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Pakistan WSJ Ad Unlikely to Change Narrative

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan has taken out a half-page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in an attempt to shift what Islamabad feels is an anti-Pakistan narrative in the American media.

“Which country can do more for your peace?” the ad asks, sitting below a story on page A10 of the U.S. Journal’s Saturday/Sunday edition titled “When the Towers Came Down.”

“Since 2001 a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of world’s 7 billion!” it continues.”Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan…Promising peace to the world.”

Pakistani army and civilian officials complain that in the U.S. their country is often portrayed in the media and by members of Congress as a double-dealing ally that takes billions of dollars in U.S. aid but secretly helps the Taliban kill U.S. soldiers.

Pakistan’s leaders have been publicly trying to promote a competing narrative, but with almost no success.

In their telling, Pakistan did foster Islamist militant groups, first to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan and then Indian soldiers in Kashmir. Pakistan military and civilian officials point out the U.S. was all for the Mujahideen war against Moscow in the 1980s. But in the past decade, Pakistan’s army has severed its links with militants, who have unleashed a bloody war against Pakistan’s army and government, according to Islamabad’s narrative.

Pakistani officials regularly tell this version of events in public speechs and to visiting U.S. officials and journalists. The military has even made a local TV drama featuring real soldiers to publicize its sacrifices in the war against militants.

The advert in the Journal seeks to give the message to a wider audience.

To underline its point, the ad carries a picture of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s former prime minister who was assassinated by Islamist militants in 2007, next to the slogan, “The promise of our martyrs lives on…”

The ad cites a series of statistics. Almost 22,000 Pakistani civilians have died or been seriously injured in the fight against terrorism, the ad said. The army has lost almost 3,000 soldiers. More than 3.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting and the damage to the economy over the past decade is estimated at $68 billion, it added.

People will quibble with these statistics from a country where reporters often find it difficult to get basic data.

It was not clear whether the ad was carried in other U.S. publications. Pakistan’s government also tried to place it in the New York Times. The Times asked for “more clarity in the ad about who was placing it,” according to a spokeswoman for the newspaper. The Times did not hear back from the government and so has not yet run the ad, she said.

The ad as printed in the Journal carries a line at the bottom in small font saying “Government of Pakistan” next to a web address for the government. A spokeswoman for the Journal declined to comment.

Will the advertisement be effective in shifting the narrative? It’s unlikely.

The points raised are all fair enough. Pakistan has been hammered by suicide bombings by Islamist militants against civilian and army targets. It’s perhaps fair to say that many in the U.S. have failed to recognize the changes in Pakistan, especially in the past few years, that have led to its domestic war against militancy.

Still, many in the U.S. and elsewhere are likely to shrug their shoulders. In the U.S. and India, where Pakistani-based militants are viewed as a daily threat to security, many politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens blame Pakistan for failing to stop the export of terrorism and being selective in which Islamist militant groups they go after.

Pakistan has waged a war against homegrown Pakistan Taliban militants for the past three years, suffering large casualties. But U.S. defense officials say publicly they are concerned that the country continues to protect Afghan Taliban fighters that don’t attack inside Pakistan. It’s these fighters who use Pakistan soil as a base from which to launch attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, they say.

Some U.S. officials say they believe Pakistan’s argument that it’s too stretched fighting the Pakistan Taliban to open new fronts in its war against militants. But many members of Congress and U.S. defense officials say Islamabad wants to keep ties strong with the Afghan Taliban so it can influence politics over the border once the U.S. pulls out its troops by 2014.

India blames Pakistan for failing to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group which carried out the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, killing over 160 people, and has hit Indian targets in Afghanistan. LET has not carried out any attacks against the Pakistan state.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Surge

By Andrew Bast for Newsweek

Even in the best of times, Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program warrants alarm. But these are perilous days. At a moment of unprecedented misgiving between Washington and Islamabad, new evidence suggests that Pakistan’s nuclear program is barreling ahead at a furious clip.

According to new commercial-satellite imagery obtained exclusively by NEWSWEEK, Pakistan is aggressively accelerating construction at the Khushab nuclear site, about 140 miles south of Islamabad. The images, analysts say, prove Pakistan will soon have a fourth operational reactor, greatly expanding plutonium production for its nuclear-weapons program.

“The buildup is remarkable,” says Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security. “And that nobody in the U.S. or in the Pakistani government says anything about this—especially in this day and age—is perplexing.”

Unlike Iran, which has yet to produce highly enriched uranium, or North Korea, which has produced plutonium but still lacks any real weapons capability, Pakistan is significantly ramping up its nuclear-weapons program. Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, puts it bluntly: “You’re talking about Pakistan even potentially passing France at some point. That’s extraordinary.”

