Levin and McCain: Let’s not attack Pakistan just yet
Two leading U.S. senators are not on board with the Obama administration’s new diplomatic strategy toward Pakistan, dubbed "coercive diplomacy," and are warning that increased military action in Pakistan could backfire on the United States.. In the high-stakes poker game between Washington and Islamabad, "the new chip on the table is the fear in Pakistan ...
Two leading U.S. senators are not on board with the Obama administration's new diplomatic strategy toward Pakistan, dubbed "coercive diplomacy," and are warning that increased military action in Pakistan could backfire on the United States..
Two leading U.S. senators are not on board with the Obama administration’s new diplomatic strategy toward Pakistan, dubbed "coercive diplomacy," and are warning that increased military action in Pakistan could backfire on the United States..
In the high-stakes poker game between Washington and Islamabad, "the new chip on the table is the fear in Pakistan that the U.S. could move beyond drone strikes" and start a wider air or land campaign to strike a blow against the Haqqani network, a senior official close to the issue told The Cable last week.
"We’re not going to allow these types of attacks to continue," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Sept. 16, after the Haqqani network was implicated in the armed assault on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
But bipartisan congressional support for more a more aggressive military approach to Pakistan wasn’t apparent in several interviews on Tuesday with leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) told The Cable that increased attacks inside Pakistan were not wise and that the focus should be on using aid as leverage with the Pakistani government.
"We need to be straight and direct with them regarding their refusal to deal with the Haqqani issue," Levin said, adding that then Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen’s claim that the Haqqani network was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate was approved by the National Security Council in advance. "The Pakistani government won’t even talk about the Haqqani network in public."
"But I don’t think we should put any boots on the ground," Levin emphasized. He said that the United States should use economic aid as leverage and condition it on the Pakistani government’s willingness to sever ties with Haqqani, but that increased military action was not the answer.
Aren’t U.S. Special Forces already conducting raids inside Pakistan, The Cable asked? "If I had that knowledge I would never tell you," Levin shot back.
McCain agreed with Levin that increased military action inside Pakistan was not the right approach at this time.
"I think we should condition the aid on their severing their direct connection [with the Haqqani network]," he said. "I think if you escalated attacks that included U.S. air attacks and ground troops you would have to have a great national discussion first. Right now I don’t think we should do that."
Sen. Lindsey Graham has appeared closer to the administration’s views on the issue of Pakistan. On Sept. 25, he said on Fox News Sunday that "the sovereign nation of Pakistan is engaging in hostile acts against the United States and our ally Afghanistan that must cease … if the experts believe that we need to elevate our response, they will have a lot of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill."
Graham expanded and clarified his remarks on attacking Pakistan in a Tuesday interview with The Cable.
"Sovereignty is no defense when it comes to aligning with terrorism," he said. "If Adm. Mullen is correct that the Pakistani government as a strategy has aligned with terrorists, that’s something we should consider in a response to Pakistan, not just aid but otherwise."
"There will come a point where I can’t go home and say that all the IEDs that are killing Americans, 80 percent are coming from Pakistan and we’re not doing a damn thing about it," he said. "We’re not going to be able to sustain that, and that’s what the Pakistanis need to know."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN) reacted negatively to Graham’s remarks and said that raising the specter of increased military strikes might do more harm than good.
"I would think that would be unwise. We better be thinking very carefully and diplomatically about our relationship," Lugar told The Cable. "Threats of military action are not a very responsible course."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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