Pakistan — poised to become an industrial society like South Korea — was subverted to become more like a pauper desert kingdom of the Gulf. Of course, Pakistan’s internal mechanism played a major role but as an external force, the US encouraged the regressive processes to take hold
The perception of CIA infallibly having the omnipotent powers of the Almighty has been destroyed by WikiLeaks’ disclosure of over 91,000 sensitive US security documents — amounting to the biggest leak in history and showed chinks in the CIA’s armour. However, some conspiracy theorists’ conclusion that it was a US-designed leak to create an environment to withdraw from Afghanistan may be a farfetched inference. The US cannot afford to withdraw from Afghanistan and Pakistan if the countries are perceived to be conducive to grooming terrorism that can hit Europe or the US. There are several other strategic reasons for not quitting if the US has to retain its superpower tag.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the only countries wrecked or threatened by religious warriors. Somalia is in the worst possible situation and a ruthless theocratic gang rules Sudan. Despite the desperate situation in Somalia and Sudan, the Europeans or the US are not bothered because these countries are mired in civil wars or local duels between warlords. They are not producing global jihadis to attack other countries. On the contrary, most of the attackers or suicide bombers are traced back to the Pak-Afghan border region.
The dilemma for the US is that while it is forced to stay in Afghanistan and keep Pakistan under scrutiny, it does not know what to do. Other than fighting the Taliban and their supporters the task is complex, involving elements of nation-building. As a matter of fact, without putting in place certain nation-building measures the fighting is endless and futile.
Unfortunately, the US is not in the nation-building mode yet. Most of its policy-making theorists are still frozen in the Cold War period with a mentality of fending off the evil socialist empire’s expansion. Other than the early reconstruction of defeated Germany and Japan and maybe South Korea, the US has not helped any of its allied nations to develop and prosper. On the contrary, the US induced and patronised military dictatorships, murder gangs and right-wing fuzzy ideologues.
In the process, the retrogressive reactionary forces expanded their reach, subverting the state institutions under the watchful US eye. Therefore, most of the players in US allied nations are also the product of the Cold War era having expertise in subversion but not in nation-building strategies. This is exactly why they failed in nation-building in Somalia and elsewhere.
For the Pakistani Cold War warriors, India is the evil empire and its obsession is no less than the US animosity with the ex-Soviet Union. Neither does the US have the know-how to tackle the post-Cold War era problems nor can it find competent allies in the allied nations. Therefore, whatever President Obama or Islamabad say, the operational policies are still implemented by the old guard.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the prime example of the Cold War era legacy. While in Pakistan Islamisation was groomed from its infancy to its present stage of lethal killing forces, in Afghanistan, out of the US orbit during the Cold War, similar forces were imposed upon a country ruled by a rather enlightened, modernist intelligentsia.
Pakistan, a state created for and by the feudals, had inherent tendencies to be hoodwinked by the religious obscurantist. But that — its potential for growth of retrogressive forces — was what endeared it to the US. For the US Cold War warriors, such an ideological state provided the best shield against Soviet expansionism. Therefore, Islamisation of the educational system and other institutions was patronised from early on. The Saudi connection was also skillfully used to foster the most conservative version of Wahabi Islam. Pakistan — poised to become an industrial society like South Korea — was subverted to become more like a pauper desert kingdom of the Gulf. Of course, Pakistan’s internal mechanism played a major role but as an external force, the US encouraged the regressive processes to take hold.
By the time the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan, the Cold War mentality was already entrenched in Pakistan. Everyone knows what happened during the Soviet occupation and afterwards. However, one must realise that the US-Pakistani Cold War warriors ruthlessly annihilated the indigenous enlightened ruling elite in Afghanistan. Other than the mullahs of various kinds, no one was left in Afghanistan to rebuild the system.
An unforgivable sin of the enlightened Afghan elite was that it had been using the ‘socialist’ tag. In reality, their socialism was not more radical than western liberal secularism. But most educated and enlightened Afghans running the state institutions had to show allegiance to socialist parties and hence shared the tag of being Khalqi or Parchami (Afghan Socialist parties). Nevertheless, the US Cold War warriors were so allergic to the tag that they forbade them to return to Afghanistan after the US occupation. Therefore, there was no indigenous force to rehabilitate the system. The US tried to replace them by Indians but that created other strategic headaches, alienating Pakistan.
In the backdrop of the aforementioned history, the US can neither leave Afghanistan because of its own security perceptions nor knows what to do about it. Besides security issues, containing Iran and China does not permit the US to quit Afghanistan. Therefore, the confused Cold War warriors of the US and Pakistan will be fighting a long devastating war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel at this point.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article originally published in Daily Times, reproduced by permission of DT.