Pakistani officials say the buildup is a response to the threat from India, which is spending $50 billion over the next five years on its military. “But to say it’s just an issue between just India and Pakistan is divorced from reality,” says former senator Sam Nunn, who co-chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative. “The U.S. and Soviet Union went through 40 years of the Cold War and came out every time from dangerous situations with lessons learned. Pakistan and India have gone through some dangerous times, and they have learned some lessons. But not all of them. Today, deterrence has fundamentally changed. The whole globe has a stake in this. It’s extremely dangerous.”

It’s dangerous because Pakistan is also stockpiling fissile material, or bomb fuel. Since Islamabad can mine uranium on its own territory and has decades of enrichment know-how—beginning with the work of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan—the potential for production is significant.
Although the White House declined to comment, a senior U.S. congressional official who works on nuclear issues told NEWSWEEK that intelligence estimates suggest Pakistan has already developed enough fissile material to produce more than 100 warheads and manufacture between eight and 20 weapons a year. “There’s no question,” the official says, “it’s the fastest-growing program in the world.”

What has leaders around the world especially worried is what’s popularly known as “loose nukes”—nuclear weapons or fissile material falling into the wrong hands. “There’s no transparency in how the fissile material is handled or transported,” says Mansoor Ijaz, who has played an active role in back-channel diplomacy between Islamabad and New Delhi. “And the amount—they have significant quantities—is what’s so alarming.”

That Osama bin Laden was found in a Pakistani military community, and that the country is home to such jihadi groups as Lashkar-e-Taiba, only heightens concerns. “We’ve looked the other way from Pakistan’s growing program for 30 years,” says Sharon Squassoni, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. What we’re facing, she says, is “a disaster waiting to happen.”

A Defense Department official told NEWSWEEK that the U.S. government is “confident that Pakistan has taken appropriate steps toward securing its nuclear arsenal.” But beyond palliatives, few in Washington want to openly discuss the nightmare scenario of terrorists getting hold of nuclear material or weapons. “The less that is said publicly, the better,” says Stephen Hadley, national-security adviser to President George W. Bush. “But don’t confuse the lack of public discussion for a lack of concern.”

The bomb lends the Pakistanis a certain diplomatic insouciance. Nukes, after all, are a valuable political tool, ensuring continued economic aid from the United States and Europe. “Pakistan knows it can outstare” the West, says Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy. “It’s confident the West knows that Pakistan’s collapse is too big a price to pay, so the bailout is there in perpetuity. It’s the one thing we’ve been successful at.”

Pakistani leaders defend their weapons program as a strategic necessity: since they can’t match India’s military spending, they have to bridge the gap with nukes. “Regretfully, there are several destabilizing developments that have taken place in recent years,” Khalid Banuri of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, the nuclear arsenal’s guardian, wrote in response to NEWSWEEK questions. Among his country’s concerns, Banuri pointed to India’s military buildup and the U.S.’s -civilian nuclear deal with India.

“Most Pakistanis believe the jihadist scenario is something that the West has created as a bogey,” says Hoodbhoy, “an excuse, so they can screw us, defang, and denuclearize us.”

“Our program is an issue of extreme sensitivity for every man, woman, and child in Pakistan,” says former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, adding that the nukes are “well dispersed and protected in secure locations.” When asked whether the U.S. has a role to play in securing the arsenal, Musharraf said: “A U.S. role to play? A U.S. role in helping? Zero role. No, sir. It is our own production?.?.?.?We have not and cannot now have any intrusion by any element in the U.S.” To guard its “strategic assets,” Pakistan employs two Army divisions—about 18,000 troops—and, as Musharraf drily puts it, “If you want to get into a firefight with the forces guarding our strategic assets, it will be a very sad day.”

For now, the White House appears to have made a tacit tradeoff with Islamabad: for your cooperation in Afghanistan, we’ll leave you to your own nuclear devices. “People bristle at the suggestion, but it follows, doesn’t it?” says Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, formerly the CIA’s chief officer handling terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. “The irony is that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the money we’re giving them to fight terrorism, could inadvertently aggravate the very problem we’re trying to stop. After all, terrorism and nukes is the worst-case scenario.”

With this fourth nuclear facility at Khushab coming online as early as 2013, and the prospect of an accelerated nuclear-weapons program, the U.S. is facing a diplomatic dilemma. “The Pakistanis have gone through a humiliation with the killing of Osama bin Laden,” says Nunn. “That’s never a time to corner somebody. But with both recent and preexisting problems, we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe. Both sides need to take a deep breath, count to 10, and find a way to cooperate.”

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