- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008

Two senior U.S. military officials say the U.S.-led war on terror is facing challenges in part because Pakistan’s young military officers don’t have the same relationship with their U.S. counterparts that their predecessors had.

In a recent interview with The Washington Times, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a top priority for the Pentagon is healing the longtime rift between the two militaries, which he said has deprived both nations of the trust needed to combat extremism.

“We don’t know each other well enough, and us participating with them in their country is equally as important as them participating with us in our country,” he said.

Army Maj. Gen. John M. Custer agreed. The commander of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., he said U.S. forces are “dealing with guys who don’t have any exposure to us.”

“The older military leaders love us, they understand American culture, and they know we are not the enemy, but they are aging out of the force,” he said.

Tensions with Pakistan’s army go back long before the emergence of the Taliban and al Qaeda, both officers said.

“There’s not a Pakistani junior officer that doesn’t know who former Senator Pressler is, and there’s not a junior officer in the U.S. military that knows who Senator Pressler is,” Adm. Mullen said.

He was referring to 1985 legislationsponsored by former Sen. Larry Pressler, South Dakota Republican, which banned most economic and military aid to Pakistan unless the U.S. president certified, on an annual basis, that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device. The so-called “Pressler Amendment” also required U.S. aid to be significantly reduced if Pakistan tried to attain nuclear weapons.

The measure was overriden by other legislation in 1995, but still shadows U.S.-Pakistan ties.

In October 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush could not make the certification when it became apparent that Pakistan was pursuing nuclear weapons. As a result, the United States withheld $1.2 billion worth of military equipment already purchased by Pakistan. Relations plummeted as the administration considered having Pakistan designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. More sanctions were imposed when U.S. officials asserted that Pakistan was receiving missile technology from China.

U.S. and Pakistani military exchanges virtually came to a halt during the 1990s, depriving those who are now midlevel officers in Pakistan’s military of familiarity with the United States.

Many of these officers still harbor deep resentment toward the United States. Younger military personnel are influenced by their superiors and may be reluctant to cooperate with the U.S. military

Disagreement with the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the perception that U.S. policy in South Asia tilts in favor of India have exacerbated the problems. The U.S.-led war against extremists in Afghanistan is also controversial because many younger Pakistani officers appear to sympathize with Islamic fundamentalists.

The general consensus among many Pakistani citizens is that the U.S. abandoned Pakistan when “we were no longer useful after the Cold War,” said a senior Pakistani official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, owing to the sensitivity of the subject.

“The distrust between the two allies goes back to the Pressler Amendment,” the Pakistani official added. “The U.S. abandoned Pakistan, and that mutual distrust didn’t allow and still in many ways does not allow both parties to find a common strategy to defeat terrorism.”

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