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Taliban Targets NATO Convoys

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Pakistan-US: Pakistan agreed to reopen its roads to NATO supply convoys in return for a statement of condolences by the US. What Secretary of State Clinton said to Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is repeated verbatim below, as reported in Pakistan's Daily Times on 4 July.


"Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives….We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again."

Khar told Clinton the land routes were reopening, and that "Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region," Clinton said.

The Pakistani Taliban announced that they will target NATO convoys. Pakistani trucking firms demanded improved security.

Comment: A statement of condolences, regret or sorrow over losses that does not include an admission of culpability is not an apology. Both top diplomats admitted mistakes were made, but neither admitted culpability. There is no apology and that means Pakistan blinked, sort of.

US officials and generals have expressed regret repeatedly over Pakistan's loss of soldiers' lives during the friendly fire incident last November. Money and politics have worked in favor of a breakthrough on this issue. The Pakistan Army apparently needs the $1.1 billion that the US has now promised to release as its part of the bargain. This is not new money for the US, but what had been budgeted already.

Pakistani politics facilitated compromise because the new prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, is not associated with the previous tough policy position adopted by former Prime Minister Gilani. Ashraf acted immediately to reopen the supply routes, bypassing the National Assembly, which Gilani was unable to do because of the intensity of public sentiment right after the incident.


Sub-continent politics also favored a breakthrough. The action of Pakistani officials, observing the US arrangements to withdraw forces and equipment through central Asia and Russia, indicate they realized, a bit belatedly, that the US was freezing Pakistan out of the Afghanistan end game and empowering India, Russia and Central Asian states, all allies of the northern, non-Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan.

Today's agreement reinstates Pakistan as a consequential actor in the end game. At home and to the Islamic world, Pakistan is now a facilitator of the withdrawal of non-Muslim/NATO forces from a Muslim land and region that Pakistan treats as a part of its sphere of influence - the Pashtun southern provinces of Afghanistan.

It also offsets any increase in Indian influence in Afghanistan. US Defense Secretary Panetta's statement about encouraging a larger Indian role in Afghanistan might have been the pivotal event that spurred the Pakistanis to make a change in policy.

Pakistani concessions and benefits

The Pakistan Army and the new Prime Minister made concessions so as to get the money and restore Pakistani influence. They now have found satisfactory language that the National Assembly and Chief of Army Staff General Kayani had rejected earlier. They dropped the demand that US/NATO drone attacks cease. They also dropped the transit surcharges for NATO supply trucks. Nevertheless, they now are in a position to influence and even control the US and NATO withdrawal through Karachi. Pakistanis and Pakistani trucking firms now will enjoy the spill over benefits of an army in withdrawal, instead of the central Asians.


US concessions and benefits

The United States now will release the $1.1 billion to Pakistan's armed forces. The money, from a US 'coalition support fund' designed to reimburse Pakistan for the cost of counter-insurgency operations, had been withheld due to tensions between the two countries over the closure of the supply routes. The US taxpayers will benefit from enormous savings because of the cost differential between the northern and southern logistics routes.

Finally, the US reduces its dependency on Russian good will and cooperation for the use of Russian railroads in withdrawing US forces.

A Pakistani commentary

Hasan Askari, a prominent and astute Pakistani analyst, provided context to the agreement, in an interview on 3 July before US and Pakistani officials announced the agreement.

In response to a question, Askari said, "You see, the "signals" now are that the routes will be reopened as the dialogue between Pakistan and the United States was on what should be the "text" of the apology, what would be the acceptable manner, and what would be the condition for movement of supplies…."

"And even otherwise it would be better for Pakistan that if it has to play any role in Afghanistan and has to 'neutralize' the role of India, then it will have to work jointly with the international community. Pakistan's interest will be in jeopardy if it remains isolated."


"Look, whatever decision is made, it will be made with the consent of the military because the 'high security matters' or 'high foreign policy matters' of Pakistan are not settled unless the military is involved in it. Therefore if a decision is made that means that the military agrees on it. The civilian government cannot step forward without the consent of the military. The civilian government is facing the pressure of the Supreme Court on one hand and on the other it is facing the pressure of the Opposition and on top of that it cannot stand further pressure from the military."

Comment: The Pakistan Army's pride was the stumbling block because the incident showed that it was and remains unable to defend Pakistan's western frontier. The Army drove this change in policy. The civilian government did as it was instructed.

The Army is wielding power through the civilian government on national security policy. The agreement to reopen the supply routes appears to indicate that the elected civilian government has become the figurehead for the Army again on national security issues, after a five year hiatus.

Iran: President Ahmadi-Nejad acknowledged on Tuesday that new sanctions imposed by Western powers were the most onerous ever, but said they would have no impact on the Iranian position over its nuclear energy activities.


Comment: Today's statement is the first official acknowledgement of the sanctions that went into effect on 1 July. More later.

Syria: For the record. President Bashar al Asad said today that he regrets that Syrian defense forces shot down a Turkish fighter on 22 June, according to an interview with the president published on 3 July in the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet. Asad also denied sending armored reinforcements to the Turkish border and assured the press that the tension will not escalate to an armed conflict.

Comment: He did not apologize, but his statement eased the tension.

Syrian opposition. For the record. A Syrian opposition conference on Tuesday degenerated into fisticuffs and shoving matches, prompting a Syrian Kurdish group to exit the meeting after delegates rejected a proposal they advanced.

Comment: This behavior is almost a trademark of the Syrian opposition groups. A news commentator opined that the show of disunity is likely to dishearten supporters of the opposition, who see the failure as likely to discourage international recognition.

Beyond that, disunity of this nature invites a takeover of the movement by the foreign Islamists, who are hard core, organized and ruthless… and impatient.

End of NightWatch.

NightWatch is brought to readers of Towhall Finance by Kforce Government Solutions, Inc. (KGS), a leader in government problem-solving, Data Confidence® and intelligence. Views and opinions expressed in NightWatch are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of KGS, its management, or affiliates.


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