Wednesday, January 10, 2018

US Failures in Afghanistan - what to do?

The biggest threat to US National Security is strategic miscalculation. In Afghanistan, the battle was an internally oriented conflict; but it had a confused and open ended definition to it. The US insisted in calling it COIN (counter Insurgency Operations) when it was not. The US method to madness unfolded from one dimension to another, ignoring geography, history, culture and ideology. In their enthusiasm the United States jumped from one plan to another in search of strategy as they lumbered on, never listened to anyone while they continued to do what they thought was the way forward. Ignorance and arrogance never go together. The result that with total air supremacy, against an enemy that had no tanks, artillery or air defence; the United States manged to put themselves into a losing situation. 

The only worthwhile ally, Pakistan, who could have helped the US win this conflict and bring stability to Afghanistan was cast aside and the alliance was broken through a successful man oeuvre of manipulation by an enemy that would have made Napoleon Bonaparte swell with pride. Breaking an alliance was Napoleon’s forte and was an obvious first step that an enemy would have taken in this case too. Who was this enemy, other than our very own? The US, leader of the world, commander of all Armies now cannot whine and blame others for their own failures, they must now behave the part and take responsibility of all that came to pass. It comes with the leadership role that the US loves to play. Well here are some very obvious things that need to be explained:

1. Political
  • Removal of the Taliban government, which had a Pushtun leaning. The Pushtuns represent about 50 to 60 % of the Afghan population.
  • Replacing them with a Northern Alliance biased government that represented less than 40% of the people.
  • Introduced a universally unacceptable constitution, hoping that it would catch on. It did not.
  • Tried a reconciliation process; top down approach.
  • Tried integration; bottoms up approach.
  • Wanted to negotiate with the Taliban but never considered speaking to the Pushtuns. The former believe in an ideological discourse, the latter a political one. Though most Taliban are Pushtun, but a strictly Pushtun dialogue would keep out the foreign spoilers.
  • Assassinated any Taliban leader willing to talk through drone attacks.
  • Insisted that Pakistan arrange the negotiation and when they did, destroyed their credibility by killing Taliban commanders in Pakistan who had been asked to come for the negotiation. 
  • Setting up a ‘Unity Government’; it’s neither here or there and remains a confused, artificial structure that has no jurisdiction beyond the precincts of Kabul.
  • Out of the three parties, the Taliban, the government and the US, the weakest is the government. That is why this government is probably the only known government to invite a foreign occupation, because it lacks in capacity, authority and legality.

