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

Stimulated instability in Af-Pak region

Part-3

Asif Haroon Raja

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

Unforgiving attitude of the losers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ill-intended demand of inclusive regime

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

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

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

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

Continuation of hostile policy

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taliban’s amiability

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

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

Pakistan’s stance

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

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

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

Terrorism major worry of Pakistan

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

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

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

China’s role

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

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

To be concluded

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Stimulated instability in Af-Pak region Part-2 Brig.Gen(Retd)Asif Haroon Raja

Stimulated instability in Af-Pak region

Part-2

Asif Haroon Raja

Situation in Afghanistan

 

 

The seven Mujahideen groups duly supported by Pakistan had fought, defeated and ousted the occupying Soviet forces in Feb 1989 after a 10-year bloody war. Left in a lurch by the USA, they got embroiled in a power struggle which led to a civil war in 1992. Tehreek-Taliban-Movement (TTA) under Mullah Omar originated in Kandahar in 1994 as a consequence of the highly disturbed security situation in Afghanistan. Mullah Ghani Baradar was Omar’s trusted deputy. The Taliban were able to capture over 90% territory less Panjshir enclave in northeastern Badakhshan province.

 

 

 

After taking over power in Oct 1996, Mullah Omar established Islamic Emirate and in no time restored normalcy. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE recognized the Taliban regime. Sharia laws helped the inexperienced rulers to make the society crimes and vices free. However, war with the Northern Alliance under Ahmed Shah Masoud duly supported by Russia, Iran and the West continued unabated in the Panjshir.       

When 9/11 happened, Afghanistan was a peaceful country. In spite of the US/UN sanctions the Taliban regime had managed to run the state affairs fairly well. Al-Qaeda was blamed for the attacks and the Taliban blamed for not handing over Osama bin Laden. These two reasons were played up to ignite the emotions of the Americans and to justify the invasion of Afghanistan in Oct 2001 and deposition of Taliban regime.    

After getting regrouped in FATA, the TTA resorted to guerrilla warfare to confront many times bigger and stronger enemies. Their strengths were religious ideology, valor, faith, will to die, suicide attacks and IEDs. All the Taliban leaders including Mullah Omar remained in hiding and couldn’t be traced by the CIA-FBI in spite of big head money announced for each wanted leader. Omar died in 2013 but his death was kept secret. His successor Mullah Mansour Akhtar operating as the de facto commander from 2013 onwards was elected the Ameer in end July 2015 after Omar’s death was revealed. He cultivated relations with Iran in order to procure arms.     

Once the tide swung in favor of the Taliban after the withdrawal of bulk of 140,000 foreign troops by Dec 2014 in accordance with Obama’s drawdown program, and it was established that the Taliban couldn’t be defeated on the battleground or divided, use of airpower and drones was maximized, peace talks with the Taliban through their political office at Doha stimulated, not to make the war-torn country peaceful, but to divide the TTA.

Map Courtesy

 

 

The Afghan national army was trained by the US, British and Indian instructors. Emphasis was on making them self-reliant to be able to fight the Taliban independently.

The CIA and RAW established Daesh-Khorasan (K) at Nangarhar in 2015 and was married up with Jamaat-al-Ahrar led by Khalid Khurasani, a breakaway faction of TTP. 

Elections were held in March 2016 in which only 10% voters from urban centres and Afghan refugees in Pakistan voted, and a unity regime formed in Sept that year in which Ashraf Ghani was appointed President and Dr. Abdullah CEO/PM. The two leaders remained locked in a power tussle which further weakened the governance and institutions, and the writ of the government got confined to Kabul only.

Corruption among the ruling regime scaled new heights and drug business kept flourishing making the country the biggest narcotic producing country of the world. Flow of dollars from the US modernized the major capital cities particularly Kabul, but also decayed the morality and values of the liberals and seculars. The downtrodden became poorer and they preferred to get recruited in TTA.  

The ANDSF also got corrupted and soldiers and policemen became addicted to drugs and other social vices including selling of weapons to the Taliban and becoming their informers. Officers minted money by recruiting ghost soldiers. Warlords and drug mafias kept filling their coffers and so did the US security and defence contractors. Raising and equipping ANA helped the US Military Industrial Complex to fatten the purses of the fat cats. The ANA on which $ 1.3 trillion was spent couldn’t win a single battle against the Taliban and in each confrontation they were rescued by NATO air support. The phenomenon of green-over-blue attacks and suicides propped up and suicide cases among occupational troops suffering from home sickness and post trauma stress disorder jumped up.

The Taliban managed their war expenditures through drug profits, seizure of NATO containers and levying tax on each passing container, or on development projects in areas under their influence. They earned $ 500 million annually from the US kitty.

