Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kudos for Kerry

Senator Kerry has really stepped up to the plate with his relationship-mending trip to Pakistan. Even though he isn't my favorite politician (not that I have favorite politicians in the first place, but if I did, he wouldn't be one, if that makes sense) this is impressive stuff:

Behind the scenes, a high-level government source familiar with the discussions said that Kerry crafted the trip and his message on his own. President Obama asked Kerry to travel to Pakistan to deal with the Davis crisis, which has put elements of U.S.-Pakistani cooperation on hold. But after conferring with senior foreign policy aides and Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani over the weekend, Kerry decided to travel to Pakistan for a "relationship saving" mission, not a "rescue" mission, the source explained.

For example, Kerry decided to travel first to Lahore, rather than Islamabad where the Pakistani government resides. Although he will meet with Pakistani government officials at the highest levels, including President Asif Ali Zardari, he wanted first to deliver a message to the Pakistani people directly in the town where the incident took place and tell them directly that the United States wasn't only interested in Davis's release.

-- snip --

The reaction in Pakistan to Kerry's opening press conference among officials supportive of the relationship was overwhelmingly positive.

"He said all the right things on Pakistan," a senior Pakistani official told The Cable. "John Kerry is recognized by most Pakistanis as a friend of Pakistan. By sending him, President Obama has really helped what could have become a bigger diplomatic problem down the road."

The trip comes after a severe downturn in U.S.-Pakistan relations following Davis's arrest. Davis, a former Special Forces operative who speaks fluent Urdu, was being tailed by two suspected agents of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization on motorcycles [TSB note: the ISI connection is completely specious, and the two weren't "tailing" Davis, rather, they had parked their motorcycle in front of his car to block it at a traffic light] when he shot and killed them through the windshield of his car. Davis claimed they brandished guns. A third Pakistani man was run over and killed by a U.S. embassy vehicle accidentally as it rushed to the scene.

[A Pakistani government] source told The Cable that the region around Lahore is run by the brother of Nawaz Sharif, the top political opponent to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and the authorities there might have sought to take political advantage of the situation. By claiming that Davis had committed murder and pushing the story out to Pakistani media, Zardari was placed in the unenviable position of having to choose whether to defend an American murderer or risk the wrath of his countrymen.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi happened to be out of the country at the time. A Foreign Ministry official named Salman Bashir was left to make the decide whether to grant Davis immunity right away but decided it would be politically prudent to make no decision at all and let Davis remain in jail, the Pakistani government source said. Unclear messages from the U.S. side exacerbated the confusion.

"The political tragedy was that it was almost three days before the U.S. government claimed immunity, by which time the tensions had already been inflamed," the source explained.

-- snip --

The most probable outcome will be a face-saving deal whereby the Pakistani courts agree to release Davis, the U.S. government promises to investigate the incident as a criminal matter, and the U.S. pays some compensation to the families of the Pakistani victims.

In the end, the incident illustrates that the U.S. and Pakistani governments still have a ways to go in terms of working together to build stability into the relationship.

Either way, our Pakistani source said that there is plenty of blame to go around.

"[Davis] was wrong in carrying the gun. He was wrong in shooting the people. There definitely was some craziness in what he was doing," the source said. "But it's a clear and gross violation of international law to hold a diplomat."

It's nice to hear that agreement with our position regarding international law. As for the source's other statements, well, opinions differ.

Davis was wrong in carrying the gun - Maybe, maybe not. But when he found himself confronted by two armed robbers, it was lucky for him that he had his own pistol.

He was wrong in shooting the people - I wouldn't say so. More like the two armed dacoits were wrong in their choice of victim.

There definitely was some craziness in what he was doing - OK. Davis would probably agree with that one.


Anonymous said...

Aside from not blaming the U.S. for the incident and not claiming that he had been over the Af-Pak border during Christmas 1967, I can't say John Kerry, who served in Vietnam and not Cambodia, accomplished much.

TSB said...

Kerry has a very favorable image among Pakistanis (he's seen as the guy who keeps our money flowing to them), and from their press responses to his visit I have to say I think he really helped.

I also think he was wise not to come on Bill Richardson-style and expect to take Davis home with him. That was never in the cards. But he actually seems to have brought key people closer to the point where they are ready to give in to the inevitable.

The big concern is whether the politicians will give in before someone else - probably a police officer - gets to Davis in his VVIP cell.

