By Bharat Verma
The Ghost That Came Back to Haunt. These statements are true. First, While exiting Afghanistan, America left behind 5 billion dollars worth of sophisticated arms in the hand of terrorists. This ultimately fanned the Islamic fundamentalist movement against us. Make no mistake about it. That we and we alone have been fighting this menace of jehad for the last twelve years without outside support.
Second. America organised narcotics traffic to defeat the former Soviet Union. Result: Annual estimated income of twelve billion dollars accrues from narcotics and drugs trade to Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the single critical factor which has disallowed the collapse of Pakistan’s wobbling economy so far.
Destruction of the Jehad Factory in our backyard will effect a set back of at least twenty-five years.
Third. Jehad is nuclear tipped because of America turning a blind eye to the activities of its former ally over the years.
Fourth. Pakistan has been propped up against India by vested interests in a variety of ways in the past decades. To enmesh and weaken India. Fifth. Finally the ghost of Terrorism came full circle to haunt America.
Yet, this extraordinary tragedy on the American soil (though we have paid a much bigger price on our Western Front in the last twelve years) calls for global war on terrorism. No single country (including America) is capable of uprooting it on its own. Thus, while protecting and furthering our interests, New Delhi must convert this into an opportunity. Let’s not shy away from waging a decisive war against growing threats. By attempts to dictate what women are allowed to wear or a child is simply shot to convey the message that India must desist from aligning with America against Taliban.
In Agra. This is a direct challenge to the individual freedom guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Are we going to live in fear? Therefore, this is not the time to score debating points. But an opportunity to lend support to the Gal so that it may finally firmly resolve to deal with terrorism.
Between the Rock and a Hard Place. Unlike New Delhi, Washington was not amused when Musharrafs Freedom Fighters landed directly at the Twin Towers. The turn of events on 11 September placed Pakistan between the rock and a hard place. If it ignores American demands for cooperation and military facilities, the fury of the American military and economic might will be directed against it in addition to Afghanistan.
Unlike New Delhi, Washington was not amused when Musharrafs Freedom Fighters landed directly at the Twin Towers.
On the other hand, Islamabad’s assent will create an unprecedented turmoil internally between the Mujahideen groups and Musharraf, as well as within Afghanistan and Pakistan. The self appointed President already faces dissent within the military establishment. Either way, it’s a no-win situation. ISI’s (which controls Islam’s Army of Terror) mischief making capabilities will be degraded considerably.
In the unfolding scenario (and in spite of China’s support) Islamabad’s wings are about to be clipped. But, then Pakistan has been in a self-destruct mode for decades.
Fight the Terrorist Like a Terrorist
To win the war against terrorism, America will need to judiciously combine its technological prowess and military superiority with countries that have experienced and trained manpower in Low Intensity Conflict. Operationally this is a manpower intensive task as human intelligence (HUMINT) will deliver more for the buck than mere satellite imagery.
Similarly, to prevail upon the enemy Special Forces will need to fight the terrorist like a terrorist. This again calls for deployment of large human resources scarce in the United States.
Capture of Osama the individual may provide good sound bites but the danger comes from Osama bin Laden as a motivation to thousands of Islamic terrorists. The direction of war waged should aim to deconstruct this lethal mindset.
The countries that can assist America are India and Russia, latter for the influence it commands and intelligence operations it can conduct. China will neither interfere nor extend help due to close links with Pakistan and Taliban. However, the key to this war remains in thinking like a (or ahead of the) terrorist. Infiltrating his networks, denying fuel and food supplies, causing rifts, sowing suspicions between groups, extending support to dissent, disrupting communications, by taking the war into the enemy heartland, inflicting destruction which raises the cost and launching of the psychological warfare. American action in the aftermath of 11 September is a recent example of conduct of psywar.
... but the danger comes from Osama bin Laden as a motivation to thousands of Islamic terrorists. The direction of war waged should aim to deconstruct this lethal mindset.
While the United States marshals its resources, it has through calibrated statements put on notice the Islamic fundamentalist outfits. Even before Noble Eagle is operative, relationships between Afghanistan and Pakistan stand ruptured and the groundswell against Musharraf regime is snowballing into a fireball. The enemy is in disarray.
It is difficult for America and allies to simultaneously focus military-cum-intelligence attention to demolish the large terrorist network girdling the globe at one go. The counter strategy, therefore, ought to hinge on going for the jugular.
Destruction of the Jehad Factory in our backyard will effect a set back of at least twenty-five years. Hence America and allies should carry out clean surgical air strikes over Afghanistan and induct troops to occupy strategic high ground. Dismantle the terrorist networks and install a liberal regime like the Northern Alliance. Deinduct the ground forces at an appropriate time. Bring to justice terrorists from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Security implications for India in the evolving matrix are no worse or better than they were earlier.
However, if New Delhi can stiffen its political spine, put its military muscle where the mouth is and activate a counter proxy war policy, it can succeed in developing a strategic corridor to resource rich Central Asia. Conversely, a nation that does not dare to wage a ruthless war against terrorism can never win.
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About the author
Bharat Verma, a former Cavalry Officer is Editor, Indian Defence Review, frequently appears on television as a commentator, and is author of the books, Fault Lines and Indian Armed Forces