2. Military
  1. Based operations on garrisoning troops. Failed to secure lines of communication and relied on air rather ground.
  2. Lost liberty of action and freedom of movement by not dominating spaces.
  3. Continuity in such operations is necessary and not a choice. The US rotated troops every year and as such were never familiar with the terrain or the environment.
  4. The limited understanding of the combat zone cannot be made up through ‘google maps’.
  5. Operations of this kind are based on accurate intel. The US depended on Northern Alliance intel and interpreters. These people let their hatred for Pakistan take them away from any meaningful information. Salalah type operations were the product of misleading the US troops.
  6. Raising an Army in a few years is unrealistic, it resulted in the highest rate of desertions and causalities. The NDS has still no capacity to stand ground regardless of the ‘feel good’ propaganda emanating from TOLO News. 
  7. The two areas that needed US presence was ignored despite making promises, i.e. Nuristan/Kunar valley, where the US pulled out unilaterally and Paktia where the US always complained of cross border Haqqani battle groups moving into their area.
  8. Not shutting down mobile networks along the Afghan Border despite requests to do so. SIMs are still functional while Pakistan had shut theirs down a while ago. Not blocking Thuriaya Communication which is based in Dubai and can easily be controlled.
  9. Not supporting Pakistani Operation in North Waziristan with a US brigade during the surge to block the border though having promised to do so through four different commands. This caused the ‘revolving door’ effect. 
  10. Suffering reverses by small tactical groups and blaming Pakistan instead of holding enquiries as to what went wrong. We have not heard a single case of tactical failure being attributed to incompetence or bad procedures. It’s as if no American can do wrong, though the US have lost this war and all because of the enemy!!! A really humorous conclusion.
3. Corruption
  • Please read the SIGAR report. 
  • A drug trade developed under the nose of ISAF that is now doing roaring business of anything up to $80 Billion annually. No one likes to quote these figures and everyone looks the other way as if it is inconsequential. Let it be clearly understood, the Taliban are being resourced by this drug money.
  • Corruption in the government has caused the people to be highly critical of it.
4. Miscellaneous 
  • The ISAF found it easier to justify their failures by blaming Pakistan. The lies were repeated and broadcasted so often that the US and their Coalition partners now believe it to be true.
  • Losing about 50% of the space in Afghanistan where there is no government writ. The Taliban have signed $3Billion worth of contracts with the Chinese. Why would the Taliban need space in Pakistan when the resources and the area is available to them right there?
  • Bringing in India, an enemy state into Afghanistan, and then expecting Pakistan to celebrate it.
  • Resisting Pakistan’s attempt at border fencing when the charge against Pakistan was cross border movement.
  • Insisting that Pakistan keep the millions of Afghan Refugees, whereas Pakistan has been continually complaining of the security problems because of it.
  • Blaming Pakistan for the indigenous movement in Kashmir; singing India’s song!!
  • Stating that the CPEC route was going through a disputed area, whereas, such a statement was highly uncalled for.
  • Inserting ISIL into Afghanistan to challenge the Taliban. Bad idea. Russia has openly stated that they support the Taliban because of this and so do Iran. The US still remains conveniently quiet on the Russo Shura and the Iranian Shura.
5. Conclusions
  • That Pakistan be coerced into fighting the war for the US and ‘do more’. It is clear that it is no longer about the War on Terror but more about containing China, disrupting CPEC and supporting India. Pakistan needs to be beaten into submission in phase 1.
  • Pakistan cannot find it within itself to support the US. There is not a single reason, moral, political or military where Pakistan sees its national interest being served by cooperating with the US.
  • It has now come full circle and Pakistan’s national interest can only be served by a comprehensive defeat of the US in Afghanistan if things do jot change for the better. There was a time when US success was in line with Pakistan's interest; not any more.
  • That the US public are not aware of what all has happened or is happening and need to be informed of how the US have bungled here in Afghanistan.
  • That a public joint enquiry is recommended where US and Pakistani military commanders be questioned and must be directed to explain their positions during their respective tenures. It is guaranteed to be very entertaining. 
  • The people of the United States must restrain and contain their government in taking up a highly immoral position. If democracy has any substance to it, then a mechanism has to be put into place where the other side of the story is heard as well. Do the Americans have the courage to hear the truth?
6. Future
  • If Pakistan stands its ground, the US and Pakistan can improve their relations though it will take a while that both would trust each other.
  • The US can be part of CPEC rather than resist it. Becoming a strategic partner with China would make better sense now than becoming a competitor in a world/region where the US is a stranger in town.
  • This could be of immense value to Afghanistan as well and they too could benefit from CPEC.
  • Understandably India would not get what it is looking for, but then, should the US make a fool of itself in support of India?
  • The US can only benefit fro  m the current crisis by being the leader it ought to be, having the moral courage to call a spade a spade, and the wisdom to promote stability rather than chaos.
About the Author
Lieutenant general Tariq Khan (Retired), Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), winner of the Sword of Honour from Pakistan Military Academy, graduate of the prestigious National Defense University of Pakistan, has a long experience of fighting the War on Terror in the tribal areas of Pakistan and along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. He has extensive interaction with the allied commanders employed in Afghanistan and working with top US military elite at CENTCOM. He has been one of the few Pakistan Army officers awarded with the Legion of Merit by the USA. He also has the honour of commanding one of the strike corps of Pakistan Army. He is a well read military analyst who often shares his view points, incisive and thought provoking analysis on national and international affairs. His views on international / national affairs can be read on Facebook

(The views expressed above are personal of the author and do not necessarily express the opinion of the admin of this blog)
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Sunday, January 7, 2018

What must Pakistan do after Donald Trump's Tweet

The recent controversial tweet by the US president Trump against Pakistan seems a one man response as it seems that he stands alone while many others in the US tend to support Pakistan's stance and its countless efforts and sacrifices, both in human losses and material damage, to fight a war on terror that has never been its own. Pakistan has taken a heavy toll  after 'invasion' by US troops of Afghanistan as a collateral damage and effect. 

Now that the US has taken a very serious stance against Pakistan despite Pakistan have always been doing more and more as demanded by Pakistan and stopping all sorts of aid to Pakistan, Lieutenant General Tariq Khan (retired), a seasoned veteran who has had a front line experience of fighting the terrorists in the areas adjoining Afghanistan, speaks out what others in US think about Pakistan and what should Pakistan do to safeguard its interests:

Hillary Clinton said on record before the Congress that Pakistan had been let down by the US, David Petraeus, ex Director of the CIA said there was no evidence of Pakistan’s role in destabilizing Afghanistan, Chuck Hagel, while he was Secretary De fence stated, that India creates problems in Pakistan, Mattis the current Secretary defence, warned India to cool down in their support to the TTP. These were all heavy weights and there were others too in the US administration, military system and Congress who have tried to clear Pakistan’s name. It had no effect. Yet our own stalwarts are trying to find ways and means to ‘explain’ to the US government what our real position is. Others call it a ‘misunderstanding’. Such foolish scraping and fawning is probably unique to our very own alone. 

It must be clearly understood that the US is neither searching for a clarification nor is interested in seeing one. The US has decided to embark on a course of action and its decision cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the truth or reality on the ground. With a maniac as the US President, the ‘establishment’ is having a field day as they project personal agendas and spit in the face of the world. The insignificant Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe types find their relevance today in discovering a cause in the separation of Baluchistan. We are unreliable, we are two faced. Our stalwarts scream that we are not, our parliament is offended, our ministers are angry, everyone is disappointed and the country is shocked.

First of all, the Untied States has only done what it always does, abandon Pakistan when Pakistan is no longer needed. This should be no surprise to anyone and this fact should be clearly noted, underscored and advertised, only so that our future leaders can get the message and learn from history. Secondly, so far the United States has withdrawn monetary assistance; how can we demand that they support us financially. That is their prerogative and if they have decided to stop supporting us, why are we crying hoarse, it is neither our right nor are we employed by them. Live with it.

Now we come to this nonsense that this was not our war and that we fought for the United States. Please take into cognizance, I have been in combat the longest and during that time we cleared 35,000 sq kms out of 48,000 sq kms. We did not do this for the United States, the Indus Highway was closed, the Peshawar Airport was shut down, the KP Government was about to shift to Abbottabad, the businesses in Peshawar were moving out, our Agencies were no go, Bajaur had an Afghan flag and Afghan currency. We made deals and negotiated ourselves into every corner hoping that it would bring peace. We even disgracefully surrendered the people of Swat to Sufi Muhammad in the hope that we could ‘give peace a chance’. I saw people then shivering and quivering when militants entered Margalla Hills. 

With short memories we forget the APS carnage, we forget the attacks on our airbases and the naval Base. We ignore the attack on GHQ, we look the other way as the airport in Karachi was hit. We then have been saying that this was all because of joining the US war in Afghanistan and was the product of our policies? We cannot be more wrong, how does one explain the 2000 sectarian deaths in Pakistan before 9/11? Besides, despite being members of the United Nations and having signed the unanimous UN Resolution 1377 of 12th November 2001 which should be read by all, ours was the only Army that had no one under US Command and we never operated beyond our own territory. What do these critics want that Pakistan should have fought on behalf of the Taliban?

After all, what were the demands of the Pakistan Government to all foreigners in Pakistani territory? It was to register with the authorities, settle into designated areas and disarm or then report to centers for repatriation to their respective countries. Was this unfair? Not only did they refuse but insisted on waging war from Pakistani territory when the State had decided not to engage in Afghanistan. They said it was their right to fight a Jihad in Afghanistan. The whole story seems upside down. It’s these foreigners and our very own sold out militants who connived together for pelf and place that brought the war to Pakistan. Now we hypocritically say we have sacrificed 70,000 lives; did we do it for the United States? No, these lives were lost in the battle for Pakistan, as we secured our country against a Raw initiated insurgency and a CIA supported terrorism. We must not belittle our achievements which were the highest in the world just to win a cheap and irrelevant argument. We secured 3500 Kms of Lines of Communications, we established the writ of the government, we have cleared our areas of all militants and we did this for Pakistan and not the United States.

Our falling out with the United States is a function of a failed foreign policy. This was recognized time and again. A government without a foreign minister for four years allowed an Indian walk-over at the Capitol Hill. This has to be acknowledged and cannot be just brushed aside. Our PM, then, claimed he was the Foreign Minister, well then that’s where the buck stops. We had Haqqani as our ambassador, we had Fatmi as our advisor!!! We are further compromised because of the debt we have incurred, the money that we so wantonly stole and distributed amongst relatives and friends; that the very foundations of the State have been shaken up. The PM refused to even mention Kulbashan at the UN, Jindal turns up without a visa, Modi is invited to the PM’s house for a wedding. Well done!! Our leader entertains the enemies of the State even when they threaten to cut us into four pieces. This all then leads to the Dawn Leaks; an attempt to declare the Pakistan Army as a Terrorist Organization. Having gone through all this we are shocked when the US now withholds assistance!!!

Nowadays everyone (including me) seems to have some solution to the crisis we are going through. The diplomatic scene is out since we have nothing to offer and have exhausted any space we have had thanks to this highly incompetent government. Talking our way through in search of peace is exactly like surrendering to Sufi Muhammad in Swat. Nothing to talk about!! We need to first acquire the space for any meaningful talks. Just simply saying ‘let’s negotiate’, makes no sense and is not that easy. We are suffering the consequences of huge capacity issues in our government.

It is obvious that the US must be in the complete know that it is losing the war in Afghanistan on account of its own limited capacity and incompetence and that Pakistan is the least of the causes. Despite knowing this, it continually blames Pakistan and that serves two purposes, first, it creates a credible justification for US failure and secondly it provides the US a casus-bellie to prosecute Pakistan. It is important to understand as to why the US would want to bring pressure on to Pakistan and what are its objectives:
Regional Objectives:
  • Contain Chinese economic growth.
  • Challenge Russian military relevance.
  • Observe Iran
  • Retain regional influence through physical presence.
  • Setup and support India as a proxy.
  • Local Objectives. Since Pakistan is an obstacle because of CPEC and that it contains Indian influence, Pakistan has to be dealt with effectively first:
  • Create conditions to denuclearize Pakistan.
  • Scuttle the CPEC through Indian subversion in Baluchistan and GB.
  • Reward India by allowing free license in Kashmir.
  • Destabilize FATA and encourage Afghan claims using TTP and Daesh.
Conduct. To use incremental pressure, testing for effects.
  • Impact on Pakistan’s economic vulnerability by withdrawing financial support and influencing international institutions for calling in the debt.
  • Hoping the government would be willing to trade: financial relief for nuclear capping.
  • Declare Pakistan Army a terrorist group and extend international travel bans on its personal.
  • May step up drones attacks and encourage India to undertake ‘surgical strikes’ which India has already been claiming it has been doing. India thus already has a tacit approval of everyone to undertake such operations.
  • Finding no credible response the US may extend bombing campaigns into settled areas with intent to create discord, lack of government writ and disharmony.
  • Having created the chaos and instability, may undertake boots on ground operations and encourage separatist movements in Baluchistan and GB.
Pakistan’s responses. The first and foremost that people generally recommend is appeasement and an abject surrender. I may even go along with it, if it could save the State. It will not. The US and India will not be satisfied without attaining the objectives listed above. Thus diplomacy, talking etc. may sound good in a drawing room discussion, may prove that some of us more intellectual than the rest, but the fact of the matter is, that they will not resolve anything. Such peaceful gestures can only come after having created the grounds for diplomacy. Recommended response:

