A balanced and logical American expert on Pakistani affairs has again gone out on a limb to try and explain the complexity of Pakistan’s military strategy and security thought-process to an audience that apparently loves to bash Pakistan instead of aiding it in the War against Terrorism that America launched in the first place
Waving the “Bakvas Flag”, Dr. Carol Christine Fair – an otherwise respected assistant professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS) within Georgetown University, and also a senior fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. military’s West Point academy – recently came up with ten so-called “ossified fictions” that Pakistani defense officials apparently love to peddle. “In the spirit of perpetual rent-seeking”, she says, “Pakistani defense officials have recently alighted upon Washington to offer the same tired and hackneyed narratives that are tailored to guilt the Americans into keeping the gravy train chugging along”. Dr. Fair, also the author of the yet-to-be-published Oxford University Press book “Fighting to the End: the Pakistan Army’s Way of War” (a book on her impression of the Pakistan Army’s “strategic culture” which – according to her georgetown.edu website – was supposed to be published in 2013), is adamant in her point of view that there is nothing strategic about the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship, and that the relationship between the two countries is not a “dialogue” (with the implication that America dictates to Pakistan what it wants Pakistan to do – certainly, Americans in politics and government want to think that way; and yet, they blame Pakistan for whatever ills and evils that befall the U.S., the South Asian region, and even Pakistan herself!).
Here is a blow-by-blow (or shot-by-shot, as the esteemed professor would herself prefer it) rebuttal of her ten fictions: what may be considered a Pakistani perspective as well as a candid, lucid, unbiased, holistic (due to the verbosity required in making sense of – and then repudiating – Dr. Fair’s unfair ascriptions of realities and fictions), and most importantly, sober – one might add, if for the flavour alone – analysis of the transformations that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has undergone over the last three to four decades:
1. Pakistani defense officials say “our relationship should be strategic rather than transactional”. Are they wrong in saying so?
Dr. Fair says that Pakistan is completely vested in undermining U.S. interests in the South Asian regions. Of course, she fails to mention that U.S. interests in the region include:
- propping up a regime and state apparatus in the landlocked country of Afghanistan which can’t (for the life of itself) survive on its own beyond 2014, when foreign forces leave the country to its own devices (and to an Afghan insurgency which is gaining the momentum thanks to the dreaded Taliban, which the troops from the U.S., NATO, and almost 30-to-40 countries could not defeat in over a decade, and whom the U.S. could not keep engaged in talks long enough to extract any guarantees or certainties);
- openly displaying its double standards on nuclear non-proliferation by engaging India – Pakistan’s arch-nemesis since the partition of united India in 1947 – in a strategic relationship, which includes providing the world’s “biggest democracy” a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) even though it is (like Pakistan and the oh-so-evil North Korea and Iran) not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), compromising India’s “independent foreign policy” by making it subject to the abovementioned “U.S. interests in the region” and by propping it up as a military and economic counterweight to China (which, again, India cannot hope to become for the life of itself – and this has been proven by India’s strategic failure in Central Asia even though it has been piggybacking on the U.S. for the last decade, and still has been defeated by China in terms of India achieving strategic economic objectives);
- maintaining pressure on Iran by keeping it isolated from the international community and by subjecting it to immoral sanctions and limitations just so it can please its powerful Jewish lobbies (yes, there are not one) and its most valuable ally, Israel (which itself is a strategic aberration of a nation-state: a Jewish homeland in the middle of a Muslim-dominated Arab region). However, the U.S. seems to have deviated from this thirty-year-old policy with the coming of the Rouhani administration in Iran (as it breathes a sigh of relief after former President Ahmedinejad’s jingoistic threats have become a monument of history) along with a call of “tolerance” for Iranian President Rouhani’s policies from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the real power in the Persian nation-state.
Of course, like any economist – or American taxpayer wanting their money’s worth – Dr. Fair says that the U.S. has given Pakistan somewhere around $27 billion in military and financial aid, and “other lucrative reimbursements”. What she fails to realize is that according to independent estimates, Pakistan’s participation in the U.S.-led War on Terror has cost the American ally more than $60 billion in terms of lost economic growth, damage to critical economic infrastructure and security apparatus, and even more in the instability that America’s “policies for the region” have wreaked upon Pakistan: the government of Pakistan puts the figure closer to $100 billion in the past 13-to-14 years. Of course, why would an American care about the loss to Pakistan? An American only cares about the loss – or profit – to America, whether it be in terms of money or lives (yes, American soldiers have died in Afghanistan, because soldiers die in any war: but why have more than 40,000 Pakistanis died? Just because they sided with an angry America which was blinded by vengeance when a terrorist group led by a Saudi Arabian sent some Egyptians and Saudis to hijack American planes and kill over 3,000 American citizens and demolish America’s symbol of economic power? America’s real economic power took another 11 years to dissipate itself, and precipitated the Global Financial crisis or GFC of 2008).
As Pakistan is often blamed for supporting the Afghan Taliban and/or the Haqqani network – groups that the U.S. and her allies themselves funded during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan under the auspices of Operation Cyclone (seems like the professor of peace and security needs a lesson in history) to harass and hopefully defeat the opposing superpower – there is ample evidence that the U.S., India, and even Israel are actively involved in financing, supporting and propping up other terrorist elements in Afghanistan which do their bidding: from destabilizing Pakistan to carrying out attacks in China and Iran. This is apart from America’s financial, moral and political support to the very warlords who are still accused of war crimes and human rights abuses (particularly abuses of women’s rights, which the U.S. is afraid the Taliban will do if they come to power in Afghanistan again) by international organizations as well as by American rights groups. This leads directly to Dr. Fair’s third fiction, where she claims that Pakistani defense officials are delusional when they say “America used Pakistan for the Afghan jihad against the Soviets”. That is true: America pounced on the opportunity to covertly pummel its own arch-nemesis, even though it was in Pakistan’s regional interest to support the Islamist groups fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan (which would have spilled over into Pakistan, and towards the warm water ports of the Arabian sea, as was the original design and desire of the Soviet Union). But more on that later.
2. The United States has been (and still is) an unreliable ally. That is an undeniable truth: because it HAS!
Stop the press! Did the United States NOT sabotage Pakistan’s peace process with the TTP – no matter how ill-conceived or ill-timed it may be from a military or strategic perspective – by bombing TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud in the first few days of November 2013? If the United States can’t have a negotiated peace with the Afghan Taliban, then the Pakistani state cannot have a peace process with the TTP either. That was the message for which Hakeemullah Mehsud (and the top leadership of the TTP, save Latif Mehsud, who was in CIA/American military custody at the time, and had been apprehended after he was conspiring with, or being recruited by, Afghan intelligence to destabilize Pakistan) had to die.
Consider the past – and continuing – alliances that the U.S. has had: it led its little brother, the United Kingdom, to war in Iraq over false allegations of WMDs (Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction which are yet to be found in the oil-rich country), and pursuant investigations (like the Hutton inquiry, which was destined to be classified for 70 years until October 2010) into “distorted intelligence” (or falsified, as the case may suit) led to horrible outcomes such as the suicide of David Kelley, a British scientist and expert on biological warfare who had also served as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq. Nevertheless, the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. continues. America’s other allies – like South Vietnam – did not fare as well, and were wiped off the world map.
In response to the unreliability of the U.S. vis-à-vis Pakistan, Dr. Fair says “rubbish”. How scholarly of her! She openly acknowledges that while Pakistan was an ally of the U.S. under the SEATO and CENTO pacts, the U.S. did not aid Pakistan in its wars with India (which Dr. Fair says was “non-aligned” because Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, was among the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement or NAM, but had put India firmly into the Soviet orbit, as is obvious with the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation of 1971, when India formally gave up its non-aligned status). This is true: the U.S. did NOT aid Pakistan in its wars against India, especially in the crucial 1971 war which dismembered Pakistan and resulted in the “bloody” birth of Bangladesh. If SEATO and CENTO were “specifically designed to combat Communist aggression” and not provide existential support to maintaining the territory of allied nations, then Pakistan’s leaders were fool to believe in the reliability of the U.S. as an ally. And if the U.S. was under no obligation to support Pakistan in its war against India (or the war that India launched against East Pakistan, to be historically accurate), then Pakistan was also under no obligation – like the stance the Taliban adopted when they ruled Afghanistan before 2001 – to support the U.S. and its inflated military ego in their Global War on Terror: Pakistan obliged the U.S. only because the U.S. had threatened Pakistan (and in fact, the every nation in every region of entire world, verbatim as per the U.S. President) that they had to choose if they were with the U.S. or against them (this being a more plausible and verifiable reference than Richard Armitage’s threat of bombing Pakistan back to the Stone Age, which has already been converted into satire by Martin Lewis for the Huffington Post) – moreover, there were plans in place (which gave Armitage every reason to present his threat) which were designed to remove Pakistan from the world map (with the help of India and Israel – a map to the effect of depriving Pakistan of its western provinces and reshaping the broader Middle East and South Asia was made by retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters for the U.S. Armed Forces Journal in 2006, and has now been made public) if it did not comply with American demands for allowing military flights over Pakistani airspace and provision of transit bases.
The fickle alliance of the U.S. in 1971 led Pakistan to withdraw from SEATO, and CENTO (which by design did little to prevent the expansion of Soviet influence to non-member states in the Baghdad Pact area) was disbanded in 1979: this despite the fact that then-President Richard Nixon sent the U.S. Seventh Fleet to East Pakistan and particularly assigned Task Force 74 to engage in maneuvers that would deter India from overrunning the Pakistani Eastern Command. Led by the Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise, the deployment of the task force was a show of force by USA in support of the beleaguered Pakistani armed forces, and was claimed by India as an indication of US “tilt” towards Pakistan at a time that Indian forces were close to capturing Dhaka. The Task Force meekly withdrew from the Bay of Bengal after receiving reports of Soviet submarines that were dispatched to shadow the fleet. Ghazala Akbar notes that the U.S. Seventh Fleet and Task Force 74 were never sent to prop up the then-West Pakistani armed forces or the Pakistan Army’s Eastern Command: they were sent to the region to be ready to aid the People’s Republic of China against a Soviet onslaught (China and the U.S.S.R., both communist countries, had a border clash in 1969, and President Nixon used this opportunity –as well as the good offices of then-Pakistani President Yahya Khan – to “open up” China to the U.S. and to the world). America’s alliance through SEATO and CENTO forced Pakistan to join the Non-Aligned Movement by 1979, while it firmly pushed India into the Soviet orbit of “friendship and cooperation” as early as 1971.
Dr. Fair acknowledges that Pakistan’s founding fathers and initial leaders viewed their relationship with the U.S. as a strategic one: “Pakistani officials beginning with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, and General Ayub Khan repeatedly sought to join American military alliances in exchange for money and war materiel”. The fact that the U.S. was not serious about this till the 1950’s is irrelevant: Pakistan itself became an independent nation in 1947, and rebuffed Soviet advances for an alliance – which preceded any American offer – because it was geopolitically, morally, and nationally similar to the values and principles that the American nation-state stood for, regardless of its post-WWII enmity with the U.S.S.R. or of the fact that it was eyeing a cordial relationship with India instead of Pakistan (even though it was more concerned with rebuilding a war-ravaged Europe at that time: the fact that the U.S.S.R. was already building an Iron Curtain in the eastern portion of Europe did not occur to many American strategists – apart from General George Patton and BND founder Major General Reinhard Gehlen – until it hit them in the face after the Hungarian Uprising). Of course, many freedom fights and members of freedom movements in post-WWII Eastern Europe believed the U.S. to be a fickle ally when it failed to aid them against a full-fledged Soviet military onslaught that installed puppet communist regimes in these European satellite states. Maybe the professor needs to see episode 2 of the gripping TNT miniseries “The Company” and understand why Pakistan is not the only American ally which believes in the notion that an alliance with America is worse than an open enmity with the world’s unipolar superpower; because the alliance hurts more, especially when the ally least expects it. This is true for states like Pakistan as well as for leaders like Musharraf, who was left in the lurch at the last moment by the Bush administration, which finally (and surprisingly, at a unique moment in history) understood that it should not meddle in Pakistan’s internal affairs when the then-President (and former Army Chief) resigned under the threat of impeachment.
Forget about Pakistan: what about the American-installed Afghan President, Hamid Karzai? He has repeatedly criticized America in public, on news channels around the world, and has rebuffed visits by senior American functionaries in the last few months so as to avoid pressure on the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) which is designed to give legal cover to a residual force of 10,000 U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014 (and perhaps operating outside the ambit and jurisdiction of Afghan law). Even Karzai – who many believe will be on the last American C-130 (or YC-14) transport aircraft carrying the bulk of U.S. troops and war materiel from Afghanistan – is known for his often contradictory views about how America is such a nice country for bringing a state, human rights, and high-speed internet to Afghanistan, but also a bad country for killing innocent Afghan civilians and villagers in cold-blooded reprisal attacks such as the March 2012 massacre in the villages of Alkozai and Najeeban – an event that was blamed squarely on one staff sergeant who went haywire, and (according to President Obama) did not represent “the exceptional character of our military”. This is the same military that carried out the now-famous Mahmudiyah killings (the gang-rape and killing of 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi by United States Army soldiers in March 2006) and displayed many other traits of their “exceptional character” by gang-raping Muslim women in Iraq and Afghanistan – videos of such hideous attacks on the sanctity of Muslim women and of an entire Muslim nation are available on LiveLeak. This makes the United States an unreliable ally of women and a two-faced proponent of women’s rights: even women in American and British military service have been raped by their fellow officers because – according to Steve Friess writing for TakePart.com as recently as February 12, 2014 – these militaries have a “rape problem”. Sounds like (despite all the liberal liberties available to them in their home countries) they are as frustrated as Muslim males living in conservative societies!
3. The United States used Pakistan for its anti-Soviet jihad. Of course it did!
It embroiled itself in the decades-old Pak-Afghan Cold War, which Dr. Fair has herself referred to, for the erstwhile North-West Frontier Provinces (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) when the U.S.S.R. swooped down – literally walked in without U.S. intelligence even knowing about Soviet intentions till they were made evident to international media and to the Afghan people – into the landlocked state, and was poised to occupy Pakistan next in order to achieve its dream of acquiring a warm water port – in addition to strategically supporting India (which was a total Soviet subsidiary by the time, and refused to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan despite the uproar in the international community) by completely destroying her arch-nemesis.
Dr. Fair remembers her South Asian history well when it comes to the rivalry between Pakistan and Afghanistan before 1994 (and maybe she knows a bit about what it has become after 2001 too), but by taking it out of context and placing the U.S. as a hapless, innocent supporter of Pakistan’s own policy, she is acting the pot and pointing at the black kettle. Of course, Pakistan and Afghanistan were rivals since Pakistan came into existence in 1947 – Afghanistan was the only country that did not support Pakistan’s entry into the U.N., as Dr. Fair mentions herself, without realizing that thus lay the foundation for icy relations (and a befitting response, as Pakistani defense officials say) between the two countries.
In her concluding sentence, Dr. Fair says that “it is important to note that Pakistan funded its own Afghan policy out of its own resources well before the first American dollar entered the fray”. Of course it did! Because the U.S. didn’t care before the Soviets got involved! And needless to say, it wasn’t just the U.S. paying: the Saudi’s matched the U.S. dollar for dollar in what became – according to Dr. Fair, after 1982, but according to experts who were involved in the “bear trap”, an operation that transpired as early as 1980 – known as “Charlie Wilson’s War”. A lesson in the history of Pak-Afghan relations from Dr. Fair betrays the fact that she did not watch the film of the same name starring Tom Hanks, and more importantly, did not note the quotation from Congressman Wilson that appears at the end of the movie. What Pakistan could not achieve from its own resources, it achieved with the help of U.S. and Saudi financial assistance, as well as U.S., Egyptian (and even Israeli) military assistance! And the U.S. became involved in the conflict at a time when Pakistan’s policy of opposing the Afghan state suited American interests in the region – if Dr. Fair thinks that the U.S.-Pakistan alliance against Soviet-ruled Afghanistan was merely transaction rather than strategic, then she is right, because the U.S. left soon after the U.S.S.R. did, but Pakistan could not leave, and continued with its own Afghan policy as it had succeeded thanks to the U.S. But at no point could it be said that Pakistan acted contrary to U.S. interests in a Central Asia dominated by the U.S.S.R. from 1979 onwards, thus laying waste to the fundamental component of the first fiction (mentioned above) that she has ascribed to Pakistani officials.
4. The United States is responsible for the development of al Qaeda and Islamist militancy. Of course it would hide the fact – and even deny – that it funded Osama bin Laden against the Soviets, but the fact remains that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, including its military and financial support for the state of Israel which is not recognized by any Muslim nation out of its own will (Turkey is a secular state, while Jordan and Egypt were militarily defeated by Israel, backed by American weapons and even troops, since U.S. Jewish troops can serve in the IDF), and its stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia (the Holy Land for all Muslims, regardless of which sect they belong to) is the main catalyst for the post-modern radicalization of the Islamic religion, supported by the rising power of petrodollars that props up Sunni monarchies justified by strict Wahhabi interpretations of Sunni Islam.
At long last, Dr. Fair begins this so-called fiction by conceding that it is “not entirely a pack of lies”. Precisely because what is mentioned above is historical fact coupled with an interpretation shared by Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia – the same kind of recruitment pool that terrorist groups and extremist organizations like Al Qaeda look for when they preach their ideology of hatred and revolt, i.e. “takfir” and “khuruj”.
But Dr. Fair goes back to the Afghan jihad to talk about Pakistan’s fear of Pashtun nationalism depriving it of its North-Western province and tribal areas, and states that the ISI was adamant that it run the Afghan jihad; Dr. Fair says that the “firewalls” between the CIA and the mujahideen groups remained intact “despite the CIA’s efforts to subvert them”. But in the next paragraph, Dr. Fair continues with her own pack of lies, arguing that the main Islamic militant groups were already established in Afghanistan before the U.S. got involved. Only one of the groups – that of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which exists even today, and is the northern front of the Afghan Taliban – had been successfully established by the ISI on its own, and other mujahideen groups could only be mobilized by massive amounts of funding which became available thanks to American interest and Saudi encouragement of the global “jihad” which attracted fundamentalist Muslims from around the world. Osama bin Laden was among such fundamentalist Muslims who helped established, and then operated, a support group for Pushtun mujahideen in the tribal areas, which had been successfully turned into a war industry after American and Saudi money began pumping through the area to Afghan warlords who are – as always – for sale to the highest bidder. In a classless Afghan society created and enforced by the Soviet Army, such warlords and tribal elders (maliks) would have no place – for them, accepting American money, Saudi ideology and Pakistani operational strategy was a matter of survival. It is the same American money – without “firewalls” this time – that is flowing to the Afghan warlords which were opposed to the Taliban and who created the Northern Alliance: to the CIA, even today, it does not matter whether these warlords commit human rights abuses, or whether they participate in the democratic process through the power of their political position and not by the force of their weapons and militias. Afghan warlords – and even the Taliban, in the form of extortion money and payment for safe passage of military convoys and supplies, otherwise known as “protection money” – have been given much more funds by the U.S. and NATO since 2001, just so the modern Afghan nation state can keep on breathing: even though it is on life support till the BSA is signed.
Dr. Fair still lays the blame at the United States – as well as at Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other supporters of the Afghan mujahideen – by concluding that the “anti-Soviet jihad surely was the crucible that gave birth to the global Islamist militancy that mobilized under the banner of al-Qaeda. It is difficult to imagine the existence of al-Qaeda had the United States supported the insurgency in Afghanistan on ethnic rather than jihadist terms”. Of course, now, the U.S. is correcting that mistake by supporting the non-Pashtun minority ethnic groups in Afghanistan against the Taliban, whose majority cadres are formed of Afghan Pashtuns and Pashtun tribesmen from the Pak-Afghan border (and from Pakistani Baluchistan, which Afghanistan laid claim to before 1979 because Afghans were settled there when Pakistan was born). Satire aside, the point is that the United States made its mistakes, and Pakistan made its own: the U.S. paid at the hands of Al Qaeda and the death of 3,000 innocent civilians on September 11, 2001, while Pakistan continues to suffer from 2007 till date not because of its support of the Afghan Taliban, but because of its support of the U.S. in the invasion of Afghanistan and the removal of the Afghan Taliban militia government in favour of a regime that is propped up by – and in all instances, may not survive without – wholesome U.S. and Western aid, as well as military support from the U.S. and NATO (and anyone else who is willing to let their soldiers become “white meat” for the Taliban).
