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Pakistan’s Strategic Response to US Retribution Plan to bomb 150 sites in Pakistan

September 28, 2010

Pakistan has been used to threats. They can discern what is a threat and what is a bluff. The state was threatened by Nehru on the day of her independence. Many think that Liaqat Ali Khan was murdered for working on a plan for a confederation with Afghanistan.. Kruschev threatened Islamabad of dire consequences if the US near Peshawar was not closed. It was threatened by President Johnson when Ayub Khan closed down the US base. Nixon and Kissinger threatened Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for pursuing a Nuclear Program.  Pervez Musharraf was threatened with being “bombed to the stone age” if he Pakistani government did not accept the seven points. Hillary Clinton threatened Pakistan with dire consequences without clarifying what that threat meant. Now there are revelations (from no very reliable Bharati sources) that the US wanted to bomb 150 sites in Pakistan.

Then they wonder why there is Anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

Of course the threat will be denied by the White House. However in the light of NATO attacks this week where NATO went into “hot pursut” –the threats have taken a new meaning.

Josh Rogin reporting in the Foreign Policy Magazine discusses the Obama tilt towards Pakistan. “The Obama administration has always been clear that the path to winning the war in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan. But if Bob Woodward’s new book is accurate, the White House considers its war effort much more dependent on the success and survival of Pakistan’s civilian government than was previously known.

Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars,” which hit bookstores Monday, sheds new light on the Obama administration’s vast outreach to the Pakistani civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari. It paints a picture of an administration working hard to court the Pakistanis while remaining somewhat confused about Pakistani thinking on a range of issues.”

Almost everything published in the Times of India is biased. We have on many occasions investigated TOI reporting and found that it uses half statements, half-truths and statements bordering on lies to make its single point agenda–Pakistan bashing.

The TOI report asks a question, it does not report. “US ready to bomb 150 Pak terror camps?”

There is value in printing some of the bad information because it does have quotes. The context may be absolutely wrong but that needs to be investigated.

We do however publish the TOI report here. As and when we finish reading Woodward’a latest books, we will publish our own account–and then we will correct the misstatements published in The Times of India (TOI).

  • One of the more interesting details in the advance reports of Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars” is that Washington had prepared a “retribution plan” in the event of a major attack on the United States which is traced back to Pakistan.
  • “Some locations might be outdated, but there would be no concern, under the plan, for who might be living there now. The retribution plan called for a brutal punishing attack on at least 150 or more associated camps,” the Times of India quoted Woodward as saying. Reuters.

WASHINGTON: The United States has a secret “retribution” plan to bomb more than 150 terror camps in Pakistan in the event of another major terrorist attack originating from that country.

This startling disclosure about Washington’s “all bets off” policy towards an ostensibly dubious ally in the war on terror is contained in Bob Woodward’s opus ” Obama’s War,” which details an evolving US approach in the region.

The plan pre-dates the Obama presidency, going back to the Bush White House, but elements of policy, aimed at wiping out terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, is evident in the current administration’s ruthless bombing by unmanned drones of terrorist targets inside Pakistan, which far surpasses the Bush approach in terms of frequency and intensity.

The US threat also places in context secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s dire warning to Islamabad earlier this year that there would be severe consequences for Pakistan if another 9/11-type attack were traced back to that country.

According to Woodward, then President Bush did not see much difference between 9/11 and 26/11; a foundation of his presidency was zero tolerance for terrorists and their enablers and he was extremely proud of the hard-line doctrine.

Although plans for punitive strikes against Pakistan was initially linked to another 9/11 type attack on US, it evidently evolved after the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, when Bush asked his aides for contingency plans for dealing with Pakistan.

He called his national security team into the Oval Office and told his advisers, “You guys get planning and do what you have to do to prevent a war between Pakistan and India.” The order suggests that the US would undertake the bombing to prevent India from retaliating against Pakistan leading possibly to an all-out war.

“This is like 9/11, he (Bush) said,” Woodward writes. “The United States military did not have “war” plans for an invasion of Pakistan. Instead, it had and continues to have one of the most sensitive and secret of all military contingencies, what military officials call a “retribution” plan in the event of another 9/11-like attack.”

In fact, such is the anger within the US administration about Pakistan’s double-faced approach that the plan calls for a no-holds-barred approach. “Some locations might be outdated, but there would be no concern, under the plan, for who might be living there now. The retribution plan called for a brutal punishing attack on at least 150 or more associated camps,” Woodward writes.

So how did Pakistan escape the wrath of US’ “zero tolerance” policy? According to Woodward, CIA intelligence with 48 hours of the attack showed no direct ISI link. Bush himself called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to tell him that the new Pakistani government was not involved in the attack.

