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  • Turkish President Erdogan said that situation in Idlib will not be solved until Syrian forces are withdrawn. Reuters
  • At Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that 'The West is winning,' despite concerns of France. Reuters
  • Projections indicate that Khamenei loyalists may tighten grip at Iran elections. Reuters
  • While violence in Yemen continues, Saudis say that talks with Houthis are progressing. Reuters
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud warned that Iran must change its behavior before any talks are considered. Reuters
  • Turkish President Erdogan warned that Turkey will not be silent as Syrian government surrounds Turkish posts. Reuters
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia and Turkey are close but will agreement is difficult. Reuters
  • Turkish President Erdogan and US President Donald Trump discussed Middle East conflicts, Turkey's foreign minister said. Reuters
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Syria dispute won't affect Russian S-400 defense deal. Reuters
  • Netanyahu said that Israeli planes have started overflying Sudan. Reuters
  • Syrian government forces seize most of Aleppo province, on eve of Turkey-Russia talks. Reuters
  • Turkey said that two killed in car bomb attack near Syria border. Reuters
  • Israel is hopeful that Germany and other ICC members will help stave off Palestinian investigation. Reuters
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran will never yield to U.S. pressure for talks. Reuters
  • Syrian state media reported that Russian-backed Syrian government forces seize most of rebel-held Aleppo province. Reuters
  • Hezbollah warned that current crisis puts Lebanon's survival at stake. Reuters
  • Saudi airstrike in Yemen killed 31 civilians after Saudi jet crash in Al Jawf province. Reuters
  • UN demands accountability and says Libya arms embargo is a 'joke'. Reuters
  • Oman sees biggest Gulf clash risk in Strait of Hormuz. Reuters
  • Rockets hit US coalition base in Baghdad on Sunday, no casualties reported. Reuters
  • Syrian army strengthens grip on Aleppo province before Russia-Turkey talks. Aljzaeera
  • India rebuked UN chief's offer, said there is 'no scope for third party mediation' on Kashmir. Dawn
  • UN chief Guterres said that international support for Pakistan has been minimal. Dawn
  • Report revealed that Trump’s offer prompted India to annex Kashmir. Dawn
  • UN chief called for implementation of Kashmir resolutions during his visit to Pakistan. Dawn
  • UN secretary general warned that world is losing the battle to contain carbon emissions. Dawn
  • Parties to conflict in Yemen agree on major prisoner exchange. Dawn
  • Foreign Minister of Qatar said that talks with Saudi Arabia have been stalled.

Major Developments Over The Years

Ikram Ullah Khan


Pakistan and USA have had a bilateral diplomatic relationship since 1947, but formal military relations started in 1954 when both sides negotiated a “mutual defense agreement” for the next ten years[1]. This agreement laid down the basis for tangible military cooperation, as Americans constructed the “Little USA, Badaber bases[2]” in July 1958; this is now known as Peshawar Air station. USA also provided military equipment, training facilities and $508 million in military assistance to Pakistan[3], for its legitimate “self-defense”. During the first decade of their bilateral military relations, Pakistan received notable US assistance for the modernization of its forces.  This military assistance was not only in terms of military ammunition, APCs, radars, communication means, military vehicles but it also included naval warships and aircraft F-104, B-57, F-86, and C-130, to strengthen Pakistan’s defensive and offensive capacity. Pakistan’s Naval and Air Force took part in joint CENTO exercises to gain experience, and a number of Pakistani officers were sent to America for training purposes[4].


Pakistan became party a US-led multilateral treaty called ‘South East Asia Treaty Organization’ (SEATO)[5], also known as the ‘Manila Pact’. This was concluded between Australia, France, UK, Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan and USA, in September 1954. Its members pledged to closely collaborate with each other in the event of armed Soviet aggression towards a SEATO member. Pakistan wished to enhance the scope of this treaty to counter all kinds of aggression[6], including non-communist, but the idea wasn’t entertained at the forum.


In the following year, in September 1955, Pakistan joined another multilateral security agreement known as the ‘Baghdad Pact’, which was later called ‘Central Treaty Organization’ (CENTO). USA supported this arrangement to build its members’ defense and security capabilities against the communist threat/aggression, and it reiterated its non-interference in “intra-region matters”.

U2 Incident

On May 1, 1960, a US spy aircraft U2 was shot down by the Soviets during a surveillance mission.  USA was operating its surveillance mission (U2 flights) from Badaber airbase (Peshawar) to monitor strategic developments in the USSR, the like Ballistic Missile Defense sites and Nuclear Test sites inside USSR’s territory. This incident also brought a certain strain on Pakistan-USA military cooperation, as “Pakistan felt deceived” over this secret American spy operation from a Pakistani airbase.

Indo-China War

USA supported India politically and also offered military and economic assistance against communist China. This USA economic and military assistance was making India a strong nation militarily regardless of the communist threat. The situation was alarming for Pakistan’s national security. Pakistan categorically expressed grave concerns.

