By: Sarah Eleazar
‘What country can do more for your peace?’ implored Gillani’s 9/11 condolence to the US in Wall Street Journal.
Ever since Obama’s intermittent resolution to withdraw 33000 troops from Afghanistan and launch operation end game, we witnessed feverish attempts to ‘right’ the war narrative. It began with Bin Laden’s assassination, which was viewed as a stab in the back by Pakistan and set the stage for an eventual future disconnect for the US vis-à-vis Pakistan. Attacks in Kabul: on the hospital in May, the hotel in June and recently the US embassy and NATO’s headquarters in September, carried out swiftly and adroitly right inside ‘the ring of steel’ put all that victory propaganda effort in jeopardy. Small but significant tactical ‘wins’ for Taliban thus created the need for a new narrative to the salvage the chipping of America’s tenuous sense of security.
The US top brass once again found itself making headlines by accusing Pakistan’s Intelligence agency of aiding, protecting and facilitating the Haqqani Network. While Pakistan has strongly denied such allegations, the United States is bent on defaming the agency by implicating its complicity with the Quetta Shura Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Admiral Mullen’s caustic remarks about ISI’s involvement in the attacks and claims about the Haqqani Network functioning as a ‘veritable arm of ISI’, birthed America’s new bogeyman- Pakistan.
The Haqqani Network is an Afghan and Pakistan insurgent group with a familial leadership structure formed by Jalalludin Haqqani and joined by like minded tribal fighters in mid 1970’s. Their operations involve small, local, and semi‐autonomous fighting units organized along tribal and sub‐tribal lines, with Haqqani commanders often coordinating activity and providing logistics. Initially a part of Hiz-be- Islami in the 1980’s and 90’s, it has operated under the aegis of Taliban since 1996, but has considerable autonomy.
The Haqqani network’s organizational centrality is built upon the foundation and relations forged by Jalaluddin Haqqani and those close to him over the past forty years. The organizations ideological roots were set in place as far back as 1960’s and 70’s. What played to their advantage was their intimacy with the geographical terrain allowing them to claim vantage points in Khost, Loya Paktia and North Waziristan (Pakistan) even before their need for them rose. Secondly adaptability, flexibility and the chameleon like ability to melt away in the masses after an attack are characteristic of the Haqqani Network. “They appear to have remarkable abilities to adapt,” said journalist Fida Khan. “They can disperse and then re-gather overnight,” He added, “This makes them less vulnerable for penetration from outside and crackdowns.”Their strategy is that of extreme pragmatism, this allows for an all terrain assault capability with an acute appreciation of culture, strengths and limitations. Their success and public outlook unlike Taliban’s is always understated, downplayed on purpose and their pursuit of power limited to maintaining influence in Khost, Loya Paktia and North Waziristan, and spreading Jihad as much as they can. This has enabled their role in the development of Al- Qaeda and global Jihad to go unappreciated and unnoticed by international media and intelligence for so long.
West-Point’s documents on the Haqqani Network state that Pakistan has long been a core sponsor and key beneficiary of the Haqqani Network starting in the anti- Soviet war failing to mention that the Network was in fact operating as CIA’s veritable arm for over a decade. Jalalludin Haqqani in fact used to be, in Ronald Reagan’s words, a ‘moral equivalent of Americas founding fathers.’ He is according to Brigadier (Retd) Muhammad Saad, the spiritual leader and figurehead fomenting the many factions of Haqqani Network, keeping it together through his charisma and spiritual guidance, as he is too old and frail to fight.
Haqqani Network’s ideological backing for Jihad post 9/11 stems from the need to drive out foreign occupation forces and their domination on Afghan soil. Their attacks on Kabul Serena and Inter Continental Hotels, President Hamid Karzai, the Indian Embassy, a hospital, the kidnapping of David Rohde, all point towards fury and resentment against foreign troops who turned their country into ‘Dar-ul-Harb’.
The Kabul Attacks were thus set with America’s new victory narrative in the process; they managed to make their statement that resounded all over the world. Even America’s fortress in Kabul, which is swarming with intelligence agencies from CIA to RAW, with every entrance and exit manned, wasn’t infallible, showing off its mesh of links and temerity in infiltrating the heart of US led Afghanistan itself. Pakistan took the brunt of the blame for aiding and abetting these attacks through its intelligence agency ISI. The investigation and aftermath brought certain facts to light: the Haqqani Network did not engineer the attack on Pakistani soil they claimed, they operate under the aegis of Taliban not ISI and their head quarters aren’t in Pakistan anymore. On the other hand America claims they have evidence citing certain phone calls traced to Pakistan around the time of the attack that prove Islamabad’s involvement in carrying out the attacks; not wondering for a second why the ISI would use mobile phones and not encrypted lines to make the calls untraceable. We can only speculate.
What implications will this turn of events spell out for Pakistan, the third in the troika involved in negotiating America’s peace full exit?
Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, ex naval intelligence commander who served as a reservist in Afghanistan, wasn’t mincing words when he made it very clear to his fellow Americans that Afghans are “most victimized” by Pakistan and “I believed that Pakistan was “complicated,” that “we have many interests there” and that we must advance “diplomatically.” I no longer agree with that,” because, “Pakistan’s intelligence service is the biggest danger to the Afghan government. It is also a tremendous threat to the lives of American troops.” So now, “it appears that a tilt towards India will allow us to reduce our forces in Afghanistan, knowing that India will help bankroll the Afghan government. This would allow us to reduce our troops while also reducing the possibility of it becoming another terrorist safe haven.”
The past decade has seen Pakistan staring open mouthed as the US- India economic engagement increased steadily but surely, to the point where it offered India a Civil- Nuclear Agreement, something Pakistan will never be privy too. Afghanistan with its history of stirring up the Pashtunistan issue and sentiment in Pakistan has always preferred to sidle over to India for support and intelligence, a practice that has increased even more so under the Karzai government. The recent capture of senior Haqqani commander Haji Mali Khan has forced Karzai to rethink his earlier decision to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Taliban as the last attempt to make contact resulted in Rabbani’s death, saying there is no one else left to negotiate with but Pakistan. This would however have to be undertaken with extreme dexterity as they unanimously believe that Pakistan is actively involved in fomenting instability in the region. “Pakistan is not able to resolve their problem,” said Mullah Abdul Salem Zaeef Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan. “How are the Pakistanis able to solve the problem of Afghanistan?”
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Saturday that it had handed Pakistan evidence that the Taliban’s leadership plotted Rabbani’s assassination on Pakistani soil. Meanwhile Pakistan is busy collecting evidence to show Afghanistan and US that attacks on its soil were plotted in Afghanistan. This quagmire will take everyone down with it. A relentless blame game is the last thing these countries need to be involved in. Pakistan admits to its intelligence links with the Haqqani Network and Taliban, doesn’t every intelligence agency half way decent in its job?
A scapegoat was provided in the hour of necessity when America’s victorious ring of steel seemed to crumble all around it. The narrative is safe. All ensuing policies and steps will now factor out Pakistan’s interests in the region because it has proved itself to be the perpetrator, and now the deepened intelligence and economic ties with India will bear fruit. All avowals of trust and cooperation by America will now be viewed as an attempt to merely soften the blow and that hails America’s nomination of a new regional lackey. How Operation End Game will now play out is yet to be seen now that the ball is out of our court.
Spearhead Analyses are the result of a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual.
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