The PPP government had, and still has, many things to do, but there was never any real doubt that it would carry out to good effect the task of prosecuting the War on Terror in the way that the Americans wanted it prosecuted. To carry out this task, the PPP made a good start by inducting Rehman Malik as PM’s Interior Adviser, to act as the regime’s pointman in the War. However, it followed the misguided policy of attempting agreements with the militants in the tribal areas.
The Americans did not approve of this because it had not worked in the past, and even though the number of attacks in Pakistani cities fell to almost nothing, a story was weaved for the American public, of militants gathering in Pakistan’s (so-called) unguarded tribal areas, plotting to launch an attack on American soil. Therefore, the peace agreements had to go. It was Rehman Malik who made the announcement that all existing agreements (One) stood rescinded, though those with whom it was made said it was only suspended.
This has been the only action taken by the newly elected government without reference to the military in connection to the tribal areas. And now Hamid Karzai has gotten into the act, by threatening Pakistan with hot pursuit as well as cross-border raids. This came at a time when the Americans were redfacedly trying to paper over one of their missiles having hit a Pakistani checkpost, and killed Pakistani troops.
This was an accompaniment to the increase in the number of American UAVs as well as missiles in the past few weeks. Pakistan may have reacted to the Karzai statement by calling in the Afghan ambassador to lodge a protest, and to have Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani respond, but the damage has been done, or rather, the message has been conveyed. Just as it was almost endlessly hammered home in the American press, the Americans took the right of sending over UAVs and missiles to detect and kill militants.
The Musharraf-led government tried to resist, but even the elected government was obliged to meet this American need, and the result was at first locals being killed, and ultimately the checkpost incident. Pakistan, never comfortable with American trainers, wants the training to come to an end. Or rather, it probably merely sees the opportunity of increasing the price of receiving the training.
Karzai’s statement is not just meant to win favour among a home constituency, which it is, but also to make his backers at the Pentagon realize that he is valuable. Actually, so far, he has given very little value for investment.
Though there have been elections and a constitution passed, Afghanistan remains in turmoil. Part of that is the fault of the foreign forces operating there, which are not doing their job. Part is because foreign forces are present, which means that resistance is provoked. But the main fault is personal to Hamid Karzai, who is simply not ruling right.
So he has to parrot the latest line from the Pentagon, if he wishes to keep his current job. Now, that is hot pursuit. Karzai has said that it would be conducted by Afghan troops, which is his way of saying that Afghans have taken much more effectively than Pakistanis, who so far have baulked at American trainers. In fact, the American trainers have been accepted by the Musharraf government. Also, the trainers are supposed to take part in combat, presumably, as in Vietnam, and they will conduct the hot pursuit into Pakistan, already being in place.
Obviously, the Pakistanis have serious objections, not least that their being allies was meant to protect them from invasion by American troops, not facilitate them, but it is to be expected that Karzai’s will be followed by American voices. It is difficult for the rest of the world to estimate how important Afghanistan is, to the extent that troops will be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, and the USA is trying at the highest levels to get NATO members to send troops to Afghanistan.
It should not be forgotten that the Pentagon is staffed with as many bureaucrats as any other government department of that (considerable) size, as well as a large number of professionals from all three services. These create an insider’s view of the whole problem, which is the winning of promotion.
Of course, victory brings swifter promotions, and more of them. But it should not be forgotten that the thankless Vietnam War brought a virtual rain of promotions for all three and a half services.
The purpose of Afghanistan is therefore the enhancing of military reputations, and if Pakistan is blamed for any shortcomings, whether on the ground, or in the Pentagon’s local puppet (like Karzai), not only will the entire Pentagon bureaucracy listen raptly, but so will its high command, and finally the White House.
So Pakistan should expect to bear much more of the blame than Afghanistan. Unfortunately, bearing blame also means bearing the brunt of the remedial measures that are recommended, in this case, hot pursuit, by Afghan troops, presumably accompanied by their American trainers, in a combat role.
Americans have twigged to the horror that Pakistani troops have of spilling American blood. What are they seeking in the tribal areas? Osama bin Laden, and any remaining Arab fighters that might still be in the tribal areas. More importantly, they hope to also control the tribal areas, which they think the Pakistan military has failed to do.
They think that the Pakistani method of partially supporting the fighters will not work in the long run, causing too much congressional interest (and thus interference, there being nothing to stop the judiciary interfering with the work of the executive). However, the Pakistan Army is still trying methods that do not have the approval of the government, let alone Parliament.
These methods will continue to cause those few Americans privy to them suspicions leading to attacks on Pakistani soil, as well as hot pursuit by groups of Americans, thinly masked by Afghans they are supposed to be training. For these incidents, there will be no apology, just as there has been none so far. After all, apologies are only given to one’s fellows, and Pakistan is not one of those. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Nation, 20/6/2008