Thursday, January 6, 2011

Any Way out of The Afghan Quagmire

According to official sources, in the area of Mandi Khel, North Waziristan, US drones fired 4 missiles targeting a car and a house due to which 8 insurgents got killed. The death toll is expected to rise further. Last year’s count of drone attacks was 120. On the other side, the second drone attack of this year also took place in Mandi Khel. US drone fired 2 missiles targeting a car due to which 3 more insurgents were killed. Just this week as the new year began, there have been three drone attacks by now.

Any Way out of The Afghan Quagmire 

by Ayaz Wazir

This seems to be proving true in the case of Pakistan which not only established far-reaching strategic relations with America since the days of SEATO and CENTO but is now its frontline ally in the so called “war on terror”. It has rendered immense sacrifices to serve their interests.
Even then the US contemplates conducting raids inside Pakistan as reported by the New York Times.

Whether President Obama approves the request of his military commanders or not, it does betray the mindset of the US high command.

In case he agrees, the special task force which is flexing muscles in Afghanistan will launch raids inside Pakistan to cleanse the tribal areas of militants and their sanctuaries.

Left: The two Waziristans of north west Pakistan. Those  who contemplate of invading Waziristan should not forget that it was the very region that knocked the British out when they tried to catch or kill the Faqir of Ipi. Despite the use of all firepower, air and ground, available in the subcontinent at that time, the British had to cut a sorry figure.

Conducting raids in the tribal areas will not be as easy as the US thinks, particularly in the two Waziristans. Let us not forget that it was this very region that knocked the British out when they tried to catch or kill the Faqir of Ipi. Despite the use of all firepower, air and ground, available in the subcontinent at that time the British had to cut a sorry figure.

Some analysts consider this demand to be a pressure tactic aimed at forcing Pakistan to launch military operations in North Waziristan, which the US has been persistently demanding for quite some time.
Here again the US seems not to have learnt lessons from the failure of such operations in other parts of the tribal areas during the last seven years.
If the US launches cleansing operations in the tribal areas, with or without the overt connivance of our government, there will be serious repercussions. It will provoke public outrage and further inflame the already festering anti-U.S. sentiments to such an extent that it could lead to any untoward incident.

Spontaneous public reaction of this type was seen in the late seventies when on the basis of an unconfirmed report the US embassy in Islamabad was burnt to cinders by the public in no time.

By ordering troops to cross the border into Pakistani tribal areas the US will not only increase the number of enemies in the region but will also hasten its own defeat. It will also make it impossible for our military leadership to avoid retaliating as in the case of drone attacks to which the political leadership had secretly agreed, as confirmed by Wikileaks.

Our political leaders have completely deserted the strife-torn areas. They have not visited them even once during their three-year rule over the country. They have taken the easy way out leaving it totally to the army to handle the situation there, including the decision whether and when to launch a military operation – a decision which should be taken by the political leadership and not left to the army alone.

The US would be well advised to stay away from any such venture. It should remember that the UN had mandated it for operations inside Afghanistan alone and had not given it authority to cross the border into Pakistan. It would be better-off concentrating on securing Afghanistan – particularly the areas near the border with the tribal areas of Pakistan – rather than carrying out drone attacks inside there.

One fails to understand the logic of the US targeting people inside Pakistan, in total violation of International law. If the drones can hit people inside Pakistan what prevents them from targeting militants once they have crossed over into Afghanistan?
That would save them from violating the sovereignty of Pakistan on a daily basis.

What arguments can they offer to justify this blatant violation of International law other then shifting the responsibility, as well as the focus of the world attention, from the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan?

The failures of the US led war in Afghanistan are so great that it will not be possible to hide them under the cover of drone attacks or military assaults inside Pakistan. The common American will not be convinced this way that the war is being won, nor will it provide a face-saving exit strategy for the US troops from Afghanistan.

The US has not been consistent in its policy towards Afghanistan. It has not stopped changing goalposts in the war in that country. It did not hesitate to bring those to power who fought against her during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and, while still in the middle of the war, it preferred invading Iraq on the pretext of search for the elusive weapons of mass destructions.

The US could not bear to hear the name of the Taliban during the initial days of the war, what to say of talking to them. It chose to ignore the lessons that others had learnt in Afghanistan. Now after suffering heavily in the ten years of fighting they seem to have realised their mistakes and seem convinced that an all-out defeat of the Taliban is not possible.

The London Conference, the Kabul Conference and the Lisbon Declaration all endorsed this fact when they laid emphasis on finding a solution to the problem through negotiations. But here again the element of insincerity was obvious when the process was subjected to conditionalities.

Mullah Omar, his Quetta shura and the Haqqani group were barred from negotiations. Barring foreigners from negotiations is understandable but barring Mullah Omar or Haqqani is beyond comprehension. They are not only nationals of that unfortunate country but major players in the conflict.
How can they be kept out of negotiation if these are meant to end the conflict in Afghanistan?

Negotiations to end wars are conducted between rivals not allies only. What the Americans are doing in Afghanistan is difficult to comprehend. It has rightly been said about the Americans that they can be counted upon doing the right thing but once they have exhausted all the other available alternatives.

The days are not far when they will have no option but to follow the right course of action which they are avoiding at the moment.
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