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."
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.
According to one official inside the meeting, Clinton told
Khar, "We want this relationship to work. Give us something to work with."
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
"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."