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America, Russia and NATO look for new frontiers of influence by MAHBOOB A. KHAWAJA

America, Russia and NATO look for new frontiers of influence

 MAHBOOB A. KHAWAJA

Why the Lessons of History are Ignored

America, Russia and NATO’s Geneva diplomatic talks ended in failure without any formal course of action to avoid military confrontation on Ukraine’s border. Other vital issues include how to treat each other in a futuristic imaginary encounter of common interests. The global community is watching the prelude to a staged drama of unwarranted warfare with profligacy, malevolence and unknown miseries of unthinkable multitudes. All the superpowers — the stage actors of the 21st century have fictitious monsters equipped with innovative sophistry and captivating eloquence to talk about peace, security, human rights, global order and justice. They are master of deception playing on the passion of entrenched and exhausted mankind as if they could stop the emerging pains, horrors and devastations of warmongering to ensure a return to normalization of human affairs. To an inner human analytical eye encompassing proactive sense of global peace and harmony, it does not appear rational to articulate fears and misleading intentions to safeguard human peace and dignity while all the actions speak of a different language of obsessed assertions based on their own despotic national interests.

They claim peace but talk about threats of wars — how to rationalize the irony of human wickedness and inherent deception. Was the same stage drama not enacted during the First and 2nd World Wars killings millions and millions of people across this Planet Earth?

Human progress and future-making are jeopardized when lessons of history are deliberately misinterpreted and ignored by the paranoid, vengeful and suspicious leaders. If war is the only avenue to seek peace, we are on the wrong side of history and thinking of our future. It took several centuries to Europeans to understand the false shadows of apprehension of peace and harmony and to come to terms with nation-building, some resemblance of democracy, human equality of rights and unity for future-making via the EU. A reasoned perspective would illustrate that Russia after breakdown of the former USSR is not the same inheriting entity of Communist authoritarian ideology, leadership, institutions, political thought, policies and practices within the working systems of global order. There are visible progressive movements for political change, open communications, elections, institutional developments and global interactions and seeking reunion with the global order, UNO, world institutions, friendly relationships with adversaries and balanced socio-economic ties with others. To enlarge the scope of reason and understanding, Russia needs formidable change as it appears to be forging on different national strategic interests; its position on Ukraine is not the same as eluded by most NATO members. Ukraine and Russia have common geography and history just like Britain, France and Germany have. Would it not be a matter of extreme political-strategic sensitivity if other perceived enemies would dare to come close to military confrontations in Western Europe? It is logical that true friends of humanity will not act blindly to cause wild uproars and evil-mongering against the people anywhere on this planet.

Is NATO relevant to the 21st Century Emerging Conflicts

The focal issue seems to be the prospective membership of Ukraine to the community of NATO in Western Europe. America and Russia and other EU members enjoin conflicting views on this issue. Ukraine claims its freedom to join any international organizations for its betterment, peace and security. Russia and America should not be concerned except that they want to draw certain strategic gains out of this chaotic perceived tragedy of futuristic warfare. After the dreadful consequences of the Two World Wars, NATO was formed by the Europeans to maintain peace and security and avoid futuristic unwarranted national wars within the European hemisphere. Its formation and scope is limited to nationalistic conventional warfare in the European theatre.

One wonders, what wars did NATO fight to protect its ideals and strategic priorities after the 1945 WW? What NATO had to do with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya? Were these accidental engagements or simply an extension of planned mischievous catastrophic instances of tyranny against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere who never posed any threat to NATO, America or to any Western European nations?

  • American and European leaders pushed soldiers to fight unwanted draconian wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other parts of the Middle East.
  • Millions of innocent Afghans, Iraqi and Libyan civilians and Western troops were killed during the US-led NATO wars in these regions.
  • Could any American-European leaders explain why every day approximately 18-25 US war veterans commit suicides? (“Why Do Soldiers Commit Suicide and Global Warlords.” Uncommon Thought Journal, USA).

How would one rationalize the role and actions of NATO in a global theater of strategic interests? The history of NATO and its plans and ideological motives are equally distorted and disfigured on the global screen of reason, honesty and accountability. Russia overtook eastern parts of Ukraine — Crimea by forces aligned to Russian speaking masses and trying to integrate those territories into the Russian federation. This issue has been discussed between Russian President Putin, former German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron on several occasions. Could America, Russia and Europeans not talk again for a peaceful resolution of this and other related problems?

Looking for Hope of Peace Beyond the Lens of Geopolitics

Scott Ritter (is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD): What War with Russia Look Like (Global Research: 01/11/2022): explains the irony of current affairs:

If the U. S. tries to build up NATO forces on Russia’s western frontiers in the aftermath of any Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia will then present Europe with a fait accompli in the form of what would now be known as the “Ukrainian model.” In short, Russia will guarantee that the Ukrainian treatment will be applied to the Baltics, Poland, and even Finland, should it be foolish enough to pursue NATO membership. Russia won’t wait until the U. S. has had time to accumulate sufficient military power, either. Russia will simply destroy the offending party through the combination of an air campaign designed to degrade the economic function of the targeted nation, and a ground campaign designed to annihilate the ability to wage war. Russia does not need to occupy the territory of NATO for any lengthy period-just enough to destroy whatever military power has been accumulated by NATO near its borders.

Is NATO being managed by those people who lived in the distant past and perhaps post WW2 historic culture is still alive and flourishing? Is there any glimpse of hope for change and new reasoned relationships between America, Russia and West European people? The future of violence and nationalistic resentment looks embedded into the distorted strategic necessities of the current affairs, be it the argument of Russia or American-led NATO and or the EU on its own. NATO is run by the wrong people, glued to wrong thinking and doing the wrong things without any rational sense of time, people’s interest and history. Craig Murray (NATO-an idea Whose Time has Gone), a former British diplomat and Rector of the University of Dundee, UK, foresees the body as obsolete to emerging strategic thinking and needs of the Western alliance:

It is also the case that the situation in countries where NATO has been most active in killing people, including Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan, has deteriorated. It has deteriorated politically, economically, militarily and socially. The notion that NATO member states could bomb the world into good was only ever believed by crazed and fanatical people like Tony Blair and Jim Murphy of the Henry Jackson Society. It really should not have needed empirical investigation to prove it was wrong, but it has been tried, and has been proved wrong….NATO’s attempt to be global arbiter and enforcer has been disastrous at all levels. Its plan to redeem itself by bombing the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria is a further sign of madness. Except of course that it will guarantee some blowback against Western targets, and that will “justify” further bombings, and yet more profit for the arms manufacturers. On that level, it is very clever and cynical. NATO provides power to the elite and money to the wealthy.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and is author The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, How America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order. “Provocations Have A History Of Escalating Into War: Can War Be Avoided and the Planet Saved?” Information Clearing House: (8/31/2018), strikes a proactive caution to all Western policy makers:

The Zionist neoconservatives who rule in Washington are capable of the same mistake that Napoleon and Hitler made. They believe in “the end of history,” that the Soviet collapse means history has chosen America as the model for the future. Their hubris actually exceeds that of Napoleon and Hitler. When confronted with such deluded and ideological force, does turning the other cheek work or does it encourage more provocation.

Every beginning has its end. America needs Navigational Change after January 6, 2021 Trump’s Revolutionary attack on democracy and the Constitution, and so does Russia and NATO in their search for peaceful transition to sustainable future-making. We, the People of global community live on one floating Planet Earth, and we must be conscious — who we are, how connected we are in human solidarity and where are we heading to in our imagination of the present and future. It is awful and a tragedy of human conscience to be speaking of military conflicts and territorial gains when mankind urgently needs an effective cure for the Covid-19 pandemic. George Floyd cries continues to be heard all over the globe: “I can’t’ breathe.” We are One People, One Humanity — ignorance, natural disasters, and man-made fatalities know not any borders, flags and nationalities but surge like wildfire as being witnessed in the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. Again political absolutism heightens animosity and hatred rather than human understanding and cooperation for a precious cause of saving human lives on Earth. To save life of one human being is to safeguard the whole of humanity. We are all born equal One Humanity: — the Divine Message of Al-Qur’an clarifies the truth:

“Proclaim in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created, Created man (human being) out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood, Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught (the use of) the Pen, Taught man (human being) that which he knew not.”


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Post US withdrawal from Afghanistan Part – 2   Brig.Gen (Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

Post US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Part – 2

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

“We are all brothers and sisters under the skin and above it . . . it’s super important that we stop lobbing bombs over the top of the wall and start trying to dismantle it, so that we can say ‘hi’ to whoever is on the other side, whether the divide is religious or nationalistic or politic or economic.” – Roger Waters

Punitive acts

The western world is bent upon teaching a lesson to the Taliban for their audacity to degrade the sole superpower and NATO. Calculated steps are being taken to crumble Afghanistan’s economy and to make it a failed state. Apart from freezing their foreign exchange reserve and directing the IMF and World Bank to suspend financial aid, the US is pressuring the international community not to recognize the new regime in Kabul. Without recognition, humanitarian aid cannot be galvanized.

Instead of bailing out the new Taliban regime in Kabul from the economic crisis by providing humanitarian assistance and according it diplomatic recognition, it is accentuating its melancholies. It will provide assistance based on conditions that aid will be distributed by its NGOs and 2600 Afghani agents who were evacuated by CIA. Fake news are being spread by Indo-western media and sponsored protest marches for women rights organized in Kabul and other big cities to debase the Taliban.

Upset by the growing rapport between Pakistan and Taliban, the US wants to penalize both by using the tools of diplomatic isolation, economic war, proxy war, hybrid war and sanctions. Dollars are pouring into Pakistan to destabilize the political situation, weaken the economy and possibly bring about a regime change.    

The USA being the biggest war monger and violator of democratic and human rights is demanding from the Taliban not to violate human and women rights, promote girls education and to form an inclusive regime of its choice.

Ironically, massive human rights abuses committed by India and Israel against the Kashmiris and Palestinians, and both involved in ethnic cleansing to change the demography have never bothered the biased US leadership.

India’s undiminished bellicosity

Egged on by the US and Israel to intensify bellicosity against Pakistan, Indian media has intensified fake propaganda by claiming that Pakistan is behind the incidents of target killings of 9 Indian soldiers and some others in occupied Kashmir, as well as the attack by rebellious Sikhs against the RSS thugs in India, who are brutalizing minorities especially the Muslims. Hype similar to the post-Pulwama incident in Aug 2019 has been created and demand for surgical strikes has reached a crescendo. India’s Home Minister Amrit Shah has hurled a threat in this regard.

To up the ante, Indian anchors are screaming and straining their lungs over the incident of the Indian submarine saying that Pakistan’s claim of detecting it and forcing it to trudge backwards is false. Another threat was tossed to cancel the India-Pakistan T-20 cricket match due on Sunday. Earlier on, India was behind the cancellation of cricket series in Pakistan by the New Zealand and British teams. These bullying tactics are not new and have always been used to hide the genocide and rapes of the Kashmiris, and to placate Indian masses fed up of price spiral, growing poverty, rising cases of rapes and crimes and groaning under the misrule of fascist Modi regime.  

Desperate to return to Afghanistan, India is making concerted efforts to win over the new regime in Kabul and is offering extensive humanitarian assistance. Moscow’s help to convince the Taliban has also been sought.             

ISIS-Khorasan (IS-K) pitched against Taliban

The IS-K which was imported from Iraq and Syria in 2015 has been propelled to carryout suicide and bomb attacks in the major cities of Afghanistan and foment sectarianism to create insecurity. The CIA Director had stated last August that the best way to fuel trouble would be to make the Shias fight against the Sunnis as had been done in the Middle East. Sectarian game is being played with a dual purpose to show to the world that Afghanistan is an insecure country and it is beyond the capacity of the Taliban to control them. Secondly, justify the US air intervention.

 

The two most battle hardened and ideologically driven Sunni groups (Deobandis and Salafists) have been pitched against each other to once again engulf the war-ravaged country into another round of civil war. While the hardline IS-K is war monger, and has an international agenda of change, the reformed Taliban desire peace and friendship with all the countries. They had given ample chance to the militants led by Ahmad Masood in Panjshir to settle the matter through dialogue and when Masood refused, the valley was forcibly wrested on Sept 6. Tajikistan and Iran are feeling uneasy with Panjshir coming under the control of the Taliban.  

Time is not far when the Taliban would be forced to launch a full-fledged offensive to eliminate IS-K, which is also posing a threat to Pakistan. Earlier this menace is eliminated from the Af-Pak region, better it will be for the overall peace and security of the region.         

G-7 Conference

It was held on Aug 24 by video to discuss the Afghan situation. The EU members were more concerned about the safety and evacuation of their nationals and their Afghan loyalists from Afghanistan. They promised one billion Euros humanitarian aid for the Afghans but so far the amount has not been received. 

