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ANALYSIS: THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Written by IM Mohsin

History also bears out that the Afghans can’t tolerate ‘occupation’. No AFGHANISTANwonder since 2006 the Taliban have been on the rampage. Even Kabul remains tentatively safe. During my last visit home to Peshawar, I was met by a few Afghans who told me of the reign of terror prevailing in Jalalabad, Paktia and Kabul etc as the state machinery/ foreign forces could not cope with prevailing mayhem. The spill-over effect of Afghan ‘insurgency’ is widely felt in Pakistan; more so in NWFP/ Baluchistan. History and geography combine to create challenges which the elected Govt and its armed forces have to face daily.

The situation gets vitiated by the US drone-attacks on ‘suspects’ from across the border. Such tactics tend to swell the numbers of Taliban as per the local culture of the binding nature of Revenge. As per the Pashtun code of honour, border becomes besides the point in chasing the ‘killers’. Hence the clandestine movement of the ‘insurgents’ across the border which NATO troops plus about 80 thousand Pakistani troops can’t eradicate,

Pretty much like the Mexican border for the US.

The above menacing milieu makes Pakistan most important in the current BUSH SEES NOTHING context. Firstly, it blocks the spread of insurgency. Secondly, it ensures the maintenance of the life-line/ supplies for the foreign forces in Afghanistan. Thirdly, it alone can provide cheapest transportation of aid-wares across the border. Fourthly, despite our ambivalent role, most Afghans still have more goodwill for Pakistan than any other country because of history/ culture etc.

The seizure of a 13-truck convoy on 10th Nov in Khyber Pass and subsequent action, including the use of air-power, by Pakistan created considerable complications and alarm among the people. However, the trucks were abandoned but the eatables were seized by the insurgents along-with 2 new humvees. I learnt in Peshawar that some of the wheat was distributed by the Taliban among the locals while the rest was sold at lower rates. They also displayed the seized vehicles as the ‘war booty’. As almost 400 trucks daily cross Torkham in to Afghanistan carrying supplies for the foreign troops, Pakistan had to suspend the traffic till a new strategy was put in to force. The traffic resumed Nov 17 as Pakistan deployed a bigger number of forces to escort the supply-convoys besides soliciting the cooperation of the locals.

A report in The Washington Post of 16th Nov indicates that the US/ Pakistan have reached a deal in Sept about the predator attacks on AN AMERICAN SNIPERsuspected targets on the basis of “don’t-ask- don’t-tell policy”. Pakistan has not changed her policy of condemning such attacks which, invariably, involve civilian casualties. Better collaboration between ISAF and Pak forces may prove more useful. This was proved by the Pakistani intervention on 16th Nov in Pakitika which relieved a base of the former under attack.

US have been pursing a way-out of the Afghan quagmire lately. It has launched the Saudi King in to the process. Karzai has been trying to come to terms with the Taliban led by Mullah Umar despite the fact that the latter has a $ multi-million as head-money a la US. He committed to go all out to provide “Protection” to the Taliban leader as per by BBC. He further emphasized that “If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, then the international community has two choices: remove me, or leave…”. In this context, trying to win ‘the hearts of minds of the people’ is the best option which collateral damage inflicted by drone/ missile attacks can’t cause.

The end of 2001 heralded a dangerous change in the ground realities in the subject countries. Afghanistan got ‘occupied’ by the foreign forces while the Taliban regime collapsed, militarily despite the fierce resistance US AIR FORCE PERSONELit offered, and politically as its political capital was nominal. Pakistan, under Musharraf, due to sympathy/ inducement, joined hands with the US in waging its ‘war on terror’ a la neo-con agenda. Due to the Geography and pro-US sentiments, Pakistan proved to be the linchpin in such operations.

Subsequently the ‘victors’ realized that it was crucial to keep Pakistan onboard their bandwagon. It is no coincidence that this arrangement also eminently suited Musharraf who had seized power by ousting an elected Govt earlier on. Prior to 9/11, he was treated as a pariah by Bill Clinton as well George w. However, the neo-con game-plan took effect with the fall of the Twin Towers. Musharraf got rehabilitated in the US corridors of power under a ‘threat’ from, as he claimed, Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State insisting that he if did not join then Pakistan would be ‘bombed in to stone age’. The concerned official denied the same after leaving the office.

The Bonn Conference of 2002 laid down the blueprint of a surrogate regime under Karzai. Flush with success against the Taliban, and wanting to impress the public opinion at home, the US Administration/ allies made prolific promises. As per the Bonn Charter a ‘Democratic’ Afghanistan under the new dispensation was to get fabulous amounts of aid for ‘Reconstruction’ etc. This again underlined the importance of the Pakistan-link as Afghanistan is a landlocked country and the most feasible trade etc route for her is through Pakistan. Moreover as Pakistan shares long porous border with the western neighbor along the Durand Line, its whole-hearted support was worth any cost, particularly in early days of Karzai regime.

The US first assessed Pakistan’ indispensability in the pursuit of its adventure in the area which led to the revival of her military aid etc as there is no free- lunch in their culture. Initially the quick cessation of hostilities bolstered the neo-cons at home which also encouraged them to attack Iraq on the pretext of ‘WMD’. This slogan together with the stated-objective of removing a ‘hated-dictator’ after a dazzling victory in Afghanistan must also have yielded high political dividends at home. In the aftermath of 9/11, the people in the US lived under a fear-complex which was aggravated by media-hype, let loose by the official agencies etc, to bolster the image of the incumbent Administration. This process appears to have got particularly animated before the 2004 Presidential elections.

By 2005, Afghanistan started experiencing considerable insecurity. This was due to the persecution-complex among the Pashtuns in the South-East who faced a famine-like situation. Moreover, the Taliban started making their presence felt by attacking softer targets. As Karzai could not establish his writ all over the country, the warlords appeared to have taken over, particularly in the North/ South. The Northern warlords started making a fortune by exporting drugs from the massive cultivation of opium. Moreover the development program projected by the Bonn Conference could not be kept up by the donors. They spent lavishly on military operations which, together with the resistance from the Taliban, relegated reconstruction to the backburner and provoked anger. Such factors created a monstrous situation for the majority of local people who started feeling sick of the proxy-rule which bred insecurity and hunger etc.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘WorldFutures’ (Indonesia)

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