Revisiting Talha Jalal's article
Published on Aug 02, 2011By Talha Jalal
The containment of Pakistan: Daily Times
Code: Select all
Talha Jalal wrote:As I have developed an odd proclivity for drawing parallels between apparently disparate objects of interest, David Rothkopf’s blog post for Foreign Policy magazine, titled ‘Innovations in diplomacy: introducing the anti-ally alliance’, caught my eye at once. Rothkopf is a lifelong Washington insider so one should not dismiss him lightly. Hillary Clinton’s recent statement in India, as Rothkopf suggests, is a proclamation of an alliance to contain Pakistan — an idea that he fervently supports.
Since Talha Jalal mentions Rothkopf, let's look at what Rothkopf says.
Published on Jul 19, 2011By David RothkopfInnovations in diplomacy: Introducing the anti-ally alliance
David Rothkopf wrote:So when Clinton said that the U.S. would not accept any nation offering "safe havens and free pass" it is clear who she was talking about. It is clear that the discovery of Osama bin Laden being nurtured in the bosom of Pakistan has had a permanent impact on the relationship and that the subsequent bristling of the Pakistanis and their push back on key aspects of U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in combating terror have pushed the alliance to being, in key respects, to use the words of one U.S. government official with whom I recently spoke, "stubbornly dysfunctional."
The U.S. has had, in the past, myriad dysfunctional alliances. But you have to go back to that with the Soviets in the waning days of World War II to find one in which a leading ally was simultaneously viewed as a leading threat. While the statements in New Delhi today do not suggest that our alliance with Islamabad is finished, it does send a clear message that, as was the case with the Soviets, flawed alliances can be turned into dangerously adversarial relationships almost overnight if the sides involved do not work in good faith to resolve their differences.
Talha Jalal wrote:It is now obvious that the Pak-US ‘partnership’ is becoming frustrating for both sides and the frustration is being vent on petty tit-for-tat manoeuvres. But, let me concur that the idea of a US-led containment of Pakistan is an interesting prospect; it is, at first sight, quite a fantastical idea. However, it is far from an innovation in American foreign policy.
The Pak-US "partnership" was based on a certain overlap of strategic interests, Pakistan's services for the advancement of US interests, US's willingness and ability to pay for these services, US willingness and ability to justify and invest in propping up a state which offers US such services, and of course a huge amount of goodwill and support Pakistan was able to build up deep within the US establishment.
What one sees are the first symptoms of a complete rupture of this partnership. The overlap of strategic interests is fully gone - be it being the need to push back the Soviets, be it keeping India down (a British legacy and a Cold War mindset), be it acting as a cat's paw in the Ummah, be it in conducting a war against Jihadism!
As far as services are concerned, Pakistan is not helping USA in strengthening its US position in the WANA region, but has in fact refashioned itself as the middle-man for PRC. The War against AQAM and Pakistan cooperation in it is having diminishing returns as the ideology of the Pakistani Army has moved from Jihad against India using American resources to one of Jihad against Crusaders, Yehudi and Hindus, something they have taken over from the Global Jihad Inc. which they were destined to marry.
In fact, it turns out ISI with its global reach through the Pakistani diaspora, its partnerships with Jihadis from Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, East Turkestan and those embedded in the West; military resources donated to it by the Americans and Chinese, and its threat of nukes; is in fact become the main director of Global Jihad Inc..
Operation Geronimo was the most visible display of a divergence of strategic interests.
The pool of goodwill started evaporating dramatically during the Raymond Davis episode.
The biggest service the Pakistani Establishment provided US with was the free run of American intelligence agencies within Pakistani territory. In fact that WAS the main argument, Pakistan's advocates in Washington D.C. and Langley had to protect American relationship with Pakistan. That big fig leaf was burnt by Rawalpindi either in a fit of arrogance or because they had become to Islamized themselves. All events that have taken place subsequent to that be it stoppage of visas for CIA contractors, stoppage of cooperation between US military trainers and Pakistani forces, closure of Shamsi Airbase for the Drone Program, rejection of a US Consulate in Peshawar, Travel Restriction on US Ambassador to Pakistan and not permitting him to travel to Peshawar, etc. etc., all have contributed to the erosion and decay of one of the major pillars of US-Pakistan Alliance.
