Wednesday, 04 February 2009, 10:40
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 ISLAMABAD 000236
EO 12958 DECL: 01/24/2019
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, EAID, MARR, MOPS, PK
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR SPECIAL ENVOY HOLBROOKE
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)
1. (C) Summary. Mission Pakistan warmly welcomes your arrival; your appointment comes as Pakistan grapples with internal change and hopes the Obama administration can support regional solutions to development and counter-terrorism challenges. After eight years of military rule, the civilian government is working, so far successfully, to re-shape civilian-military relations. Although not a failed state, Pakistan needs international help to stabilize civilian rule by building democratic institutions and delivering relief to a population suffering from food inflation, electricity blackouts, high unemployment and deteriorating law and order. Passage of the Kerry-Lugar bill and delivery of U.S. assistance at the upcoming IMF Donors' Conference offer new avenues to combat extremism inside and outside of the tribal areas and reduce anti-Americanism across Pakistan.
2. (S) Now absorbing combat losses against a formidable militant enemy, Pakistan's military finally has begun to accept more USG training and assistance in support of counter-insurgency. Pakistan-NATO/Afghan cooperation and coordination across the border has improved dramatically in recent months and will be even more important if the U.S. raises troop levels in Afghanistan. A surge of U.S. troops across the border may push more militants into Pakistan, creating new challenges especially if Pakistan must defend a new front in Balochistan. As recent media reports indicate, the U.S. has been remarkably successful over the past year in disrupting the al-Qaida network based in Pakistan's tribal areas; we can discuss this issue in greater detail with you. A friendly Zardari-Karzai relationship is creating new opportunities to improve cross-border trade and build an energy corridor that could eventually link Central and South Asia. Improved Pak-Afghan ties offer new prospects for outreach to Taliban reconcilables on both sides of the border.
3. (C) Indo-Pakistan relations are still simmering. In the wake of Mumbai and accelerating militant control of Pakistani territory, the military/ISI faces the need to re-evaluate its historic use of proxy tribes/militant groups as foreign policy tools. Although the conventional wisdom says that Mumbai closed the door on Kashmir discussions, there is no doubt that Pakistan believes tackling the Kashmir issue remains the key to regional security. We offer a detailed update below. End Summary
4. (C) The civilian government headed by President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani, elected one year ago, is now stable. Zardari's position currently is secure, and Gilani has a majority in parliament. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and its coalition allies rule in three of the four provinces and effectively control all three branches of federal government. Nawaz Sharif is by far the most popular politician in Pakistan (with an 83% approval rating compared to Zardari's 20% in the latest IRI poll), but he does not have the votes to bring down the government. Instead, Nawaz is rebuilding his party's structure in preparation for the next election and appealing directly to street. Zardari is cementing leadership alliances so he can avoid another election until he receives international assistance to address food and fuel inflation, electricity blackouts and high unemployment.
5. (C) While far from perfect, you will find Zardari is pro-American and anti-extremist; we believe he is our best ally in the government. Clearly, Zardari runs the show, and Gilani has at times chafed at public acknowledgment of this fact. We believe, however, that reports of Zardari-Gilani tensions are exaggerated; Gilani knows his place and will tow Zardari's line.
6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX The PPP may also make a power play to take over the Punjab government, which now is ruled by Shahbaz Sharif. During your visit you no doubt will
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hear rumors the Army is unhappy with Zardari and may step in to oust him, particularly if it is needed to restore order.
7. (C) The premise behind these rumors is that Nawaz-inspired street demonstrations timed to coincide with indirect Senate elections and another lawyers' "Long March" on March 9 may get out of hand. We see little evidence this scenario will get out of control; so far, we are encouraged by Chief of Army Staff General Kayani's determination to have the civilians succeed. Kayani dislikes Nawaz far more than he mistrusts Zardari.
