Amid simmering tensions in Islamabad-Washington relations, Pakistan’s security establishment is in the middle of another ‘strategic review’ in a bid to redesign the country’s war on terror blueprint.
The decision is based on the assumptions that the global financing of battle against al Qaeda is rapidly shrinking and the worsening situation may trigger an abrupt withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan.
“We believe there is no more money left in the world to finance the war against terror … and there doesn’t seem to be enough interest now. Nobody seems ready to invest in this futile battle,” a senior security official said.
“We also think that the pullout from Afghanistan will not be phased as being planned in Washington and other capitals. At the end, it could possibly be more chaotic and abrupt,” added the official on the condition of anonymity.
The revelation comes amid reports that Democrats and Republicans in Congress are struggling on the draft of a bill to allow the Obama administration seek more loan.
Over the weekend, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said the US would struggle to pay its troops if the ongoing crisis was not resolved amicably and immediately.
Last month, the US administration withheld $800 million in military aid to Pakistan.
The establishment here believes the suspension of aid was among the early signs that the US will not be spending much on war on terror in the future.
At least two more insiders confirmed the policy was being overhauled and was proactively pursuing ‘repaired’ ties with Afghanistan and seeking support from key regional players like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
On the domestic front, officials added, the architects of Pakistan’s fight against al Qaeda inside the country’s tribal lands would be focusing on ‘scaling down’ the battle and diverting most of the resources and manpower to defend the porous border with Afghanistan.
Sources revealed that making peace with some of the home-grown Taliban groups – which had hitherto been hostile to Pakistan and its military – could also be part of the new game-plan being designed to deal with an Afghanistan without US presence.
A couple of officials said that part of the new strategy was already being employed in the tribal areas and secret efforts aimed at the ‘reorientation’ of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were already underway.
Under the new plan, officials added, the TTP leadership would be asked to focus its attention to fight against international forces in Afghanistan and spare Pakistan. In return, they would be offered ‘concessions’ similar to those being enjoyed by the Haqqani network — a group of pro-Pakistan Afghan Taliban based in North Waziristan and operating across the border against the US-led multinational forces.
“Mills are grinding overtime and you will soon see them filtering grains,” was a brief answer from an official when asked to share details of the peacemaking deal with Hakimullah Mehsud’s TTP.
On seeking regional solutions of the Afghan imbroglio, officials said that recent visits by President Asif Ali Zardari to Iran, Afghanistan and then Saudi Arabia were arranged keeping this very context in mind.
Similarly, Pakistan’s political and military leadership is also constantly in touch with the Chinese government on the issue.
Around a fortnight ago, Pakistan Army Chief of General Staff Lt General Waheed Arshad was in Beijing for a week and officials here said the visit was part of the security establishment’s manoeuvres to have China on its side.
Spokesperson for Zardari, former senator Farhatullah Babar, told The Express Tribune that Pakistan understood that regional countries can be in a better position to decide how to fight terrorism than the ones “sitting thousands of miles away”.
He confirmed that the Afghanistan issue was part of the president’s meetings with the leadership of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Experts also said that Pakistan should prepare a plan to fill the ‘void’ an abrupt pullout of American forces from Afghanistan could create.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2011.