The Cable has obtained the document at the center of the "memo-gate" controversy, sent allegedly from the highest echelons of Pakistani's civilian leadership to Adm. Michael Mullen in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The memo offered to reshape Pakistan's national security leadership, cleaning house of elements within the powerful military and intelligence agencies that have supported Islamic radicals and the Taliban, drastically altering Pakistani foreign policy -- and requesting U.S. help to avoid a military coup.
The Cable confirmed that the memo is authentic and that it was received by Mullen. The Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani -- the rumored author of the memo -- has offered to resign over what has become a full-fledged scandal in Islamabad. The Cable spoke this evening to the man at the center of the controversy and the conduit of the memo, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.
"Civilians cannot withstand much more of the hard pressure being delivered from the Army to succumb to wholesale changes," reads the memo, sent to Mullen via an unidentified U.S. interlocutor by Ijaz. "If civilians are forced from power, Pakistan becomes a sanctuary for UBL's [Osama bin Laden's] legacy and potentially the platform for far more rapid spread of al Qaeda's brand of fanaticism and terror. A unique window of opportunity exists for the civilians to gain the upper hand over army and intelligence directorates due to their complicity in the UBL matter."
The memo -- delivered just 9 days after the killing of bin Laden -- requests Mullen's help "in conveying a strong, urgent and direct message to [Pakistani Army Chief of Staff] Gen [Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani that delivers Washington's demand for him and [Inter-Services Intelligence chief] Gen [Ahmad Shuja] Pasha to end their brinkmanship aimed at bringing down the civilian apparatus."
"Should you be willing to do so, Washington's political/military backing would result in a revamp of the civilian government that, while weak at the top echelon in terms of strategic direction and implementation (even though mandated by domestic political forces), in a wholesale manner replaces the national security adviser and other national security officials with trusted advisers that include ex-military and civilian leaders favorably viewed by Washington, each of whom have long and historical ties to the US military, political and intelligence communities," the memo states.
The memo offers a six-point plan for how Pakistan's national security leadership would be altered in favor of U.S. interests. President Asif Ali Zardari would start a formal "independent" inquiry to investigate the harboring of bin Laden and take suggestions from Washington on who would conduct that inquiry. The memo promised this inquiry would identify and punish the Pakistani officials responsible for harboring bin Laden.
The memo pledges that Pakistan would then hand over top al Qaeda and Taliban officials residing in Pakistan, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, or give U.S. military forces a "green light" to conduct the necessary operations to capture or kill them on Pakistani soil, with the support of Islamabad. "This commitment has the backing of the top echelon on the civilian side of our house," the memo states.
The memo also promises a new Pakistani national security leadership that would bring transparency and "discipline" to Pakistan's nuclear program, cut ties with Section S of the ISI, which is "charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network" and other rogue elements, and work with the Indian government to punish the perpetrators of the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai.
Ijaz, who has a long and controversial record of acting as an unofficial messenger for the Pakistani and U.S. governments, has claimed repeatedly that the memo came from a senior Pakistani official close to Zardari and was given to Mullen through a U.S. interlocutor close to the then-serving Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.
Today, in an exclusive interview with The Cable, Ijaz alleged that Pakistan's U.S. ambassador, Husain Haqqani, was not only the author of the memo, but the "architect" of the entire plan to overthrow Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership, and was seeking U.S. help.
"Haqqani believed he and the president (Zardari) could redraft the architectural blueprint of how Pakistan should be governed in the future -- with civilians in command of the armed forces and intelligence services and the memorandum's content was geared in that direction," Ijaz said.
Over the past month, the rumors of the memo and its contents have ballooned into a huge political crisis in Pakistan. Islamabad's military leadership has pressed Zardari to start a full inquiry and the president has summoned Haqqani to the capital to explain himself. Haqqani offered to resign from his post on Wednesday, and told The Cable that he will travel to Pakistan on Friday.
On Wednesday, The Cable first reported that Mullen confirmed the existence of the secret memo delivered to him through an intermediary from Ijaz on May 10. On Nov. 8, Mullen's former spokesman Capt. John Kirby told The Cable that Mullen had no recollection of receiving the memo, but a week later, Kirby confirmed that Mullen had searched his records and discovered that he had indeed received the Ijaz memo -- but that he gave it no credibility and never acted on it.
Ijaz said Haqqani's proposal, as detailed in the memo and in a series of Blackberry Messenger conversations between Ijaz and Haqqani, included the establishment of a "new national security team" in which the ambassador would be National Security Advisor of Pakistan. An official with the initials "JK" would be the new foreign minister and an official with the initials "NB" would assume a new civilian post in charge of Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies.
Ijaz read out several alleged Blackberry Messenger conversations he alleges he had with Haqqani while planning the scheme and drafting the memo. The Cable was unable to verify the veracity of these conversations; as read out by Ijaz, they paint a picture of him and Haqqani devising a coded language worthy of a spy movie to discuss the memo while under possible surveillance.
For example, when Ijaz asked Haqqani to consider adding access by U.S. investigators to bin Laden's wives to the offer, the wives were referred to as "the three stooges," Ijaz said. Haqqani would use the words "my friend" or "boss" to refer to Zardari. "There was an orchestration to cover our tracks even at that moment because there was always a possibility this could get out," Ijaz said.
Once the memo was final, Ijaz said he approached three U.S. interlocutors, all of whom had served at the highest levels of the U.S. government. One of them was a current serving official, one was a former military official, and one was a former civilian government official, Ijaz said.
"All three of them expressed skepticism about the offers that were being made. Frankly, when you read it, you will see that these offers are sort of a sellout of Pakistan to the United States," Ijaz said.
Ijaz said the text of the memo proves Haqqani's involvement because it is full of detailed Pakistani government information that a mere businessman would never have had access to. Ijaz said, however, that he can't confirm whether Zardari had any direct knowledge of the memo or the promises contained therein. All the assurances that Zardari was involved and approved of the memo came from Haqqani, he said.
"I believe, with what we know today, that the president probably gave him a blanket power of attorney to conduct the stealth operation and never wanted to know the details, which he left to Haqqani happily," Ijaz said.
But why would Haqqani, who has extensive connections throughout the U.S. government, need to pass the memo through Ijaz? Haqqani and Zardari needed plausible deniability, said Ijaz, in case the issue blew up into a scandal.
And it has.
"Haqqani was likely the sole architect of the back-channel intervention and needed a plausibly deniable go-between to make it work. I fit that bill perfectly because he knew the Pakistanis, who have been assassinating my character and diminishing my person for decades, would have at me with glee if things went wrong ... if a leak occurred purposefully or accidentally," Ijaz said.
Why did Ijaz decide to reveal the existence of the memo in the first place, as he did in an Oct. 10 op-ed in the Financial Times, especially if he really is a secret go-between? Ijaz said it was his effort to defend Mullen from attacks in the Pakistani press after Mullen sharply criticized the ISI and its links to the Haqqani network in his harshly worded closing congressional testimony on Sept. 22.
"I felt very strongly about how Adm. Mullen was mistreated by the Pakistani press after he had testified in Congress and shed light on the harsh truth about Pakistan's intelligence service brinkmanship," Ijaz said. "So I felt it was necessary to set the record straight."
The whole story is mired in the web of relationships and dealings both Haqqani and Ijaz have had over the years in their roles as members of the Pakistani elite in Washington. Ijaz had considered Haqqani a friend and Haqqani had even spoken at one of the charity events Ijaz organized.
Ijaz said he respects Haqqani, believes his motives are patriotic, and sees him as a needed presence in the troubled U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
"Haqqani has had a reputation since he became ambassador as being more of America's ambassador to Pakistan than Pakistan's Ambassador to America, but that's an unfair charge," Ijaz said. "He is someone who is trying to help people there understand who we are and help people here understand what kind of a mess [Pakistan] is."
"In that sense, he's done a very credible job and it would be a loss for Pakistan to see him go," Ijaz said. "I still consider him a friend."
In a long statement given to The Cable over e-mail today, Haqqani flatly denied all of Ijaz's allegations:
I refuse to accept Mr Ijaz's claims and assertions. I did not write or deliver the memo he describes not did I authorize anyone including Mr Ijaz to do so.
I was in London and stayed at the Park Lane Intercontinental on the date in May mentioned in one of the alleged conversations but I was there to meet senior British govt officials, including Sir David Richards Chief Of General Staff and Mr Tobias Ellwood then parliamentary Secretary for Defense. These officials will confirm that threat of a coup was not on my mind at the time, the state of US-Pakistan relations was.
I fail to understand why Mr Ijaz claims on the one hand to have helped the civilian government by delivering his memo and on the other insists on trying to destroy democracy by driving a wedge between elected civilians and the military in Pakistan with his persistent claims. It is bizarre to say the least.
Mr Ijaz, whom I have known and communicated with off and on for ten years, once said to me he was richer and smarter than me so I should pay attention to him. Clearly he does not think about the consequences of his actions.
He may be the only so-called secret emissary in the world who likes so much publicity. He has yet to explain why, if all he says is correct, he wrote his Oct 10 oped and himself deliberately blew the cover off his own secret memo and mission.
Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has become embroiled in a political scandal in Islamabad and offered his resignation today to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, as Adm. Michael Mullen exclusively confirmed to The Cable the existence of a secret memo that the former Joint Chiefs chairman had earlier not recollected receiving.
Haqqani, who has long been a key link between the civilian government in Pakistan and the Obama administration, has also been battling for years with the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's chief spy agency -- two organizations whose influence in Washington he has fought to weaken. That battle came to the fore of Pakistani politics this month due to the growing scandal known in Pakistan as "memo-gate," which relates to a secret backchannel memo that was allegedly conveyed from Zardari to Mullen, through Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.
Ijaz alleged in an Oct. 10 op-ed in the Financial Times that on May 10, in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad, Zardari had offered to replace Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence leadership and cut ties with militant groups. Ijaz said he was directed to craft the memo by a senior Pakistani official close to Zardari. Ijaz has implied -- and the Pakistani press has speculated -- that this official was Haqqani.
Last week, The Cable published an exclusive report on Mullen's comments about the memo. "Adm. Mullen does not know Mr. Ijaz and has no recollection of receiving any correspondence from him," Mullen's spokesman Capt. John Kirby said Nov. 8."I cannot say definitively that correspondence did not come from him -- the admiral received many missives as chairman from many people every day, some official, some not. But he does not recall one from this individual."
Ijaz shot back in an article in Pakistan's The News, in which he published extensive Blackberry Messenger conversations with the Zardari-linked Pakistani official, allegedly Haqqani. He insisted that the memo did, in fact, exist, and that it was delivered from Ijaz to Mullen through another secret go-between, this one a senior U.S. government official.
"There can be no doubt a memorandum was drafted and transmitted to Admiral Mullen with the approval of the highest political level in Pakistan, and that the admiral received it with certainty from a source whom he trusted and who also trusted me," Ijaz wrote.
Kirby told The Cable today that Mullen now acknowledges that the Ijaz memo does exist, that he did receive it -- but that he never paid any attention to it and took no follow up action.
"Adm. Mullen had no recollection of the memo and no relationship with Mr. Ijaz. After the original article appeared on Foreign Policy's website, he felt it incumbent upon himself to check his memory. He reached out to others who he believed might have had knowledge of such a memo, and one of them was able to produce a copy of it," Kirby said. "That said, neither the contents of the memo nor the proof of its existence altered or affected in any way the manner in which Adm. Mullen conducted himself in his relationship with Gen. Kayani and the Pakistani government. He did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later. Therefore, he addressed it with no one."
Zardari's civilian political enemies, such as opposition leader Imran Kahn, have seized upon the controversy. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military, led by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has been pressuring Zardari to start an inquiry into the memo.
Zardari, Kayani, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met for the second time in two days on the matter late on Wednesday. Zardari also had a late night meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter on Tuesday night.
Earlier Wednesday, on the floor of Pakistan's National Assembly, Gilani publicly confirmed that Haqqani had been summoned to Islamabad to explain his position on the memo.
"Whether he's ambassador or not, he has to come to Islamabad to explain his position," Gilani said.
In an interview late on Wednesday afternoon, Washington time, Haqqani confirmed to The Cable that he will travel to Islamabad and has sent a letter to Zardari offering his resignation.
"At no point was I asked by you or anyone in the Pakistani government to draft a memo and at no point did I draft or deliver such a memo," Haqqani said that he had written in his letter to Zardari.
"I've been consistently vilified as being against the Pakistani military even though I have only opposed military intervention in political affairs," Haqqani said that he wrote. "It's not easy to operate under the shadow of innuendo and I have not been named by anyone so far, but I am offering to resign in the national interest and leave that to the will of the president."
Haqqani declined to comment to The Cable whether or not he played any role in the controversy surrounding the memo -- for example, discussing it with Ijaz before or after the fact, as the scandal deepened. It's widely rumored that Haqqani and Ijaz have known each other for many years.
