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Stimulated instability in Af-Pak region Part-3 Asif Haroon Raja

Stimulated instability in Af-Pak region

Part-3

Asif Haroon Raja

The steep decline in America’s image and standing after 9/11 is a direct reflection of global distaste for the instruments of American hard power: the Iraq invasion, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, torture, rendition, and Blackwater’s killings of Iraqi civilians. – Shashi Tharoor

Unforgiving attitude of the losers

The Taliban’s meteoric victory has dejected the USA, Europe, India, Israel, Iran, liberals and seculars all over the world but has pleased the Islamists. Countries governed by parliamentary democracy and dictatorship are also upset.

The victorious Taliban after giving general amnesty to the collaborators, have neither carried out any retributions, nor demanded trials of those who had indulged in massive war crimes as was the case with the victors of the 2nd world war carrying out Nuremberg trials of the Germans, or sought war compensations.

The losing US-NATO are however, in black mood, and seem to be primed to avenge their defeat through means other than the military to teach a lesson to the Taliban as well as the convenient scapegoat Pakistan, which was first held responsible for the instability in Afghanistan and now for the victory of the Taliban, and for supporting the new regime.

Ironically the losers are trying to dictate terms to the victors and no one is asking them as to who has given them this right.

Governed by Islamophobia, Islamic Emirate is unacceptable to the prejudiced West, and is therefore finding faults in every good or bad act taken by the new regime in Kabul and is trying to unsettle them. They want them to fulfill their promises immediately. It is like asking a one-month old baby to start running.

The US controlled UN has not fulfilled its commitments given to the Palestinians and Kashmiris 74 years ago. Did the Kabul regime, the Afghan Army and India live up to the expectations of the US, or did the US fulfill its promises made to the Afghans in their 20-year rule?

The US after forcibly occupying Afghanistan chose to keep the heavy majority Afghan Pashtuns out of power and handed over the reins of power to the minority ethnic communities. Idea of an inclusive regime never occurred to the occupiers. The two puppet regimes were responsible for fomenting subversion in the region, deepening cleavages within the Afghan society and for creating a big mess. And yet the US tolerated the puppets and richly rewarded them simply because they governed the country as a so-called Islamic Republic under the US tailored constitution.   

Ill-intended demand of inclusive regime

The interim set-up in Kabul has not pleased the US, its strategic allies, and the neighbors of Afghanistan. All are insisting on an inclusive regime not realizing that how can revolutionary Taliban accommodate collaborators who aided and abetted foreign occupation, undertook mass killings and inflicted cruelties upon them. Traditionally, the revolutionaries undertook mass killings of their opponents. 

The Northern Alliance elements are though Muslims, but have a secular bent of mind and are predisposed to the western civilization and not to Pashtunwali code. They had extended their loyalties to the invading Soviet forces and also to the western forces and served them loyally. They showed no mercy to the oppressed Afghan Taliban.

Interestingly, none has insisted on selecting honest, upright and capable persons from various ethnic communities on merit.

There is no room for liberal political philosophy in Islam which had given birth to pro-rich and anti-poor deceitful modern democracy. 

Continuation of hostile policy

Yes, war is hell. It is awful. It involves human beings killing other human beings, sometimes innocent civilians. That is why we despise war. – John O. Brennan

The US is angry with Pakistan on account of refusing to provide a military base for counter terrorism purposes, its new policy of defiance and Imran Khan’s brashness to show mirror to the West. The US has got addicted to the pliant leaders and cannot tolerate defiant leaders.  

 

 

 

 

 

While Daesh-K has been activated to carry out acts of terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, other hostile measures undertaken so far are freezing of Afghanistan’s $9.5 billion in the US banks, suspension of financial assistance by the World Bank and the IMF, and pushing the Taliban regime to grant more freedom to the women and to induct bigger number of women in the parliament.

Hybrid war has been intensified to vilify Pakistan and to disconcert the new regime in Kabul.

The US know that since the Taliban cannot be browbeaten, purchased, tricked, or humbled, the only way to have a toehold in Afghanistan is to include the lackeys from Northern Alliance in the interim as well as in permanent set-up who can be easily manipulated to act as fifth columnists and to help in sabotaging peace and stability.    

To punish Pakistan, the TTP, BLA and Daesh-K have been brought under one umbrella to accelerate terrorism in former FATA and Baluchistan, sword of FATF hasn’t been removed, and cricket teams of New Zealand and UK have cancelled their tours on account of invented insecurity. Australian and West Indies teams are likely to follow suit. Indian hand in the cricket racket has been traced and proof sent to ICC.

Political polarization and terrorism have been further intensified by the detractors to project Pakistan as politically unstable and an insecure country in order to block foreign investment.

Instability in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan suits the spoilers since it will impede the progress of CPEC and will also prevent Afghanistan getting connected with it for which the Taliban have expressed their readiness.

Taliban’s amiability

Much to the chagrin of the spoilers, the Taliban are giving right signals to elicit support of the international community. They want to expand trade ties with other countries and have expressed willingness to induct more Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and also women in the cabinet. After operationalizing the badly damaged Kabul airport, they are seeking restoration of international flights. Their amiability will however be not at the cost of making compromises on Sharia laws.

The Taliban have forgiven their internal and external enemies, but have not forgotten their treachery. They have agreed to cooperate, but not at the cost of losing Islamic identity, Islamic culture and values. They have no intention of falling into their honeycombed trap promising moon and are taking measured steps sensibly. 

Pakistan’s stance

Since problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan are interlinked, the latter is keen to restore stability in Afghanistan at the earliest. It is right in saying that the Afghans having gone through four decades of turmoil need healing. Apart from dispatching humanitarian assistance, trading in local currency and lowering tariffs on import of fruits and vegetables, Pakistan is lobbying hard to convince the international community to send all possible assistance to stabilize the new regime.

In its view neglecting the Taliban would be disastrous for the region in particular and the world in general due to financial, food and health crises and rising poverty in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is making strenuous efforts to bring all the six neighbors of Afghanistan in one loop to tackle Afghanistan’s socio-economic issues regionally and has made good progress.

Terrorism major worry of Pakistan

Apart from economic woes, Pakistan’s major worry is continuing acts of terrorism. Reportedly, bulk of the TTP elements and its affiliated groups have moved into Pakistan and are regrouping in Loralai and Zhob. The TTP leader Noor Wali Mehsud is dreaming of bringing back former FATA under his sway and to make it an Islamic Emirate. To win over the locals, the TTP is targeting law enforcement agencies only.

The Baloch groups led by BLA have teamed up with Dr. Allah Nazar’s Lashkar Baluchistan group. They are targeting security personnel and Chinese in Quetta, Awaran, Kharan, Turbat, Gwadar, Mastung, Sibi, Mach, and Bolan. BLA-Daesh-K terrorists are operating jointly from Nago hills in Mastung and are in contact with dacoit gangs in interior Sindh. A cell of Baloch rebels is functional at Sheerzan (Chahbahar) led by Rasool Bux. With the closure of Spin Boldak main supply route, the terrorists are receiving funds and weapons from India via Sindh, Mekran coast and Sistan.  

Several intelligence based operations have been conducted in Waziristan and Baluchistan, and good results achieved. Several militant leaders were gunned down and large caches of arms recovered. Speedy completion of fencing of southwestern border along with improved border management has become necessary.      

China’s role

China is keen to fill the power vacuum in Afghanistan and has developed good understanding with the Taliban. Its flagship project of CPEC cannot perform optimally without stable Afghanistan and getting connected with CPEC through Peshawar-Kabul Highway. It has extended 200 million Yuan aid to Kabul, which includes 3 million corona vaccines. China’s foreign minister told his counterpart in Washington that it was unethical to freeze accounts of war-torn countries and advised him to unfreeze Kabul’s cash assets and to extend humanitarian assistance.

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, and Member CWC PESS & Think Tank. asifharoonraja@gmail.com    

To be concluded

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Pakistan’s subservience to lukewarm defiance   Brig.Gen(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja, Pakistan Army

This article was written before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban Forces

Pakistan’s subservience to lukewarm defiance

 

Asif Haroon Raja

9/11 changed the global dynamics

On the morning of 9/11/2001, unknown hijackers flying two passenger planes struck the twin towers in New York with short intervals, the third plane headed for Washington and struck part of the Pentagon building and the 4th plane on its way to Pennsylvania was shot down. The flummoxed US security watched the gory drama for hours helplessly.

