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Afghanistan yesterday, today, tomorrow Pakistan-US role by Brig.Gen(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja.

Afghanistan yesterday, today, tomorrow

Pakistan-US role

By

Brig.Gen(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja.

Part-One

 

                                      “While we all hope for peace it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice” Corazon C. Aquino

 

Background

Pakistan and Afghanistan never enjoyed friendly relations since the latter didn’t accept the Durand Line as an international border and laid claims over Pashtun inhabited areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. Afghanistan has traditionally remained close to India and hostile towards Pakistan. Relations dipped during the rule of President Daud after he seized power in 1973 from King Zahir Shah. Insurgents in Baluchistan were provided safe havens and Pakhtunistan movement was fueled.

 

When Afghanistan was occupied by Soviet forces in December 1979, and 4 million Afghans became refugees in Pakistan, Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq condemned the invasion and decided to support the Afghan resistance forces. The US and Saudi Arabia came in support of Pakistan led covert war in June 1981. The two provided funds and weapons only. The Soviet forces accepted defeat and pulled out by February 1989 but in the ten-year gruesome war, the country was devastated and two million Afghan civilians lost their lives. Pakistan had to face KGB-KHAD-RAW-Al-Zulfiqar sabotage and subversion.

 

No sooner the US achieved all its objectives, the US not only ditched Pakistan in 1990 and put it under harsh sanctions, but to rub salt on wounds of Pakistan, it made India its strategic partner which was the camp follower of USSR. The Mujahideen eulogized as holy warriors were abandoned as a result of which civil war broke out between the warring groups.

 

 

  

 

The Taliban under Mulla Omar started their Islamic movement from Kandahar in 1994 and after capturing Kabul in 1996, they established Islamic Emirate. Taliban were in control of 93% territory till 07 Oct 2001, and only 7% in the north was controlled by the Northern Alliance (NA) comprising Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras. The military wing of NA was trained by the Indian and Iranian military trainers in Iran.

 

 

 

From 1997 onwards, the Taliban regime came in bad books of Washington because of cancellation of oil & gas pipelines project of UNICOL and was put under sanctions. Al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden that had been created by CIA to fight the Soviets turned hostile and started hitting American targets in Gulf of Aden and African countries.

During the 5-year rule of Taliban, Afghanistan was made free of warlords, crimes and social vices including rapes and drug business. People could leave their houses and shops unlocked since none dared to commit theft. Justice was cheap and quick. For the first time since 1947, Pakistan enjoyed very cordial relations with Afghanistan and its western border became safe and Indian presence in Afghanistan faded. The closeness promoted the concept of strategic depth. After the forcible removal of Taliban regime by the US-NATO forces in November 2001, Pak-Afghanistan relations have strained and Indian influence has bounced back in a big way. It was owing to their social and judicial achievements that Talibanization crept into FATA and Malakand Division in Pakistan and later give birth to TTP and TNSM.   

 

Pakistan-US relations 1954-2000

 

Pakistan-USA relations have all along been transactional in nature and never developed into deep-rooted strategic relationship based on mutual trust and friendship. The 74 years history has seen many ups and downs; the US behaving like an overbearing mother-in-law and Pakistan put on a roller coaster ride behaving like a submissive daughter-in-law, taking her barbs without a whimper. Such an unfair treatment was meted out in spite of Pakistan having put its national security at stake three times and each time suffering a great deal.

 

The US embraced Pakistan for the accomplishment of its objectives in this region and no sooner the objectives were achieved, it was unceremoniously dumped. Each time the US ventured into this part of the world, it found Pakistan to be most suitable and most pliable to serve its ends. Pak-US relations were at their best during Eisenhower-Dulles era after which the US started wooing India and forced Pakistan to lean on China.

 

During the Cold War, Pakistan was reluctantly taken on board by the US in 1953/4 to help in containing communism in South Asia after India which was the camp follower of the Soviet Union refused to become part of the US defensive arc. Pakistan joined the western pacts due to its extreme security concerns from India and Afghanistan, both backed by former Soviet Union.

 

Although Pakistan earned the title of ‘most allied ally of the US’ and became totally dependent upon the US arms and technology, but the US disappointed Pakistan when its support was needed the most in the 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Pakistan was denied the crucially needed war munitions from the US as well as diplomatic support during the two wars, while India continued to receive arms from the USSR and kept the resolution of Kashmir dispute at bay due to Soviet vetoes. 

 

The US ignored India’s nuclear explosion in 1974 but promptly imposed sanctions on Pakistan in 1979 on mere suspicion that it was working on a nuclear program. However, soon after, when Pakistan’s services were needed to fight the occupying Soviet forces in Afghanistan, it once again hugged it in 1981 and doled out monetary and military assistance.

 

Throughout the 1990s, Pakistan was kept under the leash under the charges of developing an Islamic bomb, nuclear proliferation and cross border terrorism in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Holy warriors were dubbed as terrorists and hounded. Indo-US relations blossomed into strategic relationship during Bill Clinton rule and thereon it kept flourishing leaps and bounds.

 

Post 9/11 events

 

Pakistan was once again taken on board by the US after 9/11 for the achievement of its short-term regional objectives in Afghanistan. From the very outset, the US intoxicated with power ignored the geography, history, culture, sociology and ideology of Afghanistan. It didn’t bother that it had been a graveyard of empires where it was easy to enter but near impossible to exit safely. Not only Alexander the great fell, but the British also failed and the USSR disintegrated.

 

Blinded by rage to avenge the 9/11 attacks and immersed in the pool of arrogance and egotism, the US and its western allies jumped into the inferno of Afghanistan with full zeal and enthusiasm, and vaulted from one plan to another in pursuit of a hollow strategy, which was never changed to correct its course.

 

Gen Musharraf accepted all 7 demands of the US since he was denied the option of staying neutral. To save Pakistan from destruction, he ditched the Taliban and provided airbases, seaport, land routes and intelligence cooperation to the invaders. The US could not have so easily toppled the Taliban regime and occupied Afghanistan in a month if Pakistan had not provided full support.

 

Completely isolated and encircled from all directions, and the traditional fallback position of FATA denied, the Taliban could fight the ground forces of NA, but couldn’t have resisted the massive air bombing for long. Hence they wisely undertook a tactical withdrawal to regain strength and start bleeding the occupiers through prolonged insurrectional war. The euphoric George W. Bush sounded the victory bugles too prematurely and took it for granted that the Taliban were down and out.

 

Mistakes made by Bush administration

 

Much against Pakistan’s advice, the US installed NA heavy regime in Kabul which was pro-India and anti-Pakistan. The puppet regime ignored the Afghan Pashtuns and started giving more space to India to make it the preeminent player in Afghanistan as was desired by the US.

 

Ignoring the heavy majority Pashtuns and relying solely on the minority NA regime was the first mistake made by Bush administration. This blunder was followed by another when it imposed the US tailored constitution upon the tribal based society. 

 

Opening of the second front by USA in Iraq in 2003 without consolidating the gains in Afghanistan was another slip-up, since engagement on two fronts diluted the war effort of the US-NATO and allowed breathing space to the Taliban to regroup in FATA.

 

Yet another error was raising non-Pashtun heavy Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) which turned into a liability.

 

CIA and NATO as well as Afghan warlords indulged in drug business which had almost been eliminated by the Taliban. These distractions loosened the grip of ISAF led by weak military commanders over Afghanistan and enabled the Taliban to recover lost space in southern and eastern Afghanistan and also earn money from drug business for their war effort.

 

Since the two land routes from Pakistan used by NATO containers passed through the Taliban dominated rural belt, the US security contractors and Afghan officials had to pay toll tax to the Taliban for passage of every container which also became a source of income for them.

 

The US dual standards

 

Misled by misconceived victory, over confident Bush instead of fulfilling the promises made to the Afghans by promoting democracy, education and development works, he gave preference to covert operations against Pakistan and forced Pakistan to fight the Al-Qaeda in South Waziristan (SW). That way, Pakistan earned the hostility of Al-Qaeda and own tribesmen.

 

Ironically, while Washington waged war in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring democracy, it stoutly upheld Pakistan’s military dictatorship.

 

While Pak security forces fought the Pakistani Taliban and Baloch rebel groups in FATA and in Baluchistan that were funded, trained, equipped and guided by RAW-NDS combine to destabilize Pakistan, they didn’t confront the Afghan Taliban whose struggle was entirely confined to Afghanistan and they never fired a bullet against Pak forces.

 

Pakistan started taking measures to protect its national security in 2008 once it learnt that CIA-FBI had gained complete sway over FATA with the help of TTP formed in Dec 2006. Blackwater was inducted in 2008 to bolster CIA-FBI in urban areas of Pakistan. Nexus of CIA-RAW-NDS-MI-6-Mossad-BND in Kabul supported anti-Pakistan proxies in FATA and Baluchistan.

 

In order to keep the supply routes to the TTP open so that it could indulge in terrorism in FATA and KP, the US rejected Pakistan’s proposal to fence the western border, or to increase number of border posts on Afghan side to prevent infiltration.

 

A coordinated Indo-Afghan propaganda campaign backed by the west was launched to defame Pakistan and its premier institutions.

 

Obama’s Nightmare era

 

Based on Obama’s Af-Pak strategy of anvil and hammer, managed by Richard Holbrook, ISAF failed to provide the anvil when Pak forces delivered the hammer in SW in 2009, thus letting the TTP militants under Hakimullah Mehsud to flee to Afghanistan. Pak forces managed to retrieve 17 out of 19 administrative units under the influence of TTP and confined its presence to the last bastions of North Waziristan (NW) and Khyber Agency.

 

But for Pakistan which nabbed over 600 Al-Qaeda senior leaders and operators and handed them over to CIA, the ISAF couldn’t have dismantled and defeated them in Afghanistan as claimed by Obama. Bulk of Al-Qaeda fighters had otherwise shifted to Iraq in 2004 and formed Al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula after the US-NATO forces occupied Iraq in May 2003.

 

Two troop surges in 2009 raised the strength of ISAF (an amalgam of 48 military contingents) to near 1,50,000, but it proved futile since it resulted in heavy casualties of the occupiers. Adoption of rearward posture and abandonment of boots on ground strategy by ISAF after suffering setbacks in battles of Helmand and Nuristan and putting ANSF in the forefront, and thereafter putting heavy reliance on airpower, was a wrong decision made by Gen McChrystal. It enabled the Taliban to snatch the initiative and build momentum of offensive, which couldn’t be reversed by the occupying force.   

 

Tensions between the US and Pakistan kept increasing when the US adopted a highly discriminatory policy of blaming Pakistan for the failures of ISAF-ANSF, and instability in Afghanistan; subjecting it to drone war; insulting and penalizing it and constantly pressing it to do more against Haqqani Network (HN) and Quetta Shura, and at the same time covering up the sins of India and Kabul regime and going out of the way to reward them. Extreme pressure was mounted to flush out HN from NW. Discriminatory policy brought in element of distrust.  

 

2011 was the worst year for Pakistan in which Raymond Davis, Abbottabad attack, Memogate and Salala attack took place which forced Pakistan to cut off military cooperation with the US and stop the two NATO supply routes for six months.  

 

The reason behind the discriminatory behavior was that while Indo-US-Afghan-West-Israel are strategic partners and work in collusion to achieve their common objectives, Pakistan doesn’t fit into the US security paradigm or the Indo-Pacific strategy, and as such was accepted as a tactical partner to fight terrorism both inside Pakistan and in Afghanistan.

The points of friction which kept the Pak-US relations dysfunctional are Pakistan’s nuclear program, the CPEC, its closeness with China, hostility against India mainly due to unresolved Kashmir dispute, its refusal to recognize Israel, and its refusal to fight Afghan Taliban.

Initiation of peace talks by Obama in 2011 which led to opening of Taliban’s political office at Doha in mid-June 2013 lacked sincerity since whichever Taliban leader came forward for a peace deal, whether from TTP or the Taliban, was droned. Wali, Baituallah Mehsud, Hakimullah Mehsud, Akhtar Mansour, were all killed by drones. Fight and talk strategy was aimed at dividing Taliban movement.  

After withdrawal of bulk of ISAF forces by Dec 2014, the Taliban rapidly captured more territory and gained a military ascendency over occupying forces and the ANSF. Demoralization set in among the occupiers and collaborators; green-over-blue attacks as well as suicide cases increased; rate of desertions in ANSF accelerated.

Installation of a unity regime in Kabul in 2016 by Obama regime was a bad decision. Due to poor governance, corruption and power tussle between Ghani and Abdullah, writ of the government got confined to Kabul.

The Taliban gained dominance over 56% rural territory through which major supply routes pass; its influence stretched to well over 80% area where they installed shadow governments; could strike any part of the country; developed war economy; had sound command, control & communication infrastructure; fair judicial system and dedicated fighters.

The Taliban succeeded in breaking their isolation and were wooed by China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, UAE, KSA, and Germany. China signed a $ 3 billion development project with the Taliban. It reduced the clout of Pakistan over them.

Writ of the ANSF backed by the US led Resolute Support Group got restricted to capital cities which are often attacked by the Taliban.    

   

Landmark peace agreement

After maximizing force against the Taliban and pressure against Pakistan, Donald Trump reopened the stalled peace talks in July 2018 and finally inked the historic peace agreement with the Taliban on February 29, 2020, in which the Kabul regime was excluded. The UN, Russia, China and Pakistan endorsed the agreement.

The Taliban agreed not to allow Afghan soil for terrorism against the US/allies, reduce violence, desist from attacking western targets in Afghanistan, sever ties with al-Qaeda, and to open inter-Afghan dialogue for a comprehensive political settlement. The US agreed to pull out all troops by May 1, 2021 and to refrain from attacking the Taliban. 5000 Taliban prisoners and 1000 ANSF prisoners were to be released within 3 months after start of intra-Afghan talks on March 10, 2020, and Taliban leaders removed from the UN blacklist. 

Intra-Afghan dialogue got delayed due to Ashraf Ghani’s reservations and foot dragging over prisoner exchange. Firefight between the Taliban and ANSF supported by the US continued in which former had an upper hand.

Trump was keen to end the longest war and make a clean break from Afghanistan and he reduced the US troop level to 2500 only.  

To be continued

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, 6th book under publication, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, takes part in TV talk shows. Email: asifharoonraja@gmail.com     

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Imran Khan’s visit to the USA by Brig.Gen(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

Imran Khan’s visit to the USA

Asif Haroon Raja

Trump’s Double faced policy against Pakistan

 

 

 

 

 

Double Faced Trump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Trump has been maintaining a highly belligerent posture against Pakistan as was evident from his policy on Afghanistan and on South Asia and his random statements accusing Pakistan of harbouring Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban and holding it responsible for the instability in Afghanistan.

On the one hand, Pakistan is accused of sheltering and supporting Afghan militant groups, and on the other hand, USA is in parleys with them since last year and beseeching them to a ceasefire and end the war. Pakistan is pressed to bring them to the negotiating table.

