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Signs of Intelligence Sharing Give Way to Call for “Divorce”: US-Pakistan Relations Continue Extreme Swings

Back on August 2, I noted a very interesting development. At a time when the US and Pakistan were holding high-level meetings both in Washington and Pakistan, a terror plot in Afghanistan reported to be in preparation by the Haqqani network was disrupted. This was a surprising development to me because at the time I was predicting that the talks between the new head of Pakistan’s ISI and CIA head David Petraeus would go badly and that the US would launch poorly targeted drone attacks in retaliation, perhaps even while General ul-Islam was in transit back to Pakistan. Instead, there seemed to be a distinct possibility that Pakistan had provided intelligence on movement of Haqqani network members from Pakistan into Afghanistan and that this intelligence allowed the plot to be disrupted before it was carried out.

Once the meetings in Washington ended, no new drone strikes occurred in Pakistan. In fact, another attack plot was thwarted in Afghanistan on August 12. Although this plot was not believed to be at the hands of the Haqqani network, there was evidence that Pakistanis were involved, which again led me to postulate that this plot also was disrupted with the help of intelligence information from Pakistan.

The absence of drone strikes continued and then on August 13 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was interviewed by Lolita Baldor and Robert Burns of AP. As seen in the video excerpt above, Panetta said that he expected Pakistan to launch military operations soon against Taliban militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. As Bill Roggio noted at Long War Journal, this was a shocking development. After opening with “This is absolutely stunning”, Roggio went on to list his reasoning for why the announcement didn’t make much sense. He concluded:

How many times has Pakistan promised to take action in North Waziristan, or claimed to take action there, only to make fools of top US defense officials?

The lull in drone strikes continued.

Did the US lose patience with Pakistan’s promise to launch an operation in North Waziristan? On August 18, the lull in drone strikes ended (don’t bother looking this or any other drone strike up in New America Foundation’s database, as it now appears to have been taken down). And it ended in a particularly ugly way, at midday on the day when the religious feast of Eid al-Fitr would begin at sunset. That strike has been followed up with three others, so that as of Tuesday, there were four drone strikes in as many days. The lull does not match up with Ramadan. Ramadan started on July 20 and The Bureau for Investigative Journalism’s database shows attacks on July 23 and July 29. Instead, that last strike prior to the lull was just before ul-Islam’s meetings in Washington, which started on August 1.

This sequence of events suggests to me that if there was indeed a time of increased cooperation in which ISI shared intelligence on movement of militants from the tribal areas into Afghanistan for attacks in return for no drone strikes occurring, this agreement has now fallen apart. The intense rate of drone strikes once they re-started is typical of US actions when retaliation is desired. It would not be surprising, then, for the next attack by militants moving from Pakistan to Afghanistan to be successful instead of being disrupted before it can take place.

It appears that I am not alone in thinking we are again at a low point in US-Pakistan relations. Former Pakistani envoy to the United States Hussein Haqqani suggested yesterday that the US and Pakistan should “divorce”. This latest outbreak of drone attacks could then be seen as the US serving notice of separation.

Afghanistan War: Now With Even More Suckitude

Just because I happened to read one post and point out a small error before going on a beach walk, Marcy had a hard time believing I really did go on vacation last week. While I was gone, one of the topics I usually track carefully went completely out of control. The rate of green on blue attacks in Afghanistan spiked dramatically, with today’s nonfatal attack bringing the total to five attacks in the past week:

An Afghan policeman opened fire on NATO forces and Afghan soldiers Monday morning in the fifth apparent attack in a week by Afghan security forces on their international partners. The U.S.-led military coalition says none of its service members were killed.

/snip/

At least seven American service members have been killed in the past week by either their Afghan counterparts or attackers wearing their uniforms.

Notably, NATO is unable to deviate from its current script of claiming the attacks are all “isolated incidents” and that we should consider just how large the Afghan forces are becoming due to our superior recruiting and training:

Coalition officials say a few rogue policemen and soldiers should not taint the overall integrity of the Afghan security forces and that the attacks have not impeded plans to hand over security to Afghan forces, which will be 352,000 strong in a few months.

