September 26, 2011

Is this a price worth paying?

Brian Cloughley
Friday, September 23, 2011

In the course of research for a paper on US-Pakistan relations I came across a speech given by President Obama in March this year, titled ‘A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan’. It was interesting and quite informative, if misguided and engagingly ingenuous, but the fascinating sentence that leapt from the page to my astonished eyes was the declaration that “The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan.”

It’s a bit like being told “Hitler didn’t cause World War Two”, or reading a newspaper headline such as “Republican Politician Tells Truth” or “Gaza is Earthly Paradise.” But the Obama assertion was even further removed from reality.

Nobody grabbed America’s collective nose and ordered it to send special forces to go to Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region on October 7, 2001, along with a few dozen British colleagues and a now-rich bunch of raggy baggy Afghan warlords who took millions of CIA dollars in enormous shrink-wrapped bundles and then sat down on their money and did nothing. The prime mover in that farce (for such it was, alas, in spite of instances of exceptionally courageous conduct by US and British soldiers; I have had a first-hand description of the operation, but alas can’t recount it because of the UK’s Official Secrets Act), was the White House. The pathetic Blair of Britain followed in his usual fashion, desperate to have bonding photographs taken alongside the grinning Bush.

It was most certainly the United States of America that chose to invade Afghanistan. And it was the United States that manipulated the United Nations Security Council into a resolution that seemed to give justification for its unwinnable war.

Two researchers in the British House of Commons have produced a paper titled ‘The Legal Basis for the Invasion of Afghanistan’. These analysts are not bleeding-heart liberals; they are intelligent, independent assessors of fact. And they wrote:

“The military campaign in Afghanistan was not specifically mandated by the UN -there was no specific Security Council Resolution authorising the invasion – but was widely (although not universally) perceived to be a legitimate form of self-defence under the UN Charter.”

The whole thing was a con-job. And dozens of nations were summoned to give it a slimy veneer of quasi-legitimacy. They were all duped – or chose to be manoeuvred – into committing blood, young lives and treasure to the preposterously named “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

While writing this piece I went to the website icasualties and saw that yet more young foreign soldiers had been killed. Boys of 19 and 20 are dying in Afghanistan for...for what? There are no names of Afghan soldiers, of course, because they don’t matter to the West – any more than the deaths of Pakistani soldiers matter to Western politicians and generals who demand that “Pakistan must do more to combat terrorism.” What they mean is that even more soldiers of the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps should sacrifice their lives in order to make it easier for the West to claim that things are improving in its Afghan debacle.

Had there been no invasion of Afghanistan by foreign troops, Pakistan would not be in the dreadful situation in which it now finds itself. The fanatics came over the border and found sanctuary amid the lawless but culturally hospitable tribes, which at that very time were being encouraged, with signs of modest success, to join mainstream Pakistan. But the displaced militants began energetic campaigns of propaganda and hatred, and then wreaked havoc by brainwashing home-grown barbarians to develop their own brand of evil mayhem.

Pakistan had no suicide bombings until 1995 when an Egyptian citizen tried to drive a bomb-truck into his embassy in Islamabad. There were no other attacks until 2005, when there were two, by sectarian religious fanatics. But then the foreigners’ war in Afghanistan really got going, and in 2007 there were over 50 suicide attacks in Pakistan, most of which directly targeted military forces. Since then it’s been a hideous growth industry. Last year 50 bombings killed over 1100 people, and so far this year the score is 500 dead innocents. Thank you, Operation Enduring Freedom. And thank you, too, America, for the deaths of over 3,000 soldiers of the army and Frontier Corps, because none of them would have been killed were it not for your war in Afghanistan.

Kabul’s fraudulently elected government and its supporting foreign forces whine about Pakistan being unable to control movement of militants to and from Afghanistan, and certainly it is impossible to do this – as the US well knows but won’t admit. Across its own fenced and heavily patrolled border with Mexico, which costs an annual six billion dollars to maintain and has over 20,000 border agents, pass hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants every year.

Ignoring its own backyard cross-border shambles, the US demands that Pakistan commit its soldiers to invade North Waziristan to fight militants who – undoubtedly – cross the border to Afghanistan to fight there.

This operation – or, rather, long series of operations, because it would take years – would require some 60,000 soldiers, of whom a thousand would be killed in a two-year campaign. There would be at least 3,000 Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps soldiers wounded, with hundreds of them maimed for life. There would be thousands of widows, orphans and grieving parents and families.

The aim of the US and its dwindling number of international supporters in Afghanistan is not further stability in Pakistan – because a North Waziristan military operation would mightily increase the numbers of suicide and other attacks throughout the country. Their objective is to make it easier for them to claim that their war is going well, as part of President Obama’s ‘New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.’

Does Pakistan think this is a price worth paying?

Currently the US is threatening to invade Pakistan rather than endorse ongoing negotiations with militants in Fata. The intention was made clear when defence secretary Panetta, referring to Pakistan’s supposed support of militant operations in Afghanistan, declared that “We’re not going to allow these types of attacks to go on.”

I’ve got news for Panetta. If he imagines the Pakistan Army will be a pushover like the Iraqis, he should think again. If US forces attempt an invasion of North Waziristan they will meet reaction not only from militants but from an army which will not accept flagrant violation of national sovereignty. I know the Pakistan Army, and I state flatly that man-for-man it will hammer any opponent, no matter if the skies are horizon-filled with US bombers.

Does America think this is a price worth paying?

The writer is a South Asian affairs analyst. Website is

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