Pakistan Under Seige by Brig (r) Samson Sharaf
The international and national media are
speculating events that would lead to the end-game in Afghanistan.
Commentators world over are drawing different scenarios on how USA
would hedge its interests in the region against Al Qaeda, its
affiliates and nuclear proliferation (declared) and its political
economy (China, Central Asia and Pakistan, undeclared). This debate was
energised by the US operations that killed Osama Bin Laden followed by
the decision by President Obama to reverse the ORBAT of 33,000 US surge
troops Embedded within these debates are deliberate leaks to coerce
Pakistan into pliability.
debate is also a rationale for an existential victory (disrupt,
dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda) and an elusive victory (secure
Afghanistan within the context of Great Game). Also tucked between the
failure of the Third Surge and the Victory Speech is Obama’s AF-PAK
Strategy, a sticky mess that will not allow USA to let go; with the
potential to sink the entire region with it. Perhaps, these events and
the change of US Command in Afghanistan also bring into contention, the
superimposed COIN Strategy (a lesson learnt from Iraq) and McChrystal’s
painstaking JSOC Strategy. This strategy was framed under the tutelage
of Dick Cheney to pursue objectives framed by the elitist group of US
strategists including Henry Kissinger to control the region and tame
Pakistan. Though JSOC covert operations began much earlier, it was
officially given space to operate in Pakistan in 2007. This is
precisely why I had written in an article titled ‘Time to eat Grass’ in
2008 that instability of Pakistan was the key to a successful US
also brings into sharper focus the debate between the military experts
and counter insurgency experts in the USA on how best to ensure US
interests (not peace) in the region. Nothing can stop USA from
declaring victory in a war fought for its own interests; and who cares
if millions of Afghans and Pakistanis are left to contend with the mess
left behind. But will US withdraw after having followed a plan
relentlessly at a very high cost and intrigue?
readers not be misled. This is not the truth. The truth is that US is
here to stay for an indefinite period. The corollaries of the plan
secretly compartmentalised from each other for over a decade are now
piecing together. The US game in the region has entered its most
State of Pakistan is equally responsible for the mess it allowed to be
created within its regions. Unlike USA that has always had a flexible,
well thought narrative to shape the environment, Pakistan has never
cared or bothered to evolve a proper cohesive plan? The entire
operation in the past ten years has been reactive and the sole domain
of the Army. I do not think that the establishment ever evaluated alarm
bells being raised by both Pakistani, foreign analysts and writers. It
seems that having remained in constant touch with USA through military
diplomacy and foreign office, the ability to think clearly was eclipsed
by being an insider and exclusivity syndrome. Sermons by US
ambassadors, visiting dignitaries and the façade of aid also played its
part in lowering the guard.
step by step, Pakistan allowed the entire backwash of US operations to
be pushed into Pakistan under a misperceived strategic concept and
false assurances. On the political front, the US compliant Pakistani
government ensured the meltdown of Pakistan. It never took the basic
measures to prevent the economic collapse, squandered opportunities
arising out of natural disasters, ensured that energy crises persist in
all its forms and manifestations, and keeps the political landscape
destabilised. The rulers never gave an impression that the country
faced serious challenges to its existence. Rather they have presided to
a point wherein a complete melt-down becomes a possibility. Pakistan’s
decision to roll back the Tethyan Copper projects and reluctance to
resolve the Balochistan crises also fits the same plan. We now have a
situation where the army is sucked into a difficult situation; a
political dispensation that does not care for national interests.
readers flash back to my article ‘The Wilting Obama Surge’ I wrote, “It
appears that the ambitious third surge had a multi directional approach
towards a military exit from Afghanistan based on half facts and
assumptions derived from institutional biases. The hypothesis was too
simplified through exclusion of both hardcore Taliban and Pakistan.
Based on a misleading premise, it led to the logical”. In the next
article titled, ‘The AFPAK Strategy’, I wrote “Nothing had worked as
per the plan; neither the carrot, nor the stick nor stacks of cash for
the breakaway Taliban…It was indeed at the heels of this failure that
USA decided to co-opt Pakistan in the Strategic Dialogue diplomacy.
