With a Friend
After three weeks of bombing, there is little to show (militarily-speaking, at least) for the "war against terror." Anti-American fervor has spread throughout the Muslim world, as clumsy American bombers keep killing innocent Afghan civilians. Meanwhile, the much-vaunted Northern Alliance, which was supposed by now to to have taken Mazar-I-Sharif, if not Kabul, is now shelving its optimism and downgrading its capabilities. How can we explain these two major setbacks, which now threaten to become trends? While the answers are many, a logical place to start is with our new number one ally: Pakistan. Simply put, what would Musharraf have to gain from sabotaging the US strikes and stalling the Northern Alliance? The answers are not long in coming.
THE ARMCHAIR GENERALS OF LITTLE KABUL
of the most interesting thoughts on the matter come from the Afghans
themselves. At over 20,000 people, Fremont, California, is one of
the largest Afghan communities in America, and one that vocally
protested the 1998 US strikes on bin Laden's camps. I've been
there three times in the last two weeks, getting the word on the street
about the war, Pakistan, and the future of Afghanistan.
PAKISTAN THE ROOT OF ALL EVILS?
Recent developments would seem to support Kamesh's charges against Pakistan. As the bombing campaign heats up, thousands of Pakistanis, armed with guns, swords and axes, are heading across the border to join the Taliban. Although US intelligence has been rather hit or miss, earlier in the week 35 Pakistanis from the extremist group Harakat ul-Mujahedin were killed in a direct hit on their safe house in Kabul. Thousands of Pakistanis attended the funeral of the group's leader, vowing revenge on the United States. Indeed, even in the remotest of villages, anti-American fervor is growing.
though the anti-US attitude is supposedly not a reflection of the
Pakistani government's stance, it is clear that powerful factions
in the government share the hatred of the populace. There is little
trust between the two "allies"; in Peshawar, American spies
conspicuous, and watched over by their counterparts from the Pakistani
ISI the group that created the Taliban in the first place.
CLEARLY, NO LOVE LOST
as the sponsors of the Taliban, blamed for excessive meddling in Afghan
affairs, Pakistan was viewed as chief among enemies by most people
I spoke with. The US, it was alleged, is being duped into allying
itself with Musharraf. This, according to my correspondents, will
only compound the suffering of the Afghan people.
SLY MR. MUSHARRAF
I asked him what he meant by that. What emerged was a fascinating "blowback" scenario that might come back to haunt us for years to come. The gist of the argument is that the wily Musharraf is already using the huge anti-American sentiment in Pakistan to his advantage. According to Mr. Khamesh, the Pakistani government provided surreptitious aid to whomever fired on the US helicopter over Pakistan this week. When I argued that isolated militants had been blamed, Mr. Khamesh laughed. "Where do you think they get the weapons? From the government!" And the motive? "They want to say to America, 'look, you need to give us more money to protect you from these people!'"
Indeed, thousands of Pakistani troops are already guarding a few hundred American soldiers hunkered down near Peshawar. For Musharraf to attack the Americans with whom he is allegedly allied, through indirectly sponsoring rural extremists, would be a masterstroke of diplomacy and the only possible way of harnessing two opposing forces to his advantage.
IS PAKISTAN BEHIND AMERICA'S BOMBING BLUNDERS?
There's more, however. Khamesh also believes that Pakistani intelligence was responsible for several major bombing errors, which led to the destruction of a Red Cross warehouse, hospital, and old-age home. These gaffes, which have led to censure of the US by humanitarian agencies and the UN, have played right into the hands of the Taliban propaganda machine.
theory behind this is that powerful forces in the Pakistani government,
still supporting the Taliban, are trying to undermine the US military
campaign by deliberately supplying them with bad intelligence. While
this is one of those details that "will probably never be known,"
as the president said, there is reason to give it serious consideration
namely, Pakistan's true motives, and its hand-in-glove relationship
with the Taliban.
implication of Khamesh's argument (which was supported by others I
spoke to) is that Pakistan, looking to get out of its current tight
position, is secretly trying to derail the US bombing campaign by
sacrificing the lives of Afghan civilians. Whether or not this turns
out to be true, it is clear that a wide gulf of suspicious separates
the two. Whether Pakistan's failure is deliberate or not, the US is
frustrated by it. Indeed, even if Pakistan is not deliberately
trying to hinder the American campaign, there is little it can do
to shut down the Taliban supply routes, which traverse harsh and inaccessible
THE STATE OF THE OPPOSITION
Northern Alliance are the only ones you can count on," said Mr.
Khamesh. "They are the only ones who haven't sold out to some
other country." Speaking in near-reverential tones of their late
leader, General Massood, Khamesh said, "Wow. He was just like,
something else, man a genius."
IT ALL COMES OUT IN THE WASH
The coming weeks will reveal a lot about Pakistan's true allegiances. Whether the US takes Kabul by winter, whether the Northern Alliance is allowed to advance all these depend largely on Pakistan's cooperation (or lack thereof). Given the obvious difficulty of selling the war to its people, Pakistan's reticence and call for caution is understandable to most informed Americans. What wouldn't go over so well, however, would be to find out that Musharraf has been playing a dangerous game with the lives of American soldiers. Yet, with his back to the wall, facing increasing dissension in the ranks, Pakistani deception is not an unlikely possibility.
Christopher Deliso is a journalist and travel writer with special interest in current events in the areas of the former Byzantine Empire the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, and Caucasus. Mr. Deliso holds a master's degree with honors in Byzantine Studies (from Oxford University), and has traveled widely in the region. His current long-term research projects include the Macedonia issue, the Cyprus problem, and the ethnography of Byzantine Georgia.
Previous articles by Christopher Deliso on Antiwar.com
Christopher Deliso is a journalist and travel writer with special interest in current events in the areas of the former Byzantine Empire the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, and the Caucasus. Mr. Deliso holds a master's degree with honors in Byzantine Studies (from Oxford University), and has traveled widely in the region. His current long-term research projects include the Macedonia issue, the Cyprus problem, and the ethnography of Byzantine Georgia.
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