AMERICA LOOKING FOR EXCUSES TO ATTACK PAKISTAN
Like the myth of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda headquartered in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) which I discussed in my previous write up, another absurd claim has been made that Mullah Omar along with his Shura (Council of Advisers) is based in Quetta, Pakistan.
This story woven by spin doctors has caught the imagination of policy makers in Washington and they are playing it impishly. Pakistani leaders already harassed by never ending allegations are at a loss how to respond to the latest assault since denials make no impression on the accusers.
After repeating the story several times, US officials laid bare their actual motive by mentioning their flaming desire to employ the horrible drones in Baluchistan (a southern province of Pakistan where a Baluch separatist movement is raging) including its capital as well.
Let us carryout a dispassionate appraisal of this claim. It is now a well known reality that Afghan Taliban hold control of nearly 80% Afghan Territory and wield complete sway in southern, eastern and to some extent western Afghanistan.
These regions provide them a secured base to operate into western, central and northern Afghanistan and return back. Had their hold over southern and eastern Afghanistan been weak, it was logical to assume that they might have made FATA or Pashtun belt of Baluchistan (border areas inside Pakistan) adjacent to Helmand Province (a hotly contested area inside southern Afghanistan) as their bases of operation.
Now that over 30000 troops of Pakistan Army have taken full control of South Waziristan (SW) and division plus force is in North Waziristan (NW), part of which is in Makeen area, any possibility of Afghan Taliban operating from these regions is ruled out.
The same scenario is applicable to Al-Qaeda. The only possible space which still requires further scanning is the countryside west of Ladha and Makeen in SW towards Afghanistan border. Using boots on ground strategy, our troops are gradually clearing these areas as well.
Within Afghanistan, morale of US-NATO forces has sunk low and bunker mentality has crept in due to sudden increase in casualty rate. Karzai regime has no control over state affairs and his credibility after August fraudulent election has eroded further.
He is seen as an American stooge at the mercy of non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, a group most Afghans distrust and deeply resent as “foreign”. The Afghan National Army (ANA) and Police are in bad shape and operationally unfit to confront Taliban challenge, even after years of training and billions of US dollars spent.
Afghan Pashtuns which are the predominant ethnic entity hate Americans since they have been given a raw deal and no effort has been made to win them over. As a consequence they are supportive of Taliban. Gulbadin Hikmatyar, primary American ally against Russia during Afghan Jihad, who leads Hizb-e-Islami (Islamic National Party) and Jalaluddin Haqqani are also anti-American and anti-Karzai.
Given the favourable operational environment in Afghanistan for the Taliban, it will be utterly foolish on part of Mullah Omar and his Shura to abandon the fully secured bases in Afghanistan and opt for insecure base in Quetta where CIA, FBI, US Marines, Blackwater, MI-6, RAW, and shady Baluch separatist groups command strong influence.
Target killings by Baluch terrorist groups like Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baluch Republican Army (BRA) and Baluch Liberation Front (BLF) in Quetta and other parts of Baluchistan have become a norm. Jacobabad and Pasni air bases in this region of Pakistan are still under the operational control of US troops as revealed by former Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Shahid Aziz of Gen Musharraf and confirmed by Defence Minister. Shamsi base near Kharan in Baluchistan has also been in use for launching drones where reportedly Blackwater elements are employed to load hellfire missiles and 500 pounds laser guided bombs on Predators.
Quetta being a capital city is too open and conspicuous for Mullah Omar to hide particularly with a large bounty on his head. He is conscious of his critical role in keeping Taliban resistance movement in Afghanistan alive. Realising that his personal survival is vital for the success of Taliban movement, he has opted to go underground and remain out of sight. Since December 2001, none has seen him.
In late 2005, Karzai had alleged that Omar and some of his companions were in Quetta and provided their addresses; but after thorough search it was learnt that it was a fake call to cover up RAW and RAAM (Afghan intelligence agency) cross border terrorism from Afghanistan into Baluchistan.
Except for his hardcore loyalists, Omar cannot trust anyone, least of all Pakistan that had betrayed him and joined hands with USA to topple his regime in Kabul. How can he trust Pakistan which had arrested dozens of Taliban leaders and handed them to USA for internment in horrific Guantanamo Bay Prison and continues to provide logistics to US-NATO troops.
Pashtun areas in Baluchistan have not only kept themselves dissociated from RAW backed Baluch insurgency, but also kept both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban at bay. Under such insalubrious environments, it is preposterous for thus to keep insisting that Afghan Shura is in Quetta. Latest fabrication is that Afghan Taliban Shura has shifted to Karachi under the supervision of ISI (Pakistan Intelligence Bureau, ‘CIA’) where Omar has established a Madrassah (religious seminary).
If for discussion sake we accept the wacky claims of presence of Afghan Shura in Quetta and that of Osama led Al-Qaeda in FATA theoretically; it implies that as far as US is concerned battle for Afghanistan is almost over.
The news should have logically instilled Gen McChrystal and his team with joy. Learning that the entire Taliban leadership and Al-Qaeda had fled to Pakistan, making it much easier for them to get hold of few thousand rag tag Taliban fighters and not more than 100 Al-Qaeda fighters devoid of leadership, especially considering the military situation in the region, would mean the war hpw was won.
Some of the precautionary measures required to be taken were to prevent re-entry of Afghan Shura and Al-Qaeda leadership into Afghanistan by enhancing number of border check posts from 100 to 1000, improving surveillance means coupled with fencing and mining of entire 2500 km long Afghan-Pakistan border as frequently requested by Pakistan but refused by Karzai and USA for reasons best known to them. These measures would have broken the nexus between leaders and the led and rendered the two entities like fish out of water.
No such thing has happened since McChrystal is depressed because of Osama phobia. He considers Osama an invisible phantom residing in FATA who can walk across Durand Line unobserved and unless he is killed war cannot be won. Within Pakistan, once US intelligence agencies acquired credible intelligence, should they not have carried out joint raids on suspected locations without wasting a minute?
CIA, FBI and US diplomats should not have encountered any bottlenecks since they move about in Pakistan unchecked and enjoy full cooperation of all law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Was it wise on part of US leadership to broadcast the locations of Omar and Osama prematurely thereby giving them full chance to runaway?
Knowing well that the Pakistan Army is deeply committed in fighting foreign agencies sponsored terrorists in various parts of NWFP and FATA and achieving fruitful results, the US instead of feeling mighty pleased and cheering up its ally, is it morally correct to criticise and complain?
Areas in Waziristan which are presently quiet and neutral are being provoked through drone attacks. The US is pressing Pakistan to shift more troops from its eastern border and to start operations in Wazir inhabited SW and in NW where it fantasises that most Taliban insurgents have fled.
It is trying to create conditions wherein Pakistan Army is compelled to fight the combined force of Maulvi Nazir, Hakimullah Mehsud and Gul Bahadur, opponents who would never normally be aligned. In case such a united front materialises, it would ease up pressure on Hakimullah led TTP, which is in disarray after Pakistan Army dismantled its supposedly impregnable main base in SW within one month.
The US also wants the Army and FC in Baluchistan to shift its focus from Baluch held areas where RAW-CIA-MI-6 backed separatist movement is raging and to concentrate towards peaceful Pashtun areas including Quetta where it suspects Afghan Shura is hiding. The US-NATO forces after their failed operation in Helmand are expected to launch another operation in that province once additional US troops arrive so as to force the militants to flee to neighbouring Pashtun belt of Baluchistan and make it join an insurgency it would otherwise never be involved in.
Having fully committed the army in fighting a futile US war on terror, RAW sponsored terrorists duly aided by Blackwater elements are playing havoc into major cities of Pakistan through almost daily bomb blasts and suicide attacks. Focus is on such targets which hurts the military the most. Attack on a mosque during Friday prayers in Rawalpindi on 04 December, frequented mostly by army senior officers and their sons, was most gruesome.
ISI regional offices have been repeatedly struck since it is frustrating the designs of enemies of Pakistan. Focus is now towards destabilisation of Punjab, after which emphasis will shift to Sindh to upturn main economic base of Pakistan.
While CIA and FBI along with its shady private mercenary outfits are fully involved in the destabilisation game, the US leaders are hypocritically singing tunes that Pakistan is a key ally and the US seeks its stability and prosperity.
Our leaders having been provided with clinching evidence of involvement of India’s RAW in terrorism have still not picked up courage to expose India and to forcefully ask USA to bridle its strategic ally.
Fact of the matter is that Omar, Osama and nuclear cards are being played with devious intentions. The real purpose behind it is to cast aspersion on Pakistan that Pakistan Army and the ISI are aligned with Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda and sheltering them.
It implies that there is a nexus between Pakistan-Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda and Pakistan is fully supporting Taliban and Al-Qaeda in their war against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan. With leadership of the two deadly organisations based inside Pakistan, it becomes a fit case for USA to mount an offensive against Pakistan to root out safe sanctuaries and turn the corner. (A preferred place for this incursion would be oil and gas rich Baluchistan, directly in the path of the proposed American ‘surge’ into Helmand.
Cambodia model is on the cards. Indian forces have begun to mark time in concentration area and Gen Kapoor is getting impatient. Desire for hot pursuit operations inside Pakistan and to extend the radius of action of drones has again been expressed. What is foreseen is that the new American ‘troop surge’ will cross into Baluchistan, secure direct access to the Indian Ocean through Gwadar Port and with it, control gas, oil and black diamond reserves and key pipelines routes.
This is not an acceptable mode of behaviour for a friend and ally.
The US civil and military leadership instead of wasting time in superfluous blame game and monkey tricks is better advised to concentrate on its work in Afghanistan and put things in order so that Pakistan could become peaceful. Pakistan Army having performed admirably, it is now the turn of Gen McChrystal led US-NATO forces to perform at its end by doing more and creating suitable conditions for safe and honourable exit from the quagmire of Afghanistan.
The US can still turn the tide in Afghanistan if it keeps opportunists Israel and India at bay, sideline greedy corporate tycoons in USA making huge profits from Afghan and Iraq misadventures and rely wholly on Pakistan as it had done in 1980s to defeat Soviet forces. Pakistan and not India is a time-tested, dependable and a robust ally of USA.
Brig Asif Haroon is a Member Board of Advisors, Opinion Maker. The writer is a defence and security analyst based in Pakistan.