Asif Haroon Raja
“The 9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use force to secure its global domination … the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives … In fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11.” – Michel Meacher
Occupational agenda based on fake charges
The initial target of the George W. Bush administration influenced by the Zionists, the neo cons, and the American Jewish lobby was Iraq, but in Sept 2001 the order of priority of taking on eight Muslim countries was changed and Afghanistan was picked up as the first target country.
Seven Muslim States in the Middle East were listed to change its boundaries, capture oil, and pave the way for the establishment of Greater Israel. Based on this agenda 9/11 attacks were fore-planned.
Afghanistan was chosen to make it a permanent military base of the US, from where it could eliminate all the Islamic radicals including Al-Qaeda who had taken part in the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets, block China’s economic growth and Russia’s resurgence, denuclearize Pakistan, bring a regime change in Iran and harness the resources of Central Asia and gain dominance over the Eurasian belt.
Afghanistan was invaded, heavily bombarded and occupied since the ruling Taliban regime was accused of violating human rights, particularly women rights, committing the grave sin of harboring Al-Qaeda and refusing to hand over Osama Bin Laden.
Apart from avenging the deaths of 2977 people in World Trade Centre in New York allegedly by Al-Qaeda, declared objectives of occupying Afghanistan were to free the Afghans from the clutches of cruel Taliban, reset the ideology of the country from Islamic Emirate to a Republic, make the Afghans well-educated, progressive and to make the country peaceful and prosperous by introducing western democracy, and promoting human/ women rights.
Factually, the US had no intentions of accomplishing these objectives since its hidden motives revolved around geo-economics. Not only attacks on the WTC on 9/11 were engineered, both Afghanistan and Iraq were occupied on fake charges.
It was due to insincere and baleful intentions that in spite of spending $ 2.3 trillion during its 20 years period of occupancy, the socio-economic conditions and security of Afghanistan instead of improving further deteriorated. Standard of life of the elite class living in major urban centres was improved and the women liberalized, but 70% of the downtrodden people continued to live in abject poverty.
Quest for military solution proved fruitless
Bush, Obama and Trump firmly believed in the use of military force for a military solution, failed on all counts and created a big mess which went beyond their capacity to clear it. Other than the nukes, the invaders employed all sorts of lethal weapons to crush, or intimidate, or tire their opponents but achieved zero-sum results.
After failing to gain a military edge over the Taliban with the help of two troop surges and raising the combat level to over 140,000 in 2009, Obama concluded that it was beyond the capability of the ISAF and ANDSF to defeat the Taliban. He ordered the completion of the drawdown of troops by Dec 2014, starting in July 2011.
Pentagon and ISAF Commander Gen Petraeus prevailed upon him to retain a small Resolute Support Mission (RSM) of about 12000 troops to back up ANDSF which till then had not acquired desired operational preparedness to fight independently. Islamic State of Khurasan (IS-K) was also brought in from Iraq and Syria in 2015 by CIA and RAW as a backup support.
Donald Trump raised the level of RSM to 20,000 in 2017, escalated the air and drone war and dropped the mother of all bombs at Nangarhar. Finding the US-NATO troops in a logjam, and their well-trained and equipped 350,000 strong ANDSF unable to even contain the momentum of attacks of the Taliban, Trump had to sullenly open parleys with the Taliban to arrive at a political settlement.
The Kabul regime was excluded from talks since the Taliban considered them collaborators, puppets and not worth talking about.
Doha deal and its implementation
The US-Taliban remained engaged in a series of peace-talk sessions for 18 months (Sept 2018-Feb 2020) and signed the Doha peace agreement on Feb 29, 2020 according to which all foreign troops were required to quit by May 1, 2021.
In compliance with the Doha deal, the Taliban desisted from attacking foreign troops and allowed them to pull out safely. Not a single attack was carried out from March 2020 onwards.
After the agreement, Trump had ten months (March to December 2020) to withdraw forces by air and to shift heavy baggage, military vehicles/equipment by land through Pakistan. By the time he handed over power to his successor Joe Biden in Jan 2021, the US troop level in Afghanistan had been reduced from 20, 000 to 2500 and the exit was orderly and graceful with no mishap.
Biden had four months at his disposal (Feb to May 2021), which were quite sufficient, but under intense pressure, he extended the date of departure to Sept 11, and then pushed it back to Aug 31.
Seven months period was long enough to undertake an orderly drawdown of only 2500 troops, but the intentions were dishonest. Instead of making any gain by this extension, a sudden flurry of attacks by the Taliban which reached a crescendo in July triggered fright and everything was lost.
Many were surprised to hear Biden giving his expert opinion in July 2021 that the Taliban will take six months to reach the outskirts of Kabul and that the ANA will fight it out. This optimism that Kabul would hold on, was based on the feedback of thousands of the US think tanks, Pentagon, CIA, RAW and NDS. The policy makers in Washington were confident that six months’ time was sufficient to arrive at a political settlement and to tie up all details for a smooth withdrawal.
Much against the speculation that they would take at least 6-8 months to threaten and take over Kabul, sudden encirclement and occupation of Kabul on August 15 by the Taliban, resulted in panic and a hasty and disorderly withdrawal, which was more of a rout.
Misreading of Taliban’s final offensive
The Taliban spring offensive was launched after May 1, 2021 by which date all foreign troops were supposed to have exited. It was the final phase towards the victory stand. Their rapid gains bewildered the policy makers in Washington as well as the spoilers.
Their hurricane-like advances on multiple fronts flabbergasted the Pentagon, leaving it with no choice but to vacate the military bases in haste. Vacation of the biggest Bagram airbase on the midnight of 2/3 July was a classic example of confusion, disorder and jangled nerves. They were left with no choice other than destroying the weapons and equipment stacked in the fortified military bases.
One fails to comprehend why this big timeframe of fall of Kabul in six months was given, which was later reduced to three months in August, when most of the provinces had been captured by the Taliban, seven military bases abandoned, only 650 US troops were garrisoned in Kabul base, and the ANA had been surrendering one province after another without a fight.
It is also intriguing as to why Ashraf Ghani behaved so obstinately till the very end when his boat was fast sinking, and why the US didn’t force him to step down on August 14 if not earlier when his goose was cooked?
Was Ghani forced not to resign in order to create conditions for bloodshed? Was his sudden flight to UAE with lots of cash on the afternoon of August 15 by design so as to create an administrative and security vacuum and to stimulate bedlam in Kabul since the Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Deputy President Rashid Dostum had already fled?
The war mongers hoped against hope that a broad-based government in Kabul inclusive of the leaders of Northern Alliance would pave the way for continuation of the US presence in Afghanistan.
They had also wishfully hoped that extending the cutout date given by Biden might convert defeat into victory. Tussle between the two sides, one favoring and the other disfavoring, was at the cost of wasting precious time and prolonging the agony. Extending the date proved costly for Biden.
Ill-intentioned narrative and expectations
One wonders on what basis the Indo-Western media started harping from June onward that there will be disarray, bloodshed, civil war and refugee exodus. The biased media stuck to this narrative when not a single incident of violence was reported in all the districts and cities captured by the Taliban?
Intelligence reports speculated pitched battles between the Taliban and ANA in cities and it was expected that the former would resort to retributions.
The detractors were very hopeful that the fleeing refugees from the big cities would home towards Pakistan and taking advantage of the melee, all the terrorists and spies would be pushed into Pakistan.
To ensure the safety of Kabul, and in case of its fall, safe exit of the US diplomats and other American nationals as well as the Afghan interpreters and loyalists, the US took control of Kabul airport and its security where a sophisticated air defence system was installed.
An engineered suicide attack at the gate of Kabul airport by IS-K was launched on August 25, about which the US officials had been warning from August 22.
If the US was in the know of an impending attack, why did the US take such a big risk of inducing thousands of Afghans to reach Kabul airport to be flown to the wonderland of the USA, and presented such a lucrative target?
Besides putting the lives of Afghans in danger, it endangered thousands of its troops, diplomats and nationals stranded in Kabul. Was the real purpose to foment chaos?
As predicted, the mob assembled outside the airport gate was struck by a suicide bomber on August 25 killing 170 Afghans, 13 US Marines and wounding hundreds. Reprisal actions with drones on August 26th and 29th struck innocent civilians.
The US C-130s airlifted thousands of Afghans packed like sardines, but left behind US-NATO troops, diplomats and nationals. The US apologized for the August 29 attack and has offered compensation to the next of kin of the 11 victims.