The US media blared earth-shaking news and cried hoarse over the air terrorism which took the lives of little over 2700 Americans. The world was shocked and the world leaders shed tears of anguish and sympathy over the great tragedy, while the Zionists drew satisfaction that they were successful in hoodwinking the world. 9/11 changed the global dynamics and from that time onwards the world moved differently.

All the three successive regimes of the USA led by George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump played into the hands of the Zionists, American Jewish lobby and Israel, and used excessive military force to destroy the targeted Muslims countries, and to kill, maim and displace the Muslims ruthlessly under a pre-planned agenda.

Each year, wreaths were laid on the graves of the innocent Americans who died in New York, but no tear was shed for the millions of Muslims who were killed by the revengeful Americans for no fault of theirs.

Al-Qaeda blamed without evidence

Since Osama bin Laden (OBL) hailed from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and most of the 19 hijackers were from KSA, it was assumed that OBL based in Afghanistan and heading Al-Qaeda had masterminded the attacks. Al-Qaeda was squarely blamed on the basis of assumptions that it had been involved in attacks against American targets since 1997 and had carried out attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1999.

A crusade against the Muslims

Fuming George W. Bush declared that the US was at war and pledged to avenge. He avowed the Global War on Terror (GWoT) as a ‘crusade’ against the perpetrators without collecting a shred of evidence. The Americans sitting in the hall stood up from their seats and cheered him thunderously, while the world leaders extended their support to bludgeon the ones who had dared to attack the mighty sole super. Not a single country spoke in support of the Taliban regime which had no role to play in the attacks. Their only fault was that they had refused to hand over OBL without providing them proof of his involvement.        

The overall agenda was to demean Islam, which after the demise of communism in Russia was viewed as a major threat to capitalism, the arms, drugs and pharmaceutical barons and the unjust global international order run by the sole superpower.

Israel and India, the two strategic partners of the US, didn’t take part in the GWoT initiated by the US in Oct 2001 but drew maximum benefits from the war.

The UN-recognized freedom movements of the Palestinians and the Kashmiris to free their lands from the illegal occupation of Israel and India were categorized as terrorism, thereby giving a free hand to the two fascist and racist countries, Israel and India, to brutalize the Palestinians and the Kashmiris unpityingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denuclearization of Pakistan

In order to disable the nuclear program of Pakistan covertly, Pakistan was deceitfully made an ally and Pakistan readily fell into the honeycombed trap.

India was assigned the responsibility to plan and execute the biggest covert war against Pakistan from Afghan soil, and make it politically unstable, economically and militarily weak and socially divided; subsequently, launch a limited war under Cold Start Doctrine and the nuclear overhang to destroy Pak armed forces. 

RAW along with 14 intelligence units, seven Pakistan specific Indian Consulates and Indian Embassy in Kabul set up a huge terror infrastructure in Afghanistan with 70 training camps and centres in 2002 and were given full support by the CIA, Mossad, MI-6, BND and NDS.

The proxy war against Pakistan

Initial objectives of destabilization were FATA in the northwest and Baluchistan in the southwest of Pakistan. This was done through proxies hired from Pakistan. In FATA, the Pakistani Taliban were used as mercenaries. In Baluchistan, the Balochi tribes of Bugtis, Marris and Mengals were brought in line and proxies like BLA, BRA and BLF were created.

The proxies were funded, trained and equipped to carry out acts of sabotage and subversion in the two combat zones. The flames of terrorism were to be subsequently spread to all parts of Pakistan. The MQM was also roped in to destabilize Karachi, the hub of Pakistan’s economy.

 

Pakistan coerced to join GWoT

Pakistan under Gen Musharraf who had been bullied to ditch the ruling Taliban regime of Mullah Omar and to extend full support to the US to capture Afghanistan was later on coerced to send regular troops into South Waziristan (SW) in 2003 to flush out the Al-Qaeda and the ones harbouring them. This was in violation of the agreement signed in 1948 by Quaid-e-Azam and the elders of FATA to keep the tribal belt outside the ambit of Pakistan’s penal laws and parliamentary system and to let them be governed by the British enacted Political Agent system and the Frontier Constabulary Rules. The Frontier Corps could only operate in FATA.  

The intrusion of regular troops into SW fueled Talibanization and by Dec 2006, with the active support of the CIA and FBI, Tehreek-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) was born. Well over 600 pro-Pakistan Maliks, elders and religious leaders were killed to create space for the TTP under Baitullah Mehsud. After the death of Akbar Bugti in a mountain cave in 2006 because of a mysterious blast at a time when the Army’s delegation approached him to sign a peace agreement, the insurgency in Baluchistan morphed into a separatist movement and several Baloch Sardars fled abroad who are being patronized by their western hosts and India. Insurgencies in the two regions were well-synchronized by the master planners.   

Pakistan’s hands tied

When armed insurgency suddenly erupted in Indian Occupied Kashmir in Oct 1989 and gave a chance to Pakistan to even up the score of 1971 with India, the US threatened Pakistan to stay out of it or else it will be declared a terrorist state. Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif (NS) complied meekly and quietly watched the massacre and torture of Kashmiris by the occupying 700, 000 Indian forces.

Pakistan once again became powerless to initiate a proxy war to counter the RAW-NDS covert war after 9/11 that had become an existential threat to its security by 2009, because its hands were tied by the new laws on terrorism framed by the US. Those abetting terrorists were to be held equally responsible for terrorism. India and its partner the Kabul regime were given a free hand and have still not been held accountable since the framers of anti-terrorism laws are themselves involved in this game.   

Pakistan’s fault lines attacked

The band of conspirators in Kabul hatched a series of conspiracies and kept funding and arming the paid proxies to bleed the Pak security forces and to create instability and insecurity in the country. To boost the covert war, the propaganda war was upgraded to hybrid war and the moles of foreign agencies deployed in Pakistan aided by purchased Pakistani media started accentuating ethnic, sectarian, religious and political fault lines of Pakistan in order to foment intolerance, extremism and hatred among various sects and political parties.

Keeping the model of East Pakistan where the Bengalis were successfully brainwashed, the minds of the people of smaller provinces were poisoned to fill their hearts with hatred against the ruling government, Punjab and Pak Army/intelligence agencies. The focus has mainly been on weakening the trunk of the army and the ISI which have blunted all the conspiracies and dangerous plans of the adversaries.

Pakistan’s subservience

 

Pakistan’s successive regimes have pursued a policy of appeasement due to which its adversaries have been taking full advantage. Subservience to the US dictates touched new heights during the tenure of Gen Musharraf. Each and every demand of Washington was obsequiously obeyed and no eyebrow was raised on the never-ending mantra of ‘Do More’ or the insults and accusations hurled by the US leaders. It was incomprehensible for every Pakistani as to what compelled nuclear Pakistan to mollify the two US-installed Kabul regimes which took dictations from the US and India. Hamid Karzai and the unity regime of Ashraf Ghani (AG)-Dr. Abdullah never spared any opportunity to bad mouth Pakistan. Till as late as 2017, Pakistan kept appeasing India as well. Pakistan’s 80,000 human and 150 billion dollars financial losses were the doings of RAW and NDS.

Pakistan’s successive regimes from the time of Gen Musharraf to Zardari and NS ignored the hard fact that RAW and NDS couldn’t have carried out massive covert and propaganda wars from Afghan soil without the full support of the CIA and approval of the US. The trio as well as Israel and the West are on one page. The Quad apart from achieving their global ambitions, they are continuing to demean Islam as a policy.

So what could be the compulsion of Pakistani leadership was a million-dollar question asked? The only obligation is that our leaders are too infatuated with the USA and cannot get out of its magic spell irrespective of whatever cost the nation has to pay.

The devastating impact of this one-sided appeasement was that Pakistan lost its nuclear deterrence, its honour and dignity, and anyone could insult or slap Pakistan and get away with it. Pakistan was blamed for all the sins of the Indo-US-Afghanistan nexus and was declared ‘nursery of terrorism, ‘the most dangerous country and a ‘failing state’. Pakistan took the barbs without a whimper and kept promising to do more to please the double-dealing USA, which never wanted Pakistan to become a self-reliant country. 

 

Pak-China equation and CPEC

 

Apart from Pakistan’s nuclear program, other eyesores that were unacceptable to the Indo-US-Israel nexus were Pak-China closeness and the CPEC. Terrorism was stepped up by RAW-NDS to scuttle CPEC. Pakistan was lured by KSA and UAE by granting heavy loans and promising establishment of an oil refinery at Gwadar, and the US promising activation of ROZs in former FATA and an economic zone at Karachi as an alternative to the CPEC.

A sustained media warfare was launched against China. Major themes played up were: CPEC passes through the disputed territory of Gilgit Baltistan; China is a replica of East India Company; Pak-China trade is heavily tilted towards the latter; 90% of the benefits of CPEC are taken by China; China is buying properties in Pakistan at a vast scale and weighing down Pakistan under its loans; Chinese are luring Pakistani girls to marry them, and after taking them to China are being tortured and sexually exploited; Chinese are inhumanly torturing the Muslim Uighurs in Xingjian province.

While the Pakistan military made no compromise on the nuclear program, cracks appeared in the Pak-China friendship in 2018/19 over CPEC due to irresponsible statements made by Razaq Dawood and some other PTI ministers saying that all the CPEC agreements will be revised. Resultantly CPEC which had galloped fast in the first phase came to a halt for almost a year.

    

Pakistan’s defiance

The first brick of defiance was laid by PM Liaqat Ali Khan by refusing the USA to convince/pressurize Iran not to nationalize its oil. The second brick was laid by the PM ZA Bhutto when he refused Henry Kissinger to close Pakistan’s nuclear program. Both had to pay a big price; Liaqat was murdered and Bhutto was hanged. Nawaz Sharif in May 1998 rejected pressures from Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, turned down the inducement of $ 5 billion and went ahead in carrying out six nuclear tests in response to five conducted by India. In 1999, he was unseated. Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani as army chief lost his cool after NATO’s Apache gunship helicopters attacked Pakistan army posts in Salala (Mohmand Agency) on Nov 26, 2011, killing several officers and men. This offensive act was a follow up of incidents of Raymond Davis in January 2011 followed by a stealth helicopters attack in Abbottabad to get OBL on May 2, and the Memogate scandal in Oct. In reaction, Pakistan Army discontinued military cooperation, intelligence sharing and training of Frontier Corps by the US trainers, and cancelled all visits and courses. The two supply routes used by the NATO containers were blocked and the Shamsi airbase in use by the CIA since 2003 was closed. The situation was normalized in July 2012 after Washington tendered an apology with an assurance that such an act will not be repeated.  

In 2017, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa took a bold stand by stating that ‘We will not do more, and ‘it is time for others to do more. The next was his perseverance to erect a fence along the border with Afghanistan and Iran. Both the Kabul regime and the US exerted extensive pressure to stop the erection of a fence along the western border. 92% fencing of western border and 47% of the southwestern border has been completed and both will be completed by Aug 2021 and end of this year respectively. Radical improvement of border management was another feat that has been accomplished. Next will be the fake national identity cards issued by NADRA in millions to foreigners, mostly the Afghans including the one held by AG.    

PM Imran Khan (IK) showed the mirror to the arrogant West for the first time in his maiden address to the UN in 2019 reminding them that no money laundering was possible from the third world without the tax havens in the European capitals. He also exposed the ugly face of India comparing RSS with Nazis and Modi with Hitler and this has been his consistent theme. Standing up to India’s belligerence in February 2019 and giving a befitting response goes to his credit.

Extreme American pressure on Pakistan by the US to detach itself from the CPEC was resisted. Thankfully, dormant CPEC has been fully reactivated and now the lost time is being recouped with full vigour.

Pak-China friendship has blossomed into a strategic partnership, which is analogous to the US-Israel and the US-India partnership. 

The biggest jolt given to the US by Pakistan was IK’s refusal to meet the CIA Director and Foreign Secretary and then refused to give it a military base for so-called counter-terrorism operations against the Al-Qaeda, Daesh and Taliban. IK’s ‘Absolutely Not’ became a buzzword in Pakistan. Such acts of defiance from the compliant state were stupefying for the totalitarian USA.    

Drop scene for the USA and India

The arrogance and prestige of the USA boasting to be the mightiest and invincible military power have been rolled in the dust by the ragtag, ill-equipped, ill-dressed and ill-fed Taliban after they forced the US-NATO forces to exit from Afghanistan. The Taliban outwitted the occupation forces and the collaborating forces, and the way they overpowered the country was a textbook example of military brilliance. They also displayed diplomatic finesse by engaging with all the neighbours to set aside their fears. Politically they played their cards shrewdly by keeping their Doha political office active, treated the surrendering troops and the people of the captured cities with compassion, and won the confidence of all segments of the society.   

The pugnaciousness of six-times bigger India and constant machinations of five intelligence agencies in collusion with RAW to break Pakistan into four parts spread over 16 years have been foiled by Pakistan armed forces and the ISI, which is a big achievement and an embarrassment for India.

Having spread its tentacles in all the departments of Afghanistan and spent $ 3.5 billion in various projects including a dam in Herat, India is today in a fix. After the hurricane-like advance of the Taliban capturing one city after another, India winded up all its Consulates and RAW operatives have fled away. They have destroyed or shifted all the incriminating documents showing their dirty works against Pakistan.            

Ramifications for the USA

The ignominious departure of the occupying forces and ending of the 20-year war in Afghanistan will have grave ramifications for the USA, as was the case with the former USSR in 1989. It had taken only two years for the USSR to fragment and be reduced to the Russian Federation in 1991. The US not only lost the war in Afghanistan, but it is also withdrawing its troops from Iraq by the end of this year as demanded by the Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Khademi. It has withdrawn its support to the Saudi coalition against Yemen and is likely to exit from Syria where Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected. China is on the rise and Russia under Putin is resurging. Joe Biden is facing criticism on account of the hasty exit of the US troops from Afghanistan, which in view of the critics emboldened the Taliban to race to Kabul. He and his predecessors are likely to face the music of the Americans as to why they fought the longest war, what objectives they achieved and at what cost and why they consistently lied to them.

The spoilers are still in action

The spoilers of peace with India in the lead wanted to keep Afghanistan unstable. While the Taliban kept gaining ground, RAW and NDS continued with their proxy war in Pakistan, demeaned the Taliban and resorted to disinformation campaigns.

Lahore blast, followed by a spate of terrorist attacks in Waziristan and Baluchistan, the Dassu attack in which 9 Chinese and 3 locals lost their lives, and the engineered drama of abduction of the daughter of ambassador of Afghanistan in Islamabad were masterminded by RAW-NDS. There are indications that the CIA was also involved in the Dassu incident.  

In July, India’s transport planes flew over Iran’s airspace four times to deliver 80 tons of war munitions to Kandahar military base and the same quantity to Kabul for the ANA. The US jets flew from the UAE airbase over Tajikistan’s airspace to attack the Taliban in Kandahar. Indian pilots flew gunship helicopters in support of the besieged ANA troops.

The eight warlords were asked by the Kabul regime to reactivate their militias and to confront the Taliban but the prominent warlords fled abroad and Ismail Khan in Herat is in the custody of the Taliban.

The current situation in Afghanistan

All the efforts of the spoilers misfired and the Taliban have taken full control over the whole of the country without much fighting. Their 6000 prisoners locked up in provincial capitals and Bagram airbase which the Kabul regime was not releasing were freed by the Taliban themselves.

After moving closer to Kabul and tightening the noose around it, their fighters entered Kabul on August 15, forcing AG to flee to Tajikistan with his whole team on the afternoon of 15 August without tendering resignation. The same evening the Taliban fighters captured the presidential palace, but the Taliban leadership announced general amnesty to all and announced that Kabul will not be captured forcibly.

The Taliban leadership rejected the proposal of an interim setup for which Dr. Abdullah, Hamid Karzai and Gulbadin Hikmatyar as members of the Afghan Rabita Council are working, and want the power to be directly handed over to them. The Taliban are in a commanding position to arrive at a political settlement of their choice, but they are likely to share power with others as well.  

In case AG doesn’t tender his resignation in the next 1-2 days, he may possibly establish a government in exile on the advice of his patrons. The Northern Alliance might be once again activated duly patronized by the West and India to brew instability in Afghanistan.

Russia and China are likely to provide full support to the Taliban.

Pakistan is of two minds, either to go along with the international community influenced by the USA or to support the Taliban.  

UK’s PM Boris Johnson who had termed the Doha Agreement as ‘a rotten deal’, and had also declared Biden’s decision to pull out ‘a big mistake’, has called for an emergency meeting of the UNSC to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. He has advised all not to recognize the Taliban regime if they take over power by force.    

   

Lessons for Pakistan

After learning several lessons from the repeated betrayal and the duplicitous double game played by the US, and the unrelenting hostility of the US-installed regime in Kabul, and not so trustworthy relations with Iran which is still aligned with India, Pakistan’s leadership seem to have started differentiating between friend and foe. Most problems have occurred from Pakistan’s enchantment of the USA due to which it had to appease India and Afghanistan.  

The first bold action taken by Pakistan was to give a clear message that the days of fighting someone else’s war and provision of bases are over and Pakistan would only extend cooperation for peace and not for war and conflict.  

China is the only neighbour which has never let down Pakistan and has gone out of the way to help Pakistan during its testing times. Strong bondage between the two iron brothers would help in keeping the enemies at bay.

A deeper understanding of Pakistan’s with its partners, China, Russia, and Central Asian Republics is a good omen. If Afghanistan under the Taliban and Iran join this grouping, it can keep the spoilers of peace checkmated, but Iran has its own ambitions.  

The Taliban could not have achieved success with such lightning speed without the support of the people. Irrespective of the outsiders advocating a broad-based and inclusive government in Kabul, the Taliban’s return to power and re-establishment of an Islamic Emirate is irreversible.    

Future government in Kabul with the Taliban in the driving seat will be in the interest of Pakistan since it would radically diminish India’s perverse influence in Afghanistan, and Pakistan will get rid of the RAW-NDS cross border terrorism. However, in case the insensitive and biased international community dominated by the US decides to ostracize the would-be Taliban regime, Pakistan in its bid to remain in the good books of the US, might mellow down its defiance and refuse to recognize the Taliban regime, thereby once again putting the country in jeopardy.

It must not be forgotten that while Pakistan is good at losing friends, India is good at befriending its enemy’s friends. Twice betrayed by Pakistan, the Taliban could be swayed by India.

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS & Think Tank. asifharoonraja@gmail.com    

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Question Everything! Bless our American traitors By Chris Hedges -Pakistanis Will Never Forget Shah Wali Pakistani Baby Killed By US Drone

Question Everything!

Bless our American traitors

By Chris Hedges

July 20, 2021
Daniel Hale, an active-duty Air Force intelligence analyst, stood in the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park in October 2011 in his military uniform. He held up a sign that read “Free Bradley Manning,” who had not yet announced her transition. It was a singular act of conscience few in uniform had the strength to replicate. He had taken a week off from his job to join the protestors in the park. He was present at 6:00 am on October 14 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first attempt to clear the park. He stood in solidarity with thousands of protestors, including many unionized transit workers, teachers, Teamsters and communications workers, who formed a ring around the park. He watched the police back down as the crowd erupted into cheers. But this act of defiance and moral courage was only the beginning. 

At the time, Hale was stationed at Fort Bragg. A few months later he deployed to Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base. He would later learn that while he was in Zuccotti Park, Barack Obama ordered a drone strike some 12,000 miles away in Yemen that killed Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of the radical cleric and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been killed by a drone strike two weeks earlier. The Obama administration claimed it was targeting the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim al-Banna, who it believed, incorrectly, was with the boy and his cousins, all of whom were also killed in the attack. That massacre of innocents became public, but there were thousands of more such attacks that wantonly killed noncombatants that only Hale and those with top-security clearances knew about.

Starting in 2013, Hale, while working as a private contractor, leaked some 17 classified documents about the drone program to investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, although the reporter is not named in court documents. The leaked documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, US special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 per cent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”

Hale was coerced by Biden’s Justice Department on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power, not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. He is being held in the Alexandria Adult Detention Center in Virginia, awaiting sentencing on July 27. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison. He now faces up to a decade in prison.

Tragically, his case has not garnered the attention it should. When Nick Mottern, of the Ban Killer Drones campaign, accompanied artists projecting Hale’s image on downtown walls in Washington, D.C., he found that everyone he spoke to was unaware of Hale’s plight. Prominent human rights organizations, such as the ACLU and PEN, have largely remained silent and uninvolved. The group Stand with Daniel Hale has called on President Biden to pardon Hale and end the use of the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers, mounted a letter-writing campaign to the judge to request leniency and is collecting donations for Hale’s legal fund. 

“Daniel Hale is one of the most consequential whistleblowers,” Edward Snowden said on a May Day panel held at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers.  “He sacrificed everything — an incredibly courageous person — to tell us that the drone war, that, you know, is so obviously occurring to everyone else, but the government was still officially denying in so many ways, is here, it is happening, and 90 per cent of the casualties in one five-month period were innocents or bystanders or not the target of the drone strike. We could not establish that we could not prove that, without Daniel Hale’s voice.”

Speaking on Democracy Now! with host Amy Goodman a few weeks later, Daniel Ellsberg agreed that Hale “acted very admirably, in a way that very, very few officials have ever done in showing the moral courage to separate themselves from criminal activities and wrongful activities of their own administration, and resist them, as well as exposing them.”

Because Hale was charged under the Espionage Act, he, like other whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, who spent two-and-a-half years in prison for exposing the routine torture of suspects held in black sites, was not permitted to explain his motivations and intent to the court. Nor could he provide evidence to the court that the drone assassination program killed and wounded large numbers of noncombatants, including children. He faced trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, much of whose population has links to the military or intelligence community, and whose courts have become notorious for their harsh sentences on behalf of the government. 

The 2012 “Living Under Drones” report by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic provides detailed documentation of the human impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Drones often fire Hellfire missiles that are equipped with an explosive warhead of about 20 pounds. A Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, carries “an inert warhead,” The New York Times reported. Instead of exploding, it hurls about 100 pounds of metal through a vehicle. The missile’s other feature includes “six long blades tucked inside,” which deploy “seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path” — including, of course, people.

The numbers of civilians dead from US drone strikes run into the thousands, if not tens of thousands. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization, for example, reported that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom an estimated 474 to 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Drones hover 24 hours a day in the skies over Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Without warning, the drones operated remotely from Air Force bases as far away as Nevada, fire ordinance that obliterates homes and vehicles or kills whole groups of people in fields or attending community gatherings, funerals and weddings. The leaked banter of the young drone operators, who often treat the killings as if they are an enhanced video game, exposes the callousness of the indiscriminate killings. Drone operators refer to child victims of drone attacks as “fun-sized terrorists.”

“Ever step on ants and never give it another thought?” Michael Hass, a former drone operator for the Air Force told The Guardian.  “That’s what you are made to think of the targets — as just black blobs on a screen. You start to do these psychological gymnastics to make it easier to do what you have to do — they deserved it, they chose their side. You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job every day — and ignore those voices telling you this wasn’t right.”

The ubiquitous presence of drones in the skies, and the awareness that at any moment these drones can kill you and your family, induces feelings of helplessness, anxiety and constant fear.

“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities,” the 2012 report reads of the drone war in Pakistan. “Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.”

Drones have become killing machines that mete out random death and usually permanently cripple those victims who survive.

“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report reads.  “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.”

