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America's Game Plan

America's Game Plan

Author: K Subrahmanyam
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 19, 2001

Introduction: Final goal is a moderate Pakistan

The fall of Kabul and the rapid collapse of Taliban resistance in north and central Afghanistan should make a lot of commentators who talked of the futility of US bombing and the likely resistance from the Taliban reflect and re-examine their earlier assumptions.

However, there is every possibility of our commentators exhibiting the same kind of dogmatism as the Taliban.

Even now, analysts who talk of a possible guerrilla war in southern Afghanistan and the Islamic world rising in wrath against the US continuing its operations during the Ramzan period.

Though a number of Islamic scholars have attempted valiantly to educate the rest of the world that the Islamic world is not a monolith but highly diversified and Islamic regimes behave very much like other nation-states in international politics, the temptation both to romanticise the Islamic ummah on the one hand and to demonise it on the other could not be resisted by many people.

It is more than likely that the detalibanisation of Afghanistan and the continuation of the military campaign to finish the task will be accepted by Islamic people all over the world just as they did the Bangladesh liberation and the results of the Gulf war.

One must not forget that the creation of an independent Palestinian state was blocked from 1948-1967 by the Jordanian monarchy and not by the Israelis.

More Palestinians have been killed in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere than by the Israelis. The affluent Arab states have not done justice to the Palestinians.

They all put their money in US banks. The oil price hike and that enabled the US to extend more help to strengthen Israel.

All this is not meant to diminish in any way the justness of the Palestinian cause but only to help in developing a proper understanding about certain Islamic rulers who have done a lot to hurt the Palestinians but wax eloquent about the Arab-Israeli issue being the root cause of terrorism.

It is the undemocratic and oppressive nature of regimes in West Asia which is the root cause and the US has only exploited the insecurity of these regimes to its advantage in a very short-sighted manner.

The US policies are obviously wrong but it has to be pointed out that there have been no popular upsurges for democracy in these countries.

When people do not rise in defence of their own interests (except in Iran) they are unlikely to rise in support of others' causes.

Therefore, it is logical to discount the factor of any massive Islamic upsurge because of developments in Afghanistan.

This war by the US against the Taliban is as different from the war against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan in the 1980s as chalk from cheese.

The first factor is that the mujahideen were supported massively by the US, Saudi oil money and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.

In this war, the Taliban has no external support with the Pakistani military leadership under the tight control of the US.

The second factor is that the major guerrilla operations against the Soviet forces were carried out by the vast mercenary force of 25,000 (assembled from different Islamic countries and armed and trained by the CIA). Now those foreign mercenaries form the bulk of the Taliban and they are hated in Afghanistan.

Third, the tribes resisted the attempts of Khalqis backed by the Soviet Union to run an effective government from Kabul. Now the new dispensation is assuring the tribes that there will be no interference from Kabul in their local affairs.

Fourth, the Soviets lost many helicopters to the Stinger missiles generously distributed by the CIA. Now US helicopter gunships are equipped to evade Stinger attacks and there are no new sources for the supply of Stingers.

Fifth, the Americans always scored over the Russians in monitoring and sensing devices and in the last 12 years, tremendous advances have been made in these areas.

The American special forces can fight a war at night against the Taliban and the combination of US air power and special forces has capabilities the Soviet forces did not possess.

Sixth, the Soviets were not militarily defeated. They withdrew because the Soviet Union was crumbling economically and politically.

Last, for the US this is a war to free itself of terrorism the epicentre of which is this region. It cannot afford a defeat.

We had commented in these columns earlier that while Afghanistan is the forward battlefield, the crucial ones are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. General Musharraf has wisely chosen to throw in his lot with the US.

He has to be led to realise, along with the Saudi rulers, that the days of using religious extremism and sectarianism as instruments of foreign policy are over.

Any Pakistani assertion that its army is the ideological guardian of the two-nation theory will make it the espouser of the clash of civilisations thesis.

It is also quite clear that the so-called emotional commitment of Pakistan to various Islamic causes is overstated and used as a foreign policy instrument.

Pakistan, in the new circumstances, will be compelled to reverse its shariah constitutional provisions, such as interest-free economy, blasphemy laws and Hadood punishments, shut down the madrassas and crack down on the jehadi militias to demonstrate to the international community that it is a moderate Islamic state rather than an epicentre of terrorism.

In future, the US has only one strategic interest in Pakistan - to ensure that it will continue its journey towards becoming a moderate Islamic state like Indonesia, Egypt and the central Asian republics.

General Musharraf has been working hard to prove that he is the most effective instrumentality for the international community to purge Pakistan of its decades-old Islamic extremism starting with the anti-Ahmediya riots in the mid-fifties.

It is not the Kashmir problem but purging Pakistan of its Islamic extremism which is going to involve US deeply in the subcontinent in the coming years.

The US is, in all likelihood, going to focus on it not out of any love for Pakistan or because it has any more strategic use for it but because it is the epicentre of terrorism capable of producing weapons of mass destruction which can directly target the US homeland.

Alliance or no alliance, India and the US have a congruity of strategic interests, also shared with Russia in steering Pakistan towards moderate Islam.

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