Not A Failed State
8. (C) This is not a failed state. Pakistan has solid albeit weak institutions, a robust if often irresponsible media, established although under-equipped police forces, an increasingly strong civil society, and a population with a proven resiliency to withstand everything from earthquakes to kleptocracy. However, Zardari is more adept at political maneuvering than governing; we believe he is spending too much time on his rivalry with Nawaz and too little time on rolling back a spreading insurgency and improving a weak economy.
9. (C) Although we do not believe Pakistan is a failed state, we nonetheless recognize that the challenges it confronts are dire. The government is losing more and more territory every day to foreign and domestic militant groups; deteriorating law and order in turn is undermining economic recovery. The bureaucracy is settling into third-world mediocrity, as demonstrated by some corruption and a limited capacity to implement or articulate policy.
10. (C) The good news is that the government has the will to fight extremism and the Army/Frontier Corps is now actively engaged in combat, particularly in Bajaur, Mohmand and Swat. Faced with its weaknesses against a formidable enemy, the Frontier Corps is now accepting USG training, and that is giving us new access and opportunities to improve Pakistani counter-insurgency capability. Pakistan has agreed to build additional tripartite Border Coordination Centers (BCCs), and this month we will expand tactical/target-focused intelligence sharing through the Torkham BCC. The military remains reluctant to expand the U.S. military footprint, but we now have the basis for increased cooperation. We are also delivering Cobra spare parts and upgrading their MI-17 and Bell 412 helicopters so the Pakistanis can operate more than two Cobras on any given day.
11. (C) The bad news is that the militants are driving the agenda; the Pakistan military has too few forces to fight too many battles at one time. They have more troops on the Indian border but felt the need to transfer 5,000-7,000 troops from FATA to the eastern border in the wake of increased Indo-Pak tensions after Mumbai. The latest territorial loss has been in Swat, in the "settled area" of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) about 90 miles from Islamabad, where local/taliban militants are closing schools, beheading opponents, and operating a parallel justice system. The police cannot cope and largely have abandoned locals to their fate.
12. (C) The military's decision in 2008 to strike a deal with Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan helped to reduce the number of suicide bombings in Pakistan but gave Mehsud free rein to infiltrate his forces throughout the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He has exploited Sunni-Shi'a tensions in places like Kurram and sent his fighters into Bajaur via Afghanistan to attack government positions. This has eroded Chief of Army Staff General Kayani's strategy to gradually regain control of the FATA agency by agency.
13. (S) As recent media reports indicate, the U.S. has been remarkably successful in disrupting al-Qaida operations in Pakistan's tribal areas. In the past year, 10 of the top 20 al-Qaida operatives, including those responsible for the East
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Africa embassy bombings in 1998 and tied to Islambad's Marriott bombing, have been eliminated. We can discuss this issue in more detail during your visit.
14. (C) The government has a strategy of "dialogue, deterrence and development;" however, it lacks the military capacity to deter militants and the financial resources to develop the FATA. Its historic fallback has been to play for time by conducting negotiations with militants, a disastrous tactic that only has made the extremists stronger. The government insists it will negotiate with tribal leaders but not with militants. Many Pakistanis have been closely following reports of Saudi-brokered intervention with Taliban "reconcilables" in Afghanistan and many believe a similar strategy is needed in Pakistan.
15. (C) We share the government's belief that there is no all-military solution to containing extremism. We are implementing a strategy of concurrently building the counter-insurgency capability of the Army and Frontier Corps, providing the police/FATA law enforcement forces with training and equipment, and delivering economic development to raise poor socio-economic indicators in FATA. Security concerns are limiting our ability to operate, but today USAID contractors are building schools and wells, hiring workers for short-term jobs, training teachers and increasing the capacity of the FATA Secretariat to deliver services that demonstrate the writ of government in FATA. Through USAID, DOD and USG donations to UN agencies, we have provided over $10 million in aid to help up to 200,000 Internally Displaced Persons who fled fighting in Bajaur and Swat and now are living in and out of camps, primarily near Peshawar.
