Will prove costly for USA
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
The total strength of ISAF in Afghanistan exceeds that of any foreign military force ever before stationed in that country. It has completed ten years and nearly two months, which is the longest in Asian nation’s history. It is also the longest armed conflict in Afghanistan and the US history. The US has decided to pullout by end 2014 but desires to leave behind 20-30000 troops in military bases for another ten years because it has failed to achieve any of the stated or concealed objectives in Afghanistan and in other regional countries. Apart from the hawks within US military and CIA, its strategic partners India, Israel and Britain as well as Hamid Karzai led regime in Kabul, the US defence and construction tycoons are averse to the idea of pullout and are desirous of staying on till the accomplishment of their common objectives.
Other than Afghanistan where the Taliban have blocked the ambitions of imperialist powers, the other countries on their hit list are Pakistan, Iran and China. Among the three, Pakistan figures out on the top because of its nuclear program, its closeness with China and Iran and its refusal to accept India’s hegemony and to solve Kashmir dispute on Indian terms. The four strategic partners had mutually agreed at the outset in September 2001 to dupe Pakistan by offering hand of friendship and economic assistance and then systematically destabilizing, de-Islamizing, denuclearizing and Balkanizing it. With these aims in view, Gen Musharraf was roped in and made an ally to fight so-called war on terror. This war was a deception to defame and weaken Islam, re-align boundaries of Middle East and to loot the wealth of the Muslim world. The US and its real allies have succeeded in installing puppet regimes in Kabul, Baghdad and Tripoli and in ruining these countries, but have made partial success in Pakistan.
On the pretext of helping Pakistan’s agencies in tracing and nabbing Al-Qaeda and Taliban runaways as well as those harboring them, a secret deal was struck with Gen Musharraf in December 2001 and later renewed in March 2008 that CIA and FBI operatives would be allowed complete liberty of action and immunity from criminal jurisprudence to operate in any part of the country and provided full cooperation by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Four airbases at Jacobabad, Dalbandin, Pasni and Shamsi near Kharan were also handed over to the US air force out of which Shamsi airbase was allowed to be used for employment of drones for reconnaissance purposes. This facility was misused from 2006 onwards and drones were armed and Blackwater elements inducted as missile loaders. These bases also became dens for CIA to destabilize Balochistan and to trigger Baloch separatist movement. NATO containers carried arms for Baloch rebels as well. In addition, Jundullah group was patronized by CIA to destabilize Sistan province of Iran.
Taking full advantage of unlimited freedom, foreign agencies have succeeded in accentuating sectarianism, ethnicity, religious extremism and terrorism by subverting the loyalties of people, cultivating agents within militant and criminal groups and using them for assassinating important personalities, clerics and pro-government tribal elders and for bomb and suicide attacks. Banned Jihadi groups that were prevented from taking part in Kashmiri freedom struggle were goaded by CIA to join up with the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) and fight Pak security forces. On the cultural front, Musharraf obliged the US and the west by introducing enlightened moderation to strengthen secularism and allowed Indian culture to permeate into Pakistani society. Likewise, education particularly at the higher level was secularized. It sharpened secularists-Islamists divide and gave rise to obscenity as well as religious extremism.
Having succeeded in destabilizing FATA, large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan with the help of these terrorist groups and in maligning nuclear program and premier institutions of Pakistan through an orchestrated vilification campaign, the US efforts to weaken the ISI and to defang nuclear program got stalled in 2007 when Gen Musharraf graph started to plummet in the wake of his infamous act of sacking of chief justice Iftikhar. The King’s Party lost its credibility among the masses.
The schemers then decided to install a political government that was popular among the masses and also completely loyal to Washington. It is now an established fact that US-UK combine brokered peace between Gen Musharraf and Benazir, got infamous NRO issued and paved the way for most corrupt, and thoroughly incompetent regime to rule the roost. NRO was issued on 5 October 2007 to give legal cover to the corruption of politicians, political workers and bureaucrats and in return allow Musharraf to stay in power for another five years. Musharraf-Benazir combine were to open up the prohibited areas.
Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani took over the command of the Army from Gen Musharraf in November 2007 under unenviable conditions. His predecessor who retained the hat of president had become highly unpopular. The Army was suffering the stings of intense propaganda campaign due to which its image and its morale had sagged. Army was engaged in a futile war on terror in FATA and insurgency in Balochistan which was badly affecting its training. Law and order and internal security situation was poor which got further jolted because of murder of Benazir in December. Geo-political situation was tense because of two-front threat. Civil-military relations were strained and so were Pentagon-Military cum ISI relations since the two premier institutions were looked at with distrust. Judiciary was in crisis because of sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar and dynamics of lawyers’ movement. Elections were due and the people were craving for a healthy change from one-man rule to democratic era.
It is also a well-known fact that when Benazir started to veer away from her commitments made to USA, she was bumped off on 27 December 2007. As a consequence to manipulated elections in February 2008, all pro-American liberal political parties PPP-MQM-ANP together with shady JUI-F succeeded in forming a coalition government in the Centre, Balochistan, Sindh and KP, while PML-N captured Punjab. As part of the deal with USA, Gen Musharraf was allowed to proceed abroad with full honors in August 2008 to enjoy life, establish a political party and then return to Pakistan at an opportune time. He was replaced by the most reviled and controversial person Zardari in September 2008. Additionally, certain handpicked America’s men were awarded key appointments who helped the US in pursuing its agenda.
Notwithstanding the subservience of new leadership to Washington’s diktats, it became disconcerting for the US to find all-powerful President Zardari duly remote controlled from Washington unable to fulfill its core objectives because of military’s obstruction. It was upsetting for USA to find that when its darling Musharraf was at the helm of affairs and was performing in accordance with its wishes, he didn’t have a strong political government to support him to meddle into sensitive issues. After a popularly elected government came to power, Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha were not prepared to play the game. Irritated by their obstructionist policy, the US started assaulting the government and Army in rotation and at times simultaneously.
In April 2008, Hussein Haqqani (HH) replaced retired Maj Gen Mehmood Durrani as Ambassador in Washington. He had come in good books after he wrote a book in 2005 titled ‘Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military’, in which he poured poison against the Army and the ISI. Durrani was appointed advisor to PM on defence matters. Blackwater operatives under new name Xe World started moving into Pakistan in mid 2008 under the garb of police trainers and security experts to help in combating urban terrorism. In actuality, the hidden motive was to make major urban centres restive and also to gain first and information of nuclear facilities. Safe houses as well as residential houses were hired in major cities. Main training center was opened in a big compound in Sihala adjacent to Police Academy where no Pakistani official could enter. Retired Army and Police commandoes and ex soldiers were hired on handsome salaries and trained for security duties and protection of private contractors but the main purpose was to acquire local intelligence from them. Group attack practice to militants was also imparted in this building. Induction of Blackwater elements was facilitated by Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Arms, ammunition and explosives were acquired through Dyncorps which was established in 2002.
Pleased with his good work, his patrons in Washington convinced Zardari and Gilani to place the ISI under Malik. A notification to this effect was issued in August 2008 but was withdrawn when Gen Kayani protested. This was the first major move made by the detractors to axe the ISI. The second attempt was made in the aftermath of stage-managed Mumbai attacks in November 2008 when efforts were made to get ISI declared a rogue outfit. Rehman Malik played a deleterious role in stating that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani and that he had used a motor launch from Karachi coast to move to Mumbai. The then naval chief denied it. Malik also apprehended some people named by India as culprits and put them on trial merely to appease India.
The ruling regime reeling under economic crisis because of global meltdown, war on terror expenses, floods, rehabilitation of displaced persons and its own mismanagement and corruption was given a bait of Kerry Lugar Bill (KLB) by USA in 2009 spread over five years, which stipulated $1.5 billion military and economic yearly assistance to Pakistan. Our government including the then Foreign Minister Qureshi was transported with joy, naively thinking that Pakistan’s woes would get solved with this foreign injection. HH gloated that it was owing to his personal efforts and his rapport he had established with the US officials that KLB turned into a reality. Basic purpose of KLB was to wash away misgivings and grievances of Pakistan against USA and to build trust and promote better understanding between two countries. It was to act as a harbinger for sustainable Pak-US relations. It backfired and bred more suspicion and resentment since it transpired that it was an instrument with which USA planned to deprive Pakistan of its dignity and sovereignty. It was meant to harness the military, ISI and nuclear program.
