Pakistan Army: Rogue Army or Frustrated American Ambition?


Editor’s Note: Pakpotpourri has often introduced first time writers. This is a forum where new talent is always encouraged. Today, we are introducing Atif Salahudin.

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Atif Salahuddin

The American raid in Abbottabad in which Osama Bin Laden was apparently killed has brought renewed Western accusations and scrutiny upon Pakistan like never before. Amongst the fallout of the raid for Pakistan have been lurid allegations and an intense focus on the Pakistani military itself, questioning its commitment to America’s ‘War on Terror’. In particular American politicians remain obsessed with Pakistan’s intelligence services and its nuclear weapons with growing calls from US legislators to punish Pakistan for its alleged transgressions. Moreover American officials strongly allege that the Pakistani military has been ‘infiltrated’ by extremists and rogue elements that support the rebels in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The recent arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan who was allegedly tied to Hizb ut Tahrir has only perpetuated this perception. America’s decision to cut $800 million from its annual Pakistan aid budget seemingly epitomises this tough new American approach towards Pakistan.

Such allegations are not new; for years American officials and their media have accused Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service of cooperating with the Taliban whilst failing to provide any credible proof whatsoever which could even be worthy of being presentable in any court of law. Such allegations also need to be taken with a large spoon of salt as actions rather than words are the real markers in determining the true nature of the American-Pakistani government relationship. The fact is that the Abbottabad raid deep inside Pakistani territory could not have even been contemplated without co-operation from Pakistan’s civil and military leaderships; anyone with any basic knowledge of military matters and the Pakistan army would dismiss this absurd claim. Moreover the now almost daily American drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas continue to kill hundreds of ordinary men, women and children. American and NATO supply lines also continue to run deep through the heart of Pakistan, providing the lifeblood of the occupying forces in Afghanistan. More insidiously, the capture and then subsequent release of CIA agent Raymond Davis proved that co-operation between the American and Pakistani intelligence agencies has been much stronger than what has ever been publically acknowledged. The simple fact is that these operations which are indispensible to the Americans would be impossible without active cooperation from Pakistan’s rulers.

The American decision to cut $800 million is an attempt to mask this cosy relationship with Pakistan’s rulers by feigning a difficult relationship. ISPR spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas commentated “the CIA and the ISI are cooperating towards eliminating the common enemy. As far as the impact is concerned….those operations in the tribal areas will continue.” Despite the economic crisis facing Pakistan’s economy a statement issued after the 140th Corps commanders meeting pledged to continue fighting using Pakistan’s ‘own resources’. The next day as ISI Chief General Shuja Pasha landed in Washington, USCentral Command leader General James Mattis landed in Islamabad. The Americans could not ask for more even after pulling their aid dollars.

The truth is that such nefarious hyperbole has been manufactured to provide domestic cover for a deeply unpopular democratic government following a deeply unpopular policy of supporting America in her war in Afghanistan as she faces defeat; by placing public emphasis on Pakistan to clear it’s name time and time again it allows the Pakistani rulers an attempt to justify the slavish American policy as one being followed apparently under duress. This political lie is also exposed as we consider the remarkable hypocritical call by Western leaders such as Barack Obama and David Cameron who openly plead with the Taliban in Afghanistan for a negotiated settlement; the announcement that the American and British governments are engaged in talks with the Taliban makes a mockery of Western claims that military force inside Pakistan is the only way forward. The use of such slander is purely superficial, to be provided for the consumption of the Pakistani public who must see and believe that Pakistan is being coerced, rather than its leaders choosing of their own accord, into launching more military operations.

The net result is that the Pakistani military is constantly being attacked by both the Western and sections of the Pakistani media in drip drip fed allegations as the next global crisis in the making; they deliberately cast aspirations on the ability of the Pakistani military to safeguard its military assets including its nuclear weapons. With attacks such as that on the Karachi Mehran naval base strongly suspected as being an inside job that only further enhanced this narrative, the sequence of events is slowly being established to delegitimise the ownership of such weapons and lay the foundation for more American operations inside Pakistan. The capture of CIA agent Raymond Davis in Lahore after his double murders fully exposed the covert network the Americans have been able to build and establish inside Pakistan yet these commentators do not publically question or even acknowledge what the CIA is doing in Pakistan.

