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09 May 2011


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More Elizabeth Rubin:

"Will the revelation that bin Laden and family were dwelling in a newly built Pakistani Army mansion not far from the capital finally change the nature of the strange dance between the US and Pakistan? One wonders how good and smart men and women are taken in by diplomatic friendships, how they allow themselves to believe lies they know to be lies, or worse, settle for the lie because it seems there’s no way out, no creative solution to change the trusted old forms of diplomacy or the definitions of enemy and ally.

Of course at the heart of the problem lies Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. We’d rather our Pakistani army enemy controls it than our Pakistani Taliban enemy. But will we ever know who is who, and can we tell them apart? And so our policy in Pakistan has collided with the Lot equation: How many righteous men must there be for God to save Sodom and Gomorrah, asks Abraham. And when God says fifty, Abraham keeps lowering the number. What if there is just one? How many American, Afghan, Pakistani, European casualties are worth keeping this Catch-22 policy alive? "



Thanks for the local color. Do you think the military would depose Zardari and blame him for all the troubles?

What is the scuttlebutt in Pakistan about who knew what when? Could Musharaf be implicated and his political future gutted?


How clear a picture of an operation of this type are you expected to get?

Anyone that expects to get "the real story" is being childish.

The Official Stories have a purpose, which is to make sure that the world at large is kept guessing as to what actually went down. That is worth a lot in the jungle in which we all reside.

All part of the craft.


And at home:

"The Mighty Mississippi continues to wreak havoc as the river's highest flood crest in history pushes southwards near Memphis, Tennessee today. The river crested at its highest height on record over the past four days along a 70-mile stretch from New Madrid, Missouri to Tiptonville, Tennessee, to Caruthersville, Missouri, smashing records that had stood since the great flood of 1937.

...expected to swell the Mississippi high enough to smash the all-time record by 3.2 feet at Red River Landing on May 22.

Red River Landing is the site of the Old River Control Structure, the Army Corps' massive engineering structure that keeps the Mississippi River from carving a new path to the Gulf of Mexico. Its failure would be a serious blow to the U.S. economy, and the great Mississippi flood of 2011 will give the Old River Control Structure its most severe test ever."

The design of the raid (and I completely believe and accept Colonel Lang's statement that Pakistan knew nothing about it) was guaranteed to make Pakistan look terrible. That was part of the price Obama was willing to pay to get bin Laden. I completely agree. Bin Laden put himself in the same league with Hitler and Stalin.

Now it's time to think about the Mississippi, not Pakistan. Civil war in Pakistan? How do we prevent that? Magic wands?


After OBL died I decided to see what the Pakistani press was saying about the mess, and added The News to my bookmarks. Their editorial today, None the Wiser, has these choice words about conflicting Pak Government statements:

In Washington Ambassador Husain Haqqani offered a different perspective which included the rolling of heads if necessary and pointed towards an urgent need for an enquiry to establish who did and did not know what, how much of the ‘what’ they knew, and to what extent they were complicit or culpable. He was explicit in saying that there would be ‘zero tolerance’ for complicity but also referred very diplomatically to the ‘complexity’ of Pakistan and the difficulties that went alongside that complexity.

It is this very complexity that makes the government’s handling of the Bin Laden affair look like an explosion in a paint factory, rather than an exercise in coordinated crisis and information management. We are getting contradictory statements from our ambassador to the US and the interior minister, and on his single outing so far in the Bin Laden affair the foreign secretary was floundering considerably out of his depth as well. The PM when it came to his turn, in effect, promised to tell us nothing. This quartet of talent was each speaking to a different audience. Ambassador Haqqani will have an eye to his hosts’ view of Pakistan as infested with dissemblers, Interior Minister Malik would have wanted to ensure a smooth path with the Saudis and the foreign secretary appeared bent on displaying little beyond urbane mediocrity. Taken as a package and viewed from a distance all this looks like a monumental cock-up, a classic failure to coordinate. It is a picture of institutionalised incompetence that runs right to the top; and does nothing to inspire confidence at home or abroad. Had our government and its various organs and mouthpieces arranged to sing from the same song-sheet from the outset, then we would not look as foolish -- or culpable -- as we do now. We may not be culpable, but nothing we are saying is doing anything to dispel the impression that we are.

