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FACTDROP: Cavalier US attitude risks turning Pakistan into another Iran


Cavalier US attitude risks turning Pakistan into another Iran

Warning signs … Pakistani soldiers carry home the casket of one of their 24 colleagues killed in a NATO attack on Saturday. The incident has further strained the Pakistani-US alliance.

Πηγή: SMH
By Simon Tisdall
Nov 29 2011

READERS of Dawn newspaper, commenting online, were in no doubt how the Pakistani government should respond to Saturday's killing by US forces of 24 soldiers on Pakistan's side of the Afghan border.

''Pakistan should acquire anti-aircraft defence systems … so that in the future Pakistan can give NATO forces a proper reply,'' Ali said.

''This is outrageous,'' wrote another reader, Zia Khan. ''We should cut off all ties with the US. As long as we are getting US [anti-terrorism] aid … Pakistan will be attacked in such a manner. They can never be trusted.''

Another, Obaid, turned his wrath on the Pakistani authorities: ''What is the ability of our armed forces? If they can't repel or intercept an attack of this intensity, then what's their purpose? This is not a time to get mad. It's time to get even.''

The fury of these respondents comes as no surprise, but Washington should treat it with deadly seriousness all the same, for this latest outrage is another fateful signpost on the road to a potential security and geostrategic disaster that may ultimately make Afghanistan look like a sideshow.

The 10-year-old Afghan war, neither wholly won nor lost, is slowly drawing to a close - or so Washington postulates. But what has not stopped is the linked, escalating destabilisation of the infinitely more important, more populous, and nuclear-armed Pakistan. If Washington does not learn to tread more carefully, it may find the first US-Pakistan war is starting just as the fourth Afghan war supposedly ends.

Anti-US feeling in Pakistan is becoming institutionalised at higher levels of government, while opposition figures such as Imran Khan see their popularity rise on the back of diatribes aimed at the US. Pakistan's Western-educated, secular political elite is under attack from Islamist militants who revile it as Washington's stooge. The knock-kneed government is mocked and despised for failing to stand up to its infidel paymasters even as Pakistan's own ''war on terror'' death toll rises into the tens of thousands.

Since 2001, when the Bush administration told Islamabad it must take sides, be either ''for us or agin us'' in the ''war on terror'', Pakistan has struggled under a plethora of American demands and impositions at once politically indefensible and contrary to the perceived national interest.

The past year has been another humiliating one at the hands of the country's principal ally. Pakistan has looked on as US special forces flouted its sovereignty and killed Osama bin Laden under the army's nose; as the US stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan, despite repeated protests; and as people-pleasing US senators and Republican presidential candidates have taken to picking on Pakistan and its aid bill in uninformed foreign policy rants.

The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the Pentagon top brass have offered the usual expressions of regret and determination to ''investigate'', without admitting responsibility. Their pronouncements are worthless, transparently so.

The belief that impoverished, divided Pakistan has no alternative but to slavishly obey could turn out to be one of the seminal strategic miscalculations of the 21st century. Alternative alliances with China or Russia aside, Muslim Pakistan, if bullied and scorned enough, could yet morph through external trauma and internal collapse into quite a different animal. The future paradigm is not another well-trained Indonesia or Malaysia. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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