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Can Pakistan win anti-terror war in a roller coaster?
Sandra Johnson in Washington DC

What the hell are they doing? Sir, they are doing just what we trained them for. This was the immediate conversation between the CIA Chief and his first deputy at Langley based CIA headquarters when some high profile terrorists carried out a terror attack on US embassy in Tanzania in August 1998. Just after a year to this gory, these terrorists carried out another high profile terror attack on September 11 in different US cities, causing severe damages to both the life and the property. This was the time when the US decided to all out for a massive response and Washington waged a war what they termed as the global anti-terror war. When this anti-terror war was being orchestered, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the first door neighbor of Taliban ruled Afghanistan, Pakistan Army and above all Pakistanís first defense line, the Inter service Intelligence (ISI) emerged as the major player to play the spearhead role in the combat. Many rounds of telephonic talks between the US President George Bush and Islamic Republicís rather moderate and liberal leader the otherwise a military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf were held despite several meeting between Pakistani and US officials. These meetings and telephonic parleys ultimately resulted into Pakistanís call ďOK weíre inĒ and then began the deadly safari of Islamic Republicís Army, the ISI and the people of the compact, yet nuke armed Muslim State. If one goes by the statistics and on-ground realities, the ISI, the Pakistan Army and the people of Pakistan are the worst effected parties of this global anti-terror combat and at the same time the ISI and the Pakistanís military have made the maximum contributions in this hunt so far. The statistics indicate that neither the US army nor the CIA or FBI have shown the success rate that could be matched with the results of the operations of Pakistanís ISI and the Pakistan army. However, despite all these facts and figures, it appears that the US administration in general and the CIA in particular are not satisfied or rather happy with the performance of Pakistan and particularly the ISI and are somewhat reluctant to make generous funding and to provide the essentially required tools. The question is a big WHY?? Why the CIA that was having a wonderful professional relationship and partnership with Pakistanís ISI is today looking to be sort of irritated with the same agency? Why the best friends of the yesteryears have suddenly become strangers like? Is there some misunderstanding between the two or is there something else. Well! If it is just the matter of a big misunderstanding then the Chief of Pakistanís ISI, General Pasha is here at Washington to meet his American counterparts to eradicate all the misunderstandings, whatsoever. He has already held important closed-door meetings and one can easily expect that while heíll be flying back, heíll be flying with a very light heart after successfully clarifying all the doubts that his counterparts might had been having. But it appears that there is something much more than just a misunderstanding. The diplomatic observers and intelligence analysts that one of the reasons of this state of affairs on part of Langley is the suddenly increased and warmed relations between CIA and Indiaís top spy agency the R&AW (commonly known as RAW). These observers and analysts are of the view that after the 9/11, the priorities at Langley changed dramatically. The relations between the CIA and the intelligence agencies of the Muslim countries apparently became very active, yet there was a pinch of salt at the end of the Langley. According to them, in case of Pakistan, the CIA suddenly started to listen to the RAW more than Pakistanís ISI, despite that fact that RAW remained a very close and strong associate of Russian KGB and still having very deep rooted relations with Russian and Eastern Europeís intelligence services. Their observation is that since the CIA is having a rather limited set up in Afghanistan, it opted to rely on the information shared by RAW with regard to the activities of Taliban and ISIís operations against them. According to some sources, CIAís 78% information about Taliban activities and ISI actions against them is RAW blessed. Some observers even went on to claim that joint drugs trafficking operations in Afghanistan, a country that still produces heroin worth of 3 trillion US Dollars across the world, is another factor behind new status of CIA-RAW ties.
But if one needs to dig out the real problem that is today preventing Pakistan and its top spy agency in getting the ample assistance, support and confidence of Langley and Capitol Hill, one has to travel back to the early 80s when the former USSR invaded Afghanistan.
In December 1979, the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. This Islamic State, at that time, was suffering a state of anarchy already. This invasion exposed the CIAís biggest failure as the agency could not pre-empt the intensions of the Russians neither could it detect the movement of the Soviet troops to Afghanistan. However, the CIA chief tried to cover the failure of his agency and informed his government that his agency was in knowledge of the intensions of the Soviets and wanted them to land in the trouble by invading Afghanistan so that they could have the taste of Vietnam. It was because of the cover-up by the CIA chief that the Americans just kept watching the Russians bleeding in Afghanistan and thatís what the CIAís basic goal at that time was.
On the other side, the afghans were being butchered by the Russians, who, at that time, were enjoying the luxury of being the worldís 2nd biggest and powerful military. The Afghans were fighting the Russian tanks, landmines, toy bombs, Kalashnikovs, napalm bombs and above all the flying killer, the Helicopter gun ships, merely with decades old Enfield Rifles but still they were putting up a reasonable resistance , owing to their being native of the mountainous region and because they were religiously motivated. At the same time, the neighboring Islamic State, where an Army General was ruling as result of a military coup in 1977, had the fear that the Russian fire in Afghanistan was set to engulf Pakistan, sooner or later. The military ruler, General Zia-Ul-Haque, smelled the situation very well and after going through the reports, submitted by countryís top intelligence agency, the ISI, he devised a strategy the generate maximum resistance for the Soviets within Afghanistan, through the Afghan Mujahideen ( Holy Warriors), without getting directly engaged. However, this strategy needed a lot of tactical support, meaning a lot of money and lot of arms while Pakistan was by no means, in a position to arrange any of these. Islamabad was looking forward to Washington but Washington was keeping mum. The American interest in helping the Afghan Mujahideen can gauged through one fact that the total budget, sanctioned by the US Congressís sub-committee on defense for covert operations in Afghanistan was just $5million.
The situation continued to be the same for quite some time with Russian helicopter gun ships grilling Afghans and Afghans fighting back with simple old rifles while CIA just providing them with 12.7mm Dishukas. The Russians fighter jets would often violate Pakistanís air space and were always made to get back to Afghan airspace by Pakistan Air Forceís F-16 combat aircrafts, sold to Pakistan by the Americans. However the F-16s never chased the Russian jets out of Pakistan airspace. It was because the Americans did not equip the F-16s with the look down/shoot down radars which was the basic requirement of this flying bird.
In the meantime, Pakistan government succeeds in winning the sympathies of a well connected American lady, a famous and fairly rich business women from Texas Mrs. Joanne Herring. General Zia motivated Mr. Herring to convince the big wigs at Capitol Hill to provide ample aid to Afghan Mujahideen so that the Soviet monster could be defeated.
It was in April 1980; Joanne Herring managed to convince a strong member of the US congress, Congressman Charles Wilson, who was also an important member of the Congress Sub-Committee on defense, to visit Pakistan and meet Pakistani President General Zia.
Charles Wilson, elected by the support of Jew votes, was a bit reluctant in the beginning but he finally agreed to hold talks with Pakistani President. During his meeting with President Zia, Zia convinced him to visit camps of the afghan Refugees near Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He was also given a verbal briefing about the situation in Afghanistan by representatives of Army and Intelligence. Upon his return to the US, congressman Charles Wilson was more than convinced that the Soviet monster was to be pushed out of Afghanistan for global security and the plans of Pakistanís ISI were the best to achieve the goals. From there onwards, Charles Wilson started a new march to get a reasonable amount of money and weapons to materialize the operations, planned by Pakistanís ISI to defeat the Russians and to save Afghanistan. Charles Wilsonís biggest dilemma in this direction was to gain the support of the Jews. At that time, it was next to impossible to convince the Jews to allow the pumping of money in support of a Muslim State. However, Charles Wilson, somehow, managed to convince Jerusalem to allow Washington to pump in money to ďdefeat the communistsĒ, if not to support an Islamic State. Wilson was lucky as the Afghanistanís invasion by Russians was not a religious issue while the 9/11 and al-Qaeda emerged as a big religious issues. In the meantime, Charles Wilson and Mrs. Herring continued their efforts to convince the congressmen to develop a better liaison with Pakistan and to support Mujahideen, following ISI plans. The CIA was told by Wilson that it blew the call by missing the movement of Russians and that now they had to develop a perfect teamwork with Pakistanís ISI and to help and assist this agency, at that time by a three star General, known in the community of clandestine service as Blue-eyed Jackal. Wilson finally took the Chairman of the Congressís Sub-Committee on Defense, Congressman Doc Long to Pakistan and motivated and convinced him to go all out to materialize ISIís plans to defeat the Soviets. Then the CIA and ISI established an amazing teamwork and ISI, without getting directly involved, helped and trained Mujahideen to effectively use the weapons, particularly the Stingers, given by the Americans and to usefully follow the operational plans designed to fight a guerilla war against the world 2ng strongest army. The defense and intelligence analysts are of the firm view that Pakistanís ISI did an unbelievable job of defeating the worldís 2nd biggest army just by arming and training the religiously motivated yet illiterate and untrained civilians of Afghanistan. With the efforts of Charles Wilson and with the emergence of the spectacular results of the ISI planned operation, the US congressís Defense Committee raised the budget, that in the beginning was merely $ 5 millions, to the tune of $1 billion. The Russians were defeated. They left Afghanistan and so did the Americans the CIA did not look at the ISIís plans for the post war Afghanistan and so did the White House and the Capitol Hill. All plans of ISI, the government of Pakistan and Charles Wilson, to re-engage the Mujahideen in some peaceful and healthy activities, to pour in money in Afghanistan for the development of Industrial and Education infrastructure and most importantly to create job opportunities for disengaging Mujahideen from their militant lifestyle in the post war era fell to the deaf ears of CIA the White House and the Capitol Hill and ultimate results came in shape of formation of Al-Qaeda and non stop terror incidents like that of 9/11.
By the time the 9/11 took place, it was already too late for CIA to cover up its mistakes and negligence in the post war era of Afghanistan and Langley, after blowing the call once again, straight away recommended the White House to go for military strikes instead of intelligence operations to eliminate the warriors, once trained and created by the CIA itself. The military action in Afghanistan did not bring the required results and in fact it added fuel to the fire.
Once again all eyes at Washington were on Pakistan and its ISI and once again there was a military ruler. This Islamic Republic of South Asia is in one way or the other is lucky enough that whenever it has to face some major international challenge, it get a military ruler already in the driving seat to deliver with an amazing combination of civil and military thoughts and support. In the 80s, there was General Zia, who came with a slogan of implementation of religious laws and social reforms, in 2000, there was general Musharraf who came with slogan of Enlightened Moderation and Economic Reforms. One can say that in a way, Musharraf came to repair the damage caused by the Washington and Langleyís policies in the post war Afghanistan but he never knew that he will have to face the new challenges in the same direction.
The Islamic Republic was grabbed into the ďglobal anti-terror warĒ, which ultimately became Pakistan own anti-terror campaign, and Pakistan, its Army and ISI once again responded to the call straight away. Numerous ISI operations resulted into very successful military strikes by Pakistani troops against the militants and a huge number of al-Qaed operative, including its top leaders were arrested and killed. But on the other hand, Washington and Langley both started behaving in a rather nasty manner. First they doubted on the sincerity of the Pakistan government and its troops in carrying out full thrust operations against the militants and then they CIA started leaking vital counter terror information to the media. Washington, after agreeing to the provision of certain funds and equipments to Islamabad, suddenly started delaying tactics. The Pakistani Army the ISI and the government, all were waiting for the materialization of the US promises to move further in the anti-terror Safari but the Americans instead continue to ask Islamabad to ďDO MOREĒ without fulfilling their promises and without honouring their commitments.
By the year 2004, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf learned that the major hurdle in swift and adequate aid from Washington was because of the Jews, he came to know that without a positive support from the Jews, the White House would never be able to deliver the way it delivered in the 80s. However Musharraf was not as lucky as General Zia was and Musharraf, despite having a number of very close friends at Capitol Hill, including the US President George W Bush, failed to find a Charles Wilson. After this, he decided to embark on this journey all by himself. He decided to enhance interaction with Jews and to convince them that Pakistan was not fighting the war for Islam but for the global peace and security. He wanted to convince the Jews that their support to Pakistanís anti-terror campaign would ensure the security and peace across the globe, as a first step, he went to address a function of American Jewish Congress in 2005 during his official visit to the United States. This was his first formal gesture in his plans to win the sympathies of Jews. However, this action of him resulted into a big controversy back home and the fanatic religious leaders got another weapon against him. Later due to domestic political turmoil, he couldnít make any major move in this direction and finally quit the Presidentís office.
