many readers is whether the aid suspension is a good idea.  Let’s outline the problem:

  • Pakistan harbors the sustainable root of the Afghan insurgency. If it weren’t for Pakistan’s double game, the U.S. presence could be much smaller.
  • It could save us $2BN a year of military aid.
  • Unless the Russians decide it’s in their interest to resume land transshipment, the $2BN could be quickly eaten up by the cost of supply by air.
  • The aid cutoff may be informed by a special situation, with greater understanding of Pakistan’s volatile internals than evident in open sources. If so, it has a chance of success. There is  indication of conflict on this issue, between civil and military, that the cutoff could leverage.
  • Absent that special situation, it won’t have the desired effect, which is primarily to force Pakistan to destroy the parts of the Haqqani network that intrude into Pakistan, and similar groups.
  • Something is birthing in Pakistan that could eventually result in what we want, though on a time scale too slow for quick relief.

There’s a long and a short to why U.S. money and pressure has not thus far motivated action against the Haqqani network.. Preferring a definite statement instead of a waffle,

***Pakistan is a failed state***

Pakistan is #17 on the 2017 Fragile State Index. It has improved annually since 2012.

This is easily concealed to the new or  hopeful statesman, because the elite of Pakistan are a cultured bunch,  more than able to hold their own in conversation, in beautifully spoken English. With impeccable social skills, they will fete you at dinners, all the while displaying table manners that are probably superior to our own.  And after you’ve burped your way back to comfort, you’ll discover that they have told you nothing. Former defense secretary Robert Gates remarked on this in (Reuters 1/21/2010), “Pakistan’s future military plans? U.S. doesn’t know”:

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. aid and a charm offensive that included Thursday’s trip by Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ to Islamabad, a significant “trust deficit” is putting distance between the two militaries....“The Pakistan military - they don’t share with us in advance their plans and intentions,” the official told reporters in Pakistan, speaking on the condition of anonymity....“We’re reliant on what their public press statements are, just like everybody else is... Any question about the future, honestly, we find out about the same time everybody else does, because they don’t tell us in advance what they intend to do.”

Even Gates was susceptible to the hospitality of his hosts. So he politely left them an out for their double game, which at the time included support of Haqqani:

The official said he was certain the “trust problem” was a major factor, although he and a U.S. defense official added that secrecy has its advantages when launching offensives.

Fragile or failed, the index is compiled from statistics. It can’t express the personal factor: A failed state offers no one to negotiate with. Talk to, yes. Negotiate with, no. The Pakistanis, with their white glove hospitality, conceal this well. You think you are talking to an authority. Perhaps, in a limited way, this is true. Pakistan is a place of fiefs. But unlike the traditional fief, which was a land domain, patent, or right granted by a sovereign, Pakistan’s fiefs are quasi-sovereign themselves.

For example, Pakistan’s military is not subordinate to the civil government. Open sources on this subject are highly charged, as if written by stakeholders.  Examples are provided by The Diplomat pages, and particularly, After Dawn: The Civil-Military Chasm Deepens in Pakistan. Lacking the literal reliability of Western reporting, there is information to be gleaned. The article begins with

On October 6, Cyril Almeida, a senior Pakistani journalist, published an article in the English-language daily Dawn entitled “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military.” The article narrated an intense scene of heated debate between the country’s top civil and military leaders, held a few days ago.

China’s influence turns out to be crucial:

The government’s cautious demand — some might call it an expression of frustration — of the military to gain consensus on some of the country’s security policies may not have been the result of India’s recently declared policy to isolate Pakistan internationally, but due to the steadily building pressure from Pakistan’s closet ally, China, which has questioned Pakistan’s logic behind putting a technical hold on India’s move to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar at the United Nations (UN).

China is crucial because it has made Pakistan a major part of Silk Road, aiming to create a modern corridor of influence and prosperity all the way to Karachi.  The reporting of The Diplomat implicitly suggests China as a reason for (Reuters) Exclusive: Pakistan plans takeover of charities run by Islamist figure U.S. has targeted. But there is no evidence that U.S. pressure has anything to do with it. It precedes the aid cutoff.

There remain strong counter currents to the above.  Pakistan as it now exists is not going to quietly cede the future to something else.

Conclusion: If the aid cutoff is an intelligently informed attempt to strengthen the hand of the civil government, it might work.

Let’s not end the discussion like this, because it resembles a traditional chess game of geopolitics. It’s really a currents-of-history thing. Questions:

  • How did Pakistan become a failed state?
  • Who is going to rescue it?

To be continued shortly. In the meantime, meet the new kid on the block.

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