Monday, April 27, 2009

Faltering US strategy by Masood Sharif Khan Khattak

Mr Masood Sharif Khan Khattak, Former Director General of The Intelligence Bureau, Government of Pakistan

Faltering US strategy by Masood Sharif Khan Khattak, Dated Thursday, April 23, 2009

Part I

The American drone attacks and other ill-advised offensive policies have acted as force multipliers for the Pakistani Taliban. But it must be said that Pakistan cannot put all the blame on the Americans because Pakistan itself has allowed the situation to get out of hand. Pakistan could have avoided being in the situation that it finds itself in today had Musharraf not thought that Washington's support outweighed the support of the people of Pakistan.

The events of March 15-16, 2009, make clear that there is a new Pakistan that is progressive and fiercely independent. If this fact is not acknowledged by the US and the politicians of Pakistan the happenings of 1979 in Iran may well be repeated in Pakistan not long from now.

With a new administration in Washington Pakistanis hope for a new phase in US-Pakistan relations, which need to be built on an understanding by the US that Pakistan is a sovereign, dignified and self-respecting country that desires space to make its own decisions. Pakistan too will have to stand up on its own two feet and take upon its own shoulders the responsibilities of internal peace and the non-use of its territory for any aggressive act anywhere in the world.

There will be no point in any US secretary of state testifying before any US congressional committee in 2025 that they lost everything in southwest Asia because it was a mistake to have pushed Pakistan as much as the US actually did in the first decade of this century.

In 2000, Secretary of State Madeline K Albright had to say that "in 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular prime minister, Mohammed Massadegh. The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs."

That coup was meant to fully empower the Shah of Iran by removing Massadegh and replacing him with a puppet prime minister working under the Shah. The man chosen by the Americans and the British to replace Massadegh was General Fazlollah Zahedi. But forty seven years later the US Secretary of State owned it as a major error on the part of the Eisenhower Administration because it alienated the Iranian people from the Americans. Twenty six years after that coup the Iranian Revolution took place. Even thirty years after the 1979 revolution the USA has still not been able to befriend the people of Iran again despite Madeline Albright's admission that the US sponsored coup in Iran was a mistake.

What if Pakistan too goes the way Iran did in 1979--i.e., if the people of Pakistan, through a militant or political revolution, take control of the country? In 2025 or so, it will be fruitless for the US to regret its present obstinate persistence with the unjustifiable drone attacks in Pakistan, the exertion of the "do-more" pressure on successive Pakistani governments, hurling misplaced allegations on the Pakistani military establishment and the heavy manipulation of the Pakistani power politics. For the US the time to correct its faltering Pakistan strategy is now. If the US does not think so then there has to be something sinister to what we see happening within and around Pakistan?

The 1979 Iranian Revolution which ousted the US-favoured Shah of Iran and had him replaced by the anti-American supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini was a total surprise to the CIA, the White House and the State Department. The US could not decipher the pre-1979 revolutionary undercurrents in Iran. The CIA could not identify the Iranian revolutionary movement from the point it started quietly, developed gradually and then took everything by storm. Just six months before the Iranian Revolution brought about the present day Iran the CIA told the US Government that Iran was neither in a revolutionary nor even in a pre-revoltionary situation. In 1979 the US went wrong in Iran and in 2009 they seem to be going wrong in Pakistan because much of what happened in undercurrents in Iran prior to the 1979 Revolution, but went unnoticed, may already have happened in Pakistan too over the last four decades. The writ of the State of Pakistan is collapsing steadily and the country is literally reeling under terrorist attacks beng conducted with obnoxious impunity. Yet, the Interior Ministry with its present inept political and bureacratic heads is clueless about handling the gigantic dangers posed to the very existence of Pakistan.

On 27 Dec, 2007, and again on 16 March, 2009, the situation in Pakistan could have gotten out of hand. 16 March, 2009, can recur at the spur of a moment in a country as eruptive as Pakistan. In all probability, there will be no long term warning of the impending eruption. So is it not time for the US to understand, realistically, the inner dynamics of the Pakistani nation and redefine its Pakistan policy and also let Pakistan sort out its own mess on its own terms and conditions. After all it is Pakistan's own integrity and existence that is now at stake. Or does the CIA still think that Pakistan is not a country which was either in a revolutionary or even in a pre-revolutionary mood, as it did in Iran in 1979, just six months before the Iranian Revolution occurred and a new Iran came into being.

