THEAFGHAN DilEMMA

PAKISTANIS STRATEGIC CONFUSION IN THE WESTERN THEATRE
by: Shahzad Masood Room;
The 10 years long American war in Afghanistan is taking a tum similar to the one the Soviets fought some 30 years ago. Just like the Soviets, tactical victories by the USINATO forces in Afghanistan soon turned into the strategic encirclement of the allied forces by Afghan resistance, which has adopted an immensely difficult to counter 'strategy of void'. The Afghan resistance has denied the allied forces any actual target to hit at. The USINATO forces are fighting against an enemy that is totally elusive but equally ruthless. This strategy has been frustrating the USINATO forces since the last 10 years but now this frustration has transformed into fear, which is creeping in the minds of the invading forces that find themselves encircled by an unseen and unforgiving adversary. This fear of the unseen enemy is now dictating the USINATO forces' tactics in Afghanistan. There is complete chaos in the US camp now as they have failed to secure any strategic goal in Afghanistan. In fear, the US military is taking desperate measures by turning counterinsurgency ops into an ethnic cleansing campaign, which is also going to blow in their faces sooner than later. On this side of the Durand Line, Pakistan has been caught in a vicious circle due to the prolonged Afghan conflict. Pakistan has suffered more fatalities in WoT than the ones faced by the US and NATO forces combined in Afghanistan during the last 10 years. But in the presence of the current Afghan policy, there is no end in sight to this unfortunate string of events. The current Afghan policy is an amalgamation of confusion and chaos which has been undermining Pakistan's national security in the Western theatre since the last decade. Officially, Pakistan is a frontline ally of the USINATO but ironically, every high level official of the US and NATO countries criticize the Pakistani intelligence agencies for being the biggest accomplice of the Afghan Taliban against the Allies. The USINATO forces are now in an open military clash with Pakistan army on the Durand line as well. On the other hand, the Taliban consider Pakistan to be a USINATO ally and are annoyed at the former's Afghan policy. This situation is a strategic nightmare for Islamabad and Pakistan is losing her diplomatic clout in Afghan affairs after adopting a 'made in USA' Afghan policy!
It seems as if in the whole Afghan equation, the Afghan Taliban and other resistance elements are the only stakeholders who are not confused over this nerve-breaking cliffhanger. In fact they are getting more focused inside Afghanistan and are hitting the allied forces with more lethality at a higher frequency. The death toll of the foreign forces in Afghanistan is increasing with every passing year.

For Pakistan, the current situation demands an incisive re-evaluation of the decade old Afghan policy. This reassessment must be based on the emerging threats to Pakistan's national security, particularly on the Western borders due to the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan instead of the traditional thinking of remaining in the US camp at any cost. Indeed the Indo-US strategic relations in the 21 st century and their impact on Pakistan would also be a critical consideration during any policy review and Islamabad would not like to further deteriorate its already troubled relations with Washington. But the national and regional security related events that have transpired during the last 10 years as well as the emergence of China as a major global player, necessitate a comprehensive overhauling of Islamabad's strategic thinking and the Afghan policy. In the current phase of the Afghan conflict, Pakistan has the leverage to take some strategic strides in order to protect its own sovereignty and bring durable peace in Afghanistan. The dilemma has magnified to such proportions that having failed to fully utilize this leverage the military establishment in Pakistan is now faced with immense pressure to carry out a full-scale operation in North Waziristan. These are the US war tactics that have botched her in Afghanistan and not some isolated armed tribesmen who cross into Afghanistan to seek revenge for the deaths of their dear ones killed in the relentless US drone attacks. No part of Pakistani territory has played any role in creating the grim state of affairs faced by the US forces in Afghanistan today. However, it is highly unfortunate that Pakistan has failed miserably in On a wild goose chase - Occupation force confused, disoriented and scared! presenting its case in a forceful manner. After realizing the bitter fact that the coalition cannot win in Afghanistan, now the USINATO have unleashed hell on the Afghan civilians in order to break the resistance by using the scorch earth strategy. Their aim is to break the low and mid level fighting elements of the Afghan resistance physiologically by destroying their dwellings and oppressing their spouses. There are some complex dynamics of the Afghan society which the US forces had completely ignored in their war against the Taliban. The US is desperately trying to win a war using its military strategy alone and this is something that has never worked in the past and is now going to fail in Afghanistan as well. Why the US can't win in Afghanistan? Pressure on the US forces is so intense that it is being felt in Washington as well. President Obama had to sack the US forces' commander in Afghanistan twice within the first thirteen months of his tenure in the White House. Obama is desperate for securing some sort of military victory in Afghanistan before the 2012 presidential elections. However, this goal remains elusive as the US forces are losing the critical battle of winning the hearts and minds of the common Afghan people due to the following factors:

Journey back home - In a casket!

