European Union and U.S should realize that, “going after the Haqqani network at this stage will have huge repercussions” for Pakistan, Afghanistan and even US.

By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

In the context of regional security situation along Pak-Afghan front, the last week was marked by three important events, having global implications. The first event was an unfortunate terrorist attack near US Embassy and NATO Headquarters, in Kabul, which lasted for over twenty long hours. The attack ended by killing two militant by ISAF. Sequel to attack, US blamed that; this attack was launched by Haqqani network, having its safe havens in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). The second important event was the meeting of the NATO Chiefs of Staff in Seville, Spain to review the situation in Afghanistan. In the meeting, Pakistani Army Chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, delivered a talk on ‘Pakistan’s role in the global war on terror’. The General highlighted the “sacrifices given by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. He also spoke of Pakistan’s expectations of support from the rest of the world.” Third event was more regional, the scheduled meeting between the officials of Foreign Office of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Addressing the last event first, in the meeting between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Afghan deputy Foreign Minister, Jawed Ludin, both sides reiterated the ongoing cooperation between brotherly and neighborly Islamic countries to combat the menace terrorism jointly. While addressing the press, Mr. Jawed Ludin declared the meeting as substantive and said that, “his country would not allow its territory to be used against Pakistan.” Pakistan otherwise believes on the policy of respecting the sovereignty of all countries including Afghanistan.

The attack on Kabul though was of the minor nature, having involvement of only few militants, yet the penetration of Taliban in this very high security zone area has raised many questions about the effectiveness of ISAF and Kabul administration even in the capital city. Indeed, this attack has also exposed the effectiveness of Afghan National Army (ANA), police and U.S, the occupying power. Pakistan strongly condemned the attack. However, as usual, following the terrorists’ attack in Kabul, the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, threatened Pakistan of unilateral actions if it (Pakistan) fails to take action against Haqqani Network. He said in a statement that, “Time and again we've urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area. I think the message they need to know is: we're going to do everything we can to defend our forces.”  The tone and texture of his statement indicates as if Pakistan has done this all, indeed a highly provocative one. Rationally, US could have assessed the grey areas in its security arrangements there, rather accusing Pakistan for its own failure. Pakistani reaction though was quick, but remained mature and cool. The spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Office said that, “We believe these remarks are not in line with the cooperation that exists between the two countries." US however, was reminded to respect Pakistani sovereignty. Pakistan also questioned US about the safe havens of militants on Afghan side of Pak-Afghan border, who repeatedly attacked Pakistani security posts, killing hundreds of security personnel and even innocent civilians. Pakistan feels that, “There is a need to clearly address the issue in a cooperative mode and work for de-escalation in violence as violence is no solution to any problem.”

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 Besides, US diplomat in Kabul and ISAF commander in Afghanistan, accuse that, these militants attack various targets in Afghanistan from Pakistani territory (North Waziristan) and then fall back there, being their safe havens. Analysts contest these accusations on the ground that, after all what role 150,000 ISAF troops performs there with equal number of ANA and ANP. Why should they allow these militants to get into Afghan territory, attack targets in Afghanistan and they can easily walk back to NWA in Pakistan. After all, Haqqanis do not have aircraft, missiles and modern equipment, better than US and NATO forces. Furthermore, U.S has an effective surveillance system to monitor any activity in these troubled spot, therefore, why the militants cannot be track-down and targeted before they target someone or escape from the scene. Thus, US logics are less convincing and more to throw the blame on others.  US should realize today’s world is more aware and visionary, thus cannot be befooled easily. 

In the same backdrop, during the meeting of the NATO Chiefs of Defence in Seville, Spain, the Pakistani Army Chief General Kayani ruled out any possibility of undertaking a military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). As per ISPR, the General “reiterated the resolve and commitment of Pakistan in the struggle against terrorism while underlining Pakistan’s sovereign right to formulate policy in accordance with its national interests and the wishes of the Pakistani people.” This statement was issued to dismiss the rapidly rising pressure of US on Pakistan to launch a military operation in NWA. Indeed, General Kayani’s statement is a true reflection of the national sentiments of Pakistani nation that was enraged, following the incident of May 2, 2011. After all, why Pakistan be made scapegoat for all ills of Afghan Government, militants and United States.  

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It is a considered view of the nation that under the current security situation, we cannot launch a military campaign in NWA, just to obey the US directive. After all, we are a sovereign nation and have the right to make decisions in our best national interest. Furthermore, such a military operations will have many implications. First, the terrain of NWA consists of rugged mountains, generally inhospitable for attackers, thus would need heavy combat power and finances, which is not feasible with current constraint situation. Pakistani forces are engaged in military operations in all agencies of FATA including NWA. Secondly, out of promised $7.5 billion financial support through KLL, US could provide only $500 million so far. U.S has also stopped its scheduled $800 million military assistance to Pakistan. Thirdly, the people of the area are already hostile and another major attack would further provoke them against the armed forces and the Government of Pakistan, causing more destabilization all over the country. Fourthly, the military operation like Swat would call for a major internal displacement of the locals that again need financial resources and a detailed segregation, both are difficult in this agency.

Another aspect is that, generally it is very difficult to differentiate between a terrorist and innocent locals, as both look alike. Thus shifting the IDPs to settled areas would be amounting to destabilizing those areas too. These implications need to be weighed against the likely gains. A realistic assessment would reveal that there would be no real terms gain from a military operation in NWA, except fulfilling the US desires. U.S and European countries must know that Pakistan or its security forces have no alliance with Haqqani network nor the network has any love for Pakistan. Pakistan is already doing its best to pull out all foreign elements from its soil.

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Defence analysts however, believe that, US should not push Pakistan too much for a military operation in NWA, at this point of time. Indeed, this would be asking for too much, without an ultimate gain. European Union and U.S should realize that, “going after the Haqqani network at this stage will have huge repercussions” for Pakistan, Afghanistan and even US. Rather stabilization, this act would further destabilize the region. Therefore, Pakistan and its armed forces should be allowed to flush-out the militants from its territory in their own way. This would facilitate the NATO and US to leave the region honourably. Pakistan is a very responsible state and has always worked for the betterment of international community. Should not international community and United States respect the national interest and sovereignty of Pakistan?

 

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