The dilemma for the ISI at the moment is that when it responded to its governmentís call to start operations against al-Qaed and Taliban it had the commitment and backing of its government, when its government called it, the government had the commitment and trust of the Americans. Interaction with different diplomats and intelligence officials indicate that there is a firm belief that Pakistanís Army and Pakistanís ISI are 100% committed to the cause of defeating the menace of terrorism and militancy but they need a full support from their government and comprehensive trust and professional support of the CIA. These diplomats and spies do believe that Pakistan ISI is not only the first defense line of Pakistan but in fact, in the current scenario, it is actually the first defense line for the peace and security across the globe/ ď if the Buck from Washington, logistic support from Langley and brains at ISI could manage to easily defeat worldís 2dn strongest army through untrained and illiterate Afghani civilians then how come they cant do it by strengthening a fully trained professional army to overcome just a bunch of a few thousand armed militants. If the Blue-Eyed general Rehaman could deliver it in 80s then General Pasha the current Chief of the ISI is equally able to do so, but you need to give them what the need to do so. You have to act and behave like you did in 80s. You need to trust em. Because you have no other choice. Do you think the Indians or the Israelis can do it? No sir, you are mistaken, only the Pakistani troopers and Pakistani ISI is capable of doing so. The one who, given the required substance can defeat the world 2nd biggest army through civilian could very easy do it through a professional army. But you need to trust them and to give them what they needĒ, said Colonel Retired W .Austin, a seasoned analyst on defense and intelligence affairs, when contacted by this scribe. According to George Steven, the former member of a Washington based think tank on Asia saidĒ The ISI might be having certain reservations regarding the ongoing anti-terror war because the track record of our policy makers is not very impressive in this. Every one knows what they did after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. The political leaders in Pakistan have never been cautious about such matters but the military and intelligence leadership there always was. I donít think that the White House or the CIA have come up with any post anti-terror war pan. I am sure Pakistan has not been given any solid guarantee that once the anti-terror war is over, Afghanistan would be having a smoothly functioning government or there would be no threat to Pakistan from this side of the border or there would be no infiltration of Indians from Afghanistan into Pakistan and most importantly a master plan for the rehabilitation and jobs for the disarmed militants. You cannot expect the military leadership or the security leadership of a country to ignore such vital issues. So in my opinion, it is not that we should have trust and belief in Pakistani Intelligence and military leadership, more important is that we should also give them some belief and trust. We donít need to listen to anyone from here or there we must do what we believe is essential for global security. If we want Pakistanís ISI to deliver effectively in it Safari of anti-terror, we must not push them into a roller coaster but should give them a cruising busĒ. He also criticized the signing of the peace deal between the Pakistani government and the religious extremists in the country area where Army and ISI were carrying out many successful operations and had already lost the lives of many soldiers and intelligence operatives. He termed it as big set back to the anti-terror efforts of the troopers and intelligence officials.
The in depth study of the case of Pakistanís anti-terror war indicates clearly that if the Americans and the rest of partners of the global anti-terror war are sincere in winning this war, they should keep it in mind that the Pakistani army and Pakistanís ISI are winning it. The need is to trust them and to strengthen them. CIA should stop mistrusting its past colleagues and must come up and join heads and hands with friends at Islamabad to win this war for the humanity. At the same time Islamic Republics political leadership must put aside all the political issues and form a comprehensive anti-terror policy and must strengthen its military and intelligence setups. The Political leadership of the country needs to win the confidence of the all the partners of the ant-terror war and enhance its own credibility. If the ISI has to win the anti terror war for the whole world, then it must carry on its Safari in a cruiser and not in a roller coaster. Under the given circumstance, ISI is the first defense line of the entire world so entire world must put all efforts to strengthen this first defense line.

 

   

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