I have not the slightest doubt that some of the "complex" elements in Pak are indeed "culpable." Not for nothing is this country widely viewed as "the most dangerous in the world," for it is a failed, nuclear armed state in which both the military and the ISI have a significant, Muslim terrorist agenda. See, Pakistan's Other Terror Ties.

Let's get the hell out of Afghanistan except for a COIN footprint and pull the plug on the vast majority of the annual aid we give Pakistan, violating their "sovereignty" when necessary to take out terror kingpins. We will never convert the Islamist fundamentalists in the Army and the ISI to our point of view; giving them money to work against us makes about as much sense as giving aid to Afghanistan so its recipients can buy "protection" from the Taliban.


I think future generations will marvel/shake their heads in despair, wondering how we overlooked the Mexican border, the economic home front, and the growing environmental crisis, while fixated on a place that is of little strategic interest to us. (yes, I know, I can hear the howls going up) And to the limited extent it is of strategic interest, there is a very little, if anything, we can do to influence things in our favor. If, for no other reason, than our leaders are clueless about the place. Despite many claims otherwise.

Our concern with Pakistan is, in reality, an understandable, but misplaced, concerned with the process of the miniaturization of deadly weapons.

And looking to Talleyrand or Palmerston, et al, will offer no clues on how to deal with Conrad-like characters, armed to the teeth with these tiny but devastating weapons. A Pak civil war, long feared for the 'what will happen to the nukes' is beside the main point: concern about surreptitious transfer of these weapons for a cash payment. Civil war or no civil war.

One had better get used to doing the best one can to stop these types, and get used to the increased existential anxiety we're all gonna be feeling for while. And in the mean time, move on to problems at our front door, in our yard, and inside our house.

But these are mundane problems. Their (if we are lucky) resolution will not make for great campaign commercials. Nor win one a chestful of medals. Or a large payout for 'memoirs'. Nor inspire solemn tones of music to be played, at the mere mention of a name.

Securing borders, saving/revitalizing farmlands, building water purifiers, reestablish a manufacturing base, funding detox programs and neighborhood patrols, and the like, are not the stuff of that interests would-be knight-errant , and their enablers, those on the road to becoming "Great Men (and women) of the world.

They look to bigger fish to fry. And they look to 'us' to fund the fish-fry. And to sit in the audience. And marvel at, coining a phrase, "bad music and bad reasons".


The incredibly poor quality of our satraps is being opened up and put under the spotlight.

Yeah, we did "avoid civil war" in Egypt for a long time by backing our satrap. It's over.

For a country that prides itself on Democracy, basing its foreign policy on the most feculent, corrupt, dishonest group of thugs we can find to destroy Democracy is paradoxical.

Charles I

According to today's Global Security Newswire, the raid is fueling existing conspiracy theories about US designs on Pakistan's "strategic assets". These nukes play a large domestic political role, and in the civil/army political struggle FB alludes to surely they are a valuable chip to be played. But how? By who. To what end?

Obviously enough of the Pakistani establishment views Afghanistan as its bailiwick. No bribe, no raid, no war is ever going to change this any more than Mexico is moving from your southern border or Pakistan is going to fix your problems there.

Sooner they're left to their own devices, including the occasional visiting consequences of whom they deal with, the less it'll matter to us, and China can deal with them.

Too bad it'll never happen before the next explosion.


As Col. Lang stated some time ago, it is not a good idea to frighten people, they may decide to lash out.

Pakistan has a devastated economy, partly due to the floods. An Indian leaning Afghanistan is a nightmare for Islamabad. Do we really want to thrust Pakistan into the bosom of the Chinese?

GTF out of Afghanistan and let it become a client state of Pakistan.


Brig Ali,

Good call. I actually indirectly raised the Civilian-Military divide in my post above wherein Kayani essentially moved Pakistan away from a Musharraf-led direction, especially with regard to India and how that related to Afghanistan.

I think that the Zardari govt has missed the small window it had to push back against the military. The first two days were the key. It is clear now that the military has taken over and is setting the agenda for the next phased of engagement with the US.

