Thursday, September 22, 2011

Leon Panetta’s Warning to Pakistan

September 21, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The newly appointed United States’ Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has castigated Pakistan for not taking military action against the so called Haqqani group now braced against the NATO military combine in Afghanistan. In his hard hitting statement, the American defense secretary displayed an overly aggressive posture that was loaded with dire consequences for Pakistan if she did not go by the dictates of the United States.

Leon Panetta in his September 15 stunning dictation has sternly asked Pakistan to cut off her ties with the Haqqani network and help eliminate its leaders. He warned that if Pakistan did not comply, the United States will act unilaterally against the group.
Mr. Panetta’s assertive statement can be termed as a veiled warning in that he implied that if Pakistan was reluctant to oblige the United States, then NATO would extend their fight to North Waziristan. They would not mind if it would be a grave infringement of the international law and violation of the territorial integrity of an ally.

Unmindful of the sovereignty and national interests of Pakistan, America seems to be poised to bomb North Waziristan, a sector of FATA that has remained immune so far from the military operations of the Pakistan army. Pakistan army is already fighting in the South Waziristan to flush out the Taliban insurgents. Such a military onslaught by the United States and NATO might drag on for an indefinite period of time.

It would, however, result in further undermining the already precarious security situation in Pakistan, because of incessant terrorism on her soil by the militants. Even the Haqqani group might join the militant Taliban in an unmitigated spree of vendetta attacks in the length and breadth of Pakistan.

In the event of a full scale war that NATO and United States would launch, the terrorist attacks and suicide bombing on Pakistan’s mainland would accentuate. Pakistan is already under unremitting terrorism from anti Pakistan Taliban, wreaking havoc all over and destroying its social peace and economy.

The United States considers North Waziristan-based Haqqani network run by Mualvi Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani to be a resilient adversary of United States and at the same time an ally of Taliban and pro-Pakistan.

Presumably Pakistan has been reluctant to expand her anti-Taliban, military operations to North Waziristan because of the fond hope that in the event of American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Haqqani group would protect Pakistan’s interests in that war ravaged country.

But of late, the group is reported to be operating from Afghanistan as it feels safer there than staying in the North Waziristan situated within the so called FATA (federally administered areas). Haqqani network is believed to be behind the series of brutal attacks that were launched against the NATO forces including the September 12, 2011 attack on the US Embassy and nearby NATO bases in Kabul that lasted for 19 hours.

The Unites States and NATO commanders perceive Haqqani insurgent group as the most dangerous, organized and trenchant as compared to others Taliban factions. This insurgent faction is alleged to have their links with the ISI and Pakistan army.

It may be instructive to know that Haqqani group was in the lead of the American proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But when United States turned against Taliban, they joined the latter to liberate Afghanistan from the NATO branding it as the occupation force.

Instead of resorting to a knee jerk reaction and punitive retaliation through military means, the United States could cultivate the Haqqani group for liaison, rapport and link with the anti-American Taliban. This has all the more become a pressing need for America after the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani on 20 September 2011, by Taliban.

Burhanuddin was trying to bring about a kind of rapprochement between the Taliban and the United States to pave way for a face saving exit of NATO and United States from Afghanistan.

United State should realize that there is a limit for Pakistan to oblige United States and endure pressure from the NATO commanders to keep fighting for the sake of occupation alliance. If Pakistan cannot expand her anti Taliban war to North Waziristan and the United States in concert with NATO embarks upon the solo fight, then the exit of United States from Afghanistan would be stalled indefinitely.

It is not the Haqqani group that was responsible for 9/11 attacks on American soil but Al-Qaida that has been considerably mauled by the United States in the aftermath of that horrendous happening. Haqqani group can be won over and used for forging a link with Taliban and thus end their hostilities against the occupation forces.

America should understand that the war is not the only option that can help her to achieve the stipulated objectives. In any case, sooner or later, United States will have to vacate Afghanistan as she is faced with a guerrilla war that would never end. In the meantime the already ravaged economy of United Sates would come under further strains impinging upon its status as the most prosperous nation in the world.

It is better to negotiate than use the language of weapons to annihilate the enemy. On the whole the presence of NATO and United States in Afghanistan for ten long years was a grave mistake. In order to punish Al-Qaida, it got engrossed in a futile conflict with a self created enemy i.e., Taliban, that was pliant to the United States prior to the start of the hostilities. The Taliban may never be totally vanquished or subdued because of the terrain and their guerilla mode of fighting.

It is high time for the United States to use carrot than stick and try to woo the rival factions of Taliban to get out of the quagmire of Afghanistan well in time. To use Pakistan as a scapegoat for the military failures of NATO and American troops is a fallacious approach and cannot be rewarding in the longer run.

Pakistan as a mercenary or ally of the United States against terrorism has already rendered supreme sacrifices by way of its shattered economy, the high death toll of its soldiers and the massive disruption of peace within.

To put more burden on her and harping the tune to “do more” would be counterproductive. Such a pressure tactic would be tantamount to force Pakistan to continue fighting against her own people and making them eternal enemy that might result in the break up of Pakistan. Pakistan cannot and must not expand the war theatre beyond South Waziristan.

Rather Pakistan should also withdraw from South Waziristan as a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation towards Taliban and to signal that it was time for cessation of hostilities. This policy of pacifism would also benefit the United States because a friendly, cohesive and untied Afghanistan under national government would also be friendly towards the United States.

Why should Taliban be perpetually punished for a crime that was committed by Al-Qaida? United States in return can win the people of Afghanistan through aid and by joining reconstruction efforts of that massively ravaged country like it did in Germany in the post World War II era.

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