Pakistanís Afghan policy laid bare in Q &A guide - 07-06-2010, 08:23 PM
By Jan Assakzai
A concerned citizen in Peshawar Anwar Jalal who has witnessed the effects of militancy in Swat and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, sent me the following questions regarding militancy, Taliban and Pakistanís foreign policy on Afghanistan. For the benefit of other readers, I am sharing those questions and answers with them.
Q. Do the powers that matter in Pakistan support the Taliban?
A. Pakistan believes that Afghanistan falls within its sphere of influence so it needs to have a leverage in Afghanistan. It needs to create a leverage through proxies i.e., elements of Mujahideen or Taliban. Other countries like Iran also maintains influence through proxy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, in Lebanon through Hezbollah, in Palestine through Hammas, in Egypt and elements of Pakistanís shia population. China is accused of supporting Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in India to balance New Delhi. India supports Tibet opposition to have a leverage over china and also possibly elements of Baloch insurgents to contain Pakistan, though there is not concrete proof of material assistance.
Q. What is the reason of this pro-Taliban- Afghan policy as far as Pakistan is concerned?
A. Pakistanís hinterland is the east of Indus Basin: Punjab and Sindh with coastóit is Pakistanís economic, military and political power house extending to the Karachi coast. Pakistanís establishment feels threatened from India as only Thar desert is between Punjab and Indian,(This is why Pakistan army is known to have at least six army garrisons in Punjab out of nine).
Since core of Pakistan is so close and has a small stretch of land compared to geographically superior India, it needs ďstrategic depthĒ: in defence parlance, Pakistan needs extended operational area so as to absorb any attack or counter attack the enemyóto put it simply. That depth can only be achieved by a proxy in Afghanistan dominating the government enough that it can heavily lean on Pakistan in case Islamabad needs its help for ďstrategic depthĒ purposes vis a vis Indian attack.
Q. What are the advantages/disadvantages of Pakistanís pro-Taliban Afghan policy on Afghanistan?
First, this policy is meant to secure the east of Indus basin while the north West of Pakistan-Pakhtun territories serve as buffer.
Second, keeping Pakhtun border territory strategically insecure so as to reposition proxy in Afghanistan in case Islamabad does not have dominating influence in any hostile Afghan government.
Third, in order to have influence in other country, you have three options:
military, economic and political/social/cultural thrust. Pakistan is using military thrust ( supporting armed Mujahideen now Taliban) while India has deployed political/cultural/social and economic levers i.e., it has highly invested in the country over the last 9 years or so. But Indiaís economic and political levers though has been less successful compared to Pakistan because mainly it has no geographical proximity with India.
Fourth, Pakistan has earned billions of dollars because of its proximity with Afghanistan and levers in that country and in process advance the interest of other powers like the US, UK/Europe, Saudi Arabia, now Turkey as well.
Fifth, military regimes survived because of Afghan policy as they were supported by the West against USSR, now al Qaeda, despite being hated by the West. Disadvantages:
Sixth, the establishment promoted bigotry in the whole society at the hands of proxy sectarian and militant monsters through hatred spread by seminaries.
Seventh, the establishment cultivated extremism in Pakhtun areas on both sides of the border to contain Pakhtun nationalism and progressive movements and thoughts so that they do not oppose Afghan proxy policy, though the latter survived in Pakistan because of its history of over 100 years but it was simply defeated in Afghanistanís Pakhtun belt.
Eighth, the establishment have promoted jehadi militants as policy tools in Afghanistan and India but now some of its members have adopted their ideology.
Ninth, the Pakhtun territory has become ď Islamic Emirate of WaziristanĒ in Waziristan, while in other areas militants have simply overwhelmed the state authorities killing every body who question their way of conduct.
Tenth, the state writ in Pakhtun areas is only in important urban population centres and in rural areas there is no state writ except over the strategic points and transportation centres.
Eleventh, political or civilian leadership has no input in devising crucial foreign policies on Afghanistan, India and the United States.
Twelfth, lack of civilian/political oversight on foreign policy formulations has weaken democracy by default.
Thirteenth, the establishment lost control with some militants and now we have got the TTP monster and its allies hell bent upon bringing down the government. Fourteenth, even the Taliban in Afghanistan did not see eye to eye with Pakistan on issue like Osama Bind Laden, Buddhist relics what to talk of strategic depth.
Q. Is the US aware of such policy?
A. Yes, the US knows but it has its own limitations: it cannot impose a reality on Pakistan and fears that it is internally so weak and can implode any time if severe pressure is applied. In that case it will be a big geo-political disaster for the US to handle. The US also wants to balance India with Pakistan, in the long run, hence needs Islamabadís cooperation.
Pakistan has also cooperated on and off with the US on latterís area of concerns. Besides, Pakistan is an important Islamic country that the US needs now when it has a problem with Iran, Syria, Hammas and removed Sadamís regime .
Washington simply cannot put a tactical ally on notice to say finish every thing as it knows current policies have been nurtured over the past nearly thirty years and that Islamabad has a threat perception of India thus has to act in its interest as well. Hence, it tries to put pressure on Pakistan nudging politely/softly to wrap up militantsí havens.
Q. What are the impacts of Pakistanís pro Taliban policy for USA ?
A. For the US, strategic threat has now been diminished as the al Qaeda organisation has been dismantled and put out of its operational capacity, according al Qaeda watchers. Yet there are al Qaeda movements like TTP, LT, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Shaab in Somalia but they do not have the sophistication of the al Qaeda that was involved in Sept 11 attacks and individual attackers like, Shazad and Najibullah Zazai in the US are rather a tactical threat to the US.
Remember strategic threat means: (according to experts), if a city is destroyed, or an attack that involves killing of more than 2000 people, or big strategic buildings collapse that might cause a shift in governmentís policy. Since Sept 2001, there has not been such an attack on the US homeland showing that al Qaeda has lost that operational capability.
For experts, tactical threat means: a small attack where few people are or few dozen people are killed. Thus from the US point of view these militants are more or less tactical threat as long as they are on the run, their plans are disrupted, elements of their core leadership are taken out every now and then. This situation is within the tolerance threshold of the US.
Q. Can the US steer Islamabad to change its policy and how ?
A. Oh! yes, certainly, Pakistan is economically very vulnerable. The US can exploit every vulnerability of Pakistan and can make it to accept its conditions if it wishes so. But its geo-political constraints put limits on the US leverage over Pakistan.
email@example.com (Source: The Frontier Post- Jun 23)
07-06-2010, 08:34 PM
Hey Jan Assakzai, Its me Mahsud PAshtun from PPF
Its great to have you here, Please contribute as much as you can to our forum. I would love you to have a debate with our fellow member Sangar as he doesnt know the reality of Pak/Talib relationship as better than you do.
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