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Editorial: The mother in law and snakes in the backyard

EDITORIAL

The Mother in Law and Snakes in the Backyard

Rasheed Hasan Khan

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s latest visit to Pakistan was anxiously anticipated. Since the near breakdown in Pak-U.S. relations, due to the blunt statement issued by Adm. Mike Mullen, after the attack on U.S. embassy in Kabul and the assassination of Maulana Rabbani. In his statement Adm. Mullen had laid the responsibility for both these actions on the Haqqani network and stated that the Haqqani Network was an extension of I.S.I. This statement struck a a raw nerve in Pakistan, because of its implication that the actions were carried out at the behest of Pakistan. The ensuing imbroglio brought Pak-U.S relations to the lowest ebb since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.There was even speculation about a shooting war between U.S. and Pakistan. However, saner council seemed to prevail and de-escalation brought the situation to a semblance of normalcy.

Clinton denied that the U.S. had any positive proof of Pakistan’s involvement with the Haqqani network while this is a positive change; it indirectly reveals that there is an ongoing struggle between the hardliners and the moderates in the U.S. regarding the future policy in regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead of saber rattling she adopted a more conciliatory attitude but she did not fail to warn Pakistan about the danger of nurturing snakes in its backyard and the need to take forceful action ‘in days and weeks’.

The war in Afghanistan is entering the phase which is popularly labeled as the “end game”. Despite the technological superiority and unlimited resources, the U.S. and I.S.A.F. forces have become stuck in a quagmire in Afghanistan and there is no possibility in sight of a change in this situation. The huge expenditure incurred by the U.S. in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has wreaked havoc with the U.S. economy. Already the U.S has spent more than $1 trillion in Iraq, not counting the $700 billion consumed each year by the Pentagon budget.

The spending in Iraq and Afghanistan comes to more than $3 billion weekly, making the wars a major reason for record-level budget deficits. The cost of the wars is likely to reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion when the final tally is made.Between 2003 and 2008—before the financial crisis unfolded—the debt rose from $6.4 trillion to $10 trillion, and, at least one-quarter of this increase was directly attributable to the wars, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan.

The US is spending more than $3 billion a week on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq currently.

In the run-up to the election in 2012, people have expressed concerns about the debt and the deficit, as well as the huge ongoing burden of funding the conflict, and the constraints they exert on the economic development. The U.S. is therefore compelled to make major changes in its policy of foreign military adventures. The U.S. policy planners have all along tried to involve Pakistan and other regional powers in the field operations in Afghanistan. The propaganda of tame U.S. media about Pakistan’s ‘soft’ corner towards the Taliban and the pressure exerted off and on to “do more” was meant to facilitate this strategic move. However, a sense of self-preservation, if not patriotism prevailed and the U.S. could not succeed in driving Pakistan into the inferno of a war in Afghanistan, which the U.S. itself was divesting itself of.

Secretary Clinton’s visit has to be seen in this perspective. Her brief seems to have been to browbeat or cajole Pakistan into the battlefield in Afghanistan. The links with Haqqani network and sundry accusations and barefaced threats were the bludgeons to beat the Pakistani establishment into submission. Any schoolboy can see the contradiction in the U.S. position. On one hand, it is seeking to hold a dialogue with the Taliban to work out the future setup in Afghanistan, and on the other, it is insisting that Pakistan launch a new campaign against them!!

In the press conference in Lahore, a Pakistani lady very aptly likened Mrs. Clinton to an irascible mother in law who is never satisfied with the performance of her daughter in law. Though she laughed uproariously at this, how amusing she really found the remark is hard to say.

 

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