Indo-Pak War, 1965

USA shelved Pakistan’s military assistance during this time of difficulty, but it also suspended its military assistance towards India. This aspect would later prove a cooling factor in Pak-USA’s future relations[7].

Indo-Pak War, 1971

Pakistan had joined the American camp in essence to maintain its national integrity against a hostile neighbor – India. Americans however, once again left Pakistan alone and suspended military aid during the Indo-Pak 1971 war, which led to Pakistan’s territorial disintegration. Pakistan learnt the lesson that USA is an erratic ally[8].

Symington Amendment

April 1979, the United States cut off economic assistance to Pakistan, except food assistance, as required under the Symington Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, due to concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear program.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the common interest of Pakistan and the United States in peace and stability in South Asia. In 1981, the United States and Pakistan agreed on a $3.2 billion military and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development needs.

Recognizing national security concerns and accepting Pakistan’s assurances that it did not intend to construct a nuclear weapon, Congress waived restrictions (Symington Amendment) on military assistance to Pakistan. In March 1986, the two countries agreed on a second multi-year (FY 1988-93) $4 billion economic development and security assistance program[9].

Soviet-Afghan War, 1979

Pakistan – USA military relations remained limited and to some extent bitter, due to Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. The Soviet invasion in Afghanistan brought a new era of Pakistan-USA military cooperation; it was the apogee of their military relations.  This Cold War relationship was in many ways a subset of the two countries’ other strategic concerns. Pakistan’s concern was India, while for the Americans, it was the containment of communism. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 however, brought a convergence of Pakistan and US interests and concerns[10].

Pressler Amendment

In 1985, this amendment introduced a legal prerequisite for an American President to issue a waiver to Congress that Pakistan will not crossing nuclear redlines. Soviet disintegration resulted in USA’s disengagement from Pakistan and in 1990, under the Pressler amendment, USA cutoff Pakistan’s military aid once again and refused to deliver 71 F-16 fighters.

Pakistan Nuclear Tests

Pakistan, in response to the Indian nuclear tests, conducted indigenous tests on May 28, 1998. USA imposed sanctions and restricted its military relations with Pakistan, which were already not very significant in nature.

Global War on Terror (GWoT)[11]

In post 9/11 era, USA launched its GWoT inside Afghanistan. In a gyrate of history, Pak-USA military relations and strategic cooperation once again increased at all levels. Pakistan has been able to procure 36 F-16 C/D Block 50/52 fighter aircraft, Mid-Life Update Modification Kits to upgrade Pakistan’s F-16A/B aircraft[12].  But now, after more than a decade, these relations have once again become stringent due to USA’s unilateral military actions inside Pakistan, including Operation Geronimo[13] and NATO’s November 26th attacks[14] on the Pakistani border post.

Revival of bilateral Relations

October 18, 2013 the U.S. decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended when relations between the two countries disintegrated over the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden and deadly U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani soldiers[15] PM. Nawaz made an official visit to Washington from Oct.20 to Oct.23, 2013[16] to further revive and strengthen the bilateral relations.


[5] US Department of the State, Office of the Historian, MILESTONES: 1953-1960, http://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/SEATO
[6] Mussarat Jabeen And Muhammad Saleem Mazhar, Security Game: SEATO AndCENTO As Instrument Of Economic And Military Assistance To Encircle Pakistan, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/pesr/PDF-FILES/6%20JABEEN%20Security%20Game%20SEATO%20and%20CENTO.pdf
[9] Foreign Relations- Pakistan & U.S.A. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/pakistan/forel-usa.htm
[10] Dr Maleeha lodhi, The Pakistan – US Relationship, http://www.defencejournal.com/april98/pakistanus.htm
[12] Military, F-16, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/pakistan/f-16.htm
[13] Jake Tapper, Huma Khan, Martha Raddatz And Lauren Effron, Osama Bin Laden Operation Ended With Coded Message ‘Geronimo-E KIA’ http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/osama-bin-laden-operation-code-geronimo/story?id=13507836
[14] Nato attack kills Pakistani troops, says country’s military, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/26/nato-attack-pakistan-kills-eight

Bruce Riedel

Review by

Muhammad Suleman 

‘Avoiding Armageddon’, written by former CIA veteran analyst Bruce Riedel, is something of a hotcake book. Riedel is currently serving as a Senior Fellow in the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institute. He is a prominent expert of counter terrorism, US security and South Asian issues. He has written several other internationally famous books including Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and Global Jihad and The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future.

The title of the book itself, Avoiding Armageddon: America, India and Pakistan to the Brink to Back, is indicative of the perilous relationships between India and Pakistan, and the role of the USA as a moderator between these two hostile nuclear states. As Riedel has served as special advisor on South Asian affairs to four US Presidents, he possesses in-depth knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of India-Pakistan relations.

This book comes into the market at a significant time, when the US is about to revise its policies towards South Asia in light of the approaching withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. It explores the relationship between the ISI and Pakistani-sponsored organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Qaeda, both of which he argues were fully involved in the Mumbai Incident. Riedel blames Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of nourishing terrorism in the region for obscure purposes and as a tool against India and the US; he says the ISI is assisting Jihadists in preparing the road for a ‘Global Jihad’.