This Western driven campaign is not unlike the American propaganda unleashed against Iraq in the run up to the American-British invasion in 2003 over claims of WMDs which turned out to be a patent lie. The reality is that America could not have more loyalty from General Ashfaq Kayani and General Shuja Pasha insidePakistan; they have provided invaluable service by conducting military and intelligence operations in the tribal areas in order to indirectly support the American occupation of Afghanistan.  Whilst having the military leadership in its pocket, America’s real fear is from the bulk of the Pakistan military, the rank and file, which holds the power to bring real change within Pakistan. After years of political failure and corruption that have resulted in a bankrupt state that has put most of its population into perpetual poverty, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long the secular political system in Pakistan will hold before it folds. America’s fear is that the Pakistan military, a strong Muslim army that resonates to the call of Allah-u-Akbar, could facilitate a genuinely independent state such as an Islamic Caliphate, destroying all of its well laid plans for the region.

America would dearly like to disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons, its rhetoric and actions prove this. In doing so, Pakistan would become a subordinate state to India, leaving it free to face off against China and hence fulfil America’s ambition to curtail the rise of China. It would also stop the rise of any genuine Muslim power in the region. What prevents the American plan is the bulk of the military including the intelligence services who unlike their top leadership share the sentiments of the people in detesting America’s ‘War on Terror’, it’s regional presence and are loyal to their people. It is to exact a purge of these like minded individuals from key positions in the armed forces, including the nuclear Strategic Plans Division, which is what America really seeks from its rhetorical smears; the ‘extremist’ officer is actually the one who is doing his job and frustrating American attempts to gain a stronger foothold inside Pakistan.

This is certainly not true about the leadership in Pakistan. In return for insignificant aid packages that have done nothing to improve the situation for the common man, they have faithfully served the American agenda and continue to jockey to be the new servants for tomorrow. This explains PM Giliani’s attempt to assert control over the ISI back in 2008 upon which he was forced to humiliatingly back down on within 24 hours; America would much rather prefer civilian control because it knows it can count on these weak, inept leaders. Nawaz Sharif’s recent statement that the Pakistani nation should stop being fixated over India as being it’s enemy is another case in point; for such the road to power in Islamabad runs through Washington as they brush aside the horrors of the Partition and the three wars that were fought including the humiliating separation of Bangladesh at the hands of India.

The Indians have gleefully made full use of this unbelievable opportunity that has come their way since 2001. India has no doubt shared its Pakistan intelligence file and assets with America which has used them to devastating effect to create havoc and turmoil inside Pakistan with its numerous Raymond Davis clones. Impoverished India is energy hungry and seeks access to the mineral rich central Asian region. Despite its vast poverty at home, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a recent visit to Afghanistan announced the grant of $500 million to add to India’s previous $1 billion aid package. Minority Pakistani liberals may like to imagine that India is doing this as part of some philanthropic project but one can see that it is the Indians who are actually achieving strategic depth by consolidating their influence in Afghanistan. India has gained that crucial space inside Afghanistan by building roads, schools and hospitals to cement its presence coupled with numerous dubious ‘consulates’ throughout the country; the last time someone checked there was no mass Indian migration to Afghanistan.

This of course would not be possible without American approval as America repays Pakistani support by empowering its traditional enemy. Crucially it provides India with access to Pakistan’s western front and in the event of war the opening of a second front. America is facilitating just that by demanding that Pakistan deploy more military forces inside the tribal areas which our leadership has duly done. This has weakened Pakistan’s defense along the Indian border as more Pakistani forces are pulled away; currently more than 147,000 Pakistani troops are deployed in the tribal areas. The result: Pakistan’s military bleeds by fighting its own people in the tribal areas, physically, economically and politically while India strengthens its position. America’s objective is clear to see; it seeks not only to penetrate the Pakistani armed forces using its agents to disable Pakistan’s nuclear assets but it is also developing the strategic option of initiating war using India at its time of choosing. Today even after Obama’s announcement to cut American troops by 33,000 there will still be 110,000 American and NATO troops along with another 100,000 ‘private contractors’ on Pakistan’s Western front; America is gradually tightening the noose around Pakistan’s neck as it plays the role of the hangman.

Writing in 2007 Fred Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon, two leading neo-conservative chicken hawks, wrote in the New York Times that “As the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss…we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces. One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands.” Fast forward today to Obama’s recent Afghan troop speech where he said “Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan….the United States will never tolerate a safe haven.” Bruce Riedel the former CIA official who devised Obama’s Afghan strategy was even more explicit saying “we need a base to strike targets in Pakistan, and the geography is simple: You need to do that from Afghanistan.” So today after having invaded Afghanistan using Pakistan, America is now painting Pakistan itself as the new target; this is the demonstrable result that Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership has to show after ten years of strong support for America.

