Deliver me from my friends I can take care of my enemies.- Tolstoy
One of Afghanistan’s many springs of blood and tears has just started. Its vast southern and south-eastern mountains and deserts witness the fiercest battles between the Taliban and NATO troops. Blood and destruction are all over the place. Villages are left empty ruins, and the carpet bombing and the Taliban guerrilla warfare turned life for the innocent civilians into a hell.
Everyone is shedding blood and tears in the crucible: the superpower, the Taliban, and the Afghan civilians. Battles have so far claimed hundreds of civilian lives and thousands displaced internally. The killing of the Taliban’s one-legged commander, Mullah Dadullah a few weeks ago was the coup de theatre. He was one more bait put down at last by Pakistani Inter-Service intelligence ISI for the American-led war on terrorism.
The effects of the current Western policy obscure the real issue which is war against the root and cause of terrorism and could spin things out of control. It is important to address the key issue that the command and control centres remain in Pakistan whereas the physical location of the game is in Afghanistan. Bringing Mr Karzai with his peacock green robe and General Pervez Musharraf in a smart Western suit for a handshake, a photo opportunity, or Mr Bush sharing a dinner with these two guys who never see each other in the eyes, simply doesn’t work. As French author, Oliver Roy wrote that, “Pakistan encourages any force fighting Karzai while avoiding being caught red handed by the Americans.”
However, the war on terrorism has reached a critical stage whereby any further push risks Pakistan’s destabilisation. There are signs that the Bush administration is devoted to Pakistan’s survival, more than winning the war on terror. Alternatively when it comes to its relations with Pakistan the West continues to show weak knees and double standards.
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An investigation into the death of the Mullah Dadullah unfolds the darkest aspect of Pakistan’s game in the war on Alqaida and the Taliban. The actual circumstances of the Mullah’s killing is not certain but media reports in Kabul, London, and Washington say that he was killed in a joint operation of the Afghan, American, and NATO forces in southern Afghan province. Other conflicting reports make things more puzzling.
In today’s tragic time, free information is the first casualty. “You should say the truth and then escape,” is the best advice one can get. In order to know what really is going on in an Afghan village, you have to ask a child or the village idiot, if you can find ones lucky enough to survive the bombings and crossfire between the hostile forces. The Time magazine, The Washington Post, The Economist, Newsweek, et cetera are no longer those information gems in the East and the West that you would have craved not missing a single line of what they were writing. Sadly, they are nowadays, very much like the media outlets in the old Soviet Union. You only need to have a brief glance at the headlines and you immediately know what the story will be about.
Hence, in order to find out truth about Mullah’s death, we may suggest at least two hypotheses. First, the US-led air and ground raid had laid siege to the district in which the Mullah was leading a number of Taliban in their ritualistic spring battle with NATO. The Mullah died in air bombings. The second one, which carries weight, is that the US forces tracked the mullah with a tip off from a Pakistani spy agency. Media reports seem to indirectly confirm this. As quoting Maj John Thomas, a NATO spokesman, The New York Times wrote on May 13, “Mullah Dadullah” was tracked by a “robust” intelligence operation and had left the sanctuary of a neighbouring country [Pakistan] just days before and entered Afghanistan”. In Media news it was also said that the Mullah was killed in a commando operation and someone close to him might have betrayed him.
In the news, there was also an anecdote that an American spy close to the Mullah betrayed him and stole his artificial leg in order to stop him fleeing the American raid. Although Mullah’s artificial leg wasn’t as precious as the ivory leg of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, the leg has been said to have done the trick. The NYT also wrote that “in the last year Mullah Dadulah was known to be travelling in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the Afghan border and in particular North and South Waziristan, a Pakistan intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the nature of intelligence work.”
It is now a global household idea that the ISI is capable of everything Gothic under the sun. The spy agency called by an American analyst, “unreconstructed KGB,” was most likely the major player in the witch hunt for the Mullah. A salient feature of the agency is to often betray its proxy when political gains and a cash bonanza are in the air. Last December, Akhtar Osmani, another mullah in the Taliban leadership was detected and killed after a lead from the ISI when he was heading off to Afghanistan from Pakistani border area. As the International Herald Tribune wrote on March 2, 2007, “Pakistani intelligence services also assisted the US military in tracking another top Taliban official, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, who was killed on Dec. 19 in an American air strike in Southern Afghanistan.
