K N Pandita
The US requisitioned Pakistan’s services for motivating the Taliban for peace talks. They expressed thanks to Islamabad for its role in the signing of the Doha agreement. The US was impatient to stop the fighting in Afghanistan because her troops were tired. Americans had lost interest in Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden was removed from the scene by the marines in a sophisticated operation in Pakistan.
The US had approached Pakistan because it knew that Pakistan-Taliban were in a tango. Pakistan agencies could manage the ‘double dealing’ with remarkable alacrity.
The Doha Agreement did not fall from the sky. The US had been carrying on backdoor diplomacy for three years to mollify the Taliban leadership for a peaceful resolution of the tangle. It is rather ludicrous to have kept talking to the Taliban for three long years, signed an agreement of peace with them and then jump to the catharsis of crying wolf. One wonders whether the critics of the Secretary of State, in or out of the precincts of Congress, will be convinced by the half-hearted statement he gave to the Congress on 13 September.
The Secretary of State says that the US will open the entire canvas of the US-Pak relationship of the last two decades for a review. Vague statements are generally meant for public consumption and for assuaging the hurt feelings of some of the lawmakers whose conscience may cry. Perhaps Pakistani interlocutors had assured the Americans that if they preponed their departure and left the enormous war equipment behind at Bagram airbase, the Taliban would protect it so that the US could haul it back at a convenient time. The Taliban captured the war booty in its entirety and invoked sharia to decide the fate of the incredible boon. Pakistani shops are selling a host of items looted from Bagram.
The US and the Taliban delegation were the signatories to the Doha agreement of February 2020. Just two days after signing the “peace agreement”, the Taliban launched an attack on national forces in Kunduz in which at least 20 soldiers got killed and many wounded. At Doha, the US had bought peace with the Taliban at the cost of the Afghan national army.
The interlocutors gave the elected government of Ashraf Ghani no role whatsoever in those negotiations except that of a helpless observer. Nobody in the Ashraf Ghani government or the media outlet had any knowledge of the agreement in full, leave aside its secret clauses. Sidelining President Ashraf Ghani meant demoralizing the national army. American media created confusion by reporting that the Taliban could take Kabul shortly in a month or two or three. Ordinary Afghans had no idea that the US-Taliban deal had aspects beyond their ken.
The US’ patronization of Pakistan has a long history. It began and deepened with the onset of the cold war era when the Anglo-American bloc decided to stonewall the Soviet Union’s expansion southward. Pakistan emerged important to their anti-Soviet strategy and became a member of Anglo-American military pacts. The Pakistan army and Pentagon developed an understanding of sorts about the geopolitical configuration emerging in the Asian-Eurasian region. It made the former too strong to remain subservient to the authority of the elected government. It became necessary for the Pak army to devalue democracy in Pakistan and monopolize both domestic and foreign policy of the country. Ayub Khan’s new formula of democracy for Pakistan is an example.
After India committed the blunder of taking the Kashmir issue to the Security Council in 1947, the US sidelined Great Britain and came out in open support of Pakistan. There was now no looking back in widening and deepening American-Pakistan relations. India had reasons to reject not once but several times the US’ offer of mediation in the Kashmir issue. By offering mediation on the Kashmir issue, the US wanted to hush up Pakistan’s Kashmir aggressor of October 1947 and bring her at par with India regarding a claim over Kashmir.
The US used Pakistan as a workable instrument in resisting the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan in 1979. It created two proxies, the mujahedeen and Pakistan. Little did the American think tanks understand that for defeating the Soviet monster they were creating a far bigger and formidable monster which would, one day, prove a threat not only to the world of reason and culture but also to the very ideology of democracy. We should be considerate in bringing all the blame of terrorism and violence to the doorsteps of the Muslim world. It is a moment of introspection.
9/11 left the US in no doubt that various elements in Theo-fascism prone countries including Pakistan converged on hatching a deadly conspiracy against the US. The US knew the origin, the movement and the destination of the perpetrators of the carnage in New York. Why punitive action was taken against Saddam in whose country no nuclear weapons were traced and not against nuclear Pakistan where the perpetrators of the crime were hiding. Why sanctions were imposed on Iran for exporting the Islamic revolution to Middle East countries and not on Pakistan which has become the epicentre of international terrorism.
Consider carefully the tone and tenor of the statement of the Secretary of State Blinken given in the Congress. He emphasizes that “Pakistan’s interests conflict with ours”. What he means to say is that Pakistan has her national interests to take care of and so do we in the US. He does not propose any action for duping and misleading the US for which the US contributed its largesse of nearly 3 billion dollars to the military expenditures of Pakistan. He does not speak of punishing Pakistan for sending troops, tanks and fighters to bomb and destroy the resistance movement in Panjsheer Valley, something which is forbidden by international law. He does not speak about imposing sanctions on Pakistan and thereby curbing terrorism in the region.
It is an irony that some of the Taliban leaders who have been included in the interim government are designated terrorists of the US or the UN. Yet nowhere does Blinken speak about America’s rejection of the Taliban government on the count of designated terrorists being its selected members. The condition imposed by the US for recognizing the Taliban regime in Kabul is that of their good behaviour. Reports of Taliban indulging in repressive measures against the press fraternity and women are regularly coming in. How does the US expect a change of hearts overnight?
The US claims it had the lone objective of bulldozing the Taliban. After the withdrawal, Washington claims it has achieved its objective and as such, the mission is closed. But it is ISIS’ branch IS-Khurasan that has claimed the blasts at Kabul airport killing nearly 120 people 13 of them American nationals. Does it vouch for peace in Afghanistan?
As we look at this sordid affair of things, we find the rationale in Russia, India and Iran devising a joint strategy to retrieve the beleaguered Northern Alliance of Panjsheer. India is keeping close track of developments in the region. Regional countries and world powers should not be under any illusion that India has no stakes in Afghanistan. We can’t allow our millennia-old relations with the Afghans to wither away by not acting as we should in their hour of peril. The self-created concept of Afghan vacuum has to be discarded as nonsense
K N Pandita