US and Pakistan, strange allies

Dr Huma Mir | President Obama’s inaugural pledge to defeat Al Qaeda and Taliban appears in stark contrast to the ground realities in Afghanistan. Obama’s much hyped AF PAK policy is believed to have been practically castigated to history after multiple reviews. The US military’s assessment of the war in Afghanistan too paints a bleak picture. The Taliban today control more than half of Afghan Provinces where they have installed their own shadow Governors.

Despite having suffered the most due to the US adventure in Afghanistan, Pakistan today remains the most vibrant and loyal US ally. US, NATO and Pakistan are mutually dependant. The US and Western Forces operating in Afghanistan are dependent on Pakistan for 80% or more of their logistic support and of course they need vital intelligence. Pakistan needs US financial support, weapons and technology and some specialized training to fight the menace of terrorism. Unfortunately, Pakistan is taken for granted by the US; our blind support has drawn little sympathy for our own national concerns. There have been continued nasty outbursts by US leadership and officials against Pakistan, the “Do More” mantra has become a sickening buzzword.

As the US mounts pressure on Pakistan to open a new front in North Waziristan and around Quetta and to thin out troops from the Eastern Borders to commit on Afghan border, in last few weeks, there appears to be a diabolical worsening in US attitudes. First comes, Mr. McCain who says that the US would continue to use Drone Attacks, saying words to the effect that they care little for Pakistan’s sovereignty and cries from Pakistani leadership that Drone Strikes were counterproductive. Now comes Mr. Gates, the US Secretary Defence who states that in case of another terrorist strike in India, India would be justified in its military response against Pakistan. While Mr. Gates was conveying this not so veiled Indian threat, India committed two border violations. In this scenario, Mr. Gates plays the exact opposite of ground reality and says that he does not see any Indian threat to Pakistan. Mr. Gates made no reference to Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan and its support to the terror outfits in Baluchistan and FATA.

That much for Pakistan being a frontline US ally, remember US trumpets that Pakistan is their closest and most Valued Ally in the War on Terror. Meanwhile, against Pakistani protests the US drone strikes continue. More sinister is the fact that armed US diplomats and security contractors like Blackwater (XE), DynCorp etc travelling in vehicles with fake number plates and documents roam around our violating Pakistani laws with impunity.

The pressure being brought on Pakistan is because of the state of paralysis that US and allies are suffering in Afghanistan. In seeking a scapegoat for their pathetic military performance, the US continues to accuse Pakistani Military and the Intelligence Services of linkages with their Taliban and Al Qaeda adversaries in Afghanistan. Most absurd and illogical feature of these accusations is that while accusing the ISI and our military of playing ball with their enemies, they seek our military and intelligence cooperation and support. The latest figment of imagination is the “Quetta Shura”. Soon we will hear about the Chichawatni and Bhai Pheru Shuras too.

In routine, every few weeks, the US leadership, officials, think tank, newspaper, TV Channel or a court jester expresses DEEP CONCERN at the security of Pakistani Nuclear Arsenal and indicates fears of it falling into the hands of extremists. Often such CONCERNS are followed by controlled information leakage that the US has plans to TAKE OUT Pakistani Nukes if threatened by extremists. As our leadership starts responding to these absurd revelations, a kind hearted US official or political leader provides a verbal certification that Pakistani Nukes were safe as if he or she knew the way our nukes are deployed and secured. Pakistan has given more than its share to support the US operations. It opened its airspace and airbases, ports and allowed use of land route for logistic support of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. It has committed more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan Border in a very expensive low intensity conflict which has had devastating effect on our bankrupt economy and internal stability. What has the US given to our nation in return? The US has even held back our due share of Coalition Support Funds worth almost 2 Billion Dollars. US has not contributed a dollar to maintenance of our road network under their use. What happened to the promised ROZs in tribal belt, what has the US done to check flow of weapons and money to the Pakistani extremists from Afghanistan, what have the US done to stop the Indian managed training camps for Baluch nationalists on Afghan soil, what about preferential access to Pakistani goods in US and EU markets, etc etc. US has balked from providing the drone technology to Pakistan, they hav’nt given the additional helicopter gunships and ground mobility vehicles and vital spares that Pakistan has been asking for. Even the carrot in the form of Kerry – Luger Bill of a few billion dollars has been strangled and tied to notions which can only appeal to those who framed the policy.

US has been persistently demanding from Pakistan to shun its traditional threat perception and shift additional troops from Indo Pak border to the Afghan border to battle the Taliban extremists in North Waziristan. The US wants to use Pakistani forces as bait, US planners visualize that Pakistani action in North Waziristan could draw Taliban fighters from Afghanistan thus relieving the pressure there on US and NATO forces while Pakistan executes its dirty work. Pakistani security establishment has its own threat perception and have refused the US pressure. We have many options and Pakistan doesn’t have the time pressure which the US has. Pakistan Army’s categorical statement that it shall not open a new front till it has consolidated its gains in Malakand and South Waziristan is absolutely apt response. The timings of Pakistani assault in North Waziristan would be dictated by the speed of our consolidation and preparations and probable speed of US administration to meet Pakistani military demands rather than be synchronized to US desires.

It would be extremely interesting to follow the operations in North Waziristan as and when they come and its impact on the Afghan security scene. Will the Pakistani assault provide any relief to the Western Forces in Afghanistan or will it confirm the Pakistani viewpoint that the Afghan problem needs an Afghan solution. Demonizing Pakistan won’t win the war for the Western Forces in Afghanistan.

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