Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pakistan-bashing is not without a reason....

The current wave of Pakistan-bashing is not without a reason. There are plans to discredit Pakistan and create enabling environments for India to take over Afghanistan after the US departure. Pakistan has been used beyond its capacity and its services are no more required by the US. 

The infamous September 13 attack on the Ring of Steel in Kabul is no different from the previous attacks but, understandably, it has brought tremors in international relations. As anticipated by some cynics, the alliance of 10 years forged to fight terrorism is falling apart, with allies talking tough to each other, pointing fingers and frothing at the mouth.  They are practically at each other’s throats. This attack and its after-shocks in the form of bad-mouthing by the allies, has brought home a very clear message to the world; many thousand lives were lost for nothing and precious years feeding whole one generation on terror-fear have been wasted. And one trillion dollars of US taxpayers’ hard-income have gone down the drain. Today the Taliban, which the world wanted destroyed, are more formidable than 2011. They will gain further strength from the present stand-off between the US and Pakistan. Al Qaeda sitting on the fence is jubilant as it never expected to realize the desired results so easily. The US obliged al Qaeda by blindly walking into mouse trap called Afghanistan.

The attack which was carried out with operational excellence paralyzing US security apparatus in Afghanistan for 20 hours carries two distinct stamps; it was a Taliban job executed by a few fighters and it could not have been carried out so brilliantly without inside help from the US Embassy. Instead of admitting security and intelligence failure, the US has needlessly started looking for a scapegoat. A senior U.S. official -- Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- has publicly fingered the Haqqani network as a tool of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. What's surprising is that this is particularly newsworthy: ISI's contacts with the Haqqanis, like so many other intelligence outfits, have been an open secret for years. What's different, of course, is that the latest Haqqani attack was not on American forces deployed in Afghanistan but on the U.S. embassy in Kabul -- and that the U.S. government possesses unambiguous evidence of official Pakistani complicity in last week's assault.

But the ISI has always been in the limelight or was being seen in bad light by the media. For every act of secession or violence in remote Indian States called Seven Sisters or the Red Corridor or Jammu & Kashmir, finger was invariably pointed in ISI direction. There was a time of sustained campaign against ISI that it was felt that ISI could even be behind earthquakes, epidemics, poverty, caste system injustices and even broken marriages in India. If ISI is helping Afghans fight USSR, it was an excellent force, if it was working to protect Pakistan and its security interests; it is branded as a rogue agency.

The current campaign against ISI has nothing to do with its alleged role in Taliban attack on Kabul and even the US knows that. It is basically a war between ISI and RAW of India for their respective country’s post-US influence in Afghanistan in which the US is siding with RAW when it no longer needs ISI in its WoT. Such wars between the two agencies are not a new phenomenon.

According to Council on Foreign Relations, RAW set up two covert groups of its own in mid-80s, Counter Intelligence Team-X (CIT-X) and Counter Intelligence Team-J (CIT-J), the first targeting Pakistan in general and the second directed at Khalistani groups. The two groups were responsible for carrying out terrorist operations inside Pakistan . Indian journalist and associate editor of Frontline magazine, Praveen Swami, writes that a "low-grade but steady campaign of bombings in major Pakistani cities, notably Karachi and Lahore" was carried out.

According to Council on Foreign Relations, RAW is also accused of supporting Sindhi nationalists demanding a separate state, as well as Siraikis calling for a partition of Pakistan's Punjab to create a separate Siraiki state. India denies these charges. However, experts point out that India has supported insurgents in Pakistan's Balochistan, as well as anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan. But some experts say India no longer does this. Pakistan is suspicious of India's influence in Afghanistan, which it views as a threat to its own interests in the region. Experts say although it is very likely that India has active intelligence gathering in Afghanistan, it is difficult to say whether it is also involved in covert operations.

