WASHINGTON: The Pakistani mistrust over US intentions has “˜some legitimacy” since the United States has walked away from that country twice in the last three decades, says US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
At a briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday afternoon, Mr Gates conceded that the US needed time to “˜rebuild trust” with the Pakistani people and to convince them “˜that we are a long-term friend and ally.”
Mr Gates described as disturbing, but not surprising, the results of a survey that only 9 per cent of Pakistanis saw the United States as a partner while 64 per cent looked at it as an enemy.
“˜First of all, one of the reasons that the Pakistanis have concerns about us is that we walked away from them twice,” Mr Gates said. “˜We walked away from them after the Soviets left Afghanistan, and we walked away from them through the 1990s, because of the Pressler amendment.”
Because of such policy changes, Mr Gates said, “˜our military-to-military relations were significantly interrupted”.
Further commenting on the opinion survey, the US defence secretary observed: “˜The Pakistanis probably “” and with some legitimacy “”question how long are we prepared to stay there? Is the only reason we”re interested in working with the Pakistanis is the war in Afghanistan? Or do we value Pakistan as a partner and an ally independent of the war in Afghanistan?”
Mr Gates then assured the Pakistani people that “˜the latter is the case” and that the US had a long-term commitment to their country. “˜And I think that the bills on the Hill (the US Congress), to provide multi-year economic assistance to Pakistan, manifest that.” — from Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper
This speech by Gates deserves to be widely read and pondered. But not because it is an admirable and intelligent exposition. No, it deserves to be widely read and pondered because it expresses an ignorance and an amazing and perhaps willful misunderstanding of American-Pakistani relations over the past fifty years. In someone who has held as many important positions in Washington as Robert Gates, and who is now the Secretary of Defense at a time when American aid of all kinds has been pouring into Pakistan (some of it hard to discern because it does not show up in the budget as aid), and a tripling of some aid is now being pushed by this Administration, such ignorance and such misunderstanding is unacceptable, intolerable. It ought to be grounds for his dismissal.
But it won’t be, because Gates” misreading of Pakistan, and his forgetting the most obvious things in the American-Pakistani relationship, are — that misreading and that forgetting — characteristic of the Obama Administration’s understanding of relations between this country and a great many Muslim countries. Those countries include not only Pakistan, but “our ally” Saudi Arabia and our “staunch ally” Egypt.
And the explanation for Gates” folly also explains the larger folly. It helps to explain why American troops are very likely going to continue to remain in Afghanistan, and vast amounts of American aid will continue to be lavished on both Afghanistan and Pakistan when the results of that aid can only be more corruption, more resentment at the Infidel donor of such aid, and in many cases, the diversion of such aid to things that will increase local hostility to Infidels and the ability to inflict damage on those Infidels. The more Afghan villages have electricity, the more likely they will then get televisions and computers that spread the word both of Islam and of militant Islam. American aid helped pay for and even made possible the development (beginning with theft) and then the subsequent production, of nuclear weapons by Pakistan.
Let’s get out of the way the most obvious error: Gates deploring the fact that Pakistanis think “the Americans walked away from them twice.” What is he talking about? The American government gave Pakistan all kinds of aid, some of which was transferred to the Afghani mujihadeen, other of which was kept by the Pakistani military, which helped itself to whatever it wanted. That aid was given to allow Afghanis to fight the Russians, who at the tail end of the Cold War were still regarded — incorrectly, I think — as a major threat, and certainly few in Washington had any understanding that perhaps, in Muslim Central Asia, the violence of Soviet repression of religion had been, from the point of view of Infidels, a good thing, and not something to discourage.
Besides, by the 1980s the Soviet Union was falling apart. Too many among the children of its rulers, and some of its rulers themselves, had lost faith. Gorbachev had been entertaining thoughts of reform ever since he had a Czech roommate in college. Later on he was influenced by, among others, the thoughtful Alexander Yakovlev. Yakovlev helped Gorbachev and others come to the understanding that Communism in the Soviet Union had failed to deliver the goods, and had — according to its own Marxist-Leninist criteria for economic success — failed. Thus there was no need to aid the Muslims of Afghanistan or, for that matter, those of Pakistan either.
Once the Soviet Union had been defeated, the Taliban, which had been trained in and raised up in Pakistan and fully supported by the Pakistani military, returned and took power in Afghanistan. And it was Pakistan that continued to support the Taliban to the hilt. The Taliban government was so obviously monstrous and cruel that only truly awful countries, a grand total of three, even recognized the Taliban regime. (You can read, or see, the accounts of the stomping to death of women while stadiums full of people brought in were forced to watch.) Those countries were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and”¦.Pakistan.
Has Robert Gates perhaps forgotten his chronology? Does he perhaps think the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan when the Soviet Army invaded? Or that the Taliban were in power during the fight against the Red Army, when in fact the Pakistan-trained Taliban came later, after the Soviet army had left? Why, perhaps he does.
Because otherwise, why would he talk about the Americans “walking away” from the Pakistanis? What exactly where they supposed to do? Remain in the area, keep handing out a fortune in aid and all kinds of military equipment, when once the Soviet Union had withdrawn Pakistan was in up to its neck in supporting the Taliban in every conceivable way? What exactly did the United States owe Pakistan? Helping it help the Taliban? Does that make sense? Or does Robert Gates think that if only the Americans had stayed, the uber-Muslims of the I.S.I. (see General Malik’s war manual on Jihad, do) would have somehow stopped supporting the Taliban, and turned out to want nothing more for Afghanistan than full rights for women and minorities? Would that have included the handful of Hindus who under the Taliban were forced, as dhimmis, to wear garb that clearly identified them as Hindus for, the Taliban spokesman said, “their own protection”? What can Gates possibly be thinking of?
What about the Pressler Amendment? Gates apparently thinks it is something to deplore, thinks it was wrong. After all, he says, it was the Pressler Amendment that led the Americans to walk away for that second time — “we walked away from them twice.”
The Pressler Amendment was designed to punish Pakistan. The immediate cause was the use by Pakistan of American weapons in an attack on Indian forces in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. This attack was entirely unprovoked and the use of those American weapons was in direct violation of an agreement with the Americans.
But there was a larger context. Pakistan had been receiving every sort of aid and comfort from the Americans for years, for decades. And during the period just before the Pressler Amendment was passed, the Pakistani military had been assuring the Americans — so the American government and the State Department told Congress — that if plenty of military aid was forthcoming, it would not need nuclear weapons, and would not develop them. But all this time, in the 1980s, the Pakistani government was secretly developing nuclear weapons, based on plans stolen from Western laboratories by the militant Muslim metallurgist A. Q. Khan. Khan is a national hero in Pakistan, where no one faults him for selling, or giving, nuclear secrets to North Korea and Iran and possibly others, and no one thinks the Americans should be allowed even to question him about such things. The Pressler Amendment passed in an atmosphere of justified fury against Pakistan for years of getting away with murder.
(To be continued.)