Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chicago summit

U.S. Aid to Pakistan Must Be Monitored

The NATO summit in Chicago has come and gone and still no agreement with Pakistan on reopening the NATO supply line that had been closed last November after a border fight between Pakistan’s troops and a contingent of U.S. and Afghan soldiers. President Zardari had been invited to the meeting on the assumption that an agreement was imminent and that his appearance would be the final push needed to finalize the details. Instead, he showed up and was snubbed by President Obama, who rightly refused to hold a meeting with Zardari until a deal was done. Various news outlets have reported that the two sides remain far apart in how much per truck NATO will have to pay Pakistan: The Pakistanis reportedly want a staggering $5,000 per truck–far more than the cash-strapped Pentagon wants to pay.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani court has handed down a 33-year prison sentence to the doctor who assisted the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. This is adding insult to injury and underlines, for the umpteenth time, that Pakistan is no ally of the U.S. Sometimes it can act in cooperation with the U.S., but even that is increasingly rare these days. Thus, it makes perfect sense that a Senate appropriations subcommittee just voted to slash U.S. aid to Pakistan, to $1 billion, roughly half the amount the administration had requested, and even part of that is conditional on the reopening of the supply line.

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The NATO summit in Chicago has come and gone and still no agreement with Pakistan on reopening the NATO supply line that had been closed last November after a border fight between Pakistan’s troops and a contingent of U.S. and Afghan soldiers. President Zardari had been invited to the meeting on the assumption that an agreement was imminent and that his appearance would be the final push needed to finalize the details. Instead, he showed up and was snubbed by President Obama, who rightly refused to hold a meeting with Zardari until a deal was done. Various news outlets have reported that the two sides remain far apart in how much per truck NATO will have to pay Pakistan: The Pakistanis reportedly want a staggering $5,000 per truck–far more than the cash-strapped Pentagon wants to pay.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani court has handed down a 33-year prison sentence to the doctor who assisted the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. This is adding insult to injury and underlines, for the umpteenth time, that Pakistan is no ally of the U.S. Sometimes it can act in cooperation with the U.S., but even that is increasingly rare these days. Thus, it makes perfect sense that a Senate appropriations subcommittee just voted to slash U.S. aid to Pakistan, to $1 billion, roughly half the amount the administration had requested, and even part of that is conditional on the reopening of the supply line.

Frankly, it is difficult to see why we are providing any aid to the Pakistan state when it continues to support the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other insurgent groups that are killing Americans and our allies. Perhaps some aid to Pakistan’s civil society is warranted, but it must be carefully monitored to assure that it does not help to subsidize Pakistan’s military. Some level of payments for trans-shipment rights may still be justifiable, but I’m not even sure of that. The Pakistan supply line has been closed since November, and it is not clear it has had much of an impact on NATO military operations.

When I was in Afghanistan a few weeks ago, I found even remote bases well-stocked with the kinds of provisions (e.g., ice cream and eggs) that had been scarce during past supply disruptions. That’s a tribute to the U.S. success in rerouting logistics through the Northern Distribution Network, and yet another reason why we need to think twice before extending any more aid to Islamabad.

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Obama Rolls Over Again for the Turks

It was only last month when the State Department was acknowledging that Israel is “one of NATO’s partners [and] has participated over the years in many, many, many NATO activities, consultations, exercises, et cetera.” The context was a surreal exchange between the AP’s Matt Lee and State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland regarding how Turkey was vetoing Israel from participating in this week’s Chicago NATO summit. Lee expressed confusion at the bland acquiescence with which the Obama administration was meeting Turkey’s machinations:

QUESTION: Toria, I’m trying to help you out here, because you’re going to get absolutely slammed.
MS. NULAND: I understand. Matt, there is no –
QUESTION: You are. If you can’t come out and say that the United States wants Israel to participate, its main ally in the Middle East and you won’t come out and say that the administration wants them to participate in whatever event is going on in Chicago, that’s – that is going to be seized on.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But the Turks wouldn’t be objecting to Israel’s participation if someone hadn’t proposed that Israel participate. And if you have proposed that they participate –
MS. NULAND: Again –
QUESTION: — and you’re not willing to stick up for it, I don’t understand why.