This Pakistani approach is way is passionately awarded in Washington. “Gen Pervez Musharraf, has backed the US-led campaign against Islamic terror in the region,” Sunday Telegraph wrote in a report on 12 May, “helping to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan and taking on Al-qaida. That has elevated him from a tinpot dictator to a key player on the world state; he boasted last year that the West would never secure peace without Pakistan and its ISI security services”.
The important questions, nonetheless, are: who was Mullah Dadullh? And why would Pakistan get rid of one of its asset in Afghanistan? Dadullah, a warlord, was responsible for scores of civilian lives, beheadings, kidnappings and even mass murder of the Afghan ethnic group, Hazara, during the Taliban’s hey-days. He lost one leg in war with the Russians in 1980s.
The three decades of ceaseless Afghan war produced two categories of warlords with well-recorded gross human right crimes. The first category identifies those warlords who have been running the Kabul regime since 2001. These warlords have been equally adored and supported by both invading super powers, Russia and the US. Those stubborn and hothead religious extremists make the second category, who have been equally hated and killed by both super powers, for they refused equally both the Russian export of communist paradise as well as George Bush’s Jeffersonian democracy. Mullah Dadullah belonged to the second category who after fighting the Russians took the fight to the Americans.
The one-legged mullah was leading Taliban’s assault in Northern Afghanistan in 2001, and following their defeat, thousands of Taliban fighters were killed with the help of Pakistani ISI. However, the agency rescued and brought few of the Taliban leaders for future use to Pakistan along with Pakistani officers and advisors who were airlifted from Kunduz province, in the wake of the Taliban’s fall. With the rise of the anti-American insurgency in Afghanistan, the Mullah mysteriously resurfaced in Kandahar, in the South of the country, most probably with the help of Pakistan. A young journalist from the Pakistani Pashtun tribal belt recently told me that Mullah Dadullah was certainly an ISI man. Indeed, without Pakistani help, the mullah never would have made his return hunky dory in the first place.
Pakistani generals habitually hoodwink the Taliban to safeguard their lives to the end and on any cost’ and, in a teasing and pleasing game, snatch American money in exchange for a bait like the dead mullah, whenever they lose their utility. Pakistan sees such Taliban extreme core leaders as invaluable assets, and under mounting pressure from Washington, on occasion, the ISI walk all over on a Taliban leader and brings him to the altar of sacrifice, one at a time.
The ISI, no doubt, have many of them. “I believe that Mullah Omar lives in Quetta. I think he’s been kept there very carefully by Pakistani intelligence services and I think the other top commanders are coming and going quite easily as they meet and coordinate,” said Pakistani journalist, Ahmad Rashid to Spiegel this past week. Mullah Omar is the Taliban leader and Quetta is a Pakistani provincial capital, bordering Afghanistan. President Karzai repeatedly says that Mullah Omar is in Quetta, but General Musharraf swears to Allah anywhere and at any time that he is no where near Pakistan and Mr Bush believe him
Mullah Dadullah facilitated a deal between Pakistani Taliban and General Musharaf’s army in South Waziristan last year. I still remember Mullah’s words, when he said in an interview with the BBC from an undisclosed place in Afghanistan: “any attack on Pakistani army will be amounted to helping the Americans.” After his death, an Afghan journalist wrote in a respected Afghan website, Benawa that “Mullah’s Dadullah’s militiamen were offered free cigarettes and Hashish”. The same Mullah also had offered 100 kg pure gold to any one who killed the Danish cartoonist who drew cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
The killing of Mullah Dadullah thus bears a bitter irony. It ought to be considered as a blow to the ISI and Al-qaida. He was one of those warlords who always placed the interests of Al-qaida and Pakistan ahead of the interests of his own devastated homeland. His departure may incite a rift among the Taliban rank and probably trigger mutinies against Pakistan in the country’s Pashtun belt. It may also intensify tension between those Taliban who are Pakistan’s proxy and those who have a taste for Afghan nationalism and refuse to be used as sheep on Pakistani or Alqaida’s altar of sacrifice.
In view of afore mentioned evidence, it is generally accepted that Alqaida leaders are hiding in Pakistan, enjoying the safe haven. They are actively spreading their ideological and operational network in Pakistan and with the help of the Pakistani spy organisation. Pakistani Waziristan has turned now to a quasi-state of Taliban and Alqaida. “We know” adds Rashid, “Osama bin Laden and Layman Alzawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy and doctor are most likely in Pakistan.”
