If at first you don’t succeed, blame Haqqani

Published: September 24, 2011
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The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 
khalid.munir@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa khalid.munir@tribune.com.pk

Finally, matters between the US and Pakistan have reached boiling point and the year in which the American troops were supposed to withdraw with victory trumpets seems to have become one of embarrassment. The events of the last two months have shattered America’s dream of a peaceful withdrawal from Afghanistan. The last thing Americans would like to see is the repetition of the events of Saigon. A spectacular attack by the Taliban on the US Embassy, in which half a dozen attackers held US and Isaf forces for almost 20 hours, has demoralised the Americans. As if all this was not enough, the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani has put the seal on the fledgling peace efforts.

Rabbanis’s peace council was a ray of hope for the Afghans, though it had failed to get the support of the Pashtuns because of its composition. The latter, perhaps under the influence and fear of the Taliban, thought it would be an instrument of suppression by the shumalis (the non-Pashtun northerners). These apprehensions were voiced by the Pashtun members of the council, during a meeting with senators from Pakistan in March this year. The council had come up with a formula to negotiate with the Taliban, but Rabbani’s death has put the peace process in cold storage.

As for America, announcing the withdrawal schedule over a year before the actual withdrawal was a sign of weakness. For the anti-Taliban elements, this came as a surprise and the support they were providing, in whatever way, was withdrawn due to fear. Then US President Barack Obama went on to announce a reduction of 30,000 troops this year, against the recommendations of the Pentagon.

Militarily, it has been a badly-fought war without much planning. The general responsible for fighting the war was sitting in Florida and came to Afghanistan only after Kabul’s fall. The latest outburst of blaming everything on the Haqqani network is the result of the frustration being felt in the power corridors of Washington because of lack of success in Afghanistan.

Yes, no one can deny that Haqqani is fighting in Afghanistan. No one will also deny that the presence of his fighters in North Waziristan is not a secret — however, blaming his network for all the ills that America is facing seems far-fetched and unfair. Pakistan is being forced to take military action against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan, something that may not necessarily solve matters in Afghanistan. Besides, the Americans need to ask themselves: is Haqqani so strong that his men can travel from North Waziristan all the way to Herat, Kunduz and Helmand with no one to check their movement? It should also be clear now that Isaf does not control the Pashtun-dominated provinces. For instance in Kunar, training centres have been set up to produce jihadis and FM radios run by the Taliban can be heard in Bajaur and Dir inside Pakistan. Nuristan was vacated by Isaf after attacks by the Taliban, almost two years ago, and is now used by militants to stage attacks into Pakistan.

The fact of the matter is that Isaf and Nato forces have failed to create favourable conditions on the ground which can then be used during negotiations. Now that they have been made to assess the situation, the field commanders are trying to find a scapegoat for their failure. That is what is happening in the present case. Should Pakistan pay for Nato’s failures?

Perhaps for the first time in its history, Pakistan has come into direct confrontation with the US. How we resolve this will be the test of the statesmanship of our civil and military leaders. It is time to evolve a policy which can best serve the interests of Pakistan and this should not be done by the military only. The government should take all leading politicians into confidence and with their consent evolve a strategy that helps us cope with what is clearly the most serious challenge to our sovereignty.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Sep 24, 2011 - 10:53PM

    The skill with which each day the same ideas are regurgitated is sickening. America is getting embarrassed? Really? In whose eye? In the court of global public opinion is it America or Paksitan that is being painted as a failed state unable to control non-state actors? As for our sovereignty, is over sovereignty only infringed when America infringes it? Are all the militants and warlords across the North West who have setup parallel judicial systems, impose taxes, setup check points, armed to the teeth, are all these people not infringing Pakistan’s sovereignty? Why doesnt our gallant military shoot down the drones that are infringing our sovereignty on a daily basis? Or is that okay?

