Tuesday, 20 November 2007
The United States has a long track record of financing and waging proxy guerrilla wars in several parts of the world: arming and abetting the Contras rebels in Nicaragua, fomenting trouble in Vietnam, meddling in Somalia affairs, creating the Mujahideen force to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and lately crafting an anti-Al-Qaeda force in Iraq's restive Anbar province. To add to the long list, Washington is now planning to start a US-supported tribal force in Pakistan's troubled tribal belt, according to a new and classified proposal awaiting Washington's approval. The idea is to arm tribal leaders against Al-Qaeda and Taleban militants and foreign fighters entrenched in the area, according to Monday's report in The New York Times.
Washington has long played the card of overtly and covertly supporting homegrown disenchantment in any rebellious movement. A case in point is that of Anbar where the US egged on and pampered the tribal Sunni Sheikhs to stand up against Al-Qaeda's daily dose of deaths through suicide attacks and kidnappings.
If the new proposal gets Washington's go-ahead, it will mark a significant shift in its strategy as it is likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan and directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force. The proposal also envisages paying huge amounts of money to militias that agree to fight Al-Qaeda and foreign militants in the tribal belt of Waziristan.
The latest proposal raises the question of whether any partnership to be forged by Pakistani troops can be made without a significant US military presence in Pakistan. And it is unclear whether enough support can be found among the tribes, some of which are known to be actively working with Pakistan's intelligence agency.
The Bush administration has used billions of dollars of aid and heavy political pressure to encourage Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to carry out more aggressive military operations against militants in the tribal areas. But the sporadic military campaigns Pakistan has conducted there have had little success, resulting instead in heavy losses among Pakistani Army units and anger among local residents who have for decades been mostly independent from Islamabad's control.
The Mujahideen movement in Afghanistan, undisputed creation of the US, is largely instrumental in the formation of Al-Qaeda and its likes. The proposal to arm tribal leaders in the politically unstable northwest of Pakistan is fraught with dangers; it has the potential of spawning many more Al-Qaedas in the not so distant future.