By Sajjad Shaukat
Trust deficit continues between Pak-US relationships as from time to time, America continues its misperceptions and blame game regarding Pakistan. In this respect, on April 7, this year, the US administration in a report gave Congress a highly critical assessment of Pakistan’s efforts to defeat Al-Qaeda and other militants, saying that after years of work with the Pakistan military “there remains no clear path towards defeating the insurgency” that, what it claimed, thrives in the country. While emphasizing American old maxim to ‘do more’, the semi-annual report noted a deterioration of the situation in FATA, which—US officials believe has carved out a global headquarters in Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan. The report further added that operation in Mohmand Agency and Bajaur has not yielded any tangible result for the third time in two years.
As the report comes ahead of the strategy the American President is scheduled to announce in three months about start of withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is believed that leakage of the selected portions of the document is aimed at exerting more pressure on Pakistan in accordance with the known policy of ‘do more’.
However, on the same day, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua rejected the highly critical US report calling it “unwarranted”, and saying that Pakistan “would not be held accountable for US-led failures in Afghanistan.”
The fact of the matter is that if we judge the losses of any country regarding war against terrorism in the last ten years, Pakistan as a frontline state has given great sacrifices in terms of human life, collateral damage and economic losses.
In this context, on November 14, 2008, a statement of Pakistan’s Finance Division had indicated that the country’s economy suffered a loss of Rs2.1 trillion due to the global war on terror. It elaborated that the economy suffered direct and indirect losses in terms of exports, foreign investment, privatization and industrial production. Chairman Pak-US Business Council and VP SAARC CCI Iftikhar Ali Malik had pointed out on March 24, 2009: “Pakistan’s economy has suffered irreparable loss of $68 billion due to turmoil in Afghanistan—more than three million Afghan refugees harbouring in the country are also posing security risk.”
According to an estimate, Pakistan’s national economy is exclusively suffering a net loss of $7 billion annually as fallout of the war against terror, which has displaced thousands of people.
Pakistan’s military troops are already dangerously overstretched. With an estimated 147,000 forces in the northwest—more than the 130,000 US-led NATO force in Afghanistan, while the army has also endured heavy losses. More than 2,800 soldiers have died and more than 8,700 have been wounded since 2001 in fighting against militancy.
Besides other losses, Pakistan and its security forces are facing suicide attacks, bomb blasts, sectarian violence and targeted-killings coupled with intermittent battles with the militants, causing lawlessness in the country.
Although drone attacks have continued intermittently on Pakistan’s tribal areas in the last few years, which have killed many people, yet in one of the major attacks, more than 40 civilians and policemen were killed when on March 18, 2011; an unmanned US aircraft fired four missiles into a building in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.
No doubt, Pakistan has sacrificed more than NATO and USA owing to this new style conflict. Question arises as to why Washington ignores Pakistan’s sacrifices and losses in relation to war on terror. In fact, US-led coalition has been facing defeatism in Afghanistan. In this context, in more than ten years, well-trained NATO troops, equipped with sophisticated technology have badly failed in coping with the Afghan Taliban. In this regard, despite the increase of military troops, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and ambush attacks by the Taliban have rendered the superior power of the US-led forces obsolete. While casualties of the foreign forces have been increasing day by day, like other years, the last year was also the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with 499 killed.
Apart from the rise in deathtolls in Afghanistan, coalition troops are also increasingly vulnerable to injuries from such makeshift bombs as they mount foot patrols in an effort to win support from Afghan villagers—a key strategy in the counterinsurgency campaign.
In this respect, western combat statistics show that especially US troops in Afghanistan suffered an unprecedented number of catastrophic injuries last year including a tripling of amputations of more than one limb. A study by doctors at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where most wounded troops are sent before returning to the US confirmed the fears: “The battlefield has become increasingly brutal…in 2010, 171, 11% of all the casualties brought to Landstuhl, had undergone amputations, a much higher proportion than in past wars. Dr. John Holcomb, a retired Army colonel with extensive combat-medicine experience, said he and other doctors involved in the study were shocked by the findings, which he labeled as “unbelievable…military brass say the increase in catastrophic injuries can be attributed to the Taliban’s use of improvised explosive devices, the roadside bombs that account for the majority of US and NATO deaths and injuries.”
Moreover, American cost of war against terrorism which has reached approximately 6 trillion dollar is increasing rapidly—decline of dollar, increasing prices of oil and acute recession inside the country have given a greater blow to the US economy vis-à-vis other developed countries. In such a scenario, American public is particularly worried about the failed military campaign in Afghanistan.
So to distract the attention of its general masses from internal crisis in wake of US failure in Afghanistan, like previous statements of American high officials including their media Washington has been continuously propagating against Pakistan’s tribal areas in connection with the Afghan insurgency.
America has made Pakistan a scapegoat in hiding its failed policies of Afghanistan and has intensified pressure on Islamabad without bothering for the present internal backlash and especially by ignoring the perennial subversive events of Pakistan. In this context, a highly critical assessment of Pakistan’s efforts to defeat Al-Qaeda and other militants by neglecting Pakistan successful military operations against the militants is no more than to revive the old blame game that tribal areas of the country are responsible for the rise of militancy in Afghanistan.
In the recent past, Pakistan’s armed forces have achieved a landmark victory by dismantling the command and control system of the Taliban in Swat, Dir, Buner and South Waziristan. This fact was witnessed, when renowned militant commanders were captured, and most of them surrendered. But our misfortune is that some external and internal elements have always acted upon a deliberate propaganda campaign against the security forces under one or the other pretext.
Notably, what the US-led NATO forces, equipped with the latest sophisticated weaponry could not do in the last 10 years in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s armed forces did within 10 months as now Taliban are on escape. And operations are going to reach their logical ends. Pak Army has broken the backbone of the Taliban militants, and there is only pocket resistance in some regions.
It is mentionable that after the release of Raymond Davis, the aim of the US latest report is to pressurize Islamabad to take more military action against the militants—to distort the image of Pakistan and its Army. In the near future, Director General of ISI Gen. Ahmad Shujaa Pasha is likely to visit the US. He may talk to the US high officials in relation to this latest report which has allegedly criticized Pakistan and its Army.
Nevertheless, at this sensitive juncture, our politicians, general masses and security forces need a strong sense of unity and nationalism which is essential to castigate any prospective conspiracy and to maintain the integrity of the country.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations