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US expert slams govt for caving in over NATO air strike

December 02, 2011 12:45 IST

No tears are shed for the thousands of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan by Pakistan's proxies such as the Afghan Taliban, says South Asia expert Professor C Christine Fair. Aziz Haniffa reports.

Noted South Asia expert Professor C Christine Fair, who has extensively researched the political and military affairs in the subcontinent, has slammed the Obama administration "for caving over" the recent killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by a NATO air strike inside Pakistani territory.

Fair, who has conducted in-depth field investigations into Pakistan-based and Inter Services Intelligence-sponsored terrorist groups, said that no tears seemingly are shed for the thousands of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan by Pakistan's proxies such as the Afghan Taliban.

"We are in a proxy war with Pakistan in Afghanistan," said Fair, who was the kick-off panelist at the forum on 'Military Reform in Pakistan: Will the Army Allow Politicians to Rule?' organised by the American Enterprise Institute –the leading neo-conservative think tank in Washington, DC.

Fair is an assistant professor with the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University's school of Foreign Service, and erstwhile senior political scientist with the Rand Corporation—known as the Pentagon's own think tank—asserted. "For those of us that have argued that this isn't a bunch of innocent Pakistanis sleeping with the Taliban or launching fire across the border into Afghanistan, how does it make us look when they (the administration) say, 'Oh, yes, mia maxima mea culpa!' This sort of demonstrate the ongoing stupidity of the US government to do anything to keep this relations (US-Pakistan) relationship going in whatever haphazard way…because we have no choice," said Fair.

"We have put more troops in Afghanistan without any alternative supply lines (than those through Pakistan), and so all Pakistan has to do is whine about closing the g(ground)-locks and we will put forth any sort of exposition or any sort of explanation to placate the Pakistanis," she said.

Fair, whose earlier incarnations included being a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul and a senior research associate in the US Institute of Peace's Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, warned that "this set a very dangerous precedent…they continue to be perfidious and they continue to take our money to do things that undermine our interest."

"By the way, when I look in the dictionary, and when I look at a country that undermines our interest in almost every way, except the very narrow and every constricting area of Al Qaeda, and uses proxies to kill our troops, I believe that's called an enemy, not an ally," she said.

Fair declared that she's "palpably angry about the situation that the Obama administration hasn't done anything except put a dress on the Bush administration's policies and they continue to put lives and money at risk without having any viable workable strategy."

Thus, she predicted, "Between now and 2014 (when the US has said it will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan), there is really nothing that we can do except bend over and hope that they'll do the courtesy of being kind."

Consequently, according to Fair, "We are going to have areas of cooperation not because of a strategic partnership, but because of our core national security interests."

She argued that "the reason why Pakistan is able to hold us hostage and continue to conduct jihad under the nuclear umbrella is because we are essentially taking Pakistan's threat at face value."

Fair suggested that "as we move out of Afghanistan and change our posture, we need to really think about containing Pakistan—what it means to contain the threat that Pakistan poses while engaging it." She acknowledged that "it cannot be a nuclear-armed North Korea, but it also can't continue to do what it does with impunity."

Fair, continuing to slam administration policy or lack of it vis-à-vis Pakistan, said, "We have been really obtuse in understanding the network of different terrorists that operate in Pakistan.

"Until 2008," she bemoaned, "the United States didn't care about Lashkar-e-Tayiba, till they attacked Mumbai. So, we've had a very insulated approach with Pakistan because we didn't want to sacrifice the two things that we were getting from those bozos and that is assistance in killing, capturing, renditioning of Al Qaeda, continuing the Drone operations and then obviously, the g-locks."

"The Pakistanis are howling over 25 soldiers being killed, but I don't hear Americans howling that thousands of our troops have been killed by Pakistani proxies and that makes me angry."

Fair called for "a theater-wise strategy that gets at this problem that Pakistan over-determines what happens in Afghanistan, not vice-versa.

But Kamran Shafi, a Pakistani columnist in the Express Tribune and former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto's press secretary in the late 1980s, faulted Fair for painting all of Pakistan with the same brush without specifically pin-pointing the Pakistan Army and ISI.

"Please, please, make the distinction between Pakistan and Pakistan's Deep State, as I refer to it—the security establishment if you like," he said. "They are completely different—they are apples and oranges."

Shafi argued that "you cannot take the name of Pakistan and condemn all of Pakistani society as being pro-Taliban, anti-American, pro-terrorist, want to blow up the world. There is a huge silent majority which is against all of that. So, this distinction must be made," he asserted.

Shafi also pilloried US administrations for always pandering to the Pakistani military and its hierarchy and also leading think-tank policy wonks who say it's always easier to do business with the Army than with the corrupt, inefficient civilian government in Islamabad and that it's the military that ensures stability in the country.

"They only help that the outside people can give us,  is to deal with the elected government," he said.

He reiterated that the US "should deal only with the civilian government. Even the toys for the boys should go through the civilian government. Let the civilian government hold the keys to the treasury and things would be fine."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC