While the Obama administration is busy congratulating itself on the reopening of NATO’s supply lines to Afghanistan after a seven-month shutoff by the Pakistani government, a closer look at the deal shows it involved more than an apologetic statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Today’s article in Reuters describes Clinton’s gesture as a rather magical string of a dozen or so words that came about only after weeks of difficult backroom negotiating and careful crafting by US diplomatic wonks.
The article does not mention the other inducements offered to and accepted by the Pakistanis in exchange for opening the supply lines. Instead, it says only that Pakistan “dropped demands for extra fees on NATO supplies.”
But that is not what other reports, including some in the Pakistani press, are saying.
For one thing, it is widely reported that concurrent with the US’ apologetic statement, the US is releasing $1.1 billion to Pakistan that had been withheld for the past seven months while the supply lines were closed. The fund is intended to reimburse Pakistan for its efforts in the fight against terrorism, particularly operations against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the tribal areas.
Yet Pakistan has resisted, and continues to resist, US calls for a crackdown on the militant haven of North Waziristan, which is home base for al Qaeda, Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and a host of other jihadist groups that conduct attacks in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Nor will Pakistan heed US requests to move against the so-called “good Taliban” groups based in both North and South Waziristan, including Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and the notorious Haqqani family. Additionally, Pakistan will not address the problem of its plethora of home-grown terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-Jhangvi, Hizbul Mujahideen, and a host of others. In fact, these groups openly fundraise and recruit for jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir without repercussions to this day.
With regard to the pending release of the billion-plus “reimbursement” to Pakistan, US Senator Carl Levin, head of the Armed Services Committee, says the Pakistanis “don’t deserve it,” but that he will vote for the funds to be released, according to The Washington Post.
The flurry of excitement over the deal has also obscured other factors, such as that now Pakistan is insisting on scanning each and every NATO container to “ensure it does not contain lethal supplies” before it reaches Afghanistan, according to AFP. This will inevitably result in a slowdown and possible evaporation of critical deliveries, and may even lead to selective looting of supplies.
Another tidbit omitted from most coverage is the fact that under the terms of the deal, “NATO subcontractors” will reimburse Pakistani truckdrivers whose vehicles have been stranded in Karachi, to the tune of $6,000 per vehicle, AFP reports. This fee will no doubt be passed along to the US taxpayer.
And as for as the drone strikes, although they were somewhat held back during negotiations over the supply line closure, they have resumed again. It is unclear what, if any, concessions have been made to the Pakistanis as to the conducting of drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which has been another bone of contention between Pakistan and the US. Pakistan continues to publicly protest the strikes.
Pakistan has been described by many US officials as a difficult ally, but calling the recent deal on the supply lines a diplomatic triumph by the US is papering over the reality.
And this recent US-Pakistan negotiation has bought the US only a temporary window for getting equipment and supplies in and out of Afghanistan; the Pakistanis can (and very well may) close the supply lines again in future (they have already shut them down at least twice in efforts to influence the US). As the Express Tribune reported earlier this month, although Pakistan agreed to the reopening of the NATO supply lines, it “has turned down United States’ request to extend the facility beyond the 2014 deadline earlier set for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan.” The thrust of the Express Tribune report is that Pakistan seeks to hold the US to its 2014 withdrawal date and to limit, by various means, including control over supply routes, US influence in Afghanistan.
The bottom line is that Pakistan has manipulated the supply route issue — which even the Taliban have called a “drama” orchestrated by the Pakistani government — to continue to siphon billions of US dollars while at the same time maintaining Pakistan’s jihadist proxies in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
While the administration considers the reopening of NATO’s supply lines a major success in US-Pakistan relations, the reality is that Pakistan continues to shelter and support the same groups that kill US and NATO soldiers, and Afghan security forces and civilians across the border. Nothing to see here, please move along.