    Is this what Pakistan has been reduced to? Ignore the lives and welfare of Pakistani and indeed Afghan citizens, while the nations elite play “looking America” in the eye. Pakistani is hated in Afghanistan. Authors such as Mr. Munir believe that the pashtuns are enraged because they are being given a raw deal in peace negotiations. Perhaps, but to think they side with Pakistan is believing your own propaganda. When ISAF and NATO eventually withdraw we will be left with an Afghanistan where people will hold Pakistan responsible for the mess that they are left with. And we will be left dealing with a group of people who dont think twice about kidnapping children and using teenage suicide bombers.

    So please, Pakistan is more than just the Haqqanis. The amount of words wasted defending them is disgusting. Why is everyone obsessed with defending them or are we just obsessed with defying America?

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  • Sep 24, 2011 - 11:38PM

    Well said Nadir.

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  • N
    Sep 24, 2011 - 11:39PM

    Could it be that “the fact of the matter is that Isaf and Nato forces have failed to create favourable conditions on the ground” because we actively export the most retrogressive forces – Taliban/Al Qaeda/Haqqanis/LET etc. into Kabul?
    Without our support, could these violent groups survive on their own?
    Why is that we will not allow Afghans to choose their own policies?
    Why is it that we DEMAND aid from USA and then unleash terror and hate on them?
    Why is that we blame USA and India for what we have created and become?
    Why is this kind of behavior in total is accepted by us?

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  • Basit Khan
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:08AM

    Well said Nadir, well said.

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  • Doctor
    Sep 25, 2011 - 4:19AM

    We have to clean up Pakistan or be cleaned up by external forces. I’d prefer the former.Recommend

  • Truth Seeker
    Sep 25, 2011 - 6:16AM

    Most serious challenge to Pakistan sovereignty is not external threat; internal disunity, lawlessness, corruption and mismanagement is slowly bleeding the society towards disintegration. Government which is unaware of the basic requirement of governance and believes in reconciliation with its opponents at any cost will do any thing to appease Americans, if allowed by their real manipulators.
    Wilileaks have already revealed the real loyalties of political class, so Mr.Khalid Munir should not propose a rhetorical solution.
    American ‘scape goat’ search should not turn into slaughtering of the goat. It doen not make any difference whether goat is killed by a drone or by a target killer or it becomes a victim of terrorism. Save the goat and don’t start arguing with the hunter. Honour, dignity and prestige are excellent words only if you have the economic foundations to support them.
    Take care of your flood victims with your own resources instead of begging the world, and then challange America, so that Americans are made aware of your self respect.

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  • Sachal Sarmast
    Sep 25, 2011 - 9:31AM

    There is no doubt that NATO (USA) led ISAF has failed miserably in Afghanistan exactly the same way USA policy makers and implementers have failed at economic pitch on home ground. Just two days before announcing Haqqani group as veritable wing of ISI, Mullen was happily chatting with Kiyani. What then went wrong? This is no doubt frustration mainly triggered by intractable social and economic crisis at home. No growth, no jobs, debt dilemma and, above all, no viable solution in the offing.
    Yet question remains what is the interest of Pakistan. We cannot and must not play ostrich. We are facing multitudes of problems, probably much more serious than USA. Myopia and hotheadedness are attributes of stupid.
    We will have to decide whether fighting for bigger role in Afghanistan is important for solution of our own itching and excruciating problems or autonomous, stable and developing Afghanistan without foreign forces on its soil is more imperative for us.
    Brinkmanship and pseudo-pride must be defeated in favour of sensible approach. We can only prosper when extremist ideologies, culture and organizations do not rule the roost in our country. Stability and predictability are prerequisite for our own survival and prosperity.

