Washington's Afghan plan
By Ramtanu Maitra
In recent weeks,
two major incidents along the Afghanistan-Pakistan
border have laid bare the new complexities in the area.
And a large part of the blame for these two incidents
lies with the United States's duplicitous role in both
Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The first of the two
incidents occurred on July 4, a Friday afternoon at the
Jama Masjid-o-Imambargah Kalaan Isna Ashri, a Shi'ite
mosque in Quetta in the western Pakistani province of
Balochistan bordering Afghanistan. On that holy Muslim
day, while the Shi'ite faithful were offering their
prayers, three killers, apparently including a suicide
bomber, attacked the mosque: 53 were killed and 57
injured. This is not the first time the Shi'ite
community has been at the receiving end of such a
vicious attack from presumed Sunni killers in Quetta.
Less than a month ago, on June 8, 13 trainee police
personnel, all belonging to the Shi'ite community, were
slaughtered in the same town, which, incidentally, is a
major headquarters of the Pakistan army.
second incident occurred three days later, on July 7,
when about 2,000 Afghan demonstrators, protesting the
Pakistan army's alleged occupation of Afghan territory
in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces along the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border, climbed the Pakistan
embassy walls in Kabul and broke windows and furniture.
Pakistan promptly closed the embassy. In all likelihood,
the embassy will be opened shortly, but the bad blood
developed between Islamabad and Kabul, both virtual
client states of the United States, will continue to
bring death and mayhem for some time to come.
Fiascos waiting to happen
killings were orchestrated by either the Sipah-e-Sahaba
or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, both virulent Sunni killer
gangs fortified by the Taliban militia, al-Qaeda members
and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents.
It is rather well known that al-Qaeda and Taliban
remnants have been avoiding the US dragnet by hiding in
Balochistan and in Pakistan's tribal agencies (FATA)
bordering Afghanistan. The Balochi Shi'ites, most of
whom immigrated ages ago from the Hazara region in
central Afghanistan, have been providing the Americans
and the Pakistanis intelligence about al-Qaeda and
Taliban militia in the province. That led to a number of
arrests of al-Qaeda operatives. But while their
intelligence was accepted, neither the Americans nor the
Pakistanis saw it necessary to provide the Shi'ite
sources with adequate security.
It is certain
that more killings will ensue, likely precipitating
full-fledged sectarian violence between Shi'ites and
Sunnis in already-troubled Pakistan that may, sooner or
later, embroil the keeper of the Shi'ite faith - Iran.
Indeed, some in Washington, particularly the
neo-conservatives thumping to "take out" the Iran
regime, would like to get Tehran involved in the brawl.
This crude layer of the American political mainstream
hopes that such action by Tehran would provide the
"smoking gun" to justify a regime change in Iran to the
hapless American populace.
The stoning of the
Pakistan embassy in Kabul was yet another incident
waiting to happen. The fact is that under the guidance
of its Afghan-born expert, Zalmay Khalilzad, the Bush
administration has been pursuing a policy that will not
only set Pakistan and Afghanistan on the road to
confrontation, but also threaten to tear down the
already-stretched fabric of Pakistani society.
The ABCs of the Afghan campaign
repeat the ABCs of this situation: the key players in
Pakistan on whom the US is relying to eradicate Taliban
extremists are the very individuals who created the
Taliban. By supporting President General Pervez
Musharraf in his power grab in 1999 in a coup under the
pretext of replacing a "fundamentalist" with a
"moderate", Washington did manage to buy off a small
section of the Pakistani army personnel. These switched
from being pro-Taliban to become pro-American. Needless
to say, Musharraf is one of them. Since then, Washington
has dumped money on Pakistan, looked away from its
enriched uranium-for-missile deal with North Korea, and
suppressed information about the on-going support to the
Taliban and al-Qaeda militia by a section of the
Pakistan army and the ISI.
The results are
plainly visible. First, two Pakistani provinces -
Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)
- are now under fundamentalist control and Islamic laws,
reminiscent of the Taliban-imposed so-called Dark Age
laws, are being put in place in the NWFP. Second, the
bordering tribal agencies, where Islamabad's writ never
ever reached, have become the hideouts of the al-Qaeda
and the Taliban. These areas border eastern and
southeastern Afghanistan, where most of Afghanistan's
major cities are located. The fabled Kabul-Kandahar road
runs parallel and close to the borders.
these hideouts, and with the help of the intelligence
provided by the Pakistan army and the ISI, the
anti-American and anti-Kabul elements carry out sorties
and ambushes. When Americans used their muscle to force
the Pakistan army to comb that area jointly, the chiefs
of at least one tribal agency, the Mohmand agency,
announced their opposition to the joint combing.
Promptly, the NWFP provincial assembly, now under the
control of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) - also
known as Musharraf Mullahs and Army - endorsed the
Mohmand tribal chiefs.
More recently, when
Musharraf was touring abroad for 18 days in late June
appeasing Western leaders, Pakistan's chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Mohammad Aziz
Khan, identified America as Pakistan's number one enemy.
In a public speech in Rawalkot in the Pakistan-held part
of Kashmir Khan declared, "All the defeats and setbacks
that the Islamic world has suffered have been due to
disunity and splits in Muslim ranks, because of the
presence of and tolerance of these elements that most of
our [jihadi] movements came to nought." Khan, once the
most powerful commander in the Pakistan army, is close
to the mullahs, and it is likely that he will be fired.
But that may not be the end of the story, for such a
move could spell doom for Musharraf himself and the rest
of the pro-American Pakistani "moderates" in the army.
The problems of puppetry
has turned out to be an American puppet, it was not,
perhaps, intended. His switch from being a pro-Taliban
to pro-American and anti-Taliban - a move made to
receive protection from Washington - made him a puppet.
By contrast, Hamid Karzai, the interim leader of
Afghanistan, was always an American puppet. He knows
better than most that he had virtually no credentials to
take up the job that was handed to him by a group of
bullying Americans at the UN-organized international
conference in Bonn at the close of 2001.
knows better than Karzai the problem of being a puppet
of Washington. Karzai, who is referred to as the "mayor
of Kabul" by cynical Kabul residents, was wholly at the
mercy of the Americans from the time he was made leader.
The US provides him an inner core of bodyguards, and he
remains as distant from the Afghans as he was the day he
was sworn in. Meanwhile, Americans are out there
One of the things that the
Americans "fixed" is drug production. During the Taliban
days, opium production had reached a peak of 5,000-plus
tons. In 2001, with the warehouses filled to the ceiling
with raw opium, the Taliban wanted to show how "good"
they were, and stopped poppy cultivation in the
territories they controlled - about 95 percent of the
country. The opium price soared, and the Taliban regime
and its Pakistani benefactors made huge profits. At the
same time, the Taliban, citing their efforts to end the
venal drug trade, sought recognition as the legitimate
Following the American
invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and subsequent
removal of the Taliban from power, competing agencies
within the US government set about to prove their worth
(with some individuals intensely involved in lining
their pockets with the drug money) by adopting policies
to "short-cut" the process of Afghan reconstruction. One
of these short-cuts involved a deal with the warlords.
The deal was to allow the warlords to grow poppy, so
that these warlords could buy arms and recruit militia
to strengthen their ranks. In return, they would not
only provide the Americans with the intelligence on
where the al-Qaeda and the Taliban are hiding, but would
also provide the Americans with fighters.
came of this approach? The first thing that happened is
that poppy fields and the poppy growers took over
Afghanistan. In the year 2002, about 3,750 tons of opium
was harvested. In cold cash, this translates
conservatively into anything between US$5-6 billion for
The second thing that the policy
did was further weaken Karzai, who was running from
pillar to post to get some cash to show some
"improvement" in living conditions in Kabul to justify
his and the Americans' presence, and he was deprived of
revenue. The warlords claimed - and the American
operatives endorsed their claims - that they needed the
money to bolster their anti-Taliban militia and help the
Americans find al-Qaeda members. As a result, the Afghan
warlords, who were virtually eliminated by the Taliban,
are now stronger than ever. In a few more years, these
warlords will be strong enough to kick out their
American benefactors and American puppets.
these developments do not portend a bad enough future
for the immediate region, Washington felt compelled to
introduce another. By pressurizing the Pakistan army to
comb the border areas to ferret out the al-Qaeda and the
Taliban, the Americans have given Pakistani troops a
free hand to occupy Afghan territory and maintain
control of the Taliban and al-Qaeda operations.
According to area expert Ahmed Rashid, the Afghan
government and the US have been frustrated by Pakistan's
reluctance to reign in elements of the Taliban and
al-Qaeda Islamic militant units. These militants use
Pakistan as a safe haven from which to launch raids
against US and Afghan troops. United Nations officials
and heads of aid agencies say that the security
situation has worsened and that aid and reconstruction
is blocked in southern Afghanistan, or one third of the
country, because of increasing Taliban activity.
Humpty Dumpty had a fall
reports, the mob that attacked the Pakistan embassy in
Kabul was well organized. They were carrying sledge
hammers, sticks and stones - an indication that there
was a plan to attack the embassy and it was not a
decision made on the spur of the moment. Pakistan's
ambassador to Kabul, Rustam Shah Mohmand, even accused
the Karzai government of inciting the mob. He said, "We
hold the Afghan government squarely responsible, not
only for negligence, but for stage-managing the show,
for creating the environment in which such an attack
could take place."
Prior to this, Musharraf,
while in the US, criticized the Afghan leader for his
limited control over Afghanistan and for having a
government which was not fully representative of the
ethnic mosaic that represents Afghanistan. The Karzai
cabinet has a large number of Panjshiri Tajik and Uzbek
representatives, but only a handful of the Pashtun
community - the largest community in Afghanistan. It is
also well known that Pakistan, being close to the
Pashtun-dominated Taliban militia, would like to
interact with the Pashtuns, and not with the Tajiks or
Musharraf's statement in the US did not
go well with Karzai. The American puppet in Kabul said
that he was seeking clarification from the virtual
American puppet in Islamabad concerning his statements
that Karzai's government was unable to extend its
authority into Afghanistan's provinces. On the same day,
Karzai issued a tough statement accusing Musharraf of
interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
The Humpty Dumpty of the US war on terrorism has
taken another fall, and it is not at all clear that the
divisive forces in Washington will be able to put it
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