Trump administration has been openly siding with the Narendra Modi regime as was evident in Pulwama incident and the events that took place in the aftermath. Besides suspending the Close Support Fund (CSF) and military cooperation, the US has hung the swords of FATF and IMF to add to the economic woes of Pakistan, which is caught in a deadly debt trap. 

Stick and Carrot Policy

In the ongoing war on terror, the US civil and military leaders have been using the stick against Pakistan viciously and dangling few carrots to entice Pakistan to keep doing more. This policy is evident from the series of harsh statements made by US military commanders operating in Afghanistan, CENTCOM Commander and Pentagon, and in the same breath eulogizing role of Pakistan Army in the war.

In line with this wicked policy, Pentagon recently expressed its desire to maintain strong military-to-military ties with Pakistan due to shared interests. This policy statement has been made in the wake of the visit of PM Imran Khan (IK) to Washington this month.

History of Pak-US Military Ties

Peeping into past, Pentagon and GHQ have maintained cordial ties right from the days of Ayub Khan’s rule despite hiccups in a government-to-government relationship which suffered from ups and downs.

Military ties nose-dived in 2011 on account of Raymond Davis incident in January, followed by stealth helicopter attack in Abbottabad in May, Memogate scandal in October and finally the Apache gunship helicopters attack military posts in Mohmand agency in November.  The last act forced GHQ to sever all military and intelligence cooperation with the USA as well as stoppage of NATO supplies. This non-cooperation remained enforced till Washington apologized in July 2012 and supply routes were re-opened. But the level of distrust didn’t decrease. India and puppet regime in Kabul kept widening the mistrust.

Distrust was a result of an accumulation of a series of prejudicial acts of USA in the war on terror. While it bestowed favours and rewards to India and Afghanistan generously, it remained tight-fisted towards Pakistan and whatever it doled out in the form of grants and loans were tied to the condition of doing more.  While the wrong acts of India and Afghanistan were looked the other way, or defended or condoned, in case of Pakistan, it was blamed for every trouble in the two countries as well as in Occupied Kashmir. It could never furnish a shred of evidence to corroborate its accusations.

The reason behind the USA’s Biased Approach

The reason for this biased approach is that the US military, as well as the US governments whether of Republicans or Democrats, have always been closer to India than Pakistan even when India was a camp follower of former USSR and Pakistan was the most allied ally of USA.

Pakistan was initially taken on board in 1954 when India and Afghanistan refused to become part of the defensive arc meant to contain communism in South Asia and the Middle East. Pakistan suffered after joining western pacts since it earned the animosity of many countries. Above all, the pacts couldn’t save Pakistan from getting bifurcated in 1971.

Next time, Pakistan’s need was felt by the USA in the 1980s to support the Afghan Mujahideen in the war against the Soviet forces. Once all its objectives were achieved without deploying a single soldier, Pakistan was discarded and put under sanctions and its arch-rival India befriended.

Pakistan was once more taken on board after 9/11 to fight the US war on terror after giving repeated assurances that wrongs of the past will be atoned by building a relationship on the basis of mutual respect and understanding. Those were false promises; Pakistan was again duped and snared.

USA, India and puppet regime in Kabul supported by NATO and Israel became strategic partners and made plans to denuclearize Pakistan and make it a compliant state using indirect strategy.   

Under the garb of friendship and puny monetary benefits, Pakistan was systematically bled through paid proxies and drones, and discredited through false accusations, false flag operations and media war.

Throughout the 18-year war, Pakistan has been given a raw deal. The reason is that Pakistan besides being a Muslim State, it is a nuclear power with strong armed forces, it is closely aligned with the US main rival China, and in collaboration with China is building CPEC. Full operationalization of CPEC will change the whole complexion of geo-economics in the region, beneficial to China and Pakistan, and detrimental to USA and India. Pakistan refuses to accept Indian hegemony in South Asia and to become an influential player in Afghanistan.

Conversely, India is a strategic partner of the USA since 1990. The US has desired that India should fill the vacuum in Afghanistan after its departure, act as a bulwark against China, and become a policeman of the Indo-Pacific region.

With these aims and objectives, India is promoted and glorified, while Pakistan which doesn’t fit into the US calculus is undermined and discredited. Successive administrations of George Bush, Obama and Trump adopted an inimical policy.

Pentagon and CIA play a main role in colouring the perceptions of White House, State Department and the Congress. Jewish and Indian lobbies in the USA also have a big hand in keeping Pakistan in bad books of USA.        

In the backdrop of too many divergences and too few convergences in Pak-US relations, there is little room for shared interests as stated recently.

The only pin which is keeping the US attached to Pakistan is Afghanistan, where the US has got badly stuck and finds itself cornered and bereft of strategy how to fight and win or to exit safely.

Pakistan becomes relevant since it is the only country which is placed at an advantageous position at this critical juncture. It is relatively better poised to exert influence over the Taliban and to arrange safe and honourable passage of the occupying forces.

Since the US is desperate to pull out at the earliest, and also hope for a friendly regime in Kabul, it has still not abandoned Pakistan. The day Pakistan loses its relevance and becomes a redundant player in Afghan imbroglio, Washington will ditch Pakistan as it had done in 1990.

Changed Realities

The US is well aware of the changed ground realities.

It is no more as powerful as it was in 2001.

Russia has resurged and China is at the verge of becoming the leading economic power.

Taliban are closer to the victory stand and are no more isolated and shunned.

Taliban have gained superiority of orientation on the battlefield due to which they are happily placed to negotiate from a position of strength.

Taliban have garnered military support from Russia and Iran, and diplomatic support of China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and Germany.

Afghan Unity Government and 350,000 ANSF have become liabilities for the USA.

In all probability, US troops will be pulled out by end of 2020.

Syria is another theatre where the USA is most likely to suffer humiliation after it pulls out its forces.

India has failed to disable Pakistan’s nuclear program or overawe it.

Pakistan’s missile and nuclear capabilities have vastly improved and can keep India deterred.

Pakistan is the only country which has produced spectacular results against terrorism despite heavy odds while all others failed.

The US is also aware of Pakistan’s sense of disillusionment and its inclination to get closer to Russia.  

The USA is in a Dilemma

On one hand, it is stuck in Afghanistan and is entreating the Taliban to ceasefire and help in ending the 18-year war. On the other hand, it is confronted by defiant Iran in the Persian Gulf where no Arab country is prepared to send its ground forces or to provide a land route to US-NATO forces for fear of Iran’s retaliation.

The US needs Pakistan’s help on both fronts since more recently, Pak-Iran relations have taken a dramatic turn for the better, which is much to the discomfort of US, KSA and India.

Pakistan’s Significance

The prospect of losing influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia completely is giving nightmares to policymakers in Washington. They have belatedly realized that Pakistan is the only country which besides helping in finalizing a political settlement with the Taliban and in arranging safe exit, it can act as the bridge for the USA to gain access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.  

It is in context with these hard realities that the US has once again been forced to lean on Pakistan and of late has been giving friendly signals. However, the USA’s overall negative mindset and habit of betrayal must not be ignored. There will be more ‘takes’ and very little ‘gives’.  

Trump Administration’s Doubts and Punitive Acts

Poisoned by Kabul and New Delhi, Washington strongly feels that Pakistan is playing a double game and is the main source of strength for the Taliban.

In order to force Pakistan to play the US game, it has embroiled Pakistan in a hybrid war in addition to covert war and is now taking steps to haemorrhage Pakistan’s economy which is already in dire strait.

For that purpose, it is using the swords of FATF and IMF in unison.

First tranche of the IMF bailout package of $6 billion spread over three years was released only after Pakistan fulfilled the demands of IMF which included changing the whole economic team, heavy devaluation of Pak Rupee, keeping the currency floating, more taxes, increase in prices of electricity, gas, petrol, foodstuff and reduction in subsidies.     

While Pakistan is making desperate efforts to get itself shifted from grey to white list by FATF by fulfilling genuine and false demands, India and anti-Pakistan lobbies in the USA have been making efforts to blacklist Pakistan, which will be a step closer to getting Pakistan declared a terror abetting state.   

IK Visiting USA under Unsavory Conditions

IK is embarking upon his maiden visit to Washington on July 21 at a time when Pak-US relations are unsavoury. With restive home front owing to political instability, an economy in doldrums, accountability not making any headway, traders’ strikes, the release of a scandalous video by PML-N, and explosive external front, IK might not be at ease to indulge in hard talk with Trump.

PM Imran Khan should be deriving a measure of solace that Trump himself is stuck in a bigger mess!

The Pakistani nation is looking forward to the 45 minute face-to-face talk between IK-Trump on July 22. Will IK get swayed by the magic spell of the USA like his predecessors, or negotiate like Quaid-e-Azam?  

Gestures Shown by Both Sides

Both sides have taken some preliminary steps to ease tensions and to create a conducive environment for the visit which has assumed great importance. The two sides are hoping that this meeting will help in altering distrust into trust and restoring friendly ties.

Pakistan has helped in making some headway in the 7th round of peace talks between the Taliban and USA at Doha. Intra-Afghan meeting at Bhurban last month and participation of all Afghan factions in a 2-day summit at Doha are positive developments.

As a favour to Ashraf Ghani, Pakistan is pressing the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Afghan regime and is also wanting them to a ceasefire and stop the violence.

It is also meeting several demands of FATF to avoid getting blacklisted.

Despite India’s negativity and hostility, Pakistan has made several futile efforts to melt the ice.

As a goodwill gesture, proscribed outfit BLA has finally been declared a terrorist outfit by the USA.

Trump’s Hopes

  • The US is hopeful of winning over the hard-pressed new regime of Pakistan back into its fold and to make it agree to pick up arms against the Taliban or browbeat them if they refuse to include the wishes of the USA in the peace agreement.
  • Trump would press IK to convince the Taliban to allow the USA to retain 2-3 military bases in Afghanistan for the sake of regional stability.
  • Trump is hoping that Pakistan will persuade the Taliban to maintain friendly ties with Washington once they regain power and will not swing towards Russia-China.
  • Imran Khan will be told to desist from buying arms from Russia.
  • Another possible request could be freedom of Dr. Shakil Afridi.
  • On the request of India, Trump might ask IK to do away with capital punishment of death by hanging as is being demanded by the EU and thus save Kulbushan’s neck.
  • Granting land access to India via Wagah to Afghanistan/Central Asia could be another favour sought for India.   

