The case of Raymond Davis is shrouded by complexity, no matter which angle one pursues. The incident has not only impacted the US-Pakistan relations but has also raised many questions related to diplomatic immunity and international law. Furthermore, the outcome of the event is likely to push US to evaluate its policy of using contractors to conduct government business. Nonetheless, at this crucial juncture of the Afghan war, both governments are searching for a face-saving exit.
The main pressure for US is to prevent another ‘Faisal Shahzad’ type attack in US, or Mumbai style incident in India, both of which had roots in Pakistan. In the aftermath of the devastating floods last year, the nations economic, social and political challenges are escalating. These difficulties are distracting it from taking on the extremists based on the American timeline. Additionally, there are questions regarding Pakistan’s strategic intent.
Meanwhile, mistrust between the two allies and their intelligence organizations, CIA and ISI, continue to grow. This article examines the evolution of overt and covert part of the war against terror in the region.
Situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan Based Extremists And Mumbai Attack
The tactics and strategies related to fighting the war on terror evolved over time. It’s essential to consider the constant atmosphere of mistrust between US and Pakistan over each other’s intent in Afghanistan. Pakistan has remained concerned over not only Indian interference in Afghanistan, FATA and Baluchistan, but also with American attempt to build a strong strategic relationship with India. On the other hand, US continues to be wary of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and the nation’s alliance with China.
It should be pointed out that former President Musharraf had for quite a while denied that extremists from Pakistan were involved in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s position at the time was that even if there was cross-border support, it was coming from Afghan Taliban and Afghan refugees based in the country, and not from its intelligence organization. On the other hand, Indian, Afghan, and Western officials widely blamed ISI for the worsening situation in Afghanistan, and contended that without out the elimination of extremist safe havens in FATA, situation in Afghanistan could not improve.
It was only in 2007 that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) came in to being, representing an alliance of several other organizations. After the Red Mosque incident in late 2007, events took a turn for the worse and terrorist events spread across Pakistan, severely impacting its economy and the law and order situation of the country. The argument shifted from ‘there are no Pakistani’s involved in Afghanistan’ to if the country can on its own, and without foreign assistance, control the extremists responsible for the wave of terror in Pakistan.
Being a nuclear state, Pakistan could ill afford the negative publicity and the perception that extremists could take over its nuclear assets. Thus, it had to accept the offer of external assistance to manage American anxieties. However, all of this happened far from public knowledge or scrutiny of political leaders.
In late 2008, Mumbai attack definitively changed which groups had to be controlled by Pakistan. Subsequently, Kashmir related jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) also got lumped in to the broader definition of extremist groups, posing threats not only to India, but increasingly to Europe and North America. Furthermore, other neighbors of Pakistan, Iran and China, have also periodically raised concerns, regarding extremist groups operating from Pakistan that have threatened the stability of these respective countries.
Boots On The Ground And Drones
Drone attacks were US response to Pakistan’s slow pace of action in FATA. US had contended that Pakistan’s military either did not have the will or the capability to act against the extremists based there. On the other hand, Pakistan claimed it lacked capablity to take on countrer-insurgency operations and seeked US military assistance.
Although drone attacks started during the rule of Mushharraf, he was emphatic about Pakistan’s policy of ‘no boots on the ground’. Most observers believe this to mean that no NATO or US troops were allowed to cross border from Afghanistan in to the Pakistani tribal areas, in hot pursuit kind of scenario. Questions related to violating the sovereignty of Pakistan were often quoted in this regard. Additionally, coalition forces do not have the UN mandate to operate outside of Afghanistan.
In the case of drone attacks, they are widely believed to be flying from inside of Pakistan and therefore the questions about ‘violation of sovereignty’ are minimized. At this point, the government of Pakistan is widely believed to be complicit in the drone attacks while it publicly criticizes it.
Once Musharraf departed and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led civilian government came in to power, and the typical approach to ‘boots on the ground’ changed. Instead, different tactics unfolded; if these ‘boots’ were already with in the country, then they do not have to come from across the border. They could be in the form of trainers or civilian contractors and thus eliminating the chances of public and political outcry, which could arise from the presence of American boots.
