DIPLOMATIC BUBBLE: Obama’s Doves Vs Hillary’s Hawks
By Saeed Minhas
ISLAMABAD: Discussing strategic depth last week both from Pakistani and American prisms is like looking at a half empty glass, which was well backed up by WikiLeaks’ documents, with the entire diplomatic corps in the federal capital left aghast along with Americans and NATO emissaries.
What could be the repercussions for these leaks, how will the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) react to them, what can be done about the unrelenting ghost of Gen (r) Hameed Gul, how will it impact the US and allied forces in Afghanistan, will they be able to protect the existing ones, who stand exposed due to these leaked documents, or lure new spies for staying safe in the war-torn area, how much pressure will the US administration be able to withstand in the aftermath of these leaks, which inadvertently prove that both Iraq and Afghan wars are at the same page where Vietnam war was some fifty years back. These and many other sinister queries were seen flying around in all directions at the reception for the new Chinese ambassador, at an Indian get-together and poolside clusters of diplomats in any of their designated clubs.
For quite the strange reasons, one of the former foreign secretaries of Pakistan, while hosting a bunch of Western diplomats at one of these receptions, said that there were 92,000 documents leaked by WikiLeaks. We all know how the ISI behaved and how Pakistan succumbed to Richard Armitage’s ‘bombing back to the stone-age’ threat, but what was not public so far and has now become an open secret is how much love exists between the Pakistani military and the Pentagon-dominated US administration.
Even a cursory reading of these huge files, he added, showed that hardly a few hundred pages were dedicated to Pakistan, the ISI, the role of the Pakistan Army and all sorts of mud-slinging American troops could come up with against their best bet in the region.
Yet only those few hundred pages made headlines across the Western media, in ignorance of tonnes of wire messages, which in fact substantiated the internal war going on in Washington DC between President Obama and his deputy Hillary Clinton, between the Pentagon and the State Department, between Joe Biden and Obama nominees in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Pakistan with an indirect bearing on China, Iran, Russia and even India. Then, he said with a wry smile, that what was absurd was the way the leaks were being covered up, the hounding of the website owner and the way a private army corporal, SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland was thrown into the foray.
Meanwhile, another former foreign minister of Pakistan, who hails from the foreign office core group, also got entangled into the discussion when he was charged with queries by nosy media men.
He was of the firm opinion that the war in Afghanistan from here on would take a turn for good, because by building a huge base in Mazar-e-Sharif and by dispelling the impression of leaving everyone in the lurch, Americans were clearly showing a resolve to stay, but at the cost of exposing their internal divisions.
He was of the view that these leaks had once again proven that Gen Stanley McChrystal was just airing those remarks, which must have been buzzing around him since 2004. He was punished, which most of these leaked documents testify, not for the lack of resources or strategy, but for exposing those internal divisions which have come to a point where President Barack Obama’s vision of an honourable exit seems to have been over-written by his hand-picked gang of generals like Mullen and Petraeus and his second-in-command political bigwigs like Hillary and Biden. Richard Holbrooke, most of the diplomats agreed, seems to have reached the limit of his shelf-life and is just not fitting in on any side of the new equation in Washington. Resuming our last week’s discussion on the doctrine of strategic depth, lets see how Obama was trying to pacify the Russians over the issue of Afghanistan and how the rest of his political and military gang was conducting the Afghanistan Conference in Kabul towards the end of last month.
Russians, bitten once from this treacherous land of rebels and insurgents, have expressed their displeasure not only with the “talk-to-the-Taliban” option, but have also made it clear that Hamid Karzai was not representing the whole of Afghanistan and backing him up for symbolic reasons would neither serve the US or any other stakeholder in the game.
Therefore, we heard Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov making it clear that being a regional and strategic monarch – a status which it still enjoys after losing the throne of the cold war champion – his country would like to see a neutral Afghanistan minus all sorts of military presence. Indians used to have this stance sometime back, but thanks to American goading, they no more want to demilitarise Afghanistan, rather want to have a share not only in sharing the mineral wealth, but also the strategic games through its military engineers.
While at the Kabul conference, Lavrov was quoted as saying, “The restoration of the neutral status of Afghanistan is designed to become one of the key factors of creating an atmosphere of good-neighbourly relations and cooperation in the region. We expect that this idea will be supported by the Afghan people. The presidents of Russia and the US have already come out in favour of it.”
In a meeting with his Russian counterpart Medvedev held in Washington last month, Obama had agreed with the word “neutral”, but why Hillary totally ignored this and joined the chorus sung by NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and her cohorts in the Pentagon was seen as an obvious mark of looming differences between Hilary-led hawks and Obama-patronised doves.