by S. M. Hali
A year has come and gone since the launch of Operation Geronimo, which was not only a “successful” exercise in eliminating Osama Bin Laden (OBL) by US Navy SEALS but an exposé of the machinations against Pakistan. Whereas on the one hand, the US State Department, Pentagon, CIA and American public have been celebrating their targeting enemy # 1: OBL; on the other, their ridiculing and slandering erstwhile ally in the war on terror—Pakistan, has left a bad taste. This contemptible orchestration has been despite the fact that the Pakistani Parliament has taken cognizance of the “presence” of OBL in Abbotabad and the possibility of intelligence failure on the part of Pakistani Security agencies. What the US fails to mention in its vilifying the Pakistani Army and ISI regarding them being unaware of either OBL’s presence or the sneak raid by US Navy SEALs is the factor that the CIA was clandestinely plotting the raid deliberately sidelining ISI and till May 2nd, 2011, Pakistan considered the US an ally and was not looking out for the surreptitious attack from the west.
It has also laid bare the true visage of US alliances. For ten years the US exploited Pakistan for its “Operation Enduring Freedom; Pakistan bore the brunt of the operations but is paying heavily for the US failures. To start with, the US leveling charges against OBL for being the real perpetrator of the 9/11 attack could have some credence but the way it was handled is contravene to all norms of justice and fair-play. Behaving like a trigger-happy cowboy with wounded pride, the US President, in his inimitable Texan style, issued an ultimatum to the Taliban regime to surrender OBL to the US for trials as a war criminal. The Taliban never refused to give him up but demanded to see the evidence against OBL and stated that if he was implicated in the heinous crime, the Taliban would be willing to hand him over to a neutral third party for trial. Mr. Bush, hell-bent upon extracting revenge for the 9/11 tragedy, became oblivious of local Afghan traditions of hospitality as well as the demands of international justice and attacked Afghanistan with full fury.
Pakistan at that time too had recommended restraint but G.W. Bush was baying for blood. His incessant bombing and use of reprehensible weapons like the “Daisy Cutter” mowed down innocent Afghan women and children and unseated the Taliban regime but failed to either subdue them or eliminate them. After surviving the heavy bombing of Tora Bora, the Taliban reorganized and waged a series of guerrilla campaigns and have virtually defeated NATO, ISAF and the US, forcing the alliance to seek dialogue with the Taliban at this late stage. Here again the US defence planners are to blame. They relied heavily on the massive use of airpower but failed to stop the wily Taliban from finding escape routes through the treacherous terrain.
Even at that stage when the US declared victory, Pakistan proposed that the US bring the Taliban to the dialogue table. Vanquished, the Taliban would have been willing to negotiate terms of peace. Alas, intoxicated with the ecstasy of “triumph”, the US failed to pay heed to Pakistan’s sagacious advice. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda however, turned upon Pakistan to punish it for its US-alliance. Suicide bomb attacks and assaulting military and civilian targets became the order of the day and Pakistan has sacrificed over 40,000 lives and lost over 69 billion US dollars for its participation in the war on terror. To add insult to injury, despite cooperating and handing over nearly 600 Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives to the US, Pakistan became a victim of the US mantra of “Do More!”
On top of it all, the Raymond Davis affair gave a glimpse of the CIA conspiracies within Pakistan. Nary a month had passed after the forceful extradition of Raymond Davis, that the OBL episode took place. In its frenzy to ensnare OBL, CIA consciously sidelined ISI and exploited local operatives to keep track of the high value target. Now that Pakistani intelligence agencies have, though belatedly, apprehended the treacherous elements who worked for CIA, the US is not only applying pressure on Pakistan to release them, but ironically, some US parliamentarians have gone to the extent of recommending a ‘gallantry medal” for the snitches as well as recommending for them the grant of US citizenship.
This May 2nd, Pakistani security agencies will contemplate the security lapse on their part and revisit culpability for the omission as well as plug gaps to avoid recurrence of the act in future. However, one fact must be accepted that the action of US Navy Seals on night 2 May was an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan. If the International Court of Justice at The Hague were neutral, Pakistan would refer its case of both the May 2nd operation and November 26 attack on the military check-post at Salala as gross violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty demanding retribution but there is little or no hope of finding justice.
Labeling Pakistan as the sanctuary for terrorists and breeding ground of extremists is unfair. This state of affairs has been brought about by the negligence of international intelligence agencies as well as vested interests fishing in troubled waters. Al-Qaeda is present in all regions of the world. Its presence in Pakistan is due to transgression of USA. In its arrogance and conceit, targeting Pakistan will bode ill for them as Pakistan can still play an effective role in negotiating with the warring elements. The US knows that it could not have been possible to break the backbone of Al-Qaeda without the significant support of Pakistan and efforts made by ISI to apprehend the Al-Qaeda elements. The standoff with the US has reached a stage thatPakistani officials say they cannot re-open the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan without an apology from the US. In return, the US is withholding as much as $3 billion of promised military aid.
President Obama may have used the anniversary to appeal to US voters to revive his sagging image while signing a ten year extension of the stay of US Special Forces and security trainers in Afghanistan will not hold water since a major player, the Taliban have been excluded from the deal. Any security/peace arrangement should take all the stakeholders into consideration.