New Development on Afghan Horizon
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
In connection with bringing the stability in Afghanistan, President Obama has finally decided to bring significant changes in his team dealing directly or indirectly with Afghan affairs. This would be the third major reshuffling, following his failed effort of conceiving and trying to implement the infamous AfPak policy and sacking General MacCrystal from the command of ISAF in Afghanistan. The new changes, subject to rectification by US Senate, would place Gen David Petraeus, as the Director of CIA; US most power spying network. The current Director CIA; Leon Panetta, will replace the outgoing Defence Secretary; Robert Gates. Besides, upon his promotion Lt-Gen. John Allen, Deputy Commander of US Central Command, would take over as the Commander of the ISAF in Afghanistan. On the diplomatic front the former US ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq, Mr Ryan Crocker will take over as the new US ambassador to Afghanistan.
As per Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and expert scholar on South Asia, these changes would not affect America’s current Pak-Afghan strategy. He said that, “I don’t see any sign in this of upheaval in US-Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy.” However, all these changes are taking place at a very crucial time of US decade old engagement in Afghanistan. Unlike the lofty claims of pentagon and US military hierarchy in Afghanistan about its military successes there, the fact of the matter is that, there has been no worthwhile US gains in Afghanistan ever since 2001. Rather US position has badly deteriorated over the period of time and Taliban and warlords gained more grounds and popular support of the Afghan people. Besides Afghanistan, Pak-US relationship is at the lowest ebb of its decade’s old military cooperation in the region. The gulf in the military relationship between Pakistan and US can be attributed to many factors. The foremost being the element of mistrust. U.S wants Pakistan and its armed forces should blindly obey its orders as a subservient state. After having known the nefarious CIA activities worldwide and equating ISI with terrorist organizations, as recently disclosed by Wiki leaks, how can Pakistan trust U.S and its anti-Pakistan intelligence network? As per these leaks, “US authorities have described Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency as a terrorist organisation and considered it as much of a threat as al-Qaeda and the Taliban.” Just imagine, these leaks were made public at a time once already there is a suspicion in the bilateral relationship of both countries and their spying networks. More concerning is US image about the Pakistani spying network, which supported it for decades. This indeed speaks of US as a thankless nation. Should an ally have such thinking about the organization of its partner?
Despite wholehearted and dedicated efforts from Pakistani side, US military commanders, especially Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has publically accused Pakistani spying network for having its linkage with Afghan Taliban and not cooperating with US on many account. US demand of launching a military operation in North Waziristan Agency has been a sole point where difference between both could not be settled. Besides, U.S desires that Pakistan should have no direct role in Afghanistan, which Pakistan consider as an essential part of its foreign policy to maintain a cordial, brotherly and neighbourly relationship. As a sovereign and independent country, Pakistan would not like that US CIA operatives are carrying out covert activities in various parts of the country against the national interest of Pakistan. Upon revelations of CIA activities in various parts of the country, Pakistan demanded US to eliminate this CIA driven network, which exasperated the higher defence and intelligence departments in US against Pakistan. Likewise, Pakistan considers the CIA directed drone attacks have proved counterproductive, hence must be stopped forthwith. This Pakistani objective is being resisted by US, which intends continuing with this failed strategy. Today Pakistani nation and its armed forces stands united against US drone attacks and its covert CIA operations in any part of the country. Protecting Pakistan’s sovereignty and national interests have perhaps not liked by the US and especially its defence establishment and spying network. Therefore, they have decided to launch well orchestrated propaganda against Pakistani armed forces and its intelligence setup.
Unfortunately, in the historical perspective, U.S has never been a dependable friend of any nation. It betrayed the trust of its own war allies like former Soviet Union and United Kingdom, during WW-II, once it covertly developed nuclear bomb and later attacked two Japanese cities; Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It was US which started the Cold War and divided the world along two different ideologies; Capitalism and Communism. After the end of cold war, it divided the globe once again into Islamic world versus rest of the world. It was US which made the military alliance like NATO, which is now lashing out everywhere in the world to pursue the US aims and objective. Indeed, this trans-Atlantic military alliance has repeatedly undermined the UN role as an institute responsible to regulate the global affairs. Even EU countries have serious reservations about the role of this institution as against its basic spirit. The alliance is being used as a tool of U.S foreign policy which indeed is hostile in nature for the pursuance of its veiled goals all over the globe.
