AFGHANISTAN: Unexpected Outcome

BY BABAR CHEEMA: A total and comprehensive victory for America in Afghanistan would have been an unmitigated disaster for Pakistan. It would have created a situation where America would have a robust presence in Afghanistan forever.

India would have been in the driving seat and together with United States, would have backed a very hostile regime for Pakistan which would then be surrounded from all sides.

Nationalist and secessionist forces in Baluchistan, Sindh and KP would be unleashed and Balkanization of Pakistan would become a distinct and real possibility. China Pakistan Economic Corridor would have an uncertain future.

Pakistan’s nuclear assets would have been neutralized or disabled. At best, Pakistan would have been reduced to the level of Bhutan. Kashmir issue becoming done and dusted, a fait accompli. For all practical purposes, handcuffed Pakistan would have been thrown to the wolves.

However this nightmarish prospect was not lost by the policymakers in the deep state of Pakistan.

Following the cataclysmic events of 9/11, the mightiest military and economic power in the known human history assembled a coalition of the willing, comprising 56 countries. They attacked Afghanistan and the government collapsed against heaviest aerial bombardment with Daisy cutters and bunker busters.

Taliban vanished in thin air melting into the countryside. Al Qaeda moved to the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Pakistan was threatened to be bombed to the stone age. Resultantly, Pakistan quickly fell in line to the US demands and unconditionally surrendered its land and air for use by the invading forces.

Pakistan at that very early stage made a strategic decision of great consequence. Very subtle but clear distinction was made between Al Qaeda and Taliban. While Al Qaeda was hunted down relentlessly, a deliberate soft approach was applied towards Taliban, who were given just enough space where they could breathe and barely survive. And survive they did indeed, to fight another day. This was a great gamble with incalculable risks.

Would Pakistan have done anything otherwise? The United States made a cardinal and suicidal error to involve India in Afghanistan. India started to wage a war of proxy to destabilize Pakistan from the Afghan soil.

The Americans forgot that it is in the DNA of every Pakistani never to forget its existential foe, India. Famously, General Kayani told Mike Mullen, the American chief of armed forces, that “I have no hesitation in admitting that I am totally India-centric and I am not embarrassed about it”. But the importance of this point was lost to the Americans.

Most importantly, the collective conscience of Pakistani people couldn’t live with the prospect of an outright American victory in Afghanistan. United States is considered by the Muslim ummah an imperialist force which has helped commit terrible wrongs against the Muslims in Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. In the Arab and Muslim streets, America has a very negative image.

How this miraculous and spectacular victory came about would always be a fascinating study.

However, the two unsung heroes who carefully choreographed this greatest debacle in American history are fiercely independent Afghan people and the valiant operatives of the security services of Pakistan. None could achieve this impossible outcome without the other. Details of this symbiotic and synergistic relationships are for the historian to chronicle.

Commanders kept coming and going. But the security services of Pakistan maintained a fierce and laser-like focus on their objective. Pakistan paid a very heavy and steep price in blood and sweat.

A propaganda blitz was launched against the Pakistan Army calling them a rogue army, land grabbers, and power hungry. They have been mercilessly criticized and demonized at home and abroad.

A wave of terror was unleashed in the cities and towns of the country killing thousands of people. A large number of officers and jawans of the army laid down their lives for the security of their country and continue to do so, even today.

Unbearable pressure was put on Pakistan. The country was choked with the financial strictures from the IMF and FATF. Pakistan was threatened with isolation. Internal dissension was engineered and a significant number of journalists and political scavengers turned their guns on the Armed Forces.

This audacious strategic defiance by Pakistan for over two decades is not a business for the fainthearted. Pakistan’s security services did a splendid duty to their motherland. In the process they put MODI, their arch rival on the mat. Pakistani people are grateful to their security forces.

They have done Pakistan proud by punching much much above their weight and knocking out the opponent. They have proved to be more than a match for the more powerful and sophisticated and fabled military & intelligence power. How Pakistan will counter the retribution from an extremely angry America remains to be seen. But on 6th of September, I owe a debt of gratitude to my officers and jawans. For once I may be allowed to say, Well done boys, Pakistan Zindabad. [email protected]