Saturday, September 24, 2011

Update: Pakistanti Foreign Minister Warns US of Ground Troop Deployment

As a follow-up to my September 23 posting ("Forecast: Relations Between the US, Pakistan Expected to Worsen"), Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar warned the United States on Saturday (September 24) against sending ground troops to her country to fight an Afghan militant group that the US alleges is used as a proxy by Pakistan's top intelligence agency for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

The warning came as Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, arrived late on Friday (September 23), who will meet with Pakistan's army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, among other governmental officials.

COMMENT: As I said in my Friday posting, relations between the US and Pakistan have never been worse. Unfortunately, outgoing JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff) chief Admiral Mike Mullen's parting shot in an open session of a Senate hearing did not help matters when he accused Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of aiding Haqqani insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan, including those who took part in an attack on the U.S. Embassy last week in Kabul, as well as a truck bombing that wounded 77 American soldiers days earlier. It would have been far better if Admiral Mullen had insisted in making his remarks in a classified briefing before the Senate rather than giving Pakistan one more issue to take the US to task on.

The Haqqani insurgent network is widely believed to be based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border. The group has historical ties to Pakistani intelligence, dating back to the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Rather than saturating Pakistan with endless visits from the US, which are often perceived as annoyances by the Pakistantis, it might be more useful for Embassy Islamabad to attempt to restore rapport and tattered trust between the Government of Pakistan and embassy officers.

In the meantime, there still is no word on the fate of US aid worker Warren Weinstein, 70, who was kidnapped on August 13 from his residence in Lahore, two days before he was scheduled to permanently return to the US. There is also no demand for a ransom or concessions nor has any grouped claimed responsibility for his abduction. We should also not forget that Weinstein was kidnapped shortly after the shooting deaths of two Pakistantis by CIA contractor Ray Davis and the May 2 assassination of Osama bin Laden. Hence, Weinstein's kidnapping may well have been in retaliation for the Ray Davis shooting or the US Navy SEAL operation against bin Laden.

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