By Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf
Analysing ‘OBAMA’S LATEST SURGE’ in 2009, I had related it to a tight balloon in hot air that may rapture before it reaches close to its objectives. Obama followed by Hilary Clinton made all the right noises of an establishment given up on the doctrine of ‘Shock and Awe’ that promoted remote controlled absolutism in distant lands. As an icing on a bitter cookie, it recognized Pakistan’s integrity, sovereignty and welfare of the people.There was an eerie feeling of US iceberg diplomacy to attract Pakistani politicians and pseudo liberal groups into a comfort zone and reach directly into the hearts and minds of a select audience chosen to provide a springboard for US styled democracy and what Zardari terms as democracy the best revenge. Many years hence, it proved true.
Inside Afghanistan, one surge after another petered away with no substantial ground successes for NATO and ISAF. General Stanley McChrystal the highly decorated specialist in covert operations and assassination squads of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) realised the futility of such tactics, became critical and finally resigned becoming a scapegoat for a too military driven strategy that was not of his own making.
Between the lines, there appeared a lead role for the Pentagon working in tandem with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). I termed the new AF-PAK strategy as an opportune compromise with enough blank space for narratives to be filled later that would cause concern to Pakistan.
My major concern was the expected high intensity sting and covert intelligence operations conducted by CIA and the dreaded JSOC. I reckoned that Pakistan will have to face a surge of expanded drone attacks 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. I also wrote that 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. The blanks in the narrative would inevitably lead to a clash between the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the present government. As time would pass the focus would shift from Afghanistan to an unstable Pakistan armed with nuclear weapons.
All these assessments came to pass with Raymond Davis, Kakul Raid, Salala, operations of Swati Militants from Kunar, Memogate and Mehran Bank Scandal.
Much was also made of Gen David Petraeus’ COIN Strategy with non violent socio economic pincers premised on ‘money talks’. Hence monetary kickbacks both regular (Combat Support funds and Kerry Lugar) and irregular (bribes) were to work as parallel tools to combat, overt and covert violence, expanded role of drones and terrorising tactics in urban areas. To buy off people of elastic conscience, it was imperative that Pakistan’s economy must fail and become a western dependency. Sadly, the advent of next financial year will trigger economic crises too difficult for the future caretakers to handle.
Obama’s first tenure as President has ended in making the world a more dangerous place to live in. The Arab Springs have not ushered the type of regimes US would have wanted in Egypt and Tunisia. Tripoli was the biggest CIA disaster of the year killing US diplomats. Syria is in turmoil apparently at the heels of a US policy that wished to appease Israel and tame Iran. Yet the objectives of such a covert war are unclear as Obama continues to send mixed signals about Palestine and Iran.
It appears that that US Strategic Drawing Board is in search of new ideas for Obama’s second term. One of the latest derivatives is the Cold War concept of maintaining geo strategic pivots for US interests and influence. Paul Kennedy’s Thesis has been expanded by Ian Bremmer. He wrote in Wall Street Journal that “In our emerging G-Zero world, with no single power able to set the agenda, the winners and losers of the next generation will be determined not by the rubrics of the moment but by how well and often they are able to pivot” One such line of pivots runs from the north in Poland to Pakistan to contain the growing Russian and Chinese Influence in the Eurasian Region, in other words the consolidation of the Southern Front.
The US quest for the mastery of 21st Century has eroded the ideological difference between the traditionally rival camps. For the US public, the euphoria of a distant threat has been orchestrated in a manner that 2012 election debates will be remembered more for the identity of common interests than opposing ideologies. Consequently, the people of USA had to make a choice between two overbearing interventionist regimes, one naive (Democrats) and the other dependent on the Israeli Right (Republicans). Now that Obama has secured a second term, the drift into chaos is likely to continue.
Many Pakistani analysts and columnists still harbour a hope that Obama will ultimately become more Muslim friendly and help resolve the Palestine and Kashmir Issues. Yet I assess that the second tenure means a continuation of the status quo and therefore not much that Pakistanis can feel happy about. As the time for a cosmetic US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, the major surge of violence will shift into Pakistan with US bases in Afghanistan acting as pivots. Violence in Karachi and Balochistan will rise to new levels and the focus on an unstable Pakistan with nuclear weapons will sharpen.
For Pakistan it is also time for new general elections. Given the ambitious US agenda in the region and the support it has from the political coalition in power, continuation of the status quo would be the US objective. Economic dependency on USA would result in pliability and further attrition of the socio economic fabric. In quest to secure the major share of the pie, each segment of the ruling coalition will vie for the US patronage to secure the next tenure and hence prolong the inertia. As political expediencies take over, the core issue of defending Pakistan’s national interests would shift to Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf and the pro Pakistan religious right forcing strange alliances. The elections will be conducted in a highly polarised environment and could turn out to be very violent.
The effects of judicial activism trying to undo the wrongs of past decades will take time to precipitate. Given the environments, the political actors will draw maximum negative mileage from the judgements thereby eroding the balance crucial to maintaining a federation.
The military already committed on its western borders will be drawn further into internal urban conflicts and resist temptations of intervention.
The future shape of events will depend a lot on who wins the national elections and who will be selected to take over the mantle from the incumbent COAS. In the region surrounding Pakistan, this factor would be the rider clause to determine Pakistan’s interests and Obama’s efficacy; two diametrically opposing options.