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منگل، 23 نومبر، 2010

America’s bluffing game

The US threat to step into FATA is a bluff since with its hands full in Afghanistan, it is completely nonplussed how to pullout of the trap which it had laid for the Afghan. Having adopted a rearward posture out of secunity complusions since it has lost control over regions bordering Pakistan.

By Asif Haroon Raja
Pakistan is contiguous to Pashtun belt of Pakistan and is not connected with non-Pashtun areas in the west, centre and north. Whole of northern Afghanistan is attached with three Republicans states of Central Asia while western Afghanistan is fastened with Iran. Apart from geographic contiguity, 42% Pashtuns of 28 million population of Afghanistan share religious, ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties with 15.42 million Pashtuns of 174 million population of Pakistan. Pashtuns living in close vicinity of Durand Line have blood relations. Border line has never acted as an impediment in their cross border movement.
Pashtuns from both sides have been jointly fighting all foreign invaders. In accordance with their age-old tradition, they are doing the same now.It must be remembered that unlike Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, Americans are uninvited guests in Afghanistan and their stay is temporary. Afghan Taliban are part and parcel of Afghanistan, they hail from majority community of Pashtuns, have ruled the country for five years during which they had brought order and security to the war torn country. It will be solely their efforts and sacrifices which will force occupying forces to abdicate. Others had welcomed the invaders and became their partners to fight indigenous resistance forces. Taliban will therefore for sure be part of any future government in Kabul in which they will have a say. Therefore Pakistan can neither wish Afghanistan away nor Taliban. Pakistan ’s destiny is tied with Taliban ruled Afghanistan. As such, expecting Islamabad to completely get detached from Taliban will be unrealistic and foolhardy, particularly so when the US has befriended anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance and is helping India to become a key player in Afghanistan . It will be unfair on part of USA to forbid Pakistan from making any contacts with Taliban when it is trying hard to establish contacts with them and has allowed Karzai to hold negotiations with all factions of Afghan militants. India is vying to encircle Pakistan and is therefore striving to keep Taliban out of power with he help of US-NATO forces. India knows that once foreign troops depart, its stay in Afghanistan would become difficult since the Taliban would not tolerate Indians, thereby all its heavy investment would go waste. Israel which has for the first time made deep inroads in Afghanistan harbors similar apprehensions. India in concert with Israel is busy hatching plans how to extend the stay of coalition forces in Afghanistan for as long as possible so that it could firm up its position on permanent basis and also continue weakening Pakistan from within through covert war.

Pro-India Karzai in the grip of non-Pashtun warlords has been indicating his aggressive intentions against alleged terrorist havens in FATA since 2007. Recently he had provoked USA to strike the sanctuaries in Pakistan . Although the US dismissed the demand saying that it had no plans to send American combat troops to Pakistan , who doesn’t know that Karzai couldn’t have given this offensive statement without a nod from Washington . This became evident when Robert Gates as well as David Petraeus said that the US military was contemplating to step into FATA if Pak Army failed to confront Al-Qaeda in North Waziristan . Idea of such threats is to keep building pressure on Pakistan through various means. The US is resorting to a bluffing game to frighten Pakistan , well knowing it is in no position to stick its neck out into FATA when its body is in the grip of Taliban. The US has been bluffing Pakistan since September 2001 and got away with it. The US bluffed Pakistan leaders on several occasions that Indian military was all set to attack and would hold its horses only if Pakistan submitted to Indian demands. Bluff games, coercion, blackmail, doublespeak, deceit and lies are their tools employed with impunity.
The US threat to step into FATA is a bluff since with its hands full in Afghanistan , it is completely nonplussed how to pullout of the trap which it had laid for the Afghans. Having adopted a rearward posture out of security compulsions since it has lost control over regions bordering Pakistan , the US-NATO military cannot possibly stretch its neck out. Any attempt to do so will provide a lucrative target to the Taliban to sever it with ease. It will be a godsend opportunity for Pakistan to bring all the tribesmen of FATA on board who would love to fight their sworn enemy and settle scores.

Helicopter attacks in North Waziristan and then in Kurram Agency last month were also part of the bluff game. Those were testing rounds to test reaction from leadership of Pakistan and to then make helicopter attacks a routine affair as in the case of drones. When Pakistan decided to squeeze sensitive nerve of USA by ordering closure of main supply route via Torkham carrying 80% of supplies, the US warned Islamabad that if the route was not opened quickly and adequate security provided to the convoys; it may abandon supply routes in Pakistan and opt for alternatives. It was a hollow threat since it knew that other options in the north were not only time consuming but very expensive. Pakistan had purposely kept Chaman route open which carry 20% of supplies to Kandahar . NATO commander came down from the high horse he was riding after realizing that the bluff was not working and feared that the second route may also not be blocked. The route was opened after ten days only when he apologized and assured that such an untoward incident wouldn’t recur.
Instead of eliminating or curbing terrorism, the US has let the monster of terrorism spread from Afghanistan to every corner of the world. Instead of making the world secure it has made it unsafe. It has become the longest and costliest war and still there is no light at the end of tunnel. The war has bled US economy white, shattered its image of invincibility, smeared its prestige, made life of every American vulnerable and cast a gloom. Situation has gone so bad that American strategists have run out of options. There is no clear cut strategy how to wind up the war and ensure safe return of 152000 foreign troops. Out of sheer desperation and impotent rage, US military is blaming Pakistan for its failures and is violating Pakistan ’s sovereignty with impunity by resorting to daily drone strikes in North Waziristan . It is coming up with fanciful stories every now and then to malign Pakistan .

Having lost the war on terror in Afghanistan because of lopsided policies and priorities, the US at this belated stage is in no position to reverse the tide and win the war. Minimum it can hope for is to salvage its troops out of the boiling cauldron of Afghanistan in one piece and with grace. Under the obtaining military situation, the US can ill-afford to open another front against Pakistan . Latter has already suffered a lot since it has been taking the bluffs of USA too seriously and responding to its illegal demands against national interests. Pakistan should now draw a line and do only that much which is possible and in its own interest.

The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.
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