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  • shafiq chughtai
    Sep 25, 2011 - 11:17AM

    aoa to all
    i am happy that there are people from my motherland who are concerned about Pakistan and who give there opinions because they care about pakistan and pakistanis

    first of all, most of us will agree that it was not our war from the begining.it started off with a compromise, that we will be pushed to stone age.and that compromise is made again and again and again.

    second, USA is beyond doubt not a friend but an enemy of pakistan.Drone policy is inculcating hatred in northern areas and within Pakistan against USA and PAK army / government for not doing any thing.forget the double game which army / govt is playing (which i do not believe in).raymond davis , multiple recent attacks from afghanistan to pakistan border and the OBL show is the proof.Yes i am amongst those who say OBL was not in abbotabad(why ? where is the proof , because USA said that, is that enough?)

    third, there are other external elements in all probabilities, india, and else may be…. they worked against us in making of bangladesh! they intervened for the people of bangla recruited army and crossed border, u think they are not doing any thing.

    fourth, and importantly, the internal factor.we are not united, and certainly we need a refrendom and a debate on this big issue…. how far we can go.there is some maturity coming up in masses and political parties alike. Army is trying to play its own role as well.

    I being a drop in the sea pray to Allah to help my people and this nation but my opinion , though u will call me illogical and emotional and say we are isolated (as long as we are right, even if we are isolated we really don t care) is that we should stop yes stop cooperating with the usa against war or terror.My dear brother we are supporting blood shed, people who are aggressors, people who have invaded and killed so many innocent civilians and is still killing. Dont u think we have a moral and religious (my emphasis is on the former) obligation to do so, even if it is against us ! And i will just say, They have there own plan and Allah has its own.may Allah help Pakistan.

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  • A Warning Giver
    Sep 25, 2011 - 11:56AM

    Some times we doubt sanity of American leadership.

    What really they are trying to achieve in a country where almost every citizen believes in Jihad and militancy…??

    History tells us that people seldom come back alive from that difficult and unpredictable terrain of Afghanistan.

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  • Yea Right
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:28PM

    pardon me but lets hold the melodrama for a minute. pointing out isaf/nato’s incompetence isn’t the same as defending haqqanis. author didn’t deny haqqanis presence in n.waziristan or their role in afghan insurgency. the fact is, and americans admit this as well, that the haqqanis are world class fighters. if fighting them was easy, isaf/nato wouldn’t have allowed them to control 3 provinces inside afghanistan. if they, with all their might, can’t root haqqanis out from 3 of afghanistan’s provinces, how do they expect pakistan to do it in a much more difficult terrain, with an army neither trained for this kind of war nor possessing the appropriate weaponry ? the american finger pointing is nothing but a futile attempt at face-saving. fact is, pakistan has nothing to gain from picking a fight with the haqqanis. even if we somehow root them out (it’ll be terribly expensive, possibly crippling in more than one way), they still have routes open to them from central asia to get their supplies. americans will lick their wounds and leave regardless ( their economy won’t allow them to continue this war much longer) and we’ll be left behind with permanent enemies and a war we can’t win. have we paid a price for our pro-taliban/haqqani policies? ofcourse! however, the alternative was much more costly.

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  • Shahid
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:35PM

    Did we invite USA to attack Afghanistan and make it a hell on earth just to catch one person?
    The person whom Taliban were ready to hand-over to any neutral country!
    USA is causing havoc inside Pak by its covert ops and why can’t we do the same to them in Afghanistan?
    I dun understand the shame stance of these pseudo-liberals!
    By the way, who really believes that they came here just for Osama?
    Watch ‘The power of nightmares’….Get a perspective, mates!

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  • The Scholar
    Sep 25, 2011 - 12:36PM

    Aftermath-Supporting America’s interests.
    Consequences were not in the mind when Mushrraf blindly provided all what America wanted 10 years back.
    Pakistani will pay what has been done by the Government/s,Army and Agencies.
    Think before any direct confrontation, do not underestimate the enimies and also should know WAHT IS PAKISTAN?

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  • Yea Right
    Sep 25, 2011 - 1:03PM

    @ nadir: pakistan has been between a rock a hard place since the russians invaded afghanistan. there were no easy, safe choices to be made. hind sight is always 20/20 but i doubt if anyone can still suggest a course of action (other than what gen zia chose to do) that didn’t have serious consequences for pakistan. on the contrary, a case can be made that if 9/11 hadn’t happened, pak’s afghan policy would’ve paid handsomely. regardless, at this point worrying abt the “global court of public opinion” isn’t really a priority, especially since its fairly fickle to begin with. secondly, FATA areas have always been semi-autonomous. they’ve always managed their affairs locally and they’ve always had free comings and goings from afghanistan having extremely close blood and economic ties. so the current situation isn’t all that different from before. drones are a different matter however. they’re a violation of our borders and international laws but the responsibilty for pak’s drone policy is shared by both the army and the political govt. wikileaks made gilani’s position quite clear regarding the drones.
    as the author suggests, at this point more than ever, pak’s long term interests should be a priority and the policies should be formulated with full consensus of all branches of the state. its all fine and dandy to be a “liberal” as long as u’re being a pakistani first. if u did that, u’d see that there are big huge holes in american/nato narrative. pakistan has made its share of mistakes and no one can deny that, however its also beyond doubt that american policies since 9/11, especially in afghanistan have been less than impressive and they’ve created more problems for the region than solved. if its legitimate for them to ask pak to go after the haqqanis, its perfectly legit for us to ask them to simply leave and go home.

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  • BruteForce
    Sep 25, 2011 - 1:11PM

    Focus with me a little bit here.

    American has the option of withdrawing its troops anytime and get away from this nightmare, but Pakistanis cannot change geography!

    You can either choose to ignore the Haqqanis(lets for a moment forget who is winning, the cause and effects) and invite the wrath of the US, the sole Super Power. Or, you can attempt to take control of your own Territory, in the process destroying a very deadly militant group, and gain the well-wishes of the Super Power.

    Put your egos aside and think for a moment.

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  • Shahid
    Sep 25, 2011 - 4:53PM
  • Sep 25, 2011 - 8:07PM

    @Yea Right: Its not legitimate to ask them to leave. Its only for Afghanistan to say that. And given how unpopular Pakistan has become in Afghanistan it is not as if they are looking forward to being treated as Pakistan’s colony in the future either. Just because FATA has a history of being autonomous doesnt mean that the Paksitani state should abandon them to warlords. If America wasnt in Afghansitan, the Haqqanis would be nothing more than drug runners, smugglers and gun peddlers, criminals. But now that they are a threat to America, Pakistanis are rallying behind them. To what end? It is completely illegal, unconstitutional and has nothing to do with being “liberal”. How does antagonizing Afghanistan going to help us meet our “long term” interests?

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  • Vigilant
    Sep 25, 2011 - 8:56PM

    Well said….i wanna ask one thing where these haqqanis were before six months????

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  • Accay Hasn
    Sep 26, 2011 - 6:54AM

    @BruteForce – To hell with the well-wishes of the Super Power!! No more slavery .. Pakistan has done enough .. Its time for us to stand .. We cannot bow down and suck up to the Americans!!

    @shafiq chughtai – Very well said!!

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  • Yea Right
    Sep 26, 2011 - 11:55AM

    @Nadir: firstly the puppet govt in kabul is not any kind of representative of afghans. i can’t imagine any afghan who wouldn’t like to see the occupation end and isaf leave, pashtuns and non-pashtuns alike. thats a no brainer. btw, considering that pak has paid the heaviest toll of any nation involved in this phony war on terror, we do have the right to tell usa to shut it and get out! secondly, no pakistani is rallying behind the haqqanis. what they are doing however is objecting to getting into a war that isn’t ours. no one is glorifying the haqqanis. btw why isn’t isaf taking “unilateral action” in paktita, paktia and khost instead of pakistan ? why don’t they simply seal the n.waziristan border instead of sitting pretty in their heavily fortified encampments sipping tim hortons coffee and munching mcchickens? fight your own damn war. we’ve done enough! thirdly, the occupation of afghanistan is legal and constitutional ? drone strikes are legal and constitutional ? is the war on terror ?
    it makes ZERO sense for pak to go after the haqqanis not only bc its an unwinnable war but also bc it doesn’t serve any of our long term strategic interests. if americans with their trillions of dollars and 10 yrs of efforts couldn’t do it, how can pak and what for? especially if the americans in their infinite wisdom decided to announce their exit date two years in advance. btw u’re naive if u think that if pak took a step back the afghans will miraculously find self-governance without external interference. iran, india, russia, saudi all are players and shall continue to be whether pak participates or not. Recommend