16. (C) Extremism, however, is no longer restricted to the border area.
We are seeing young Punjabi men turn up in FATA and Afghanistan as fighters recruited from areas of southern Punjab where poverty, illiteracy and despair create a breeding ground for extremism.
The phenomenon is spreading into northern Sindh as well. Pashtuns fleeing military action in FATA are destabilizing the always volatile ethnic mix in Karachi. Taliban leaders have been based in Quetta since the days of the anti-Soviet jihad, but they now are expanding their presence in Balochistan. In response, we are redirecting USAID programs geographically to concentrate on areas where the nexus of poverty and extremism is growing.
17. (SBU) Including FATA, USAID will program approximately $500 million in 2009 for Pakistan; if Kerry/Lugar is approved and funded, this will increase to $1.5 billion per year in primarily economic assistance. We have provided over $40 million in equipment to the Frontier Corps and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) police; we are in the midst of programming another $15 million for the NWFP police and await the results of a police assessment team to reprogram another $85 million for law enforcement. Given the urgent requirement to address the absence of law enforcement capacity in the NWFP and FATA, we are proposing that $100 million for law enforcement assistance be included in the Kerry-Lugar legislation.
18. (C) Benazir Bhutto met with President Karzai the morning of her assassination; Karzai attended Zardari's inauguration and the two have met repeatedly under much improved bilateral relations. They have signed new economic cooperation agreements, are considering a new transit trade treaty and have tentatively scheduled another round of the peace jirga. We continue to see potential for expanded economic relations and the prospect of building a trade and energy corridor that can link Central Asia through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the rich markets of South Asia.
19. (C) Following embarrassing militant attacks on U.S./NATO convoys last year, Pakistan has made efforts to secure Khyber Agency/Torkham Gate, through which U.S./NATO trucks deliver 30% of the fuel and 80% of the dry goods for our forces in Afghanistan. Cooperation and coordination
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between Pakistani and NATO/Afghan forces across the border have dramatically increased since October. This has reduced cross-border attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan. This cooperation will be even more important if the U.S. executes a planned troop surge in Afghanistan. Such a surge, particularly if it is employed along the Helmand-Kandahar/Balochistan border, may send additional fighters into Pakistan and create another front for the Pakistan military to defend.
20. (C) Indo-Pak tensions are still simmering, but to avoid a potential Indian military strike, the GOP needs to show progress on prosecuting those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. Interior Minister Malik will outline to you his plan to prosecute Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa (LeT/JUD) suspects now in custody. The key will be whether the military/ISI is ready to turn the Mumbai suspects over to civilian law enforcement, and whether India considers Pakistani actions adequate. Kayani, in particular, wants to avoid a reckoning with his past leadership of ISI. Despite arrests of key LeT/JUD leaders and closure of some of their camps,
it is unclear if ISI has finally abandoned its policy of using these proxy forces as a foreign policy tool
; we need to continue pressing them to realize this strategy has become counter-productive in Kashmir, Afghanistan and FATA.
21. (C) The Foreign Ministry quashed National Assembly debate of a resolution signed by leaders of most of the political parties urging the U.S. to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir, or add that portfolio to your plate. However, privately, Zardari and FM Qureshi have indicated they would welcome your engagement on Kashmir. Although the conventional wisdom says that Mumbai closed the door on Kashmir discussions; from Pakistan's perspective, there is no doubt that tackling the Kashmir issue remains the key to regional security.
22. (S) Strategic Plans Division Director LtGen (ret) Kidwai can brief you in detail on Pakistan's physical, personnel and command and control safeguards for Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in GOP facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon. Islamabad has chafed over the U.S.-India 123 Agreement, arguing it also needs civilian nuclear power to meet energy demand; we have repeatedly advised the GOP that it should not expect a similar agreement because of AQ Khan's proliferation activities.
