WASHINGON, Sep 29 (Online): Pakistan’s powerful army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, long considered a close ally by America, is now thought by President Barack Obama’s aides to be stonewalling Washington’s call for decisive action against terrorists’ safe havens in the country’s turbulent tribal belt.
Top Obama administration officials say that Kayani has refused to adhere to any of the four demands of the US conveyed to him during a trip made by top aides in May this year just after a failed bomb plot at Times Square in New York by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad.
The apparent American misgivings on Kayani, considered to be the power centre in Pakistan, has grown so much that Bruce Riedel, a top former CIA official and one of the architects of America’s AF-Pak policy told Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of US Staff Admiral Mike Mullen recently not to trust him (Kayani).
However, Mullen went ahead to build a person-to-person relationship and had faith in the commitment shown by the Pakistan army chief, said a new book ’Obama’s war’ by Bob Woodward, noted investigative journalist.
At a White House meeting on March 11, attended by National Security Advisor General (rtd.) James Jones, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Mullen, Riedel urged Mullen not to trust Kayani. “I have known every head of ISI since the mid-1980s,”Riedel is quoted as saying.
“Kayani is either not in control of his organisation or he is not telling the truth. The US should see the obvious and connect the dots. The Pakistanis are lying,” he said. Addressing Mullen, he said, “you have met Kayani some dozen times, you know him better than anyone else. The book also draws on crucial visits undertaken by CIA chief Leon Panetta and Jones to Islamabad to convey Obama’s warning that US would have no other option but to respond if Pakistan did not take decisive action against terrorists and their safe havens. The book says that after meeting Zardari, Panetta and Jones met Kayani to tell the Pakistani army chief that the clock was now starting on all the four requests made by Obama. But Kayani would not budge very much.
He had other concerns. “I’ll be the first to admit, I’m India centric,” he said, according to the book. Woodward wrote that Jones and Panetta left feeling they had made only baby steps. “How can you fight a war and safe havens across the border? Panetta asked in frustration. The latest intelligence showed trucks crossing the border that were full of Taliban combatants with all kinds of weapons packed in the back. They were being waved through into Afghanistan to kill Americans at checkpoints controlled by the Pakistanis. It’s a crazy kind of war,” Panetta said. The book says that Riedel bluntly told the President and his team that they should not rely on Admiral Mullen’s conversations with General Kayani. “As at best, it would be half the story,” Woodward said.