Pakistan: America's Achilles' Heel in the Afghan War

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by ajtr, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Pakistan: America's Achilles' Heel in the Afghan War


    President Barack Obama's counter-insurgency strategy (December 2009), ordering 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, is reaching its climax as a decisive but silent offensive in Kandahar and seems to be gearing up in the coming months. The new strategy was planned to turn the tide against the Taliban to a point that they could be forced to enter into an acceptable negotiation. If successful, this offensive which reportedly involves 8,500 US, 3,000 Canadian and 12,000 local Afghan soldiers will allow the US forces to begin a withdrawal in July 2011.

    The new strategy is similar to the strategy of "clear, hold, build and transfer" which brought about a sea change against the Sunni-based insurgency in Iraq. President Obama and top officials in his administration are expecting the same result in Afghanistan. A recent eighty page declassified Pentagon report insists that, "Of all the districts and cities in Afghanistan none is as important to the future of the Afghan government or the Taliban insurgency as Kandahar city."

    The essential question is--would this offensive succeed? The bitter experience of the past nine years of the Afghan war bears evidence that even if the US and NATO forces manage to uproot the Taliban fighters from Kandahar, it will not bring an Iraq-like outcome for three obvious reasons. Firstly, the situation in Afghanistan is different from Iraq in many ways. The Afghan insurgency is rooted deeply in warlike Pashtun tribes, the majority and the dominant ethnic group in the country, with a proverbial religious orthodoxy and xenophobia. Iraq, by contrast has a strong secular middle class. Secondly, the dysfunctional government of President Hamid Karzai in Kabul is so weak, corrupt and out of touch with its own people and is by no mean capable of producing viable governance for the people of Kandahar. The Taliban is getting stronger primarily by a nationwide hatred of Mr Karzai's government which is virtually run by warlords accused of massive human right abuses.

    Finally, the Taliban and their leaders and al-Qaida enjoy perpetually safe havens and centres of command and control across Pakistan, especially North-Waziristan, Quetta and Karachi. Despite its denial, Pakistani military and its Inter-State Intelligence (ISI) is actively yet secretly providing protection to al-Qaida affiliated leaders of the Afghan Taliban. As Pakistani journalist Ahmad Rashid recently wrote that the Pakistani military believes that it is "more important to keep the Afghan Taliban is reserve as a proxy force for pursuing the army's interests in Kabul."

    This last factor unfolds Pakistan's corrosive hidden strategic game which is failing America new policy like all other costly military and political efforts thus far in this war-ravaged country. At the heart of this game lie Pakistani vital interests that appear to be on a collision course with Western core objectives in Afghanistan. Yet, this most uncomfortable truth is by far underrated and treated with kid gloves in Washington, perhaps for Pakistan's apparently intimate collaboration with the US counter-insurgency activities. It is true that more than 75 percent of supplies for the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan pass through this country. Pakistan facilitates the right of the CIA to fly military drones freely in the tribal areas. It is also known that Pakistan has handed over hundreds of al-Qaida terrorists to the Americans. Pakistan is also a collaborator with the US covert intelligence operation within the country.
    Islamabad of course is the political capital of the country, but there is subplot to the Afghan story in the Pakistan's garrison town, Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani military and the ISI have their headquarters. We can gain an insight into this hidden agenda in the statements of the ISI and military retired officers. They may be retired but they are more powerful when it comes to Pakistan's policy towards Afghanistan. The former head of the ISI, General Hamid Gul, widely believed to be the founding father of the Taliban, is one of them. In his statements and interviews, he defends the extremist militants and al-Qaida ideology as though he is a Taliban or al-Qaida ambassador.

    "The puppet Karzai must go," Gul said on June 28, 2010 to the Spiegel, "The Western military must withdraw, Sharia must be implemented and a Shura with representatives from across the country led by Mullah Omar must be convened." In a more serious vein, Javed Hussain, a retired brigadier told the Los Angeles Times on December 2, 2009 that, "the Americans will leave in eighteen months and the Taliban won't be defeated. If Pakistan has earned the hostility of the Afghan Taliban, it will be in trouble. This concern of Pakistan is genuine. We cannot afford to earn the wrath of the Taliban."

