Pakistan Is Not Cambodia
September 1, 2012
The American blame gun
Ehsan Mehmood Khan
American officials and politicians continue to cry wolf with regard to alleged “sanctuaries” of Afghan Taliban in Pakistan. The Americans, to encapsulate simply, are loaded with responsibility to maintain order in Afghanistan since its occupation in 2001. Failure in any form is blame-fired towards Pakistan.
Latest in the line of blame is the rhetoric of Leon Panetta, the US Secretary of Defense, in the aftermath of a 20-hour siege of NATO headquarters and the US embassy in Kabul by Taliban on September 14, 2011, wherein 15 people were killed and six foreign soldiers injured. The Taliban attack, indeed, exhibits hollowness on the part of such American claims as “we are winning, we have attained partial victory, Kabul is secure and the elected government in Kabul is functioning while insurgents have been rejected by the populace,” and so on.
The attack has been embarrassing for the Americans from many angles. Firstly, it had been launched in the Afghan stronghold of Kabul, which many outside observers feel is in the firm security clutches of the government as well as ISAF, thereby raising new questions over the capability of the Afghan government to ensure the security and capacity of the Euro-American forces to retain a foothold therein.
Secondly, it had been launched simultaneously on both the military and civilian nerve centres of the Western powers in Afghanistan, i.e., NATO headquarters and the US embassy.
Thirdly, NATO headquarters Staff and US embassy officials remained hostage-under-assault for nearly 20 hours. This rather lent a glimpse of victory to Taliban in face of American claims of calm in Kabul.
The American rejoinder to the embarrassment suffered at the hands of a handful of Taliban has rather been knee-jerk. On the one hand, Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador in Afghanistan, struggled to downplay the event by commenting on six rockets that landed right inside his embassy compound saying, “This really is not a very big deal – a hard day for the embassy and my staff.” The contradiction lay within the syllable of his statement while he went on to say, “Half a dozen RPG rounds from 800 meters away, that isn’t Tet.”
For the information of readers, Mr. Crocker referred to the Tet offensive, which continues to haunt American polity. Launched by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces in January 1968, employing over 80,000 guerrillas, they attacked virtually all major cities in South Vietnam (which was the portrait of today’s Afghanistan under American occupation). During the Tet offensive, the US embassy in Saigon too came under attack. All the rest is history.
All that has happened to Pakistan’s society, security and economy is known to none more that Americans outside Pakistan. Yet, their blame gun continues to fire bombs of charge and accusation against Pakistan and its institutions.
Mr. Crocker’s confidence and conviction apart, the disparaging non-diplomatic oratory by Leon Panetta reads different. He again blamed Pakistan for the “safe havens” and “sanctuaries” of the Haqqani group. The American disturbance is not off beam either. Earlier, Taliban had attacked an American base with a truck bomb on the eve of 9/11, injuring 77 US soldiers. A major attack was launched last month too, wherein Taliban shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter, killing 30 American troops, the majority of them Navy SEALs from the unit that had conducted the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
The point to note herein is that Pakistan, despite deployment of over 150,000 soldiers along the Pak-Afghan border, does not have such surveillances devices as are possessed and in use by the Americans across the border. Let alone detecting the movement of militants from Pakistan to Afghanistan, our forces find it difficult even to keep watch on the terrorists committing ingress and aggression into Pakistani soil from their safe havens located well within Afghanistan.
All said, it is a moment of introspection for American polity and its diplomatic lieutenants. They need to reflect again on the issue and determine as to who will pay in the long run; engagement or estrangement, and cooperation or confrontation?
At any rate, Pakistan is not Cambodia. It is a country of nearly 200 million people, the most resilient, the most devoted and sick-of-terrorism in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world, but hardly affected by the blame-gun “salutes.”
Pakistan already has too much to wrestle with; an ailing economy, internal security, dengue fever and natural calamities. It does not have much time to take care of any “sanctuaries” or “safe havens”. The last words for American politico-military hierarchy: let reality replace the rhetoric and let us work in collaboration taking note of each other’s compulsions and complexities so that the coming American generations do not blame you tomorrow for mishandling the Afghan war despite passionate Pakistanis working alongside you!