However, six years on by spending billions of dollars, the presence of almost 50 thousand foreign troops with a frightening computerised war machine, and a legion of local spies, the Bush administration does not know where the MMD (Osama, the Man of Mass Destruction) is hiding. The only thing the Anglo-American media can talk about is: Osama and his network are functioning somewhere in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Is there such a place in a border between two countries? Have we lost our basic sense of geography? This funny ‘somewhere’ must be either in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The vast border area is more than two thousands km long and hundreds km wide. “Pakistan doesn’t do enough,” is another misleading assumption appears too often in the Anglo-American media.
Under public pressure, some CIA officials or some low key bureaucrats in the Bush administration admit publicly that Osama and his network is inside Pakistan under the protection of Pakistani extremist religious groups and the ISI. But we never hear anything serious or a single official statement from London or Washington about the where about of the most wanted men? Common sense suggests that the White House is in a perpetual denial. In an ideological warfare when there is no honesty and when your words don’t support the truth, you are helping to bring your own downfall.
“We will leave no hiding place for terrorists,” said the British former Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw in 1998. On the contrary, for over the past nine years, the terrorists continue to hide. Pakistan uses the American war on terror as an Aladdin’s Lamp and makes all attempts to extend it for its own interests. Mr Bush, ‘the heart and soul of the world’, to use Hegel’s words used for advancing Napoleon, needs to make this clear and tell the world and his own people where exactly these Alqaida leaders are hiding?
The “Prospect” magazine in its March issue wrote that, “Pakistan is the hub of the Anglo-American/Nato war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Britain’s embassy in Islamabad is its largest in the world. And the city is full to the brim with American spies and senior military people.” Why these well-paid and well-fed elite legions hide the truth that Pakistan is a terrorist problem exactly like Afghanistan. Obviously Pakistan’s share in global terrorism is higher for its ISI harbours the nerve centre of Al-qaida and most dangerous Taliban leaders.
We can draw a book-length list of solid evidence to prove Pakistan’s involvement with the Taliban and Alquada. In addition to what has already been presented here, there are a few more. Mr Bearden, a former CIA field officer once said, “When there have been arrests of terrorists to be made, the Pakistanis have been the first ones through the door.” Paul McGeough wrote this week, “There are not only Pakistani Jihadist based that are assisting the Taliban in Afghanistan but Alqaida training camps in north Waziristan and aiding insurgents and planning attacks in Afghanistan.” A terrorist expert in Washington, Bruce Hoffman recently remarked, “almost all the actual and disrupted attacks in Britain since 2003 have involved Alqaida command element operating in Pakistan. Despite all his heartfelt denials, there is a strong belief that Musharraf’s heart is not in Bush’s war on terror.”
It is not hard to laugh at Pakistani’s dictator hubris in his recently published megalomaniac memoirs: “Pakistan has shattered the Alqaeda network in the region, severing its lateral and vertical linkages.” He also said recently in Spain, “They [Taliban] were imported from Afghanistan. We in Pakistan are victims.” If you go to Waziristan in north-West province of Pakistan, you will see the agents of the same general and his mullah allies making secret trade-offs with the most dangerous anti-Western terrorists. However, Pakistan handles things with the utmost care to avoid its military and the ISI not to be) caught in the act. The Pakistan tribal belt is a no-go zone for foreign journalist. Several local journalists who brought some news from this no-man-land have been mysteriously murdered.
What is there for Pakistan in all this? Pakistan simply regards having a proxy in Afghanistan as vital as the very existence of Pakistan. Any head-on conflagration with the Taliban in Islamabad’s thinking would likely put this country in a downhill track with a destination similar to Yugoslavia. Pakistan media frequently write about the ongoing war on terror in Afghanistan as flagrantly against Pakistan’s national interests. Pakistan’s two provinces, the North-Western Province—still retaining its colonial name— and Baluchistan are practically being controlled by religious groups close to the Taliban and Alqaida.
These two provinces have been forcefully integrated into Pakistan by the British Raj in 1947 during the partition of Indian sub-continent. Inhabitants of these provinces are Baluchis and Pashtuns who have hundred ties with Afghanistan and have no common history, language or culture with the Pakistan’s Punjabi ruling majority.
