Karzai and Zardari’s Visits to Washington Highlight America’s Problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan


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The clip above features New America Foundation President & CEO Steve Coll and NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, who offer a frightening portrait of the profound weaknesses’ of both Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s leaders.
You may also want to read Max Hastingsop-ed in today’s Financial Times, which stands out for its lucid description of NATO’s strategic challenges in the region.
First, Hastings points out that while the Obama administration focuses on redeploying troops to achieve ill-defined goals in Afghanistan, it is in Pakistan that Al-Qaeda poses the greatest threat both to the United States and to the region.
Second, the Obama administration has made a number of tactical decisions – including sending an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan – without articulating clear, identifiable, and achievable goals.
Third, Hastings explores the rifts within NATO – particularly those between the United States and the United Kingdom – posed by the continued deployment of coalition troops in Afghanistan.
— Ben Katcher


9 comments on “Karzai and Zardari’s Visits to Washington Highlight America’s Problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan

  1. Ajaz says:

    Pakistan is in turmoil. Its 170 million inhabitants are watching hopelessly as endemic corruption of its political leaders, fattened incompetent military Generals (through repeated military coups) and disastrous U.S. policies in the region are bringing the country down. A few thousand illiterate, bearded, terror infested bunch of mullahs are trying to threaten the very existence of the State.
    A country with ample fresh water supply from its five rivers, an extensive canal irrigation system, fertile land, rich in food, fruit and with hard working people trying to make a better life for themselves should never be in this predicament.
    Ever since its creation in 1947, incompetent and corrupt Pakistani leaders have surrendered its independence and sovereignty to the United States and the West. Pakistan’s participation in contentious SEATO & CENTO defense facts caused it to be the target of Soviet Union. The US U2 spy flight flown by Garry Powers in the sixties originated from a Pakistani air base and was shot down by the Soviets, causing Nikita Khrushchev to threaten Pakistan (the famous shoe incidence at the United Nations).
    The successive U.S. Administrations have supported military dictators in Pakistan. George W. Bush’s mantra of spreading democracy sounded pretty hollow while he was busy supporting Musharraf. The U.S. Treasury claims to have given $10 billion to Musharraf regime, where has this money gone? The people of Pakistan have certainly not seen it, nor benefited from it, so when the US Senators & Congressmen repeat the $10 billion mantra, people of Pakistan laugh and wonder what the hell they are talking about!
    Even the current political dispensation in Pakistan was structured in Washington under Condi Rice’s conniving scheme. The late Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari faced a number of criminal corruption cases in courts in Pakistan, Switzerland and U.K, but once a deal was cut with Musharraf, suddenly all of the cases disappeared in thin air. Mr. Zardari now occupies the Presidency – albeit democratically elected.
    Most of the damage to State of Pakistan has been caused by the aftermath of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The prospect of Soviet Union controlling the Hormuz Straits, hence the world oil supply sent chills down Pentagon and White House spines. They came running to Pakistan to help them launch a proxy war to stop Soviets reaching the warm waters of Persian Gulf. Now the much maligned ISI of Pakistan became the corner stone of US policy as CIA knew little (if anything) about Afghanistan. With U.S. and Middle Eastern funding, Madrassahs were set up in Pakistan to indoctrinate/train Afghans and Pakistanis as Mujaheddin fighters, many of whom later became Taliban. Rumor has it that the current U.S. Defense Secretary, Bill Gates was involved in this effort and one of his charges was Osama bin Ladin.
    No sooner had the Soviets retreated, the U.S. cut and ran leaving a fractured Afghanistan with no Government or political structures, a fragile Pakistan with three million Afghan refugees on its soil (one million Afghan refugees are camped in Pakistan) leaving behind thousands of stinger missiles and other weaponry in the hands of an undisciplined rag tag bunch of Mujaheddin. Not only did the U.S. leave Pakistan in peril, it also imposed economic sanctions on it leaving the country in a dire economic state.
    Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton get it when they say “we are reaping what we sowed”. No matter how good the intentions of U.S. leaders, people of Pakistan are reluctant to trust them again. They feel that U.S. does not have the stomach or the desire to resolve Afghan situation and it will cut and run in a couple of years leaving more turmoil behind.
    The problem is that Afghan war is turning Pakistani Pashtuns into Taliban as they feel they are supporting their fellow Pashtun brethren in Afghanistan against foreign occupying forces. The increasing US drone attacks inside Pakistan are making the situation even worse as they feel Pakistan Government is complicit in these attacks and is therefore acting as an agent of United States.
    The U.S. needs to change its Afghan policy and VERY SOON to pacify that country politically, not militarily. Karzai should be asked to bring all ethnic groups (including Pashtuns) to the table into a Government of national unity, so the healing can begin and foreign forces can leave.
    In Pakistan, a huge development effort is needed in the two western provinces bordering Afghanistan. Economic opportunities need to be created, by a massive building program, schools, colleges, markets, roads, highways and airports need to be built to make the area more accessible. Young people need to taken out of madrassahs and enrolled in schools and colleges and they need jobs. Rather than spending hundreds of billions of dollars on war effort, a Martial type plan of (say) $30 billion would revolutionize this area into peace and prosperity within a few years. The Pashtuns are not looking to fight wars, except they have nothing else to do.
    If the U.S. cannot do this to attain peace and prosperity in the region and to recompense Pakistan for the havoc wreaked by its policies, then I want it to get the hell out of the country and from that whole region.
    Until recently the Pakistani public have been wondering, to what end has the country spent 50% of its budget each year on armed forces, so they can stage a coup from time to time and surrender Swat to rag tag mullahs? In fact there was even been a serious danger of military becoming irrelevant. But thank God the army has now taken the initiative to quell the self appointed sharia leaders of the region. And in this effort, the entire Pakistani nation is behind its military. General Kiyani is a serious man and so far he has set a good example of staying far away from politics. He needs to stay that way and focus on putting down the uprising once and for all. The mullahs may have the support of extremist elements, but not from a vast majority of 170 million Pakistanis. They want peace and prosperity for their country and want to put an end to past rivalries with neighbors. They want to turn their country into an economic powerhouse.
    This is a defining moment for Pakistani politicians and its military. The politicians need to put aside their differences and come together to deliver what the people have elected them for – law and order, economic prosperity, health and education, peace and a great deal more. The Military needs to establish its writ over the rogue Taliban elements once and for all so they don’t challenge the State of Pakistan ever again with their twisted brand of sharia law. GET ME MY COUNTRY BACK DAMMIT.