This method could not have been implemented without the approval of Pakistan’s government. However, the views of nations civilian, military, and bureaucratic leadership were likely divergent on how many people were allowed on the ground in Pakistan, and about the red lines. This eventually led to many of the visa problems that US personnel confronted and were widely discussed in the Pakistani media. Nonetheless, like the drone attacks, the public remained in the dark on the details.
Every time US crossed Pakistan’s red lines, the country reacted strongly. The most recent incident occurred on September 30th, 2010, when a NATO helicopter attacked a Pakistani check post in Kurram. The attack took place only a few days after rumors had surfaced regarding peace talks between warring factions in Kurram Agency. That helicopter attack eventually led to the temporary closure of the key supply lines for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The Raymond Davis Incident And The Future
After careful deliberation, the Obama administration unveiled its new Afghan policy in early 2009, known by its controversial name, AfPak. The most noteworthy aspect of this review was the shift of US policy from military approach to a search for a political solution, with the emphasis on regionalism. There was recognition of the fact that the extremists were operating across borders and without regard to the nation-state classification, which the governments had to abide by.
To deal with the menace of extremism a two prong has been in works, one overt and the other covert. President Obama authorized to significantly increase the covert operations in Pakistan. Additionally, the New York Times disclosed in May 2010 that General Petraeus signed a secret order in late 2009, increasing secret operations to counter militants and other threats across the region. The order authorized Special Operations forces to operate in both allied and hostile nations in the Mideast, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.
Although the Afghan policy remained a combination of both covert and overt operations, the Pakistan element has been largely covert. The public narrative of some segments in Pakistan has consistently maintained that the larger goal of American boots in the country is to undermine it and ultimately neutralize the nuclear capability of the nation. As the country becomes consumed in self-survival, it would no longer be able to concentrate on Afghanistan. To counter this perception US approved $7.5 dollar under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act. However, it has failed to make significant headway due mainly to the security situation in Pakistan and the continued mistrust between the two countries. Many of the USAID workers were delayed from arriving in Pakistan, as the ISI would not give Pakistan embassy in Washington the speedy clearances for issuing the visas. Ultimately, the civilian government in Pakistan found a work around to this issue, which by passed the stringent procedures.
From the point of view of the US, use of contractors offers the buffer of plausible deniability but does not protect the assets in the long-term. The incident would inevitable lead to increase scrutiny of American personnel all over the world and risks denting the integrity of American diplomats. At the same time, US would want to avoid the results of this event to serve as a negative precedence. Furthermore, it would not like to jeopardize its pivotal relations with Pakistan on the issue of Raymond alone.
From Pakistan’s perspective, activities of Raymond Davis have validated the reasons for the hesitation of the country in accepting foreign support. Pakistan, on the other hand, is caught between its economic dependence on US and extreme anti-Americanism in the country. Economically strangled Pakistan can barely afford hurting US-Pakistan relations, which results in billions of dollars in civilian and military aid. However, the Pakistani media has elevated the issue to such a extent that the political government cannot hope to survive, if it lets Raymond Davis go with a slap on the wrist.
It is the above context that has led to the Raymond Davis incident and the complications that have followed regarding his status and role. From the posturing of both US and Pakistan, it seems that some red lines and the provisions of the secret agreements between the countries have been violated.
Although, the full details of the Raymond incident are not publicly available, the momentous question for Pakistan’s army would be if there is evidence suggesting US is actually trying to contain Pakistan and its influence in Afghanistan, once the US withdraws. Addtionally, if there is active ground level operational cooperation and intelligence sharing, between India and US, against Kashmir related jihadist groups in Pakistan. A recent Stuxnet operation against Iran’s nuclear program revealed there was such collaboration between Israel, UK, and US.
As the public outrage and rebellion against their governments spreads in Middle East, Pakistan’s government cannot risk treading too far from public opinion, while it supports the secret war against terrorism. From all indications, the country intends to perform some course correction in its relations with the US. In all likelihood, and after initial posturing is over, new red lines would result from the Raymond incident in the conduct of war against terror.