No country in the world has suffered so much and for so long at the hands of two super powers in the last thirty years than Afghanistan.
One after the other they invaded Afghanistan wreaking complete havoc and causing tremendous loss of life and property as well as destroying the entire infrastructure of that wretched country.
The Soviet bear started the process in 1979 but once its leg was firmly caught in the jaws of the Afghan trap the US entered the arena to inflict a humiliating defeat upon its arch enemy in retaliation for its own defeat in Vietnam.
Afghanistan was then abandoned leaving it to the Mujahedeen first and later to the Taliban and Northern Alliance to bitterly fight over for control of that unfortunate country. All told two generations of Afghans have had their lives torn apart by the demons of war let loose by the Soviets and the US.
The US strode on the stage once again when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the attack on the twin towers in New York. This changed the entire gamut of politics in the region.
Pakistan, a close friend of the Taliban and having recognised their government, overnight, joined hands with the US in the war against them. Jihadi allies of yesterday suddenly became militants to be crushed with full force.
Despite joining the war as a “front line ally”, to use Zia’s term, and despite Musharraf having obsequiously nodded to all of Washington’s dictates Pakistan’s role was suspected right from day one.
The trust deficit between the two increased rapidly with Washington pointing fingers at Pakistan for alleged involvement of its people and the use of its soil against US led forces in Afghanistan. The Raymond Davis episode in Lahore and the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad further widened the divide.
The Salala incident proved the last straw when 24 soldiers of the Pakistan army were killed in a protracted air raid on a Pakistani post, on Pakistani territory, in blatant violation of all canons of international law and territorial sovereignty leaving Pakistan with no option but to close the supply line through its country.
The US, without tendering an apology, started waiting for an opportune time to put pressure on Islamabad for opening of the supply route. Meanwhile the parliament in Pakistan started debating the situation to establish new guidelines for dealing with the US. In the process relations between the two nosedived.
The two countries found it difficult to remove the deadlock without losing face. Now that it stands ‘resolved’ with the US saying ‘sorry’, it would be in the fitness of things for the US to take the lead in repairing the damage caused by its attack at Salala.
The best way to do so would be a visit by a senior US dignitary to Salala where he should offer condolences of his government to the bereaved families and people of Pakistan for what the US-led Nato forces did on that fateful day of October 26, 2012.
It is unfortunate that the US, instead of controlling the damage, embarked upon increasing it through issuance of statements like the one at Kabul on June 7 where its Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warned Pakistan of Washington losing patience over safe havens of the Haqqani network which he thought was responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on US forces in Afghanistan during the last eleven years.
The US is preparing for a drawdown of forces from Afghanistan and also planning to hand over charge of security arrangements of the provinces bordering Pakistan to the Afghan army which is reportedly dominated by non-Pashtoon ethnic groups.
Handing over responsibility of the Pashtoon mainland to non-Pashtoon elements would be disastrous. It would spark a new wave of violence in Afghanistan and will have serious repercussions in the adjoining tribal areas of Pakistan. The US would be well-advised to avoid this unless it wants to keep the pot boiling in Afghanistan as well as the tribal areas across the border in Pakistan.
Another thing which seems to be on the cards is the “hot pursuit” with which the US keeps threatening Pakistan from time to time. It can now do so, and without putting boots on the ground in the tribal areas of Pakistan, through the light weight mini-drones called “Switchblade” which, according to a report published in the Guardian have been issued to US soldiers for use in place of the drones hitting Waziristan day in and day out killing innocent people including women and children.
This new killing machine weighing just 2.7 kg can be carried in a backpack and used on the battlefield in place of the drone. While the drone strikes have a chain of command that stretches from Afghanistan to the United States these ultra-light, portable drones (Switchblade) bring the decision to kill down to the level of platoon commander or even the individual soldier.
This would extend the war from Afghanistan to the tribal areas in Pakistan where the reaction of the people would be much stronger than anyone can guess. The govt would not be able to reign in its public any longer from joining the war in full swing.
The US is certainly showing signs of battle fatigue; what happens in the days ahead is anybody’s guess but the writing on the wall is clear. The US has to complete drawdown of combat troops by 2014.
This leaves her with very little time to broker a peace deal with the Taliban. It may be recalled that the Taliban have already called off negotiations with the US and closed their office in Doha which was opened for this very purpose.
One can only wish that common sense prevails and the US resorts to peaceful resolution of the problem in Afghanistan rather than resorting to increased use of force or killing through another, newly invented machine.
Ayaz Wazir, The writer is a former ambassador hailing from FATA. Email: waziruk@hotmail. com