It’s helping nobody but the militants
By the time the Chicago summit started, Pakistan’s relations with the US had already hit the nadir. Now these are marked by open hostility. What needs to be done is to ensure that there is no head-on collision. Any joint action by the US and Afghan forces to wipe out militants on this side of the border would be a recipe for disaster. The US is getting desperate for two reasons: An increase in lethal attacks inside Afghanistan by Taliban and Pakistan’s unwillingness to reopen the Nato routes. Islamabad maintains that US generals in Afghanistan tend to shift the burden of their military failures on the Haqqani network. Islamabad also wants the US to apologise over Salala attack and seeks an end to the drone operations as preconditions for opening the Nato routes. The US is unwilling to agree to either of the demands.
The standoff between the US and Pakistan provides opportunities to militants to launch attacks both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The knowledge that the allied forces would be out of the country by 2014 has emboldened the Taliban. To demoralise the civilian setup in Kabul, they are launching deadly attacks, the one on Forward Operating Base Salerno on June 1 injuring as many as 100 US soldiers being one. The attack had led Panetta to remark that Washington is “reaching the limits of (its) patience.” On Friday, US Commander in Afghanistan Gen Allen again accused the Haqqani network of orchestrating a 12-hour siege on a lakeside hotel in Kabul that killed 18 people. Inside Pakistan, while the military is fighting the TTP insurgents in several Fata agencies, their operatives are playing havoc inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal areas. Early this month, 19 innocent persons were killed in a bomb attack on a bus in Peshawar while 33 lost their lives when a car bomb exploded in the Landi Kotal bazar.
Both US and Pakistan need to display flexibility. An apology from the US would help open the Nato supply routes while a military operation by Pakistan army inside North Waziristan would remove the need for drone attacks. Both sides have to realise that a peaceful and secure Afghanistan is the sole guarantee of peace in the region. For this, the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan have to join hands to eliminate the militants. Policy makers in Pakistan have to realise that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a prerequisite for the opening of the trade-cum-energy routes from Central Asia to India that can bring mega economic dividends to Pakistan and rid it of its decades old dependence on foreign aid and the IMF. Strong economic ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan can resolve the differences that military-cum-intelligence moves have failed to do. With the elimination of militancy, Pakistan can hope for foreign investments. Our policy makers have to realise that a country badly dependent on foreign aid cannot defend its sovereignty with the help of the army alone.