“We snatched anarchy from the jaws of defeat”
– Henry Kissinger
Historians tracing the origins of the short but terrible Indo-Punjabistani nuclear exchange of 2024 over the issue of Kashmiri independence generally look to the rapid disintegration of Pakistan into secession, civil war and democide a decade earlier during the conclusion of the “American war” in Afghanistan.
Pakistan had officially been touted as a steadfast ally of the United States during nine years of an American-led campaign against the Taliban insurgency and its al Qaida partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal territories, with successive administrations overlooking strong evidence of Pakistani collusion with Taliban leaders. This changed in 2012 when mounting war-weariness at home and an impending presidential election forced President Barack Obama to take more aggressive action to bring the war in Afghanistan to something resembling a “victory”. On September 1st, US forces in Afghanistan under General David Petraeus launched “Operation Iron Emir”, a devastating combined arms “raid” into Pakistan’s tribal territories that routed the Taliban rear areas, effectively annihilated the Haqqani Network, incuding its commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani, along with Hizb-i-Islami, and its notoriously cruel leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, pictures of whose head, decapitated in a 500 lb bomb blast, were splashed across the front page of The New York Times.
While nominally carried out with the consent of Pakistan’s government, Operation Iron Emir sparked widespread riots in Pakistan and the Second Burning of the US Embassy, while critics at home and abroad compared Obama’s action with Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. Criticism became muted when a ” Poison Dart”, the new robotic microdrone, blew-up Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, the elusive number two leader of al Qaida and three senior leaders of the Quetta Shura in a caravan of SUV’s observed leaving Islamabad, exposing Pakistan’s sponsorship of the Taliban and bringing U.S.-Pakistani relations to a crisis stage. At this time, Pakistan’s civilian President Asif Ali Zardari was toppled and subsequently executed by Pakistan’s military chief General Kayani, who ruled for a few weeks before being ousted in turn by his close ally, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s powerful ISI. Pasha enlisted figures from radical Islamist parties to broaden a cabinet that was essentially a shaky “ISI junta”, featuring the colorful anti-American, Hamid Gul as foreign minister. The new government broke off relations with the United States, but in turning swiftly to bloodily purge its own internal enemies, including approximately 600,000 members of Pakistan’s Shiite minority, the Pasha regime inadvertantly set Pakistan on course to become, in the words of UN Sceretary General Ban Ki-moon, “A Muslim Yugoslavia”….
The United States faces a strategic conundrum in Afghanistan in that it is primarily fighting the Taliban, a proxy of a third party (Pakistan), in order to apply pressure to a small network of Islamist “global insurgents”, (al Qaida), who are mainly hiding inside Pakistan, not in Afghanistan. The U.S. government considers – or pretends to do so for public consumption – that Pakistan an “ally”.
In these circumstances, if the United States inflicts serious damage on the Taliban – be it through COIN or conventional tactics – will our relations with Pakistan get better or worse?
The postmodern American elite has a great deal of difficulty recognizing, much less forthrightly acknowledging, who America’s enemies are in an inverse relationship to their power to harm our interests. The Victorians had a good word for that state of mind: