……..playing a dirty game

By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

Within one year of its occupation of Afghanistan, the US instead of stabilizing the occupied country started nudging Pakistan to do more against foreign militants and those sheltering them in South Waziristan (SW). It then started accusing Pakistan of providing safe sanctuaries to anti-US militants and allowing cross border terrorism. To divide the premier institutions, the US charged that some elements within the Army and ISI were linked with Taliban.

The US and Karzai regime ignored other next door neighbors of Afghanistan with whom the US had not formed an alliance to fight war on terror. It forgot that Russia having suffered humiliation in Afghanistan because of US support wanted Afghanistan to become a graveyard for USA. Unlike Pakistan which is a coalition partner, Iran is hostile towards USA and desires its crushing defeat at the hands of Taliban. Pro-Taliban Islamic movement is raging in Uzbekistan and large numbers of Uzbeks are part of Taliban Army.

The main reason for overlooking all other players and singling out Pakistan is the secret plans hatched by USA in collaboration with India, Israel and Britain. Pakistan has been meekly enduring the snubs and illegal demands of Washington because of subservience of weak and corrupt rulers. Pakistan is stuck up in huge foreign debts, its economy is in ruins and oxygen is provided by US controlled IMF and World Bank to keep the country afloat. Pakistan’s economy has been deliberately enfeebled to force its weak-willed leaders to tamely hand over the keys of its nuclear arsenal to Washington.

Obama’s purpose of first troop surge in mid 2009 was to stabilize Afghanistan, gain effective control over all major urban centres as well as agricultural and poppy growing areas, dominate main supply routes, minimize civilian casualties, weed out corruption, improve governance, win over moderate elements within militants and convince them to surrender arms in return for jobs and financial assistance, expand and upgrade proficiency levels of ANA and police to be able to operate independently, build capacity of Pak Army to enhance its capability of tackling militants in FATA. 

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When the stated objectives couldn’t be achieved, Obama sanctioned second troop surge in December 2009. Purpose was to break the momentum of Taliban resurgence by recapturing critical spaces in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and to militarily weaken it to the extent that it is forced to come to the negotiating table on US terms. When no worthwhile objectives could be achieved after upgrading total strength of ISAF to 152000, the US started blaming Pakistan for its failures and made excuses that the chief reason for not being able to defeat the militants was the continued cross border terrorism from North Waziristan (NW) which in its view was the hub centre of terrorism, where main sanctuaries of militants were located and where Al-Qaeda leadership was based. 2010 saw upsurge of drone attacks in NW.         

Pakistan is under intense pressure since the dawn of 2010 to launch a military operation in NW. All visitors coming from Washington have been pressing our leaders not to delay the operation since in their view it will have a direct bearing on the outcome of overall security situation in Afghanistan. While ignoring dozens of small and large scale military operations in seven tribal agencies of FATA and several parts of Khyber Pakhunkhwa in last nine years, the US is now stuck with NW and is trying to give an impression that Pak Army is reluctant to undertake action against militant’s sanctuaries or is incapable of fighting them in their stronghold. They forget that within NW, over 30,000 regular troops are stationed since 2005 and have conducted several operations. It was owing to successes achieved that Gul Bahadur was forced to sign an agreement in 2008.

A full-fledged operation on the scale of Swat and SW cannot be undertaken at present since troops are outstretched and extra deployment is at the cost of weakening critical eastern front. Very little rehabilitation work has been done in Mehsud belt of SW since majority of displaced persons living in camps of Jandola, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan have still not returned. Severe weather which will persist till end March was another constraining factor; so is lack of resources particularly helicopters and close support fund from USA.

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To say that issue of terrorism will get settled after a successful operation in NW and that it will have a salutary impact on dwindling fortunes of US-NATO in Afghanistan will be naïve and far-fetched. It must be understood very clearly that small numbered Haqqani network and other militant groups in NW are not making any material difference on the outcome of war raging between Afghan Taliban and occupation forces in conjunction with unpopular Afghan National Army (ANA). Forays if any are too few and insignificant. These can be easily blocked if ISAF establishes border check posts at known crossing sites and mine/fence them. Bulk of resistance forces of Mullah Omar and Gulbadin Hikmatyar are residing in provinces of southern and eastern Afghanistan and are operating all over the country from there. With 80% of territory under their sway they hardly need any sanctuaries across the border.

Israel and India have been convincing USA that roots of terrorism in Afghanistan lay in FATA and inciting it to push forward its special forces into FATA to destroy the roots. Idea of safe havens in Waziristan has been transplanted into the minds of US officials so firmly that they have got transfixed with the idea and are convinced that until and unless the sanctuaries are not destroyed either by Pak Army or NATO, no worthwhile results will ever be achieved by them in Afghanistan and will suffer a defeat.

Had Pakistan been peaceful as it was before 2002, and there had been puny fatalities taking place as a result of terrorism, the accusers could have some grounds to get suspicious and hurl unsubstantiated accusations that there appeared to be some kind of linkage between Pakistan’s security forces and militants? On ground, Pak Army and ISI have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of militants of different hues who have joined up against them. Series of terror attacks have taken place on ISI installations in Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan. GHQ was also struck by the terrorists. It is therefore highly unjust and immoral on part of USA to insinuate that Pakistan is backing the militants. The accusation is travesty of truth and speaks of mala fide intentions of USA.

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Pakistan Army has suffered heavily since it has been fighting the foreign aided militants tenaciously without a break. Nearly 145000 troops are at war since 2002 and have been fighting under tremendous resource constraints. The US which had pushed it into the furnace of war has been releasing funds and counter insurgency equipment miserly. It has been withholding the critical support on account of Indian unfounded apprehension that the supplied equipment would be used against it. While the US is sympathetic towards Indian speculative security concerns, it is least bothered about genuine security concerns of Pakistan.

It is not Pakistan playing a double game and harming US interests as alleged but it is USA in league with its partners which is playing this dirty game against Pakistan. This fact has been amply proved after the arrest of Raymond Davis. Yet the US has the brashness to point fingers at Pakistan. It is still blowing hot and cold over Davis issue and threatening to sever ties if not released. Such callousness will neither bridge trust deficit nor help in building lasting friendly relations. The US has lost Afghanistan and is losing its protégés in the Arab world. It should bear in mind that Pakistan’s loss will be the severest of all.