 

G-20 Extraordinary Conference

 

Pakistan and Iran, the two important immediate neighbors of Afghanistan were not invited to the conference by video held on Oct 12. Although the purpose of the conference was to generate donations for Afghanistan, no tangible results came out since the reps of western countries “wanted to tell the Taliban how to run their country and how to treat the women”, and laid down these terms as necessary conditions for doling out assistance. Russia and China wanted to follow the policy of non-interference. Another meeting is scheduled on Oct 30-31.  

 

Russia’s role

 

Russia hosted a summit at Moscow on Oct 14-15 to discuss the evolving situation in Afghanistan which was attended by reps from China, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, five Central Asian States and India. The US was absent. It was a follow up of the Dushanbe Summit of the SCO. A bombshell was dropped by Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov bluntly stating that the core burden of post conflict economic & financial reconstruction and development of Afghanistan must be shouldered by the USA-NATO occupying the country for 20 years.

While India and Tajikistan expressed their grievances, the Taliban PM Abdul Salam Hanafi argued that the current interim regime is already inclusive. 500,000 employees of the former regime have kept their jobs.

Vladimir Putin praised the Taliban efforts to tackle the threat posed by the IS-K and he said that there are 2000 Jihadis of this outfit, whose locations are known to the Russian intelligence and can easily snuff them if the Taliban gave a green signal. He also lauded Pakistan’s role, emphasizing that it was among the most important players in Afghanistan. It was decided to convene an international donor conference under the auspices of the UN.

The NATO Summit

 

The NATO summit of the defence ministers was held at Brussels on 19-20 Oct. The insensitive participants did nothing to help out Afghans except for giving sermons to the Taliban and holding them accountable for the ongoing acts of terror and alleged human rights violations in Afghanistan.  

 

Pakistan’s endeavor for peace

Pakistan is making hectic efforts to provide relief goods to the stressed segments in Afghanistan and has assured Rupees 5 billion immediate relief, but is itself deeply immersed in a host of internal issues. It has been appealing to the neighbors of Afghanistan as well as the OIC for a collective humanitarian response and is also urging the world bodies including the USA to come out of their materialistic mode and for the sake of humanity, mobilize international assistance for the Afghans who have been living in hellhole for the last 40 years.

Their miseries would proliferate in the winter season, but egotism, antagonism, greed and bigotry is coming in the way of humanity. There is an urgent need for global convergence in Afghanistan to avoid the humanitarian crisis and coordinated efforts for the economic uplift of the Afghan people.            

 

Pakistan’s challenges

Pakistan has decided not to play into the hands of global powers like a hired gun to fight their wars and has opted to become a strong proponent of peace. It is in the backdrop of this change of policy that Imran Khan in reply to the question of the nosy western reporter asking him whether Pakistan will extend airbase facility to the US, had spontaneously retorted ‘Absolutely Not’. His curt response has not been received well in Washington. It is not reconciling with the policy of defiance of Pakistan and wants Islamabad to do as told to do or else get prepared for the consequences. The ruling regime is already feeling the heat of the external and internal fronts.

Domestically, the people are getting restive due to rising inflation and uncontrollable price hike. The global economic crunch and Covid-19 have severely hit the economies of the developing world. The energy crisis has soared the prices of oil, gas and coal. Pakistan’s economy which has been in the grip of the IMF since 1990 is tumbling and debts are surging. External debt repayment is $ 14 billion and internal debt Rs 2.7 trillion. Economist magazine has listed Pakistan’s inflation 4th highest out of 42 countries. Pakistan needs gross external financing of $ 51 billion in current and next financial year to fulfil its needs. The IMF is levying tough conditions which if implemented would further enrage the people. FATF has again postponed its decision of taking Pakistan out of the grey list till next February.

Under the prevailing grim environment and foreign agenda of a regime change, the possibility of coming out of an economic crisis is getting dimmer. Taking advantage of the unsettling trends, the PDM, PPP, Jamaat-e-Islami and the TLP have started flexing political muscles. They have embarked upon another round of protest marches and are hopeful to dislodge the government which they consider as incompetent. Their target is Imran Khan and they want to pay him in the same coin. Tough times are awaiting the rulers. What is urgently needed is political consensus and economic certainty as well as bridling up of paid media spreading gloom to ride out the brewing storm.      

