Originally Posted by blain2
Here is another one, albeit a bit more reflective.
War and peace, army style
By Ayaz Amir
ONLY the Pakistan army could have created the Waziristan mess. No other force had the ability to put together the extraordinary combination of arrogance and lack of judgment which went into its making.
Only the Pakistan army could have executed the extraordinary somersault which is the essence of the North Waziristan agreement: a virtual instrument of surrender effectively ceding Waziristan to the neo-Taliban. A civilian government would have had its ears cropped had it even suggested, far less attempted, anything of the kind.
Call this the higher gymnastics: first starting a needless fire, then rushing in with the fire engines when the flames prove more destructive than anyone had thought. Fire-lighting and firefighting rolled into one, versatility of which any army would be proud.
This agreement commits the army to a set of concrete measures: abandoning check-posts, releasing prisoners, returning seized weaponry and, something dear to the heart of every Pakhtoon, paying compensation.
A Pakhtoon is decent and honourable and a man of his word. But he also has a keen sense of money. Indeed, a Pakhtoon moneylenderĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s idea of interest would make Shylock blush.
How much Ă˘â‚¬ËścompensationĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ the army ends up paying for this agreement we wonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t know, or it wonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t be disclosed Ă˘â‚¬â€ť no doubt out of embarrassment Ă˘â‚¬â€ť but we can rest assured it will be Ă˘â‚¬ËśadequateĂ˘â‚¬â„˘. Having taken on the army and worsted it in combat, the Waziri and Mahsud Taliban are on a roll. They would settle for nothing less.
In return for these concrete measures, the Taliban have committed themselves to a set of promises: end to cross-border militant activity in Afghanistan, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“...no parallel administration in the agencyĂ˘â‚¬Âť and the pious hope that Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“the writ of the state will prevail in the area.Ă˘â‚¬Âť This at a time when militants are in full command of both North and South Waziristan and the army has withdrawn to its defensive positions.
A more complete reversal of positions is hard to imagine. But this is a volte face dictated by ground realities. Although deployed in heavy numbers, the army found itself in a quagmire, Taliban resistance proving more than General Headquarters had bargained for. Casualties were high, perhaps unsustainable, although weĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ll never know the exact figures, the Pakistan army not given to embarrassing disclosures.
If we still donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t have precise casualty figures for Kargil Ă˘â‚¬â€ť Gen MusharrafĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s maiden and only venture into actual, as opposed to armchair, war-making.... against an external combatant, I hasten to add, internal combatants being an entirely different matter Ă˘â‚¬â€ť it will be some time before we know how many fighting men actually died or were wounded in Waziristan.
Not the least of the ironies surrounding this conflict, however, lies in the fact that the man who led the army into Waziristan, Lt Gen Aurakzai when he was corps commander Peshawar, is the same man who as governor of the Frontier province is behind the present agreement. (The actual operation and the bungling accompanying it were the handiwork of AurakzaiĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s successor as corps commander, Lt Gen Safdar Hussein, famous for making tall claims.)
Aurakzai has proved to be a better diplomat than he was a general. This is the story of the Pakistan army these days, generals unsure at their own game but veritable experts in other fields.
Even so, better late than never although if the blinkers on at the time had been fewer, we might have been spared much slaughter and discomfiture Ă˘â‚¬â€ť unless GHQ, hardened by experience and inured to disasters and u-turns, is in the happy position of being beyond embarrassment and discomfiture.
But, weighing pros and cons, is this agreement good or bad? Overall good, because the army was fighting an unwinnable war and there was no point, as war colleges never tire of emphasising, in reinforcing failure.
When mired in something stupid, as the Americans are in Iraq and as they once were in Vietnam, it is best to declare victory and get out. This in effect is what Gen Musharraf has done and this is what the Americans, if they had any sense, should do in Iraq, always remembering, however, that given a choice, it is preferable to avoid the march of folly right from the beginning than don the mantle of statesmanship later on.
It pays to remember that the situation in Waziristan was a holdover from the past when this area was one of the staging posts for the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan during the 1980s. When that war Ă˘â‚¬â€ť sweet revenge for Vietnam, as the Americans considered it Ă˘â‚¬â€ť was over, many of the Arab and other Ă˘â‚¬ËśmujahideenĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ had nowhere to go, their own countries Ă˘â‚¬â€ť Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc Ă˘â‚¬â€ť being wary of Ă˘â‚¬ËśIslamic radicalismĂ˘â‚¬â„˘. So they remained behind in Waziristan, some of them even marrying into the local tribes.
It wasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t the fault of these Arabs or Chechens or Uzbeks if the Americans were being less than successful in bringing peace to Afghanistan once the Taliban were toppled and Hamid Karzai installed as a puppet ruler. The Taliban were supposed to have been licked. But they werenĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t and they have since made a comeback, threatening to turn Afghanistan once more into the kind of country which proved a graveyard for the Soviet army.
DonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t blame these retired Ă˘â‚¬ËśjihadisĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ for being drawn to another Ă˘â‚¬ËśjihadĂ˘â‚¬â„˘. Who or what has created the setting for this Ă˘â‚¬ËśjihadĂ˘â‚¬â„˘? After all, where the sea is voyagers will go.
The Pakistanis, with their better local knowledge, should have been left to handle the Waziristan problem... in line with history and tradition. Instead, the Americans Ă˘â‚¬â€ť living up to de GaulleĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s taunt, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“You may be sure that the Americans will commit all the stupidities they can think of, plus some that are beyond imaginationĂ˘â‚¬Âť Ă˘â‚¬â€ť prevailed upon the Pakistan army to adopt sledgehammer tactics which, far from doing any good, inflamed tribal sentiments and brought wider support to the Taliban cause.
This was Iraq in microcosm, the Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“war on terrorĂ˘â‚¬Âť not quelling violence but giving birth to more of it. Mercifully, better sense has ultimately prevailed but after paying a heavy price. Old tribal structures which had withstood the test of time stand demolished. Pro-government tribal figures have been killed. The army is licking its wounds. Moderate sentiment has been crushed while the Taliban are stronger than ever.
Ever the inventive spirit, Gen Musharraf has woken up to a new refrain, warning western audiences that the Taliban were now a more serious threat than Al Qaeda, conveniently forgetting his own role in making the Taliban powerful in the two Waziristans.
Amidst this confusion Karzai apologists and western sympathisers make matters worse by suggesting that the Taliban are being supported by Pakistani intelligence. If that were so, there would have been no need for the army to lose hundreds of its men fighting them in Waziristan.
There is a militant problem in Pakistan, no denying this. But it has been made worse by the wrong tactics. The sledgehammer hasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t worked in Iraq. It isnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t working in Afghanistan. And it has just suffered a serious reverse in our own backyard.
The Waziristani tribes have stood guard on the Frontier for over fifty years. They went to Kashmir in 1947 and what we have of Kashmir we owe largely to their enterprise and valour. We need a period of reflection in which inflamed passions can be cooled and lost trust restored.
Hopefully, the old mistakes will not be repeated. Although as I was writing these lines there was a news item quoting a general as saying that the army can still carry out Ă˘â‚¬Ëśsurgical strikesĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ if there is Ă˘â‚¬Ëśmilitant activityĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ in North Waziristan. ThatĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s the mantra the army chanted when it first moved into the area: surgical strikes. We know how surgical such strikes are and what effect they leave behind.
On Waziristan we should now learn to do our own thinking and be able to tell the Americans where to get off.