The attack on the US Embassy compound in Kabul, on September 13, which the Americans are blaming on the Haqqani Network, has once again set-off a volley of anti-Pakistan statements. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said his country’s response to this attack would show Pakistan that the US means business. What Panetta doesn’t seem to realise is that there is a rather glaring contradiction at the heart of the US policy in Afghanistan. They are constantly urging Pakistan to do more to tackle the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban, even going so far as to demand military action in North Waziristan; while, at the same time, they are negotiating with the Taliban themselves as they prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan.
In an ideal world, Pakistan would be able and willing to take on and destroy the Haqqani Network but right now they have no incentive to do so. Given that the US has already announced the date from when they begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the Pakistan military is trying to take steps to ensure that they maintain their influence there. Propping up the Haqqani Network to serve our interests in Afghanistan is one such measure. Pakistan fears that India will be the dominant regional power in Afghanistan after the US leaves, and thus sees no qualms in using the Haqqani Network as its proxy. The danger here is that proxies can never be relied on to remain loyal. We supported the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan so that there would finally be a pro-Pakistan government there, but that did little but garner it international scorn.
Taking on the Haqqani Network may be a good idea, but the question of ability still lingers. Our military is currently engaged in multiple battlefields, taking on the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and al Qaeda. While it may be desirable to also fight the Afghan Taliban, it would also mean that our troops are stretched too thin. Just as the US now realises that it does not have sufficient troops to pacify and control Afghanistan, so they need to understand that Pakistan, too, is limited by logistics.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2011.
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The Afghanistan misadventure has not only changed the world; it has distorted its civil and human face. Taliban’s ability to carry out this multi-target and multi-location but finely coordinated operation in the Afghan capital lays bare the depth of the U.S.-NATO failure in the country. Nearly a decade into the U.S.-NATO occupation of Afghanistan no section of the country is secure; not even the heart of the capital. Apparently only six Taliban fighters kept Afghan and NATO forces engaged for over twenty hours in the Wazir Akhbar Khan district. Do these attacks suggest that fate of the NATO forces in Afghanistan is not going to be any different from that of the USSR? Shrewd Taliban strategists are employing the same tactics which were used to economically bleed the Soviet Union. Michael F. Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence officer, rightly depicted bin Laden as a rational actor who is fighting to weaken the United States by weakening its economy, rather than merely combating and killing Americans. Read more at: http://pksecurity.blogspot.com/2011/09/afghanistan-end-game-or-outright.html