by Ayaz Amir
With the announcement of a Taliban address in Doha, Qatar, and the Americans welcoming this development, the window for military action in our Waziristan has finally slammed shut. The army wasn’t about to launch any operation – no fear of that – but even the tantalising possibility that at some point in the future vacillation would give way to decisive action now evaporates.
The scales have shifted. With the Americans engaging, however fruitlessly, with the Taliban in Doha, the Pakistan Army is in no position (psychologically) to undertake any kind of military operation in North Waziristan. The army can play around with the status quo in that embattled region – huffing and puffing and losing more officers and men to Taliban ambushes, six of our soldiers killed in an ambush this Wednesday – but the status quo, rail against it as we might, has come to stay.
Time was on the side of the Taliban, as it always is on the side of any force engaged in irregular warfare. And the Pakistan Army and a confused nation, their thinking split down the middle, have missed the bus. For us that is the significance of the Taliban gaining, at long last, virtual American diplomatic recognition – which is what this latest development amounts to.
A triumph for Mullah Omar and a problem for us, because Mullah Omar’s resurgent emirate, waiting patiently for the Americans to depart, now extends, like a dagger, into Pakistan – in the form of Hakeemullah’s Waziristan.
Let us not lose heart too much. This is not history being rewritten, only history being reversed. The kingdom of Kabul once held sway over the territories constituting our north-west frontier. Maharajah Ranjit Singh (sorry for bringing up his name again) pushed the Afghans back and the British inherited Ranjit Singh’s kingdom. That is how the new state of Pakistan came into possession of those frontier lands.
But through an historical process, starting with the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 and leading up to the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan’s control over those territories stands immeasurably weakened.
Strange the workings of history – our military geniuses under Gen Zia sought strategic depth in Afghanistan. It is the Taliban and Al-Qaeda which have acquired strategic depth in Pakistan.
The Americans are about to talk to the Taliban not to get them to lay down their arms and ship them to the Solomon Islands, but as a face-saving exercise. They want to exit Afghanistan sans too much humiliation. In so many words they are telling the Taliban, look we are getting out; make our departure easier. That’s it, if only we could read the writing on the wall.
Hamid Karzai has more sense than we do. Look at his anger: he knows he’s been used and the Americans, for all their tall talk, are about to talk, if not cut a deal, with his sworn enemies. And he’s frothing at the mouth, without this having the slightest effect on his paymasters.
At least Karzai knows what is what. We get used like a box of tissues again – the first time under Zia, the second time now – and still think we are ‘stakeholders’ in the Afghan game. There’s no end to our talent for make-believe, even as the tide of history is being reversed.