US failed to get Pakistani Army chief to target Taliban

Saturday, January 1, 2011

WASHINGTON - All efforts by US officials to convince Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to attack the Taliban’s safe havens in Pakistan have failed so far and the US intelligence believe he is unlikely to change his mind anytime soon.

Kayani, who has more direct say over the country’s security strategy than its president or the prime minister, has resisted personal appeals from US President Barack Obama, US military commanders and senior diplomats.

They have yet to persuade him to undertake what the US administration thinks is a key to success in the Afghan war - the elimination of havens inside Pakistan, the Washington Post reported.

Despite the entreaties, officials say, Kayani doesn’t trust US motivations and is hedging his bets in case the American strategy for Afghanistan fails. In many ways, Kayani is the personification of the vexing problem posed by Pakistan.

While the Obama administration sees the insurgents as an enemy force to be defeated as quickly as possible, Pakistan has long regarded them as useful proxies in protecting its western flank from inroads by India, its historical adversary.

“Kayani wants to talk about the end state in South Asia,” one of the Obama administration officials was quoted as saying. US generals, the official said, “want to talk about the next drone attacks”.

The administration has praised Kayani for operations in 2009 and 2010 against domestic militants in the Swat Valley and in South Waziristan, and has dramatically increased its military and economic assistance to Pakistan. But it has grown frustrated that the general has not launched a ground assault against Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuaries in North Waziristan.

Kayani has promised action when he has enough troops available, although he has given no indication of when that might be. Most of Pakistan’s half-million-man army remains facing east, toward India.

Kayani reportedly was infuriated by the recent WikiLeaks release of US diplomatic cables, some of which depicted him as far chummier with the Americans and more deeply involved in Pakistani politics than his carefully crafted domestic persona would suggest.

In one cable, sent to Washington by the US embassy in Islamabad last year, he was quoted as discussing with US officials a possible removal of Pakistan’s president and his preferred replacement.

On the eve of the cable’s publication in November, the normally aloof and soft-spoken general ranted for hours on the subject of irreconcilable US-Pakistan differences in a session with a group of Pakistani journalists.

The two countries’ “frames of reference” regarding regional security “can never be the same,” he said, according to news reports.

Calling Pakistan America’s “most bullied ally”, Kayani said that the “real aim of US strategy is to de-nuclearise Pakistan.”

The US daily said, Kayani is far from alone in the Pakistani military in suspecting that the US will abandon Pakistan once it has achieved its goals in Afghanistan, and that its goal remains to leave Pakistan defenseless against nuclear-armed India.

Kayani “is one of the most anti-India chiefs Pakistan has ever had,” a US official said.

Even some Pakistanis see Kayani’s India-centric view as dated, self-serving and potentially disastrous as the insurgents the country has harboured increasingly turn on Pakistan itself.

“Nine years into the Afghanistan war, we’re fighting various strands of militancy, and we still have an army chief who considers India the major threat,” said Cyril Almeida, an editor and columnist at the Pakistani daily Dawn. “That’s mind-boggling.”

As the Obama administration struggles to assess the fruits of its investment in Pakistan, some officials said the US now accepts that pleas and military assistance will not change Kayani’s thinking.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and Richard C. Holbrooke, who served as the Obama administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan until his death last month, thought that “getting Kayani to trust us enough” to be honest constituted progress, one official said. But what Kayani has honestly told them, the official said, is: “I don’t trust you.”

Filed under: Terrorism

will not be displayed