To make matters even more akin to a black comedy, we have had little Britain's Gordon Brown suddenly taking the Blair mantle of faithfully echoing what the US says, and accusing Pakistan of being responsible for British and, presumably, NATO/US failures. The United States has managed to send more body bags home and unite disparate Pushtun factions to fight what is increasingly seen as an occupation force. So more US forces moving along the border with Pakistan will lead to more chaos. For Pakistan this is a serious issue as it will send more militants into Pakistan. We have to ensure the new US Afghan policy does not contain anything which could destabilize us further.
Once again the cacophony of demands from the US and its allies on Pakistan has reached a crescendo.
The US is getting increasingly frustrated at its glaring failure in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, the shadow of Vietnam must be looming larger over Washington - with demands for more troops from the military command on the ground in Afghanistan accompanied by a growing weariness with the war inside the US itself; and a confusion in the minds of the Obama Administration as to what needs to be done to turn the tide and bring "the boys" home victorious.
The ignominy of Vietnam is still writ large on the US psyche as is that last hasty departure of imperialism from that country - atop the rooftop of the US embassy in Saigon. As the questions grow within the US about Afghanistan and Obama's confusion gets mired in a numbers game of how many soldiers to add to a force that cannot possibly win; an easy target for all that has gone wrong for the US in Kabul is Pakistan of course.
Never mind that the US itself blundered by allowing bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora - if that is indeed what happened; never mind that Pakistan has destroyed its own polity with thousands displaced and countless innocent citizens killed before drone attacks, suicide attacks and other forms of terrorism, for this US war; and never mind that the Pakistan Army has moved its forces from the eastern front, despite an increasingly belligerent India, to fight its own people in FATA.
All these are lost before the frustration of a superpower which has failed to study history let alone learn lessons from it.
Probably there is also anger at the far better performance of the Pakistan military in its operations despite deliberate hindrances from NATO and the US forces. Of course, the long-term socio-political fallout of the military operations in FATA have yet to be assessed, and there will be a heavy blowback unless there is visible and fast paced economic and political development put in place, but certainly for the short-term the Pakistan military has shown a better grasp of strategy and fighting ability than the occupation forces in Afghanistan!
So, for all these reasons, plus the nuclear and Islamic identity of Pakistan, we are always the popular whipping boy of the US when it needs to cover its own failures. That is why Obama is issuing threats to Pakistan while holding out carrots that are unattractive when weighed against the costs to be incurred in getting to the dangling carrots!
Now Obama has lumped US failure to get Osama at Pakistan's door - which is as ridiculous as anything the Bush Administration had claimed. Even more absurd is the threat that US forces will move into action if Pakistan can't deliver on Al-Qaeda! US forces have been moving all over Afghanistan as well as surreptitiously throughout Pakistan and have only managed to send more body bags home and unite disparate Pushtun factions to fight what is being seen increasingly as an occupation force. So more US forces moving along the border with Pakistan will only result in more chaos. For Pakistan this is a serious issue as it will send more militants into Pakistan, as happened at the time the bunker busters and daisy cutters rained on Tora Bora. Therefore, we have to ensure the new US Afghan policy does not contain anything which could destabilise us further. The time has come to assert our national interests first.
To make matters even more akin to a black comedy, we have had little Britain's Gordon Brown suddenly taking the Blair mantle of faithfully echoing what the US says, and accusing Pakistan of being responsible for British and, presumably, NATO/US failures to catch the top Al-Qaeda leadership! All sorts of reasoning are being advanced for this allegation. The British have learned nothing from their history of this region nor can they accept their military's dismal performance here as in Baghdad. Again, as in the US, in Britain also there is a growing disenchantment with the war being waged in Afghanistan especially as 2009 has been the bloodiest yet for British forces. But it makes no sense for the British to lay their failures at Pakistan's doorstep. Not to be outdone, the EU has also grandly declared that they have to "work more on Pakistan" when they have been loathe to give even out textiles the access they are giving Indian goods into the EU market! Are our leaders really such a soft touch that these powers can be so hypocritical and discriminatory and still expect us to yield to their increasingly unreasonable demands?
In the midst of all these rantings from the failing NATO/US leaderships, our nuclear programme eventually comes centre stage and it is no different now. A leading US newspaper that tends to go by emotions rather than facts - and presumably that is why it declared a senior investigative Pakistani journalist a Taliban and showed no remorse for this grave misstatement - has now declared that Pakistan's Nuclear Command Authority is the most important factor in Obama's new Afghan policy! Now why should that be the case, given that nuclear weapons have little to do with the war in Afghanistan - or are we correct to assume that it is Pakistan's nuclear programme that is the end goal of the US in this region?
Given the growing absurdities of the US and its allies in this region, especially in relation to the unending demands being made on Pakistan, with no reciprocity, it is time for Pakistan to do a major rethink of its whole cooperation with these powers. Renegotiate the cooperation with the US on Afghanistan, including terms for transit access to NATO supplies; demand an immediate end to the Indian presence in Afghanistan alongside the border areas with Pakistan and a clamping down of their covert activities from Afghan soil targeting Pakistan; throw out all the private military contractors, be they DynaCorp or Blackwater or any other; make the US access in Pakistan more transparent; get Parliament to approve all agreements with external powers relating to military and security cooperation. Finally, just as the Indians have begun demanding, we need to also demand recognition of our nuclear weapons status through membership of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear weapon power. Some of us have been suggesting this be done through a special annexure to the Treaty, and for which there is a precedence. After laying our country's very existence on the line for the USA's misguided War on Terror, the time has come for Pakistan to demand rather than to continue giving in to US interests. (SHIREEN M. MAZARI) Pakistan Ideology