Originally Published 2011-12-02 00:00:00 Published on Dec 02, 2011
Pakistan has no option but to respond to public outrage. Blocking of the two NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and denying the use of a Baloch airfield to the CIA is actually a low risk retaliation when Iran, Hezbullah, Syria are much more in the eye of a huge, global storm.
A low risk Pak retaliation to NATO attacks
Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, Director General, Pak Military operations, says NATO forces were alerted that they were attacking military posts but the helicopters kept attacking. The death of 24 officers has raised a storm in Pakistan.

During the early years of the US invasion of Afghanistan, it was fairly common for the US, NATO or ISAF to hit wrong targets. Military officials, attached to various embassies in Kabul, were full of stories on how the local "contacts", part of the improvised mercenary intelligence, had deliberately misled the Americans to attack, say, a wedding party belonging to a tribe with which the "contact" had an old score to settle.

Countless scores were settled. Every incident had its own novelty, but the broad pattern was similar. The military official, mostly American, would be taken to an obviously secure place to meet a "contact" who would demand money, arms, and thousands of yellow packets of food. The "contact" would ask the US official to hold his fire until he, the official, got a signal to summon the helicopter gunships to exhaust their magazines on the other side of the hillock on an Al Qaeda training session. On numerous occasions, the target was a wedding party.

Double dealing with the Americans was built into Gen. Pervez Musharraf's U-turn to fall in line in the war on terror. Musharraf was being invited to destroy exactly the forces Pakistan, Saudis and the Americans had diligently trained to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan.

As the center of gravity of the war on terror gradually shifted from Afghanistan to the Pakistan side of the border, consuming Musharrf, destabilizing an internally tense and divided Pakistan, bringing a new set of political actors, the Pakistan army became less willing to part with all the "Mujahideen" assets it had built up once an Afghan Endgame became the incantation.

This enlarged the trust deficit between the Pak Army and the Americans. The US sergeant incharge of a communications center involved in the attack which killed Pak soldiers, gave no credence to Pakistani protestations. The US and Pakistan are coordinating their war on terror in an atmosphere of total mistrust.

There is a school of thought in Kabul, close to the intelligence community which believes that Pakistanis cross border mischief in Afghanistan will continue until the Americans frontally take on the GHQ in Rawalpindi.

The growing divide between public opinions on both sides of the Af-Pak border may also come in handy at a time when the Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US is in the bargain. It reflects on the adversarial Af-Pak equation that the souring of US-Pak relations helps soften the Afghan mood towards the US, an enabling condition for the Agreement.

Pakistan has no option but to respond to Public outrage. Blocking of the two NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and denying the use of a Baloch airfield to the CIA is actually a low risk retaliation when Iran, Hezbullah, Syria are much more in the eye of a huge, global storm.

Iran's Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh of Aerospace Division, has raised the stakes in the region by declaring that Teheran will target NATO missile shield in Turkey if Iran is attacked by Israel or the US.

All these distractions notwithstanding, the blocking of the NATO supply routes is no trifling matter either. Even though a large percentage of the supplies now take the central Asian routes, at least 40 per cent of supplies have to traverse Pakistan.

Further, Islamabad's virtual absence from the Bonn conference on Afghanistan upsets the White House script on an issue of considerable interest in the build upto the November 2012 US Presidential Election.

President Barack Obama has created an illusion the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan by, say 2012. The script will emerge in bolder relief by May 2012 when Obama will host an important conference on Afghanistan. The conference, in Chicago, with NATO and other stakeholders in attendance, will take stock of the situation at that stage. It is just conceivable the global recession will be overshadowed by a war for which clouds are already gathering in and around the straits of Hormuz. Will a nice, big war help Obama's re election?

Whoever wins the election, the script in Afghanistan until 2014 and beyond will be written by that new administration after November 2012. You need a superior clairvoyant to enlighten you where President Hamid Karzai may be resident after 2014?

(Saeed Naqvi is a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

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