Suggested Imran Khan’s (IK) Talking Points

  • IK’s foremost request should be to stop the blame game, stop using Pakistan as a convenient scapegoat. Instead, evolve mutually sustaining a relationship based on trust and respect.
  • He must put in a word for Pakistani Americans and Pak settlers in the USA for better security against racism and Islamophobia.
  • He should ask Trump to compensate Pakistan for $ 125 billion financial loss it incurred in the long drawn war, restore CSF and reschedule foreign debt repayments.
  • He should seek compensation for the colossal wear and tear of arms, equipment, tanks, helicopters extensively used in the US imposed war, by handing over part of the US war munitions in Afghanistan before exiting.
  • What he should forcefully insist upon is to close down the infrastructure of cross border terrorism in Afghanistan run by RAW-NDS, put an end to the proxy war, and to make RAW-NDS accountable for their support to BLA and other anti-Pakistan proxies.
  • Fencing of the western border is in the overall interest of both countries trading accusations. The USA must provide funds to expedite completion of western and southwestern fencing.
  • Maintenance of regional military balance between two nuclear neighbours and the adoption of a balanced relationship with India and Pakistan must be emphasized.
  • He must remind Trump to respect Pakistan’s core security interests.  
  • Trump should be told not to blackmail Pakistan through IMF and FATF, or hybrid war.
  • He should invite the USA to join CPEC after highlighting a long list of merits.
  • He should ask Trump to restrain India from committing human rights abuses in Occupied Kashmir and to mediate in resolving Kashmir dispute.
  • Provision of land access to India to be made conditional to the resolution of Kashmir dispute.  
  • With an eye on its backyard, IK should ask Trump to review his policy of confrontation with Iran.

EndNote. Rapprochement with the USA must not be at the cost of straining relations with Russia.       

The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, member CWC and Think Tank Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society, and member Council Tehreek Jawanan Pakistan. asifharoonraja@gmail.com     

 

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Why Trump’s Troubling Pakistan Policy Dooms Afghanistan Peace By Touqir Hussain The Diplomat

The Diplomat

The Diplomat

Why Trump’s Troubling Pakistan Policy Dooms Afghanistan Peace

The administration’s approach to Islamabad undermines potential solutions in Afghanistan.

By Touqir Hussain
February 15, 2018 
 

For a 16-year-long war in Afghanistan, whose failure lies in an endless list of complex causes – including flawed strategy, incoherent war aims, return of the warlords, rise of fiefdoms and ungoverned spaces, corruption, power struggles and a competitive and conflict-prone regional environment – U.S. President Donald Trump has one simple solution: get rid of the Haqqani Network and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. And if Pakistan does not oblige, cut off aid.

Like the Afghanistan war, the equally complicated U.S.-Pakistan relationship is also being narrowly defined, thereby obscuring the many different ways it can serve or hurt the very American interests that the Trump administration is trying to serve.

It is certainly true that Pakistan has a lot to answer for, especially for its illicit relationship with the Taliban. But sanctuaries did not play a defining role in the war’s failure, nor will their eradication, if they still exist, play a salient part in its success.
Sixteen years into the war, which has been described as “16 one year wars,” Washington has shown no better understanding of the complexities of Afghanistan and the region than when it invaded the country in 2001. Some understanding of what has gone wrong might help us find the way forward.

The War in Afghanistan: What Went Wrong

It was a war that may not have been unnecessary but was nonetheless possibly avoidable. It has been an unwinnable war in the way it has been conducted, especially given the realities of a strife-torn country wracked by multiple conflicts since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973.  The 1980s war against the Soviets and the subsequent civil war had raised the profile of the mullah and jihad and changed not only Afghanistan but also the adjoining tribal territories in Pakistan. Home to millions of Afghan refugees and base to mujaheddin, these territories almost became like one country along with the areas across the Afghan border.

Pakistan’s heartland too was affected by the religious infrastructure spawned by the 1980s war and by Islamabad’s own follies,  to which Washington made no small contribution, first through the ISI- and CIA-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan, and then by sanctioning Pakistan in 1990 and leaving it to its own devices. The Taliban were an extension of this slow unravelling of Afghanistan, and strategic overreach of the Pakistan army and societal changes in the country.

Former President George W. Bush made grievous mistakes upon America’s return to Afghanistan. He showed no understanding of what had been going on in and around Afghanistan since Washington’s last exit. It was a strategic mistake to try to defeat al-Qaeda by defeating Taliban who were not going to fight but instead run away to Pakistan. The focus should have been on al-Qaeda. The context of dealing with the Taliban was fixing fractured Afghanistan through reconstruction and stabilization of the country with a new ethnic-regional balance acceptable to all the Afghans. That is what you call nation-building. But Washington, of course, would have none of that.

