The US is the strongest military and economic power of the world but its behavior is amateurish and childish and doesn’t correspond to its stature, strength and capability. After 2nd World War, it never clashed directly with an adversary matching its capabilities but always attacked very weak foes. Like a typical bully, it prefers tiny David over giant Goliath and clobbers the former mercilessly but as luck would have it, USA didn’t even succeed against David. After North Korean fiasco in 1953-54, its physical strength was put to test in Vietnam where it got embroiled with small-height, impoverished and ill-equipped Vietcong under inspiring leadership of Ho-chi-Minh in North Vietnam who were no match to the well fed, tall and strongly built GIs backed up with massive sophisticated military and technological resources. They wanted to succeed where French had failed against Vietminh led by Gen Giap (1946-54). During its ten-year stay (1964-1974), the US military applied maximum force to annihilate the opponents. It dropped 7.8 million tons of bombs including napalms and mustard gas, sprayed 75 million litres of defoliants including Dioxin over fields, forests and villages causing 7 million casualties including 3 million dead. Despite wholesale massacre and destruction the Americans failed to break the will and resilience of Vietnamese to fight back. The resistance forces were covertly backed by USSR and China since the two considered it their moral duty to provide material assistance to the beleaguered neighbor believing in same ideology.
When the casualties of US soldiers began to mount and reached the figure of 58000 fatalities and home pressure intensified, adamant US leadership instead of winding up the war extended it to Cambodia under the warped logic that unless safe sanctuaries of Vietcong in neighboring Cambodia were neutralized, victory in Vietnam War was not possible. Additional troops were sought to expand the scope of war. When this experiment failed after massacring tens of thousands of Cambodians, USA had to finally eat a humble pie and order retreat in sheer disgust and disgrace.
Stewing in the juice of humiliation, the US got an opportunity to avenge its disgrace when Soviets forces barged into Afghanistan and Mujahideen backed up by Pakistan confronted them at their own. Instead of jumping into the fray and battling with Soviet forces in an even match, USA decided to resort to indirect strategy. It provoked and backed Mujahideen to directly take on Soviet troops and Afghan Army to liberate Afghanistan. It also lured Pakistan through $3.5 billion aid package to act as a frontline state and undertake a proxy war. Its forces stayed out of the Afghan war since USA had learnt a bitter lesson of direct confrontation in North Korea and North Vietnam.
Thanks to outstanding fight put up by rag tag Mujahideen and immense sacrifices rendered by them and Pakistan, Afghan war was decisively won and Soviet forces pushed out. When it came to collecting awards, the US stood alone on the victory stand and gathered all of them leaving the actual winners high and dry. The US having avenged its dishonor in Vietnam with the help of others declared itself a winner without losing a single soldier.
This grand success which drastically truncated USSR and reduced it into Commonwealth of Independent States, ended bi-polarism and made USA the sole super power. This unprecedented elevation went into the heads of arrogant US leaders and they started viewing America as the mightiest and invincible. They forgot that their military had played no role in the defeat and demise of Soviet Union. Drunk with power and megalomania, they wanted to punish the very forces that had elevated USA to prestigious position of unchallenged super power and had put their lives at stake. Afghanistan under Taliban was among the most impoverished countries of the world, devoid of armed forces and technological base.
Regardless of their handicaps, the Americans forgot that Afghanistan was the traditional graveyard of many mighty empires where it was easy to get in but far more difficult to get out. They wanted to succeed where none had succeeded. Soviet Union jumped into the inferno of Afghanistan because of paranoia of Islamic resurgence. It had the advantage of geographic contiguity and dedicated logistic tail. It had strong political roots in Afghanistan in the form of Khalq and Parcham parties, had a heavy presence of military advisers and had committed 150000 troops at the outset. Yet it failed in its mission and had to withdraw. US leaders were so buoyed up with the prospects of commercial gains from Central Asia that they completely overlooked US military handicaps. To hide their real motives they raised false slogans of freedom and democracy and demonized Taliban, with whom US UNOCOL was in secret contacts. They ignored over 1.5 million human losses of Mujahideen, mostly Afghans and the brilliant work done by ISI under Gen Akhtar Abdur Rahman and later under Gen Hameed Gul.