  2. Don Bacon says:

    Thanks, Arun
    Extract: “Such operations [the Pak army offensive] may satisfy the US, but add to the unpopularity of the government and the military while driving more recruits into the ranks of the insurgents. They don’t make Pakistan more secure, they make it much more vulnerable.”


  3. Arun says:

    Retd. Pakistani Col. F.B. Ali
    writes that the biggest threat to US interests is that political Islamists (not Taliban) will take over the Pakistani state.
    Very worth reading.


  4. Don Bacon says:

    Oh goody, “the Pakistani military is on board with the US” and we know how successful the US military has been.
    The US incitement of the president of Pakistan (spelled Zardari — and his wife is dead) is wrong for many reasons, but probably most importantly because the current Pak offensive against Pashtuns is counter to Pakistan’s real interests, which involve an eventual friendly Pashtun government in Kabul.
    All this thumping of the war drums — it’s so familiar and so wrong.


  5. Clay Thorp says:

    I found it frightening that each President (the elected figurehead of their respective country) has little to no power in the region. The military controls nuclear Pakistan, does it not? That usually would make anyone uncomfortable, but now it seems that the Pakistani military is on board with the US and is starting (finally) to take a Taliban 60 miles outside the capital of Pakistan very seriously.
    You really gotta love how many times the President of Pakistan (Is it spelled Bhuto?) said the word “more” when referring to vast, generous sums of US aid in the past few years. He’s a joke. And his poor wife…
    I don’t even want to go into the technicolor Afghan. Although I would definately sport something like that in blue.


  6. Don Bacon says:

    Well it’s nice to hear that Coll and Mitchell have all the administration talking points down, one of them being the echo of the other (why did MSNBC need both?), and each of them claiming that Pakistan — Pakistan!! — is an existential threat to the American way of life as we know it. It gets so messy when you disagree with the Washington Line, you lose your job and stuff.
    Just ask Phil Donahue. MSNBC (the station featuring Coll and Mitchell) canceled Phil Donahue’s talkshow after an internal memo (leaked on 2/25/03) argued that he would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. Donahue was the highest rated show on MSNBC at the time it was canceled.
    And those foreign leaders — they’re either criminal or weak, or both. You just can’t depend on them to do the right thing, which is to show more allegiance to the US than to their own country. Like Karzai, who until recently the model US puppet, and Zardari, Mister Ten Percent. They’re so profoundly weak! They might be part French, if you ask me. Myself, I like a strong leader, a decider, because frankly democracy sucks.
    Well, they got a good talking-to in Washington recently, so maybe now they’ll toe the line and do what the Empire wants done. I mean Karzai and Zardari; Coll and Mitchell have already buckled, obviously.


  7. Don Bacon says:

    Ben Katcher writes, supposedly quoting one Max Hastings: “. . .it is in Pakistan that Al-Qaeda poses the greatest threat both to the United States and to the region.”
    But Hastings, in his op-ed, didn’t write that al-Qaeda poses a threat, greatest or otherwise, to anyone. In fact Hastings presents no evidence that the Great Satan al-Qaeda even exists in Pakistan, or anywhere.
    Hastings does say that al-Qaeda is “deeply rooted in Pakistan” — whatever that means. Actually it doesn’t mean much, because their brand of religion isn’t at all popular in Pakistan, especially in Punjab and Sindh.
    In any case, for Hastings, and presumably Katcher, it is a fine spot for another bang-up war, to be fought and suffered by others, of course.


  8. Jolene says:

    Don’t forget about Andrea Mitchell’s profound weaknesses in telling the truth. Sorry, too much on her to considerable her credible.


  9. Dan Kervick says:

    Read Graham Fuller:
    Money quote:
    “Only the withdrawal of American and NATO boots on the ground will begin to allow the process of near-frantic emotions to subside within Pakistan, and for the region to start to cool down. Pakistan is experienced in governance and is well able to deal with its own Islamists and tribalists under normal circumstances; until recently, Pakistani Islamists had one of the lowest rates of electoral success in the Muslim world.”


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