US Premeditated Altered Regional Balance
By Asif Haroon Raja
Military Industrial complex in USA is in a pugnacious mood. It had not welcomed Obama’s idea of a drawdown from Afghanistan and had resisted it. The combined pressure of Pentagon, Israel, India and Afghan Unity government had forced Obama to relent and make a change in the plan by agreeing to leave behind Resolute Support Mission (RSM) till end 2016, which was to be reduced to half in December 2015. A group of retired US Generals including two ex ISAF Commanders Gen McChrystal and Gen Petraeus backed the idea of Pentagon and strongly advocated retention of RSM. They asked Obama to leave it for the next administration to decide the future course.
This plan has once again been modified and the terms of reference of Bilateral Security Agreement signed in May 2014 have also been amended. The RSM will now stay put and will no more remain in non-combatant role or restrict its counter terrorism to al-Qaeda only. The US troops will now support Afghan National Army (ANA) where ever required and drone war will be intensified in Af-Pak region. Escalation of the war in Afghanistan will provide the much needed excuse to reinforce the US military presence in the region.
This change has demolished the claim made by President Barack Obama that before his departure from White House he will bury the war once and for all. Thus, he has not only abandoned his earlier troop withdrawal plan in Afghanistan but he is even inclined to allow the 9800 American troops to undertake combat missions against the Taliban. This change implies setting aside policy of reconciliation and renewal of policy of use of force. In other words, the US has decided to reinforce failure, hoping against hope that its defeat would miraculously turn into victory.
The new policy of systematically decapitating the Taliban through drone strikes is aimed at splintering the Taliban movement and weaken the insurgency to a point that the Afghan government, supported by Washington and New Delhi, incrementally gains the upper hand and be in a position to dictate the terms of a settlement and thus exit Afghanistan gracefully as a winner. Pentagon forgets that drones have been in use since 2006 and its use was intensified from 2009 onwards but couldn’t break the Taliban movement.
It is now no more a secret that the US has designated India as a full partner in the rebalance strategy, and pit it against both China and Pakistan. The US counts on India to join the effort to disrupt the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and frustrate the strategy by China and Russia to create a Eurasian economic bloc. The US has helped India in consolidating its presence in Afghanistan and now expects Indian military to fill the vacuum after its departure by sharing the security duties with ANA.
The recently concluded Indo-US Logistics Agreement will come extremely handy if the Indian forces get involved in a military role in Afghanistan. The US has eight military bases in Afghanistan, which can provide back-up for any Indian military expedition. In reciprocal terms, Indian military bases also become accessible to the US forces, which, on the one hand, would reduce Pentagon’s dependence on Pakistan for logistics support, while on the other hand, give more leverage to Washington to put pressure on Pakistan by intensifying drone attacks. Another Indo-US Maritime Agreement helps the two Navies to dominate and nuclearize the Indian Ocean and thus enable Indian Navy to establish a sea blockade against Pakistan. This would complete strategic encirclement of Pakistan.
If India gets involved militarily in Afghanistan, it will kill two birds with one stone. It will help in rolling back China’s expanding influence in Afghanistan, and also will help India in maximizing pressure on Pakistan. It will then be easier for Indian military to take control over Wakhan Corridor, a junction point between China-Afghanistan-Pakistan, and provide a high plateau to disrupt CPEC in Northern Areas. For the US and India, CPEC is a greater danger to their geo-economic and strategic interests than Pakistan’s nuclear program.
India is joyfully looking forward to position itself for undertaking such a role as the US key partner and has already started to move in troops, helicopters and armaments since last January to assist the ANA in its fight against the Taliban. India is making use of Chabahar route for military supplies. The Chabahar Port and the communication links via Iran becomes vital for India to access Afghanistan and play an effective role in the US’ regional strategy.
For India, Pakistan is the source of trouble and a thorn in the flesh which must be removed. The Indian security establishment has been stressing that counter insurgency operation in Afghanistan will never fetch fruitful results unless a comprehensive strategy is worked out to defang Pakistan’s conventional and nuclear capabilities. New Delhi and Kabul have all along been parroting that the Taliban can be defeated and possibly eliminated if Pakistan is intimidated to destroy their bases in Pakistan, and block their infiltration routes. And in case Pakistan fails to cooperate it should be severely punished for allowing cross border terrorism in Afghanistan. And now when Pakistan has destroyed all the bases/hideouts and cleared whole of FATA, they are still singing the old song since stability and peace in Pakistan is not given in their script.
