[Marxism] WaPo: 2 US airstrikes a concrete sign of harder US stance toward Pakistan
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jan 24 02:19:05 MST 2009
2 U.S. Airstrikes Offer a Concrete Sign of Obama's Pakistan Policy
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Candace Rondeaux and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 24, 2009; A01
Two remote U.S. missile strikes that killed at least 20 people at suspected
terrorist hideouts in northwestern Pakistan yesterday offered the first
tangible sign of President Obama's commitment to sustained military pressure
on the terrorist groups there, even though Pakistanis broadly oppose such
unilateral U.S. actions.
The shaky Pakistani government of Asif Ali Zardari has expressed hopes for
warm relations with Obama, but members of Obama's new national security team
have already telegraphed their intention to make firmer demands of Islamabad
than the Bush administration, and to back up those demands with a threatened
curtailment of the plentiful military aid that has been at the heart of
U.S.-Pakistani ties for the past three decades.
The separate strikes on two compounds, coming three hours apart and
involving five missiles fired from Afghanistan-based Predator drone
aircraft, were the first high-profile hostile military actions taken under
Obama's four-day-old presidency. A Pakistani security official said in
Islamabad that the strikes appeared to have killed at least 10 insurgents,
including five foreign nationals and possibly even "a high-value target"
such as a senior al-Qaeda or Taliban official.
It remained unclear yesterday whether Obama personally authorized the strike
or was involved in its final planning, but military officials have
previously said the White House is routinely briefed about such attacks in
At his daily White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to
answer questions about the strikes, saying, "I'm not going to get into these
matters." Obama convened his first National Security Council meeting on
Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday afternoon, after the strike.
The Pakistani government, which has loudly protested some earlier strikes,
was quiet yesterday. In September, U.S. and Pakistani officials reached a
tacit agreement to allow such attacks to continue without Pakistani
involvement, according to senior officials in both countries.
But some Pakistanis have said they expect a possibly bumpy diplomatic
"Pakistan hopes that Obama will be more patient while dealing with
Pakistan," Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, said in an
interview Wednesday with Pakistan's Geo television network. "We will review
all options if Obama does not adopt a positive policy towards us." He urged
Obama to "hear us out."
At least 132 people have been killed in 38 suspected U.S. missile strikes
inside Pakistan since August, all conducted by the CIA, in a ramped-up
effort by the outgoing Bush administration.
Obama's August 2007 statement -- that he favored taking direct action in
Pakistan against potential threats to U.S. security if Pakistani security
forces do not act -- made him less popular in Pakistan than in any other
Muslim nation polled before the election.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton indicated during her Senate
confirmation hearing that the new administration will not relent in holding
Pakistan to account for any shortfalls in the continuing battle against
Linking Pakistan with neighboring Afghanistan "on the front line of our
global counterterrorism efforts," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee that "we will use all the elements of our powers -- diplomacy,
development and defense -- to work with those . . . who want to root out
al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other violent extremists." She also said those in
Pakistan who do not join the effort will pay a price, adding a distinctly
new element to the long-standing U.S. effort to lure Pakistan closer to the
In blunt terms in her written answers to the committee's questions, Clinton
pledged that Washington will "condition" future U.S. military aid on
Pakistan's efforts to close down terrorist training camps and evict foreign
fighters. She also demanded that Pakistan "prevent" the continued use of its
historically lawless northern territories as a sanctuary by either the
Taliban or al-Qaeda. And she promised that Washington would provide all the
support Pakistan needs if it specifically goes after targets such as Osama
bin Laden, who is believed to be using Pakistani mountains as a hideout.
At the same time, Clinton pledged to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan,
long dwarfed by the more than $6 billion funneled to Pakistani military
forces under President George W. Bush through the Pentagon's
counterterrorism office in Islamabad.
"The conditioning of military aid is substantially different," as is the
planned boost of economic aid, said Daniel Markey, a Council on Foreign
Relations senior fellow who handled South Asian matters on the State
Department's policy planning staff from 2003 to 2007.
Bush's focus on military aid to a Pakistani government that was led by an
army general until August eventually drew complaints in both countries that
much of the funding was spent without accountability or, instead of being
used to root out terrorists, was diverted to forces intended for a potential
conflict with India.
A study in 2007 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies
reported that economic, humanitarian and development assistance under Bush
amounted to no more than a quarter of all aid, less than in most countries.
The criticism helped provoke a group of senators who now have powerful new
roles -- Joseph R. Biden Jr., Clinton and Obama -- to co-sponsor legislation
last July requiring that more aid be targeted at political pluralism, the
rule of law, human and civil rights, and schools, public health and
It also would have allowed U.S. weapons sales and other military aid only if
the secretary of state certified that Pakistani military forces were making
"concerted efforts" to undermine al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In her
confirmation statement, Clinton reiterated her support for such a
legislative restructuring of the aid program, while reaffirming that she
opposed any "blank check."
Some Pakistanis have been encouraged by indications that Obama intends to
increase aid to the impoverished country, said Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani who
directs the South Asia Center of the Washington-based Atlantic Council of
the United States. Nawaz said Pakistanis may be willing to overlook an
occasional missile lobbed at foreign terrorists if Obama makes a sincere
attempt to improve conditions in Pakistan.
"He can't just focus on military achievements; he has to win over the
people," Nawaz said. "Relying on military strikes will not do the trick."
Attaching conditions to the aid is wise, Nawaz said, because "people are
more cognizant of the need for accountability -- for 'tough love.' "
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