Cablegate: Pakistani Ambassador On Military Operations In
PP RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHRH #1415/01 2991318
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261318Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1774
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0301
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 4808
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0508
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 2541
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY 0386
RUEHDH/AMCONSUL DHAHRAN PRIORITY 0287
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 0050
RUSBPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 0186
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RIYADH 001415
EO 12958 DECL: 10/21/2019
TAGS SA, PK, AF, PREL, PGOV
SUBJECT: PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR ON MILITARY OPERATIONS IN
FATA; SAUDI RELATIONS
RIYADH 00001415 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Ambassador James B. Smith for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (C) During an Oct. 20 courtesy call with the Ambassador, Pakistani Ambassador Umar Khan Alisherzai highlighted the success of recent military operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas; lamented strains on the Saudi-Pakistani bilateral relationship; discussed other regional issues affecting Pakistan; and offered his advice on countering extremism in rural tribal regions. End Summary.
WAZIRISTAN: “REASONABLE RESISTANCE, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS WE EXPECTED”
2. (C) Alisherzai described the Pakistani military operations in Waziristan as “progressing well,” adding that they had encountered “reasonable resistance, but not as much as we expected.” The army faced difficult terrain in the region, he continued, but had already killed over 100 militants. Alisherzai described the extremists as a group of “Chechens, Saudis, Uzbeks and others” who had come across the border from Afghanistan and sought refuge with the local population. Although tribal tradition required the Pakistanis to offer them shelter, he explained, “these people turned out to be monsters,” and the local population turned against them.
SWAT VALLEY: A SUCCESS STORY?
3. (C) Alisherzai pointed to the military’s advances against the Taliban in the Swat Valley as one example of success in the region. The cooperation of the local people was a decisive factor, as they provided the most effective intelligence to the military after realizing that “the militants were not interested in Islam at all.” In addition, the military and police in Swat provided weapons to local tribes. When pressed about conditions in Swat, Alisherzai admitted that the Pakistani military still faced challenges due to their limited resources. He said that 10,000 soldiers had been relocated from the Indian border to Swat and that 100,000 new soldiers were placed there as well. However, Alisherzai was quick to point out that the 100,000 new soldiers were inexperienced.
4. (C) While upbeat that Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders were “truly working in tandem for the first time,” Alisherzai was disappointed that action was not taken sooner. “All of this would have been easier if done under (former Pakistani President) Musharraf,” he concluded.
“WE NEED MORE ARMS, AMMO AND PLANES”
5. (C) In response to the Ambassador’s question about support from CentCom, Alisherzai replied that the U.S. “does a lot for Pakistan.” However, it was not enough to fight this problem. All of NATO was fighting the battle in Afghanistan, he complained, while Pakistan alone was standing up to the extremists within its borders. For this reason he insisted that Pakistan needed more material support from the U.S. in the form of “arms, ammo and planes.”
REBUILDING OLD RELATIONSHIPS
6. (C) When asked about the Saudi-Pakistani relationship, Alisherzai admitted that it had been strained since Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s election. Alisherzai blamed the problems on the Saudi perception that Zardari was pro-Iranian and pro-Shia, which made them apprehensive about working with him. “We have been punished by Saudi Arabia because our president talks to the Iranians,” Alisherzai lamented. He claimed that his access to Saudi leadership was good, but that he would have to continue to work hard to rebuild Pakistan,s relationship with the SAG. Alisherzai opined
RIYADH 00001415 002.2 OF 002
that the Saudis were more concerned with their own internal problems than with the problems of Pakistan.
7. (C) Alisherzai accused Russia of “fully supporting the Iranians’ nuclear program,” adding that all Shia communities in the region supported this program. He described Iranian nuclear ambitions as a move to consolidate domestic political power and stated multiple times, “they will not leave this subject.”
INDIA: “WE ARE NOT EXPECTING ANYTHING GOOD”
8. (C) Alisherzai blamed India for helping to train and fund extremist groups fighting against the Government of Pakistan. He said that India also helped support the Taliban in Pakistan, explaining “They (India) will never let a chance to harm Pakistan go.” Alisherzai summed up his feelings about India by saying, “We are not expecting anything good from them.”
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
9. (C) Asked how to stop terrorism and extremism in Pakistan, Alisherzai said that the people living in the tribal areas “don’t know the value of life.” He blamed this on their lack of education and knowledge of the outside world, and said that they only know fighting and dying. In his view, investment in education and development was the only way to help the tribal areas, and said that years of “bad luck” had redirected development funds from the tribal areas to the urban population centers. He reiterated his support for military operations, but insisted that a program to educate young boys in the region must also be implemented. He noted that this program should be funded by NATO and added, “I am only here today because of my education. Perhaps I would have been Al-Qaeda too, if not for my education.”
10. (C) Alisherzai is from the Kurram Agency, one of the seven tribal agencies that make up the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) along the Afghanistan border. As such, he is able to offer an insider’s view of life along the Pakistani-Afghan border. His observation that intelligence and support provided by the local population has been essential to the success of Pakistani military operations is worth noting, as are his suggestions as to how we might counter the growth of extremism in the region. However, his insights about larger regional issues (ie: Iran, India, Saudi Arabia) appear to be much more limited. End comment.
11. (C) Alisherzai grew up in the FATA bordering the Afghanistan provinces of Khowst and Paktya. His father served in the British military and insisted that his son attend school. Alisherzai says that at the age of five he walked 8km to school everyday. He has six children, all living in the U.S. and all graduates of George Mason University. SMITH