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Pakistan should maintain its principled defiant stance

26 December, 2011

By Asif Haroon Raja


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When Barack Obama took over from George W. Bush in January 2009, security situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated considerably. The Taliban were striking US-NATO targets with impunity. Fed up of tyrannical and unjust policies of Afghan regime and the US led ISAF; the Afghan Pashtuns welcomed them and provided them safe havens in southern and eastern Afghanistan wherefrom they could launch raids in western, central and northern Afghanistan. The ISAF had come under increasing pressure and was finding difficult to cope with the rising tide of militancy and was complaining of shortage of troops. The outgoing President had falsely announced that victory had been achieved in Iraq and credit for victory was given to Gen David Petraeus.

Wanting a feather in his cap, Obama decided to shift forces from Iraq to Afghanistan where the Taliban aligned with al-Qaeda had rebounded. Troop surge was meant to actualize strategy of anvil and hammer between ISAF and Pak troops, with NATO having the liberty to carryout hot pursuit operations and air raids inside FATA whenever the situation so demanded. Capture of Helmand, a stronghold of Taliban was considered essential to secure the vital southwestern flank from where a rolling up operation towards the northeast could be undertaken subsequently. However, neither Gen Kayani agreed to allow ISAF troops to cross over into FATA nor the much hyped Helmand operation in February 2009 met with success.

The second operation in Helmand launched after receipt of additional 21000 troops in early 2011 met the same fate. In disgust, Obama announced the drawdown plan starting July 2011 and ending in December 2014. In addition, he directed his political wing to step up efforts to broker a peace accord with Taliban and to work out a political settlement so that troops could exit with grace and honor. He however didn't elaborate whether it will be unilateral dialogue with Taliban or regional countries particularly Pakistan which has greater stake will be involved.

Pentagon and the US Military Command in Kabul decried the conflicting policy of surge and withdrawal, saying it would prove counter productive. Some of the NATO commanders were however more realistic. They had much earlier realized that war had been lost. Hawks in Pentagon understood the ground reality much later. Israel, India and Afghan regime opposed the drawdown scheme and wanted the US military to stay back permanently in Afghanistan or else leave behind a strong force till the accomplishment of objectives against Pakistan. Pentagon was also averse to Obama's decision to hold negotiations with Taliban and to arrive at a negotiated settlement. The military was critical that he didn't spell out clear cut policy goals and political targets for future.

In order to pursue the peace process, Burhanuddin Rabbani was made the Chairman of Afghan High Peace Council. He made good progress with moderate Taliban including some who had served in Mullah Omar's Shura from 1996-2001. Hamid Karzai also tried hard to gain contact with Mullah Omar and his Shura members with the help of his half-brother Wali Karzai. He also sought assistance from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan and Germany. Hype was created about Loya Jirga called by him in Kabul in April 2010 and it was propagated that a big breakthrough will be achieved. UNSC separated the '1267' joint list of names of members of al-Qaeda and Taliban as a move to woo Taliban. The Loya Jirga held in June 2010 was well-attended but the absence of high profile Taliban leaders made it valueless. Meetings of Taliban with US officials held twice in Munich and once in Doha between November 2010 and May 2011 proved inconclusive.

Finding that little progress had been made to win over hard line Taliban, efforts were made to diversify contact-making on a broader scale by including Haqqanis belonging to Zadran tribe in the east. ISI's services were acquired to gain contact with sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani. ISI arranged a preliminary meeting of US officials with Ibrahim Haqqani, younger brother of Jalaluddin in August 2011. This meeting gave an impression to USA that ISI controlled Haqqanis. Sirajuddin Haqqani also held a meeting with US officials in one of the Gulf States. High hopes pinned on Haqqanis dashed when Ibrahim and Sirajuddin refused to betray their leader Mullah Omar in return for sharing power. When series of deadly attacks occurred in and round Kabul and Rabbani got murdered in Kabul on 20 September, it enraged US leaders. They accused Haqqani network (HN) backed by ISI responsible for all the attacks. Pak-US relations that had become tense after Raymond Davis affair in January followed by the US helicopters intrusion in Abbottabad on 2 May to get Bin Laden got further strained because of wild and baseless accusations made by the US leaders. Propaganda assault brigade was led by outgoing Admiral Mike Mullen.

