Congress stymies counter-ter­ror­ism

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - S Qa­mar Afzal Rizvi Email: rizvipeac­ere­

THERE must be no iota of doubt that US Congress’ an­tiPak­istan moves—first its stop­ping the sale of F-16 to Pak­istan on sub­sidised rates, and sec­ond its no­tion of with­hold­ing $450m de­vel­op­ment aid to Pak­istan—are glar­ing in­di­ca­tions of the fact that PakUS counter-ter­ror­ism pol­icy faces big chal­lenges ahead. De­spite Richard Ol­son’s proac­tive diplo­macy re­gard­ing US F-16 sale deal to Pak­istan, the US congress has cre­ated a bot­tle­neck in it.By all fair cal­cu­la­tions, the Congress’ re­vi­sion­ist ap­proach has put a great ques­tion mark on US’s counter-ter­ror­ism pol­icy. “…while Congress has ap­proved the sale, key mem­bers have made clear that they ob­ject to us­ing For­eign Mil­i­tary Fi­nanc­ing (FMF) to sup­port it. Given con­gres­sional ob­jec­tions, we have told the Pak­ista­nis that they should put for­ward na­tional funds for that pur­pose,” US State De­part­ment spokesper­son John Kirby said.

The US ad­min­is­tra­tion took this step with di­rec­tions from US Se­nate Com­mit­tee on For­eign Re­la­tions Chair­man Bob Corker be­cause only Congress has the author­ity to dis­pense or with­hold the funds, the of­fi­cial said. As a re­sult of this move, Pak­istan may have to foot the bill of $700 mil­lion for the eight fighter jets.The orig­i­nal plan was to sell eight F-16s to Pak­istan and fi­nance most of the $699 mil­lion deal through FMF. Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man, Republican Bob Corker and Demo­cratic Rank­ing Mem­ber Ben Cardin, in early March, an­nounced that they would not ap­prove FMF for Pak­istan un­til it demon­strated “be­hav­ioral changes” in its sup­port of ter­ror­ism and its deal­ings with In­dia. The State De­part­ment, how­ever, main­tained that the sale of eight F-16s to Pak­istan would as­sist counter-ter­ror­ism and coun­terin­sur­gency operations. In Fe­bru­ary 2016, State De­part­ment spokesper­son He­laena W. White said, “Pak­istan’s cur­rent F-16s have proven crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of these operations to date,” and en­dorsed Pak­istan’s po­si­tion that it had ef­fec­tively used its ex­ist­ing fleet of F-16s in counter-ter­ror­ism operations.

F-16s pro­vide a crit­i­cal coun­tert­er­ror­ism ca­pa­bil­ity to Pak­istan and the Pak­istan Air Force (PAF) has made ex­ten­sive use of its ag­ing F-16 fleet to sup­port Pak­istan Army operations in the Swat Val­ley and in the Ba­jaur Agency of the Fed­er­ally Ad­min­is­tered Tribal Ar­eas (FATA). Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion fur­nished by the Pak­istan Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton, the PAF flew 93 sor­ties in Au­gust 2008 in operations against the Tal­iban. How­ever, their cur­rent model F-16 can be used for close air sup­port mis­sions only in day­light and good vis­i­bil­ity with a min­i­mal risks of col­lat­eral dam­age.

As for Pak­istan’s govern­ment and its peo­ple, this is not for the first time that the US Congress or its ad­min­is­tra­tion has dis­ap­pointed them. Pak­ista­nis are not yet out of the bad mem­o­ries about the Pressler amend­ment in 1990. The feel­ings of an­tiAmer­i­can­ism have had been fawned by man­i­fold de­vel­op­ments: the Ray­mond Davis in­ci­dent; US’s Abbottabad op­er­a­tion; and the con­tro­ver­sial drone strikes in Pak­istan. Un­de­ni­ably, what Pak­istan is fac­ing today is the boomerang ef­fect of Re­gan’s spon­sored Je­hadism via Mu­ja­hedeen against the Rus­sians in Afghanistan. If the US ad­min­is­tra­tion had given a se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to the needed task of ‘re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing and re­con­struct­ing’ the post Soviet Afghanistan, there would have been no such evo­lu­tion of ‘rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and ex­trem­ism’ in the re­gion.

The sim­ple fact to be re­alised by the US law mak­ers is that Pak­istani is the front line state on this US-waged war on ter­ror; such is not the case with In­dia. Since Pak­istan has been a key ally of Wash­ing­ton; it has con­trib­uted more than any other coali­tion part­ner of the US in this on­go­ing War against Ter­ror­ism in­clud­ing sac­ri­fices of more than than 50,000 civil­ians, in­clud­ing 6,000 se­cu­rity per­son­nel, in the fight against ter­ror­ism dur­ing the past decade.

The coun­try has lost US$103 bil­lion (S$135 bil­lion), the direct and indi­rect costs of ter­ror­ism in­ci­dents. It cap­tured many high value Al-Qaeda and Tal­iban ter­ror­ists thus ex­tend­ing full length sup­port to the US mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment agen­cies in root­ing out ter­ror­ists’ net­work. Af­ter suc­cess­ful mil­i­tary operations against ter­ror­ists in Swat Val­ley and South Waziris­tan Agency, the Pak­istan Army has now launched Op­er­a­tion Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziris­tan Agency and Khy­ber Agency, re­spec­tively.

And this fact about Pak­istan’s epic role in the US-waged war on ter­ror has been re­cently ad­mit­ted by the US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry. ‘’ We recog­nise the ex­tra­or­di­nary and real sac­ri­fices that Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary, es­pe­cially in Op­er­a­tion Zarb-i-Azb and the on­go­ing mis­sions in North Waziris­tan, and the United States has pledged USD 250 mil­lion to help re­build the com­mu­ni­ties of per­sons who have been dis­placed by the fight­ing in these operations,” he said. “We’ll also con­tinue to co­or­di­nate with Pak­istan on the over­all coun­tert­er­ror­ist strat­egy, and we recog­nise that ev­ery coun­try can do more to in­ten­sify to de­stroy and de­feat vi­o­lent rad­i­cal ex­trem­ists,” he added.

And yet con­trary to what has been ad­mired by the US sec­re­tary of State, Congress has with­held $450m that it pre­vi­ously agreed to pay Pak­istan. Should not this Congress’ act to­wards Pak­istan be taken as a to­ken of ret­ri­bu­tion— against the sac­ri­fices that have been ren­dered by the Pak­istani forces in this 15 years long war against ter­ror­ism— is the most strik­ing ques­tion storm­ing into the minds of Pak­ista­nis?

It looks holis­ti­cally awe­some that US Congress seems much touchy about the In­dian con­cern; it pays no heed and at­ten­tion re­gard­ing Pak­istani posed se­cu­rity con­cerns— about its eastern and western borders—which are re­cently much re­ac­ti­vated by RAW’s col­lab­o­rated evil role against Pak­istan. Seen prag­mat­i­cally and re­al­is­ti­cally, the con­fla­tion of the Indo-Pak­istan con­flict with the coun­tert­er­ror­ism aid, un­der the in­flu­ence of some parochial lob­by­ists in Wash­ing­ton, nei­ther re­dounds to the US’s cred­i­bil­ity as a re­li­able an­titer­ror coali­tion part­ner, nor to the ef­fi­cacy of a puis­sant counter-ter­ror strat­egy in Afghanistan.

While US’s counter-in­sur­gency and counter-ter­ror­ism goals are not com­pleted to the hilt, the Congress’ shaky ap­praisal about Pak­istan’s role in the war on ter­ror would or­ches­trate mul­ti­ple nega­tive ef­fects— in so far as the peace in Afghanistan re­mains the end-all and be-all ob­jec­tive of the US waged global war on ter­ror­ism—caus­ing great risks to ful­fill­ing the gaps that para­dox­i­cally de­fine US’s South Asia pol­icy, thereby also caus­ing set­back and con­fu­sion re­gard­ing Pak-US counter-ter­ror­ism goals in Afghanistan. There is yet a bumpy road ahead to­wards achiev­ing a last­ing peace in Afghanistan. — The writer is an in­de­pen­dent ‘IR’ re­searcher based in Karachi.

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