Is U.S. forcing Pak Army into a trap?

Brig. Farooq Hameed Kan(R)

The US Defence Secretary  Leon Panetta’s latest warning that his country would do everything it can to defend US forces from Pakistan based militants staging attacks in Afghanistan reflects the growing US frustration over its failure to overcome Afghan resistance  even after ten years of waging a bloody war in Afghanistan.

 

   Coming in the wake of September 13 deadly attack by Afghan militants against heavily fortified US embassy, NATO/ISAF HQ and the country’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Kabul’s high security zone, Panetta’s threat pointed towards heightened Pak- US mistrust and possibility of unilateral US retaliation against alleged Haqqani network in N.Waziristan.

 

     While Taliban claimed responsibility for Kabul strike the Americans were quick to blame the Haqqani group.  US ambassador Cameron Munter’s unprecedented statement   about evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government which blamed the ISI indirectly for Kabul attacks openly violated diplomatic norms.

 

   Admiral Mike Mullen during meeting with Army Chief General Kayani on the sidelines of a NATO conference in Spain also called for action against Haqqani network. In a speech at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, Mullen was more direct in asking the ISI to sever ties with Haqqani group and that the presence of Haqqani sanctuaries in N. Waziristan potentially jeopardized the outcome of the war.

 

   While Americans basked in the glory of the May 2nd Abbottabad strike, recent spate of militant attacks against US/NATO troops in and around Kabul exposed the poor security situation in Afghan capital. It also raised questions regarding the ability and effectiveness of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and police to defend Kabul and other parts of country against Taliban /militant attacks.

   

       Bagram air base, considered to be the most secure place for US troops in Afghanistan, was attacked by Taliban on May 19 this year.  A day earlier, a suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy in Kabul, killing five US troops taking the death toll for American soldiers past the 1,000 mark. A Taliban bomb attack on September 11 against a coalition base in eastern province of Wardaq had left at least 77 American soldiers wounded.

 

   If after spending  billions of US dollars that has brought US economy on the verge of collapse  and the much trumpeted Obama’s surge strategy, Kabul  and  Afghan countryside still remain  vulnerable to daring Taliban daylight attacks, then  Pentagon has a lot to answer to the angry American public.

 

     The US obsession for action against Haqqani network is not new.  Pak Army has resisted the US demand for a crackdown on the Haqqanis in North Waziristan for almost two years now. The Army believes that it would decide its operational priorities in FATA keeping in view ground realities, act according to its own timeframe and will not accept US dictation in this respect.

 

     With its resources already overstretched,  the  Army’s emphasis remains  towards  consolidating  its  operational  gains in  South Waziristan , Bajaur and other FATA agencies like Mohmand and Orakzai where anti militant operations and sporadic skirmishes with militants’ remnants still continue. The Army recently completed Operation Koh-e-Sufaid in Kurram agency aimed at clearing the region of militants indulging in kidnapping and suicide attacks on security installations and forces as well as re-opening the strategic Thall-Parachinar road.

 

          The top US military leadership’s accusation of Pakistan influencing Haqqani group’s actions is perhaps an overkill. It goes against our security interests  to guide the Haqqanis to attack US/NATO Headquarters in Kabul at a time when Pakistan seeks earnest efforts to remove obstacles in the complex peace process and help bring stability to war torn Afghanistan.      

 

   It is strange that the US is bent upon blaming the Haqqanis when Taliban claimed responsibility for the latest Kabul strike.  If US attack drones could kill Al Qaeda militants in N. Waziristan, what stops them from targeting Haqqani fighters operating within Afghan territory? It is also incomprehensible that Haqqani fighters could travel all the way to attack US/NATO forces deep within Afghanistan and return to their bases on the Pakistan side without being intercepted or challenged by allied troops.

 

    Siraj uddin Haqqani, recently announced his group’s willingness to join the Afghan peace process if the Taliban joined the same which should be a positive signal to the Americans. He also declared that Haqqani fighters no longer operated from North Waziristan and had moved their bases inside Afghanistan.  This appears plausible in view of the US drone attacks that reportedly targeted Haqqani leadership in North Waziristan in the past as well as pressure from Pakistan’s security establishment to make a total shift.

