A dose of humility

Published: May 29, 2011

The writer is a graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School and fellow for The Express Tribune.

In the aftermath of the Bin Laden operation, both the US and Pakistan could use a strong dose of humility and this should come from both sides. But since the fallout is happening on Pakistani soil, and since Pakistani sovereignty has been insulted, the US should take the lead on this matter.

The US engagement in Afghanistan represents human nature at its basest. You get hit, you hit back. So 9/11 happened, and the US entered Afghanistan. Musharraf received a mandate. He was with the US, or he was with the terrorists. And partnering with the US was more lucrative.

Following 9/11, the US should have encouraged Pakistan to close its borders in the interest of regional security. Instead, the US asked an already fragile state to make itself infinitely more vulnerable by engaging in a proxy war, further fracturing an imperfect, but functioning, Pakistani military. The US requested (essentially purchased) bases and access, asking Musharraf to risk the safety of Pakistani citizens by engaging in foreign policy that would, without doubt, increase violence on Pakistani soil. The Pakistani government was asked to disregard long-term strategic alliances already in place and to forgo its intuitive knowledge of its own neighbourhood, in what was arguably nothing more than the interest of a grudge, albeit the biggest grudge in American’s history — except that America termed this cause “homeland security”. But truly, whose homeland was in question? And why was Bin Laden discovered in Pakistan?

Because the US drove him there. Bin Laden would have happily stayed in Afghanistan, living it up among his cronies, but the US decided it had to rescue the Afghani people — a noble, if misguided cause. But the US ignored the obvious red flag: Historically Afghans consider all foreigners to be invaders, regardless of whether those foreigners perceive themselves as liberators.

It’s a basic principle of physics — two bodies cannot occupy the same space. So the US occupied Afghanistan and the overflow — Bin Laden et al. — spilled into Pakistan. And rather than apologising for the consequences of its own actions — increased militancy (both home-grown and imported), civilian deaths and violence in Pakistan, and eventually, the relocation of the head of al Qaeda to Abbottabad — the US swatted Pakistan’s hand saying ‘shame, shame for hiding Bin Laden.’

It is time for the US to publicly apologise to Pakistan for greatly aggravating an already dysfunctional situation. It’s time for the US and Pakistan to become honest allies. The US needs to stop all aggressive military action and help Pakistan obsessively guard its Afghan border — from the ground and on the Afghan side. Beyond that, US troops should watch their backs, and let the Afghans sort themselves out — historically, they always do. And maybe, if Pakistan has a reprieve from the influx of both refugees and militants, it will be able to do the same. The sooner America gets out of the region, the better for all three nations involved. Afghanistan is in shambles, and Pakistan is close at its heels. It’s time for the US to preserve what it can and go home.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2011.

Reader Comments (19)

  • Arslan
    May 29, 2011 - 5:31AM

    Can USA do that ? I don’t remember anything in this sense, apart when, in 2009 I think, Obama apologized to the Iranians because the USA kicked out a democratically-elected Mossadegh, for some oil reasons, in the 50s Recommend

  • May 29, 2011 - 6:14AM

    I can appreciate where you are coming from. Placing the blame on the US of displacing terrorists into Pakistan is true. However, as a sovereign nation our security establishment fails to take responsibility for explaining why these individuals sought refuge in Pakistan and who facilitated them. And how terrorists have been able to operate and live amongst us for so long. America’s withdrawal if not organizied, will lead to prolonged violence. To think that terrorism will come to an end is well frankly optimistic. Recommend

  • faraz
    May 29, 2011 - 7:16AM

    Like most of the Pakistanis, perhaps you don’t realize that 55 percent population of Afghanistan is made up of non-pushtoons who hate Taliban. I wonder why we consider Taliban as the sole representative of the entire Afghan population. Taliban are absolutely unacceptable to Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen, moderate pushtoons and Shia Hazara. We must recognize the will of non pushtoon Afghans if we are sincere in bringing peace in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • omar yusaf
    May 29, 2011 - 8:15AM

    The US invasion of Afghanistan is a “grudge” war?

    Really?

    No wonder the credibility of the majority of journalists these days is at par with inept politicians and fortune tellers.Recommend

  • May 29, 2011 - 12:32PM

    So there are sane people out there. Keep up our hopes Where and when has America been a source of sucour,Recommend

  • AKA
    May 29, 2011 - 1:14PM

    Nicely done Cheree ! Recommend

  • Karim S
    May 29, 2011 - 1:42PM

    This article in a nutshell: It’s all the US’s fault. Pakistan is innocent! and its “long-term strategic alliance” that it was forced by the US to delink was … with its puppet, the Taliban regime. Recommend

  • Hassan
    May 29, 2011 - 2:41PM

    Excellent op-ed Ms Franco, the American folly onto Afghanistan badly exposed the fragile civilian and military leadership within this country who were not able and willing to understand the nature of this conflict and thus keep Pakistan’s interests supreme.

    The Taliban and Al-Qaida sought refuge in tribal regions of Pakistan due to the links developed during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the tribal links between pushtoons living either side of the border. The issue is not how they found refuge they issue is why our leadership couldn’t foresee this obvious tactical retreat and its repercussions.

    The 55% of Afghanistan might hate the Taliban but they don’t like the Americans either and that is why the US and NATO forces have not been able to quell the insurgency in Afghanistan, key ministerial posts and the bulk of the recruitment within the ANA and ANP is pre dominantly Tajik and in an ethnic melting pot like Afghanistan that is a recipe for disaster. I hope and pray that the powers that be realise that the solution is only political and military means have been used and abused for far too long at the cost of too many lives.Recommend

  • FactCheck
    May 29, 2011 - 4:10PM

    Lady, which planet you live in. People have been insulting Pakistan’s sovereignty for decades. What do you call foreign jihadi’s in Pakistan?

    Let me point out the difference. First, OBL is an international terrorists, there is an UN resolution against any country sheltering him. When a country shelters an international terrorist, other nations have a right to take him out.

    What would have you preferred? US could have declared OBL was living in Pakistan, shown photos, declared Pakistan a terrorist state, imposed sanctions and demanded Pakistan to do its will.

    You know what? Come to think of it, President Obama made mistake. He could have used OBL’s presence, international sanctions, a naval and air blockade forced Pakistan to do whatever the US wanted. I know, Pakistan has nukes.

    Look at this way, President Obama saved Pakistan from a hell of lot of embarrassment and hardship.

    If anyone needs to apologize to the rest of the world it is Pakistan.

    So, stop demanding respect, you are not going to get it. Star earning respect. Just because you can write English and went to a reputed school doesn’t make you intelligent and worldly. Recommend

  • FactCheck
    May 29, 2011 - 4:16PM

    Not taking responsibility and blaming others for all of Pakistan’s problems a contagious disease?Is it in the water? Air may be? Wheat? Goat? Chicken?

    Let us get world’s medical science working on a vaccination immediately. Let us start with CDC and fund it few millions from the Kerry-Lugar bill. After all, if we don’t find vaccination for this hereditary disease, all the aid is going wasted just like before.

    Scientist, get cracking on this disease, the human race needs your help quick. Recommend

  • mahmood
    May 29, 2011 - 7:07PM

    Why should the USA apologize because Pakistan’s ISI is corrupt? Why should the USA apologize because Pakistan was hiding the most wanted terrorist in the World – a person responsible for the deaths of thousands of American’s?Recommend

  • Farrah Ali
    May 29, 2011 - 8:36PM

    @FactCheck:
    So random and frantic. The best bit was ‘just because you can write in English, it doesn’t make you worldly’. No amount of education could make YOU intelligent enough to be able to comprehend the complex grey areas of the US-Pak relationship the author is writing about. People like you in fact on both sides are standing in the way of progress. Two facts for the day 1-It is possible for America too, to get it wrong. 2-Pakistan is not in the Middle East.Recommend

  • sam
    May 30, 2011 - 11:41AM

    Guess India should also apologize to Pakistan for driving it to orchestrate the Mumbai attacks and US should apologize to Pakistan for the failed Time Square Bombing. It is a shame how callous “expert” elitist academics are to the loss of life of ordinary Americans and Indians….but their liberal/commie hearts bleed out for Pakistanis….Recommend

  • abhi
    May 30, 2011 - 5:26PM

    Wow, this is the article many will like.
    USA should have asked Pakistan to close their border before attacking Afghanistan! innocent Pakistani were welcoming terrorists because nobody told them to close the border.
    Also if USA wouldn’t have attacked Afghanistan, Osama wouldn’t have come to Pakistan. Very simple logic, no need to think why he didn’t go to Iran, Kazakistan etc.
    I think USA and whole world should appologize to Pakistan and as a compensation grant 1 trillian dollar aid per year for eternity.Recommend

  • Malay
    May 30, 2011 - 7:00PM

    Modern humans are of about 35,000 years of residency on planet earth.
    If we prepare a list of apologies that are wanted from the wrongdoers (to their victims)during this time, one might found short of ink and paper.Recommend

  • parvez
    May 30, 2011 - 11:28PM

    Very perceptive, especially the bit about Musharraf deciding to partner with the U.S because he realised it would be be lucrative.Recommend

  • Muneeza
    May 31, 2011 - 10:24AM

    Dear Writer, I am floored by your cute argument or whatever it is!!!! Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii
    May 31, 2011 - 2:33PM

    ET should start rating system for there articles also, atleast for academic point of view, ET can know who is better writer and also decide on some felicitation.

    This article is totally HUMBUG for ET.Recommend

  • FactCheck
    May 31, 2011 - 7:38PM

    @Farrah Ali:

    “No one has told it that as early as 1948 prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated: “If today by any chance I were offered the reunion of India and Pakistan, I would decline it for obvious reasons. I do not want to carry the burden of Pakistan’s great problems”.

    Have we really seen the enemy?

    Ardeshir CowasjeeMay 29, 2011 (2 days ago)

    DAWN

    Pretty much sums it, don’t you think?Recommend

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