On the Brink?

Attacks are intensifying on Afghan people, mostly Civilians who are caught in the crossfire of government security forces and militants owing allegiance to the Taliban and IS group. In all likelihood this Afghan blood-bath is not going to end so soon. In truth it may aggravate further as America is now trying to win Afghan war in Pakistan. They cannot win what they have lost. The American policy under Trump may have serious consequences for the people of the sub-continent. Washington has already started economic attrition against Pakistan by suspending $1.66 billion military "aid" while creating road-blocks for IMF bail-out. In addition to usual harsh IMF conditions for any loan, they now want details about Pakistan-China, secret understanding over their recently concluded financial deal—before processing Pakistan's application. They way Trump is talking tough against Pakistan's diabolical approach to the Taliban question right from the day one cannot be dismissed lightly. Blocking of American military 'aid' to Pakistan which began in January this year is a strong signal of American displeasure with Pakistan's refusal to fall in line. The bone of contention is Taliban—or how to tame the Taliban in Afghan war. Trump and his aides believe, and not quite unjustifiably, that Pakistan has so far done precious little to help America crush Taliban resistance though Pakistani Generals are enjoying liberal dollar doles that America dishes out every now and then in the name of combating terrorism.

No doubt Pakistan has been facing humiliation for quite some time from their White House bosses but they could do little other than voicing diplomatic protest. After all beggars have no choice! How American drones frequently violate Pakistani air space along Afghan-Pakistan border speaks volumes about helplessness of an old lackey. America can go to any length to have its way. People may be bombed by war planes, not drones, if the situation so demands.

Pakistan is not Iraq. Nor is it Syria. It has no oil. But Pakistan has so far been a strategic asset in America's geo-political gambling in the region. Whether the Trumps like it or not, they still need Pakistan to establish their complete authority in the region against the backdrop of rising China. The threat of 'Soviet evil empire' is gone. But these days they are more worried about capitalist China, not Chinese Communism. With American frustration growing, it is a matter of time that the so-called international community will begin to dance to the tune of Trump.

For one thing the people of Pakistan do hardly get benefited from American largesse liberally doled out to Pakistan for their dubious service to 'combat terrorism' campaign. Pakistan army and its corporate backers are the main beneficiaries of American 'charity' which it is not. It's a business deal heavily skewed in favour of America.

It's common knowledge that there is no free lunch in business.

Pakistan has traditionally been dependent on America to maintain a well-oiled military machine. Blocking of American "assistance" means the military-industrial complex will be in crisis even in the area of logistics because the sub-continentals cannot manufacture even a bycycle without importing foreign technology.

Unless Taliban forces are neutralised through diplomacy or otherwise, peace will never return to Afghanistan and its adjoining border region. Not that Taliban are the only actors in the Afghan theatre; there are IS affiliates. Both the Taliban and IS want to overthrow the present Kabul regime but they have different modus operandi while differing sharply over ideology, leadership and tactics. The Taliban attack government security forces and foreign troops and IS affiliates continue to indulge in sectarian violence, killing and wounding civilians belonging to mainly Shia community. In their recent attack they killed dozens of Sufis who gathered in a hall to mark Prophet's birthday in Kabul. The Trump administration is concerned about killing of American GIs, not Sufis.

Meanwhile, American diplomats have opened dialogue with the Taliban in Qatar. It is one way to tell the world that they are not winning. The hard fact is that the Pentagon has, also, reinforced military strength, showing no inclination to withdraw from Afghanistan.

America's recent allegation that Pakistan sheltered Osama-bin-Laden is anything but ludicrous. Over the last few days Trump has said that people in Pakistan knew about the presence of Osama. Strange it may seem that CIA had no knowledge about it—it is unbelievable.

The point at issue is American warning to Pakistan at this juncture cannot be an empty rhetoric. Ties between the US and Pakistan, its trusted client state in containing Soviet influence in the region since 1947, strained after Trump hit out at Islamabad leaders for providing safe havens to "agents of chaos" that kill Americans in Afghanistan. There is every possibility that America may escalate Afghan war only to destablise Pakistan if they fail to ensure security to their men in Kabul. The Taliban and other jihadists were nursed by America and Pakistan at one stage, to oust Soviets from Afghanistan but now militants want their pound of flesh which the White House people refuse to concede.

No insurgency, left or right, can succeed without a rear and Pakistan is the rear for all brands of jihadists and 'terrorists'. America is trying to force Pakistan to deny rear to the Taliban and other militant groups.

If the Afghan war spills into Pakistan the chances of which are real, after Trump's harsh message, it will be a disaster for the entire sub-continent. But political parties in this part of the globe don't take Trump's frustration, if not direct threat, seriously which in the long run may cost both India and Pakistan heavily. Only silver-lining amidst gloom is Pakistan's decision to open the Kartarpura Corridor for Sikh pilgrims on the occasion of Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary which could help ease tensions between the two neighbours.

Vol. 51, No.22, Dec 2 - 8, 2018