As reported in The Nation on April 25, Chief of the 2nd US Marine Division, Maj-Gen. John Toolan told reporters in Washington "Keeping diplomatic pressure on Pakistan is important, but breaking the government is not in our best interests." I think the job of soldiers is to concentrate on their assigned task and not to sway right and left, making irresponsible statements which could land them in trouble apart from embarrassing their government.

We know Gen. Stanley McCrystal, the former top US commander in Afghanistan, was dismissed over a magazine article that criticised Obama administration officials. We also know that Maj Gen Peter Fuller, the deputy commander for programmes at the Nato Training Mission in Afghanistan, was fired for making 'inappropriate public comments," - criticising Afghan President Hamid Karzai and calling Afghan officials as divorced from reality and unappreciative of the American sacrifice in Afghanistan. Obviously, Toolan deserves similar fate and it would be interesting to see how things go. I hope our officials do the minimum, which is to make a strong protest over the uncalled for remarks.

Among other things that Fuller said was that Taliban in Afghanistan pay for their operating expenses and bomb-making material supplied from Pakistan through opium production and in a six-month period, US officials captured $ 78 million worth of drugs headed to Pakistani border. Now, Afghans do not produce opium through plants raised indoor in homes and caves but cultivate poppy in open fields. If the US officials know that Afghans raise their finances through poppy cultivation, why is it that they do not destroy poppy crops which, apart from depriving Taliban of their essential funding, would have been a great favour to the rest of the world through huge reduction in the cursed drug trade.

In his eagerness to discredit Pakistan, Fuller exposed the weakness of his own country, superpower America which, with all its might, and around forty allies, has been unable to make any dent in the poppy-cultivation in Afghanistan in over ten years of its presence there. It is obvious that the Americans have made compromises, whereby they do not interfere with poppy-cultivation and in return, Afghans don't attack them. I suppose that is how they have achieved peace in some regions of Afghanistan. Some of their allies do better than that. They just make cash payments to Taliban to 'buy' peace and stay safe in their bases.

Americans' problem is that they can't win the Afghan war with the limited resources in men and material they have put in, aided by their western allies who are battle-shy and cost-conscious and to make things worse, with the costly follies that their government has committed by way of Iraq war etc, they are not in a position to commit resources anywhere near to what is actually required, rather they are under great pressure to reduce drastically their presence in Afghanistan. In this situation, the best thing for them to do would be to declare a victory, pack up and go home, but I suppose doing sensible things is not in the genes of Americans. They would rather keep messing around the world, badly bruising themselves in the process, and blaming others for it.


Karachi, April 26.