It's remains unclear whether Zardari had any knowledge of the memo at the time. In Islamabad, some speculate that Zardari may be trying to put an end to the memo-gate controversy by sacrificing Haqqani, but no decision has yet been made on whether or not Haqqani will step down. If he leaves, he will return to private life having played a key role in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship during its most tumultuous period -- a role that is mired in the secrecy and intrigue of Pakistani politics and diplomacy.
Haqqani told The Cable that he is the target of a media campaign backed by the supporters of the military's role in politics because he has focused on building ties between the U.S. and Pakistani civilian governments, rather than with the Pakistani military.
"Eighty percent of Pakistanis don't want a good relationship with the U.S., and anyone who stands up for the United States can expect to be vilified," he said.
On Oct. 10, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz dropped a bombshell: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, he alleged, had offered to replace Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership and cut ties with militant groups in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad.
Ijaz also alleged in his op-ed in the Financial Times that Zardari communicated this offer by sending a top secret memo on May 10 through Ijaz himself, to be hand-delivered to Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a key official managing the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The details of the memo and the machinations Ijaz describes paint a picture of a Zardari government scrambling to save itself from an impending military coup following the raid on bin Laden's compound, and asking for U.S. support to prevent that coup before it started.
Mullen, now retired, denied this week having ever dealt with Ijaz in comments given to The Cable through his spokesman at the time, Capt. John Kirby.
"Adm. Mullen does not know Mr. Ijaz and has no recollection of receiving any correspondence from him," Kirby told The Cable. "I cannot say definitively that correspondence did not come from him -- the admiral received many missives as chairman from many people every day, some official, some not. But he does not recall one from this individual. And in any case, he did not take any action with respect to our relationship with Pakistan based on any such correspondence ... preferring to work at the relationship directly through [Pakistani Army Chief of Staff] Gen. [Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani and inside the interagency process."
Mullen's denial represents the first official U.S. comment on the Ijaz memo, which since Oct. 10 has mushroomed into a huge controversy in Pakistan. Several parts of Pakistan's civilian government denied that Ijaz's memorandum ever existed. On Oct. 30, Zardari spokesman Farhatullah Babar called Ijaz's op-ed a "fantasy article" and criticized the FT for running it in the first place.
"Mansoor Ijaz's allegation is nothing more than a desperate bid by an individual, whom recognition and credibility has eluded, to seek media attention through concocted stories," Babar said. "Why would the president of Pakistan choose a private person of questionable credentials to carry a letter to U.S. officials? Since when Mansoor has become a courier of messages of the president of Pakistan?"
On Oct. 31, Ijaz issued a long statement doubling down on his claims and threatened to reveal the "senior Pakistani official" that purportedly sent him on his mission. Ijaz quoted Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, telling Zardari and his staff, "If you stop telling lies about me, I might just stop telling the truth about you."
The Pakistani press has given credence to Ijaz's story because it was published in the Financial Times. "The FT is not likely to publish something which it cannot substantiate if it was so required, so any number of denials and clarifications by our diplomats or the presidency will only be for domestic consumption and would mean nothing," wrote one prominent Pakistani commentator.
This is only the latest time that Ijaz has raised controversy concerning his alleged role as a secret international diplomat. In 1996, he was accused of trying to extort money from the Pakistani government in exchange for delivering votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on a Pakistan-related trade provision.
Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between U.S. officials and foreign government for years, amid constant accusations of financial conflicts of interest. He reportedly arranged meetings between U.S. officials and former Pakistani Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
He also reportedly gave over $1 million to Democratic politicians in the 1990s and attended Christmas events at former President Bill Clinton's White House. Ijaz has ties to former CIA Director James Woolsey and his investment firm partner is Reagan administration official James Alan Abrahamson.
In the mid-1990s, Ijaz traveled to Sudan several times and claimed to be relaying messages from the Sudanese regime to the Clinton administration regarding intelligence on bin Laden, who was living there at the time. Ijaz has claimed that his work gave the United States a chance to kill the al Qaeda leader but that the Clinton administration dropped the ball. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, who served under Clinton, has called Ijaz's allegations "ludicrous and irresponsible."
Then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has previously acknowledged that Ijaz brought the Clinton administration offers of counterterrorism cooperation from Sudan but said that actual cooperation never materialized.
So why is Ijaz's story so popular in Pakistan, despite his long history of antagonizing the Pakistani government with such claims? According to Mehreen Zahra-Malik, who wrote about the Ijaz scandal on Oct. 29 in Pakistan's The News, it's all part of the culture of secrecy and conspiracy in Pakistani politics that the current civilian and military leadership in Islamabad has only continued to foster.
"When secrecy and conspiracy are part of the very system of government, a vicious cycle develops. Because truth is abhorrent, it must be concealed, and because it is concealed, it becomes ever more abhorrent. Having power then becomes about the very concealment of truth, and covering up the truth becomes the very imperative of power -- and the powerful," she wrote. "The end result: a population raised on a diet of conspiracy."
Attempts to reach Ijaz for comment were unsuccessful.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading a very high-level delegation to Pakistan later this week to try one more time to set U.S.-Pakistan relations back on track, before they go off the rails altogether.
The State Department won't confirm that Clinton is visiting Pakistan as part of her tour this week, which we're told will include stops in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Oman. But two senior officials have confirmed to The Cable that when Clinton arrives in Pakistan (we'll keep dates secret for security reasons), she'll be joined by CIA Director David Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, and several other administration officials.
Pakistani media already reported that the very senior U.S. delegation will have meetings with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The trip was set up by the special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Marc Grossman, who was in Islamabad last week.
"It's Hillary's initiative," one senior official told The Cable. "This is what Hillary convinced the administration to do because although the relationship has been at its lowest in some years, the U.S. side doesn't want to pronounce their effort to improve the U.S.-Pakistan relationship dead."
The Obama team had been playing a game of "good cop, bad cop" with the Pakistanis as a means of ratcheting up pressure, following the uptick of attacks on Americans traced back to militant groups residing in Pakistan. U.S. officials have stated publicly that these groups are working with either the implicit or the explicit sanctioning of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
"Hillary is trying to position herself in the middle and say to Pakistan that there are those of us who want to engage and others who want to fold. How long do you want to play this game of poker?" the official said.
The mixture of threats and outreach coming from different parts of the Obama administration had the side effect of confusing their Pakistani interlocutors, according to experts. Now the administration wants to put forth one clear message, delivered by top diplomats and top military and intelligence officials all in the same room.
"The problem is still that different parts of the U.S. government, as far as Pakistan is concerned, are giving different messages," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. "There needs to be a concise, unified message from Washington as to what the intentions are. In terms of high-level contact, we really haven't had that for a long while, so it's very critical."
The Obama administration is also trying to reprise the basic idea of the now defunct U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, which was meant to improve coordination of policy within both governments and also move the relationship from a "transactional" to a "strategic" one.
Some top officials no longer believe that a "strategic" relationship with Pakistan is possible, and around Washington, there is a growing realization that U.S. and Pakistani long-term strategic interests may not align, said Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who led Obama's first review of Afghanistan-Pakistan policy in 2009.
"We must recognize that the two countries' strategic interests are in conflict, not harmony, and will remain that way as long as Pakistan's army controls Pakistan's strategic policies," Riedel wrote in an Oct. 15 New York Times op-ed. "We must contain the Pakistani Army's ambitions until real civilian rule returns and Pakistanis set a new direction for their foreign policy."
In an interview Monday, Riedel told The Cable that the administration should abandon its efforts to seek help from the Pakistanis in bringing the Haqqani network and other militant groups to the table for peace negotiations, especially after the killing of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani by the Pakistan-based Taliban leadership.
"Grossman's primary mission of trying to find political reconciliation with the Taliban has been overtaken by events," Riedel said. "When one party murders the leader on the other side, we pretty much have an answer as to whether or not there's going to be a political reconciliation process."
The administration plans to warn the Pakistani government about the turning tide of public opinion in Washington against Pakistan and congressional threats to punish Pakistan. But if the Pakistanis don't change their approach to these groups, it's unclear what sticks the administration could really use against Pakistan to compel better behavior.
Overall, the Obama administration wants Pakistan to know it can't accept Americans being killed because of what's happening inside Pakistan. But there aren't expected to be any grand, new initiatives or new proposals to lift bilateral relations from what all sides agree is the lowest point in years.
"The U.S.-Pakistani relationship has been deteriorating all year, from the Raymond Davis case to the Osama bin Laden raid to the attack on the American Embassy in Kabul," said Riedel. "And there's really no evidence the bottom is in sight; it may be getting worse and worse."
President Obama opined on Chinese currency legislation, Pakistani double dealing, and the European debt crisis during his Thursday morning press conference, which was supposed to focus on his jobs bill. Here are the foreign policy highlights of his remarks.
On Chinese currency manipulation:
Obviously we've been seeing a remarkable transformation of China over the last two decades, and it's helped to lift millions of people out of poverty in China. We have stabilized our relationship with China in a healthy way. But what is also true is that China has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage and to the disadvantage of other countries, particularly the United States. And I have said that publicly but I've also said it privately to Chinese leaders.
And currency manipulation is one example of it, or at least intervening in the currency markets in ways that have led their currency to be valued lower than the market would normally dictate. And that makes their exports cheaper and that makes our exports to them more expensive. So we've seen some improvement, some slight appreciation over the last year, but it's not enough.
It's not just currency, though. We've also seen, for example, you know, intellectual property, technologies that were created by U.S. companies with a lot of investment, a lot of up-front capital, taken, not protected properly, by Chinese firms. And we've pushed China on that issue as well. Ultimately, I think that you can have a win-win trading relationship with China. I'm very pleased that we're going to be able to potentially get a trade deal with South Korea. But I believe what I think most Americans believe, which is trade is great as long as everybody is playing by the same rules.
On the legislation to penalize currently manipulation currently being considered by Congress:
My main concern -- and I've expressed this to Senator Schumer -- is whatever tools we put in place, let's make sure that these are tools that can actually work, that they're consistent with our international treaties and obligations. I don't want a situation where we're just passing laws that are symbolic, knowing that they're probably not going to be upheld by the World Trade Organization for example, and then suddenly U.S. companies are subject to a whole bunch of sanctions. We've got a -- I think we've got a strong case to make, but we've just got to make sure that we do it in a way that's going to be effective.
Last point is, my administration has actually been more aggressive than any in recent years in going after some of these practices. We've brought very aggressive enforcement actions against China for violations in the tire case for example, where it's been upheld by the World Trade Organization that they were engaging in unfair trading practices, and that's given companies here in the United States a lot of relief.
So, you know, my overall goal is, I believe U.S. companies, U.S. workers, we can compete with anybody in the world. I think we -- we can make the best products. And a huge part of us winning the future, a huge part of rebuilding this economy on a firm basis -- that's not just reliant on, you know, maxed-out credit cards and a housing bubble and financial speculation, but is -- is dependent on us making things and selling things -- I am absolutely confident that we can win that competition. But in order to do it, we've got to make sure that we're aggressive in looking out for the interests of American workers and American businesses, and that everybody's playing by the same rules, and that we're not getting -- getting cheated in the process.
On Pakistan's hedging strategy:
With respect to Pakistan, I have said that my number-one goal is to make sure that al-Qaida cannot attack the U.S. homeland and cannot affect U.S. interests around the world. And we have done an outstanding job, I think, in going after directly al-Qaida in this border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We could not have been as successful as we have been without the cooperation of the Pakistan government. And so on a whole range of issues, they have been an effective partner with us.
What is also true is that our goal of being able to transition out of Afghanistan and leave a stable government behind -- one that is independent, one that is respectful of human rights, one that is democratic -- that Pakistan I think has been more ambivalent about some of our goals there. And you know, I think that they have hedged their bets in terms of what Afghanistan would look like, and part of hedging their bets is having interactions with some of the unsavory characters who they think might end up regaining power in Afghanistan after coalition forces have left.
What we've tried to persuade Pakistan of is that it is in their interest to have a stable Afghanistan; that they should not be feeling threatened by a stable, independent Afghanistan. We've tried to get the conversations between Afghans and Pakistans (sic) going more effectively than they have been in the past. But we've still got more work to do. And there is no doubt that there's some connections that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have with certain individuals that we find trouble (sic). And I've said that publicly and I've said it privately to Pakistani officials as well.
On the Pakistan-India relationship:
[The Pakistanis] see their security interests threatened by an independent Afghanistan, in part because they think it will ally itself to India, and Pakistan still considers India their mortal enemy. Part of what we want to do is actually get Pakistan to realize that a peaceful approach towards India would be in everybody's interests and would help Pakistan actually develop -- because one of the biggest problems we have in Pakistan right now is poverty, illiteracy, a lack of development, you know, civil institutions that aren't strong enough to deliver for the Pakistani people. And in that environment you've seen extremism grow. You've seen militancy grow that doesn't just threaten our efforts in Afghanistan but also threatens the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people as well.