All PPP leaders were distressed when objections were raised by the Army and repeatedly said that there was nothing wrong in the bill. Genuine reservations expressed by Gen Kayani were taken personally by President to Washington and as a result an explanatory note was attached with the bill which by itself was an admission that some clauses in KLB were harmful for Pakistan. It is an open secret that HH was instrumental in adding certain anti-Army clauses since he carried a grudge against the Army and ISI. He was widely seen more as a spokesman of the US than of Pakistan.
Expansion and fortification of the US Embassy in Islamabad was undertaken from within the funds earmarked against KLB. CIA agents belonging to US Special Forces started slipping into Pakistan in early 2010 in various garbs as coordinators, aid distributors, managers and businessmen after the passage of KLB which granted $1.5 billion aid annually for next five years. Work on expansion of US Embassy in Islamabad was also undertaken to accommodate over 1000 Marines and extra staff members. Large numbers of private houses were hired in 2009 in Islamabad and provincial capitals to accommodate new faces. It was owing to our over keenness to keep Washington pleased that our rulers felt no qualm in violating own laws and rules. Laxity in abiding with rules and regulations resulted in massive inflow of US citizens with criminal background. This flow was disrupted when ISI objected to easy entry of US citizens without proper security checks and even to those who had been deported on account of espionage.
In July 2010, under pressure from HH and Malik, visa policy was liberalized by the PM allowing US citizens to enter Pakistan without ISI and Foreign Office clearance. Haqqani issued 468 visas in one day. As a consequence, bulk of 7000 undesirables including the likes of Raymond Davis and Special Forces elements slipped in within the period of July to December. Since these unwanted elements under fake identity sneaked in without scrutiny and in big numbers and fanned out in different urban centers, it became that much problematic for security agencies to keep a watch on them.
The magnitude of CIA’s involvement was found out after the fortuitous arrest of Raymond Davis in January 2011 in Lahore after he gunned down two motorcyclists whom he feared were spying on him. The spate of bomb and suicide attacks which increased during arrest of Raymond gave rise to suspicion that under cover agents were resorting to yet another kind of pressure tactics to get him released. HH, Malik and Fauzia Wahab in particular made desperate efforts to get the double-murderer released on the basis of diplomatic immunity. The Army and ISI had no role in the release of Raymond Davis in March 2011, yet Lt Gen Pasha was wrongly blamed. His only role was to extract maximum amount from USA for the families of murdered persons and to impose restrictions on CIA activities. He softened his stance only when CIA Director Panetta gave him his personal assurance that not only he would provide full details of under cover agents in Pakistan, he would expedite their repatriation to USA. It has now been confirmed by ex Foreign Minister Qureshi that the President had exerted immense pressure on him to declare Raymond as a diplomat and that he had ultimately been released on express orders from presidency.
HH owe an explanation to 170 million people of Pakistan for dispatching faceless CIA agents wearing numerous masks to Pakistan and endangering their lives. He got the rules on visas relaxed and did away with basic verification and security checks of visa applicants. He did this merely to please USA but in the process allowed hundreds of Raymond Davis type assassins to play havoc in Pakistan. Gilani also needs to explain as to why he blindly agreed to illegal request made by HH and recommended by Malik and ignored ISI’s alarms. He has to clarify why did he take no action against Malik for protecting US officials involved in clandestine operations caught red handed by police and also ignoring target killings of hundreds of innocent people by militants of political parties in Karachi?
Instead of being grateful or feeling ashamed that its dirty work had been exposed, the US became more vindictive and on the very next day of Raymond’s release, a drone attack on a peace jirga in North Waziristan (NW) killed 20 elders. There on, the intensity of drone attacks as well as suicide attacks rose sharply. Panetta backtracked from his commitment asserting that he needed a CIA network in Pakistan to get hold of the wanted terrorists including OBL. When Gen Pasha insisted and constricted the space for CIA agents and Gen Kayani refused to launch an operation in NW, the US decided to teach Pak Army and the ISI a lesson. It was in this context that ‘Operation Get Geronimo’ with multiple objectives was conceived. The main objective was to get rid of Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha who had become eyesores for USA, India and Israel. The two generals were the only obstacles in their march towards the coveted prize of nukes.
The US Navy SEALs helicopters assault in Abbottabad on 2 May jolted Pakistan and the wrath fell upon Gen Kayani, Lt Gen Pasha and Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar. Journalists and anchors on the payroll of foreign masters sprang into action to corroborate western propaganda. A strong rumor is in circulation in Pakistan that Hussein Haqqani and probably the Presidency was involved in 2 May episode. It is said that the US and Presidency had common objectives to demean the Army and ISI so as to weaken their authority in national affairs. The fact that Zardari promptly congratulated Washington and wrote an article in Washington Post on 3 May hailing killing of OBL by American troops and PM Gilani describing it as ‘historic’ at a time when the whole nation was in a state of shock gave rise to such apprehensions. Muted response of our leaders encouraged USA to remain in offensive posture, which further hurt the sentiments of the people and anti-Americanism peaked.
While the civilian leadership didn’t let go its policy of appeasement, the military which got seriously affected by Abbottabad incident brought a visible change in its outlook. It took several steps to check American intrusions which brought serious strains in Pak-US relations and trust deficit widened. The situation once again took an ugly turn in September after outgoing Admiral Mullen accused ISI’s involvement in terrorist attacks in Kabul and murder of Burhanuddin Rabbani and described Haqqani Network as the ‘veritable arm’ of the ISI. All civil and military US leaders picked up cudgels against Pakistan and used foul and threatening language. Although Hillary Clinton on her visit to Islamabad tried to lower the temperature and mend fences but relations remained tense. The US kept up the pressure on Pakistan to launch an operation in NW and its think tanks as well as BBC kept their guns focused on Pak Army and ISI. The US Senators and Congressmen remained in an aggressive mood.
Amidst charged atmosphere, Pakistan was caught in the web of memo controversy as a consequence to an article written by Pakistani-American Mansoor Ijaz in Financial Times on 10 October 2011. He accused HH to have dictated him the memo on 9 May 2011 on behalf of Zardari, asking him to deliver it to Mullen and seek his assistance to put pressure on Gen Kayani to desist from toppling the civilian government. According to him, in return for his help Zardari promised to change the top security team and bring in American approved new team; S-section in ISI will be shut; wanted al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan will be handed over; US forces will be allowed to carryout raids in Pakistan, nuclear program will be made transparent; culprits of Mumbai attacks will be handed over to India. HH was summoned to Islamabad and confronted with facts and figures by the DGISI. Finding himself cornered, he preferred to offer his resignation which was promptly accepted by the PM. Sherry Rahman was selected in his place. Based on the petition of Sharif brothers, Supreme Court has put HH on ECL till the finalization of case.
While the memo issue was still sizzling, Pakistan got another rude shock in the form of unprovoked pre-dawn attack by NATO helicopters on two Pakistani border posts at Salala in Mohmand Agency on 26 November, killing 24 soldiers including two officers and injuring 13. It was premeditated massacre with certain specific motives and not unintentional as described by NATO Chief and Secretary General. This ghastly incident has plunged Pak-US relations to all-time low. The whole nation is outraged and is demanding cutting off diplomatic relations with unreliable USA which has proved to be a snake in the sleeve. People are demanding that any future intrusion must be combated. They say; with a so-called friend like USA, who needs an enemy.
Defence Cabinet Committee presided by the PM has taken immediate steps to express its serious concern. These are: shutting supplies to NATO; getting Shamsi airbase vacated by 11 December; revising all agreements and protocols with USA-NATO; canceling scheduled military visits to and from USA; regretting to attend Bonn Conference. Army chief has stated that any aggressive act will be replied with full force. The government and the military are on one page to take on the US challenge and none is showing any sign of giving in to US deceptive overtures. China, Iran, Turkey and Russia have expressed their concern over the loss of 24 lives. This gratuitous attack by NATO will prove too costly for USA.