By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Pakistan had become a target of Indo-US-Israeli nexus in the 1990s since it was the lone nuclear Muslim country. Before embarking upon the Afghanistan venture in October 2001, the five strategic partners USA, UK, Germany, Israel and India had mutually agreed at the outset in September 2001 to hoodwink Pakistan by offering hand of friendship and economic assistance and then systematically destabilizing, de-Islamizing, denuclearizing and Balkanizing it. With these aims in view, Gen Musharraf was duped and made an ally to fight so-called war on terror. Over excited by the rich prospects of friendship with the sole super power and the promised $10 billion assistance spread over five years, he forgot that friendship of USA was worst than its enmity.
He didn’t bother to visualise what price Pakistan will have to pay in return for dollars and patronage. He promptly accepted all the seven demands all of which were not in Pakistan’s interests. He allowed American forces to use Pakistan’s seaport, four airbases, airports and airspace to launch air sorties in Afghanistan. He also provided two land routes via Chaman and Torkham for NATO supplies. He agreed to share intelligence and allowed free access to CIA and FBI. All these facilities were extended free of cost. Later on, he made several unwritten secret deals with USA including use of drones by CIA from Shamsi airbase.
No sooner Afghanistan was occupied by US and its allies with the all-out assistance of Pakistan in November 2001, India with the connivance of USA moved up all its forces to its western border in the following month and created war hysteria on the flimsy and unsubstantiated allegation that Pakistan was behind the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament. That was the time when in deference to the US command, 70,000 Pakistani troops were deployed along western border to nab runaway al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and fighters.
The Indian forces remained in aggressive posture for ten months but ultimately had to withdraw after seeing that Pakistan had put up an equally aggressive defence and was not prepared to wilt. While Pak Army managed by VCOAS Gen Yusaf did a commendable job to withstand Indian pressure, Chief Executive Gen Musharraf gave in to the US pressure and not only banned all the six Jihadi groups assisting Kashmiri liberation movement but also allowed India to fence the Line of Control (LoC).
Soon after the danger of war on eastern border got averted in October 2002 and troops started returning to barracks, the US forced Musharraf to send regular troops into South Waziristan (SW) to flush out foreign terrorists. Well knowing that the Army had never ventured into FATA and there was an agreement to this effect, Musharraf ceded to the US demand and thus pushed the Army into the inferno from which it has so far not been able to come out. The US and its partners made sure that sizeable portion of Pak Army got bogged down in its fight against faceless enemy irreversibly.
While the Army got fully involved in fighting its own people in its own territory, CIA and FBI assisted by our intelligence agencies got busy in establishing its outposts in FATA and Balochistan and cultivating local contacts. Trained Afghan soldiers were inducted in FATA to help CIA agents to eliminate pro-government Maliks, clerics and notables and to give birth to Pakistani Taliban. By December 2007, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under Baitullah Mehsud comprising 13 militant outfits was formed. In Malakand and Swat region, Maulana Sufi and his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah heading TNSM and later aligned with TTP were brought in line. The latter after terrorising the people of Swat virtually controlled the tourist resort as his fiefdom. In interior Balochistan, Baloch nationalists and Sardars were taken into confidence to foment insurgency. After the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti, terrorist outfits BLA under Harbyar Marri and BRA under Balach Marri and later under Brahamdagh Bugti together with BLF came into being. Later on, Blackwater was inducted to spread terrorism in major urban centres.
By the time the first major military was launched in SW in 2004, Pakistan had inked peace treaty with India and exchange of fire across LoC ceased. In order to please India, Musharraf made a pledge that he would ensure that no cross LoC movement into Indian Occupied Kashmir took place from Pakistan’s side. He not only deflated the freedom movement but also froze funds of Jihadi groups and started hounding Islamists in Madrassas all over the country, picking up suspects and handing them over to USA. Likewise hundreds of al-Qaeda leaders and fighters including those on whom head money had been announced by Washington were arrested by security forces and handed over. The captives were shifted to infamous Bagram airbase and Guantanamo Bay prisons where they languished under inhuman conditions without trials and access to anybody for years. Dismantlement of al-Qaeda network in FATA and arrest of so many of its senior leaders weakened this outfit to quite an extent. Successful operations by Pak Army in Swat, Bajaur, SW and other trouble spots fractured TTP and TNSM.
While Pakistan security forces fought the militants with total commitment and produced results, the ISAF paid more attention to their mercantile interests and strategic regional objectives. Other than Afghanistan, the other countries on its hit list were Pakistan, Iran and China. Among the three, Pakistan figured out on the top because of its nuclear program, its closeness with China and Iran and its refusal to accept India’s hegemony and to solve Kashmir dispute on Indian terms. Iran’s peaceful nuclear program perceived to be geared towards making a bomb irked Washington due to Israel’s concerns. Brutal sanctions have been imposed and threat of war hurled to force Tehran to abandon it. China’s economic growth and growing clout in the world became a serious challenge for USA and it decided to prepare India as its counterweight so as to help it in containing China. Irrespective of Russian and Chinese reservations, Central Asia and Caspian Sea region laden with untapped mineral resources remained uppermost in the calculation of Washington in pursuit of its economic agenda.
