The perceptible change in regional geo-political dynamics apparently sounding encouraging has provided some respite to the crisis-stricken Pakistan. It has bolstered the spirits of the civil and military leadership of Pakistan and rejuvenated hopes that the year 2015 might prove beneficial for Pakistan. Such ups and downs in moods have been occurring quite frequently during the calamity ridden period from late 2001 onwards when Pakistan decided to take active part in the US inspired Global War on Terror as a Frontline State. However, the ups which were very few soon dipped to downs mainly because of the discriminatory attitude of the US, pervasive hostility of India, frostiness of Afghanistan under Karzai and traditionally not-so-friendly west.
Lowest point in Pak-US relations was reached in the aftermath of murderous attack of NATO Apache helicopters on military posts at Salala in Mehmand Agency on November 26, 2011, forcing Pakistan to react by blocking NATO supply routes, ceasing military/intelligence cooperation with Pentagon/CIA and closing Shamsi airbase. Salala attack became unbearable because of overall distrusting and autocratic attitude of USA, arbitrary stoppage of condition-based economic assistance including CSF, stealth raid in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 and unearthing of Memo scandal in October 2011 in which Pentagon was an involved party. Things apparently began to get better in July 2012, but smoothness again turned coarse.
It is an established fact that the US never rescued Pakistan during critical times when its assistance was needed the most despite Pakistan earning the label of ‘most allied ally of USA’. Well knowing the track record of betrayals of USA, Pakistan under Gen Musharraf once again willingly fell into the trap laid by George W. Bush and his team of neo-cons and spontaneously consented to meet all the seven demands. Reason behind impulsive agreement was the rage of Americans after the terror attacks in New York and Washington, Collin Powell giving no third option by stating that ‘either you are with us or against us’, and hinting that refusal would impel the US to push back Pakistan into Stone Age. Musharraf was assured that the US would compensate for all the wrongs done in the past and promised that it would not betray Pakistan again and would forge mutually sustaining lasting relationship. The US had known that without Pakistan’s full cooperation, its planned Afghan venture would prove too costly and may not succeed.
Gen Musharraf did everything he was told to do. It included provision of naval and air bases to NATO, opening land and air routes to Afghanistan, deploying 70,000 Pakistani troops along the western border, apprehending and handing over to the US, without due process, any fighters escaping from Afghanistan; providing long-term logistic support and invaluable intelligence. In the first year alone, the US Central Command made a total of 2,160 demands and Pakistan acceded to each and every one of them.
President Bush had approved the recommendations given in 2002 National Security Strategy Report. It envisaged permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region on the globe, unfettered by international treaty or concern. Among other things the US also embraced the right to pre-emptive attacks against perceived enemies. He also approved deliberate program of torture, which was carried on by CIA goons for years against not just alleged terrorists, but even against people known or suspected to be completely innocent of anything.
Pak-US honeymoon remained trouble free hardly for a year or so after which the US started to bare its teeth and became demanding and coercive. Anti-Pakistan and pro-India regime was installed in Kabul despite Islamabad’s protests. India was allowed to enhance its influence in every department of Afghanistan and to lead the proxy war against Pakistan using Afghan soil. FATA, settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan which were peaceful became highly restive, forcing the Army to deploy sizeable number of troops in the southern and northwestern regions. India and Afghanistan in unison kept feeding the insurgents secretly. After inking peace agreement with Pakistan in January 2004 and releasing tension on Line of Control in Kashmir and on eastern border to dupe Pak leadership, it became easier for India to resort to proxy war from Afghan soil.
From 2006 onwards, ‘do more ‘mantra duly sung by US-India-Afghanistan combine took a nasty turn and so did the orchestrated psychological war to discredit Pak security forces, ISI, nuclear program and to project Pakistan as a failing state. Vulnerability of the nukes and danger of their falling into wrong hands was consistently drummed up. It was also alleged repeatedly that ISI was aligned with Taliban. US assistance was made conditional to performance. While pushing Pakistan to ‘do more’, anti-Pakistan groups like TTP, BLA, BRA, BLF were provided all possible support from Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan. NRO cleansed dream team was installed in March 2008 to achieve what couldn’t be accomplished during Musharraf’s regime. While Pakistan put its security at stake to live up to the expectations of the high and mighty sole super power, the latter hand-in-glove with four strategic partners kept slapping Pakistan. Barack Obama instead of toning down his predecessors policies became more aggressive.
These multi-prong efforts were aimed at forcibly disabling Pakistan’s nuclear program, or compelling Pakistan to let the US take away its nuclear arsenal and store it at a safe place and then forcing defanged Pakistan to accept India’s hegemony. Once these efforts failed and the US-NATO-ANA started losing ground in Afghanistan because of the resurgence of Taliban, the US started blaming Pakistan for its failings. Haqqani Network and North Waziristan were drummed up. Pakistan in its bid to please the US and receive material benefits kept fighting the faceless enemy on its own territory diligently and in the process it suffered well over 50,000 casualties. She has also lost more soldiers in this war than all the NATO countries put together.
The total loss that Pakistan’s economy has suffered until now exceeds $200 billion. This does not include the military expenditure and wear and tear of infrastructure, etc. The US provided about $20 billion economic/military assistance which includes re-imbursements for the cost of logistic supplies provided by Pakistan to NATO troops in Afghanistan. Out of this amount, nearly 50% went back into US kitty.
In the backdrop of tense-ridden Pak-US relationship, the apparent goodwill shown by the US should in no way mislead our policy makers/military leadership and make them complacent. They must not forget that under no circumstances the US and UK would favor Pakistan at the cost of India. The three are bedfellows and natural allies, while Pakistan at best is a tactical partner which is grudgingly given a place in the boat when its services are needed as extra oarsman to peddle the boat out of rough waters. It is pushed out unceremoniously when its services are no more required.
Another reality which must not be ignored is that the US leadership cannot afford to displease Israel since it is under the thumb of American Jewish lobby. India has married up with Israel and latter is biggest arms supplier and adviser of former. Indo-US-UK-Israel nexus have common objectives against Pakistan, which have not changed. Pakistan doesn’t fit into the security calculus of any and is seen as an eyesore.
How can we ignore Col Ralph Peters map showing balkanized Pakistan and scores of official US think tanks predicting doomsday scenario for Pakistan. Several contingencies of swooping Pak nukes were made public. A joint US National Intelligence Council and CIA report released in 2000 predicted: “By year 2015 Pakistan would be a failed state, ripe with civil war, bloodshed, inter-provincial rivalries and a struggle for control of its nuclear weapons and complete Talibanisation” (The Times of India, 13th February, 2005). Although Pakistan has gone through excruciating pain all these years, it has mercifully survived the massive onslaught but is still not out of danger.
It must not be forgotten that Russia till to-date has not forgiven Pakistan for its key role in defeating Soviet forces in Afghanistan which ultimately led to USSR’s fragmentation. Likewise, the US nurtures a misconceived grudge that Pakistan had a lot to do in its humiliating defeat in Afghanistan. Denuclearization of Pakistan could have to some extent compensated for its abject failure. With the publication of harrowing CIA’s torture report, Dave Lindorff felt so chagrined that he wrote in his article titled “11 Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American”, ‘I‘ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good’.
The real relief will come when foreign aided insurgencies in FATA and Balochistan die down, war on terror comes to an end, and Indian perverse influence in Afghanistan is minimized. Since 2015 had been marked as a critical year, we need to remain extra discreet and vigilant.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran/defence analyst/columnist/author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Member Board of Directors Thinkers Forum Pakistan.