Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Gates Sees Fallout From Troubled Ties With Pakistan

By IWPR Afghanistan

“Are you with us or against us?” a senior military officer demanded of Mr. Gates at Pakistan’s National Defense University, according to a Pentagon official who recounted the remark made during a closed-door session after Mr. Gates gave a speech at the school on Friday. Mr. Gates, who could hardly miss that the officer was mimicking former President George W. Bush’s warning to nations harboring militants, simply replied, “Of course we’re with you.”

That was the essence of Mr. Gates’s message over two days to the Pakistanis, who are angry about the Central Intelligence Agency’s surge in missile strikes from drone aircraft on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, among other grievances, and showed no signs of feeling any love.

The trip, Mr. Gates’s first to Pakistan in three years, proved that dysfunctional relationships span multiple administrations and that the history of American foreign policy is full of unintended consequences.

As the No. 2 official at the C.I.A. in the 1980s, Mr. Gates helped channel Reagan-era covert aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the American allies at the time: Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Many of those fundamentalists regrouped as the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now threaten Pakistan.