The Afghan Endgame – The Dilemma

By;Brig. Imran Malik(R)

Pakistan blinked.

In a blatant display of overwhelming power and clout the US forced Pakistan’s hand in the nerve wrecking and vital battle of wits for the NATO supply routes and by implication the future of its Afghan Campaign. The US pressure tactics included a double pincer movement of sorts comprising a strategic and an economic prong targeting Pakistan’s obvious vulnerabilities. The strategic prong mainly threatened to declare the Haqqani Network (HN) a terrorist organization and by implication Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. The USS Enterprise led aircraft carrier group was moved off Gwadar to add weight to the argument. The other prong mainly threatened military and economic sanctions while withholding about US $ 1.2 billion owed to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). Under pressure the weak and bankrupt Pakistan Government capitulated rather spinelessly.

The NATO supply routes were re-opened – and the first step in the end game for Afghanistan had been taken!

US Design for the Afghanistan Pakistan Region (APR)

The Geopolitical Dimension: The US would like to see a self-serving conducive environment prevail over the South Central Asian Region (SCAR) and APR. It would like to see a stable Afghanistan and a compliant Pakistan at peace with themselves and with their neighbors. It would also like to ensure that Russia and China remain contained and blocked out of the region with no direct access to a marginalized Iran or the Arabian Sea/ Indian Ocean. It would also like to see India emerge as a major player in Afghanistan at least if not in the SCAR. However, in the final analysis the US would like to see itself directly ascendant, dominant and in exclusive control of the geo-political/strategic/economic destinies of the SCAR and the APR in particular.

The Geostrategic Dimension: The US has already set about crafting the geo-strategic environment for the end game in Afghanistan. In the next step hereon it will require Pakistan to play a proactive and decisive role in eliminating the terrorist’s threat (Al Qaeda, HN, TTP-?) across the APR.  It could mean undertaking unilateral/combined military operations against them or bringing/coercing them around to the negotiating table. Either way the US will expect Pakistan to play her vital role in neutralizing/eliminating this cross border threat – under the pain of being declared a state sponsoring terrorism and its attendant ramifications! Further the US will retain its foothold in the APR and SCAR through the establishment of US/NATO bases all around Afghanistan ostensibly to train and support the emerging Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The Geo-economic Dimension: The US would like to be the sole determinant of the economic destiny of the region controlling the mining, flow, transportation, refining and marketing of the minerals/fossil fuels of the region. Further it would like to have absolute control over the emerging (north-south and east-west) trade routes going across the region like the New Silk Road Project (NSRP). Ideally it would like to link Europe to India including all the regions in between in a seamless trade corridor under its sole oversight and to its sole advantage. The US would also want to encourage the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline while blocking the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline which potentially could have been extended to India and China as well. It would require Pakistan to mold her policies and fall in line. The economic development of the region will thus remain subject to the vagaries of US national interests. 

The Afghan Political Dimension: The US would further want a Northern Alliance (NA) Government to be firmly in power in a peaceful and secure Afghanistan with its writ extending far beyond the municipal limits of Kabul to the extremities of Afghanistan’s vast badlands – albeit an unsustainable and patently unfair   and undemocratic political dispensation with a minority ruling roughshod over the majority Pashtuns. Furthermore the US would like to see the elimination of terrorists, warlords and drug czars and their fiefdoms/businesses. Regional players including Pakistan will be expected to remain non-interfering. The US would also expect the international community to help sustain Afghanistan beyond 2014 – Tokyo Conference.

The Dilemma/Pakistan Factor: The main US demand from Pakistan would be for her to unconditionally support all US initiatives in the region even to the peril of her own national interests. Not only would the US want Pakistan to help the US/NATO/ISAF Combine egress from the region safely and securely but also to ensure that the scourge of international terrorism is eliminated once and for all. Furthermore it would want Pakistan to support her and her proxies’ continued residual presence in the region.

The national interests of the US and Pakistan in the APR-SCAR remain generally divergent. It may have been relatively easy for Pakistan to concede on the re-opening of the NATO supply routes. It will not be so in the case of further US imperatives in the APR/SCAR.

The answer to this dilemma lies in the US’ acceptance of Pakistan’s genuine national interests. Pakistan desires a friendly  government in Kabul with no Indian influence at all and would like to see the majority Pashtuns get their rightful democratic place in any political dispensation in Afghanistan. Pakistan too would like to see the terrorist threat neutralized but in toto and not selectively. Pakistan would want the mineral riches of the region to be exploited to the benefit of the people of the region and a continuing mutually beneficial relationship with the US and all countries in the region.

Now will the US want a willing or an unwilling Pakistan for the endgame? Does the US want to succeed hereon? Will the US still use arrogant, coercive diplomacy, the sickening carrot and stick routine or will it take a genuine reality check of the emerging geostrategic environment of the APR and modify its policy/strategy accordingly!

It may be time for the US to blink now.


The author is a retired Brigadier and a former Defence Attache to Australia and New Zealand.

This is a cross post from The Nation.


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  • Syed Ataur Rahman  On July 16, 2012 at 10:50 am

    With a spineless national leaders subservient to USA, how can Pakistan not to blink again and again? As long as Zardari-Milik-Like of Gilani/Rental Raja are at helms of affairs of this stooge government they will willingly continue to blink, unfortunately. It is no use thinking otherwise. The coming elections are the real hope for Pakistan, and Imran Khan gives some real hope for us. USA with India will be busy trying to bring about a result more suited to them, so Pakistanis beware……

  • Nasim Hassan  On July 17, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Pakistan is no match for the US or even a European country. So we need great patience and bid for time. Slowly but surely the US will move of Afghanistan. During that time Pakistan can assert with polite diplomacy.

    There are people in Pakistan who want to be like Taleban who kept their promise to Bin Laden and in the process a large number Afghans and Pakistanis got killed.

    The orthodox Muslims should look at the life of the Great Prophet during his period in Mecca. Just read about the treatment of new Muslims by people of Mecca. The lesson becomes obvious.

    However Muslims pay only lip service of the love of Prophet. They do not even follow the first lesson of truth and honesty that he practiced.

    Nasim Hassan

  • Zubair  On July 17, 2012 at 2:16 am

    This is the nail that many are either avoiding, ignoring or unable to visualize:

    “The US pressure tactics included a double pincer movement of sorts comprising a strategic and an economic prong targeting Pakistan’s obvious vulnerabilities”

  • Syed Wajahat  On July 17, 2012 at 2:17 am

    This is how the moderm warfare is conducted. We just have to get better at hiding our weaknesses or better not having any recognizable weakness.
    If only there was less desire for wealth and more desire for sacrifice. We can wish cant we?

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