So trying to get that reorientation is something that we're continuing to work on. It's -- it's not easy.
On cutting off aid to Pakistan:
You know, we will constantly evaluate our relationship with Pakistan, based on, is overall this helping to protect Americans and our interests? We have a great desire to help the Pakistani people strengthen their own society and their own government. And so, you know, I'd be hesitant to punish, you know, aid for flood victims in Pakistan because of poor decisions by their intelligence services. But there's no doubt that, you know, we're not going to feel comfortable with a long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan if we don't think that they're mindful of our interests as well.
On the European debt crisis:
The biggest headwind the American economy is facing right now is uncertainty about Europe, because it is affecting global markets. The slow-down that we're seeing is not just happening here in the United States: It's happening everywhere. Even in some of the emerging markets like China you're seeing greater caution, less investment, deep concern.
I speak frequently with Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy. They are mindful of these challenges. I think they want to act to prevent a sovereign debt crisis from spinning out of control, or seeing the potential breakup of the euro. I think they're very committed to the European project. But their politics is tough because, essentially, they've got to get agreement with not only their own parliaments, they've got to get agreement with 20 parliaments, or 24 parliaments, or 27 parliaments. And engineering that kind of coordinated action is very difficult.
You know, but what I've been seeing over the last month is a recognition by European leaders of the urgency of the situation. And nobody's, obviously, going to be affected more than they will be if the situation there spins out of control. So I'm confident that they want to get this done. I think there are some technical issues that they're working on in terms of how they get a big enough -- how do they get enough fire power to let the markets know that they're going to be standing behind euro members whose -- you know, who may be in a weaker position. But they've got to act fast.
And we've got a G-20 meeting coming up in November. My strong hope is that by the time of that G-20 meeting, that they have a very clear, concrete plan of action that is sufficient to the task.
Top Obama administration officials have divided up responsibilities for applying pressure and offering an outstretched hand to the Pakistani government, in a new diplomatic strategy that some officials have dubbed "coercive diplomacy."
"The Obama administration is totally fed up and have decided to up the ante," said one official familiar with the new approach, explaining that inside the administration, "pressing for Pakistani behavior change is the new mantra."
Outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who has visited Pakistan 27 times since 2008, clearly assumed the role of "bad cop" when he testified on Sept. 22 that the U.S. government believes the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, with the help of Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was responsible for the recent bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Mullen upped the ante further, saying the Haqqani network was a "veritable arm" of the ISI, a charge anonymous U.S. officials walked back on Tuesday.
Also heading up the "bad cop" team is new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who seemed to threaten increased U.S. military incursions into Pakistan on Sept. 16. An official familiar with the strategy said that even more threatening statements by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who declared on Sept. 25 that there would be broad bipartisan support for U.S. military attack on Pakistan, were coordinated with the administration as part of their new campaign to apply pressure on Pakistan. The State Department is also considering whether to add the entire Haqqani network to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, but no decision has yet been made.
The administration may also be using the media as part of its new campaign to exert new pressure on Pakistan. On Monday, a story appeared in the New York Times with an excruciatingly detailed account of a 2007 ambush of American officials by Pakistani militants.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading a parallel "good cop" effort with the Pakistani government. She has sought ways out of the current diplomatic crisis by increasing her personal engagement with her Pakistani counterparts, as evidenced by her three-and-a-half hour meeting with new Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Sept. 18 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
According to one official inside the meeting, Clinton told Khar, "We want this relationship to work. Give us something to work with."
"The secretary's message was that, given the efforts of the Haqqani Network on the 13th of September [the day of the assault on the U.S. embassy in Kabul], that this was an issue that we had to deal with and that this is a threat to both Pakistan and the United States," a senior State Department official said about the meeting. "That part of the conversation concluded that joint efforts need to be made to end this threat from the Haqqanis, and that Pakistan and the United States ought to be working together on this and not separately."
Other U.S. officials inside that meeting included Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and his deputy Dan Feldman. Afghan reconciliation was also a main topic of the meeting.
In her meeting with Khar, Clinton tried to find specific ways to address the threat of Pakistan-based extremists operating with impunity in Afghanistan.
"It is possible for the United States and Pakistan to work together to identify those interests that we have in common and then figure out how to act on them together," the State Department official said. "And I'd say that that if that could be the overriding philosophy or kind of headline that came out of this meeting, that'd be a very good thing for both sides."
After initially making some harsh statements against the U.S. Khar has now settled on a message that mixes her desire to defend Pakistani pride with the need to project the Pakistani civilian government's willingness to find a way out of the crisis.
Khar said this morning on NPR that the U.S. and Pakistan "need each other" and "are fighting against the same people" but "Pakistan's dignity must not be compromised."
Clinton's strategy is also reflective of the feeling of some inside the administration that the late Special Representative Richard Holbrooke's drive to transform the U.S.-Pakistan relationship from a "transactional" one to a "strategic" relationship is now a lost cause.
"The strategic relationship is over, we're back to transactional with Pakistan," one U.S. official recently told The Cable. "We can call it ‘long-term transactional' if we want, but that's the way it is now."
Amid all the tough talk, on-the-ground intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan continues. CIA Director David Petraeus and ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha met in Washington on Sept. 20 and put into force a new intelligence sharing agreement, an official briefed on the agreement said. Pasha also reportedly met with top White House officials at the residence of Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani.
Inside Pakistan, there is speculation that the United States may be bluffing about its threat to increase military strikes inside Pakistan. The Pakistani government is also grappling with a fervent anti-U.S. media and a realization that its control over the ISI, much less the Haqqani network, is ultimately limited. But U.S. aid to Pakistan will never be effective leverage in convincing Pakistani to change its basic approach to dealing with groups like the Haqqani network, the official said.
"Pakistan is unwilling to align its strategic vision with America's worldview," the official said. "Meanwhile, the mood toward Pakistan in Washington is the worst it's ever been."
The NSC is getting a new Pakistan director following the departure of Shamila Chaudhary, who left this last week after over a decade in government to join the private sector. She will be replaced by career Foreign Service officer Dawn Schrepel, who most recently worked for former Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg as his special assistant on South and Central Asia issues.
Chaudhary gave up one job to take two new ones, starting today as an analyst for the Eurasia Group as well as senior South Asia Fellow at the New America Foundation. She worked for years as a self-described backbencher at the State Department, before catching Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's attention after the two debated the wisdom of engaging non-governmental centers of power in Pakistan. Soon afterwards, Clinton promoted her to State Department's policy planning staff. She had joined the NSC in April 2010.
"We are thrilled that Shamila is joining our South Asia team at New America," New America President Steve Coll said in a release. "She has worked all of the hard issues on the inside of government and yet retains a fresh, creative, energized and inter-disciplinary perspective. "
"I am delighted to welcome Shamila to the firm," said Eurasia Group Head of Research David Gordon in another release. "Her analytical strength and depth of regional expertise will be a true asset to our Asia coverage."
By choosing Schrepel as Chaudhary's replacement, the NSC can maintain its links to the State Department on Pakistan issues, especially with the office of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman. Chaudhary was a key interlocutor between the NSC and SRAP.
Grossman will be in Pakistan Tuesday for a meeting with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts.
Schrepel has a solid reputation and, although she is not seen as a Pakistan expert per se, she was posted in Karachi for a year. She reports to Jeff Eggers, the active duty Navy SEAL who was recently was named senior director for Afghanistan and Pakistan following the retirement of Bush administration holdover John Tien.
Eggers now leads a team of six directors at the NSC -- three on Pakistan, three on Afghanistan. On Pakistan, there's Schrepel, Phil Reiner from OSD Policy, and Tamanna Salikuddin. The Afghanistan directors are Abigail Friedman, Stan Byers, and Jeff Hayes.
All of them still report up to Gen. Doug Lute, the deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, who is still in place despite months of reports that he was on the way out. The Washington Post's Al Kamen reported last week that Lute told his staff he is staying "indefinitely." We're told that the White House has had trouble finding a suitable replacement for Lute, who still represents a valuable link to the military. Meanwhile, Lute seems content to keep up with the daily grind of Af-Pak policy despite the fact that he has never been a core member of the Obama clique.
Meanwhile, there's still no permanent replacement for departed India Senior Director Anish Goel. His job is being done for the time being by Acting Senior Director Michael Newbill, who accompanied Clinton on her recent trip to India. Newbill reports to Special Advisor Dennis Ross, and India remains on an entirely different bureaucratic branch from Af-Pak in the NSC, as it does at the State Department.
When the late Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Richard Holbrooke created the SRAP office at the State Department, he took a big chunk of the authority and staff from the Bureau of South and Central Asia (SCA). But now that he's gone and the Afghanistan war is maybe, possibly, starting to wind down, the two bureaus should move toward a reunion, the State Department's Inspector General said in a new report released today.
"Communications between SCA and S/SRAP have not been as effective as they could be," the report stated. "With a likely transition of the [Afghanistan and Pakistan] desks and other S/SRAP responsibilities back to SCA in the next several years, SCA needs to begin to be more broadly engaged in or aware of S/SRAP programs and activities that it may inherit at that time."
When Holbrooke entered the Obama administration, he hired 28 staffers -- none of them from SCA --and then told SCA that the bureau no longer had any control over Afghanistan or Pakistan and its current Af-Pak staffers now worked for him. The Nelson Report's Chris Nelson described a February 2009 meeting, which he dubbed the "Grand Confrontation," in which Holbrooke beat down attempts by then-SCA Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher to hold on to his Af-Pak personnel.
"At a summit in Boucher's office with the assembled DAS's [deputy assistant secretaries], et al, Boucher said something to the effect, ‘As you know, you work for me, and you will continue to report TO me, is that clear?'" Nelson reported. "Holbrooke, not looking at Boucher, responded directly to the stunned staffers with, ‘What part of 'you will report directly to ME did you NOT understand?', and there the meeting ended."
Boucher left later that year to become deputy secretary general of the OSCE and was replaced by Robert Blake.
With the looming figure of Holbrooke gone, SRAP's activities, now guided by Marc Grossman, have been pared down. The office has been directed to focus on Afghan reconciliation, which apparently isn't going well. The report often mentions that the key official in charge of coordinating between SRAP and SCA is a Deputy SRAP who is dual-hatted as a DAS in SCA; that's Frank Ruggiero.
The coordination between SRAP and SCA has actually gotten worse since Holbrooke's death, according to the Inspector General. For example, SRAP and SCA hold their weekly meetings at the same time, so nobody can attend both, and SRAP involvement in SCA work has trailed off.
"The flow of communication between SCA and S/SRAP is inadequate, as is SCA's awareness of S/SRAP programs and activities in such areas as strategic communications and regional economic issues," the report said.
But the report treats the eventual incorporation of SRAP back into SCA as inevitable, and advises both sides to start preparing for it.
"When the transition takes place, SCA's awareness of S/SRAP programs and activities will be essential for continuity. To meet its responsibilities, SCA - particularly the bureau's DASes and office directors - will need to be aware of and participate in appropriate S/SRAP meetings and events."
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to mark up a fiscal 2012 State Department and foreign assistance authorization bill July 20, which proposes sweeping changes to the security assistance provided to several governments that have rocky relationships with the United States.
The draft version of the bill, obtained by The Cable, would prevent the allocation of any funds that fall under the State Department's jurisdiction to the government of Pakistan until the administration can reassure Congress that Pakistan is assisting with the investigation into who helped hide Osama bin Laden, a step that will include making bin Laden's relatives available to the U.S. government. Islamabad must also demonstrate that it is not holding up visas for U.S. personnel who are set to go to Pakistan and not diverting U.S.-provided weapons for purposes other than fighting terrorists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
That would effectively defund the Kerry-Lugar aid program, which allocated $1.5 billion in fiscal 2012 and another $400 million in foreign military financing. $800 million in U.S. aid was also suspended earlier this month -- but those funds came from the Pentagon's coffers, not the State Department.
The bill would also prohibit the use of any State Department funding to assist the government of Lebanon until the White House certifies to Congress that no member of Hezbollah or any other terrorist group serves in a policy position in the Lebanese government -- a step that would currently be impossible, because Hezbollah is a major coalition partner in the current government. The Obama administration would also need to certify that Lebanon's security services are free from Hezbollah members, that all Lebanese government ministries are financially transparent, and that the Lebanese government is dismantling all foreign terrorist organizations, which includes Hezbollah
In other words, no foreign military financing or international military education and training (IMET) funding for Lebanon would be permitted if this bill, authored by HFAC Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), were to become law.
