OBAMA’S LATEST SURGE: A TIGHT BALLOON IN HOT AIR

(A Brace for Bloody Winters)

By Samson Simon Sharaf

The long awaited Obama Speech is over. It is to wait and see the impact of the third surge in a highly destabilized, charged and violent region. The endgame if one dares, is not what Secretary Clinton wants us to believe.

I would describe the new strategy as a tight balloon in hot air that may rapture even before it reaches close to its objectives. The speech makes all the right noises of an establishment given up on the doctrine of ‘Shock and Awe’ that promoted absolutism in distant lands. It recognizes Pakistan’s integrity, sovereignty and welfare of the people. Following intense lobbying between State Department and Pentagon, there appears a lead role for the Pentagon working in tandem with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) previously headed by General Stanley McChrystal from the Vice President’s Office and the CIA.

Obama is in similar establishment pressure that Kennedy had to bear in Bay of Pigs and when he wanted to thin out from Vietnam. Cognisant that he should not go down in history as ‘Obama who never was’, the new AF-PAK strategy is a compromise with enough blank space for narratives to be filled later. It is these blank narratives that cause concern. As clarifications from Gates and Clinton suggest: There is not a deadline.

There is- what we have is a specific date on which we will begin transferring responsibility for security, district by district, province by province, in Afghanistan to the Afghans. The process of that and the subsequent thinning of our forces will take place over a period of time and will happen – and will be done based on the conditions on the ground, and the decision on that will be made by our commanders in the field.

The speech is but the tip of iceberg diplomacy. What lies undisclosed is high intensity sting and covert intelligence operations conducted by CIA and the dreaded JSOC. The message is unambiguous. Pakistan will have to face a surge of expanded drone attacks by both JSOC and CIA, and a cruel spate of covertly sanctioned illegal assassinations, sting operations and anarchy generated by contractors besides the routine State Department leaks capable of breaking hell in Pakistan.

Conspicuously, there is no mention of India in the script. It is also mysterious that all regional powers including China, Russia and Iran are maintaining an eerie silence on AF-PAK Strategy.

But this is the script left to Pakistan’s Security Establishment and hapless people to contend with. The much needed public support to this war on terrorism could slowly erode creating a vicious reaction; something needed to declare Pakistan an unstable state under the UN auspices. The other dimensions of this war will be shaped by our very own. Pakistan’s political establishment has not behaved in a manner worthy of a country at war on multiple fronts. Narrow political agendas are too endearing to spare a moment for a larger mission. There is a laissez faire and total absence of political structuring, be it meeting heads of foreign missions, dignitaries or foreign intelligence agencies. US diplomacy holds a carrot for politicians to push back the military and intelligence agencies at the perilous cost of the existence of the state itself.

Pakistan’s economy is in a downward spiral with no hedging. Within a decade, the country is energy deficient. Agriculture sector, the only positive indicators for many decades is being manipulated to a position of becoming non productive. The farmer has been exposed to the greedy cartels, which the government shows no resolve to control.

It began with the manipulative buying of sugar cane followed by the disappearance of Atta from the market during a bumper year. Now the paddy crops are ready with no buyers while the value added industry is going hoarse over extra ordinary exports of raw cotton and yarn. The latest is the manipulation of tomato prices in Sindh by cartels from Rs. 80 to a paltry Rs. 2.

India has acquired the capability to manipulate the waters of Chenab feeding Punjab. Kishen Ganga project will affect the planned Neelum Project and Mangla reservoir. There are reports that IRSA has refused water to Punjab from River Indus implying that Southern Punjab will not produce enough winter crops that it normally does raising the ante on food security as also give impetus to the movement for devolving the province.

The Sales Tax imposed in 2000 was legislated as a Value Addition Tax (VAT) that never served its purpose. It is yet again being changed to VAT. Traditionally, such taxes are imposed on growing and developing economies. In Pakistan, suffice to say that the effects of this taxation on an ailing, sinking and manipulative economy will be negative.

This is not a comedy of errors but a deliberately executed policy to halt the wheels. As poverty grows, so will the, frustration and crime in society. This fits into the US Schemes of shaping the environment. The blanks in the narrative and the implosion being generated within are the hot air that would inevitably lead to a clash between the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the present government. It will also be exploited by self styled experts and media hungry generals to spill beans long after they had sold their conscience, something that serves to prove many US hypotheses on the Pakistan defence establishment. The next 18 months and beyond will be difficult for Pakistan and its national security. The government and politicians have to move away from their self preserving policies to a broad canvas of national consensus. It is also crucial to move from a US enforced war strategy to an approach based on national consensus that takes cognizance of justifiable US sensibilities and concerns.

Some of the contours of such a policy are:

A broad minimum consensus on national security that addresses the war on terrorism, fast track socio economic development at grass roots and economic hedging.

Take China, Russia and Iran into confidence on how Pakistan intends to play its role in the latest surge.

 Persuade USA to support Pakistan against the secessionist movement in Balochistan. Identify and dissected various brands of militants within a broad name of Taliban and deal them separately both politically and militarily. The purpose: to isolate groups with links to al Qaeda.

Shift counter insurgency operations from a sledge hammer strategy to precision actions based on intelligence, air support and air mobile tactics. Just like USA is engaging Afghan Taliban, we must also engage their sympathisers in Pakistan to draw them away from the al Qaeda operatives and urban terrorists towards a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Stop dragging feet on the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and legislate it as an effective mechanism to counter insurgency and urban terrorism. It must co-opt representative from the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, intelligence, local bodies, civil society and media.

 The temptation to fill political slots must be resisted. The spirit of nationhood must be carried forward from the NFC Award to all other areas of national cohesion, well being and security.

 The private media must formulate a national security code of conduct on sensitive national security matters and black out self styled belatedly confessing opportunists. The government of Pakistan has to appreciate the dangers to Pakistan’s integrity and security arising out of the third surge. The opportunities have to be recognised, even if it be at the cost of short term tactical disadvantage.

 The bottom line is that after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan must emerge as a responsible nuclear power with no scope for private armies led by criminals, thugs and militants. This means bracing for a bloody winter in the urban areas.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.

20 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, Army, Obama, Pakistan, Terrorism, USA, violence, war, War On Terror

20 responses to “OBAMA’S LATEST SURGE: A TIGHT BALLOON IN HOT AIR

  1. neel123

    Some of the contours of such a policy are:…………….

    – where is the policy talk on “using terror as instrument of Foreign policy and seeking strategic depth by destabilizing Afghanistan”……….. ?

  2. sharafs

    neeli123,
    For God’s sake!

  3. Hayyer

    “US diplomacy holds a carrot for politicians to push back the military and intelligence agencies at the perilous cost of the existence of the state itself.”

    Now that is called taking a positive position against the norms of democracy. Is this not the same old argument that the Army defends nazaria e pakistan?

    “India has acquired the capability to manipulate the waters of Chenab feeding Punjab. Kishen Ganga project will affect the planned Neelum Project and Mangla reservoir. There are reports that IRSA has refused water to Punjab from River Indus implying that Southern Punjab will not produce enough winter crops that it normally does raising the ante on food security as also give impetus to the movement for devolving the province”

    India always had the capacity to manipulate the waters of the Chenab but it was, and still is constrained by the Indus Waters Treaty which it specifically adheres to. What is the fuss about?
    Kishenganga will affect the Neelam project; true, but it will not affect the Mangla reservoir. Let us not get our facts mixed up.
    Kishenganga called Neelam in Pakistan is a tributary of the Jehlum. The nation putting up its project first gets the right to the water of the tributaries. India’s Kishenganga project will prevent the Neelam Jehlum from being a commercial success but it will not take water away from the Jehlum. It merely drops Kishenganga/Neelam water into the Jehlum upstream of Uri instead of down stream of Uri.
    Further, as the Kishenganga project drops the water at Bandipur in the Wular lake (which is a mere 20 kilometres from the point at which the river starts dropping into the Baramulla gorge there is no possibility of India consuming that water for irrigation, though it has the right to do so. Furthermore, that same water in addition to the Jehlum’s normal flow is expected to double the capacity of India’s Uri projects downstream of Baramulla. So India will not even be trying to use the water for irrigation. After Uri the water enters PAK and thence on to Mangla.

    “The Sales Tax imposed in 2000 was legislated as a Value Addition Tax (VAT) that never served its purpose. It is yet again being changed to VAT. Traditionally, such taxes are imposed on growing and developing economies. In Pakistan, suffice to say that the effects of this taxation on an ailing, sinking and manipulative economy will be negative.”

    This argument eluded me. Is it an argument against VAT? VAT is particularly useful in countries like India because it prevents cascading of taxes. Why should it undermine Pakistan’s economy?

    “Take China, Russia and Iran into confidence on how Pakistan intends to play its role in the latest surge.”
    America and China intend to coordinate policy in South Asia anyway. Getting Iran into the act will be difficult. Russia is already on board the American flight, even on Iran now, it seems.
    But, just as a stray thought, suppose your eastern frontier was manned by a close friend not an enemy, would it not have much the best strategy.