As against allegations that ISI has contacts with Haqqani Network fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan, RAW has contacts with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighting Pakistani state in Swat, South Waziristan and elsewhere in the tribal region. RAW is many steps ahead of ISI in this respect. It is fanning and fuelling insurgency in Balochistan and FATA and is funding and actually equipping TTP and Baloch insurgents. Some target-killers arrested in recent Karachi unrest confessed to have received training from RAW. No wonder, some call Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan as Tehreek-e-RAWliban Pakistan.

Some pundits are worried that Haqqani network, based in North Waziristan, has never attacked an official target in Pakistan - further evidence of its collusive relationship with that country's security services. When their struggle is focused on fighting foreign occupation forces and their collaborators including India, why should these pundits insist the network attack Pakistan which has no role in Kabul? By this flawed logic, TTP fighting Pakistan and having killed 35000 civilians and 3000 security personnel provide evidence of its collusive relationship with RAW and CIA. And mind you, this fight is taking place right inside Pakistan. By all definitions, TTP and Baloch insurgency is proxy war being fought by RAW inside Pakistan. Major objectives of this proxy war are keeping Pakistan away from Afghanistan to give India decisive role in Kabul, keeping China away from Gwadar-China energy corridor and depriving Pakistan from natural resources of Afghanistan.

After the decision of drawdown from Afghanistan, the U.S. calculus has changed. It will now no longer need Pakistan. It will certainly need India to inherit Afghanistan from the NATO forces to keep India-supported ethnic minority in power. This explains why a sustained campaign was launched some months ago to defame and discredit Pakistan’s security establishment which, in their eyes, is major hurdle against India’s foothold in Kabul.  

According to Foreign Policy, Pakistan is no ally when it comes to the endgame in Afghanistan -- and that plays the role of spoiler in America's relationship with the most potentially important rising power of the 21st: century: India. These developments raise the ugly but necessary question of what a completely different - and adversarial -- U.S. approach to Pakistan would look like, one that dispenses of the underlying logic that the countries are allies at all.

The approach bares the US designs of delivering Kabul to India. The divorce papers are ready, which apparently were written quite a long ago. According to the aforementioned article published by Foreign Policy, such an approach would
  1.  Require the United States not to leave Afghanistan to Pakistan's designs but to keep a significant deployment of U.S. troops in place to deter and defeat Islamabad's efforts to renew the sphere of influence it enjoyed there when its Taliban allies were in power.
  2. Call for the CIA to cease cooperating with ISI, which it continues to rely on for access to the region, on the grounds that our fundamental goals are incompatible.
  3. Suggest doubling down on US relationship with India, including supporting a greater Indian strategic, political, and economic presence in Afghanistan which Americans think, would be welcomed by most Afghans as a stabilizing force in a troubled country.
  4. Require the US to convince Beijing not to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of American patronage towards Pakistan; China would need to pursue approaches that complement American’s rather than continuing to provide unqualified support to its “revisionist, increasingly radicalized ally”.
This approach would also require American leaders to take a hard look at their own history in the region. The United States walked away from Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and spent the 1990s sanctioning Pakistan, helping to spawn the anti-Americanism that pervades the officer corps and broader public today.

The article wonders if the Americans are prepared to walk away and sanction Pakistan again, and if they do, are they prepared to deal with the consequences? Or have the current terms of the relationship so manifestly failed that they have no choice?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Global peace demands Balkanization of India …


India is the only major country of the world facing a fiercest insurgency of such a scale that nearly half of the country has plunged into instability imperiling the security of the remaining half. As a matter of fact, destabilized India poses grave risks to the peace and security of not only the region, the world at large will be exposed to destabilization. The sheer size of the country, its nuclear arsenal and its uncontrolled ambition to reign in the world makes it even a bigger monster than Al Qaeda and other such entities.

