Cooked in Abu Dhabi, served in Islamabad and Washington
A parade of US officials has been visiting Pakistan for the last few months but these trips have been little more than photo-ops. The real decisions, it seems, are being made in secret.
Towards the end of September, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani held an unannounced meeting with US Senator John Kerry in Abu Dhabi, says a government source. The meeting, which was reportedly tense but productive, took place after departing joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen explicitly accused the ISI of supporting the Haqqani network. In the wake of the meeting between Kerry and Kayani, however, the US has begun to backtrack again.
According to the source, negotiations between the two centred on military aid to Pakistan and the Haqqani network. Kayani pointed out how it would be impossible for Pakistan to continue helping the US in the war against terror if there was any cut in military aid. Kerry, who is believed in the US to most likely be the next secretary of state if Barack Obama wins reelection, and is also considered to be pro-Pakistan, agreed that aid should not be cut so long as Pakistan was regularly capturing al-Qaeda leaders.
The impromptu Kerry-Kayani summit was less successful in coming to an agreement on how to deal with the Haqqani network. Kerry kept insisting that US government policy will not budge from requiring the military to carry out an operation against the group in North Waziristan. Kayani preferred to point out that the US has also been holding talks with the Haqqani network, using Pakistan’s contacts with them to initiate the talks. Thus, he felt, it was hypocritical of the US to so publicly call out Pakistan for its contacts with the Haqqani network.
There has been a discernible improvement in relations between the two countries after the Abu Dhabi meeting with the US slowly taking back its allegations of Pakistan-Haqqani network complicity and suggesting that this will not lead to a split between Pakistan and the US.
What Kayani said to Kerry was reinforced at the Corps Commanders’ conference at GHQ on October 7, says a military source. Among other things, the conference discussed the line Pakistan would take during the upcoming visit by Marc Grossman, the US Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Corps Commanders ruled out any possibility of a military action in North Waziristan and, according to the military source, agreed they would tell Grossman that it would be impossible to carry out an operation in the area during the harsh winter months. The Corps Commanders’ conference also solidified the line taken by Kayani at a briefing of journalists on October 6 stating that there would be no more military operations. For this, the military plans to cite the recent All-Parties’ Conference and its opposition to military operations as a civilian cover for the decision made by the army to leave the Haqqani network alone.
The military is also planning on using the issue of civilian collateral damage as a reason to refrain from army action. They claim that the foreign militants based in North Waziristan will use locals as human shields and the military is not willing to take action until those locals vacate the area. An ISPR source pointed to the Swat operation as a model for locals being given advance warning and a chance to flee before hostilities commenced. In total, the military believes that there are 3,500 foreign militants in the area, a number that includes the Haqqani network.
A hands-off approach to Karachi was also taken by the corps commanders. At the conference it was decided that no further troops were needed in the city to maintain peace.
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