September 2001, a tall man with a privileged background and radical ideas sent aircrafts smashing into American buildings and pride, killing nearly 3000 Americans in the process. The US immediately rang up its old friend from the Cold War era, Pakistan, and announced from rooftops that together they are going to hunt Osama Bin Laden (OBL) and his Al Qaeda, and it will be a war on terror like the world would have never seen.
A trillion dollar, decade and thousands of casualties later, USA realized that OBL has been a guest of Pakistan all along. After having found and killed him next to a military training academy in Pakistan, the USA took a long breath and decided that time has come to deal with the treachery of Pakistan; not only for harboring OBL and his cronies, but also creating, harboring and using Taliban against American soldiers.
So, America did what any mature country would do. For the next decade, it gave billions of dollars to Pakistan, turned a blind eye to its terror camps and continued to keep the world in awe over this fantastic decision. Needless to say, Pakistan happily turned these free flowing dollars into palaces for Generals and politicians, guns for terrorists and buildings for training camps. Come 2021, America had to leave the region shamed and lost, ridiculed and mocked, poorer and in secrecy, thanks to that one wrong phone call, President Bush made to Musharraf in September 2001.
One has no reason to doubt the legitimacy of American claims of wanting to end terrorism in 2001, when they were hit too close and severely on their own soil. Desperation to act swift and hard, made them take the first wrong step of partnering with Pakistan. If nothing else, the indication of Pakistanis happily agreeing to bomb their own citizens in tribal areas and turn around on their Talibani friends just for few dollars more, should have been a direct giveaway of morality and commitment that existed in Musharraf and his higher echelons.
If that was still debatable, the fact that Pakistan created Taliban in its madrassas south of Durand line, to take control of Kabul in a very violent and brutal manner, and help Pakistan exert control in Afghan politics, should have hit some red lights. If nothing else, the fact that Pakistanis were hand in glove with the Taliban who sheltered Al Qaeda, the same people Americans were looking for, should have raised some questions in Situation Room about the impending alliance and conflict of interests for Pakistan’s ISI.
And if one was ready to throw all this under the carpet, wasn’t the decade of 80s enough to tell Americans about Pakistan’s character when it happily acted as a sovereign mercenary for handouts. How could all this be ignored?
The whole world knew that Pakistan is sheltering Al Qaeda and Taliban; only the Americans did not want to acknowledge and admit it, so they kept turning a blind eye to all the signals. If you are feeling confused, you are not alone. Entire lot of Generals, Spy masters and politicians in US, addressing and attending committees after committees are equally lost. Even they don’t know why they did what they did!
Just to give you a perspective on numbers of this ‘Global War on Terror’ – It costed 20 years, 2.3 trillion dollars (nearly 8 times GDP of Pakistan), 2450 US service personnel dead amongst 3502 coalition fatal casualties, 3500 US contractors dead, 21 thousand Americans wounded, 37 countries supported US and sent their soldiers, 66,000 Afghan Military and Police and nearly 47,500 Afghan civilians killed, 444 aid workers and 72 journalists killed. The number of times US lawmakers have voted to declare war in Afghanistan is ZERO!
Since this war was fought on credit, the approximate cost of interest for war funding will be around 6.5 trillion USD by 2050. Just the cost to pay for health care, disability, burial and other costs for roughly 4 million Afghanistan and Iraqi veterans will be more than 2 trillion USD. US Congress took 7 days after 9/11 to vote for this war and on 18 Sep 2001, House of Representatives voted 420-1 and the Senate 98-0 to authorize this war. This war lasted exactly 7262 days and is the longest war America has fought. After this declaration, US now has Counter terrorism operations in 85 countries in the world. During this period, 2.2 million Afghans have been displaced and moved from Afghanistan, and nearly half a million displaced internally. 465 billion have been paid by US government in veterans’ disability and health care benefits so far and 245.5 million paid in death gratuity.
Depressing numbers indeed. But not for Pakistan! While the US was counting its body bags and pushing its economy to cover the war costs, Pakistan made a neat 33 billion US dollars, 14 billion of which was meant to fight terrorism. Oh, the irony! This is not included in the total 67 billion USD that Pakistan has received from US since 1951-2010. Pakistan received 13 billion USD from Coalition Support fund for transit of Coalition forces and use of Pakistan’s air and naval bases. The other billions kept flowing from UK, Japan, IMF, World Bank, ADB and other nations and organizations as usual with least monitoring on its spending and almost no accountability.
Joe Biden was given Hilal-e-Pakistan in 2008, second highest civilian award, along with Senator Richard Lugar for ensuring a 1.5-billion-dollar annual non-military aid. The exact amount of unaccounted funds, covert funds, black funds, and all the fancy names given to plane loads worth of cash doled out to Pakistan will never be known. The ‘earnings’ from drug trafficking from Afghanistan will never be accounted for. But all these could easily be more than what the official aid was. All in all, Pakistan made a fortune over deaths of Americans and Afghans alike. A golden age for Pakistan’s elites.
