Saturday, September 24, 2011

U.S. lost Pakistan to China

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U.S. lost to China - expert

Sep 24, 2011 12:08 Moscow Time
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Interview with Ahmed Quraishi senior research fellow at an Independent Pakistani think-tank Project Pakistan 21.

Since in this program we are discussing the Pakistani-US relations, I have an impression that as US is laying all the blame on Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan, it is hardly convincing and it also gives me an impression that US positions in the region are becoming increasingly shaky. Is my understanding correct, do you support this, or perhaps I am wrong?

There is a clear understanding right now that the Americans are desperate in Afghanistan and they are very embarrassed after a series of security lapses in Afghanistan, when you have an attack on both the NATO headquarters and the US Embassy at the same day and a few days earlier you have a series of assassinations of senior Afghan officials who were allied with the US military in Afghanistan ‑ this is a huge security lapse and it is very interesting to see how the US government and the US military, and also the US intelligence community have to lead forward and sort of undercut any potential questioning within the United States ‑ whether in the US Congress or in the US media ‑ about the performing of US military in Afghanistan and lay the entire blame at Pakistan's door. It is very much clear for the Pakistani officials that the American military and intelligence in Afghanistan is trying to use this series of attacks, these lapses which are a direct result of whatever the various Afghan militant groups or resistance groups – whatever you want to call them ‑ are doing in Afghanistan. The Americans are using all of this to try to settle scores with the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military especially, and the ISI which is the Pakistani intelligence service. Of course, the Afghans have a problem issue for the Americans, but somehow the US officials are trying to create an impression that all of their problems in Afghanistan are the result of the Haqqani group and once this group is eliminated Afghanistan would somehow turn into a paradise which is an oversimplification and I am very much surprised to see some very credible people in the US public discourse ‑ whether in the media or on the think tank ‑ no one of them is really questioning the certainty of the US military and of the CIA about the Haqqani group; it seems that the Americans are exaggerating the impact and effect of the Haqqani group. I would like just to share with you an incident that occurred last week when the US ambassador here, in Pakistan, Mr. Cameron Munter, met a senior Pakistani official and again repeated these accusations that there is a proxy connection between the Haqqani group and the Pakistani ISI and the Pakistani official – and this was reported a couple of days ago in the Pakistani media – the Pakistani official responded to the US ambassador by saying: "If we assume and if we believe for a second that the Haqqani group is really responsible for all of the troubles that your military is facing in Afghanistan, I have a simple question and the question is this – if the Haqqani group is based inside the Pakistani territory, there is a lot of distance between the Pakistani territory and Kabul where all of these attacks and assassinations have taken place. So, my question is: when these terrorists were moving from the Pakistani border to Kabul, where was NATO, where was the US military, where were the Afghan National Police, where was the Afghan National Army – where are all these people, where is CIA, where are other allied intelligence agencies working with the coalition forces in Afghanistan?" So, there is a huge security lapse over there and it just appears that somehow the US government is trying to shift the blame. Now, the Pakistani government somehow has been trying ever since the accusations started coming against the American side, it has trying to resolve this matter quietly, but firmly, in private. But as of yesterday we are seeing now the government officials, the Pakistani foreign ministry and the Pakistani military openly saying that we do not consider whatever the Americans are saying is incontestable, we do not even have evidence and it would be better for the American side to present any evidence that would show – number one, that the Haqqani group is actually on Pakistani soil, and number two, that there is a connection actually between the recent attacks in Kabul, the major, the huge, the embarrassing security lapses in Kabul, a connection between them and the Haqqani network as well because it seems to us that the Americans are trying to use this opportunity, these attacks to put more pressure on the Pakistani government. There is one issue between Pakistan and the United States which never is addressed openly or publicly by US officials and that is visas for CIA agents – the real contention between Pakistan and the United States is actually the question of giving visas to CIA agents – Pakistan does not want to do that, Pakistan unfortunately has been doing that during ten years of former president Pervez Musharraf and there was no written understanding on that – the agents just simply kept coming and when the issue became problematic a year or a couple of years ago, the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military restricted issuing such visas to CIA agents who normally come carrying diplomatic passports, so they are basically pretending to be diplomats posed to their embassies and various consulates when they are actually agents, working without the knowledge of the Pakistani government. This is the real issue and the entire pressure why the Americans are upset, why they are holding the military assistance throughout the country is basically this – they want to return to whatever arrangements were five years ago, but that is no longer possible. The Pakistani interests and policy direction are quietly changing, there is a growing realization – of course, the Americans call it anti-Americanism, but I do not think it is anti-Americanism, I think this is a misleading term the American officials use normally to put their counterparts on the defensive. It is not anti-Americanism; it is very simply that there is a growing realization in Islamabad that over the past eight years we have supported the Americans, at our own expense sometimes, but we have not seen in return a real appreciation from the American side. Of course, the US government keeps repeating that we are giving billions of dollars in aid, much of this actually is not even aid, in fact, anything between 50 to 80 percent of that money was actually reimbursement for using Pakistani facilities and so forth in American war in Afghanistan. Of course, the Pakistanis believe that for the kind of support we are giving the Americans over the eight years we did not receive at least not money – it is not a question of money, it is a question of appreciating Pakistan's goal and strategic interest. If there are two allies and they are working on a similar, on a single issue, both countries need to respect the interest of each other: the Americans are not doing that, they think the Pakistani government, the Pakistani military need to follow whatever policy lines given by Washington without questions asked – that is not possible; Pakistan has its own interest and obviously in recent months those interests have been diverging more and more and they will not end anytime soon, but the Americans have begun to appreciate the fact that this is a country that has its own interest and if the Americans want cooperation with Pakistan, they would also have to respect the Pakistani interests. You cannot send diplomats, CIA agents disguised as diplomats and allow them free roaming and operation facilities in Pakistan and you cannot do whatever you want in a country that is a neighbor to Pakistan without consulting at all those people who are supposed to be your allies.

From what I have been reading and from what I have been hearing from you I get an impression that the frustration with the current US policy in Pakistan is really high and at the same time I know very well that the US has always been competing for Pakistan with China. So, is US losing to China in the region?

I think the United States has already lost to China quite a long time back. I can give you a very simple example: the current situation of flash floods in Pakistan this year and last year – the Americans have stepped forward with aid; in fact last year they did a lot, they are not doing the same, but they did a lot last year. So did the Chinese, and the Saudis, and the Turks, and others, but the Pakistani public opinion actually highlighted more what, for example, the Turks, and the Saudis, and the Iranians, and the Chinese specially have done, more than highlighting what the Americans have been doing and in last year the United States initially was reluctant to intervene but later they did send helicopters and that was very helpful during the floods to save people in distant areas. Then there was not really much appreciation for that in the public, mainly because of the other issues. They did deserve appreciation for that, they did send helicopters – no one can deny that. They really became frustrated, the US diplomats here, and quite later, I think, maybe two or three months after they started operation ‑ they were very frustrated, they were not receiving the kind of media attention they thought they deserved, so we saw the US ambassador personally visiting newspaper newsrooms and distributing photographs, and videos, and so forth. This is one example that gives you the answer to your question: despite several positive things that the Americans have been doing in Pakistan, they do not receive any appreciation because they already have lost the battle for people's minds and hearts.

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