President of United States of America, Barak Obama announced his new Afghan troops surge and Strategy in his address to cadets at West Point military Academy on 1st December 2009. In his address he announced sending 30000 troops to Afghanistan and appealed NATO countries also to send more troops.
According to statements coming from US is sending troops to Afghanistan for defeating Taliban and also training Afghan National Army. The first contingent will be deployed before Christmas this year.
Although Obama said in his speech that US forces will start withdrawing in 2011 but high ranking US officials including Sectary of States Hillary Clinton has categorically said that its expected year of American withdrawal, realistically troop withdrawal will depend upon situation. If situation worsen this can be delayed for years.
American officials have made it clear that they think Al Qaeda and Taliban have sanctuaries in Pakistan. They have specially pointed towards FATA and Balochistan where they think Al Qaida and Taliban leadership is hiding.
Americans have threatened Pakistan that now they will pursue Taliban and Al Qaeda into Pakistan and drones will hit Taliban in Balochistan and Other settled areas. They say Although Pakistani forces have achieved remarkable success against TTP but it is unwilling to hit Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura, which according to them are threat to American interests in Afghanistan.
Interestingly US officials have ruled out any nation building efforts in Afghanistan. American troops will only concentrate building ANA and fighting Taliban.
Without going in further details I will discuss what possible game is and what will be possible reactions from other big players in the region.
First thing which we understand from policy statements coming from Pentagon and white house is that America is not leaving Afghanistan in next 10 or 20 years. We will see permanent American bases here even if at all US withdraws its some troops in 2011 or when ever.
Looking at the map, which I will call chess board, we see, US CENTCOM headquartered in Qatar with bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and also in Azerbaijan, and other central Asian Countries having full eyes on Russia, China and other important countries.. (For further details see Obama’s Troops surge, The Greater Game Part I).
China and Russia are emerging powers competing with US, and then there is Iran delicious minerals filled state but not obedient to US and west.
World’s second largest oil and gas reserves are present in Central Asia, keeping Peak oil in mind, , race is for oil reserves (see WAR ON TERROR, WAR MANY DON’T KNOW). In words of one of my friend, Mid East and Central Asia are two Weights of Power Dumbbell, where as Pakistan and Afghanistan is the rod joining the weights. Whoever holds this dumbbell holds it through Pakistan and Afghanistan. Whoever holds this dumbbell is the most Powerful in the world.
US interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan are permanent as said many times by American officials. Due to these interests we will not see Americans withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to some senior analysts, US bases in Bagram and Punisher valley will remain even if US and NATO withdraws, because with these Bases, US check on Regional powers will enable it to checkmate moves and counter moves of competing powers. .
The best example is recent rioting in Xingjian. Uliger Rioting in China’s province of Xangiang recently was caused by instigation of Non Residential Chinese Uliger residing in US this year. Many Chinese analysts accused US instigating rioting in Urmaki. Some Analyst thinks it was a warning to china over its interests in Afghanistan.
Why US will keep Basis in Afghanistan gets another argument when we see resurgence of Russia. In 2008 first time after Cold war Russian forces engaged outside forces to protect vital Russian interests. Russian Government accused that US and NATO forces along with military contractors and American mercenaries participating in war against Russia on the side of Georgia. Although US EUCOM denied its involvement but it’s a fact that Americans gave every support which Georgia asked for.
Russian action in 2008 war with close American ally in Europe explains that US needs to encircle and have close military presence near Russia. American Permanent Bases in Bagram and Punjsher will play important role in this strategic central Asian region.
As for Pakistan, Pakistan has sacrificed more than US and NATO combined in Afghanistan. Pakistan is the main victim and also the major ally of US in this war on Terror. Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan, which Pakistani Forces are quite successfully neutralizing through military operations in Swat, Malakand, Aurak zai, Kurram and SWA was result of US occupation and Criminal discrimination with Pashtuns.
Unfortunately Obama or any other US official has said nothing about reoccupying Nuristan and Luger from where US troops left in such a hurry that they left their weapons to be used by Taliban. Reports coming from Bajor says that Taliban activates are increasing. This is exactly what Zia Ur Rehman, Taliban Commander in Nuristan’s spokesman said to Asia time’s correspondent…
In a telephone conversation on Wednesday, a militant linked to Rehman said that now that they had control of Nuristan, the militants are "marching towards Mohmand and Bajor to help their fellow Taliban fighting against Pakistani troops", referring to two tribal agencies across the border.
Anti American sentiments are on rise in Pakistan. A common Pakistan sees America as an imperial power responsible for mess in the region. The so called US drone strikes which American administration says will increase have killed more civilians then Taliban or AL Qaeda operatives. According to New York Times
Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed a hit rate of 2 percent— hardly “precision.”
US military and Civilian leadership are threatening hot pursuit and across the border strikes in Balochistan and NWFP. Pakistani Balochistan is facing low level insurgency since 2003. At this moment there are only hostile sentiments in some ethnic Baloch sectors. Whereas, Pashtuns who are second largest ethnic group in Balochistan have remained peaceful and cooperating. The areas which American officials claim to be sanctuaries are Pashtun areas. Any US attack on Balochistan will create troubles for US which they in heat of emotions are not realizing. Attack on Pashtun areas will militarize the Pashtun society of Balochistan and will not help US in any way.
Secondly it will make ISAF supply line very vulnerable. ISAF supply uses two crossings 1st from Balochistan ‘s Chaman crossing point and other from Khyber’s Tourkham. Last year due to terrorist attacks on NATO supply, ISAF had to face hardships. Then due to US commando Action in SWA on 3rd sep 2008 Pakistan reacted very furiously Pakistani FM called the “US raid on an Angoor Adda village bordering Afghanistan is ‘regrettable, shameful and surprising’,Pakistan stopped NATO supply for few days and it made them NATO to assure that thing will not be repeated. Then again on 22nd September 2008 US and NATO helicopters again tried to enter Pakistani territory but were fired upon by Pakistani forces and they decided to return.
This time things will be different. Although militarily it will not be possible for Pakistan to retaliate but American life line that is line of supply could be blocked. Any lawlessness caused by American stupid action will ultimately damage American and ISAF supply line.
Pakistan has time and again asked US to provide real time intelligence about so called Quetta Shura .Only once they gave some information on which arrests were made and few suspects were killed in exchange of fire.
There is a strong feeling in Pakistan that US is pursuing a policy of deception to achieve its strategic interests. A common Pakistani asks when the provinces like Qandahar, Nuristan, logar and Khost provides safe heavens for Taliban, and US itself reckons that they have no writ there then why should Mullah Omar or other Taliban seek refuge in Pakistan. When US withdraw leaving behind their weapons in strategic provinces like Nuristan then why should the leaders of Taliban hide in Pakistan, which has given results against militants?
If US attacks on suspected targets in Balochistan, situation created will be a threat to Chinese Interests. Pakistan is a strategic ally of China; China has invested billions of Dollars in Gawader and Sandek projects. De-stability in Balochistan due to any American aggression will effect Chinese interests and will be considered as aggression towards Chinese Interests by Chinese. We must remember 48 % of American treasury bonds are property of Chinese.
US is pointing Haqqani network. What is Haqqani network? It got his name from Jalaluddin Haqqani, an important US ally in Afghan jihad against Soviets (Please see Rambo III to know American relations with Militants in that era) Haqqani network is based in Khost not in NWA. They have freedom in Khost and support in Pashtun areas of Paktia and Paktika. Instead of making Khost safe, US is blaming Pakistan. BTW Pakistani government acted against Haqqani in 2005 and forcefully closed Madrassas which have influence of Haqqanies.
US public should understand that mess in Afghanistan and Pakistan is due to US and NATO forces and their Policies. (For Afghan Situation see Obama’s Troops surge, The Greater Game Part II). To defeat Taliban, US must win Pashtuns. The Afghan army which they are so proudly creating is commanded by non Pashtuns and is overwhelmingly constituted by non Pashtuns. This discrimination at every level with Pashtuns is taking its toll and a militant movement has turned into ethnic movement.
