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America's War, Not Ours

By by Ahmed Quraishi

02/10/09 "
The News" -- -- 9/30/2008 -- A little noticed but major flaw in the Pakistan-US partnership in the war on terror is leading Pakistani policymakers and public opinion to make a serious error in judgment that could devastate Pakistan's stability and leave us looking like another close U.S. ally: Iraq.

This error in judgment is simple but easily overlooked: Pakistan did not take part in occupying Afghanistan. The war to sustain that occupation and prolong it is not Pakistan's war. It never was. For President Zardari's government to 'own' this war at US behest is not only illogical but it also shifts the responsibility of stabilizing Afghanistan onto Pakistan's shoulders. In a worst case scenario, if anything goes wrong, this 'Pakistani ownership' can and will be used later to force a variety of foreign military interventions in Pakistan, as part of the war on terror or to protect our allegedly endangered nukes. This is why Islamabad needs to officially leave the coalition that occupies Afghanistan and squarely pin the responsibility for Afghanistan on the US.

This delineation is important because the Pakistani war is limited to our border regions and against criminal groups masquerading as the 'Pakistani Taliban'. It is not Pakistan's war or responsibility to stamp out the Afghan opposition and resistance groups that thrive inside Afghanistan and may sometimes enter Pakistani territory to seek support from tribes with whom they share ethnicity. It is not our responsibility that Washington and its puppet Karzai regime have failed or are unwilling to bring the disgruntled Afghans on board and end the civil war.

The question of alleged support from Pakistan to the Afghan Taliban, the 'sanctuaries', and the 'rogue intelligence' theory is all secondary if Washington decides today to talk to Afghan opposition groups, including the Afghan Taliban, and offers them a share in ruling their country. If this happens, the question of Pakistani support for Afghan insurgency will become obsolete since there will be no insurgency to support. This is the crux: reconciliation in Afghanistan will end the Afghan opposition's need for sanctuaries anywhere. What is happening right now is that Mr Karzai and the former Northern Alliance are refusing to bring Afghan opposition on board and instead are pushing US to a war with Pakistan to settle old scores.

Eliminating Afghan resistance could have become "Pakistan's war" if our American friends, after taking over Kabul, accommodated their Pakistani ally's legitimate interests in Afghanistan, understood Islamabad's valid strategic concerns, and rewarded it for taking a difficult decision: ditching an ally in Kabul in a country that remained hostile throughout the Cold War.

What ultimately happened is that everyone in the region was allowed a bite of the Afghan pie except Pakistan. Almost all major players – US, NATO, Iran, India, and others – were allowed to secure their interests except Islamabad. Pakistan could have swallowed this insult if Washington kept Afghanistan to itself, but the reality is that the Bush White House ceded crucial space in Afghanistan to India, while keeping Pakistan out. Even mildly Pakistan-friendly Afghanistan elements were not accepted in the power structure in Kabul. And now Afghan soil is being used by third parties to export terrorism into Pakistan and destabilize the country. If this American lapse was unintentional, then it shows US ineptitude. But circumstantial evidence indicates that Pakistan was probably part of the expanded US agenda following 9/11, which included invading Iraq, toppling the regimes of Syria and Iran and redrawing the map of the wider Middle East, including Pakistan.

Instead of taking on a nuclear Pakistan head on, we were effectively used to occupy Afghanistan and then gradually, starting 2004, the noose was tightened around us. It began with the nuclear proliferation issue and then moved on to a new threat, the safety of our nukes. Interestingly, the 'Pakistan-is-another-Iraq' theory and the nuclear scare were both exclusively started and hyped by the US media, with dramatic pressure-building tactics similar to what was done in the run up to Iraq invasion.

For the growing chorus in the liberal sections of the Pakistani media that wants to 'own' this war, we must understand this: the occupation of Afghanistan and the elimination of Afghan resistance groups is not Pakistan's war. Our war is limited to the insurgencies raging from Gwadar to the Chinese border with partial malicious support from the Afghan soil. This war can be won. Making Pakistan 'own' America's war in Afghanistan and shifting to it to our tribal belt will exacerbate the insurgencies and could destabilize Pakistan beyond the point of return.

The writer works for Geo TV. - Email: aq@ahmedquraishi.com

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