All these objectives were to be achieved through massive covert war and for this purpose CIA, Mossad, MI-6, RAW, BND, RAAM established biggest intelligence centre at Sehra Naward north of Kabul. For the funding of expensive operations, drug business in Afghanistan which had almost been eliminated by the Taliban was promoted with gusto and soon Afghanistan became the top narcotic state in the world. India’s RAW took upon itself to destabilize Pakistan using Afghan soil.
Opening of second front in Iraq by USA under false charges of WMDs was aimed at taking control of its oil; changing the boundaries of Middle East and to threaten the western flank of Iran. This was yet another diversion which kept the US military and civilian leaders distracted from their primary aim of defeating al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. It provided room to the runaway Taliban to regroup and strike back. By the time the ISAF realized the gravity of the security situation, it was too late. Once the initiative was wrested by Taliban-al-Qaeda combine, it couldn’t be regained by occupation forces despite two troop surges and acceleration of punitive measures.
The total strength of ISAF in Afghanistan exceeds that of any foreign military force ever before stationed in that country. It has completed ten years and three months, which is the longest in Asian nation’s history. It is also the longest armed conflict in Afghanistan and the US history. The Taliban proving to be tough opponents have blocked the ambitions of imperialist powers and forced them to seek peace and withdraw. The US has decided to pull out by end 2014 but desires to leave behind 30,000 troops in four military bases for another ten years because it has failed to achieve any of the stated or concealed objectives in Afghanistan and in other regional countries. 10,000 US troops have pulled out and another consignment of 23000 troops would depart this summer. Rest of US troops as well as of NATO countries are desperate to return home much before 2014. They prefer use of unmanned drones over physical combat. Well over 70% people in USA and Europe want an end to war.
Notwithstanding the public sentiments and the fact that economy of USA and Europe is in melting pot, the hawks within US military and CIA, the US defence and construction tycoons, 80,000 US security contractors, India, Israel and Britain as well as Afghan regime are averse to the idea of pullout and are desirous of staying on to keep multiplying their wealth and also to accomplish their ulterior objectives against Pakistan and Iran. Without making any contribution in war on terror, greedy India has plucked all cherries from the cake and wants more. Release of disgusting video showing American soldiers urinating on dead bodies of Afghans in my view was the handiwork of anti-withdrawal forces to disrupt the US-Taliban ongoing peace talks. The ones indulging in this depravity must be without pampers.
In hpw view of the fact that nothing is going in USA’s favour and casualties of ISAF soldiers are occurring regularly, Obama has desired that the political prong should overshadow military prong. Elections being close by, he wants to show some progress on peace talks. Efforts were being made by the US and Afghan regime since 2009 to convince the Taliban for a negotiated political settlement. However, three pre-conditions by USA, ‘renounce violence, disconnect from al-Qaeda and accept Afghan constitution’ blocked progress. Regional approach also couldn’t produce any results particularly when the Taliban were not part of the Istanbul and Bonn conferences and Pakistan deciding not to attend Bonn conference because of Salala attack by NATO.
Taliban’s announcement on 4 January that they would open a political office in Doha is seen as a big breakthrough since the office will allow the international community to communicate directly with Taliban for the first time. Karzai has accepted the proposal grudgingly after his initial raving that he was not consulted. However, Taliban would open office only if their five senior leaders detained in Guantanamo prison are released and brought to Doha. In spite of Pak-US relations at its lowest ebb, Pakistan was not kept out of the loop since the Taliban delegation was allowed by Islamabad to proceed to Qatar. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are now making joint efforts to convince the Taliban to open another office in Riyadh.
Despite anti-American sentiments running high among people in Pakistan as a consequent to anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic policies of USA, relations between Pakistan and USA at government level remained cordial. Cordiality turned into acrimony in 2011 as a result of Raymond Davis episode in January followed by shocking 2 May incident, outburst of Mike Mullen in September and murderous NATO attack on 26 November. These gory incidents changed the dynamics of relationship which otherwise were never on even keel and were fraught with element of distrust. Washington has showed least concern over huge human and economic losses suffered by Pakistan in fighting war on terror, or its genuine security concerns and has kept up with its ‘do more’ mantra and nasty propaganda campaign against Army/ISI.
2011 proved to be turning point since it has brought a dramatic change in the behavior pattern of our military and civilian leaders who have all along believed in the policy of appeasement irrespective of Washington’s overbearing attitude and discriminatory policy. Ten years of subservience has made the US leaders so arrogant that they take Pakistan for granted. They believe that no amount of bullying and snubs would offend aid hungry Pak leaders. They are not reconciling to the new face of defiance put up by Pakistan at a time when Pakistan’s economy is in dire strait and political and security situation is dismal. They have tried their old tricks of threats and aid cut/freeze, but are surprised to find the other side unmoved.
