Will Uncle Sam Go Postal in South Asia?

By:Eric Margolis

The US is now risking a military confrontation with old ally Pakistan that is both highly dangerous and unpredictable in the extreme.

It’s awfully hard for the world’s greatest power to admit its high-tech military forces are being beaten in Afghanistan by a bunch of lightly-armed mountain tribesmen that we dismiss as “terrorists.”

But that’s what’s happening in the “Graveyard of Empires.” Washington can’t and won’t admit it has blundered into a bloody, trillion dollar fiasco in Afghanistan.

Right now, Pakistan is the chief whipping boy for US imperial fury.

Last week, outgoing US chief of staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, of being behind recent high profile attacks against US targets in Afghanistan that were allegedly staged by the Haqqani network, one of Taliban’s coalition members fighting foreign occupation. A recent assault by Taliban mujahidin on the US Embassy in Kabul revived very bad dreams of the Viet Cong’s war-winning 1968 Tet Offensive.

Admiral Mullen accused the Haqqani network of being “a virtual arm” of ISI. Pakistan strongly denied US charges. In fact, both CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, have long maintained covert links with the Haqqani group.

Much of CIA’s intelligence on Afghanistan comes from two sources: electronic intercepts, and the Afghan government’s intelligence service.

Most anti-US fighters are far too experienced to use electronic communications they know are easily picked up by US satellites, aircraft, drones, airships, and ground stations.

The Afghan government intelligence service is dominated by Tajik Communists from the old Soviet-created KHAD intelligence agency who are blood enemies of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority.

Afghan spooks have become a primary source of disinformation to US military and civilian intelligence outfits, and likely the source of claims that Pakistan’s ISI was behind recent attacks on US targets in Afghanistan. US intelligence was similarly misled in 2003 over Iraq by a “friendly,” self-serving intelligence service.

Official Washington is reacting with free-form rage rather than careful thought. No doubt, the example of the Soviet 1989 defeat in Afghanistan increasingly haunts Washington.

Ironically, as I saw myself in the 1980’s, the US created the Haqqani network, arming and funding it. In those halcyon days, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Pashtun fighters were hailed by the US as “freedom fighters.” Now, they are “terrorists.”

One of the US Senate’s least intelligent members, influential Republican Lindsay Graham, is threatening more US attacks on Pakistan “to defend US troops” from “terrorism.” US Predator drones are now staging almost daily attacks inside Pakistan – without even advising the feeble government in Islamabad.

Sen. Graham’s threat is pretty rich. The US invades a country, brands any who resist as “terrorists,” then threatens to bomb and/or invade its neighbor to “protect” the invasion force.

Meanwhile, the US is paying bankrupt Pakistan $7.5 billion over five years to sustain the war in Afghanistan.

Ever since the days of George W. Bush, US policy in the Muslim world has been driven by a combination of imperial arrogance and profound ignorance.

When the US was preparing to invade Iraq in 2003, I had dinner with three of Bush’s most senior advisors. “Tell us about Iraq, Eric,” they asked. As I spoke of Kurds, Sunnis, assorted Shia, Yazdis, their eyes quickly glazed over.

“Just give us the bottom line,” snapped one Alpha Republican. “The bottom line,” I replied, “is don’t get involved in a messy country you don’t understand at all.”

Well, here we go again with Pakistan. Hardly any senior members of the Obama administration understand complex Pakistan. There are some experts in Washington who do understand, but they are routinely ignored. The same things happened with Iraq.

The American bulls in South Asia’s china shop are ready to charge in, heedless of the facts or risks.

Threatening war against Pakistan, a nation of 180 million with a tough military is the height of folly. Our forces have not faced a tough enemy ground force since Vietnam. Pakistan will be no cakewalk.

Pakistan controls most of the supply routes essential to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Most Pakistanis now consider the US a bigger enemy than old foe India.

Even crazier, Washington is making warlike threats against nuclear-armed Pakistan, a very close ally of China, an important nuclear power. So far, Beijing has been cautious yet firm in its support of old ally, Pakistan.

But US attacks on Pakistan that go beyond the current raids by CIA drones could draw China into a confrontation with the US. China has quietly made clear it will not allow the US to tear apart Pakistan in order to grab Islamabad’s Chinese-aided nuclear arsenal.

More craziness. The US under both Bush and Barack Obama has been trying to get India militarily involved in Afghanistan. But the Indians were too clever to send combat troops into Afghanistan.

Washington then gave India a green light to pour intelligence agents and money into Afghanistan to support the anti-Taliban Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities. The US has greatly aided the buildup of India’s nuclear arsenal – which has only two targets, Pakistan and China.

All this, of course, has set off alarm bells in Islamabad, which sees Afghanistan as its strategic back yard. Russia and China are also watching this drama with growing unease, torn between concern about militant Islamists and intrusive US power.

The strategic interests of Pakistan and the US are different, often in conflict. Yet the US “put a gun to our head,” as I was told by both a former ISI director and Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, and forced to join the war against Taliban, a close Pakistani ally and strategic asset.

Why should Pakistan forsake its own strategic interests for those of the United States, whose confused, erratic foreign policy is increasingly seen abroad a being run by domestic special interest and extreme religious groups?

A blow-up between Pakistan and its sometime American patron would be a calamity for all concerned. Expanding a war into the intersection of the interests of four nuclear-armed powers is the height of irresponsibility and manic behavior.

But so long as America’s war in Afghanistan continues it indeed threatens to destabilize Pakistan and runs the risk of nuclear confrontation in South Asia.

 

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Comments

  • Mubaschir  On October 5, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Great article. I agree with everything except for, “… United States, whose confused, erratic foreign policy is increasingly seen abroad as being run by domestic special interest and extreme religious groups?” While it is true that there are extreme religious right groups in the United States, they do not have any influence over foreign policy. The United States is being run by a global elite banking cartel who also own and control the industrial military complex. There is a shadow government pulling all the strings in Washington. Obama is just a puppet. The United States and it’s military are controlled by a group of ruthless, wealthy megalomaniacal psychopaths hell bent on ruling and enslaving the world under the umbrella of a NEW WORLD ORDER. The United States, under the influence and control of this insane and ruthless global elite, has morphed into an evil empire and is now the enemy of all of humanity including its very
    own citizens.

  • Portugheis Alberto  On October 5, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Jasmeen, This Eric Margolis makes me sick, pretending USA is working for a better world but doesn’t know how to do it. Unless Mr. Margolis is really blind to political realities. I’ll use capitals for my few comments.

    “The US is now risking a military confrontation with old ally Pakistan” THEY ARE NOT “RISKING”, THEY ARE “SEEKING” CONFRONTATION.

    “….. that is both highly dangerous and unpredictable in the extreme”. THIS IS MUCH BETTER “BUSINESS” FOR USA AND PAKISTAN, AS WELL AS FOR OTHER CO-OPERATING COUNTRIES. MUCH BETTER FOR THE INDUSTRIAL MILITARY COMPLEX, MUCH BETTER FOR BANKS AND MUCH BETTER FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES.

    “It’s awfully hard for the world’s greatest power to admit its high-tech military forces are being beaten in Afghanistan by a bunch of lightly-armed mountain tribesmen that we dismiss as “terrorists.” IT THE GREATEST TRIUMPH FOR USA, BRITAIN AND ALLIES. IF THOSE “HIGH-TECH MILITARY FORCES ALLOWED THEMSELVES TO “BEAT” THOSE SO CALLED TERRORISTS, THE BUSINESS IN WHICH EVERYBODY IS INTERESTED, WOULD CEASE. U.S.A. “CANNOT” ALLOW THAT. FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH WAS “VERY” CLEAR, WHEN HE SAID “THIS IS GOING TO TAKE MANY YEARS”. THIS IS THE PLAN AND THEY’LL STICK TO IT.

    “The American bulls in South Asia’s china shop are ready to charge in, heedless of the facts or risks.” THE FACTS ARE “VERY” WELL KNOWN TO AMERICA. THIS IS WHY THEY HAVE AN EMBASSY THERE, CONSULATES AND SPIES. MANY AFGHANI AND PAKISTANI NATIONALS ALSO HELP, PAID BY CIA. AS FOR RISKS, THERE ARE “NO” RISKS WHATSOEVER. PEOPLE DYING IS OF NO IMPORTANCE WHATSOEVER FOR THE MERCHANTS OF DEATH. THE “BUSINESS” IS WHAT MATTERS. FUNERAL PARLOURS AND CHURCHES ARE DELIGHTED, AS THE MORE PEOPLE DIE, THE BETTER FOR THEIR FINANCES. SAME FOR THE FLOWER INDUSTRY, NOT TO MENTION THE MANUFACTURERS OF MILITARY UNIFORMS, BECAUSE ALL MILITARY ARE BURIED IN THEIR UNIFORM, SO NEW RECRUITS WILL REQUIRE MASSIVE ORDERS OF NEW UNIFORMS.

    “Threatening war against Pakistan, a nation of 180 million with a tough military is the height of folly.” A STUPID, VALUELESS STATEMENT. U.S.A. KNOW PAKISTAN’S MILITARY CAPACITY TO THE LAST BULLET. U.S.A. MILITARY SCHOOLS (AND SEVERAL BRITISH MILITARY SCHOOLS) TRAIN THE PAKISTANI FORCES.

    “Our forces have not faced a tough enemy ground force since Vietnam.” THIS IS WHAT MOTIVATES THE U.S.A. MILITARY. THIS NEW “CHALLENGE.”

    “Pakistan controls most of the supply routes essential to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.” WONDERFUL TO HELP THE WEAPON BUSINESS AND SMUGGLING, OF ALCOHOL, DRUGS, WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

    “Even crazier, Washington is making warlike threats against nuclear-armed Pakistan” THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT U.S.A. NEEDS TO KEEP DEVELOPING THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRRY.

    Have a good day,

    Alberto

  • Ali Kazim  On October 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks. Eric Margolis is always very readable. Regds.

    Ali Kazim

  • Mohammad Chaudhry  On October 8, 2011 at 6:10 am

    The first question to be asked from Eric is,if American administration has gone that naieve, immatue and myopic that with out analysing and cross checking the data fed by Khad,a raw intelligence set-up pf imature,ill-trained, biases Afganis with slanted perspective, it gets driven by their dictates, the who can save from the consquences. Moeover it doesn’t reflect the sagacity of Obama as shown in other theatres like Iran and China.
    Secondly Obama has alreagy suffered enough internally, in economic policies under the pressure of extreme right Republics,if he becomes susceptible to a myopic,thick-headed and unbalanced Republican Graham,then he can create another quagmire for himself and America. Almost the same applies to the case of Haqanis. At the end we can hope and wish that Obama and his collegues ponder over better second thoughts ,maybe with the inputs of the likes of Proff. William and Joe Klein if not Zakaria to restructure policies for South Asia in current comlex situation.
    MSC

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