Continued Escalation in US-Pakistan Rhetoric

The dramatic accusations made by Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen in yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing provoked immediate, strong reactions from Pakistan. Here is how the Washington Post described Mullen’s testimony:

Last week’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and a Sept. 10 truck bombing that killed five Afghans and wounded 77 NATO troops were “planned and conducted” by the Pakistan-based Haqqani network “with ISI support,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The ISI is the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

“The government of Pakistan and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI” have chosen “to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy” to maintain leverage over Afghanistan’s future, Mullen testified during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also testified.

As seen in the video above, Mullen’s remarks provoked a sharp response from Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar:

“You will lose an ally,” Khar told Geo TV in New York in remarks broadcast on Friday.

“You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so it will be at their (the United States’) own cost.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also chimed in. From GEO:

The United States should take care of the feelings of 180 million people of Pakistan while issuing statements or commenting on important issues, said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday.


He said, “Our 180 million people want to defend their motherland and its sovereignty”.

“US cannot live with us and without us,” he said and added “thus the United States should avoid sending ‘wrong messages’ which would affect the bilateral ties”.

From these comments, it is clear that both Khar and Gilani are warning the US that Pakistan could withdraw all cooperation if the war of words continues.

I will stand by the prediction I made yesterday:

Should the US be successful in attaching some sort of cooperation requirement for US funding to flow to Pakistan, look for some sort of token move by Pakistan that will provide even more heated rhetoric. The situation likely will then be resolved by Pakistan grudgingly cooperating in an action against the Haqqani network. The most important point to watch for in this current “crisis” will be to see just how high in the Haqqani network Pakistan is willing to go in sacrificing a part of it to the US in order to keep their seemingly endless supply of US funds flowing.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
28 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    It seems an important part of this is the parallel effort at the UN for us to deny Palestine a state. Saudi Arabia has threatened us over that. They’re funding Pakistan on some of these activities. So while we’re dickering over sending more free money to our terrorists in Pakistan, the Saudis and the Pakistans may be thinking much bigger.

    Meanwhile Obama is pushing to lift sanctions on torture regime Uzbekistan so we have another way to supply Afghanistan.

    Everywhere you turn, it’s another case of “what could go wrong?”

  2. rugger9 says:

    It is also one of those situations where if the accusation is made, you had better have the hard evidence to back it up. This is even more important for us now after all of the well-documented lies perpetrated by the Bush Administration regarding the threats and activities by Saddam Hussein in particular [a drop in the bucket as it turns out for Bu$hie lying], because our credibility is shot in that part of the world.

    Understand also that our recent overtures to India on trade and other matters is seen by Pakistan as an insult. India remains their mortal enemy.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Good for Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. She was very impressive, and I’m sure that she reflects the thoughts of many Pakistanis. The US had better listen and take her words seriously. There needs to be a comprehensive review of Operation Enduring Freedom.

    This is a crazy relationship the US has, allying with a country (Pakistan) that is supporting US enemies in Afghanistan where the US is promoting the fortunes Pakistan’s mortal enemy India, and then complaining that Pakistan isn’t doing US bidding. It’s nuts but the US does it anyhow.

    Russia, China and India must think the US policy is too good to be true, because it benefits all of them while it does harm does to the US.

    in other news, acording to a recent army report:

    The incidence of dismounted complex blast injuries has increased during the last 15 months of combat in the Afghanistan Theater of Operations (ATO). The number of Service Members with triple limb amputation has nearly doubled this past year from the sum of all those seen over the last eight years of combat. The number of genital injuries increased significantly from previous OIF rates.

    The ATO’s most dramatic changes in 2010 were the increased numbers of bilateral thigh amputations, triple and quadruple amputations, and associated genital injuries…IED explosions on dismounted patrols caused the large majority of these injuries, with traumatic amputation of at least one, and often both, lower extremities. It wasn’t uncommon for these amputations to have accompanying GU injuries, penetrating pelvic and abdominal trauma, and an upper extremity amputation or severe injury…When those who sustained major lower limb amputations were matched with those who also sustained genital injuries, the correlation approached 90%.

    Post-traumatic stress (PTS) and TBI still play a significant role and add complexity and challenges to the rehabilitation and reintegration of these Warriors.

  4. Bob Schacht says:

    Can *anyone* control the ISI?

    It sounds like Obama/Clinton Co. has decided to play chicken with Pakistan’s generals, betting that they have become dependent enough on the toys we give them that they won’t abandon us.

    But I’ll bet China would just *LOVE* to replace us in PAK. Recall that China is financing the construction of a major port in southern Baluchistan that would give them access to the Indian Ocean. Remember how the Great Game was all about preventing the Russians from gaining access to Pakistan’s ports? Now it looks like same game, different powers.

    Bob in AZ

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    At the risk of exposing my ignorance, it seems that Haqqani + PK + nukes = trouble.

    I don’t fault Petraeus one bit.
    This appears to be lethal.

    Between reading about PK/ISI involvement in that horrendous Mumbai massacre, along with OBL living near their military college for years, it’s interesting to watch the layers getting peeled off this onion.

  6. Jim White says:

    @readerOfTeaLeaves: I may be way off here, but I get the distinct feeling that much of what is going on now can be described as gamesmanship. And the Pakistanis know that the nukes are WAY outside the boundaries of the game: if the nukes got involved, there’d be a full-scale invasion so fast Congress wouldn’t even have a chance to vote before the fact.

  7. rugger9 says:

    I’ll agree it’s lethal, but do we really need to be there and incite the locals with the not-totally-accurate drone strikes?

    Don, for years Pakistan was the US ally in the region, we used Karachi a lot. India was the Soviet counterweight. But, you are correct in pointing out that the Chinese government is exploiting the situation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see their hands involved in creating wedges.

  8. MadDog says:

    On topic – CBS News tonight reported the following:

    Cell phones link Pakistan to U.S. embassy attack

    The insurgents who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week were killed but their cell phones left a trail.

    The phones had been used to call Pakistani intelligence operatives before and during the assault. This evidence lies behind the charge made by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the Haqqani network is a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports…”

  9. Lawordisorder says:

    How are you guys doing?

    Jim another great posting & your as usual right for the most part, but you guys are missing the crucial part of ADM mullens testimony

    Keyword: Kashmir
    Now you can pretty much read a lot into those words therefor ill give you some pointers
    Iran(jerusalem), Pakistan, India see also new start and beyond. AQ (who we know whants to aquire nuklear material)i found this blog that states that the AFGH president just murdered just got back from Iran (dunno if it checks out though)

    pls note mondus operandi

    Pls also note in Hellmand they found “aluminum powder” thats the trademark of a pro (se its reaktions to water)

    Pipelines, NATO southern supply route,

    Knowing marcy and the rest of the gang here at EW that should be well enough to squise ½ the world secrets out of any administration

    Have fun and give em’ hell marcy

  10. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: Apparently this was also reported yesterday in a Reuter’s piece:

    “…Bruce Riedel, a former top CIA analyst with close ties to the Obama White House, which he once advised, told Reuters administration officials have told him that militants who attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul on September 13 phoned individuals connected with the ISI before and during the attack…”

  11. MadDog says:

    And even more OT (or not), via the White House, John Brennan’s remarks at the Harvard Law School, September 16, 2011:

    Strengthening our Security by Adhering to our Values and Laws

    And a sample of the GWOT policies expressed:

    “…An area in which there is some disagreement is the geographic scope of the conflict. The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qa’ida as being restricted solely to “hot” battlefields like Afghanistan. Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the United States takes the legal position that —in accordance with international law—we have the authority to take action against al-Qa’ida and its associated forces without doing a separate self-defense analysis each time. And as President Obama has stated on numerous occasions, we reserve the right to take unilateral action if or when other governments are unwilling or unable to take the necessary actions themselves.

    That does not mean we can use military force whenever we want, wherever we want. International legal principles, including respect for a state’s sovereignty and the laws of war, impose important constraints on our ability to act unilaterally—and on the way in which we can use force—in foreign territories.

