The United States today is facing a unique challenge in Afghanistan where its Major Non-NATO Ally in South Asia is actively undermining America’s national security interests and those of NATO whose troops are deployed there. Readers would recall that following 9/11 the United States undertook military intervention operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban which had brutalized that hapless country with a medieval Islamic fundamental regime. The Taliban were the creation of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agency, the ISI. As Pakistan’s protégés the Taliban were entrusted to secure Afghanistan to provide Pakistan with strategic depth. The Taliban were also entrusted with the task of hosting Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda Islamic Jehadis.
Afghanistan under the Taliban brutal regime and Pakistan’s control and directions was turned into a vast base for training of Islamic Jehadis for their Jehad against the United States and India. The 9/11 terrorist bombings in New York and The Pentagon in Washington were conceived, planned and launched from here and facilitated by Pakistan with direct complicity . The United States military operations launched in early 2002 were directed at regime change in Afghanistan and the destruction of the Al Qaeda terrorist training infrastructure created by Pak ISI there. Before launching America’s massive military operations in Afghanistan the Pakistani military dictator was given a minutes choice to be either with the USA in its war on global terrorism or risk be counted against it with all its consequences. The Pakistani military dictator immediately caved in and placed Pakistan and its military facilities and air bases at America’s disposal for the Afghanistan operations. The Taliban were tactically abandoned by Pakistan and so also the Al Qaeda. The United States overthrew the Taliban regime and liberated Afghanistan from the medieval clutches of the Taliban and the colonial rule of Pakistan.
The United States along with NATO forces were deployed in Afghanistan for restoring law and order and the reconstruction of the ravaged country. It was the United States aim to transform Afghanistan into a moderate Islamic country with a democratic structure and liberal institutions. Elections since have taken place and a democratic government under Hamid Karazai is in place. However, the transformation of Afghanistan is being cleverly undermined by Pakistan.
The military picture obtainable today is that the Taliban has re-established itself in the south-eastern provinces of Afghanistan which are contiguous to Pakistan and the Al Qaeda remnants are firmly ensconced in Waziristan bordering Afghanistan. And Osama bin Laden is said to be anywhere in Pakistan from Karachi to Chitral which again borders Afghanistan.
Pakistan has done the military tango with USA and claiming that it has fully cooperated with USA in its war on terrorism. In the process it has cornered massive doses of financial aid and military hardware from the United States. However, this tango was an unwilling one and a clumsy one by Pakistan.
In actual fact, Pakistan has been double-timing the United States as I have mentioned elsewhere. Pakistan’s so-called war on terrorism was selective and sequentially spaced out in terms of handing over hard core Al Qaeda operatives whenever the United States applied severe pressure for active operations. Overall, the picture was however dismal in terms of Pakistan’s genuine cooperation with USA. Pakistan has cleverly avoided targeting the Taliban in its military operations so far; they have been left untouched. Amongst the Al Qaeda, the hardcore Arab operatives are said again to be untouched and only those of Central Asian origin targeted.
Pakistan’s double-timing the USA has been complained officially to President Bush by the Afghan President, by the previous US Ambassador in Kabul and senior US Army Commanders in Afghanistan. In a manifestation that the Taliban now pose a serious military threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability, NATO Forces have now been assigned to south-eastern provinces of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan for combat operations. A sizeable combined US-NATO military offensive is underway there now supported by Afghan forces.
Significantly, Pakistan has been warned by USA that its military forces would not hesitate to pursue the Taliban in Pakistani territory should Pakistan Army not do the needful in stopping the Taliban. The implication is that Pakistan Army is being permissive if not actively assisting the Taliban to play the role of a destabilizer in Afghanistan.
The significant point that emerges is that Pakistan is in the process of challenging vital United States national security interests in Afghanistan today. Pakistan is hell-bent on re-establishing its control on Afghanistan through the Taliban. Pakistan is also averse to the emergence of a moderate Islamic and democratic country on its doorsteps as that would create domestic challenges to the military rule in Pakistan.
The point that remains unanswered is that what is the United States doing to twist the ear of its Major Non-NATO ally for challenging American national security interests in Afghanistan. Time will only tell.