by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 37, No. 8, Shawwal, 1429)
Unable to contain (much less defeat) the resistance that has spread to most parts of Afghanistan in the last two years, the US has decided to bomb its way to “victory” by attacking Pakistan on the spurious pretext that it is going after insurgent sanctuaries across the border. This is the “Cambodianisation” of Pakistan with a sinister twist: the US’s attacks on Pakistanare also aimed at destabilizing the country, with the eventual objective of destroying it. In April 1970 the US started bombing Cambodia, ostensibly to stem the flow of weapons to the Viet Cong guerrillas fighting American forces in Vietnam. The US bombings resulted in the deaths of more than two million Cambodians. Ultimately, the US lost the Vietnam war, leading to its ignominious retreat. Many analysts expect the US to face a similar fate in Afghanistan, but in the process it appears determined to destroy Pakistan, whose rulers are willing tools inWashington’s so-called war on terror, even to attacking and killing their own people.
In the last month, US forces have attacked and killed villagers in North and South Waziristan and other places in the tribal area, drawing only mild reactions from Pakistani officials, civilian and military. While there have been loud noises about protecting Pakistan’s “sovereignty”, the reality is that US forces have been bombing Pakistani villages since 2006 without any counter-measures by Islamabad. Hundreds of villagers have been killed in such American attacks, which are now becoming more brazen. On September 3 there was a direct assault by USground forces on Angoor Adda in the volatile Waziristan tribal area. A deliberately leaked news item carried by the New York Times on the eve of the seventh anniversary of 9/11 reported that US president George Bush himself had signed an executive order in July authorizing such raids, thereby rendering Pakistani sovereignty irrelevant. No senior Taliban or al-Qa’ida figures have been killed in these attacks, and anger at the US among Pakistanis, already high, has reached boiling point.
Pakistani analysts believe this is part of a larger US strategy to destabilize Pakistan, preparing for its denuclearisation and ultimate destruction. In the short term, such raids are intended to increase the people’s mistrust of the army, which is already high because of military operations in Bajaur, Swat and Waziristan. The Bajaur operation has displaced nearly 400,000 people, almost all of them women and children. They have sought refuge in Peshawar, Charsadda and Mardan. US ground and air assaults have also strengthened the public perception that although the army eagerly attacks and kills its own people, it is helpless to defend the country against US attacks.
Bush said in a speech to the US National Defence University on September 9 that Iraq, Afghanistan and “parts of Pakistan” posed “unique challenges” to the US. On an earlier occasion, Bush had said that the next attack on the US could come from Pakistan’s tribal areas. “They’re all theatres in the same overall struggle. In all three places [Iraq, Afghanistan andPakistan’s tribal areas], extremists are using violence and terror in an attempt to impose their ideology on whole populations,” he said. “They murder to impose their dark vision of the world.” Yet a majority of the world’s population regards Bush and his neocon allies as pursuing just this agenda. The US operates 177 military bases in various parts of the world, attacking and killing people. Since the second world war, the US has bombed 25 countries, killing more than five million people.
In Pakistan, there are also other factors at work. Many so-called leaders of the Pakistani Taliban are on the US payroll. One is Baitullah Mehsud, the self-styled leader of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. Having played no role in the anti-Soviet or anti-US struggle in Afghanistan, he was projected as a leader after the death of Abdullah Mehsud, his brother. Abdullah was captured in Afghanistan and spent two years in Guantanamo Bay. Before his release, he was recruited by the CIA. His death in 2006 deprived the US of an important asset but his brother, Baitullah, quickly moved into the slot. One indication of Baitullah’s American connection is that, despite the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) providing six-figure coordinates of his location, the Americans have not fired a single missile at him. Many mudbrick homes and madrassas where children from poor families learn the Qur’an have been obliterated by missile strikes, killing hundreds on mere suspicion. Similarly in Swat, Mullah Fazlullah, another self-proclaimed Taliban leader, is frequently visited by CIA operatives. The UShas also recruited a large number of tribal leaders as well as the ruling party, the National Awami Party, in the Frontier Province.
How has the US managed to recruit so many Pakistani tribal leaders? The answer lies in General Pervez Musharraf’s subservient policy, which is still pursued by his successors, of allowing the Americans a free hand in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Agency (FATA). In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, hundreds of Pakistanis living illegally in the US were also rounded up. They were given a stark choice: work for the CIA or FBI or rot in jail. The majority willingly collaborated. Today the CIA has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Pakistanis on its payroll, earning $10,000 per month or more and operating in Pakistan. The same is true of tribal leaders bought for sacks full of dollars.
The US has also deliberately sabotaged any peace deals between the Pakistan army and tribal leaders. One such deal with Nek Muhammad of South Waziristan in July 2005 was thwarted by the US when it killed him with a precision-guided missile fired from a US drone. There have been many other American attacks on tribal leaders who had agreed to work for peace in the region. There have also been attacks on madrassas; the one in Bajaur in October 2006 where 82 children were killed stands out particularly for the scale of its brutality.
There are other disturbing developments as well that point to a nexus between the US, Britain, Israel and India to destabilize and destroy Pakistan. In recent months there has been a sharp increase in so-called Taliban attacks on civilian targets in Pakistan. On several occasions, when these armed men have been killed, reports from the field have been that they were not circumcised. This clearly points to Indian agents operating in Pakistan, disguised as Taliban and terrorizing the civilian population. Reports of uncircumcised dead men in Kurram Agency and Hangu district have been communicated to this writer by several residents from the area. Many knowledgeable Pakistani analysts also point to US-Israeli involvement, reinforcing the belief that the US plans to destabilize and therefore destroy Pakistan.
If the rulers of Pakistan are aware of these threats to the country’s integrity, they have given little indication of taking them seriously. Motivated by excessive greed and cowardly to the marrow of their bones, they continue to run to Washington to seek the favours of those that are hell-bent on destroying Pakistan. When President Asif Ali Zardari met Bush in New York on September 23, he received no assurances that the US would curtail its murderous raids into Pakistan. Since the US launched its first publicized ground assault on Angoor Adda in Waziristanon September 3, killing fifteen women and children, other attacks have followed. One on September 17, on the village of Baghar Cheena in South Waziristan, was carried out within hours of the chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, assuring Pakistani officials in Islamabad that in future the US would coordinate its operations with them. So far this year, US-NATO forces have violated Pakistan’s border 62 times; in the same period, 30 missile attacks have been carried out that killed only civilians, mostly women and children. And now the UShas set up a huge military base at Tarbela, from where it plans to launch attacks into the tribal areas.
The US plan appears fail-proof: if the Pakistan army does not respond to US attacks on its territory, it diminishes its standing among the people even further. If it confronts the US, it will be badly mauled, a prospect the Pakistan high command does not relish. If a sufficiently large number of people in the tribal areas become disenchanted with Pakistan, this could facilitate its break-up. Absorbing parts of Pakistan into Afghanistan and breaking away Baluchistan, including the Irani part, would serve another long-term US goal: to weaken Islamic Iran and block China’s access to the Indian Ocean that the Pakistani port at Gwadar provides. Both the US and British intelligence agencies are active in Baluchistan, recruiting and training disgruntled Baluchi nationalists. India and Israel are not far behind but the Pakistani rulers are too busy amassing fortunes to worry about such matters.
Thanks to the US, Pakistan is on the verge of destruction.