It is if you believe the reasoning that Admiral Mike Mullen offered as he barged into Pakistan with a daring move, attacking our premier spy service on our home turf. This signifies two problems. One is that our high tolerance level emboldens our antagonists. Adm Mullen feels he can raise the stakes and do something he never did before because he knows there won’t be any public consequence strong enough to deter him. Someone in Islamabad or Rawalpindi should have told him, ‘If you feel this is the way to negotiate differences, by embarrassing us in front of our own people, then that’s the wrong way of doing it’, followed by a cancellation of his official engagements here until he retracts.
The second problem with his statement – that the ISI maintains links to Afghan Taliban factions – is that he is putting the ISI at the centre of the Pakistan-US dispute. That’s factually incorrect. But instead of correcting Mr Mullen, the responses from the Pakistani side are defensive in nature – ‘the Haqqani network are our adversaries too’ or ‘we’re too busy right now to take action against them’ or ‘it’s just a matter of time before we take action’.
The fact is: It is not the ISI but the deliberate American damage to vital Pakistani interests over a decade that is at the core of the current Pak-US dispute. The drone issue or the Raymond Davis affair is just an offshoot. Mr Mullen’s diagnosis is self-serving. The question is: why is he getting away with it without being challenged?
To be fair, the Pakistani Army chief did decry the ‘negative propaganda’ that the United States is waging against Pakistan. It’s the first time any Pakistani official used these two words together to describe the behaviour of our friends in Washington. But it’s not enough because our duplicitous ally is still scoring points in the battle for perceptions.
It is time we wiggled out of the commitments made by two presidents, Mr Musharraf and Mr Zardari, to America’s Afghan war. President Zardari is likely to support this policy change. The United States failed to live up to the post-2002 commitments to its Pakistani ally. The Americans almost turned Afghanistan into an Indian outpost, created conditions for insurgencies in Balochistan and FATA, and caused us up to $80 billion in direct and indirect losses and millions of displaced, killed and injured Pakistanis. The Pakistani military should commission a policy review that concludes with a recommendation to the government to formally exit America’s war. The notion that the United States would retaliate militarily to a sovereign Pakistani policy decision is exaggerated. Washington is in no position to do that.
Pakistan’s issues with domestic religious extremism can and will be resolved domestically. Any future Pakistani assistance to the US war effort in Afghanistan can be negotiated under new terms. The Americans are trying to create an impression that their interference in Pakistan is important to help Pakistan defeat extremism. For example, Adm Mullen came here last week emphasising, ‘the long-term US commitment to supporting Pakistan in its fight against violent extremists’. It is amazing how Washington has been redefining the mission and moving the goal posts over the past decade with no questions asked from our side of course.
The strength and ability of terror groups such as TTP and BLA to resupply will end when CIA ends its grand strategic project in Afghanistan.
We should tell Washington that we will maintain ties to legitimate Afghan parties, including the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban. American demands to cut off ties to any one of them are misplaced. If an Afghan group that Pakistan maintains links with is killing US soldiers in Afghanistan, this is not necessarily Pakistan’s design or responsibility. It is the result of flawed US policies in Afghanistan over the last decade, and a result of ignoring Pakistani advice.
It is also time to loudly question CIA ‘assessments’ about the number of al-Qaeda remnants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. We know the figure is insignificant to pose any threat to anyone. The US military and CIA inflate these assessments to justify prolonging the Afghan war and, more importantly, to justify meddling in Pakistan. The US is also pandering to its Indian ally by telling another lie, that the pro-Kashmir Lashkar-e-Taiba group, which is opposed to Indian military presence in Kashmir, has somehow metamorphosed into a ‘global threat.’ This is political propaganda.
By: Ahmed Quraishi