USA has bared its teeth
By Asif Haroon Raja
The US and its allies succeeded in toppling Taliban regime in November 2001 and replacing it with a puppet regime, but the Taliban were neither militarily defeated nor eliminated from the system. But for effective encirclement of Afghanistan from all directions and massive air support provided by USA, the Northern Alliance could not have made any progress. Once the Taliban realised that they were no more in a position to offer resistance particularly after Pakistan ditched them, they considered it prudent to carry out a tactical withdrawal from Kabul and most took shelter in Pashtun dominated southern and eastern Afghanistan. Some trickled into FATA and Baluchistan where they had their kith and kin and some moved into Iran. They remained inactive till 2002 but utilised this time to regroup and refit themselves to be able to strike back at the invading forces that had devastated their country. Bush and his teams of neo-cons felt complacent that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda had been taken care of and only the remnants had to be flushed out. It was this smugness which impelled them to invade and occupy Iraq in March 2003.
In the meanwhile, the vices that had been eliminated by the Taliban during their short rule reappeared in a big way. Besides lack of justice, war lordism, corruption, poppy growing, drug business and nepotism reigned supreme. The Taliban and their supporters were either brutally killed or put in Bagram jail and subjected to horrendous torture. The Pashtuns being in great majority were persecuted and power got concentrated in the hands of non-Pashtun Northern Alliance elements and war lords. The occupation forces inflicted heavy collateral damage on civilians whenever they confronted the militants. These developments disillusioned the Afghans and sympathy wave among the Pashtuns living both sides of the border started to shift towards the Taliban. Induction of NATO forces in 2003 together with deteriorating law and order situation provided the spark to ignite insurgency.
When Gen Musharraf submitted to US pressure after 9/11 and ditched the Taliban in Afghanistan, he provided air bases as well as logistics support and shared intelligence with CIA. He allowed CIA and FBI to recruit agents in FATA and other places and to establish their outposts. The focus of ISI and other agencies was shifted towards hunting and nabbing so-called terrorists all over the country, in monitoring dissident elements within the army and in political wheeling and dealings. The CIA acquired all the links ISI and MI had both sides of the Pak-Afghan border and gradually took most agents on ISI payroll within its fold. By virtue of having better technology and means the CIA was able to take over intelligence acquisition and dissemination system. As a consequence the troops operating in FATA became entirely dependent upon CIA inputs. Taking advantage of complete liberty of action, CIA succeeded in buying the loyalties of many tribal chiefs and notables in FATA by doling out dollars in sacks since it knew that the Pashtun could not be crushed by force but could be purchased. Those not falling in line were got killed.
In FATA, Nek Muhammad was first cultivated and provided logistic support. When he entered into a peace deal with Pak Army in July 2005, he was killed using precision guided missile. Abdullah Masood, an Afghan war veteran who had also fought the Northern Alliance in October-November 2001 was captured and brainwashed during his two years internment in Guantanamo Bay. He was released after agreeing to work on terms dictated by CIA and he soon was able to takeover the leadership role. His death at Zhob at the hands of Pak security forces was a loss for CIA.
Baitulah Masood and Fazlullah had not taken part in Afghan jihad and do not qualify to head Taliban; yet 30 year old Baitullah has managed to create Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Fazlullah calls the shots in Swat. Mulla Omar had never shown interest in establishing any links with Pakistani Taliban and had warned Nek Muhammad not to operate under the brand name of Taliban. It is being questioned as to how come Baitullah, Fazlullah and their spokesmen desperately wanted by Pakistan security forces have escaped the hawk eye of USA, particularly after they have been seen giving detailed interviews to media and using their cell phones? ISI had once given six figure coordinates of Baitullah and yet no Hellfire missile was fired on his hideout by CIA. The TTP that has spread its influence in all the seven agencies of tribal belt and in neighbouring settled districts of NWFP has succeeded in making inroads into Punjab, particularly southern Punjab. Large number has got recruited from Chiniot, Bahawalpur, Dera Nawab, Bahawalnagar, Faisalabad, Sialkot and other places. Though they do not speak a word of Pashto, but are fighting side by side with Pathan Taliban.
After Shakai peace deal with the militants in South Waziristan in July 2005, Pakistan was subjected to a calculated slander campaign. Having fixed more than one lac troops into the furnace of FATA it was scoffed at for not doing enough to control militancy in FATA. Pakistan was also accused of nuclear proliferation and IAEA kept up the pressure to hand over AQ Khan for interrogation. Musharraf accepted the charge and forced AQ Khan to make a confession to defuse the heat. The religious extremist threat was blown out of all proportions and it was repeatedly stated that Pakistan’s nuclear assets had become unsafe. Musharraf accepted this charge as well and promised to fight extremism and terrorism with full force.
After declaring Pakistan as the most dangerous country, FATA was declared as the most dangerous place on earth. Pakistan was blamed for growing turbulence in Afghanistan since in view of US military leaders and Karzai; Pak army was not doing enough to control militancy. The phenomenon of missile attacks by drones commenced in January 2006 when a suspected target in Damadola was attacked killing scores of innocent civilians. Another deadly missile attack was launched on a Madrassa in Bajaur in October that year killing 80 students. Ever since, this phenomenon continues unabated.
Once the ISI got freed from wild goose chase of so-called terrorists and came under pressure on account of missing persons, it started to concentrate on its primary task in the troubled spots. To its horror it found far too many militant groups and criminal gangs operating under the guise of religious militants and cultivated by foreign agencies. They were the ones involved in carrying out gruesome beheadings of security personnel and torching girls’ schools to defame the real Taliban who had a peaceful agenda. Besides CIA, RAW and RAM, even Iran and Uzbekistan had developed its tentacles in Baluchistan, Swat and Kurram Agency. Most of the pro-Pakistan groups had been purchased or neutralized and those not coming to terms were eliminated by groups sponsored by CIA. Things had gone topsy-turvy and ISI found itself at a loss how to differentiate between friend and foe.
It is when the ISI began to recover the lost ground and renewed its old contacts in FATA and started to expose and block clandestine activities of CIA, RAW and RAM that all hell broke lose on ISI. Instead of feeling ashamed of what they were doing, USA had the cheeks to start making hue and cry that ISI was linked with the Taliban and that it must be emasculated. The three colluding partners lost their cool when the Indian Embassy in Kabul was subjected to a suicide attack on 7 July 2008. The trio fumed with anger and blamed ISI without even carrying out preliminary investigations. It was alleged that the perpetrator of suicide attack belonged to Gujranwala. Adm. Mike Mullen and Deputy Director CIA Stephen Kappes came huffing and puffing to Islamabad on 12 July and expressed their concern in strong words. Both Gen Tariq and Gen Kayani were told to bring the ISI to heel and to control militancy on their side of the border. The details of suicide bomber provided by the visitors proved false. It transpired later on that it was a bomb planted in a parked jeep which was detonated with the help of a remote control and was master minded by Mossad.
In the meanwhile Bush gave a green signal to Pentagon to extend the sphere of operations in Afghanistan into neighbouring FATA in July. He said that besides Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan is the third battleground. The military was told to hit targets whenever any actionable intelligence was available without notifying Pakistan. US troops started to man mobile posts all along Pak-Afghan border with Paktika as their main forward base camp. These hostile steps were taken in spite of the fact that the new government under Zardari had abandoned its policy of dialogue and resumed the policy of force against the militants. After a month long Frontier Corps led operation in Khyber Agency, the army was employed in Hangu to control the unrest. In continuation of offensive policy, the army launched powerful operations in Swat in July and in Bajaur on 6 August backed by jetfighters, gunship helicopters, tanks and artillery guns and started to make rapid progress against the well entrenched militants. Operations in these two restive areas are still going in with full steam and several hundred militants have been killed. Instead of getting pleased, the Americans got disturbed since they never intended to control militancy but to spread the flames of militancy into cities and create anarchic conditions.
The month of September saw intensification of missile attacks and each attack resulted in loss of innocent lives. To create fear and panic among the peaceful residents of Waziristan and also to target pro-government elements, missile attacks were intensified and each attack killed innocent men, women and children. The idea was to antagonise pro-government Waziris and also to force them to migrate as had happened in case of Bajaur. To further up the ante, Pakistan was declared as a battleground and a first ever ground attack was carried out by US troops on the night of 3 September at Angoor Adda killing 15 men women and children. A deadly missile attack was conducted on pro-Pakistan Jalaluddin Haqqani house in North Waziristan on 8 September killing 25 inmates mostly women and children. He was blamed for carrying out attack on Indian Embassy. The intruding drone was forced to beat a hasty retreat on 12 September when own jets got airborne and started to track it. A ground attack on 15th was also thwarted by the troops and locals. So far 62 border violations have been carried out by US-ISAF forces including 36 after the takeover by PPP government in March 2008. So far 30 missile attacks have been made killing innocent people. In none of the attack any Al-Qaada operative or militant Taliban was killed.
