I had no idea that Ayaz Amir was capable of writing such a shallow analysis until I read his column titled “The Long Sulk” in the News International of June 17, 2010. Mr. Amir needs to do a lot more research and serious study before he picks up pen and writes on big international issues. He knows the local scene well and writes good columns on local politics but he should focus on his area of expertise rather than risk his reputation by making huge and ill-informed judgements on some of the most important issues of the decade and of indeed of the post-cold war period. Much of the criticism of Pak Army Generals and their policies is justified but that is only part of the problem. Why?
Mr. Amir wrote:
“There are legitimate questions arising from the discovery of Bin Laden’s hideaway in Abbottabad. We should answer them without losing our cool.”
Comment:Yes there are but they should start with: Who allowed OBL to escape from Tora Bora and then dropped the ball in the first place? It is beyond any shadow of doubt (as concluded by a US Foreign Relations Committee Report “Tora Bora Re-visited dated November 30, 2009) that Bush and Cheney did so deliberately. The most important and biggest question is why?
Second big question is why did the US not pick up any satellite conversations of OBL or many of his top associates for many years after their flight from Tora Bora in November 2001?
I would encourage Mr. Amir and others like him to look up the web for what people like Gary Bernsten (the CIA’s head of OBL unit in 2001) and Robert Baer (the CIA’s field officer for the Middle East) have to say about OBL’s “flight” and “hunt”.
Mr. Amir wrote:
“Let’s get rid of the notion that Islamist militancy is a response to the American presence in this region. Uncomfortable as this truth may be, Pakistan had become the crossroads of international jihad much before 9/11 and the subsequent American invasion of Afghanistan. The CIA footprint in Pakistan is a response to the jihadi footprint in this country.”
Comment: This is a binary position not substantiated by history.
While Pakistan has been an accomplice, the story of the destruction of Afghanistan and the spread of Islamic Militancy is much more than about Pakistan Army.
Please see below the extracts from the interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, who really started the Afghan War in 1979.
Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser
Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998
Question:The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski:Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Question: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
Brzezinski: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Question: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?
Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Question: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Question: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
Brzezinski: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.
This was Brzezinski before 9/11. Let’s see what he said after 9/11.
He told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee on February 1, 2007:
“A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD’s in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the “decisive ideological struggle” of our time… and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America’s involvement in World War II.”
How very interesting that the man who started the Afghan Jihad (Zbigniew Brzezinski) tells us that the CIA came to the region much before even the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and (post 9/11) is now pushing a “A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war in the name of ideology” but our columnists appear to know better and definitely claim to be wiser.
Mr. Ayaz Amir writes:
“There is no international conspiracy against Pakistan. We are not that important an international player to merit that kind of attention. No one is eyeing the nebulous frontiers of our sovereignty.”
I do not want to debate this here for shortage of space but this is a naive and immature comment that would have been fine if it had been made by a fresh graduate of a US-think tank program, who had just returned from the States but does not do much for the credibility of a senior columnist like Mr. Ayaz Amir. Why?
Just look at these facts:
1. Since 9/11, the US has spent $444 billion on Afghan War or 35% of total war spending. As of now, AfPak is the biggest military and covert operation of the US, bigger than Iraq. According to the Congressional Research Service, between FY2009 and FY2010, average monthly US defense spending for Afghanistan grew from $4.4billion to $6.7 billion a month, a 50% increase while average troop strength almost doubled from 44,000 to 84,000 as part of the troop surge announced by the President Obama in December 2009. According to the US Congress reports, while spending on Afghanistan grew between FY2010 and FY2011, DOD’s average spending in Iraq fell from $7.9 billion to $6.2 billion or by about 20% while troop strength dropped from 141,000 to 96,000.
If this region and “AfPak” was so insignificant, we would not have the biggest US military and intelligence operation with the largest budget allocation.
2. But more direct evidence of what is involved at a strategic level comes from a US journalist known for his top level connections with the US establishment. Bob Woodward.
I want to quote directly from Woodward’s book but I hate to say that Mr. Amir’s analysis betrays a lack of fundamental understanding of American policy. The American agenda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is heavily dictated by the Pentagon and the CIA. The state department and sometimes even Obama’s White House have been held hostage to the policies of the US establishment.
I reproduce below an extract from are what are quite literally the minutes of Obama’s National Security Team meeting:
Location: Oval Office
Date: Sunday November 29, 2009
Subject: Obama’s Written Order to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan
Source: Page 328, ” Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward
” The context for this is that this is necessary to defeat al Qaeda and support the effort (attacks) in Pakistan. We can’t lose sight of Pakistan and stability there. The way I understand this, Afghanistan is a means to accomplish our top mission, which is to kill al Qaeda and secure Pakistan’s nukes.” Vice President Joe Biden. Yes, the President agreed. The main pillar of this would be top secret and not be made public.”
I won’t comment on the above which is self-evident: the top US mission is to kill al Qaeda and secure Pakistan’s nukes. I would however suggest that our writers go beyond public diplomacy which often seeks to hide what really goes on in the corridors of powers.
I would conclude with a quote from a speech of that legendary American journalist Seymour Hersh in terms of the huge gap between what is told to the world and what is the real agenda. Seymour made this speech in Doha on Jan. 17, 2011.
“You know, it is, up to a point, about oil. When I started looking at Cheney from a different point of view, like, two years ago, I didn’t think so: I thought ideology, I thought protecting Israel… a lot of it is oil. You talk to people and they will tell you, “Yeah, there’s the wind and the sun but you [inaudible] it in America and where is it coming from?” And there’s always been an understanding. We tolerate the Saudis, we support the Saudis, who we know supply an awful lot of salafists, and they’re still, their various charities are supplying often the same people we’re targeting and there is certainly, they’re certainly… we see them, for instance, in the Iraqi war supporting the Sunnis, the Sunni Awakening, etc. I mean, implicit… I would argue that there’s nothing subtle about what we do, morally. If you think about it — again this is something I talked about earlier — we and the Brits always assume some imperial right to oil in the Middle East. “