By Shireen M. Mazari
For Pakistan, the writing on the wall is clear. We are in a two-front war: One directly with the US and the other an unconventional war where nonstate actors are being trained by powerful external powers to undermine the military and intelligence organizations from within for the final external assault. But our civil and military leadership seems oblivious to these increasingly overt signals.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistanâ€”That Pakistan is facing a two-front war since 9/11 should have been apparent to at least the intelligence and military leadership. After all, the evidence was there from the moment General Musharraf surrendered the country to the Unites States.
There was the publication of the article by a retired US military intelligence officer Ralph Peters in the US Armed Forces Journal titled Blood Borders which envisaged the partitioning of Pakistan and Iran. There was the commencement of US demands to â€˜do moreâ€™ on the Pakistani state, especially its military, and there was the â€˜invasionâ€™ of hordes of American private security contractors and special operativesâ€“most without going through the proper visa clearance process, especially after the coming to power of the Zardari-Gilani combine courtesy the NRO brokered by the US and Pakistanâ€™s military leadership.
Unfortunately, the Pakistani state, especially its military and intelligence leadership miscalculated gravely when they fell in the US trap of a military-centric approach to dealing with terrorism and extremism. The results have been disastrous for the Pakistani state and nation. The US effectively, under international law, declared war on Pakistanâ€™s people with the drone attacks, and the military and intelligence set up neglected to calculate the costs of the US short-term lures of tactical weapons and a few downgraded F-16s. Apart from other fallouts, Pakistan suddenly found itself the victim of suicide bombings, internally displaced people and the Pakistani Taliban whose increasing funding and sophisticated arms should have raised alarm bells.
Additionally the economic costs have now also run into billions and we are today facing a war ravaged nation deeply polarized and totally unable to feel secure in their own territory despite a huge military and intelligence network.
The attack on Mehran Base in Karachi has made it clear that the policy of destroying Pakistanâ€™s military and intelligence set up is being operationalised but the question for us Pakistanis is why our intelligence and military leadership is going along with this scheme of things â€“ or at least why it is unable to develop a viable counter response to this policy.
Some of us had been pointing to the dangers of having US forces embedded within the Pakistan military far before the WikiLeaks made this public. That the May 2nd incident was a major security and intelligence lapse cannot be denied although the cover up has come in the form of the â€˜stealth technologyâ€™ pretext. But how can one explain the complete CIA covert set up in Abbottabad?
The incident certainly created a disconnect between the military leadership and the younger officers and soldiers and the lack of accountability of the former has done little to restore this equilibrium. As if to ensure that such an eventuality does not come to pass the attack on the Mehran base has taken place. To suggest that it was not a security and intelligence failure is to hide oneâ€™s head in the sand. Yes, as usual our soldiers fought bravely and many were martyred but why should they have been exposed to this danger in the first place? It is time some responsibility was accepted and the leadership made accountable.
How long will we continue to place our soldiers and young officers in these lethal situations created by leadership lapses?
What is equally disturbing is to discover that four to six terrorists held the whole base hostage for over sixteen hours and at the end of the operation it was given out that two terrorists may have escaped while four were killed. In comparison eleven of our soldiers were martyred, including our commandos. The terrorists were trained and carrying sophisticated weapons including RPGs. Who has been training these people and where are the money and arms coming from? If they are the Pakistani Taliban, who is behind them? Why did the government not make public the weaponsâ€™ makes and origins?
A larger question is how the details of the base and the location of the targets reached the attackers? These terrorists were not targeting the base in a random fashion. They knew where to go to get to their target: the P-3C Orion surveillance planes especially suited for anti-submarine warfare.
Linked to this is the question of why target these planes? Who would benefit from their destruction? The non-state terrorist actors are supposed to be located within Pakistan and Afghanistan; but it is the US and India which could target Pakistan by sea â€“ and both have been threatening to attack Pakistan post-May 2. The US has its bases in Oman and Bahrain while India has a vast blue water navy.
The question that arises then is whether this was a probe attack to check out our defenses?
Just as the May 2 incident exposed our faulty intelligence and military preparedness, this incident has done the same on yet another front. That a few well-trained terrorists can hold up a whole naval base despite inputs from the Rangers and the Army does not bode well for Pakistanâ€™s military preparedness.
The writing on the wall is clear for Pakistan. It is in a two-front war: One directly with the US and the other an unconventional war where nonstate actors are being trained by powerful external powers to undermine the military and intelligence organizations from within for the final external assault. But our civil and military leadership seems oblivious to these increasingly overt signals. Or are they totally mesmerized by US lures?
Our nuclear assets are not under threat militarily for reasons I have already explained at length in an earlier write up. But a security and military environment is being created where a diplomatic and political campaign to take control of the nuclear assets can reach fruition. This is a well thought out strategy that the US has been operationalizing since 9/11 when it gained military and intelligence access into Pakistan and saw how easy it was to seduce the Pakistani military and subsequently the civilian leadership.
While not denying the extremist militancy and terrorism within Pakistan, we need to realize that the targeting of military installations and intelligence vulnerabilities is the handiwork of trained and well-armed operatives who of necessity have strong external backers. Of course we need to counter the extremist threat but to let this bogey blind us to the two-front war being waged against our very existence as a nation and state post-9/11would be to play right into the hands of our very real, very skilled and very powerful external enemies.
Unfortunately, that is what our civil and military leadership is falling prey to so far. In the process the critical cohesiveness and morale of our military and intelligence institutions, the strongest institutions in the country, is being threatened. It is time to arrest this leadership decay through accountability of those responsible. We have already lost over 35 000 Pakistani lives. How many more martyrs can we afford as a result of fatal leadership lapses?
Dr. Mazari is an adviser on defense policy to a political party and the former director of Islamabad Institute For Strategic Studies. She wrote this comment forPakNationalists.com Reach her at callstr[at]hotmail.com