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Who is misleading whom?

Who is misleading whom?

Publication: Dawn, Karachi
Date: November 12, 2001

President General Pervez Musharraf's appeal to the US-led coalition for a pause in bombing during Ramazan and for keeping the war short and targeted has now become too repetitive to be heard over its own din. In fact, it now appears as if he is repeating himself simply for the sake of playing to the Islamic gallery the world over rather than for any effect.

When he first expressed his hope that the war would be short and targeted, the US President came down on him swiftly and sharply saying: "Who has told the Pakistani president that it would be short campaign...we will continue the war until all its objectives are met"! So, the next time President Musharraf repeated his 'fond' hope he hastened to qualify it by adding, in very low undertones though that it would, however, last as long as the war objectives are not achieved.

Now he has been saying three things: "give a pause in the bombing during Ramazan; keep the war short and targeted and; continue war as long as it would take to achieve its objectives". He has also been implying without making it too obvious that he was not privy to the US-led coalition's objectives in continuing to bomb Afghanistan day in and day out. And when he was asked as a military man why it was taking the coalition so long in achieving its objectives of the war against Afghanistan, he said: "What is missing is accurate intelligence which is delaying the issue. The moment accurate intelligence is available I am sure the operation can be curtailed to a minimum."

But then it was Pakistan which was supposed to have provided what he calls accurate information as not only it was one of the only three countries in the world which had recognized the Taliban government, but being the next door neighbour it was sharing with Afghanistan a 2,500km porous border across which population of the two countries moved to and fro with very little restrictions and the thriving smuggling across which had integrated at least the informal economies of the two countries into a loose common market.

But then perhaps all the information that Pakistan had possessed on September 11 had been immediately rendered obsolete by the Taliban the day Pakistan decided on a telephone call from Washington to join the international coalition in its war against world terrorism. The only information that Pakistan had been left with after this was the way the Northern Alliance war lords had ruled when they were in Kabul in 1992. This perhaps was too shocking for the coalition to even contemplate helping the NA to mount a ground campaign against Taliban.

So, perhaps the coalition agreed on the advice from Pakistan to try to instigate a rebellion from within the Taliban and facilitate a take-over of Kabul by what was at that time foolishly called the 'moderate' Taliban. But perhaps while what Pakistan knew about Taliban targets inside Afghanistan had been rendered obsolete as soon as Pakistan joined the US-led coalition, Taliban's access to information from within Pakistan had remained unaffected and therefore, they knew who was coming in, for what and what route he was using. That perhaps was the reason why Commander Haq was quickly arrested and executed and Hamid Karzai had to run for his life.

Even the Pakistan-sponsored two-day conference held in Peshawar in late October to sell the King Zahir Shah option and promote a 'home-made' Pashtoon leadership to replace Mullah Omar could not take-off perhaps for the same reason. Clearly the US-led coalition was being misled by Pakistan government into thinking that a campaign from the south rather than from north was the right thing to do to avoid Kabul falling in the hands of the wicked warlords of the north. But as every body saw after having wasted thousands of missiles and bombs in target shooting on Kabul and Kandahar and hundreds of civilian casualties that this was the wrong thing to do.

The US-led coalition began making a headway only after it had changed the strategy and began carpet bombing the forward positions of Taliban in the North of Kabul in order to facilitate the NA to move forward. This strategy has paid off within ten days. Mazar-i-Sharif has fallen and the NA seems to be on the roll now. In retrospect it appears as if Islamabad for its own selfish reasons had caused the war to prolong unnecessarily.

And in retrospect it also becomes ever more clear that had the plan by the Clinton administration to mount a clandestine commando operation into Afghanistan to take out Osama bin Laden in the autumn of 1999 when Nawaz Sharif was still the Prime Minister been put into operation, it would have saved the world from the September 11 tragedy and if it had occurred in any case, then the US war ships would not have had any reason to come to this region looking for the perpetrators of the crime.

When asked for his comments on the Washington Post story disclosing the details of the Clinton Administration's get-Osama plan, President General Musharraf had said that it was still on the anvil when he took over the government on October 12, 1999 but finding it impractical he had cancelled it. It would be interesting if somebody could ask him to explain how this plan had differed from what he hopes the US-led coalition should do to keep the war short and targeted. - Yours etc.

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