For last few decades, the terrorist outfits operating from Pakistani soil, have been targeting spots in India. Indian targets can truly be considered as soft targets. After each and every strike or attack, Indians make tall claims of taking appropriate action in future with much bluster and bravado, but everyone, which includes the Government of India, the people in India and the terrorists themselves, know truly well, that India is incapable both militarily and psychologically to take any strong and true deterrent measures. Indians just lick their wounds, be philosophical about the attack, and get on with the chores of daily life. The Indian embassy in Kabul was subjected to a terrorist bomb blast on 7th July 2008, killing 58 people and wounding 114. Many accusations were made about the real culprits behind this crime. However, investigations were soon forgotten in the cacophony of accusations and counter accusations and things just returned to normal. No action against culprits was ever planned or sought.
On a fateful day in September 2001, four suicidal attacks were made on targets in the United States, killing about 3000 people. The American Government soon found out this to be the handiwork of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization, operating from Afghanistan. Americans, declared war on terror, with Al-Qaeda chief, Osama -Bin -Laden as the principal accused. How, this war brought the Americans to Afghanistan, how Pakistan, once a close ally of Taliban Government in Afghanistan, switched sides and agreed to help Americans, is a well known history and need not be repeated. One of the major goals of this war on terror was achieved by Americans this year, with killing of Asama -Bin-Laden in a Pakistani city. The Al-Qaeda however still continues operations now mainly from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. The Americans have started bombing the targets in this area by effective use of small radio controlled air planes. This situation, being a kind of stalemate, would appear to any observer as a war with no end. The Pakistani border areas have remained without any kind of civil rule for thousands of years and there was no reason to believe that things would change just because of some American radio controlled planes bombing out few individuals and locations. Pakistanis were obviously happy with this scenario because by 2014 American troupes would start withdrawing from Afghanistan, leaving the field open to Pakistan and their so called associates.
It now appears that the terrorists, operating from this area, might have made their first crucial mistake about a month ago. On 13th day of September 2011, terrorists struck the American embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, killing 4 people and injuring another 20. I think that terrorists never perhaps realized the difference between hitting an Indian or an Afghan target, where, as the history of similar attacks show, the attack would be just forgotten after some time, and hitting an American target. American and Afghan investigators soon traced that attackers belonged to a deadly group operating from Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Pakistan claims that this group operates from Afghan soil.)Within next few days terrorists struck again. This time killing Chief of Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), Burhanuddin Rabbani, in a bomb attack at his home. The peace process began by Afghanistan Government was thus effectively stopped by this act of violence
Reports are now appearing in the news networks, of massive re-grouping of hardened American battle troupes near Afghanistan-Pakistan border including areas near Turkham Nangarhar region of Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan.The American build-up, includes helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of U.S. and Afghan military personnel. According to Pakistani army sources, the American plan is to force the tribal militia from their bases and force them into Afghanistan, where they will be ‘encircled, arrested or killed.’ The US army operation is aptly named as Operation Knife Edge.
The ground situation near the border,brings up one of the most fascinating and interesting scenario ever. For last forty or fifty years,Pakistani strategic planners have always talked of using Afghanistan as a strategic depth against any attack by India. This border was always considered by Pakistani planners as a soft border with full freedom to operate across it. Having hostile troupes facing them across the western border is something just unthinkable.
No wonder that the American action has created a great confusion with Pakistani army chief even threatening US and reminding it that Pakistan is a nuclear power. He claimed that the problem lies in Afghanistan, not Pakistan and stresses that national prestige and sovereignty will never be compromised at any cost, underscoring Afghanistan is the problem and not Waziristan. He wants US to maintain its focus on Afghanistan instead of pressuring Pakistan.
We would soon find out about the effectiveness of US action near Pakistani border. The situation near Afghan-Pakistan border would be changing rapidly, whether for good or worse? That only time can tell.
The after effects of this American action are likely to be far reaching though. Entire concept of strategic depth, so dear to minds of Pakistani military planners, is clearly scheduled for a complete overhaul.
19 October 2011