Hale, now 33, always had doubts about the war, but he enlisted in 2009 when Obama assumed office. He hoped that Obama would undo the excesses and lawlessness of the Bush administration. Instead, Obama, a few weeks after he took office, approved the deployment of an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan where 36,000 U.S. troops and 32,000 NATO troops were already deployed. By the end of the year, Obama increased troop levels in Afghanistan again by 30,000, doubling U.S. casualties. He also massively expanded the drone program, raising the number of drone strikes from several dozen the year before he took office to 117 by his second year in office.  By the time he left office, Obama had presided over the killing of at least 3,000 suspected militants and hundreds of civilians. He authorized what are known as “signature strikes” allowing the CIA to carry out drone attacks against groups of suspected militants without getting positive identification. He spread the footprint of the drone war, establishing drone bases in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other overseas locations to expand attacks to Syria and Yemen. The Obama administration also indicted eight whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all previous administrations combined. The Biden administration, like the Trump and Obama administrations, continues to launch widespread global drone strikes.

“Before I joined the military, I was well aware that what I was about to enter was something I was against, that I disagreed with,” Hale says in the 2016 documentary film “National Bird.” “I joined anyway out of desperation. I was homeless. I was desperate. I had nowhere else to go. I was on my last leg. The Air Force was ready to accept me.”

National Bird / a film by Sonia Kennebeck

Three courageous whistleblowers break the silence around the U.S. drone war – a decision that will change their …

In the film, Hale alludes to a difficult and chaotic childhood.

“It’s kind of funny, a little ironic too because so far I’m the only adult male in my entire family, immediate and external, who had not been to prison so far,” he says. “I come from a long lineage of prisoners, actually, a very proud tradition of fuck-ups who get drunk and go driving, or sell pot, or carry a gun when they shouldn’t be carrying a gun, in the wrong place at the wrong time, a lot of that where I’m from.”

He was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg and underwent language and intelligence training. He worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) in Afghanistan as an intelligence analyst identifying targets for the drone program. His Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) security clearance gave him access to the vast, global drone war hidden from public view and Obama’s huge secret “kill lists.”

“There are several such lists, used to target individuals for different reasons,” he wrote in an essay titled “Why I Leaked the Watchlist Documents,” originally published anonymously in the book “The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program” by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept. The book is based on the leaked documents provided by Hale that first appeared as an eight-part series called “The Drone Papers” published by The Intercept.

“Some lists are closely kept; others span multiple intelligence and local law enforcement agencies,” Hale writes in the essay. “There are lists used to kill or capture supposed ‘high-value targets,’ and others intended to threaten, coerce, or simply monitor a person’s activity. However, all the lists, whether to kill or silence, originate from the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, and they are maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center at the National Counterterrorism Center. The existence of TIDE is unclassified, yet details about how it functions in our government are completely unknown to the public. In August 2013 the database reached a milestone of one million entries. Today it is thousands of entries larger and is growing faster than it has since its inception in 2003.” 

The Terrorist Screening Center, he writes, not only stores names, dates of birth, and other identifying information of potential targets, but also stores “medical records, transcripts, and passport data; license plate numbers, email, and cell-phone numbers (along with the phone’s International Mobile Subscriber Identity and International Mobile Station Equipment Identity numbers); your bank account numbers and purchases; and other sensitive information, including DNA and photographs capable of identifying you using facial recognition software.”

Data on suspects is collected and pooled by the intelligence agencies known as the Five Eyes, the intelligence alliance formed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each person on the list is assigned a TIDE personal number or TPN.

“From Osama bin Laden (TPN 1063599) to Abdulrahman Awlaki (TPN 26350617), the American son of Anwar al Awlaki, anyone who has ever been the target of a covert operation was first assigned a TPN and closely monitored by all agencies who follow that TPN long before they were eventually put on a separate list and extrajudicially sentenced to death,” Hale wrote.

He also exposed that the more than one million entries in the TIDE database include about 21,000 United States citizens.

After leaving the Air Force in July 2013, Hale was employed by the private defense contractor National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as a political geography analyst between December 2013 and August 2014. He said he took the job, which paid $80,000 a year because he was in desperate need of money and hoped to go to college. But by then he was disgusted with the drone program and determined to make the public aware of its abuses and lawlessness. Inspired by the peace activist David Dellinger, he, like Dellinger, had decided to become a traitor to “the American way of death.” He would make amends for his complicity in the killings, even at the cost of his own security and freedom. 

“When the president gets up in front of the nation and says they are doing everything they can to ensure there is near certainty there will be no civilians killed, he is saying that because he can’t say otherwise, because anytime an action is taken to finish a target there is a certain amount of guesswork in that action,” Hale says in the film. “It’s only in the aftermath of any kind of ordinance being dropped that you know how much actual damage was done. Oftentimes, the intelligence community is reliant, the Joint Special Operations Command, the CIA included, is reliant on intelligence coming afterwards that confirms that who they were targeting was killed in the strike, or that they weren’t killed in that strike.”

“The people who defend drones, and the way they are used, say they protect American lives by not putting them in harm’s way,” he says. “What they really do is embolden decision-makers, because there is no threat, there is no immediate consequence. They can do this strike. They can potentially kill this person they are so desperate to eliminate because of how potentially dangerous they could be to the US. But if it just so happens that they don’t kill that person, or some other people involved in the strike get killed as well, there are no consequences for it. When it comes to high-value targets, every mission you go after one person at a time, but anybody else killed in that strike is blanketly assumed to be an associate of the targeted individual. So as long as they can reasonably identify that all of the people in the field view of the camera are military-aged males, meaning anybody who is believed to be age 16 or older, they are a legitimate target under the rules of engagement. If that strike occurs and kills all of them, they just say they got them all.”

Drones, he warns, make a remote killing “too easy, too convenient.”

On August 8, 2014, the FBI raided his home. It was his last day of work for the private contractor. A male and female FBI agent shoved their badges in his face when he opened the door.

“Immediately behind them came about 20 agents, basically all of them with pistols drawn, some wearing body armor,” he says in the film. “At this point, I was extremely scared. I did not understand what was going on. Altogether, there might have been at least 30 to 50 agents in and out of the house at different points throughout the evening taking photos of every room and everything, searching for different things.”

By the time they finished his house was stripped of all electronics, including his cell phone.

For the next five years, he lived with the uncertainty of his fate. He struggled to find work, fought off depression and contemplated suicide. He was barred, by law, from speaking about his plight, even with a therapist. In 2019, the Trump administration indicted Hale on four counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of theft of government property. 

The thousands of targeted assassinations carried out by drones, often in countries that are not at war with the United States, are an egregious violation of international law. They are turning huge swaths of the planet against us. The secret kill lists, which include US citizens, have transformed the executive branch into judge, jury and executioner, obliterating the right to due process. Those that commit these killings are unaccountable. Hale sacrificed his career and his freedom to warn us. He is not a danger to the country. The danger we face comes from the secret drone program, which is spiralling out of control and ominously being adopted by domestic law enforcement agencies. If left unchecked, the terror we impose on others we will soon impose on ourselves.

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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Why did the USA lose in Afghanistan? by Brig.Gen (Retd)Asif Haroon Raja

Why did the USA lose in Afghanistan?

 

Brig.Gen (Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan Army

 

 

 

The US and its allies were drunk with power and took pride in their sophisticated war munitions, technology and wealth. They were sure to win the war irrespective of having no cause, and having sinister hidden motives. The Taliban had no resources but had an edge over their opponents in the intangibles. They had complete faith in Allah and were on the righteous path. Their faith is still unshakable, and are unpurchasable. Hence their total victory is a foregone conclusion.

 

Causes of the US defeat in Afghanistan

 

Insincere and mala fide intentions filled with prejudices and injustices.

 

Cooked up charges to invade Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

 

No grounds to wage a cruel war against so many Muslim countries.

 

No love lost for the Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans and Syrians, or any Muslim.

 

Minority non-Pashtun Afghans were empowered and majority Pashtuns sidelined and persecuted.

 

Pakistan which was instrumental in making the US the sole superpower, was mistrusted, ridiculed and penalized, while India which has no roots in Afghanistan, didn’t take part in the war on terror, and has been the biggest spoiler of peace, was trusted and made the main player by the US.  

 

Despite allocating over a trillion dollars development funds, the US failed to better the lives of Afghans living in poverty stricken rural areas.

