Grisly figures of insider-attacks commonly known as green-over-blue incidents, reminded me of the prediction of Owais Ghani, one of those three in Pakistan’s history to have served as governor in both the forward posts of Afghan-Pakistan borders and under both dictatorial and civilian regimes, when he said in a typical whispering sound in 2009 that Americans might be having a ride of life time in Afghanistan but so was the case with Soviets till September 1986 when CIA-sponsored game-turner Stinger Missiles were given to Gulbadeen Hikmatyar’s commander Engineer Ghaffar to leave gunship helicopters of Soviets so vulnerable that within a couple of years time world saw Mikhail Gorbachev pulling out red armies from Afghanistan.
He made these observations-cum-predictions while attending one of many get-togethers of late Salman Taseer in the lush green lawns of Punjab House in Islamabad and since he was still the Governor of KPK, everyone listened to his shenanigans. By giving this contrast between Americans and Soviets, he quickly moved on to add that who knows something might emerge within a year or so to melt down the technological and psychological superiority of Americans. May be no one has the answer to advanced arsenal, well-equipped additional forces (just in those days Obama had sent 33,000 war-torn troops to Afghanistan who were heading home from Iraq just around that time to reverse Taliban offensive in southern parts), drones and what not but who knows what future holds for us and for them (metaphors used to describe Pakistan or may be Taliban and America/ISAF as them).
Are insider attacks the tactics, we have been waiting against the drones and ISAF forces? Or is it something which Americans have brought onto themselves by ignoring the ground realities and as many ISAF field commanders are beginning to accept now that it’s not only war-fatigued attitude of the American and ISAF troops but also the fact that Americans are beginning to shut and in other cases cut down the dollar-doors on corrupt Afghan government which is leaving not only over 350,000 Afghan Army and police vulnerable but even putting the populations at the mercy of an uncertain future.
During one of my recent visits to the holding place of Afghan President Hamid Karzai I can relate my experiences with those of the field commanders. My visits certainly gave me this impression that Afghan government is all but holed into Eastern parts and most precisely to Kabul and after a spate of politically (may be monetarily) driven insider attacks which left his own brother and people like Rabbani and many others dead, Karzai is also finding it easy to rule from the barricaded and perhaps one of the most petrified (dusty) city of the country; i.e. Kabul.
Living on the crutches of foreign aid, the only progress Karzai government can boost off during the past five years or so is that it managed to raise the country revenue collection from a mere US $ 0.6 billion to US $ 1.6 billion, as is claimed by the government accountability office (GAO) in its report. Situation seems to have moved a little in the past two years after the report which can be gauged from the recent statement of the head of Afghan Oversight and Anti-Corruption office, Azizullah Lodin, who was quoted by local newspapers saying, “Like United States, England and other countries, it is nearly impossible to stop corruption in Afghanistan.”
Ten governors have been replaced and another 12 to 15 are likely to be shown the door by the Karzai government in the coming weeks on charges of incompetence and bad governance but the question remains that will it give Karzai or his aid-masters any leverage in terms of bringing sanity in a country which seems to be slipping to post-Soviet situation. No matter how much negativity we relate to Taliban or for that matter Pashtuns but the glaring reality which hits you in the face once you visit Kabul, meet ordinary people, even platoons of Afghan serving Generals, Americans the consensus amongst them is that things are spiraling out of hand not only for Karzai but also for Americans. This uncertainty, which in return is breeding misunderstanding and hostilities has become so visible on both sides of the Af-Pak (a term which Pakistani establishment detest as much as they loathe the idea of leaving Indians entrenched in Afghanistan) border that everyone from tribal chiefs to ordinary Pashtuns are embracing for the worst to come.
With a halt in US-Taliban talks, growing interest of British in the foray through unsolicited advice to their American counterparts, an unending corruption spree in Karazai regime and frustrating engagements of Americans in Syrian stand-off, Pakistani establishment, for all the right and wrong reasons, is finding Americans all but confused. Tripartite talks amongst Pakistan-American-Afghan counterparts have emerged again but mistrust and years of misgivings and bad-blood amongst all three is unlikely to lead anyone to any acceptable solution. With pressure on Pakistan to launch an all out operation in North Waziristan, which according to many, has already been launched, continuing drone strikes targeting not only foreign elements in FATA regions but also causing agonizingly devastating collateral damage and airing of the most bizarre film on youtube.com backed by an American pastor, the road ahead seems uncertain. Chances of pushing Pakistani establishment to help end the game in Afghanistan in such a way that Americans can ensure its permanent bases in Afghanistan by securing the safe exit of majority of its ground forces are growing but not without some tangible concerns from Pakistani establishment. Main thaw in this entire end-game plan is not the presence of bases but the presence of arch rivals; i.e. Indians.
Now will the Americans play Indian card or may be threat to lure Pakistani flattened-egos into some kind of submission or will Pakistan be able to use its Taliban leverage for getting the best out of this gory game—which is about to unleash—remains to be seen in the coming days.