NATO faces defeat in Afghanistan
By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features
The commander of the International Security Assistance Force, which is how the Nato force in Afghanistan is known, Gen David Richards of Britain flew from Kabul to Islamabad amidst media reports that he would confront President Pervez Musharraf with fresh â€˜evidenceâ€™ of Pakistanâ€™s involvement in Afghanistanâ€™s heightened insurgency which was inflicting heavy casualties on the 20,000-strong Nato forces. And when he arrives in Islamabad, the first thing he declared is that presenting evidence of Pakistan aiding and abetting insurgency in Afghanistan was not his intention even â€˜for one momentâ€™. His â€˜intentionâ€™ was only to heap praise on the Pakistani dictator for his â€˜contributionâ€™ to the so-called war on terror and discuss ways of â€˜expanding cooperationâ€™ with Pakistan to fight the Taliban.
Richards was, however, only repeating by now mandatory but familiar script for visiting officials from the West who land in Pakistan. The script was originally written nearly five years ago in Washington by President George W. Bush personally and heartily endorsed in London: Never let down the Pakistani strong man in public even if his â€˜contributionâ€™ and â€˜cooperationâ€™ in the fight against terror becomes more and more questionable. So sacred has this script become that it will not be diluted even if the fight against terror seems to be making little headway not only in Afghanistan but also elsewhere in the region.
The US probably finds it embarrassing to recall that Afghanistan was the maiden launching pad of the so-called war on terror when American forces bombed out the antiquated Taliban regime in the winter of 2001. The situation today suggests that the US is a long way from winning this war but it refuses to learn lessons from its failures in that landlocked country. President Bush had vowed not to rest till he had stamped out the last of terrorists even as he enlisted the support of the fountain-head of global terrorism, Pakistan, in his â€˜crusadeâ€™ to rid the world of the evil and dark forces represented by the likes of Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Five years down the line, Bush has been beleaguered by a host of other problems and other wars that he himself had unleashed with the zeal of a â€˜crusaderâ€™ even as he realised that his zest for the reforming enterprise was unwisely couched and never again mentioned the word â€˜crusadeâ€™ after the initial mistake. It would give him little comfort that terrorists have never been able to repeat the 9/11 type of attack on the American soil as the majority of Americans see an increase in threat from terrorists to them as well as the rest of the world.
Going by Gen Richardsâ€™ own opinion, Afghanistan faces an immediate danger (â€˜in the next six monthsâ€™) of falling into a pit if the country is not put on a fast track of development. How to save the country? Surely by knocking out the resurgent Taliban who apart from killing people also sabotage development projects in Afghanistan. Richards needs more NATO forces to knock out the Taliban; but he is not getting them. So he falls for a script that he does not believe in.
And how have the Taliban, considered five years ago to be on route to extinction, regrouped and emerged much stronger than anyone could have thought? The answer is clear: with the help of Pakistan, especially its armyâ€™s intelligence network called the Inter Services Intelligence, which had initially raised the Taliban with generous gift of arms from the US and sacks of Saudi money. Every military commander who has served in Afghanistan affirms that insurgency in that country would not have been possible without help from Pakistan. Western intelligence reports say so; the entire strategic community in the West thinks so and, not the least, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has any doubt about it.
The evidence of Pakistani involvement in Afghanistanâ€™s troubles must be so overwhelming that at times even die-hard Musharraf fans in Washington are obliged to tell the latter on his face that he need to do â€˜moreâ€™ in the fight against terrorism. Musharrafâ€™s stock retort that â€˜nobody has done more than Pakistanâ€™ in this fight has not helped him much because the more he repeats this line the more it will become evident that he had to do whatever he did because the terrorists are concentrated in his country. The world is also now alive to the reality that nearly all the major terrorist acts carry a distinct Pakistani stamp. For terrorist around the world a visit to a Pakistani training camp is like a pilgrimâ€™s journey to a holy place.
Yet, western leaders like Bush would not act tough with Musharraf publicly because they have presumed that they would not be able to find another Pakistani poodle. They do not appear to bother about the baleful effect of their double standards in treating Musharraf as the solution while knowing full well that he is the problem.
Musharraf recently struck a deal with the Taliban in the North Waziristan region after he realised that his military does not have the will to fight them. He presented his agreement with the North Waziristan Taliban as a great political feat that would ensure â€˜peaceâ€™ in the region. Nearly everyone in the world, including Western intelligence agencies and politicians, disagreed with what Musharraf said. Bush lost no time in ratifying this fiction when Musharraf was on a book promotion tour of the White House.
An emboldened Musharraf is now urging his American patrons to urge Karzai to strike a similar deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. He has been telling captive audiences that his strategy in Waziristan has proved to be a â€˜successâ€™ as it has helped him win the â€˜hearts and mindsâ€™ of the Taliban. He is certainly right for a change: his new â€˜strategyâ€™ in North Waziristan has resulted in a three-fold attack by the Taliban inside Afghanistan not on Pakistani targets.
Karzai is opposed to Musharrafâ€™s recipe for solving the Taliban problem, at least for now. But Musharraf would not give up and go on pressurising Washington to make Karzai change his mind. After all Pakistan had taken on the role of raising and nurturing the Taliban back in the 1980s not only to install a puppet government in Afghanistan but to achieve a â€˜strategic depthâ€™ in its West to carry out its aggressive designs on its eastern borders with India. A moot question is will President Bush, whose Iraqi policy became an albatross for the Republican party in the latest Congressional elections, go along with Musharraf.