By K. Hussan Zia
The American administration claims that it seeks peace in Afghanistan. This is not true. Without going into details, peace has never been their primary objective nor is fighting terrorism. What they have always wanted is to have permanent military bases in Afghanistan.
They want to maintain these bases without having to pay a high price in terms of American lives. Taliban are an obstacle because they won’t accept the presence of foreign troops. The Americans had expected that Pakistan will be able to bring them around. If it hasn’t happened it is not a big deal as long as they don’t kill too many Americans.
This has been mostly ensured by making the Afghan Army do the fighting and dying for the US As long as it is the Afghans killing Afghans, it is of little concern to the Americans. Adverse public opinion both at home and abroad, as happened with Vietnam is now controlled by making sure what the media may and may not report. The Americans need bases in Afghanistan to maintain military presence in Central Asia and ‘to take control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands’.
It would be naive to believe that by ‘wrong hands’ they mean some rag tag band of hillbillies who wouldn’t know the front end of a missile from the back end let aside putting these together and launching the weapons on western targets. They clearly mean by this any regime in Pakistan that could interfere with US plans.
Since intentions can change as long as capability exists, the only safe option for the US lies in taking away the capability altogether from Pakistan (Douglas Jehl in The New York Times of 14th October 2005). A capability once acquired can always be acquired again. The aim therefore has to be to break up Pakistan and leave her in a political and economic state where she could never acquire these weapons again.
It remains a mystery why George W. Bush missed out when he had the chance but we can be certain they will not let it happen a second time. We have to look at the recent developments in their entirety. These include the recent Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between the US and India which allows the two countries to use each other’s bases, supplies and refuelling facilities, etc. including those in Afghanistan. At the same time the US has made India a major strategic partner in Afghanistan without prior notice or consultation with Pakistan. When put together the situation certainly looks suspicious if not ominous.
There are reports of increasing numbers of ISIS fighters appearing in Afghanistan. These are mostly unemployed Muslim young men misinformed and misguided into believing that they are serving the cause of Islam. They are recruited from all over the world, transported, equipped, trained and shipped to conflict zones by some mysterious organisation that also provides salaries and subsequent logistic and medical support as well as exercises operational control over them (see Robert Fisk in The Independent, 23rd May 2017).
They first appeared in Afghanistan in the eighties and later in Libya to oust Qaddafi and then turned up in Syria in their thousands to try and do the same to Bashar al-Asad. In all the cases even though they were fighting for the same cause as the West the latter at some point designated them as the enemy.
God only knows how they manage to find their way into Afghanistan again with their weapons and supplies, passing through hostile countries and sustain themselves as well as obtain actionable intelligence to fight in a totally unfamiliar and decidedly unfriendly environment. Both the Russians and President Hamid Karzai claim they are air-lifted and supported by the US.
There is no plausible reason to doubt this. Spin doctors in western media make sure any such awkward issues are not raised in any discussion. The people are only told that ISIS are bad and the US are in Afghanistan to fight terrorism and make sure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not fall into wrong hands.
After the US occupation in 2001 India has been allowed to maintain numerous consulates in Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan. Their only purpose is to provide support to outfits like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), various Baloch groups and elements among the Mohajirs in Karachi to carry out acts of sabotage and terrorism inside Pakistan with full knowledge of the US.
They are provided means and resources to create rifts and divisions aimed at destabilising Pakistan not only by India but also by Afghan government agencies. The only inference one can draw is that an essential part of the plan was always to create conditions in Pakistan to destabilise the country and if possible reduce her to the same state as Libya and Syria. The only reason why they have not succeeded so far is because her armed forces retain a considerable measure of cohesion and commitment.
It is fortuitous that at the same time China has developed a strong interest in Pakistan which is a powerful disincentive for anyone wishing to do harm. Nonetheless, there is a need to keep the internal situation carefully under control and not allow religious and parochial elements to set up parallel power structures that could be exploited to create mischief. It is likely that not everyone may agree with this assessment. However prudence demands that we must make our plans based on the above assumptions. It would stand us in good stead if the worst were to materialize. If, as one hopes, things don’t come to that we would not lose much, if anything.
The basic principle in all planning must be to trust your own good sense and never rely on promises and assurances from others that only serve the interests of concerned parties and not those of Pakistan. This is particularly relevant when it comes to U.S military bases in Afghanistan. Any compromise on this issue can only be at Pakistan’s peril.