Will Uncle Sam Go Postal in South Asia?
by Eric Margolis: Death
The US is
now risking a military confrontation with old ally Pakistan that
is both highly dangerous and unpredictable in the extreme.
hard for the worldís greatest power to admit its high-tech military
forces are being beaten in Afghanistan by a bunch of lightly-armed
mountain tribesmen that we dismiss as "terrorists."
whatís happening in the "Graveyard of Empires." Washington
canít and wonít admit it has blundered into a bloody, trillion dollar
fiasco in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is the chief whipping boy for US imperial fury.
outgoing US chief of staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, accused Pakistanís
intelligence agency, ISI, of being behind recent high profile attacks
against US targets in Afghanistan that were allegedly staged by
the Haqqani network, one of Talibanís coalition members fighting
foreign occupation. A recent assault by Taliban mujahidin on the
US Embassy in Kabul revived very bad dreams of the Viet Congís war-winning
1968 Tet Offensive.
accused the Haqqani network of being "a virtual arm" of
ISI. Pakistan strongly denied US charges. In fact, both CIA and
Pakistanís intelligence agency, ISI, have long maintained covert
links with the Haqqani group.
Much of CIAís
intelligence on Afghanistan comes from two sources: electronic intercepts,
and the Afghan governmentís intelligence service.
fighters are far too experienced to use electronic communications
they know are easily picked up by US satellites, aircraft, drones,
airships, and ground stations.
government intelligence service is dominated by Tajik Communists
from the old Soviet-created KHAD intelligence agency who are blood
enemies of Pakistan and Afghanistanís Pashtun majority.
have become a primary source of disinformation to US military and
civilian intelligence outfits, and likely the source of claims that
Pakistanís ISI was behind recent attacks on US targets in Afghanistan.
US intelligence was similarly misled in 2003 over Iraq by a "friendly,"
self-serving intelligence service.
is reacting with free-form rage rather than careful thought. No
doubt, the example of the Soviet 1989 defeat in Afghanistan increasingly
as I saw myself in the 1980ís, the US created the Haqqani network,
arming and funding it. In those halcyon days, Jalaluddin Haqqani
and Pashtun fighters were hailed by the US as "freedom fighters."
Now, they are "terrorists."
One of the
US Senateís least intelligent members, influential Republican Lindsay
Graham, is threatening more US attacks on Pakistan "to defend
US troops" from "terrorism." US Predator drones are
now staging almost daily attacks inside Pakistan Ė without even
advising the feeble government in Islamabad.
threat is pretty rich. The US invades a country, brands any who
resist as "terrorists," then threatens to bomb and/or
invade its neighbor to "protect" the invasion force.
the US is paying bankrupt Pakistan $7.5 billion over five years
to sustain the war in Afghanistan.
the days of George W. Bush, US policy in the Muslim world has been
driven by a combination of imperial arrogance and profound ignorance.
When the US
was preparing to invade Iraq in 2003, I had dinner with three of
Bushís most senior advisors. "Tell us about Iraq, Eric,"
they asked. As I spoke of Kurds, Sunnis, assorted Shia, Yazdis,
their eyes quickly glazed over.
give us the bottom line," snapped one Alpha Republican. "The
bottom line," I replied, "is donít get involved in a messy
country you donít understand at all."
we go again with Pakistan. Hardly any senior members of the Obama
administration understand complex Pakistan. There are some experts
in Washington who do understand, but they are routinely ignored.
The same things happened with Iraq.
bulls in South Asiaís china shop are ready to charge in, heedless
of the facts or risks.
war against Pakistan, a nation of 180 million with a tough military
is the height of folly. Our forces have not faced a tough enemy
ground force since Vietnam. Pakistan will be no cakewalk.
most of the supply routes essential to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Most Pakistanis now consider the US a bigger enemy than old foe
Washington is making warlike threats against nuclear-armed Pakistan,
a very close ally of China, an important nuclear power. So far,
Beijing has been cautious yet firm in its support of old ally, Pakistan.
But US attacks
on Pakistan that go beyond the current raids by CIA drones could
draw China into a confrontation with the US. China has quietly made
clear it will not allow the US to tear apart Pakistan in order to
grab Islamabadís Chinese-aided nuclear arsenal.
The US under both Bush and Barack Obama has been trying to get India
militarily involved in Afghanistan. But the Indians were too clever
to send combat troops into Afghanistan.
then gave India a green light to pour intelligence agents and money
into Afghanistan to support the anti-Taliban Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara
minorities. The US has greatly aided the buildup of Indiaís nuclear
arsenal Ė which has only two targets, Pakistan and China.
All this, of
course, has set off alarm bells in Islamabad, which sees Afghanistan
as its strategic back yard. Russia and China are also watching this
drama with growing unease, torn between concern about militant Islamists
and intrusive US power.
interests of Pakistan and the US are different, often in conflict.
Yet the US "put a gun to our head," as I was told by both
a former ISI director and Pakistanís former president, Pervez Musharraf,
and forced to join the war against Taliban, a close Pakistani ally
and strategic asset.
should Pakistan forsake its own strategic interests for those of
the United States, whose confused, erratic foreign policy is increasingly
seen abroad a being run by domestic special interest and extreme
A blow-up between
Pakistan and its sometime American patron would be a calamity for
all concerned. Expanding a war into the intersection of the interests
of four nuclear-armed powers is the height of irresponsibility and
But so long
as Americaís war in Afghanistan continues it indeed threatens to
destabilize Pakistan and runs the risk of nuclear confrontation
in South Asia.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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