Similar restrictions on funding for the Palestinian Authority (PA) make it equally unlikely that any State Department assistance to the Palestinian Authority would be allowed. The bill would condition the aid on the president certifying that the PA is doing several things, including that they have "halted all anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled electronic and print media and in schools, mosques, and other institutions it controls, and is replacing these materials, including textbooks, with materials that promote tolerance, peace, and coexistence with Israel."
Funding for Yemen would also face a series of difficult restrictions, including the stipulation that the president must certify that the Yemeni government "is not complicit in human rights abuses." Hundreds of protesters have been killed since the 5-month old uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is still recovering in Saudi Arabia.
Ros-Lehtinen's bill doesn't stop at restricting foreign assistance to countries that have fraught relations with the United States. The bill would also set into law that it "shall be the policy of the United States to uphold and act in accordance with all of the reassurances provided by the President in an April 14, 2004, letter to the Prime Minister of Israel."
That's a direct swipe at Obama's May 19 declaration that Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations should be based on 1967 borders with agreed swaps. The bill would also require the State Department to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
On China, Ros-Lehtinen's bill would call for a U.S. consulate in Tibet and a Tibet interest section in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. It would also eliminate the East-West Center in Hawaii, a think tank studying U.S.-China relations, and prohibit funding for the U.S.-China Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security that the two countries agreed to establish in January.
The bill also includes language on reinstating the "Mexico City Gag Rule," which would prevent funding for any non-governmental organization that discusses abortion. Republican members of HFAC are also expected to introduce amendments on everything from the United Nations to Libya.
Of course, the bill could change before Wednesday's markup. In fact, this is only the latest of several drafts that have been provided to The Cable over the last couple of weeks. We're told that this draft is close to what the final version that will be presented to the committee.
But that doesn't mean the bill will become law any time soon. Assuming the House leadership gives the bill floor time, it would still have to be reconciled with a version being drafted by the Senate. And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by John Kerry (D-MA), isn't about to put forward a bill that contains such dramatic limits on the Obama administration's foreign policy.
HFAC staffers insist that they want to devise a strategy for their bill to become law by working with the Senate.
The last time a State Department authorization bill actually became law was 2005, although the House did pass one in 2009. Regardless, insiders see the bill as guidance for House appropriators, who plan to mark up the State Department and foreign assistance appropriations bill July 27. That bill could actually become law if Congress ever resolves the current budget crisis and tackles government funding levels for next year.
For those readers out there who aren't budget geeks, the authorization bill simply sets out policy and is not binding when it comes to dollar amounts. The appropriations bill sets funding, and as such actually places money in the State Department's coffers.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday morning that the civilian surge in Afghanistan has peaked, a message that complements President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday night that the United States will withdraw its "surge" troops from the country by next summer..
"We have now reached the height of the civilian surge," Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Looking ahead, as the transition proceeds, we will shift our efforts from short-term stabilization projects to longer-term sustainable development that focuses on spurring growth and integrating Afghanistan into South Central Asia's economy."
The State Department and USAID have more than tripled the number of diplomats, development professionals, and other experts in Afghanistan since 2009, resulting in economic growth, less opium production, and greater educational opportunities for Afghans, she said.
"The aim of our civilian surge was to give Afghans a stake in their country's future and provide credible alternatives to extremism and insurgency -- it was not, nor was it ever designed, to solve all of Afghanistan's development challenges. Measured against these goals, and considering the obstacles we face, we are and should be encouraged by how much has been accomplished," Clinton said.
The focus going forward will be on diplomacy and supporting a reconciliation process that separates the insurgents from the terrorists, she added. Clinton promised that the United States would continue to push for the human rights and values that it has been espousing throughout the conflict.
"Any potential for peace will be subverted if women are marginalized or silenced. And the United States will not abandon our values or support a political process that undoes the social progress that has been made in the past decade," she said. "But we believe that a political solution that meets these conditions is possible."
She did not give details about how the structure or size of the civilian surge would change as U.S. forces begin to withdraw.
As part of the drive for a political solution, the "core group" of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan will meet for the third time next week, Clinton announced. The lead U.S. official in this effort is Special Representative Marc Grossman.
Clinton called on Pakistan to be an active player in the reconciliation process, and to improve its bilateral relationship with Afghanistan. Clinton also made the fiscal argument for civilian power, noting that "an entire year of civilian assistance in Afghanistan costs Americans the same amount as just 10 days of military operations."
Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) opened the hearing with a full throated endorsement of Obama's plan to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and the remainder of the 33,000 surge troops by next summer.
"Because of the gains made in Afghanistan and in the intervening months, I believe it was from a position of strength that the president was able to lay out the next phase of our Afghan strategy," he said, echoing Obama's remarks nearly verbatim.
Kerry called the drawdown plan "significant" and portrayed it as a way to reap the benefits of the surge.
"If you really stop and think about it, we have met our major goals in Afghanistan as articulated by the president," he said. "We have come to the point where this mission can transition."
Kerry also warned Clinton that Congress was growing more and more disillusioned with the U.S. investment in Pakistan, even as Pakistan has increasingly become the center of gravity in the battle against al Qaeda.
"In many ways, the Afghanistan war is a sideshow to the main event next door," Kerry said. "Every senator is asking questions about this relationship and the appropriations people are particularly troubled as they try to figure out what's real in this relationship."
Kerry's GOP counterpart, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), called for more details from the administration and a realistic definition of success in Afghanistan.
"Troop withdrawals are warranted at this stage, but... our president should put forward a plan that focuses on more narrow goals for Afghanistan based on vital national interests and a more sober analysis of what can be achieved," Lugar said.
One of the most prominent, remaining Obama administration justifications for continuing the war in Afghanistan is the need to squash the threat of attacks on the U.S. But top administration officials don't believe there has been a terrorist threat coming from Afghanistan since at least 2004.
"The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: no safe-haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland, or our allies," President Obama said in his Wednesday evening speech to the nation, where he promised to withdraw 10,000 troops this year and all 33,000 surge troops by next summer.
In a conference call with reporters earlier Wednesday, a "senior administration official" said no terrorist threat from Afghanistan has been present for 7 or 8 years, well before the Obama administration surged troops there in 2009.
"On the threat side, we haven't seen a terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan for the past seven or eight years. There has been clearly fighting and threats inside of Afghanistan, but the assessment of anywhere between 50, 75 or so al Qaeda types that are embedded in Haqqani units, basically, tactical fighting units inside of Afghanistan, they are focused inside Afghanistan with no indication at all that there is any effort within Afghanistan to use Afghanistan as a launching pad to carry out attacks outside of Afghan borders," the official said. "The threat has come from Pakistan over the past half-dozen years or so, and longer."
Later in the same conference call, the "senior administration official" repeated the administration's view that there's no terrorist threat coming from Afghanistan and used that assumption to argue there will be no danger in removing the surge troops.
"And so, in taking a look at the drawdown of U.S. troops, the 10,000 this year and then the 33,000 by next summer, it is certainly the view of the people who have been prosecuting this effort from the administration that this is not going to increase the threat," the official said. "Again, we don't see a transnational threat coming out of Afghanistan in terms of the terrorist threat and it's not going to affect at all the threat in Pakistan either."
Of course, if the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan, that could all change. Obama's GOP critics were quick to criticize the president for talking extensively about wrapping up the war and apparently going against the advice of ISAF Commander Gen. David Petraeus.
"When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully, and what that means now is not nation-building. What it means is to follow General Petraeus's advice and to get those security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we draw down," said GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.
"I think we have undercut a strategy that was working." Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CNN. "I think the 10,000 troops leaving this year is going to make this fighting season more difficult. Having all of the surge forces leave by next summer is going to compromise next summer's fighting season."
For those on both the left and right who wanted Obama to withdraw from Afghanistan even more quickly, the acknowledgement that no terrorist threat exists there only reinforces their argument for a speedy exit.
"Our troops have done everything we've asked them to. They've routed the Taliban, dismantled Al Qaeda, and facilitated democratic elections," said GOP candidate Jon Huntsman. "Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight."
"It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the President laid out - and we will continue to press for a better outcome," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Meanwhile, former officials and experts complained that Obama's speech seemed to acknowledge that the U.S. will never be able to prevent the Taliban from playing a role in Afghanistan's future, but failed to spell out a diplomatic solution that addresses how to incorporate the Taliban into the Afghan government.
"I would have liked to have heard much more from him about a diplomatic strategy," Vali Nasr, a former top advisor to the late Richard Holbrooke, said on MSNBC immediately following the speech. "If you cannot end the war militarily, the only other way the war is going to go away is through some kind of deal in which the protagonists agree to a peace settlement. And we haven't done much of that. It hasn't been part of the debate about sending the troops in and it hasn't been a part of the debate of pulling troops out."
"Ultimately wars are fought on battlefields, but they have to finish around the table, and the administration hasn't really outlined how it is going to get there," Nasr said.
What a difference 18 months can make. When President Obama decided to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and 33,000 troops by next September, he apparently took the advice of Vice President Joseph Biden and rejected the advice of ISAF Commander -- soon-to-be CIA director -- Gen. David Petraeus.
In December, 2009, when Obama made the decision to surge 33,000 troops to Afghanistan in the first place, the move was widely seen as a victory for the military and civilian leaders at the Pentagon, joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, over the lighter footprint advocated by Biden. Biden and Petraeus have often been seen to be on opposite sides of the debate over how to fight in Afghanistan, although the vice president has always been supportive of Obama's policy decisions once they were made.
But when Obama announces his decision in a speech from the White House tonight, he will cement a shift in power and influence over the Afghanistan decision making process, away from the general who is in charge of the war, according to the New York Times:
Mr. Obama's decision is a victory for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has long argued for curtailing the American military engagement in Afghanistan. But it is a setback for his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who helped write the Army's field book on counterinsurgency policy, and who is returning to Washington to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
Two administration officials said General Petraeus did not endorse the decision, though both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is retiring, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reluctantly accepted it. General Petraeus had recommended limiting initial withdrawals and leaving in place as many combat forces for as long as possible, to hold on to fragile gains made in recent combat.
Petraeus will leave Afghanistan to head the CIA in September and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has often called for a "modest" reduction of troops, retires next week. Administration officials have been quick to say that Petraeus presented Obama with a "range of options," but Obama's decision to withdraw troops faster than what Petraeus and Gates would prefer is a stark departure from his decision-making process last time around.
Conservative pundits are already seizing on the Times' reporting to criticize Obama's decision. "This is an amazing decision to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," wrote the American Enterprise Institute's Danielle Pletka. "Those in the field believe that lower numbers will result in higher U.S. casualties, reduce the chance of success in stabilizing Afghanistan, and concede territory to the enemy."
SINGAPORE - Political reconciliation talks with the Taliban could begin as early as this winter, but only if the U.S. keeps up the military pressure and convinces the Taliban they are losing the war, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday
"There is a generally accepted view that nearly all conflicts of this kind eventually come to a close with some kind of a political settlement, but the reality is, in my view, that the prospect of a political settlement does not become real until the Taliban and the others... begin to conclude that they cannot win militarily," Gates said following his remarks here at the 10th annual IISS Shangri-La Security Dialogue.
After 15 months of ejecting the Taliban from their home territories in the regions of Helmand and Kandahar, the momentum is on the side of the Afghan government and the NATO coalition, but if there's a military pullback, the prospects for negotiations decrease, he said.
"If we can sustain those successes, if we can further expand the security bubble, we have enough evidence that the Taliban are under pressure and that their capabilities are being degraded, that perhaps this winter the possibility of some kind of political talks or reconciliation might be substantive enough to offer some hope of progress," said Gates.
The Obama administration is devising a strategy for the way forward in Afghanistan referred to internally as "Plan 2014" that may call for U.S. troop reductions beginning this year. But Gates, who leaves office July 1, is warning against such a pullback.
"My own view is that the political opportunities will flow from military pressure. And only as long as the military pressure is kept on and there are further gains, will the prospects for a political solution improve," he said.
Gates reiterated the U.S. position that any reconciliation with the Taliban must include their agreement to sever ties with al Qaeda, agree to adhere to the Afghan constitution, and lay down their arms. But he acknowledged that the Taliban are here to stay.
"The Taliban are probably a part of the political fabric of afg at this point and can... potentially have a political role in the future of that country," said Gates.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Cable in a Saturday interview that he totally agreed with Gates's assessment and would continue to press for heavy military pressure to continue.
"It's very simple. What motivation would the Taliban have to talk if they think they're winning. It clearly is a situation where if they think that they losing... then they will be willing to have serious talks," McCain said.
But McCain admitted that whatever progress has been made militarily in Afghanistan, problems remain with the effort in Pakistan, the relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and corruption in the Afghan government
"If they had good government, they probably wouldn't have the insurgency in the first place," McCain said.
