NEWS TO NOTE Deal by U.S. with Pakistan Military to Undercut Abdullah in Final Discussions?

Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online, reported in the Asia Times Online on November 6, 2009 that, during her recent trip to Pakistan and prior to the cancellation of the second round elections in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had reached a deal with the Pakistan military to withdraw support for negotiations with Abdullah in exchange for active mediation by the Pakistan military in approaches to the Taliban.

Despite its obvious significance, the story seems to have received little coverage in the U.S. media.

Excerpts follow:

US puts its faith in Pakistan’s military
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – Abdullah Abdullah, who this week withdrew from the presidential election runoff in Afghanistan, thereby handing victory to the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, did so under pressure from the United States, Asia Times Online has learned.

In exchange for the pullout of the non-Pashtun Abdullah, Pakistan’s military has agreed to actively mediate between Washington and the Taliban over a reconciliation plan that will allow the US to exit from Afghanistan, as it is doing in Iraq, with a semblance of success.

A senior Pakistani diplomat involved in backchannel negotiations on Pakistan, Afghanistan and US relations told Asia Times Online on the condition of anonymity that the deal over Abdullah, whom Islamabad considers to be pro-India, was made during the three-day visit to Pakistan last week of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Apart from other senior officials, Clinton met with the chief of army staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, and the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha. It was agreed that all US-led negotiations with Abdullah, which included offering him the position of chief executive officer of Afghanistan, would stop, and Karzai would get full backing for a second five-year term.

It was also acknowledged that Washington’s political leadership, like the Pentagon, now accepts that the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan is best tackled with contact between the Pakistan armed forces and the Taliban, and not by the political governments of the region.

Clinton’s visit came at a crucial time as Pakistan is engaged in a battle against the Pakistani Taliban and other militants; if it fails, there will be a cascading effect in the whole region and a sure defeat of American interests in Afghanistan.

In this context, Clinton supported Pakistan’s vision of Afghanistan, that Abdullah’s participation as a major player in the government would be detrimental to the cause of dialogue with the Taliban. Clinton also played a major role in India’s decision to pull out its forces from the Pakistan-India border near Kashmir. This allows the Pakistan army to concentrate on its fight against al-Qaeda in the Pakistani tribal areas. The army assured Clinton it would broaden this fight in the coming months.

Now, given the latest cooperation between Washington and General Headquarters Rawalpindi, the next step is to further erode Zardari’s power by passing some of it to parliament, or even forcing his departure from office.

Very much as the US watched on while Musharraf departed, Washington is ready to see Zardari sidelined. This is in the realization that the army is the last hope for Pakistan to deliver the goods in the Afghan conflict.

The full article can be found at

Why have the U.S. media not pursued the allegations in this account, and either confirmed or rebutted the assertions of fact that it contains? It appears highly relevant to an understanding of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.

Comments and discussion are invited.

The Trenchant Observer
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UPDATE: See Saeed Shah, “Pakistan seeks to recast its role in Afghan war,” The Globe and Mail, November 19, 2009, which is consistent with the above article by Syed Saleem Shahzad, although it makes no mention of a quid pro quo for U.S. withdrawal of support for negotiations with Abdullah.

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