But the CIA later received reliable intelligence that the ISI was directly involved in the training for Mumbai, Woodward writes in a footnote. ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha flew to Washington later to admit that at least two retired Pakistani army officers who planned the Mumbai attack had ISI links “but this had not been an authorized ISI operation. It was rogue.”

“There may have been people associated with my organization who were associated with this,” Pasha argued. “That’s different from authority, direction and control.”

Woodward’s 417-page book provides a fly-on-the-wall view of the Obama Presidency’s evolving AfPak policy that is more Pak than Af. In an ABC interview, Woodward described how Obama was told of deep problems in the US relationship with Pakistan at his very first intelligence briefing, likening it to a “cold shower” for the President coming just two days after his 2008 presidential victory.

“Imagine the high of being elected on that Tuesday and they come in two days later and say, by the way, here are the secrets, and one of the secrets is Pakistan,” Woodward writes. “We’re attacking with a top-secret, covert operation, the safe havens in Pakistan, but Pakistan is living a lie. And this is a theme throughout the whole Obama presidency: ‘How do you get control of Pakistan?’ “

Soon after, in an Oval Office meeting with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, Obama bluntly tells him his country has to get over its obsession with India. “We do not begrudge you being concerned about India,” Obama tells Zardari, but “we do not want to be part of arming you (Pakistan) against India, so let me be very clear about that.”

Zardari’s response: “We are trying to change our world view but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

From all accounts, Zardari’s attempt to change Pakistan’s chronic pathology towards India has been thwarted by the country’s military. TOI.

  • Of course everyone remembers former president Pervez Musharraf’s comment that Washington had threatened to bomb Pakistan back into the stone age if he did not cooperate after 9/11. But I’ve never been entirely clear what that meant. Bombing a nuclear-armed country into a state of chaos, or indeed attempting to invade it, are unlikely policy options for Washington as it tries to extract itself from two unpopular wars while also fretting about neighbouring Iran’s own nuclear ambitions. Yet bombing suspected al Qaeda camps in the tribal areas could simply increase instability without eradicating militancy.
  • So where does that leave the United States and its “retribution plan”? Where are the red lines that would demand an immediate and powerful U.S. reaction? Would it depend on the size of the attack, the intensity of public reaction, or electoral imperatives at the time? Does anyone know? Does Pakistan?
  • In strategic thinking about the relationship between India and Pakistan, one of the biggest worries has always been that both countries do not know where the other’s red lines lie when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons. Even more worrying, they think they do. That thinking probably applies too to the United States and Pakistan – that they don’t know where each other’s red lines lie – either in terms of Washington’s ability to absorb another attack, or in Pakistan’s ability to withstand the U.S. reaction. You would have to hope that they know they don’t know, and that the “retribution plan”, if it still exists, never has to be put into practice. Reuters.

Josh Rogin describes the US policy very differently than what the TOI reports “According to Woodward’s account, the centrality of Pakistan was championed early on by Bruce Riedel, the Brookings scholar who was brought on as a key figure in the Obama administration’s March 2009 Afghanistan strategy review.”

“Obama, however, opted to pursue a less confrontational path. He concluded the central task would be convincing the Pakistani leadership to throw its lot in with the United States He said at the time of the initial strategy review in March 2009, “that we had to have a serious heart-to-heart with Pakistani civilian, military and intelligence leaders.”

Later that year, when making the decision to send an additional 30,000 “surge” troops to Afghanistan, Obama knew that his plans to also expand the U.S. military presence in Pakistan and widen drone strikes would be a hard sell to the Zardari government. In an attempt to sweeten the deal, Obama framed the policy as a new “strategic partnership” with Pakistan, even tying the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan to the survival of Zardari and the legacy of his deceased wife Benazir Bhutto.

“I know that I am speaking to you on a personal level when I say that my commitment to ending the ability of these groups to strike at our families is as much about my family’s security as it is about yours,” Obama wrote in a letter to Zardari delivered by National Security Advisor Jim Jones and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan.”

“Zardari tells the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad that he believed the United States was involved in orchestrating attacks by the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani civilian government.”

“When Woodward sat down for his interview with Obama earlier this year, he asked the president if the situation was still that Pakistan is the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy. “It continues to this day,” Obama replied.”

Bombing 150 sites in Pakistan would face colossal retribution towards the US. Here are some possible scenarios.

1) Pakistan would immediately terminate the NATO supply routes choking the war in Afghanistan.

2) All overflights of US planes and drones would be stopped.

3) The US would be evicted from the air bases on Pakistani territory.

4) The Civilian Government that resists a forceful response to the US would not be able to stand.

5) Without a reasonable supply route, the US would then have to end the war in Afghanistan.

6) Pakistan would possibly end cooperation in the “War on Terror”.

7) In the worst case scenario, the US bases in the vicinity could be targeted

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