Thu 7 Aug, 2008 10:31 am
August 06, 2008
US, Pakistan battle it out through the press
by Jonathan Landay
Relations between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries and intelligence services, supposedly close allies against al Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist constructs, have gotten so bad that officials on both sides are slugging it out through the press.
The dispute is rooted in U.S. charges of Pakistani support for the Taliban and other al Qaida-allied militants fighting U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Pakistani outrage over cross-border U.S. air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan's tribal area that have also claimed civilian casualties.
The latest salvo has been fired by unnamed senior Pakistani officials, who told The International News, an English-language daily owned by Pakistan's largest newspaper publisher, that the United States is ignoring "evidence" that the Afghan and Indian governments are supporting separatists in Pakistan's province of Baluchistan.
The Pakistanis said that "for reasons best known" only to Washington, the U.S. military and CIA also seem to be protecting Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of Pakistan's Taliban and the chief suspect in the Benazir Bhutto's slaying and numerous suicide bombings against the Pakistani military and the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
They claimed that despite being given Mehsud's "precise" location on May 24, the CIA and U.S. commanders decided against sending a missile-armed robot aircraft _ the kind used frequently against al Qaida militants in Pakistan's tribal area _ to take him out. (There is, naturally, no explanation as to how the Pakistanis knew exactly when Mehsud was driving from "his safe abode" to a meeting with reporters at "a remote South Waziristan mountain post" and back again, or why they did nothing themselves).
"Impeccable officials sources," the newspaper reported, "have said that strong evidence and circumstantial evidence of American acquiescence to terrorism inside Pakistan" were presented to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and ISI Director General Nadeem Taj in separate July 12 meetings in Rawalpindi.
This is of course the very same secret meetings that were first revealed last week to American newspapers by unidentified Bush administration officials. Their version has Mullen and Kappes presenting their Pakistani hosts with evidence that ISI officers were in contact with the pro-Taliban group that allegedly carried out the July 9 suicide bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul and had given militants in Pakistan's tribal area advanced warnings of U.S. air strikes.
The U.S. leaks, which came just as Pakistan's nearly powerless Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani visited Washington, appeared after Pakistan failed to act on requests by Mullen and Kappes for a shakeup in the ISI and a crackdown on the Afghan Taliban leadership, which allegedly hangs out near the Baluchistan capital of Quetta.
The unnamed Pakistani officials told The International News that while relations with their U.S. counterparts have not gotten to the point of rupture, the "element of suspicion" is high, especially because they viewed the leaks to the U.S. media as an attempt by the CIA "to use its leverage with the new (Pakistani) government to try to arm-twist the Army and the ISI."
There was, however, a glimmer of good news in the article. The officials were quoted as saying that they want "a fresh round of strategic dialogue with their counterparts in the US, especially to prioritize the objectives and terrorist targets in the war against terror."
There is no word on whether Islamabad has sent a formal invitation to Washington through official channels.
Musharraf stepped down today.
Islamabad: Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has announced plans to resign in a televised address to the nation.
Facing much pressure to step down or face impeachment, Musharraf said he could not see Pakistan launch itself in a new conflict and therefore has decided to resign.
"After consultations with legal advisers and close political supporters and on their advice, I'm taking the decision of resigning," Musharraf said.
"My resignation will go to the speaker of the National Assembly today," he said.
'With Musharraf, a Scapegoat Leaves the World Stage'
Pakistan is without Musharraf for the first time in nine years. German commentators on Tuesday asks whether the fractious coalition government will be any better at dealing with the country's daunting problems, including a floundering economy and militant Islamists. And will the West be able to help keep the nuclear state stable?