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بدھ، 2 فروری، 2011

Do more, America!


People in Pakistan are well and truly fed up of the nonsensical mantra emanating over the last many years from the west in general and USA in particular for Pakistan to " Do More" in the so-called war on terror.
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By Mujahid Alam

The American and British media in particular, fed on leaks from official sources according to a set design, have led the hound pack in attacking Pakistan, in particular the Army and ISI. We have been accused of not only being soft in the fight against terrorism but also for secretly supporting al-Qaeda and Taliban! Nothing could be more preposterous.

According to a CNN report late last year quoting a senior NATO official, conveniently timed before the latest round of US-Pak strategic dialogue, Osama Bin Laden is living comfortably in a house in north west Pakistan with his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri a close neighbour! “Nobody in al-Qaeda is living in a cave”, said the official. Such ludicrous claims, without any shred of evidence, can only make CIA and western intelligence agencies a laughing stock of the world.

However, we need not respond to such charges angrily or emotionally but we definitely need to show the mirror to America and NATO. Their past performances need to be analysed dispassionately and facts clearly pointed out. Two comparisons of relevance need to be made. One is regarding the western hunt for Radovan Karadic and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leaders wanted for war crimes in former Yugoslavia and the second regarding US-Mexico border and America’s futile efforts to stem drugs and arms smuggling. An elaboration of both cases would be worthwhile.

The US and western media continues to criticise Pakistan for not doing enough to arrest Osama bin Laden and Ayman el Zawahiri while repeatedly claiming that our intelligence agencies know where both of them are hiding. What is the US and European track record in a somewhat similar case? While Osama bin Laden and Ayman el Zawahiri have eluded capture for almost nine years now, Radovan Karadic, the former Bosnian Serb political leader had thumbed his nose at the West for nearly 13 years until his arrest on July 21, 2008 and that too by Serbian security officers, not NATO. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military leader has still not been arrested after 15 years! Both these leaders have been charged and indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague. They face numerous counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the laws of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina between April 1992 and July 1995. There are 11 counts against Karadzic and 15 against Mladic, who commanded the Bosnian Serb army. The indictment says they were responsible for persecution of Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) and Bosnian Croat civilians on national, political and religious grounds.

Why did it take almost 13 years for Radovan Karadic to be apprehended and that too by Serbian security not by NATO or the European Union Stabilisation Force (EUFOR) based in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Why have NATO or EUFOR consistently failed to apprehend the war criminal Ratko Mladic even 15 years after his indictment? The geography and terrain of Serbia, where Mladic is most likely in hiding, is far less inhospitable than Afghanistan or northwest Pakistan where Osama bin Laden and Ayman el Zawahiri are alleged to be. Also, the size of Serbia is only 88,412 sq kms compared to Afghanistan’s 652,230 sq km! Even if we include 24,811 sq km of Republika Srpska with Serbia the total area is far smaller. If one excludes northern, western and central Afghanistan, (where Osama and Ayman are unlikely to be), and include only eastern and southern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Zabul and Kandahar the total geographical area is 113,386 sq km. If one adds FATA of Pakistan, which is 27,220 sq km, the area is much larger than Serbia. It is also far more difficult in communication infrastructure and terrain.

NATO and EUFOR are also equipped with most advanced electronic, surveillance and technological devices, compared to Pakistan Army, yet they failed to apprehend two Bosnian Serb war criminals. What justification do they have to criticise Pakistan?

The second comparison relates to US-Mexico border and America’s futile efforts to stem drugs and arms smuggling over the last at least forty years. Pakistan has been consistently criticised for failing to control its side of the border thereby allowing Taliban fighters to cross over into Afghanistan, inflict casualties on ISAF forces and cross back into Pakistan for sanctuary. A little bit of history would be in order with reference to Pak-Afghan border and US-Mexico border to draw some relevant conclusions.
The international border between US-Mexico is 3,169 km (1,969 miles) in length and traverses a variety of terrains, ranging from major urban areas to deserts. It is the most frequently crossed international border in the world, with about 250 million people crossing every year. There are currently 42 US-Mexico border crossings. The border is guarded by more than twenty thousand border patrol agents, more than any time in its history. However they only have "effective control" of less than 700 miles of the 1,969 miles of total border.

In November 2005, Department of Homeland Security announced the launch of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), multibillion-dollar programme aimed at securing US borders. This system has two main components: SBI net, which employs radars, sensors, and cameras to detect, identify, and classify the threat level associated with an illegal entry into the United States between the ports of entry, and SBI tactical infrastructure (TI), fencing, roads, and lighting intended to enhance US Border Patrol agents’ ability to respond to the area of the illegal entry and bring the situation to a law enforcement resolution (i.e., arrest). As of January 2010, CBP had completed roughly 643.3 miles of fencing (344.8 miles of primary pedestrian fence and 298.5 miles of vehicle fence) along the Southwest Border.

For a period of time in the 1990s, United States Army personnel were stationed along the US-Mexico border to help stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. These military units brought their specialised equipment such as FLIR (forward-looking infrared) devices and helicopters. It was very effective but temporary as the illegal traffic resumed as soon as the military withdrew. After the September 11 attacks the United States looked at the feasibility of placing soldiers along the US-Mexico border as a security measure. Some believe the whole US-Mexico border could be sealed with as few as 100 helicopters equipped with FLIR scopes, and a few hundred men equipped with state-of-the-art sensors, scopes, and other electronics. Another strategy suggests that the US Military or Border Patrol could easily eliminate 100% of illegal mainland crossings by placing a guard every 500-1000 feet along the border with Mexico, arguing that even this low-tech, manpower-intensive option would represent a tiny fraction of the annual defence and Homeland Security budgets.

The Pak-Afghan border, commonly known as the Durand Line, is approximately 2,640 km in length and is poorly marked. Since the geographic region in the Durand line is very mountainous, there is no separation barrier. Crossing the border in large numbers or vehicles is only practical in series of passes that lie in between the mountains.

Why has the US consistently failed to control the massive smuggling of drugs and weapons and illegal human trafficking across its border with Mexico that is virtually in its backyard? Why has it failed to allocate adequate human and technical resources to an apparently critical national security issue? And what right does it have to demand of Pakistan to control its much more difficult border with Afghanistan with far less resources than the US?

This does not by any means imply that we should follow a policy of ‘laissez faire’ and turn a blind eye to what is going on in our border areas. We can and must do everything humanly possible within our resources to control any illegal activity. This is in our interest. But our ‘allies’ must also understand our limitations and, before they criticise us again, also look at the mirror and see what their track record has been. Pakistan’s armed forces, police and civil population have given far more sacrifices than any other country. Our army in particular has acquitted itself brilliantly and we continue to be in the frontline. Pakistan neither needs to be apologetic nor come under undue pressure by external forces to fulfill their vested interests. Next time someone in the US feels the itch and tells us to do more we should not hesitate to tell America that it needs to do more itself!

Mujahid Alam has extensive and varied experience of over 40 years at the international and national level with unique experience of working in United Nations, diplomatic, government and military jobs. He retired as Brigadier from Pakistan Army before joining the UN on full-time basis.
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