Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's Time To End Pakistani Role In America’s War

Pakistan is being punished for refusing to allow U.S. military boots on Pakistani soil, for the bombings in India, for the July 7 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, and for the failures of the American military in Afghanistan. The attack is a clear message to the Pakistani ruling elite: We will bring the war to your home. The Americans are now accusing army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani of complicity in bombing the Indian embassy in Kabul, an accusation that even the Indians dared not make. The General is a suspicious man now in the eyes of the Americans and the Zardari government. After its bungled attempt on the ISI, there is a possibility that the pro-U.S. Zardari government might try to remove Gen. Kayani and replace him with a more pliant army chief who can subordinate the Pakistani military to Washington’s agenda in the region. To end this mess, Pakistan needs to say goodbye to the coalition that Washington assembled in 2001 to occupy Afghanistan, a coalition that has shrunk in seven years to only U.S., U.K. and Pakistan.The massive attack on the Marriott hotel in the heart of the federal Pakistani capital is a punishment for Pakistan for refusing to allow U.S. military boots on Pakistani soil, for the bombings in India, for the July 7 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, and for the failures of the American military in Afghanistan.The attack is a clear message to the Pakistani ruling elite: We will bring the war to your home; we will convince you and the world that your situation is worse than Iraq and Afghanistan and that you are unable to handle it alone and need foreign intervention.Pakistan stands accused of attacks in both Afghanistan and India. The Americans have gone as far as blaming Pakistan in advance for future attacks against United States. In fact, in a calculated leak, The New York Times on Sept. 11 accused Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani of complicity in the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, something that even the Indians didn’t dare do. And on Sept. 7, President Bush delivered a speech at the National Defense University in Washington where he almost called Pakistan a terrorist state.The Americans had hoped that the pro-U.S. Zardari government in Islamabad would move to neutralize or disband the ISI and check the Pakistani military. They waited enough. The Zardari government did make a failed attempt on July 27 to clip the wings of ISI, which would have ended the agency’s external counterintelligence operations, crucial for the world’s sixth declared nuclear power and an important regional power that has legitimate security and strategic interests to protect. But it seems Mr. Zardari has decided not to risk alienating the country’s powerful military. Hours before the attack, President Zardari told a joint session of Parliament “We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism.” This statement ended the confusion, at least for now, on Zardari’s apparent reluctance to endorse army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s stern warning to Washington not to attack Pakistani soil.The punishment for Pakistan is not limited to the Marriot hotel, which was more of a symbolic target, close to the houses of the President, Prime Minister, federal ministers and senior federal bureaucrats. Hours earlier, explosives-laden cars attacked two military convoys in the tribal belt. Eight hours after the Marriot attack, the power grid in Swat, northern Pakistan, was blown up. The frequency and intensity of attacks inside Pakistan have exceeded the attacks that U.S. military is facing in Afghanistan. Which is in itself a strange thing. If the U.S. accusations are true and Islamabad is behind Afghan Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan, then why are the ‘Pakistani Taliban’ attacking Pakistani military targets? They should be happy that Pakistan is allegedly supporting the Afghan Taliban? But what is happening is the opposite: The so-called ‘Pakistani Taliban’ is punishing Pakistan, exclusively. The question is: Who benefits?According to one Pakistani source, there are close to 8,000 foreigners in the country’s tribal belt at the moment. Before 9/11, they were under 1,000, and most of them were peaceful leftovers from the anti-Soviet war in the 1980s, grownup, aging, with local wives and children. Yes, Pakistan did have a domestic religious extremism problem but it consisted of small groups and not armies with endless supplies of money and sophisticated weapons and, apparently, advance knowledge of Pakistani military movements.There is no question that many of these 8,000 foreigners are agents of foreign intelligence agencies who have infiltrated the Pakistani tribal belt from Afghanistan. This is not Hollywood. During the 2001 war against the Taliban government in Kabul, U.S. military used special ops teams made up of Pashtun look-alikes complete with perfect Pashtun accents, assisted by local help, purchased in U.S. dollars, in the areas of their deployment. In Pakistani tribal belt, the numbers of foreigners dramatically increased in the years 2002 to 2004. These foreigners used the natural local anger at Pakistani military’s alliance with U.S. to work up the locals against Islamabad. The area remained quiet for most of the time after the 2001 war until it finally erupted in insurgency led by a series of ‘rebel Mullahs’ who caught the Pakistani government