Many like this writer must often wonder at the US policy makers’ level of diplomacy expertise and the quality of their situational awareness they use to project America’s international postures. Defence Secretary Robert Gates has once again expressed concern at the ISI's contacts with Hekmatyar, Haqqani and others and asked the Pakistani govt to stop such contacts (April 7, 2009).
At the outset of the 2001 US operation in Afghanistan, Pakistan counselled the US leaders that the abjectly unsophisticated Taliban could not have played a part in the 9/11 attacks. They could however be faulted on renting out a part of the Afghan territory to OBL and running a draconian state. Islamabad pleaded with Washington not to punish excessively the Taliban for Al-Qaida’s crimes. Virtually all of the Taliban came from Afghanistan’s majority Pashtun tribes and significantly all Pashtuns were not followers of the Taliban ideology (Islamic orthodoxy styled on but stricter than the Saudi model). That nearly all of Pakistan’s Afghan-descended population was also Pashtun further complicated the conflict environment for Pakistan. Over the past eight years, Washington’s repeatedly brushing aside that advice has, as predicted by Pakistani leaders, intensified the Taliban’s resolve and unified the Pashtun opposition in both countries to US/Nato forces in Afghanistan. Even if President Obama’s strategy is now focused on Alqaeda, not Taliban, this will not change the outcome a great deal. Troop shortage will make nearly impossible the achievement of the “open-ended” military mission. Allies have, of late, become visibly lukewarm about contributing troops, trainers, civilians or funds. The troops and personnel that the US and its few contributing allies could field for the next 2-5 years would also be insufficient to achieve President Obama’s long-term goal of socio-economic development in Afghanistan. The campaign would run in the face of angry Afghans who feel wrongly-victimised and who would pursue their traditional code of never accepting foreign presence that looks like foreign rule. On the Pakistani side of the border, the military and development goals might be more successful but the USG and the US media could greatly help by ceasing their accusations of Pakistan army and its intelligence services playing a double game with its allies. For months this campaign has been unfairly maligning Pakistan simply because it must find a scapegoat for the military stalemate, as well as betraying the naive assumption that insulted allies continue to give their best in dealing with a common threat.