Pakistan-US: Special comment. This week, the Pakistani ambassador to the US submitted his resignation for his involvement as a conduit for conveying a politically explosive memorandum from Pakistani President Zardari to Admiral Mullen, when he was US Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Washington Post published the text of the memo whose authenticity, on a prima facie basis, is established by the ambassador’s request to resign.
The memo describes a “significant deterioration in Pakistan’s political atmosphere, after the US raid that killed Usama bin Laden in Abbottabad last May. The elected civilian government feared a military overthrow, led by Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
The memo text says that Zardari asked for Mullen’s intervention with Kayani to prevent a military takeover of government. In return, Zardari promised to “revamp” his government with a new national security team of pro-American officials in return for Mullen’s intervention and made six additional representations.
The six additional promises include an independent investigation of bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan; identification by name of those officers who harbored bin Laden followed by their dismissal and arrest; a commitment to hand over to US authorities bin Laden’s deputy Zawahiri, plus Mullah Omar and Pakistani Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani or permission for independent US operations to kill them; an offer to enlarge US oversight of the security of Pakistani nuclear weapons; the elimination of Section S of Inter-Services Intelligence which is the section that maintains contact with the Taliban and the Haqqani network; and to cooperate fully with India to bring to justice the perpetrators, inside or outside the government, responsible for the 2008 Mumbai massacre.
Several points are worth noting. Most important is that Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani’s government are afraid of the Pakistan armed forces to such an extent that they would ask for American assistance to prevent a coup, however misdirected.
The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, is legally a military advisor and chairman of the board of senior service staff officers. He also has a dual responsibility to report as a Congressional watchdog of the state of the armed services and has no authority independently to commit the US to anything. Zardari evidently did not appreciate the subtleties of the Chairman’s task. Mullen could not and would not do such a thing without presidential authority.
Secondly, Zardari and Gilan appear to know or have a good idea about the identity of military personnel who harbored bin Laden.
Thirdly, Zardari and Gilani were prepared to hand over to the US or permit the US to kill other hostile leaders, including Zawahiri and Mullah Omar. This suggests they know or at least knew where these men were hiding at the time the memo was written.
Finally, the civilians distrusted the Pakistan Army and security forces to such an extent that they were willing to grant to the US exceptional oversight of Pakistani nuclear weapons. This condition of distrust has not changed and is likely to worsen.
What is missing from this unusual story is any account of the US reaction to and handling of the Memo. Mullen has flown to Pakistan frequently and no coup occurred, but the five other items are open. Civilian government in Pakistan remains both incompetent and fragile, plus under constant threat of military overthrow.
Phi Beta Iota: What is clear from all this is the combination of arrogance, naivete, and dishonesty within the US Government. The matter of Bin Laden actually being killed by JSOG is by no means settled, but the matter of the Pakistani military continuing to be a threat to India, Iran, and the USA is clear. No one in the US Government appears to have the needed combination of intelligence and integrity to actually define and pursue the public interest.