By Sobia Hanif
The US top brass once again found itself making headlines by accusing Pakistan’s Intelligence agency of aiding, protecting and facilitating the Haqqani Network. The network, aptly branded as ‘ the most deadly US foe in Afghanistan’ has carried out a number of attacks on US troops and has served as a barrier to US military success in Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen, known for his caustic remarks and accusatory notes against Pakistan’s intelligence agency found himself repeating the same rhetoric. While Pakistan has strongly denied such allegations, the United States is bent on defaming the agency by implicating its complicity with the Quetta Shura Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
The Haqqani network emerged as a jihadist force under the putative leadership of Jalaluddin Haqqani. He acquired fame as a veteran war hero against the Russians in the 1980’s. Ironically, then, he was revered by the American Intelligence agency for his ‘remarkable skill to execute Russians’. With the tables now turned on the Americans, the network serves as the greatest threat to the American interests in Afghanistan. Later on, his son, Sirajjudin Haqqani succeeded him and expanded the influence of the network by recruiting foreign militants to fight off the American presence in Afghanistan. It is primarily active in Afghanistan’s Southeastern provinces of Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Logar and Ghazni.
In recent years, the Haqqani network has mainly targeted US troops, Afghan government officials and Indian citizens in Afghanistan. The pattern of events suggest that the Haqqani network has operated against foreign domination on Afghan soil. Its ability to impact can be estimated by the targets it has selected to attack and the manner in which the attacks are carried out. The Haqqani network is believed to have been involved in the assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai, whereby he narrowly survived but three others were killed, along with the attack on the Indian embassy killing more than 40 personnel. However, the recent attack on the US embassy in Kabul has exasperated the US military and political establishment and created a frenzy to take the Haqqani network head on and dismantle it once and for all. In doing so, the United States wants Pakistan to play an effective role by launching attacks on its ‘safe-havens’ in North Waziristan. Pakistan, for its part has denied the presence of the Haqqani network within its territory.
As such the US is considering all options to persuade Pakistan to take up a more aggressive course of action against the Haqqani network. The once “do-more” mantra has now transformed into a “do-more syndrome”. The Americans seems to be blinded to the fact that Pakistan has done more than any other state in the world to eradicate terrorism. However, its support of the United States in the war against terror has landed it in a quagmire. Pakistan has lost more than 35,000 lives, with enormous destruction of infrastructure, total collapse of our economy, not to mention a psychologically besieged nation. So, while the United States has its own interests to cater to, the Pakistani government and its military must place its own priorities at the forefront. The US government continues to employ its “carrot and stick” approach to Pakistan by promising one billion in aid to Pakistan by conditioning it with strong action against Haqqani network in North Waziristan and the Quetta Shura Taliban. On the contrary, it has threatened to keep the option of sanctions open incase of noncompliance. The US has also warned that incase Pakistan were not to take up the desired course of action, the US would take out the target by itself. Furthermore, another point worth noting is that the issue of Kashmir was briefly touched upon by Admiral Mike Mullen. His recent statement that, resolution of the Kashmir issue could lead to an enduring peace in the region should not be brushed aside. It may well have been an indication that if Pakistan were to deal with the Haqqani network with an iron fist, The United States could play a positive role in bringing the parties to the negotiating table. However, there is a great deal of ambiguity and no clear commitment has been made. As such, it would not be wrong to suggest that the US is trying to use every trick of the trade to influence Pakistan’s military and political leadership to sway in its favour.
For now, Pakistan has conveyed to the US Government that owing to shortage of manpower and scarcity of resources as well as an out stretched army already assisting desperate people in flood hit areas, it cannot afford to open up a new front for itself. Its priority for now is to eliminate terrorists who are directly involved in launching attacks against the state and its agencies. Pakistan’s foreign minister has conveyed to the US establishment that by openly castigating Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the United States would lose an important ally.
Pakistan needs to understand the leverage that it enjoys owing to its geo-strategic position and as a route for essential supplies going into Afghanistan for American and NATO troops. As for US threats to discontinue financial assistance to Pakistan, the fact is that it has never really done much good in terms of alleviating the miseries of the common people. The allocated aid was either not released, or whatever was received, was used in military operations against terrorists, who propped up in hundreds and thousands due to Pakistan’s pro-American position, and whatever was left often found itself sitting idly in the pockets of corrupt politicians. The US discontinuation of aid may well serve as a blessing for Pakistan; to set ourselves free from the hideous culture of beggary.
Furthermore, if the United States wishes to engage in a misadventure by violating Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty, encouraged by its previous operation in Abbotabad, our armed forces must be vigilant and respond with full vigor. A failure to do so will seriously jeopardize the reputation of the present government as well as tarnish the image of the military in the eye of the public for a long time to come.