5. The United States created the Taliban.
For once, Dr. Fair is half-right: the United States did NOT create the original Afghan Taliban. Mullah Omar created them in 1994 as a revolutionary movement. And Pakistan may have well supported them through the ISI. The Taliban insurgent movement that the U.S. and NATO created, as a result of their 2001 invasion, is the insurgency that has been gaining momentum since 2006. One wonders which Pakistani defense official Dr. Fair is speaking to when she hears that the U.S. created the Taliban, because – as is obvious from “Charlie Wilson’s War” and from other historical testimonies – the Taliban came about as a local, homegrown Afghan revolutionary movement against the rule of the warlords, and as more evidence comes to light, it may have been the fact that the Pakistani intelligence services – primarily the ISI – would have supported their rise to power (even though the ISI is blamed for supporting the Taliban in their failed attempt to capture Jalalabad, so to be fair to Dr. Fair, Pakistani intelligence is credited with the Taliban’s failures and not their successes; at least not until they started successfully killing U.S. and NATO troops!).
Despite religious and sectarian affiliations that Dr. Fair ascribes to Afghan mujahideen groups and to the Taliban cadres – who can most commonly be classified as Salafi Sunni’s rather than Deobandi’s or Wahhabi’s – it may be true that the Taliban movement from 1994 to 2001 was constituted mostly over Muslims who ascribed to the Deobandi sect. But, as a result of America’s aggressive military actions in the Muslim world since 2001, and the corresponding rise in Islamic extremism (read: hatred of the West and of American policies throughout the world) and intolerance, the Taliban insurgent movement – as well as Al Qaeda – have received recruits from not only Sunni Muslims belonging to various sects, but also from converts to Islam (such as Adam Yahya Gadahn, who is considered to be a senior operative of Al Qaeda). On that very note, America’s actions against the Muslim world have inspired many terrorist organizations and militant extremist outfits not only in the world that exists outside the United States of America, but also among what the U.S. would call “homegrown terrorists”, such as the “Buffalo Six”, “Portland Seven”, “D.C. Five”, the “Detroit Sleeper Cell”, the “Virginia terrorist network”, and many more. The extent of anger, hatred and outright revulsion against American foreign and military policy is such that a few weeks prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, now a former United States Army psychiatrist and Medical Corps officer, was forced by his conscience to pick up an FN Five-Seven pistol and target fellow officers of the United States armed forces as well as civilians, eventually killing 13 and injuring 32 in what is now known as the “Fort Hood shooting”. Major Nidal Hasan was, according to a local store owner, stressed about his deployment to Afghanistan because he might have to fight or kill fellow Muslims as part of his duty to his country.
Whether or not the U.S. has created the Taliban or Al Qaeda, one thing cannot be denied by Dr. Fair or any American scholar with a unbiased and balanced approach: the foreign policies of the U.S., no matter how self-serving, create an environment in the Muslim world which is antagonistic towards the West in general and the U.S. in particular, and this sentiment is shared from the Muslim household to the Arab street, from the homes of those innocents who have lost their lives at the hands of U.S. drones being operated from thousands of miles away by American military operators who are playing video games with the lives of real people, to the villages and rural countrysides of many Muslim countries where conservative values and strict adherence to religion is being challenged by American cultural bombardment and the contest of religious freedom versus outright blasphemy and disregard for one’s personal beliefs and associations.
6. Pakistan has lost more due to its participation in the Global War on Terrorism than it has gained in U.S. assistance.
While this has been dealt with earlier – with evidence from a variety of sources, Pakistani and foreign – Dr. Fair answers this “fiction” with an uncertain, somewhat tipsy answer. “Depends upon who is counting and what is counted”, she says, arguing rightly that this claim has “two components: economic and human”. Dr. Fair concedes that “Pakistan is right to question the degree of American generosity and it is right to question whether payments f or ‘services rendered’ is even generosity”. However, to say that “Pakistan is one of the biggest reasons why we are fighting the GWOT in the first place” is a blatant lie and misconstruction of facts – which is obvious because of the professor’s own perspective and viewpoint as an American (because she herself said “depends on who is counting”) – because if Pakistan is “one of the biggest reasons” for the GWOT, then the United States is “THE SINGLE BIGGEST REASON” as well as the instigator of the GWOT. Dr. Fair blames Pakistan for making Taliban “the effective force that they were on September 20, 2001”, ignoring the fact that they are a far more effective force now, which is despite the fact that Pakistan has been fighting (and is now trying to negotiate) with its own homegrown Taliban terrorist/insurgent movement. To bring up the issue of Islamist terrorism in India and lay the blame squarely on Pakistan is similar to saying that the U.S. created the Taliban or Al Qaeda: if Pakistan is responsible for religious extremism in the region, then India herself is responsible for the Muslim angst and sense of deprivation in the “world’s largest democracy”, and ignoring the Kashmiri struggle for freedom from 1948 till date, as well as the Gujarat pogroms, is a huge oversight of reality that cannot be forgiven, especially not when it is done by someone who professes to teach peace and security studies. How can there be peace if – when counted only from 1989 onwards – the total killings of human beings in (Indian-occupied to be precise, but Indian “administered” to be diplomatic) Kashmir are above 93,935, the number of Kashmiri children orphaned over 107,461, the number of Kashmiri women widowed more than 22,772, and the number of Kashmiri women raped, molested or sexually abused beyond 10,065? It is circumstances like these that have created conditions for uprising against the state not only in Indian Kashmir, but also in Afghanistan, and forced the removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq unless they operated under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law (and thus could be tried within Iraq, by the Iraqi justice system, for any crimes they would commit against Iraqi citizens – Muslim men, women and children whom they claim to have “liberated”). Moreover, to say that “Osama Bin Laden was safely ensconced in Abbottabad for ten years” is also a mis-statement of fact, since the compound where the former Al Qaeda leader was allegedly found, killed, and whisked away was only created (i.e. detected by American satellites) in 2006, and it is not likely for a terrorist commander of OBL’s stature to be fixed to a single location for more than a few weeks, let alone years. Dr. Fair needs to understand terrorist operations and methodologies in a much more holistic sense to understand how terrorist cadres, operatives and leaders continue to evade America’s military might and technological supremacy by using “Stone Age tactics” to deceive and defeat and much more powerful and overwhelming adversary.
To say that Pakistan “owes” the West and India “generally”, in light of the above facts and particularly with the above perspective in mind – which is obviously poles apart from that of Dr. Fair – is again, a sad statement made by someone who clearly has vested interests and a specific target audience in mind; by making such statements Dr. Fair is being extremely unfair, and is proving that she does not want to argue about facts on merit or evidence, but would like to do so merely on perception and perspective. In that sense, Dr. Fair is herself a victim of a fictional world, and seems subject to delusions of false grandeur or alcohol-induced stupor (which, again, would be quite unlike her, or anyone of her stature).
7. We care about Usama Bin Laden as much as you.
One wonders which Pakistani defense official would have said such a thing in an official or even in an unofficial capacity. How could a military official of a country who has lost more men-in-arms to the takfiri ideology and allied groups of Al Qaeda make a statement about “caring for OBL”? Has Dr. Fair been mistakenly considering someone like Munawwar Hasan or Hafiz Saeed to be a Pakistani defense official? Perhaps Dr. Fair thinks that Zaid Hamid is a spokesman for the Pakistan Army – too bad for Major General Asif Bajwa, for he thinks he is running the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and is supposed to be the OFFICIAL spokesperson of the Pakistan armed forces!
To say that “caring about OBL” means investigating the matter to its logical conclusion is absurd: the matter remains shrouded in mystery, and the Abbottabad Commission report – leaked or otherwise – cannot be taken at face value unless it is confirmed and not denied by official sources. The reason why none of Pakistan’s senior officials, whether from the Army or from the political arena, were sacked or resigned themselves is because the U.S. presented – imposed, rather – its own perspective of the news story and on the perception of global affairs, while – as always happens in cloak and dagger affairs – the truth of the matter (of when OBL died, and how) will be revealed in the decades to come. Regardless of that, even if it was OBL in Abbottabad, there is no guarantee that he had a “lengthy redoubt” to the tune of ten years confined to that single compound – even intelligence experts in the United States would disagree with such an assessment, citing obvious trends of terrorist operations.
Prove that the U.S. Navy Seals Team Six ACTUALLY took Osama bin Laden from the Abbottabad compound after killing him. Why does the U.S. military fail to show OBL’s remains – or pictures thereof – citing reasons like “heightened threats to U.S. forces stationed in high-risk areas like Afghanistan” when the antics of American military personnel – like the rape of Muslim women, as detailed above – is more likely to cause greater existential threat to the lives of American troops than the release of some pictures of some person who has most likely been dead since 2004 (the U.S. has possession of KSM, who has allegedly murdered OBL during their retreat from Tora Bora: evidence to that effect – now relegated to “conspiracy theories” – has been made available from intelligence sources in both Pakistan and the U.S., but the real story has never been made public) and not 2012 (which was an extremely opportune time for the incumbent U.S. President to shoot first and aim for the stars as far as his stature as a commander-in-chief goes; this is the same person who won the Nobel Prize for Peace while fighting two wars at the same time!). Prove that the death of OBL was not merely a ploy to allow Barack Obama to win the U.S. Presidential election for another term despite the fact that his ratings at home had plummeted to an all-time low by the time the TARP Bill, the ObamaCare Bill, and other Presidential initiatives had brought America’s first black President (as well as the Democratic party) to the knees: it is no secret that in the coming elections, the opposing party – the Republicans – are poised to take over the Senate, after being in control of the House of Representatives since 2011.
8. Pakistan has an enduring interest with peace with India.
Pakistan does, but many in Pakistan do not realize it – maybe that is how Dr. Fair should have addressed this notion. Pakistan did not start every war with India (especially not the 1971 war), and to say that Pakistan failed to win is a matter of who is counting and what is being counted, as Dr. Fair herself said in an earlier fiction. While Pakistan may have achieved tactical gains both in 1965 and 1999, it is true that Pakistan failed strategically in 1965, whereas Pakistan successfully tested its nuclear deterrent in 1999 by debilitating an Indian military response across the international border. Furthermore, India also tried to incite war with Pakistan in 2002 after the attack on the Indian parliament, as well as in 2008, after the dastardly 26/11 attacks (the likes of which Pakistan faces every day, the kind of which the Pakistani people fear and suffer every day) – in both cases India also failed to achieve its desired strategic objectives, and only damaged the peace process with Pakistan, whether it is a composite dialogue or something else.
Does India have an enduring interest in peace with Pakistan? Not really. India is still dreaming of superpower status, with a rich and vibrant economy and a growing middle class with great purchasing power, but in no way can it challenge the regional status quo established by China, nor can it project itself further or in a greater quantum than China already has. And after that, China tells India, the U.S. and the world that Pakistan is our Israel, in a clear statement of how U.S.-Israel relations are similar to Sino-Pak relations in many ways.
