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Pennywise Pound Foolish: Afghanistan Imbroglio and Impacts of Terrorism

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Dedication: The blog is in memory of those who needlessly died in the 21st century’s “loose-loose” war that has lasted longer than Vietnam War. The 21st century’s first ideological war is a result of conflict between great power hegemony and strategies recorded in the Green Books of Pakistan army.

The war was instigated by jihad terrorist co-linked to ISI, the Pakistan intelligence services. According to the Green Book the intent may be to provoke America with an attack comparable to the Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) attack. The response to the 2001 attacks on America was swift. The coalition forces responded by attackingAfghanistan.

In ten years (October 7, 2001 – October 7, 2011) in addition to tens of thousands of wounded the Afghan War casualties included about 14,000 coalition members, about 38,000 Taliban and insurgents, and as many as 34,000 civilian Afghans according to Wikipedia

We honor Afghan civilians and the coalition forces defending Afghanistan, the US and allies.


This blog is more about billions-wise and trillions foolish America. Pakistan is not a great power like America; it collected less than $25 billion as a non-NATO ally for its contributions to fight the ‘War on Terrorism.’ However, Pakistan claims that the ten year war has cost it more than $70 billion and the end is not in sight. It is a “loose-loose” war of 21st century.

The US GDP (2011) is estimated at $14.6 trillions and that for Pakistan at $175 billion (nominal) or less than $500 billion (PPP adjusted). On average annually as a percentage of its nominal GDP the US spent 2.7% GDP and Pakistan 4% GDP each year of the ten year war. The relative numbers quantify the loose-loose war; relatively speaking on the GDP basis Pakistan has spent about 50% higher than the US. What has Pakistan to show for it?

Is there a deeper significance to these numbers? It may mean by refusing to pay from internally generated revenues for maintaining its hegemony for ten years running the US is economically struggling. Pakistan is also struggling but at a faster rate than America. Pakistan faces a bleaker future as lacking necessary political capacity and economic structure  it is unprepared for sustainable economic growth, unlike the US that has political capacity and structure in place to put its political act together.

In a sense, capitalist America is a new (1830 – ~1914) imperial power replacing the old (15th to 19th centuries) European and Caliphate (7th century – 1923) models of imperialism. Unlike old imperialism models the US imperialism imposes hegemony. Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon (leader state) rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. The US as a hegemon conducted the first Afghan War (1979 – 89) against communism by outsourcing it to the rentier army of Pakistan. Pakistan was glad to oblige for billions in aid, especially the US military aid. American lives were saved until 2001 when it was sucked into the Af-Pak region.

President Reagan, for those who care to remember,  got into an unholy alliance with Dictator Zia ul-Haq to fight the first Afghan War by helping raise a  private militia of 30,000 mujahedeen selected from Afghan refugees, Pakistani Pashtuns and volunteer Muslims from Islamic nations. After implosion of USSR in 1991 President George W Bush ended the unholy alliance, walked away from the Af-Pak region and ignored plight of 25 million Afghans facing a civil war (1991 – 1994) by Afghan warlords to fill the political vacuum. President Bush saved a few billion dollars by not providing for political stabilization of Afghanistan. The US hegemony prevails in the region.

Following the Caliphate model and unable to control Afghan warlords, Pakistan let its proxy, the Taliban forces, invaded (1994) Afghanistan and occupied it by 1996. Mullah Omar in collaboration with the Haqqani network unleashed a medieval style Islamic brutal rule in the Emirate of Afghanistan (1996 – 2001) and provided safe heaven to al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda operatives engineered attacks on America and the US was back in to the Af-Pak region with its ‘War on Terrorism.’ The 10 years ‘War on Terrorism’ has cost America more than $4 trillion and the meter is still running. The blog discusses following topics:

  1. Afghanistan Imbroglio
  2. Strengths and Weakness of Pakistan     
  3. Impacts of Terrorism 
  4. Recalibration of Relationship 
  5. Adventures and American Responses
  6. Admiral Mike Mullen 
  7. Pontificating Pundits 
  8. Penny Wise Pound Foolish�

Afghanistan Imbroglio 

Pakistan claims that Afghanistan is bottomless pit for hubris of great powers. They are oblivious to the fact that what applies to great powers also applies to not so great Pakistan. Pakistan is engaged in two wars; one in the west in the Af- Pak region and other in the east against an imagined enemy. Under pressures of two wars, economically, Pakistan is floundering. With the planned withdrawal of the US and NATO forces from the Afghanistan in 2014, Pakistan may completely loose the US aid compounding its economic problems. President Obama declared it so following the September 14, 2011 disclosures by Admiral Mike Mullen. It appears that the US may be getting ready to part ways with Pakistan if it doesn’t drop terrorism as a tool of its foreign policy and if Pakistan continues to implement the poor decisions of ISI in Afghanistan and South Asia.

