Monday, 17 November 2008 01:51
Bill Kristol, a Fox Television commentator and arch American neoconservative revealed recently what many had long suspected was US thinking about the current international situation.
Kristol recounts that in a 90-minute, mostly off-the-record meeting with a small group of journalists in early July, President Bush "conveyed the following impression, that he thought the next president's biggest challenge would not be Iraq, which he thinks he'll leave in pretty good shape, and would not be Afghanistan, which is manageable by itself… It’s Pakistan." We have "a sort of friendly government that sort of cooperates and sort of doesn’t. It's really a complicated and difficult situation." Right on cue, presidential candidate Barack Obama took the baton from Bush in his speech on July 15, in which he argued that more focus and resource were required on both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Kristol revelation on the surface is staggering yet not a surprise to those who have long suspected that the US presence in Afghanistan constitutes a Trojan horse for a more insidious plan the US has for Pakistan. Some may find it surprising that the US now believes Pakistan to be more challenging than Iraq where the US has 150,000 troops, spent almost a trillion dollars and has incurred over 4,000 fatalities. The neocon vision was that the capture of Iraq, a state that lies at the heart of the Middle East, would allow it to control not just the resources of the region but more importantly its geopolitics. Of course, the post invasion challenge was severely underestimated and despite some reduction in violence (albeit from a high benchmark), Iraq remains a quagmire. The US would like Iraq to be 'stable’ but not too stable, 'independent’ but not too independent, have an 'effective’ military but not too effective. John McCain compares the US role in Iraq with that of Korea and Germany and believes the US could be there for a hundred years. To justify a continued presence the US needs to keep Iraq weak and divided. No one can seriously dispute the growth in sectarianism that has been seen since US occupation. With a self governed Kurdish north, a Shia dominated central government and now US support for the Sunni tribes, General Petraeus has presided over a de facto partitioned state.
So, with Iraq closer to de facto partition, America can now turn its attention to Pakistan. This change of focus has been sign posted now for at least twelve months. In June 2007 the US published its National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) with some startling new revelations. Despite citing its numerous successes against Al-Qa’idah since September 2001 including these statements in a declassified document titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" dated April 2006 stated the following "United States - led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of Al-Qa’idah and disrupted its operations… We assess the global jihadist movement is decentralised, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse."
Yet the collective US intelligence community made a volte-face fourteen months later when it said the following: "We assess the group (Al-Qa’idah) has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership."
So, in effect what the US intelligence community was saying was that its six year war against Al-Qa’idah had been a failure and that to win the war effectively required action within Pakistan. The pretext for war within Pakistan was therefore created; any attack on any US target from now on that was traced to the FATA would give the US casus belli to undergo a massive retaliatory attack within Pakistan. Indeed Frances Townsend Homeland Security adviser to Bush said shortly after the NIE was published that the United States would be willing to send troops into Pakistan to root out Al-Qa’idah, noting specifically that "no option is off the table if that is what is required"
The US has been itching to get into Pakistan for some time.
Firstly, using remote controlled Predator aircraft to attack targets within Pakistan almost on a daily basis.
Secondly, the US has spent $10 billion on Pakistan’s military since 2001 and more specifically in trying to make Pakistan’s Frontier Corps into a fighting unit for the US military. To ensure Washington gets better value for money, Senator Joe Biden, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is seeking to enact legislation in Congress to tie future security aid to performance.
Thirdly, by promoting General Petraeus from heading up the Iraq campaign to become Central Command (CENTCOM’s) new head clearly indicates that Iraq has become subservient to Pakistan in Washington’s thinking.
Fourthly, the continued barrage of criticism within Capitol Hill, by Afghan officials and western think tanks of Pakistan’s failure to stem cross border insurgency prepares the ground for an eventual attack in Pakistan. Indeed eliminating the Pakistan sanctuary bases is one of the RAND Corporation’s key recommendations in a recent report, funded by the IS DOD, entitled "Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan." The report does not confine criticism to the FATA but states that the insurgency also finds refuge in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) as well as the province of Balochistan so extending the area substantially for future retaliation.
Lastly, according to a New York Times report in June, top Bush administration officials drafted a secret plan in 2007 to make it easier for US Special Operations forces to operate inside Pakistan’s tribal areas but that turf battles and the diversion of resources to Iraq held up the effort. However, now that forces are being reduced in Iraq, it is inevitable that such programs will be stepped up.