US President Donald Trump announces his strategy for Afghanistan during an address from Fort Myer, Virginia, on August 21, 2017. Photo:  Reuters/Joshua Roberts
US President Donald Trump announces his strategy for Afghanistan during an address from Fort Myer, Virginia, on August 21, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

Hussain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and now director for South and Central Asia at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, once called radical Islam “the single most dangerous idea that has emerged in the Muslim world”.

He often blames Pakistan for much of what is wrong in the region. What he calls “radical Islam”, in its current shape, emerged in the tribal regions of Pakistan midwifed by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.

The CIA created al-Qaeda and nurtured a strategic alliance among the Muslim Brotherhood-trained Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, the Saudi corporate prince Osama bin Laden, and Pashtun refugee students from Afghanistan educated primarily in the famous Deobandi seminary of Akora Khattak, Pakistan, some of whom later became leaders of the Taliban movement. This came to be known as the “Deobandi Wahhabi Alliance” or, as it is now called, the “Global Terror Network”.

Of course, all of this happened with the help of Pakistan’s security apparatus. Inter-Services Intelligence was at the forefront of the campaign as well as the on-ground handler of these “assets” against the Soviets in Afghanistan. But it was the brainchild of the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US national security adviser at that time, brought to fruition through funding and arms supplies via the CIA. But back then it was certified as “halal” by Washington’s “sharia” experts.

Almost immediately after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the eventual disintegration of the USSR, the United States was embattled by a boogeyman it created. The conflict between the United States and its “halal jihad” asset began with the first Gulf War. Apparently, the asset was angry about US military bases in the pure lands of Saudi Arabia. The US-educated and CIA-funded Saudi corporate prince pictured above went rogue.

What became condemnable and dangerous in the 2000s was acceptable in the 1980s because it conveniently served US interests. It served as a long-term foreign-policy tool pursuant to America’s ambitions of full-spectrum dominance in line with the ideas of the likes of Brzezinski and Paul Wolfowitz.

Then the entire Middle East region was devastated by a change to another boogeyman, and the vacuum this created gave birth to the post-Arab Spring horrors. While the US persistently pursues the madness Condoleezza Rice called the “new Middle East”, the redrawing of “blood borders” has been a thorn in the side of the Americans as far as Afghanistan and South Asia are concerned.

The major problems in the big puzzle are neither Afghanistan nor the Taliban but Pakistan and the growing Chinese tentacles in that country. Washington expected balkanization of Pakistan in the aftermath of the US attack on Afghanistan, and the South Asian country did reach a point where dismemberment seemed a very real possibility.

Now, under President Donald Trump, the US administration in its policy for South Asia is forcing Pakistan to fight both denominations of the Taliban. Options are currently being reviewed to that affect and they reportedly include stripping Pakistan of its status as a non-NATO ally of the US, cutting civilian aid, imposing individual and collective sanctions, and drone strikes.

The new policy isn’t about gaining victories in the protracted war in Afghanistan. The addition of about 4,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan isn’t going to achieve now what 150,000 allied forces couldn’t. The Afghan Taliban don’t need Pakistan. Pakistan has lost considerable influence on them over the years. They also now control almost half of their country and don’t need any safe havens anywhere to operate from. The insurgency also has new patrons in Tehran and Moscow, and the Americans clearly know about this.

However, Pakistan is asked to fight and win the war the mightiest military machine in the history of humanity could not win. Pakistan responded to Trump’s policy speech with resentment and anger, and postponed a visit by Alice Wells, US acting assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs.

The Pakistani foreign minister was sent on a diplomacy spree seeking support from Beijing, Tehran and Ankara. The original plan included Moscow as well but apparently Pakistan’s policymakers don’t want an all-out diplomatic war with the US. So Moscow was quietly dropped despite Russian criticism of the new US policy.

Both Washington and Islamabad are also trying to minimize the damage done by Trump’s speech, as both need each other in the immediate short term.

US troops walk off a helicopter at Camp Bost in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on September 11, 2017.

But despite this lallygagging by both sides, the actual US plan remains the same: the balkanization of Pakistan and pushing the Afghan war inside its borders. On the one hand Americans are reaching out to the banned leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement party in London, and on the other they are rejuvenating their patronage for the Baluch secessionists in what is seen in Pakistan as further attempts to instigate political disruption and violence in the country.

This effort to entrap Pakistan and cause it to collapse from within had died down in recent years thanks to a stabilizing political situation and successful but costly military operations. It appears that the plan is now being revitalized and pursued with a renewed conviction under the Trump administration. Apparently, the thinking behind this is that Pakistan can only be successfully squeezed if it crumbles from within.

This does not bode well both for the region and the world community at large. It also sends the wrong kind of signals to the Pakistani decision-makers, especially the country’s real centre of power – the military.

Pakistan’s survival and stability are not just in the interest of Pakistanis but of the entire region, even India’s. The United States, on the other hand, is unleashing “all the elements of state power” to achieve the Wolfowitz doctrine. The radicalism that such an “adventure” will unleash will dwarf everything Hussain Haqqani calls bad. Surely he will not blame only Pakistan for that.

Bilal Khan is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of North Texas. His research interests include IR Theory, Foreign Policy Analysis, Conflicts, South and Central Asia.

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