The ISI should comprehend that insurgents destabilizing Pakistan are same wild animals it raised in its backyard hoping it will attack only neighbors. Pakistan needs to mend its foreign policy and shifts its focus to generating wealth using its abundant human resources. Pakistan population in 2011 is 190 million and growing at a rate of 2.2%; it is projected to be more than 325 million by 2050. Pakistanis are bright people, mostly poor youth and like the Arabs youth credited for the Arab Spring revolutions they may also be temped to start a revolution, if economy and job prospects don’t improve.

Strengths and Weakness of Pakistan

Judging from what is going-on in the Af-Pak region, the old imperialism strategies are ineffective in 21st century, which is the age of internet connected and GPS guided low cost military technologies used by the US to counter the proxy jihad waged by ISI guided Taliban. Pilotless drone costs $40 million each and the US fighter planes cost a minimum of $133 million each. Unlike drones, fighter planes also require one or more pilots.

It is time for Pakistan to accept that in the internet connected world with access to search engines like Google the days of dictatorships and pseudo theocratic states are numbered. Internet connectivity ignited creativity of Arab youth to start Arab springs revolutions in at least six Arab nations and three Arab dictators are already history. For sustainable survival Pakistan has a lot of work ahead in areas of developing political capacity and strong economy necessary to support its nuclear armed 610,000 army and additional 500,000 paramilitary forces.

Pakistan is driven by foreign policy initiatives of the delusional army in charge of establishing a strategic depth using proxy of jihad terrorist described in the Pakistan army’s Green Books. The generals and officers who write for the Green Book appear to overlook the fact that as a result of their policies, in last three decades Afghanistan has become a ceaseless drain on Pakistan’s security, economy and domestic cohesion.

Take away security, peel away sovereignty and drain economy of any nation in any war to see a failed nation and region. Participants in the tribal European Wars (WWI and WWII) have experienced it first hand. Pakistan is staring at the writing on the wall.

Impacts of Terrorism

Internally destabilized by home grown terrorists the security is weakening and the US drone attacks to behead leaders of terrorist organizations co-linked to al Qaeda have peeled away few layers of its sovereignty. Effectiveness of new war technologies against terrorist leaders is evident from two examples. On May 2, 2011 the US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden by raiding a safe house in the garrison town of Abbotabad, Pakistan. Another al Qaeda leader Anwar  al-Alwaki was killed on October 1, 2011 in Yemen in a drone attack. Question is if Pakistan leaders will learn from these spectacular successes and back-off from challenging the US interests.

A failed Pakistan is a mutual dilemma; it is not in the US interest in particular and the South Asia in general. No one knows how a political vacuum in the Af-Pak region will impact on global stability given that Pakistan is nuclear armed and a safe heaven for non-state terrorist organizations co-linked to al Qaeda and ISI. Global stability is at risk if political vacuum in the Af-Pak region becomes a problem for the rest of the world.

Recalibration of Relationship

The US is once again recalibrating its relationship with Pakistan. Gone are the days of opacity for the ISI links to terrorist organizations. America understands that no mercenary force has ever survived without monetary, logistic and tactical support.

President Reagan was the midwife, Pakistan the mother and American politicians like Mr Charlie Wilson and the US CIA were other parents that for a decade helped nurtured 30,000 mujahedeen force for the first Afghan war (1979 – 89).

After implosion of the USSR in 1991, President George Walker Bush in 1992 walked away from the Af-Pak region. Mujahedeen in 1990s were teenagers experiencing the adolescence phase deserted by the father figure. Pakistan like abandoned single mother felt betrayed as it was left stranded holding the mercenary force to take care of.

With the end of unholy alliance, mujahedeen forces were orphaned and Pakistani was turned into the “woman scorned.” Hell has no fury like women scorned. It is time for the “women scorned” to recalibrate its jihad terrorist driven proxy war strategy.