 

The US continued to back the inept, corrupt and unpopular regimes of Karzai and Ashraf Ghani (AG) and failed to establish a stable government in Kabul.

 

One trillion dollars were spent on raising, training and equipping the ANSF, but the US-NATO trainers failed to develop their moral fibre, sense of discipline, motivation and will to fight.

 

ISAF and ANA were pampered, heavily paid and provided luxuries, which made them comfort loving and drug addicts. 

 

All the social crimes that were cleansed by the Taliban re-appeared and Afghanistan became the leading exporter of opium in the world.

 

Practice of ruthless bombings by jets and drones caused maximum deaths and injuries to the civilians; even funerals and weddings were not spared. Torture of prisoners and night raids were the tools widely used to break the will of opposing fighters. It gravitated the sympathies of the people towards the Taliban.

 

Too much trust in military might and no attention paid to winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans.

 

Weak military commanders who didn’t know much about Afghanistan’s geography, tribal history and culture, and terrain. They never strategized or modified tactics to grapple with the tactics of the resistance forces. The IEDs threat couldn’t be tackled. More so, they didn’t inspire their own troops, what to talk of the military contingents from 48 countries. Some top commanders were involved in love affairs and sex scandals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Courtesy – Global Times, People’s Republic of China

The initial plan of occupying Afghanistan by the Western and Northern Alliance forces left much to be desired. The country was strategically ringed by establishing air bases in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, but the inner circle was not contemplated to encircle and trap the leaders and fighters of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Probably avoidance of boots on ground to avoid casualties hindered this option.

 

It was a frontal invasion from the north by the Northern Alliance troops under the umbrella of airpower. Gigantic carpet bombing was carried out recklessly. With their rear areas safe, the defenders first withdrew to the caves of Tora Bora with ease, and then slipped into FATA. No effort was made to circle Tora Bora where all the wanted elements including OBL were present. Emphasis was on dropping tons and tons of molten lava from the air.

 

No effort was made to seal the porous and vulnerable border with Pakistan, again due to shortage of troops. Whole reliance was on Pakistan but it had to be a collective effort to make the concept of anvil and hammer successful. The reason was that the US wanted the border with Pakistan to remain open for clandestine use by the RAW-NDS. That’s why the Kabul regime and the US strongly objected to fencing of western border by Pakistan.

 

The ISAF made up of 48 military contingents including 28 from NATO fought the war without initial battle inoculation, and acquisition of basic knowledge of geography, terrain, culture of tribes, meaning of Pashtunwali, and training in guerrilla warfare. No motivational training was given to the troops to inculcate in them the will to fight and die. Except for top commanders, none knew the aims and objectives of the war.

 

Opening of the second front in Iraq in 2003 when the Afghan front was fluid, indulgence in covert wars, and hybrid war were at the cost of consolidating gains in Afghanistan through development and education. Only important capitals were finely developed while the vast rural areas were neglected.  The two-front war resulted in distraction and division of resources and enabled the Taliban to bounce back in 2006.     

 

The real war started in 2009 after the two troop surges swelling the combat strength of the ISAF from 8000 to 1, 40,000, but Gen McChrystal lost heart in the first major offensive in Helmand due to heavy casualties of the ISAF. 

 

Biggest mistake made was when the ISAF troops were withdrawn backwards and bunkered in the safety of 8 military bases in capital cities in 2009. The entire rural belt in the eastern and southern Afghanistan was vacated thereby allowing the Taliban to gain initiative and a military edge over the occupiers and their collaborators.

 

Obama should have exited from Afghanistan after he concluded that it was an unwinnable war, and the main mission of killing OBL and professed destruction of Al-Qaeda had been accomplished. Clinging on to Afghanistan for next nine years on the insistence of Pentagon and Resolute Support Mission commanders was militarily unsound. This inordinate delay swelled the avoidable human and financial losses of occupational troops as well as of the ANSF and the civilians.  

 

The next mistake made by Obama was his broadcasted plan to withdraw troops by Dec 2014. The thinning out started in July 2011 and by 2013 frontline security was handed over to the ANA. It demoralized the ANA, snatched the fighting spirit of the ISAF whose troops wanted to return home alive and in one piece, spurred the Taliban and they stepped up their offensive. Their momentum accelerated from 2015. From that time onwards, the US for all practical purposes had lost the war, but due to pressure from the Pentagon, the US kept reinforcing failure.

 

To avoid body bags, Obama introduced the deadly pilotless drones as a choice weapon of war. Disproportionate use of drones was cowardly and unethical.

 

The US didn’t seriously negotiate with the Taliban between 2006 and 2014 when it was strong on ground and became serious in 2018-19 when it had become weak.

 

The decentralized Taliban field commanders under one Ameerul Momenein Mullah Omar outclassed the ISAF commanders in strategy and tactics. No change came in their vigor under Mullah Mansour and incumbent Mullah Haibatullah. New recruits kept getting enrolled and the numbers swelled. 

 

The US spent more time on blame game rather than focusing on its primary mission of stabilizing Afghanistan. By blaming Pakistan, Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura for its political and military failures, the US tried to cover up its fault lines. This blame-game continued even after all the terrorist groups were flushed out of FATA in 2015   

 

Trump tried to salvage the fast deteriorating security situation but failed and ultimately had to sign a peace agreement with the Taliban at Doha in February 2019. All foreign troops were to withdraw by May 2021. That was another turning point in the fortunes of the Taliban since the historic agreement had given them recognition and enhanced their stature internationally. 

 

Yet another defining moment came when Joe Biden announced on April 14, 2021 that the longest war will be winded up and all foreign troops would pull out by Sept 11, 2021. This date was advanced to August 31.

 

All roads in Afghanistan were opened for the triumphant Taliban to race forward and capture as much territory in May, June and July. With 80% territory and most trade transit points in the control of the Taliban, the final phase to capture cities that are already under their siege is likely to start after August 31, or Sept 11. For the ANA, the summer period up to Oct/early November is tough.

 

Endgame

 

In the endgame, the losers have suddenly changed their stance from a military solution to a peaceful solution of the tangle. Their narrative of blaming Pakistan for the instability in Afghanistan has been modified and now the Taliban are painted as violence prone and anti-peace.

 

While the winning Taliban have expressed their willingness to accommodate all less Ashraf Ghani (AG) and his team, the US and the whole world in general including Pakistan are standing behind the unpopular regime in Kabul and are pressuring Taliban to share power with AG and accept him as the elected president till next elections. The spoilers as well as others are also against the basic demand of the Taliban to establish Islamic Emirate.

 

This change of narrative clubbed with a petrifying story that there will be chaos, prolonged civil war, bloodshed and refugee exodus due to Taliban’s obstinacy and fancy for bloodletting, has drifted the attention of the world from the stupefying victory of the Taliban and disgraceful defeat and abrupt exit of the US forces. Whole focus has shifted to the future horrid scenario of Afghanistan based on premeditated assumptions.

 

For 20 years the world quietly stomached the brutalities of the mad adventurers wanting to bludgeon Al-Qaeda and the Taliban without a murmur. A minority government of non-Pashtuns remained in power and the majority Pashtuns remained in the backwoods. 

 

And now when the Taliban are getting closer to regain power which was illegally snatched from them, the world led by the spoilers of peace are giving sermons of peace to the winners and advising them that there is no military solution to Afghan crisis.

 

The infatuation of the US for the puppet regime in Kabul is so passionate that the US has announced its full diplomatic and financial support to it and air support to the shaky ANA. While Pakistan is in two minds, China is unhesitant in extending full support to the Taliban and to fill the power vacuum in Afghanistan.

 

                                 

 

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Pakistan & regional undercurrents   by Asif Haroon Raja

Pakistan & regional undercurrents  

Asif Haroon Raja

Global upheavals

 

 

Recent times have seen upheavals at the global, regional and domestic levels. At the global level, much against the expectations of a thaw in the strained relations between the US under Joe Biden and China-Russia, ego and arrogance have come in the way of the change. The US considers China to be the chief threat to its global monopoly since China’s rise has brought about a ‘tectonic’ shift in the global balance of power’. The world order has transitioned to a new power equation where the US and China are two poles with other centres of power adjusting to co-exist. Shifting power alliances and realignments currently underway portend a new power structure whose shape is yet to evolve. The pivot of geo-economics has shifted from the West to the East, where China in concert with Russia would play a key role. The Indo-Pacific policy of containment of China by the QUAD (USA, Japan, Australia, and India) is bound to fail. Similar will be the fate of the US desire to make India the policeman of South Asia through multiple defence pacts. Far-Right has gained strength in the western world while fascism and racism have heightened in the USA, Israel and India. The US policy of military adventurism has narrowed its circle of friends, while the policy of peace, friendship and shared dividends pursued by China has helped it in enhancing its influence and circle of friends.

Unresolved Palestinian issue

Gaza was once again viciously bombarded and the Al-Aqsa mosque desecrated by the Israeli forces in the holy month of Ramadan. During the 11-day slaughter and destruction, 265 Palestinians including 66 children were killed and hundreds wounded, while only 12 people were killed in Israel by the rockets fired by Hamas. The homemade rockets, however, for the first time dodged the invincible Iron Dom, which has become a cause of concern for Israel. Except for some token condemnations and protest marches, the Muslim world stood aloof. The two-state solution as envisaged in the Oslo Accord still remains a forlorn hope. 

Turbulence in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K)

Although the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K has been quietened after the secretive understanding arrived at between the DGMOs of the two arch-rivals, no breakthrough has been achieved at the state level. India is not prepared to restore the special status of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), or to lift the lockdown and stop persecuting the Kashmiris. The Modi regime has intensified its efforts to change the demography of IOK. Like the Palestinian issue, the Kashmir issue is the oldest unresolved dispute lying pending in the tray of the UN since 1948.

Cross border terrorism

Cross border terrorism against Pakistan by RAW-NDS from Afghan soil continues unceasingly. Apart from striking targets in Waziristan and Baluchistan, Johar Town in Lahore was also targeted by the combined nexus of RAW-NDS-CIA-Mossad to kill interned Hafiz Saeed who has always been viewed by India as a big threat to its security particularly in IOK because of his huge followings both sides of the LoC as well as in Punjab. Objectives were to get rid of this threat and also trigger religious Far Right backlash in Punjab. Within four days the whole network was rounded up and the masterminds identified by Punjab Police.  

Various anti-Pakistan terrorist groups like TTP, Jamaatul Ahrar Lashkar-e-Islam based in Afghanistan, Baloch rebel groups (BLA, BRA, BLF) and Sindh based separatist groups have been unified by these agencies to create trouble in provinces. At the same time, the PDM has been instigated to recommence rallies to foment political instability. The hybrid war is targeting the Pak Army and the ISI to tarnish their image.

India’s penchant for falsehood

False narratives and stories are still being woven by India’s Chronicles which was busted by the Disinformation Lab in Brussels last year. The sole purpose of India’s media war is to disrepute Pakistan and its institutions. The latest cooked up story is the imaginary plot of some senior Pak Army officers to assassinate Gen Qamar Bajwa. It’s a clear indication that Indian military leadership is fearful of him and see him as a big threat to their sinister plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other woolly story circulated by Indian media is about the drone attacks on the Indian airbase in Jammu, which have been pinned on Pakistan. Logically the two bombs allegedly dropped on the airbase should have destroyed it including the warplanes and helicopters parked in the aprons and on the runway. Interestingly, the bombs could only make two small holes in one of the barracks and didn’t cause any human or material damage which itself speaks of the lunacy of the allegation made. The purpose was to deflect the attention of the world from its fiasco in Lahore where RAW was caught with its pants down, to create another sensation, hide its atrocities in IOK, and to win the sympathies of the world. It backfired since India once again failed to substantiate its accusations.

Yet another bizarre concoction that was floated by India was about the spy drone flying over Indian Embassy in Islamabad. For argument sake, even if it is accepted as true, what was so strange about the drone flying within its own territory? While levelling this wonky complaint, India forgot that its spy drones have been repeatedly crossing deep inside AJK to photograph our posts and deployments along the LoC and in depth, and every intruding drone was shot down. This year, three intrusions were carried out.           

India’s quandaries

The belligerence of Modi and his hawks against Pakistan have considerably mellowed down because of multiple factors. Its venture of integrating disputed IOK and promulgation of anti-Indian Muslim laws have backfired. The Sikh movement together with Kissan Tehriq and the Naxalite movement has become existential threats. Covid-19 has spun out of control and the daily death rate is the highest in the world. It has plummeted India’s rising economy into negative and BJP’s popularity has declined as gauged from the results of recent by-elections.  Seculars in India have joined hands with the minorities to confront BJP’s fascism and racism.

Externally, India has suffered several setbacks. India’s plan to annex Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) was disrupted by China by taking control of important heights across the LAC in the Himalayas from where the PLA dominates the lone supply route to the KKH and GB. It is now faced with a twin threat for the first time. While Afghanistan has slipped out of its hands, it has also lost Iran after its ouster from Chahbahar and railway projects.

Both the US and Israel are unhappy with India over its poor performance against China, and its failure to accomplish any of the objectives against Pakistan. More and more voices of criticism are now heard in the West after exposure of scandal of India’s Chronicles, Goswami WhatsApp chat, continued lockdown of Kashmiris since August 5, 2019, denial of basic rights and demographic change.

Other regional countries

Iran has snuggled away from India and has come into the loop of China after the latter signed a $480 billion long term agreement with Iran.

While there is a thaw in Pak-Iran relations, Saudi Arabia and UAE have restored old ties with Pakistan and the former plans to install an oil refinery at Gwadar.

Pakistan has got closer to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, some Central Asian States and is fast improving its relations with Russia and African countries.  

Situation in Afghanistan

The US has been forced to end the 20 years’ war in Afghanistan, which is a telling reminder of its failed policies. Pakistan played a pivotal role in bringing the Taliban and the US to the negotiating table and signing the historic Doha agreement as well as in starting an intra-Afghan dialogue to arrive at a political settlement. While Trump was keen to pull out occupying troops by May 1 this year, Biden, influenced by the spoilers of peace, had second thoughts and was inclined to extend the date of exit. In the face of a rise in attacks by the Taliban, he had to announce in April that the withdrawal would be completed by Sept 11. The bulk of US-NATO troops have already withdrawn, and 7 military bases including Bagram vacated and handed over to the ANSF. Reportedly, the withdrawal will be completed by end of August if not earlier, but the US intends to keep a small contingent of about 650 personnel in the Kabul military base for the protection of its diplomats in the US Embassy and probably for technical support to the ANA.

The Taliban will not accept the presence of a single foreign soldier and have also not welcomed Turkey’s offer of taking over the security of Kabul airport. Washington has requested Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to temporarily house around 9000 Afghan drivers, translators and workers employed in Bagram airbase and their families. The Biden administration has pledged to expedite immigration visas for the Afghans who worked with the US forces, but the visa seekers are desperate to fly to safe havens at the earliest. To support the shaky regime in Kabul and the vacillating ANSF which lacks the capacity to confront the Taliban, Biden promised financial assistance to the visiting Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah.

The US is also urgently in need of a military base outside Afghanistan, supposedly for counterterrorism against Al-Qaeda, Daesh and the Taliban. With the fizzling out of Ladakh as a base, the US persuaded Pakistan to provide a military base and besides promising some goodies, it used coercive tactics with the help of FATF and IMF but Pakistan firmly refused. Imran Khan stated that Pakistan is ready to cooperate with the US for peace and development of Afghanistan but not for war and conflict. Air corridor and land routes have been made available till the completion of the withdrawal of US-NATO troops. The three Central Asian states have also refused to provide military bases to the US because of Russian influence.

The desire for a military base outside Afghanistan after losing the war and the stated purpose of counter-terrorism is ludicrous. Al-Qaeda and ISIS were CIA creations. Obama had made a declaration in 2012 that the Al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan had been effectively disrupted, dismantled and destroyed. Factually, the bulk of Al-Qaeda operatives had shifted to Arabian Peninsula in 2004 after the Bush administration opened the second front in Iraq in March 2003. More than 600 Al-Qaeda leaders and operatives were caught by Pak security forces and handed over to the CIA who were shifted to Gitmo. So, against which Al-Qaeda the new US administration want to carry out counter-terrorism?

As regards ISIS, after using it in Iraq and Syria, sizeable numbers of its fighters were airlifted in helicopters from the Middle East by CIA-RAW to Nangarhar in Afghanistan in 2014. After marrying them with Jamaatul Ahrar, an offshoot of TTP, they were pitched against the Taliban and also launched into Baluchistan and Karachi. After the Doha agreement, most of the attacks on civil targets were the doings of Daesh, but the spoilers blamed the Taliban to disrepute them and the peace agreement. Lastly, the US has no moral right to carry out counter-terrorism against the victorious Taliban with whom it has signed a peace agreement and the Taliban are restraining themselves from attacking the foreign targets.  

Having lost the war and forced to withdraw, and failing to acquire a military base, the only option left with the spoilers of peace is to resort to dirty tricks to keep war-torn Afghanistan simmering in the cauldron of instability and insecurity. India and the puppet regime in Kabul whose days are numbered are fully involved in the game of USA. This is the only way to lessen their pangs of shame and humiliation. They will make all-out efforts to create as many hurdles and problems for the Taliban to ensure that they fail in restoring peace and order in the country.

With this aim in mind, the losers are frenetically circulating frightening scenarios and painting the Taliban as man-eating beasts, once again on the verge of snatching power. They are scaring the regional countries that in case of takeover by the Taliban and establishment of Islamic Emirate, all hell will break loose and it will spell disaster for the people of Afghanistan and for its neighbours. Influenced by the propaganda, Russia, China, Central Asian States, Iran as well as Pakistan are keen that a broad-based Republic regime is established in Kabul and are uncomfortable with the idea of Islamic Emirate.   

While upholding this stance, seemingly they ignore certain historical facts and ground realities. Soon after toppling the Taliban regime led by Mulla Omar in Nov 2001, the US spent $ 3 billion to form a Northern Alliance heavy regime in Kabul led by President Hamid Karzai. It accommodated all the notorious warlords and drug barons. The puppet regime ruled at a stretch till Aug 2016, after which an unnatural unity regime of Ashraf Ghani-Dr. Abdullah was formed, in spite of their incompetence and corruption are still in power, and wants to remain in power in future as well. The two regimes completely failed to bring peace and prosperity to the country, which had remained peaceful, stable and crime-free during the 5-year rule of the Taliban.  The Taliban achieved this feat because of the imposition of the Islamic system based on justice.

Stability couldn’t be achieved by the US-installed regimes in spite of the US spending $ 1.5 trillion. Throughout the period of occupancy, the country saw bloodshed, death and destruction. The US never made sincere efforts to build Afghanistan, eliminate poverty and illiteracy, provide jobs and make the lives of the people comfortable. Peace talks with the Taliban in 2011 and the opening of a political office in Doha in 2013 were ruses to divide the Taliban movement and not to restore peace. Even after the Doha agreement in Feb 2019, the spoilers have been stoking instability in Afghanistan to find an excuse to delay the exit of occupying forces.

The US-NATO-ANA forces were not showering flowers on the Afghans during their longest war, but raining molten lava causing over 5 lacs civil casualties. About 5000 ill-clad, ill-equipped ragtag resistance forces were kept on the run for 20 years at a stretch. It was a nightmare for them and they tried to survive in hell. Pakistan which was forced to fight the US war suffered the most, but India as well as those in power drew maximum benefits from the US largesse.

With this background, what greater calamity can befall upon the Afghan Pashtuns in general and the Taliban in particular after the departure of occupying forces whose three generations have seen nothing but war? How will it become more unstable, lawless and insecure under the rule of the Taliban which has learnt lessons, gained maturity and experience, and know the pitfalls of a civil war?

In 1990, there were 7 Mujahideen groups of various ethnicities with no unity of command under one ruler. Conversely, the Taliban movement has remained united and focused, and it saw three Ameers, Mullah Omar, Mullah Mansour and incumbent Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada succeeding each other with no discord. Haqqanis under Sirajuddin remain loyal to the Ameer.

It is befuddling that Pakistan is toeing the US line to let the Ghani-Abdullah regime share power with the Taliban under a Republic despite having suffered the most in the US imposed war on terror due to the perverse role of ANA heavy regime in Kabul which is in collusion with India.                        

White House and the Pentagon once again tried to win over Pakistani leaders and officials. Given her long-term strategic interest as well as past experience, Pakistan cannot afford to even think of aligning herself with a power that is openly at loggerheads with China, Russia and Iran, and strategically aligned with India. Pakistan’s nuclear program and the CPEC are eyesores for the US. More than that, it will be a mortal sin to betray the people of Afghanistan once again. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that the U.S still has unfinished business in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s contrasting relations with the USA and China

Our Western friends never provided a security umbrella against expansionist India, and wasted our precious seven decades by making Pakistan run on a treadmill and obstructed its economic take-off. Pakistan-US relations overshadowed by mistrust and unequal partnership are still transactional in nature. The sword of the FATF hangs over the head in spite of Pakistan fulfilling 26 of its 27 points. Pakistan Foreign Minister rightly questioned whether the FATF is a technical forum or political? The IMF loan has become more burdensome after Saudi Arabia and UAE at the behest of the US took back their loans and facility of deferred oil payment.

Conversely, the spectrum of the Pakistan-China relationship spread over 70 years has become multifaceted. The CPEC which is the flagship of $ 1.3 trillion BRI has elevated the relationship to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. The CPEC which is equally beneficial to both has bound China to help in safeguarding Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Successful completion of the CPEC by 2030 will realise the dream of Pakistanis for a prosperous, secure and self-reliant country.  

Domestic squabbling

Internally, the ruling PTI regime is up against formidable challenges. So far it has not been able to steady the dwindling economy or fulfil any of its lofty promises. Notwithstanding slight improvements made in the macro-economics, at the micro-level, no relief has been provided to the masses. Inflation and price hike are at a new high which has frustrated the people. Its lack of performance has diminished the charisma of Imran Khan as could be seen from the results in the by-elections in all the four provinces. It gave space to the PDM to push the government against the wall, but its disunity has given a welcome breather to the rulers who are also faced with internal cracks because of the emergence of a new group under Jahangir Tareen. This group has made the position of the PTI in Punjab and in the Centre tenuous.

Political polarization has blocked the government’s efforts to carry out essential reforms and it is left with no choice but to rule by presidential ordinances. Sharif family continues to pose a political threat since the PML-N vote bank in Punjab remains intact. The PPP under Bilawal in Sindh is exploiting the provincial autonomy under the 18th Amendment and has adopted a posture of non-cooperation. Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister are flying to Washington to offer their good services if brought to power. Disturbing law and order in rural-urban Sindh and in Baluchistan where the foreign paid proxies have again stepped up terrorism, and negativism of social media are causes of consternation for the government.    

Covid-19 is another big challenge for the ruling regime which has slowed down its development and socio-economic programs. It handled the first and second waves of the pandemic intelligently and is handling the third wave skillfully. The fourth wave is reportedly round the corner. China has extended full support to tackle the disease and provided vaccines free of cost. Now Pakistan has started manufacturing the vaccines locally, which will speed up the vaccination campaign. But the majority of the people living in rural areas are averse to vaccination and see it as a ploy of Dajjali forces to depopulate the world.

What is encouraging is fast track construction of the hydel power projects including the Mohmand dam which would greatly help in ridding the nation from the curse of the IPPs and would provide cheap electricity and overcome water crisis. It will be very satisfying if the GDP rises to 3.8% to 4% as assured by the new Finance Minister. The graph of exports, revenue collection and remittances from the expatriates are on the increase.

Pakistan needs to learn from China and take concrete steps to eradicate corruption, crimes and poverty, to increase exports, improve governance, reform the state institutions, boost up agriculture and industry, and encourage the private sector.

The writer is retired Brig Gen, war veteran, he took part in the epic battle of Hilli, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, his sixth book is under publication, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS. asifharoonraja@gmail.com       

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