Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Update: Pakistani Foreign Minister Talks to Al Jazeera Re: US-Pakistani Relations

In advance of her remarks to the United Nations General Assembly later today, Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar seemed to "loaded for bear" when she intimated to Al Jazerra that the US must face the risk that it could “lose an ally” in the fight against extremism, referring to Admiral Mike Mullen USN, chief, Joint Chiefs of Staff, comment last week that the Haqqani network was “a veritable arm of” the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

COMMENT: As I said in an earlier posting, Admiral Mullen could well have insisted that his comments regarding the ISI be made in classified testimony before the Senate, but his frustration with Pakistan in advance of his retirement no doubt influenced him to make a public statement.

It is regrettable that Mullen did not take the confidential high ground because that leaves the US no room to apologize for the statement, considering that it was made based upon intelligence corroboration. Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby subsequently retorted that there was credible evidence regarding at least two attacks in September, which showed that “the ISI continues to support and even encourage the Haqqanis to launch... attacks.”

In her comments to Al Jazerra, Ms. Khar lashed out on the role of the CIA, which orchestrated the May 2 covert US Navy SEAL strike against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil: “If we talk about links, I am sure the CIA also has links with many terrorist organizations around the world, by which we mean intelligence links."

Despite her contentious rhetoric, Ms. Khar added: "“I just hope that we will be given a chance to cooperate with each other and the doors will remain open,” adding that “statements like this are pretty much close to shutting those doors."

It is hoped that Ms. Khar will temper her comments when speaking before the UNGA, considering that despite quickly deteriorating relations between the two countries, the reality is that they both need each other. Without the US actively engaged with the Pakistanis in Pakistan, Islamic extremism around the world would only escalate and produce more acts of terrorism.

The US must also be sensitive to the fact that most Pakistanis have a low regard for the US, which forces Pakistani officials to walk a tightrope. The lessons learned from all of this is: Don't use the media to express your anger. Classify discussions that will not derail bi-lateral relations.

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