Adventures and American Responses

Driven by paranoia of potential invasion from the east, the self-appointed saviors of Pakistan embarked on fulfilling a delusion of extra-territorial expansion using the jihad proxy of Taliban. Instead of disbanding the mercenary force for want of resources, Pakistan decided to use the mujahedeen to become a regional player by expanding to fill political vacuum in Afghanistan.

America knew but in self interest decided to be opaque about the ISI. The ISI logistical support is the gel to hold the mujahedeen forces split in to Pakistan based militias and the Afghan warlords including Hekmatyar dominated Hizb-e-Islami. The Pakistan militias include Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar, the North Waziristan based Haqqani network, Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP), the Mehsud clan in South Waziristan and the LeT based in Punjab province.

Mujahedeen forces under Mullah Omar and Haqqani network had scored a victory and they were the rulers of the Emirate of Afghanistan (1996 – 2001). Intensity of terrorist attacks on American interests was gradually increased following strategies described in the Green Books. The Pakistan Green Books speculated on a possibility of attacks on America comparable to that of the Pearl Harbor 1941) attacks.

Terrorist attacks in 1990s on the American targets during President Clinton administration period were mostly ignored or drew a weak American response. Americans took in stride temper tampers of the bitter, scorned mother. Americans until the event of  2001 never suspected that they may witness the spectacular attacks on the New York’s World Trade Center and on Pentagon in Washington DC.

America, after 2001 terrorist attacks, retaliated by destroying five year old Taliban rule in the Emirate of Afghanistan. Embolden by a quick victory over rag-tag Taliban in Afghanistan it shifted its focus on taking war to the Muslim heartlands. America spent next eight years fighting the Iraq War and taking the ‘War on Terrorism’ to the heart of Arab lands in Middle East. Eight years were enough time for the mujahedeen forces to regroup in safe heavens of Pakistan with monetary, logistic and tactical support of the ISI.

It took ten years for Americans to figure out the depth of the ISI involvement in terrorism. It is not yet ready to designate a nuclear armed Pakistan and ISI as terrorist organizations. May be they should read an essential book on the Af-Pak region, “Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11”. It details the Haqqani connections to ISI. The ISI allegedly murdered the author, Syed Saleem Shahzad before the book saw the light of the day.

Admiral Mike Mullen 

Not to offend its non-NATO ally and keep it engaged in capturing and may be helping destroy the terrorist leadership of al Qaeda and its operatives within safe heavens of the Af-Pak region, America refrained from publicly disclosing the ISI involvement until the attacks (2011) on the US embassy in Kabul.

The cell phone conversations of the attackers with their handlers in Pakistan were available to Admiral Mike Mullen before he leveled the charges against ISI. It was the cell phone conversations intercepted in 2008 by India with the US  assistance that nailed ISI connections to the LeT guided Mumbai massacre of innocent persons including some Americans. America was aware that the Mumbai type attacks on American targets were possible and such attacks started in Afghanistan in past few months. No need for America to pretend that Pakistan had not turned against America in Afghanistan.

America is now formally charging that the terror groups receive support from Pakistan’s military and ISI and are responsible for multiple attacks in South Asia and Afghanistan. With the following announcements the US administration is bearing down on the ISI supported terrorist outfits, which the US and India say attacked their respective embassies in Kabul.

  1. The designation of global terrorist allows the US to freeze the assets of the senior leaders, prevents them from using financial institutions, and prosecute them for terrorist activities. The following senior leaders were named.
  2. On September 28, five individuals of the Haqqani network named as Hajji Faizullah Khan Noorzai, Hajji Malik  Noorzai, Abdur Rehman, Abdul Aziz Abbasin, and Fazal Rahim” were designated by the state department as terrorist. These financiers and facilitators provide funds, which are the fuel for the Taliban, Haqqani Network and al Qaeda to realize their violent aspirations.
  3. The US Treasury Department on September 27, 2011 designated as global terrorists two senior leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The Treasury Department added Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhuttavi to the list of specially designated global terrorists. Iqbal is the group’s co-founder and a key fundraiser, while Bhuttavi is the deputy emir and main ideologue.

