How We Dealt With Pakistan: A Former Envoy’s View
New York Times, December 20, 2009
To the Editor:
Re “How to Mend Fences With Pakistan,” by Asif Ali Zardari (Op-Ed, Dec. 10):
I was serving as American ambassador in the early 1980s when the United States first worked with Pakistan in supplying support to the anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan. President Zardari implies that we exploited Pakistan during this time, but the Pakistanis were wholeheartedly in favor of the program, and their suspicion of Soviet intentions seemed genuine.
American participation in this effort was managed out of the hip pocket of William Casey, the C.I.A. chief, and on-the-ground liaison was handled by our station chief. I was present whenever a clandestine Casey visit reviewed the program with President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq and his intelligence chief.
The American team occasionally raised doubts about help to more extremist elements of the mujahedeen (some of whom are still around), but the answer was usually that they were the most effective.
Also, it is unfair to imply that we supported President Zia’s “iron rule.” Although no democrat, he was far from the Saddam Hussein image of a brutal dictator. Although we tried to dissuade President Zia from pursuit of a nuclear capability, it was clear to me that it would be unavailing as long as India was on the same path.
President Zardari’s statement that “there cannot be permanent regional peace in South Asia without addressing Kashmir” is correct. This seems now to be on the back burner, but it should not be forgotten. I also agree that there has been a sorry history of inconstancy in our relations with Pakistan; this continues to cast a shadow.
Ronald I. Spiers
South Londonderry, Vt., Dec. 16, 2009