The writer is 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 & Veterans Think Tank.

 asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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Future of Pakistan-US relations   Asif Haroon Raja

Baleful intentions of USA

 

Future of Pakistan-US relations

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

“The 9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use force to secure its global domination … the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives … In fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11.”  – Michel Meacher

Occupational agenda based on fake charges

The initial target of the George W. Bush administration influenced by the Zionists, the neo cons, and the American Jewish lobby was Iraq, but in Sept 2001 the order of priority of taking on eight Muslim countries was changed and Afghanistan was picked up as the first target country. Seven Muslim States in the Middle East were listed to change its boundaries, capture oil, and pave the way for the establishment of Greater Israel. Based on this agenda 9/11 attacks were fore-planned. 

Afghanistan was chosen to make it a permanent military base of the US, from where it could eliminate all the Islamic radicals including Al-Qaeda who had taken part in the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets, block China’s economic growth and Russia’s resurgence, denuclearize Pakistan, bring a regime change in Iran and harness the resources of Central Asia and gain dominance over the Eurasian belt.   

Afghanistan was invaded, heavily bombarded and occupied since the ruling Taliban regime was accused of violating human rights, particularly women rights, committing the grave sin of harboring Al-Qaeda and refusing to hand over Osama Bin Laden.

Apart from avenging the deaths of 2977 people in World Trade Centre in New York allegedly by Al-Qaeda, declared objectives of occupying Afghanistan were to free the Afghans from the clutches of cruel Taliban, reset the ideology of the country from Islamic Emirate to a Republic, make the Afghans well-educated, progressive and to make the country peaceful and prosperous by introducing western democracy, and promoting human/ women rights.

Factually, the US had no intentions of accomplishing these objectives since its hidden motives revolved around geo-economics. Not only attacks on the WTC on 9/11 were engineered, both Afghanistan and Iraq were occupied on fake charges.  

It was due to insincere and baleful intentions that in spite of spending $ 2.3 trillion during its 20 years period of occupancy, the socio-economic conditions and security of Afghanistan instead of improving further deteriorated. Standard of life of the elite class living in major urban centres was improved and the women liberalized, but 70% of the downtrodden people continued to live in abject poverty.

Quest for military solution proved fruitless

Bush, Obama and Trump firmly believed in the use of military force for a military solution, failed on all counts and created a big mess which went beyond their capacity to clear it. Other than the nukes, the invaders employed all sorts of lethal weapons to crush, or intimidate, or tire their opponents but achieved zero-sum results.

After failing to gain a military edge over the Taliban with the help of two troop surges and raising the combat level to over 140,000 in 2009, Obama concluded that it was beyond the capability of the ISAF and ANDSF to defeat the Taliban. He ordered the completion of the drawdown of troops by Dec 2014, starting in July 2011. Pentagon and ISAF Commander Gen Petraeus prevailed upon him to retain a small Resolute Support Mission (RSM) of about 12000 troops to back up ANDSF which till then had not acquired desired operational preparedness to fight independently. Islamic State of Khurasan (IS-K) was also brought in from Iraq and Syria in 2015 by CIA and RAW as a backup support.      

Donald Trump raised the level of RSM to 20,000 in 2017, escalated the air and drone war and dropped the mother of all bombs at Nangarhar. Finding the US-NATO troops in a logjam, and their well-trained and equipped 350,000 strong ANDSF unable to even contain the momentum of attacks of the Taliban, Trump had to sullenly open parleys with the Taliban to arrive at a political settlement. The Kabul regime was excluded from talks since the Taliban considered them collaborators, puppets and not worth talking about.

Doha deal and its implementation

The US-Taliban remained engaged in a series of peace-talk sessions for 18 months (Sept 2018-Feb 2020) and signed the Doha peace agreement on Feb 29, 2020 according to which all foreign troops were required to quit by May 1, 2021. In compliance with the Doha deal, the Taliban desisted from attacking foreign troops and allowed them to pull out safely. Not a single attack was carried out from March 2020 onwards. 

After the agreement, Trump had ten months (March to December 2020) to withdraw forces by air and to shift heavy baggage, military vehicles/equipment by land through Pakistan. By the time he handed over power to his successor Joe Biden in Jan 2021, the US troop level in Afghanistan had been reduced from 20, 000 to 2500 and the exit was orderly and graceful with no mishap.

