South Asia Review 2010
His loss would be a huge problem for Zardari continuing as President.
Moderating the wellattended "South Asia Review, 2010" recently at the South Asia Centre of the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, Shuja Nawaz, director of the Centre, described 2010 as a tumultuous year, with India outpacing its neighbours. Pakistan ended the year in dire economic straits, the Gilani government threatened by its own coalition members but shored up by the "loyal" opposition led by PMLN's Mian Nawaz Sharif.
Some signs of hope were seen in Afghanistan in terms of what the Coalition was trying to do. Iran seemed to be getting ready for talks again, but one did not know if the process was going to succeed. The good news was that Sri Lanka was no longer in the news, having consolidated the peace the country fought so hard to achieve. Bangladesh too appeared to be on track towards growth.
India hit the jackpot, with all five UN Security Council members making a pilgrimage to it, separately seeking closer economic ties, everyone was competing for a piece of India's huge military pie. China walked away with the prize by not only visiting India but balancing it, unlike the others, with a subsequent visit to Pakistan, signing agreements in both the countries worth multibillion dollars. The year ended with the huge loss of Ambassador Holbrooke. His death leaving a huge void with the job not yet completed. It is unclear whether the Obama administration will try to make do at this critical stage on the Pak-Afghan theatre without this truly irreplaceable diplomat.
Visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gilles Dorronsoro, said it was a very good year for the Taliban, nationally speaking. The Taliban movement making progress in the north and east, its sanctuary in Pakistan was safe. Beyond that, the huge US-led Coalition offensive in the south was not really producing results. 2011 was going to be an important year and would define whether the strate- gy was working or not.
He asked, how do you win in Afghanistan when people in Pakistan have sympathy with the Taliban while Pakistan is officially allied to the US? On top of that, the United States ' present Indian policy was sure to make Islamabad its worst enemy. You cannot have Obama in Delhi one day decrying Mumbai-style terrorism, which carried the implication that there was a Pakistan connection, and another day Gen Petraeus asking for US intervention across Pakistani borders.
He maintained that the concept of Af-Pak was not a good idea. It had failed to produce results. He did not see the possibility of winning against the Taliban who were present in 80 per cent of Afghanistan and would only become much stronger. The Afghan army had been unable to contain the Taliban and showed no inclination to do so.
There were two objectives which were different: first, to fight Al-Qaeda and its terrorism; unfortunately, Al-Qaeda was not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. If the Taliban won the war, then AlQaeda would come back. On the other hand, experts believe that a deal could be made with the Taliban. The window of opportunity would be sometime next spring or in late summer; if not it would take place after 2012.
Thanking Gilles Dorronsoro for giving an accurate picture, in contrast to most Western observers, I lauded the much delayed counterinsurgency operations conducted brilliantly in Swat and South Waziristan. In the process, the Pakistani army had made tremendous sacrifices, losing roughly eight or nine times more casualties that that suffered by all the Coalition forces put together in Afghanistan in the last 18 months. Many serving and retired officers have lost their sons in battle, the officer-to-men ratio in the fighting being 1 to 10, or 1 to 11.
Politically, the existence of the coalition government is extremely tenuous for a number of reasons, not least being blackmailed regularly by two of their coalition partners. Economically, we are in a big mess.
I agreed that Ambassador Holbrooke's absence would be greatly felt in Pakistan as he has really done a lot for our country. He was also the broad shoulder propping Zardari in the seat of power. His loss would be a huge problem for Zardari continuing as President.
President Obama had directed that the US primary mission was "to destroy Al-Qaeda," the secondary one being "to disrupt and degrade the Taliban." The counterterrorism war is not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan . The sooner the US decision-makers realise this, the better it will be. Near the top of the US hierarchy, US vice president Joseph Biden has been quite clear about this since mid-2009.
Terrorism is alive and well because of corruption, injustice and organised crime, the fight in the heartland of Pakistan will have to be a Pakistani effort. We have dismantled many militant bases in the Pakistani heartland but the result against terrorism is almost zero, because there is no counterterrorism force in Pakistan.
The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) in Pakistan has done a tremendous job over the years in eradicating poppy cultivation and having Pakistan declared a poppy-free country. Since then, Pakistan has been subjected to both insurgency and terrorism of the worst kind, mainly financed by drugs.
(The writer is a defence and political analyst.)