Presently, seven states of North East India, known as Seven Sisters, and an equal number of states from North East to South West of the country, known as Red Corridor, are up in arms against the Union of India. In the North Western State of Jammu and Kashmir, the independence movement is in full swing considerably eroding the writ of the government. The independence movements and insurgency in India have created security problems, not only for India itself, but the entire region of South Asia. In order to divert public and the world attention from internal security issues, India has kept itself engaged in reckless arms race and raised the bogey of external threat, most notably from Pakistan and China, both nuclear states.

Encircling Pakistan is a broader and medium-term strategic objective of India’s security establishment. The long-term objective is to disintegrate Pakistan and annex it in the Indian Union in line with India’s another strategic objective to reformulate Akhand Bharat. This is being achieved through efforts for extending its influence to Pakistan’s neighboring countries of Iran and Afghanistan. Opening of needless consulates along Pakistan-Afghanistan border to fund, fan and fuel Taliban and Baloch insurgency in order to destabilize its archrival is a part of the bigger game plan. Similarly, building of Chabahar port west of Pakistan’s deep sea port of Gwadar is an attempt to encircle Pakistan and deny China an energy corridor. Its extension of its sphere of influence to Indian Ocean and realigning itself with the states against China to serve American interests on the issue of South China Sea brings into conflict of a bigger proportion. In order to stop India from treading this dangerous trajectory, its internal insurgency needs to be brought under control.

There are serious tensions between Seven Sisters namely; Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland and the Indian government. The movements are generally homegrown and are separatist movements in character. Assam has been the hotbed of militancy for a number of years due to its porous borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan. The insurgency status in Assam is classified as very active. Insurgent groups in Manipur may be broadly classified into hill-based and valley based. While the former demand for tribal state to preserve their tribal cultures from outside influence, the latter based their demands for independence from historical perspective claiming that Manipur a princely state with its geographical area extending to as far as the Kabaw valley of modern Myanmar during the British colonialism and was never a part of India and continues to remain so. The situation is no different in other states.

The Red Corridor is a term used to describe an impoverished region in the east of India that experiences considerable Naxalite communist insurgency. These are also areas that suffer from the greatest illiteracy, poverty and overpopulation in modern India, and span parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal states. Naxalites have been declared as a terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of India (1967). According to Govt. of India, as of July 2011, 83 districts (figure includes proposed addition of 20 districts) across nine states are affected by Left Wing Extremism down from 180 districts in 2009.

The insurgency in Kashmir has existed in various forms since the controversial accession of State to Indian Union. Thousands of lives have been lost since 1989 due to the intensification of both the insurgency and the state brutalities to curb it. According to official figures released in Jammu and Kashmir assembly (Indian controlled), there were 3,400 disappearance cases and the conflict has left more than 47,000 people dead as of July 2009.A widespread armed insurgency started in Kashmir with the disputed 1987 election with some elements from the State's assembly forming militant wings which acted as a catalyst for the emergence of armed insurgency in the region. This region has been a source of tension and reason for three wars between India and Pakistan and, after both the states have become nuclear-armed states, it can become a flashpoint of nuclear showdown.

India's Northeast consisting of the Seven Sisters is one of South Asia's hottest trouble spots, not simply because the region has as many as 30 armed insurgent organizations operating and fighting the Indian state, but because trans-border linkages that these groups have, and strategic alliances among them, have acted as force multipliers and have made the conflict dynamics all the more intricate. With demands of these insurgent groups ranging from secession to autonomy and the right to self-determination, and a plethora of ethnic groups clamoring for special rights and the protection of their distinct identity, the region is bound to be a turbulent one.

Moreover, the location of the eight northeastern Indian States itself is part of the reason why it has always been a hotbed of militancy with trans-border ramifications. This region of 263,000 square kilometers shares highly porous and sensitive frontiers with China in the North, Myanmar in the East, Bangladesh in the South West and Bhutan to the North West. The region's strategic location is underlined by the fact that it shares a 4,500 km-long international border with its four South Asian neighbors, but is connected to the Indian mainland by a tenuous 22 km-long land corridor passing through Siliguri in the eastern State of West Bengal, appropriately described as the ‘Chicken's Neck.'

