If the Taliban in Afghanistan will not be vanquished or reconciled, how on earth, the public wonders, does it benefit Pakistan to earn their ire and dash prospects of having an equable relationship with the most powerful grouping in neighbouring Afghanistan. Especially when taking on the Afghan Taliban, in cahoots with the Americans, would invite immediate retaliation
The 28-member NATO alliance spends over a trillion dollars annually on defence. An astronomical amount, considering how desperately strapped members are for cash nowadays, and for what? To fight off the likes of penniless North Korea, nuke-less Iran and homeless terrorists of the bin Laden gang? Actually, there are few threats to NATO that good intelligence, a modicum of prudence, imaginative use of modern technology and international cooperation cannot avert at a fraction of the cost. Hence, when recalling the trillion dollars that are spent annually by NATO for keeping ‘the dear leader’ et al at bay, Shakespeare’s caution comes to mind: “Heat not, a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself. We may outrun by violent swiftness that which we run at and lose by over-running.” And, one could add, not only ‘over-running’ but also overreaching.
What was meant to protect the North Atlantic now functions on three continents and is primed to go wherever the US takes it, and to stay as long as Washington wants “to make America safe” (Obama). NATO has indeed become “the ultimate transformer global Robocop, consigning, in the process, the helpless UN to a New York sand box,” as one analyst said, judging by the importance Washington attaches to NATO summits as compared to the annual humdrum UNGA sessions.
Consider the decisions taken at Lisbon earlier this week to which none of the battleground states or the regional countries were asked to contribute. NATO decided that there would be no let up in the Afghan war till 2014 — actually longer — if the US continues to feel ‘unsafe’. As the US is never likely to feel ‘safe’ in a region where ill will for it is exploding, its occupation of Afghanistan, under whatever guise or headdress, seems endless. Confirmation was forthcoming from the British Army chief, Sir David Roberts, who let the cat out of the bag by saying that the British are “planning for a 30-40 year scenario”.
It bothers NATO not a wit that such a posture would be hotly contested. In any case, NATO listens only to local leaders who are in hock to the west, and then not very attentively. It cares a fig for the vast segment of their population who have rejected western imperialism as much as western norms and values; whose disillusionment with western concepts such as socialism, capitalism and democracy is profound and who far prefer systems more suited to the basic concepts of Islam.
Instead, the public worry that their flaccid and corrupt leadership will be unable to withstand the pressure exerted by the US to ‘do more’.
All this worries the public not because of their fondness for the Taliban, far from it, or because they believe that India is the ‘eternal enemy’. Indeed, were relations with India on the mend they would have no objection to the relocation of forces to ward off the new danger. Alas, that is far from what is happening. India-Pakistan relations remain stuck in the old rut with India ever on the qui vive to inflict harm on Pakistan at the first opportunity.
Similarly, if the American cause in Afghanistan had been popular or a winning one, that too may have been reason enough to back Washington, but it is not. Actually, it is a lost cause for sundry reasons, including history, which shows that in the past 50 years no nationalist-based insurgency against a foreign force anywhere has ever been defeated.
If then the Taliban in Afghanistan will not be vanquished or reconciled, how on earth, the public wonders, does it benefit Pakistan to earn their ire and dash prospects of having an equable relationship with the most powerful grouping in neighbouring Afghanistan. Especially when taking on the Afghan Taliban, in cahoots with the Americans, would invite immediate retaliation. Were, for example, the Haqqani suicide bombers to be unleashed on Pakistan, it is doubtful if there would be much trace of commerce and industry in any of our major cities.
Of course, that is not to say that Pakistan must live in dread of the Taliban and their pernicious version of Islam. We are taking on the Pakistani Taliban and would take on their Afghan ilk, if they prove recalcitrant or try and inflict their pernicious ideology by force on Pakistan. But only in a manner and a time of our choosing and, most importantly, on our own and not as part of some American-led effort ‘to make the US safe’.
While welcoming American assistance, the public rejects US dictation. They know that it will not earn them either the respect of the enemy or their own people. Allowing drones to bombard Quetta, for example, would amount to the kind of capitulation that would rob Pakistan of all self-respect. The mere notion that such a request is being canvassed by Washington says much for the utter lack of feel that the US has of the current mood and Pakistan’s predicament. But when has the US ever been anything but indifferent to our feelings when its interests clash with ours?
Unfortunately, an inordinate amount of Pakistan’s energy is consumed not so much in fending off the extremists, whose measure we should have in due course, but the US, which seems recklessly determined for its own reasons to pit us in battle when we are neither psychologically ready, popularly willing, or militarily able to do so. That we must resist Washington’s pressure and the outcome of Lisbon goes without saying. But does the present bunch at the helm have the guts? Nothing thus far suggests that it does. The Lisbon effect —Zafar Hilaly. The writer is a former ambassador. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post-Nato Afghanistan: Pakistan cautions against civil war in Kabul (rupeenews.com)
- Retreat and a Song and Dance in Lisbon (pakistanakhbar.com)
- NATO: Surge and Cut, Transition and Run (rupeenews.com)
- Another retreat for the US (pakpunch.com)
- Clinton’s Pakistanphobic rhetoric creates Anti-Americanism in Pakistan (thedawn.com.pk)
- Quetta shopkeeper dupes NATO, MI6, CIA, RAMA, Karzai (rupeenews.com)
- Najam Sethi: The cat is out of the bag (azadkashmirtimes.com)