The Los Angeles Times reported:
U.S. Pakistan intelligence: Pakistan shuts down U.S. 'intelligence fusion' cells - latimes.comIn a clear sign of Pakistan's deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.
This is a worrying but not entirely surprising development. This development is the latest consequence of a weak, corrupt, and incompetent government in Pakistan that has increasingly embraced accommodation with radical elements in a bid to survive. However, on account of that government's questionable legitimacy, such efforts are not likely to insulate it from growing centrifugal pressures, radical elements seeking power, and the established or emergent political opposition. In the meantime, such an evolution has potentially significant ramifications for the U.S. The U.S. can ill-afford to fall behind the curve of developments in Pakistan.
In the past, I suggested that the U.S. should avoid pushing then President Musharraf from power (http://www.debatepolitics.com/archiv...-response.html (Pakistan's Turmoil Requires A Prudent U.S. Foreign Policy Response)). Instead, I preferred that the U.S. work behind-the-scenes with President Musharraf to help Pakistan build effective democratic institutions so that when elections were held, Pakistan would possess the capacity to sustain its democratic governance.
I also noted that unfortunately, the U.S. has sometimes lacked a strategic approach to foreign policy. Its foreign policy has occasionally been reactive rather than proactive.
IMO, the bias for being reactive contributed to the United States pressuring President Musharraf to abandon power. Now, with Pakistan accelerating its shift from marginal and inconsistent cooperation to increasing lack of cooperation, if not episodic hostility to the U.S. government and U.S. interests, it is becoming more evident that the U.S. likely made a strategic error in accelerating President Musharraf’s departure. That the U.S. did it with the best intentions of democratic reform in the naive belief that elections would immediately lead to democracy does not alleviate it of the burdens that are now accumulating. To be sure, President Musharraf was not entirely cooperative, but his military regime was more reliable than the one now in place. His recent anti-U.S. rhetoric e.g., calling the operation against Osama Bin Laden an "act of war," is very likely the result of lingering bitterness from the U.S. role that led to his political demise and exile from Pakistan.
The U.S. cannot turn back the clock and it cannot undo the situation. However, it can take measures to manage the situation so as to mitigate the potential fallout should Pakistan either collapse into a failed state or develop into a fully hostile entity, although neither outcome is assured just yet (a continuing slow decay of Pakistan's regime and a muddling through in terms of its policy is probably the most likely scenario in the near-term).
Toward that end, the immediate questions concern:
• Will the U.S. military have the strategic foresight to identify and begin to phase-in alternative supply routes that reduce dependence on Pakistan and reduce that country’s ability to exploit the ill-advised single route approach over which it can exact disproportionate leverage?
• Will the U.S. military develop a plan to secure or destroy Pakistan's nuclear weapons and/or deter the proliferation of such weapons, should such a nightmare situation become necessary?
• Will the U.S. government have the strategic foresight to deepen bilateral relations with India and to intensify relationship building with Afghanistan’s neighboring states (excluding Iran and Pakistan) so as to offset the costs of the worsening relationship with Pakistan (should that trajectory continue) and, if necessary, establish and sustain a regional balance of power that neither Iran nor Pakistan could exploit?
• Will the U.S. government have the strategic foresight to link continued assistance to Pakistan to concrete conduct and cooperation and, absent that conduct, will it have the courage to draw down the assistance, even as an increasingly uncooperative Pakistan contributes a diminishing minimum of cooperation to try to hang onto the foreign aid?
Ideally, the bilateral relationship can still be mended. However, that may well be a difficult challenge, especially if Pakistan continues to slide toward failed state status whereby an ever weaker regime runs larger risks in a bid to survive. In any case, the U.S. should have a coherent strategy in place should the relationship continue to deteriorate or even collapse. Otherwise, its ability to secure its goals and safeguard its regional interests could be compromised.