  • Cynic
    Sep 26, 2011 - 4:00PM

    @Nadir: No one’s defending the Haqqanis, but the question here is does it really make sense for Pakistan to go after them, and what do u imagine will be the outcome? I totally agree that non-state actors should be routed out of our Northern areas, but setting the military after them is not the correct option, and doing so at America’s behest is even worse. Just imagine what havoc they could wreck on our cities, we cant handle the existing situation, where do u imagine an irate and vengful Haqqani group will lead us?

    Pakistan should definitely revisit its policy of using terror as a tool against rivals, the Haqqanis and all other outlaw groups should be brought to heel; Pakistan would do well to take this situation as a starting point and engage with ppl in the Northern areas and formulate a strategy whcih clearly sets out our relation to these groups: but in our own time and space, and without further antagonising our brothers. A military action against them might be the last nail in Pakistan’s coffin (may Allah preserve us)

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  • raheel
    Sep 26, 2011 - 7:13PM

    @Nadir:

    The past has always been the handmaid of authority.

    Because there is growing intolerance in society, politicians are corrupt, army is running the country, and self esteem of an average patriotic isn’t glowing high.

    Why Pakistan should be submissive a military super power’s misadventure?
    Team 9/11 is dead so is it’s leader…I have grown up listening to all sorts of terrorist being captured and killed, but still situation doesn’t seems to be improving . The Mulla The Ullahs, now The Haqqani ? Most Pakistanis are apologetic for crimes they never even committed AND I AM NOT….
    Usually it gets worse before getting better….so let it be.. May it’s time to stop taking anti biotic and strengthen the immunity system.

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  • Mudassar.R
    Sep 26, 2011 - 7:18PM

    @Nadir,

    well, the article written is never comparing US with PK…it is a ground reality that US is a super power and no one can compare it with PK in no way…the article is only saying, US is failing on Afghan land,,NOT that PK is defeating them…so If you are tired of our policies and acts and beliefs,(even I dont agree to most of them) this was not the article to say all this…

    @N,
    You are the best of all, even better than Nadir.
    we (PK)is supporting all these groups and without our support they cannot do whatever they are doing…we must be ashamed off what ever we are doing….

    well my dear, who is then supporting TTP, and rest who are targeting PK…that means ISAF is doing that and w/o their support , from where these people are getting arms and money…
    This doesnot support the thing if we are suppoting the terrorists having show downs in afgan …and against US…
    A man has to do what he has to do,,,,sometimes we act stupid and sometimes we are forced, while sometimes we just do coz we are left with no options…this is NOT fair, but is the dirty politics…we are weak , but we have to fight our interests….
    We ARE bad, but not much different from our neighbors, far east, west, and the gods of this world , the americans…all are so , but ONLY we have been told like this that today even me being a pakistani, feels we are loosers who are doing and responsible for all the worse wthings even happening in the southest parts of africa….no sir, its not like this,,,,we need to rethink the concept of right and wrong , and espeically might!!!!

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  • BruteForce
    Sep 26, 2011 - 8:54PM

    @Accay Hasn:

    Asking Pakistan to hunt down a Terrorist group within its own soil is slavery for you? Dont you think after groups like LeJ and TTP turning against you its better not to entertain such groups?

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