Biden had four months at his disposal (Feb to May 2021), which were quite sufficient, but under intense pressure, he extended the date of departure to Sept 11, and then pushed it back to Aug 31. Seven months period was long enough to undertake an orderly drawdown of only 2500 troops, but the intentions were dishonest. Instead of making any gain by this extension, a sudden flurry of attacks by the Taliban which reached a crescendo in July triggered fright and everything was lost.

Many were surprised to hear Biden giving his expert opinion in July 2021 that the Taliban will take six months to reach the outskirts of Kabul and that the ANA will fight it out. This optimism that Kabul would hold on, was based on the feedback of thousands of the US think tanks, Pentagon, CIA, RAW and NDS. The policy makers in Washington were confident that six months’ time was sufficient to arrive at a political settlement and to tie up all details for a smooth withdrawal.

Much against the speculation that they would take at least 6-8 months to threaten and take over Kabul, sudden encirclement and occupation of Kabul on August 15 by the Taliban, resulted in panic and a hasty and disorderly withdrawal, which was more of a rout.

Misreading of Taliban’s final offensive

The Taliban spring offensive was launched after May 1, 2021 by which date all foreign troops were supposed to have exited. It was the final phase towards the victory stand. Their rapid gains bewildered the policy makers in Washington as well as the spoilers. Their hurricane-like advances on multiple fronts flabbergasted the Pentagon, leaving it with no choice but to vacate the military bases in haste. Vacation of the biggest Bagram airbase on the midnight of 2/3 July was a classic example of confusion, disorder and jangled nerves. They were left with no choice other than destroying the weapons and equipment stacked in the fortified military bases. 

Photo Courtesy-https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/21/taliban-afghanistan-war-propaganda/

One fails to comprehend why this big timeframe of fall of Kabul in six months was given, which was later reduced to three months in August, when most of the provinces had been captured by the Taliban, seven military bases abandoned, only 650 US troops were garrisoned in Kabul base, and the ANA had been surrendering one province after another without a fight.

It is also intriguing as to why Ashraf Ghani behaved so obstinately till the very end when his boat was fast sinking, and why the US didn’t force him to step down on August 14 if not earlier when his goose was cooked?

Was Ghani forced not to resign in order to create conditions for bloodshed? Was his sudden flight to UAE with lots of cash on the afternoon of August 15 by design so as to create an administrative and security vacuum and to stimulate bedlam in Kabul since the Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Deputy President Rashid Dostum had already fled?

The war mongers hoped against hope that a broad-based government in Kabul inclusive of the leaders of Northern Alliance would pave the way for continuation of the US presence in Afghanistan. They had also wishfully hoped that extending the cutout date given by Biden might convert defeat into victory. Tussle between the two sides, one favoring and the other disfavoring, was at the cost of wasting precious time and prolonging the agony. Extending the date proved costly for Biden.

Ill-intentioned narrative and expectations

One wonders on what basis the Indo-Western media started harping from June onward that there will be disarray, bloodshed, civil war and refugee exodus. The biased media stuck to this narrative when not a single incident of violence was reported in all the districts and cities captured by the Taliban? Intelligence reports speculated pitched battles between the Taliban and ANA in cities and it was expected that the former would resort to retributions.

The detractors were very hopeful that the fleeing refugees from the big cities would home towards Pakistan and taking advantage of the melee, all the terrorists and spies would be pushed into Pakistan.    

To ensure the safety of Kabul, and in case of its fall, safe exit of the US diplomats and other American nationals as well as the Afghan interpreters and loyalists, the US took control of Kabul airport and its security where a sophisticated air defence system was installed.  

An engineered suicide attack at the gate of Kabul airport by IS-K was launched on August 25, about which the US officials had been warning from August 22.

If the US was in the know of an impending attack, why did the US take such a big risk of inducing thousands of Afghans to reach Kabul airport to be flown to the wonderland of the USA, and presented such a lucrative target? Besides putting the lives of Afghans in danger, it endangered thousands of its troops, diplomats and nationals stranded in Kabul. Was the real purpose to foment chaos?