The State Department should press Pakistan to stop the flow of dangerous chemicals that are used to make the roadside bombs that are killing U.S. and allied troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan, 20 U.S. senators wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"We are writing to request that you encourage Pakistani officials to stem the flow of ammonium nitrate into Afghanistan where it is used in improvised explosive devices to kill U.S. troops," states the May 23 letter, led by Sens. Robert Casey (D-PA) and Carl Levin (D-MI). "IEDs have also increasingly become a problem in Pakistan and we urge you to stress this common threat in your meetings with Pakistan's civilian and military leaders."
The State Department hasn't announced whether Clinton will visit Pakistan this month, as was scheduled before the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but an administration official told The Cable that the trip is on. The dates are being held from the public due to security concerns.
Clinton was supposed to lead the third round of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, which is meant to advance the bilateral relationship. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman traveled to Islamabad last week to help set up the talks, but he was also there to press Pakistan to announce goodwill gestures following the discovery of bin Laden in Abbottabad. Clinton's trip will also likely be a mix of both missions.
Specifically, the senators want Pakistan to pass legislation regulating bomb-making chemicals, step up customs enforcement on the Afghan border, and increase public education on the dangers of ammonium nitrate.
"In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, we believe that Pakistan must implement concrete measures, to counter terrorism. Removing ammonium nitrate from the terrorist arsenal is one such good faith measure that is also in Pakistan's national security interest," the senators wrote.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) returned on Tuesday from a trip to Pakistan where he had two somewhat conflicting missions: deliver Congress's tough love message to Islamabad and chart a path forward for mending government-to-government relations.
Kerry gave a long readout of his trip to all Democratic senators on Tuesday at their weekly caucus lunch meeting, after which multiple Democratic senators reported they were more determined than ever to use foreign aid as leverage to pressure Islamabad to go after America's enemies living in their midst.
"Kerry notified [the Pakistani government] that there are some serious problems with their continuing to harbor terrorists like the Haqqani network," Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said upon emerging from the lunch meeting. "He brought forcefully to the attention of Pakistan that their continuing support and harboring of the Haqqanis is creating a big problem for continuing any kind of financial support."
Levin has long called for Pakistan to take stronger action against the Islamic extremist groups in South Waziristan, which include the Quetta Shura, led by Mullah Omar. But now he is ready to put America's money where his mouth is by threatening to link such action to U.S. aid and he thinks he has his caucus' support behind him.
"I believe there is strong feeling inside the Democratic group of senators that the continued harboring of the Haqqani network and the Quetta Shura by the Pakistanis represents a real problem in terms of continuing financial support to Pakistan," Levin said.
Earlier this month, Levin told The Cable that he wants to continue certain types of military aid that are in direct support of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan but wants to more heavily condition economic aid -- such as the $1.5 billion in annual funds provided under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation signed into law last year.
Levin's committee has some sway, but the rubber meets the road at the Appropriations Committee, where Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chairs the subcommittee that dispenses foreign aid. Leahy has long been a critic of U.S. economic aid to Pakistan.
"There are three areas of the world I'm reviewing for the appropriations bill where we may have some significant changes. That's one of the three areas," Leahy told The Cable on Tuesday.
Kerry is now in the uncomfortable position of defending ties with Pakistan. He made a robust case for continued strong relations in Tuesday morning's SFRC hearing on Pakistan with former National Security Advisor Jim Jones.
"As much as some people have reached a level of impatience or serious evaluation about where we are and where we're going, it's very clear to me that we need to be really careful and thoughtful so as to get the policy right, so as to not lose the progress that has been made," Kerry said.
Kerry said at the hearing that he conveyed the angst in Washington regarding Pakistan's behavior to top Pakistani officials and emphasized that "this relationship will not be measured by words or by communiques after meetings like the ones that I engaged in; it will only be measured by actions," he said.
To that end, Pakistan agreed to return the tail of the downed "secret" helicopter from the Navy SEALs raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, Kerry said, and expressed hope of more progress. Special Representative Marc Grossman is due to visit Pakistan later this week and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to go there soon, but that planning is in flux.
SFRC ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN) sounded a note at the hearing similar to Levin's.
"The Obama administration should make clear to Pakistan's military that going after some terrorists while coddling others will not be tolerated," he said. "It should also communicate that the Pakistani military's deliberate fomenting of anti-American demonstrations to oppose U.S. initiatives and Pakistan's own civilian leadership is not acceptable."
Several senators at the hearing complained about providing aid to Pakistan while the country's citizens continue to vilify the United States.
"I'll be interested to hear what Senator Kerry has to say about these items that are -- that are non-aid items, because frankly, I'm getting tired of it, and I think Americans are getting tired of it as far as shoveling money in there to people who just flat don't like us," said Sen. James Risch (R-ID).
"The one thing I'd say to you, Senator, is that right now we have about 100,000 reasons for worrying about our relationship with Pakistan, and they're called our young men and women, and they're in uniform in Afghanistan," Kerry responded.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is on a mission in Islamabad to repair the fractured U.S.-Pakistan relationship and, following meetings with top Pakistani officials, issued a statement that appeared to be on behalf of the U.S. and Pakistani governments.
Kerry, as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an author of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan, is in a perfect position to convey congressional angst following the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad, perhaps for over five years. But he holds no position in the executive branch, which would traditionally determine the status of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.
Kerry met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and then issued a "joint statement" from him and those three leaders that seemed to express agreement between the U.S. and Pakistani governments on a wide range of issues.
"It was agreed that both the U.S. and Pakistan must recognize and respect each others national interests, particularly in countering terrorism and in working together for promoting reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan," read the joint statement, which was posted on the website of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad."It was agreed that all tracks of U.S-Pakistan engagement need to be revisited with a view to creating a clear understanding on the ways and means to carry forward their cooperation, in a mutually beneficial manner. It was also agreed that the two countries will work together in any future actions against high value targets in Pakistan."
"Pakistan's leadership welcomed the clear affirmation by Senator Kerry that U.S. policy has no designs against Pakistan's nuclear and strategic assets. Senator Kerry stated that he was prepared to personally affirm such a guarantee," the statement read.
Kerry also announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would travel to Pakistan soon.
Kerry has traveled to both Pakistan and Afghanistan on behalf of the Obama administration before. He played a key role in smoothing relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last year, and traveled to Lahore in February to help negotiate the repatriation of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, following Davis's killing of two suspected Pakistani intelligence agents in broad daylight.
Meanwhile, the State Department wants to be clear that Kerry does not actually speak for the U.S. government.
"It wasn't a joint statement, it wasn't a U.S. government statement," a State Department official told The Cable.
Nevertheless, Kerry's actions are highly coordinated with the State Department. While Kerry was on the ground, Clinton had phone calls with Zardari, Gilani, and Kayani, a State Department official said, and spoke with Kerry as well.
Kerry is playing an increasingly prominent role in managing the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, relative to that of two other key interlocutors, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and CIA Director Leon Panetta. Panetta, who will be nominated to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reportedly got into a shouting match last week with Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is also getting more face time with top Pakistani officials. He was on the ground in Islamabad the day bin Laden was killed and will be traveling there again this week with CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell.
Grossman has been trying to set up the third round of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, which was scheduled for late May in Islamabad. At Monday's briefing, however, State Department spokesman Mark Toner wouldn't say if the dialogue would take place then.
"The secretary does plan to visit Pakistan in order to have an in-depth strategic discussion about our cooperation and to convey the U.S. government's views on the way forward with Pakistan," Toner said. "She'll go when she can have those discussions in the right context and with the right preparation. And we're engaged right now with the Pakistanis to lay that groundwork."
Vali Nasr, who until recently was a top Pakistan advisor for the SRAP office, told The Cable that Kerry is playing two roles -- delivering a tough message from Congress while also extending an olive branch from the Obama administration.
"His job is to stabilize the relationship. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has suffered serious setbacks. It's important to prevent it from collapsing any further," he said.
"We don't really have any option but to continue our relationship with Pakistan. One lesson from the bin Laden discovery is that if al Qaeda senior leaders are in Pakistan, we have even more work to do there."
As Congress contemplates cutting U.S. aid to Pakistan in light of the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, the funds most at risk from disgruntled lawmakers are those currently allocated to the civilian government that is more sympathetic to Washington, rather than the money going to the Pakistani military, which is more wary of ties to the United States.
This irony is not lost on senior U.S. lawmakers who are thinking about scaling back promises of economic assistance. Most vulnerable are the funds promised under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package, which total $7.5 billion over five years.
Top senators admit that the civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari has staked a lot of its credibility on its decision to stand by Washington. But many in Congress say that the United States needs the Pakistani military to help it fight the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, so they're more reluctant to cut this funding.
"The part that I'm most skeptical of is the economic part, the 5 year Kerry-Lugar plan," Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) told The Cable in a Tuesday interview.
Levin's committee has control of the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, which goes directly to the Pakistani military, but he won't cut that funding in his authorization bill.
"It's not a matter of which part of the government to support, it's the mission or activities that are in our interest. And the military pieces that we're supporting, which is reimbursement of their costs for supporting our effort in Afghanistan plus training their military on the border, that's clearly in our interest," Levin said.
He said it's also in the U.S. interest for Pakistan to develop into a stable democracy that can provide for itself -- but that's not the most pressing issue at the moment.
"Sure, that's also in our interest but not as clearly," said Levin. "Plus, the money is much more easily transferable on the economic side than on the military side."
Several top senators, including Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Ops chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), also want to scale back the Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding because they don't feel it's being wisely spent or that the oversight is in place.
Two lawmakers who have called for a review of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding in the wake of the bin Laden killing are Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), two of the three authors of the legislation. As leaders on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee, they play a role in authorizing the funds each year.
"Very little of the money has been spent -- only $179 million has been allocated from the $1.5 billion this year -- largely because we never worked out the accountability of the money, who in Pakistan would spend, how we would audit what they were doing, nor have we agreed on the projects," Lugar told The Cable in a Tuesday interview.
"We've made very little headway," Lugar said, although he added that he is among those who want to keep up ties with both Pakistan's military and civilian officials.
"We have to stay engaged and we've been through this before," he said. "We need to find ways to have a better rapport with Pakistan."
Berman has criticized the administration's decision to certify that Pakistan "demonstrated a sustained commitment towards combating terrorism," a requirement under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill passed last year. He wants the administration to use the money as leverage to pressure the Pakistanis to more aggressively go after militant groups.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) told The Cable on Tuesday that he would soon send a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that funds to Pakistan be cut off if the administration can't stand by that certification.
According to the most recent chart compiled by the Congressional Research Service (PDF), the U.S. government has given Pakistan $20.7 billion in aid since fiscal 2002, and is requesting another $2.9 billion for Pakistan in next year's budget.
From that total, $14.2 billion has gone to the Pakistani military, primarily for coalition support funding, reimbursement for counterterrorism operations, and foreign military. Of the $6.5 billion in aid to Pakistan that has gone to the civilian side, $4.8 billion was provided to "economic support funds," and the rest was spread out between programs such as food aid and international disaster assistance.
UPDATE: Berman's spokesperson Gabby Adler writes in to clarify Berman's position on the aid:
Ranking Member Berman is primarily concerned about security assistance for Pakistan. The section 203 certification made by the Secretary of State applies to security assistance, not civilian assistance, and Mr. Berman maintains that strengthening Pakistan's civilian government and democratic institutions remains one of the few ways to ensure a long-term, healthy relationship with that country.
As Congress prepares several ways to challenge U.S. aid funding to Pakistan following the revelation that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, one senior congressman is highlighting the Pakistan-China relationship as a key reason to distrust Islamabad.
"In 1998 Pakistan's military and intelligence services facilitated the transfer to Communist China of a Taliban recovered unexploded American Tomahawk cruise missile, which we fired in an attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden and members of al-Qaeda. The Communist Chinese reversed engineered the missile and dissected its components allowing them to learn its vulnerabilities and defeat its capabilities," stated a May 9 "Dear Colleague" letter sent to all lawmakers from the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
The title of Rohrabacher's letter reads, "Is Pakistan Planning to Give Our Secret Special Forces Helicopter to Communist China?"
"Pakistan must immediately return the debris to avoid compromising American secrets," the letter stated. "If this is not done now it is probable, given Pakistan's history, that the debris will find its way into the hands of the Communist Chinese military that is buying, building, and stealing the necessary military technology to challenge the United States."
The letter comes at a particularly sensitive time, as over 100 Chinese officials are in Washington today for the first day of the U.S.-China Security and Economic Dialogue, hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Rohrabacher has long been critical of the Chinese government. During Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington in January, he compared Chinese officials to Nazis because of their treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.
On May 5, Rohrabacher introduced a bill to completely defund U.S. assistance to Pakistan. As of today, the bill has no co-sponsors.