This troop surge will be taken negative by common Pashtuns. Especially the deployment plan tells that war will be fought with Pashtuns on either side of border.
On other hand Indian and American interests have proved to be one in Afghanistan. Obama’s troops surge is a big victory for Indians. India is developing Chahbahar port in Iran and roads through Afghanistan to central Asia and developing schools and hospitals around the roads in Afghanistan linking Central Asia . India also has only one military base outside India and that is in Central Asia.
Sitting in Afghanistan ,India is also involved in Terrorism in Balochistan. Recently Pakistani forces have captured 4 trucks carrying Indian Arms . Interestingly before capture of these trucks Shashi Tharoor, Indian Minister of State for External Affair said in an interview that Pakistani nuclear weapons are safe . But immediately after the recovering of Indian Arms the statement changed and Indian foreign ministry spokes women said that they have fear that Pakistani Nukes can fall in militant hands.
India and Iran wants Chahbahar to be of overwhelming importance. For that they see Gawader port, which is on the mouth of Strait of Hurmaz as a threat. India sees itself as a dominant power in south Asia and wants to dictate to its neighbors. Pakistan on other hand don’t reckon this Indian wish. Pakistan is also a strategic ally of China, which is also a thorn in Indian and American eyes. China has invested billions of Dollars in Gawader and Sandek projects. Baloch rebels are hitting only Chinese people in Balochistan where as Americans or Australians are free to roam around in Balochistan which tells who are guideing rebels ( for further details see Obama does his Bush impression and Balochistan is the ultimate prize ).
India sees Gawader as a big threat because Gawader means Pakistan in control of Gulf and Central Asian oil and trade routes. This port will give a big leverage to Pakistan over India.
Iran on other hand is seeing US presence as a threat . Keeping in mind its nuclear program and American stance Iran see US presence as direct threat to its security. Iranians have time and again accused Americans for sponsoring Terror in its Sistan and Balochistan Province and in other provinces like Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Azerbaijan. Americans are giving free hand to Mujahideen e Khalaq from Iraq. In my past essay I tried to prove that Israel will attack Iran as dictated by its strategic culture and US as its protector will help her to do so.
China is one of the main stake holders in this conflict. Al though it’s facing extremism in Xinxiang province but it is not looking US presence positively. China is a super power and main competitor of America. US and china both have eye for central Asian oil reserves. Unfortunately US is looking for help from India but is not inviting SCO to contribute and play its role to stabilize the region. Recently Taliban sent letter to SCO. According to Times of India
meeting in Beijing on Wednesday to ask the regional body to intervene and solve the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. the China-Russia-CIS combine against the United States, highlighting the general perception that the SCO is intended to keep the US out of the Central Asian region.
China has invested thousands of Dollars of its tax payers in central Asian oil and gas reserves. It sees alien American presence in Afghanistan as a direct threat. In globalize world anything which happens in region effects china and its economy. Secondly American presence in Afghanistan means that US and its ally India has completed the encirclement of China which no body in china likes.
Then there is Russia which had to fight US proxies in Georgia last year over KEEHAN – BAKU pipeline to safe guard its interests. US presence in its area of Influence is not seen well come by Russians. That is the main reason for growing relations of Russia with Pakistan.
European Union is also one influential actor. France and Germany both have proved reluctant to send more troops in Afghanistan. American unilateralism and demand for sacrifices for its interests from its allies seems to have less effect in EU. EU is emerging as a big economy and has its own strategic perceptions and approaches.
Summing up the whole essay, US will not leave its bases from Afghanistan if US and NATO do not address Pashtun grievances the situation will remain same. Present US strategy was not constructed on keeping in mind the interests of other major Players like China, Russia and SCO.
For peace in Afghanistan, SCO can play and Important role. So far no body has invited it to play its role. At present American economy is in worst condition. Need of time is not realism but compassion and understanding towards problem in south Asia.