Pakistan-US intelligence impasse

According to news reports, US-Pakistan joint intelligence operations have been frozen since January this year following the double murder in Lahore by CIA agent Raymond Davis. This seems plausible because the drone strike carried out in the tribal areas immediately after the release of Raymond Davis that killed 41 people evoked a strident response from the highest military quarters. Arguably, the Pakistani side was not involved in this attack and took umbrage at the presumptuous US unilateral action. It was the first sign of Pakistan’s resistance to this uneasy embrace in ten years since General Pervez Musharraf threw in the country’s lot with the US in the war against terrorism and gave carte blanche to the CIA to conduct intelligence activities on Pakistan’s soil. Although all this had been going on for a long time, the arrest of Raymond Davis has exposed the extent of the CIA’s presence in Pakistan to the public gaze. Pakistan is looking to limit the US’s activities on its soil and expand its influence in Afghanistan in anticipation of the foreign forces’ scheduled withdrawal starting in June this year, to be completed in 2014. Reportedly, many clandestine CIA operatives working in Pakistan have returned to their country without being replaced so far.

That a decade-long campaign of the US against terrorism has not borne fruit in eliminating or at least irreparably damaging al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is obvious from the fact that they have created safe havens in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Although the US commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus has tried to cover this up by saying that al Qaeda may be looking for hideouts but is not coming back, the fact remains that the military invasion of Afghanistan and sidelining of the Taliban has done more damage to the country than benefited it. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have not only weathered this invasion, they have emerged in a better negotiating position and have repeatedly scoffed at the suggestion of negotiations with the occupying forces from a weaker position. It is because they know that throughout the US presence in Afghanistan they have not only successfully challenged the foreign forces, but have brought vast tracts of southeastern Afghanistan back into their control. It has become proverbial that President Hamid Karzai’s government does not extend beyond Kabul. In this situation, Pakistan would also like to come out of the overweening influence of the US that it exerts through its activities on Pakistan’s soil.

It is encouraging that the security establishment has been able to rollback the legacy of Musharraf through a little crack available to them in Raymond Davis’ arrest and exposé. However, this has not gone down well with the US, which is the biggest aid-giver to Pakistan. Apprehensions have been expressed that the Obama administration might not be able to convince a Congress — that sees Pakistan as being part of the problem rather than the solution — to give it the $ 1.5 billion in economic assistance under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act. In the current situation, when Pakistan is facing multifarious crises and is barely managing its economy, this will put a lot of pressure on Pakistan to slacken its approach. Also, whatever tensions and problems the two countries are facing, they realise that they are locked in a relationship of strategic nature. The US needs Pakistan’s help in extricating itself from Afghanistan, while Pakistan is dependent on economic assistance from the US. It seems these compulsions will help tide over their differences and hopefully a new balance in relations will be achieved sooner rather than later. – Dailytimes