As predicted, the mob assembled outside the airport gate was struck by a suicide bomber on August 25 killing 170 Afghans, 13 US Marines and wounding hundreds. Reprisal actions with drones on August 26th and 29th struck innocent civilians. The US C-130s airlifted thousands of Afghans packed like sardines, but left behind US-NATO troops, diplomats and nationals. The US apologized for the August 29 attack and has offered compensation to the next of kin of the 11 victims.    

Future of Pak-US relations

From 1954 onwards, Pakistan had put all its eggs in the basket of the USA and on several occasions had put its national security at stake to prove that it was the most allied ally of the USA. Infatuation to the USA by successive regimes of Pakistan didn’t lessen even after getting betrayed repeatedly.  Pakistan was put off the radar of Washington in 1990 after which it only sees India in this region and none else. Pakistan has become an eyesore due to its nuclearization, closeness with China and the CPEC.  

After 9/11, the US unenthusiastically took Pakistan on board to ease its occupation of Afghanistan, and then to fight the longest war and lastly to pull out safely.

Pakistan was forcibly dragged into the US imposed war on terror which it fought tenaciously and produced best results but suffered the most. Since the US was governed by baleful intentions from the very outset, all the achievements of Pakistan security forces distressed the US and India.

When the heavily fortified strongholds of Swat and South Waziristan were overpowered in 2009, and all the tribal agencies of FATA less North Waziristan, that had been taken over by the foreign supported TTP, were recaptured in 2010, and the ISAF had to abandon its boots on ground strategy in Afghanistan and announce a plan of withdrawal due to resurgence of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, the flummoxed Obama and Pentagon took out their anger on Pakistan in 2011 by carrying out series of hostile acts starting from Raymond Davis incident, to Abbottabad attack, to Memogate and Salala attack. The last hostile act against the so-called ally which dipped Pak-US relations to lowest ebb forced Pakistan to respond defiantly.

Pakistan a convenient scapegoat

Throughout the war, the US and its strategic partners kept hatching conspiracies to disable Pakistan’s nuclear program while Pakistan considered them allies and kept doing more and in the process got bled.

Pakistan played a key role in the success of Afghan peace talks culminating into historic Doha agreement, in starting intra-Afghan dialogue in Sept 2020, and in restraining the Taliban from attacking foreign military targets. It played a historic role in evacuating 10,000 people from Kabul including American-NATO forces, American diplomats, IMF-World Bank officials and Afghan nationals and lodging them in Islamabad hotels.

Pakistan’s sacrifices and its efforts to please the overbearing USA were rudely brushed aside and was held responsible for the cataclysmic ending of the war. Conversely, India which failed the US on all fronts was kept in its tight embrace and handsomely rewarded simply because it offered profitable economic and IT markets, bought heavy consignments of armaments from the US and Israel, helped in boosting the game of intrigue and deceit, and in spreading fake news and narratives.

With all its troops back home, the US now wants to avenge its humiliation at the hands of the Taliban allegedly supported by Pakistan. The whole blame of the US defeat and its chaotic exit is pinned on the convenient scapegoat Pakistan.     

 

Pakistan no more useful to USA

The only interest the US has in Pakistan is to make it agree to provide an air base or air corridor to enable the US air force to conduct counter terrorism air operations in Afghanistan. In other words, the US is least interested in peace in the Af-Pak region and is determined to stoke instability and to keep the Chinese, Russian and Iran influences in Afghanistan at bay.

If Pakistan relents, it will be tolerated, and if it defies, it will be punished. Currently, the US leaders are in a bad mood and their patience is wearing thin. The indicators to that end are Joe Biden refusing to make a telephone call to Imran Khan, the unfriendly statements of the American civil and military leaders, Secretary of State Wendy Sherman stating that “we don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan”, anti-Pakistan bill moved by the 22 Republican Senators, and American Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad hobnobbing with Pakistan’s opposition leaders.

The other hostile acts are the IMF’s sinister dictations, pressing Pakistan to further devalue its currency and raise the taxes on petroleum, gas and electricity, FATF hesitating to whiten Pakistan, and India’s recent threat of launching a surgical strike, and Indian submarine sneaking into Pakistan’s waters which was chased out. India’s belligerence is encouraged by the USA.

Under the given circumstances, India and not Pakistan will be the preferred partner of the USA in South Asia. Any hope nurtured by the ruling regime in Pakistan or GHQ to alter the frostiness in Pak-US relations into friendly relations is like chasing the rainbow.           

 

The writer is 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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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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