What Talha Jalal is calling petty tit-for-tat maneuvers was the foundation of US-Pakistan relationship - free run for American agencies.
In fact Pakistan's proclivity for going to various regional countries, and advocating that they cut-off their relationship with US and jump into bed with China, and that too after US had given Pakistan substantial amount of money, was quite shocking. Pakistan has become a Chinese paw trying to manipulate the mood in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and most importantly in Afghanistan against both USA and India; hardly a sign of an ally.
Besides Pakistan has American blood on their hands - in Afghanistan and very very probably in 9/11 as well.
Talha Jalal wrote:There is a striking parallel between the relationship the US shared with the Soviet Union during World War II and the one it has with Pakistan during the ongoing war on terrorism. The Soviet Union was a wartime ally and a post-war threat at the very same time. So, it seems, is Pakistan. Pakistan’s military has been dependent on American aid throughout the duration of the post-9/11 conflict in Afghanistan and within Pakistan; so was the Soviet army. The USSR was relying, although to a lesser extent than Pakistan, on an American lend-lease programme during the World War. Moreover, the alliance with the Soviet Union, much like the one with Pakistan, was a transactional alliance. The post-war agendas of both sides differed greatly.
It was the anticipation of the post-war scenario that led to the standoff with the Soviet Union, and a very similar scenario is leading to an intensifying confrontation with Pakistan.
In February 1946, after the Truman administration had reached a virtual impasse on its policy towards the USSR, a relatively junior diplomat based in Moscow, George F Kennan, broke the ice with his 8,000 word ‘long telegram’ — paving the way for the long haul of containing the massive communist mammoth. And, as we see things now, there is once more a breakdown of relations with a wartime ally and Washington is again looking to re-invent its relationship with a wartime ally in a post-war scenario.
The US’s relationship with Islamabad has always been viewed with scepticism on both sides — there never was any trust between the two allies — much like the relationship with the Soviet Union. Even while the war was going on, as John Lewis Gaddis argues in his Strategies of Containment, US President Roosevelt was conscious of the risks of Soviet influence in post-war Europe.
The reference is being made to George F. Kennan's Long Telegram
, his role in shaping the US Containment Policy towards Soviet Union as prescribed in the Clifford-Elsey Report
, and the "The Sources of Soviet Conduct"
Article he authored which was published in Foreign Policy
There are obvious differences, especially regarding the depth of alliance, the duration of the alliance and the level to which USA helped an erstwhile partner.
But the parallel that is put up by David Rothkopf is more or less correct. In both cases, America is facing a sharp U-Turn in policy from partnership to opposition and both opponents pose a difficult challenge.
Talha Jalal wrote:And, as it happens, Pakistan’s duplicity in the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda is a similar predicament forerunning the endgame in Afghanistan.
This whole story makes up for a nice prologue to a Cold War against Pakistan. But analysts sitting in crisis-embroiled Washington should not run towards a conclusion just yet. Pakistan is no communist Soviet Union, nor is it run by Taliban-style ideologues. And, moreover, Afghanistan is no Germany to be stabilised, tamed and reined in like post-war Europe.
With some (ground) reality checks and some historical sense, the fantastical idea of containing Pakistan starts seeming vague and impractical.
What would be the objectives of such ‘containment’? They can be vague at best. Pakistan is run by nationalist forces and has a deeply divided populace of diverse ethnicities. There is no common national ideology, unlike communism in the case of the Soviet Union. Pakistan is a broken country, while the Soviet Union was a superpower. Let us assume, for once, that a containment policy would seek to weaken Pakistan to the point where it disintegrates or Balkanises (an idea being backed by many anti-Pakistan lobbies). This would mean a catastrophe for the whole of Asia. In whose hands would Pakistan’s strategic assets, which are spread across the country, fall? And, more importantly, who would volunteer to pacify a (massively armed) civilian population that is already brimming with anti-Americanism and is fiercely anti-India?
It is here that the author seems to be too clever by half.
First and foremost trick of hand is the misrepresentation of what Pakistan is. Pakistan is basically a geographical region recognized by the UN as a country in the modern sense of the word, but which is in fact simply a region over which the Kabila of Pakistani Army and its leadership in the ISI Directorate has a free run to plan, organize and execute global jihad using terrorism, nuclear blackmail and duplicity. The land and its people are simply used as a source of resources and recruits and controlled through Islamic networks and conspiratorial propaganda.
Then the author goes ahead to postulate that the disintegration of Pakistan would represent a catastrophe for the whole of Asia. In fact it will have just the opposite effect. This would have been the case as the author claims, if Pakistan was ruled by a military, united and determined to fight terrorism in all its forms, and any weakening of such an institution would have meant a free for all terrorists taking away their fiercest enemy - the state army. That however is a fantasy! Pakistani Army is already a Jihadist Army, with a small layer of officers which allow some hesitant cooperation with the international community, but as the institution does not deliver on its promises, as it can't and won't, there is no duality, no army standing up against the scourge of terrorism.
By breaking up Pakistan into many parts, USA would in fact be using a granularity strategy to combat an amorphous enemy. Since 2001, in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, American military commanders have found out that it is far easier to work at the local level, working together with local warlords, provincial governors, etc. and work with the federal government is often cumbersome and difficult. Federal Governments are often weak, do not have a pan-national military strength, and where they do, they are often compromised by Jihadists.
The case with Pakistan is not that dissimilar, except that one would really have to break up Pakistan to overcome the dysfunctional and antagonistic attitude of the federal government.
Smaller countries in Pakistan allow the problem to be contained to a single country and its direct neighborhood. One would need to expend far fewer resources to get the problem in a smaller country under control. It would be far easier for for the countries in Anti-Jihadist Coalition to get permission to operate in their area of sovereignty, as smaller countries would be far more dependent on major powers for their viability and their relations with their neighbors. A finer granularity of sovereignty is much more effective to prevent the area to be used by Pan-Islamist networks, as they flourish in areas of chaos, no governance and unlimited freedom of movement. Fine-grained sovereignty helps in disrupting these networks and stopping them from functioning that easily. At finer-grained sovereignty level, the leaders are far more motivated to take responsibility, when empowered appropriately.
In fact fine-grained sovereignty IS the main strategy in fighting trans-national networks. The "Divide and Rule" principle should be understood here in geographical terms and through harnessing the multi-polar dynamic that arises in the region.
Talha Jalal wrote:There is one big problem that is mostly ignored in any analysis on Pakistan — its population. Pakistan’s population is analogous to a ticking time bomb. According to safe projections, it is soon to become the world’s largest Muslim country in terms of population. If containing Pakistan means alienating an already disgruntled 180 million-strong nation, it is inevitably going to prove to be a disastrous policy.
Drawing parallels does seem, on the face of it, quite a neat exercise. But history, as it happens, is not neat at all — it is full of contradictions and paradoxes that cannot be lumped together. There are fundamental differences between both the plot and the principal actors in the present dilemma facing the US and the one that it faced in 1946.
The population has become a ticking time-bomb because it was left to the forces of Islamism and Pakistaniyat. They have turned the population into such a monster. The Pakistani leadership and the cobras they nurtured are alone to blame for the plight of the population.
By breaking up Pakistan, the emerging parts would be much smaller, and the leaders who come up would be far more responsible to the populace than it has been till now the case. That is the only way of mitigating the growing Islamism and despair among the population.