Guns and Roses were offered to win over Pakistan’s military
establishment towards a US driven operation in the region… but as
events proved, Pakistan resisted the trap. US could not have its way
and a new strategy became inevitable’. Rather than the military, the
USA next chose to rely more on its civilian counter-part. I also
explained that this strategy was based around JSOC, drones, CIA covert
and sting operations. Already Raymond Davis, Kakul raid, Mehran Base
and many incursions into Pakistan from Kunnar have come to pass. This
is only the beginning and Pakistan army will be ultimately sucked into
fighting its internal front.
tandem with this destabilising strategy is the latest US NATIONAL
DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2012 that sanctions military
operations beyond Al Qaeda and the Taliban to any associated forces
that are engaged in hostilities against the United States. Counter
proliferation efforts are also part of this Act. It also sanctions
assistance for such operations to allied and friendly nations (India,
Afghanistan and Pakistan). At a first glance apart from what is
enunciated, the Act is also an implied threat to Pakistan. It is this
pressure that USA will leverage with Pakistan to force the Taliban into
negotiations on a timed continuum to extract the maximum dog-fighting
from Pakistan Army. Further destabilisation will enhance US prospects
in the region.
the diplomatic front, USA made considerable progress. Tripartite talks
in Tehran had US approval. The bulk of logistic traffic is already
shifted to Iran and Central Asia. UN has been re-engaged in the peace
negotiations in Afghanistan. Consequently the troops that would
ultimately be withdrawn will not be the all the surge element but
rather logisticians and its protective detachments, intelligence
analysts and non essentials.
lines across the Hindukush range will be kept secure with the Northern
Alliance, New Afghan Security Forces, ISAF, Indians and maybe even Iran
backed warlords. The South comprising Pashtun areas will be left open
for attacks from the air, drones and selective military operations from
fortresses at Bagram, Kandhar, Kost, Jalalabad etc. It is also ominous
that USA has already abandoned large parts of Kunnar, Laghman and
Nuristan where the anti Pakistan Taliban and Al Qaeda are based. These
elements have already launched attacks in Mohmand, Bajaur and Dir. As
Pakistan destabilises, this intensity and frequency will increase.
Ultimately, drawing borders with blood, USA could have a corridor
through Balochistan with twin objectives to contain Iran and tap the
will the US be able to achieve all these objectives? No one including
USA have all the cards to bring stability to Afghanistan. If history is
an indicator, they will not.
the Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan called Taliban will not allow any
US bases in Afghanistan even for the sake of peace. History tells us
that they will fight on. As Pakistan destabilises further, so will its
resolve to gel with the forces fighting foreign occupation.
other state actors in the region will also exploit these sentiments to
advance their interests. These actors include India, Russia, China and
for nearly four decades, the Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan is
emotionally tied to Pakistan. They cannot be used against Pakistan.
However, the notion of a separate Pashtun state after the practical
division of Afghanistan may materialise into a security threat to
nuclear capitulation of Pakistan will have to be a surgical procedure.
Given the capabilities of JSOC, this is not possible. As a prelude,
USA and UN will have to reach some agreement with the Pakistani
establishment. But the moment such intentions become visible, Pakistan
will explode. Military revolts and large scale insurrections cannot be
ruled out. The WOT will over flow the brims of Pakistan.
USA would have paid the price of its open ended narratives in AFPAK.
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.
the past two months the armed forces, ISI and law enforcement agencies
have been a target of unprecedented bashing and criticism. If one were
to believe the twitters and blogs, the entire security apparatus of
Pakistan is discredited, disgraced and hanging by tenterhooks. Private
TV channels are playing both sides and keeping their bets hedged either
way. The informal social media, a revolution of sorts, have become
vitriolic. Even positives are being tainted with sarcasm and pun. A
certain responsible journalist spewing venom each day finds Fauji Fault
with the rescue of the besieged crew of My Suez. The entire drama is
akin to a punching bag. The US stands tall to spar the face; our very
own take on the proverbial ‘below the belt’.
US is talking of the much expected withdrawal at the heels of three
failing surges from Afghanistan with a new mission statement that
replaces Afghanistan with Pakistan. As the events unfold so does my
thesis written in 2000 and published in a National Daily in 2007,
“Pakistanis need to understand that in the US scheme of things, the
degradation of the army is a key plank in the objective to rid Pakistan
of its nuclear capability”. What could be a better shaped environment
than a collapsed economy (the real GDP excluding inflation a lowly
1.3), energy shortages close to a blackout, discredited political
institutions, rising poverty, and an army fighting the militancy and
the media bashing.
parallels with the Battle of Plassey (Nation 9 May 2010) where men of
elastic conscience abetted the mercantilism victory are beyond
symbolic. The puzzled crossword has reached a point where a sane normal
Pakistani is bound to ask whom to trust and who not. More than the
trust deficit that exists between USA and Pakistan, I am worried at the
direction in which the national debate on the credibility of the armed
forces is headed. Pakistan’s security apparatus is the worst thing that
ever happened to Pakistan is the local informed war cry.