The situation in the Red Corridor is no less grave. The first 25 years of the Naxalite insurgency were characterized by the communist principles on which the movement was founded. Fighting for land reform, the rebels gained support from the impoverished rural populations of eastern and central India. The Maoist rebellion quickly adopted violence and terror as the core instruments of its struggle against the Indian authority. Primary targets included railway tracks, post offices, and other state infrastructure, demonstrating the Maoists’ commitment to undermining a central government that they believed exploited low castes and rural populations. As states and the central government employed uncoordinated and underfunded responses to the Naxalites, the threat expanded beyond West Bengal and its neighboring states.

In 2004, the two predominant rebel groups, the Maoist Communist Center (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG), merged together. The resulting Communist Party of India (Maoist) emerged as a solidified base of power for the Naxalites, with a stated goal of overthrowing the Indian government. It has developed in its modern form as a rebellion that comprises up to 40,000 permanent armed cadres and 100,000 additional militia members.

The nascent stages of the movement reflected the stark contrast between urbanized areas of India and the primarily rural, underdeveloped regions of Naxalite influence. With the Maoist rebels firmly entrenched in geographically remote areas, Indian government resources remained dedicated to urban security and development concerns. As India looks increasingly to its east for vital resources, the conflict continues to expand beyond the principles of its origin. With a growing population and new development initiatives that require additional coal-powered electricity sources, India’s urban centers have come into direct contact with the states most affected by the Naxalite uprising: West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Containing 85 percent of India’s coal reserves, these states have presented insurgents with an opportunity both to strike at the heart of national interests and to seek economic profit of their own.

This brief description of Indian insurgency shows that India has serious problems with all its neighboring states who India wants to bully into submission in order to quell the insurgency. Its problems having potential of triggering regional wars of nuclear proportions are with Pakistan and China.

In the interest of global peace, it is essential to break India into smaller states to thwart the risk of global anarchy and regional wars. The long-standing demand of Jammu and Kashmir for independence, already accepted by the world community should be translated into reality. The states of the Red Corridor may be given autonomy and the Seven Sisters should be accepted as ethnic and cultural entity for statehood. If India gets rid of these warring states, it can progress as a vibrant country, it neighbors will have a measure of safety and security and the world at large will be immune to any disorder which is staring it in the face at the moment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Haqqani Network, Pakistan connection and shattered dreams of Afghanistan peace…..

Those who had any illusion of peace in NATO-occupied Afghanistan are in for a big disappointment. Successful attacks in Kabul in the last nine months are a sufficient testimony to the fact that NATO forces are losing ground in Afghanistan. Along the ground, they are losing patience and sanity. The latest turban-bomb attack to kill Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban peace ambassador shows that as long as Karzai and company (read: Uncle Sam) holds the reins of power in Kabul, peace can never return to this hapless country. The assassination of the representative of non-Pashtun minority but a key Afghan political figure Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the commission meant to negotiate with the Taliban, the High Peace Council (HPC), signals the massive challenges ahead in efforts to end the war. This indicates one thing in clear terms; the peace initiative to be successful has to come from the ethnic majority in Afghanistan.

As expected, the blame for this murder has been laid at the doorstep of Haqqani Network. And to justify NATO forces’ inability to maintain order in Afghanistan, the Network is being shown as a Pakistan-supported formidable force. Before analyzing the situation and drawing conclusion if the Network indeed has its home-base in Pakistan, let us look at the timeline of recent attacks in Afghanistan:

Sept 20 - A Taliban representative meeting with Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, detonates a bomb hidden under a turban and kills him at his Kabul home.
Sept 13 - Insurgents holed up on five different floors of a partially constructed building shower Kabul's diplomatic enclave with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire for 20 hours, while three suicide bombers -- one prevented -- strike police compounds elsewhere in the city. Five Afghan police and 11 civilians, including children, are killed. The U.S. blamed the attack, the most coordinated militant assault on Kabul since the war began in 2001 on the Taliban-linked Haqqani network based on Pakistan's northwest border with Afghanistan.
Aug 19 - Taliban attackers lay siege to a British cultural centre, killing at least nine people during an hours-long assault on the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from British rule. A suicide bomber in car blew himself up in front of the gate of the British Council before dawn, and another car packed with explosives detonated moments later while four attackers, three of them men clad in burqa cloak worn by Afghan women, stormed the compound.
June 28 - At least 10 Afghan civilians are killed when suicide bombers and heavily armed Taliban insurgents attacked the Intercontinental hotel, Afghan officials said.
May 21 - A suicide bomber kills six people and wounds 23 when he strikes the cafeteria of a military hospital in a heavily guarded area.
Jan 28 - A suicide attack on a supermarket in the embassy district kills at least nine people, including a prominent Afghan doctor, his rights activist wife and four of their children.

The series of attacks deep inside Kabul speaks clearly that it was more for failure of NATO forces than anything else that the attacks were successfully planned and executed. Pakistan could be a convenient scapegoat but realistic view of the events would reveal that the accusations are only meant to cover the ineffective intelligence network and inefficient response system. This also indicates that majority of Afghan citizens have sympathies with the attackers which totally blinded the intelligence assets of Afghanistan and NATO. Daily Express Tribune, in an article titled, America’s SPECTRE syndrome in Afghanistan has very brilliantly analyzed why Pakistan has nothing to do with these attacks and why North Waziristan Agency cannot be home-base for the attackers. According to this analysis, the Afghanistan problem is not just about the Haqqani Network. Afghanistan has multiple problems, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Haqqanis. Even if the Haqqani Network were entirely taken out, Afghanistan would remain largely the same. In fact, if the only stumbling block between an Afghanistan gone bad and an idyllic Afghanistan were the Network, Afghanistan would have been a piece of cake, not the wicked problem it has become.

According to the article, the attacks clearly show that the line of communication of the insurgents cannot stretch back to North Waziristan. All these attacks have happened deep inside the Afghan territory and indicate the steady loss of control of territory by the Afghan government and the foreign troops. If, for the sake of the argument it is conceded that the Taliban line of communication does extend back to North Waziristan, then the ability of the fighters to go deep in and mount attacks makes an utter mockery of the military and intelligence capabilities of the US and its allies despite the tremendous resources at their disposal.

Is this network operating to further the aims of al Qaeda? The evidence suggests that it has nothing to do with this outfit as it does not target Pakistan, its citizens and its security apparatus. It has confined its operations in Afghanistan and against the occupation forces. A recent interview of Siraj Haqqani with Reuters suggest that they rejected previous attempts at talks by the US and the Afghan government because those overtures were aimed at “creating divisions” among the Taliban. It is therefore misleading to suggest that the Haqqanis operate outside the overall strategic objectives of the Taliban.

Mullah Omar’s Eid-ul-Fitr message, more reconciliatory than the one delivered previous year, speaks about some change in their stance. This message deals with three basic points: the Afghanistan-specific focus of the Taliban; their readiness to negotiate meaningfully, and a warning to the neighbors to desist from interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Another important motif running through that message was Taliban’s inclusive approach to governance. This also shows that Taliban have come to accept that they cannot rule Afghanistan to the exclusion of other entities.

But the world has to make a clear distinction between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP and its affiliates.

In view of the fact that Haqqani Network may not be the sole reason of humiliating defeat of the mightiest armies, it is beyond comprehension that USA is pressuring Pakistan into launching an attack on the so-called sanctuaries of the Network in NWA. This is particularly disturbing in view of the circumstantial evidence (ability of the Network to operate deep into Afghan capital) that the sanctuaries may have been relocated to somewhere in Afghanistan. Is this pressure a sincere effort to salvage Afghanistan situation for the US? For the sake of argument, if we concede that the Network is indeed hiding in NWA and Pakistan Army’s operation will weaken their ability to attack US interests in Afghanistan, will this give some sort of face saving to the retreating NATO forces? What should be the priority of Pakistan’s security establishment? To attack and eliminate the elements of TTP and al Qaeda attacking Pakistan or further thin out its resources to fight those who are a threat to NATO forces? This is where interests of Pakistan and USA do not converge and they will have to find a middle ground to come to an understanding. The circumstances point to the fact that the problem exists within Afghanistan and should be sorted out by NATO and Afghan National Army.

The only way-forward to peace in Afghanistan is purely home-grown initiative keeping in view the demographic realities. Any proposal based on any other consideration will complicate the matters further and push Afghanistan into a never-ending chaos and anarchy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Afghanistan: End-game or outright humiliating defeat?

Bin Laden is a rational actor who is fighting to weaken the United States by weakening its economy, rather than merely combating and killing Americans. Michael F. Scheuer

Afghanistan end-game will lead to the world to square one. With US economy in shambles, China rising both militarily and economically, South Asian region totally destabilized, the only thing the super power should have done now but is allergic to is: introspection. No one seems to have realized that the Afghanistan misadventure has left the world more insecure and unsafe than it was before 9/11. The endgame now looks like retreat with no honors. It is now clearly being seen as outright humiliating defeat. The weakened America will disturb the world order and the sight on the horizon is not a pleasant sight; chaos is writ large all over. This chaos will no more be the usual destiny of poor and poorly governed nations. This chaos is spread across the globe. The remaining period of the century now clearly belongs to insurgents, extremists, terrorists and hate-mongers.

The Afghanistan misadventure has not only changed the world; it has distorted its civil and human face.

The latest Taliban attacks, multiple and coordinated, in Kabul and most notably on its “ring of steel” protecting strategic enclave were surprise attacks. But these did not come as a surprise as those watching the development were expecting massive blows like this one to the world’s mightiest forces. The area houses NATO headquarters, the U.S., U.K., and other embassies, and offices of major Western NGOs. The security cordon attacked involves concrete barriers and is equipped with state-of-the-art apparatus - including CCTV and metal detectors. It is manned round the clock by heavily armed personnel and police sniffer dogs, specifically deployed to stop suicide bombers and attackers from bringing explosives and arms into the city.

Taliban’s ability to carry out this multi-target and multi-location but finely coordinated operation in the Afghan capital lays bare the depth of the U.S.-NATO failure in the country. Nearly a decade into the U.S.-NATO occupation of Afghanistan no section of the country is secure; not even the heart of the capital. Apparently only six Taliban fighters kept Afghan and NATO forces engaged for over twenty hours in the Wazir Akhbar Khan district.

Do these attacks suggest that fate of the NATO forces in Afghanistan is not going to be any different from that of the USSR?

Shrewd Taliban strategists are employing the same tactics which were used to economically bleed the Soviet Union. Michael F. Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence officer, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst, depicts bin Laden as a rational actor who is fighting to weaken the United States by weakening its economy, rather than merely combating and killing Americans. He challenges the common assumption that terrorism is the threat that the United States is facing in the modern era, arguing rather that Islamist insurgency (and not "terrorism") is the core of the conflict between the U.S. and Islamist forces, who in places such as Kashmir, Xinjiang, and Chechnya are "struggling not just for independence but against institutionalized barbarism." He lost his job for stating the obvious that US-Israel relations were a threat to America’s national security.

