Foe in the garb of a friend
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Pakistan has offered huge sacrifices to fight the menace of global war on terrorism (GWOT). It suffered exceptionally serious losses in terms of human resource victims, devastation of valuable property, impulsive political instability, bursting social disorder, divisive mindset, and poor law and order situation leading to creation of threatening environment filled with sense of fear and uncertainty in the country. More than 40,000 innocent people lost their lives while many were incapacitated or rendered disabled. Security forces of Pakistan were made the direct target of terrorism and their capacity to prevail upon the militants was frequently challenged by its own citizens.
Pakistan has lost over $ 100 billion in fighting the war. Damage caused to road network on which NATO containers have been moving since 2001 is above Rs 100 billion. Pakistan charges a paltry sum of $250 per container. Despite all this Pakistan remained committed to the cause of fighting the menace of terrorism and participated actively in GWOT to eliminate the terrorists. Pakistan deserved appreciation for all such sacrifices and sufferings and deserved to be praised for playing a positive role in the ugly mess created by GWOT imposed upon Pakistan by USA. Unfortunately the same has not been adequately done by the concerned quarters. Rather, Pakistan has been made the butt of criticism, ridicule and penalization.
Al-Qaeda as a terrorist organization was hardly known in Pakistan till US declared openly that 9/11 attacks on World Trade Centre were undertaken by Al-Qaeda. The group known as Al-Qaeda was organized by Osama bin Laden (OBL) who was an ordinary Jihadi volunteer from Saudi Arabia, having passion for participating in Islamic Jihad against Russian occupational forces in Afghanistan. He was indoctrinated by CIA experts to choose Islamic Jihad as the main purpose of his life. He cooperated with CIA in their efforts to launch operations against Soviets in Afghanistan and till then was a pious warrior enjoying respect and prestige among US planners.
But no sooner Russia was defeated in Afghanistan; the US changed colors and ditched the Jihadists in Afghanistan. They were termed as non-state actors dangerous for the world peace. US officials, especially CIA started treating them with disparagement and derision. US invasion of Iraq in 1992 impelled OBL to readjust his mindset and to reorient the direction of its outfit ‘Al-Qaeda’. The rift between US and OBL led to fateful event of 9/11.
The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and occupied it with its full wherewithal and military weight but failed to make correct moves to apprehend OBL. Hence, OBL took advantage of faulty US policies through a method of exploitation. He appealed to the Muslim world to oppose USA that had occupied Afghanistan illegally like the Russians and urged the Muslims to wage a Jihad against occupation forces. Anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim policies pursued by Bush led administration heightened anti-Americanism within the Muslim world and propelled Jihadi Muslims towards OBL. His sympathizers gradually grew in numbers in every Muslim country including Pakistan.
One of the major tasks assigned to the US led coalition in Afghanistan was to kill and capture Al-Qaeda leaders operating inside Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan. Al-Qaeda had virtually turned into a perilous outfit capable of inflicting serious losses to coalition forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan took some difficult strategic decisions and offered full cooperation to capture the world most dangerous and treacherous terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda. Pak Army deployed its sizeable force to be engaged in anti-terrorist operations. Pakistan Army and paramilitary forces prepared plans to conduct operations against Al-Qaeda elements in the most sensitive and volatile region of Pakistan’s tribal areas (FATA), where powerful armies of Great Britain and Soviet Russia were once defeated at the hands of tribal Lashkars.
Pakistani government’s decision to provide support and make efforts to capture Al-Qaeda terrorists, resulted in a very severe backlash of terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda. They turned against the State of Pakistan and targeted its security forces, high officials, key communicators, and civil society including innocent women/children, peace loving people busy in their business or prayers in the mosques. Even funerals were not spared. Pakistani support and efforts, however, proved fruitful and many key commanders of Al-Qaeda were apprehended or killed during operations. It was not possible to break the backbone of Al-Qaeda without the significant support offered by Pakistan and efforts made by ISI to apprehend well over 400 Al-Qaeda elements.
Since Pakistani authorities had taken a strategic decision to cooperate with US led coalition to fight the menace of terrorism, therefore, their top priority was to locate and apprehend OBL. Unfortunately, OBL found sympathizers inside Pakistani soil and succeeded in having a facility to covertly live inside Pakistan. The killing / apprehension of OBL would have exulted both Pakistan and USA, but US leaders preferred to create an atmosphere of mistrust and betrayal for reasons best known to them. The US and western public opinion builders and international media leveled serious allegations against Pakistan. This also created political and institutional turmoil inside Pakistan spreading misgivings among civil-military leadership and agitating the civil society to raise the questions of violation of sovereignty of Pakistan by US raiders.
Had Pakistani officials / ISI known about the presence of OBL inside Pakistan they would have reacted positively to apprehend / kill him to save such chaos which led to lingering court probes. Pakistan as a responsible country was cooperating in US led war on terrorism and had shown substantial results by killing and apprehending vital Al-Qaeda terrorists. It was not an option for Pakistan to hide OBL, as alleged by USA and others and get embarrassed. Had it been so, ISI would not have given a vital lead to CIA which helped the latter to locate OBL’s whereabouts in Abbottabad.
In the backdrop of intelligence failure and poor performance of NATO military commanders at tactical level, US led coalition forces in Afghanistan had suffered stunning setbacks. In an effort to cover up their failures, CIA opted to marginalize ISI and act unilaterally to get hold of the most wanted man single-handed and claim victory. CIA wanted to take all the credit for hunting OBL without any support from any other agency. Capturing/ killing OBL unilaterally would have assured invincibility of USA’s military might and professional competence of CIA.
In their short sightedness and high motivating pulse to claim full credit of OBL killing, they overlooked the actual implications. As the world witnessed later on, the outcome of such insensible approach proved dicey. Pakistan and its spy agency was not only callously blamed openly for supporting the terrorists but also made responsible for hiding OBL inside Pakistan. The US leadership created an environment of mistrust and cynicism having lasting scars, thus destroying the spirit of coalition to collectively fight the menace of terrorism. Blame game played by US leaders / field commanders helped them to cover up their failures in GWOT but overall loss / defeat in the effort against terrorism has not been realized.
The US leadership was so stunned with the information of a high value target like OBL in Pakistan that they forgot all the norms of diplomacy and all the requirements of a sovereign State. They ordered their Navy SEALs to cross the border, violate the sovereignty of Pakistan and go for the attack. This was totally unlawful and illegitimate. Wisdom failed to guide the US arrogance that in the international politics such actions amount to intimidation of other independent States and that the reaction might be very perilous. Fortunately, Pakistani side kept their cool despite internal tumult and nothing happened. On the other hand, the US leadership left no stone unturned in converting the crisis into an extremely dangerous situation.
It becomes too painful and unbearable when one’s own friend deceives barefacedly using mischievous tricks. People of Pakistan, government officials, Pak Army and ISI were at grave pains when they found that they have been misled, misinformed and betrayed by their own allies especially USA and its spy agency CIA who not only violated the sovereignty of Pakistan by intruding into its territory without permission but also for creating a situation in which Pakistan stood blameworthy and culpable for hiding OBL inside Pakistan. Public opinion went against Pakistan and there was an internal turmoil leading to serious political instability the impact of which still goes unabated. No doubt US action proved that a foe in the garb of a friend bashed us badly.
After killing Osama in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 by US Navy Seal Team Six, the US claimed his body was buried at sea of the USS Carl Vinson in accordance with Islamic tradition. Fred Barton challenged this claim by saying that the body was flown in a CIA plane to Dover and onward to Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Maryland. This institution mysteriously closed on September 15, 2011. (Email sent by Barton to Wiki leaks on March 6, 2012). Other than so many stories published with regards to the death of OBL in December 2001 at Tora Bora, or in 2005, and some stating that it was OBL double that was killed on May 2, many all over the world including Americans believe that US SEALs operation in Abbottabad against OBL was a false flag operation aimed at undermining Pakistan Army and ISI and to give a boost to flagging image of US Army and CIA. The CIA operated drones are now brazenly violating Pakistan’s sovereignty, but the US still claims that it is a friend of Pakistan.