Washington: Amid a rapid unraveling of ties between Washington and Islamabad, the principal architect of the US military partnership with Pakistan has bitterly accused the country of using terrorism as a policy weapon and said it has lost the bet to be a regional player of consequence because of it.
The testimony of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen before a Senate committee on Thursday was nothing short of stunning. A passionate votary of Pakistani salience in the region (thereby earning the nickname Abu Mullen al-Amriki), America's top military officials signaled that he was read to write off the country if it did not abjure its use of terrorism.
In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, Mullen said, using a euphemism for terrorism, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan's opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence. They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet, he added.
Swiftly dubbed Sullen Mullen by the twitterati following the gloomy prognosis for a favored American military ally at one time, the United States commander warned that by exporting violence, they (Pakistan) have eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being.
Mullen however defended his strong ties to Pakistan, saying but for his effort the US would have been in a far tougher situation. I've done this because I believe that a flawed and difficult relationship is better than no relationship at all, he maintained.
Senators who heard the grim testimony were as downbeat on Pakistan as they sought to ratchet up pressure on what is informally now regarded as a terrorist state, while not isolating it completely.
While some of them, notably Carl Levin and Dianne Feinstein, endorsed the administration's stance that Pakistan was actively using the Haqqani group for terrorist activity and demanded Washington declare it a terrorist group, it was mystifying why they did not demand the same of Pakistani army or its intelligence wing the ISI. In fact, ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha was in Washington DC earlier this week for secret talks even as the administration was accusing ISI and Pakistani government of proxy terrorism.
The Haqqani network continue to enjoy sanctuary in the country, as well as active support from Pakistans intelligence service, which they continue to use to attack and kill Afghans, Pakistanis, Indians and Americans, said Senator John McCain, adding that, This is the fundamental reality from which we must proceed in reevaluating our policy towards Pakistan.
Meanwhile, as Islamabad continued to defiantly deny US charges, an American expert on the region threw some light on the evidence Washington claims it has to link Pakistan with the Haqqani group and the attack on US assets in Kabul. Bruce Riedel, a CIA analyst who advised president on his Af-Pak policy told Reuters that US officials were in possession of cell phone used by the Haqqani group terrorists to communicate with ISI operatives during and after the attack.
Such evidence would be similar to what India acquired after the 26/11 attack in Mumbai or what the United States got hold of following the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008.Confronted with such evidence most notably by the CIA deputy director Stephan Kappes in meetings with Pakistani interlocutors Islamabads response is one of denial, bluster, and defiance, according to intelligence circles.