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Turning Up The Heat On Pakistan

There is a flurry of reports regarding the US turning up the heat on Pakistan with regard to ISI complicity with the Taliban and al-Qaeda and linking US support to Pakistan with conduct and performance. The explanation for this in a moment. First, the flurry.

'American generals turn their guns on Pakistan' - BBC
Pakistan must cut ties with Afghan extremists: SecDef Gates - Daily Times (Pakistan)
Cut ties with al-Qaida, LeT and Taliban: US tells ISI - Times of India
US trying to give everything Pakistan needs: Holbrooke - Daily Times (Pakistan)

Meanwhile...

Pakistan and Afghan Taliban Close Ranks To 'Surge' in Afghanistan - New York Times
Brit Defence chiefs battle Treasury over Afghanistan troop levels - Telegraph (UK)
Strikes to be with Pak consent: Obama - Daily Times (Pakistan)
Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani creates new set of problems - Times (UK)

Why is the US turning up the heat now? Because the Obama administration is just now getting its bearings? Because the new Afghanistan-Pakistan plan has just been settled and announced, and this is part of it?

In a word, no. Those wondering must have missed the massive demonstrations earlier in March just a few short weeks ago. On the surface, they were about reinstating the unseated Chief Justice Chaudhry. But that, while huge to most Pakistanis, is window dressing.

The protests were organized by Nawaz Sharif, who along with his brother had just been banned from holding public office. The idea is for a restored Supreme Court to not only reverse the decision and reinstate Sharif's brother as governor of Punjab province, but also to reach back farther and allow Nawaz Sharif to run for office, likely the presidency.

The protests won out, the Chief Justice is reinstated, and the Zardari PPP government was weakened enormously in its retreating decision to reinstate. And so path will soon be cleared for Nawaz Sharif to finish the job on Zardari and grab the reins of power in Pakistan. It's nearly inevitable.

Why is this important, and what does it have to do with the new push to link US support to Pakistani performance and the very public (once very private) demands that the ISI unhitch itself from the Taliban and al-Qaeda?

It's simple. Say what you will about President Obama's knowledge on foreign affairs, but Defense Secretary Gates and CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus know exactly what they are doing and have an absolute grasp of the dynamics afoot. And Nawaz Sharif, who once accepted significant campaign contributions from Usama bin Laden and is currently Saudi Arabia's 'man with (their) plan,' will soon be the face of the Pakistani government. He will be soon leading the same government which will have been - up to that point - an ally of the United States, politically and militarily.

So the field is being prepared ahead of time, affording for both a reading of reactions and at least the consistent application of very public policy once Sharif, in the worst case, attempts to turn the Pakistani tables on America and NATO.

That's why it's important.

You should take much comfort in having Gates and Petraeus as key leadership figures in this conflict. They will not be there forever. The alternative strategy, said to be pushed by Mr. Foreign Policy, Vice President Joe Biden among others, was fraught with ill-conceived notions and poor application and allocation of resources. Kudos to President Obama for listening to the adults on the playground.

Going forward, watch Nawaz Sharif - who has never (I mean never) criticized the Taliban or al-Qaeda - and keep an eye on the courts. They will clear his path to power in a quid pro quo for their own restoration. Then it gets interesting.