More Deaths, More Wounds, More Enmity And More Terror. Result, world a living hell!

By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

While Pak Army succeeded in dismantling the networks of Fazlullah and Hakimullah effectively, inflicted heavy casualties upon the militants and also captured huge quantities of arms, ammunition and explosives as well as prisoners thereby gaining an upper edge, US-NATO forces have not been able to achieve even a single victory against Taliban in Afghanistan despite two troop surges of 21000 and 30000 respectively.

Hawks in US military had prevailed upon President Obama to sanction Gen Stanley McChrystal’s demand of 40,000 extra troops whose initial demand was 80,000. He reluctantly acquiesced but slashed the figure to 30,000 troops and added a clause that withdrawal from Afghanistan would commence from July 2011 onwards. Both decisions were not appreciated by Pentagon and Gen McChrystal. Latter expressed his serious concerns that with 30,000 additional troops he will not be able to achieve his objectives. He also disliked pushy and bossy attitude of civilian officials. He became critical of Obama and his administration, which eventually led to his unceremonious exit.

Despite poor showing of ISAF comprising 152000 troops from 48 countries including 26 countries of NATO, Washington continues to press Pakistan to do more. The whole focus has shifted to North Waziristan (NW), declared as the mother of all evils. The US-NATO military leaders sing in chorus that unless havens of militants in NW are destroyed, no meaningful progress can be achieved against Taliban in Afghanistan.

Failing to make any headway in Afghanistan even after the second troop surge, subtle pressure was mounted on Obama by the hawks within US military and civil power circles to extend the cutout date. Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen David Petraeus based their arguments on the premise that some progress had been achieved and given the time, the military will be able to tilt balance of power in its favor. Whatever progress being projected is not in the battlefield, but is in terms of winning over elements within militant forces. This progress which is so far insignificant when seen in context with rising casualties, growing costs to sustain 100,000 American troops costing $70 billion annually, mounting public pressure, tumbling economy, heightening anti-Americanism, poor performance of ANA whose desertion rate is still at 40%, rising power of Taliban and above all inherent risks involved in not being able to isolate hardcore Taliban, may prove counter productive.

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The military leadership made the recommendation to delay the move back on the basis of ego and not on ground realities. Withdrawal without achieving any objective in their considered view was tantamount to humiliating defeat, far worse than Vietnam. They argued that the US had committed a blunder by abandoning Afghanistan in haste in 1989 and is paying the price for the error. They asserted that this time it shouldn’t repeat the same folly and should not only stabilize Afghanistan but leave behind a friendly regime. They recommended a graduated withdrawal spread over four years and on the pattern of Iraq by transferring frontline security duties to ANA and Afghan Police in relatively less troubled provinces from July 2011 onwards so that the US-NATO could take up a backseat.

Prestige of NATO was another point which was rubbed, stressing that its existence was at stake. They said that failure in Afghanistan would render existence of NATO vulnerable. They drove home the grave implication of myth of Anglo-US military invincibility getting trampled under the feet of ragtag ill-equipped Taliban. In their view it would destroy the capitalist run world order and boost the image and prestige of Muslims. Scary scenario of Islamic world order was highlighted. They eventually succeeded in making Obama agree to revise the withdrawal dates to end 2014 and to continue using force.

Presence of Obama in NATO Summit in Lisbon on 19 November exhibited US-NATO close-knit bonding. NATO Secretary General’s insistence to stay beyond 2014 was meant to dispel the impression that NATO countries were eager to depart early. Robert Gates is also not in favor of giving a cutout date. The extension plan was approved and will be further authenticated by USA during the December Review. This is in complete disregard of the sentiments of the people of USA and western countries. Huge protest demonstrations have been held in London calling for an end to conflict and immediate return of British soldiers. They want five billion pounds spent annually on un-winnable war to be utilized on domestic hpw welfare projects.    

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There is another school of thought that Obama never meant to implement the given dateline of mid July. Real purpose of announcing troop surge as well as withdrawal in one breath was to deceive the Taliban who had sought firm withdrawal timeframe before they agreed to negotiate with Karzai. It was also aimed at enticing the fence sitters as well as Hikmatyar, not as rigid as Mullah Omar in demanding complete withdrawal of foreign forces as a pre-requisite for talks. Lot of hype had been created that a breakthrough will be achieved during the Loya Jirga held in June. Afghan Peace Council headed by Sibghatullah was given undue importance. When Mullah Omar deflated the hype by stating that no negotiations are being held and it transpired that the representative of Taliban purporting to be Mullah Mansur was an imposter, the US feeling sheepish was left with no choice but to spell out the actual date of departure.

The catch point is that instead of specifying time period by which the occupation forces would be able to defeat the Taliban, withdrawal date has been given which is a clear sign of failure. The Taliban in the meanwhile have vowed to force NATO out before 2014. I have a gut feeling that in the wake of aggressive statements given by NATO commanders, it is quite possible that militants may shift their focus of terrorist attacks towards Europe. Terror alerts are already being sounded in European countries quite frequently.

Gen Petraeus is under mounting pressure from Washington to produce results. He in turn is exerting pressure on Pakistan to help him win the war by eliminating sanctuaries of Taliban in North Waziristan and in Quetta region since he believes militants in eastern and southern Afghanistan are being fed from these two regions. He has become desperate for the victory and so are the Taliban. While defeat is staring into Petraeus face, Taliban are smelling victory.

Petraeus has high-tech terror plans for southwestern regions of Afghanistan. MI Abram tanks are being inducted for the first time to further demolish homes of Afghan Pashtuns. Thousands of homes have already been plastered, which is in line with the policy of pacification employed in South Vietnam where peasant villages were napalmed and burned on the plea that villagers were sympathizers of Vietcong. New York Times dated 16 November has revealed that in Arghandbad District of Southern Afghanistan, every one in 40 houses in Khisrow village was destroyed by a salvo of missiles on the plea that some houses were being used to store explosives. About 150 houses have been razed to ground. Moreover, trees are being cut down to deny hiding places to insurgents.

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Brian Becker has disclosed that fearful of improvised explosive devices, M-58 Miclic Mine-clearing tool is being used. It has a chain of explosives tied to a rocket which upon impact destroys everything in a swath 30 ft wide and 325 ft long. Himmars missile system, a pod of 13 ft rockets carrying 200 lbs warheads has also been in use. These and so many other deadly contraptions are in use to destroy all moving things. Karzai’s request of minimizing raids and air strikes so as to reduce collateral damage to civilians has been rudely brushed aside by Obama.  It implies 2011 will witness more bloodletting.

Brig Asif Haroon Raja, a Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces War Coursequalified, holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously. He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently. He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready. He is a defence analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defence and political matters for numerous international/national newspapers/websites