Without ISI’s fanatical commitment and its competence to undertake this gigantic covert operation that had no parallels and Allah’s support, the miracle was not possible. Throughout the operation, CIA was kept on the back seat and its role was confined to provisioning funds and weaponry or collection of volunteers from Muslim world. Training, equipping and launching of Mujahideen and dealing with seven aggressive Mujahideen groups in conflict with each other on one hand and bracing up to subversive activities of KGB, KHAD, RAW together with overbearing attitude of Moscow and Tehran’s disquiet was an uphill task for ISI and Pakistani leadership. Pakistan had to put up with frequent bomb blasts, hijacking, target killings, ground and air border violations.
Pakistan also had to bear with domestic opposition led by PPP and ANP opposed to Afghan Jihad and Gen Ziaul Haq’s policies and rise of sectarianism. To defy the threats of next door super power fuming with anger was no easy job and that too when Pakistan was confronted with twin threat from east and west and India’s heightened belligerency. India’s military exercise Brass-tacks in 1986 had taken place in that critical period. At that time Pakistan had not attained viable weapon grade nuclear capability with requisite delivery means but had kept India scared under policy of ambiguity. Moscow had hurled series of threats cautioning Pakistan to stop meddling and to dismantle training camps or be prepared for dire consequences. Despite grave internal and external challenges, at no stage Gen Zia buckled or resorted to appeasement or compromised national interests or prestige and honor of the country.
One can note the stark difference of attitudes of the then leadership with present day leadership. The elected democratic leaders claiming to enjoy support of the majority lay prostrate before the US and Indian leaders and accept their taunts, insults and kicks smilingly. Americans and Indians after pasting false charges of abetting terrorism are threatening to invade. What to talk of seeing them in eyes and disregarding their illegal demands, accusations and threats, they don’t even pick up courage to mumble a word of protest when Pakistan is in flames at both ends and has put everything at stake. Yet they have the temerity to declare Gen Zia’s era as black and illegal. They can pass laws while in power but cannot wash away facts of history.
Pakistan could have played a double game to milk both the super powers and keep them appeased, but it played a straight game and put all its eggs in the basket of USA. Having tested the tenacity, resilience and professional abilities of Pakistani people and premier institutions for a decade under trying conditions, there was no earthly reason for USA not to place its full faith in Pakistan and to make it a life-long strategic partner. In reality, reverse happened. The US ditched Pakistan in 1990, developed acute apprehensions and distrust and undertook highly discriminatory acts to penalize Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear program was the overriding factor for such an attitude. The US had ignored the ongoing program at Kahuta throughout 1980s and US President had rendered certificates each year from 1985 onwards that Pakistan was not pursuing nuclear program. Besides Nuclear program, ISI also became an eyesore for USA since it had seen its outstanding capability and had emerged as the most potent intelligence organization within the third world. CIA developed envy for ISI and vied to cut it to size.
No sooner the US downed its chief rival with the help of Pakistan; it started penalizing its ally. To add insult to injury, the US befriended Pakistan’s chief adversary India which had remained in the Soviet camp from 1947 onwards. The US went out of the way to bolster strategic ties with India. At the behest of India, Washington started hounding and persecuting Pakistan through Pressler Amendment and propaganda war to enfeeble its economy and spoil its image. ISI was purged of diehard officers committed to Afghan and Kashmir jihad during the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto at US behest. The US didn’t sever linkage with Islamabad since it saw Pakistan as a possible bridge for its future exploits in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
It was owing to US discriminatory policies that democratic era in Pakistan in 1990s failed to deliver and opened doors for military intervention in October 1999. After a brief spell of coldness, George W. Bush US befriended Gen Musharraf and made him a blue-eyed boy. This transition in outlook happened when Musharraf readily agreed to serve US interests in Afghanistan blindly. Besides extending several facilities to USA, the ISI was purged for the third time. This time the axe fell on officers with a religious bent of mind. Even employees working in nuclear facilities were not spared. While US leaders kept hugging secular Musharraf affectionately, lava of aversion kept simmering in their minds and hearts against Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its people. Governed by this mindset, Indo-US-Israeli team worked upon a gory plan to destabilize, denuclearize and fragment Pakistan through covert means. All the members of the team excelling in this game put their heart and soul to make the plan a roaring success. FATA and Balochistan, both bordering Afghanistan were picked up as hunting grounds to establish a foothold in Pakistan.
