ISLAMABAD: Disillusionment is growing in Pakistan over the Unites States’ deliberate attempt to keep its front-line ally in the war against terrorism in the dark on its strategy in Afghanistan, and taking Islamabad for granted despite a huge contribution.
“The United States is deliberately keeping us in the dark in its peace efforts and it appears from Washington’s policy that Pakistan is being made a scapegoat for the failure of the coalition in Afghanistan,” a high-ranking security official said, adding that the United States needed to understand that the spillover effect of the on-going war had damaged the social and cultural fabric of Pakistani society.
“The policy of harping ‘do more’ doesn’t help … we want to be a part of the solution and not the problem … we will also not like to be found standing in a corner at the end of the day,” he added.
The official said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had personally conveyed these concerns to US President Barack Obama, who had walked in to attend the recent Strategic Dialogue meeting in Washington.
“The US president was informed about the perception in Pakistan on being taken for granted and disregarding our role, which indicated that we were being made a scapegoat for the coalition’s failure as the once most trusted ally was now being bullied at … the US president was also apprised that Pakistan continued to suffer because of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the military establishment’s disappointment over the US’ failure to address Pakistan’s concerns was candidly put across.
The official said the US president had also been told that unless Pakistan was on board, peace in Afghanistan would not be possible as “time is short and resources are limited”.
Acknowledging that the radical forces were an equal threat for the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said stability in Afghanistan was key to resolving all issues.
He said the concept of (Pakistan’s) strategic depth was absolutely misunderstood.
“It has also been made clear to the United States that Pakistan has no intention to over-run Afghanistan and control it but we cannot forego our long-term interests for short-term solutions … a stable Afghanistan will help address our security issues and stability in Afghanistan is possible only with the support of all ethnic groups and if needed, the Afghan constitution may be changed to make a strong federation … idealism has to be reconciled with ground realities,” the official said.
He said al Qaeda must be pursued ruthlessly and crushed as a common enemy and it was imperative to identify those Taliban who were willing to negotiate for reconciliation.
“Peace in Afghanistan should be judged in relative terms … what is doable must be the basis of the strategy … military strategy has to be the basis for the political strategy as military strategy cannot be an end in itself.” He said it was wrong to say that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was supporting the Haqqani network.
The official said that the COAS also brushed aside the impression that Pakistan was not willing to launch an operation in North Waziristan. “The US president was informed that in principal it was not a question of ‘if, when and how’ … the army chief told him that the Pakistan Army was already over-stretched and a major operation was only possible by sending logistics to North Waziristan from South Waziristan … it was also conveyed to the US president that Pakistan was facing budgetary constraints and it was difficult to maintain our defence capabilities,” he said.
He said that the more important consideration for Pakistan was that the operation would have a blow-back effect as terrorist attacks were expected to increase and there would be another exodus of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country.
“The armed forces are already handling the post-flood situation in the country … militants have already started resurging in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies … and we are also stuck in the rebuilding phase in Swat and Malakand where, in a way, we are fixed and the possibility is that positivity will turn into negativity if the army stays there for a longer period … the war against terrorism is a matter of life and death for Pakistan … al Qaeda poses a serious threat to us but the US media has turned biased against us and our contribution is being disregarded,” he said, explaining Pakistan’s predicament.
The official said that under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), Pakistan had claimed $11.59 billion of which $9.47 billion were asked for the army. “A total of $7.93 billion have been reimbursed and the army has been given only $2.5 billion while rest of the money has gone for the budgetary support,” he said.
He rejected the myth that the army was a white elephant. “The armed forces get only 16 percent of the total budget and that too is decreasing in real terms,” he said, admitting that the Pakistan Army was India-centric as “this is our job … we are trained for this and we are not apologetic for professionally preparing ourselves in this direction”.
On Balochistan, the official said that there was “no army” except in Sui to protect the gas field and there too the army would soon be replaced with the Frontier Corps. “The army had been pulled back a year ago,” he said, adding that a military college and a technical institute would be established in Sui cantonment.
The official said the mindset in the United States was that Pakistan was not willing to change its “India-centric security paradigm”. “The US president was briefed on this and told that contrary to this, the Indian militarisation is Pakistan-specific and India is the biggest buyer of armaments with its arsenals ostensibly being Pakistan-specific … the US president was also told that if Pakistan’s security concerns were addressed, it was ready to reduce its army,” the official said, admitting that the Pakistan Army had a limited capability and could not afford a confrontation.
He said the Pakistan’s concern over the growing US-India relations was also conveyed to Obama who was also told that “we are ready to go an extra mile for peace but not at the cost of our self-respect”. However, he said it concerned Pakistan a lot that the United States was not ready to play a role in resolving the issues between Pakistan and India. To a question about the options available with Pakistan, the official said, “We have drawn a red line beyond which we will not compromise and have our options open to protect our sovereignty and dignity”.