Pontificating Pundits

The US and Pakistan journalists are very active commenting on reactions to the statements by Admiral Mike Mullen’s accusation in his congressional testimony that Pakistani army and its ISI wing assisted the Haqqani network in attacking the US embassy in Kabul and other recent terrorist attacks. In September 2011 Mr Sadanand Dhume and Mr Jeff M. Smith have made cases for the US taking action against Pakistan. These pundits appear to be preparing the US public for American forces taking a military stand against Pakistan. They have presented arguments based on immediate past and ignored why Pakistan has been mad at America for more than two decades.

In my opinion a combination of mistakes by the Pakistan and the US after the end of first Afghan War (1979 – 89) is responsible for on-going tragedy in the Af-Pak region. Most important reason not mentioned by the US pundits is that after the first Afghan War the US left leaving behind a stranded Pakistan. The mujahedeen are forces looking for a nation to govern.

Penny Wise Pound Foolish 

For every action there is a reaction. In modern political arena, the reaction takes time, some times decades to surface. After the conclusion of the Afghan War the US straddled Pakistan. The Pakistan generals didn’t like the US betrayal and figured out how to even the score with the US. As speculated in the Green Books of Pakistan, about a decade later, the US was attacked by operatives of some of those, who had volunteered for the Afghan War.

Like al Qaeda, the mercenary army is a non state actor; it is an army looking for a nation to rule. First it occupied and ruled Emirate of Afghanistan (1996 – 2001). They engineered the 9/11 attacks. The US responded with a decade long two wars –Iraq and the Af-Pak region.

The US had saved a few billion dollars in 1990s by ignoring the regional collateral damage caused by the Af-Pak based  terrorists. By reengaging in 2001 a failing Pakistan has forced the US to make more mistakes and these mistakes have cost $4 trillion to America and the meter is still running. The bottom line for the US economy is clouded as American politicians have refused to pay for the costs with additional revenues to keep its economy healthy.

America has continued to maintain its regional hegemony in Islamic lands but judging from raising American debt for a decade it has not paid for it by raising required domestic revenues to maintain a healthy economy. Additionally, for the last decade, both the US and European economies allowed development of the mortgage bubbles and associated mismanagement by its financial institutions and bankers. The financial mismanagement coupled with not paying for the decade long wars have the following outcomes:

  1. America is economically slipping,
  2. The enemy al Qaeda lives on in mythical proportion and
  3. Civilian air travel all over world is now not safe unless globally spread extraordinary safety net is continuously upgraded and maintained.

Not only America, Pakistanis also is economically broke albeit for different reasons. Mr. Dhume identified some factors. Pakistan is broke as in the decade long war it was trying to protect its strategic assets, the mercenary private armies.

The US hegemony is under stress. The remedies mentioned by Mr Dhume and Mr Smith for attacking Pakistan can and are likely to create a political vacuum in the Af-Pak area with serious implication not only for regional but also for global security.

Mr Smith asked and I concur, “The question now on everyone’s mind is: what comes next?”

References and notes:

  1. Praveen Swami, “God’s soldiers: Pakistan army’s ideology”
  • An excellent summary of Pakistan’s Jihadist project described in the army’s Green Books (1991, 1994, 2002 and 2008).
  1. Pepe Escobar, “Pentagon aims at target Pakistan,”
  2. Kishan Bhatia, “Lies and Men of God “Proselytizers” – Parts I & II
  3. Mr. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, Sept 27, 2011
  1. The Haqqani is an Afghan Pashtun clan spread on both sides of the Durand Line. It is in North Waziristan, east of Durand line and some of its estimated 15,000 mujahedeen forces are also located in the west of the Duran line in Afghanistan’s Patkia and Khost provinces.
  • The clan operates the Haqqania, a madrassah operated by Jalaluddin Haqqani in North Waziristan. Darul Uloom Haqqania is an Islamic religious seminary located in Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan.
  • The seminary propagates the Deobandi trend of Sunni Islam and was founded along the lines of Darul Uloom Deoband. The seminary is run by Maulana Sami ul Haq of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. The seminary has sometimes been dubbed the “University of Jihad”.
  • It is most famous for having many senior leaders of the Afghanistan Taliban among its alumni, including Mullah Omar, and its role in supporting the Taliban.
  • Darul Uloom Haqqania gave an honorary doctorate to Mullah Omar, a semiliterate and obstinate Taliban leader and head of the Quetta Shura.
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