Obama Has Sounded Charges To Attack Pakistan
Finally, the much awaited Afghan Strategy was unfurled by President Obama in a speech delivered at the United States Military Academy on 1st December 2009. In the back drop of former President George Bush’s call to arms post 9/11, Obama’s wartime address sounded like an endgame rather than a striking escalation of the US presence in Afghanistan. As expected, a surge in American Forces up to 30000 in the vital interest of the United States was announced by him to augment 68000 troops already deployed in Afghanistan.
The speech, a shrewd one though, systematically progressed as the President recalled the factors that led to the present status of war in Afghanistan culminating with the recipes to chart a course for ultimate but honorable exit from Afghanistan. Besides announcing a placement of additional troops the salience of the speech has been the announcements of US intensions to withdraw from Afghanistan in three years time, a sustained ‘light’ presence of US troops’ as a sequel to the withdrawal in line with previous practices in Germany, Japan and Bosnia, reversal of Taliban gains, securing of population centres as they did during the last days of the commencement of withdrawal from Vietnam. The other salience was declared focuses on training Afghans to enable them take over the security affairs, talks with the willing Taliban, putting pressure on Karzai government to deliver and a request NATO allies for more contributions towards American efforts in Afghanistan.
President Obama also talked about Pakistan wherein he categorically mentioned Pakistan’s centrality in his bid to normalize Afghanistan. He went on to say,”….we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust…the Pakistani people must know : America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent,….”
The speech by all means was quite notable for he braced Americans for the difficult times ahead and sought to put the fight in the context of the history. The troops decision despite many recommendations for not to induct more troops that included the ones from his Vice President and many Democrats, is surly a courageous one as he embarks on a difficult and costly mission. Most importantly, the President did not give an end date beyond July 2011; the pace of extracting US Forces will depend on developments on the ground at that time. He has been scanty on clues as he left many questions unanswered like how many troops would pull out in July 2011, how many would be left behind and for how long and what is the strategy behind his exit strategy.
On the Afghanistan front, General McChrystal and his boss General David Patreus have commended Obama for giving them what they called a “clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task”—even though they did not get the requisite number of troops that had been recommended for.
However, putting more troops carry an inherent risk of many more casualties on both sides of the border including those that would be covered in the garb of collateral damage. Same thing had happened in Vietnam. They had put in more troops prior final withdrawal and faced catastrophic consequences. The Taliban have vowed to fight this fresh influx of troops with more vigour and perseverance. The speech left Pakistan with many apprehensions as it seeks to discuss the hidden implications of some elements of the speech regarding Pakistan besides the echoes of mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual interests. The US actions in the region as they start following the strategy will sufficiently educate the Pakistanis on the intended mutual interests, trust and mutual respect.
One thing is for certain that with the induction of more troops and their deployment in the Pashtun dominated areas of Qandahar, Helmand etc. the Taliban would enter Pakistan and add to the instability factors of Pakistan’s tribal areas and Baluchistan. The induction implies that given a time table of 18 months, there will be strong military actions to achieve the aim in a minimum possible time. The President’s willingness to escalate war in Afghanistan has challenged his generals to do more with slightly less than they wanted and that too, much more faster to live up to their justifications . Would the buildup in Afghanistan breathe a new life into flagging eight year old war or is it that Obama has just committed what could be the biggest political blunder of his years in the office that will be unfolded in the near future and decide the fate of elections process in the US that would commence at approximately the same time as that commencement of withdrawal.
Why Pakistan is finding it difficult to be at home with the fresh US Strategy? As said earlier, the sensitivities of what has not been said in the speech openly while deliberating on Pakistan, makes it ponder on the ultimate aim of this strategy. One issue that is very sensitive is the issue of Indian activities in Afghanistan against the stability of Pakistan, for which ample evidence exists and that will be put across in days to come. There are reports of un-declared efforts that are underway in the US to give some role to India in stabilizing the Afghan security. India has put in over a billion US dollars in improving the Afghan communication infrastructure, so the centrality to US Afghan strategy must keep India to that end, if it must. However, the efforts to give some role other than reconstruction and bring it on the same table with Pakistan are quite worrisome. The idea of placement of Indian troops in Afghanistan to fill the void when the Western Forces leave Afghanistan and in the lead time slowly place them in the theatre would certainly be a perfect recipe for a regional disaster.
US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said the other day that Pakistan’s focus on the East with India has to be changed to get the best out of Pakistan. In doing so he just needs to understand the Indian mindset on Pakistan and get the US State Department rolling on making India come to negotiating table with Pakistan. There have been un-necessary interference in Pakistani affairs and the debate in the Indian Parliament on Baluchistan was just bizarre. There have been irresponsible statements emanating from Indian corridors of power like General Deepak Kapoor commented that possibility of war exists with Pakistan. Cold strategy they want to put in practice without calculating the forceful and matching reaction from Pakistan. There have been other threatening overtures from Indian Establishment. Obsessed as they are with Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the Indian media hyped the Obama’s theory of nuclear material gettable by Taliban and spent the whole day with rejoicing over the issue.
What has rung the alarming bells in Pakistan? There have been too many firsts to his credit as President of the United States with respect to Pakistan. For the very first time he publicly linked Pakistan with Afghanistan as the epicenter of terrorism. He is the first President who mentioned five times “safe heavens” across the border in Pakistan. He established a link of Al-Qaeda with Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal saying that they are in pursuit of the same. He forgot that at every forum his heavy weights in the Administration and his generals have acknowledged many a times that the nuclear command and control in Pakistan is solid and cannot be undone. The putting of idea that some elements may support extremists getting the hand on the nuclear arsenal also does not go along a visionary president that he has been titled often.
In the back drop of Obama’s speech, time has come for Pakistan when it must renegotiate its partnership with the US as the pledge has been made by the United States of forging a new and lasting relationship with Pakistan. The transit trade and share in US textile market are a couple of demands that Pakistan must place with them. On the new strategy, Pakistan needs to very carefully determine limits and red lines while negotiating the finer points in the same that may go against its interests. The need of the hour is to sit together and discuss with Americans what has not been said in the Afghan strategic speech that is yet to unfold. Let us see what the United States offers Pakistan in lasting relationship pledged by the President that will be based on ‘mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual interests.