But the same AP article doesn’t seem to buy the NATO spin:

A recent rash of “green-on-blue” attacks, in which Afghan security forces or attackers wearing their uniforms turn their guns on the coalition troops training them, has raised worries about a deterioration of trust between the two sides as well as the quality of the Afghan police and soldiers who will take over full security responsibility for fighting the Taliban when most international troops leave by the end of 2014. It also raises renewed worry that insurgents may be infiltrating the Afghan army and police despite heightened screening.

When AP wire stories begin to describe the problems with Afghan force training in terms of “deterioration of trust” and express concerns about the “quality of Afghan police and soldiers” while also pointing out infiltration by insurgents, it is clear that the Obama administration and NATO are losing their propaganda campaign in which they continue to insist that everything is just fine in Afghanistan and that progress toward the hand-off of security responsibility in 2014 is on schedule.

But the spike in green on blue attacks isn’t the only bad news in Afghanistan. In addition to attacking NATO forces, infiltrators in the Afghan police force are killing fellow policemen and defecting in large groups. Also, local officials in Afghanistan continue to be targeted in attacks.

Slightly Better News

On another front, more evidence is accumulating on improved relations and information sharing between the US intelligence community and Pakistan’s ISI. Read more

Did Pakistan Provide Intelligence Against Haqqani Network?

As I mentioned on Tuesday, the head of Pakistan’s spy agency is in the US for meetings with the CIA and other US intelligence interests. Those meetings started yesterday and appear to be slated to go through tomorrow. I had predicted that if the meetings, and particularly the discussions regarding the Haqqani network, don’t go well, we will see a poorly targeted drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal area within the first day or two after the meetings conclude. Developments today, however, point in the opposite direction, with it looking as though perhaps the ISI has decided to share intelligence on the Haqqani network.

There is word today out of Kabul that a pre-dawn raid has disrupted plans for a major attack by the Haqqani network. Wire services are attributing the raid to Afghan security forces, but as I have pointed out more than once, there is a definite push by the US to over-state the capabilities of Afghan forces so that the best possible spin can be kept on US plans to withdraw from Afghanistan. It seems likely that the US had a large role in the raid but is pushing the story that Afghan forces pulled it off on their own.

Here is the Reuters story on the raid:

Afghan security forces killed five insurgents and wounded one during a pre-dawn raid in Kabul on Thursday, with authorities saying they had thwarted a mass attack and captured intelligence pointing to the militant Haqqani network.

Soldiers from Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), launched the raid just after midnight, entering a single-story house compound on the fringes of Kabul which the insurgents were using as a base.

“They planned mass attacks in different parts of Kabul disguised in burqas,” the NDS said in a statement, referring to the head-to-toe covering worn by many Afghan women and sometimes used by insurgents to evade detection.

With that raid occurring in the very early hours of this morning, statements coming out of the meeting later this morning between the US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, and Pakistan’s army chief, Ashfaq Kayani, take on added significance. From the Express Tribune:

The US commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that “significant progress” was being made in improving cooperation with Pakistan, after his first visit since Islamabad ended a blockade on Nato supplies.

The talks between General John Allen and General Ashfaq Kayani focused on improving security along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and cooperation between Afghan, Pakistani and Nato troops, said a statement released by both sides.

“I look forward to these visits and am pleased with the upward spiral in our relationship they represent,” Allen said.

“We are making significant progress toward building a partnership that is enduring, strategic, carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of the region.”

A bit later in the article we have this:

US officials have called repeatedly on Pakistan to move against the Haqqani network whose leaders are based on Pakistan’s side of the border.

Did the ISI provide information that allowed the Haqqani network team in Kabul to be found? That would certainly explain the optimism that Allen is voicing after today’s meeting.   However, obtaining intelligence on a forward operating team is nothing compared to the real goal the US wants, which is actionable intelligence on the leaders of the Haqqani network. It still seems very unlikely the ISI would hand over information on the Haqqani leaders, so perhaps their “compromise” position will be rein in the network and prevent them from carrying out attacks in Afghanistan until after the US departs. Such a position by the ISI might even achieve their goal of reducing drone strikes in the tribal regions by the US if it becomes clear that Haqqani network forays into Afghanistan have been reduced dramatically.

More Evidence US Views Drone Strikes as Political Retaliation Tool

On the same day that the US and Pakistan formally signed the agreement reopening the NATO supply routes through Pakistan, a piece profiling the US-Pakistan relationship in the New York Times provides further evidence supporting the idea that the US sometimes uses drone strikes as a tool for political retaliation. The retaliatory strikes previously have been stepped up to almost one per day when a particular point is being emphasized.

The entire Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt piece in today’s Times is worth reading, but I want to focus on the evidence they provide for drone strikes as retaliation. The piece focuses on the Haqqani network and how the perceived ties between them and Pakistan’s ISI complicate the US-Pakistan relationship. At one point in the article, the discussion moves to contingencies the US has considered about what the US would do if the Haqqani network manages to inflict a significant blow against US forces in Afghanistan:

But a new boldness from the Haqqanis that aims at mass American casualties, combined with simmering political tension, has reduced the room for ambiguity between the two countries. Inside the administration, it is a commonly held view that the United States is “one major attack” away from unilateral action against Pakistan — diplomatically or perhaps even militarily, one senior official said.

/snip/

American officials recently considered what that could mean. Days after the Salerno attack, the White House held a series of interagency meetings to weigh its options in the event of a major success by the Haqqanis against American troops.

/snip/

The meetings yielded a list of about 30 possible responses, according to a senior official who was briefed on the deliberations — everything from withdrawing the Islamabad ambassador, to a flurry of intensified drone attacks on Haqqani targets in Pakistan’s tribal belt, to American or Afghan commando raids on Haqqani hide-outs in the same area.

Gosh, “a flurry of intensified drone attacks” sounds very familiar. That is exactly what happened last May when Zardari’s visit to the NATO summit in Chicago did not produce the agreement for reopening the supply routes. Retaliatory strikes started almost immediately, with at least four strikes coming within a span of six days.

With the understanding that the US views drone strikes as a retaliation tool, we can watch this week’s visit to Washington by new ISI chief Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam. Islam will visit with David Petraeus and others Wednesday through Friday of this week. Drones are expected to be on the agenda for the meetings:

Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, who was appointed in March, “will visit USA from 1st to 3rd August. This will be a service-to-service bilateral visit,” the statement said.

“He will meet his counterpart General David Petraeus, director CIA.”

The short statement gave no other details, but a senior Pakistani security official earlier told AFP that the pair would discuss counter-terror cooperation and intelligence sharing.

Islam would also demand an end to US drone attacks against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and again ask for the means for Pakistan to carry out the attacks instead, the security official said.

The US has made it clear multiple times that it will not give up on carrying out drone strikes and that it does not trust ISI enough to bring them closely into the loop when choosing targets or timing for strikes. It seems very likely to me that the US will carry out a strike within the first day or two after the meeting ends, just to send the message to the ISI that the meeting has changed nothing in how the US will operate. If the strike is as reckless as the one that killed a group of 40 who turned out to be mostly civilians on the day after the release of Raymond Davis, then the US could be accused of letting the need for political retaliation move it all the way to blind rage. Another hint in the Times piece tells us that Haqqani leader “Sirajuddin Haqqani surrounds himself with civilians — often women and children — at his base in the town of Miram Shah”. Will the US decide to allow some “collateral damage” to women and children in an attempt to take out Sirajuddin Haqqani as Islam returns to Pakistan from his meeting with Petraeus?

Rorhrabacher’s Attempt to Defund Pakistan Falls 335-84

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) worked himself into quite a bit of anger yesterday defending his amendment to the NDAA which was intended to cut off funding for Pakistan. He gave a remarkable performance, railing against practices by the Pakistani government which he avidly endorses when carried out by the US.

He railed against Pakistan providing haven for Osama bin Laden even though Rohrabacher actually took up arms and fought alongside the mujahideen, which included bin Laden, back in the mid-80’s when they were fighting the Soviets. He blasted Pakistan for supporting terrorists like the Haqqani network at the same time that he is agitating for the delisting of the MeK as a terrorist group. He decried the arrest and detention without charges of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who carried out the polio vaccine ruse on behalf of the CIA at the bin Laden compound, and yet he has for years been at the forefront of advocating in favor of the prison at Guantanamo, where many remain held indefinitely without charge.

Here is how Rohrabacher described his amendment in a press release:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has introduced H.R. 5734, the “Pakistan Terrorism Accountability Act of 2012.” The legislation would require the Department of Defense to list all Americans killed by terrorist groups operating with impunity inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and supported by elements of the Pakistani government. For each person killed, $50 million would be subtracted from U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan, a requested $2.2 billion, and given to the victim’s family.

“For too long America has funded the Pakistani government, giving it free money, while elements of the ISI and Pakistan’s military operate radical Islamic groups that are actively murdering Americans,” said Rohrabacher. “Americans will not accept this.” 

“Pakistan has for decades leveraged radical terrorist groups to carry out attacks in India and Afghanistan,” continued Rohrabacher. “Pakistan helped to create the Taliban and Pakistan’s intelligence service hid Osama Bin Laden from the U.S. for years. Today, one of the most dangerous and sophisticated groups killing American troops in Afghanistan is the Haqqani Network, which is closely operated by the Pakistani government.” 

I suppose it’s too much to hope for that someone who operates on the fringes of American politics might realize that the Pakistani government is not a monolith that always acts with all of its participants working together for the same outcome. Rather than supporting those within Pakistan who will advance US interests, Rohrabacher wants to punish all of Pakistan because of those who work against US interests.

Rohrabacher’s attempt at lead pipe diplomacy has failed miserably, going down by a vote of 335 to 84.  Here is how Pakistan Today described the outcome:

Dashing Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s drastic designs, the US Congress on Thursday turned down the bill proposing curbs on American aid to Pakistan.

/snip/

The House of representative rejected the bill as 335 votes were cast against the bill while 84 in favour. Pakistan ambassador to US, Sherry Rehman played an active role against the bill.

At least he did a better job pronouncing Balochistan

As Pakistan Angles for Joint Ownership of Drone Attacks, Kerry To Be Dispatched for Another Apology

Dawn is reporting this morning that Pakistan is in the process of abandoning its demand that US drone strikes in Pakistan end and instead is now bargaining for joint ownership of the process, giving the Pakistanis access to key intelligence and advance knowledge of strikes. In the meantime, the Express Tribune is reporting that John Kerry is soon to be dispatched to Pakistan to convey an official apology for the November, 2011 border post attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops. Both of these developments occur within the larger framework of the US and Pakistan working to redefine cooperation on various fronts as a precursor to reopening NATO supply routes through Pakistan.

As the Dawn story points out, Pakistan seems to have moved to negotiating for joint ownership of drone strikes because the US flatly rejects Pakistan’s demand for an end to drone strikes:

Pakistan and the United States have begun exploring various options for joint ownership of drone attacks against militant targets in the tribal belt after the US flatly refused to stop the predator strikes.

“We are striving to have genuine co-ownership of the drone operations,” a senior Pakistani diplomat, who has been regularly briefed on the ongoing behind-the-scenes negotiations between Islamabad and Washington, told Dawn on Thursday.

Given the level of distrust the US has shown toward Pakistan’s intelligence operations, my guess is that sharing advance knowledge of targets will be rejected just as strongly as the concept of stopping drone attacks was dismissed. In anticipation of losing on the issue of drones, they are now being left off Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s list of areas in which the US and Pakistan are nearing final agreement:

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, while outlining the negotiation agenda at the DCC meeting over the weekend, omitted drone attacks.

“Negotiation on new terms and conditions for resumption of the Ground Lines of Communication (more commonly referred to as Nato supply routes), joint counter-terrorism cooperation, greater inter-agency coordination, transparency in US diplomatic and intelligence footprint in Pakistan, strengthening of border security and non-use of Pakistan’s territory for attacks on other countries and expulsion of all foreign fighters from Pakistan’s territory, are our fundamental policy parameters,” Mr Gilani said while listing ‘policy parameters’ for re-engagement with the US.

The current break in US-Pakistan relations was triggered by the killing of 24 Pakistani troops at a border station last November. It now appears that a formal apology for that incident is in the works:

US President Barack Obama is sending his key trouble-shooter to Pakistan later this month amidst efforts to reset ties in light of the new foreign policy guidelines recently approved by parliament.

Former presidential hopeful and chairman of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry is expected to travel to Islamabad on April 29 to meet the country’s top civil and military leadership, an official told The Express Tribune.

Kerry seems to be the go-to guy on both apologies and non-apologies, as he was dispatched for the apology for the Raymond Davis incident and was sent to tell Pakistan that we would not apologize for the Osama bin Laden killing.

Considering that Pakistan is also demanding an end to covert agents inside Pakistan, we are left to wonder whether Kerry will  use his plane once again to remove spies, as he did while delivering the Davis incident apology.

Chief Justice Chaudhry: Balochistan Burns While Police Watch

Showing extreme frustration over senior police officials not appearing before his hearing today on Balochistan, Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry lashed out at them:

Chaudhry had summoned Inspector General (IG) Balochistan and relevant Superintendent Police (SP) in the court earlier today on an immediate notice.

“If the police officials failed to comply with the court’s order, they will be sent to jail,” he had warned.

He censured the law enforcement agencies for their incompetency in maintaining peace in the province and remarked that the courts are being kept uninformed about the factual details.

“Balochistan is on fire but the officials are mere spectators to it,” Chaudhry remarked.

The court also heard from three people who previously had been among the “missing”:

In another relevant development, three people who had been recovered from Kuchlak area were presented before the court.

They narrated their ordeal before the bench and said: “We were abducted from Quetta at night; we were blindfolded and then kept at some unknown location for about 40 days.”

The court issued release orders for the three recovered people and directed the police to safely escort them to their homes.

The number of missing people abducted by government forces is very much in dispute, as pointed out on Monday in the Express Tribune:

The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VFBMP), an organisation striving for the safe recovery of missing persons, urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to hold monthly hearings on the issue in Quetta.

“Relatives are coming to Quetta with the hope that the chief justice will recover their loved ones who have been missing for years,” VFBMP Chairman Nasrullah Baloch told The Express Tribune.

Baloch added that the relatives of all 1,300 missing persons will appear before the court and record their statements before Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. “This move will prove that the government and its functionaries are lying (when they say) merely 47 persons are missing,” he said. Read more

Rohrabacher Attempts to Justify His Meddling With Pakistan

Over the weekend, the Washington Post gave California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher space so that he could attempt to explain to us why he is disrupting diplomatic efforts to repair US-Pakistan relations by continuing his quest for an independent Balochistan. Rohrabacher does manage a reference in the opening paragraph to the atrocities befalling the Baloch at the hands of Pakistani authorities, but his  column is more of a laundry list of what is wrong with Pakistan rather than why Balochistan should be independent.

Remarkably, Rohrabacher states “With this resolution, I do not seek to single out Pakistan”, but goes on to list a litany of complaints against Pakistan, most of which have nothing to do with the Baloch. Rohrabacher hits Pakistan for being an accomplice in the 9/11 attacks, for the fate of Shakeel Afridi and for harboring the Taliban. Coming from the man who coined the term “Freedom Fighters” to describe the Mujahedin while on Reagan’s staff and even going so far as to fight alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviets, this is a remarkable level of hypocrisy. He also happens to mention that the Chinese have designs on the port of Gwadar. The clincher that Rohrabacher is simply punishing Pakistan comes in his penultimate paragraph:

It is time Washington stopped aiding Pakistan and developed a closer friendship with India and, perhaps, Baluchistan.

Yup, he’s not singling out Pakistan, he just thinks we need to stop supporting them and support their biggest enemy and those fighting from within.

Missing from Rohrabacher’s piece is any mention of what the Baloch are doing in their quest for independence. One would think that having been burned already by teaming with bin Laden out of hatred for the Soviets, Rohrabacher would look into the actions by those he is now supporting against Pakistan. Others appear to be aware that such examination will come soon, and we see a recent piece in Dawn where the independence movement attempts to justify some of its worst violence:

Brahamdagh [Bugti], whom the authorities in Pakistan have variously accused of financing, running and heading terrorist activities in Balochistan, rejected the perception that Baloch sardars were against development in their areas. He said the Baloch were, however, opposed to road-building projects meant for further exploitation of the province’s natural resources.

When asked about the murder of Punjabi settlers in Balochistan, Brahamdagh blamed the army. “When the army kills people, the family members [of those killed) have no choice but to react and take revenge,” he said.

The reason roads are being destroyed is that they are being used exploit natural resources and Punjabi settlers are being murdered because the Baloch have to kill someone in return for the Pakistani army killing their family members. What could possibly go wrong with supporting groups with these views?

 

Obama, Gilani Meet in Seoul While Allen Undermines Talks

ISAF Commander John Allen

In Seoul today for an international nuclear security summit, President Obama met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The meeting was viewed by many as an opportunity to bring the two nations closer together while the parliament in Pakistan reviews how to move forward in re-establishing cooperation between the two countries in counterterrorism efforts. Remarkably, ISAF Commander General John Allen appears to be doing his best to undermine these talks, appearing at the Brookings Institution yesterday to reprise divisive remarks delivered by Admiral Michael Mullen just before he retired as Chair of the Joint Chiefs last September.

As a reminder, here is the remark from Mullen that set off a firestorm in Pakistan last year:

In a scathing and unprecedented public condemnation of Pakistan, Admiral Mike Mullen said the country’s main intelligence agency ISI was actively supporting Haqqani network militants blamed for an assault on the US embassy in Kabul last week.

The Haqqani network is probably the most dangerous faction in the Afghan Taliban and founded by a CIA asset turned al Qaeda ally. During the 1980s, the CIA funneled arms and cash to the Haqqanis to counter Soviet forces.

“The Haqqani Network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” Mullen told the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

That comment dominated US-Pakistan relations until the US attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops at a border station in November overshadowed it and relations between the two countries reached a new low. Now, as the countries work toward re-establishing better relations, Allen ham-handedly re-runs Mullen’s remark by claiming he won’t mention it:

“In this forum I can’t really speculate on why the ISI does anything with respect to the Haqqanis. I don’t think we should be surprised that they have a relationship, that relationship with the ISI and a number of these organisations goes back a very long time,” he said.

But he added that the fact these relationships exist are not of particular surprise. “We shouldn’t be surprised that they have a relationship, I would not speculate on what specific operational support they have or whether they are an actual arm. Read more

Unintended Consequences: Rohrabacher’s Inept Balochistan Meddling Provokes Pak Rebuke of ISI, MI for Extra-Judicial Killings

On February 8, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) held a hearing on Balochistan, which he followed up on February 17 with a resolution calling for an independent Balochistan. As I reported on the hearing, Rohrabacher mispronounced Balochistan so badly during the hearing that one Pakistani newspaper referred to him as “Donna Rohrbacher”. As might be expected, having a minor congressman meddle so clumsily in foreign affairs had a horrible immediate fallout, with large anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan developing in response to the independence resolution.

The fact that Rohrabacher is playing petty politics with the fate of a large number of people has not been overlooked in Pakistan. Former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Najmuddin A. Shaikh, writing yesterday in Dawn, had this to say in an opinion piece:

Rohrabacher has had an interest in Afghanistan for the last 30 years. As part of president Reagan’s stable of speech writers he takes credit for having Reagan call the Afghan Mujahideen ‘freedom fighters’ and even for the parallel Reagan drew between America’s founding fathers and the Mujahideen. In those days, Pakistan was his favourite country.

Today his attitude towards Pakistan is coloured by what he believes Pakistan is doing in Afghanistan and not by his concern for the Baloch people. Had he been genuinely concerned about Balochistan his star witness should have been Selig Harrison who has long been regarded in the American security establishment as the foremost expert on Balochistan.

That has been my concern as well. Rohrabacher’s professed support for the Balochs seems strikingly like the support the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans displayed for the Kurds after the first Gulf War, where the Kurds were encouraged to take on Saddam Hussein, only for the Republicans to then stand by idly while Hussein massacred them. In this case, it appears that Rohrabacher is professing support for the Baloch, but mainly for the way in which this support can weaken the Pakistani government, which he blames for sheltering Taliban insurgents who carry out attacks in Afghanistan and for hiding Osama bin Laden (who was no longer a Freedom Fighter, I guess).

Despite this cyncial background, however, the attention generated by Rohrabacher’s stunts is having some distinctly positive effects. Writing yesterday at BBC.com, Ahmed Rashid notes:

It took an obscure United States congressman holding a controversial hearing in Washington on the civil war in Balochistan to awaken the conscience of the Pakistani government, military and public. Read more