After her fence building mission in Islamabad and stating that 95% of differences had been amicably ironed out, Hillary Clinton once again tensed the atmosphere by hurling a warning on 24 October that Pakistan will suffer dire consequences if it failed to contain terrorists operating from its soil. She cautioned that if it didn't proceed against HN that had carried out attacks in Wardak and Kabul, it will sooner than later unleash its violence inside Pakistan. She didn't figure out the possibility that targeting HN by security forces would in fact provoke retaliation and compel them to join hands with Pakistani Taliban that are engaged in fighting Pak security forces.

Afghan Commission headed by Gen Abdur Rahim accused that the plot to kill Rabbani was hatched in Quetta and that the suicide bomber Asmatullah hailed from Chaman. Afghan Interior Minister Gen Bismillah opined that the ISI was behind the murder plot. It has now been established that an Afghan refugee had murdered Rabbani. Crestfallen Karzai in sheer disgust announced that instead of wasting time with Taliban he would focus on Islamabad which controls the leadership of Taliban. As if these venomous allegations were not enough to vitiate Pak-Afghan relations, Karzai added fuel to fire by signing strategic partnership with India on 4 October. He thus opened doors of his country to allow Indian influence to seep into each and every department. This alignment was made possible by USA which wants India to fill up the security vacuum in Afghanistan after its departure.

ISI's efforts to constrict the space of CIA's network in Pakistan and Army's reluctance to launch a major operation in NW were other irritants which made the US military more bitter. These unsavory developments in 2011 widened the trust deficit between the two allies and made America more aggressive and Pakistan more cautious. It was as a consequence to increasing bitterness against Pakistan that memo scandal erupted in October which is still raging. While the whole nation was watching the twists and turns of memogate with anxiety, NATO attack on two Pakistani border posts in Mohmand Agency on 26 November came as a huge shock. This was yet another attempt on part of America to demoralize the Army. The US however could never imagine that both the government and GHQ would react to unprovoked attack so aggressively and for so long.

Of all the counter measures taken by Pakistan to safeguard its integrity, closure of supply routes, countering any future offensive act including drones with full force and formulation of new rules of engagement are pinching the US the most. Although ISAF is managing its logistics needs by using northern routes and air route, prohibitive costs will make this arrangement unworkable. Closure of Shamsi airbase has rendered drone war of CIA difficult. A month has lapsed and no drone attack has occurred. Pakistan's principled defiance will ultimately compel the US to treat it with respect.

Reader Comments:

BACKSTABBING

ITS ABOUT TIME WE LEAVE THE WORLD OF THE DUPLICITIOUS PAKI BACKSTABBING AND LYING.
PAKI BEHAVIOR MAKES THE ARABS SEEM LIKE MOTHER TERRESA AND OTHERS OF THAT ILK.
FIRST THEY HIDE OBAMA AND LIE. THEY STEAL THE STEALTH HELICOPTER AND GIVE IT TO IRAN
THEN THEY HELP KILL THEIR OWN SOLDIERS AND LIE (BORDER INCIDNET)
THEY LIE TO THEIR PEOPLE TO MAKE THE ARMY LOOK INNOCENT
THEY PLAY BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE.
THEY TAKE 3 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR TO HELP US AND THEN AID THE TILIBAN AND THE REBELS.
THEY ARE UNTRUSWORTHY AS AN ALLY
AND NOW THEY WANT FEES TO ENTER AFGANISTAN TO FIGHT A WAR WHICH GIVEN THE CHANCE THE REBELS WOULD BLOW THEM UP
GET OUT IS THE BEST POLICY AND WHEN THE TALIBAN GO INTO PAKISTAN FULL FORCE, AND TURN THIS COUNTRY INTO A NUCLEAR MEDIAVEL KINGDOM OF SEVER REPRESSSION AND HATE(NOT THAT IT ISNT ALREADY IN SOME VERSION OF THAT) DONT LOOK TO US TO BAIL YOUR ASSES OUT

ELSHAXRAN, United States - 26 December, 2011

Respect is earned, not given

The general seems not to understand that Pakistan is viewed by the USA, and most of the the world, not in terms of respect, but in terms of fear and loathing.
The General insists Pakistan is too important to be treated as an enemy. Yet what difference does that make if Pakistan ACTS as an enemy ? From protecting OBL to hiding and supporting Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura Pakistan has made it's choices in the war. Now Pakistan will have to live with those choices. The outcome will not be what the " general" hopes for.

andy fr dc, United States - 26 December, 2011

Pakistan's 26/11

Pakistan is always seeking parity with India in all respects. It gave India it's 26/11, and now God has given Pakistan the much sought after parity on the same date but different year. Long live USA and friends!

Ausdessi, Australia - 31 December, 2011

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