In his meetings with leadership in Pakistan, Chairman US Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has conceded that relationship between the two countries was in turbulence but expressed satisfaction that there was willingness on both sides to improve it. It was not Admiral Mullen alone who expressed these views but other functionaries in the US Government have been frequently expressing discomfort over cooperation between the two countries in the war on terror.
There is nothing new about this chant of Admiral Mike Mullen, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman. Every American who is anybody finds it convenient to demonise Pakistan for their deepening troubles in Afghanistan. But their insinuations like the ISI’s ties with the Afghan Haqqani insurgent group cannot pull them out of the pit they themselves have thrown themselves in with their own foibles, lackadaisicalness and collapses in Afghanistan. With this device they may perhaps be able to save their faces in the eye of a gullible and brainwashed American public, whose tremendous money and considerable blood they have consumed up in falteringly fighting the Afghan war. But the ground realities would alter not. They indeed are picking up the wages of their own blunders. Whether for poor war strategy or for sheer fear of accumulating body bags, they did not put enough boots on the ground after ousting the Taliban from power with a massive air campaign. They had invaded Afghanistan to decimate the Taliban, dismantle al-Qaeda and capture their top leaders dead or alive. Yet not just a puny force had they deployed to cope with the triumphant air action’s aftermath, they didn’t even venture mopping up the fleeing Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants. They let the Taliban rumpus to return safely to their families and tribes, regroup and acquire lethal fighting muscle. The invaders have thus missed the bus, with no new one now waiting for them. They have lost the opportunity of hobbling and prostrating the Taliban, when soon after their ouster they were a demoralised lot, dispirited and in disarray. Now they are reorganised, emboldened and aggressive, holding the country’s south and east in their sway and expanding to the north and west as well. It is only the embedded journalism narrating liltingly the invaders’ successes. The independent reporting is not sanguine. Indeed, for their own reasons the invaders have assumed to themselves as if Taliban are an isolated group, with no tribal links, loyalties or support. And this myth is being puritanically drummed by their embedded media. But the facts on the ground are otherwise. The insurgents, whether loyal to Mullah Omar or Jalaluddin Haqqani or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, all Pakhtuns, are rooted acceptably in their own tribes. This reality was summed up aptly by a veteran Al Jazeera correspondent while reporting the Marjah operation when he cautioned not to take the local residents’ remarks critical of Taliban on face value. They say something to please their outsider interlocutors, but their hearts actually lie somewhere else, he underscored. In fact, there is a lot of unrealism and wistfulness, if not outright calculated perfidy, to the occupiers’ talk that the Taliban cannot wait them out as they may stay on even beyond 2014. But the time is clearly on the Taliban’s side, not their’s. Being the natives living with their families and their tribes, they can stay in their business indefinitely; the occupiers will have to leave at one time or the other ultimately. And what incentive in effect could the Pakhtuns have to shoo off the Taliban when they have been treated so shabbily by the occupiers as well as their Afghan allies all through these ten years of occupation? Despite being the country’s largest community, they have been kept shunted out of the power dispensation merely because of the Taliban’s predominant Pakhtun ethnicity. Consequently, they are very angry with the occupiers and their local allies alike. And for this, the Taliban are securely and strongly placed, with their various factions holding tight to their respective domains. The Haqqani group has the eastern Afghanistan in its grab for the most part. And it could only be a big joke to assert the group is based in Pakistan’s tribal North Waziristan agency from where it plans and launches attacks on the occupiers and their allies. By every reckoning, perfidious pursuits would do no good to the occupiers; their coming to terms with realities will certainly pay them off. Their badmouthing of Pakistan, its military and its ISI cannot change the harsh reality that the Afghan war has spun out of their hands and no military triumph could come by to them now. Given this, the most sensible course for them is exploring the political option of an all-inclusive power dispensation in Afghanistan. That in reality would be a big face-saver for them, and no lesser in the best interest of Afghanistan as also the region.