Pak-US relations at a tipping point

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Mirza Aslam Beg

PAKISTAN has been a trusted ally of US since the 1950s — a period of six decades. During this period Pakistan suffered “four regime changes” and Musharraf’s immoral decision of 2001, to join America’s war on Afghanistan, which caused much shame and misery to the people of Pakistan. During the period 2001-2008, Pakistan bartered away its national security interests rather cheaply, priced at US$ 33 billion by the US President, where as Pakistan has suffered over US$ 120 Bn losses and the loss of precious lives of 50,000 Pakistanis and over 6000 security personnel. Yet Trump says, he has been cheated.
In fact, Trump outbursts are the moaning of a declining super power, suffering from defeat, humiliation and setbacks. When Soviet Union broke-up suffering defeat at the hands of Afghan freedom fighters, America found the opportunity to promote its interests globally. They reckoned that Soviets would take several decades to regain their lost power and prestige and China would be way behind to achieve any reckonable position. Thus America launched Crusade-One, focusing on the Muslims, particularly Islamic governments, political Islamists as well a the moderate Muslims such as Pakistan and succeeded in destroying and decimating Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan and killed over two million Muslims. They cheated the Afghans, induced a civil war, and made 9/11 incident, the excuse to invade Afghanistan. Now they claim Afghanistan as their colony and are not prepared to leave, despite suffering a shameful defeat at the hands of Taliban, whom they shamelessly call terrorists.
The tables have turned on the US during the lost two decades. Russia under “Putin’s logic of conflict” has emerged strong, putting Russia back to the centre of world politics. Their diplomatic and military gains in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria have placed American on the back foot. Russia also has gained considerable influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Chinese, following their geo-economic policy of “peace and development, through economic cooperation”, have earned them a prestigious position in the world. Their economy now is the second largest of the world. America feels threatened and has formed the Indo-Pacific Pivot, to contain and curb the rising power of China.
Since 1980s, America has continued to demonize Iran, as threat to regional peace and imposed sanctions and embargoes to cause economic hardship, but Iran faced these moves with courage and unmatched national resilience, while remaining engaged in military confrontation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, gaining considerable influence in those areas, which is worrisome, for America. These engagements, no doubt, have put strain on Iranian economy and national development plans. Unemployment is high and so are the consumers’ goods prices, which are the cause of agitation and unrest, supported by USA and the anti-Iranian lobby. It is an attempt to regime change in Iran. A similar attempt was made in Turkey, in July 2016, but failed.
Similarly, for the last four years, Pakistan is suffering from political agitation, seeking regime change into a “technocrats government”, which could deliver a liberal order, as in Bangladesh. The agitations in Iran are not very serious because Iran is quite capable of dealing with them. The Iranian government has yet not called the IRGC, in aid of civil power. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard, with AlQuds and Basij forces, numbering over ten million, under command, are quite capable of dealing with such agitations. They have the experience of eight years war with Iraq, and the war in Syria and Yemen. It is a reckonable force indeed.
Despite their best efforts, with every passing day, the occupation forces are losing ground in Afghanistan. During the last year Taliban launched over 2500 big and small operations, inflicting heavy casualties of men and material. Taliban now control over 70% of Afghan territory, where Shariah is the law. Thus America is losing or has lost on all the fronts – Russian, Chinese, Iranians and the battleground of Afghanistan. Hopelessly US now is focusing on Pakistan to rescue them. Pakistan cannot rescue them. It’s a pity that “the US military, which is a hollow force, is unready, not sufficiently equipped or trained to carry-out its responsibility to defend the nation” – Harlam Ullman. The American military is consuming over US$ 700 billion budget a year and is pleading for rescue by Pakistan military which is fully defending the nation with only US$ 7. Billion annual budget and is reckoned as one of the best in the world. It is Americans alone, who can help themselves by meeting the Taliban demand of ‘Exit now, and negotiate peace’, and then Pakistan military will be too willing to rescue them. US also have to accept the reality that Taliban are not terrorists. They are freedom fighters, who have made unprecedented sacrifices to defeat the mightiest of the mighty of the world during the last thirty seven years. They stand tall and confident and cannot be defeated or cheated any more.
Such are the predicaments Trumps is facing. He is trapped in Afghanistan, with a deep sense of wounded pride. He is unpredictable like a novice boxer, who could hit below the belt defying the rules of the game. Pakistan has to be careful, because “Pakistan has given nothing, but lies and deceit, thinking of US leaders as fools.” Fools, they are. So far Pakistan’s response has been well-calculated and diplomatically appropriate. Our armed forces and the civil administration must be fully ready with plans to deal with the crisis with confidence, which could be possible if our politicians bury the hatchet and stop the political mud slinging, and stand as one to face the challenges. We stand at the turning point of history, to correct the mistake we made in choosing our ally, half a century back. It is never too late, to correct the course now and look beyond to provide the much needed “Strategic Security Depth” to Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, bound together in a friendly alliance, with China and Russia providing the “God-send security bond” against Trump’s threats and diatribes. Allah be praised.
— The writer, a retired 4-star General, is former COAS, Pakistan Army.