Some facts are bare; some obscure or in the realm of conjectures.
That the United States wants to eliminate the safe havens of Al-Qaeda and its allies from Pakistani territory is very much clear; what is not manifest is the American agenda for Pakistan in the context of the new ‘Great Game’ that is being played to determine the future of Central and South West Asia.
The 9/11 happened at a time when Pakistan had newly become a proven nuclear power. It aspired to provide trade and energy corridor to the Central Asian Republics via Afghanistan. Pakistan and China had planned to develop the Gwadar Port in Balochistan where China might have acquired some naval facilities. Pakistan-sponsored jehadi outfits had engaged more than five hundred thousand Indian military and paramilitary troops in the Indian occupied Kashmir. It seemed Pakistan was destined to play the role of an important power in the region.
Over the last decade the scenario has completely changed. Pakistan is faced with threats to its very existence. It is often referred to as a failed state and maligned as the epicentre of so-called international terrorism. Apart from internal social, political and economic dynamics, geopolitical factors have contributed a lot to the process of Pakistan’s transformation into a weak entity.
After 9/11, the US-led coalition forces invaded and occupied Afghanistan on the ground that the Taliban regime had offered safe haven to Al-Qaeda for planning and executing attack on the Twin Towers, and that even after the terror attack it had not been prepared to surrender the Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden to the United States.
The removal of the Taliban from power was a set-back to Pakistan’s cherished goals of acquiring ‘strategic depth’ to Central Asia and ‘defence-in-depth’ by having a proxy government in Afghanistan.
Now Pakistan’s priority was to protect its interests in post-Taliban Afghanistan where India was looking for a foothold. Simultaneously it wanted to secure its nuclear assets and protect jehadi infrastructure active in Indian occupied Kashmir. It also desired timely completion of the Gwadar Port and wanted to make it operational as per schedule.
Although in the aftermath of 9/11 Pakistan announced to join the US-led coalition against the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, its policy was two pronged. To spare itself of American wrath, Pakistan offered the US-led coalition forces all necessary logistics to topple the Taliban regime.
Pakistan Government captured and handed over to the United States several top Al-Qaeda operatives, including the alleged master-mind of 9/11, but played soft with the Taliban, who in large numbers crossed into Pakistan to join hands with their affiliates and sympathizers in the tribal belt. They regrouped and started making cross-border incursions to target the US-led coalition forces inside Afghanistan.
Under American pressure, Pakistan Government was obliged to deploy troops to check the militants from mounting cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan and to take action against the Al-Qaeda elements, including Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens, and their Afghan and local allies.
To get rid of this situation, Pakistan Government concluded peace agreements with some militant groups of the tribal area. But these agreements had to be abandoned either due to American displeasure or failure on the part of the militants to fully abide by their terms.
As the Pakistan Armed Forces resumed action, the militants retaliated by targeting Pakistan Armed Forces personnel and installations at different places in the country. In anger and frustration, some militant factions resorted to suicide bombings in which civilian lives were lost.
The spate of suicide bombings and attacks increased after the inhuman and cruel action taken by the Musharraf government against Lal Masjid and the girls’ madrassah adjacent to it.
The militants also expanded their domain of operations and entered the settled areas of the country like Dir and Swat and posed threat to Peshawar. This led to major combats between the Pakistan Armed Forces and the militants and Pakistani troops were able to push the militants back.
In theory all this was happening by design. The United States wanted to shift the theatre of war to Pakistan to release pressure on the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Reportedly, India’s RAW and America’s CIA orchestrated some of the terror attacks to make the Pakistani people believe that it was their war. India also wanted to weaken the morale of Pakistani troops by making them confront Muslim militants and to undermine their operational capability on eastern front by over-stretching them.
Thus Pakistan was dragged into a war, which was not its war in the first place.
Now over the last couple of years the focus of America’s ‘war on terror’ has shifted to Pakistan on the premise that the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban leadership has moved to Pakistani territory and the militants affiliated with the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are using Pakistan’s tribal belt as a launching-pad to mount attacks on NATO/ISAF stationed in Afghanistan.
The United States insists that the Al-Qaeda may plan terror attacks inside America and other western countries from its sanctuaries in Pakistan and, therefore, Pakistan should take action against the Al-Qaeda and different warlords based on its territory, including the Haqqani network.
Pakistan cannot deny the presence of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates on Pakistani soil, especially after the Abbottabad Operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed. The United States is losing patience. It wants to see action. Time is running out.
The question is: should Pakistan act against those militants who are, allegedly, in their good books can protect Pakistan’s interests in any future political set-up in Afghanistan?
In framing the answer the following facts should be taken into consideration:
1. Pakistan was the mentor of the Taliban and they were on very friendly terms with Pakistan. It was Pakistan that ditched them after 9/11 and offered its airfields to the United States to bomb them and topple their government in Afghanistan. There were no attacks on Pakistan Armed Forces personnel or installations and no suicide bombings until Pakistan sided with the United States without any sense of self-respect and honor.
2. Reportedly Mullah Umar, the Amir of the Afghan Taliban, is averse to having any conflict with Pakistan Armed Forces. It may not be ruled out that he is in contact with the ISI or under its protection. The Haqqanis and some other warlords have traditionally been on good terms with Pakistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is hostile to Pakistan Armed Forces because it perceives them as mercenaries who are fighting for the Americans. There are indications that the TTP would be prepared to conclude peace agreement if Pakistan withdraws from the US-led coalition.
3. Emotionally the majority of the people of Pakistan are not prepared to own this war. They stand for negotiations and peace with the Taliban. They do not consider the American ‘war on terror’ as their war.
4. Pakistan’s role in the ‘war on terror’ and unchecked, rather, abetted drone strikes, have tarnished the image of the government and the Pakistan Armed Forces in the country. There is now a wide wedge between the people of Pakistan and Pakistan Armed Forces. The militant attacks on the GHQ and the Mehran Naval Base indicate that there are elements within the forces that have sympathy for the militants and provide them information.
5. The hatred for the United States is endemic. It is never trusted or considered a true friend.
6. Pakistan has lost estimated 30,000 civilians and 5,000 armed forces and law enforcement personnel in essentially American ‘war on terror’.
7. American drones are continually violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. Mostly innocent civilians are being killed in drone attacks.
8. What Pakistan gets from the United States in the form of economic and military assistance is just a peanuts compared to the losses being incurred by Pakistan.
9. There volumes of evidence that India and Israel is supporting the Baloch nationalists with British and American connivance. This creates doubts that the UK and US aim is to have an independent Balochistan or at least a corridor through Balochistan to Afghanistan for construction of gas and oil pipelines from Central Asia.
The US and European media is projecting Pakistan as epicentre of international terrorism. It is likely that ground is being prepared to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear assets on the pretext that the militants might take control of these assets if they are not fully secured.
The manner in which Pakhtun population is being alienated from Pakistani state creates doubts that the United States wants to geographically reduce Pakistan to Sindh, Punjab and mainly Hazara Division of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The presence of CIA operatives poses threat to Pakistan’s national security. They have been collecting sensitive information about the militant organizations, including Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The United States has opened channels for negotiations with the Afghan Taliban but wants Pakistan to act against militant groups based in North Waziristan. There is no justification for this attitude. It demonstrates American selfishness and lack of concern for what is in the interest of Pakistani state and society.
Pakistan’s only moral and legal responsibility is to ensure that its territory is not used for mounting any terror attack against the United States or for that matter any country in the world.
As far as the Taliban’s cross border incursions into Afghanistan are concerned, they are waging a war of national liberation against occupational forces of NATO and ISAF. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is porous and Pakistan is not in a position to check the Taliban incursions. Recently there were two incursions from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Why has the NATO failed to fulfil its responsibility of securing the Afghan side of the border?
It would be disastrous for Pakistan to expand military operations to North Waziristan or other places against the warlords who are friendly. Already there is no let up in terror attacks in the country. Pakistan cannot afford to create more enemies.
If the scope of war increases, it would enable the United States and India to have a relatively free hand in redrawing the geography of western and north-western Pakistan if they have such designs. The conspiracy theories abound and Pakistan should never remain off-guard.
In fact, Pakistan needs to put its house in order and rectify the mistake of boarding the American bandwagon. To fill the wedge between the armed forces and the people, heal the fissures within the armed forces and create harmony in the society, Pakistan should withdraw from the US-led coalition and terminate all cooperation with the United States in its war on terror.
No NATO supplies should pass through Pakistan. No air bases should be at the US disposal. The CIA personnel, military trainers and contractors who have come to Pakistan for implementing different US projects should be asked to leave the country.
Pakistan should declare that the militancy within the country is its internal matter and it would deal with it unilaterally. It should argue that cooperation with the United States has only exacerbated the situation. It has become a cause for radicalization of Pakistani society.
This leads us to the question: what would be the likely American reaction?
If the United States does not have any sinister motive it would at the most make unpleasant noises, condemn Pakistan, continue with drone attacks, permit occasional hot-pursuits, disrupt Pakistan’s economic and military assistance and then come to terms with the reality.
In the past Pakistan has successfully faced disruption of American economic assistance and flourished unabated. A united people are far stronger and reliable guarantee of national security than the military hardware those are procured at the cost of internal cohesion.
If sanity prevails, the United States would address Pakistan’s concerns about protection of its interests in post-American Afghanistan. It would endeavor to reconcile the differences between India and Pakistan and respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.
In case the United States has any nefarious designs concerning Balochistan, FATA or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, let it get exposed. It is better to have the enemy without than within.
In such an eventuality, there is a remote possibility that the United States may get some ambiguous resolution passed in the Security Council to use military option against Pakistan.
It may increase drone attacks manifold and, in a worst-case scenario, expand the operation of NATO to FATA, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and parts of Balochistan. There may be US surgical strikes on alleged jehadi training camps in Punjab. The United States may assist the Baloch separatists openly.
In a nation’s life such occasions do come. It is for the leadership to give sacrifice and in turn command respect. Still there is time to galvanize the nation against all odds. Only sincerity and resolution is needed.
If nothing is done and we continue to cede interference in Pakistan by India, USA and Iran, Pakistan may languish as a divided house indefinitely, go down unsung or collapse violently.
On a different note the he Afghanistan price tag is up from $56.1 billion in fiscal 2009, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
The Pentagon is spending $5.3 billion a month in Afghanistan as of March 31, the latest figures available. That compares with $4.3 billion a month for the first three months of fiscal 2011 as the troop surge was completed and sustained military operations began. In fiscal 2009 the U.S. spent $3.9 billion a month in Afghanistan.
By the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that total US spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will surpass $1.4 trillion. This total includes approximately $823 billion for operations in Iraq and $557 billion for operations in Afghanistan.
Funding for the war in Iraq has decreased significantly as troops are withdrawn, leading to a notably smaller total spending request for FY2012. Funding for the war in Afghanistan will begin to decrease slightly in FY2012, signaling a possible downward trend.Annual war spending
Victory: Like defeat, it’s a “loaded” word and rather than define it, Americans should simply avoid it.
In his last press conference before retirement, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked whether the U.S. was “winning in Afghanistan.” He replied, “I have learned a few things in four and a half years, and one of them is to try and stay away from loaded words like ‘winning’ and ‘losing.’ What I will say is that I believe we are being successful in implementing the president’s strategy, and I believe that our military operations are being successful in denying the Taliban control of populated areas, degrading their capabilities, and improving the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces.” Definition Victory
While concluding here’s a self-speaking piece on US-Israel War mongering against Pakistan, Instead of going to war with a nation of more than 180 million Muslims, over its supposed sheltering of a man who has most likely been dead for 10 years, wouldn’t America be a lot safer if it indicted Senators Levin, Graham and McCain for their treasonous warmongering on behalf of Israel? War mongering
There are three classes of nations; the retrograde, the stationary and the progressive. A wise and brave Nation neither lies down on the tracks of history nor wait for the train of the future to run over the state.
As John Adams said, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
In the end trust in Allah will win. Allah is with those who establish justice and persevere.