Coming down hard on Pakistan

John O Brennan, US President Barack Obama’s chief counter-terrorism advisor, has given a clear-cut warning to Pakistan. “The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al Qaeda as being restricted solely to ‘hot’ battlefields like Afghanistan. We reserve the right to take unilateral action,” said Mr Brennan. US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s statement on the Haqqani network’s links to Pakistan's government was also quite strong. He said, “The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago was the work of the Haqqani network. And the facts, that we have said in the past [are] that there are problems, there is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.” US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has also conveyed his “deep concerns” about the Haqqani network’s activities and has “restated his strong desire to see the Pakistani military take action against them and their safe havens in North Waziristan” according to an American official. Three different statements, but the message is clear: take action against the Haqqani network or the US will do it unilaterally. On the other hand, the Haqqani network’s chief Sirajuddin Haqqani denied the group had any sanctuaries in Pakistan and instead “felt secure inside Afghanistan”.

It is an open secret that the Haqqani network is supported by the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies. What is interesting, though, is Ambassador Munter’s statement linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. The democratically elected government is not in charge of Pakistan’s foreign or security policy. That is still controlled by GHQ. But Mr Munter’s remarks show annoyance at the government for having not been able to restrain the military from turning a blind eye to terrorist attacks in Afghanistan through its proxies. Pakistan’s strategic depth policy is out in full force given that the endgame in Afghanistan is nearing after a decade. Our security establishment’s dual policies vis-à-vis the Taliban might have been an annoyance for the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan initially but now they have become far more serious. Various statements emanating from the coalition forces, especially US officials, point to their impatience. The US can take unilateral action whenever it wants as we saw in the case of the May 2nd raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Pakistan should not take these warnings lightly anymore. The war in Afghanistan is far from over. It has already spilled into our borders and when the foreign troops leave, there is more danger of an escalation in the Taliban’s activities.

It is important that instead of complaining about the US’s ‘do more’ mantra, Pakistan takes swift action against the Haqqani network. Sirajuddin Haqqani’s statement about having shifted to Afghanistan sounds hollow. The Haqqani network might not be present in North Waziristan now as some reports suggest that they have moved to Kurram Agency. Our intelligence agencies are well aware of their presence in the country. Instead of supporting the Afghan Taliban, we must realise that in the end, the Taliban – be they local or otherwise – are no one’s friends but themselves. The attacks by the Pakistan Taliban from across the border show that they have found support from the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan should stop treating Afghanistan like its colony and get real. Afghanistan is as much a sovereign country as any other. Terrorists are our common enemy and we must fight this battle for our own good.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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