Future of Pak-US relations
From 1954 onwards, Pakistan had put all its eggs in the basket of the USA and on several occasions had put its national security at stake to prove that it was the most allied ally of the USA. Infatuation to the USA by successive regimes of Pakistan didn’t lessen even after getting betrayed repeatedly.
Pakistan was put off the radar of Washington in 1990 after which it only sees India in this region and none else. Pakistan has become an eyesore due to its nuclearization, closeness with China and the CPEC.
After 9/11, the US unenthusiastically took Pakistan on board to ease its occupation of Afghanistan, and then to fight the longest war and lastly to pull out safely.
Pakistan was forcibly dragged into the US imposed war on terror which it fought tenaciously and produced best results but suffered the most. Since the US was governed by baleful intentions from the very outset, all the achievements of Pakistan security forces distressed the US and India.
When the heavily fortified strongholds of Swat and South Waziristan were overpowered in 2009, and all the tribal agencies of FATA less North Waziristan, that had been taken over by the foreign supported TTP, were recaptured in 2010, and the ISAF had to abandon its boots on ground strategy in Afghanistan and announce a plan of withdrawal due to resurgence of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, the flummoxed Obama and Pentagon took out their anger on Pakistan in 2011 by carrying out series of hostile acts starting from Raymond Davis incident, to Abbottabad attack, to Memogate and Salala attack.
The last hostile act against the so-called ally which dipped Pak-US relations to lowest ebb forced Pakistan to respond defiantly.
Pakistan a convenient scapegoat
Throughout the war, the US and its strategic partners kept hatching conspiracies to disable Pakistan’s nuclear program while Pakistan considered them allies and kept doing more and in the process got bled.
Pakistan played a key role in the success of Afghan peace talks culminating into historic Doha agreement, in starting intra-Afghan dialogue in Sept 2020, and in restraining the Taliban from attacking foreign military targets. It played a historic role in evacuating 10,000 people from Kabul including American-NATO forces, American diplomats, IMF-World Bank officials and Afghan nationals and lodging them in Islamabad hotels.
Pakistan’s sacrifices and its efforts to please the overbearing USA were rudely brushed aside and was held responsible for the cataclysmic ending of the war. Conversely, India which failed the US on all fronts was kept in its tight embrace and handsomely rewarded simply because it offered profitable economic and IT markets, bought heavy consignments of armaments from the US and Israel, helped in boosting the game of intrigue and deceit, and in spreading fake news and narratives.
With all its troops back home, the US now wants to avenge its humiliation at the hands of the Taliban allegedly supported by Pakistan. The whole blame of the US defeat and its chaotic exit is pinned on the convenient scapegoat Pakistan.
Pakistan no more useful to USA
The only interest the US has in Pakistan is to make it agree to provide an air base or air corridor to enable the US air force to conduct counter terrorism air operations in Afghanistan.
In other words, the US is least interested in peace in the Af-Pak region and is determined to stoke instability and to keep the Chinese, Russian and Iran influences in Afghanistan at bay. If Pakistan relents, it will be tolerated, and if it defies, it will be punished.
Currently, the US leaders are in a bad mood and their patience is wearing thin. The indicators to that end are Joe Biden refusing to make a telephone call to Imran Khan, the unfriendly statements of the American civil and military leaders, Secretary of State Wendy Sherman stating that “we don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan”, anti-Pakistan bill moved by the 22 Republican Senators, and American Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad hobnobbing with Pakistan’s opposition leaders.
The other hostile acts are the IMF’s sinister dictations, pressing Pakistan to further devalue its currency and raise the taxes on petroleum, gas and electricity, FATF hesitating to whiten Pakistan, and India’s recent threat of launching a surgical strike, and Indian submarine sneaking into Pakistan’s waters which was chased out. India’s belligerence is encouraged by the USA.
Under the given circumstances, India and not Pakistan will be the preferred partner of the USA in South Asia. Any hope nurtured by the ruling regime in Pakistan or GHQ to alter the frostiness in Pak-US relations into friendly relations is like chasing the rainbow.
The writer is retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, & Member CWC PESS & Think Tank.
Brig. General Asif Haroon Raja a Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought the epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously.
He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt, and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently.
He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written a number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready.
He is a defense analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defense and political matters for numerous international/national publications.