      

      But  Pakistanis are also furious over the  ‘deliberate failure’ of  US/NATO and Afghan  forces   to stop  series  of cross border attacks  by Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants into Dir and Chitral, in which dozens of  our para military troops , government officials and innocent civilians were executed. The US/NATO forces’ withdrawal from Kunar and Nuristan facilitated  TTP militants’ regrouping across the Pak- Afghan border.  In effect, US/NATO   succeeded in activating another front for Pak Army which recently was forced to deploy additional troops in Dir and Chitral.

 

     The Pakistani civil and military leadership appear in no mood to budge under US pressure. Rather  the Americans  were warned to refrain from  another Abbottabad style unilateral military action on Pakistan’s soil, as it would have disastrous ramifications for the already heavily strained bilateral ties between Islamabad and Washington.  Any US attempt to escalate the situation would neither serve the cause of peace in Afghanistan nor facilitate an honorable US exit from the region.

 

     Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, too, has rejected US media reports that in her latest meeting with Secretary of State in New York, Hillary Clinton gave an ultimatum to Islamabad to launch the anti Haqqani offensive. However Pak- US political and diplomatic engagements  must continue to restore trust and confidence between two ‘most allied allies.’  

 

       If the US desires to bring the Taliban and Haqqanis on the negotiating table, they must weaken or defeat them within Afghanistan to the point that the Americans can deal with them from a position of strength. With the increased intensity of Afghan resistance witnessed in recent months, such a situation seems no where visible on the horizon.

 

    

   Why is the US making Pakistan the scapegoat to cover up its own strategic failures and blunders in Afghanistan? Why should Pak Army attack and alienate the Haqqanis with whom we have no dispute? Any offensive in North Waziristan could also endanger Pak Army’s peace agreements with various tribal groups, thereby disrupting the Army’s strategy to isolate the TTP and other hostile militant bodies.

 

   Washington’s targets are undoubtedly both Pak Army and the ISI, their old allies that the US now perceives as the stumbling blocks in its grand designs. The Haqqani hype provides yet another opportunity to defame both. Pak Army must not fall into the American trap in N.Waziristan which could get the Army  entangled  into a complex  situation with  heavy blowback in our cities/towns.

NOTE: This is a cross post from THE NEWS.

 

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Comments

  • Arif Khan  On September 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Most of the Pakistani Generals are sons of Havaldars and atbest F.A Passed. How can such a person be tuned to complex international affairs and they cannot plan beyond their noses.. People ate Lt Gen Talat Masood are few and Far between.. Our Civilian leadership is no better!! No matter what happens in Afghanistan they cannot survive without Pakistan and therefore whoever comes in Power they HAVE to HAVE friendly ties with Pakistan..We dont need the Talibans they come with TOO MUCH OTHER NEGATIVE BAGGAGE Arif Khan

  • Nadeem  On September 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I agree with the writer’s advice to the Pakistan Army, given in the last paragraph.

    NK

    • Zammarah Awan  On September 26, 2011 at 5:18 am

      How low the mentality of Mr Arif….Just pitty you…..

  • Shaheen  On September 25, 2011 at 4:12 am

    when will Pakistan stop fighting and start living?

  • Brig Retd Farooq Hameed Khan  On September 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    If the son of a havaldar has worked hard all his life to climb the ladder of success, passed the two year rigorous training and BA/BSc from PMA Kakul, EXCELLED in all professional/ higher defence related courses in the Army within the country and abroad , commanded military formations and competed on merit for almost 35 years , does he not deserve to be promoted a General? Should merit, competence and honest hard work not be rewarded?

    • S U Turkman  On September 26, 2011 at 12:09 am

      No, if he backs Taliban and JehaaDi Groups. Besides this, no Education qualifies any so patriotic General to become god of Pakistan, over-rule Pak Constitution and Veto a Democratically Elected leader of his country.

  • Zammarah Awan  On September 26, 2011 at 5:24 am

    The recent press conference and reports about presentations in front of Foreign Relations Committee are the true reflection of American mindset at the moment. Both the gentlemen have used very harsh language for Pakistan, that is honestly not reflecting any ‘friendly’ gesture. The US Foreign Secretary also was not left behind in this regard. Looking at the jittery phrases, it does not echo a winner’s mindset. I do not look at it as the termination of war but as the fore cursor of the next phase of war. This has been my belief, since 9/11, as I then repeatedly read Ayat 24 of Sura Tauba, “Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight – are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving (jihad) in His cause;- then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious”. Link it up with Musharaf’s threat perception that formed the basis of his decision to side by the US against our neighbor Muslim brothers. Are these things not happening to us, with over thirty five thousands killed including all ages, so much of destruction of infrastructure, unprecedented economic losses and above all a fearful environment. My lord General Musharaf and his ilk need to carryout cost benefits analysis of our cooperation with our potential invader, whose forces are already striking from air and their agents operating on ground. I recall my staff brief for the then Corps Commander for a conference in post 9/11 scenario, where I noted that the political objectives of the US may lay outside Afghanistan, therefore, we must exercise due care in extending our cooperation to them. I also wrote that Taliban was not a force but a movement/culture too deeply ingrained in the Afghan society that may dilute for the time being but will re-emerge. My immediate boss (COS) struck these sentences off, as I could not substantiate my perceptions with adequate arguments. It was based on the history of previous invasions of Afghanistan. The time has proved that the US is now preparing for the next phase with much clearer politico-military objectives of protecting the US interests anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s nukes are seen as a threat to US interests for its strong ideological orientation, which does not augur well with Israel’s ambitions in the Middle East. Security of Israel is among the core interests of the US. The international opinion is being shaped against Pakistan by projecting it as a country exporting terrorism and incapable of possessing nukes. The smaller countries and NATO allies in Afghanistan are there to gain prestige and money and not for love of Afghans. Musharaf also looked at the similar gains besides his self interests. If we look at the developments in retrospect, the emergence of Pakistani Taliban was triggered as a reaction against employment of Pakistan Army in FATA on demand of the US. This now appears to be extension of war plan in region that gradually built Pakistan as part of problem and not solution. The participation in this disaster plan has already overwhelmed Pakistan with fear (read terror) and hunger (read economic decay). The final phase appears to approaching when the aerial attacks may extend deeper, economic squeeze may become harder, internal unrest and terror may rise and finally international pressure may become so intense to hand over these nukes and behave like a ‘responsible state’ or face the two front war, for which India has been longing since long. So we are caught in a situation of being between devil and the deep sea…..let’s ask our strategist Musharaf to tell us what to do…as he used to say, “we will see when we reach the bridges”. The military leadership is striving hard to find a way out but the civilian leadership is doing what Musharaf was doing, i.e. ensuring own stay in power and be there forever. They should open their eyes and look around at the changing world, where ruling dynasties are disappearing. They should now start speaking the language that Americans understand. That is the language of North Korea and Iran. Times for diplomatic pleasantries are gone, We must now look straight into their eyes and tell them what we feel about their future plans. I don’t suggest a war with the US nor is it an option for the US itself. But don’t take it lying, MIND YOUR LANGUAGE and reply in similar tone rather harder to these ungrateful allies. A wishful thinking….asking too much from the ‘bloody/rich’ civilians who have their personal stakes in the US.

  • Assad Siddiqui  On September 26, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Sir.

    Pakistan is already in the American trap since the wrong decision of our first PM liaquat Ali Khan visiting America first by ignoring the already existing invitation of the (late) USSR way back in early 50s as I am not sure about the dates. .

    AKS.

    • Rauf  On September 26, 2011 at 6:25 am

      Assad Bhai,
      You were right. The first visit of late PM Liaquat was scheduled to go
      to Russia.
      Rauf

  • Brig Retd Farooq Hameed Khan  On September 26, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Awan sahib in particulart

    yes sir , some very pertinent and logical arguments in your elaborate comments.

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