  • Reduce US presence in the country to a skeleton staff at the embassy.
  • Kick out all US based NGOs.
  • Renegotiate GLOCs (ground access to Afghanistan)
  • Inform the Security Council that India by its own self-confessed statements has committed an act of war and that Pakistan retains the right to respond at a time and place of its own choosing.
  • If India resorts to any more verbal surgical strikes, to physically respond in areas of Pathankot, Madhupur, Jammu etc.
  • Also bring to the Security Council’s notice that US has threatened Pakistan militarily with unilateral action and that Pakistan has the right to self-defence.
  • Inform Afghanistan that any act of hostility would trigger a response at Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kabul and Bagram.
  • Find common interest with Iran.
  • Speed up Russo-Pak military collaboration.
  • Enhance Chinese involvement along Kashmir.
  • Begin an aggressive Kashmir campaign.
  • Stock up on fuel and food starting now.
  • Work out a debt retirement scheme through a credible and honest programme involving the people of Pakistan.
  • Begin a proper accountability to bring closure to Memo gate, Dawn leaks, Kargil operations, Abbottabad Commission, theft and corruption.
  • Structure a proper lobby team to build the country’s relevance and image
The US may not be ready for a physical fight beyond a certain escalation. Measured confrontation may force the US to step back. I used the term incremental pressure above. It was deliberate. At every stage where the US is not challenged, the pressure will shift and increase, step by step. By putting out our best foot we may be able to bring them to the table for talks which is what everyone wants. Talks are only done when there is mutual respect. No one respects a loser. For now its brinkmanship and we need to see who is going to blink first. 

If the US is willing to come to some understanding we can offer them assistance in an honourable withdrawal, a role in the CPEC, business opportunities in the country. It is not necessary to fight the US if it can be helped. However, acquiescing is not the answer and we must not sell our selves short as we usually do. We have to go through some difficult times but that is what nations are made up of; to stand up for themselves, their sovereignty and their independence. I am convinced if we stand up to the US our relations can improve. 

On the other hand, there is a lot of cleaning up to do at home as well, without which we can never be sovereign nation and first and foremost is to remove all maulvi influence. They shall never let this country be independent, self-sustaining and respectable. Religion has no place in the affairs of States and the sooner we realise this the quicker we shall be on the way to redemption. Catering to a belligerent but semi educated, opinionated preacher will always bring us into an ideological conflict not only amongst ourselves but with everyone around us. We shall be fighting a never ending Jihad. The best service we can do for Islam is to follow it in our individual sense and not pass judgments on others. Till religiosity is not removed from our political, administrative and diplomatic policies we shall always be hostage to the maulvi who has brought us to where we are.

About the Author
Lieutenant general Tariq Khan (Retired), Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), winner of the Sword of Honour from Pakistan Military Academy, graduate of the prestigious National Defense University of Pakistan, has a long experience of fighting the War on Terror in the tribal areas of Pakistan and along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. He has extensive interaction with the allied commanders employed in Afghanistan and working with top US military elite at CENTCOM. He has been one of the few Pakistan Army officers awarded with the Legion of Merit by the USA. He also has the honour of commanding one of the strike corps of Pakistan Army. He is a well read military analyst who often shares his view points, incisive and thought provoking analysis on national and international affairs. His views on international / national affairs can be read on Facebook

(The views expressed above are personal of the author and do not necessarily express the opinion of the admin of this blog)
If you like the Fire Within, follow us on Facebook

Friday, January 5, 2018

Pakistan’s Asymmetrical Response To Trump - A Clever Way To Flip The Tables On Afghanistan

Written by Andrew KORYBKO

Pakistan’s announcement that it will seek the expulsion of over 1,5 million Afghan refugees in the next 30 days is being tacitly justified by Trump’s tweet and channels his zero-tolerance stance towards immigration from “terrorist”-prone states, but it also represents the employment of reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration” in pushing Kabul closer towards the edge of collapse and consequently filling the Taliban’s rank of supporters.

