In a four-part series, M P Anil Kumar, a former Indian Air Force fighter pilot, looks at the lawless Afghan-Pak region.
Had it not been fraught with catastrophe, the irony of what's roiling Pakistan today would have had us laughing till our bellies ached. Had it not been for the nameless consequences, the sight of Uncle Sam stewing in his own juice in Afghanistan would seem like poetic justice and evoked a sense of schadenfreude in many.
When General Musharraf decided to join forces with George Bush Junior to hunt relentlessly for their 'common' quarry Osama bin Laden in October 2001, I had written that the administration would soon realise that they had actually embraced a Tartar, not a holy anti-terror warrior. (A Tartar is an unexpectedly formidable fellow, and when you catch a Tartar, it turns out that he was the one who has caught you!)
I misfired on one count; I overestimated the intelligence of the administration. Though Team Bush has been consigned to history's dustbin, the American establishment still appears to be dim-witted for they seem senseless to perceive the embrace-turned-bearhug and the Pakistan army's skullduggery.
Since the Pak army knows Pakistan has much to pocket by perpetually denying what the US wants, citing one pretext or the other, they will continue to run rings round the Americans to ensure a prolonged showering of manna from Washington and other rich capitals, recession or not, terrorism or not.
In Norse mythology, Gotterdammerung refers to a foretold war of the gods that brings about the end of the world. Translated, Gotterdammerung refers to a disastrous conclusion of events.
With the Obama-Karzai-Zardari 'brainstorming' scheduled for the 7th of May, anyone with perspicacity could have seen through the deliberate upping of Talibanphobia, the rumours of the impending implosion of Pakistan, the questionable safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and the Dir-Buner-Swat crackdown.
To me, these were too coincidental to be plausible; all stage-managed for the benefit of the benefactor in Washington! Of course, this Gotterdammerung drama had its intended effect. Washington panicked, President Obama winked at his own prescription of post-dated cheques and loosened the purse-strings to rescue the Pakistani State 'under siege.'
To elevate his standing, Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin, the Russian minister leading the Crimean military campaign, ordered the erection of hollow facades and the construction of fake villages along the Dnieper riverside to impress Empress Catherine II on her visit to Ukraine and Crimea in 1787, thus earning the notorious eponym Potemkin village. President Obama, beware of General Kayani in Grigori Potemkin's clothing!
Now that the Obama-Karzai-Zardari photo-op is done with, having 'earned' another good conduct pat from the Boss, having pocketed a cool $953 million cheque, given its past habit, the Pak Army should recede into recidivism soon. Of course, till Washington rams a fresh casus belli down its throat. Deceit comes so naturally to the Pakistani military!
New broom sweeps cleaner, and harder!
Coining the portmanteau word Afpak (I've dumped the hyphen) to designate the lawless Afghanistan-Pakistan continuum, in the first flush of presidency, Barack Obama brought out his administration's policy to transmogrify the strife-riven region into New Shangri-La -- a land of peace, milk and honey.
The paper has unveiled six major thrusts to resurrect Afpak.
One, to beef up the American forces with 17,000 more troops.
Two, a contingent of 4,000 troops to train and raise Afghan security forces as future bulwark against the baddies.
Three, to winnow the 'good Taliban', wean them away from the riff-raff and to mobilise them into a mighty militia.
Four, first stating his willingness to treat the past as water under the bridge, infusing an I-mean-business air into his glare, he announced that the issuance of further tranches of largesse to Islamabad will be bountiful but with strings attached, i e, no more blank cheques.
Five, to establish a 'Contact Group' comprising regional heavyweights Russia, India and Iran as a multilateral fora to pow-wow Afpak, the other being the US-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral.
Six, to unleash the diplomatic bulldozer by the name Richard Charles Holbrooke as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, hoping he would wield the strong-arm into pulling off an improbable coup.
Afghanistan, the new necropolis
Barring Maharaja Ranjit Singh who had large swaths for a brief period under his thumb in the early nineteenth century, Afghanistan has been the graveyard of modern superpowers. The first to flounder was the British. As part of what came to be known as the Great Game, they fought three Afghan wars (1839-1919) and lost. In fact, the First Anglo-Afghan War was fought so savagely, even retreating British forces were butchered by bushwhackers. Only Dr William Brydon escaped to tell the horrid tale.
The trouncing of the Soviet Union is vividly chronicled, and in 1989, they withdrew with bloodied noses and tails between their legs under President Gorbachov's watch.
President Obama, the man of the moment, knows history, and therefore wants to save America from ignominy, and thus defy and make history at once. Hence he has invested much political capital in Afpak. And an arm and a leg too.