It would be an exaggeration to say that the United States has paid dearly for killing Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2 without notifying the Pakistani government. But there have been consequences, which became apparent during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s brief visit to Islamabad last Friday. Now the United States will have to withdraw some forces from Pakistan at the request of its “partner” in the war on terror. The operation to take out bin Laden was a tactical success, but it may complicate the situation on the dangerous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
No help or harm
Clinton’s visit was brief but very serious. Clinton was accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen during her meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, Army Commander Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence Chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha. This is the first such high-level meeting since bin Laden was killed.
Following tradition, the U.S. media portrayed it as stern Uncle Sam (or Aunt Hillary) showing mercy to Pakistan, where the most wanted terrorist and a mass murderer of Americans lived for several years next door to its most prestigious military academy.
America, in this respect, is not unlike the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev or to imperial China: it expects vassal-like expressions of gratitude from foreign dignitaries. But the reality is different, as shown by the withdrawal of U.S. military trainers from Pakistan: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-bows-to-Pak-demandcuts-troops/articleshow/8597008.cms
It’s harder to find information on the withdrawal in the U.S. media, but a Pentagon spokesman has confirmed the reports.
The number of U.S. counterterrorism trainers in Pakistan will fall from 200-300 to about 50, with their departure set for early June, possibly as soon as next week. According to a Pakistani military officer speaking on condition of anonymity after May 2, the trainers cause more trouble than they’re worth. This will presumably smooth over relations between the United States and Pakistan. In Islamabad, Clinton acknowledged the losses suffered by Pakistan in the fight against their common enemy. In return, the Pakistanis said they will finally open bin Laden’s compound to the CIA. This gift came less than a month after the raid.
Perhaps the most significant statement Clinton made at the news conference was that no peace deal in Afghanistan can succeed unless Pakistan is part of the process. Now the partners must not only settle their grievances after May 2 but also decide what will happen next, with the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled to begin this summer.
After the U.S. withdrawal
For all the drama surrounding NATO’s unsuccessful operation in Libya and its requests for Russian assistance in reaching a settlement, no less important is the fact that the United States is now holding talks with representatives of the Taliban, probably in Germany. For the time being, the general public knows nothing about these talks except that they are in progress. Many questions remain.
One question is whether America will surrender Afghanistan to its undefeated enemy, but this is a bad question. As for Pakistan, its involvement is even bigger than that of the United States, and it will be left to its own devices if America leaves the region. Obviously, it was elements in the Pakistani secret services that created the Taliban and helped shelter bin Laden, but it is the country’s current civilian government and population that will pay the price for this.
Experts were unanimous in their prediction that al Qaida would avenge bin Laden’s death. But so far only Pakistan has been the target of revenge attack. For example, a suicide bomber killed 35 people in the town of Hangu on Thursday, on the eve of Clinton’s arrival.
It is very hard to say whether America’s drone war against the Taliban in Pakistan is succeeding. According to reports, the attacks have killed as many civilians as Taliban fighters. The drone strikes create anger not only at the Americans but also at the country’s government. And while the Americans will leave eventually, the government will remain.
Pakistan is cooperating in earnest in the U.S. war against terror. In fact, the scale of their contribution outstrips that of the United States. According to the Times of India (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Hillary-Clinton-gives-clean-chit-to-Pakistan/articleshow/8599145.cms), up to 140,000 Pakistani troops are fighting terrorists in northern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Since 2007 alone, Pakistan has paid for its alliance with America with 4,400 civilian lives.
Judging by the reporting on Clinton and Mullen’s visit, America would like Pakistan to launch a powerful offensive against the enemy to provide cover as the United States withdraws troops from the area. Even after the partners reconcile over bin Laden, there will still be this serious issue left to resolve.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.