Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pakistan Strikes Back Against Washington

Judging from the public remarks by senior Pakistani officials, disunity within the Pakistani government would seem likely to be among the costs of American attacks on Pakistani soil. While just-elected Pakistani president Zardari just termed “the threat of global terrorism” “chief among the challenges that all Pakistanis face,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned the recent American attack in an “impassioned” speech on Thursday, saying it "violated the sovereignty of Pakistan." Similarly, a Pakistan army spokesman warned that U.S. militancy would “ further anger” Pakistanis” and “undercut cooperation in the war against terrorist groups.” More seriously, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), Gen Tariq Majid, called the attacks “callous and wanton” and reserved the right to “appropriately retaliate”.

Today, that retaliation evidently began, as Pakistan suspended fuel supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan via the Torkham highway that links Peshawar with Kabul. Does anyone have the numbers on the impact this suspension of fuel deliveries might have on NATO operations in Afghanistan if it endures?

Even more interesting than the daily tit-for-tat which seems to be steadily destabilizing U.S.-Pakistani relations and the new civilian leadership of Pakistan is the rapidity of the evolution of the overall situation in the Taliban's favor over the last month:

* 500,000 Pakistani internal refugees, who are now apparently free to return to homes that their own government has destroyed;

* the new Pakistani civilian coalition has collapsed, imperiling the future of Pakistan's briefly resurgent democracy;

* a series of U.S. attacks on Pakistani territory that, judging from Pakistani media reports, have accomplished nothing except to kill a few minor combatants and a number of innocent civilians, making the U.S. look simultaneously barbaric and incompetent;

* fuel supplies from Pakistan to NATO forces in Afghanistan suspended...not by Taliban attacks but by the Pakistani government!

Instead of citing terrorism as Pakistan's greatest challenge, perhaps Zardari should have considered "government responsiveness to the needs of the people" or "the tactics employed by this so-called 'war on terror'." It is noteworthy that both the Pakistani attack in Bajaur last month that initiated the current situation and the U.S. attack this week occurred before his election: Zardari is not exactly getting a honeymoon period in which to figure out the correct tactics.

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