Post OBL US Game in Afghanistan

Moin Ansari, PMP MBA, moinansari@aol.com

When Colonel James Abbot named the city after him, he did not imagine that his name would forever be associated with the most wanted man in American history. He is probably turning in his grave that no American can pronounce the name of his town.

This weeks events have shown that Barack Obama is cold hearted calculator. Just one day before the raid, when Seth Meyers joked that OBL was in the Hindu Kush, the poker-faced president laughed hearty–this after the orders to take out OBL had already been given.

OBL is dead, killed in a manner which causes maximum collateral damage to the Pakistani Intelligence Services (ISI) and the Pakistan Army. President Obama’s actions were carefully crafted and meticulously planned. OBL was executed in a consuetude which would create colossal harm for the US propped up government in Islamabad. Both actions are counter productive and don’t make sense. Killing an enemy is logical. Making enemies of friends is illogical. Long term gain has been forfeited for Short term profit. Does the Obama Administration not care for the Zardari Administration. The Pakistani Ambassador to the US (aka the US Ambassador to Pakistan), Mr. Hussain Haqqani was left in the ignominious position of being defensive about the Abbottabad (Aboot-City) affair.

President Obama could have spread the goodwill, and shared the success with their Pakistan allies. He chose not to. If the US Commander-in-Chief had been concerned about the leakage of the news, he could have included the Pakistanis after OBL had been executed. He could have used the Pakistani Army to salvage the wreckage and to take away the other high value targets who were present in the compound. However President Obama did not want to share the glory with anyone. He wanted to be seen as strong and as vindictive as the bad-assed Republicans. This Ramboism has catapulted his sagging ratings by 10 points, and many think this Geronimo-slaying raid will surely ensure that he wins the next election. After all when Glenn Beck and Rush Rush Limbaugh salute a Democratic president, the Gods are surely smiling on the man whose middle name is Husein.

The liftoff was picture prefect, the flight was flawless, however the end result remains murky. To use a hackneyed cliche “Houston we have a problem“. The most pro-American COAS in the history of Pakistan, General Kayani has been humiliated, and the most pro-American Pakistani president, Mr. Zardari’s ego has been bruised. General Pasha’s reputation has been maligned. All these factors will have a bearing on the future of Afghanistan. The US actions allowed the Bharatis to begin their bluster. In one of the most immature statement uttered by Bharati General, General Singh threatened Nuclear armed Pakistan in one of its darkest hours. The Corp Commanders were compelled to rebut the Bharati rhetoric. All this is not good for Afghanistan or for the American operation. If the Americans did not trust their Pakistani counterparts before, they have now given ample reasons for the Pakistanis not to help the US efforts.

The strategy of targeting OBL and Pakistan signal the new (Petraus) strategy in Afghanistan; the creation of the Afghan National Army; US bases in Kabul and main cities; and leaving the Talibs to control their Pakhtun areas. In a prodigious article written for the Guardian Anatol Lieven (the author of Pakistan: A Hard Country) points out–this strategy has been tried out before in “Afghanistan in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991″. The last time this plan was executed, it was a dismal failure. It was tried by the Soviets, and it failed dramatically. It was also tried by the British with disastrous consequences.

When Israel was withdrawing from occupied territory, it denied Hamas the celebration by publicly killing Rantisi, an old man who was confined to a wheel chair. To deny Hama a victory jubilation it also killed his successor. Thus the retreat was hidden by the trail of blood. The same strategy is being tried in Afghanistan. This is not the Spring of OBL–this is the summer of withdrawal. President Obama is ready to “declare victory and get out”, without being accused of “Cut and Run” by the “closet Black Muslim, born in Kenya”. The Birther movement died in Abbotabad.

While the raid my have bolstered the Democratic fortunes, the fact remains that the Abbotabad raid was conducted for domestic purposes without reflecting on the foreign fallout from Morocco to Bali. Levien is absolutley correct when he says that “The US approach is structured around the needs of US domestic politics and a crude approach to killing terrorists, with very little attention to the realities of Afghanistan or the reasons why many Pashtuns in both Afghanistan and Pakistan support the Taliban”.

Foreign policy cannot be run on domestic issues. Obama may have slayed the birther-dragon by throwing Osama into the ocean, but the “Deathers” led by Cindy Sheehan and a wounded Al-Qaeda may be more harmful to America and Pakistan. For the first time since 2001, both the Pakistanis and those who oppose America seem to have been sequestered in the same camp. The Pakistan Army is stuck in the ignominious position of being betrayed by the very same people for which it has given up 30,000 Pakistani lives. The American thank you for Pakistani blood is public disgrace of their partners. The last sanctions made Pakistan nuclear, and forced it to build bigger and more lethal weapons. The long lasting repercussions of Abbottabad will haunt this and future US presidents.

Lieven says “Unfortunately, everything I know of the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as described in my book… suggests to me that the strategy towards which the Obama administration is tending could have disastrous consequences for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US.” Many analysts agree with that assessment. Obama’s imperious actions have not been thought through. He has unleashed events which will haunt future generations. First of all, the hands of the radicals in Pakistan have been strengthened. The PPP has lost face, in a country where losing face means everything. For the Pakhtuns the only answer to this is revenge. They will do this by go all out in support of everyone and anyone who opposes the Americans.

President Obama wants to reduce US casualties by reducing the number of US targets in Afghanistan. Obama hopes that targeted killings will prevent the Talib victory obviating the images when the decadent Saigon metamorphosed into the Red Ho Chi Minh City in 1975. President Obama is avoiding negotiations with the Talibs, and thus bypassing the Pakistanis. He hopes to keep US bases in Afghanistan which is opposed by Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran. All see the bases as threats to Tehran, Beijing, Islamabad and Moscow. Already China has voiced support for Pakistan and its Afghan strategy.

Obama’s ill-fated Afghan strategy ensures that the Talibs will continue this perpetual war. US air and ground attacks will further push the Pakhtuns into the embrace of the Talibs, and the stealth attack on Abbotabad will possibly resurrect a dying Al-Qaeda. The ability of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to hold cities may be circumspect. It has been unable to defeat the Afghan National Resistance (ANR) even when 100,000 US troops and a 100,000 mercenaries are there to help them. Once the American leave, the ANA will be left to fend for itself. Drone attacks and ariel bombing may not be strong enough to ensure any victory scenarios for the ANA.

President Obama seems to be playing by the book–the Soviet book. The Soviet-backed puppet regime of Najibullah did survive after the Soviets left in 1989 but it did so with the help of the Russians which had bases just across the border. That Afghan state had not gone through 30 years of civil war and carnage. Today’s Afghanistan is ethnically fractured between the Pakhtuns,the Tajiks, and ideologically divided between the conservatives and the liberals. The problem is that America backs the minority Tajiks, while the majority Pakhtun loyalties are with the Talibs. Its just a matter of time that the battle-hardened majority will simply overwhelm the minority concentrated in the Northwest. The US action now ensures unbridled support by the Pakistanis for the Pakhtuns. A Talib victory is inevitable. President Obama has chosen to take the difficult route. Instead of working for long term peace by getting all the parties in a coalition government, the Obama testosterone wants to rush in where angles fear to tread.”

The Turks, the Pakistanis, the Uzbekistanis, the Iranians and the Tajikstanis have all but worked out a power sharing agreement. The Talib office in Ankara would have been transferred to Kabul–but for the show of force at the foothills of the Himalayas that allowed the Pakistanis access to the most sophisticated stealth technology.

The Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani military are banking on the new equation in Afghanistan, where the Talibs now are not exclusively a Pakhtun force. They have huge numbers of Uzbeks and Tajiks in their ranks. Then IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) and the Mujohidini Tojikiston (and other Tajik militant groups) are already cutting NATO supplies and are fully supporting the Talibs in an alliance of mutual interest.

Lieven final hair raising conclusion is food for thought for those who think that the death of Osama will bring victory to the America. “On the other hand, everything I know about Afghanistan, and everything we see in the news about the Kabul regime and its armed forces, tells me that what is certain is that the US strategy sketched above will not work. As to whether the Taliban would agree to such a deal – well, we won’t know that until we’ve asked them.”

As the US forces lurch toward certain defeat, the Talib victory is inevitable. This precludes the Bharatis from ever getting a foothold in Afghanistan. A combined Afghan-Pakistan will move towards a Muslim Union the genesis of which has already been laid in the ECO. This comes as close to the Caliphate that OBL wanted. In the final analysis, OBL may have bankrupted the US but he failed to create a caliphate. It is ironic that his death pushes the neighbors into an inevitable Muslim Union.

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