But while Rohrabacher's bill may never be passed, his frustration with Pakistan's handling of nuclear and military technology, including its disbursement of nuclear technology through the network of scientist A.Q. Khan, is increasingly seen on Capitol Hill as evidence that Pakistan's suspected harboring of bin Laden is not an isolated incident.
"The Pakistani government has built and proliferated nuclear weapons and technology around the globe in contradiction of American security. Yet, the Pakistan government continues to benefit from huge sums of American cash," his letter stated. "They are laughing at us."
U.S. officials had been frustrated by Pakistan's refusal to cooperate in the mission to apprehend Osama bin Laden for over 10 years, according to government documents released Thursday by the National Security Archive.
"As the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, raises fresh questions about U.S.-Pakistan relations, newly released documents show that as early as 1998 U.S. officials concluded the Government of Pakistan ‘is not disposed to be especially helpful on the matter of terrorist Usama bin Ladin,'" stated the release on the website of the National Security Archives, which is housed at the George Washington University.
"According to previously secret U.S. documents, Pakistani officials repeatedly refused to act on the Bin Laden problem, despite mounting pressure from American authorities. Instead, in the words of a U.S. Embassy cable, Pakistani sources ‘all took the line that the issue of bin Ladin is a problem the U.S. has with the Taliban, not with Pakistan.'"
The archives posted six new documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, as part of its Osama bin Laden File. The documents date from 1998 to 2000 and therefore do not represent the policies of the current Pakistani government led by President Asif ali Zardari, nor Pakistan's policies following the 9/11 attacks. But they do show a history of deep distrust between the United States and Pakistan in the early years of the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, despite efforts by former President Bill Clinton's administration to convince Pakistan to help bring bin Laden to justice.
According to an Aug. 21, 1998 internal memo written by then Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Affairs Karl F. Inderfurth, the Pakistani government tried to distance itself from U.S. strikes on an al Qaeda target in Afghanistan that year, which were a response to the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. "The most sincere reaction of the government of Pakistan to the Bin Laden strikes is exasperation at the unneeded difficulties this event has created for them in dealing with their domestic political situation, and in particular, in keeping the religious parties happy and relatively off the street," he wrote.
According to internal State Department talking points from November 1998, continued efforts to exert pressure on the Taliban to expel bin Laden, including efforts to convince Pakistan to put pressure the Taliban, were unsuccessful. "Time for a diplomatic solution may be running out," the memo stated.
After Clinton met with then Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif in Washington on Dec. 2, 1998, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad sent a diplomatic cable Dec. 18 that communicated their impression that the Pakistani government "is not disposed to be especially helpful on the matter of terrorist Usama bin Ladin." The cable also quoted a news article it claimed was sourced to the Pakistani government, which warned of a U.S. military or clandestine strike to get bin Laden. The article said that the Pakistani government does "not want to have anything to do with Washington's anti Osama crusade."
U.S. officials continued to press Pakistan on bin Laden throughout 1999, but got little positive response. A May 1999 diplomatic cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad expressed continued frustration with Pakistan's handling of the bin Laden issue. Top Pakistani officials told their U.S. interlocutors that they were taking the bin Laden issue seriously, but they did not know where he was and did not believe he was planning to attack the United States. One Pakistani official was quoted as admitting that Pakistan was preoccupied with "the recent increase in Indo-Pakistani tensions over Kashmir."
By November 2000, following the attack on the USS Cole and less than a year before the 9/11 attacks, the level of frustration had increased such that Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering opened a meeting with Pakistani officials "by expressing disappointment that Pakistan, whom he called a good friend of the U.S., was not taking steps to help with Usama bin Ladin," according to a diplomatic cable.
Foreshadowing the unilateral raid on May 1 inside Pakistan that ended with bin Laden's death, Pickering warned the Pakistanis that the United States "would always act to protect U.S. interests at a time and place of its own choice."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that Osama bin Laden's death could advance the effort to reach a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan, because it might convince the Taliban and al Qaeda to come to the negotiating table.
"In Afghanistan, we have to continue to take the fight to al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. Perhaps now they will take seriously the work that we are doing on trying to have some reconciliation process that resolves the insurgency," Clinton said on Wednesday to a conference of editorial writers at the State Department. "So our message to the Taliban hasn't changed; it just has even greater resonance today. They can't wait us out, they can't defeat us; they need to come into the political process and denounce al Qaeda and renounce violence and agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan."
Clinton said that bin Laden's death would make al Qaeda and the Taliban more likely to strike a deal in Afghanistan because they will have no grand leader to rally around.
"Well, a lot of people say, well, [bin Laden's deputy Ayman] al-Zawahiri will step into it. But that's not so clear. He doesn't have the same sense of loyalty or inspiration or track record," she said. "I mean, bin Laden was viewed as a military warrior. He had fought in Afghanistan. He wasn't an intellectual. He wasn't just a talker. He had been a fighter, so he carried with him a quite significant mystique."
"The Taliban did not give up al Qaeda when President Bush asked them to after 9/11, because of Mullah Omar's personal relationship with bin Laden. That's gone, so I think it opens up possibilities for dealing with the Taliban that did not exist before."
At least one Pakistani Taliban group, Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), has already said that it is planning to increase attacks in the wake of bin Laden's death -- and will not come to the negotiating table. "Now Pakistani rulers, President Asif Ali Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target," TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said on Tuesday.
And Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan's Tehrik-e-Insaaf party said on Tuesday that the United States has transformed bin Laden into a martyr.
"For all these people who think the U.S. is not fighting terrorism but fighting Islam, [bin Laden] will become a holy warrior and an inspiration for legions of jihadis. All it will do is increase extremism," he said.
But Stephen Biddle, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the Afghan Taliban, namely the Quetta al Shura, might be more amenable to negotiations than the Pakistani Taliban, because they are the ones getting hammered by U.S. forces and are suspected to be internally divided over whether or not to maintain their alliance with al Qaeda.
Quetta al Shura's only statement on bin Laden's death so far was to express doubt that he was really killed.
"Negotiating with the Quetta al Shura Taliban is easier without the personal commitment of Mullah Omar to Osama bin Laden as a constraint. The only question is how much easier. I'm inclined to think there are a lot more barriers than just this," Biddle said.
"There has been plenty of speculation that the field command in Afghanistan and the high command in Pakistan have been experiencing deepening schsms."
Clinton also said that the administration would try to use the bin Laden death to make the case that now is not the time to cut funding for diplomacy and development at the State Department and USAID.
"We're going to be working to bolster our partnerships even now, particularly as people are digesting this news. We're going to look for ways to put this into the context of the larger debate we're having here at home about what it takes to stay engaged in the world," she said.
Clinton argued that the Obama administration's increased funding for State and USAID helped in the mission to find and kill bin Laden, although she didn't give any details on how State was involved in the overall mission to find and kill bin Laden.
"Our tools were so much better [than in the previous administration] and our relationships had evolved in a way that enabled us to obtain information that was actionable. So it takes funding and it takes resources, and it takes having those person-to-person connections that really make a difference," she said.
Asked about how the killing of bin Laden would impact the wave of democratic revolutions sweeping the Arab world, Clinton said the final impact was unpredictable but that the United States could influence how the region digests the news.
"Up until now, the Middle East and North Africa have been very focused internally, what were they going to do in Egypt to navigate their revolution, what was finally going to happen in the other places," she said. "This is an event that breaks through that, but which way it breaks is not clear yet. If we can keep the emphasis on his extremist ideology, his use of violence is not what brought about the Arab spring, I think we can begin to shape how people think about it."
Only days after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Senate will begin a series of hearings to assess the progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the way forward in the war on al Qaeda.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) chairman John Kerry (D-MA) announced the hearings Monday, framing them as a forum "to debate the end-state in Afghanistan, assess the strategic relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and examine regional implications." The hearings have been planned for some time, but the killing of bin Laden gives them new focus and increased importance, he said.
"The killing of Osama bin Laden closes an important chapter in our war against extremists who kill innocent people around the world," Kerry said in a statement. "A single death does not end the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliated groups and highlights the need to thoroughly evaluate our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need to make certain we are asking tough questions about the direction and effectiveness of our policy."
Kerry has been an integral part of the administration's Afghanistan and Pakistan diplomacy. He was personally dispatched to mend ties with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in October 2009, and traveled to Lahore, Pakistan, in February to defuse tensions over the killing of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis. Kerry was also there to negotiate the terms of Davis's release.
The committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), echoed Kerry's concerns about the lingering danger of al Qaeda in a statement on Sunday night, in which he said "the death of Osama bin Laden is welcome news, but it in no way eliminates the threat from the terrorism he espoused."
On Tuesday, the SFRC will hear testimony on Afghanistan from Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, former State Department Policy Planning Director Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
On May 5, the committee will shift its focus to Pakistan and will hear from Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director at the International Crisis Group, Moeed Yusuf, South Asia adviser at U.S. Institute of Peace's Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, and Michael Krepon, co-founder and senior associate for South Asia at the Stimson Center. More hearings will be announced soon, a committee spokesman said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also struck a cautious note in her Monday remarks on bin Laden's death.
"Continued cooperation will be just as important in the days ahead, because even as we mark this milestone, we should not forget that the battle to stop al Qaeda and its syndicate of terror will not end with the death of bin Laden," she said. "Indeed, we must take this opportunity to renew our resolve and redouble our efforts."
The mission to kill Osama bin Laden was years in the making, but began in earnest last fall with the discovery of a suspicious compound near Islamabad, and culminated with a helicopter based raid in the early morning hours in Pakistan Sunday.
"Last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground," President Obama told the nation in a speech Sunday night.
"Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body," he said.
Sitting in a row of chairs beside the podium were National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Press Secretary Jay Carney stood in the back with about a dozen White House staffers.
Since last August, Obama convened at least 9 meetings with national security principals about this operation and the principals met 5 times without the president, a senior administration official said. Their deputies met 7 times formally amid a flurry of other interagency communications and consultations.
ABC News reported that the principals' meetings were held on March 14, March 29, April 12, April 19 and April 28.
Last week Obama finally had enough intelligence last to take action. The final decision to go forward with the operation was made at 8:20 AM on Friday, April 29 in the White House's Diplomatic Room. In the room at the time were Donilon, his deputy Denis McDonough, and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan. Donilon prepared the formal orders.
On Sunday, Obama went to play golf in the morning at Andrews Air Force Base. He played 9 holes in chilly, rainy weather and spent a little time on the driving range, as well. Meanwhile, the principals were assembling in the situation room at the White House. They were there from 1:00 PM and stayed put for the rest of the day.
At 2:00, Obama met with the principals back at the White House. At 3:32 he went to the situation room for another briefing. At 3:50 he was told that bin Laden was "tentatively identified." At 7:01 Obama was told there was a "high probability" the high value target at the compound was bin Laden. At 8:30 Obama got the final briefing.
Before speaking to the nation, Obama called former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Three senior administration officials briefed reporters late Sunday night on the surveillance, intelligence, and military operations that ended with bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. operatives.
"The operation was the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work," a senior administration official said.
The stream of information that led to Sunday's raid began over four years ago, when U.S. intelligence personnel were alerted about two couriers who were working with al Qaeda and had deep connections to top al Qaeda officials. Prisoners in U.S. custody flagged these two couriers as individuals who might have been helping bin Laden, one official said
"One courier in particular had our constant attention," the official said. He declined to give that courier's name but said he was a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a "trusted assistant" of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a former senior al Qaeda officer who was captured in 2005.
"Detainees also identified this man as one of the few couriers trusted by bin Laden," the official said. The U.S. intelligence community uncovered the identity of this courier four years ago, and two years ago, the U.S. discovered the area of Pakistan this courier and his brother were working in.
In August 2010, the intelligence agencies found the exact compound where this courier was living, in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The neighborhood is affluent and many retired Pakistani military officials live there.
"When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw," one official said.
The compound was 8 times larger than the other homes around it. It was built in 2005 in an area that was secluded at that time. There were extraordinary security measures at the compound, including 12 to 18 foot walls topped with barbed wire.
There were other suspicious indicators at the compound. Internal sections were walled off from the rest of the compound. There were two security gates. The residents burned their trash. The main building had few windows.
The compound, despite being worth over $1 million, had no telephone or internet service. There's no way the courier and his brother could have afforded it, the official said.
"Intelligence officials concluded that this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance," the official said, adding that the size and makeup of one of the families living there matched the suspected makeup of bin Laden's entourage.
The intelligence community had high confidence that the compound had a high value target, and the analysts concluded there was high probability that target was bin Laden, one official said.
When the small team of U.S. operatives raided the compound in the early morning hours Sunday Pakistan time, they encountered resistance and killed three men besides bin Laden and one woman. The three men were the two couriers and one of bin Laden's sons. The woman was being used as a human shield, one official said. Two other women were injured.
One U.S. helicopter was downed due to unspecified "maintenance" issues, one official said. The U.S. personnel blew up the helicopter before leaving the area. The team was on the ground for only 40 minutes.