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It was only last month when the State Department was acknowledging that Israel is “one of NATO’s partners [and] has participated over the years in many, many, many NATO activities, consultations, exercises, et cetera.” The context was a surreal exchange between the AP’s Matt Lee and State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland regarding how Turkey was vetoing Israel from participating in this week’s Chicago NATO summit. Lee expressed confusion at the bland acquiescence with which the Obama administration was meeting Turkey’s machinations:

QUESTION: Toria, I’m trying to help you out here, because you’re going to get absolutely slammed.
MS. NULAND: I understand. Matt, there is no –
QUESTION: You are. If you can’t come out and say that the United States wants Israel to participate, its main ally in the Middle East and you won’t come out and say that the administration wants them to participate in whatever event is going on in Chicago, that’s – that is going to be seized on.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But the Turks wouldn’t be objecting to Israel’s participation if someone hadn’t proposed that Israel participate. And if you have proposed that they participate –
MS. NULAND: Again –
QUESTION: — and you’re not willing to stick up for it, I don’t understand why.

Of course, Israel ended up getting excluded from the summit. The White House and State Department have subsequently scrambled from one excuse to another, lest people settle on the obvious: that the Obama administration is allowing Turkey to drive a wedge between Israel and NATO, thereby damaging NATO’s coordination with allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, undermining America’s ability to project power into the region, eroding the U.S.-Israel alliance, and making the Israelis feel isolated and nervous right as they’re making critical decisions about going it alone on Iran.

Administration officials first condescendingly insisted that critics had a “misconception” about how NATO worked. There just wasn’t enough time and space to invite members from “all those partnerships and alliance[s].” Then it turned out that there was room for members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. The Initiative, though undoubtedly valuable, is unlikely to be as critical to NATO’s core focus on the Mediterranean than the Mediterranean Dialogue of which Israel is a part.

So last week the standard for attendance shifted. The new bar was participation in the NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Quote-unquote from NATO’s Secretary-General Rasmussen: “Israel has not been invited to attend the summit because Israel is neither a participant in ISAF, nor in KFOR.”

But that still won’t work. Summit participant Jordan is a formal ISAF partner but provides exactly nothing worth listing to the mission. Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Qatar are also in Chicago, even though none are in ISAF or KFOR.

One wonders, then, what new excuse the Obama administration will trot out this week?

The answer can’t be about providing input on Kosovo or Afghanistian. That might colorably bring the Stans on board – regional presence, supply lines, etc – but not Qatar. Even worse for the administration’s prevarication, they can’t use that to justify excluding Israel. It was just last month when IAF chief Ido Nechushtan was awarded a U.S. Air Force decoration for the contributions the IAF has made to America’s war-fighting capabilities in Afghanistan. If the goal is to brainstorm how to fight in and/or withdraw from the country, Israeli input would seem relatively valuable.

The White House’s overarching narrative is that Turkey never vetoed Israel’s invitation to the Chicago summit because Israel was never invited to the Chicago summit. That’s hard to believe but – if it’s true – it’s a cause for deep concern. Invitations were sent out to over 30 non-NATO members, including those with no connections to NATO, but no one remembered to invite the American ally and NATO partner that controls the Middle East’s most powerful military? Forget the Obama White House’s supine acquiescence to Turkey’s neo-Ottoman weight throwing. According to this theory, the most successful military alliance in history is being run by idiots.

Luckily of course, that’s not true. NATO is not run by idiots, and all signs indicated that Israel was going to participate in Chicago. Then the Turks apparently rolled over the White House and excluded the Jewish State. One wonders, also, how much resistance they encountered.

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