The CIA faces its toughest test yet to prove wrong the suspicions of many within the Pakistani strategic community that some of the terrorism exported from Afghan soil into Pakistan has direct or indirect support from Washington.
The immediate test centres on Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the bandits who present themselves as Pakistani Taliban. The Americans have begun some cosmetic drone attacks on Baitullah’s territory and there are reports Washington has agreed to launch a joint operation with Pakistan against this bandit. The purpose is to assuage Pakistani concerns about the US role. In July last year, Pakistan’s military leadership confronted senior CIA and US military commanders with evidence showing Washington indirectly protecting anti-Pakistan terrorists on the ground. This newspaper broke that story on Aug. 5, 2008, with a front- page headline, “US told not to back terrorism against Pakistan.”
Mehsud is a good example. This bandit and his former leader and associate, Abdullah Mehsud, pioneered the attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan, which was the first thing Abdullah did after being released from Gitmo in 2003. Interestingly, he was not handed back to Pakistan despite being a Pakistani citizen, but was released to Afghanistan where he went back into the custody of the US military and the Karzai government. Abdullah was killed when Pakistani security forces caught him sneaking back into Balochistan from Afghanistan, where he most probably was meeting his handlers. How he financed, armed and sustained a 25,000-strong militia remains beyond explanation. This militia continues to have quality arms and generous funding.
Until now CIA drones have never targeted Abdullah or Baitullah or any other militia that is committed to attacking Pakistan. During the operations in Bajaur, our soldiers were reportedly stunned at one point to see close to 600 well-armed terrorists come in from Afghanistan, fight the Pakistani military and then escape across the border. The CIA never attacks such “terrorists.” There has been a meteoric rise in the number of anti-Pakistan militias and fighters within our tribal belt since 2004, complete with religious brainwashing justifying the killing of Pakistanis as a first priority. This has coincided with the launch of terrorism in Balochistan and northern Pakistan, the area between Gwadar port and the Chinese border.
In order to punish the real or imaginary Pakistani tolerance for “Afghan Taliban” – the real Taliban, I must add – someone who wields power in Afghanistan decided to make Pakistan pay by grooming their own Islamic fighters who’d solely focus on fighting Pakistan (as compared to the Afghan Taliban who focus on fighting the Americans inside Afghanistan) – professional killers trained in the art of recruiting and organising death squads, Islam-focused propaganda experts fluent in Pashto, Uzbek, Arabic and, possibly, Chechen, and develop conduits for money and arms supplies from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
The US uses India to ratchet up the heat on Pakistan whenever there is a hiccup in the relationship. These days the Indian climbdown coincides with renewed signs that Pakistan’s political and military leaderships are cooperating with Washington.
In 2002, the Americans were allowed to establish bases in Balochistan and CIA was given the right to recruit Pakistanis in the tribal belt. These two areas of Pakistan are now the most disturbed parts of our country. And now our territory is being used to attack the interests of Iran and China. Washington is creating conditions across our western belt that would make it impossible for China to pursue trade and energy corridors through Pakistan.
Hopefully, Mr Richard Holbrooke heard in Islamabad that we don’t accept American diktat over Afghanistan where we have our own interests to watch like everyone else.
The writer works for Geo TV. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org