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WikiLeaks: ‘Mutual distrust’ hallmark of US-Pakistan relationship

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)

As Foreign Minister Qureshi and his team arrive in Washington for coordination on the Holbrooke/Riedel strategic review, Post offers the following thoughts on issues for strategic engagement. In the coming weeks, Post will detail our suggestions on how to expand political, economic, security, and intelligence engagement with Pakistan from the current $2 billion annually to $4 billion beginning in FY2011.

As we work to prevent Pakistan-based attacks on the US and its forces, we should be clear that Al-Qaeda (AQ) now wants more than just a safe-haven in Pakistan, and defeating a growing witches` brew of AQ-Taliban, local extremists and criminals will be a long 10-15 year fight. President Zardari has summed it up by saying, “the militants now are after me and my job.” The militant takeover of Swat in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) is the most striking example of how far and how fast the government is losing control over its territory. As the fight continues, we expect AQ to increase both its offensive and defensive operations to protect its equities. It simply has nowhere else to go.

Understanding Swat

Talks continue between Tehrik Nizam Shariat Mohammed (Movement for Shari`a or TNSM) leader Sufi Mohammad and his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, who works with the Tehrik-e-Taliban movement headed by Baitullah Mehsud. The Army appears unwilling or unable to control the area, and the population is fed up with both indiscriminate Army shelling and Taliban-imposed terror. So, the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Army are trying a new version of a failed strategy. Through Sufi Mohammad, the NWFP provincial government is trying to split the population from Fazlullah`s Taliban by offering adherence to a form of Shari`a law, interpreted locally as swift justice. The NWFP offer on Shari`a has not been signed by President Zardari and is conditioned on establishment of peace in Swat. The Army has not withdrawn from its positions, and it insists it will not withdraw until peace is established.

Few Pakistanis believe the deal will hold for more than two-three weeks. A similar deal failed in 2008; Post does not believe that Sufi has the clout to deliver. Fazlullah`s Taliban are not going to lay down their arms — they have already violated their alleged ceasefire. ANP`s weak argument is that even a failed deal will expose Fazlullah`s real intentions; the Army`s view is that the deal at least buys them some time to regroup forces. Post`s concern is that by signalling its willingness to surrender, the deal has made it even harder for the inevitable Army re-engagement in Swat. While talks continue, however, we are working through State/USAID/DOD with UN agencies and ICRC to get relief supplies to the beleaguered Swati population. We also are working with the Ministry of Interior to provide the NWFP police with short-term support (salary supplements/death benefits, hardening police stations) while we implement a longer-term plan to deliver additional equipment and training needed to back up Army action.

`Zardari is our best ally in Pakistan`

Militants will exploit either weak civilian government or a return to military rule that lacks popular legitimacy, so we should help the Zardari/Gilani government complete its full five-year term in office. We can work with Nawaz Sharif if he wins the next election, but Zardari is our best ally in Pakistan right now, and US interests are best served by preventing another cycle of military rule. Qureshi will remind us that the GOP (Government of Pakistan) needs an international democracy dividend in the form of economic aid, improved governance, and effective law enforcement.

We can respond first by offering robust US support at the IMF/World Bank Donors` Conference in April. We now are providing approximately $2 billion annually to Pakistan, including: $1.2 billion in Coalition Support Fund reimbursements; $150 million to improve socio-economic conditions in FATA; $300 million in ESF aid for the rest of Pakistan; over $10 million for internally displaced persons fleeing combat in Bajaur, Mohmand and Swat; $300 million (not yet received); and an imminent $15 million in aid to the NWFP police.

If approved and financed, the Kerry-Lugar legislation will enable us to triple non-military aid to $1.5 billion per year. We will plan in FY 2010 to spend over $100 million to augment civilian police and $873 million to build counter-insurgency capability. This means giving police protective vests and rapid reaction capability, teaching the military how to coordinate ground and air operations and helping the Army keep more than two attack helicopters in the air at one time. We can build trust, address the issue of alleged US strikes, and help Pakistanis target militants through enhanced DOD-based intelligence cooperation at the Torkham Joint Coordination Center. We need to help the GOP implement an effective strategic communications plan.

`We can`t kill all the militants`

President Zardari and PM Gilani recognize Pakistan`s greatest threat has shifted from India to militancy concentrated on the Pak-Afghan border but is spreading to NWFP and beyond. The Army and ISI, however, have not turned that corner. We should press the GOP on the need to stop using militant/tribal proxies as foreign policy tools. It is now counterproductive to Pakistan`s own interests and directly conflicts with USG objectives in Afghanistan —where Haqqani`s network is killing American soldiers and Afghan civilians — and the region — where Mumbai exposed the fruits of previous ISI policy to create Lashkar-e-Taiba and still threatens potential conflict between nuclear powers. However, we should preface this conversation with a pledge to open a new page in relations. Chief of Army Staff General Kayani, who headed ISI from 2004-2007, in particular wants to avoid a reckoning with the past, and we will not shift Pakistani military/ISI policy without his support.

Given recent events in Swat, the Army needs to decide if it is truly prepared to commit the troops and suffer the casualties required to win and accept the training needed to shift from a conventional war with India to a COIN-based strategy along the Pak-Afghan border. We should probe the team for what Pakistan needs from India to enable it to redeploy badly-needed Pakistani forces from its eastern to its western border.

We should ask what kind of government Islamabad can accept in Kabul and how Pakistan plans to help the US/NATO succeed in Afghanistan. The team will be concerned about the effect of a troop build-up in southern Afghanistan across from Balochistan, where Pakistan has meagre forces to defend a long and unpopulated border. We should discuss the reality that the US will be doubling cargo shipments through Pakistan (both the Torkham and Chaman crossings) in support of our troop build-up in Afghanistan.

As ISI General Director Pasha has said, “we can`t kill all the militants.” Qureshi, noting recent comments by Defence Secretary Gates, will suggest it is time to review efforts to reach out to Taliban “reconcilables” on both sides of the border. If this initiative progresses, we should consider establishing a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process in both Pakistan and Afghanistan for Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other militant fighters.


Courtesy: Daily Dawn

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