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Intriguing Analysis on NYT-Obama Admin Policy Split on Pakistan

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Pundita detects the Old Gray Lady going off Rahm Emanuel’s reservation:

Afghanistan War: Obama tries to quash New York Times mutiny

I don’t know whether the mutiny is actually against the White House or the ISAF command or both. All I’ve been able to piece together is that after fortifying themselves with rum and the battle cry, ‘We’re nobody’s poodle!‘ the New York Times editorial board gave the heave-ho to NATO’s march to the rear in Afghanistan.

So this is a very strange turn of events and worthy of examination.The mutiny might have started earlier but as near as I can figure it began June 11. On that date the New York Times reported on a version of what transpired during Karzai’s dispute with two officials….

….State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who evidently had not gotten the memo about the mutiny by the time of his June 25 press briefing, only poured fuel on the fire started by the mutineers:

QUESTION: … the New York Times today reported that the Pakistan army has offered to mediate for peace talks with the Taliban and also with the Haqqani network. Is the offer with you?MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve said many times, this is an Afghan-led process, but obviously there are discussions going on between Afghan officials and Pakistani officials, and we certainly want to see ways in which Pakistan can be supportive of this broader process.

QUESTION: Do you see the Haqqani network coming – sharing power with the Afghan Government? Do you support that?

MR. CROWLEY: We have been very clear in terms of the conditions that any individual or any entity need to meet in order to have a constructive role in Afghanistan’s future: renouncing violence, terminating any ties to al-Qaida, and respecting the Afghan constitution. Anyone who meets those criteria can play a role in Afghan’s future.

The White House, more alarmed by the Times mutiny than Crowley’s foot-in-mouth replies, scrambled to do damage control. Yesterday Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and a toady in the GOP camp, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, were packed off to Fox News Cable’s Sunday show to give assurances that if General Petraeus needed more time to win the war in Afghanistan he had it.Leon Panetta was also dispatched to the Sunday morning TV network circuit, which receives close attention here in the nation’s capital. So it came to pass that Panetta made his first appearance on American network television since he became director of the CIA. He appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and faced questions from Jake Tapper, who soon turned discussion to the June 24 Times report:

Pundita has much more here.

The problem for the Obama administration is that if the generally incurious and poorly informed American public ever grasped the nature and an accurate record of Pakistan’s ongoing sponsorship the Taliban, Pakistan would quickly become an object of hatred in the eyes of US voters which, with the right visceral image, could quickly turn passive disquiet into righteous rage. My read, and it is just an informal sense, is that frustrations with the war are building into a dangerous powder keg beneath a placid surface of widespread anxiety and concern for the well-being of the troops.

A mass-casualty act of terror on American soil traced back to Pakistan, or some grisly image broadcast from the Afghan battlefield could unleash a political tsunami.

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