    There are echoes of these retirees in the words of Taliban bomb makers: On May 30, 2010, the Times Online published an interview with Naimatullah, a Taliban bomb master who asked: "Why should we risk making explosives when we can just go across the border [Pakistan] and get them ready made?" He grew silent when pressed on whether Pakistan's military or its intelligence agency supplied components. 'I cannot say. It comes from Pakistan. That is all,' he said with a sly smile."

    However, Official Pakistan always denies any liability. There is a deafening narrative in Pakistan about its suffering in war against Islamic militancy. It claims that Islamabad has deployed 1, 2 0000 troops in tribal areas and suffered thousands of casualties. This is true, but this war is waged primarily against those militant who are adamant to destroy Pakistani state, an issue which is largely becoming irrelevant to the war in Afghanistan. In an overhyped campaign, Pakistan asserts that its army has cleared entire Swat, Bajaur, Orakzai and South-Waziristan of Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida. But many relevant political observers believe that Pakistan only allowed these militants to infiltrate Afghanistan and North-Waziristan.

    Furthermore, Pakistan repeatedly denies that al-Qaida is still using this country as basis for transnational terrorist attacks. Recently failed terrorist attack on the New York's Times Square by Pakistani terrorist Faisal Shahzad is further evidence of al-Qaida's presence in the country which is still capable of plotting terrorist assault on the US. Likewise, in late May, suicide bombers stormed mosques of Pakistani Ahmadyya sect in Lahore that claimed eighty nine lives. Pakistan is home to about four million members of this sect. Such violent events are reminders of the communal war that had been sparked in 1971 during the lead up to the formation of Bangladesh. Recent brazen attack on NATO convoy of oil tankers in the outskirts of Islamabad in which about 60 tankers were torched is another indicative of how al-Qaida affiliated terrorists are rooted throughout this country.

    Many Western political analysts interpret Pakistan's secrete behind this double-barrelled policy as part of Islamabad's compulsive contest with Indian influence in Afghanistan.(So USA pinning it failure to rein in pakistan on India.) There is a historical reason that always is left out from the attention of the political observers. This also explains Pakistan's topsy-turvy priorities in Afghanistan. Despite its denial, Pakistan is well aware that it has a disputed border with Afghanistan, which has never been recognised by the Pashtuns who are straddled on both sides of the Durand Line, which was drawn by the foreign minister of the British Indian Empire in 1893. The Durand line represents a cut-throat business, which is like a volcano that could erupt at anytime once the straitjacket of Islamic militancy was taken from the Pashtuns.

    To counter nationalism and secularism within the Pashtun community on both sides of the dividing line, Pakistani military and spy agency have promoted during the past thirty years a violent kind of religious militancy. This straitjacket policy created a contagious ideology that now justifies and regenerates terrorism and suicide bombing against non-Muslims. The top brass within the Pakistani military and the ISI sees the Islamic militancy as a necessary evil, the greatest strategic asset, and way above anything else that in their view guarantees the existing of the country.

    Given Pakistan's deadly hidden and deadly game, the Obama administration surge policy which is drawn out largely by Pentagon's generals will face a strategic failure. This is a policy which ignores the root cause of the insurgency in Afghanistan.
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The success road for Afghanistan is to neutralise the areas on either side of the Durand Line.

    This is possibly if the US occupies these areas.

    To expect Pakistan to work against the terrorists on the Pakistan's side is only a pipedream.
     
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Pakistan -Us and Then

    Terrorists and such have to be militarily defeated before states can sit across the table and deal with them; at best this can be started when the terrorists are on the run. What the Pakistanis have done in the Malakand division is inexplicable. They have not defeated the Islamic radicals militarily nor subdued them in any way. This deal was possible only because the Pak Army approved of this or actually encouraged it. This means that they have been either forced into this, wanted to do this anyway as they believed in it or the militants were so strong and the Army so weak that the militants could not be defeated.

    In conceding ground to the radicals in FATA and Malakand as well as Kohistan in the Hazara Division, Islamabad has ceded sovereignty, although we may call it something else. There are fears that this maybe the tipping point for Pakistan’s eventual conversion into a Talibanised state.

    Over the years Pakistan has come to believe that the world is beholden to it that it exists. This notion of indispensability allows them to be wild, delinquent and dangerous. Like the spoilt brat of a rich and doting parent, Pakistan either becomes petulant when it is not granted what it unjustifiably demands or becomes belligerent when it is granted that wish by its benefactor. Today, Pakistan is embellished by a begging bowl economy with terrorism as its main export, unending bitter unrest in Balochistan, sectarian violence in Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan, a creaking law and order system and a judicial system that evokes little confidence.

    There are many in India who are forever ready to give Pakistan another chance saying they are like us but the poor souls are stuck with rotten governments and they need our help to get them out of their predicament. It is incredibly naive of us to build policies for our future and security on fond nostalgia which is mostly one way. One has never heard any Pakistani leader talk lovingly of the India they left behind. And they teach their children mostly how to hate India with a warped form of history, even at the mainstream schools.

    It is strange that we still keep saying to Pakistanis that we are all alike and have a common culture and so on. The truth is that they do not want to be like us and quite honestly, we have nothing in common with them. Not anymore. First of all, our minority population is more Indian than theirs is Pakistani and our majority too is different from theirs. Pakistanis have never understood, therefore never accepted, the concept of accepting and accommodating minorities. Not that we do it perfectly but we do a fairly good job. In Pakistan, you are either a Shia,Bohra or an Ismaili and worse -- an Ahmediya; being a woman, a Baloch, a Pushtun, a Sindhi or a Mohajir or a Hindu hari is a curse. Only a Sunni Punjabi is a true blue Punjabi. Arguments with minorities are settled with a bullet. It is difficult for a Pakistani to understand that minorities can also dominate and they are really minorities if you call them so. Our latest success story – the cricket team – symbolises our diversity. Pakistan does not have an equivalent of Bollywood and if they did, it would never be dominated by Hindus.

    There are other fundamental differences. They deny history and even geography, we seek our roots in our civilisation. They say jihad in the name of God. We have room for all faiths at the Dargah in Ajmer Sharif, in Darbar Sahib (where the foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir), San Thome or Gyanvapi Temple. Fewer and fewer Pakistanis understand that it is easy or natural for an Indian to listen to Jafar Hussain Badayuni’s rendering of Amir Khusro’s Bahut Kathin Hai Dagar or Ek Pita Ekas Ke Hum Baarek by Bhai Maninder Singh and Bhai Jitender Singh or Jai Madhav Madan Murari by Jagjit Singh on any morning. This is what makes us unique in the world. God by any other name means the same and He does not seem to mind.

    In Pakistan today we see images of black turbaned long haired mullahs leading a march to medievalism, in India we see the young and exuberant marching to the 21st century. We are still behind the rest of the privileged world but determined to catch up. Over there they wallow in their sense of victimhood and blame everyone else for their plight. Over here we exult in our rainbow culture. They put their women in abayas suspicious of them and diffident about their own ability to handle them. In India we are proud of our women (except, unfortunately, for the lunatic fringe). In Pakistan they shoot and kill journalists; here, we merely grimace. Over there the majority would want to destroy the minority within their own religion. Over here in my country, should a section of the majority deviate, as it does now and then, it is the rest of the majority that defends the rights of the minority.

    Let us not forget that the largest number of Muslims that has ever lived in a democracy anywhere in the world for such a long time is in India. In Pakistan they are now saying that Islam and democracy are incompatible. The word secularism does not exist in the mullah’s vocabulary, not even in the minds of some self proclaimed moderates like General Musharraf. Let us remember that Pakistanis have killed more Muslims in East Pakistan (where at its height of barbarity, the Pakistan Army killed 6000 to 12000 Hindus and Muslims per day). They are still doing that in Balochistan, Sindh, the Frontier, what they call the Northern Areas, the Punjab and Afghanistan. Muslims are no longer safe in Pakistan.

    So what do we have in common with them that we yearn for? The answer – nothing. We are two different countries with two different kinds of people on two different trajectories and we are happy with that. Our only request should be -- please do not mess with us and we promise we will not mess with your country.

    Pakistan will do deals with Al Qaeda, will encourage Lashkar-e-Tayyaba to carry out raids in India and will appease the Taliban. They will take their country to medieval times. They will do anything to try and wrest Kashmir from India. It would seem that they have a death wish. It would be prudent for us to take measures now in case Pakistan’s wish is granted.
     

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