The Yanks are stuck-By Farrukh Saleem

The Pentagon has a new point-man. The new point-man wears four stars on his shoulders and 11 US military decorations, three US unit awards, nine U.S. badges, patches and tabs on his chest. This United States army general has been awarded a UN Medal and a NATO Meritorious Medal, plus British, French and German Parachutist Badges. The new point-man is a soldier, manager and philosopher rolled into one.
FATA is the new game and the new point-man has a new strategy. Never before has the Bush administration used the American print media to explicitly accuse Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) of serious crimes. Consider this sequence of events: On July 10, the US Senate confirmed General David Petraeus as the next Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM). On July 12, M K Narayanan, India’s National Security Advisor, said, “The ISI needs to be destroyed” (why shouldn’t RAW be destroyed?). On July 30, The New York Times carried a leak by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) alleging that members of the ISI had “deepened their ties with some militant groups that were responsible for a surge of violence in Afghanistan.”

In essence, the Bush Administration has now joined the two-nation chorus of India and Afghanistan–all three itching to puncture the ISI’s power balloon. In the real-world chessboard, the ISI’s pawns and knights must be resisting the advancing bishops and rooks representing the power-players of the US, India and Afghanistan. That’s exactly how Realpolitik is played out.

General Petraeus’s power game has three objectives: Priority 1: prevent a direct attack on the Homeland. Priority 2: minimise US war casualties. Priority 3: destroy militant safe-heavens.

General Petraeus’s unilateral option-matrix has at least six elements, namely Predator air strikes, hot ground pursuits, stricter border control, containment, isolation and, finally, invasion. The first two options, targeted air strikes and ground pursuits, could go on–and continue well until Petraeus retires from active duty–all without solving much. The remaining five options are neither militarily nor technologically feasible.

Then there is the critical issue of fuel supply and containerised traffic. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), for instance, consumes 300,000 gallons of fuel per day, and of the 300,000 at least 40 percent, or 120,000 gallons, passes through Pakistan. To be certain, there is only one Torkham which is linked by a highway to Jalalabad to the west and by N-5 National Highway to Karachi in the south. Only minutes from Torkham is the Torkham Fire Base, which is staffed by some three-dozen American troops.

Then there is Chaman, right next to Spin Boldak in the province of Kandahar. Torkham and Chaman put together transport some 85 percent of all containerised traffic meant to keep American soldiers in Afghanistan walk upright.

General Petraeus continues to be an avid student of war history. In 1987, twelve years after the end of the Vietnam War, Petraeus wrote his doctoral dissertation, The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam. Three decades after the end of the Vietnam War, The Washington Post wrote, “Vietnam cost the military dearly. It left America’s military leaders confounded, dismayed, and discouraged. Even worse, it devastated the armed forces, robbing them of dignity, money and qualified people for a decade.”

General Gromov had 104,000 soldiers under his command in Afghanistan. General Petraeus has 32,500. Thanks to the ISI, Afghanistan became the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. On Feb 15, 1989, defeated and disgraced, the last soldier of the Soviet Union’s 40th Army pulled out of Afghanistan. To be sure, the ISI couldn’t have done it without the CIA.

General Petraeus has been to Cornwall Central High, West Point (where he married the Superintendent’s daughter), Fort Leavenworth and Princeton. Time now to take a short course in finance at the Miranshah Institute of Technology (MIT); lessons on how opium finances militancy and how America’s own pawns provide safe havens to opium lords.

General Petraeus’s bilateral option-matrix also has six elements, namely: Joint Intelligence Operations Centre, Defence Consultative Groups, the Office of Transition Initiatives, Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, Border Control Centers and the Tripartite Commission. The conclusion being: No matter how much pressure the Americans bring about on Pakistan they would eventually have to settle on a bilateral option-matrix.

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: farrukh15@

Courtesy: The News, 12/8/2008

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