The US Dilemma
Lt. General Tariq Khan (Retired)


The US finds it does not know how to dismount the tiger.

The US is finding the war in Afghanistan a little too hot for its liking and why not; it was a war that remained in search of strategy and failed to find it. It’s not that I wish to gloat, nor that I want to say ‘I told you so’, but that one is forced to respond when confronted with accusations that the US failed in Afghanistan on account of Pakistan.

The US finds it does not know how to dismount the tiger.

The US is finding the war in Afghanistan a little too hot for its liking and why not; it was a war that remained in search of strategy and failed to find it. It’s not that I wish to gloat, nor that I want to say ‘I told you so’, but that one is forced to respond when confronted with accusations that the US failed in Afghanistan on account of Pakistan.

That we were a tricky two-faced partner. Since I was closely associated with this conflict for a number of years and since I am aware of the things that happened, it is only right that people such as me must speak for Pakistan just as we fought for Pakistan.
That a hundred and fifty thousand NATO troops have been overwhelmed by the imagined hoards that Pakistan sent across the border, challenges my professional understanding of the situation.
That this is the same border that neither Afghanistan recognises and resists its management or fencing, of course, cannot have escaped US attention.
That Pakistan has seven times the number of posts than Afghanistan and the US combined does not seem to make any headway.
That Afghan communication systems are functioning despite Pakistan’s repeated requests that they be shut down while Pakistani SIMs are down and out is another moot point.
That three Generals of the US Army promised additional border deployment with a US brigade across the North Waziristan Border remains a promise unfulfilled and forgotten.
That the US unilaterally up-staked and left Nuristan and the Kunar Valley, one of the most dangerous areas on the border, creating a vacuum is a question that only they can answer.
That Pakistani dissidents were given safe havens in this vacuum and encouraged to attack Pakistan is for all to see and take note of.
That the MOAB (Mother of all Bombs) accounted for 14 Indians from Kerala amongst the causalities was never a surprise for us.
That India is permitted to have so many conciliates along the Border, and none are processing visas is an obvious aberration.
That Pakistan suffered horrendous terrorist attacks from Afghanistan through these bands of militants organised and facilitated in Kunar is a no brainer.

Pakistan has been a so-called “ally,” although we have:

captured the maximum al-Qaeda operators than all countries combined
have lost 70,000 of our citizens
have the highest military causalities
our officer dead and wounded to troop ratio is the highest in the world
our generals to troop causalities is unprecedented

The cost of war has devastated the infrastructure, caused millions of citizens to be displaced and has affected the economy to the tune of $ 100 Billion. It has cleared 48,000 sq kms of its soil, secured 3,500 kms of lines of communication (LoC), re-established the writ of the government in these areas, allowing people to return home, the armed forces are popular and the borders controlled. But then even as I narrate this, it also saddens me.

Do the Americans not know this? Are we just a victim of not having a narrative, a victim of a bad image or slanderous Haqqani shooting off his mouth? Could it be as simple as that? No, that is not possible and I am convinced, that no amount of logic, no amount of reasoning will change the US posture towards Pakistan.

The bias and the prejudice is despite what the US knows; the posture taken is premediated and deliberate and we must have been factored into some distant objective the US may have in mind and, therefore, action initiated against us must be a way to arrive at that objective.

The story of the safe havens we are accused of nurturing is so close to the engineered narrative about the weapons of mass destruction that were allegedly discovered in Iraq and now such a predictable US method to madness i.e. create a false casus-belie, broad caste it, respond to it with physical force.

However, at the moment, I still feel that US is going through the motion of the good cop-bad cop routine and if we can stare them down effectively, they may back down. Remember, the US is a bully and the bully can never be appeased; the more you please, the more arrogant he gets. So, we are warned in the first part of the new US manoeuvre, while in the second part, we are to expect a troop surge of 4,000 troops to make a total of 12,000 men. In the confused and tentative objectives of this two-pronged strategy, the US is looking for its relief, its coup de grace, and conclusion to its military adventure in Afghanistan.


The troop numbers cannot win back the 40% of space already lost, in fact, that cannot sustain the space they already have. I see these troops now resorting to fire-power, bombings and long range artillery with a high ratio of airborne component. The nature and character of this force does not appear to have a ground-holding capacity. So, I can only conclude that it is intended to punish the Taliban from a distant. If that be true, to what purpose?

To me, it appears that it endeavours to put the US in a better position to negotiate a power transfer. To me, it looks that this ‘Unity’ Government is about to be ditched. To me, it looks that the Taliban have won a place at the table where they can secure the ways and means to be the future legitimate government of Afghanistan. To me, it also seems that the Indians may be the next US proxy and who might be foolish enough to take on this role.

I hope they do.

My hopes are founded on the likely outcome of such a stupidity if it ever comes to it.

Coming to Pakistan; we are about to lose our privileged allied status.

Were we ever privileged? Did we discover any advantage or draw anything out of such a relationship?

I think it is time to sever this relationship that has, in fact, cost as so much. We hear of all the money and funds that the US taxpayers gave to us. I, for one, am thankful for their assistance – I would like to say to the people of the US that we are grateful for their contributions.

However, what did we get and should we always be told of what are obligations are on account of it?

Well, here are the bare facts, taking the year 2009 as a constant, we have received from the US a total of $ 61 Billion.

Working on another constant of 180 million people, this translates to $10.30/ head. Surely, we can do without this $10.30, even if it did get to the people.

We have also received, a total of $14 Billion since 2002 till today.

Against a 175 Billion national economy, this hardly amounts to .5% of our GDP.

Like I said earlier, we are thankful for whatever we received and would never want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in no way, do we feel that we are obligated due to such an insignificant amount or for that matter any amount, nor is the US entitled to make unreasonable demands on account of it, nor can we put our sovereignty or what remains of it, at the disposal of the US, because of it?

We are not for sale.

Having lost the war in Afghanistan, which they now wish to blame Pakistan, having parked our enemy in our back yard, having closed an eye to how we have been attacked from areas under their control and now being threatened for some ulterior motive, we must seek a suitable response.

In my mind, the US will do what it has decided to do regardless of any explanations we have, any reasoning, narrative or argument that we present. Whereas, our response lies mostly lies in the domain of diplomacy and in garnering support from friendly countries as far as possible, yet we must reserve the right and the option of responding in a reciprocal a manner if it comes to a physical conflict.

We should be wary of the total lack of support from the Islamic countries and the so called Ummah, as they have amply displayed, and rely on ourselves more than anyone else.

My recommendation is a warning to Afghanistan that any hostile activity emanating from its territory will be taken as an act of war. That we shall respond by causing as much damage as we can in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Bagram. We have the range, capability and capacity; they should be wary of testing it.

This may deter any adventure the US has in mind, never beg a bully!!!!

Lt. General Tariq Khan (Retired)
Advisor & Senior Analyst at CommandEleven
Lt. General Tariq Khan (Retired), an erudite general from Pakistan's Armored Corps and a decorated War Veteran, is an expert on critical issues related to Terrorism & Insurgencies. General Tariq Khan during the Battle of Bajaur, transformed and re-shaped Frontier Corps into a relentless fighting force and raised FC's own special forces popularly known as SOG. Commanded and led major operations in FATA from the frontline, his model on counter-insurgency is still applied to this day.