For too long Pakistan has suffered quietly and in return earned nothing but crumbs, derision and stabs in the back. The US has been treating Pakistan more as a foe and less as an ally and has all along been using Pakistan to serve its selfish interests. It has remained heavily tilted towards India in its urge to make it a bulwark against China and has completely ignored Pakistan’s security interests as well as its sacrifices which are much more than any other country. 100,000 dead and injured in fighting US war on terror are too staggering a number.
This radical change has not only occurred for the first time since early 1950s, but has also come at a time when the US is caught up in far too many difficulties. The US badly needs Pakistan’s support to be able to terminate the endgame in Afghanistan on a respectable note and pullout. For all practical purposes the US has lost the war and ISAF has given up hopes of a victory. It would welcome a safe and honorable exit. Its desire to leave behind a back up force seems wishful since the main stakeholders Taliban who are in the driving seat would never agree to this proposal. Karzai is a spent cartridge and will survive as long as ISAF is there and American aid is flowing in. Afghan security forces that are being excessively expanded would also fragment once American funding and ISAF backup support ceases.
On the political front, so far no meaningful breakthrough has been achieved. US-Taliban talks at Doha are at the moment nothing more than a confidence building exercise. Although the US has come down from the high pedestal and instead of re-integration of Taliban fighters, it now seeks reconciliation, it will have to give ironclad guarantees of ISAF’s exit by an appointed date to make the Taliban come to the negotiating table and work out a political settlement. The only country that has some clout over the hard line Taliban is Pakistan. That is why the US is putting up with Pakistan’s defiance and non-cooperation.
Closure of vital supply routes by Pakistan since 27 November is causing maximum trouble to ISAF. Northern routes are not only time consuming but are also very costly. It costs over $12000 per container and is costing NATO an additional $87 million per month. Air supply is very expensive since one gallon of fuel costs $450. Pakistan has not been levying transit fee on NATO containers since October 2001. Apart from free passage the heavy containers have ruined the roads from Karachi to Peshawar-Torkham and from Karachi to Quetta-Chaman. It was as consequence to closure of the two supply routes that story of use of pampers by ISAF troops came to light. Shortage of this item is direly felt. These containers were also meeting the needs of foreign paid terrorist groups in Pakistan and militant wings of political parties in Karachi. 34000 containers had gone missing and so far the culprits have not been taken to task.
Daily flow of containers and oil tankers passing through Pakistan has been 1000 and 1500 respectively. Three million containers/tankers passed through Pakistan in last ten years without payment. Had each container/tanker been charged $10,000, Pakistan would have earned $30 billion. In the new rules of engagement chalked out by Pakistan, it has probably been decided to levy $1000 charges per NATO container, which means a paltry amount of $4 million a month. In my view, transit fees should be raised to $10,000 per container apart from port charges and damage caused to the roads.
It has come to my knowledge that supplies are still trickling into Afghanistan unofficially. This can be gauged from the fact that had the supplies been completely blocked, the main highway roads would have got clogged by now right from Torkham backwards up to Pindi and beyond and from Chaman up to Quetta; and Karachi Port would certainly have got choked. Reportedly, 5000 containers and large number of military vehicles are presently stuck. Smugglers, Khasadars/levies employed on two crossing points as well as Karachi Port officials are involved in allowing 5-10 containers to cross the border daily. This can be ascertained from the fact that large numbers of containers have gone missing from Karachi Port in the last two months. Missing containers have a share for local terrorists as well. Had the flow been completely blocked, the situation of ISAF by now would have become precarious and the behavior of US officials would have got transformed from rudeness to politeness.
I hazard to suggest impounding 5000 NATO containers laden with sophisticated armaments as well as 3000 NATO vehicles as compensation to recover the ten-year cost and damage to road infrastructure. These armaments and vehicles can be profitably used by the Army to establish an effective counter terror force, or else raise 1-2 additional mountain divisions and establish western command to meet the future threat from the west.
Besides the problem of supplies, the US is deprived of intelligence sharing by Pakistan. Closure of Shamsi airbase has also been a setback for CIA to carryout drone war and covert war in Balochistan. It took CIA two months to renew drone strikes but at a very low scale. In the wake of resolutions passed by joint sessions of the parliament concerning drones, it will be in fitness of things to shoot down intruding drones. Although the PAF has been supporting Army’s operations against terrorists in far flung inaccessible areas, it has yet to show something worthwhile to the nation. People are not happy with PAF’s lack of action on 2 May and on 26 November and want continued violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US to be checkmated. They expect Air Chief Marshal Rao equipped with Parliament’s resolution and backed by 180 million people to give a befitting reply to the US aggressiveness and gladden the hearts of the nation. If Iran can bring down American drone, why can’t nuclear Pakistan do it? People are also anxiously waiting for the new terms of engagement with USA framed by Parliamentary Committee on National Security and hope that they would not be deceived.