By Sajjad Shaukat
While tension has already been increasing between Pakistan and the United States since May 2 when US forces killed Bin Laden in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty in wake of American false allegations against Pak Army and country’s intelligence agency ISI for their support to the Afghan insurgency, and distorting the image of these security agencies by deliberately involving in the memogate scandal, on the mid-night of November 26, unprovoked firing by the US-led NATO Jet-helicopters on Pakistan Army outposts in Mohmand Agency which killed 24 troops proved a bolt from the sky.
Since 9/11, US has been playing double game with Pakistan, sometimes praising Pak Army for successful military operations, sometimes ISI for capturing renowned Al Qaeda commanders, and sometimes cajoling Islamabad with economic and military aid, while at the same time, in connivance with India and Israel, America has been continuing its anti-Pakistan activities by supporting militancy in Pakistan and separatism in Balochistan. Now its old maximum to ‘do more’ against the militants has become a joke when any Pakistani citizen takes it in light of US air raids, ground shelling and drone attacks.
However, regarding new air strikes, Director General Military Operations Maj-Gen. Ishfaq Nadeem said on November 29 this year that the NATO attacks on border check posts in Mohmand Agency were deliberate because “the positions of the posts were already conveyed to the ISAF through map references and it was impossible that they did not know these to be our posts.” On November 28, Pakistan’s army spokesman Major-Gen. Athar Abbas also expressed similar thoughts, adding that NATO could not make the excuse that they were chasing terrorists across the border because the area where the attacks took place had been cleared off the insurgents.
On the other side, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta offered their “deepest condolences” in the cross-border incident, vowing ‘full probe’ into matter immediately. Gen John Allen, commander of the NATO-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also supported the ISAF investigation regarding the event. Quite contrarily to the statement of NATO secretary general, spokesman for the NATO/ISAF), Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson admitted, it is responsible for the casualties on Pakistani soil.
But Pakistan has refused to accept expressions of regret over the cross-border attack that has inflamed US-Pakistani ties. Notably, in the past too, a number of such attacks were launched by the US jets and helicopters which targeted the security check posts of Pakistan, killing many military and paramilitary troops. Despite Islamabad’s strong reaction, lodging protest, every times, high officials of the US and ISAF have ordered investigation, but without any progress, these attacks have kept on going.
US has always accused Pakistan of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. While, in the last few months, heavily-armed insurgents from Afghanistan’s side entered Pakistan’s region intermittently, targeting the security check posts, killing more than 100 personal of Pakistan’s security.
Nevertheless, in wake of Pak-US strained relations, the latest aerial strikes on Pakistan’s military check posts have added injury to the fuel. These have brought about drastic effects and are likely to result in far-reaching implications not only on Pakistan and the whole region, but also on US and other NATO allies.
As regards the immediate effects of this worst incident, while showing strong reaction Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has taken tough measures especially against America which is the leading country in connection with this air raid. Pakistan not only blocked the NATO supply to Afghanistan across its country, but also asked the US to vacate the Shamsi Airbase within 15 days. Pakistan has also brought the NATO cross-border strike to the attention of the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, people organised demonstrations and rallies in major cities of Pakistan, showing resentment against the US, and calling on Islamabad to break off its alliance with the United States.
Prime Minister Gilani and Foreign Minister pointed out that Pakistan would review its engagement with the US and its other allies. In this respect, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, while strongly condemning NATO air strikes, has directed all necessary steps for an effective response to the NATO attack.
Despite Islamabad’s strong reaction, US high officials refused to apologize. So, going a step ahead, on November 29, Pakistan decided to boycott the forthcoming Bonn Coference on the future of Afghanistan. The Bonn meeting is aimed at bringing together Western and regional leaders to map out a strategy for Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014.
It is one of the major implications of the US-led aerial strikes and anti-Pakistan policies as without Pakistan’s support the real purpose of the western leaders at Bonn Conference, who seek to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops, will badly fail.
It could be judged from the statement of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who during her latest trip to Pakistan had emphasized on Islamabad to help “Taliban to enter negotiations in good faith” including the Haqqani militants. But despite the positive statements of Ms. Clinton to defuse the tension in Pak-US relations, deliberate cross-border ground and air terrorism have continued by the US-led NATO forces on Pakistan, which are part of American duplicity with Islamabad.
Despite its failed adventure in coping with the Afghan Taliban, as ambush assaults and suicide attacks continue on the Afghan and coalition forces, US plans to keep military bases in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline for withdrawal of coalition troops. It indicates that US is not sincere in bringing stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan as it is deliberately destabilizing both the countries to fulfill its secret designs including those of India which has well-established its network in Afghanistan. Their secret agencies, CIA and RAW are conducting covert operations against China, Iran and Pakistan.
Now by ignoring the dangers of its new strategy to directly strike Pakistan’s tribal regions—violation of the sovereignty of an independent state, without caring for the reaction of the elected government as well as the people of the country, Washington is challenging the security of our country, thus making itself more insecure in turn.
Another drastic implication of US such a strategy is that it will certainly result into more unity among the elected government, security forces, the general masses and even the Pakistani religious organizations, consequently massive hostility against America.
This will further expedite extremism among the young men, turning them into suicide bombers, radicalizing a vast region from Pakistan to Somalia and Afghanistan to the Indian-held Kashmir, bringing about more terrorism, directed against the Americans ultimately making Afghanistan more insecure besides endangering the western interests.
In case of the US continued aggression against Islamabad, the latter would be compelled to break off ties with the former. And both Iran and Pakistan might stand together to thwart the US strategic designs. In such adverse circumstances, American worldwide interests are likely to be jeopardized in these countries including whole of the Middle East where anti-American resentment is running high in wake of the violent protests against the pro-American rulers. Besides, instability in Pakistan will also envelop India by which the United States wants to counterbalance a peace-loving country like China.
These negative developments will further reduce the US bargaining leverage on hostile small countries like Iran, North Korea, Venezuela etc.
Although this time, other NATO allies supported America for attack on Libya, yet in case of targeting Pakistan perennially, most of the US allies could leave the US war against terrorism, and a greater rift will be created between the US and other NATO members in wake of the competing debt crises, while people of other European states held the US responsible for the global financial crisis.
Thus American cost of war against terrorism which has reached approximately seven billion dollars will further increase, augmenting US multiple crises inside the country where people are already protesting against capitalists and unemployment.
Nonetheless, US-led NATO air strikes on Pakistani soil are likely to open a chain of drastic implications, if Washington does not rectify its faulty policies.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations