Past as prologue: The Bin Laden saga

12 جولائی 2013

Nor does the Commission offer any whitewash for the Americans: Even while expressing understanding for US motivations in pursuing the al-Qaeda leader, it characterises the Abbottabad operation as a blatant act of international murder, with no opportunity given for the Saudi fugitive's surrender, even under military rules of engagement.
But interesting as its simple conclusions of fact concerning the Abbottabad raid may be, of far greater interest and future relevance are the Commission's observations concerning the fundamental disfunction at the heart of Pakistan's relations with the US. In fact, the Commission offers the most clear-eyed and objective view of US-Pakistani relations that this observer has yet seen.
It is, the Commission says:
“….a relationship about which governments in Pakistan have seldom been honest with their own people…It has never been a genuine… or honest relationship. But it is a necessary relationship that needs to be rationalised… and freed from false assumptions. The US and Pakistan may share some policy objectives but there is not a sufficient basis for a strategic partnership between them…Once this is honestly accepted, a healthy, mutually beneficial and important bilateral relationship will become… feasible…The relationship has been based largely on US economic and military assistance to Pakistan on the one hand, and the contingent utility of Pakistan to the US on the other. It is a relationship that is not rooted in a shared culture, political perceptions and strategic interests… [O]ften, it has pretended to be a strategic relationship without being one, except for brief durations of overlapping interests in dealing with common challenges…[T]he conclusion is inescapable that…there has been a shortage of mutual appreciation… and trust in this contingent, transactional and often resentful relationship which…neither side has cared to see in a longer-term perspective….”
The Commission points out that the Pakistani government had every reason to know that the US was prepared to take unilateral action against bin Laden if he were discovered, but had no policy to neutralise the problem or stave off the associated threat: Better simply to react to the Americans as and when necessary, and hope that the problem goes away.
The real scandal exposed by the Commission report is that Pakistani policy toward bin Laden is not an isolated phenomenon, but a symptom of a far larger problem of national governance. The irony is that Pakistan would serve itself, the Americans and the region far better if it would develop, and then articulate a coherent national security policy to which its relations with the US would then be subordinate. A Pakistan willing to openly confront its national challenges would at least present the US with some clear choices. If the US could see a plan and a clear path to Pakistani stability, which it surely sees as in its interests, it might be more willing to subordinate its own short-term objectives to contribute to such a goal.
As the Abbottabad Commission makes plain, Pakistan's prevailing policy of passivity, obfuscation and wishful thinking is not serving its interests, and is in fact enabling the more self-destructive of US tendencies. The Americans know what they want in south-central Asia; they just don't have a clue as to how to get it. Forthright leadership from Pakistan would help. But judging from the record of the Commission's interviews of Pakistani military and civilian officials, both great and small, the chances of proactive leadership in Pakistan are somewhere between slim and none.  
Robert Grenier is a retired, 27-year veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Service. He was Director of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006. He currently heads ERG Partners, a financial consultancy firm.     (The End)