Whenever Pakistan made efforts to stop the alleged cross border movement by improving border management along the Durand line, its efforts were scurried. Pakistan had proposed fencing, or mining all crossing places, or even posting UN forces, but none were accepted by Kabul. Reason was obvious. Cross border terrorism has been flowing into Pakistan from Afghanistan since 2002 under a well laid out plan and not vice versa.
Now when Pakistan was rebuilding a gate at Torkham crossing point well inside its territory, which had been demolished in 2004 to construct Torkham-Jalalabad Highway, Afghan forces assisted by Indian troops and financed/supported by western hands used force and caused some casualties. This brazen offensive was undertaken under the mistaken belief that Pakistan was in duress and would hand over charge of Torkham crossing to Afghanistan as it had done in Angoor Adda in South Waziristan. Perforce Pakistan forces retaliated forcefully and not only pushed the battle well inside Afghan territory but also inflicted heavy casualties upon the intruders and silenced their guns. Offensive action by Pak troops was greeted and welcomed by the locals of the area and even by anti-Indian/American segments in Afghanistan and thus put to shame the gatecrashers.
RAW-NDS office is operative in part of Torkham inside Afghan territory which controls their network in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. A gate buttressed with security measures will block a major avenue of cross border terrorism from Afghanistan. Pakistan has now decided to construct all the eight gates at crossing points along the Durand Line and will not compromise on it. Pakistan has already completed the construction of a massive trench measuring 11 feet deep and 14 feet wide in Baluchistan alongside its porous border with Afghanistan to prevent cross border terrorism and smuggling.
It will be recalled that serving Indian Naval Commander and RAW agent Kalbushan Yadav arrested last March had confessed that he was running a RAW network in Baluchistan and Karachi from Chabahar since 2003. There will be a need for a similar trench along the Pak-Iran border as well.
The US after playing a double game has now bared its teeth and has indicated its ill intentions to harm Pakistan if it refuses to play its game. Since CPEC is unacceptable to the US, it has postponed its plan to abandon Afghanistan and has initiated an offensive act against Pakistan by killing Mullah Mansour in Baluchistan through a drone strike on May 21. This strike was aimed at destabilizing Baluchistan and disrupting CPEC. It is noteworthy that Gen Raheel during his visit to Beijing on May 17 had expressed his resolve to provide full security to CPEC and ensure its completion at all cost.
Having drastically altered the military balance in favor of India and denying everything to Pakistan, the US is bracing to cut off financial, military and diplomatic support to Pakistan as it had done in 1989. It will once again brandish the threat of “either you are with us or against us”. If it does so, EU, IMF, World Bank and Paris Club are likely to follow suit. India is being armed to teeth to overwhelm Pakistan’s conventional and nuclear capabilities.
Besides external encirclement, Pakistan has been encircled internally with the help of collaborating spy agencies. There is a network of CIA-FBI-MI-6-RAW-NDS-Blackwater in existence which is disallowing the flames of terrorism to get extinguished. Although the foreign aided network of over 50 terror groups has been dismantled, however, their sleeper cells, facilitators and financers in urban centres are still to be eliminated. India has built over 60 dams in Indian Occupied Kashmir. It is now constructing a dam over River Kabul to gain full control over water resources to make Pakistan’s fertile lands barren and make Pakistan water scarce country by 2025.
The overall situation has become grave for Pakistan since it is not only being strategically encircled and technologically and conventionally outnumbered by India but is also being systematically isolated. The situation becomes all the more critical because of internal threats and negative role of political parties and the media. Panama Leaks scandal and Tahirul Qadri’s sudden return from Canada are not without a sinister purpose. Opposition parties are getting geared up to start agitations after Eid. Vested groups are agitating over western route in CPEC to impede progress of the vital project. Karachi is again getting restive because of MQM’s assertiveness, kidnapping of son of Sindh Chief Justice and murder of famous Qawal Amjad Sabri. Coming months are full of challenges.
The writer is retired Brig, defense analyst, columnist, author of 5 books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers forum Pakistan. Delivers talks and takes part in TV talk shows. firstname.lastname@example.org