US public warning of Pakistan collapse has risks
* WP says private cajoling of Pakistani leaders to fight Taliban has done little good
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: While the Taliban raised fears in Pakistan by seizing the Buner district close to the capital Islamabad, the Obama administration’s public warnings of Pakistan’s collapse were also a reason for panic, according to a Washington Post editorial on Sunday.
“In the course of just three days, the US secretaries of state and defence, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the commanding general of American forces in the Middle East all publicly warned, in blunt and dire language, that Pakistan was facing an existential threat – and that its government and Army were not facing it,” the newspaper said.
It said the US decision to publicly air such conclusions about “a nominally close ally”, which is being paid billions of dollars in aid, is “a measure of the desperation that seems to have infected the Obama administration’s dealings with Pakistan’s weak civilian government and obtuse military leadership,” said the Washington Post, adding that “private cajoling” of President Asif Zardari and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani in the last days of the Bush administration and the early days of the new Obama administration “has done little good”.
“It is not yet clear whether the public campaign will have more effect,” the newspaper said, but it would raise concerns in Washington about the threats a Taliban regime with nuclear weapons could pose to America.
“That threat is certainly real,” it said, however, and the Pakistan Army – “untrained in counterinsurgency and rigidly focused on India” – is either “reluctant to take on” the Taliban or “mostly ineffective”.
“The loud US warnings did provoke the Zardari government and Gen Kayani to say that they would fight the Taliban if [they] continued to advance,” The Washington Post said, and the dire warnings “will galvanise the country’s political class into demanding action from the army and government – or replacing the latter”. But, according to the newspaper, “shouts of ‘fire’ have risks: They can also cause panic, or go unheeded”.