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US, Pakistan & Afghan: Asymmetric Political and Military Relationships

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As a graduate student my term paper for an application of nuclear technology to elucidate mechanisms of chemical reactions – on the secondary isotope effects – earned a grade of A++. There is an asymmetry of 10 to 1 or higher in importance of the primary to secondary isotope effects. In trying to explain new data related to the primary isotope effect my inexperience as a budding scientist was exposed when I tried to link it to the secondary isotope effects. I learned an important lesson from my adviser, who pointed out that the primary isotope effects dominate the secondary isotope effects by a factor of more than 10. Some do and others don’t learn important life lessons through mistakes related to the importance of asymmetric relationships.

The blog cites couple of examples of internal political struggles related to the asymmetric power centers. In 6 of 57 Arab (OIC) nations revolutions instigated by the Arab Springs are brewing. In the US American Autumn is taking shape in the form of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement to return political power to 99%ers from 1%ers at the top of food chain.

Following topics are covered:  

  1. Insurgency and Asymmetric Political Power
  2. International Conflicts and Asymmetric Powee
  3. BACWAS Establishment and Private Militia
  4. Pakistan and the US    
  5. The US Psych War
  6. Pakistan Response to Psych War 
  7. Track II Diplomats Observations
  8. Wars in Afghanistan and Internal Stability of Pakistan
  9. References and Notes 

 

Insurgency and Asymmetric Political Power  

Asymmetric political power is rampant in 57 Arab (OIC) nations as dictators and their cronies enjoy power. To give an analogy, the top dogs have the gold and the rest have got shaft. With the power of internet connectivity the masses have started street marches to assert power. Arab Springs have dislodged three of 57 dictators in OIC and other three are engaged in civil wars.

In the US top 1% wealthy Americans have used government to privatize gains and socialize losses by occupying Washington with the power of Wall Street. Now the Main Street 99%ers are trying to wrest political policy control of Washington away from Wall Street.

In the US we see in play a neo-oligarchy by a dysfunctional congress controlled by Wall Street.

International Conflicts and Asymmetric Power 

Since 1945 – the end of WWII the US has fought several asymmetric wars. As a super power conventional military capacity of the US far out weighed enemies in the Korean War (1950 – 53), the Vietnam War (1960 – 73) and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars (2001 – present). For last 32 years Soviets (1979 – 89), the US and Pakistan (1989 – present) have waged asymmetric wars over Afghanistan by arguing that controlling Afghanistan’s destiny was vital to their national security. Soviets were forced to leave Afghanistan (1989) by a rag-tag private militia of 30,000 Mujahedeen raised by Pakistan using military and economic aid from the US and Arab nations.

Starting with the Soviet Afghan War the US and Pakistani army got into an asymmetric partnership. The US goals were limited to using the rentier army of Pakistan to defeat Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. With the implosion of USSR (1991) the US objectives were met and it left the region to concentrate on solving problems at home, especially developing and augmenting its economy and technological military superiority.

Pakistan waged an asymmetric war on warlords that had destabilized Afghanistan in a civil war (1989 – 94) creating a political vacuum. Pakistan’s proxy private militia invaded (1994) and ruled (1996 – 2001) Afghanistan before Taliban militia was dislodged by the US invasion (2001 – 02).

Ostensibly, for a decade (2001 – 2011) Pakistan was aiding the US to destroy terrorist in safe heavens of the Af-Pak region. Contrary to repeated assurances otherwise, the events following murder of Osama bin Laden exposed Pakistan’s complicity in protecting terrorist. The US Special Forces found and killed Osama bin Laden (May 2011) in a safe house in the garrison town Abbotabad, Pakistan not far from a Military Academy.

In life, politics and science asymmetric relationships may lead to hazardous situations. Asymmetric war on terrorism has forced Pakistan into corner on several occasions.  Pakistan no longer is able to get away with denying that its ISI arm is not controlling and manipulating the proxy jihad groups including Haqqani and Taliban attacking the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The US drones attacked Haqqani headquarters near Miranshah, North Waziristan on Oct 13 and 14 and killed a top aid of Sirajuddin Haqqani named Janbaz Zardan. Pakistan is anything but smart if it fails to learn from such attacks on Haqqani operatives and leaderships that the US is serious about destroying or neutralizing allPakistan based terrorist leaders.

BACWAS Establishment and Private Militia 

The blow back for intense military/army actions against terrorists in safe Pakistan heavens is that terrorists also retaliate against the army and Pakistan interests. The insurgency driven civil war is taking place at several fronts. Even after decade long war on terrorism the ruling BACWAS (bureaucrats, army, clerics, warlords and scholars) establishment has yet to appreciate that its limited political capacity has contributed to an intensifying insurgency that is internally destabilizing the nation and ruining its wobbly economy.

The non-elected BACWAS establishment has held the levers of power (1971 to present) to establish a faux Islamic exclusivism. Conformity was imposed on political pluralism and a unitary state was sought to be created. In place of a diverse native heritage, cultural uniformity was imposed. Ideological formulations were trumpeted, dissent discouraged. To oppose the state or its functionaries was to oppose Islam itself.

The BACWAS establishment has failed to implement measures for developing a modern nation. The power of a  nation is influenced by three factors; political capacity, growing economy and the military strength. Pakistan lacks two of three strengths. As a rentier state it received military and economic aid to raise private militias to dislodge Soviets from Afghanistan. Once the US walked away from the region after the implosion of the USSR (1991) just after conclusion of the Soviet Afghan War it was left holding a bag of responsibilities including taking care of 30,000 strong private militias.

After the US destroyed al Qaeda-Taliban rule of Afghanistan (2001), instead of neutralizing the terrorist militia fleeing Afghanistan, a double dealing Dictator Musharraf provided safe heavens to al Qaeda and Taliban and allowed them to regroup (2002 – 08). Pakistan army and the ISI are complicit in actions of the proxy warriors.

Pakistan’s Haqqani network operates on both sides of the Durand Line. In June 2009 the leadership was based in Miranshah, North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas ofPakistan along the Afghan border.

To avoid getting targeted by the drone attacks the top leaders have moved to densely populated hinterlands – Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Abbotabad neighborhoods. Under threat from the US drone attacks its troops have spread to several Afghan provinces. The Haqqani network is active in Afghanistan’s districts surrounding Kabul and also in southeastern provinces of Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Wardak, Logar, and Ghazni. In September 2011, Sirajuddin Haqqani told Reuters that the group feels “more secure inAfghanistan.”

Pakistan and the US 

Contrary to what Pakistan generals and establishments assert the nuclear powered 610 thousands strong Pakistan is a third rate power boxing above its weight in Central and South Asia.  Unless backed by the US and Arabs, the best the army can deliver is to defend its sovereignty against attacks from relatively weak external enemies. The US is sole global super power and an emerging India with deep political capacity, a growing economy and a technology driven navy, army and air force or a triad of nuclear armed military power is much superior to Pakistan in the region. Disasters are sure to follow if a third rate power imitates a super power and using proxy militia challenges a superior emerging regional power.

As sole super power the US ensured hegemony in the region over the states surrounding the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Arabia. It ignored the collateral damage by the Pakistan private militia to fight the first Afghan War. Pakistan calculated that using proxy war tactics to attack soft targets it can derail India from a path to economic growth and developing a sustainable military superiority in the region.

In 1990s, Pakistanstarted asserting hegemony in the Central and South Asia; pursued a strategic depth in Afghanistan, adopted an activist foreign policy, took disproportionate credit for defeat of Soviets and assumed that its sovereignty was inviolable as it had acquired nuclear power status. In 2011, with murder of Osama bin Laden in a safe house in Pakistan hinterland the US showed that its sovereignty was violable by the super power.

The US Psych War

It is evident from recently concluded visits by high powered teams of American administration that Pakistan will be challenged if using Haqqani and Taliban groups it violates Afghan sovereignty against national interest of the Super Power. For the US the military engagements in the Af-Pak region are a war of necessity, not choice.

In the on-going psych war, Pakistanis under mounting American political and military pressures to destroy or neutralize the terrorist Haqqani group in the Af-Pak region. Immediately prior to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Pakistan, the US forces began threatening operations in Khost, opposite Pakistan’s border. Simultaneously, India began a Cold Start exercise in Rajasthan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited New Delhi to sign a strategic agreement with India that, amongst other matters, provided for the training of Afghan army officers in India.

An American intention is not to start a war against nuclear armed Pakistan unless pressure of psychological warfare does not yield desired results for a secured Afghanistan, not threatened by Pakistan terrorists. However, if Pakistan continues to harbor terrorist that threatens to kill American forces in the Af-Pak region then the US has shown willingness to challenge Pakistan sovereignty and destroy targeted enemy. The asymmetrical relationship works against Pakistan even if it has limited leverage against America as nearly 50% of American supplies to Afghanistan pass through Pakistani territory.

Pakistan Response to Psych War 

Latest reports from the field are that contrary to machismo in public statements Pakistan is taking preliminary steps to induce the Haqqani and Taliban group to start serious negotiations to end senseless bloodshed in Afghanistan. The head of the Haqqania madrassah, Mullah Samuel Haq has publicly stated his willingness to lead terrorist groups to negotiated peace settlement. However, the terrorist leaders are known for being forked tongue promising to peace agreement and not implementing the agreement unless threatened by massive retaliations. Is Pakistan prepared for such risks?

