Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reporting For The Gallery?

Okay, are we missing something here? Are Pakistanis fooling themselves or is it the Americans who are playing to their domestic gallery?

Check out the contrasting tone and content of how the currently on-going US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue meetings in Washington were reported by the American establishmentarian Foreign Policy magazine blog yesterday and Pakistani papers today...

First the FP blog piece:

In surprise appearance, Obama delivers tough love message to visiting Pakistani officials
Posted By Josh Rogin   Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - 4:42 PM
"Dozens of U.S. and Pakistani officials are meeting this week at the State Department in 13 different working groups spanning all elements of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue, but the real action is in a few, select side meetings, where participants tell The Cable that the Obama team is taking a markedly tougher tone with the Pakistanis than before.
One key meeting Wednesday afternoon was between National Security Advisor in-waiting Tom Donilon and what's known as the "core" group of Pakistani officials: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, and Ambassador Husain Haqqani.
President Barack Obama dropped in on that meeting and stayed for 50 minutes, according to an official who was there, and personally delivered the tough love message that other top administration officials have been communicating since the Pakistani delegation arrived. Obama also expressed support for Pakistan's democracy and announced he would invite Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to the White House in the near future.
Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dropped in unannounced on another meeting between Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and Kayani. She delivered the message that Washington's patience is wearing thin with Pakistan's ongoing reluctance to take a more aggressive stance against militant groups operating from Pakistan over the Afghan border. A similar message was delivered to Kayani in another high-level side meeting Wednesday morning at the Pentagon, hosted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, two senior government sources said.
The message being delivered to Pakistan throughout the week by the Obama team is that its effort to convince Pakistan to more aggressively combat groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba will now consist of both carrots and sticks. But this means that the U.S. administration must find a way incentivize both the Pakistani civilian and military leadership, which have differing agendas and capabilities.
"The Obama side is calculating that Pakistan's military can deliver on subjects important to the U.S. but doesn't want to, while the civilian leadership in Pakistan wants to, but isn't able," said one high-level participant who spoke with The Cable in between sessions.
The carrots are clear. A State Department official confirmed to The Cable that the two sides will formally announce on Friday a new $2 billion military aid package for Pakistan, focusing mostly on items that can be used for counterterrorism. Unspecified amounts of new funding for the reconstruction effort related to the Pakistani flood disaster are also on the table. In exchange, the United States not only wants increased Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan and Baluchistan, but also increased operational flexibility for U.S. special forces operating inside Pakistan's borders.
The sticks are less clear. Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad argued in a New York Times op-ed Tuesday that the Obama administration should threaten to take down terrorist havens in Pakistan, without Islamabad's consent if necessary. The Carnegie Endowment's Ashley Tellis wrote that the United States should condition aid to Pakistan on increased cooperation and even consider throwing more support toward India's role in Afghanistan, an idea the Pakistanis despise.
The timing of these op-eds and the change in the Obama administration's tone is not being seen by many as a coincidence.
The Pakistanis believe that their extensive efforts to expand military operations in South Waziristan don't get enough recognition in Washington. They also say privately that whatever incentives the United States is offering are not enough to compensate for the huge political and security risks that would come with a full-on assault on insurgent groups they have tacitly supported for decades.
Hanging over the whole discussion are reports that the United States is supporting and even providing escorts for the reconciliation talks in Kabul between the Afghan government, led by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and senior Taliban officials. The New York Times reported Wednesday that these talks were going on without the approval or involvement of the Pakistani government, ostensibly to prevent elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from moving to thwart them.
"Pakistan is still resisting [moving on groups in North Waziristan] because it still hasn't fully finished with its ongoing operations [in South Waziristan] and also because it doesn't know what will happen with the talks with the Taliban and would much rather not antagonize the Haqqani network at this juncture," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council.
Nawaz noted that the Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan has now reached the third set of meetings, and that there is more pressure to show concrete results to validate the need for such a high-level format. "I hope there will be some clarity on what the objectives are on both sides and also some clarity on red lines so we don't have to relive this movie again and again," he said.
Nawaz also predicted that another point of contention will permeate the chatter in the hallways between Pakistani and American interlocutors -- Pakistan's desire to have Obama visit sometime soon.
"The big underlying issue that won't be on the agenda but will probably be discussed is President Obama's upcoming visit to India and that he won't be coming to Pakistan," he said. "It will point to the imbalance in the relationship."
In a read out, the White House said that Obama has committed to visit Pakistan some time in 2011.
Qureshi, Holbrooke, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will talk about all these issues at a joint Brookings/ Asia Society event Wednesday evening."

Now, take a look at how The News reported it today:

