by Asif Haroon Raja


Proxy war fought by Pakistan at the behest of USA in 1980s in return for $3.5 billion assistance proved too costly for Pakistan. It had to live with menaces of Kalashnikovs, sectarianism, extremism and now terrorism. Drug culture came for the first time.

Three million Afghan refugees based in Pakistan since 1979 have caused immense social, economic and security problems. Foreign agencies have been cultivating agents from within this lot to fuel terrorism in Pakistan.

Pakistan is suffering the most in ongoing war on terror which is raging for over a decade and may go on for many more years. It is up against local militants of various hues funded, equipped trained and guided by foreign agencies based in Afghanistan. Bomb attacks and suicide attacks have become a routine. 30,000 civilians and 5000 security personnel have died in terror attacks. 9,000 security forces have received serious injuries while combating militancy.

Afghan and NATO troops indulging in border violations and NATO jets frequently violate airspace and at times bomb security border posts. US Marines had undertaken a heli-borne raid in Angoor Adda in September 2009. Drone strike rate has accelerated from 2009 onwards and has reached a crescendo and hundreds of innocent people have died.

Afghan regime is also fully involved in destabilization scheme. Former head of RAAM Amrullah Saleh is on record admitting that RAAM organized cross border raids from Kunar province. He stated that Afghan troops in civil clothes took part in Bajaur operations in 2008-09. Karzai has been singing Indo-US mantras of cross border terrorism and do more. He had turned down repeated requests of Pakistan to mine or fence Pak-Afghan border since he is allowing usage of Afghan soil by RAW to mount covert war against Pakistan.

Karzai has been playing tunes of friendship since last year. He backs peace process and advocates good neighborly relations based on complete trust, but in practice his words do not match his actions. This is evident from several raids taking place in Bajaur, Upper Dir and Mateen in June. He was in the knowledge of Abbottabad attack and he and his companions sitting in Kabul heard the successful accomplishment of the mission with joy.

The US is engaged in making contacts with Taliban leaders to arrive at a political settlement. This process has assumed urgency in the aftermath of OBLs death. The US feels that after the death of his close friend OBL, Mullah Omar and His Shura would no more be under any obligation to maintain ties with al-Qaeda and would agree to get detached. The US also assumes that loss of al-Qaeda as an ally will weaken the strength of Taliban who have been sufficiently mauled, since they will be fighting the foreign forces singly. Separation of joint list of names of members of Qaeda and Taliban by UNSC is a move to woo Taliban.

The US also perceived that killing of OBL will put fear in the hearts of runaway Taliban senior leaders, fearing that they may not suffer a similar fate. It expected that defections would accelerate but so far it has not happened. There is no evidence to support US claim that it has put the resistance forces on the back foot and beaten them.

Irrespective of their optimistic assumptions, Obama was mindful of ever growing home pressure and prohibitive costs. Expenditure of $2 billion per weak is not a small amount. Irrespective of unfounded reservations of Pentagon, he announced the drawdown program which lays down that 10,000 US troops would depart by end 2001 starting July and 23000 troops by September 2012. 67000 troops would hopefully quit by end 2013 or early 2014. NATO has also chalked out withdrawal plan of 50,000 troops.

Obamas speech lacked clarity with regard to policy goals and political benchmarks for the future. He did spell out the need for peaceful settlement, but he didnt elaborate whether settlement will be achieved through unilateral efforts or through collective efforts of regional countries, particularly Pakistan which has much greater stake.

Withdrawal plan must have buoyed up the Taliban since it will be easier for them to operate against withdrawing enemy keen to return home safe and sound and that too without achieving any of the stated political and military objectives.

Notwithstanding its efforts to patch up with Taliban and to leave behind pro-America regime in Kabul, the US has been convincing Karzai for the last several months to agree upon its proposal of strategic partnership allowing US-UK troops to stay back in five military bases in Afghanistan permanently after the cutout date so as to prevent the Taliban from returning to power. The US would accept Taliban to share power in a broad based government as junior partner only. The proposal suits Karzai for he knows that once the US-NATO forces depart, his days in power would get numbered. He has quietly given his consent for Kandahar and Baghram bases but outwardly he is giving tough statements telling US military that collateral damage to civilians as a result of air strikes is unacceptable.

The hope of US military that ANA will be able to fill the vacuum or that unpopular Karzai regime will be able to manage the affairs without US crutches will be nave. In the wake of demonstrated poor performance of ANA and corruption ridden performance of inept ruling regime, there is likelihood of Afghanistan and Pak-Afghan border region becoming more explosive once the drawdown starts.

The desire of Pentagon, CIA and British military to stay on in Afghanistan is the major reason why insurgency is continuing and US-Taliban parleys are continuously failing. Pakistan, China, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are directly affected by the instability in Afghanistan which is the outcome of Americas presence. These countries are rightly upset over the US plans to prolong its departure and see it as yet another unfulfilled promise of Obama who had categorically announced that the last soldier would clear out by end 2014.

Presence of US troops is bound to keep insurgency simmering which in turn will keep the region unstable. Pakistan is the most affected country since it will be up against several hostile forces. It will also have to contend with huge CIA network harboring ill designs against Pakistan. With large Indian presence of India in Afghanistan and continued patronage of US military, RAW will continue with its covert war against Pakistan.

Karzai must understand that Pakistan and not USA will act as the proverbial straw to save him from drowning. Clock has started to click and with each passing day the US authority as well as its interest in this region will erode. Conversely, Pakistans importance will get pronounced. This hard reality is known to USA and hence cannot afford to ditch Pakistan at this crucial juncture when its safe and honorable withdrawal hangs in the balance. I disagree with Robert Gates contention that the US can succeed without Pakistans support, which is nothing more than psychological war.

Pakistan can play a constructive role provided it is trusted and treated with respect. Browbeating and humiliating it will complicate matters, especially when anti-Americanism in Pakistan has peaked and US handpicked government has become fragile. Shortsighted actions by hawkish elements in Washington DC will be counter productive for both. Obama must see through the game of India, Israel and Karzai regime most affected by his drawdown scheme. The trio is painting gloomy scenarios in the aftermath of US departure from Afghanistan and is lobbying for extended stay. Recent Kabul attack on a hotel could have been sponsored by anti-withdrawal elements, but these gimmicks will not affect the drawdown plan.

About the Writer: Asif Haroon is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email: [email protected]