Making the right decision

Published: September 28, 2011
The writer is a correspondent for The Express Tribune

The writer is a correspondent for The Express Tribune

Like the boy who cried wolf, Pakistan has concocted so many conspiracy theories to deflect blame from itself and onto the US that we will not get a fair hearing when, in fact, US policy leads to an unresolvable mess. Mired in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, the Americans are lashing out against the Haqqani network and its alleged patrons in the ISI, partly to find a scapegoat for their defeat and partly because of the devastating attacks against US interests.

Here’s where the US is to blame: President Barack Obama made a huge mistake when he announced that Washington would begin its drawdown in Afghanistan in 2012, the same year, not coincidentally, the year of his own re-election. By the time Obama came into power, the Americans were already tired of the never-ending Afghan war, but by setting a specific date for the start of the withdrawal, Obama empowered the Taliban and their allies — like the Haqqani network — in that they no longer needed to win the war and would simply have to wait out the departure of the Americans. Obama also ensured that Pakistan would be forced to take a wait-and-see approach, especially once it became clear that Nato would negotiate with the Taliban to facilitate the withdrawal.

In leaving the Afghan theatre of war, where it has gone from lead actor to just another member of a sprawling cast, the US has, naturally, thought only of itself. It is willing to negotiate with anyone, including those denounced as terrorists, but it is still pressurising Pakistan to target al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban so that their departure feels more like a victory.

Pakistan, however, has national interests of its own and that means prioritising military action against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan over the Afghan Taliban. Even with significant successes in Swat, we still have battles that need to be won in Dir, Bajaur and other areas in South Waziristan. Maulana Fazlullah is regrouping in Nuristan, Afghanistan, and launching regular attacks on Pakistani territory. And in that, we are not getting any help from Isaf forces in Afghanistan because they do not see this as a threat to US interests, yet we are continually told that we must fight the Haqqani network, who pose no danger to our own interests.

Thus, it should be obvious to all that launching a military operation in North Waziristan, even if the army was capable of undertaking such a difficult invasion, would not figure very high on our list of priorities. This, however, does not mean that we should actively be funding and training the Haqqani network, as the US has alleged in its ratcheting war of words against Pakistan. There is a difference between inaction — caused by military limitations and a lack of national interest — and actively supporting a terrorist group. This is where Pakistan, if the allegations are true, is yet again committing a mistake of historical proportions.

We may justifiably find it a burden to take on the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network at a time when we face a threat from militant’s intent on attacking Pakistan itself, but taking US aid and then using that very aid to help an outfit that is attacking the US, is asking for trouble. Instead of detaching ourselves from the war and maintaining our leverage in Afghanistan by leaving the Taliban alone, we may have bet on the wrong side. In a war where no one has made the right choice, this could be the worst decision yet.

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

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Reader Comments (14)

  • khan
    Sep 28, 2011 - 10:57PM

    Nadir Hassan makes sense and highlights the essential point missed by many.

    The US accuses the ISI of being directly implicated in the Haqqani attacks on its troops and other personnel. The American press reports that there is evidence of instructions being given communicated to the those involved in the attacks.

    If that proves to be true then we were asking for trouble…Recommend

  • khan
    Sep 28, 2011 - 11:02PM

    Nadir Hassan makes sense and highlights the essential point missed by many.

    The US accuses the ISI of being directly implicated in the Haqqani attacks on its troops and other personnel. The American press reports that there is evidence of instructions being given communicated to the those involved in the attacks.

    If that proves to be true then we were asking for trouble…


  • CommonSense
    Sep 28, 2011 - 11:13PM

    For once an article that reflects on realpolitik rather than idealism. For this Nadir your going to be beaten on the head with the liberal facist stick once again.


  • harkol
    Sep 29, 2011 - 12:02AM

    It is almost as if the Pakistani political leadership is burying its head in the sand, and attempting a chest beating session to drive up anti-americanism What they should’ve been doing is preparing the nation for a (civil) war with the crazies with guns, who have made the nation of Pakistan a joke.

    Fighting USA or even fending them off will only be a temporary reprieve – The true test of Pakistani nation is if it can stand up to the rogues who have been created by its own army. Unless there is a civilian govt. which wields monopoly on coercive powers, Pakistan’s troubles will continue. In next 10 years, it is not the militancy or USA that’ll ruin Pakistan, but a USSR like economic implosion.