Like its Mughal and British colonial masters, the ruling elite in Islamabad treat these tribal people as Homo sapiens, depriving them from the right to self-determination. Nationalist movements in both provinces for full independence are brewing. In Baluchistan a separatist battle is already underway where last year alone reportedly 4000 people have been disappeared. The Taliban and Alqaida are capable to crush any such nationalist movement. This is the common denominator in Pakistani clever and clandestine strategy and the secret of its love for religious extremists across Afghanistan, India and Kashmir. Pakistani religious extremists are trained in such a way that they are allowed to bite only Afghans, secularist and nationalist Pashtuns and Baluchis.
Pakistan’s short and turbulent history, especially its Caesarean birth is warnings to today’s problems in the region. Any one can see ghosts of history in the horizon of Islamic extremism in the sub-continent. If there were independent Pashtunistan and Baluchistan instead of the British Imperial adventure of a coercive annexation of different ethnic groups into an artificial Pakistan, we would most likely have had no September 11 attack on America. Alqaida knows very well that the Pashtun tribal belt is, in fact, its life belt, safest haven, and a fortress of steel for breeding and exporting terrorism everywhere in the world. But Pakistan is in a perpetual denial of all this. Everything said here for Pakistani generals are nothing but mere Indian propaganda and Afghan disinformation.
Russians were cleverer in their colonial strategy. They created few —stans out of an ethnic mosaic of the Islamic kingdom of Bukhara in Central Asia, and after the demise of the Soviet empire, we don’t have any potential for perpetual regional conflicts. But as a result of the British partition legacy, the Pashtun and Baluch areas in Pakistan stand today derelict. Pakistan’s military rule has kept the area in medieval darkness, socio-politically and culturally. Soon or later, the explosion of Pakistan, which is only a matter of time, will start from this bad land. The Cold War, the Afghan war, the American money, and the coup culture have helped so far to stop or at least defer this big bang from happening. The American policy makers know this very well and after Israel, Pakistan’s survival as a country is their primary commitment.
Pakistan’s going nuclear in itself is the biggest dilemma of the century. The argument the Pakistani policy makers are taking up is that the country’s instability will help fall nuclear weapons into the hands of the extremist Islamists. Some analysts even believe Pakistan is drawing on this rallying cry as a weapon against Western demand for a crack down on radical Islamists groups.
The Bush administration sadly shares this narrative and knows every aspect of Pakistani double play in the game. However, it is painfully shrouded in secrecy. The American indisputable backing of the Pakistani military regime is attempted to buttress precarious Pakistan. Washington has pumped into Pakistan reportedly $10 billion in open and the same amount in clandestine assistance since the outbreak of war on terror in late 2001. And what did the Americans receive in return? The one-legged Mullah Dadullah today and perhaps a one-eyed mullah tomorrow. And the Pakistani mullahs and generals are capable of running this theatre of the absurd for a thousand and one nights.
The issue at stake is very simple. The US is engaged in love with Pakistan but in war with Afghanistan. The hidden agenda is also simple. The ongoing genocide in Afghanistan is the price that is paid for the survival of Pakistan as a country. It would be naïve if we assume that Pakistani generals are controlling the US for they have nuclear weapons, or this weapon has a magic power that is forcing the White House to kowtow to Islamabad.
The US sees Pakistan beyond the war on terror, and it continues to keep this country as a colonial nuclear outpost for its geopolitical strategy. As it was said, it is not accidental that this volatile country with an unpredictable future was allowed to develop and stockpile nuclear arsenal. The country’s crucial players, generals, have no respect for basic democratic principles. They are free to depose any elected civilian governments and hold both civilian and military establishments and rig national elections.
With one-legged Mullah Ahab gone, it is time now that the White House comes to terms with its own ally in the war on terror, an ally which has a symbiotic relationship with the global terror industry. The Americans cannot win the war in Afghanistan, unless they take the war directly to the foxholes of Alqaida and the nerve centres of the perverted ideology inside Pakistan, in Roy’s words, ‘a country with no nation’.
If the US fails to alter its entire strategy in Afghanistan and continues to play down the Pakistani factor in the war, long term occupation of the country will intensify instability in the whole region, which will be culminated in Western withdrawal and the return of the good old days of Pakistan and Alqaida and their proxies.
Instead of drumming an illusive evangelical perception of the Afghan war, the truth needs to be told. The status que is dangerous for the West more than any other party in the conflict. The current political crisis in Pakistan, in which General Musharraf wants to extend his military rule, by hook and by crook puts this country on a razors edge, which bring creeping calamities for the West closer in its war on terrorism. Washington cannot win the war on terror and rescue Pakistan at the same time.
Copyright © Dr. Ehsan Azari
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