While drumming up threat of terrorism, CIA and FBI started playing a double game by outwardly trying to control terrorism in two fertile grounds but inwardly making peaceful areas restive. After collecting information from Pakistani agencies, instead of working jointly, the US agencies cleverly sidelined them and assumed total control of intelligence acquisition from 2003 onwards. So much so that army units operating in Waziristan were made dependent upon their inputs. No raid could be conducted without clearance from CIA heavy US command centres established in Peshawar, Kohat, Miranshah and Wana. Over 500 pro-government Maliks and clerics were assassinated in FATA by CIA agents, Blackwater and extremists on their payroll, which paved the way for establishment of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and loss of power of anti-Taliban elements in FATA. Idea behind creating TTP was to form a force formidable enough to confront and defeat the Army in guerrilla war. It was trained, equipped, funded and guided to ensure its success since it was evaluated that without destroying the Army none of the objectives conceived could be achieved.
Pakistani troops were pushed into South Waziristan (SW) in late 2002 without training in guerrilla war, acclimatization, motivation and counterterrorism equipment. Peace deals were promptly disrupted through drone attacks, which also hit anti-US and pro-government elements. Peace jirgas were targeted by suicide bombers. Flames of war were gradually spread from FATA to settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and then to major cities. Western print and electronic media and think tanks duly fed by Indian writers were activated to spread gloom and doom; so were pro-western elements in Pakistan. English newspapers like Daily Times and to an extent Dawn together with several TV channels performed the allotted job loyally to smear Pakistan and its institutions.
All these immoral activities financed through illegal drug trade delighted the master planners. In their excitement to floor Pakistan and then extract its nuclear teeth they lost sight of their primary objective of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al-Qaeda for which they had sauntered into Afghanistan. Taking advantage of their loss of direction, Al-Qaeda and Taliban kept regaining ground. By the time the US woke up from its stupor, nearly 80% territory had slipped from under its feet. All their gains had been gifted away due to imprudence, myopia and over confidence. Americans had over estimated own strength and under estimated deftness and guts of Afghan fighters and repeated the mistakes committed by Soviets. The Taliban gained complete sway in southern and eastern Afghanistan and acquired the strength to venture into all parts of the country including Kabul. As if this setback was not enough, the conspirators received another shock when Pak army broke the back of Fazlullah led militants in Malakand Division and Swat and Hakimullah Mehsud led TTP in SW in 2009.
Like Pak Army has pushed the militants in FATA and Swat on the back foot, Afghan Taliban have also achieved moral ascendancy over occupation forces since they have succeeded in defeating their minds. Coalition forces have lost the will to fight and are eager to return home. However, unabated turbulence in Afghanistan and Pakistan suits India and Israel. Hence their desperate efforts to stave-off negotiated political settlement. Both are keen to convert Afghanistan into an Indian satellite and to consolidate Israeli presence for future joint covert operations against Central Asian States and Pakistan. Continuation of war on terror helps in bleeding Pakistan and weakening it from within and keeping its attention away from Kashmir. They also seek to break the will of Pakistan to resist Indian hegemony in the region. News of over one trillion dollars mineral resources in Afghanistan has watered the mouths of occupation forces and given them second thoughts.
Machinations and intrigues of adversaries of Pakistan are however getting drowned in the fast flowing stream of events which are not going in their favor. Afghan situation is in a fluid state and USA having lost on all counts, doesn’t know how to crystallize it. Israeli blockade of Gaza strip and piracy against peace flotilla in May has for the first time evoked worldwide condemnation and it is fast getting isolated. India is getting exposed in occupied Kashmir due to ongoing protests by unarmed Kashmiris seeking freedom and ruthless action by Indian security forces who had been claiming that insurgency had been quashed. At home Maoist movement has become grave for India since Maoists are trying to bring all anti-imperialist struggles in India on one platform. Instead of hoping to accomplish objectives set against Pakistan, the conspirators have got worried about safety of their own homes.
The writer is a retired Brig, a defence analyst and author of several books.