No decision as yet on North Waziristan
By Asif Haroon Raja
George W Bush administration restored friendly relations with Pakistan after 9/11 with gusto and gave an impression that the US would make every effort to remove the grievances of Pakistan and would not let it down again. His and his successor’s promises proved false since over a period of time warmth in Pak-US relations has considerably waned and trust deficit has widened. The first sign of distrust expressed by US officials was when it stopped sharing intelligence about drone targets and conducted strikes unilaterally. The reason propounded was that when it informed Pakistan about the intended target, the prey slipped away before the drone was launched. This unilateralism remained in vogue despite loud protests by Pakistan. While the self-created distrust kept increasing, the US media also became menacing. A web of allegations were woven around Pakistan to portray it as a nursery of extremism and terrorism and involved in nuclear proliferation. Its nuclear program came under sustained attack and propagandists cooked up variety of stories to drumbeat the vulnerability of our nukes. Stories of balkanization of Pakistan and Pakistan becoming a failed state were also circulated. All this was done to spread despondency and gloom.
CIA which has by and large remained aggressive towards Pakistan and carries deep grudges against ISI has been the driving force behind unilateral drone war. Presence of CIA network in Pakistan came to light after the accidental arrest of CIA agent Raymond Davis. In the aftermath of 2 May 2011 incident when Pak military took some counter measures to prevent such a repeat action, the US got angry and stopped payment of $800 million to Pak military in July 2011. Our former defence minister Mukhtar said that if the military aid was stopped, Pakistan would be constrained to pull back its troops deployed along the western border. He further stated that this amount was not for fighting war on terror in future but for the expenditure already incurred by Pakistan Army in maintaining 1100 military border posts as against only 200 posts manned by NATO on its side of the border.
Pak Army had to deploy so many posts along treacherous porous border on persistent request made by Washington to prevent cross border movement. Each post is manned by 15-25 men. Its logistic sustenance requires extra money. While Pakistan has not abandoned any post, the opposite side had closed down half of its posts in 2009 during critical time when Operation Rah-e-Nijat was mounted in South Waziristan (SW) in October 2009. Vacated posts have not been reoccupied. Subsequently in 2011, more posts were abandoned by ISAF in regions opposite Bajaur, Mehmand agencies and Chitral since these regions became the targets of cross border raids by Maulana Fazlullah led Taliban based in Kunar and Nuristan. Pakistan cannot continue to man such a large number of posts indefinitely particularly when it suffers from resource constraints and the US is not prepared to pay the dues for the services rendered. Like a typical bully, it wanted Pakistan to continue abiding by its dictates howsoever injurious to Pakistan’s national interests if it wanted the dues to be paid back.
The US maintained its discriminatory and belligerent posture against Pakistan since it was confident that the puppet regime it had installed in 2008 would not utter a word of protest and would follow its commands submissively. Washington commanded Zardari-Gilani regime to defy judiciary and discredit it and also to keep the Army embroiled in fighting war on terror. Energy crisis and incapacitation of public sector corporations were engineered to give a telling blow to the industry and overall economy. The US and its allies took up the responsibility of maligning and discrediting the Army and ISI through a well orchestrated media war.
Tehrik-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also popularly known as Tehrik-Taliban Pentagon was created by CIA to cripple Pak Army and to destroy Pakistan’s strategically sensitive assets so that Pakistan could be turned into a compliant state. In order to attract recruitment, TTP was established on ideological grounds with the aim of introducing Islamic laws in FATA. The Army was portrayed as complicit or inefficient to deal with the terrorists and the ISI as an abettor of terrorism and a rogue outfit. Monumental efforts were put in by foreign powers to fortify Swat, Bajaur and SW to enable TTP to defeat Pak Army. When the Army managed to trample the three strongholds and dismantle the TTP’s bases by end 2009, the US then started pressurizing Pakistan from early 2010 onward to launch yet another major offensive in North Waziristan (NW). It persistently pursued it since it is very confident that Pak Army would meet its waterloo in NW. Intensification of drone war in NW is aimed at fuelling terrorism and to discredit Pakistan and Pak Army.
While GHQ never refused to launch an operation in NW, it wanted sufficient time to consolidate its gains in captured areas, resettle the displaced persons and rebuild the destroyed infrastructure. It also pointed out that the Army had got over stretched and was suffering from resource constraint due to non-delivery of CSF and counter terror equipment from USA. $1.1 billion were to be paid for the services rendered in February 2010. Having deployed 147000 troops in the northwest, GHQ could ill afford to further thin out troops from critical eastern front and that too without solid assurance from Washington that India would not attack Pakistan. GHQ’s reluctance was interpreted as a sign of defiance which irritated Pentagon. Adoption of counter measures to curtail CIA’s covert activities enraged the US so severely that it first undertook stealth raid in Abbottabad on 2 May 2011 to belittle Army and ISI and then carried out an unprovoked attack on two military posts at Salala on 26 November 2011 resulting in death of 24 soldiers and injury to 16. It expressed no remorse over the callous attack and held Pakistan equally responsible.
On the express insistence of JS HQ and GHQ, the government decided to take up a tough stand to show its resentment. Of all the steps taken, closure of NATO supply routes was most upsetting for USA. During the seven month standoff, the US leadership governed by its arrogant mindset, instead of tendering apology applied multiple pressures to cow down Pakistan. Latter’s bankrupt economy and insipid leadership helped Washington in having its way.
Supply routes have been reopened but there is no letup in drone strikes or in covert war or propaganda war and there is no change in bossy attitude of US leaders. The terrorists led by Fazlullah after getting reorganized by RAAM, ANA and RAW and funded by CIA, were tasked in 2011 to launch cross border raids into Mehmand, Dir and Chitral so as to build pressure on Pakistan. Dozens of bloody raids have taken place and despite Pakistan’s loud protests, no action has been taken against the militants. One of the purposes behind these raids is to give a tit for tat response to alleged cross border raids conducted by Haqqani network (HN) from NW.
Reportedly, the US has now assured Pakistan that it will help in closing down the two sanctuaries in Kunar and Nuristan and rein in the militants provided Pakistan did the same in NW. The new US Ambassador has reiterated that Pakistan should do more to curb activities of HN. John Kerry and Richard Lugar stated that insurgent groups still enjoyed a strong presence in Pakistan. Panetta’s recent statement that Pak nuclear program is unsafe and vulnerable to be whisked away by wrong hands is part of pressure building tactics. So is the recent attack on Kamra airbase and recently released story about Osama bin Laden which says that ISI and Army leadership were in the know of ‘Operation Get Geronimo’.
The US military and civil officials are now busy building an impression that Pakistan has eventually conceded to launch an operation in NW. Panetta stated that Gen Kayani had given his consent to Gen John Allen to carryout joint operation. Earlier on, on 3 July Hillary Clinton had talked of coordinated actions against terrorists. Gen Kayani has clarified that there will be no joint operation as demanded by Washington and that no decision has yet been taken. He added that national interest and not outside pressure would be the prime consideration in making the decision and timeframe will be chosen and determined by our military and political requirements. I am glad that there is someone who cares about public opinion and doesn’t take decisions in indecent haste to please USA.