A Brace for Bloody Winters
The long awaited Obama Speech is over. It is to wait and see the impact of the third surge in a highly destabilized, charged and violent region. The endgame if one dares, is not what Secretary Clinton wants us to believe.
I would describe the new strategy as a tight balloon in hot air that may rapture even before it reaches close to its objectives. The speech makes all the right noises of an establishment given up on the doctrine of ‘Shock and Awe’ that promoted absolutism in distant lands. It recognizes Pakistan’s integrity, sovereignty and welfare of the people. Following intense lobbying between State Department and Pentagon, there appears a lead role for the Pentagon working in tandem with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) previously headed by General Stanley McChrystal from the Vice President’s Office and the CIA.
Obama is in similar establishment pressure that Kennedy had to bear in Bay of Pigs and when he wanted to thin out from Vietnam. Cognisant that he should not go down in history as ‘Obama who never was’, the new AF-PAK strategy is a compromise with enough blank space for narratives to be filled later. It is these blank narratives that cause concern.
The speech is but the tip of iceberg diplomacy. What lies undisclosed is high intensity sting and covert intelligence operations conducted by CIA and the dreaded JSOC. The message is unambiguous. Pakistan will have to face a surge of expanded drone attacks (settled urban areas) by both JSOC and CIA, and a cruel spate of covertly sanctioned illegal assassinations, sting operations and anarchy generated by contractors with leaks capable of breaking hell in Pakistan.
Conspicuously, there is no mention of India in the script. It is also mysterious that all regional powers including China, Russia and Iran are maintaining an eerie silence on AF-PAK Strategy.
But this is the script left to Pakistan’s Security Establishment and hapless people to contend with. The other dimensions of this war will be shaped by our very own.
Pakistan’s political establishment has not behaved in a manner worthy of a country at war on multiple fronts. There is a laissez faire and total absence of political structuring. US diplomacy holds a carrot for politicians to push back the military and intelligence agencies at the perilous cost of the existence of the state itself.
Pakistan’s economy is in a downward spiral with no hedging. Within a decade, the country is energy deficient. Agriculture sector, the only positive indicators for many decades is being manipulated to a position of becoming non productive. The farmer has been exposed to the greedy cartels, which the government shows no resolve to control. Sugar, Atta, Rice, Cotton and Tomato crises are but to name a few.
India has acquired the capability to manipulate the waters of Chenab feeding Punjab. Kishen Ganga project will affect the planned Neelum Project and Mangla reservoir. There are reports that IRSA has refused water to Punjab from River Indus implying that Southern Punjab will not produce enough winter crops raising the ante on food security as also give impetus to the movement for devolving the province.
The Sales Tax imposed in 2000 was legislated as a Value Addition Tax (VAT) that never served its purpose. It is yet again being changed to VAT. Traditionally, such taxes are imposed on growing and developing economies. In Pakistan, suffice to say that the effects of this taxation on an ailing, sinking and manipulative economy will be negative.
This is not a comedy of errors but a deliberately executed policy to halt the wheels. As poverty grows, so will the, frustration and crime in society. This fits into the US Schemes of shaping the environment.
The blanks in the narrative and the implosion being generated within are the hot air that would inevitably lead to a clash between the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the present government.
The next 18 months and beyond will test Pakistan to the verge. It is crucial to move from a US enforced war strategy to an approach based on national consensus that takes cognizance of justifiable US sensibilities and concerns. Some of the contours of such a policy are:
· A broad minimum consensus on national security that addresses the war on terrorism, fast track socio economic development at grass roots and economic hedging.
· Take China, Russia and Iran into confidence on how Pakistan intends to play its role in the latest surge.
· Co-opt USA in securing Pakistan’s interests in Balochistan.
· Identify and dissected various brands of militants within a broad name of Taliban and deal them separately both politically and militarily. The purpose: to isolate groups with links to al Qaeda.
· Shift counter insurgency operations from a sledge hammer strategy to precision actions based on intelligence, air support and air mobile tactics.
· Stop dragging feet on the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and legislate it as an effective mechanism to counter insurgency and urban terrorism. It must co-opt representative from the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, intelligence, local bodies, civil society and media.
· The spirit of nationhood must be carried forward from the NFC Award to all other areas of national cohesion, well being and security.
· The private media must formulate a national security code of conduct on sensitive national security matters and black out self styled belatedly confessing opportunists, whose tirades justify US propaganda.
The government of Pakistan has to appreciate the dangers to Pakistan’s integrity and security arising out of the third surge. The opportunities have to be recognised, even if it be at the cost of short term tactical disadvantage. The bottom line is that after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan must emerge as a responsible nuclear power with no scope for private armies led by criminals, thugs and militants. This means bracing for a bloody winter in the urban areas.
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.