Relations between the United States and Pakistan have quickly soured following a helicopter strike on a border post that killed three Pakistani soldiers last week. The incident prompted Pakistan to close an important border crossing for NATO supplies into Afghanistan. Criticism of the U.S. and NATO has dominated the news in Pakistani media even after the U.S. apologized for the incident.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has recently accused some elements of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting the terrorist networks in the country, thus undermining the war against terrorism by the U.S.-led international forces in the region. Recently, militants attacked 50 NATO supply trucks in Pakistan's northwestern town of Nowshera, the seventh attack in a short period of time. The U.S. has dramatically ramped up strikes with unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan's tribal areas in recent weeks.
But these are not the only stories that dominate Pakistani news. Reports about the human suffering due to the recent devastating floods, though they have all but vanished from Western newspapers, remain in the headlines in Pakistani ones. Terrorism acts are constant reminders of instability and insecurity for the average citizen, most recently punctuated by two blasts at a shrine in Karachi which left 9 dead and scores injured. The economy has tanked, inflation is at 18-20 percent, and the government seems to be helpless to do anything about it.
Pakistan is a troubled nation with deeply divided loyalties.
Even the once prestigious military establishment is now in trouble. A video purporting to show a group of Pakistani soldiers gunning down six blindfolded men in the country's troubled northwest has been circulating on the Internet for weeks. The troubling video has renewed long-standing concerns about military human rights violations during operations against the Taliban.
The war in Afghanistan has entered its tenth year. Many Pakistanis believe that “America’s War” has become their war. Fears are growing in Pakistan that the U.S. could bolster its drone attacks with a bombing campaign using fixed-wing aircrafts. This would most certainly increase Pakistani anger that could spill over into violence aimed at the thousands of Americans who are currently stationed in the country.
“The U.S. is trying to win its war in Afghanistan, through Pakistan,” says journalist Imtiyaz Mohammed.
He added that Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is in a major predicament of trying to appease the United States while also trying to calm down an angry population.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is currently ranked the 10th most failed state in the 2010 Failed State Index released by Foreign Policy magazine this summer. Just three places below Afghanistan.
But former President Pervez Musharraf attributes Pakistan’s woes to "failure" of governance.
"I would say failure of governance is the greatest threat today," said Musharraf, who has announced his return to active Pakistani politics from London where he has been living in self-imposed exile since the general election of 2008.
However, many Pakistani pundits believe that this announcement is no coincidence, and has the United States' markings all over it.
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Every year on the anniversary of September 11, the same question pops up: where is Osama bin Laden? And for eight years various pundits, who hardly speak a word of Pashto, Dari, Urdu or any other language spoken in the region, play the guessing game, placing him somewhere along the Pakistani-Afghan border.
This week, President Obama took Gen. Stanley McChrystal's advice and ordered a surge in the war in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more American troops there to help battle the Taliban insurgency. In a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, the President set out what he said was a new strategy to bring the war to a "successful conclusion" and reverse the momentum of Taliban gains.
The President did not mention Osama bin Laden, a frequent target of his criticism during the campaign when he criticized President Bush.
"We will kill bin Laden, we will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority," then candidate Barack Obama said during an October 2008 debate.
If the US goal remains to "crush" al Qaeda, then perhaps many Americans would not be as upset with Obama's Afghan surge; however, this is not the case.
As it stands, there will be nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with about 47,000 from allies. This is not to mention contractors, who already outnumber U.S. forces in the war-ravaged country. According to credible intelligence estimates, 100 al Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan, and 300 more have fled to Pakistan. As for the Taliban, conflicting estimates put their numbers anywhere between 7,000 to 25,000. Therefore, this build up does not make sense, and the numbers do not add up.
Also, why do the United States and its allies need close to 150,000 troops if they can negotiate with the Taliban? Mr. Karzai does!
"We must talk to the Taliban as an Afghan necessity. The fight against terrorism and extremism cannot be won by fighting alone," Karzai said. "Personally, I would definitely talk to Mullah Omar. Whatever it takes to bring peace to Afghanistan, I, as the Afghan president, will do it."
Meanwhile, President Obama has increased US pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban in its territories. As an inducement, and a measure of heightened American concern for Pakistan, he has also helped bring a big increase in aid to the country, including $7.5 billion of non-military aid over five years, approved recently by Congress. The problem is that there is no certainty or confidence that the current Pakistani regime is going to last; Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari is one of the country's most discredited politicians and linked to corruption. There is a major question mark on who will be replacing him or what sort of a government Pakistan will have after his imminent fall.
President Obama has not been forthcoming with the American people. He should come clean and explain the real reason behind the surge. It's not because of bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or the Taliban. The real reason is Pakistan, a failed state with nuclear warheads!
Original article published on the Huffington Post.
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