Instead of the traditional New Year greetings, what did Pakistan get from the POTUS (President of the United States)? Allegations by Twitter Donald Trump, accusing Pakistan’s leaders, past and present, of being liars and deceitful despite the gift by US tax payers of $33 billion within the last 15 years.
Let us set the record straight. The Lion’s share of this magnanimity is mainly reimbursement for the material losses that we have incurred since the US and its allies invaded blighted Afghanistan 15 years ago to sort out the Taliban, also known as the coalition support fund (CSF). It does not, in any way, compensate us for the losses that we have incurred in the shape of so much blood, sweat, lives and limbs in support of the ill-conceived and worse- executed War On Terror. This does not compensate us for the immense damage to our infrastructure, the widespread spill-over of the terror into all spheres of life in Pakistan. Even the annual CSF disbursed to us has been given grudgingly with the frequent threats of withholding the pittance rolled every year. Mr Trump makes no mention of the past that after 15 years of its direct military intervention (the longest war in U.S history, with no end in sight) and over $1 trillion spent on its own forces. There is precious little that its immense military has to show for its futile efforts. Today, over 55% of Afghanistan is controlled by Taliban. So what do the hawks in Washington DC do to pass on its failure in this long drawn out engagement in Afghanistan? It picks on Pakistan, its favourite whipping boy and scapegoat, with no let up to its clamour of Do More.
How did we get embroiled in this mess up? “Thanks” to our commando President, now living in luxury in London and yearning to return to Pakistan to rule yet again over our lives it took just a phone call from DC (“Are you going to be with us or against us?”). At the drop of a hat, he acceded to even more than what DC had in mind. As the DG ISPR strongly put in no uncertain terms, the time has come for us to tell the US in no uncertain terms: “NO MORE”. Mr Trump’s latest tweet caused immense anger amongst the people from all walks of life.
Pakistan-US relations have seen many ups and downs ever since late Mr Liaquat Ali Khan chose to tie Pakistan to the apron-strings with the US instead of the USSR. Pakistan has been labelled as the most allied country to the most sanctioned-against country, yet it has been declared a major non-NATO ally by the US, depending about where and when the latter’s interests so dictated. Let us briefly recount some major landmarks of Pakistan-US relations in the last seven decades.
In the early 1950’s, Pakistan entered into the Military Assistance Pact (MAP) with the U.S for the encirclement of the USSR as part of the Cold War between the two Super Powers. We joined South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Baghdad Pact (later renamed as Central Treaty Organization or CENTO). The US agreed to re-arm five divisions with American arms and equipment with the clear understanding that US arms and equipment would not be used India. Our senior leadership, civilian and army, got us embroiled in an all-out war against India in 1965, whose outcome at best can be called a stalemate. The war came to an end after merely 17 days when UN brokered a ceasefire. We called the US a fickle friend when it cut off military assistance conveniently forgetting that we had violated the terms of the MAP. Later in 1971, we again blamed the USA for not coming to our assistance us in our futile attempt to supress the uprising all over East Pakistan by force of arms. Only a few people such as late Lt. Gen Sahibzada Yaqoob Ali Khan and Admiral Ahsan advised Gen. Yahya to seek a political solution of the problem, for which they were sacked. Due to our own follies, we lost East Pakistan; some 27,000 uniformed personnel ended up as POW’s and 66,000 civilians ended up in the internment camps in India for over two and a half years. Facing widespread internal uprising and surrounded by about five corps of Indian army, the Pakistan Army and paramilitary did not have a hope in hell to withstand the onslaught of the forces arrayed against them (if you dig yourself into a deep hole, neither Providence, nor the Americans, nor the Chinese nor anyone else is obligated to come to your aid).
Sometimes, in the early 1960’s, we allowed the USA to set up an electronic listening post at Badabar (near Peshawar), and also facilitated USAF’s U-2 spy planes to use the Peshawar air base for flights over the USSR. Those flights came to an end after Gary Powers was shot down at a height of about 70,000ft over USSR. Nikolai Khruschev threatened to bomb Peshawar if we didn’t mend our ways.
Come the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the Americans promptly lifted the sanctions imposed on us because of our incipient nuclear program. An initial offer of $2 million was spurred by Late Gen Zia ul Haq, calling it peanuts. The offer was upped; we became facilitators and proxies of the US in its effort to get the Russians out of Afghanistan. The sanctions were lifted, money and arms flooded in, we trained Mujahideens to fight the Russians.
Their leaders, all settled in and around Peshawar, became the darlings of the US while we ended up hosting some four million Afghans. We also had to endure the Ojhari Camp tragedy, where tonnes of American arms and ammunition were dumped. One a hot summer day in August 1988, the dump blew up, wreaking havoc all around and killing hundreds of innocent people.
As soon as the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan after ten years of futile war to suppress the Afghans, the sanctions were re-imposed, while we were left holding the baby – millions of refugees, free flow of all kinds of arms and ammunition, and drugs available in abundance. Mujahideen morphed into Talibans. Wide-spread militancy tore up the very fabric of our country.
Even as far back as the Clinton era, when a U.S Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Mogadishu (Somalia) and US troops were encircled while trying to rescue the pilots, who did the American commanders call upon for assistance? None other than the Pakistani peace-keeping force, which were themselves ambushed. The 7th Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment lost over 20 brave men when they were also ambushed. Except for body bags, Pakistan got nothing for its efforts. Clinton promptly pulled out his forces from Somalia, leaving Pakistani and the other Third World countries to clean up the mess in Somalia.
Recall the night-time raid by US Special Forces to capture (preferably kill) Osama bin Laden when he had been holed up along with some family members in Abbottabad in a very conspicuous triple storey high-walled house right outside the Pakistan Military Academy for a very long time. With numerous security agencies operating in the region, how was it that nobody seemed to be aware of OBL’s presence, or was Musharraf complicit in this scam? Who knows? Three US helicopters –a CH-47 Chinook and two specially modified UH-60 Black Hawks took part in the raid. After taking off from Afghanistan they refuelled near Tor Ghar mountains and then headed for Abbottabad. PAF’s radars were not asleep; two jets were scrambled to intercept the intruder, but were recalled). One US-60 hovered over the roof, disgorged several Team 6 members who located OBL, killed him, and ransacked the house. The second crashed while attempting to land I n the compound. The raiders then flew off with OBL’s corpse in the remaining two helicopters and returned to Afghanistan.
While our leadership cried foul, the US had the gall for return of the wreckage of crashed chopper which we meekly handed over. How low could we stoop so low to accede to U.S rapacity. Perhaps the only time our leaders showed some guts was when U.S forces attacked our border post Sallala in Bajaur Agency resulting in the death of many of our soldiers. The U.S was made to vacate Jacobabad and Shamsi air bases , and the use of our port and road network was denied to the Coalition Forces for many months. One could narrate other examples of US fickleness and perfidy, if only space permitted.
Will the nationwide condemnation and outrage have an effect on the thick-skinned Trump and his gang of hawks? Probably not. Nevertheless, our own leadership must get its act together, show a bit of spine and stand up to US bullying. The sooner the better.
So what do the hawks in Washington DC do to pass on its failure in this long drawn out engagement in Afghanistan? It picks on Pakistan, its favourite whipping boy and escape goat, with no let up to its clamour of Do More.