NEW DELHI: An excerpt from ‘The Gist‘, with Dr C. Christine Fair, Professor at the Security Studies Programme, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and Author of several books including, ‘In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’ and ‘Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War’ in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.
Watch the full discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atcjKEb45pE&t=5s
CF: I’m gonna tell you why the United States doesn’t care about Imran Khan. The United States and anyone who matters in the CIA, Department of Defence, the State Department, they know that the Prime Minister doesn’t matter. If you want to affect change, it’s the army chief. So the absurdity that President Biden, who was managing multiple crises domestically; we also had a really important nomination to the Supreme Court that required much of his attention, the war in Ukraine, the idea that President Biden is going to give a flying ***** of who is the Prime Minister of Pakistan is so absurd. So, I really do have to put the kibosh on this.
APR: But does he care about Pakistan, if not, the Prime Minister?
CF: So there is no evidence that Biden cares about Pakistan. He has made, at no point, any effort to reach out to Imran Khan. I do know that there has been this ongoing policy review. So, Biden, he knows Pakistan really well from his eight years as Vice President. Some people know, some people don’t know, I had been selected by the Obama administration to be the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. I declined it because I don’t have the temperament to deal with fools. I had the occasion to meet Biden. I was read in before I formally declined the position. There was complete clarity that Pakistan was behind the tragedies in Afghanistan. There was complete clarity. What there wasn’t clarity on is what to do about it. If you go back to Obama’s 2009 speech on Afghanistan, they introduced this notion of the AF-PAK theatre. And it was very clear that Pakistan had an incredibly important role in the events playing out in Afghanistan. During the whole conversation, there was a small group of us at a dinner with Biden at his house, the Vice President’s house. It all centered on Pakistan. So he knows that Pakistan is the problem. There’s just zero evidence that Biden has any interest in Pakistan. The State Department is currently trying to figure out, do we kind of have a masterly inactivity kind of policy towards Pakistan, which is to say, we don’t disengage but we don’t engage. A very small minority of people share my view that we should be really moving towards a coercive policy towards Pakistan. And then there are also those, primarily new people, who think that Pakistan is too dangerous to fail. They really want to be more vigorous in their engagement. This is the problem with new administrations. But this policy hasn’t been set yet. And there’s zero evidence that Biden cares about Pakistan at this point. There have been no initiatives discussed by Biden. In fact, count the times that he’s even said the word Pakistan. And in fact, this has so outraged the ‘youthias’ as they’re called in Pakistan. One of my favorite words.Youth plus *******. I can’t think of a better word to describe his supporters. They were so enraged, the ‘youthias’. You’ll see they’ll have these twitter campaigns. Biden call Imran. It’s just so outraged them that Biden has been completely indifferent to Pakistan. So that’s what makes this particular move by Imran Khan kind of clever. Because he can say, well, they’re indifferent to me. They don’t like me because I’m so anti-American. And this would make sense to his ‘youthia’ followers that naturally the U.S. has to be behind some conspiracy. They are incompetent and incapable of understanding that the real issue here isn’t the United States. He ****** off the army chief. There’s no mystery here. It’s Pakistan’s own history that they’re failing to read.
APR: It’s the dramatic opposite in terms of the interest that the U.S. and India have. We’ve just had the two plus two. Pakistan issued a statement saying why are we mentioned in that joint statement. So that must be peeving off even more”
CF: So, there’s no question. This President, whether it’s by omission or commission, I can’t say. But it’s just clear that he doesn’t see anything positive from engaging Pakistan. This is very different from previous Presidents. He doesn’t even say salutations to Pakistan for whatever. Even Trump, every once in a while, tweeted out something positive about Pakistan. This President doesn’t. It drives them nuts. But, it does mean this strategy, his(Imran Khan’s) version of the great steal, it does mean that he’s going to make Shehbaz Sharif’s life very, very miserable. So, one way of reading these protests on the street, it’s not Imran Khan versus the United States. It’s Imran Khan versus the Army. And that’s why you can actually see placards that they’re holding where they’re calling Bajwa a traitor, among other unflattering aphorisms. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Bajwa goes well before November. Because this is the kind of instability and chaos that is not playing to the Pakistan Army’s advantage. So if they can find some way of sending those protesters home, I think they’re going to try to find a way. And one way of doing that would be swapping out the Army Chief. The other thing about getting a new Army chief. That no longer is fascinating to me. Because at the end of the day, the Army Chief is executing the Army’s interests and the Army’s interests are incredibly enduring. And they change very, very slowly. That sort of motivates the cover on my Pakistan Army book where it’s just a carousel. It goes around but it doesn’t really matter who’s on the horse.