Besides if USA helps areas like Baluchistan, Balwaristan, Pushtunistan and ultimately Southern Sindh to break up from Pakistan, then due to the fact that either these areas are sparsely populated (Baluchistan, Balwaristan), or that the ensuing part is geographically limited (Southern Sindh) or that the part may find peace in another structure (Pushtunistan) would help cutting off Pakistan's claws and teeth.
It is Pakistan's monopoly of access to Central Asia which makes it so strategic. Baluchistan's liberation would change that. It is Pakistan's access to sea that makes it reach so global. Taking away Southern Sindh would put an end to that. It is Pakistan's access to China that makes it revolt against Western control and India's outreach. Taking away Balwaristan would shatter that dream.
So whereas one the one hand one would be breaking up Pakistan to make it more manageable on the other hand one would also be amputating Pakistan and making it weaker to pose a challenge.
One can first take away these regions from Pakistan - Baluchistan, Balwaristan and Southern Sindh (Muhajirstan) eventually integrating them with India giving America's partner in Asia the ability to take care of these areas. One can also break away Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and join it with Southern Afghanistan creating a Pushtunistan, forcing the Taliban and other Pushtuns to think nationally rather than Pan-Islamically, as well as breaking away the sway of Pakistan's ISI over Afghan politics for once and ever. The real hornet's nest - Punjab, Seraikistan and North Sindh then can be isolated and by controlling the borders of this land-locked Pakistan-Rump without sea-access, without access to Central Asia, without access to China, without access to Iran, one would force the genie of nukes and terrorism back into the lamp!
Talha Jalal wrote:At present, a quid pro quo policy towards Pakistan seems to be dysfunctional at best. A campaign to build public pressure on Pakistan through controlled leaks to the international press has not yielded much fruit, nor has the Pakistani military yielded to the suspension of the $ 800 million military aid; the army, in a recent corps commanders conference, shrugged off the punishment imposed by the US by largely ignoring it. While the carrot and the stick both seem to be ineffective, revisiting the experience with the Soviet Union might seem like an easy policy solution for the US. But it is not. Dialogue is still a better option.
Talha Jalal wrote:The reality is that Pakistan is an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan, sharing with it a 1,610 miles long porous border — and a foreseeable long future too. Moreover, Pakistan has a larger Pashtun population than Afghanistan itself. While the US is looking for cooperation from Pakistan in view of its short-term objectives — those of troop withdrawal and Obama’s re-election — Pakistan on the other hand has to deal with Afghanistan for the long haul. It is the failure to recognise the fact that Pakistan has a genuine interest in the endgame in Afghanistan that has led to the present stalemate. A solution to this stalemate is the reconciliation of American short-term objectives with Pakistan’s long-term relationship with the Afghans. And such a solution can only be arrived at with negotiated give-and-take from both sides. But, at the same time, Pakistan must also shun the manner in which it deals with the US — a now obsolete routine that has an aura of duplicity. The Pakistani leadership should come clean with the US, telling it clearly what they can and cannot do.
Containment, however, should be left to the books of American history students.
In the ultimate analysis from the PoV of USA, stabilization of Afghanistan is not main point, as was the case with Germany. However even that can be made possible if Northern Afghanistan is separated from the Southern Afghanistan which goes on to become part of a united Pushtunistan.
The main emphasis for USA should be to burn away the logistic roots of Jihad, which lie not in Afghanistan but in Rawalpindi, Abbotabad, Islamabad, Muridke, etc.
With a diminished Pakistan - just Punjab, Seraikistan and Northern Sindh, Pakistan would have absolutely no "genuine interest" in Afghanistan, and hence the whole Jihad in Afghanistan that has been responsible for the death of so many American soldiers would be mute. Also the border with Pushtunistan would be the border, Pakistan-Rump would have to worry about and not the Durand Line, and the border with Pushtunistan would be better demarcated and recognized than Durand Line ever was.
The author is speaking from a position that a Islamic Garrison called Pakistan, punching far above its weight, can have "genuine interests", even after its utility is past its expiry date.