WASHINGTON: Pakistan would have a role in any lasting solution in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of US and Nato forces in Kabul, wrote in his book, “My Share of the Task”.
While discussing his role in the Afghan war, the general also explained why he believed it was important to have close working relations with the Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Gen McChrystal had to retire in 2010 after his aides made disparaging remarks about US President Barack Obama.
“Although my mandate as a Nato commander was limited to inside Afghanistan, it was clear to me that Pakistan would have a role in any lasting solution,” he wrote.
“At the minimum Isaf needed access to Pakistani lines of communications for the flow of logistics to our forces. Optimally, for our counter-insurgency campaign inside Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban could not enjoy support and sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.”
Ideally, joint Isaf and Pakistani efforts would convince Afghan Taliban leaders that their sanctuaries in Pakistan were no longer secure and thus their insurgency could not succeed, he added.
He noted that effective Pakistani army operations in Fata along with increased levels of coordination with Isaf forces were necessary in order to produce this kind of rethink inside Mullah Omar’s organisation.
But the Pakistani army had its limitations as Fata was a region where the Pakistani military had traditionally struggled, he wrote.
In the book, Gen McChrystal also emphasised the need to reduce “the oft-discussed deficit of trust” between the US and Pakistan but warned that it could only be reduced “over time and personal relationships would be essential to that process”.
By building as much trust as possible between Gen Kayani and him, Gen McChrystal hoped that confidence between the two armies would “cascade to some extent” down through to their subordinates.
“I believed slow but steady progress was possible. It might not work but there was no rational alternative,” he wrote.
Tracing the root of trust deficit between the two countries, the former Nato commander, noted that after the Soviet withdrawal the United States no longer needed Pakistan to help arm the rebels.
Frustrated with Islamabad’s persistent nuclear ambitions, the United States refused to vouch that Pakistan was not seeking to gain nuclear weapons, although it had given Pakistan a pass when the United States needed its assistance in its proxy war, the general wrote.
Two decades after the US imposed nuclear-related sanctions on Pakistan, the Pakistani army had again become important for the United States, and Gen Kayani, in his new role as head of the army, “wielded tremendous power”, he added.
As a member of the US Joint Staff, Gen McChrystal had watched his boss, Admiral Mike Mullen make a significant effort to build rapport with Gen Kayani.
The US general also described in his book how the November 2008 Mumbai attacks affected America’s attitude towards Pakistan. “Clear evidence that (the) … attacks conducted by Pakistani terrorists of Lashkar were orchestrated from inside Pakistan caused Americans deep frustration. And ongoing accusations that Pakistan’s military and intelligence service supported the Afghan Taliban complicated Admiral Mullen’s and my efforts,” he wrote.
“Pakistanis were quick to respond with concerns over American violations of their sovereignty, primarily through drone strikes, ever perceived US tilt toward India, and lack of appreciation for the significant Pakistani sacrifices in the war on terror,” he added.
On July 3, 2009, when a Pakistan Mi-17 helicopter went down in the Orakzai agency, killing at least 26 Pakistani soldiers, he called Gen Kayani to express his condolences and followed with a hand-written letter.
“It was a reminder of continuing Pakistani sacrifices in the fight — by early 2010; some 2,000 Pakistani soldiers had died fighting in the border regions,” Gen McChrystal wrote. “I know what it meant to lose soldiers and wanted him to know I shared his sense of loss.”
Gen McChrystal recalled how over the coming months, he spent significant time with Gen Kayani and grew to like and respect him. “His perspectives and priorities were, of course, those of a Pakistani army officer but I found our discussions on the war and our respective strategies to be helpful,” he wrote.
“Much of our time together was spent alone, simply drinking tea and talking. The talk was substantive but never combative.”