  4. rex minor

    Would it also not be the best strategy to allocate half of the army to the UNO, let Baluchistan and the North West Frontier integrate with Afghanistan, and start a dialogue with the next door neighbour for friendly relations. After the use of a naked force against civilians Bengalis and now the Baluchis and Pushtoons, Pakistan has no moral stand to demand better treatment from India for their Kashmiri citizens. Instead of from top down(the phrase used by former military President) try to build the remaining country from the base upwards. I know that from the military point of view it is slow and difficult but this is the normal process for a democracy. There are no short cuts. The lesser the military the easier it would be to create a community of people who work hard and live in harmony among themselves and with their neighbours. Perhaps if you have the opportunity to read the history of the Pushtoon land which the British colonialists after fighting three wars and conducting numerous campaigns did manage to cut it in two, half of which by deceit and sheer accident became in the now Pakistan. You would also read the names of famous Generals, Sirs and Lords, some of them perished and those who surrendered were massacred and some escaped alone and were content with the consolation prize of having participated in the battles against the great warriors of the Pushtoon valleys. On return to their home country they proudly told their debacle to their families and even wrote books which were later published. The new strategy of the Scottish US General of achieving security at the village, distract and the province level is a copy of that followed in the 19th century by most probably his scottish ancestors. There are several books on this episode but perhaps the two are of interest by Swinson and Warburton. With regard to any expectations from the Americans, let us recall that Pakistan was a member of the CENTO and despite this alliance, the US administration did not come to the aid of Pakistan when attacked. We should also be cognance of the fact that the US under cover of surge is tryimg to assemble a force to confront Iran on the nuclear issues. My comments are not meant to upset the author but want to draw the readers attention about the hopeless situation Pakistan finds itself in by the successive military interventions in running the country. All the great Generals of the land did not have the slightest knowledge of developing a cohesive society which they had not inhereted. And yet they continued one by one to take the seat. They felt comfortable because they did not have the ability to realise it. And even now some of them are running around within and outside like headless chickens. Sorry, I have to close it because it is now after midnight.
    Sorry for typing errors.

  5. Bloody Civilian

    @rex minor

    the Pushtoon land which the British colonialists after fighting three wars and conducting numerous campaigns did manage to cut it in two

    aren’t you being unfair to both the brits and hari singh nalwa?

    half of which by deceit and sheer accident became in the now Pakistan

    you will find your half a sentence expanded and explained over, i think, 5 articles by YLH on PTH.

  6. Bloody Civilian

    … you were probably being unfair to the afghan identity and what it means… and to kabul too.

  7. rex minor

    @Bloody Civilian
    I do not deny that my account of events might contain errors or ommissions. But have you not come cross the wise saying that when you hear or read someone making a wrong statement, wait and have patience, it is rude to point out the error to the initiator for he might correct it himself. But this is a bit of a philosaphy just to tease you, since you have labelled me being unfair.
    No, I did not ignore the great warrior Ranjit Singh and his Hari singh Nalwa, who for the first time occupied Peshawar and Landi Kotal etc. I was also not narrating about Afghanistan rule which from my memory spread over the whole of Punjab and beyond. This was not my theme, I was trying to recollect what went on in the Pushtoon land by the colonialists who stayed over one hundred years but were unable to overpower them. But they did manage to split it into two! Sir, do you now know what I mean by the Pushtoon land on each side of the so called Durand line dividing one nation into two. I can see that you have not visited that part of the world. Have you visited Germany after the world war two and the country was split in two and Prime Minister Thatcher was of the opinion that for the economic existance and superiority of the British, it would be necessary to keep for ever two Germanys in Europe. Well, we have one Germany now and this has not harmed any one but instead enhanced the unity of Europe.
    Now, what about being unfair to the Afghan identity and kabul? I honestly do not know what the question is? The words Pashtoon and Afghan are synonymous!

  8. Bloody Civilian

    I can see that you have not visited that part of the world

    where did you see that?

    The words Pashtoon and Afghan are synonymous!

    except to many afghans.. and not just the non-pashtun afghans.

  9. rex minor

    Sorry tough luck. I cannot help it. The non- pushtoon afghans can propse a different name for the country. Like United Kingdom for England, scotland, wales and Northern Ireland. the Tajiks, Uzbeks and the Hazara etc. could propose another name or leave the country and go over to the neighbouring countries such as Tajikstan, Uzbekistan etc.
    I see it from you question about the pushtoon and the Afghan. But you are free to call them as you wish.

