Washington: Robert Gates, the former US Defence Secretary who was the strongest supporter of Pakistan, believes that Islamabad is not an ally of America and it will not give up its policy of supporting terrorists.
“Although I would defend them in front of Congress and to the press to keep the relationship from getting worse — and endangering our supply line from Karachi — I knew they were really no ally at all,” Gates writes in his forthcoming book titled ‘Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War’.
Referring to his visit in January 2010 – his second and the last one to Pakistan – wherein he met the then President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Gates writes that he returned convinced that Islamabad would not give up its policy of supporting terrorists.
“No administration in my entire career devoted more time and energy to working the Pakistanis than did President (Barack) Obama and all his senior team,” Gates, who was the defence secretary from December 2006 to July 2011, writes.
“My message was consistent: we were committed to a long- term strategic partnership; we needed to work together against the ‘syndicate of terror’ placing Afghanistan, Pakistan and India at risk; we needed to remove safe havens on both side of the border; Pakistan needed to better control anti-Americanism and harassment of Americans; and the Pakistani army’s ‘extra-judicial killings’ (executions) were putting our relationship at risk,” Gates writes in his memoir.
The book is scheduled to be released next week.
“The visit was for naught,” Gates writes referring to his meetings with the Pakistani leaders on January 21-22, 2010.
“I returned convinced that Pakistan would work with the US in some ways — such as providing supply lines through Pakistan, which were also highly profitable — while at the same time providing sanctuary for the Taliban and other extremists, so that no matter who came out on top in Afghanistan, Pakistan would have influence. If there was to be any reconciliation, the Pakistanis intended to control it,” Gates said.
In his memoir running into more than 600 pages, Gates says weeks before his inauguration, Obama asked him to travel to Chicago to attend a meeting of his transition’s national security team, which among others was attended by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
The meeting, held in December, spent nearly an hour discussing on Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Gates writes.
“Pakistan was described as the biggest, most dangerous situation,” he writes.
In Mach 2009, Gates writes, Obama held a series of meetings on his Af-Pak to discuss report of Bruce Riedel, who was appointed by the President. One of those Friday, he writes, they reviewed the final Riedel report.
This “recommended disrupting the terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan, promoting a more effective government in Afghanistan, developing the Afghan security forces, ending Pakistan’s support for terrorist and insurgent groups, enhancing civilian control in Pakistan, and using US diplomatic, military, and intelligence channels to reduce enmity and distrust between Pakistan and India. It was breathtaking in its ambition,” Gates writes.
When Obama announced his Af-Pak strategy, Gates said he had reservations on Pakistan’s co-operation.
“I also doubted we could persuade the Pakistanis to change their ‘calculus’ and go after the Afghan and other extremists on their side of the border. When a Pakistani Taliban offensive that spring reached within sixty miles of Islamabad the Pakistani army went after them in the border provinces of Swat and South Waziristan for their own protection.
“Their continuing toleration of the Afghan Taliban, including harboring their leaders in Quetta was a hedging strategy based on their lack of trust in us, given unwillingness to stay engaged in Afghanistan in the early 1990s,” he writes.
Such was his distrust of Pakistan that, he writes, when they were planning for Osama bin Laden raid, he was worried that the ISI was aware of the al-Qaeda chief’s whereabouts.
“I worried that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence was aware of where Bin Laden was and that there might be rings of security around the compound that we knew nothing about or, at minimum, that 1ST might have more eyes on the compound than we could know,” he wrote.
The worst-case scenario was that the Pakistanis could get a number of troops to the compound quickly, prevent extraction of our team and take them prisoner, he writes.
When he asked his Vice Admiral William McRaven what he planned to do if the Pakistani military showed up during the operation, he said the team would just hunker down and wait for a “diplomatic extraction.”
“They would wait inside the compound and not shoot any Pakistanis. I then asked what they would do if the Pakistanis breached the walls: ‘Do you shoot or surrender?’ Our team couldn’t surrender, I said. If the Pakistani military showed up, our team needed to be prepared to do whatever was necessary to escape,” Gates writes.
“After considerable discussion, there was broad agreement to this, and as a result, additional MH-47 helicopters and forces were assigned to the mission,” he says.
Gates writes that ahead of the Abbottabad raid no one inside the administration talked about seeking Pakistani help in killing bin Laden.
“No one thought we should ask the Pakistanis for help or permission. In every instance when we had provided a heads-up to the Pakistan military or intelligence services, the target was forewarned and fled, or the Pakistanis went after the target unilaterally, prematurely and unsuccessfully,” he says.
The successful bin Laden raid, he writes, was humiliating for the Pakistan Army.