A senior defense official told CNN that US Navy SEALs were involved in the mission.
No other governments were briefed on the operation before it occurred, including the host government Pakistan.
"That was for one reason and one reason alone. That was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel," one official said. Only a "very small group of people" inside the U.S. government knew about the operation. Afterwards, calls were made to the Pakistani government and several other allied countries.
"Since 9/11 the United States has made it clear to Pakistan that we would pursue bin Laden wherever he might be," one official said. "Pakistan has long understood we are at war with al Qaeda. The United States had a moral and legal obligation to act on the information it had."
Americans abroad should stay indoors be aware of the increased threat of attacks following bin Laden's killing, the State Department said in a new travel warning issued Sunday night. State also issued a specific travel warning for Pakistan.
"Al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers may try to respond violently to avenge bin Laden's death and other terrorist leaders may try to accelerate their efforts to attack the United States," one official said. "We have always understood that this fight would be a marathon and not a sprint."
The State Department is giving the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) back to the Pentagon for the rest of the year, as part of the budget deal struck between Congress and the administration to avert a government shutdown.
The budget deal took $8.5 billion away from the State Department and foreign operations for the remainder of fiscal 2011. The administration had requested $1.2 billion in the State Department's budget for PCCF this year, but the new budget deal cuts that request by $400 million and transfers the remaining $800 to the Defense Department, under what DOD calls the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Fund (PCF).
The Pentagon was in fact the original owner of that fund. But transferring the money as well as the program's management to Foggy Bottom was a key part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's plan to assert more State Department control of foreign military assistance programs.
The State Department may have agreed to give up the fund out of convenience. By moving the remaining $800 million of PCCF funding back to DOD, State managed to remove about 10 percent of the total $8.5 billion in budget cuts, thereby saving several other programs.
For next year's budget, State has requested $1.0 billion for PCCF, but nobody knows whether or not that money will be given to State or DOD. State perhaps has a better chance of keeping the PCCF money in fiscal 2012, as opposed to fiscal 2011, because next year the money is being requested as emergency war funding and therefore does not have to fit under the regular budget limits.
Overall, the PCCF funding is one piece of a larger puzzle in which State is competing with DOD for authorities and programs that both have a role in. If the PCCF funding is any indication, these decisions are now largely being made to fit budget realities, and are less a result of considerations over which agency is best suited to manage which issue.
"It looks like the transfer of responsibility for Pakistan counterinsurgency programs from DOD to State, which the Congress wanted to do, has been delayed," said Gordon Adams, former Office of Management and Budget director for national security spending, now a professor at American University. "Could be it was easier to fund the program this way, which sets a bad precedent for the future."
U.S. citizen and CIA contractor Raymond Davis was released from a Pakistani prison on Wednesday after $2.3 million was paid to the families of the two Pakistani men he shot and killed and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said repeatedly on Wednesday that the United States had not paid any "blood money" to win his release.
But that's not the whole story. The truth is that the Pakistani government paid the victims' families the $2.3 million and the U.S. promised to reimburse them in the future, according to a senior Pakistani official.
Clinton's interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep was only one of many where Clinton refused to say how the money got into the hands of the Pakistani victims' families. Here's the exchange:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, the United States did not pay any compensation. The families of the victims of the incident on January 27th decided to pardon Mr. Davis. And we are very grateful for their decision. And we are very grateful to the people and Government of Pakistan, who have a very strong relationship with us that we are committed to strengthening.
QUESTION: According to wire reports out of Pakistan, the law minister of the Punjab Province, which is where this took place, says the blood money was paid. Is he mistaken?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you'll have to ask him what he means by that.
QUESTION: And a lawyer involved in the case said it was 2.34 million. There is no money that came from anywhere?
SECRETARY CLINTON: The United States did not pay any compensation.
QUESTION: Did someone else, to your knowledge?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You will have to ask whoever you are interested in asking about that.
QUESTION: You're not going to talk about it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have nothing to answer to that.
In several other interviews, Clinton told reporters to ask the families -- or anyone else other than the U.S. government -- how the reported $2.3 million appeared. Obama administration officials want to focus on the fact that Davis is now returning home, not the quid pro quo that made it happen.
"The understanding is the Pakistani government settled with the family and the U.S. will compensate the Pakistanis one way or the other," the senior Pakistani official told The Cable.
The U.S. government didn't want to set a precedent of paying blood money to victims' families in exchange for the release of U.S. government personnel, the source said, adding that the deal also successfully avoided a ruling on Davis's claim of diplomatic immunity -- an issue that had become a political firestorm in Pakistan.
As the Washington Post's David Ignatius explains, the deal for Davis was part of a larger agreement to mend ties between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the country's main spy agency. Relations between the two agencies, which were already strained, totally broke down after the Davis incident because the ISI no longer trusted the CIA to inform them of its activities inside Pakistan. The two victims Davis shot and killed were allegedly ISI agents. But now, the two spy agencies will sit down and establish "new rules of engagement" and resume cooperation, the official said.
"Now ISI and CIA are working on ensuring that their relationship remains on track and there are no future undeclared CIA operations in Pakistan that result in jeopardizing bilateral relations," the official explained.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) played a key role in getting the deal done. He traveled to Pakistan in February to lobby for the deal with a host of Pakistani interlocutors.
"This deal had four principal architects," Ignatius wrote. "Hussein Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, who shared the ‘blood money' idea with Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry then traveled to Pakistan, where he met with President Asif Ali Zardari, with the leaders of the Punjab government that was holding Davis, and with top officials of the ISI. Haqqani also visited CIA Director Leon Panetta the evening of Feb. 28 to share the ‘blood money' idea with him, according to a U.S. official. The final details were worked out by Panetta and ISI Director-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha."
In the end, the Pakistanis and the U.S. government can claim the deal is a win-win scenario. For Pakistan, the families' grievances have been resolved: They have been relocated within the country and the settlement is in accordance with Pakistani law. Moreover, the government of Punjab province was on board, and Zardari was able to find a solution to what had become a messy political situation for him.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, can claim victory for having secured Davis's return and will argue that no precedent was set on the subject of diplomatic immunity that could be used against the United States in the event of a similar incident in the future.
"Pakistani diplomacy worked out well, quietly and behind-the-scenes," the official said. "Pakistan's anti-U.S. media and its Jihadi sources were, as always, louder than the realities."
President Barack Obama held his monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday morning with a new roster of officials in attendance.
Past White House Af-Pak meetings have included a wide range of national security officials, but with both U.S.-Afghanistan and U.S.-Pakistan relations at a low point, today's group was expanded to include top officials from the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, and several new members of the administration.
Attorney General Eric Holder and attended the meeting for the first time. Other officials who are new additions to the roster include new White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the new special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, the new deputy secretary of State, Thomas Nides, head of the Office of the Defense Representative in Islamabad (via video conference), Vice Adm. Michael LeFever, and Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan Tony Wayne (via video conference).
Returning officials in the room included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, Deputy NSA Denis McDonough, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, CIA Director Leon Panetta, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman James Cartwright, Afghanistan Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Pakistan Ambassador Cameron Munter (via video conference), Deputy NSA Tony Blinken, CENTCOM Commander Gen. James Mattis, Commander, ISAF Commander Gen. David Petraeus, (via video conference), and NSC Coordinator for Af-Pak Doug Lute, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin.
Munter and LeFever have been intensely involved in the diplomatic crisis caused by the arrest in Lahore of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, which has stalled U.S.-Pakistani strategic cooperation. The Pakistani courts rejected Davis' claim on immunity Wednesday. Petraeus, Wayne, and many others have been dealing with the fallout of the accidental killing of 9 Afghan boys in Afghanistan's Pech Valley by U.S. forces Tuesday.
"We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions. These deaths should have never happened," Petraeus said on Wednesday.
U.S. economic aid to Pakistan, which totals over $1.5 billion per year, is a key part of the Obama administration's strategy to strengthen the U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership. However, most of the aid that was allocated for last year is still in U.S. government coffers.
Only $179.5 million out of $1.51 billion in U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan was actually disbursed in fiscal 2010, the Government Accountability Office stated in a report released last week. Almost all of that money was distributed as part of the Kerry-Lugar aid package passed last year.
$75 million of those funds were transferred to bolster the Benazir Income Support Program, a social development program run by the Pakistani government. Another $45 million was given to the Higher Education Commission to support "centers of excellence" at Pakistani universities; $19.5 million went to support Pakistan's Fulbright Scholarship program; $23.3 million went to flood relief; $1.2 billion remains unspent.
None of the funds were spent to construct the kind of water, energy, and food infrastructure that former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Richard Holbrooke advocated for diligently when he was the lead administration official in charge of managing the money. Moreover, according to the report, the Obama administration hasn't yet set up the mechanisms to make sure the money isn't misspent.
"The full impact of the fiscal year 2010 civilian assistance could not be determined because most of the funding had not yet been disbursed," the report stated. The GAO tracked Kerry-Lugar money sent to Pakistan up until Dec. 31. "It will take some time before significant outcomes of the civilian assistance can be measured."
Holbrooke's office, which is now run by the new SRAP Marc Grossman, told The Cable that the leftover funds were due to the fact that the money was appropriated belatedly and the first year of the program carried with it unique challenges.
"While the facts of the GAO report are accurate, it doesn't reflect the big picture nor adequately represent what we've achieved with civilian assistance over the last year," said Jessica Simon, a spokesperson for the SRAP office. "As the FY 2010 funding was appropriated in April 2010, it is hardly surprising that only a portion of the funding was disbursed by the end of the year."
Simon said that in total, the U.S. government has disbursed $878 million of Pakistan-specific assistance since October 2009, which includes over $514 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the devastating July 2010 floods.
The floods also slowed the progress of the Kerry-Lugar program, Sen. John Kerry's spokesman Frederick Jones told The Cable.
"The floods last summer changed the Pakistani landscape, literally and figuratively, and required us to take a step back and reexamine all of our plans," Jones said. "Bureaucracies move slowly and redirecting aid at this level requires time and some patience. It is difficult to allocate billions of dollars in a responsible way without proper vetting, which takes time."
Experts note that the disparity between U.S. promises to Pakistan and funds delivered is a constant irritant in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
"There are always complaints and in terms of the delays there are pretty valid reasons on both sides," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. He said that Congress's requirement that the money be tracked and accounted for is a source of contention.
"For a long time the U.S. didn't ask any questions about the money. And so it became a bit of a shock," he said.
The GAO has long called for better oversight of the funds, especially in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). This lack of accountability is what spurred Congress to mandate better oversight of the Kerry-Lugar money, including provisions that require reporting on the Pakistani military's level of assistance to the United States.
Those provisions were portrayed in some parts of the Pakistani press as unwarranted interference in Pakistani affairs. Popular reception of the Kerry-Lugar bill in Pakistan was filled with skepticism of U.S. intentions.
Regardless, Holbrooke was determined to make sure the money achieved the desired result of improving America's image in Pakistan. He battled successfully with some in Congress and even those inside the Obama administration to steer the money directly toward Pakistani organizations rather than filtering it through USAID contractors.
"The big shift was that the Pakistani government had complained that most of the money was being given to U.S. contractors and not making it Pakistan. The big shift was to reduce the role of the beltway bandits... and that shift is here to stay," said Nawaz.
According to the GAO, the United States has given Pakistan over $18 billion, mostly in security-related aid, since 2002.
A host of top U.S. military officials held a secret day-long meeting with Pakistan's top military officers on Tuesday in Oman to plot a course out of the diplomatic crisis that threatens the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
The United States was represented by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Adm. Eric Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, Stars and Stripes reported. The Pakistani delegation included Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's chief of army staff, and Maj. Gen. Javed Iqbal, director general of military operations.
The meeting was planned long ago and covered various aspects of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, but a large portion was dedicated to the diplomatic crisis surrounding Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who was arrested in Lahore, Pakistan, last month after fatally shooting two armed Pakistani men.
"Where do you go to think seriously and bring sanity to a maddening situation? Far from the madding crowd to a peaceful Omani luxury resort of course. So that's what the military leadership of the US and Pakistan did," wrote Gen. Jehangir Karamat in a read out of the meeting obtained by The Cable and confirmed by a senior Pakistani official. Karamat is a former chief of Pakistan's army, and also served as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2004.
"The US had to point out that once beyond a tipping point the situation would be taken over by political forces that could not be controlled," Karamat wrote about the meeting, referring to the reported split between the CIA and the Pakistani Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) that erupted following the Davis shooting.
In Oman U.S. officials implored the Pakistani military to step up its involvement in the Davis case, following the Pakistani government's decision to pass the buck to the judicial system on adjudicating Davis' claim of diplomatic immunity. However, their concerns also went beyond this most recent diplomatic spat.
"[T]he US did not want the US-Pakistan relationship to go into a free fall under media and domestic pressures," Karamat wrote. "These considerations drove it to ask the [Pakistani] Generals to step in and do what the governments were failing to do-especially because the US military was at a critical stage in Afghanistan and Pakistan was the key to control and resolution."
"The militaries will now brief and guide their civilian masters and hopefully bring about a qualitative change in the US-Pakistan Relationship by arresting the downhill descent and moving it in the right direction."
A senior Pakistani official confirmed the accuracy of Karamat's analysis to The Cable. The official said that the Davis incident would hopefully now be put on a path toward resolution following a feeding frenzy in the Pakistani media, which has reported on rumors of an extensive network of CIA contract spies operating outside of the Pakistani government's or the ISI's knowledge.
"The idea is to find a solution whereby the Davis incident does not hijack the U.S.-Pakistan relationship," the official said. The most probable outcome, the official explained, is that Davis would be turned over to the United States, following a promise from the U.S. government to investigate the incident.
The United States would also compensate the families of the two Pakistani men killed by Davis, and a third man who died after two other U.S. embassy personnel ran him over while racing to the scene of the shooting. Negotiations between U.S. officials and the family members are already underway, the official said.
Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, said that it was the responsibility of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, led until recently by Shah Mahmood Qureshi, to resolve the Davis case. Qureshi was removed as Foreign Minister after reportedly refusing to go along with the government's plan to grant Davis immunity.
"It's really the Foreign Ministry's responsibility," said Nawaz, "But in the absence of action by the civilian government, if the military can help persuade them to resolve this matter and find the way, that's all for the better."
But once the Davis case is resolved, there's still much work to be done in repairing the relationship between the CIA and the ISI. The ISI is widely suspected of airing its anger with the CIA in both the Pakistani and U.S. media. The latest example was Wednesday's Associated Press story that featured a never-before released ISI "statement" that said the Davis case was putting the entire ISI-CIA relationship in jeopardy.
The CIA and the ISI are talking, the Pakistani official said, but the path toward reconciliation will be a long one.
"It's a spy game being played out in the media and the CIA has told the ISI to cut it out," the official said. "The relationship remains testy. But after the meeting between Mullen and Kayani the likelihood of some resolution has increased."
Inside the Pakistani government, the Davis case has exacerbated internal tensions between the civilian government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, and the ISI. Pakistani news agencies have been reporting that the Pakistani embassy in Washington has approved hundreds of visas for American officials without proper vetting, increasing the ease with which covert CIA operatives could enter the country.
Pakistan's Ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani has denied that any visas had been issued from his embassy without proper authorization. An analysis of Pakistani visas granted to U.S. government employees, conducted by the Pakistani government, shows there has been no significant increase in the number of visas issued since 2007.
Regardless, the gentlemen's agreement between the ISI and the CIA that the two organizations would keep each other informed on each other's actions in Pakistan has now broken down.
"It's a vicious circle. Davis was in Pakistan because Pakistan can't be trusted. But Davis getting caught has increased the mistrust," the Pakistani official said. "Their interests are no longer congruent. Eventually the ISI and the CIA will have to work out new rules of engagement."
As protests rage in Bahrain and Libya, the U.S. government's stance toward democracy in the Arab world is evolving, even in Congress. On Wednesday, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said that the United States must abandon its decades-old habit of supporting autocrats.
"The old days of ‘as long as we can make a positive relationship with the autocrat who's running the place, then we are friends with the country' are dead and gone," Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told a group of reporters over breakfast on Wednesday.
"We have to be much more interested in trying to get the actual populations in those countries to be supportive of us," Smith said. "What we have to start thinking about in the foreign policy establishment is what shifts in our foreign policy do we need to make to target the populations."
Smith said that over the last decades, the U.S. policy of supporting regimes that abused power turned many Arabs against the United States and bolstered often violent opposition movements, some of which could now be poised to take power.
"It was a long term bad strategy... We were winning the battle but losing the war," Smith said. "There's a reason we opted in the past for the ‘Let's just make friends with the autocrat' approach. It's much easier."
But Smith, who represents the district where the U.S. Army base of Fort Lewis is located, defended military aid to countries including Jordan, Pakistan, and Israel as useful tools of American influence.
Smith also said that military aid to Cairo must continue while the Egyptian military undertakes the process of reform. "Where Egypt is concerned, it's going to depend on what their government ultimately looks like," Smith said. "Right now, today? Yes."
Smith admitted the difficulty of supporting popular Arab movements while also defending U.S. interests, laying out several concerns he had about the largest and most organized Egyptian opposition group -- the Muslim Brotherhood.
"One of the things to understand about [the Muslim Brotherhood's approach in Egypt... their ultimate goals haven't changed," Smith said. "I don't think the people of Egypt want to trade one totalitarian group for another... we have a definite interest in making sure that doesn't happen."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) is in Pakistan, but not only to negotiate the release of an American diplomat imprisoned there. Kerry's trip was designed to reset U.S.-Pakistan relations, which have been strained by recent events.
"We have many mutual interests. And that's what brings me here," Kerry said at a press conference upon arriving in Lahore on Tuesday, the city where U.S. diplomat Raymond Davis was arrested on Jan. 27 after fatally shooting two Pakistani men. The U.S. government has been demanding Davis be released from prison because, as an employee of the embassy there, he has diplomatic immunity. Kerry said that rescuing Davis, however, wasn't the focus of his visit.
"I'm here, because in the middle of events that seem to be focusing people narrowly, we need to remember and think about the things that we care about and that we're both fighting for the bigger, the bigger strategic interests," Kerry said. "And we cannot allow one thing or another that might divide us in a small way to take away from the things that unite us in a big way."
Behind the scenes, a high-level government source familiar with the discussions said that Kerry crafted the trip and his message on his own. President Obama asked Kerry to travel to Pakistan to deal with the Davis crisis, which has put elements of U.S.-Pakistani cooperation on hold. But after conferring with senior foreign policy aides and Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani over the weekend, Kerry decided to travel to Pakistan for a "relationship saving" mission, not a "rescue" mission, the source explained.
For example, Kerry decided to travel first to Lahore, rather than Islamabad where the Pakistani government resides. Although he will meet with Pakistani government officials at the highest levels, including President Asif Ali Zardari, he wanted first to deliver a message to the Pakistani people directly in the town where the incident took place and tell them directly that the United States wasn't only interested in Davis's release.
"Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry left last night for Pakistan where he will meet with senior Pakistani government officials to reaffirm U.S. support for the strategic relationship between the two countries," committee spokesman Frederick Jones told The Cable.
Kerry told the White House before he left that he was not going solely to secure the release of Davis specifically, but to establish a path out of the crisis and ensure other areas of critical cooperation remained on track, the high-level government source said.
The reaction in Pakistan to Kerry's opening press conference among officials supportive of the relationship was overwhelmingly positive.
"He said all the right things on Pakistan," a senior Pakistani official told The Cable. "John Kerry is recognized by most Pakistanis as a friend of Pakistan. By sending him, President Obama has really helped what could have become a bigger diplomatic problem down the road."
The trip comes after a severe downturn in U.S.-Pakistan relations following Davis's arrest. Davis, a former Special Forces operative who speaks fluent Urdu, was being tailed by two suspected agents of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization on motorcycles when he shot and killed them through the windshield of his car. Davis claimed they brandished guns. A third Pakistani man was run over and killed by a U.S. embassy vehicle accidentally as it rushed to the scene.
The State Department has always maintained that Davis has diplomatic immunity but has been unclear on what his actually job was in Pakistan. The State Department said on Monday that Davis was a member of the "technical and administrative staff" at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and that he had been temporarily assigned to the consulate in Lahore.
The shooting has become a national scandal in Pakistan and an international crisis due to a combination of circumstances and political gamesmanship by opponents of the Zardari government inside Pakistan. When Davis was arrested, the Punjabi police did not write on his arrest forms that he claimed diplomatic immunity, a Pakistani government source said.
This source told The Cable that the region around Lahore is run by the brother of Nawaz Sharif, the top political opponent to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and the authorities there might have sought to take political advantage of the situation. By claiming that Davis had committed murder and pushing the story out to Pakistani media, Zardari was placed in the unenviable position of having to choose whether to defend an American murderer or risk the wrath of his countrymen.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi happened to be out of the country at the time. A Foreign Ministry official named Salman Bashir was left to make the decide whether to grant Davis immunity right away but decided it would be politically prudent to make no decision at all and let Davis remain in jail, the Pakistani government source said. Unclear messages from the U.S. side exacerbated the confusion.
"The political tragedy was that it was almost three days before the U.S. government claimed immunity, by which time the tensions had already been inflamed," the source explained.
It should be clear to the Zardari government that because Davis was on the U.S. embassy diplomatic list, he has immunity as a matter of international law under the Vienna Convention and should be released. But they are likely trying to avoid absorbing the political fallout of releasing him by passing the buck to the Pakistani courts, who will hear arguments about the Davis case on Feb. 17.
Meanwhile, the Davis debacle has stalled some U.S.-Pakistan cooperation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton canceled her scheduled meeting with Qureshi at the recent Munich Security Conference and the U.S. postponed a planned trilateral meeting between top officials from the U.S., Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is personally involved in trying to secure Davis's release. Haqqani has denied reports that Donilon threatened to kick him out of the country if Davis wasn't release,, but the White House has told the Pakistani government the issue must be resolved before full cooperation can resume.
The most probable outcome will be a face-saving deal whereby the Pakistani courts agree to release Davis, the U.S. government promises to investigate the incident as a criminal matter, and the U.S. pays some compensation to the families of the Pakistani victims.
In the end, the incident illustrates that the U.S. and Pakistani governments still have a ways to go in terms of working together to build stability into the relationship.
Either way, our Pakistani source said that there is plenty of blame to go around.
"[Davis] was wrong in carrying the gun. He was wrong in shooting the people. There definitely was some craziness in what he was doing," the source said. "But it's a clear and gross violation of international law to hold a diplomat."
The State Department now acknowledges that "elements" of the Egyptian military have taken part in the violent crackdown on journalists and activists in Cairo over the past few days, calling into question the positive influence and neutrality of the military, which the Obama administration praised last week.
Human rights activists in Washington and Cairo reported last week uniformed Egyptian military personnel were directly involved in the arrest, detention, and interrogation of human rights activists in Egypt, including the raid on the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, which included the arrest of Human Rights Watch researcher Daniel Williams. In a gripping first-hand account on Monday, Williams explained the extensive role of Egyptian military personnel in his incarceration.
"The initial impression was that the military sided with the demonstrators yet provided order amid the chaos, which is why I was surprised to see the soldier on the chair, harassing the human rights workers about a ‘suspicious meeting' with foreigners bent on ‘ruining our country,' Williams wrote on Monday at The Daily Beast. "There was no doubt that the army was in charge of the raid. At one point, a major general showed up at the Hisham Mubarak center and other officers worked hand in glove with a uniformed policeman, plainclothes state security agents and assorted abusive henchmen."
Williams was brought with other activists and a Japanese photographer to Camp 75, a military headquarters in northeast Cairo, where he was interrogated and held for 36 hours.
"The raid on the Hisham Mubarak Law Center exemplifies the persistence of abusive security practices under a military establishment, which claims it wants transition from the past," he wrote. "But in this and other cases, now being documented by Human Rights Watch, the army was clearly in charge of arbitrary and sometimes violent arrests, even if the beatings and torture had been "outsourced" to other agencies or thugs."
Pressed on the issue by The Cable at today's briefing, spokesman P.J. Crowley said the State Department was aware that some military units participated in the raids but also pointed out that other military units played a role in protecting journalists and maintaining a measure of stability in Tahrir Square.
"To the extent that there were elements within the military that participated in these abuses of journalists and others last week, they should be held fully accountable," Crowley said. "By the same token, when you look at the streets of Cairo over the past several days since the violence on Wednesday, the military did play a constructive role."
Crowley said that the State Department has formally raised the issue of military involvement in the crackdowns with their Egyptian interlocutors but declined to relate the specifics of those conversations.
A State Department official, speaking on background, said that the Egyptian military was acting during the crisis "in some instances constructively, in some instances not." The official suggested that "elements" of the military were involved, specifically military police units, which have ties to the Ministry of Interior, the department believed to be orchestrating the crackdowns.
Regardless, the acknowledgement of Egyptian military involvement in the crackdowns on activists and journalists comes only four days after Crowley praised the military. "We are very impressed with the posture and the professionalism displayed by the Egyptian military," Crowley said at a Feb. 3 press briefing.
The military's involvement in the raids is a troubling indicator for the Obama administration and others that the army is not altogether playing a mediating role during Egypt's transition process.
"It's a worrying sign of things to come," Heba Morayef, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch," told McClatchy, "because the military is going to play a big role going forward."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.