Beware, General Kayani
Pakistan has explicitly stated that any parleys to settle the Afghan imbroglio must have Pakistani participation. Kayani also feels that while the US charts its own course of a political resolution, it pushes Pakistan on the warpath
Julian Assange has stirred quite a storm, and it may not remain restricted to the teacup. He is introduced variously: primarily, a hacker, a peace activist or an anti-war lobbyist, someone who is leading the drive for a transparent government in democracies, and who is keen to expose duplicity in state affairs. He is also a lot more: a cyber-warrior who has got his role cut out as the world goes increasingly digital and, therefore, liable to intervention. He has a team of around 30, all of the same vein, ready to assist him chart a new dynamic that will increasingly determine the nature of the Westphalian nation state and how it may conduct affairs in the future. Assange is also a useful conduit to, well, stir a few storms.
But I rush too far ahead. Let us go back to the NATO violations of Pakistani borders in September 2010, and Pakistan's reaction of suspending supplies through Torkham, the major supply route carrying almost 65 percent of NATO supplies. A two-week closure caused a proportionate reduction in stocks, forcing either a pause or further lowering of reserves - both significantly raising US/NATO forces' index of vulnerability. The US, the sole superpower, to some the only imperialist power of modern times, had to swallow its pride and apologise publicly to Pakistan - a state virtually dependent on the US for its political, economic and (somewhat) security survival. General Kayani would have had something to do with the decision. Elephantine memories are long.
NATO assembled in Lisbon in November to validate NATO in the 21st century. On the side, it conducted two other important summits: NATO Afghanistan and NATO Russia. At the NATO Afghanistan summit, other than NATO's 28 members, another 20 nations that are part of the 48-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stationed in Afghanistan too were invited, as was Afghanistan. Their subject of discussion - US/NATO's exit from Afghanistan. Pakistan was omitted from this meeting. Having spent nine years as the frontline state fighting this global war on terror, losing some 13,000 men, women and children in the blowback suicide vengeance unleashed by the Taliban on Pakistani cities, as indeed the 3,000 uniformed men who lost their lives fighting this war on the frontline, this has been quite an omission. Pakistan's stability is linked to what happens in Afghanistan; Pakistan's society and state are both tenuously suspended in thin air, unsure how the Afghan labyrinth will resolve itself. And Pakistan gets conveniently excluded from important deliberations. Come to think of it, if Haqqani indeed resides in North Waziristan, if the Quetta Shura has its headquarters amorphously dilated from anywhere between north of Quetta to the port city of Karachi, and Pakistan's ISI holds the key to how these groups will respond within Afghanistan, not having Pakistan in the meeting must have a tale attached. Soon something will have to give.
I did ask in an earlier column if Afghanistan was what Obama bartered with India for a strategic relationship with multifarious political and economic dividends for the US during his November visit to India. Perhaps the easier way out was to exclude Pakistan from considerations in Lisbon when the curtain is about to draw down on Afghanistan rather than confronting an immediate first test of not including a pretentious 'superpower' India in such an important gathering. Call the US a superpower in decay. But there are other things too. The PetraeusKayani relationship has not been too cosy. They happen to be the two fighting generals on either side of the PakAfghan border. And Petraeus has been carrying that sharp edge to his generalship. He may have difficulties with the administration in Washington too but tends to wash those away with an aggressive demeanour. He does not get along well with Karzai. He actually does not get along well with anyone who wishes to tell him that there is no military solution to Afghanistan. He is a desperate, frustrated commander whose COIN strategy, which he claimed had seen success in Iraq, is being blown to smithereens by these half-savage, half-nomad vagabonds of the Taliban. Petraeus is unwilling to let politics take precedence in the endgame. Kayani is all about politics as the only means to bring both peace and stability. In the October strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the US, Kayani was frustrated that Pakistan's preferred plan of options was not reaching the highest leadership in the US. He handed President Obama, when he dropped in on the Pakistani principals of the dialogue, a14-page document detailing precisely what Pakistan thought that the US needed to hear. Obama's December review of Afghanistan would hopefully reflect what those with their ear to the ground in Afghanistan can suggest as the graceful way out.