The nexus in Kabul is working upon a scripted plan to make FATA lawless and beyond the control of security forces, push militancy into settled areas and then into major cities and thus create a civil warlike situation to prove their contention that Pakistan was the most dangerous country in the world and that the extremists were on the verge of taking over power and nuclear weapons. After inflaming South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency, Darra Adam Khel, Kurram Agency, Hangu and Swat, Bajaur Agency was built into a stronghold of militants where huge cache of arms and ammunition was dumped. By virtue of being located at the crossroad of the tribal belt and also linked with Dir, Swat and Afghanistan, it was to act as bulwark and a launching pad to provide reinforcement to other areas.
10,000 Indian troops are stationed in Afghanistan under the garb of supervising construction of road Jalalabad-Port Chahbahar project that has now been completed. Whereas India has officially declared 14 Indian consulates in Afghanistan, on ground they have 107 in which 20 intelligence units are burning their midnight oil to destabilise Pakistan. Many mercantile shops run by Indians have an intelligence office in the rear. In Wakhan, a religious Madrassa run by Indian Muslim clerics is functioning since 2002 under the patronage of RAW and Mossad. Very young boys, mostly orphans, destitute or homeless are recruited. Recruits are mostly Afghans, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Caucasians. The latter being fair skinned and resembling Europeans are trained to hit targets in Europe or in USA to once again create a 9/11 like situation.
Reportedly, 10,000 ideologically motivated terrorist and suicide bombers have been trained. Besides receiving military training, they have also been made to learn Pashto and customs of Pathans. They are regularly infiltrated into troubled spots of Pakistan. Posing as volunteers they join the rank and file of militants to fight the army. They are the ones who are destroying schools, CD shops, bridges and other installations and carrying out brutal beheading of captured personnel. The idea is to create chaos and confusion and also to defame the real Taliban that have not come under their influence. They are also responsible for creating cleavages within the people of FATA and in disrupting peace deals. In Kurram Agency, Afghan officers and soldiers are actively involved in the sectarian conflict by way of providing arms and ammunition to Shias belonging to Tori tribe and physically participating in duels with Sunnis. In Swat, Fazlullah led militants are supplied with war munitions as well as fighters.
Likewise, dissident tribal chiefs in Baluchistan including late Akbar Bugti were also taken on board. The CIA helped in reincarnating BLA and providing all sorts of war munitions to Baloch militants belonging to Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes and establishing over 60 Farari camps in Baluchistan. Shamsi airbase that was handed over to USA in October 2001, houses Blackhawk helicopters primarily engaged in monitoring the entire length of Iranian border. CIA has cultivated Sunni Iranian Baloch Jandullah group (not the one that had operated against 5 Corps commander). It is anti- Iranian regime and was utilised by CIA to carryout acts of sabotage in Iran through Zahidan. Iran has now constructed a stone wall all along its border to prevent cross border terrorism from Baluchistan. It has clouded Pak-Iran relations since the latter feels that such activities could not have been undertaken without the blessing of Pak government.
It is now clear that our so-called friends have been playing a double game. Now that USA has bared its teeth and let its intentions known, to pretend that it would stop short of achieving its objectives will be like living in fools’ paradise. It is simply degrading to unashamedly say that we cannot fight the Americans. It is also preposterous to assume that Pakistan may not survive without American support. Pro-American elements within Pakistan on US payroll have been parroting this theme since creation of Pakistan to safeguard their vested interests. North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran, Somalia are living examples who have survived despite adopting hostile posture against USA. It is high time that we gird up our loins and put our act together to face up to the challenge boldly.
The army under Gen Kayani has expressed its resolve to confront the threat and safeguard country’s sovereignty irrespective of the consequences. It is now up to our week-kneed rulers oblivious of the ominous threat and still busy in power game as to how they stand up to the test. It will be naive to expect that the threat will be warded off with diplomacy alone. We must make USA realise that it will become exceedingly difficult for US led allied troops to operate in Afghanistan if Pakistan opts out of fighting US war of terror and refuses to provide transit facility to carry oil and food supplies to its troops in Afghanistan. The magnitude of dependence can be gauged from the fact each day over 400 containers ply from Karachi and Quetta to Afghanistan transporting food, munitions and 300 million gallons of fuel for US-Nato troops in Afghanistan. We may also consider bridling CIA’s unchecked activities and closing down four bases in control of USA.
Asif Haroon Raja is a defence and a political analyst.
-Asian Tribune -