Nomination of General David H. Petraeus, as the Director of CIA has raised many questions about the future of Afghanistan and US policy towards Pakistan. He is considered to be a rigid general. During his stay in Iraq, he architected the balkanization of this Arab national country into three parts viz; Northern Iraq as Kurd’s homeland; Central Iraq as Sunni state and Southern Iraq as the Shia state. His balkanization plan was seriously resented by people of Iraq and Arab world. After experiencing a military command in Afghanistan, this ill will military despot would not hesitate to pursue a plan for the balkanization if Afghanistan. Division of Afghanistan on ethnic lines was initially proposed by Robert D Blackwill, the former US ambassador in India. In his proposal he had backing of the Indian military and civil establishments, as he had extensive meetings with them before putting the plan on table. Surely CIA remains in loop for all such like future plans.
According to Bruce Riedel, the author of the infamous AfPak strategy, “Mr Panetta and Petraeus both “have a pretty deep scepticism about Pakistan’s commitment” in launching a military offensive against Taliban. He finds “a lot of tension in the relationship” between Pakistan and the US. The General would not mind to pursue such a policy for Pakistan. Throughout of his military command in Afghanistan, he has reflected unfriendly and discriminatory attitude towards Pakistan. He believes in military way of solving the issues, rather through political and social measures. Analysts view that, “Gen Petraeus’s selection could further inflame relations between the two nations, which are already at one of their lowest points, with recriminations over myriad issues aired publicly like never before.” Generally he has been hostile towards Afghan Administration under Hamid Karazai and has been quite often accusing him on various pretexts. The bone of contention was that over last two years, Hamid Karazai has strongly resented the US and NATO military operations in Afghanistan, resulting into killing of thousands of innocent Afghans. This critic was not liked by General Petraeus and CIA.
Three glaring differences could be seen in the Pak-US relationship over Afghanistan: First; Pakistan wants a political solution of the Afghan issue through the involvement of all stake holders within Afghanistan, geographically contiguous states and international players including the United Nations.
Second; Pakistan wants that Indian role in Afghanistan should be reduced to minimum essential. Whereas General Petraeus, US State Department and Pentagon want a dominating Indian role in all fields including Afghan defence and intelligence network, even at the cost of security of Pakistan and future stability of the host country. In a recent statement Mr Marc Grossman, the special representative of President Obama on Afghanistan and Pakistan during his visit of India has emphasized on Indian and US role in the future of Afghanistan. He said that, “India has to play an important role in supporting the Afghan people.” Without mincing words, he said in New Delhi, “I know you`re all interested in Pakistan, but really, it`s important to talk about the United States and India in all of this. We`ve just had … a very important consultation about the United States and India in Afghanistan. Please, don`t forget this is not just about Pakistan, it`s about the important role India has to play in supporting the Afghan people.” This statement is enough to show US determination of Indian future role in Afghanistan.
Third; US wants Pakistan to launch a military operation in NWA. “US military commanders believe that they kill the terrorists in thousands, but fighters continue to pour across the border from sanctuaries in Pakistan to Paktia, Khost and Paktika provinces in Afghanistan.” Furthermore, U.S wants that its CIA operatives should have a freedom of action everywhere in Pakistan in the garb of intelligence gathering. Pakistan would not like that any of these anti-Pakistan designs are fulfilled. At diplomatic front, Ambassador Crocker may contribute positively, owing to his understanding of Pakistani position.
Apart from General Petraeus, Mr Panetta is a former Democratic Congressman, and Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. During his tenure as the CIA head, there have been maximum drone attacks in Pakistan, killing thousands of innocent Pakistani masses. Since General Petraeus has been privately expressing outrage on Pakistani connections with Afghan Taliban, therefore, it appears that there would not be a let up in drone attacks during the Petraeus tenure too. “As the CIA Director he will now have direct control over the armed drone campaign, which Pakistan wants to be stopped.” In summary we should not be optimistic for any constructive changes in the Afghan horizon even after the implementation of the new assignments in US hierarchy.
Apropos in view, Pakistan should remain steadfast on its principled stand and struggled for a political stability in Afghanistan together with Afghan Government. We must reach out to the leadership of Northern Alliance in Afghanistan for a durable peace there. In this regard, the Afghan visit of Prime Minister Gillani along with Army Chief and ISI head is a positive sign. Domestically, Parliament of Pakistan should pass a unanimous resolution, disallowing US drone attacks, banning on covert CIA operatives inside Pakistan and not accepting any dictation from US for launching military operation in any of its part. The resolution should ask for a political solution of the Afghan issue, incorporating all factions of the country with surety from regional countries and international players.