These negative developments enabled India to further consolidate its influence in Afghanistan, keep the Kabul regime on a warpath with Islamabad, poison the ears of the Afghans against Pakistan, and to further bolster its clandestine operations in Pakistan.

Inequities and fault lines of the ruling regime made it unpopular, thereby giving reasons to the Taliban to dub it as illegitimate, and to refuse holding talks with it. ANA’s lack of will to fight allowed the Taliban to gain more and more space in all parts of the country.

The US government kept bestowing favors to India to enable it to achieve its ominous objectives against Pakistan. It kept pouring American taxpayers money in the kitty of Afghanistan to reinforce failure, while adopting a tight fisted and discriminatory policy against Pakistan.        

The US Alternative plans

Once the occupiers realized that stalemate on the battlefield favored the Taliban, and it was no longer possible to reverse the tide, the US made alternative plans so as not to lose Afghanistan. These were:-

  • The force level of the ANDSF was gradually raised to 352,000 (Army, commandos, air force and police) and was equipped with sophisticated weaponry. They were trained to fight the Taliban independently from mid-2013 onwards by handing over frontline security to them.
  • Divide Afghanistan on ethnic lines and hand over Eastern, Southern and parts of Western Afghanistan to the Taliban where they had a definite superiority. Retain Northern Afghanistan and integrate Central and Western parts including Kabul and Herat and continue fighting the Taliban. Major drawback in this option was the loss of the main supply route to Kabul via Torkham, and dependence upon the northern network which was dicey due to the unpredictability of Russia.
  • Instead of the whole of Northern Afghanistan, retain Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Badakhshan and Bagram airbase.
  • In the backdrop of Panjshir Valley under Ahmad Shah Masoud having remained unconquered during the rule of the Taliban in the 1990s, it was considered as an option to give last ditch battle duly backed by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India’s air force was to supplement the US drone attacks from Farkhor air base in Tajikistan.
  • Another plan envisaged making use of Daesh-K stationed at Nangarhar in 2015, coupled with 20,000 Blackwater elements based in Bagram base to help the ANA in retaining control over the cities. This force structure guided by CIA, RAW and NDS was considered sufficient to fill the power vacuum after the departure of US-NATO troops.
  • Regroup TTP and Baloch rebel groups, bolster Daesh-K and bring them on one platform to continue destabilizing Pakistan.  
  • Return power to the Taliban peacefully through a peace deal under a policy of give-and-take, so as to retain influence in Afghanistan. The Doha agreement was signed after 18-month long negotiations with this intent in mind. For the accomplishment of this plan, Pakistan was to be pressured to convince the Taliban to share power with Ashraf Ghani regime and to keep political Islam at bay.    

New narratives after plans misfired

Once all the plans misfired and the Taliban abruptly seized power on Aug 15, the baffled occupiers had to undertake ill-planned and disorderly withdrawal. To hide their mortification, the spoilers led by the US came out with new themes and narratives to discredit the Taliban and Pakistan.

To start with, the Indo-US-Western-Israeli media blared fake news that the monsters helped by Pak Army are on the verge of snatching power and soon there will be chaos, bloodshed, civil war and refugee exodus and the Afghan women would again be shackled. This narrative remained in play till July when 90% of territory and majority of provinces including provincial capital cities had fallen and no case of human rights violation had taken place.

Taliban’s master stroke  

Learning lesson from their first takeover of power in 1996 in which about 8% of Panjshir Valley couldn’t be captured, and it had provided an opportunity to Russia, Iran, India and the West to support the Northern Alliance, this time the Taliban changed their strategy and focused more on capturing almost the whole of Northern Afghanistan including provinces of Badakshan and Kunduz as well as the palaces of Rashid Dostum, and then homing towards Kabul. Strategy of encirclement and choking of cities was adopted. After the fall of a provincial capital city, (34 in numbers), the Taliban prisoners were released who beefed up the combat strength.

All trade points with the six neighbors and inter-provincial toll plazas were captured and kept functional to earn income. 

Wherever the ANA soldiers didn’t put up a fight and surrendered, the Taliban forgave them. This led to a chain reaction and surrender became a norm thereby providing fillip to the conquests of the Taliban.

Unlike the Bolsheviks, the French and American revolutionaries, the Saudis, the Iranians and many others who butchered their fallen foes and raped their women, the Taliban announced general amnesty, which was unique. 

By treating the captured or surrendering Afghan Army soldiers humanely irrespective of their ethnic background, the Taliban neutralized them, thereby making their task of capturing major capital cities easier.

The other notable thing was that no incident of killing, theft, and rape took place in all the captured areas. Normal routine was not disrupted, and educational institutes, offices and businesses were not closed. Their benevolence won the hearts of the people and shattered the demonizing myths. Urban dwellers welcomed them and chanted pro-Taliban slogans which further shattered the morale of Afghan soldiers. Consequently, when the Taliban knocked at the gates of Kabul on Aug 14, they encountered no resistance.         

After dominating all the roads leading to Kabul and surrounding and choking the capital city, the Taliban succeeded in entering Kabul and capturing it without firing a bullet.

After the botched drama staged at Kabul airport, the mountainous Panjshir under son of Ahmad Shah Masoud and Amrullah Saleh was played up which had been stocked with huge dumps of armaments. The Taliban managed to capture it on Sept 6 and the two leaders fled to Tajikistan.

Divine intervention 

Notwithstanding willful efforts of the US led western world to economically incapacitate the newly formed interim Taliban regime on Sept 11, the latter today has huge caches of sophisticated armaments left behind by the foreign forces which include tanks, APCs, Humvis, artillery guns, rockets, small arms, jets, gunship helicopters, night vision goggles, radars, super computers etc. Damaged equipment is repairable. According to some estimates the equipment is worth $ 85 billion, sufficient to raise several corps and air force.

They have also been gifted well-developed infrastructure, eight high-tech military bases, schools, colleges and universities, airports, dry ports, modernized provincial capital cities particularly Kabul studded with large numbers of high quality shopping malls, plazas, hotels, restaurants, gaming clubs, parks, sports grounds, water filtration plants, sewerage system, hospitals, gas and electricity projects.

India gifted parliament building, two dams, Zaranj-Dilaram Highway, several educational institutes, healthcare in rural areas, and structured RAAM and NDS intelligence outfits.

The fleeing Afghan elites have also left behind plenty of foreign currency recovered from their palatial houses.

Afghanistan has trillions of dollars’ worth untapped mineral resources which the US couldn’t extract due to insecurity.

To be continued

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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The US is after Haqqani network

The US is after Haqqani network

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

It seems that the US has renewed its efforts to disrupt and dismantle Haqqani network (HN). After the suicide attack on Camp Chapman of CIA in Khost on December 30, 2009, CIA carried out aggressive drone campaign against HN under Jalaluddin Haqqani in Khost and his son Sirajuddin in North Waziristan (NW). HN was banned by USA since it was considered a big threat in Eastern Afghanistan and Kabul. Almost every day drone strike was launched to target HN leaders. From January 2010 onwards, the US began mounting pressure on Pakistan to launch a major operation in NW to eliminate safe havens of HN. Gen David Petraeus, Commander US-NATO forces in Afghanistan made his planned operation in Kandahar conditional to an operation in NW. The US ignored Pakistan’s pleas that Pak Army had undertaken three major operations in Swat, Bajaur and SW in 2009 and was over stretched and couldn’t afford to pullout additional forces from eastern border because of Indian threat.

In the wake of increased attacks in and around Kabul in 2011 including high profile targets inside highly fortified Kabul in September, the then CJCSC Admiral Mike Mullen declared HN as the veritable arm of ISI. In order to force Pakistan to launch an operation in NW, western border was heated up in April 2011 with the help of fugitive Fazlullah who had fled from Swat in July 2009. The US military is still obsessed with HN and has lately stepped up its efforts to incapacitate this outfit. Jalaluddin’s youngest son Omar Haqqani was killed in Khost in 2008 in a combat, while other two sons Badruddin and Mohammad were killed by drones in NW in 2009 and August 2013 respectively. Recently, the fourth son Dr. Naseeruddin Haqqani was murdered in Islamabad on November 11, 2013. Possible suspects are CIA, Afghan NDS and Fazlullah.

The reason why Fazlullah is one of the suspects is that in last October it was reported in the media that Fazlullah’s base of operation in Kunar had been uprooted by the Taliban after inflicting heavy casualties. The reason behind the attack in all probability was that Fazlullah controlled by foreign agencies was deliberately impeding peace process in Pakistan. It was reported that Fazlullah died in the attack. However it transpired later on that he survived. Being highly vindictive, he swore to take revenge from HN, which he suspected had attacked his base at the behest of ISI to avenge the death of Maj Gen Sanaullah Niazi, martyred in Upper Dir on September 15th. His patrons too encouraged him to avenge the deadly attack. Since it was not possible for him to harm HN in Khost or in NW, he planned to go for a soft target to convey a strong message to Jalaluddin to keep his hands off him. Fazlullah tasked his men in Swat region to keep Dr Naseeruddin under surveillance and kill him whenever opportunity came their way. Naseeruddin was not involved in militancy and was leading a quiet life with his family in Islamabad since long.

