28 June, 2012
By Sajjad Shaukat
At this sensitive moment, when Pak-US diplomats were negotiating a complex issue of restoring the NATO supply routes across Pakistan to Afghanistan in wake of the heightening political noise inside the country, US accelerated CIA-operated drone attacks, killing more than 50 people in North Waziristan.
After a two-month pause in the aftermath of the US-led NATO deliberate air attack which killed 25 soldiers on Pakistan Army border posts on November 26 last year, and by setting aside Islamabad's strict measures such as suspension of NATO supply to Afghanistan and vacation of Shamsi Airbase, these strikes by the unmanned aircraft continue on Pak tribal areas.
During his recent visit to India, while pampering New Delhi, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly pointed out that drone attacks would continue on save havens of terrorists in Pakistan. Afterwards, in Kabul by reviving US old blame game, Panetta allegedly said on June 7 that the US was reaching the limits of its patience with Pakistan due to safe havens, "the country offered to insurgents in neighbouring Afghanistan."
Leon Panetta's tough comments coupled with predator's strikes created complication to narrow the differences between both the countries, and the result was a deadlock, while both Pakistan and America were near to sign an agreement as US top officials remarked.
In fact, attacks by spy planes are part of American covert war against Pakistan. Therefore, even President Barack Obama has defended these strikes on FATA under the pretext of its so-called counterinsurgency programme. On the one side, US top officials including Panetta has blamed Pakistan for cross-border terrorism, while on the other, American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad, based in Afghanistan have been sending well-trained militants in Pakistan, who not only attack the check posts of Pakistan's security forces, but also target schools and mosques. These agencies also support various subversive acts in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan besides backing Baloch separatism.
Although without bothering for the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, Washington has re-started these strikes by pilotless aircraft to destabilise our country for the collective strategic designs of US-led India and Israel, yet these strikes are not only counterproductive for Pakistan, but also for the US itself. Such a faulty policy is likely to damage American regional and global interests.
In the last three years, more than 700 innocent civilians and only 14 Al-Qaeda commanders have been killed by the US unmanned air vehicles.
Regarding drone attacks and casualties, New America Foundation pointed out in a recent report, "when the US drones attack Pakistan's tribal areas, it is not just the 10, or 50 innocent civilians they kill, but it creates the anti-US sentiments among masses the civilian killings provide reason to the youngsters for joining terrorist groups waging war against US and of course Pakistan while killing 10 militants, the US has murdered more than 1400 Pakistanis, not involved in any terrorist activities. Could it not imply that it gave birth to another 1400 militants?"
In this respect, the major purpose of fresh wave of drone strikes was to thwart the recent offer of militants and Pakistan government for peace talks, and to provoke the tribal people, resulting into more suicide attacks inside the country. Another aim behind is also to incite the insurgents of FATA against the security forces. But, such a flawed policy will certainly culminate in more unity among the elected government, security forces and the general masses, consequently massive hostility towards Washington. In that scenario, the US policy of liberalism and democracy could badly fail, giving a greater incentive to the fundamentalist and extremist elements in Pakistan.
Sporadic strikes by the unmanned predators on tribal regions will cause drastic impact on the US war on terror, not only in our country, but also in Afghanistan where US-led NATO forces are facing defeatism. This action is likely to undermine international efforts of stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, jeopardising American interests, while the foreign forces will complete withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. In this context, US high officials, especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly said that America needs Pakistan's help for stability in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario.
Meanwhile, some other developments such as Pakistan's new relationship with Russia, enhancing regional cooperation with Iran, and rejection of US pressure to abandon the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project show that a shift in Islamabad's policy has already taken place in connection with Washington. While, tension exists in Pak-US ties, if strikes by the spy planes keep on going, the Pakistan government will be compelled to leave the US war against terrorism due to public backlash.
Nevertheless, US drone warfare against Pakistan will be counterproductive bringing about other dire consequences for United States itself. In this context, both Iran and Pakistan might stand together to frustrate the US strategic designs. Moreover, their alliance with Syria would make the matter worse for America. In that scenario, a vast region from Pakistan to Somalia and Nigeria to Iraq and the Indian-held Kashmir will further be radicalised, bringing about more terrorism, directed against the Americans. Thus, American worldwide interests are likely to be jeopardised in these countries and the whole Middle East where the US has failed in coping with the Islamic militants directly or indirectly, and where in some Arab countries, resentment among the people is already running high against the pro-American rulers. These negative developments will further reduce the US bargaining leverage on rival small countries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela etc.
Besides, after the withdrawal of occupying forces, US flawed strategy will throw Afghanistan in an era of further uncertainty and chaos, intensifying country's intractable issues. And American small contingency in Afghanistan will not be in a position to cope with a perennial resistance of the Afghan Taliban. Now, European governments are cutting defense budgets, while the US is increasingly tilting towards defense challenges in Asia. In this drastic situation, many of NATO's other members which are facing economic problems, have little appetite for American foreign adventures. Even, they will be reluctant to fund American permanent military presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops as announced in the Chicago summit. Here question also rises whether the US, which accounts for three-quarters of NATO defense spending, will remain committed to the organization?
It is of particular that after fighting a different war for ten years, American cost of war which has reached approximately 8 trillion dollars will further increase in wake of debt crisis, decline of dollar and acute recession, and other-related financial problems inside the country. These will give a greater setback to the US economy as compared other developed countries, while European and other western countries held the United States responsible for the global financial crisis. In the recent past, anti-capitalism which initially started in America, enveloped other European countries. In this respect, a greater rift will be created between the US and other western countries.
Even in the US, in May, this year, the Pentagon has been under orders to cut spending by $487 billion from projected defense over the next decade as the Obama Administration tries to rein in its trillion-dollar deficit. Realising the ground realties, majority of the US lawmakers prefer other public welfare programmes. While, Americans are protesting against the prolonged war in Afghanistan including drone attacks particularly on Pakistan. Some American media anchors have also started opposing these strikes.
On the one hand, US is trying to repair damaged ties with Islamabad, while, on the other, it is playing a double game with the latter. In this connection, despite the visit of US and NATO diplomats including commanders, by rejecting foreign duress for earlier restoration of NATO transport routes unilaterally, Pakistan's civil and military leaders remain firm on their stand that the issue of NATO supply lines would be decided in light of the parliamentary guidelines. Besides other related issues, predator's strikes are creating a greater impediment in reaching an agreement between Pakistan and the US.
In the given situation, if President Obama continued drone attacks on Pakistan, he would damage American interests, and the US is likely to face the fate of the former Soviet Union in its worst form.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations