United States Denouement with Pakistan
United States strategic denouement with Pakistan has surfaced more markedly in the last six to eight months. This strategic denouement was long in the making but the US Administration was holding back the public projection of its disappointment hoping that the Pakistan Army Generals would realize the futility of working at odds with the United States on strategic issues. The United States also held back its hand in the mistaken belief that General Musharraf may still prevail and along with the Pakistan Army loyally support US policies in the region with particular attention to stabilizing things in Afghanistan. In the end the United States over-investment in General Musharraf and the Pakistan Army misfired as both turned out to be unreliable entities.
This strategic denouement with Pakistan has nothing to do with the emergence of a civilian democratic government in Pakistan. It pre-dates it and extends to General Musharraf and the Pakistan Army double-timing the United States on the issue of actively prosecuting the global war on terrorism against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban and ensuring that these two notorious Islamist terrorist organizations do not destabilize the Kabul Government in Afghanistan.
US & NATO Commanders in Afghanistan over the years were constantly asserting that their military operations were being stymied by Pakistan Army's active support to the Taliban especially in their attacks on Western military forces. The Taliban would then retreat to their sanctuaries in Pakistan for rest and refit before launching fresh attacks in Afghanistan.
Strategic analysts including this Columnist were patiently but consistently giving pointers to the double-game that General Musharraf and the Pakistan Army were playing with the United States. Afghanistan's President Karzai was all along agonizingly pointing out the same. Presumably the United States policy establishment had so over-invested in General Musharraf and linking Pakistan Army to the success of its Afghanistan operations that it needed time to re-cast its strategic policies and de-link Pakistan from its policy approaches to Afghanistan.
Seemingly this has now taken place as there is now visible a greater readiness to criticize Pakistan Army's lack of active support to ensure that the Taliban are restrained within Pakistan's boundaries. General Musharraf's policies including his approach to domestic politics have also come up for criticism at top levels of the US Administration.
More pointedly and what would be welcomed by US & NATO military commanders in Afghanistan is the more active use of military force in dealing with the Taliban threat and also military strikes at Pakistani frontier outposts facilitating Taliban ingress into Afghanistan. One could expect that in the months ahead that the United States would not hesitate to inflict forceful military strikes against Taliban strongholds within Pakistan's frontier areas should the Pakistan Army refrain from restraining the Taliban.
The United States should have realized that while a civilian democratic government may be in power in Islamabad the conduct of Pakistan's foreign policy towards Afghanistan and India still resides in the hands of the Pakistan Army Generals.
The Pakistan Army has still not given up viewing Afghanistan as its 'strategic backyard' providing strategic depth against India and that Afghanistan must be reclaimed by Pakistan notwithstanding United States and NATO military presence in Afghanistan and their strategic interests therein.
Asymmetric warfare through its prot'g', the Taliban, against the United States in Afghanistan, provides the only viable option for the Pakistan Army to wrest control of Afghanistan, hoping that in the end the United States war- weariness may prompt it to exit Afghanistan.
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Dr. Subhash Kapila
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