The Rocky Road to Islamabad
The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is deteriorating by the minute. Earlier this week, news broke that Pakistan’s ISI arrested some of the informants that gave CIA clues about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Now, the reports are emerging that General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of Pakistan’s army, is under pressure because of his ties to the United States. Other top generals want him to get tough with Washington. U.S. officials like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have worked hard to try to win over the man who has run Pakistan’s army since 2007.
Mullen, along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appeared before Congress yesterday (it was Gates’s last appearance before he leaves office at the end of the month). Both touched on the Pakistan issue, with Mullen arguing that a split in the relationship with Pakistan is “far more detrimental to U.S. interests” than trying to work through these rough patches. Gates continued his blunt streak, letting Senator Patrick Leahy know that sometimes lying to other governments and spying on allies is just “the way business gets done.”
And Gates said that though people are frustrated with the situation in Afghanistan, “This is not a war without end” and everyone just needs to be a little more patient. He went on, continuing the exchange with Sen. Leahy: “We are not in the business of nation building. What we are trying to do is build an Afghan national security forces to the point where they have the ability to defend that country and so that the Taliban and al-Qaida cannot reconstitute themselves in that country.” Lawmakers have been pushing President Obama for a decision on how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan next month.
The outgoing secretary of defense had quite a bit to say yesterday. Gates also commented, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, on the proposed funding cuts for nuclear-weapons-modernization plans. He said at issue wasn’t just losing funds for technological advances but for simply maintaining the security and reliability of current systems.
Washington continues to chastise Syria for its response to protests in the country. Calling Syria's actions an “outrageous use of violence,” new State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said “The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against peaceful demonstrators.” Damascus stands accused of torturing and killing large numbers of demonstrators. The UN Human Rights Council has begun to take action on the issue, issuing a statement that called on Damascus to let investigators in to survey the “circumstances surrounding all violations and abuses of international human rights law.”
And the Obama administration is coming under fire for some allegedly nepotistic tendencies. In a report published yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity contended that many of President Obama’s largest donors have made their way into government or have been given federal contracts and so on and so forth. White House spokesman Jay Carney responded, “We believe they are enormously qualified for the jobs.”