Masood Sharif Khan Khattak
The late 1970s saw a series of Soviet-propelled political changes in Kabul. In April 1979, elements from the 40th Soviet Army Group deployed at Bagram near Kabul. This was followed on Dec 24 by a full-scale Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s riposte to the invasion was spearheaded by the ISI. The heroic Mujahideen put together by Pakistan and the Pakhtun tribes of the NWFP had managed to stop the advance of the Soviet Army.
ISI-CIA relations entered a new phase. The ISI played the lead role while the CIA provided backup support in terms of funds and weapons. The Soviets began to realise that they were fighting a losing battle. Informal talks for a Soviet withdrawal had started as early as 1982. The Geneva Accords were signed in 1988.
Had Pakistan not engaged the Soviet forces within Afghanistan they would have consolidated the Afghan occupation in a few weeks and have certainly made a dash to the Arabian Sea. The USA and its allies would have had to fight the Soviet forces and thus start a third world war.
If Pakistan and the Afghans not fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the Soviets would have surely reached the warm waters after consolidating Afghanistan. Then, hypothetically speaking, Gwadar, Pasni and a few more naval bases would have been commissioned by the Soviet Union with Soviet warships, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines stationed there around 1980-81. The most modern Soviet aircraft would have been operating, unchallenged, in the skies over the Persian Gulf and most of the Middle East. Persian Gulf waters today would have been home to the Soviet Navy.
Above all, the Soviet Union would have still been there, thriving and vibrant with total control of the world’s largest reserves of oil in the Middle East. It would have then been the USA which would have been cash strapped and deficient in energy. Fortunately for the west, the Soviets had not taken a leaf out of the volumes written on the German Wehrmacht’s Blitzkrieg in World War II.
Look at all of this in the light of the fact that at the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan US president Jimmy Carter had stated that the Afghanistan invasion was not an isolated event of limited geographical importance but was an event that threatened the Persian Gulf region. He also said that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the most serious threat to world peace since World War II. This potential threat to the Persian Gulf and world peace was blunted by the ISI directed operations of the gallant Afghan Mujahideen. Ironically, besides the ISI coming under heavy criticism today both, Pakistan and Afghanistan are considered as a threat to world peace.
After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989, Pakistan and Afghanistan were left by the west to fend for themselves against warlords, guns, poverty, violence, unemployment, drugs and all the other ill effects that those years of conflict in Afghanistan had left behind. To-date stability is evasive.
This lack of farsightedness has now come to haunt the west all over again in Afghanistan. As things stand today, it is only time that will tell what history has in store and whether Afghanistan will finally be conquered, or not. Probably not. Pakistan is once again on the crossroads of global power struggle and history and it must make the right decisions in time.
The writer is a former director-general of the Intelligence Bureau and former vice-president of the PPP Parliamentarians. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The News, 17th January, 2009