  • Praful Shah
    Sep 29, 2011 - 12:08AM

    Whatever Pakistan does to play to its population will not help it. But do not forget the aid that was coming from US. Once that stops and US start tightening the screws the money flow will stop. Then Pakistani president and prime minister will go around the world with begging bowl. Pakistan will not get much from its evergreen friend. Time will tell.


  • John B
    Sep 29, 2011 - 12:08AM

    Likely Facts:
    1. US support troops remain in Afghanistan as in Iraq.
    2. Lawlessness continues in NWA, and Taliban and Haqqani struggle for power.
    3. Aid to Afghanistan continues and to PAK is questionable.
    4. Refugees continue to cross into PAK.

    What is PAK going to do after 2012 and who is going to side with her in her meddling of Afghan affairs?


  • Pundit
    Sep 29, 2011 - 12:36AM

    “Pakistan itself, but taking US aid and then using that very aid to help an outfit that is attacking the US, is asking for trouble. “

    Only 20 Bn USD of trouble!


  • Aamir
    Sep 29, 2011 - 12:50AM

    Mr Hassan…..can you please explain why the military has not mounted any serious offensive since Swat, Buner and S Waziristan in 2009 ?


  • Nikos Retsos
    Sep 29, 2011 - 1:15AM

    Sorry, Nadir, but after reading through your dialected possibilities, I am not sure what “The Right Decision” is. The U.S. accusations that Pakistan support the Haqqani network
    were made to embarrass and shame Pakistan, and force it to attack and wipe out that group. The U.S. hoped that without the Haqqanis, the U.S. might the be able to forge an alliance with other Taliban groups, and fashion a face-saving way out that will not look like a defeat. Such an outcome could help the hapless Obama be re-elected. The U.S. has always used proxies to fight its wars, like it uses Nato in Afghanistan, and now it pushes Pakistan to fight like a U.S. proxy. For a historical proxies cases, take a look at a full article titled “Obama’s Napoleonic fallacy sinks in Afghanistan” in my blog at the British Telegraph (

    My opinion is that Pakistan should be fully pre-occupied now with helping the flood victims in South Pakistan that are starving and dying from lack of shelter, food, medicine,
    for a second year of floods in a row. Obama wanted war, let him have it. He ordered McMullen and others to try to force Pakistan to help because he knows by now that the U.S. will eventually be kicked out from Afghanistan. He, therefore, runs against the clock to force a face-saving way out which my save himself from getting kicked out of office in November 2012. I don’t see any reason for Pakistan to launch a war against the Pashtun to help Obama re-elected. Even we, most Americans, have lost faith in him (53% in latest polls), and helping him in anyway will actually be harmful to us -the voters- who can’t wait to kick him out! Nikos Retsos, retired professor


  • N
    Sep 29, 2011 - 7:47AM

    Our proxies are violent, bigoted and pose a threat to us first and foremost. Yet we wound the USA / ISAF forces despite seeking billions in arms and aid from them! We can blame it all on the USA, as usual. We think we can control Kabul by controlling these medieval groups! We are mistaken. But the chariots are folly are driven to nowhere by our establishment.


  • CommonSense
    Sep 29, 2011 - 10:15AM

    @Praful Singh
    Err…we have been through that experience. Remember the nuclear tests? We went ahead despite been hit by sanctions, and well a few years later the world needed us again. The thing is no matter how much your country might try to isolate us internationally, we are a central player in the region and every now and then the world needs our help.
    As for the Math, we get a meager 1-2 billion dollars a year, that hardly makes a significant impact on the economy, mostly gets lost in the corruption or to cover the costs of millitary operations. Pakistan since WOT has incurred $75 billion in losses to the economy, recent floods cost $7.5 infarming losses. Aid or no aid makes no diff to the common man So whats your point dude?


  • Cynical
    Sep 29, 2011 - 1:29PM

    A down to earth approach ia needed at this moment. Pakistan needs all the support from international community to tackle not only the terrorism, but on economy,health,education sectors as well. One should add to it the ‘annual floods’ for which we are never prepared.


  • Waleed
    Sep 29, 2011 - 1:44PM


    Yes, that 20 billion dollars cost us 70 billion.


  • Jeddy
    Sep 29, 2011 - 1:56PM

    Not being able to make decisions is the the biggest problem. The reason why no decisions are not, is because no has time to check the files which piled up on the desk. First a file has to be opened and read and make a decision. Power without any sense of responsibility is worthless.


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