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WikiLeaks Exposes the Danger of Pakistan’s Nukes
Posted on Jan 13, 2011
The cables reveal that the threat to the West has geometrically increased as a result of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In one leaked document, then-shadow and now actual British Prime Minister David Cameron was reported to have raised the concern: “Cameron noted that most of the approximately one million UK citizens of Pakistani origin (mostly Punjabis and Kashmiris) living in the UK were not pro-Taliban but had been radicalized by the Iraq war” (4-9-09 cable).
U.S. foreign policy toward Pakistan must aim at improving favorability among its people so that the U.S. can then cooperate with its government on nuclear matters, but Ambassador Patterson reported that the opposite is occurring: “America is viewed with some suspicion by the majority of Pakistan’s people and its institutions. We are viewed at best as a fickle friend, and at worst as the reason why Pakistan is attacking its own. …”
There are many reasons why Pakistanis hate America, of course, including the perception that the U.S. is pro-India. But these cables reveal that the U.S. is pursuing policies, such as support for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari , that increase this hatred rather than diminish it. On the one hand, Patterson wrote “Zardari is our best ally in Pakistan right now” and recommended strong support for him. On the other, she acknowledges that Zardari has an “approval rating [of only] 20%” and that he “sees himself as viewing the world the way Americans do; this same image works against him with the public” (2-04-09 and 6-20-09 cables). So why is the U.S. supporting a leader as despised by his own people as was the Shah of Iran? Patterson explains: “Zardari is less likely to make public announcements chastising the USG [U.S. government] for its policies in, and toward Pakistan (including on USG drone activity) than other senior GOP [government of Pakistan] officials” (6-20-09 cable). That is, while polls indicate that the Pakistani people overwhelmingly oppose drone assassinations, the U.S. is aligning itself with a hated leader who does not have the support of his people at least partly because he secretly supports the strikes.
The cables also reveal that U.S. war-fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan is strengthening jihadi forces in Pakistan, most ominously in its Punjabi heartland, not just border regions. According to a 12-05-08 cable, former National Intelligence Officer for South Asia Peter Lavoy “commented on two causes of instability in western Pakistan that could cause Pakistan to completely lose control of its Pashtun territories over the next few years.” The cable went on to say in paraphrasing Lavoy: “Traditional Pashtun tribal authority has broken down since the anti-Soviet jihad period, and is no longer capable of resolving social harmony at the community level. Pakistan has also promulgated a policy of neglect of Pashtun areas and still lacks a strategy to deal holistically with social problems of illiteracy, unemployment, and disaffected youth. Both of these situations play to the advantage of insurgent and extremist groups.”
A Feb. 19, 2009, cable from Patterson reveals that Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani “raised concern about the effect of a U.S. troop build-up in southern Afghanistan, which could push militants and refugees across the border into Balochistan and prompt an influx of foreign fighters.” Patterson reported that “even in the south of the prosperous Punjab we have seen an increasing trend to extremism among youth” (6-20-09 cable). That is, U.S. war-making in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s northwest territories are pushing more militants into the Pakistani heartland, increasing rather than diminishing the threat they pose to the Pakistani state.
While the government of Pakistan would, according to Patterson, prefer a strategy of “dialogue, deterrence and development,” the U.S. government has instead forced its ally to undertake offensives in both the Swat Valley and south Waziristan. Washington should tell Kayani, Patterson wrote, that “it will be difficult for international donors to support a government that is not prepared to go all-out to defend its own territory” (2-04-09, 2-19-09 cables).
The cables also reveal for the first time that the U.S. has gone even further in increasing anti-American hatred by secretly deploying Special Forces assassins in Pakistan. Patterson wrote that “the Pakistani Army has for just the second time approved deployment of U.S. special operation elements to support Pakistani military operations. ... These deployments are highly politically sensitive because of widely-held concerns among the public about Pakistani sovereignty and opposition to allowing foreign military forces to operate in any fashion on Pakistani soil” (10-09-09 cable). Celebrating this “sea change in Pakistani thinking,” Patterson indicated that this would lead to more U.S. assassination activities within Pakistan, saying that the first deployment “likely helped catalyze the follow-up requests for new and repeat support.”
The overall message from the WikiLeaks cables, therefore, is clear: A disastrously bungled U.S. policy toward Pakistan has led a majority of the Pakistani people to see the U.S. as their “enemy” and strengthened jihadi forces in both the northwest territories and Punjab heartland and thus made it more likely that anti-American forces could obtain Pakistani nuclear materials.
And these cables thus prove that America faces a basic choice: It can continue to try to win in Afghanistan and thus continue to destabilize the Pakistani state, increasing the danger of a nuclear incident. Or it can withdraw from Afghanistan, use a portion of the $100 billion it is annually wasting there to help restore the Pakistan economy, end the drone strikes, ground assassinations and other infringements of Pakistani sovereignty, and seek to build a new relationship with the Pakistani people so that their government will no longer fear openly cooperating with America to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear materials.
Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Pakistan came amid growing signs that the Obama administration is finally waking up to the growing crisis there that its policies have helped produce for the past 18 months. The question now is whether U.S. policy-makers will realize that they have been destabilizing already-fragile Pakistan and redirect their efforts toward more constructive ends.
There is reason to believe such a reformed policy could work. A Pew poll last July revealed that while only 17 percent of Pakistanis view the U.S. favorably, 64 percent desire better relations. If the U.S. was to practice what it preaches and respect the Pakistani public’s democratic desires, it would be possible to create a foreign policy that would see the Pakistani and U.S. governments working together to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, thus enhancing U.S. national security rather than continuing to weaken it.
If U.S. policy toward Pakistan changes in a way that increases U.S. national security, it will be due in no small part to the courage of those who revealed how U.S. policy is increasing the likelihood of nuclear proliferation and a devastating attack on U.S. soil. The American people owe Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, the website’s sources and its volunteers their gratitude.
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