Instead, Bush outsourced much of the war to warlords and rushed to institute democracy, guided by the need to get domestic support for the war and by a flawed view that democracy is nation-building. Actually, democracy and nation-building are two separate challenges, with one sometimes reinforcing the other but not always.

In Afghanistan, democracy did not help. It made Karzai dependent on the political support of warlords and regional power brokers, the very people who had brought Afghanistan to grief in the 1990s. This led to payoffs, corruption, a drug mafia, power struggles, and bad governance, facilitating the return of the Taliban which led a resistance that was a part insurgency, part jihad, and part civil-war. And by creating a dual authority – their own and that of the Afghan government – Americans set up a perfect scenario for clash of personalities, policies and interests, making for a poor war strategy.

 

 

 

 

While Bush went on to fight another war, for his successor, it was a story of dealing with his deeply conflicted approach to the war where policy and legacy collided. Indeed the policymaking itself was not without its own conflicts, strife-torn as it was by turf wars, interagency rivalries and bureaucratic tensions.

The Trump Strategy

Now Trump is seeking a military solution to the conflict. There is a talk of a political solution, but that seems to be just a Plan B in case the military option fails. The suspension of aid to Pakistan is aimed at pressuring Islamabad to help Washington defeat the Taliban. But Pakistan is finding it hard to oblige without relinquishing its national interests in favour of U.S. aid, and that too in the face of public humiliation by Trump. It certainly will not do so in this election year, and not in an atmosphere where Pakistan sees the Indian threat having doubled with India’s increased presence in Afghanistan from where it is allegedly helping orchestrate terrorist attacks on Pakistan. If anything, this should enhance Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban, which may be demonstrating their value as an ally with the recent horrific terrorist attacks in Kabul.

The Taliban are the biggest card Pakistan has to secure its interests in Afghanistan, and it would not give it up easily unless it knows what comes next.  Pakistan also feels the U.S. strategy would not succeed and may in fact backfire. A disinherited Taliban on a retreat from Afghanistan would be a much greater threat to Pakistan and to the United States, especially if the Taliban joins forces with other jihadist and Islamist groups.

The Washington-Islamabad standoff thus continues. Pakistan feels it can take the heat, and that if Washington dials up the pressure, it would fall back on China. Washington thus has to consider the geostrategic implications carefully in this respect.

The China Factor

A Pakistan closely aligned with China could conceivably take a harder line against India. If the United States continues to see China as a threat and India as a balancer, what would serve American interests better: an India whose resources are divided by a two-front deployment, or one that has friendly relations with Pakistan? For that, Washington should not burn its bridges with Islamabad.

A relationship with Pakistan would also give the United States leverage against India. Furthermore, it will be useful to have Pakistan on its side in a region that is increasingly coming under the strategic shadow of Russia and the creeping influence of Iran. Most importantly, Pakistan’s role remains critical in stabilizing Afghanistan, and in helping Washington’s counterterrorism efforts.

A Political Solution?

After considering all other options, the discussion always reverts to the talk of a political solution. But the irony is such a solution remains as elusive as the military one. How do you have power-sharing or coexistence when the Kabul government and the Taliban subscribe to two different political systems? And if instead of sharing it, you divide power by relinquishing the governance of some areas to the Taliban rule, are you not consigning the populations to the Middle Ages?

Pakistan has a limited influence to bring Taliban to the negotiating table and has little incentive to do so when there is lack of clarity about American policy and Pakistan’s own relations with Washington are strained. The upshot is that Taliban themselves are divided. Some are irreconcilable, but those who want peace worry that if they do lay down the arms and accept a deal while the American forces are still there, they might be shortchanged.

The Taliban trust China and its guarantees that they would not be betrayed. But the Chinese need support from Washington and Kabul. The Quadrilateral Consultative Group process offered the prospect of such a support.  But the Trump administration prefers military option and going it alone, and that also suits Kabul: this way, at least the Americans will likely stay for the long haul.

What is needed is a new relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Only Kabul and Islamabad together can deal with the Taliban, politically if possible, and militarily if necessary. Counterinsurgencies are essentially a governance issue. Afghanistan needs to conciliate the areas under the Taliban control, and Pakistan should help by making its lands inhospitable to them. And both must work on joint border management and resolution of the refugee problem. This is a long-term plan, but it is doable. U.S. engagement with them would be essential to their success, as would be China’s involvement.

But the Trump administration is not thinking in these terms. Instead, Trump has defined the Afghanistan war very narrowly and in immediate terms as a terrorism problem. American soldiers under attack from sanctuaries in Pakistan, rather than the war itself, preoccupies the Trump base. As for the military, it is only thinking of the military solution, and that also highlights the sanctuaries issue. So, right now, U.S. Pakistan relations are stuck, which makes the prospects of any political solution in Afghanistan quite dim.

Touqir Hussain, a former ambassador of Pakistan and diplomatic adviser to the Prime Minister, is adjunct faculty at Georgetown University and Syracuse University.

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Donald Trump’s threatening tweet by Brig Gen(Retd)Asif Haroon Raja

 

Donald Trump’s threatening tweet

Brig Gen(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

 

 

 

Pakistan was made an ally by the USA in September 2001 to fight its war on terror as a frontline State but was treacherously subjected to biggest ever covert war to destabilize, de-Islamize and denuclearize it. For the success of covert operations launched by RAW-NDS combine backed by CIA, MI-6, Mossad and BND from Afghan and Iran soils in FATA and Baluchistan from 2003 onwards, Pakistan was subjected to a willful propaganda campaign to demonize and discredit it by painting it as the most dangerous country of the world. It was subjected to a barrage of unsubstantiated accusations that it was in collusion with terrorist groups. It was also alleged that Pakistan’s nuclear program was unsafe and might fall into wrong hands. Allegations and denunciations were made by Bush regime as well as Obama regime and Pakistan was constantly asked to do more. The policy of ‘Do More’ was a clever ploy to bleed Pakistan as well as to tarnish its image and thus weaken it from within. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The latest narrative framed against Pakistan by Donald Trump regime is that it is continuing to provide safe havens to Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network and is chiefly responsible for the instability in Afghanistan. It ignored Pakistan’s colossal sacrifices and brilliant successes achieved against the foreign-funded and equipped terrorists. On August 22, 2017, Trump subjected Pakistan to severest denunciation and threats while pronouncing his Afghanistan policy. He reiterated his stance while elucidating his national security policy last month. Trump, Secretary Defence Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence have rejected Pakistan’s explanations and hurled threats of aid cut, sanctions and losing territory if it fails to abide by the US dictates. The old allegation that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are unsafe has again been repeated and Pakistan put on notice.  In other words, a clear-cut narrative has been framed to validate punitive action against Pakistan. The threat of unilateral action has been sounded by the USA to force Pakistan to fight its war and help the US in converting its defeat into victory.

On January 1, Trump gave a New Year gift by tweeting: The US has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe havens to terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more”.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, in response to Donald Trump’s tweet, said that Pakistan was not worried as it had already refused to ‘do more’ for the US. “We have already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance,”. “Pakistan is ready to publicly provide every detail of the US aid that it has received.” Asif tweeted. “Will let the world know the truth….difference between facts & fiction.” He added that any drone attacking Pakistan’s urban centres will be shot down.  

Pakistan Foreign Office summoned US Ambassador David Hale and lodged its protest against US President Donald Trump’s tweet wherein he accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit” and used undiplomatic threatening language against an ally.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has summoned a meeting of the National Security Committee on 3rd January. He will chair the huddle to discuss the future course of action following the US President’s scathing statement against Pakistan.

None appreciated Trump’s weird tweet inside and outside the USA except for India, which is rejoicing and is terming Trump as the best President the US has had since ages. I was asked for comments by IndiaTimesNow but got thoroughly disappointed by my curt reply that, ‘Pakistan is quite used to ups and downs in its relationship with the USA, but mercifully it has got out of the US magic spell, and it no more yearns for US aid, and that it is now India’s turn, which is in the tight embrace of USA, to face the music. I also rubbished the claim of $33 billion and added that Pakistan lost $123 billion in the US imposed war besides 70,000 human casualties.  

Comic replies given to Trump’s tweet read: “Change your diaper and go to bed”. “Piss off, you are drunk”. “When is your Tee time today? Fool! Didn’t you tweet about how you were building a good relationship with Pakistan and were thankful for their cooperation? O yeah, that was all of two weeks ago. You are pathological. Please resign”.

The US is hell-bent to scapegoat Pakistan in order to hide its enormous failures in Afghanistan. While Pakistan has cleared all the safe havens and strongholds of TTP despite its leadership enjoying a complete safe haven in Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar, NATO has ceded over 47% Afghan territory to Afghan Taliban.

It is time for the US to accept its fault lines and fight its own war, or else accept its defeat gracefully, patch up with the Taliban and find a political solution instead of scapegoating Pakistan, and beat a hasty retreat from the quagmire it has got stuck. The US must remember that it buckled down before Lilliputian North Korea which is an emerging nuclear power but is now foolishly vying to lock horns with a full-fledged nuclear power, which is the height of foolhardiness.   

A highly dangerous situation has been created for Pakistan already grappling with multiple internal challenges. Ongoing political turmoil as a result of gang up of opposition political cum religious parties/groups in their bid to put the Federal and Punjab governments in the dock has further vitiated the atmosphere and made Pakistan more vulnerable to exploitation by enemies of Pakistan. The people are suspecting that ongoing political disorder in Pakistan.  They feel that All Parties Conference chaired by Tahirul Qadri on December 30 in which deadline was given to Shahbaz to quit by 7th January or face sit-ins all over the country is also the handiwork of partners in crime working in cahoots with the puppet regime in Kabul.

The US-Saudi and the US-India strategic partnerships are impelling both Iran and Pakistan to gravitate towards China and Russia and explore avenues to form a unified block in conjunction with the Central Asian States to counter the US imperialist designs. 

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, a war veteran, defence and security analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Chief Editor Better Morrow magazine.                  

 

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