USA leaves Afghanistan - BLEEDING on the way out
Karzai and Pakistan unite against U.S. but 'honeymoon' will be short-lived
April 20th, 2011 6:24 am ET by Michael Hughes
It's more than a coincidence that Al Qaeda's reemergence in northeastern Afghanistan is occurring at the same time Pakistan's relationship with the U.S. is collapsing, according to several tribal elders and a native Afghan policy expert, as Islamabad attempts to align more closely with Kabul to establish a united front against the American-led coalition.
Haji Baydar Zazai, a tribal elder from Paktia province, said Pakistani officials are climbing in bed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai so they can achieve their security goals outside the watchful eye of the U.S. - objectives which include blocking India from having any influence in Kabul.
Afghan native Khalil Nouri, a policy strategist with the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), indicated that although the U.S. has given Islamabad billions of dollars to eliminate militant sanctuaries Pakistan has been enraged by CIA drone strikes and CIA contractors killing civilians, which has prompted Islamabad to "unleash the dogs" in retaliation for the U.S. violating its national sovereignty on a daily basis.
Irate Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has kicked over 300 U.S. clandestine and Special Forces personnel out of the country and is demanding an end to the CIA's drone campaign.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is expanding its network across Kunar and Nuristan in the wake of a U.S. drawdown from the region that began 18 months ago. Experts have said that, although Pakistan can help prevent it, increasing violence by militants has pressured Kabul to bow to Pakistani wishes.
According to former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, Kayani and the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Ahmed Shuja Pasha, want to return to what Riedel calls the "Reagan rules", referring to the 1980s when the CIA and Saudis provided the ISI with the funds to arm and train the mujahideen. It was a very "hands off" approach that left the entire execution of the program in the hands of Pakistani intelligence The U.S. footprint – between Washington, Islamabad and Riyadh combined – was less than 100 CIA officers.
As a chill descends upon relations between Washington and Islamabad, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to form a commission to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban that would grant Pakistani military leaders a formal role in the reconciliation process.
Kayani has aggressively tried to strike a deal with Karzai knowing the U.S. will begin withdrawing forces from Afghanistan this summer and will try to remove all combat personnel by 2014. For Karzai's part, he is concerned about his political future in a post-NATO world, fearful of standing naked against the insurgency, and thus is seeking Rawalpindi's help in soothing tensions with the Taliban.
However, President Karzai acquiesces to Islamabad at his own peril because based on historical evidence and recent developments it's easy to envision Al Qaeda and the Taliban running roughshod through Afghanistan, with support from Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus, once NATO leaves.
Pakistan's former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey, cryptically summed up the Afghan President's chances of survival when he told me last year that Karzai would survive only one day after his "external escort is removed."
In fact, it looks like Karzai's honeymoon is already coming to an end, considering Afghan television station TOLOnews reported yesterday that Pakistani Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani issued Karzai a series of demands during his recent visit to Kabul. Pakistan said that Afghanistan must consult them on all activities related to the expansion and training of Afghan security forces, provide them a share in Afghan mine development and disclose details of any agreements Afghanistan has with its western allies.
Afghan experts believe these demands threaten Afghanistan's sovereignty and independence. Noor-ul Haq Ulomi, an Afghan political analyst, said that Pakistan has never been honest with Afghanistan and now it appears Pakistan has "made a close friendship" with the Afghan government, previouly hidden from public view.
Pakistan has reportedly enhanced its influence within almost every Afghan government entity over the past 10 years, primarily clandestinely. Haroon Mir, another Afghan expert, alleged that President Karzai has begun negotiating covertly with Pakistan and was on the verge of making concessions in an effort to reconcile with the Taliban, which he believes would be a tragic mistake.
Islamabad has enjoyed considerable leverage over Washington knowing that Pakistan is indispensable to the success of President Obama's Afghan war strategy. Yet the trust deficit is now so high that Pakistani leaders wholeheartedly believe the U.S. will abandon the region completely and will terminate the flow of financial aid. Because of this, according to Foreign Policy magazine, Pakistan wants the U.S. – just like the Soviets before them - to "bleed a little" on their way out the door.
Pakistani leaders realize they can deliver a crippling blow to the U.S. war effort by blocking critical NATO supply lines that run through Pakistan into Afghanistan. Former Pakistani spy chief Hamid Gul boasted in a recent interview that by choking off these supply routes Pakistan can turn Afghanistan into a "graveyard for U.S. troops."Many analysts have argued that the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan is actually fueling the insurgency and is the true destabilizing force in the region, which might be true. Yet, once the Western coalition is finally gone, Afghanistan will still have to deal with the destabilizing force next door