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The US army is now profiling the Afghan population, particularly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the South, using biometric finger printing and Iris patternscanning for keeping the individual's unique biological record for later use. But these tactics are only good for guarding installations and premises; they cannot save the USINATO soldiers from the IED blasts or ambushes. The Taliban are elusive targets and ruthless hidden predators. Their battle strategy has forced the US forces to execute an inhuman annihilation strategy in the villages of Afghanistan. The US Special Forces are using

the scorch earth tactics in order to break the resistance but it is certainly going to enrage the Afghans. In one such operation, Tarok Kolache, a small settlement in Kandahar, was wiped off from the face of the planet by the US forces after being met with stiff resistance put up by the Taliban fighters. The Taliban had planted IEDs and mines in the nearby orchards adopting a very complex deployment pattern. After two failed attempts by the US forces to enter the village, the commander ofthe ground forces called in an air strike to pulverize the whole village. The USAF's A-IO and B-57 bombers delivered

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Biometrics profiling - tagging every Afghan has given some success to the occupation forces!

The Petraeus solution - A Pashtun village - Before and after! some 49,0001bs of ordinance "accomplished that mission". and disrespecting their social norms during their search operations in Southern Afghanistan. Body-searching women, entering into houses and killing civilians in raids-as revealed in Wikileaks -are creating more hatred against the USINATO forces than any goodwill. 4. Majority of Pushtun population has no representation in the Afghan government and Afghan National Army (ANA). The Current strength of ANA is around 150,000, which would be increased to a total strength of 260,000 by the year 2014, with only 3-4% representation of Pushtuns from Southern Afghanistan. Karzai is Pushtun but has been isolated after he expressed his disappointment over the removal of General McChrystal, and due to the growing civilian casualties as a result of the allied forces' attacks. The Pushtuns also consider him as a US puppet in Kabul. Presently, the US has no replacement for Karzai. The US forces are fighting an aimless war creating nuisance among fighting units. There is no enemy in sight but there is certainly one in the battlefield. Taliban tactics have infused a sense of void, silence, isolation and nonengagement with others in the minds of the USINATO forces. This is intolerable for invading forces who want to engage Taliban in frontal battles. On the other hand, pushing

Such operations are breeding a sense of vindictive ferocity among the civilian populace against the ISAF presence on the Afghan soil. These operations are part of Pet rae us 's policy to break the Taliban strongholds in Southern Afghanistan. Petraeus is hoping for surrender from the Taliban to gain an advantageous position prior to the Obama administration's initiation of talks with them. On the other hand, the Taliban have made it clear that no negotiations are possible unless the USINATO forces have withdrawn completely. For the first time, the Taliban are facing a real threat and challenge from such operations. The reliance on military strategy alone in Afghanistan has failed the USINATO; their political strategy is on the backseat while Washington's military complex is calling the shots in the Afghan war. So it would be safe to assume that more ops like Tarok Kolache are in the making.
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Military operations in Southern Afghanistan are more of revenge than counterinsurgency operations. The US Forces are challenging the centuries old social order of Afghan society, which the Afghans guardjealously. The US forces have enraged the conservative Afghan society, particularly the Pushtuns, by

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Future Dynamics of the Afghan Conflict and Pakistan: Pakistan has emerged as the net loser in the Afghan conflict due to the mismanagement of its foreign policy priorities. There is a complete confusion in Islamabad about the future dynamics of the Afghan conflict, particularly in the post withdrawal scenario.
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End of the road! - For the US war planners, Afghanistan is the century Vietnam!

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their strategy to the next level, Taliban often deliver painful side attacks and pinprick bites by attacking moving columns of the USINATO forces.
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Right now, all the parties in the Afghan conflict are angry at Pakistan. The US feels that Pakistan is supporting the Afghan Taliban; the Afghan Taliban perceive Pakistan as the USINATO ally because the NATO supplies pass through Pakistan and are keeping the US war alive in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance feels that Pakistan is supporting the Afghan Pashtuns and Taliban. On the other hand, Pakistan has reasons to believe that the USINATOIAfghan armies and Indian RAW are supporting the TTP insurgency inside Pakistan using the Afghan soil. The Indians are exploiting the growing mistrust between the USINATO and Pakistan. They are also trying to take advantage of the Northern Alliance's discontentment with Pakistan in the ensuing confusion in order to cultivate gains for themselves. Here the primary Indian objective is to keep Pakistan out of the Afghan affairs by creating an impression that Pakistan is the real cause behind the failure of the USINATO forces in Afghanistan. India is using its media as well as

