Foreign Policy Blogs

Is New U.S. National Security Team Bad for Pakistani Military?

General David Petraeus’ appointment at the new Director of Central Intelligence has been a well-regarded move within Washington D.C.’s political establishment. Islamabad, however has shrunk away from President Obama’s national security reshuffle that has now churned up the highest ranks of the Pentagon’s civilian and military leadership, as well as that of the nation’s top intelligence service.

No doubt Islamabad is trying its best to pull together dossiers on the top incoming leaders that matter to the Pakistani military, the top leadership in the the CIA and in the field operations in Afghanistan.

The CIA heads up the much politically debated, militarily distrusted and publicly hated predator drone program.  The military leader who heads up the multinational NATO effort in Afghanistan poses a strategic threat to what the Pakistani military perceive as their strategic interests -to keep India at bay. To be faced with a new roster of leadership in those key positions is for the Pakistani leadership a prospect little different than having to face a new world entire.

General David Petraeus’ politic charm has not been well-appreciated in Islamabad since, in what was effectively a demotion, he took over leadership of the war in Afghanistan from General Stanley McChrystal.  Where McChrystal’s gruff approach was considered token American manners in military affairs, with more than a degree of political cushion in Islamabad, General Petraeus’s rather more insistent approach to bargaining and negotiation has not not gone over well. Add to that Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen have stood behind their man in Afghanistan, it has been a recipe that many fear might lead an combustible relationship between the two so-called allies to blow apart.

Never mind the Raymond Davis Affair.  Never mind that Pakistan has always begrudgingly offered a base for American predator drone missions, an offer it has now rescinded.  The relationship between the U.S and Pakistan was already fraught with political mines, negotiational booby traps.  Now, along with General Petraeus’ elevation to head the Central Intelligence Agency, he gets command over the same predator missions that have dogged the Pakistani military and intelligence services. General Petraeus has just been promoted to the highest leadership role over the same intelligence agency that hired Raymond Davis, the same intelligence agency that many in Pakistan think cowered the weak and disfavored civilian leadership in Islamabad.

That sense of ruffled feathers might have been assuaged slowly had General David Petraeus not been General David Petraeus-the most popular uniformed officer in the U.S armed forces. Indeed, the General is viewed as a national treasure by American leaders in both parties.  He has taken on every difficult military mission that a Republican and  a Democratic president have tasked him. He has done so with overwhelmingly positive results.  Many in Washington D.C. think that whatever job is given him, he will do exceedingly well.  For whatever his tenure, at the CIA, the Pakistani military and strategic leadership will have to deal with him and his newly politically charged predator drones.

Moreover, Gen Petraeus replacement in Afghanistan is Lt. General John Allen, the man widely regarded as having enticed and negotiated his way into the “Sunni Awakening” in Anbar Province in Iraq.  That move allowed President Bush’s 2007 military surge in Iraq  to turn the facts on the ground around toward a real political settlement.  The operating hope is that General Allen can successfully realign political and economic interests across Afghanistan so that something like a Kandahar Awakening can take place before the final 2014 deadline.

Thom Shanker wrote a piece for the New York Times a few days ago.  The piece dealt with General Allens career and his reputation within the U.S Marines:

“Marine Corps colleagues cite his abilities to understand the consequences of military and political actions on all parties in a conflict — enemies, allies and civilians. They say those insights played a significant role in the successes of the Anbar Awakening, as the Sunni counterinsurgency in Iraq was known”

“Their role was especially relevant because Sunni tribal elders deeply distrusted the Shiite-dominated national government, even as they were turning away from supporting an insurgency that was seeking to bring down that government and throw out its American backers”.

Once done the trick is to do it twice.  Here’s to hoping for a Kandahar or a Helmand awakening this time next year.  The Pakistani military is surely worried that General Allen might just pull off that trick.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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