Donald J. Trump
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
Trump is going to soon regret what he tweeted about Pakistan on New Year’s Day in accusing it of “giving safe haven to terrorists”, since Islamabad is poised to hit Washington with an asymmetrical counter punch that it surely won’t forget.

The Pakistani government just announced that over 1,5 million Afghan refugees must leave the country within the next 30 days, a plan that it’s been working on for a while but which just received a fresh impetus and internationally-acceptable justification with Trump’s tweet.

Had it not been for the American President’s zero-tolerance towards immigration from what his administration labels as “terrorist”-prone countries, which crucially includes Afghanistan for substantial and not political reasons (as the latter relates to Iran’s inclusion and Saudi Arabia’s exclusion), then Pakistan would have risked drawing heavy pressure from the State Department on exaggerated claims that it’s “violating the human rights” of the refugees.

Trump, however, said that Pakistan was “giving safe haven to terrorists”, and since the US formally regards Afghan refugees as being too much of a potential security hazard to allow into its own country, it’s forced to accept Pakistan’s expulsion of 1,5 million of them on the implicit basis that they also constitute a serious terrorist threat to the state such as the one that the President just tweeted about.

This isn't at all what Trump meant when he issued his tweet, nor the reaction that he was expecting, but by cleverly exploiting the President’s own policies at home and the suggestion he was making towards Pakistan abroad, Islamabad found a creative way to asymmetrically strike back at Washington.

Not only could Pakistan soon rid itself of actual terrorist sleeper cells and societal malcontents who have long overstayed their welcome in the neighboring country, it will also be catalyzing a series of cascading crises for Kabul through the employment of what can be described as reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration”.

To briefly explain, Ivy League researcher Kelly M. Greenhill introduced the concept of “Weapons of Mass Migration” in 2010 to describe the ways through which large-scale population movements — whether “naturally occurring”, engineered, or exploited — impact on their origin, transit, and destination societies, theorizing that this phenomenon can have a strategic use in some instances.

Of relevance, the influx of millions of Afghan “Weapons of Mass Migration” into Pakistan since 1979 had the effect of destabilizing the host country’s border communities and eventually contributing to the spree of terrorist attacks that have since claimed over 60,000 lives in the past 15 years, but now the large-scale and rapid return of these “weapons” to their country of origin will also inevitably destabilize Afghanistan.

The landlocked and war-torn country is utterly unable to accommodate for what amounts to a roughly 3% increase in its total population in the next 30 days, especially seeing as how the Kabul government exerts little influence beyond the capital and has no sway in the approximate half of the country that’s under the control of the Taliban.

The US-backed Afghan government is already failing its citizens as it is and that’s why so many of them have either joined the Taliban or sympathize with it in the first place, so the odds of the returned refugees successfully reintegrating into their homeland’s socio-economic fabric and becoming “model citizens” is close to nil, meaning that it should be expected that the vast majority of these 1,5 million people will more than likely come to side with the Taliban than Kabul and consequently make the country much more difficult for the US to control.

In essence, what Pakistan has done is throw Trump’s tweet right back at him by using it as the internationally plausible pretext for initiating this long-planned move that was originally predicated on solely apolitical security-centric domestic interests but has now pertinently come to embody geo-strategic contours by powerfully turning the tables against the US in Afghanistan through the employment of reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration”.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
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Friday, December 8, 2017

USA's Afghan Exit Strategy and Pakistan: Another Viewpoint

America thinks Pakistan should do more. They want to ‘win’ the war as Trump has said. ‘Winning’ now could be as little as a ‘graceful exit’ or as much as ‘killing all the Taliban’. We don’t know what the American strategy is and how the end state is envisioned. We can at best hypothesize as following: 

  • Option 1 - US wins the peace and exits, 
  • Option 2 - US wins the peace but does not exit, 
  • Option 3 – the US does not win the peace by design. 

We also don’t know what drives US strategy; their obsession in containing China, their opposition to CPEC or their enthusiasm in promoting India as their proxy or even a combination of all three. We further do not know how regional initiatives affect the US presence in Afghanistan; the Russian support for the Taliban, the Chinese securing mining rights from the Taliban or the Iranian assistance to the Taliban.

With so many unknowns, what do we actually know? First that the Taliban are in control of 40 % of the territory. Second, they now have a roaring global drug trade that is turning over a $70 Billion independent economy. The Taliban are also securing international mining contracts independent of the Afghan Government in areas under their control. The combination of these ‘facts’ precludes any logical reason why the Taliban would need safe havens in Pakistan. We also know that if there was any movement into Afghanistan it have to be by movement across the border, but Afghanistan does not recognize the border and the US does not support its demarcation and fencing. We further know that the Afghan refugees in Pakistan compound the problem and remain a constant source of acrimony where the international community is reluctant to move them back to their country and Afghanistan is averse to accommodate them. It is also very clear that the so called US surge numerically does not commensurate with a defined objective of winning the war against the Taliban.

Putting the knowns and unknowns together, it seems that the US will persecute the Taliban through punitive stand-off weapon systems, punishing them enough to come to the table but not enough to annihilate them. The negotiation thereon may either lead to abandoning the unity government and striking a deal with the Taliban or then establishing an environment of indefinite end-state but with controlled instability: regulated and contained, justifying a US presence. However, this presupposes that the US is in a position to manage the tempo of the conflict in Afghanistan and that does not appear to be have any currency at present. US presence with the present troop strength necessitates assistance from the Indians and maybe some from NATO and more of such initiatives are likely to be seen in the coming days. As such, Afghanistan will continue to languish in turmoil in the near future and may even become a battle ground for a proxy war between a Russo-Persian alliance against the Indo-US alliance. This would mean a simmering conflict between Taliban supported by the former against Daesh/ISIL supported by the latter.

The containment of China shall become a major objective in such a scenario. To arrive at such an objective, scuttling CPEC will have intermediary gains for the US and would be one objective of the many more envisaged. Here India would be extended a regional status to challenge China but could be delegated a major role in disrupting the CPEC project. India would welcome such a role and would see it as an opportunity to find a resolution to its Kashmir problems on the one hand and cut Pakistan to size on the other. However, India would be wary of any military role in light of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence and Pakistan’s nuclear capacity would have to be neutralized before embarking on such a task by the Indians. The possibility of capping and dismantling Pakistan’s nuclear capability could be arrived easiest through stripping Pakistan of any economic sovereignty and then through an internal political process in conflict with the security apparatus of the country, leading to a denuclearized Pakistan as an outcome of Pakistan’s own internal fissures and instability. The bogey of extremists over-running a nuclear facility as well as proliferations charges would add to the arguments that Pakistan is a danger to the world. Thus a political decision to give up the nuclear capability would not only hold a promise of more financial assistance but the world would accolade the ‘reasonableness’ of Pakistan’s democratic process, praising the government’s courage in standing up to the rogue Establishment. However, though there has been some success in entrapping Pakistan into an economic debt-cycle, yet, the internal political conflict never paid the dividends that were envisaged.

Pakistan managed to survive, maintain its cohesion and till now protect its nuclear capability. Having made no gains in attacking Pakistan’s nuclear capacity by facilitating and encouraging an internal conflict between the political elements and the Establishment (See Kerry Lugar Bill), the US now may prefer taking the kinetic route using a military option. Here a two sided combined initiative by the US and India may seem to be the most feasible way forward. The articulation of such an operation would be first, intelligence gathering followed by military strikes. A successful operation on these lines would facilitate Indian aggression in the Northern Areas, disrupting the CPEC. However, the lure of CPEC would keep US interests alive in the region and what may be denied to China could be undertaken by the US. This would not be possible in an environment where Pakistan remains on the map as it is.

For the US to gain access to Gwader and for India, its partner in crime, to be facilitated as a regional power, Baluchistan would have to be separated. The Free Baluchistan Movement as we are now witnessing as an international advertisement campaign and the sudden surfacing of the usual human rights groups let loose to defame and malign Pakistan, is a no brainer. Attention is drawn to the continued, unprecedented anti Pakistan campaign by US Senators such as Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe. Yet, a free Baluchistan would not be enough to allow connectivity with the Central Asian Republics and thus KP would have to be destabilised enough as well to demand a separate status. This may explain the reluctance of accepting a defined border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both by the US as well as Afghanistan, though the general complaint against Pakistan focuses on cross border movement.

Such an endeavour was on the maps for a while. Pakistan was to be the first in the series of the Arab Spring turmoil and implosion. It did not work and Pakistan was able to pull back from the edge of the abyss while the rest of the world around it was smashed to pieces. Since the US is not going to accept failure easily, the US will try and wrest back the initiative through other means. This shall be through an organized attempt at destabilizing Pakistan through regulated terrorist activity directed at Baluchistan, KP and GB. And having managed a cause and a reason, the US will use the confusion and fluidity of the environment to attempt dismantling Pakistan’s nuclear capacity in close harmony with India through the military option. The casus-belie for undertaking military operations on Pakistani soil would be accusations of militant safe havens in Pakistan used against US forces in Afghanistan and that Pakistan facilitates terror in India, etc. etc. US accusations come in the wake of Chuck Hagel’s statement, the ex-secretary Defense, stating that India works at creating trouble in Pakistan, General Petrous, ex-director of the CIA, who stated publicly that there was no evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in destabilizing Afghanistan, Hillary Clinton, who made a congressional statement that the US had let down Pakistan and now even General Mattis, the sitting secretary defence, warning India to limit its support to the TTP. With such heavy weights making public announcements in favour of Pakistan or supporting its position, it is clearly indicative that Pakistan is not being blamed because its story has not been heard or understood but because Pakistan has to be cut to size by design. The US does not want to hear any justifications or explanations, it only wants to pursue whatever it needs to in its national interest and woe to anyone in its way. Thus demands for Pakistan to do more and to be beaten into submission to do what it is asked of.

