Air Commodore ® Khalid Iqbal
Ten years ago, world’s most powerful country was attacked on its own soil, first time since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour during World War II. America dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, when Japan was on the verge of surrendering. Objective was to humiliate the Japanese as a nation, to avenge the disgrace of Pearl Harbour. Japan continues to be humbled as American troops are still stationed on its soil. Ever since, American psyche has not changed much.
During 9/11 attack, American civil aviation aircraft were used as missiles. Allegedly, hijackers belonged to Middle Eastern countries; some of them learnt their aviation related skills in American Flying Training Schools. Taliban government of Afghanistan had agreed to handover Osama for an independent trial in a third country, even then America chose to attack Afghanistan. There are varying views about the causes leading to this decision, all supported by logic; some of these are rather incriminating.
Nevertheless, America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear. It did so employing disproportionate military power, like a typical cowboy. It continues to do so. It is now arm twisting Afghan government for allowing permanent basing for its troops. Alas! Afghans are made of different fibre; they are cousins of yester years’ Vietcong. Current surge of violence indicates their determination to fight till the presence of last foreign soldier on their soil.
While the twin towers were still smouldering, President Bush served an ultimatum to the nations around the globe: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”. Bush also spoke of embarking on a new “Crusade”; under pressure he soon abandoned the terminology, but spirit of crusade has prevailed since then.
Pakistan was coerced into war through multi-dimensional pressures: UN resolutions, naked American threats, deployment of full Indian military might all along our eastern borders on the pretext of attack on Indian parliament engineered through a false flag operation etc.
Militarily the only viable option America had to attack Afghanistan was through Pakistan. If Pakistan did not agree, India was eager to afford an all out support, including military bases and intelligence sharing. Allowing US-India unison would have resulted in our airspace and land violation. Even our territorial integrity could have been at risk. India would have been delighted with such a response. Pakistan hardly a had viable alternative option.
Given the pressures, initial decision to side with America was correct, though we sold ourselves rather cheep. If our negotiators could hold their feet on the ground, Americans would have given any thing in exchange. There was hardly any substantial gain that we could extract from the Americans. What we gave was phenomenal; air bases, liberal use of airspace and provision of land supply routes were concessions of strategic dimension. Keeping India off our back was our key demand; America did this with a wink of eye. In all probability America encouraged India to deploy and then to remain deployed without firing a shot. With this setting, Pakistan’s military and intelligence focus shifted towards eastern border; American military and intelligence agencies had a field day along our western border.
Our military ruler of that time was mired in legitimacy crisis; he was interested in American support to prolong his rule. On American behest, his exiled political rivals were hosted by friendly countries. President Musharraf was assured continuity in power; in exchange he faithfully surrendered the national pride. Accruing American pleasure was his priority, rest became secondary. Some of his contemporary military colleagues reminded him that “Americans have a habit of pulling the rug from under our feet once their interests are served.” Those who expressed difference of opinion were promptly shown the door; rest got the message.
Taliban government fell to invading forces by the end of 2001. Foreign troops had no reason to stay on. However, intoxicated with their quick fix, Americans embarked upon a spree of ‘Mission Creep.” From now on America was poised to behave in Asia akin to a bull in China house.
Pakistani leadership became a pliant partner in American designs. Proxy arrests and renditions became order of the day. Many innocents ended up in Guantanamo. Some criminals from Guantanamo were bought over by America and later released to work for destabilization of Pakistan. American funding of separatist activists, media personnel, academics and opinion makers was rather obvious. Objective was to make Pakistani public believe that Pakistan was a weak state with no other option but to do American bidding; as all this happened, we chose to look the other way.
Acceptance of ‘Black Water’ mercenaries, spies under the garb of trainers, freelance contractors of Raymond Davis class, tolerance of drone attacks, liberal visa policy for Americans in the face of humiliating reciprocal policy are indeed some of the points of our national shame.
Another dimension came to fore when America got into a delusion that it could prop-up India as a pliant regional bully. Hence, a US-India nexus mushroomed rather speedily with an anti-Pakistan focus. Then on, American policy toward Pakistan pegged around ‘tactical ease and strategic squeeze’. India was projected as emerging super power; it was liberally compensated for services rendered to Americans in the form of year long military deployment along Pakistani border. Agreement 123, support for India’s permanent berth in the UNSC, prompting a Pakistan specific Fissile Material Management regime were some of the landmark developments that triggered the survival instinct amongst Pakistani intelligentsia; it soon became a public intuition.
Economic Survey of Pakistan’s, 2010 report is quite instructive: the `war on terror` has “cost the country more than 35,000 citizens, 3,500 security personnel, destruction of infrastructure, internal migration of millions of people from parts of north-western Pakistan, erosion of investment climate, nose-diving of production, growing unemployment and above all (has) brought economic activity to a virtual standstill in many parts of the country”. Net economic loss is estimated at US$ 70 billion. Bulk of the money that America pledged never reached Pakistan.
These factors made Pakistan pause and ponder over cost benefit analysis of this one way traffic with the Americans. Trust crumbled, with tensions now running high, it is clear that Pakistan increasingly views America as more of a foe than a friend. Despite being the biggest facilitator for American operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan has ended up as a punching bag.
Hostility towards the United States has grown, reaching new heights after its ambush to kill Osama. This cowardly action was aimed at: humiliating Pakistanis as a nation, akin to Japanese nation; breed public perception of insecurity and project ‘helplessness’ of the armed forces.
A recent Pew survey found that 69 percent Pakistanis saw the United States as an enemy and 47 percent were “very” worried about a military threat from Washington. America is believed to be after Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Public opinion has it that by creating chaos in Pakistan, America wants to coax the United Nations to say that Pakistan is an unstable state and cannot secure its nuclear weapons and thus international community should take control of these weapons.
United States and Pakistan have reached a point of strategic divergence. America has lost the goodwill of the people of Pakistan, for times to come. Pakistan is in a win-win situation in the context of Afghanistan endgame.