Pakistan’s Involvement, the Costs and the Benefits
Pakistani involvement in the Global War on Terror began as early as Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was initiated. Overnight, the world saw Pakistan became the key ally; in fact, America’s most important non-NATO ally. The cost was enormous in coin and blood, however Pakistan doesn’t have much to show for it. Pakistan lost a colossal $123 billion and 60,000 precious lives yet also suffered seriously in her international reputation. To make things worse, an indigenous insurgent movement also sprouted on Pakistani soil that took years to curb. So what happened that conferred us such a tragic result? Two things so far: lack of foresight and inconsistent planning.
The internationally unpopular General Musharraf becomes Uncle Sam’s darling overnight. Great! The west needed an ally, and General Musharraf, who was already under enormous international pressure, became the answer. Fuelled perhaps by the hopes that such a step would improve Pakistan’s reputation internationally, counter the rhetoric of Pakistani sympathy with militancy, and a promise of political and economic benefits…all without consulting the establishment at large.
Because interestingly, when asked about Musharraf’s intentions, in an in interview Ambassador Muhammad Ayaz Wazir(r), former representative of Pakistan in Afghanistan and many other high ranking offices, begged to differ. Regarding Musharraf, he had a personal agenda: allying with the USA in Enduring Freedom only solidified his position of power, according to the ex Diplomat. And this does seem plausible as a tentative gain for an autocrat; a dictator supported by the US is perhaps the most frequent ironies witnessed in history, and a benefit bestowed to Musharraf.
Pakistan initially played a supportive role in the Operation. But it was destined to be more than that. To name a few areas, Pakistan provided the US with crucial intelligence, naval bases, air bases and key strategic supply routes. Provided 35,000 troops for internal security and operations support. Made available bases such as Jacobabad, Pasni, Dalbandin, and Shamsi which proved decisive in the initial successful thrust against the Taliban. Pakistan provided 100,000 gallons of fuel daily for coalition aircraft and forces operating in Afghanistan. Pakistan also collaborated with the United States and the coalition forces in capturing key al Qaeda operatives. Another very critically important measure Pakistan took was to make an effort to seal or regulate the border in-between Pakistan and Afghanistan by deploying about 80 army battalions across the border. The momentous diplomatic contribution in the war was with Pakistan’s sudden policy shift against the Taliban. This is something president Musharraf did not think through, or at least it seems that way; Pakistan had been supporting the Taliban from the very beginning. This forsaken policy had its roots not with the Taliban movement but the Jihadi forces of the Soviet-Afghan war decades earlier. Shifting away from such entities on ground would have taken years in normal circumstances, as the stakeholders were the native people of the Pakistani tribal areas. These people had been had grown accustomed to supporting the Taliban and the military junta who’s primary incentive towards supporting the Taliban was to ensure Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. And we let all that go in an instant. It was to beget devastating results.
Initially though, Pakistan only contributed on logistical levels, however, upon the insistence of the US, Pakistan launched both major and minor operations against terrorist elements inside Pakistan. Operations such as Operation Al-Mizan (2002-2006), Operation Rah-Haq (November 2007), Operation Sher-e-Dil ( September 2008), Operation Zalzala (2008-2009), Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem (2008), Operation Rah-e-Rast (May 2009) to name a few. According to C. Christine Fair in her book The Counterterror Coalitions: Cooperation with Pakistan and India, most U.S. officials in the Pentagon, United States Central Command, and the Department of State have praised Islamabad for providing extensive access to the United States both in the context of OEF and in the post-OEF phase of operations. According to an unclassified CENTCOM LNO (Liaison Officer) briefing, “Pakistan has provided more support, captured more terrorists, and committed more troops than any other nation in the GCTF [Global Counterterrorism Force].
These operations although were effective in eradicating key terrorist leaders and supporters, yet did more harm than good. The economic argument of $33.4 billion is miniscule before the crushing $123 billion worth of damage done to Pakistan in the war. Moreover, the Master of War, Sun Tzu, elaborated something about 2500 years ago, which still stands today. He said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat”. That’s exactly where the Pakistani army went wrong. Knowing yourself is one thing, true. But it was in an illusion regarding the enemy if the army believed it did.
The Pakistan army made many strategic mistakes leading to unprecedented civilian casualties, which further ignited hatred among the locals against the West and the Pakistani establishment. As a direct result of this, the Pakistani Taliban came into existence commonly known as the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan(TTP) in 2007. The most terrible price Pakistan had to pay, ever, for her alliance with the US.
It needs to be understood that the Pakistani Taliban are drastically different from the Afghan counterparts; both in terms of structure and primary agenda. According to both Brigadier General Ishaq Khattak (Senior defense analyst) and Ambassador Ayaz Wazir- both served in Afghanistan- the Afghan Taliban are a political force. To begin with, the key difference is that they have held government in Afghanistan. And therefore, their main aim has been resisting foreign occupation and peace in Afghanistan, on their own terms albeit. On the contrary, the TTP sprung about in reaction to the Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas. The senior defense analyst further admitted that the mishandling and failure of the Pakistani establishment to rehabilitate Kashmiri fighters, who were called back in light of the Tactical Freeze between India and Pakistan, also contributed in the spawning of indigenous splinter groups going against the state. Compared to the Afghan Taliban who are united under one ideology the Pakistani Taliban are a band of nearly 40 militia groups under the umbrella of the TTP, and even though they portray themselves to be fighting under one ideology, all of them follow their own regional interests. But their only common interest so far is destabilizing Pakistan, which luckily now, is only but a dream.
Pakistan’s role in The Global War on Terrorism is commendable. Pakistan along with the coalition forces has been combating terrorism since the very beginning. But as they say, if Pakistan bargained with coal, one should expect getting his hands darkened as well. Pakistan got into a war combating terrorism in Afghanistan but thus, invariably brought war to her own backyard. And subsequently, their home. As an ally, we have lost far more than we gained…