Riedel interprets an Ilyas Kashmiri interview – given to Saleem Shahzad – in the following words “According to Kashmiri, al-Qaeda wanted a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in order to disrupt the global counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda, to complicate NATO’s war in Afghanistan, and to polarize the world between Islam and the ‘Crusader-Zionist-Hindu conspiracy”; interestingly Shahzad does not mention word ‘nuclear’ in his description of the interview with Kashmiri in his book.

The book also beautifully portrays the historical background of the freedom movements of India-Pakistan and compares them with America’s own freedom movement, as both were British Colonies. The author explores important events that took place under the Raj in both parts of the globe, and reveals that even though people from both American and Sub-continent regions were under same ruler, they did not have very positive opinions of each other. He writes “Americans were not generally friends of the British Empire; after all, they had fought it twice. However, they had no affection for Indians. The New York Times, for example, called the mutiny “a Mohammedan conspiracy” to restore the Mughal Empire.”

The book also provides historical context to Pakistan’s role in the Cold War and relations with the US. Riedel admits the fact that in the cold war era, USA used Pakistan for its interests and when its purpose was achieved, it turned a deaf ear to it. During this era, USA tried to establish good relations with India, but in response, India did not accept these overtures and rely on USA, and instead remained part of the Non-Aligned Movement.

About this Riedel writes, “Indira Gandhi did not need America. She was convinced that Nixon was her enemy, and she harbored suspicions that the CIA was determined to assassinate her.”According to Mr. Riedel, Indian Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi “had been difficult interlocutors for four American Presidents; only Kennedy had succeeded in building a real partnership with the Indians.”

Riedel also describes Pakistan’s concerns regarding American ‘betrayals’ at every crucial moment. The role of the US was very significant during all three major wars and the one limited war between Pakistan with India. Each time, the US played a crucial role in establishing a ceasefire between the two countries. During these wars, both countries were annoyed with the US for not supporting them completely.

The book also enlightens its readers of the role played by the US to avert nuclear war following the advent of nuclear weapons in South Asia. From 1987 to 2008, on the brink of every crisis, the US got deeply involved in managing the development of events and reducing heightening tensions so as to pull both countries away from Armageddon.

Riedel supports and strengthens the notion that Pakistan is a central hub of terrorists, where well-known terrorists with ‘head money’ on them are living openly. Riedel claims that the newly selected chief of Al Qaeda, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Taliban Ameer Mullah Umer and Hafiz Saeed Chief of LeT all have hideouts in Pakistan, with the knowledge and support of certain actors in Pakistan. All these terrorist groups/ individuals are directly a threat to the US, India, Afghanistan as well as Pakistan itself. Writer is worried that these allegedly Pakistan-sponsored terrorists are provoking India to initiate limited war against Pakistan; a war that has the potential to easily escalate and convert into nuclear war.

Riedel also criticizes Pakistan’s political system arguing that people only really have two choices from which to elect a leader; the first is PML-N (the current ruling party) and the second is Pakistan People’s Party; however he appeared convinced that Imran Khan could potentially be a third alternative to these two. Nonetheless, he appeared optimistic about Pakistan’s future, saying “Pakistan is not falling apart like Somalia and Syria. The instruments of state power, though corrupt, are still strong.” Riedel’s concerns however are that, “A more realistic danger is another coup. It might be a soft one, without tanks in the streets, done largely behind the scenes.”
The book asserts that the heart of the problem between India and Pakistan is Kashmir, and due to this issue, Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism against India. American actions on this issue can make a bad situation worse, and there is only limited evidence that they can make things fundamentally better. Riedel argues that the United States is best at conflict management, not conflict resolution. Riedel predicts that should another crisis like the Mumbai incident occur, it would be harder for America to prevent India from taking any offense steps against Pakistan. The American playbook thus far would be useless.

The major thesis of this book is that the United States has been unable to achieve most of its goals in the region; every President from Roosevelt to Obama has found the subcontinent to be a tough place to move forward. Riedel argues “Washington should quietly but forcefully encourage New Delhi to be more flexible on Kashmir.” He also suggests to the American government that it is in American interests to resolve the Kashmir issue at the earliest. He also charges that it is in fact the Kashmir issue that has engendered global terrorism.

In my view, the core argument of the book is that the ISI is responsible for disturbing regional peace by supporting terrorist organizations and promoting terrorism for “Global Jihad”. One vital factor that the writer neglected however is that India is also equally responsible for peace in the region, nor did not mention Indian involvement in Afghanistan against Pakistan. In 2009 former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousif Raza Gilani handed over the Indian involvement’s proof in Baluchistan to his Indian counterpart. Author does not describe the role of Indian secret agencies like RAW in creating disturbances in Baluchistan and funding Baloch rebels. Finally, it is important to note that the author mostly uses secondary sources of data in his book. One must read this book to enlighten ourself, in order to explore some interesting things.

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