By Kenneth J. Theisen
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently traveled to Pakistan to shore up the relationship between that country’s government and the U.S. government. The U.S. has deeply involved the Pakistani government as an ally in the U.S. war of terror since 2001.
One result is that Pakistan is now involved in a civil war. Pakistani territory is also the regular target of frequent U.S. missile strikes which have killed hundreds of Pakistanis over the last year and more, and displaced countless thousands more.
Clinton met with reporters in Pakistan and acknowledged the current civil war there. She said, “Now it’s obvious that one important issue facing both of our nations is security. Pakistan is in the midst of an ongoing struggle against tenacious and brutal extremist groups who kill innocent people and terrorize communities. I know that in recent weeks, Pakistan has endured a barrage of attacks, and I would like to convey my sympathy and that of the American people to the people of Pakistan.
"But I want you to know that this fight is not Pakistan’s alone. These extremists are committed to destroying that which is dear to us as much as they are committed to destroying that which is dear to you and to all people. So this is our struggle as well, and we commend the Pakistani military for their courageous fight, and we commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people in your fight for peace and security. We will give you the help that you need in order to achieve your goal.” Although Clinton gave passing mention to the Pakistani people in her remarks, her real concern is the stability of the Pakistani government and its commitment to stand with U.S. imperialism in its war of terror.
While there are internal contradictions within Pakistan which factor into the current civil war there, the fact that the Pakistani government has allied itself with the U.S. imperialists is also a major factor in the country’s continuing turbulence and instability. The fact that the Pakistani government has also allowed and collaborated with the U.S. and its frequent missile strikes into Pakistan is also a factor that has generated much outrage within Pakistan among the people.
During the years of the Bush regime the U.S. funneled over $10 billion in mostly military aid to Pakistan. This was intended as both a bribe to get the aid of the Pakistanis in the war of terror, and also to enable the Pakistani military to better fight at the side of the U.S. in this war. During the Bush regime, Pakistan was ruled by General Musharaff who was ousted this past year.
Since Musharaff’s ouster, the U.S. has been doing its best to shore up the new government and to pressure it into more fully participating in the U.S. war of terror. As a result the country has now broken into open civil war. Virtually every day brings news of a new bombing killing more innocent Pakistanis. The Pakistani military has also launched military offensives into areas either controlled by or heavily influenced by Pakistani Islamic fundamentalist forces. The U.S. intends to provide at least $1.5 billion in aid to the Pakistani government each year over the next 5 years.
Clinton met senior Pakistani officials as part of her three-day visit. She was accompanied by Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the war of terror. Their trip just happened to coincidwith a new Pakistani military offensive. The Pakistani military has launched an attack against members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the semi-autonomous tribal region of South Waziristan. While the Pakistani military alleges it has killed more than 230 fighters of the TTP, the real victims of the attack are Pakistani civilians. The offensive has caused mass suffering within Waziristan among the civilian population.
According to U.N. officials, more than 125,000 people have been registered as displaced by the offensive since October 13th. Other military offensives and attacks have caused similar suffering and displacement for large numbers of Pakistani civilians. As a result, the Pakistani government has lost much support after coming to power after Musharaff’s ouster. Part of Musharaff’s unpopularity with his own people was his subservience to U.S. imperialism, so the new government’s subservience is part of the reason it has lost support too.
In addition to the $7.5 billion to be given to Pakistan over the next five years, additional legislation to bolster U.S. interests in Pakistan and South Asia is being considered by the U.S. Congress.
This U.S. “aid” to Pakistan has created anger within Pakistan because it comes with strings that many perceive as violating the country’s sovereignty. Some within the Pakistani military expressed discontent about aid conditions that appear to condition part of the aid on the military’s efforts to battle suspected Taliban fighters within Pakistan. The aid could be withheld if military efforts to crack down on pro-Taliban groups fail.
Congress is drafting a new defense authorization bill that will provide billions of dollars for Pakistan’s military, including funds for its military operations against the Taliban and its allies. But there are benchmarks for Pakistan to meet in order to receive the funds. The legislation requires the White House to certify that Pakistan isn’t supporting militant Islamic groups or engaging in nuclear proliferation. The legislation also seeks assurances that Pakistan is using weapons purchased with U.S. assistance only against the Taliban and its allies, rather than against India, Pakistan’s rival for regional domination.
Clinton admitted on her way to Pakistan that the conditions on the aid will be addressed when she meets with Pakistan officials. She told reporters, "There have been a lot of misconceptions of what the United States intends from its relationship with Pakistan. It is unfortunate that there are those who question our motives … and I want to clear the air on that." Don’t worry, Hillary, U.S. motives are quite plain – the aid is intended to buy “loyalty” to U.S. imperialism and its war of terror. No amount of diplomacy will hide this fact.
The controversy over U.S. aid is one problem for the U.S. Another is the continued drone missile attacks by the U.S. military and the CIA. The fact that the Pakistani government has done nothing to stop them has also engendered opposition within Pakistan. These attacks – and the misery they inflict upon the Pakistani people – have increased dramatically under the Obama administration.
On October 27th UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston, held a news conference where he indicated that drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan may be breaking international laws against summary executions.
He stated, “The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/predators [which are] particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan. My concern is that drones/predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons.
“We need the United States to be more up front and say, ‘OK, we’re willing to discuss some aspects of this program,’ otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line that the CIA is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws." Officially the U.S. even refuses to confirm or deny the drone attacks. There have been approximately 70 missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan since August 2008 alone. It is not known how many have been conducted within Afghanistan.
When Obama was running for president he indicated that he would rely much more on diplomacy to achieve U.S. goals around the world than did the Bush regime. What many failed to understand is that diplomacy can also be used as a weapon in the U.S. war of terror. Clinton’s trip to Pakistan confirms this. Recently Secretary of War Robert Gates met with NATO ministers. While this meeting could be described as diplomacy, its intent was to bring these various war ministers on board with U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So too that is the intent of Clinton’s diplomatic trip to Pakistan. She wants to guarantee that Pakistan remains an ally in the war of terror.
Many criticized the Bush regime for it go-it-alone attitude when it came to fighting the war of terror. But just because the Obama administration is now better engaged in obtaining and utilizing allies in the war does not make the war of terror any less of an imperialist war. The nature of the war has not changed under Obama, even though slightly different tactics are now being used to implement it.