The US forces have no standardized reporting system, metric or narrative so that a complete broader picture of the whole battlefield can be drawn in order to take important decisions and devise any new strategy. The previous system used by the USINATO forces cannot cater to the important local factors like ethnicity, linguistics, tribal allegiance and political ties. This fact proves that the Afghan war is many times more complex than the one in Iraq. The USINATO is forced to tum a blind eye to the massive corruption going on in the Afghan government. Karzai and Northern Alliance are the only supporters of the ISAF forces in Afghanistan. Americans are banking their hopes on Petraeus to pull off another Iraq like success in Afghanistan (Success in Iraq by Petraeus itself remains a debatable issue as that country is still facing ethnic and sectarian chaos) but it seems this success would be a mere tactical win once again. No war can be won without mass support and this is something the USINATO forces don't have now and would never have in future!

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Razing the Afghan villages - Deploying Scorched Earth policy to break the resistance

Pakistan Army - Already fighting a CIA/RAW backed insurgency - is stretched thin on western borders! its strong political lobby in Washington to achieve this goal.
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The Indian media has taken over the Afghan cities and countryside. Indian dramas are becoming blockbuster hits in Kabul homes. On the other hand, Pakistan does not even have a single TV or cable network showing Pakistani content. Pakistan also does not broadcast in Dari, Uzbek or Farsi, practically abandoning the non-Pashtu speakers to the Indian propaganda machine. The US would now be expanding the war inside Pakistan through Baluchistan. The US/NATO supply line passing through Pakistan is the only reason why the US has not started its drone attacks in Baluchistan, though CIA drones have recently flown over Chaman area in Baluchistan. Any aggression in Baluchistan by the CIA can stir up retaliatory action from Islamabad, threatening their supply routes to Afghanistan.

The Pakistan army is also faced with evermounting pressure from Washington to launch a military operation in North Waziristan Agency against the elements of the Haqqani network, a tribal militia that is part of the Afghan resistance against the occupying forces. Despite the assistance of the Haqqani network, majority of the resistance forces comprise of Afghan Pushtuns and nationalistic elements from certain other ethnic groups. Pakistan army is already spread too thin across the entire swath ofFATA and NWFP including the North WaziristanAgency (NWA).

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A common misperception is that Pakistan army has no presence in NWA but this is far from reality. The Pakistan military has been conducting small-scale ops in the region since 2005. More than 700 terrorists and 300 Pakistani army men have been killed in NWA during the last 5 years. A military operation in North Waziristan is necessary from Pakistan's own security point of view, as this territory has become a safe haven for various criminal and terrorist groups from all over Pakistan. But as already stated, the Pakistan army is

suffering from severe operational and logistical constraints as its strength is being stretched along the entire swath ofFATA and parts of NWFP. The US is not making timely payments to Pakistan army as part of the coalition support fund, making the matters worse. The Pakistan army cannot afford to move more units from its Eastern border into FATA given the current scenario. Apart from its operational feasibility, there are some other factors due to which the Pakistan army cannot launch a full scale military operation inside NWAright now. The military had signed peace agreements with two important militant factions in 2006, Gul Bahadur and Molvi Nazeer, in order to establish its footprint in the area in a peaceful manner. It is not clear what impact a new military operation would have on these peace treaties. Any hasty decision .to condu~t a comprehensive operation can push Pakistan army I~to a hornet's nest, with the most important question looming ominously: How will the Pakistan army ensure that no further demands would be made for conducting military operations in South Punjab and Quetta as well? The window of opportunity for Pakistan in the Afghan theatre is closing. If Pakistan doesn't playa decisive role in Afghanistan today it would lose that country forever. In the simplest terms, Pakistan's Western border will tum into a hostile one as well and remain that way for a very long time to come. It is high time that Pakistan should cater to the Pushtun sentiment against the US occupation of Afghanistan. Weighing Pakistan's Options: Right now, Pakistan has three options for formulating its national security policy in the Western theatre given the current geopolitical milieu:
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permanent solution in sight due to the fact th~t back in 2001, Pakistan became the US ally III WoT unconditionally and accepted the role set by Washington and is now paying the penalty. Pakistan cannot survive with this policy in the future due to the following factors:

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There would be no end to terrorism, chaos and insurgencies, while other shreds of 4GW would keep haunting Pakistan. TTP's safe havens, sponsored by Indian RAW, would remain protected by CIA inside Afghanistan. The facade of WoT would keep providing cover for the surrogate wars waged by the hostile agencies and elements against Pakistan. CIA would expand its footprint in the other areas of the country. Their presence on Pakistani soil is already undermining Pakistan's national security. Internal chaos and anarchy would provide more opportunities to India to use its political clout in the Western capitals to get Pakistan declared a failed and terrorist state. The Afghan resistance would be under greater pressure than ever before due to the extr~me tactics used by the USINATO forces. RIght now, the Afghan resistance does not perceive Pakistan as a hostile entity but is monitoring Pakistan's Afghan policy suspiciously. The prevailing situation can lead to hostile relations between Afghan resistance and Pakistan. This will be suicidal, keeping in mind the fact that Northern Alliance elements are already antagonistic towards Pakistan. Continuation of the current Afghan policy would encourage the USINATO forces to step up the ethnic cleansing of Pushtun population inside Afghanistan. This would create violent exasperation among the Pakistani Pushtuns and the Pakistani state and nation will become victims of more violence from within.

Pakistan can continue with the current flawed policy, adopted by the Musharrafregime b~ck in 2001, and keep facing problems like terrorism, insurgencies, chaos and anarchy within Pakistani precincts along with unchecked foreign meddling into its political matters.

Due to this flawed policy, Pakistan army has been conducting the counterinsurgency operations across FATA and Malakand since 2003 but there is no

Pakistan's current Afghan policy has not only devastated the national security profile but its catastrophic impact has tom apart the social cohesion within the country as well. Continuation of this policy is the gravest national security threat as it is the reason behind the vicious cycle of terrorism and chaos. It must be revamped radically and that too in the shortest possible time.
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Pakistan can declare impartiality in Afghan conflict:

This approach is also impractical and would not guarantee any stability in the current chaotic situation prevailing in the Pakistani society. It is time to take sides decisively and promptly. 3. Pakistan must decide to playa decisive role in Afghanistan and bring the American war on terror to its end and force a withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. Pakistan will have to renegotiate its terms of engagement with the US on all the regional issues particularly Pakistan's role in the Afghan peace process.

bring all warring factions in Afghanistan on a single point agenda of forming national cohesion and stabilization. It can only be achieved if Pakistan ends the Indian role and presence in Afghanistan. This is the only option available to Pakistan for ending the Indian surrogate war inside Pakistan and its support to the dreadful terrorist outfits ofTTP andBLA. Apart from India, Iran is another country having stakes in Afghanistan. A close collaboration between Pakistan and Iran is necessary in order to forge a common front against US presence in Afghanistan and to bring about sectarian stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan FO must take the initiative to engage Iran for a collaborative political solution to the Afghanistan situation. This will also help Pakistan to have a friendly/ non-hostile government in Kabul, an indispensable choice for Pakistan in order to keep its Western border secure and safe. Pakistan will not get a friendly government in Kabul if it does not help create one.

Pakistan must go for a complete overhaul of its national security and foreign policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan. But this strategic paradigm shift demands a radical change in the strategic thinking of Pakistani political and military establishment regarding the whole Afghan conflict, the various dynamics of this conflict and post withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan and its regional implications as well. To bring about this change in Islamabad's approach towards Afghanistan, Pakistan will have to send a strong and clear signal to the Afghan resistance that Pakistan is not an ally of the US in this war on terror. The following can be effective points to start with in this regard:

Pakistan is at the crossroads over the Afghan conflict. Only an aggressive and assertive role in Afghanistan can ensure regional stability. Stabilizing Afghanistan is critically imperative for bringing the ongoing wave of terror and anarchy in the country to an absolute end. The sooner Islamabad understands this, the better it would be! Pakistan can survive without being a strategic ally of the US but she cannot survive by continuing with the policies, which have failed her over the last decade. It is crucial to bring about a radical transformation in Pakistan's foreign policy and to reassess the strategic importance of Pak-US relations in the 21 st century at a time when alternate global power centers, with converging interests are emerging in the region. History bears witness that being an enemy ofthe US is dangerous but being her ally is suicidal. It is time Pakistan learns from its own history! !

Islamabad must ask the US to announce a decisive cutoff date ofWoT and the beginning of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Apart from that, Pakistan can force the US to act on this option by announcing its own date of shutting off the NATO supply line going through Pakistani lands. Activate old channels and links in order to

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