Monday, August 23, 2010

US clutches at Pakistan flood relief opportunities

M K Bhadrakumar in Asia Times Online: The humanitarian situation resulting from the unprecedented floods in Pakistan has been turned into a playground of regional geopolitics. The responsibility for this primarily lies with the United States, which fashioned its response to the crisis in a needlessly competitive spirit.… Pakistan's crisis presents itself as a theater of public diplomacy for the United States to burnish its image among Pakistani people, of whom 59% regarded America as an enemy country, according to a July 29 Pew Global Attitudes Project poll.

The window of opportunity opens in other directions, too. The areas of Pakistan where the extremists and terrorists have been most active also happen to be the most affected. The expectation in Washington seems to be that US marines will be working in the field closely with the Pakistani military, and that a sort of rank-and-file camaraderie is expected to develop that could have useful fallouts for the war in Afghanistan.

…Then, there are the profound implications of the Pakistani floods from the strategic and political angles, which are uniquely important to the US's war effort in Afghanistan at the present time. First, there is the lurking possibility that the Taliban might take advantage of the crisis in Pakistan.

… However, the bigger danger lies elsewhere: to what extent would the crisis be seized by the Pakistani military to fob off any continuing US pressure to crack down on the so-called Haqqani network affiliated with al-Qaeda which is ensconced in the North Waziristan?

….All this is linked to a much bigger question as well: to what extent will the 2010 floods turn out to be a game changer for Pakistan's political economy? Will the civilian leadership grab the opportunity to seize the political high ground in its shadow-boxing with the military?...

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