The Cost of Confusion? $300 Million

Haqqani Network

The US Pentagon has announced that they will not pay Pakistan $300 Million in promised Coalition Support Funds despite “the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertakenbecause it is “not yet certified that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network“. The announcement did not come as a surprise as American officials warned their Pakistani counterparts about it one year ago.

In response, Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria has reiterated the position that Pakistan is taking action against all terrorist groups without distinction. However, at the same time Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar reiterated that Pakistan makes a careful distinction between who it terms as ‘terrorists’ and who is considered as ‘freedom fighters’.

This is the point of divergence between Pakistan and US policy. We agree that some groups, like TTP, are terrorists, but other groups, like Haqqani Network and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, we support as ‘freedom fighters’.

It may have been a clever and lucrative strategy to carefully manage appearances about our policies towards certain militant groups, but now that there is no financial benefit it is time to reevaluate the cost of confusion and give a complete explanation of our policies and priorities. By hiding our true intentions, we were giving unnecessary weight to our critics who say that we are playing a double game. If we support Haqqani Network and other militant groups as ‘freedom fighters’, let us at least be open and honest about it and explain our reasoning. What do we have to lose?

Have we chosen to live or die by Taliban?

f4rft5ung5634vThe US Congress has passed another law that threatens to cut off aid to Pakistan unless we take action against Haqqani network militants. Sirajuddin Haqqani was a top deputy of Mullah Mansour, and now it is expected that he will be named Amir of Taliban following Mansour’s death in an American drone strike. Haqqani is also considered by some quarters to be pro-Pakistan. Several years ago the top American military commander termed Haqqani network as ‘a veritable arm of ISI‘, secret US documents say ISI paid Haqqani to attack a CIA base in Afghanistan, and even when Army carried out attacks against the Haqqani network, they were ‘tipped off‘ in time to get away.

The death of Mullah Mansour has put Pakistan in a dangerous position. If Haqqani is named as Amir, will we be willing to carry out attacks, or will we finally put an end to our alliance with the international community in the fight against the Taliban? In 2001, US President George Bush gave the choice ‘you are either with us or against us’. It looks like we are facing the same question again. Will we make the same choice this time?

Gen Athar Abbas Most Terrifying Revelation Is Not What You Think

Haqqanis: father and son

Major General Athar Abbas served as Director General ISPR between 2008 and 2012, but it is his more recent statements to the press that have really made headlines. Speaking to a journalist, the retired General has accused former COAS Gen Kayani of cowardice, suggesting that the former Army chief did not order an operation in North Waziristan out of fear.  But it is not these accusations that should terrify us, after all we have not heard Gen Kayani’s explanation. What should truly terrify us is something that Gen Abbas let slip that has far greater consequences for our national security.

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Has the military lost control?

Gen Hamid Gul with jihadi militants

Despite losing over 3,000 soldiers and 40,000 civilians, there was always some confidence that GHQ had a plan and that, when the final accounting was complete, Pakistan would be stronger and better positioned. Use of jihadi groups as proxy fighters in Afghanistan and Kashmir may have resulted in some tallies in the liability column, but these would be more than made up for in the final summing of the assets column. Since the past few weeks, however, the wheels seem to have come off and security analysts are quietly pondering the unthinkable: Has the military lost control?

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What exactly does Pakistan want?

Jalaluddin Haqqani

That is the question ricocheting off the walls in offices from DC to Islamabad. It pertains to the barbed issue the infamous Haqqani network. Often described as “the Sopranos of Afghanistan,” the Haqqani network is one of the most powerful actors in the region – a brutal crime family established under the father, Jalaluddin Haqqani in the days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Haqqani network is now operationally run by his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who by all accounts is much more an extreme Islamist than his father ever was.

The reason this thorny issue is now front-and-center of US-Pakistan relations is because significant individuals on the American side are now pressing for Pakistan to take action against the Haqqanis. Ranging from Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the top American diplomat in Islamabad, Ambassador Cameron Munter, the US has built up a chorus of voices demanding Pakistan tackle the group responsible for scores of attacks within Pakistan, and increasingly in Afghanistan. The final straw seems to have been the recent attack on the American Embassy in Kabul, in which 5 Afghan policemen and 11 civilians (including 6 children) were killed. The bombing had all the hallmarks of the Haqqani network, and thus began the full-on pressure for Pakistan to finally go after them.

The Zardari administration has responded swiftly and strongly to American accusations the ISI is supporting the Haqqani network. In a brief statement, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the charges about his intelligence agency’s ties to the Haqqani militant network were baseless and part of a “blame game in public statements.” Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly, said “Anything which is said about an ally, about a partner publicly to recriminate it, to humiliate it is not acceptable.” Speaking about the sudden rupture in relations, Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani said the United States “cannot live with us and cannot live without us.”

Lost in the middle of the rhetoric is the pause for introspection so badly needed within the halls of power in Pakistan. The US is accusing our ISI of working with the Haqqani network – a group that readily (and proudly!) admits to massacring our citizens and those in our neighboring Afghanistan. We need to ask ourselves a few questions going forward:

1. Is there institutional support for the Haqqani network? Thorough investigations are in order before we issue muscular refutations to the Americans.

2. Why do such depraved groups feel secure in Pakistan? How did our country get to the point where the Haqqani network decided to set up headquarters in the tribal areas of North Waziristan? How did we reach the point where Osama bin Laden settled in Abbottabad? These facts should trouble each Pakistani – we have lost too many of our own to their sick thinking to continue ignoring the fact they live on our soil!

So where do we go from here? US-Pakistan relations are at a critical juncture. The way we handle this going forward may very well set the tone for our partnership with the US for years to come. Our uneasy alliance with the United States can fall neatly into place if we can align our national interests. To do so, we must first acknowledge some bitter truths.

The US is poised to pull out its troops from Afghanistan, and there is no doubt Pakistan will be a key player in the ensuing political development. It is in our best interests to look at the situation from all angles instead of muddling through and pushing back with denial after denial. Only then can we truly realize what Pakistan wants, and what it needs to do.