  10. vajra

    @rex minor
    @Bloody Civilian

    Is this discussion a closed one between you two Pushtun gentlemen, one from Pakistan, and the other from parts unknown in northern Europe, or can vulgus mobile also butt in?😀

    Of course, on a serious note, this is not without public edification value, even though I occasionally fear B***** C******* has his tongue in his cheek.

  11. Gorki

    @rex minor
    @BC

    “But have you not come cross the wise saying that when you hear or read someone making a wrong statement, wait and have patience, it is rude to point out the error to the initiator for he might correct it himself…”

    I have been pre-empted by the above statement and so am forced to keep quiet otherwise like Vajra, I too am bursting at the seams and having a hard time trying to stay out of a conversation between two Pushtuns gents.

    Hint to rex minor: BC may be someone you least expect him to be; if you want to guess, think a decendant of a certain Afghan Rex major.
    (Sorry BC, will keep quiet from hence forth, rex buddy, you are on your own from now😉 )

    Regards.

  12. Bloody Civilian

    @rex minor

    Sorry tough luck. I cannot help it.

    that’s ok. i had guessed as much.🙂

    I see it from you question about the pushtoon and the Afghan

    i didn’t get that. sorry. could you please explain. (the ‘wise saying’ doesn’t apply here since i’m asking for help with my own poor ability to understand)

  13. rex minor

    @Gorki,
    @Vajra
    @BC
    I am sorry, I do not mean to be rude to any one. I do not invent things, I state what I understand to be reasonably accurate, without emotions and ego or any personal gains. You gentlemen will allways observe me taking the side of victims, I am a Hindu in faith when their faith is criticised and a Jew in the face of an anti-semit campaign and equally a Palestinian arab of Gaza when a Rabai orders the killings of their children with the backup of Tora verses stating that God allows the killing of babies if they are likely to be one’s enemies when they grow up. Right now I see a great turmoil in the Pushtoon land, rich in culture and history where several civilisations melted away silently into one, and where foreigners were always welcomed and found refuge from their powerful enemies. They are under attack as in the past labelling their people with various unworthy titles simply to justify their killings on both side of the border. I also see resulting vast destructions and sufferings to come for the natives as well as for the foreign aggressors. No one is likely to escape the punishment of the almighty one. History is my witness, the land of the Pushtoons has always been the most comfortable place for the dead but very hard for the living. The land where one finds lapus lazuli and emeralds, one also discovers ancient buddhist statues and sometimes the skeletons of nobles who chose not to leave. It is the biggest grave yard of the world, but with fewer remains of the dead since the Pushtoons Waziris do not permit the burial of the infidels. It is good that now the intruders are managing to transport the deads in boxes to their own lands.

  14. rex minor

    @ Bloody Civilian
    Now please what is your question. Why do’nt you tell me your views of the word Pushtoon, Afghan or Kabul etc.? And I am prepared to give you my blanket agreement without any qualification! You can even start from Batan if you wish who had a daughter Bibi Matto, who fell in love with Hussain Shah, a prince of Turkish origin, and their intimacy caused the pregnancy and son and so forth………… Please give me reference point as ones say in medicine. The names or religions do not
    have any relevance to my comments. I am not familiar with your approach?

  15. vajra

    @rex minor

    Speaking for myself, I did not detect any rudeness in your statements whatsoever.

    On the other hand, while your support for the weak and defenceless stands to your lasting credit among decent people everywhere, I have had personal disagreements (nothing here, not in this thread) with your views on Pashtuns.

    I am looking forward to an engagement of ideas between you and Bloody Civilian. I have insufficient knowledge of this specific land and people to intervene, but just enough to relish and savour. Please consider me merely a spectator in this debate.

  16. rex minor

    @Vajra
    I am simply a student of world history not a Professor, and remain very eager to learn more about Pushtoons. I think differently and form my own opnions. I have also learnt that most of the contents in history books are based on speculations and the experience of the individual authors and their interpretations, but very little to do with facts. The comments provided by some of you on various subjects in this forum were very deep,informative and philosophical. I feel obliged.

  17. Bloody Civilian

    @rex minor

    my question is as straight-forward and honest as possible. please treat it as such.