In his latest article which appeared in The National Interest, Michael F. Scheuer says that there is no way to obscure our defeat as Obama, Hillary Clinton, McCain and others have labored to do in Iraq. The Taliban-led insurgency has spread across Afghanistan, and the pattern of their operations has grown familiar and apparently unbreakable. The insurgents are ascendant in any area of the country they choose to occupy until NATO forces arrive. At that point, they move out of NATO’s path to another region and establish ascendancy there. All Petraeus and his counterinsurgency advisers were able to do with the troop surge is what had been done before: U.S. and NATO forces dominate any piece of ground they stand on out to a distance defined by the reach of their weapons. Beyond that small area the insurgents are in charge, and as soon as coalition forces depart they reacquire control of the ground on which NATO stood. Interestingly, this is exactly the reality the Soviets encountered in the 1980s and that the British encountered a century earlier. Perhaps Petraeus’s counterinsurgency gurus—John Nagl, David Kilcullen, etc.—should have read a little history pertinent to their task.

When the Obama administration decided troops’ surge, they had two goals in mind. These may be well-meaning goals but were largely unattainable. One was to train Afghan military, security, intelligence and police forces so they could maintain stability without the aid of foreign forces. On 13 September, all those services failed: they had no intelligence that warned of the attack; they did not detect Taliban fighters moving into position for attack; and they could not repel the attackers without the help of U.S. and NATO troops. The surge’s other main goal was to attach the loyalties of Afghan citizens to Karzai’s government. The goal itself was impossible to achieve as the attacks suggest that these could not have been carried out without active cooperation of the Afghan citizens. The Taliban could not have deployed in Kabul for the 13 September attacks without logistical assistance and intelligence provided by some of the city’s inhabitants as well as from its penetrations of the regime’s police and security services. Five years of hearts-and-minds campaigning by McChrystal and Petraeus have yielded failure. Period.

Is there anything that the world can do to reverse the tide and defeat the forces of extremism, bigotry and terrorism? With the present hegemonic mindset, the dream of a pre-9/11 world will remain a far-cry. But for those who still matter, it is still time for introspection. The neocons and crusaders and Obamas and Osamas of this world must be pushed aside. The world should reinvent its core human values, eradicate international injustices and barbarism, treat all humans equally and not as collateral for a select few. Justice for all is the catchphrase to turn the tide.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A decade after 9/11: Horrific consequences of threat exaggeration and needless over-reaction

The world and particularly the Americans, are remembering this week-end, with tearful eyes, those 3,000 lives lost ten years ago in the most unfortunate terror attacks in the beginning of the current century. The attacks on the icons of America’s economic and military powers, World Trade Center and Pentagon, were unique in the sense that these changed the world order instantly. The change did not take place due to the terrorist attacks; the world was changed by exaggeration of threat and massive, and needless, reaction and fury of the sole super power. 

Within a period of one month, a punitive attack of combined forces of the West was launched on Afghanistan which toppled the government of Taliban. This attack was another unique in the sense that it caused the terrorists to heave a sigh of relief. They were not angered by the attack, they were jubilant. By the hindsight, it has now been revealed that this was what al Qaeda was asking for. It had successfully provoked the US to enter the land where two earlier super powers, Britain and USSR, had lost their pride and glory. After ten years, one trillion dollar in direct war costs having gone down the drain and thousands of lives lost, al Qaeda is many times stronger and formidable. The US has gained nothing except for finding and killing OBL, who was only a figurehead. The COO of al Qaeda is alive and kicking and so is his ideology of conquering the world and a growing bunch of ideologues .

The massive damage caused by the US attack on Afghanistan is collateral damage. Whether it fits into the calculation of loss of human lives depends upon who got killed. By American definition, those locals who died during the war on terror constituted collateral damage. Lives lost in collateral damage outnumber those lost on 9/11 many times over but this loss is not as significant as of those 3,000 lives. The entire region has become instable giving al Qaeda an excellent opportunity to advance its agenda. The war between the US and a handful of terrorists has assumed the status of a crusade which has given some legitimacy to the killing and mayhem perpetrated by the terrorists. They are fighting this war from the position of an equal number.

It is now time for introspection, if not for the humanity, at least for the benefit of American people who are generally internationally naive. They suffer, and will continue to suffer, international hatred for no fault of theirs, but for the fault of those who take decisions for them. Technically, these decision-makers represent Americans but their arrogant mindset does not represent the mindset of common Americans.

