THE ROVING EYE Pentagon aims at target Pakistan
By Pepe Escobar
Syria will have to wait. The next stop in the Pentagon-coined "long war" is
bound to be Pakistan. True, a war is already on in what the Barack Obama
administration named AfPak. But crunch time in Pak itself looms closer and
closer. Call it the "no bomb left behind" campaign.
Al-Qaeda is a thing of the past; after all, al-Qaeda assets such as Abdelhakim
Belhaj are now running Tripoli. The new Washington-manufactured mega-bogeyman
is now the Haqqani network.
A relentless, Haqqani-targeted manufacture of consensus industry is already on
overdrive, via a constellation of the usual neo-conservative suspects, assorted
"Pentagon officials" and industrial-military complex shills in corporate media.
The Haqqani network, a force of 15,000 to 20,000 Pashtun fighters led by former
anti-Soviet mujahideen figure Jalalludin Haqqani, is a key component of the
Afghan insurgency from its bases in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area.
For Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Haqqani
network "acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence
[ISI] agency". It took Mullen no less than 10 years since Washington's bombing
of Afghanistan to figure this out. Somebody ought to give him a Nobel Peace
According to the US government narrative, it was the ISI that gave the go-ahead
for the Haqqani network to attack the US Embassy in Kabul on September 13.
Pentagon head Leon Panetta has gone on record saying that in response,
Washington might go unilateral. This means that the vast numbers of Pashtun
farmers, including women and children, who have already been decimated for
months by US drone attacks on the tribal areas should be considered as extras
in a humanitarian operation.
The Pentagon's "long war", also known as the "war on terror", may have cost the
Pakistani economy up to a staggering $100 billion - and over 30,000 casualties,
a large number of them civilians. Under "no bomb left behind", expect
"collateral damage" to keep piling up.
When in doubt, read the book
Predictably, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani - incidentally, a
Pentagon darling - denies the ISI is in bed with the Haqqanis. Well, they are.
But even more salacious is the current Pakistani official spin - that because
the US has failed so miserably in Af, now they are trying to blame Pak for the
Looks like Mullen at least has been catching up with the late Syed Saleem
Shahzad's essential book on AfPak, Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin
Laden and 9/11. In the book, Saleem, who as Asia Times Online's
Pakistan bureau chief, details how the legendary - and vain - Jalalludin
Haqqani (who still loves to dye his hair) never ceased to be a leading Taliban
warlord; and how the ISI never stopped telling him that their offensives
against himself, his son and his network were only a show.
The Haqqanis may be based in North Waziristan, but they run a great deal of the
show in Paktia, Paktika and Khost on the other side of the border. Wily
Jalalludin has pledged total allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar - who
everybody knows is holed up in Quetta, in Pakistan's Balochistan province, but
remains mysteriously invisible even to the best US eyes in the sky.
To believe that the ISI would simply get rid of the Haqqanis, or disable their
North Waziristan bases so they wouldn't be able to attack US and North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Afghanistan anymore, is pure wishful
thinking. The Pakistani military has a major dog in the Afghan fight. And the
name of the dog is Taliban - which they "invented" in the early 1990s.
Moreover, the Haqqanis can always be counted on as a sort of reserve army to
fight the possibility of increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan.
When Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar says the US "cannot afford to
alienate Pakistan", she's totally right. If that happens, the historic Taliban
would turbo charge their already constant string of lethal attacks inside
Afghanistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban - TTP) would turbo
charge cross-border attacks, from Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan into Dir
and Bajaur in Pakistan. And hardcore military factions in Pakistan would be
even more motivated to get rid of the civilian government altogether.
Because Washington to some extent trains and equips Islamabad's military, and
the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is so very cozy with the ISI, some may
think Washington "owns" Islamabad.
It does - but up to a point. Somebody should convene a seminar in Washington to
explain that the Pakistani army has a very different agenda from the ISI, while
the ISI is crammed with secret rogue cells; it's one of those cells that may
have murdered Saleem Shahzad.
The Pakistani military is trying to make sure the "historic" Taliban led by
Mullah Omar, as well as the Hizb-e Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, lose much of
their influence in Afghanistan. But at the same time, these hardcore ISI cells
want to keep supporting the Haqqani network as a means to keep any future
Afghan government on its toes.
Time for Beijing to collect
The going will get really tough if - when - the Pentagon/CIA/White House
consortium decides that US Special Forces will violate Pakistani sovereignty by
helicopter, a la the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and go for
the Haqqanis and thus risk a direct clash with the Pakistani army. Prime
Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has already called an emergency meeting exactly to
analyze this distinct possibility.
If that happens, Islamabad will certainly pull out all stops to dismantle
Washington's critical logistics supply network from the southern port city of
Karachi to the Khyber Pass, severely disrupting the flow of NATO supplies to
Afghanistan. It will destroy any possibility of intelligence-sharing and
cooperation in counter-terrorism/counter-intelligence. Even al-Qaeda will have
a new lease of life all across Pakistan - and not only in the tribal areas.
Not to mention that Pakistan has an army of 610,000 - with about 500,000
reserves. Considering that only 15,000 to 20,000 Taliban have been able to run
rings around US/NATO troops in Afghanistan for years, the math spells out only
one option for Washington: disaster.
Pakistan is one of China's major geopolitical assets. There's no question
Beijing has already run plenty of calculations on how Washington's strategic
folly - or irrepressible desire to launch a "kinetic" whatever operation - can
only result in total alienation of Pakistan.
Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu - China's top security official - was in
Rawalpindi on Monday. Significantly, Interior Minister Rehman Malik stressed,
"China is always there for us in the most difficult moments." Meng for his part
said they discussed ways to "contribute to national security and regional
Also this week, the Pakistani army engaged in joint exercises in the Punjab
with forces from "Pakistan's special friend" Saudi Arabia. With special friends
like Beijing and Riyadh to compensate for lost military equipment or revenue,
no wonder Pakistan's generals are not exactly mired in desperation.
Yet Washington is desperate, feeling the urge to do something. So what to
expect from now on?
Expect a festival of MQ-9 Reapers droning North Waziristan to death. What US
President Barack Obama calls a tool of "unique capabilities", for Pashtun
farmers is a weapon of terror.
Expect strike after strike conducted out of a control room in Nellis air force
base in Nevada.
Expect an array of strategic missile bombings with spectacular collateral
Expect more Joint Special Operations Command-ordered special operations forces
Expect a new, humongous Joint Prioritized Effects List, just like in
Afghanistan; no names, just a list of mobile or satellite phone numbers. If
your mobile gets on the list by mistake, you'll be snuffed the Hellfire way.
Expect deadly, eternal Pashtun vengeance against Americans to be as
irreversible as death and taxes.
And most of all, expect a low intensity war to turn volcanic anytime.