Friday, June 17, 2011

Pakistan and America-My ally, my enemy

Pakistan arrests those who helped get Osama bin Laden

WHEN Islamabad’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, lectured army officers last month at Pakistan’s National Defence University, he asked the assembled colonels whom they regarded as the greatest enemy. A third of them named America—with which Pakistan supposedly has a military alliance.

That alliance was already turbulent before a raid by American special forces killed Osama bin Laden on May 2nd. Now it has gone into a tailspin. It was an embarrassment for Pakistanis that bin Laden was living in northern Pakistan and that the Americans went in to kill him without telling them—and undetected. Now it emerges that Pakistani authorities have arrested several local informers who had watched bin Laden’s compound for the CIA ahead of the raid. According to a Pakistani source, the arrests include a former army officer, a doctor who had been with the army medical corps. The army is enraged that the CIA has developed an independent spy network in the country.

The arrests come at a time when America badly wants Pakistani co-operation in killing or capturing the remainder of al-Qaeda in the country—including, presumably, Ayman al-Zawahiri, its new leader. The group is struggling to cope with the death of bin Laden and with the American seizure of huge amounts of information on its workings.

But Pakistan’s powerful armed forces are wallowing in anti-Americanism. Their relations with various jihadist groups also remain a concern, even while other extremist groups carry out a campaign of terror inside the country.

Last week the CIA director, Leon Panetta, flew to Islamabad and confronted the army with evidence that intelligence America had recently passed on about two bomb-making factories in Pakistan’s tribal areas, being used by insurgents active in Afghanistan, had led to a tip-off. The bomb-makers had vanished from the sites several days before the army showed up.

In turn, the armed forces have haughtily declared they will no longer take cash from the United States (on whom they have long depended for handouts). They have also ended an American military counter-insurgency training mission in the country. Yet behind the bitter words, from both sides, a good deal of co-operation continues. For instance, American “drone” aircraft still fly secretly from an airstrip deep in the desert of Baluchistan province, targeting suspected militants in the country’s tribal areas.

Pakistan’s military is feeling wounded. The bin Laden shock was followed by a daring terrorist raid on a naval base in Karachi, and by accusations that the armed forces’ spy agency was behind the murder of a journalist last month. Domestic criticism unleashed at the army, the country’s dominant institution, is unprecedented. It is usually exempt from scrutiny, mostly out of fear. The army says it has resolved to “put an end” to the disparagement. The Economist

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