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Friday, 11 December 2009

Allegory about Afghan Shura and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan

Asif Haroon Raja

Like the myth of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda headquartered in FATA which I discussed in my previous write up, another absurd claim has been made that Mullah Omar along with his Shura is based in Quetta. This story woven by spin doctors has caught the imagination of policy makers in Washington and they are playing it impishly. Pakistani leaders already harassed by never ending allegations are at a loss how to respond to the latest assault since denials make no impression on the accusers.
After repeating the story several times, US officials laid bare their actual motive by mentioning their flaming desire to employ the horrible drones in Balochistan including its capital as well. Let us carryout a dispassionate appraisal of this claim. It is now a well known reality that Afghan Taliban hold control of nearly 80% Afghan Territory and wield complete sway in southern, eastern and to some extent western Afghanistan. These regions provide them a secured base to operate into western, central and northern Afghanistan and return back.
Had their hold over southern and eastern Afghanistan been weak, it was logical to assume that they might have made FATA or Pashtun belt of Balochistan adjacent to Helmand Province as their bases of operation. Now that over 30000 troops of Pakistan Army have taken full control of South Waziristan and division plus force is in North Waziristan, part of which is in Makeen area, any possibility of Afghan Taliban operating from these regions is ruled out. Same is applicable to
Al-Qaeda. The only possible space which still requires further scanning is the countryside west of Ladha and Makeen towards Afghanistan border. Using boots on ground strategy, our troops are gradually clearing these areas as well. Within Afghanistan, morale of US-Nato forces has sunk low and bunker mentality has crept in. Karzai regime has no control over state affairs and his credibility after August fraudulent election has eroded further. He is seen as an American stooge at the mercy of non-Pashtun Northern Alliance. Afghan National Army and Police are in bad shape and operationally unfit to confront Taliban challenge. Afghan Pashtuns which are the predominant ethnic entity hate Americans because of their discriminatory attitude against them and are supportive of Taliban. Gulbadin Hikmatyar led Hizb-e-Islami and Jalaluddin Haqqani are also anti-American and anti-Karzai.
Given the favourable operational environment in Afghanistan for the Taliban, it will be utterly foolish on part of Mullah Omar and his Shura to abandon the fully secured bases in Afghanistan and opt for insecure base in Quetta where CIA, FBI, US marines, Blackwater, MI-6, RAW, BLA, BRA, BLF command strong influence. Target killings by BLA in Quetta have become a norm. Jacobabad and Pasni air bases are still under the operational control of US troops as revealed by Lt Gen ® Shahid Aziz and confirmed by Defence Minister. Shamsi base near Kharan had been in use for launching drones. Quetta being the capital city is too open and conspicuous for Mullah Omar to hide particularly when heavy head money for him has been announced and success or failure of Taliban resistance movement depends upon his survivability. Pashtun areas in Balochistan have not only kept themselves dissociated from RAW backed Baloch insurgency, now turned into separatist movement, but also kept both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban at bay. Under such insalubrious environments, it is preposterous for the US to keep insisting that Afghan Shura is in Quetta. Latest fabrication is that Afghan Taliban Shura has shifted to Karachi under the supervision of ISI where Omar has established a madrassa.
If for discussion sake we accept the wacky claims of presence of Afghan Shura in Quetta and that of Osama led Al-Qaeda in FATA theoretically; it implies that as far as US is concerned battle for Afghanistan is almost over. The news should have logically transported Gen McChrystal and his team with joy that the entire Taliban leadership and Al-Qaeda have fled to Pakistan and it will now be much easier for them to get hold of few thousand rag tag Taliban fighters and not more than 100 Al-Qaeda fighters abandoned by their leaders or to win them over? The only precautionary measure required to be taken was to prevent re-entry of Afghan Shura and Al-Qaeda leadership by enhancing border check posts and surveillance means along the entire Afghan-Pakistan border as frequently requested by Pakistan. In addition, he needed to fence and mine the entire length of border as repeatedly proposed by Pakistan but refused by Karzai and USA for reasons best known to them. No such thing has happened since Chrystal is depressed because of Osama phobia. Within Pakistan, once US intelligence agencies acquired credible intelligence, should they not have carried out joint raids on suspected locations without wasting a minute? CIA, FBI and US diplomats should not have encountered any bottlenecks since they move about in Pakistan unchecked and enjoy full cooperation of all law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Was it wise on part of US leadership to broadcast the locations of Omar and Osama prematurely thereby giving them full chance to runaway?
Well knowing that Pakistan Army is deeply committed in fighting foreign agencies sponsored terrorists in various parts of NWFP and FATA and achieving fruitful results, the US instead of feeling mighty pleased and encouraging it to further stabilise these vital regions, it has once again begun to sing the nauseating mantra of ‘do more’ and that too in new areas. Areas in Waziristan which are presently quiet and neutral are being provoked through drone attacks to make them restive. Orakzai Agency is being developed into another bastion. The US is pressing Pakistan to shift more troops from its eastern border and to start operations in Wazir inhabited South Waziristan and in North Waziristan where it alleges most runaways have fled. It is trying to create conditions wherein Pakistan Army is compelled to fight the combined force of Maulvi Nazir, Hakimullah Mehsud and Gul Bahadur. United front would ease up pressure on Hakimullah led TTP, which is in disarray. The US also want the Army and FC in Balochistan to shift its focus from Baloch held areas where RAW-CIA-MI-6 backed separatist movement is raging and to concentrate towards peaceful Pashtun areas including Quetta where it suspects Afghan Shura is hiding. The US-Nato forces after their failed operation in Helmand are expected to launch another operation in that province once additional US troops arrive so as to force the militants to flee to neighbouring Pashtun belt of Balochistan and make it volatile.
Having fully committed the army in fighting a futile US war on terror, RAW sponsored terrorists duly aided by Blackwater elements are playing havoc into major cities of Pakistan through almost daily bomb blasts and suicide attacks. Focus is on such targets which hurts the military the most. Attack on a mosque during Friday prayers in Rawalpindi on 27 November, frequented mostly by army senior officers and their sons, was most gruesome. ISI set ups have been repeatedly struck since it is frustrating the designs of enemies of Pakistan. Focus is now towards destabilisation of Punjab, after which emphasis will shift to Sindh to upturn main economic base of Pakistan. While CIA and FBI along with its shady outfits are fully involved in the destabilisation game, the US leaders are hypocritically singing tunes that Pakistan is a key ally and the US seeks its stability and prosperity. Our leaders having been provided with clinching evidence of involvement of RAW in terrorism have still not picked up courage to expose India and to forcefully ask USA to bridle its strategic ally.
Fact of the matter is that Omar, Osama and nuclear cards are being played with devious intentions. The real purpose behind it is to cast aspersion on Pakistan that Pakistan Army and the ISI are aligned with Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda and sheltering them. It implies that there is a nexus between Pakistan-Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda and Pakistan is fully supporting Taliban and Al-Qaeda in their war against US-Nato forces in Afghanistan. With leadership of the two deadly organisations based inside Pakistan, it becomes a fit case for USA to mount an offensive against Pakistan to root out safe sanctuaries and turn the corner. Cambodia model is on the cards. Indian forces have begun to mark time in concentration area. Desire for hot pursuit operations inside Pakistan and to extend the radius of action of drones has again been expressed.
The US civil and military leadership instead of wasting time in superfluous blame game and monkey tricks is better advised to concentrate on its work in Afghanistan and put things in order so that Pakistan could become peaceful. Pakistan Army having performed admirably, it is now the turn of Gen McChrystal led US-Nato forces to perform at its end by doing more and creating suitable conditions for safe and honourable exit from the quagmire of Afghanistan.

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