Visit of bullies to Pakistan
By Asif Haroon Raja
Bullying is the hallmark of the US foreign policy. The bullying tools employed to achieve foreign policy goals are threats, coercion, use of proxies, propaganda war, economic sanctions, financial strangulation, human rights abuses and fake allegations. Suspension of $300 million Close Support Fund (CSF) by the US just three days before the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CJCSC Gen Joseph Dunford to Islamabad has given a clear signal to the new regime led by Imran Khan (IK) that there will be no change in the US bullying attitude. This is the second cut in CSF. $500 million were suspended early this year. $ 800 million were due to be reimbursed to Pak Army for the services rendered and expenditures incurred in the war on terror in 2016/17 and was not aid or a grant.
In the last 14 years, Pakistan has received $ 14 billion from USA. Over $ 9 billion are still pending on account of CSF. Rupees 15.9 billion are due for the current fiscal year 2018/19. These cuts and other punitive actions are being taken to express unhappiness of the US and to remind Pakistan that the US would release the said amount and renew CSF if it forgoes its defiance and revert to its traditional pliant behavior and agree to abide by the US dictates and not otherwise. Brief stopover of the visitors followed by their two-day visit to India where Secretary Defence Mattis will join them and sign more agreements is another indication that the trend of keeping India as a favored ally and Pakistan as a distrusted ally will continue.
After the announcement of the new US policy on Af-Pak region by Donald Trump on August 22, 2017, Pakistan has been constantly pressed by Washington to destroy the safe havens of Haqqani network (HN) and Afghan Taliban and to effectively deal with them. The tone and tenor of the US civil and military leaders became more menacing after the callous tweet of Trump on the occasion of New Year eve, dubbing Pakistan as dishonest, double dealer and betrayer having gobbled up $30 billion US aid without doing enough to control terrorism. Despite Pakistan’s denials, and explanations and reminders of the human losses of over 70,000 and the financial loss of $123 billion incurred in the US imposed war, which were snootily ignored, the US has stuck to its allegations that the HN and Afghan Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan and are the main cause of instability in Afghanistan. No proof has is far been given to substantiate their accusations. The narrative of safe havens of the militants is being drummed up by the Indo-US-Afghan nexus with a view to browbeat Pakistan into submission and to blacklist Pakistan.
The US has for the first time hurled threats of physical intervention if Pakistan refuses to do as told to do and has cut off military training programs. The IMF has been cautioned by Washington not to give bailout package to Pakistan if it uses the loan for repayment of loans to China or for the CPEC. Indian Army chief has on more than one occasion threatened to launch surgical strikes and wage a limited war against Pakistan in the zone of its choice. Likewise, Afghanistan has also maintained a belligerent posture and on several occasions carried out attacks on military posts along the western border.
In spite of the fact that Pakistan had earned the title of ‘most allied ally of USA’, the Pak-US relations spread over 64 years have never been at ease and has seen many ups and downs. The US used Pakistan as a client state to serve its geo-strategic interests and disregarded Pakistan’s security concerns. In its bid to win the affections of India, the US remained tilted towards India during the Cold War, well knowing that India was the Soviet camp follower and felt no compunction in tilting the regional balance in favor of India. The US never came to the help of Pakistan when its assistance was needed the most in the two wars with India. Seeing its self-serving attitude, Ayub Khan was constrained to lean towards China and to say, “We need friends not masters”.
After 1990 when India fell into the lap of USA, India became the darling of USA and the West, while Pakistan which had played a key role in pushing out the Soviet forces from Afghanistan and in making USA the sole super power and in unifying Germany, fell from grace and became the most sanctioned country. After 9/11, the US once again befriended Pakistan and made it a coalition partner and Non-NATO ally to fight war on terror as a frontline state. In reality, Pakistan was never an ally but a target of Indo-US-Israel nexus, all three wanting to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear program.
While India had been accusing Pakistan of supporting the freedom fighters in occupied Kashmir since 1990, and constantly urged USA to declare Pakistan a terrorist state, it stepped up this accusation after a terrorist attack on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, which it propagated was the doing of Pakistan and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). From 2004 onwards, the US and Afghanistan started blaming Pak military and the ISI of their collusion with Al-Qaeda, Taliban, JeM and Lashkar-e-Taeba. The latter two groups were added expressly at the behest of India.
For all practical purposes, the Indo-US-Afghan strategic partners are anti-Pakistan, and have been conspiring to fragment Pakistan. Greater Baluchistan, Greater Pashtunistan and Jinnahpur movements were foreign inspired to cut Pakistan to size.
Covert war coupled with propaganda war and ‘Do More’ mantra were designed to weaken Pakistan from within, and create conducive conditions for India to launch its Cold Start Doctrine (CSD), which it had made fully operational in 2008. From 2001 to 2008, all the terrorist attacks that took place in India were put in the basket of Pakistan. The US installed regime in Kabul also followed suit by blaming Pakistan for the attacks in Afghanistan. It came to light at a later date that all the attacks in India including the Parliament and Mumbai attacks were engineered by RAW and executed by Hindu extremist groups to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state. The trio built up this narrative systematically with a view to achieve following objectives:
1. Keep Pakistan under pressure and on the back foot.
2. Keep whipping Pakistan for its uncommitted sins and force it to do more.
3. Paint Pakistan as a terror abetting state and the trio as victims of terrorism.
4. To hide cross border terrorism of CIA, RAW, NDS from Afghan soil.
5. Pave the way for blacklisting Pakistan.
6. As a consequent to massive covert war supplanted by hybrid war, bleed Pakistan economically and militarily, create insecurity and political instability and eventually trigger civil war.
Net result. Compel Pakistan to surrender nukes in return for survival. Water war launched by India war was part of the overall plan to make the arid lands of Pakistan dry and force it to beg for mercy.
Development of tactical nukes and short, medium, long range missiles by Pakistan and upgradation of minimum nuclear deterrence to optimum levels by Pakistan have effectively stalled the CSD, which envisages capturing several tactical objectives with strategic effects situated close to the border/LoC. Concept of limited war also fall within the purview of CSD. Besides upgrading nuclear capability, Pakistan military has configured its force goals in a manner which can not only tackle the twin threat posed by India in the east and Afghanistan in the northwest as well as externally supported internal threat, but also retains offensive options.
CPEC has posed a bigger challenge to the Indo-US global ambitions. Suffering from nervousness and anxiety, both have stepped up the covert and hybrid wars as well as water war to internationally isolate Pakistan, destroy its economy, cow it down and make it a compliant state.
While Pakistan today finds itself in a precarious situation due to massive debt burden, penurious economy, and disturbed geo-political environments, the situation of US is equally upsetting. In 2001, the Americans had fully backed George W. Bush’s Afghan adventure. Today the Americans are wary of the war and want an end to the futile 17-year war. Trump’s Afghan policy and other erratic decisions are being severely criticized and he faces impeachment, while his wife has separated. The US is badly stuck in the quagmires of Afghanistan and Syria, it is faced with Ukraine crisis, it has locked horns with Russia, China, Mexico, North Korea, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan and there are vibrations in US-EU/NATO relations. Trump’s bullying tactics are not working and anti-Americanism is scaling new heights and so is defiance by the targeted countries.
Of all its problems, Afghanistan is the worst. The US military stationed in Afghanistan together with ANSF made a last ditch effort to emasculate the power of Taliban by using excessive force and then force them to negotiate a political settlement on its terms. Except for causing high civilian casualties, it failed to even slow down the Taliban offensive what to talk of defeating them.
The Taliban enjoy a distinct edge over their opponents and their recent assault of Ghazni has rattled Resolute Support Group (RSG) and the unity government whose writ has got confined to Kabul. It has started cracking as was seen by the resignation and reshuffle of top appointment holders in Kabul.
The attack in Ghazni has brought to light the vulnerability of Afghan security forces (ANSF) whose casualty rate as well as the desertion rate is very high. According to the third quarterly report by SIGAR released on July 30, 2018, the ANSF lost 8,500 personnel from April 2017 to April 2018. They are no match to the Taliban in combat and lack fighting spirit and remain wholly dependent upon American close air support. In Ghazni, the American Air Force conducted 32 airstrikes killing 220 Taliban fighters. The day RSG exits, ANSF will crumble.
Taliban are in no mood to call off their offensive since they want to have second round of direct talks with the US officials from a position of strength. Diplomatically, they are winning friends. Russia invited them for an international peace conference in Moscow. Besides Russia, Iran is also supporting them because of the Daesh factor.
According to research conducted by the BBC, Taliban presently threaten 70 percent of Afghanistan. Another independent website ‘The Long War Journal’ says that Taliban out rightly control 47 districts, while the control of 198 districts is contested between the Afghan government and the Taliban fighters.
The morale of US/NATO troops stationed in eight military bases in Afghanistan is low and they have no heart to take part in ground operations. There have been largescale suicides and post stress disorders cases.
What has depressed the US leadership is that Afghanistan is slipping out of their hands where an amount of $1.3 trillion has been sunk. In 2012-13, when the troop level of USA was 100,000, the expenditure incurred was $100 billion annually. Expenditure incurred on 16000 strong RSG is $13 billion, while $5 billion is spent on ANSF and $78 crores on development. Despite spending so much and losing 2372 soldiers, the US could neither defeat the Taliban nor achieve any of its objectives. The US had to eat a humble pie by finally agreeing to the demand of the Taliban to hold direct talks with them and not through the unity government.
Pakistan military with meagre resources and against all odds has successfully fought the foreign paid terrorist groups numbering over 60, smashed their network and flushed them out and restored the writ of the government in all parts of the country. The integrity and sovereignty of the state and strategic assets are in safe hands. Pakistan is the only country which has achieved laudable results against terrorism.
The US wants to ditch Pakistan but cannot since the air and land routes through Pakistan are vital for the US military to stay in Afghanistan or to exit. What it wants from Pakistan is to either fight the HN and Afghan Taliban, or else bring them to the negotiating table. The first demand has been rejected by Pakistan saying it cannot fight others war. The second request merits consideration provided the US gives a guarantee that like in the past, it will not scuttle peace-talks midway and give peace a chance.
Unlike Pakistan, China and Russia desiring peace, the US, India, and the Afghan puppet regime are anti-peace since continuation of war fetches them strategic gains. The security contractors, drug barons, smugglers and businessmen are interested in material profits. Peace in Afghanistan would mean the fall of unity government and exit of US and India.
Open war against Pakistan is no more an option for the US and its allies due to nuclear factor, robust armed forces that are second to none, and unmatched resilience of the people. Even the option of covert operations in which the adversaries had kept Pakistan fully embroiled for the last 17 years is getting untenable. All the known terrorist groups are now based in Afghanistan and their infiltration will get impeded after the completion of fencing of the western border. Operation Raddul Fasaad is netting the handlers, facilitators and financiers of the terrorists. Decision to expedite sending 2.7 million Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan will cause a big setback to RAW and NDS since the duo had been exploiting a segment among them for fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.
The other worrying development for the US is the Bajwa doctrine, which disregards the US dictates that are against national interests, and asks the US and its allies engaged in counter terrorism to do more to put their own house in order. It is this defiance which has flustered and angered Trump regime filled with hawks. Series of economic related punitive steps undertaken by fuming USA are intended to create grave economic crisis in Pakistan. IK has added to the woes of Trump administration by stating that Pakistan will be an ally of USA for peace and not for war since both Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered grievously in this insane war.
A message given to the American visitors that Pakistan would like to maintain friendly relations with USA based on mutual trust, respect and benefit must not be to their liking. Foreign Minister Qureshi has made it clear that while the concerns of the visitors will be listened to, the security concerns of Pakistan will also be put forward. Landmark visit of PM IK to GHQ and his meeting with Gen Bajwa on Sept 3 has removed all the irritants in civil-military relations and brought the two on one page. This kind of a rapport between the two top power centres was never seen before. It has strengthened the hands of Qureshi to deal with the visitors boldly and to inform them forthrightly that the policy pursued by the US in the aftermath of 9/11 is highly discriminatory, unjust and flawed, which needs correction to make it even based.
They must be politely but firmly asked as to why Pakistan is being singled out for ridicule and whips, and why all the plaudits and rewards for India and Afghanistan, while hypocritically calling Pakistan an ally? Highly discriminatory policy of the US has compelled Pakistan to look for other venues and gravitate towards China-Russia-SCO axis. Turkey and Iran too are shifting towards the East and so is the global pivot of geo-economics.
Frankly speaking, we ourselves are to be blamed for making Pakistan a whipping boy by adopting a self-defeating policy of appeasement and encouraging the US to take Pakistan for granted. Instead of strongly rebutting the false allegations, our leaders remained in a defensive, apologetic and reactive mode. In our bid to keep USA and India in good humor, we failed to build a counter narrative to defeat the fake narrative of our adversaries. Neither the civil nor the military leaders picked up courage to adopt a proactive foreign policy and pursue aggressive diplomacy and effective media war to impress upon the world community that Pakistan is the only country which has achieved spectacular results in the war on terror and has rendered much more sacrifices than any other country but is being censured and pressured by the losers and real perpetrators of terrorism. Our timidity and spinelessness has emboldened the US to make Pakistan a convenient scapegoat to hide its failures in Afghanistan. This faulty policy must be reversed and dignity of the nation restored by the builders of Naya Pakistan.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member Council PESS and TJP. firstname.lastname@example.org