Editorial: US strategy: excessive and unnecessary
While it is revealed in Washington that President Bush had given the go-ahead last July to American troops in Afghanistan to attack targets inside Pakistan, the news from Bajaur is that Pakistan army has killed 100 terrorists, most of them foreigners, in a series of air attacks on the Taliban and Al Qaeda command centres. At the same time, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has supported the earlier stance taken by COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and his corps commanders. Mr Gilani said, “We will take all possible steps to safeguard the country’s borders. The nation should not be upset by the statement of Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who threatened more strikes inside Pakistan”.
As we predicted in an earlier editorial, a NATO spokesman in Brussels made it clear Thursday that NATO would not take part in the proposed US strategy of conducting raids into Pakistan from Afghanistan against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. He said: “The NATO policy, that is, our mandate, ends at the border. There are no ground or air incursions by NATO forces into Pakistani territory”. It is quite clear that the raid conducted into Pakistan territory earlier this week was by the CIA and American Seals (Marines). It was not under the umbrella of NATO-ISAF which commands a separate contingent of troops in Afghanistan and wants Pakistan to cooperate under an agreed plan to which COAS General Kayani has already referred. Why is the US rocking the boat while it is beginning to sail smoothly?
The New York Times says President Bush approved raids into Pakistan some time in July. When our prime minister visited Washington in the last week of the same month, the approval had probably been given. Mr Gilani was told by Mr Bush that the US feared leakage of strategic information from within Pakistan’s intelligence establishment and complained that some terrorists were able to escape because they had prior information of the coming attack. To drive home the point, while the prime minister was meeting President Bush, an American missile attack killed six foreign terrorists in South Waziristan, including an Egyptian militant by the name of Midhat Mursi al-Sayyid Umar, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, who had a $5 million bounty on his head and ran terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The American message was clear enough.
But the truth is that war against Al Qaeda in Pakistan can be won only if Pakistan cooperates with the NATO-ISAF forces. It is also quite clear that the US cannot have the same understanding of the situation inside Pakistan’s Tribal Areas as the Pakistan government. While Washington may be looking at a shorter deadline falling within 2008, Pakistan is forced to tackle the effects of Al Qaeda’s presence under a longer timetable of action. Whereas Washington may be unmindful of an intense wave of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, the PPP government cannot ignore it while agreeing with the US on the importance of taking action against Al Qaeda. No Pakistani general and no Pakistan journalist can agree with the US strategy of attacking inside Pakistani territory, even if it were practicable, which it is not.
Al Qaeda sees the Pakistan Army as its final enemy in Pakistan. If we look at the pattern of killings done by Al Qaeda’s suicide-bombers, the pattern clearly points to a strategy of eliminating or undermining our security forces. Al Qaeda may be mindful of Pakistan’s public opinion but it doesn’t care about the feelings of the Pakistani soldier. If Washington ignores the warning of General Kayani and goes ahead with its new strategy of taking the war inside Pakistan, the Pakistan army will have to defend and maintain its credibility. In that event, it is likely that it may end up confronting American troops while being stabbed in the back by Al Qaeda. This is a scenario which will completely defeat the American campaign to forestall further terrorist attacks inside the United States. A Pakistan army weakened by the new US strategy will make Pakistan more vulnerable without making the job any less difficult for the new Administration as it takes over from President Bush.
Pakistan’s capacity to fight terrorism is essential to all plans, especially American plans. If we measure the level of success against Al Qaeda so far, we will find 90 percent of it coming from Pakistan. On the other hand, if Pakistan’s capacity to fight Al Qaeda is undermined within its own rank and file as well as the public, the country will become more vulnerable to Al Qaeda and we will face unpredictable odds. According to nuclear theory, Pakistan is a nuclear power and cannot be attacked. If the US attacks Pakistani territory, battles with the Pakistan army, stops military assistance to Pakistan, and thus ends up making Al Qaeda supreme in Pakistan, the nuclear theory might then apply to Al Qaeda. While the task of fighting Al Qaeda has to be central to Pakistan’s strategic thinking, the US has to take care that it doesn’t use excessive force to make matters worse for Pakistan. *
Second Editorial: 9/11 and the world
On the 7th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it may dismay the US to find that only in nine of the 17 countries polled people thought that Al Qaeda had done the deed. In eight the majority view was otherwise. Indeed, even in the nine countries, 15-30 percent thought the Americans or Israelis had done it. In the early days after 9/11, two books published in France said the US had done it; but today President Sarkozy is willing to let French soldiers fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As for Pakistan, a recent video cassette released by Al Qaeda through a Karachi journalist proudly proclaimed that it had done the deed.
A follow-through in the UK called the 7/7 massacre reminded Europe that it too was under threat. A trial in London has found three out of eight Britons — most of them of Pakistani origin — guilty of plotting to kill people. The charge was that they were planning to blow up transatlantic flights in 2006 and were caught before they could do it. They had made suicide confession tapes linking themselves to Al Qaeda. Clearly, seven years later, the world is still under threat and needs to unite to fight Al Qaeda. Equally, however, this poll and several others which show the stock of America going down over the last seven years, mean Washington is urgently in need of a rethink on how this effort has been conducted. Statistics show that despite spending nearly USD4 trillion, overall security for the world at large and for the US in particular has reduced rather than enhanced. This is a major cause for concern and in and of itself lends credence to voices calling for a change of paradigm. *