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Strategic depth for Pakistan lies within Pakistan – by Kamran Shafi

It is within us
By Kamran Shafi
Tuesday, 09 Feb, 2010

THERE has been a veritable raft of statements from the chief of army staff in the very recent past on ‘strategic depth’ for Pakistan in Afghanistan.

Variously: “we want a strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it”; “if Afghanistan is peaceful, stable and friendly, we have our strategic depth because our western border is secure”; and “our strategic paradigm needs to be fully realised”. Inexplicably he also said that ‘it would be a cause of worry for Pakistan if Afghanistan’s projected army developed the potential to take on Pakistan’.

The Afghan army’s ‘projected’ development (woefully inadequate five years after it started, mark) and whether that development can be a danger to Pakistan with its half-a-million strong army and a powerful air force when Afghanistan has no air force at all at the present time, to say nothing of our bomb, we shall come to later. Let us for the moment look at ‘strategic depth’.

Now then, whilst matters as critical as strategic depth, especially in other, foreign countries, are best discussed in their minutiae in closed confabulations of elected political leaders, diplomats and military experts, let us look at the many hurdles in the way of the general’s wishes coming true.

While the Afghans can heave a sigh of relief that Pakistan will not take over their country to gain strategic depth, how can Afghanistan ever become peaceful, and stable, and friendly towards Pakistan when the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani father-son team, well known as friends of our very own security establishment, run around that country spreading havoc from Ghazni to Kunar to Paktia?

How can Afghanistan become friendly towards Pakistan when there is continuing ambivalence in wholeheartedly targeting the Taliban leadership, both Afghan and Pakistani, which as we well know are closely allied? How possibly can Afghanistan call Pakistan a friend when senior Pakistani army officers refer to these people, its enemies, as ‘assets’?

On another tack, how can the ultimate leaders of groups that also attack innocent Pakistanis in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi be the strategic assets of our brass hats?

How can Afghanistan consider Pakistan a friend when the Quetta shura of the Afghan Taliban which has now been outed by no less a personage than the minister of defence, is not even touched let alone degraded to an extent that it will cease being a threat to Afghanistan? When its leaders openly defy government authority and do as they will in Balochistan, extending their murderous tentacles into Iran too?

Unless, of course, it is still the case that our great strategists feel that the Taliban, both the Pakistan and Afghan variety, are the only ones who can ensure a peaceful, stable and friendly Afghanistan. If so, they have very bad memories, for they do not have to look very far back into Afghanistan’s sorry history to see how badly this, for want of a better word, scheme, failed so very miserably the last time around, with the Afghan people facing untold tribulations at the hands of a backward and medieval regime.

How possibly can the Afghans see Pakistan as a friend when they see that their tormentors and the Pakistani security establishment are still friends? No sirs, no, Afghanistan will never consider Pakistan a friend unless those who have made mindless statements about the Taliban being assets retract those statements in totality and without reservation. And far more than that take stringent action against all of the terrorists without exception.

As for the Afghan national security forces, the army and police, developing to the point that they can ‘take on’ Pakistan, those two forces are slated to rise to 171,600 men for the army and 134,000 for the police by the year 2011.

Both the projected numbers fly in the face of the views of independent observers and analysts trained to make such projections who say unreservedly that let alone the non-availability of suitable manpower, the mere costs of maintaining such numbers are way above the capacity of the Afghan government. Empirical evidence also shows that fully 40 per cent of present recruits came out positive when tested for drugs. So much for the Afghan forces ever being able to ‘take on’ Pakistan.

As to our strategic paradigm(s) being realised by other people, I can only say that whingeing will get us nowhere because no one owes us anything at all. We Pakistanis are the only ones who can, and should, realise what those paradigms are, and how we can best achieve them. We have to understand that the best strategic depth is that which comes from within our own country, from within ourselves. That the best strategic depth is that which comes from within our own people.

All of us have to understand that instead of looking beyond our borders, a literate, healthy and happy populace that lives in peace and tranquillity is the best strategic depth any country can possibly have.
This, of course, cannot be, given the state of the country as it is today with completely skewed national imperatives, and a state whose writ is eroding by the day.

For, how can Pakistan educate its children in halfway decent schools; or give its people halfway decent healthcare and housing when only three per cent of the budget goes to the social sector? How can the people feel at peace when the mainstream press carries photographs of private, mark, anti-aircraft guns deployed in a cotton field in Sindh?

Instead of looking towards others it is time we sat up and took notice of the dire situation we are in. And jolly well did something about it.

kshafi1@yahoo.co.uk

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