If the US faces a setback in Pakistan like it did in Iran in 1979 it may never be able to stage a diplomatic comeback because the regional power dynamics of the area would have changed dramatically. The US should, therefore, sincerely befriend the people of Pakistan wholeheartedly rather than toy with its internal political dynamics.

Faltering US strategy Part II, Dated Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The new US policymakers led by President Obama must now shelve the messy canvas that was left for them by George W Bush. That canvas is in shreds and beyond repair. In order to redeem the image of the great American nation in the eyes of the world the Obama's administration will have to carve a new legacy for themselves distinctly different from the Bush legacy.

First, A resolution must come forth from all the stakeholders—i.e., the USA, the UN Security Council, NATO, the UK, other major EU and NATO countries, and from Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India—that they all resolve to bring peace to southwest Asia by replacing military activity with developmental activity. A unilateral ceasefire should be announced by US and NATO Forces saying that military operations, henceforth, will only be undertaken in self-defence. Simultaneously, the offer of peace talks must be made to the Taliban.

Secondly, The USA must also announce unilaterally that after the preliminary rounds of peace talks it shall relocate its forces in a non-combat posture as a prelude to an eventual and complete military evacuation within a foreseeable time frame.

Thirdly, the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan must be treated as a window of opportunity and it should be conducted by the Afghan people themselves, with the help of observers and expert teams from Islamic countries chosen by the Afghans, for the sake of neutrality. The US, although militarily present in Afghanistan, should voluntarily adopt the role of a non-interfering observer after having made it clear that violence will not be tolerated. The US should let it be the fairest of elections. Let anyone who the people of Afghanistan genuinely want to elect win those elections. Let even the Taliban put up their candidate(s) and let them all contest freely. Whatever government then comes into existence in Afghanistan must take up nation building activity of that war- ravaged nation in right earnest.

Fourthly, the US should order all Indian presence out of Afghanistan as this is seen by Pakistanis as an outright hostile act against Pakistan. It cannot be said in any other way because the US and NATO facilitation of the Indian intelligence agencies to operate against Pakistan's interests from outposts in Afghanistan can only be seen as detrimental to Pakistan's integrity. Ask a man on the street anywhere in Pakistan's remotest corner and he will wonder why the government of Pakistan is not protesting to the US in terms loud enough to be heard. Being an ally in what is called by the Americans themselves "a common war" the US has no alternative but to put a stop to Indian activities in Afghanistan forthwith in order to win the friendship of the Pakistani nation. Let Afghanistan become sovereign again and then decide for itself how much Indian presence they would want in Afghanistan. The Indians should also know that if they accept any military role in Afghanistan they will get a taste of unconventional warfare that they will not be able to sustain for even a few weeks. Occupied Kashmir violence will be so dwarfed that the Indians will be wonderstruck if they ever choose to accept any military role in Afghanistan.

Lastly, if it wants Pakistan to be on its side as an ally, the US should immediately stop badmouthing the Pakistani military establishment. The allegations against the ISI and the Pakistani army are unwarranted. Who has suffered more casualties in hostilities at the hands of the Taliban, the Pakistani army or the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan?

Pakistan has already done enough at the cost of its own national fabric being torn to shreds. It is now time for peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the entire region for which long strides will have to be taken by the new US administration headed by Barack Obama so that southwest Asia can bury violence forever and start a new era of peace, progress, prosperity and harmony within the region and with the world at large. If such steps are not forthcoming and the only words the world continues to hear are surge, drone attacks, and do-more, then I am afraid this region, along with USA, is headed towards a complete disaster.

It is in the long-term interest of the USA itself to seek peace rather than continue to destabilise the region through a heavy military presence in a combat role. It is also not going to be long before the cash starved US public starts calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; a call no US administration will be able to ignore. This region will then be lost to the USA for many decades to come.

The above exit strategy will have enormous dividends for all the stakeholders—i.e., the USA, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Contrarily, indefinite US military occupation of Afghanistan will create a devastating turmoil in the region. Resultantly, the US will lose its present foothold in Afghanistan and Pakistan just like it lost its foothold in post-1979 Iran. Without a doubt, it is now time for the USA to spread a new canvas and paint afresh a picture of peace which has goodwill, development, fraternity, tranquillity and inter-faith harmony painted clearly if it wants its influence and diplomatic presence in this region to remain.

The writer is former director general of the Intelligence Bureau and former vice-president of the PPP Parliamentarians. Email:

No comments: