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There is a reason why the US shows such extraordinary tolerance toward Pakistan's duplicity?


What is it about Pakistan?

Posted online: Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 0000 hrs

The need for military bases explains Washington’s immense tolerance for Islamabad’s doublespeak, says K. Subrahmanyam 

It speaks of the enormous self-confidence of Pakistani diplomats that they were willing to disclose to their Public Accounts Committee that they bribed members of the 911 Commission, to get drastic changes made in its final report. Not only that. The story was leaked to the Friday Times to be published on the day President Bush was in Islamabad. They were throwing a challenge to the US. Bush proclaimed in the wake of 9/11 that he would punish any country that harboured terrorists. Five years later, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahari are still safe in Pakistan.

It is claimed that they may be in the tribal areas. But every senior Al-Qaeda leader captured in Pakistan happened to be in a major city. The IAEA has established that the Pakistan-Iran proliferation went back to 1987. It is obvious that proliferation over such a long period could not have happened without the knowledge of the Pakistani state and army. Yet the US is compelled to accept the Pakistani fable that Pakistani leaders was unaware of Dr A.Q. Khan’s proliferation.

Musharraf promised the US president that the murderer of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl would be brought to justice and punished. Though Omar Saeed Shaikh, the man who transmitted $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, leader of the 911 hijackers, was convicted and sentenced to death four years ago for the murder, he is still comfortably enjoying what would amount to house arrest conditions.

In spite of the US administration and legislators thundering about the vote against Iran on the nuclear issue, Pakistan, which is in receipt of US economic and military aid and is more intimately aware of Iranian proliferation, chooses to abstain with no adverse consequences. The Taliban operate against the US and NATO forces in Aghanistan using Pakistani territory as a base. When the Afghan president complains about it, Musharraf admonishes him to improve vigilance.

The US has put up with Pakistan’s brazen defiance until now. For the first time, following Bush’s Islamabad visit, there are signs that American tolerance of Pakistani double-dealing may be coming to an end. Bush said in Islamabad: “Part of my mission today was to determine whether or not the president is as committed as he has been in the past in bringing these terrorists to justice, and he is.” The implication: Washington was developing doubts about Musharraf’s commitment and he came to check on that.

On the civilian nuclear programme, the US president was categorical. He explained that “Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories”. In other words, Pakistan will not get the civilian nuclear deal.

One possible explanation why the US has been so tolerant of Pakistan’s double dealings is its need to have bases and troops in Pakistan. This need is related to Pakistan being a nuclear weapon state. The recently released Quadremial Defence Review Report (February 6) states: “The prospect that a nuclear capable state may lose control of some of its weapons to terrorists is one of the greatest dangers the US and its allies face.” This possibility fits only one nation in the world: Pakistan.

Explaining the US strategy, the QDR outlines, “To address such threats, the US must be prepared to deter attacks, locate, tag and track WMD materials, act in cases where a state that possesses WMD loses control of its weapons, especially nuclear devices; detect WMD across all domains, sustain operations even while under WMD attack: help mitigate the consequences of WMD attacks at home or overseas; and eliminate WMD materials in peacetime, during combat and after conflicts.”

The QDR details the capabilities that need to be developed for preventive action. These are: (i) special operations force to locate, characterise and secure WMD; (ii) capabilities to locate, tag and track WMD, their delivery system and related materials including means to move such items; (iii) capabilities to detect fissile materials such as nuclear devices at stand off ranges; (iv) interdiction capabilities to stop air, maritime and ground shipments of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials; (v) persistent surveillance over wide areas to locate WMD capabilities or hostile forces; (vi) human intelligence, language skills and cultural awareness to understand better the intentions and motivations of potential adversaries and to speed recovery efforts; (vii) capabilities and specialised teams to render safe and secure WMD; (viii) non-lethal weapons to secure WMD sites so that materials cannot be removed; (ix) joint command and control tailored for the WMD elimination mission; (x) capability to deploy, sustain, protect, support and redeploy special operations forces in hostile environments; (xi) capability to shield critical and vulnerable systems and technologies from the catastrophic effects of electromagnetic pulse.

If the US is to have such capabilities in Pakistan to deal with the contingency of Islamabad losing control over its weapons, US forces must be deployed in Pakistan and US air force must have bases and US navy proximate forces at sea. The portions which are alleged to have been deleted from 9/11 Commission Report are said to have dealt with the ISI’s direct involvement in the 9/11 attack. Since then Musharraf has been useful in eliminating progressively a number of top fundamentalist generals from the army and purging extremist elements from ISI. Presumably there is a long way to go to complete the task.

Meanwhile, the US needs to keep its forces in Pakistan so that it can sustain and develop the 11-fold capabilities which the QDR lays down. This compulsion may explain largely the extraordinary tolerance the US has displayed towards Pakistani duplicity and their need to use General Musharraf to the maximum possible extent.




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