I think that the military mistakenly believes that it can resist the US pressure by somehow bringing in China and also by tapping the bad US-Saudi ties. I'm hearing that Pakistan may be offering army units on hire to the Saudis, Bahrain etc. to thwart the Shia uprisings (seen as Iran-backed). I think that the idea is that Chinese diplomatic clout and Saudi money can offset any US chokehold on funding or diplomatic pressure.

As always, I think that Kayani is overestimating his own "brilliance" as well as how far China or the Saudis may be willing to go to shield a regime seen as increasingly reckless.


thank you for the nyrb piece. why are we even in afghanistan? why can't we leave? how can we continue to stay silent in the face of ISI killing our troops? we don't need to occupy afghanistan in order to keep on eye on pakistan's nukes - do we?

does staying in afghanistan indicate long term designs on iran?

Michael Brenner


'Reckless' is in the eye of the beholder. How does one characterize the conduct of the United states since 2001?

FB Ali

Zanzibar, the last thing Kayani would think of is taking over from Zardari. He’s got trouble enough on his plate managing the country’s security and foreign policy without taking on all its internal problems as well.

JYD, you’re right about the tremendous loss of face for Kayani & Co, both within the military and with the public. I’m not at all sure that the military has taken over and is setting the agenda. In recent talks to his officers, Kayani has complained that the government hasn’t taken charge of policy on the war against terrorists, and asked them to do so now. He may be trying to get them to act as front men, and take the fall for future setbacks, but it will entail giving up some of the autonomy he’s exercised so far in this area.

I also think the military has no illusions about how far China will step in to counter US pressure. As for the Saudis, they have decided to drop their dependence on the US for their survival, and are trying to get the Pakistanis to provide the ‘muscle’ they need. For now, there are plenty of retired or former soldiers whom they can recruit for this purpose.

It should always be remembered that Kayani is a very cautious person; he doesn’t like big gestures, radical changes of direction or taking risks, if they can be avoided.



I'll put it bluntly. Bill Gates can afford numerous high profile indiscretions. Someone depending on Bill Gates and his friends for his next meal cannot.

Jim Ticehurst

I dont blame the United states for anything..To Me..the United States are the Several States that make up "We, The People"..
I do Criticize Many of our Elected officals who have forgotten they are to SERVE the People..For the Peoples COMMON GOOD...'''However Oue elected officals soon Become POLITICAL GAME Players..and they serve the SYSTEM around the Beltway..and thats as far as it go's..Money talks and Honor Walks.. They are the "Reckless People" who tarnish the Image of the United States and Put other People in Harms Way..for Personal Reasons..especially since 2001..Why are Our Troops IED Fodder for so long...Stupid and Careless Policy..Our Policticians seem to Value Money and Power more than the Words in the Preamble to Our Constitution..and what thier Dutys are to Make That Happen.. We Now need New People in Government who WILL make all that a PRIORITY.and Focus on DOMESTIC Security and TRANQUILITY..



Someone might want to counsel the Saudis (to the extent it is actually necessary)that relying on mercenaries works (sometimes, but only "sometimes")on unarmed, or lightly armed crowds. But you won't want to try that against trained military forces. i.e. Iranians.

FB Ali


Good mercenaries are soldiers who fight well without needing artificial stimulants like patriotism, ideology, hate and other emotional hokum (or chemical ones, either).

Pakistanis make good mercenaries. The British used them for a hundred years to extend their empire and defend it.



Bill Gates???

William R. Cumming

A great post and comment thread for the ignorant (me)!

I believe that ARUN has hit the nail on the head but not completely sure why?

UBL is dead so now fascinating to watch the Kabuki (or is it NOH?) play out between the military and civilian leadership of Pakistan and the Pakistani leadership and US. The only real out for the Pakistani government is a bailout by the Chinese and the USA is largely irrelevant in fighting the Pakistani Taliban. Why do we know so little about the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Taliban in Pakistan? Is there a religious component to the Taliban in both countries that I have missed other than interest in Sharia Law and anti-corruption including poppy growing and its spoils? What is the best history of civil military issues in Pakistani history? IN the USA the fight over control of the nuclear priesthood never really ended and wonder about Pakistan?


For your amusement, one way of ending the Afghanistan war, that too, in two months:


400% guaranteed to work.

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