So let us begin where it all started.
written by me repeatedly, the Kakul Operation to kill OBL had
complicity from within. As events unfold and arrests of fifth
columnists become public, there is much more than appears to the public
eye. I may not be surprised if sooner or later, this complicity links
to high quarters. Indiscriminate visas, container scandals, free
movements of US operatives and souring of the Army-State Department
relationship in the past year are all indicators of a division within
the establishment. Lack of assertiveness on part of the army also links
to the extensions. The surprise and consequent paralysis put the armed
forces on the defensive An army not knowing how to duck, hook or evade
this barrage of short pitched deliveries. It was a script it was never
prepared for and a hypothesis it was always shy of discussing.
was followed by the Mehran Base raid. As asserted by me, too little was
known to the public. Sensational investigative journalism added to the
second barrage. As events are proving, new revelations will become
public adding more twists to the theories.
Mehran issue inevitably links to the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, a
lone ranger investigative journalist who operated outside the domain of
Pakistan’s media czars. The fact that his murder was brutal cannot be
ignored and must be investigated to bring the culprits to the book.
Having followed his reports on the web for the past fifteen years, I
found them sensational and repeatedly falsified by events. He was a
young, ambitious and romantic journalist who loved to link a known fact
to his inter twined knowledge of the militant groups and Al Qaeda,
invariably giving a false sense of reality and inside knowledge. Much
of what he reported can also be found on the Indian South Asian
Analysis Group website that extensively reports on the terror trails,
militant groups and ISI linkages with terrorists. Saleem Shahzad
despite his best intentions had a shortcoming that sprang from his
romanticism. He had built a cognitive construct of jungles, rugged
mountainous HinduKush Range from where the phoenix of Al Qaeda would
ultimately rise to defeat USA. It was usually this construct that he
fine tuned with bits of authentic information and propaganda in vogue
that served both the militancy exaggeration and US propaganda. He was
always in quest for a new story with a new angle; sometimes he was also
early as 25 March this year, he reported that USA had finally traced
the whereabouts and movements of OBL and some operations would follow.
Unfortunately amidst the many yarns that he spelled, this accurate
information went unnoticed. Who knows what else he knew and what
contacts on this subject he was making after the killing of OBL? Now
that all intelligence agencies of Pakistan are on the trail of his
killers, truth will come out. As an analyst I find the motives of
getting rid of him more on the OBL count than the contacts of militants
in the security establishment. The media showed no urge to investigate
beyond the obvious.
rangers shooting is another case in point of unjustified military
bashing. Rangers are a federal and civilian law enforcement agency
under the Ministry of Interior. All military officials posted in
Rangers are deputed to the Ministry of Interior and paid by them. Their
services under the prevailing law can only be requisitioned by the
Nazims/Administrators/DCOs functioning under the Chief Secretary and
Provincial Home Departments. Their deployments are to be covered by
administrative representatives and the judiciary. They fire only on
orders of the civilian representatives. The chain of military command
never comes in except where these forces are put in the operational
control of the army like in FATA. However, in this case, without resort
to the legal and functional positions, the media chose to single out
the military leadership on a gory incident for which it was never
entire gossip is a start up to the vicious anti military campaign.
Readers must beware that many more stories, more sensationalism and
events will take place with fingers apparently pointing towards the
army and ISI. Many Pakistanis considering themselves moderates will
join the mill. The military will be demoralised. It will question its
missions. A dissent that never existed could set in. At the same time
the US Psychological Warfare and Propaganda machinery will keep
providing new leaks to its media. The objective will be to discredit
the army and plummet it to its lowest morale levels. Combat stress and
fatigue will set it. The final objective is to bring the organisation
to its knees to achieve the ultimate objective; rid Pakistan of nukes.
avoid this, the military has to be more transparent. It has to become
more proactive through the ISPR. It also has to become more assertive
with USA and make the government realise that it cannot fight a war in
isolation. The Politicians and Civil Society have to realise that a
lopsided National Power equation is doomed to fail. As poverty rises so
will the crime and militancy. Economic emergency has to be declared;
and renewed effort launched to jump-start the economy. If this not
happen in a few months it is they themselves to blame for the ugly turn
of events that may ensue.
all this confusion we must not ignore some good news. Another in a
series of endemic attacks from Kunar has been beaten back. Pakistan
Navy, over ruling the orders of the International Task Force in the
Aden Corridor has rescued the besieged crew of My Suez. The resilient
Pakistani Captain of the ship Syed Wasi is proudly bringing his flock
home. Can our leaders learn something from him?
Amidst all the disinformation, Pakistan has once again done it.
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.
Brig (r) Samson Sharaf