Americans turned a blind eye to all this. They turned ostrich when they found out that on the instructions of General Mahmoud Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), USD 100,000 were wired before the 9/11 attacks to Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. US ignored when another mastermind of 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) was caught in Pakistan. They ignored that the moment US got busy with Iraq war, Pakistan sent all the fighters of Taliban and other terror groups into Afghanistan that started a massive surge in attacks. US turned a blind eye to the fact that top leaders of Al Qaeda and Taliban, right from OBL to Mullah Omar were sheltered in Pakistan. In the last two decades, US has indeed been fighting a serious war against terror with full commitment. They are just fighting it in the wrong side of Durand line.
One would assume that after having done so much for Pakistan, US would be a favored and loved nation there. Sadly no! For a common Pakistani, US grabs a bronze medal in ‘Hate’ series, right after India and Israel. Pakistanis don’t mind taking the Western dollars but do maintain the charade of criticizing and speaking against Western lifestyle. Processions burning American flags or crowds stomping on it are a common sight.
The ideological stand of Pakistan as a country, over any problem has been – Blame the others. Since its creation, it has seriously lacked the will and capability to review its mistakes and policy defects but believed that Pakistan has existed against whole world’s opposition and every problem in the country has been created by outsiders. Ironically, this hasn’t stopped them from accepting huge grants from same quarters they malign so freely.
America has often tried to justify its decision of this marriage of convenience- geographical proximity, access routes, knowledge of culture and ethnic connectivity, known networks in terror groups, greed of Pakistani Generals and politicians etc. Maybe it always suited US to have a servile and corrupt partner that could dance to any tune as long as money was sufficient.
No other country in region would bend over backwards to this extent and kill its own people to please the paymasters. Pakistan does not have the spine to stand up to US and Americans know that. How else would you explain the impunity with which Americans carried out drone attacks even in Pakistani territory? US does not care to inform Pakistani armed forces before carrying out raids deep inside Pakistan, like the one that killed OBL.
On 26 Nov 2011, two US F-15 Eagle fighters, two NATO Apache Helicopters and an AC 130 gunship destroyed two Pakistani check posts killing 28 Pakistanis soldiers and wounding 12. In spite of all this, Pakistan does not have the moral and ethical standing to confront US. And it serves US well. So maybe the diabolical plan was let Pakistan do what it wants as long as it does something that we can justify to our taxpayers and voters back home and also have the freedom to act the way we want in AF-Pak region.
However, its time for US to wake from this hubris. Last few months have shown the Americans that they can never trust Pakistan again. Yes, Afghanistan was slated to go to Taliban, as was obvious when Mullah Baradar and around 5000-7000 Taliban fighters were released by Pakistan and Taliban was given a sovereign like status in Doha peace talks.
But no, it was not supposed to go down this way and there was to be a respectful and peaceful exit for US from Afghanistan. But Pakistan and Taliban did not want to wait and were just too eager to gain control. What it resulted in was massive global humiliation for US, ravaging of life and safety for Afghans and absolutely no vision on how to save Afghan lives.
Entire social media in Pakistan was lit with congratulatory messages for Taliban and the Prime Minister, Imran Khan called it ‘breaking of shackles of slavery’ by Afghans. Pakistan government and Army did not pause for a second to think of the consequences for Afghans or even Americans. They somehow have convinced themselves that with Afghanistan under control, they can run South Asia and broker for Central Asia too.
American blind spot has caused it much damage and it is, to be fair, beyond their control now. They can threaten with sanctions, Biden might not call Imran Khan, they can twist the arm as much as they want, but their mistake of pampering and partnering with Pakistan will haunt them endlessly. They will continue to pay the price. Pakistan NSA, Moeed Yusuf categorically told US that if Taliban are not supported and recognized as a government, another 9/11 is possible. Even Taliban did not go that far in making their point.
American obsession with Pakistan will slowly come to an end. The Afghanistan- Taliban debacle is the biggest self-goal Pakistan has ever done. It will, rather already has, started to isolate Pakistan globally. They stabbed both Americans and Afghans in back and that ensured that they would face the sanctions sooner or later. With only China in its corner, Pakistan aims to play the ‘gateway’ to Afghanistan.
Well, they are in for a rude shock. Taliban aren’t known for being controlled. However, this is a good time for US to mend its image and credibility as an ally by putting Pakistan in its place, which honestly is not a difficult task. US needs to understand and admit that they have been courting the wrong candidate so far and its time to end it. Otherwise, Pakistan, a threat to no one but a headache to many, will continue to export terror all around, which it has built on the money from US. And what that leads to, US knows all too well.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
We work round the clock to bring you the finest articles and updates from around the world. There is a team that works tirelessly to ensure that you have a seamless reading experience. But all this costs money. Please support us so that we keep doing what we do best. Happy ReadingSupport Us