I wish she (Hillary) had also commented over General Kayani’s other statement that the US would think ten times before attacking Pakistan. In this game of brinksmanship between two so called ‘allies’ and nuclear armed nations, the Americans had clearly blinked first.
By Brig Farooq Hameed khan
If one were to describe the strange nature of a complex Pak- US relationship, it seems more akin to a roller coaster ride with uneasy highs and frustrating lows, a relationship based on mistrust, which has remained US sanctions oriented with arm twisting of an ally that has remained allied with the United States from the SEATO/CENTO defence pacts of the fifties to the Afghan jihad of the eighties and the post 9/11 war on terror.
The last ten years have been particularly characterized by the ‘do more’ mantra and grumpy ‘mother in law’ style nagging from a super power that is determined to stitch together a security system to protect its interests in Afghanistan and the region. Pakistan considers this to be inimical to its vital national security interests.
While the American stooge, Karzai talks ridiculously of coming to Pakistan’s rescue in case of a US or Indian attack, he cunningly signed at US behest the strategic cooperation agreement in New Delhi that allows Indian Army to train the Afghan National Army/police. This obviously implies increased presence of Indian Army advisors/trainers and RAW’s intelligence operatives on Afghan soil leading to greater Indo-US- Afghan destabilization efforts in FATA and Balochistan.
Pakistan resents US efforts to promote India as a regional/hegemonic power. From our perspective, the scenario of an Afghan Army trained with an Indian mindset, deployed along Pakistan’s borders is simply unacceptable and a threat to Pakistan’s security. As long as the United States follows this flawed strategy of giving the Indians an unduly key role, the dream of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and the region would remain elusive.
Why does the United States remain obsessed with Iran Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project? It is planned to transmit 20 million cubic meters of natural gas daily from Iran through Balochistan province and is expected to be operational by 2014, or perhaps even earlier. During her recent visit to Pakistan, Hillary Clinton referred to Iran as ‘a dangerous neighbor’ and once again expressed reservations about the IP project that is so critical to Pakistan’s strategic energy requirements.
Iran may be dangerous for United States and Israel but has remained friendly to Pakistan despite some hiccups in the historical and traditionally warm and close relations between the two Islamic neighbors. Pakistanis would consider it an unfriendly act by United States if it tries to sabotage or stall the IP gas pipe line project.
The US opposition to IP gas pipeline project also stems from its concerns that this pipeline could be extended to China via the Karakoram Mountains to link with China’s restive eastern Xinkiang province. While Americans eye Balochistan as a trade and energy corridor linking the Arabian sea warm waters to energy rich central Asian states via Afghanistan, it is opposed to any Chinese presence in Gwadar port on Balochistan’s coast which is also being planned as Pakistan’s future energy hub due to its geo strategic/commercial importance at the mouth of the Persian Gulf .
While Pakistan is a signatory to the TAPI( Turkmenistan- Afghanistan – Pakistan- India) gas pipeline agreement, this mega project will remain a non starter unless the security situation in Afghanistan improves as well as has total support of the Afghan resistance groups including the Taliban and Haqqanis. The Americans are keen to promote TAPI not out of love for Pakistan but see the prospects of lucrative contracts to American oil firms.
It is therefore easy to comprehend the conspiracy behind US led efforts to keep Balochistan hot through baloch insurgency, so as to derail the IP project and keep Chinese investors and workers out of this mineral rich province of Pakistan. Aware of such clandestine activities, Pakistan has not allowed the United States to open a Consulate in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province as this would provide them much needed foothold for further subversion in coordination with string of Indian Consulates on the Afghan side across Balochistan.
The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made few important admissions in her latest visit to Islamabad in a bid to pacify heightened anger and anti US sentiments amongst Pakistanis, since Admiral Mike Mullen’s astounding allegations against Pakistan Army /ISI in the wake of the deadly Kabul attacks few days before his retirement.
In an outright rejection of misleading hype/propaganda by their own Chairman Joint Chiefs, she absolved the ISI of any role in the Kabul attacks, confirmed US contacts with Haqqanis through ISI’s good offices, dismissed reports of unilateral US led ‘boots on ground’ operation in North Waziristan and agreed with Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani’s assertion that Pakistan was neither Iraq nor Afghanistan. The Americans had clearly lost face before the international community.
I wish she had also commented over General Kayani’s other statement that the US would think ten times before attacking Pakistan. In this game of brinksmanship between two so called ‘allies’ and nuclear armed nations, the Americans had clearly blinked first. Here if Raja Mujtaba is quoted when he said in his article, Prepare For Armageddon, “Before the US ventures into other Muslim lands, the US would want a submissive or a broken and denuclearized Pakistan. In both the scenarios it would mean Pakistan’s death. In such a scenario, Pakistan maybe compelled to go for non conventional weapons; if such a development takes place, India, Israel and the US installations in the region would not be safe. Can the US risk such a situation would only depend on the arrogance and sanity level of the US leadership,” would be very appropriate as it reflects a true feeling of every Pakistani.
The US desperation for a safe and honorable exit from Afghanistan is understandable. If after spending billions of US dollars that has brought US economy on the verge of collapse and failure of the much trumpeted Obama’s surge strategy, Kabul and Afghan countryside still remain vulnerable to daring Taliban daylight attacks, then White House and Pentagon Generals have a lot to answer to the angry American nation. Remember Obama’s re- election is at stake as Americans go to the ballot box in less than a year.
The US Secretary of State knew fully well that the days of coercing or dictating Pakistan were over. After CIA agent Raymond Davis’s episode and May 02 Osama Bin Laden strike, the Pakistani mood viz a viz the Americans had changed to ‘Enough is enough’. Clearly stabbed in the back through CIA’s covert intelligence network across Pakistan, it was time to review and redefine the entire gambit of Pak-US relations.
The Pakistani political and military leadership had unitedly sent a strong message through the All Parties Conference (APC), few weeks before Hillary’s visit. The APC Resolution is in fact a renunciation of ‘war on terror’ and instead declares a national reorientation towards peace, reconciliation and dialogue with the Pakistani tribal / extremist groups.
Pakistanis openly question the wisdom of allying with the US led war on terror that has only brought misery and destruction to Pakistan, a failing economy that suffered 100 billion US dollar losses with over 35000 Pakistanis dead including military/law enforcement personnel. This war was never ours, one which was thrust on us in which Pakistanis were the ultimate victims.
During her visit, Hillary Clinton also referred to the Haqqanis, their old Afghan jihad allies, in her remark ‘ you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and only expect them to bite the neighbors’. The US dictation to Pakistan Army to attack the Haqqani network in North Waziristan makes no sense. First, because the Haqqanis carry out all anti US operations from inside their bases in Afghanistan. Second, the Haqqanis are no enemies of Pakistan. While the US has short term interests in Afghanistan, ours are long term in nature. Therefore, why should Pakistan sacrifice its long term interests for their short term gains?
But Pakistanis are also furious over tacit US- Afghan support to Tehreek-e Taliban militants who attack Pakistan Army in Dir and Chitral from across Afghan border in Kunar and Nuristan. This double game or a blackmailing approach will not take the US any where forward if it desires friendly support from the Pakistan side.
While Pakistan could use its influence to facilitate the Afghan Taliban and Haqqanis to support the Afghan peace and democratic process, yet results cannot be guaranteed in days and weeks as per US expectations for the forthcoming Istanbul and Bonn international conferences in November and December respectively.
The regional stakeholders as well as Afghan resistance groups demand a total and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign forces and do not support US bases on Afghan soil after 2014. The US has therefore has hard choices to make, continue the lost war and be doomed or adopt the path of peace, dialogue and political reconciliation in Afghanistan. Even more important, Can it afford to lose Pakistan?