Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ever-Confused Americans

So now we have the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton saying that the US is “not shutting the door on trying to determine whether there is some path forward.” These were her words when she was questioned on whether she believed the most-talked and much-sensationalised group, the Haqqanis would look to reconcile with the Afghan government. It can be clearly construed from her statement that even the US is looking to get the Haqqani network on the table and negotiate a peace deal with them.

Does an imminent defeat that glares the US have such disastrous repercussions over their thinking ability?

One wonders then why on earth Pakistan was asked, even ordered, by various US officials to wage a war against the Haqqanis? In fact it looks so ridiculous that on one side they are looking to reconcile with the Haqqanis as well as Taliban in Afghanistan, while on the other side they are ordering Pakistan to “do more.” It is a valid question to ask the Americans that how do they expect Pakistan to start an operation in North Waziristan when Pakistan can see for itself that the US has buckled their knees into negotiations and peace deals. Looks like the US is utterly out of their wits these days.

The recent past few months have seen a surge in accusations and allegations on Pakistan from different quarters, mainly from the US that the powerful Pakistani intelligence, the Inter-Services Intelligence (also known as ISI) has a control over the Haqqani network which is allegedly responsible for numerous attacks in Afghanistan. More so in September, Pakistan was found desperately ducking and refuting allegations flying at them from all directions. The officials of Pakistan seem to have taken the words of now retired, Admiral Michael Mullen and US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta too seriously. Both of these two gentlemen actually launched an unprecedented attack on Pakistan, accusing of the same old theory of Pakistan being an accomplice in this latest surge of attacks on the US and allied forces in Afghanistan, but without much evidences to back up their claims. On 19th September it was this same Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton while meeting Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar, who was pressing Pakistan to take military action against the Haqqani network. Cameron Munter, US Ambassador in Islamabad, even cited evidences linking Pakistani government to the Haqqanis, blaming the group for the US embassy attack in Kabul, on 13th September. Furthermore, the tension between Pakistan and US had risen to such heights, during the month of September that there were even talks of a possible direct military operation on Pakistani soil by the US.

However, things were a little different when US had to deal with Afghanistan, the Afghan insurgency and its political future.

Last month there was a report by London-based The Times that claimed that the US backed the plan to let the Taliban open a political headquarters in the Middle East – probably in Doha, capital of Qatar. This headquarter in Doha is to be opened before the year end, to facilitate peace talks which could lead to truce with the Taliban. Interestingly this is also the first time that the US is treating Taliban as a proper political party in Afghanistan since their ouster in 2001 and wanted to establish the headquarter outside the spheres of Pakistan's influence. On 3rd October, there was another BBC report having quoted Afghan insurgent leader Siraj Haqqani as saying that he was approached by the United States to join the Afghan government. He further states that “right from the first day of American arrival till this day not only Pakistani but other Islamic and non-Islamic countries including America, contacted us and they are still doing so.” It is also worth noticing, no matter how much the Haqqani network, as US alleges, posed a threat to America, its forces and its national security, the US hasn't until now designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organisation. Then comes this latest statement from Hillary Clinton that the US is looking for political solutions and negotiations to end the conflict - now the main objective of Obama administration after 10 years of Afghan war.

If all of these puzzle pieces are to be put together then it means that US are in negotiations with the Taliban, and with Hillary Clinton keeping US's options open by expecting the Haqqani network to also sit down on a peace deal then it effectively means that the Qatar headquarters of the Taliban would in one way or the other represent the Haqqani faction as well. It also means that US expects this so-called most dangerous Taliban-faction to be not categorised as a terrorist organisation because they seem to have understood that the Haqqani network have a say in the future of Afghanistan.

Some might point out the double-standards in US treatment when it comes to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but look how confused this US administration has been lately.

By the start of this month, things started to cool down drastically between Pakistan and United States, for reasons that we are yet to fathom. There was such a massive shift that the US was grappling to ease the tensions with Pakistan. On the 30th of September itself, the White House and Obama administration looked to back away from the strong-worded assertions of Admiral Mullen against Pakistan and its intelligence, and was even told to tone down Mullen's claims. The result of it was that on 1st October, after leaving the office, Admiral Mullen was quoted as saying that “there is no solution  without Pakistan, and no stable future in the region without a partnership”, calling himself Pakistan's best friend in US Military. Later on we had President Obama saying this on Pakistan in a press conference:

“We could not have been as successful as we have been with the cooperation of the Pakistan government. And so, on a whole range of issues they have been an effective partner with us.”

Furthermore, on 8th October Jay Carney, President Obama's spokesperson, was quoted to be saying that 'Pakistan is extremely important in terms of our national security objectives, in terms of protecting Americans'. All of a sudden Pakistan has become extremely important in protecting American lives.

The trouble is that the US hasn't come to terms to admit that they have lost this 10 year old war against, not the Taliban, but the Afghanis and they seem to have lost their thinking caps somewhere. It is daft to put a label on any one fighting against the foreign invaders in Afghanistan as a Taliban fighter because in essence, there was no Taliban when Genghis Khan looked to capture the present Afghanistan, and there was no Taliban when the British and the Soviets looked to take control of Afghanistan. None have succeeded in the past and even today, this super-power like the other super-powers in the past, haven't succeeded. They may kill many, but let's be honest, killing doesn't guarantee victory.

The US looks for scapegoats to be held in front of the American people, and Pakistan becomes an easy choice of circumstances. With US, there are days when Pakistan is praised and acknowledged for its efforts in the War and then we have those gloomy days when anything and everything is because of Pakistan. The US hasn't been able to answer the questions being asked by its own people about whether 9/11 was really an act of terror carried out by 19 terrorists or an inside job. Similarly, they seem to be extremely confused with respect to Pakistan as an entity, whether it is a strategic ally of such propensity that it is saving American lives or a dangerous friend of such magnitude that the US doesn't need enemies. Let’s leave it to the Americans to decide, but one thing is for sure that the uproar Pakistan experienced last month was not the first time and definitely won't be the last time. The Americans are confused souls due to their own follies, but there is a piece of advice for Pakistan – pull up your socks and look to take advantage of your ally's cluelessness.

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