and military by surprise. Karzai’s security and intelligence network is populated with strongly anti-Pakistan officers. The Indians received an American nod to establish an elaborate intelligence and military training setup in Afghanistan. Indians and Karzai’s men are directly involved in training, arming and financing rebels and insurgents and sending them into Pakistan. There is a full backing for an ethnic insurgency in southwestern Pakistan where China is building a strategic seaport. There are reports that the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, is helping the Indians and Karzai’s security in destabilizing Pakistan’s western parts. The Israeli ambassador in New Delhi admitted in February that Israel offered crucial help to India during the Kargil war in 1999 which was the only reason India managed to repeal what appeared to be a surprise Pakistani victory. The Israelis have built a close defense relationship with India ever since and are also helping India perfect its occupation methods in Kashmir.Pakistanis don’t have evidence that shows direct U.S. involvement in this anti-Pakistan campaign. But the circumstantial evidence is more than overwhelming. Afghanistan could not have turned into a staging ground for anti-Pakistan covert operations involving several players with out Washington’s nod. U.S. military has also been deliberately attacking those militant tribals inside Pakistan who are pro-Islamabad, and sparing those militants who only fight Pakistani military. Also, U.S. government has refused to designate the ethnic insurgency in southwestern Pakistan as terrorism. One very interesting piece of information that points the fingers to both India and U.S. is that these shady ‘Pakistani Taliban’ have focused their efforts in the past four years on attacking Chinese citizens and Chinese interests inside Pakistan. No U.S. or NATO citizens have been attacked. The Afghan Taliban –who are the real Taliban before this American-orchestrated insurgency in Pakistani border areas was deceptively termed ‘Taliban’ – have never attacked Pakistan despite Islamabad’s policy change after 9/11. In fact, senior Taliban officials, like its ambassador to Islamabad Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, never said anything against Pakistan despite having been captured and handed over to the Americans by Islamabad.There is no question that Washington destabilized Pakistan using the same methods it had perfected in South America in the 1970s. As Pakistan faced instability on the border, Washington moved in late 2006 to destabilize the country from the inside. A discredit former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was convinced to end her self-exile and enter into a U.S.-brokered deal with a weakened President Musharraf in exchange for endorsing the U.S. agenda and having her stolen millions whitewashed. The fast paced political change threw Pakistan off-balance and resulted in massive internal upheaval that continues until today, almost ending Pakistan’s remarkable economic rise of the past decade.Once Pakistan was trapped, U.S. media sprung into action and mounted a massive propaganda about Pakistan becoming ripe for an Iraq-like U.S. intervention to neutralize its nuclear weapons and to ‘save’ the country from turning into a haven for al-Qaeda.The entire purpose of this anti-Pakistan campaign is to remove the Pakistani hurdle that stands in the way of Washington’s plans for the region: China, Russia, Central Asia and Iran, and also to help pave the way for India to assume a bigger role, which it can’t in the presence of Pakistan. This is what the planners in Washington might be thinking. The Indian thinking, however, is more short term. India is more interested in disorienting Pakistan and using all possible opportunities to make hurt Pakistanis and deprive Islamabad of any strategic advantage, whether in Afghanistan or with regards to the Chinese-built seaport near the Gulf.WHAT ISLAMABAD CAN DOPakistan will continue to face instability as long as it continues to be part of the war on terror on Washington’s terms. Pakistan’s legitimate security interests have been so damaged and ignored by Washington that it is time to tell the Americans to go and deal with Afghanistan on their own. This is the only way for Islamabad to regain respect in the eyes of its own people. Pakistan can say that it will help Washington where possible but that it is no longer part of the coalition that Washington assembled to occupy Afghanistan 2001, a coalition that only includes three nations now: U.S., U.K., and Pakistan. In this regard, Pakistanis can renegotiate the terms of letting U.S. use Pakistani soil and airspace for the transport of supplies. Pakistan can ask U.S. military to vacate the remaining Pakistani airbase under American use. Also, Islamabad can revoke the permission that former President Musharraf granted CIA to establish outposts in Pakistan’s tribal belt and the permission to recruit local assets. Meanwhile, Pakistan can continue eliminating the shady foreign and local criminals who call themselves ‘Pakistani Taliban’. This is what the Pakistani military has been doing recently, wiping off all these foreign assets. Which probably explains some of the recent American panic.This way Pakistan can regain some of the stability and also the confidence of other countries in the region, especially China which has been watching with concern how Islamabad has allowed itself to be dragged by Washington into this mess.

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