Anonymous said...

Ooops! Looks (according to DAWN)as though that GPS device was more dangerous to Pakistanis than the gun.
Is it ok for diplomats to be calling in drone strikes in Waziristan? I'd love to hear from Hillary on this!


TSB said...

Waziristan is on the other side of the country from Lahore, so I don't think the GPS was for drone strikes. And I also don't think we use visiting Gringos driving around with Garmins to do that in the first place.

Anyhow, since when is a GPS in a car suspicious?

Anonymous said...

KARACHI: Investigation teams were astonished to learn about Raymond Davis’s alleged connections in North Waziristan, sources told DawnNews.

Sources have revealed that a GPS chip recovered from Davis was being used in identifying targets for drone attacks in the tribal region.lilgwb

TSB said...

For myself, I'm astonished to learn what kind of nonsense people will believe. Are we supposed to believe Davis was creeping around Taliban hiding places and marking their waypoints on his Garmin?

And twelve trips to North Waziristan in the twelve months he was in Pakistan? When did he find the time to do all that other stuff the tabloid press accuses him of - taking photos of 'sensitive' places, meeting spies, stealing secrets from the Babur missile lab, peeping at people using that suspicious telescope, etc., and still keep in top form with a Glock? He must have worked a lot of overtime.

FYI, here's a less sensational description of how GPS devices might be used to target drones:

Anonymous said...

Kudos for Kerry!! Do you think he was able to get the US to stop
drone strikes til Ray Davis is released?

Reuters isn't a tabloid is it? I still think the main goal is to avoid any court testimony about this investigation being made public.


TSB said...

Reuters (like AP, etc.) is reporting what the Urdu press is saying, and they're the source of the most preposterous claims.

I wonder what could possibly be said in court that hasn't already been claimed in the press and believed by 90% of Pakistanis? Certainly nothing Davis is likely to say will be anything near so sensational.

So far as the USG is concerned, a court hearing or testimony isn't the issue. Our whole objection is that the Pakistani federal government hasn't issued a decision on Davis's immunity to the Punjab state government.

The pause in drone strikes is no doubt one of the ways we're signaling a break in relations. Maybe it's a mutual break, since the Pakistanis have to cooperate to allow the strikes, and they might see that cooperation as leverage over us. An interesting thing to watch will be whether the strikes resume after Davis is released.

TSB said...

No sooner did I say there has been a pause in drone strikes then we had another one.

"The unmanned aircraft fired three missiles at the house in Kaza Panga village, 15 kilometres (10 miles) west of Wana, the main town in lawless South Waziristan.

The attack was the first since a US gunman shot and killed two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore on January 27, triggering a diplomatic row between Pakistan and the United States."

Does this mean the diplomatic row is ending? I don't know how to read these tea leaves.

Anonymous said...

TSB:Davis was wrong in carrying the gun - Maybe, maybe not. But when he found himself confronted by two armed robbers, it was lucky for him that he had his own pistol.

Were the two guys from ISI and wanted to kill Davis because CIA is targeting the mumbai terrorists? So I guess we are for India and for the part of Pakistan that isn't against India?? Pretty confusing!
I'm starting to like Ron Paul more all the time!

TSB said...

I can't see any reason to believe the two were ISI agents. They were low-level street criminals with records (although that means they could also have been police informants).

If they were acting for ISI at the time of shooting, how did they happen to commit two armed robberies in the minutes before they confronted Davis? They weren't following him when they did those.

No, I think Occam's Razor applies here - the two were actually what they seemed to be, and they just had the bad judgment to rob someone who was armed and keyed up to a high level of personal security awareness.

Anonymous said...

LAHORE: Family members of Raymond Davis, the American who is charged for the murder of two Pakistanis in Lahore, have arrived in Pakistan on Friday, DawnNews reported.

The family is currently staying at the US Embassy’s guest house in Islamabad.
That is nice! They let Davis' family attend the hearing. It makes me wonder if he isn't going to be tried, found guilty and then banished forever from Punjab Pakistan? Wouldn't that make everyone happy? lilGWB

TSB said...

We haven't heard from the family members so far, so it looks like they are staying on the reservation and not trying to bargain with the Pakistanis as independent players.

I don't think they are actually in Pakistan, anyway. The embassy spokeswoman denied the press reports.