Thursday, June 25, 2009

Desperately Seeking Baitullah

I think the guy is dead, just like another CIA asset.

"Nabbing Baitullah alive

by Ahmed Quraishi

Pakistan will probably never catch terrorist leader Baitullah Mehsud alive. Why? For the same reason that we will never really know why alcoholic beverages were found from some of their hideouts. Or why citizens of China and Sri Lanka – two close military allies of Pakistan – were attacked on Pakistani soil by people claiming to be fighting America.

Similarly we will never know why listed companies like Google and Facebook are speeding up Persian translations of their sites when no profit is involved. (Will their stockholders accept democracy instead of profits?) And why the government did not object when the US and other allied donors tried to create a special fund for Balochistan and NWFP with the condition that it operate outside Pakistan’s control.

The popular Pakistani understanding of the battle against Baitullah Mehsud is more American than Pakistani. This prevents us from accepting that this insurgency is wrapped in multiple layers of deceit. The entire prevailing narrative of the situation is exclusively American, tailored to suit Washington’s worldview. It talks about a uniform threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda with no distinction made between the Afghan Taliban and the new Pakistani version; the American narrative does not explain how or why the ranks of the Pakistani Taliban have been swelling steadily when the Afghan Taliban are not experiencing a similar surge; and why the American narrative suppresses any discussion of Pakistani grievances about an organised anti-Pakistan terror wave emanating from Afghanistan. The Pakistani counter-narrative is missing on the government level and is probably limited to some circles within the Pakistani strategic and intelligence communities. The impression that one gets is that the Pakistani government is essentially bartering silence for US aid. And this is a dangerous bargain.

It means that Pakistani officials are unlikely to take a stand on the use of Afghan soil to export terror to Pakistan. In fact, there are strong grounds to conclude that while other parts of the US government engage Pakistan, freewheeling elements within the CIA are probably conducting their own foreign policy on the ground in the region. The simultaneous trouble in both the Pakistani and Iranian parts of Balochistan is but one case in point.

Another downside to our enthusiasm for American aid money at any cost is our waning ability to resist the upcoming American plan to install India as the resident guardian over Pakistan and Afghanistan. A senior US national security official is expected to bring this plan to Pakistan in the next few days. Islamabad’s obsession with US aid while staying mum on vital Pakistani interest is absurd. Why is Prime Minister Gilani complaining now about the US ’surge’ in Afghanistan when Mr Zardari and his foreign minister wasted no time in warmly welcoming it when Mr Obama unveiled the plan in March?

This explains why the president signed an American-proposed agreement to give India overland trade routes to Afghanistan. There are also fresh questions on the extent of support the United States is getting from two of its closest allies, India and Israel, in Afghanistan. There are credible reports that Indian and Israeli intelligence involvement in US-controlled Afghanistan has deepened in the past seven years.

Some US military and intelligence officials are impressed with the record of both countries in fighting Islamic groups, especially the Indian experience in occupied Kashmir. The Israelis have invested heavily in establishing schools that study the art of Islamic indoctrination. These schools were used to learn how clerics can brainwash recruits and then exploit them politically. Israeli spymasters have used this knowledge to penetrate Mideastern Islamic groups. They have passed this technique to the Indians to help them counter pro-Pakistan religious groups in Kashmir.

The mess in Pakistan’s western border areas is not just a battle with religious extremism. A larger part is a battle of proxies. None of this means that we should treat Washington as an enemy. But it does have an agenda that is increasingly diverging from Pakistan’s strategic interests.