The abovementioned atrocities that India continues to commit on a daily basis in Kashmir, coupled with the reality of Muslims in India according to the Sachar Committee report – which revealed in November 2006 that the status of Indian Muslims are below the conditions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and that he overall percentage of Muslims in bureaucracy in India is just 2.5% whereas Muslims constitute above 14% of Indian population – are the main catalyst due to which Indian Muslims (especially those of an extremist dispensation) are forced to join, or attracted towards, militant groups that exist in India. Whether or not Pakistan supports these groups morally, financially or operationally is a matter that must be qualified with evidence and not on the basis of unsubstantiated media stories and dossiers of paper and ink: because Pakistan can respond in the same manner by providing dossiers of evidence or proof that India has been training Baluch insurgents as well as Mohajir mercenaries for decades.
It takes a Pakistani to realize that such finger pointing – at the scale of terrorist groups, to the scale of nuclear exchange – serves nobody’s purpose, and that both Indians and Pakistanis (at the state level as well as the non-state level) must look beyond these petty “non-issues” (as the Indian phrase goes) to actually see the merits in Indo-Pak peace: if India and Pakistan can become economically interdependent, for instance, it will be incumbent on them to find a mutually agreeable and peaceful resolution on the Kashmir dispute, particularly one that is acceptable to the Kashmiri people (who are divided between India and Pakistan by the Line of Control, or LoC).
Dr. Fair ends this particular fiction by developing a fantasy of her own: “While it is true that Pakistan must implement a defense policy based on India’s defense capabilities rather than assumptions about India’s most magnanimous intentions, it is also true that India would have no interest in Pakistan if it were not for the numerous terrorist groups that Pakistan supports”. This is tantamount to giving kudos to Pakistan’s alleged state policy of supporting terrorist groups in India, if there ever were such a state policy adopted and implemented by Pakistan or any of its organs. If Pakistan – which is facing an existential terrorist threat more deadly than any faced by India (despite the Naxal-controlled Red Corridor) or the U.S. – ceased to support terrorist organizations, will India cease to pursue peace with Pakistan? This line of argumentation is completely devoid of logic.
9. Pakistan wants a stable Afghanistan.
Evidently, Dr. Fair thinks that Pakistan is an irrational nation-state if not an unstable nation-state: that Pakistan, as a state, as a country, and as a nation, cannot learn from its mistakes, and cannot evolve with the requirements of modernity and the necessities and/or limitations of geopolitical strategy. Keeping Afghanistan unstable and subject to civil war through active or passive support of a militia government has come back to haunt Pakistan, as a similar militia movement (and not the offshoot of the Afghan movement, as Dr. Fair claims) is posing a grave threat to Pakistan’s western borders as well as to its cities and rural areas. Pakistan’s new government has repeatedly said that it has no favourites in Afghanistan, and that it continues to support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process (despite the fact that the U.S. and their client state run by President Karzai are at odds over who is to talk with the Taliban and about what), but Dr. Fair says that “if Pakistan cannot create an Islamist, pro-Pakistan regime in Kabul that is inhospitable to India, it would prefer chaos that it can manage”. The past few decades have made it clear that if Afghanistan spirals into chaos, it will spill over into the region, and it will not be in the power of a single country, or a group of countries, or even a superpower, to manage the chaos that will come with an unstable Afghanistan now.
But Dr. Fair does raise some unique and inherently novel points in this “fiction”. She says that Pakistan “wants the United States to retain some presence such that it can continue marketing its relevance to Washington”. Perhaps she does not pay heed to PTI chief Imran Khan who says that the very reason for instability and absence of peace in Pakistan is the presence of foreign (read: U.S.) troops in Afghanistan. Secondly, she asserts that Pakistan wants some Taliban representation in the Afghan government, but does not want the Taliban to conquer Afghanistan: this is some highly innovative thinking on Dr. Fair’s part, and if this were actually possible at an operational, tactical and strategic level, then Dr. Fair would serve Pakistan well to show Pakistani defense officials how it can be done: how the pursuant chaos can be contained and what-not. On the note that “an anti-Pakistan Taliban government could even offer reverse sanctuary to the Pakistani Taliban who fight the Pakistani state”: this is either the deeply embedded strategic thinking of the U.S. that wishes to see a destabilized Pakistan, unstable enough to disable it and take away its nukes, or the U.S. that has some vested interest in controlling the TTP. While the Afghan Taliban and TTP do have mutual interests, it has been made clear time and again by the Afghan Taliban that the TTP are not their offshoot, and that the latter are not under the operational command of the former (even though the TTP acknowledge Mullah Omar as their Amir-ul-Momineen). Pakistanis do not prefer that the U.S. prop up a weak state in Kabul: it is a matter of fact and the ground reality that the U.S. HAVE propped up a weak state in Kabul which has failed to become self-sufficient and self-sustainable like the post-Saddam Iraqi state. The “concomitant stream of revenue” that Pakistan receives from the U.S. has become subject to much more conditions according to the latest Defense Appropriations legislation in the U.S. legislature – Dr. Fair would do well to keep up with legislative developments in her own country for this matter. If the U.S. exits Afghanistan with its tails between its legs, then it will be impossible for anyone to contain the Afghan Taliban, who will thereafter have regional if not global ambitions: and they will certainly have a plan for Pakistan, whether Pakistan likes it or not. Dr. Fair gives too much credit to Pakistan by assuming that the Afghan Taliban are an extension of the Pakistani state, the Pakistan Army or the ISI – if they were before 2001, they certainly are not anymore, and would never forget the betrayal of the Pakistani state and the Pakistan Army led by General Pervez Musharraf who allowed the U.S. to drive the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in their invasion of the country in 2001. In making an assessment, Dr. Fair betrays knowledge of an intelligence fact that is most often argued by Pakistan to be reason for the country’s western border areas and provinces to have become unstable since 2001: “As the U.S. security umbrella retracts, Pakistan can be sure that India will make a hasty retreat from the areas most important to Pakistan in the south and east of Afghanistan”. Pakistan has often argued that India operates consulates in these areas with the specific purpose of recruiting Pakistani tribesmen and anti-Pakistan elements, and with the intent of sending them back into Pakistan to carry out terror activities – in the same manner that, Dr. Fair alleges, Pakistan has been propping up militant groups in India and in Afghanistan to do so.
