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Pakistan-US row

Filed on September 25, 2011

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have hit an all-time low. The latest round of tensions has been triggered off by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, blaming Pakistan, particularly its army and intelligence, for the recent attack on the US embassy in Kabul among others.

These are serious allegations and have been made by Mullen in front of the Senate Hearing Committee. The US officials believe the attacks were sponsored by the Pakistan security establishment via the Afghan insurgents, the Haqqanis who are allegedly in Pakistan’s tribal belt and receive full support from the state. In addition, the Haqqanis, according to US allegations are being used as “a veritable arm” against Afghan and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s vehement denial of the charges has also come with a demand for proof. By taking the reaction a notch higher than the normal sharp reprimand, Washington has also been warned of losing an ally, given the current state of affairs. The deepening trust deficit between the allies’ intelligence has now resulted in a full-scale verbal confrontation. The bigger question is if this extends beyond word slinging. Already, enough practical measures to prove intent have been undertaken by either side, including the withholding of military aid, the forced exit of US covert operators and military trainers among others.

The question is if Washington, in order to try to cripple the alleged Haqqani network inside Pakistan, would decide to launch a targeted ground offensive. While Pakistan has warned against any foreign ground operation, its consistent efforts to stop US-led drone attacks have failed. Unless it was intentional, Mullen’s assertions have put both Washington and Islamabad in a difficult position. The charge’s seriousness does merit immediate study and clarification on both sides and reassessment of professed objectives in the ongoing war. For Pakistan, it means further pressure on top of what it is already subjected to vis-à-vis its security establishment’s alleged links and of not doing enough against Afghan insurgent groups and indigenous terror groups.

The simmering tensions and lack of trust has erupted in the open. The only way forward is to exercise a moderate approach and reach an agreement on how to defuse this rise in tension. Both allies need each other and it may be better for both to bring out their differences frankly on the table and decide the future course of action. Where Washington is expected to substantiate the charges, Islamabad must also extend full cooperation and clear its name.


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