23. (C) Khan, who now is suffering from cancer, remains a national hero, albeit one who is closely monitored under house arrest. In 2008, he tried and failed to win his freedom through the courts. His network, we believe, has been disbanded, and the U.S. recently imposed additional sanctions on Khan and two of his Khan Research Labs associates. Also worth noting is that China has reportedly agreed to help Pakistan build two additional civilian nuclear reactors, neither of which is grandfathered under Nuclear Supplier Group agreements. Neither project is expected to begin for at least five years, and we have expressed our concerns about this proposed deal to both China and Pakistan.
Program of Record/F-16s
24. (C) DOD is requesting that Congress create a program of record for Pakistan, similar to that for Iraq and Afghanistan, which would provide consistent funding to implement our Security Development Plan (SDP), the vehicle we are using to train and equip both Pakistani Special Forces (SSG) and the Frontier Corps. Currently, DOD programs are delivered through a variety of separate funds with overlapping and sometimes conflicting authorities. The proposed DOD supplemental for Pakistan will total $400 million; the 2010 request will total $517 million.
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25. (C) The Bush administration commitment to provide Pakistan with $300 million annually in FMF expires in 2009, and we need to come to agreement with Pakistan on how to restructure its FMF program to meet its counter-insurgency needs. A major issue facing the new administration is whether to fund the remainder of Pakistan's F-16 program, a deal that was signed as a symbol of post-9/11 engagement after sanctions were lifted in 2002.
26. (C) Pakistan simply cannot afford to complete this $2 billion plus program to buy 18 new F-16s, upgrade 35 older Excess Defense Articles aircraft, upgrade a new base, and fund a munitions package. Pakistan has been late with several payments, and an Islamabad default would interrupt production lines for other critical U.S., Morocco and Turkey acquisitions. Pakistan originally planned to use the F-16s to offset Indian military superiority; they now are using F-16s against militant targets in the FATA. We are responding to Pakistan Air Force requests for Close Air Support training to improve their now limited precision targeting capability.
27. (C) Faced with untenable budgetary deficits, high inflation, and hemorrhaging foreign exchange reserves, the PPP government had little choice but to agree to an International Monetary Fund Standby Arrangement on November 24. This was regarded as an option of last resort, as no past Pakistani government had long survived the implementation of the fiscal austerity measures required by a Fund program. The $7.6 billion arrangement, with a $3.1 billion initial disbursement, has bought the GOP some breathing room, and appears to have somewhat restored market confidence. Foreign exchange reserves and the exchange rate have stabilized, and foreign remittances and direct investment are up slightly. Portfolio outflows continue, however, and the Karachi Stock Exchange remains moribund.
28. (C) While it appears that the GOP will be able to meet the IMF's first quarter targets, the higher interest rates imposed by the Fund, along with higher tax collection targets will make a full economic recovery more difficult. Although the GOP predicts 3 percent GDP growth, several experts predict a flat GDP for the fiscal year ending June 30. The reduction in government spending on social safety programs required by the IMF will not increase the government's popularity, while the elimination of all subsidies on electricity, which the GOP has promised by end-June, is particularly likely to stir popular anger. The severe electricity shortage has caused rolling blackouts throughout the country, and previous rate hikes have brought protesters into the streets. A looming wheat shortage has apparently been successfully avoided through the GOP's purchase of large amounts of Russian grain.
29. (C) The IMF has estimated that the GOP will need an additional $4 billion from donors over the next two years to strengthen the country's social safety net programs and beef up foreign exchange reserves. However, the GOP has never encouraged donor coordination and is having a difficult time coming up with lists of viable projects that donor countries would be likely to support. We understand that most donors are reluctant to provide the GOP with straight budgetary support. Pakistan will provide initial project ideas in February to ambassadors of the Friends of a Democratic Pakistan group; we will evaluate next steps, including a possible Friends ministerial on the margins of the Donors meeting, after receiving those proposals.