Interview with Ahmed Quraishi who is Senior Research Fellow at an independent Pakistani think tank Project Pakistan 21.
I think it just appears, it seems that there is a huge disconnect between what the US Government in Washington talks about in terms of peace and stability in the region, and what the US military commanders are doing on the ground in Afghanistan.
I’ve just come out of a four hour briefing by the Pakistani military given to the Pakistani media here in Islamabad, and they just gave us a timeline and some video footage of what exactlytranspired in the early hours of November 26 on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it just seems very obvious and very clear from whatever they’ve shown us, that this was a deliberate act of attacking the Pakistani military, and it appears the purpose was to draw the Pakistani military into some sort of escalation, a military escalation that would result in direct military engagement between the US lead NATO’s ISA force (ISAF) and the Pakistani military. We were told by the Pakistani commanders that during this battle that went on for about two hours they considered escalating the situation but the commanders on the other side deescalated it very quickly. But from whatever information that they have, it is quite obvious that two Pakistani check posts were deliberately attacked.
Now, why the United States are doing this, I think it’s very clear that two or three points to be considered: number one is that the United States military is facing a horrible defeat across Afghanistan. Maybe the most of the people cannot really understand that depth and the dimension of this statement; it is really horrible what is going on on the Afghan side, the very fact that after 10 years there is actually a complete political and military breakdown and if not for the current presence of international forces in Afghanistan, would be seen a complete chaos and mess in Kabul and elsewhere in that country. So, it is really a terrible situation, it is just seems that the US military leadership is intended on shifting the entire blame for that mess onto Pakistani shoulders.
And for that I think they are trying to escalate the situation in the border area. Now, there are some other suspicions as well, as you know the Pakistani military has been conducting the operations in the border area, and these operations have been very deep and very sorrow. In fact the two Pakistani check posts that were attacked are located in one of the 7 tribal agencies, this one is called Mohmand agency and it was completely cleared. And when I say completely I mean, and according to Pakistani commanders, they say it was 100% cleared from all militant activity and it was communicated to US military leadership in Afghanistan on September 11, that was the 10th anniversary of 9\11. It was communicated to the American side that at least at this one agency there is absolutely no militant activity, and yet we have this operation that takes place and they attack the Pakistani check posts, and they claim that they received fire from the Pakistani side and of course they are unable to provide any evidence that would prove that there was fire from the Pakistani side at all.
In fact during the earlier communication and during the briefing that I’m just alluding to, that took place a few minutes ago and concluded few minutes ago, the Pakistani commanders actually provided details of communication that took place between them, and the Pakistani commanders during and immediately after the attack and it’s quite clear that the Americans actually did not even know exactly, if there was fire from the Pakistani side, where it was exactly, they provided one information initially and then 15 or 20 minutes later they said – no it came from the exact place where the Pakistani military check posts are located. It’s a devised logic, really: this was the conclusion of the Pakistani commanders.
So, it really looks like the US is trying to pull out of Afghanistan, it’s leaving behind chaos. So, what could be the implications of this particular move? Do you think that for instance the Pakistani Government would try to perhaps smooth over the implications, or perhaps it really amounts to something like total breakup of the relations with the United States?
Well, the communication is still there, the communication is still going on, there hasn’t been any breakdown in the communication, but from all these steps that the Pakistani Government and military has taken in the last two days it is quite obvious that, as the Prime Minister said, it will never be as usual between Pakistan and the US. We can say that the military aspect of Pakistani cooperation with the US in Afghanistan post 9\11 has ended. I think we’re seeing a major turning point, I think both the Americans and the Pakistani side politically are trying to sort of underplay but nobody is actually coming out, you don’t see any American official or any Pakistani official coming out on TV cameras to say – we’ve ended all that we’ve had after 9\11 over the past 10 years.
But practically, if you go through the list of things that have taken place over the last 48 hours it is quite obvious, I mean the supplies to NATO and the US military have been completely stopped indefinitely and we are hearing from the Pakistani officials that it is prominent tending, a complete review of relations with the US military in Afghanistan. We’ve seen other steps have been taken, there is a huge probability that Pakistan will not participate in the Bonn Conference in Germany early next month on the future of Afghanistan. It is a major step, we’ve seen the Pakistani diplomacy for the first time getting very active, antagonistic way towards the US; we’ve seen the Pakistani Foreign Minister get on the line with the Chinese Foreign Minister, with the Russian Foreign Minister, with other countries in the region; we’ve seen at least one member the NATO alliance – Turkey, actually breaking away completely from the official stance of NATO and completely backing the Pakistani’s position.
So, we’re seeing a number of things happening are completely different and of course let’s not forget the fact that for the first time in this 10 years the Pakistani Government has formally written to UN secretary-general and Pakistani complain, protest, and details of what exactly happened, copies of that, have been distributed to all the permanent and nonpermanent members of the Security Council and the UN’s General Assembly. So, it is a very altogether different situation. Yes, there is no complete breakdown in communications with the US but we can safely say that whatever relationship both Washington and Islamabad build in terms of cooperation in Afghanistan after 9\11 is no longer there.
The breakdown of relations with Pakistan, do you think that it is still a blunder on the part of the United States or is it a calculated move?
I would likely go in favour of it being a calculated move. But having said that I must just tell you that you must understand there are diverse viewpoints and competing power centers in Washington DC, and nobody knows that frankly better than Pakistani officials because they have been dealing with that, with the Americans, and they are saying this very openly that they see that disconnect between various power centers in Washington DC with regards to the relationship with Pakistan, there are those power centers in Washington DC that would like to engage with Pakistan, they know it’s a difficult relationship but they would like to engage, but then there are also those power centers, who strangely have been pushing to a military escalation with Pakistan.
And it just seems that this year we’ve seen at least two major steps taken to speed up this kind of confrontation, of course the leaders attack is one of them. There was the May attack of course in Abbottabat targeting Osama Bin Laden, where the Pakistanis contended and say we’ve cooperated in giving the Americans crucial information about the career, that eventually led to Osama Bin Laden’s location, but when the time came to claim the credit for the operation the American side and specifically the CIA decided to claim all credit and sort of create a situation, where the doubts are created about the complicity of Pakistani military in allegedly hiding OBL.
So, it’s quite obvious that there are competing power centers in Washington, but as far as the American presence in Afghanistan is concerned, I think we are seeing a strange overlap, we have Afghan warlords, and we have US military commanders, and we have US intelligence commanders and all the interests of all frequenters overlap on one point, and that is to sort of be very antagonistic toward Pakistan and to blame Pakistan completely for the complete breakdown in whatever project that the US and its local allies were pursuing in Afghanistan. I mean Pakistan is being blamed for everything from attacks on the US Embassy to attacks on coalition soldiers, even in the regions that are very far away from the Pakistani border. So, it seems quite premeditated.
Voice of Russian