The question that the American people should be asking themselves and their leaders is whether that bunch of transnational thugs who perpetrated 9/11 deserved the amount of response that the administration of that time gave? This did nothing except to promote public perception of al Qaeda as a force to reckon with. In order to understand the impact of ill-advised wastage of power and resources of the sole super power, just try to evaluate the power and influence of al Qaeda now as compared to ten years ago. Today, it is a dreaded force which the combined armies of the world, with state-of-the-art fighting technology at their disposal, have failed to weaken, let alone eliminate.

The reaction of the US administration to 9/11 attacks was as extremist as the attack itself. And the media painted the terrorists as such a threat that it unnerved those who were responsible to take crucial decisions. According to The National, the gruesome purpose of that carefully staged media spectacle was to amplify the significance of Al Qaeda thousands of times beyond its actual power in the Muslim world, and it worked: mediated through real-time television and the responses of US leadership, September 11 turned Osama bin Laden's diminutive network, in the minds of a fearful American imaginations, into a menacing juggernaut.

The climate of media-fuelled fear after the attacks allowed an imperially minded extremist element in the Bush administration to march America off into two wars that did nothing for America's security, but have already cost the lives of more than twice as many Americans as died on September 11, as well as killing hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis, and accelerating US economic decline by adding more than $1 trillion to its fiscal burden even as the Bush administration handed trillions of dollars of tax revenues back to the wealthiest Americans.

The fundamental assumptions that America's survival was threatened by a little known terrorist organization, and that the only acceptable response was an expeditionary war against all who would challenge its writ in the region was flawed from the very beginning.

This response not only pitched the American nation against the whole Muslim world, it glorified the gory act of terrorism. Additionally, it gave rise to many conspiracy theories and made the world whole lot more insecure and much more unsafe. The ideology of al Qaeda, at least in the Muslim world, remained a useless commodity which no one was prepared to buy. This ideology entails takfeer i.e. declaring the opponents as infidels deserving death and sanctioning khuruj i.e. revolt against established order even in the Muslim world. This ideology is in conflict with the fundamental injunctions of Islam which does not allow revolt against established orders. This was sanctioned by a cleric of 14th century promoting Hambli views, a religious minority within Islam. This ideology has no appeal for the majority of Muslims.

However, the way al Qaeda fought NATO and forced US to leave Afghanistan has raised questions about the ability of modern armies to fight terrorists. It has opened up discussions on the validity and relevance of their doctrine.

Famous consumer advocate, Ralph Nader has drawn some lessons from 9/11 which in his view, Americans must have learned. In an article titled, The Empire is eating Itself, he has suggested to recognize — or unlearn — those reactions and overreactions to 9/11 that have harmed the country. Some of his other suggestions are:

  • Do not exaggerate our adversaries’ strength in order to produce a climate of hysteria that results in repression of civil liberties, embodied in the overwrought USA Patriot Act, and immense long-term damage to our economy. Consider the massive diversion of trillions of dollars from domestic civilian needs because of the huge expansion and misspending in military and security budgets.
  • Do not allow our leaders to lie and exaggerate as when they told us there were funded, suicidal and hateful al-Qaeda cells all over our country. They were never here. Actually, the wholesale invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan became recruiting grounds for more al-Qaeda branches there and in other countries.
  • Do not create a climate of fear or monopolize a partisan definition of patriotism in order to silence dissent from other political parties, the citizenry or the unfairly arrested or harassed.
The Americans have suffered the consequences of exaggerating al Qaeda threat in more than one way; in losing their civil liberties, their core values, their tax-payers' hard-earned money and their peace at home. The rest of the world shares these sufferings. Those innocent non-combatant civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who lost their lives in needless wars in the past decade will haunt the collective conscious of American people for the decades to come. 

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