Asif Haroon Raja
“The aim of human happiness and solidarity is not violence, wars and aggression. All wars perpetuate violence, fear, and vindictiveness and are aimed at the destruction of civilizations and dehumanization of succeeding generations”. Bruce Gambrill Foster, “The Scourge of War: The Shameless Marketing of Violence”
The US had made Pakistan its coalition partner and a frontline state to fight the war on terror but throughout the two-decade war, its attitude towards Pakistan was highly discriminatory. It never hid its dislike against Pakistan and fondness for India and its two puppet regimes in Kabul. Pakistan was optimistic that after the withdrawal of foreign troops and removal of the anti-Pakistan Kabul regime and elimination of perverse influence of India, Afghanistan and its western border would become peaceful and would open up vistas for a better future.
Pakistan was also hopeful that after doing so much for the double-dealing USA in the 20-year war on terror, the US would bring a change in its acrimonious behavior and become more empathetic and affable but there is no change. The US frostiness towards both Afghanistan and Pakistan coupled with fluid and uncertain conditions in Afghanistan have dampened Pakistan’s optimism.
Apart from unfriendly outlook of the US, and lukewarm response of the regional countries towards the plight of war-torn Afghanistan, Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-K) is making Afghanistan insecure by its acts of terror. In addition to the attack in Kabul, two deadly suicide attacks occurred in the Imam-bargahs of Kunduz and Kandahar during the prayers on two successive Fridays resulting in heavy human losses. The victims were mostly Shias who form 10% of the population.
Foreign supported TTP and BLA as well as IS-K have carried out a series of attacks in Waziristan and Baluchistan in the last 2-3 months. The Taliban recently busted one of the dens of BLA in Nimroz, captured several of its militants and recovered a heavy cache of arms. The BLA has also been operating from Sistan in Iran.
After the Taliban recaptured power, anti-Pakistan Hamid Karzai started giving friendly signals to Pakistan in the hope of getting a seat in the Taliban cabinet. But on prompting of his masters, he again changed colors like a chameleon and is threatening Pakistan not to meddle in Afghan affairs.
With over 11 million Afghans living below poverty lines, the resource constraint Taliban regime is finding it extremely difficult to feed the hungry, provide salaries to the workers and daily wages to the laborers. Humanitarian crisis similar to Yemen is being deliberately created by the spoilers of peace eager to deter Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran from filling the power vacuum in Afghanistan and to discredit the new regime. The IMF has predicted that if $ 9.50 billion of the Afghan Central Bank confiscated by the US is not released and no foreign aid is provided, the Afghan economy may shrink by 30%.
The sense of elation felt by the Taliban after achieving great victory is dampening as a result of bleak economic and security conditions and non-cooperative attitude of the international community.
Reasons behind the US estrangement with Pakistan
The US after achieving all its objectives from the Afghan Jihad, dropped its most allied ally of South Asia Pakistan from its plate like a hot potato in 1990 and hugged India which had consistently pursued anti-American policies. Since then Pakistan has been taken out of the American security calculus and put in the hit list of Washington. India was made a strategic partner due to converging security interests. Under the changed perceptions, the US has striven to make Pakistan a compliant State and India the policeman of the Indo-Pacific region.
Driven by its wish to make India fight their war with China, the US signed high profile security pacts like civil nuclear deal, LEMOA, COMCASA, and ISA. The US hasn’t given up this wish even after China’s PLA soundly thrashed Indian soldiers with fists and spiked clubs in unarmed combat in Eastern Ladakh.
Major reasons of the USA’s estrangement with Pakistan were that it is a Muslim country with high pitched Islamic ideological fervor and strong armed forces, it has weapon grade nuclear program and variety of sophisticated guided missiles, enjoys strong friendship with China and refuses to accept Indian hegemony. Later on CPEC, and Pakistan’s intimacy with the new Taliban regime have been added to the list which give it bellyaches.
