A radical strategic review

The top US General in Afghanistan called upon Pakistan’s army chief at the GHQ in Rawalpindi this Monday. COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa is reported to have told General Nicholson, Commander, Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces in Afghanistan, that some quarters in the US and Afghanistan are undermining Pakistan’s counter-terrorism role to mislead the strategic review of the Afghan/South-Asia policy under the Trump administration. General Qamar is too polite.

It is becoming clearer each day that the so-called strategic review is unlikely to change anything essentially. Trump is boosting the US-Afghanistan-India nexus to new heights. Pakistan is poised to get the usual big stick and some half-eaten carrots. Rather than waiting for something good to come out of the review, we should perhaps start working on a strategic review of our own. What we need is an overhaul that practically redefines our geo-strategic positioning and perspective.

Picture this: Last week, the US made another deduction of 50 million dollars from the Coalition Support Fund it owes to Pakistan as reimbursement for joint operations conducted last year, bringing the total amount withheld from 2016 CSF to $350 million. We are not doing enough against the Haqqani network, we are told. We will end up getting only $550 million of the total $900 million. Surely, we must find a better way to exist in this world as a nation-state.

A few days later, a carrot was sent from Kabul in the person of General Nicholson. According to the ISPR press release, he praised the professionalism of Pak Armed Forces and the resilience of the Pakistani nation, just like so many other military and civilian officials from imperial capitals who visit the GHQ and utter nice words about Pakistan’s military and its counter-terrorism success; words which are obviously inconsequential and downright devious.

Remember John McCain who came calling not so long ago, and was taken to South Waziristan along with the congressional delegation he was leading, to show them the fantastic counter-terrorism job we’d done and the impressive rehabilitation measures undertaken. He said all those nice things about Pakistan and its counter-terrorism efforts, only to negate them the next day in Kabul.

The flip-flop continues as a distracting back-drop; words that praise us alternate with actions that hurt us. Against this repetitive backdrop, the unchanging imperial agenda for the region is fine-tuned and pushed further by hook or crook, onwards towards its hegemonic blood-soaked ends. The praise for Pak Armed Forces, the patronizing pats on the back are just as hypocritical as the claims that the US is fighting terrorism all over the globe.

Pakistan figures in the imperial agenda as a toothless satellite state under India’s suzerainty and is marked for eventual balkanisation. Afghanistan is the springboard from where terrorism is to be exported to its immediate neighbours and to the Muslim regions of China and Russia. The US is not about to change its mind because of Pakistan’s concerns and its interests. To stop the multi-pronged thrust of the imperial US agenda, it has to be defeated militarily. There is no other way.

Look at what’s happening in Syria. Uncle Sam is beginning to see the light only after its defeat on the ground. After the initial bombast of arms deliveries to anti-Assad militants and more American boots on the ground, the Tomahawk missiles and attacks on Syrian government forces, Trump is backing off. He is talking ceasefires and de-escalation. To top it all, he has ordered the CIA to wind up its program to advise, arm, train and assist ‘moderate rebels’ (read proxy terrorists) fighting to bring down the Assad government. Nothing brings Uncle Sam to his senses better than a clear military defeat.

It won’t be easy in Afghanistan and, obviously, Pakistan cannot take on the US on its own. The US has occupied Afghanistan for almost 16 years and practically controls the puppet Afghan government and institutions. It has military bases all over the place and a significantly large deployment of troops. And now we are hearing about an indefinite American presence in the country, which means never-ending instability not only in Afghanistan but the entire neighbourhood.

Recent reports suggest that the US is facilitating the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan. Besides, right from the start, the US has supervised the expansion of Indian foot-print in the occupied country, much of it aimed against Pakistan. Modi and Trump are eager to reap the bitter harvest of this long unholy partnership. They are bound together in their ‘countering-China’ worldview and have joined hands to disrupt its Belt and Road Initiative, especially CPEC that is billed as BRI’s flagship project.

Most probably, in the spirit of saying nice things, General Qamar and General Nicholson agreed on the need for continuous engagement and coordination for peace and stability in the region. Otherwise it is hard to imagine the US doing anything to promote peace and stability, in Afghanistan, in the region or anywhere in the world.

The Pak-US cooperation in Afghanistan is unlikely to go beyond the constant refrain of its ‘do more’ mantra, which basically means ‘do-as-told’. Uncle Sam would like us to be an obedient dog, willing to happily die fetching for him in Afghanistan. There’s only one thing that could bring Uncle Sam to his senses.

While defeating the US in Afghanistan might not be easy, it is not impossible. It will require an alliance between China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and probably Turkey as well, to end US occupation. Pakistan will have to play its part and ban the transport of NATO supplies through its territory to begin with.

The countries in the neighbourhood will have to guard against not only infiltration of proxy terrorists from Afghanistan but also economic warfare and other imperial tools of war. They will need to coordinate their support to Afghan groups fighting for freedom and to harmonise their diplomacy. All the while, they can continue to say nice things about bringing peace and stability in the region, just like Uncle Sam. In the case of this multipolar alliance, at least the intentions would be sincere.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at hazirjalees@hotmail.com

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