February 9, 2012 · 1 Comments
By Michael M’Gehee:
A few days ago the New York Times published a story by Eric Schmitt and Declan Walsh under the title “U.S. Sending Commander to Repair Ties With Pakistan.” The article deals with the souring relations that resulted from a drone attack in Pakistan that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. As the article notes: “Soon after the lethal airstrike, the White House decided that President Obama would not offer formal condolences to Pakistan, overruling State Department officials who argued for such a show of remorse to help salvage relations.”
At the time of the attack late last November the Times, which Schmitt contributed to, wrote that, “A former senior American official briefed on the exchange said Wednesday that the airstrikes came in the last 15 to 20 minutes of a running three-hour skirmish, presumably with Taliban fighters on one or both sides of the border.” It has long been known that Pakistan supports the Taliban in more ways than one, so there is probably some truth to the American account, which Pakistan rejects (they say the Pakistani military was fighting the Americans, not the Taliban).
Ever since their war with India in 1971, Pakistan has learned the value of jihadists in keeping their enemies weak. It started with the Mujahedeen, where Pakistan saw a Marxist Afghanistan as uniting with India—since India allied with the Soviet Union during the 1971 war—and quickly began aiding the Islamic resistance in their effort to topple the PDPA-led government.
From an undated, U.S. declassified document we learn that,
Consistent reporting indicates Pakistan provides both military and financial assistance to the Taliban. Islamabad’s primary goals are to achieve strategic depth with regard to India, and securing access to central Asian trade routes.
An interested reader could turn to a number of historical books on Afghanistan and Pakistan to learn that the knowledge about Pakistani support of the Taliban is no secret (Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould is an excellent book), and is likely why the Times article from last November said that, “Several senior American officials have said Pakistani help is essential to persuade the Taliban to negotiate for peace.”
However, what is even much more unlikely to be found in the coverage from the “paper of record,” than acknowledgment that the Pakistani government supports the Taliban, is any reference to “Islamabad’s primary goals [of achieving] strategic depth with regard to India, and securing access to central Asian trade routes.” If “the administration desperately needs Pakistan’s cooperation in the American plan to withdraw militarily from Afghanistan by 2014,” as the Times has written, it would seem that some sort of negotiated settlement between India and Pakistan is essential.
A look at the recent Times article doesn’t show one mention of either the Taliban or India, which considering the context of Washington trying to “thaw a strategic relationship that has been in effect frozen for more than two months,” it would seem appropriate to provide readers with such relevant information. Instead, we read how despite the fact that “Pakistan expelled all Americans from Shamsi base, in western Pakistan, which had been used by the C.I.A. to launch drone strikes against militant targets in the tribal belt along the Afghan border [...] the drone strikes have continued, from bases in southern Afghanistan,” which from another Times article on the same day we read how, “Missiles fired from a United States drone killed 10 suspected militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region near the Afghanistan border on Wednesday, residents and Pakistani security officials said.”
But, if you look at the comments you find the readers are much more interested in Indo-Pakistan relations, and are more in tune with competing interests.
What can we make from this? Other than how readers are likely to find more relevant information in the comments section than in the article, there is no serious effort to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban, which the U.S. claims to want. This means the war will likely go on beyond 2014. Also, the U.S. is continuing its drone attacks in Pakistan, a very contentious issue, while claiming to want to improve relations. At the same time there is considerable silence on why it is that Islamabad supports the Taliban: India and access to trade routes.
If there is going to be any peace and stability in Afghanistan, or the region for that matter, this must be at the top of discussion. Could it be that the U.S. is wanting to play India and Pakistan (and others in the region) against each other while exploiting the threat of the Taliban for an endless war so as to position itself with leverage over the coveted trade routes and pipelines (especialy in regards to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline)? When you consider that Iran, in conjunction with Turkey and Pakistan, are working on building a similar gas pipeline that would cut out U.S. influence, and how Washington has tried to bribe Pakistan into abandoning the project, it starts to make sense: divide and conquer. It would appear the U.S. is working to keep a strong presence in, and influence over, the region so as to achieve its own “strategic depth.” And as usual, the Times fails to inform their readers of this.