Does instability in South Asia suit the West?

 

In an editorial titled ‘Islamic terrorists open a new front’ The Washington Times dated January 6 said, “Just what the civilized world needs, a new front in the war against radical Islamic terrorism: Two terrorists were killed this week in an attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force Base ….”. Full marks to the editor for stating the obvious – the new front deflects attention from the west. This is the precise reason Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment had said in 2012, “India being continuously subjected to terror actually suits many … India is a sponge that absorbs global terror.” Obviously the “many” included the West.

But the term “civilized world” used in Washington Times is misnomer, considering John Pilger in his article ‘In Ukraine, the US is Dragging Us Towards War with Russia’, dated 14 May 2014 published in ‘The News’ wrote, “Every year the American historian William Blum publishes his ‘updated summary of the record of US foreign policy’ which shows that, since 1945, the US has tried to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democratically elected; grossly interfered in elections in 30 countries; bombed the civilian populations of 30 countries; used chemical and biological weapons; and attempted to assassinate foreign leaders”. He adds, “In many cases Britain has been a collaborator”. That the so called ‘civilized world’ is responsible for rise of terrorist organizations like ISIS, Al Qaeda and Taliban is also on record.

Not surprising then that James Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence presenting the ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Committee’ to the US Senate Armed Services Committee on February 9 in his 32 page statement had just four lines about Pakistan, that too hyphenating her with India that reads, “Relations between Pakistan and India remain tense following a terrorist attack on Pathankot Air Force base in India, which New Delhi blames on a Pakistani-based group, and further dialogue hinges on Pakistan’s willingness to take action against those in Pakistan linked to the attack.” That India would have shared with the US strong evidence of JeM’s terror activities and role in the Pathankot attack is obvious. But then there is hardly any US or Western pressure on Pakistan to even bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 including Hafiz Saeed to book despite David Headley’s recent deposition, Shuja Pasha admitting to ISI’s role in the 26/11 terror attacks in the book ‘Playing to the Edge’, and Musharraf’s admission that ISI was training militant groups.

Michael Hayden, former CIA Director in his book ‘Playing to the Edge’ has expressed deep frustration of the “duplicity” of the Pakistani leadership when it came to taking action against terrorist groups. But this is hardly news, and this Pakistan continues to date. In November 2014, Sartaj Aziz, Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Affairs Advisor and also then NSA of Pakistan had publicly stated that “militants not dangerous to Pakistan should not targeted”.

The US Intelligence community assessment on Afghanistan for 2016 is bleak: Afghan Government will continue to face persistent hurdles to political stability in 2016, confront larger and more divisive issues later in 2016 including the implementation of election reforms, long-delayed parliamentary elections, and a potential change by a Loya Jirga that might fundamentally alter Afghanistan’s constitutional order; government will be unable to effectively address dire economic situation until it first contains the insurgency; fighting in 2016 will be more intense than 2015; Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will probably maintain control of most major population centers but will very likely cede control of some rural areas; without international funding ANSF will probably not remain a cohesive or viable force; Taliban has largely coalesced under Mullah Akhtar Mansur, more so because of the two-week seizure of Kunduz last year; Taliban will continue to test the overstretched ANSF faced with problematic logistics, low morale, and weak leadership; and Khorasan branch of ISIL comprising rebel Afghan Taliban and TTP despite quick growth in January 2015 will remain low-level threat during 2016.

What James Clapper did not clarify is that if the ISIL in Afghanistan indeed comprises rebel Afghan Taliban and TTP, how is the command and control of this so called adhoc organization so strong that they remain effective in some seven districts of Nagarhar Province and are expanding. Obviously, he would be loathe to admit that this so called ISIL in fact is an organization headed by Pakistan’s ISI that has been injected into Afghanistan from Peshawar and is most likely mixed with regulars of Pakistan’s Mujahid battalions disguised as ISIL fighters. Time and again, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) has talked pointed out that many terror attacks in Afghanistan were being carried out in Afghanistan by the Pakistani army and terrorists linked to the ISI but US intelligence remains mum on such issues.

At the scene of the truck bombings in Kabul on August 7 last year that killing 15 and wounding 400, Afghan clerics even gave a call for jihad against Pakistan declaring, “Afghan people are Muslims and Jihad is eligible against Pakistan’s military intelligence – Inter Service Intelligence and Punjabi military; the country’s army and intelligence is directly involved in the ongoing violence and savagery in Afghanistan.”

Millions of Pakistani refugees have entered Afghanistan over past two years due to Pakistani operations in North Waziristan which apparently has a fair fix of army regulars disguised as refugees. As for the much publicized Op ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ by Pakistani army, reporters on ground have been saying that before each air, artillery or ground attack prior information was passed on for the leadership to escape. But all said and done, Pakistan, the mother of terrorism continues to get full support of the US administration despite ample evidence of waging proxy war on India and Afghanistan. While Chinese support to Pakistan is well understood, US support and free-hand to Pakistan leads to the single conclusion that West favours instability in South Asia, particularly in Afghanistan and India. Hopefully the next US President will address Pakistan squarely rather than being content with bombing ISIL.

 

Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is former Lieutenant General from Special Forces and post retirement has published over 1800 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. He is active in seminars at both national and international levels.

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