10. The biggest hindrance to U.S.-Pakistan relations is a ‘trust deficit’.
Berating the perspective of all Pakistanis, Dr. Fair says that, “Pakistan has long marshalled a highly stylized history of American perfidy such that it can guilt the Americans into continued support”. Of course, there is a history of American perfidy that has not been stylized by Pakistan, but has been sponsored by facts of history and by the evidence of actions undertaken under the auspices of American foreign policy throughout the Muslim world that betray this American perfidy, whether it is “Operation Iraqi Liberation”, or “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, or what you will. Dr. Fair says that, “the problem is not a deficit of trust, but rather, a surplus of certitude”, and further says that, “Both sides fully understand that America’s allies such as India are Pakistan’s enemies and Pakistan’s allies, such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, are the enemies of the United States”. In an understanding of reality that has, for the past decade, eluded both the Pakistani and American militaries – and has served to the benefit of the Taliban and the TTP – Dr. Fair rightfully says that, “the biggest hindrance is the obfuscated reality that, in many ways, the United States and Pakistan are more enemies than they are allies”. Even if the U.S. and Pakistan are allies, and wish to be allies, then they have not acted like good allies – neither side has, and this has benefitted the common enemy as well as the enemy of each individual nation-state. It has been argued time and again that the Taliban and the TTP have been more allied than the U.S., Afghanistan (post-2001) and Pakistan: for this very reason, the “hammer and anvil” approach to defeating Taliban militants in Afghanistan’s border areas – or Pakistan’s border areas, for that matter – has yielded little success. Terrorist sanctuaries exist in rural as well as tribal Afghanistan, along with certain contained areas of Pakistan – like India, Pakistan has a trust deficit with the U.S. which needs to be overcome in 2014 more than ever, because this is a far more crucial year for Pakistan (and in fact, for all South Asian nations) than for the U.S., which can – like it did in the past, after it fought “Charlie Wilson’s War” – pack its bags and leave. Whatever fallout or aftermath comes as a result of the security vacuum and the possible implosion of the Afghan state, it is Afghanistan’s neighbours – Pakistan, China, Central Asian states and Iran – who will have to deal with any and every outcome, and will have no choice but to deal with it. America’s position is different: like it did in Doha, it can choose whether to talk to the Taliban or to leave Karzai and the Afghan state at the Taliban’s mercy; it can choose to create a better and more conducive environment for peace and stability in South and Central Asia, as well as opportunities for Indo-Pak peace, or it can leave the region in a greater mess than it was before 2001. Whatever the outcome of 2014 and beyond, Pakistan will have to face the consequences, while U.S. troops go back to the land of shopping malls, bars, beaches, land of the free, and the home of the brave. They might still want to call themselves that, after failing in Iraq and failing extremely miserably in Afghanistan – who knows, like the U.S.S.R., they might implode after exiting Afghanistan?
If one needs to know the future, one must definitely contact Dr. Fair. But beware: scotch must not be rare.
As an honest, humble and serious conclusion to all the abovementioned, and with due deference to the proficiency of Dr. Fair in her subject of expertise, it seems necessary that the assistant professor visit Wikipedia every once in a while just to refresh her memory and knowledge of history and reality – particularly after her sessions with people who have vested interests and fine whiskeys to buy her off with. For her achievements and capabilities, Dr. Fair deserves much respect and maintains the admiration that is awarded to her by many Pakistanis both inside the country as well as those abroad, regardless of their affiliation or mindset. But it is clear that by publishing these “ten fictions” that she claims are frequently peddled by unknown Pakistani “defense officials”, she had a specific target audience in mind, and a specific vested interest to feed.
Grow up, Dr. Fair! It is far beneath you to quote facts that suit your theory while ignoring others that would allow you to develop a more balanced approach towards the kind of holistic analyses you are renowned all around the world for. And no amount of Punjabi cursewords will change the fact that you have deliberately created some fictions, and misconstrued others, for the simple purpose of “Pakistan-bashing” and nothing else. As you are aware of Pakistan’s reality and limitations, as well as the mindset of the Pakistani public, the Pakistani street, and especially the Pakistani military – on which you are still writing a much-awaited book – it would serve you well to consult your Pakistani associates (and some real defense officials) before you create fictions and ignore facts, and thus only perpetuate the cycle of mistrust and anger between Pakistan and the United States (rather than tone it down, rationalize it, and eventually bring it to an end, as the intelligentsia are supposed to and expected to do).