    Others in the international community—including some of our closest allies and partners—take a different view of the geographic scope of the conflict, limiting it only to the “hot” battlefields. As such, they argue that, outside of these two active theatres, the United States can only act in self-defense against al-Qa’ida when they are planning, engaging in, or threatening an armed attack against U.S. interests if it amounts to an “imminent” threat.

    In practice, the U.S. approach to targeting in the conflict with al-Qa’ida is far more aligned with our allies’ approach than many assume. This Administration’s counterterrorism efforts outside of Afghanistan and Iraq are focused on those individuals who are a threat to the United States, whose removal would cause a significant – even if only temporary – disruption of the plans and capabilities of al-Qa’ida and its associated forces. Practically speaking, then, the question turns principally on how you define “imminence.”

    We are finding increasing recognition in the international community that a more flexible understanding of “imminence” may be appropriate when dealing with terrorist groups, in part because threats posed by non-state actors do not present themselves in the ways that evidenced imminence in more traditional conflicts. After all, al-Qa’ida does not follow a traditional command structure, wear uniforms, carry its arms openly, or mass its troops at the borders of the nations it attacks. Nonetheless, it possesses the demonstrated capability to strike with little notice and cause significant civilian or military casualties. Over time, an increasing number of our international counterterrorism partners have begun to recognize that the traditional conception of what constitutes an “imminent” attack should be broadened in light of the modern-day capabilities, techniques, and technological innovations of terrorist organizations.

    The convergence of our legal views with those of our international partners matters. The effectiveness of our counterterrorism activities depends on the assistance and cooperation of our allies—who, in ways public and private, take great risks to aid us in this fight. But their participation must be consistent with their laws, including their interpretation of international law. Again, we will never abdicate the security of the United States to a foreign country or refrain from taking action when appropriate. But we cannot ignore the reality that cooperative counterterrorism activities are a key to our national defense. The more our views and our allies’ views on these questions converge, without constraining our flexibility, the safer we will be as a country…”

  12. bmaz says:

    Trash Talk is a coming.

    Don’t be afraid, Trash Talk will not hurt you.

    Trash Talk is good.

    You know you want to partake in Trash;

    Your wait is almost over.

  13. Bay State Librul says:


    Hope you have a segment on the disloyalty
    of Curt Schilling.
    Along with Clemens, he’s a typical Republican dickhead.
    Spahn and Sain and pray for rain?

  14. Don Bacon says:

    @Bay State Librul:
    I think Jim doesn’t want his threads highjacked, so there. And whatever he thinks, I’ll bark about it when it happens ‘cuz he’s my favorite EW diarist in the whole world especially when he agrees with me which is amazingly and inexplicably often.

    Now excuse me, I have to go to bmaz and spout off some war stuff. Baseball is so booooring.

  15. Ronald Bleier says:


    Hard evidence? It’s the US that is behind the terrorism so the only available evidence will not be produced in DC, although the NYT today–9.25.11–noted that the US taxpayer is supporting the Haqqani network paying them to allow our supply convoys to go thru.
    Remember the Raymond Davis affair? He shot two Pakistani police agents apparently because they had evidence that he was one of the agents behind the terror attacks–in Pakistan? Afghanistan? India?–all three?
    So the Paks forced the repatriation of all similar US agents–more than 60 or more– and the US has been a tizzy ever since to allow them back in. Their mission: destablize Pakistan.
    It was such a scandal that the Paks finally decided not to continue to allow the destabilization of their country.
    The US response: We’ll destabilize you anyway or any which way.

  16. MarkH says:

    @readerOfTeaLeaves: I think there are interests in Pakistan which don’t really want us or Zardari interfering with their profit-making and there are political interests which would like to see a mess develop which they can blame on Obama.

    American policy has been to cooperate with Zardari and that has generally gone well. But, the opponents of Zardari and Obama want trouble and they’re good at creating it.

    Frankly, if there are people who want trouble, then they would be very lucky to avoid it arriving at their own door. Sadly, this can refer also to people in many parts of the world far from Pakistan.

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