Obama reiterates support to Pak democracy
Updated at: 430 PST,  Thursday, October 21, 2010
Sami Ibraham
"WASHINGTON: President Barack Hussain Obama has said the United States will not compromise on democracy in Pakistan and will continue its all possible assistance. He said this during an unscheduled meeting with the Pakistani delegation here on Tuesday afternoon (Wednesday night Pakistan Standard Time).
The delegation comprised Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani was also present.
President Obama said the US wants stability in Pakistan and will provide all possible assistance to strengthen the Pakistan armed forces. He said Washington would not compromise on democracy in that country and continue friendship with the people of Pakistan. Obama said that during the tenure of President Asif Ali Zardari, relations between the United States and Pakistan saw an improvement.
“I believe Mr Qureshi your efforts are very fruitful,” he told the foreign minister. Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, while talking to reporters after the meeting, said it was a very successful meeting with President Obama and the results will speak for itself. “I believe that it is a step towards a very positive direction,” he added.
Sources told this correspondent that President Obama also praised efforts of Pakistan armed forces in the war against terrorism.
According to official news agency, US Defense leaders met on Wednesday with Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discussed military-to-military partnership and security assistance as part of the third US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy met with Gen Kayani and members of his staff on Wednesday morning.
Morrell said during the meeting, Gates expressed the department’s appreciation and recognition of the Pakistani military’s contributions and sacrifices in combating terror in Pakistan and conducting counterinsurgency operations there.
Gates said that “we are, of course, committed to the security and development of Afghanistan over the long term, but beyond Afghanistan and the important role Pakistan plays in the ultimate successful outcome in that country, we wish to build a long-term, wide-ranging “relationship” with Pakistan on its own merits,” Morrell said.
The Press Secretary said Gates also apologised for the inadvertent attack on a border guard post that killed three Pakistani soldiers in September.
“He said it was unintentional, and we are working with Pakistan to ensure it never happens again. He expressed his condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers,” Morrell added.
Morrell said the meeting also covered the need to better coordinate operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “We’ve been doing a much, much better job of that for many, many months now,” he said, but this incident clearly indicates there is more work to be done, and there was a resolve and commitment to do the hard work that it takes to better coordinate our actions on both sides of the border.
The discussion also featured security assistance topics, including Coalition Support Funds, the Pakistani counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund and Foreign Military Sales. On Wednesday, the Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira led the Pakistani team in discussions on public diplomacy and information technology with top US officials at the State Department.
The information minister was assisted Secretary Information Mansur Sohail and Secretary Information Technology Naguibullah Malik. Under Secretary of State Judith Michale was leading the United States.
Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Minister for Agriculture Nazar Muhammad Gondal discussed expanding cooperation in water and agricultural fields on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar are also part of the high-level Pakistani delegation. Pakistan is likely to press its demand for talks on getting civilian nuclear technology from the United States. Afghanistan reconciliation process is also likely to figure in discussions.
The dialogue takes place amid reports that the Obama administration is putting final touches on a security assistance package totaling as much as $2 billion over five years to help Pakistan fight extremists on its border with Afghanistan.
The US media says the aid is expected to be announced later this week and aims to address Pakistan’s insistence it does not have the capability to go after terrorists and needs more support from the United States.
The aid will help the Pakistanis purchase helicopters, weapons systems and equipment to intercept communications. It falls under the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, which provides grants and loans to countries to purchase weapons and defense equipment produced in the United States, say US media reports."

This is what Dawn had to say:

Obama expresses desire to expand strategic relations
By Our Correspondent
Thursday, 21 Oct, 2010
"WASHINGTON, Oct 20: US President Barack Obama met the Pakistani delegation at the White House on Wednesday and expressed his desire to expand strategic ties between the two countries.
A senior Obama administration official told Dawn that the Pakistani delegation included Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar and Ambassador Husain Haqqani.
“President Obama assured the Pakistani delegation that the US was aware of Pakistan’s concerns about recent developments in the Pak-Afghan region and had no desire to harm its interests,” said a senior diplomatic official who did not want to be identified.
“President Obama also said that he has a special interest in Pakistan and wants a stable, democratic and economically strong Pakistan,” the official said.
The one-hour-15-minute meeting focused on all major issues being discussed in the three-day US-Pakistan strategic dialogue which began in Washington on Wednesday.
Earlier, President Obama met his senior advisers for the Pak-Afghan region and discussed with them the strategic dialogue and the situation in Afghanistan.
The meeting followed talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban in Kabul. In his monthly war cabinet with top civilian and military advisers, President Obama also received an update on latest operations in his high-stakes troop surge strategy.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Taliban leaders at the “highest level” were involved in the contacts and that they were being offered safe passage by Nato troops from their sanctuaries in Pakistan.
In one case, Taliban leaders crossed the border and boarded a Nato aircraft bound for Kabul, the paper said, though added that most of the discussions had taken place outside the Afghan capital.
The White House has backed Afghan efforts to talk with elements of the Taliban, even as the US military ratchets up the intensity of the surge and insurgent attacks reap a heavy toll among foreign troops.
Those who attended the Af-Pak meeting at the secure White House situation room included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, the incoming US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter and the outgoing National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Incoming National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, National Security Council’s Af-Pak coordinator Douglas Lute, Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen James Cartwright, Deputy CIA Director Michael Morrell and Centcom Commander Gen James Mattis also attended the meeting.
US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and Isaf Commander Gen David Petraeus participated by video-conference."

I don't know about anyone else but I have the distinct feeling someone's giving their readers false comfort. I just don't know who.


Anonymous said...

Sami Ibrahim is Geo's reporter for NY and the US overall. Everybody and their mother knows his written pieces for THE NEWS are drafted by Haqqani and the APP staff at his disposal in DC. A little bit of research is required but compare THE NEWS' editorial policy with Sami's reports in THE NEWS.

Nadir El-Edroos said...

Lets see. Lets talk motivation. In the current election cycle, the US Deficit and the Tea Party movement have all but placed the War in Afghanistan and Iraq on the back burner. The Republicans facing an onslaught from the Tea Party movement arnt even focusing on foreign affairs, while the Tea Party them self don't know what's going on in the next state, less to start talking about the War in Afghanistan.

Yes, Obama may be playing to the galleries for his own Presidential run, but it seems that we have many more reasons to show that everything is rosy.

The Pakistani media has given most coverage to the fact how Robert Gates has again personally apologised to the COAS. Everything else seems second. To send such a high powered entourage to Washington and come back empty handed would be embarrassing enough.

The way the visit has been covered also says alot. The Pakistani press keeps on saying that the COAS is leading the delegation, while the foreign press states that the dialogue is between the delegation lead by Clinton and Querishi.