Another sign of softening stand by Pakistan comes from its actions to make peace with India and Afghanistan and the Track II diplomacy.

  1. Pakistan parliament (November 2011) unanimously accorded MFN (Most Favored Nation) status for trade to India and Afghanistan.
  2. On the sidelines of the Istanbul meeting of twelve nations (October 2011), it has also agreed with Afghanistan to jointly investigate the assassination in September 2011 of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, an Afghan leader active in peace talks. Rabbani led the High Peace Council, a body of 68 Afghan leaders charged by President Hamid Karzai to seek peace with the Taliban insurgency.
  3. A strategy called the Istanbul protocol was ironed out in November 2011 by twelve nations neighboring the  Af-Pak region to combat terrorism and rebuild security and stability in and around Afghanistan. The nations included China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey,      Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. It is a prelude to planned 2014 pullout of the US and NATO forces. Starting 2012 the US and NATO plan to take backseat to active combat and focus on the training and advising the Afghan army to take on terrorists in the Af-Pak region.

 

Only time will tell if Pakistan and its proxy’s are over with double dealings and willing to accept political realities in the region, refrain from murders of political leaders and be an active participant in promoting regional development through peaceful trade ties.

Track II Diplomats Observations 

The Istanbul protocol and Pakistan according MFN status to India and Afghanistan may be linked to the Track II diplomacy that has been very active to bring peace to South and Central Asia by concerned citizens. A Track II Pakistani diplomat has suggested:

  • Pakistan may wish to use its limited leverage to assist the Afghan peace process while remaining uninvolved in internal Afghan affairs. That is where its salvation lies.
  • Secondly, peace talks of such an involved and delicate nature are laborious and demanding. Thus, it would be beneficial to have the UN or other regional nations associated with the talks; somewhere down the line negotiators may need neutral observers and mediators. In this, the role of India must not be overlooked — this could open up the path to larger regional peace that includes both India and Pakistan.

 

I agree with the diplomat’s comments except the suggestion to get the UN involved in what is a regional power conflict. The Istanbul protocol avoided the UN involvement. In past the UN involvement muddied up the regional issues to protect the global interests of US andBritain, generally toPakistan’s advantage.

Wars in Afghanistan and Internal Stability of Pakistan 

The asymmetric Wars in Afghanistan(1979 – present) have taken a serious toll on internal stability of Pakistan. Some observations on the internal state of Pakistani by the Track II diplomat are reported below to show serious internal problems.

  • According to above diplomat, “Today, the spurious ‘national ideology’ promoted by the establishment to maintain an unconstitutional dominance has spiraled completely out of control and both the citizens and the state are in mortal peril.”
  • He noted the damage caused by the conservative-right ideologues that promoted issues like “Pakistan ka matlab kya?” (What is the meaning of Pakistan?). The political conservative-right ideologues have reduced the nation to pseudo-Islamic state that has failed to unite the geographically divided country and satisfy the yearnings of minority ethnicities like the Baloch, Pashtuns, Sindhis or Muhajirs. Amid similar massive upheavals, disorder and bloodshed, the state ofPakistan fell apart in 1971.
  • Zia regime (1978 – 88) restored a version of the pseudo-Islamic ideological narrative, intensified and distorted to malignant proportions. The institutions he promoted and the retrograde educational systems he erected polluted the intellectual atmosphere of the land and gave birth to today’s bigoted, obscurantist political culture and its poisonous fallouts of violent insurgency, terrorism and cold-blooded mass murder. This most retrograde of dictators ruled virtually unshaken for over 11 years, challenged only by the repeatedly martyred Bhutto family and the women of this country.
  • He added that in Pakistan “No ideologically meaningful counter-narrative is being proposed, either by the culturally isolated remnants of the progressives or liberal-left.”

 

References and notes 

  1. For an up to date contemporary history of the USinvolvement in two Af-Pak Wars (2001–present), see,
  • It is destined to be a longest asymmetric war for the US forces. However, estimated casualties, to-date, in this war are much smaller than that for the Vietnam War.
  1. The US agony, Wikipedia, “The Cold-War Era Asymmetric Vietnam War (1960 – 73) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War
  • The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from less than one million to more than three      million. Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S.  service members also died in the conflict.
  1. Indo-Asia On-line Journal and The Friday Times, Khaled Ahmed, “Behind Pakistan’s ‘Haqqani problem’,” http://iaoj.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/behind-pakistans-haqqani-problem/
  • Saleem Shahzad in his book, “Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11” (Pluto Press 2011) revealed that Al Qaeda controlled all jihad and terrorism in Pakistan. The Punjabi Taliban is under Haqqani Network, which is aligned at once with Al Qaeda and Mullah Omar’s Shura, while additionally aligned with Pakistan Army.

 

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