Now in retrospect, The US presence in Afghanistan has had varying implications for Pakistan over the years. In the beginning, when Pakistan had the most-allied non-NATO status, a US victory in Afghanistan and a stable Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest. Pakistan did whatever it could to assist. However, a US success did not come about, instead a civil war came about with the Taliban winning back 40% of the territory. It ought to be kept in mind that it is always the weaker group that invites foreign occupation and here it is obvious that the weaker group is no other than the Afghan Government itself. In light of the developing situation, a US withdrawal from Afghanistan would have seen the end of the artificial unity government that was artificially propped up. Though that would have ushered in a period of instability, it would have eventually tapered off into a stable Afghanistan, albeit, not in keeping with international political values. Thus, the situation evolved so that now a US withdrawal from Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest. Since that too did not happen, the US, in order to retain some semblance of control, resorted to giving India a larger role in Afghanistan, introduced Daesh to challenge the Taliban, criticized and began to resist CPEC to contain China. Now, under these new present circumstances and the new threats created and presented by the US to Pakistan, as well as the instability the US is promoting within the region, it is very obvious that it is now in Pakistan’s interest to see the US defeated in Afghanistan - totally and unambiguously. As such if the US must pursue its own interest at all costs, how can one deny Pakistan or for that matter any other country, doing the same for its own survival? This will remain a moot point smothered under the inequality of nations, some stronger than others. The changing strategic paradigm in the Afghan Conflict has been mainly driven by an evolving US-Pakistan relationship. As this relationship became not only increasingly irrelevant but at cross purposes, Pakistani orientation became more Chinese specific while the US’s more India specific, creating competing spectrum. How does the US expect that Pakistan should now assist them in Afghanistan in propping up an artificial government that is working against the interests of Pakistan, help them in allowing an enemy State to establish itself in territories that are not strategically contiguous to them, and to permit, the NDS to accommodate the TTP in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan who continually attack Pakistan? In light of this reality, US expectations of Pakistan are not only highly exaggerated but very unrealistic.

Yet, in Pakistan’s interest, Pakistan’s best option is to try and pull the US back into a meaningful US-Pak relationship that is mutually relevant by integrating the US into the CPEC. It would be a huge diplomatic coup if it could. It would not only destroy a Chinese monopoly but would limit India’s influence from a potentially harmful alliance. Such a possibility is remote and not likely unless the US finds itself in a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which at this moment in time appears to be a credible possibility. The other things that Pakistan must do concurrently, is to remain very vigilant against a possible spate of terrorist attacks in the near future, containing them and limiting their effect so that the country remains cohesive and the will and moral of the nation remains intact. Pakistan must also work to remain stable and ensure that there are no further serious political upheavals, nor should players within the country be allowed to play games for vested interests. Pakistan must also build on its relationship with Russia, China and Turkey as much as it can. Getting the Gulf States to show some solidarity may be difficult but Pakistan must work on this too. 

Last of all whereas, it is clear that Pakistan is no position to challenge the US military might, yet it does have the capability to cause serious pain in a response to any aggression against it. This must be clear to all: Afghanistan, India and the US. Avoiding conflict is never the same as deterring it and requires different set of preparations. Pakistan must display a posture where it does not only clearly demonstrate its intent but also its capability and capacity.

About the Author
Lieutenant general Tariq Khan (Retired), Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), winner of the Sword of Honour from Pakistan Military Academy and is a graduate of the prestigious National Defense University of Pakistan and has a long experience of fighting the War on Terror in the tribal areas of Pakistan and along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. He has extensive interaction with the allied commanders employed in Afghanistan and working with top  military elite at CENTCOM. He has been one of the few Pakistan Army officers awarded with the Legion of Merit by the USA. He also has the honour of commanding one of the strike corps of Pakistan Army. He is a well read military analyst who often shares his view points, incisive and thought provoking analysis on national and international affairs. His views on international / national affairs can be read on Facebook

(The views expressed above are personal of the author and do not necessarily express the opinion of the admin of this blog)
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Beware of these people

Life is a very complex thing to deal with or even to live with. We have all sorts of people who come into our lives – some leaving pleasant memories, while many leaving haunting imprints that one would not even like to remember.

One of these people are the one who are always angry – showing and expressing their anger just for nothing or even on the pettiest of the thing not worthy of even being angry for. Such people are always ready for an explosive discussion and conflict with anyone who comes their way and may even harm them.

For such dealing with such people, the solution is very simple: Simply walk away, without engaging in any way. For these are the people who are actually not fighting with you, but are fighting with themselves – they only want to vent their anger on you to be at ease internally.

So be mindful of such people – leave them on their own for any engagement with them will hurt you emotionally for nothing.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tillerson's Asian Visit: What is cooking up in India?

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent visit to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India raises many an eyebrow as the high ranking US official just spent a few hours each in Afghanistan and Pakistan and then embarks upon a two days visit to India.

In America's so called war on terror, Afghanistan and Pakistan should have assumed greater importance where he just happened to have touched down and fly away to India - a country the US is trying to incorporate for peace in Afghanistan, while peace in Afghanistan cannot be sustained and obtained by Pakistan.

Perhaps it was for this lukewarm visit approach by Tillerson that he apparently received a rather cold shoulder from Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and other cabinet members in Islamabad. 

