By Sajjad Shaukat
On the mid-night of November 26, NATO Jet-helicopters carried out unprovoked firing on Pakistan Army border posts in Mohmand Agency, killing 24 troops and injuring several soldiers, has given a further blow to the Pak-US relations which were strained since May 2 when US commandos killed Bin Laden in violation of Pakistan’s the sovereignty.
On the same day, both Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has shown strong reaction on the worst incident. In this regard, NATO supply trucks and fuel tankers bound for Afghanistan were immediately stopped for unlimited period. Going a step ahead, the Defence Committee of Cabinet asked the US on November 27 to vacate the Shamsi Airbase within 15 days. In this respect, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, while strongly condemning NATO air strikes, said, “It is blatant and unacceptable aggression. He has directed all necessary steps for an effective response to the NATO attack. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister and Yousaf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the unprovoked aerial attacks.
Pakistan has protested to the Afghan government and that of US and the NATO commander over these air attacks. In this connection, Prime Minister Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar pointed out that Pakistan would revisit engagement with NATO, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US over the incident.
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.
Pakistan’s army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas stated on November 27 that NATO could not make the excuse that they were chasing terrorists across the border because the area where the attack took place had been cleared off the insurgents.
However, it is not the new cross-border air strikes by the US-led NATO forces, based in Afghanistan. In the past, 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 continued. While CIA-operated drone attacks also keeps on going intermittently on Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have killed more innocent civilian than the militant commanders so far.
Nevertheless, these are deliberate aerial strikes which cannot be seen in isolation as these are particularly part of American double game with Pakistan.
In the recent past, US Admiral Mike Mullen (R) alleged that the Haqqani network is waging a ‘proxy war’ in Afghanistan with the assistance of intelligence agency, ISI, and blamed for an assault on the US embassy in Kabul on September 20. However, US has always accused Pakistan of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan.
While on the other side, since April this year heavily-armed insurgents from Afghanistan’s side entered Pakistan’s region intermittently, targeting the security check posts and other infrastructure. On October 9, this year, hundreds of insurgents attacked the Kakar check post in Upper Dir. During the assault, around 15 insurgents were killed and a soldier also lost his life. On August 27, some 300 militants attacked seven paramilitary check posts in a district of Chitral, killing more than 30 personnel of the security forces. In one of such major attacks, on June 1, more than 500 well-trained militants who entered Upper Dir area killed more than 30 police and paramilitary soldiers. Police said that terrorists who targeted a check post, also destroyed two schools and several houses with rocket and gunfire attacks, while killing a number of innocent people. On June 3, 400 militants besieged the Pakistani area. Sources suggested that after a three-day gun battle, Pakistani security forces killed 71 Afghan Taliban.
Notably, on October 17, Maj-Gen. Athar Abbas said, “Pakistani Taliban insurgency is based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan…we have given locations and information about these groups to the US-led forces” which had failed to hunt down a spate of cross-border raids—all the Taliban militants who had escaped to Afghanistan due to Pak military operations regrouped and set up their hideouts in that country.
However, these are organised military type operations which one cannot imagine by a stray group of militants and it is also totally unacceptable that they have the capability to fight for long hours or capture Pakistani posts.
Here question arises as to why US-led NATO forces did not stop the Taliban-related insurgents when they entered Pakistani territory? Even then, they failed in this respect; second question is as to why these foreign forces based in Afghanistan did not attack the Al Qaeda or Afghan Taliban, while fighting with Pak security forces continued for some days? The fact of the matter is that especially America has itself encouraged and supported this cross-border terrorism in Pakistan. In this connection, American CIA, Indian intelligence agency, RAW and Israeli secret agency, Mossad which have well-established their network in Afghanistan, have been destabilising Pakistan because it is the lonely ‘nuclearsed’ country in the Islamic World. In this context, Indian secret consulates and foreign training camps are present in Afghanistan from where highly trained militants, equipped with sophisticated weapons are being sent to Pakistan so as to commit subversive acts such as suicide attacks, targeting killings, fuelling sectarian and ethnic violence, especially in Karachi and Balochistan where these foreign agencies are assisting separatist elements.
As regards the deliberate aerial strikes on the Mohmand Agency, another purpose of the US and its allies is to clear the areas for US-backed militants for their easy entrance into Pakistan as in the recent past most of the Afghan insurgents used it as their passage to attack our country.
It is of particular attention that during her latest trip to Islamabad, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasised on Islamabad to help “Taliban to enter negotiations in good faith” including the Haqqani militants. She also agreed with Pakistan’s stance that “Now US is realizing that launching new military operation in North Waziristan does not suit Pakistan’s situation.” Ms. Clinton also admitted that there was no evidence of ISI involvement in bombing of the American embassy in Kabul. Meanwhile, after reaching Washington, Ms. Clinton said that cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan inside Pakistan must stop including safe-havens of militants there. Recently, she also praised the sacrifices of Pakistan and its security forces in relation to war against terrorism.
But despite the positive statements of Hillary Clinton to defuse the tensions 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. Besides ‘denuclearing’ Pakistan, by this sort of terrorism, especially US seeks to obtain some other sinister designs. In this context, first of all, it wants to provocate Pakistani forces to drop US and NATO, aircraft or to attack their check post inside Afghanistan in retaliation. And it would provide America with a pretext to launch full-fledged invasion on Pakistan’s tribal areas and some other places. Secondly, America intends to incite the Pakistani insurgents to intensify their subversive acts in Pakistan. Thirdly, Washington wants to sabotage peace agreements between Pakistan and the militants as recently Islamabad has offered dialogue to the insurgents of FATA and Balochistan. Fourthly, another main aim of these attacks is to create a rift between Pak Army and politicians. Fifthly, US which has perennially been boasting the defence of India, is determined to make it super power of Asia so as to counterbalance China. In this regard, China’s strategic cooperation with Pakistan, particularly in the development of Balochistan’s Gwader seaport irritates both New Delhi and Washington.
Nonetheless, the latest unprovoked firing on Pakistan’s military outposts is part of US inter-related developments against Islamabad as America wants to create maximum instability in our country by to converting it into another Somalia or Yemen for fulfilling the collective interests of the US, India and Israel.
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