No sooner Sartaj Aziz gave good news to the nation on November 20 that the US has assured Pakistan that there will be no drone strikes while talks are in progress, a seminary in Thal Tehsil of Hangu District where young children were imparted religious training was struck by a drone on November 21. The missiles fired from a Reaper struck the two rooms of a nine-room Madrassa run by Afghan cleric Qari Nurullah. It was yet another blow delivered to HN, since one of its key leaders Maulana Hameedullah was among the six Afghan clerics killed. The US claimed that three members of HN including Sirajuddin were regular visitors of this seminary.  This admission was a clear indication that the US is after HN and may have been involved in Naseerudin’s murder as well. Latest strike was more dangerous than the previous ones since it took place in settled area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Interior Minister Nisar dubbed USA as untrustworthy since assurance had also been given to Nawaz Sharif when he met Obama in Washington on October 23, but was not honored.

CIA must have stepped up its efforts to locate and gun down the surviving son Sirajuddin based in NW to debilitate HN. The reason why the US has got after HN is its linkage with Pakistan. There is no denying the fact that of all the Afghan factions, HN is closest to Pakistan and farthest from Northern Alliance, Karzai, USA and India. Influence over HN enables Pakistan to have a say in Afghan conundrum and figure out prominently in the US calculations.         

Deaths of Hakimullah, Naseeruddin and Hameedullah and arrest of Latif Mehsud by US Special Forces in Afghanistan and appointment of Fazlullah as new chief of TTP are significant events which have impacted Pakistan’s position. Latif who was a close confidante and deputy of Hakeemullah is a valuable asset in the hands of USA. He was arrested at a time when TTP was sharply divided between pro-peace and anti-peace groups and Latif was among the latter group. Not only he must have divulged the program of visit of Hakeemullah to Dandey Darpakhel to hold peace talks which enabled CIA to kill him on November 1, he must have by now disclosed all the details concerning TTP’s command structure, logistic, communication and intelligence systems, hideouts, pro-and anti-US members of TTP Shura and Council, their alliances with local and foreign groups, sources of funding and procurement of weapons and explosives, factories producing IEDs and suicide jackets, aims and objectives and their system of motivation, recruitment and training. In addition, requisite information about HN must also have been extracted from him. That is the reason CIA is achieving rapid successes in targeting HN leading lights.         

Information accessed from Latif about Shura members deciding the selection of next chief must have helped CIA to influence them. Each one must have been warned that their fate would be no different than Hakeemullah if they had their own way. Changed circumstances have made it possible for CIA, NDS and RAW to further tighten their grip over TTP and its new leader residing in Kunar as well as on Faqir Muhammad and Khalid Khurasani, the two TTP leaders of Bajaur and Mehmand Agencies respectively who too are absconders and staying in Afghanistan. The three agencies are now in a better position to manipulate the working of TTP to their advantage and to the disadvantage of Pakistan.

Another possible change that seems to be in the offing is the centre of gravity of TTP shifting from FATA to settled areas of KP with depth resting in Kunar and Nuristan. Other than Bajaur and Mehmand tribal agencies, within Provincial Administered Tribal Area (PATA), areas that may become hotter could be Dir, Buner, Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Chitral and Swabi. Area up to Mardan and Nowshera may get affected. This shift in emphasis will be owing to the new Ameer hailing from Swat and his deputy Khalid belonging to Swabi. Increased militancy in settled areas would facilitate USA to employ drones in turbulent areas. Our nuclear facilities would therefore become more vulnerable.  

After successfully scuttling the peace process with the help of drones and terrorist attacks, the US can now bargain with Pakistan from a position of strength and can say that if Pakistan wants peace with TTP, it will have to play its role in ensuring peace in Afghanistan by bringing HN leaders on the negotiating table and convincing them to agree to US terms and conditions. The US will keep the cards of TTP and drones and continue playing them to keep Pakistan in line.

The situation has taken a slightly different turn after blockade of NATO supply routes in Peshawar by KP government led by Imran Khan on November 23 in protest against drone strike in Hangu. Imran has been the leading opponent of drones and has singled out drone as the major reason of terrorism in Pakistan and the main impediment in the way of peace. Last time supply routes were blocked in late November after Salala tragedy. The blockade remained enforced for about seven months but Pakistan couldn’t extract anything better from USA when new MoU was inked in July 2012. No apology was rendered, or an assurance given that repeat of 26 November like vandalism would not take place in future. Our demands of raising the transit fee to $5000 per container and stopping drone attacks were not met. It is to be seen how Pakistan government plays its cards now when the US posing as friend refuses to sheath the drone and is bent upon thwarting reconciliation process.  

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst and columnist. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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