America is following a well crafted plan for Pakistan with several phases including overt and covert actions. The first salvo has involved gradually implanting itself and destabilizing Pakistan with sustained terrorist attacks and bombings, similar to Iraq. The second phase has involved getting the Pakistani military leadership to fight its own people in the tribal areas, weakening the bond between the people and the army. The third phase involves direct American attacks inside Pakistan; the Abbottabad raid was designed to break this taboo just as the first drone strike in the tribal areas has been followed by official Pakistani silence. War has many manifestations including deceit and treachery, particularly against a strong entity. A strong, stable Pakistan with 180 million Muslims and nuclear weapons is simply not in America’s interests; an unstable, disarmed and maybe even a balkanized Pakistan allows the US to meet its geopolitical objectives. By seeking to sow discord amongst the army and between the people and the army, America seeks to weaken the one institution that is holding Pakistan together.

General Kayani’s strongly pro-American policy now stands fully exposed as America itself destabilizes Pakistan in a self fulfilling prophecy; it is poignant to note that in the immediate aftermath of the Abbottabad raid Kayani made a roving tour across the country addressing army garrisons in town hall style meetings where he received a strong emotional response questioning his leadership. The Pakistani armed forces recognize who the real enemy is and the betrayal that is weakening their collective strength. Their hostility to America and her supporters is natural, they are exhibiting sentiments that any army would to a hostile force; insofar as that they are no rogue force. No country, especially America, would ever allow the approach of a foreign armed force within its vicinity as the Cuban missile crisis aptly showed, let alone the violation of its borders and sovereignty but yet America expects Pakistan to accept this humiliating position of strategic weakness.

Contrary to its public trashing, the Pakistan military is the biggest asset America has in the region courtesy of the Pakistani military leadership as Pakistani troops, not American, fight and die in the tribal regions in America’s colonial project. Thomas Pickering, the former American ambassador to India, recently said “We tend to need Pakistan more than Pakistan needs us. That’s the current dilemma, because in many ways the United States is utterly dependent on Pakistan for logistical access to Afghanistan.”

Pakistanis should take heart from the fact that America despite its bluster cannot easily attack Pakistan as it stands today. Pakistan has the capability to defend itself militarily which is why it is a target for America in the first place. Pakistan’s enemies may attempt to portray its military as weak but if that was the case then the Indians with all their belligerent posturing and their million man army would not have held back after their parliament was attacked in 2001 and as recently as 2008 after the first Mumbai attacks as India has blamed Pakistan on both occasions. Moreover if America has been unable to defeat the lightly armed ragtag Taliban in Afghanistan over the past ten years, then it would embark on a folly of the highest order against nuclear armed Pakistan. The political, economic and geopolitical ramifications for America would be immense.

The reality is that whilst America is still the world’s leading state, it is a state that is significantly degraded and diminished compared to its position in 2001.America’s military has worn itself out by fighting for nearly 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. The great global financial crisis of 2007 triggered by bad debt in America has revealed the extent of the economic rot America finds itself trapped in with a national debt set to exceed $14 trillion. America can ill afford to spend over $8 billion every month to sustain its Afghan military operations; delivering just one gallon of fuel to Afghanistan costs $400 which even the world’s superpower cannot sustain indefinitely with its finite resources. Outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said “I’ve got a military that’s exhausted…...let’s just finish the wars we’re in and keep focused on that instead of signing up for other wars of choice.” Earlier in February 2011 indirectly referring to the cost of America’s lengthy supply lines he said “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” This is why Barack Obama has announced the reduction of American forces in Afghanistan, as the current force level is unsustainable and given the tenacity of the Taliban, the business case unjustifiable.

Moreover Pakistan holds several cards it can deploy if it wanted to; simply by cutting the supply lines running through Pakistan it can make the American and NATO presence in Afghanistan untenable. It is highly despicable that as Pakistan faces an energy crisis, petrol, kerosene and diesel makes its way through Pakistan to Afghanistan every day. Secondly it can close all the American bases throughout Pakistan and expel all its military and covert intelligence personnel. These steps alone can end the American presence without firing a single shot whilst drawing China closer which seeks to utilize the Gawadar port for cheaper oil supplies overland through Pakistan rather than shipping them through the more expensive American patrolled Malacca straits.

The reality is that Pakistan can quite easily end the American presence. That it does not is the one true failing that rightly deserves to be marked against the reputation of the Pakistan military and placed at its feet. An army’s purpose is to defend its people, its territory and above all its nation’s honor.

The Abbottabad raid has shown that America is entering into a new phase for its plan for Pakistan. The moment has arrived for the Pakistani military to stand up and be counted by ending the American presence before the situation moves beyond the tipping point and becomes irreversible.  Otherwise not only will history record its men and women as being silent spectators to the betrayal of an entire nation but like Iraq it will also record the annihilation and destruction that surely awaits both the nation and the army at the hands of a menacing and cunning foe.

*The writer is a graduate in Electronic engineering with a B.Eng from Kings College and M.Sc from Imperial College London. From Lahore but currently settled in London with over 12 years experience in Telecom and Business.

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  • S U Turkman  On July 18, 2011 at 4:08 am

    Within ‘Inverted Comas’ are the words of the writer. My comments are below.
    “The truth is that such nefarious hyperbole has been manufactured to provide domestic cover for a deeply unpopular democratic government following a deeply unpopular policy of supporting America in her war in Afghanistan as she faces defeat; by placing public emphasis on Pakistan to clear it’s name time and time again it allows the Pakistani rulers an attempt to justify the slavish American policy as one being followed apparently under duress”
    TURKMAN: That’s right. Pakistan had never agreed to co-operate in this US War against Terrorism to get Charity of Aid, Loans and Export Concessions of over $ 100 billion. Government Elected by Pakistanis is un-popular because we say so and we the Military do not trust Zardari. Zardari is a Slave of USA and our patriotic brave Military is duress of getting caught being very ‘Nmak Hraam’. I am not reading rest of the B.S. because from here the facts disappear and lies start getting pasted in.

  • Nawaz Ansari  On July 18, 2011 at 5:02 am

    What’s next, are Americans going to start criticizing everything that we do just because Pakistan turns a deaf ear to unreasonable American demands?

    Pakistan is apparently down to the short strokes with Americans, it needs to cross the Rubicon and start cooking with gas now, in terms of changing its status from observer state to a full member of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) it would be thunderbolt for Americans and Brits alike.

    Imagine it would be hilarious for Hillary Clinton to visit Islamabad as a last resort just to tell Gen Kayani, hey listen up General everything that you guys do is wrong per American interests and by the way your mangos suck, too!

  • Mohammad Chaudhry  On July 18, 2011 at 5:43 am

    What this new author through a hotch potch of his thought process,leading to following inferenes:
    a) Pakistan’s civilian and military top bross consits of America’s stooges,toeing its line in letter and spirit and telling white lies to its own people and posing as coercesed by Westren powers to play this role.
    b) There is conflict between army top command and rank and file and so-called rougue elements

  • TMH  On July 19, 2011 at 1:49 am

    lets hope and pray, that it is Frustrated American Dreams and Ambitions.


  • Salman Abbasy  On July 19, 2011 at 2:36 am

    The Americans prepared the environment for their Af-Pak enterprise by installing a compliant and compromised civilian government in Islamabad through the instrument of the National Reconciliation Ordinance negotiated by American and British envoys with General Pervez Musharraf’s most trusted representatives, notably General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, then chief of the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence. General Kiyani has quietly steered this game plan all along ensuring that any attempts at derailment such as the Long March for restoration of the Chief Justice and the two joint sessions of parliament convened to consider the Taliban occupation of Swat and the Abbottabad raid are effectively neutralised. Pinning any hopes on General Kiyani and his hand-picked generals is an exercise in utter futility. The way out is a long and bloody civil war which also would promote American objectives of taking out Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and reorganising its geographical boundaries. The ordinary Pakistanis are damned either way.


  • By Army Official Military Pocket on July 18, 2011 at 6:44 am

    […] Pakistan Army: Rogue Army or Frustrated American Ambition … Moreover American officials strongly allege that the Pakistani military has been 'infiltrated' by extremists and rogue elements that support the rebels in Pakistan's tribal areas. The recent arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan who Whilst having the military leadership in its pocket America's real fear is from the bulk of the Pakistan military the rank and file, which holds the power to bring real change within Pakistan. After years of political failure and […]

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