Amid spiraling Pakistani-US tensions, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Sunday, Sept. 25, ordered Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to return home from New York at once shortly after she warned the US against "hot pursuit" of terrorists on Pakistani soil. A sense of crisis pervaded Islamabad as Pakistan's army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani held a "special" meeting of his top commanders "to review the security situation."
debkafile's military sources report Pakistan appears to be steeling itself for a possible clash with US troops
should "hot pursuit" takes place.
"The United States must not make someone a scapegoat if its goals are not achieved," the Foreign Minister Khar went on to say – apparently in response to the US message that if Islamabad fails to shut down the Haqqani network's bases, the Americans would.
Thursday, Sept. 22, the US Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen accused Pakistan's powerful ISI spy agency of supporting the Haqqani group which attacked the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, on Sept. 13. His charge was based on the tapes obtained by US intelligence recording telephone conversations in the course of the attack in which the terrorists asked Inter-Service Intelligence officers in Pakistan for orders on how to proceed.
Pakistani intelligence is also accused of controlling the audacious suicide strike two days earlier on the Sayed Abad US Special Forces base which left 77 servicemen injured – the largest number of US casualties in a single attack in the past decade.
Friday, Sept. 23, US CENTCOM chief Gen. James Mattis arrived in Islamabad and confronted the Pakistani army chief with these charges. Gen. Kayani flatly denied any ties between the ISI and the Haqqani terrorists. He also warned that Pakistan would strike without mercy any acts of terror committed from Afghanistan by "miscreants."
The White House then issued a statement demanding that Pakistan break any link they have with terrorists.
The Americans bluntly accuse the ISI of funding and controlling the Haqqani Network and engineering its attacks on US military targets in Kabul to shake up security and wreck US political and military positions there ahead of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.
Islamabad is seen in Washington as softening up the ground for pro-Pakistan Taliban factions to move in as US troops move out in order to pre-empt the rising influence of Pakistan's traditional foe India which the ISI believes the United States is helping.
The Pakistani Prime Minister raised the stakes Saturday, Sept. 24 by dismissing US charges as
betraying "confusion and policy disarray within the US establishment on the way forward in Afghanistan." He therefore held the Obama administration and US military leaders no less responsible for the disarray in Afghanistan than its foes, the Taliban and the Haqqani network.
debkafile's military sources report the current crisis brings to a climax ten years of mutual recriminations: The United States accuses Pakistan of playing a double role in the US war against Al Qaeda and Taliban – earning an annual $3 billion aid package from Washington while quietly nurturing Taliban and Pakistani terrorist groups, some linked to al Qaeda, for operations in Afghanistan and India.
Until May this year, the governments kept their voices down. Washington was concerned to maintain the important transit route supplies to US forces fighting in Afghanistan and so, when the argument became too strident, American secretaries of state or defense and CIA chiefs rushed over to Islamabad to hush things up and chart new paths for cooperation.
However, the US Special Forces raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbotville, to kill Osama Bin Laden, put an end to this on-again, off-again armistice. Washington refused to believe that he had enjoyed asylum there for five years without the knowledge of Pakistani military intelligence. Islamabad refused to take the American breach of their sovereignty without forewarning or the Pakistani military reacting lying down.
The acute differences burst out in the open. Pakistani public opinion, whose anti-Americanism is ingrained, refused to tolerate the false face of common interests and cooperation presented by Washington and Islamabad and insisted on a policy change: "The US can be friends but not masters," has become a watchword.
The Gilani government can therefore no longer afford to be seen obeying Washington by cracking down on radical Islamic militias and terrorists operating in the country, whether Taliban, the Haqqani Network of Al Qaeda. Such measures would quickly be translated into burning American flags on Pakistani streets and demonstrations against the government.
The heads of that government no longer hold back their criticism of America's conduct of the Afghan war or their views that Washington has no chance of attaining a negotiated peace even with a part of the Taliban command.
Islamabad would prefer the Obama administration to pull his troops out of Afghanistan at once because, Pakistani leaders believe that the longer they stay, the greater the debacle. They have no intention of being associated with this downfall.
Gilani is not the only Pakistani leader terming US policy in Afghanistan as marked by "confusion and policy disarray."
Friday, Sept. 23, the Washington Post carried this comment: When President Obama told Americans in July that the “tide of war is receding” in Afghanistan, 3,100 soldiers from the 172nd brigade were just beginning to arrive in this rugged swath of the country — their first Afghan deployment coinciding almost exactly with the war’s ebb. The timing leaves [Col. Edward] Bohnemann to balance two separate directives that are often at odds with each other: to do all he can to defeat insurgents, while also preparing for an American departure by the end of 2014.