Slight change which came in the US attitude after 9/11 was because of geo-political compulsions. Pakistan was taken on board because of its usefulness in Afghanistan. It was first used for the occupation of Afghanistan in 2001. Next it was used to defeat Al-Qaeda. It was then needed to extend the war to fight and defeat the Taliban, which was not possible without the two supply routes provided by Pakistan.
Warmth in relations cooled down when Pakistan refused to fight the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network (HN). Pakistan’s bold act of flushing out HN from North Waziristan in 2015 didn’t satisfy the US and the Kabul regime since the duo wanted Pak security forces to deal with the Afghan Taliban the same way. Pakistan’s refusal to fight someone else’s war annoyed the US. Pakistan’s services were again required to make the Doha peace talks with the Taliban successful, and lastly to carry out safe exit of troops from Afghanistan.
After the departure of all the foreign troops from Afghanistan which obviated the danger of body bags, the US doesn’t need Pakistan and will view its future relations through the Afghanistan lens only. This can be gauged from the unfriendly statement made by the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in India, “We don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan”.
The US-India nexus desire unstable Afghanistan
The US as well as India were never interested in the stability and development of Afghanistan. Prolongation of war suited their geo-economic and geo-strategic interests.
Peace talks were a ruse to divide the Taliban and to keep the Afghanistan-Pakistan region unstable.
The US is eager to fail the new regime in Kabul and pave the way for the return of the Northern Alliance led by ex-Vice President Amrullah Saleh.
The US desire for an airbase
Currently, the US sole interest in Pakistan is to acquire an air base, or air passage to conduct counterterrorism operations against IS-K and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s services are needed to maximize pressure on the Taliban to make them submissive.
Washington had wanted an airbase in Uzbekistan or in Tajikistan on a temporary basis which was not accepted by Russia. Its request for deploying an Intel apparatus in Central Asia to monitor Afghanistan was also flatly declined by Moscow.
The US wants to renew air war to be able to gun down the Taliban and HN senior leaders, particularly those who are blacklisted and are in hiding.
The US media splashed news on Oct 23 that Islamabad has agreed to provide air base facility to Pakistan which was refuted by the latter.
Taliban and Pakistan in firing line
The US spent $ 8 trillion for the achievement of its geo-economic objectives through the deceitful and bloody war on terror. In spite of spending colossal amounts of dollars, using massive military force, waging the longest war, and suffering heavy fatalities, injuries, trauma and bearing the taunts of the world, the end result for the US was catastrophic. It soiled its reputation as the invincible sole super power and has become a descending power. The time and money it spent to hand back Kabul to the Taliban could have been used to help the struggling Americans.
Instead of carrying out self-examination and post mortem as to why it lost the war, why it couldn’t denuclearize Pakistan, failed to contain China and Russia, and couldn’t tame Iran, the US civil and military leadership started to look for sacrificial lambs to pin the blame of their humiliation upon them. There is no regret or feelings of remorse among the ones in power in Washington that the response to 9/11 attacks lacked sagaciousness, and was a reckless misadventure.
There is no talk of war crimes and war trials of those who legitimized brutality, indulged in massive human rights violations, used excessive force, and earned profits from the war. None is talking of rebuilding the destroyed country and providing compensations to the next of kin of the victims of war.
The Taliban are blamed for defeating and disgracefully pushing out the US-NATO forces, and allegedly failing to abide by the terms of Doha agreement. Pakistan is held responsible for allegedly assisting the Taliban in achieving victory. They are burning in the inferno of rage, humiliation and revenge, and are hatching plans on how to settle scores with the Taliban and Pakistan.
Both the narratives are as cockeyed as the ones conceived after 9/11 and amounts to passing the buck on to someone else and ignoring own glaring blunders.
Biden is being blamed by the US Generals and the Republicans for the chaotic withdrawal and Trump is exploiting it to gain political mileage.
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 & Veterans Think Tank.