As per reports, Pakistan seem to have hit back at the accusations about harboring terrorism, just as Pakistan defended its record on the matter during the recent opening of the UN General Assembly. In a press conference after the meeting, the Pakistan foreign minister categorically said that;

  • “Terrorist attacks are not planned on or executed from Pakistani soil; there are no terrorist safe havens in Pakistan, and we made this clear to the US delegation today. 
  • We emphasized again and again that US assessment about Pakistan is wrong. We are not responsible for the increase in the drug trade in Afghanistan or the increasing Afghan territory occupied by terrorists.
  • Our armed forces and law enforcement agencies have taken action; we have yielded results and will continue to do so but not for Afghan or American interest. Our fight against terrorism is our own and the results we yield are our win”.

Analyzing Pakistan government's staff, Adam Garrie of Global Village Space remarks: Assuming the language Asif and his colleagues used behind closed doors was at least as strong as the public statement, the US should be in no doubt about Pakistan’s position.

In recent times, Pakistan, dejected by repeated accusations by the USA to do more when its armed forces have lost thousands of its officers and men in combating the terrorism, have started to realign itself to the regional stake holders like China and Russia with whom it can establish a better natural relationship being in close proximity and for the reason that they understand the dynamics of the region better than  USA sitting thousands of miles away, assuming things in a rather wrongly perceived self perspective.

The opening of China Pakistan economic Corridor (CPEC) brings Pakistan closer to China than ever before and its joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) also brings itself close to Russia. The trade relations with Russia and Pakistan are opening up every day and soon Pakistan will emerge as a strong country in the region backed by China and Russia.

America will lose more by aligning itself with India and continuing to bully Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan. In fact the USA wants a scape goat in the form of a blamed Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan, where despite its elite forces the Taliban control more than 45% of the Afghan territory. Its time for USA to have a save exit from Afghanistan and bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan more closer to each other rather than asking India for help, an arch rival of Pakistan and Pakistan will never accept India's role in the afghan peace process for this very reason. Even otherwise India's jumping in to steal a piece of cake will further worsen situation in Afghanistan. This flawed policy will only worsen the US position in the region.

"Were the current Indian government not so hostile to Pakistan, one could imagine Pakistan feeling some sympathy for an Indian state that is being used by the US for its own geo-strategic and military purposes. For decades, the US used Pakistan in similar ways and to a degree is still trying to do so. The difference is that Pakistan and the world around Pakistan have changed and Islamabad’s leaders are well aware of this long overdue advantage," assumes Adam Garrie.

Is USA listening??

References: Global Village Space

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Security of Pakistan's Nuclear Assets

Islamabad must presume that in the course of its past (ill-considered) ‘cooperation’ with the US to enhance the ‘safety and security’ of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, the US has gained considerable intelligence about Pakistan’s strategic assets. However, Pakistani officials correctly discount America’s ability to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

These are too many, and too widely dispersed and well protected, thus not amenable to any seizure or strike. But nuclear delivery systems are more difficult to hide and protect. In a crisis, it is the delivery systems that will be the prime target of a preemptive strike. These are most likely to be detected when, in a crisis, they are being ‘mated’ with the separately stored warheads.

Furthermore, as revealed during the current Korean drama, missile launches can be sabotaged by cyber attacks and other technical means. In the emerging strategic scenario, nuclear deterrence is Pakistan’s ultimate assurance against external aggression and coercion.

Pakistan needs to take several measures so that the credibility of its nuclear deterrence is assured.
  • The massive deployment of artillery and short-range missiles (à la North Korea) as the first line of conventional deterrence and defence against an Indian Cold Start attack. This would deter Indian attack and also raise the nuclear threshold.
  • The multiplication of long-, medium- and short-range nuclear-capable missiles to ensure the penetration of any ballistic missile defence systems that India deploys.
  • The continued production of fissile materials to provide warheads for the enlarged missile force.
  • Then, there is the need to ‘mate’ at least some warheads with delivery vehicles, their dispersal and disguise, or protection in hardened silos, to respond to a preemptive strike, Eventually, submarine-launched ballistic missiles could provide an assured second-strike capability*
  • The deployment of effective air defence systems plus a limited number of advanced (and expensive) anti-ballistic missile systems to protect command and control centers.
  • The development of offensive and defensive cyber-warfare capabilities.
  • Following this, Pakistan needs the acquisition and deployment of early-warning capabilities, like the satellites, surveillance aircraft and drones.
  • In the meantime, Pakistan should utilize Chinese early warning capabilities
  • Lastly, greater integration and interoperability with Chinese land, air and naval forces to enhance conventional and strategic deterrence, quickly and cheaply.
Once Pakistan can demonstrate the complete credibility of its nuclear deterrence posture, its offers to negotiate peace and security in South Asia and to resolve the Kashmir dispute may evoke a more positive response from both India and the US. Pakistan will then also be able to pursue its socioeconomic objectives free from the threats of external coercion, intervention and aggression.

The above article is authored by Ambassador Munir Akram,  HQA, who was the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations from 2002 to 2008
Photos: AFP
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