[“In 1995, diplomat Richard Holbrooke urged NATO to drop “bombs for peace” in Bosnia – and thereby pressure the Bosnian Serbs, and their protector Slobodan Milosevic, to come to the bargaining table.” Attempting this in Afghanistan is unlikely to have the same effect, since the Pashtun culture which drives the Taliban movement is permeated with a sense of pride in its manly capacity to absorb the enemy’s blows and to persevere, as well as the jihadi’s desire for martyrdom in the “cause of God.” Punishing the Taliban to drive them to the bargaining table will only harden their resolve and motivate them to seek even greater revenge. Pushing this tactic upon Pakistan will only drive a wedge between the Army and the militants, the true objective behind the contradictory strategy. It is merely Obama the devil being devious and spiteful, as usual.]
U.S. shifts to rely on agency which has been accused of supporting terror.
By Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, New York Times
WASHINGTON — Just a month after accusing Pakistan’s spy agency of secretly supporting the Haqqani terrorist network, which has mounted attacks on Americans, the Obama administration is now relying on the same intelligence service to help organize and kick-start reconciliation talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan.
The revamped approach, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “Fight, Talk, Build” during a high-level U.S. delegation’s visit to Kabul and Islamabad this month, combines continued U.S. air and ground strikes against the Haqqani network and the Taliban with an insistence that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency get them to the negotiating table.
But some elements of the ISI see little advantage in forcing those negotiations, because they see the insurgents as perhaps their best bet for maintaining influence in Afghanistan as the United States reduces its presence there.
The strategy is emerging amid an increase in the pace of attacks against Americans in Kabul, including a suicide attack Saturday that killed as many as 10 Americans and in which the Haqqanis are suspected. It is the latest effort at brokering a deal with militants before the last of 33,000 U.S. “surge” troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan by September, and comes as early hopes in the White House about having the outlines of a deal in time for a multinational conference Dec. 5 in Bonn, Germany, have been all but abandoned.
But even inside the Obama administration, the new initiative has been met with deep skepticism, in part because the Pakistani government has developed its own strategy, one at odds with Clinton’s on several key points. One senior U.S. official summarized the Pakistani position as “Cease-fire, Talk, Wait for the Americans to Leave.”
In short, the United States is in the position of having to rely heavily on the ISI to help broker a deal with the same group of militants that leaders in Washington say the spy agency is financing and supporting.
“The Pakistanis see the contradictions in the American approach,” said Shamila N. Chaudhary, a former top Obama White House aide on Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The big question for the administration is, ‘What can the Pakistanis actually deliver?’ Pakistan is holding its cards very closely.”
On Sunday, U.S. intelligence officials deepened an investigation into what role, if any, the Haqqani network played in the bombing in Kabul on Saturday.
Several current and former U.S. officials say the United States has tried this bomb-them-to-the-bargaining-table approach before. In the 1990s, it helped drive Serbian leaders to peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, but it has resulted in little so far with the Afghan Taliban.
“I don’t think anyone expects Secretary Clinton’s visit to produce reconciliation,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former CIA officer and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad.” Riedel, who advocates a policy of containment in Pakistan, added, “The deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan relations is likely to continue.”
Senior Pakistani officials say they are confused by a lack of clarity in the administration’s long-term goals in Afghanistan, and are working with U.S. officials to hammer out specific plans after Clinton’s visit. As an incentive, the United States has offered Pakistan a prominent role in reconciliation talks. But U.S. officials have warned that they will take unilateral action if negotiations fail.
Several administration officials said they considered Clinton’s trip to Kabul and Islamabad, from Oct. 19 to 21, a success largely because it had happened at all. In the months after the killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil, talks were frozen, U.S. intelligence officers were denied visas, and the administration accused the ISI of turning a blind eye to attacks on Americans launched from the country’s tribal areas.