Monday, April 26, 2010

General Kayani's Washington Visit and US-Pak Cooperation

At present, the entire Pakistan is under the threat of terrorism, which appears to be without end. However, far way from this bloodshed, some decisions are being taken in Washington and the GHQ (General Headquarters) in Rawalpindi that will determine the future of Pakistan in the days to come.

In pursuit of its political objectives, the United States is attempting to devise a broader strategy for the war against terror under which the Pakistani military will get the opportunity to play the leading role. The main goal of this strategy is to bring down the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida and also to eliminate the Pakistani groups associated with this network. The primary focus of this strategy is to isolate Taliban's supreme commander Mullah Omar in order to force him to negotiate with the United States and pave the way for the US withdrawal.

Pakistan will hold a key position in this whole planning and the last month's arrest of Mullah Omar's deputy Mullah Beradar is part of the same planning. The Pakistani military will play a central role in this whole plan, and General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani's visit to the United States was meant for the same purpose. That is why General Kayani, the Pakistan Army chief, is the main focus of the US attention.

56-Page Document
The main point of the strategic dialogue between the United States and Pakistan held in Washington was to guarantee Pakistan's role in the Afghan conflict and take decisions to eradicate the terrorism network. It has become clear after this dialogue that the United States wants to withdraw from Afghanistan and it requires Pakistan's assistance in this regard.

Pakistan was aware of what did the United States want. Therefore, a 56-page document was prepared after consultation with the military officials, which talked about what Pakistan wants from the United States and the concerns that are prevalent in Pakistan with reference to the United States. This document was handed over to the United States before the strategic dialogue. Pakistan mentioned the sacrifices, which it has given in the war against terror and also put forward its demands before the United States.

These demands include the transfer of nuclear technology from the United States to Pakistan, acknowledgment of Pakistan's status of a Muslim nuclear power, Pakistan's involvement in talks regarding the future of Afghanistan and the US funding for water projects to resolve the power crisis in Pakistan. In addition to these, issues like additional aid for Pakistan under the coalition support fund, release of blocked funds, supply of drone technology to Pakistan, pressure on India to resolve the Kashmir issue, and the US intrusion in the matter concerning blockage of Pakistani water were also talked about in this 56-page document.

Resolving Disputes With India
Pakistan demanded of the United States to supply gunship helicopters, spy planes, and other warfare equipment to be used in fight against the Taliban and requested for increased cooperation between the intelligence agencies of the two countries. In addition to this, concerns were raised over India's military preparation and procurement of weapons from the United States. Pakistan also requested Washington to play a direct role in restoring the peace process between India and Pakistan that has been brought to a standstill after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008.

The main point of this document was to ensure Pakistan's safety on the eastern borders. It has further stated with regard to issues that Pakistan's strategic interests will continue to clash with the US strategic interests in the region, and Pakistan will only be able to take limited action against the Taliban until Pakistan's safety is guaranteed on its eastern borders.

This document has left the US officials in jeopardy. The document was debated in the US Department of State and it was decided where to favor Pakistan and where not to. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led the delegation consisting of Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, chief of the Army staff, senior advisers and secretaries of different ministries. However, the US delegation consisted of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other high-ranking officials.

These negotiations took place in a pleasant atmosphere. The United States accepted most of Pakistan's demands. However, the United States refused to accept some, for instance, it refused to play a role in resolving the water dispute with India, and said that this dispute between the two countries was 50-year-old. The United States has accepted Pakistan's demand to ensure that the Pakistani products have access to the US markets. The US ambassador to Islamabad has also ruled out the possibility of civil nuclear agreement with Pakistan, which shows that the United States is not providing civil nuclear technology to Pakistan.

Pakistan's Security Needs
The biggest achievement of this dialogue is the assurance given to the military leadership by the US officials that the United States will fulfill its vows regarding Pakistan's security needs, and will provide latest equipment as well as drone technology to Pakistan. This assurance was given during General Kayani's meeting with Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen.

According to a statement issued by the Pentagon, bilateral defense issues were the main focus of General Kayani's meeting with Robert Gates and Mike Mullen. The US defense secretary assured General Kayani that the United States will fulfill Pakistan's security requirements in the war against terror on urgent basis, ensure that drone technology and modern equipment and weapons are provided to Pakistan, and all promises are fulfilled. General Kayani talked about the needs of the Pakistani security forces, regional security and stability, new US Afghan policy, and outcome of the Helmand Operation to this point during this meeting with Robert Gates.

US Withdrawal From Afghanistan
According to a senior US military official, who was part of the recent meetings with General Kayani and other Pakistani officials, Pakistan knows that there is not much time left for the United States to directly assist Islamabad. He claimed that General Kayani focused all of his attention on establishing cooperation between the Pakistani and Afghan Governments at a time when the United States is reducing the number of troops and investment in Afghanistan. Most importantly, India has rejected the idea of any third-party mediation in the decade-old disputes between India and Pakistan.

It will not be wrong to declare these negotiations as a success for Pakistan. The United States is currently in a weak position and hence it is possible to make it accept some other demands as well. The United States should pay a price for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Perhaps this is the reason why attempts are being made by the United States to make General Kayani the most powerful personality in Pakistan's military history, so that he can improve the political situation in Pakistan without doing any harm to the present democratic system.

US Objectives
The US objectives are behind this whole planning and since Pakistan's military has to play the most important role in this whole planning, attempts are being made to improve and strengthen relations with the military.

Even the extremist groups are not unaware of this planning and they are preparing to play the final round of their fight. The biggest target of the extremists is the Pakistani military and that is why there has been a rise in attacks on the military. The Pakistani military also knows that the next face of the Afghan war will not be short of resistance. Let's see who will play the cards right in this game.

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