by Sun Tzu
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — Amid near-open conflict between Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership, the Pentagon has neither sought nor received assurances that the Pakistani army won’t stage a coup, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.
“This is a matter for Pakistani officials — their government leaders, military and civilian — to work out,” the spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby, told reporters.
It also is a matter of grave concern in light of Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power and the risk that its arsenal — said to be well protected now — could fall into the wrong hands in the event of civil conflict.
The Pentagon disclosed that Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked by phone on Tuesday with his Pakistani counterpart, Army Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Dempsey’s office declined to provide details of the conversation but said it was their first contact since Dec. 21.
Dempsey has an unusually close connection with Kayani. He has known the Pakistani general since 1988, when both attended the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Pakistan’s prime minister fired the defense secretary Wednesday in a dispute over a memo sent to Washington that enraged the army. The army has warned darkly of “grievous consequences” as a result of the standoff.
Relations between President Asif Ali Zardari and the generals have never been good but have soured dramatically in recent months.
The unsigned memo sent to Washington asked for its help in reining in the military in exchange for favorable security policies. It was allegedly masterminded by Pakistan’s envoy to Washington, who has denied the accusation but resigned in a failed attempt to stem fallout from the crisis.
Pakistan’s new ambassador to Washington, Sherry Rehman, met Wednesday at the State Department with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the meeting a chance to talk about “getting our relationship back on track in all of its elements in the new year.”
Asked about Pakistan’s political instability, Nuland said U.S. diplomats in Islamabad were monitoring the situation but insisted that these were internal matters for Pakistan to solve on its own.
“We want to see all parties in Pakistan behave in a manner consistent with Pakistan’s constitution, with its democratic processes, civil discourse,” Nuland said. She insisted the U.S. supports a “civilian-led government” even as it maintains “strong relations” with the Pakistani military…