Pentagon aims at target Pakistan

By Pepe Escobar 

Syria will have to wait. The next stop in the Pentagon-coined “long war” is bound to be Pakistan. True, a war is already on in what the Barack Obama administration named AfPak. But crunch time in Pak itself looms closer and closer. Call it the “no bomb left behind” campaign.

Al-Qaeda is a thing of the past; after all, al-Qaeda assets such as Abdelhakim Belhaj are now running Tripoli. The new Washington-manufactured mega-bogeyman is now the Haqqani network.

A relentless, Haqqani-targeted manufacture of consensus industry is already on overdrive, via a constellation of the usual neo-conservative suspects, assorted Republican warmongers, “Pentagon officials” and industrial-military complex shills in corporate media.

The Haqqani network, a force of 15,000 to 20,000 Pashtun fighters led by former anti-Soviet mujahideen figure Jalalludin Haqqani, is a key component of the Afghan insurgency from its bases in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area.

For Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Haqqani network “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] agency”. It took Mullen no less than 10 years since Washington’s bombing of Afghanistan to figure this out. Somebody ought to give him a Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the US government narrative, it was the ISI that gave the go-ahead for the Haqqani network to attack the US Embassy in Kabul on September 13.

Pentagon head Leon Panetta has gone on record saying that in response, Washington might go unilateral. This means that the vast numbers of Pashtun farmers, including women and children, who have already been decimated for months by US drone attacks on the tribal areas should be considered as extras in a humanitarian operation.

The Pentagon’s “long war”, also known as the “war on terror”, may have cost the Pakistani economy up to a staggering $100 billion – and over 30,000 casualties, a large number of them civilians. Under “no bomb left behind”, expect “collateral damage” to keep piling up.

When in doubt, read the book
Predictably, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani – incidentally, a Pentagon darling – denies the ISI is in bed with the Haqqanis. Well, they are. But even more salacious is the current Pakistani official spin – that because the US has failed so miserably in Af, now they are trying to blame Pak for the whole mess.

Looks like Mullen at least has been catching up with the late Syed Saleem Shahzad’s essential book on AfPak, Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11. In the book, Saleem, who as Asia Times Online’s Pakistan bureau chief, details how the legendary – and vain – Jalalludin Haqqani (who still loves to dye his hair) never ceased to be a leading Taliban warlord; and how the ISI never stopped telling him that their offensives against himself, his son and his network were only a show.

The Haqqanis may be based in North Waziristan, but they run a great deal of the show in Paktia, Paktika and Khost on the other side of the border. Wily Jalalludin has pledged total allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar – who everybody knows is holed up in Quetta, in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, but remains mysteriously invisible even to the best US eyes in the sky.

To believe that the ISI would simply get rid of the Haqqanis, or disable their North Waziristan bases so they wouldn’t be able to attack US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Afghanistan anymore, is pure wishful thinking. The Pakistani military has a major dog in the Afghan fight. And the name of the dog is Taliban – which they “invented” in the early 1990s.

Moreover, the Haqqanis can always be counted on as a sort of reserve army to fight the possibility of increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan.

When Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar says the US “cannot afford to alienate Pakistan”, she’s totally right. If that happens, the historic Taliban would turbo charge their already constant string of lethal attacks inside Afghanistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban – TTP) would turbo charge cross-border attacks, from Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan into Dir and Bajaur in Pakistan. And hardcore military factions in Pakistan would be even more motivated to get rid of the civilian government altogether.

Because Washington to some extent trains and equips Islamabad’s military, and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is so very cozy with the ISI, some may think Washington “owns” Islamabad.

It does – but up to a point. Somebody should convene a seminar in Washington to explain that the Pakistani army has a very different agenda from the ISI, while the ISI is crammed with secret rogue cells; it’s one of those cells that may have murdered Saleem Shahzad.

The Pakistani military is trying to make sure the “historic” Taliban led by Mullah Omar, as well as the Hizb-e Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, lose much of their influence in Afghanistan. But at the same time, these hardcore ISI cells want to keep supporting the Haqqani network as a means to keep any future Afghan government on its toes.

Time for Beijing to collect
The going will get really tough if – when – the Pentagon/CIA/White House consortium decides that US Special Forces will violate Pakistani sovereignty by helicopter, a la the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and go for the Haqqanis and thus risk a direct clash with the Pakistani army. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has already called an emergency meeting exactly to analyze this distinct possibility.

If that happens, Islamabad will certainly pull out all stops to dismantle Washington’s critical logistics supply network from the southern port city of Karachi to the Khyber Pass, severely disrupting the flow of NATO supplies to Afghanistan. It will destroy any possibility of intelligence-sharing and cooperation in counter-terrorism/counter-intelligence. Even al-Qaeda will have a new lease of life all across Pakistan – and not only in the tribal areas.

Not to mention that Pakistan has an army of 610,000 – with about 500,000 reserves. Considering that only 15,000 to 20,000 Taliban have been able to run rings around US/NATO troops in Afghanistan for years, the math spells out only one option for Washington: disaster.

Pakistan is one of China’s major geopolitical assets. There’s no question Beijing has already run plenty of calculations on how Washington’s strategic folly – or irrepressible desire to launch a “kinetic” whatever operation – can only result in total alienation of Pakistan.

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu – China’s top security official – was in Rawalpindi on Monday. Significantly, Interior Minister Rehman Malik stressed, “China is always there for us in the most difficult moments.” Meng for his part said they discussed ways to “contribute to national security and regional stability”.

Also this week, the Pakistani army engaged in joint exercises in the Punjab with forces from “Pakistan’s special friend” Saudi Arabia. With special friends like Beijing and Riyadh to compensate for lost military equipment or revenue, no wonder Pakistan’s generals are not exactly mired in desperation.

Yet Washington is desperate, feeling the urge to do something. So what to expect from now on?

Expect a festival of MQ-9 Reapers droning North Waziristan to death. What US President Barack Obama calls a tool of “unique capabilities”, for Pashtun farmers is a weapon of terror.

Expect strike after strike conducted out of a control room in Nellis air force base in Nevada.

Expect an array of strategic missile bombings with spectacular collateral damage.

Expect more Joint Special Operations Command-ordered special operations forces “kill/capture” raids.

Expect a new, humongous Joint Prioritized Effects List, just like in Afghanistan; no names, just a list of mobile or satellite phone numbers. If your mobile gets on the list by mistake, you’ll be snuffed the Hellfire way.

Expect deadly, eternal Pashtun vengeance against Americans to be as irreversible as death and taxes.

And most of all, expect a low intensity war to turn volcanic anytime.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

NOTE:This is a cross post from Asia Times Online.

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  • Saeed Qureshi  On September 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    An objective analysis of the volatile situation brewing up in Afghanistan and around.
    Saeed Qureshi

  • Khan Zia  On September 30, 2011 at 9:28 am

    This is mad. The planners in Washington are used to getting their way with Pakistan through bluff, bluster and blackmail but they are not mad. Before carrying out any of the acts this gentleman has suggested they will carefully consider Pakistan’s capabilities and options.

    First and foremost among these is the certain risk to their position in Afghanistan if the lines of logistic support through Pakistan were to be cut. Secondly, there is no certainty of how the situation will develop once the suggested actions are initiated. It is next to impossible to forecast what direction any war may take. A planner worth the name would also not overlook the fact that the primary sources of western oil supplies as well as a number of significant military bases lie within the range of nuclear weapons.

    At the end of the day, it is highly doubtful if what the writer has suggested will achieve anything meaningful or positive for the US. The risks are enormous. No one in his right mind will take the gamble. We have to look elsewhere for what may be afoot. It may be as simple as Mullen trying to justify lack of success in Afghanistan and looking for a scapegoat. More likely, it signals a change of course to shift attention from Afghanistan to Pakistan which has always remained in western cross-hairs. Considering her thoroughly weakened political and economic situation it remains a tempting proposition. In any event, military action of any kind is most unlikely to be on the cards. They have other ways and options for achieving their aims.

    • S U Turkman  On October 10, 2011 at 1:37 am

      This is mad. The planners in GHQ are used to getting their way with USA through bluff, bluster and blackmail but they are not mad. Before carrying out any of the Terrorists acts this gentleman has suggested they will carefully consider USA’s capabilities and options.

  • Pervez  On September 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Taking the cue from Khan Zia Sahib, I ask:
    · Because ‘They have other ways and options for achieving their aims’, is it not proper for us to have our options too?
    · If the Americans are allowed bases in Pakistan, why not create balance by offering the same to Chinese?
    · A few Chinese squadrons based in Pakistan would surely put a cat among the pigeons?
    · Does any American commander have the guts to order shooting down a Chinese aircraft – or go after it into China following the asinine hot pursuit doctrine?
    The Americans understand and admire rudeness, putting the polite Pakistanis and Chinese at a disadvantage. For this once, I will be deliberately a little rude. Let us give them a ‘tit’ for the ‘tat’ they shoved into our faces.
    Parvez Amin
    SB Mech E MIT ’56; FRSA
    Chairman Madadgar Pakistan

    Gulkalee, Harbanspura Road
    Cell: 0333 422 77 51

    • S U Turkman  On October 10, 2011 at 1:44 am

      Perwez wrote: “If the Americans are allowed bases in Pakistan, why not create balance by offering the same to Chinese?”
      TURKMAN: But are there not 16 Bases built by China in Gilgit? Why is USA not scared of those Bases and Chinese Army there? Because China is on USA’s side in war against Terrorism, not Pakistan’s.
      Perwez wrote: “Does any American commander have the guts to order shooting down a Chinese aircraft – or go after it into China following the asinine hot pursuit doctrine?”
      TURKMAN: Does any Chinese commander have guts to order shooting down a US aircraft – or go after it following the asinine hot pursuit doctrine? Does China have guts to even attack and take back her own tiny little Island Taiwan 110 miles from her border? Does China have guts to stop US Navy Ships from roaming around in Sea of China? … Very ignorant of you Perwez.

  • Nadeem  On September 30, 2011 at 9:30 am

    As always, Escobar is right on the money. Escalation of war inside Pakistan by U.S./NATO will not only cause immense destruction but will unleash a response beyond the imagination of most Americans as well as their policy makers.

    Make no mistake, Pakistan Army is not Iraqi, Libyan or Taliban Army! Has America forgotten Vietnam???

    Nadeem Kausar

    • S U Turkman  On October 10, 2011 at 1:48 am

      Yes, yes Pakistan Army has never been defeated in the history of the world. Its that it just can’t control a few thousand Taliban.Has Pakistan forgotten its retreats against Indian Army in 1948, 1965 and surrender in 1971?
      Pakistan Army can fight the full force of US Army now?
      Someone must be Day Dreaming.

  • Zubair  On September 30, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Knowing US, they will not launch manned attcks by air. The tactics US follows is to use cruise missiles specially against countries which have an efficient air force. Even against Iraq and Afghanistan which did not have much of an Air Force, the US warriors always played safe and used unmanned Tomohawks. If our ally has finally decided to expand war into Pakistan, let us brace for Tomohawks—-if so they would like to target our air bases first. America is a wounded animal and hence a mad one. However, they are not stupid to launched manned a/c against us unless he target is as safe as Abbotabad or somewhere close to Afghan border where they cannot be intercepted before weapons release.


    • S U Turkman  On October 10, 2011 at 2:21 am

      Sorry to inform you but USA had not used just Tomahawk Missiles against Iraq or Taliban and your Army disguised as Taliban in Afghanistan.
      * First, a high flying 747 that you could not see from ground had flown over Afghanistan. It had a Computers and dozens of Computer Operators were looking for Military Installations, Tanks, Warehouses, Planes, Missile Batteries, Anti Aircraft Guns etc with their high powered Computerized Binocular Cameras and marking them out in the Central Computer Map of Afghanistan.
      * Parts of this Data was transmitted to each F-16 and its path of Flight was set by its Flight Computer.
      * Missiles of F=16s were fed Target Picture so they would not go astray and kill Civilians before they were fired.
      * F-16s flying so high that they could not be seen or shot down by any Missiles were shooting Missiles at Pak Army supplied Tanks and Armored Vehicles with Bulls Eye accuracy.
      * When, all Pakistan supplied Missile Batteries and Anti Aircraft Guns were taken out by F-16’s. Bombers as huge as 747 had come using monster Machine Guns that shot 3″ diameter Bullets at Taliban and Pak Army positions.
      * After this, Helicopter Gun Ships were sent to take care of remaining Taliban and Pak Army Soldiers disguised as Taliban.
      * Since Smart Bombs are cheaper than ‘F-16 shot Missiles’, after then, those huge Bombers were dumping Smart Bombs on Taliban.

      Do you know, what is Smart Bomb, Kid?
      This Bomb and Target Picture Fed Missiles were developed on my idea of Reverse Computer Micro Processor.of 1981. Smart Bomb is also Target Picture Fed Bomb but it has small Wings on the sides that automatically adjusts the direction of its falling down to keep the Target in its sight.
      . .
      It was not Taliban that USA had defeated in Afghanistan. It was Pak Army also and a Pakistani Scientist Inventor, who nobody cared for and had mistreated violently in Pakistan had defeated Taliban and Pak Army. Allaho Akbar …!

  • Faisal Imam  On September 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

    the bottom line says it all. thank the leadership for this mess. eventually we have to make a hash and then surrender.How do we win? nobody has defined the goalpost and nobodt knows what direction we are headed.

    • S U Turkman  On October 10, 2011 at 2:22 am

      Our goal is destruction of the West and every direction is our destruction.

  • Nasim Hassan  On October 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Why and how a super power like America got into this mess is beyond me. I always thought that third world countries, their people and leaders are irrational. Many Pakistanis believe that Pashtuns are illitetarte and stupid. Anyone who has directly dealt with them knows that they can look into the eyes and figure out the intentions. They fully understand the intentions of major powers.

    Another misconception is that Pakistan, ISI or army can control Talibans. This fallacy should also be kicked out.


    • S U Turkman  On October 10, 2011 at 2:27 am

      You know how USA got involved in this mess. Our Monkey Osama had gone to New York with help of our ISI and fingered Anus of Sleeping Lion, USA causing 9/11.
      PushToons know, who their Enemy is. Pakistan and particularly Punjabi because our Army disguised as Taliban accompanying them did not speak PushTo and always talked in Urdu or Punjabi.

      Now Afghans want USA to stay and do not leave in 2014 either and Afghanistan has already signed some secret pact with India last week. Eat your heat out …!

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