[Marxism] Holbrooke stalks South Asia

Politicus E. epoliticus at gmail.com
Wed Apr 22 20:38:14 MDT 2009

The comrades at CPI(ML) Liberation published the following the following
article in the April 2009 issue of their organ:

With mediaeval Sheikhdoms as the U.S. role model for a moderate Muslim
state, none gets a prize for guessing the precise nature of the assignment
given to Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy in Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Whatever else he does on his new beat, ushering liberal democracy
in the land of the jirgas, or the greatly discussed objective of sending the
girls to school, is not the priority that the American people and with them
the rest of the world are being made to believe to be the purpose of the
assignment. So what is Holbrooke’s mission?

Pakistani analysts, skeptical of U.S. role in the region since decades, say
Holbrooke’s mission may not be different from his contributions in
Yugoslavia, a country he helped break into several smaller “manageable”
pieces along religious and ethnic lines. By that measure Afghanistan and
Pakistan offer a rich haul not to speak of India when its turn comes. Public
memory is too short to recall the menacing arrival of the U.S. Seventh Fleet
in the Bay of Bengal as recently as 1971.

Like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, plans for covert operations and military
strikes against Pakistan have not only circulated for long among influential
U.S. groups, they are visibly under implementation, observed Arshad Zaman,
veteran analyst for Karachi’s Dawn on Friday. “Again, like Bush, the Obama
presidency has provided the opportunity to implement these plans.”

Obama has been elected on a Democratic Party platform that holds that ‘[t]he
greatest threat to the security of the Afghan people — and the American
people — lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train,
plot attacks and strike into Afghanistan and move back across the border. We
cannot tolerate a sanctuary for Al Qaeda.” It defines Pakistan as ‘a
nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror, extremism and … instability’
and goes on to promise that ‘we will lead a global effort … to secure all
nuclear weapons material at vulnerable sites within four years’.

There could not be a clearer statement of U.S. intentions. Nor are the
outlines of likely U.S. actions entirely unknown. “The logic of the U.S.
action will be provided by Kampuchea; the tactics by Kosovo on our western
borders and Palestine on our eastern borders. Naturally, historical
analogies are far from exact, but they do merit study,” says Zaman.

Even though the background of the U.S. bombing of Kampuchea was different
from the situation in Pakistan on many points, what is common to the two is
that U.S. troops are bogged down in adjacent Afghanistan, the Americans
believe that their ‘enemy’ is able to find ‘sanctuaries’ and ‘safe havens’
in Pakistan, and they have been conducting covert bombing operations in
Pakistan for some time, which have progressively intensified.

Pakistanis are cautious about diplomatic pleasantries. They point out how in
April 1969, Richard Nixon assured Prince Sihanouk that the U.S. respected
‘the sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of
Cambodia …’ Over the next 14 months the US dropped 2,750,000 tons of bombs
on Kampuchea, more than the total dropped by the Allies in the Second World
War. In 1970, Prince Sihanouk was deposed by his pro-American prime
minister, Lon Nol. The country’s borders were closed, and the US and the
Republic of Vietnam Army (ARVN) launched incursions into Kampuchea to attack
the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Front for the Liberation of
South Vietnam (VPA/NLF) bases.

But fears of an American project to balkanise Pakistan and with it Iran as
well presents one side of the picture, one in which India and Israel are
assigned no small role. On the other hand, at least three recent
developments in Pakistan have done little to allay these fears. The
atavistic deal with the fanatical Taliban in the Swat valley is of a piece
with the old colonial policy – divide et impera. In actual terms, it is a
variant of Salwa Judum being applied in Indian states against the Naxalites
– pit people against people is the mantra. The other accompanying
developments were the revival of Saudi protégé Nawaz Sharif as the rallying
point of revival of both democracy and restoration of the dignity of the
higher judiciary. A third facet of the Holbrooke approach to the
Afghan-Pakistan conundrum is to rekindle hopes for a deal with the Taliban
in Afghanistan. An expression of this is the revival of links with the
fugitive anti-American rebel Gulbiddin Hekmatyar.

To underscore the primacy of the moment, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff
Gen. Ashfaq Kayani had an unscheduled meeting with U.S. Secretary of State
Hilary Clinton soon after the governor deposed the provincial government in
Punjab on Feb. 25. U.S. special envoy Holbrooke also attended this meeting,
which, according to the sources quoted by Dawn, focused on the political
situation in Pakistan.

Before this meeting, the Obama administration had made it a point not to
raise politics in its discussions with the army chief. A cursory look at Gen
Kayani’s itinerary showed that military and security matters dominated the
general’s agenda in Washington. During his week-long stay in the US, the
general met Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
Admiral Michael Mullen and the U.S. Army Chief General George Casey. He also
met C.I.A. Director Leone Panetta, Director National Intelligence Admiral
Dennis C Blair and Commander Special Operations Command Admiral Eric T Olson
to discuss security matters. But he was not scheduled to meet those
officials who deal with political matters because the Americans wanted to
assure the new democratic setup in Islamabad that they were sincere to
strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

During Gen. Kayani’s stay in Washington, another important Pakistani
delegation was also in town. It was headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood
Qureshi and included the I.S.I. chief and Director General Military
Operations. As Qureshi later said at a news conference, it was the first
time that a minister was heading a delegation that included two senior
military officials and the purpose was to convey the message that ‘all
branches of the Pakistani government were united under the new political
setup in Islamabad,’ as the foreign minister said. Ambassador Holbrooke also
stressed this point when he told several US media outlets even before the
foreign minister’s delegation arrived in town that this time the I.S.I.
chief was coming as a member of a delegation headed by a civilian.
The point was further stressed at a reception Ambassador Husain Haqqani
hosted for the foreign minister and the army chief on Feb. 23. The foreign
minister was the guest of honour at the central table, dominated by US
lawmakers and political officials. The army chief shared another table with
US generals and senior defence and security officials.

But attitudes in Washington changed on Feb. 25, when the Pakistan Supreme
Court verdict declared Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif ineligible to contest
elections or hold public offices and later the government imposed governor’s
rule in Punjab. All that has changed the equation and brought the military
back as the key interlocutor in Pakistan. As the Chinese are wont to saying:
we are living in interesting times.

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