    I see it from you question about the pushtoon and the Afghan

    it looked to me there might have been letters or words missing there. a simple typo. so i asked for your help. that’s all.

    perhaps i should have been able to guess the meaning from the context. i’m afraid i’m not sure i can. sorry

  18. rex minor

    @Bloody civilian
    I see it from your question about the pushtoon and the afghan, this was in reply to your earlier question where did you see it from? My guess is that you do not agree with my statement about the words pushtoon and afghan being synanymous.
    In you snippets you did say “except to many afghans… and not just to non Pushtoon afghans.
    Now Messrs Gorky and Vajra, for whom I have got lot of respect on account of not only their intellect and command of the english language but very methodic and philosophical approach to bridge the sensible and the intellectual worlds, indicated that you are a descendent of some rex major. I am not inquisitive nor will it make any difference about my view of the Pushtoon people. But please tell me who are these ” except to many Afghans”.
    Have a nice day!

  19. Bloody Civilian

    @rex minor

    there is ‘afghan’ as pashtun and there is ‘afghan’ as a citizen of afghanistan; or ‘afghanis’ (the people). many pashtuns in afghanistan consider themselves afghans in the latter sense, even exclusively so. similarly, many tajiks, uzbeks, hazara, and others, as well as many hybrids consider themselves afghans in the afghani sense and have doe so for over two hundred years now. pashtun and afghan are not and cannot be as interchangeable in todays’ afghanistan as it was in india/pakistan. today, even the ANP has suggested the name pukhtunkhwa in preference to afghania. pashtun and afghan are synonymous only in a limited context.

    regards

  20. rex minor

    @Bloody Civilian,
    It is nice to know your views.
    . I am sorry your very start is misleading. You are trying to relate these interesting people to the country which is known today as Afghanistan and Pakistan, whereas, my interest all along has been in the people and the land they have lived in for several centuries.
    . The Pushtoons have never recognised a king, nor accepted any administrative authority over them. Infact they have appointed Ameers and sent them to sit in Kabul and Peshawar to handle diplomatic relations with the outside world.
    . The words Pashtoon and or Afghan have not only baffled many historians but also the people themselves. You state in your latest note that(ANP) after having considered several names have proposed a new name after sixty years for them. In other words the name Pashtoon and Afghan are now patented for Afghanistan and therefore those living on the Pakistan side would have to be named PukhtoonK…… They must have gone crackers or are we again in the name calling business. Why do’nt they simply call them Talabans, the most befitting and popular name used in the past decade.
    . Baber called these people Afghans and their language Afghani,(Afghan Immigration in the easrly middle ages, by K.S Lal). The word Afghan appears in the insciptions of Shahpur I at Naksh-e-Rustum. The word Afghan, though of unknown origin, first appears in history in the Hudud-Al-Alam, a work by an unknown Arab Geographer who wrote in 982 A.D(Afghanistan, by W.K.Frazier Tytler). According to the Encyclopedia of Islam “the first mention of the afghans in written history is in the chronicle of Al-Utbi in Tarikh-e-Yemini and an almost contemporary mention by Al-Baruni. The supposition that the Pashtoons are any different from the Afghans is not borne out either by the legendry accounts associated with the origin of this people or by historical or ethnological datas. Both Bellow and Longworth Dames consider the two terms as appellation of a common people. There is no racial difference between the two. The two words are synonymous referring to one and the same people though a few writers try to make a distinction between afghans and Pashtoons which is ephemeral. For instance, some authors maintain that only those tribes living in southern Afghanistan, particularly between Herat and Qandhar and who speak Persian should be called Afghans while others living in the rest of Afghanistan, NWFP and Baluchistan speaking Pashtu language should be called Pashtoons. But all these distinctions are confusing and will lead nowhere.
    .You were also very hasty to refer me to 5 articles by YLH onPTH, when I stated that the Brits. did manage in their military campaigns to half the people (and the land) by deceit and sheer accident.
    . I am sorry but my impression is that you are somehow nit picking on my comments. I do not believe that we should be discussing a subject which has baffled famous historians and the researchers and the people themselves in this forum. On top of that you bring into the discussion people of different ethnic background who are the citizen of Afghanistan. My interst is in the little triangular shaped territory betweeen South Asia and the Iranian plateau of Sijistan land and starting from Dir in the north and right down to waziristan and beyond covering approximately an area of over 250,000 sq. miles. This region includes the major portion of NWFP, a part of Quetta in Baluchistan and three fourth of Afghanistan. In this hilly country divided between afghanistan asnd Pakistan lives the world’s largest group of tribesmen numbering over roughly sixty million called Afghans, Pushtoons or Pakhtuns. They fascinate me and I have my own views why these tribes have never been defeated in history. We are living in different times but the Indigenous people of this triangle with their no go areas and technical finesse to manufacture their own weaponary are there to stay and unlikely to perish. Have a nice day and take care.
    Regards,