The Khan USA Visit….Veni Vidi Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) Plus a lot of work to do at home!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi – 25 July, 2019

So first the euphoria!

Never felt so good, so proud, head held high, to be a Pakistani as we did watching the Khan weave his magic in all his public interactions in the US.

The Presser with Trump; The Fox Interview, the USIP Dialogue, the Talk at the Capitol and of course the “Dharna at The Arena!

And in his private meetings as well!

The World Bank President went away in awe as quoted by an insider

* …..The (IMF) President is happy with the discussions….. felt that there is a genuine leader who cares about the country…..*

This is the impression Imran left people with. A genuine leader who cares about his country

I think this is perhaps his second “finest hour” since his election as PM!

This is what he does best when he speaks from the heart, with honour dignity and huge amount of self respect.

This is what he does best. Articulating an uplifting powerful message and a wonderful vision of the future!

So were there any tangible outcomes from the visit.

Perhaps a few by my count!

1. A strong personal relationship and direct communication between Imran and Trump. Hopefully ensuring that Trump and his administration are not misled about Pakistani actions or intentions by the anti Pakistan lobby, especially the Indian lobby!

2. In 3 days he’s quite literally changed the perception about Pakistan in a large part of the US administration, especially with hawks like Pompeo and Lindsay Graham, in the US Media and perhaps even amongst think tanks and opinion makers. Something we’ve not been able to do in decades.

3. A possible resumption of $1.3 billion US annual aid, enhanced trade and investment, and repayment of outstanding Coalition Support Funds, estimated at $9 Billion, owed to us by the USA. I think CSF repayment and aid will likely follow a successful deal with the Taliban and the USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan

4. Renewal of military ties!

But perhaps an invisible benefit is the ouster of India from the Regional policeman role, given to it by the USA, especially in relation to Afghanistan and USA withdrawal.

Mediation on Kashmir? I’d not take it seriously!

As the joke doing the rounds when Trump asked Modi “Yo Mo you should relax more…you got bad bad body odour” (this after the embrace) Modi replies “I do meditation in Kashmir” “Oh, Mediation on Kashmir” said Trump…No..no Meditation says Modi.

“..Mediation, Meditation same thing says Trump” and the rest, as they say is, history!

But here’s a word of caution about Trump! Imran probably already knows this but worth reiterating.

Trump is known to be all sweet, honey and charming face to face, and then can bite back via a sarcastic tweet and throw his best friend under the bus.

Tillerson, Mattis and scores of other corpses litter the White House as Trump ruthlessly dumps people he finds no longer useful to his interests or serve his objectives.

He’s a “man of the moment” and clearly relished the limelight which he got from Imran’s visit and used it to greatly benefit his domestic electoral agenda.

He has a two point interest in Pakistan.

1. Save American money, by pulling out of Afghanistan and save American lives from Terrorism in mainland USA, after the pull out.

For this he needs our help in getting the Taliban as part of a stable Afghan government, post USA withdrawal. It also gives him huge political and electoral mileage.

2. Sell as many American goods and services to Pakistan to help create more jobs in the USA and dilute Chinese, political and economic influence over Pakistan. Also giving him domestic political benefits.

Both helping him in his relection campaign in 2020.

But the Afghanistan withdrawal and post withdrawal stability is the Crown Jewel, Trump desperately needs for his re-election. Chinese influence, vis a vis Pakistan for now takes a back seat, for a while!

The more realistic the expectations Pakistan sets with him about what we can or cannot do in Afghanistan, the greater the possibility of remaining on Trump’s right side!

So there you have it on the US trip and Trump!

Imran shouldn’t get too overawed or taken in by Trump’s charm. He has the values and ethics of a Cattle Rustler!

And now to the realities facing PM Imran at home!

1. The Economy. Especially Industrial and agricultural growth, exports and increased revenue. Reducing 1.7 trillion of circular debt, 1.4 trillion of state subsidies to high loss incurring and mismanaged State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s). This is a make or break factor. Existential if we fail. People are under back breaking high prices!

One leading private sector businessperson whose huge empire pays all taxes and doesn’t under or over invoice, wistfully told me last night. Every economic decision that the government has taken, when viewed individually, makes perfect sense. Rupee devaluation; Tax reforms; IMF loan; Reducing external account deficit, removing subsidies from electricity and gas, etc etc. But collectively we are just not getting the traction we’re waiting for.

And we’re still waiting! He said with a sigh!

Imran is a great visionary but greatly hampered by a weak team who are unable to integrate and implement his vision, because implementation, operational expertise and integration is not his strength, he said quoting Gino Wickman, founder of the EOS framework!

2. Rebuilding our completely destroyed civilian public sector institutions by appointing competent persons of integrity to leadership roles who in turn bring in similar professionals, implement effective and transparent operational processes and technology to pre-empt corruption and deliver quality public services to the common man.

Shabbar Zaidi, Chairman, FBR, is an example of one such person and what he’s doing in FBR.

Imran must now get similar competent professionals and subject matter experts and not rely on friends and cronies or the permanent Islamabad group of mercenaries to fill professional leadership slots, simply because “he or she is very bright” but have zero experience or achievements in that area.

Dr. Sania Nishtar heading Ehsaas, his flagship Poverty Alleviation program, now sexily renamed Poverty Graduation, and several others, some whom I know personally (they will know who they are when I write this) are cases in point of not putting the right person in the right slot.

Appointing an ex Army General, a recently retired Adjutant General of the Army, as Chairman of Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, is in my opinion, also a questionable decision. While understanding that the AG looks after Army Housing and has insights and expertise that could be useful, my view is that he has some really competent people in his own party with expertise in this area, such as Najeeb Haroon, the MNA from Karachi to head this. There are many other ways of seeking Army’s expertise and insights in this area.

I think he should task a team headed by Jehangir Tareen, Ehsan Malik (CEO of Pakistan Business Council) MNA Najeeb Haroon to source top talent for our Public sector institutions!

3. Fixing relations with India, Afghanistan, Iran and the USA. Afghanistan and USA is on an upward trajectory. India is a long haul. But given the final delinking with the Jihadi outfits and USA’s new found love for Imran, there may be some minor moves forward with India.

But with Modi around, forget any serious discussions on Kashmir. Trade yes! Kashmir No!

Iran is complex. At a minimum we cannot take sides. We must not allow our territory to be used against them. And if we can, to try and mediate between them and Saudi Arabia and perhaps even the USA.

4. Returning the balance of power from the Army to the Civilian Executive!
The Army is today the only State institution which has fortunately escaped the rape by our politicians, considerably helped by their 33 years in power. But also, as people forget, by having a very merit driven system of promotions, placements and transfers.

Their best and brightest go as Instructors to the premier training institutions, PMA, Staff College, NDU, ensuring that the trainees learn from the best. Compare this to the police and the civilian bureaucracy, where instructional assignments are “punishment” posts.

Hence today by default, because civilian institutions are dysfunctional, the Army’s footprint is overwhelming and overpowering! And the ISPR makes sure we do not forget this for a moment. It is unbelievable how those guys, living in an echo chamber, don’t understand how they’re polarizing public opinion about the Army and Gen. Bajwa.

But let’s be real. But for the Army, we would today be in a far worse situation then we are!

That’s reality! So lets move on from here!

Gen. Bajwa has done a marvellous job in cracking down on non state actors, putting his and the institutions full weight and support behind the civilian administration!

In my opinion he’s as committed to a corruption free Pakistan as is Imran and wants Imran to succeed for the sake of Pakistan.

As an interim arrangement, this is essential for our survival today to help tide over these very difficult times and defeat the current very powerful and corrupt status quo.

Take the USA visit. Gen. Bajwa’s presence and discussions with the US military High Command were essential to give USA comfort.

But in the long term this continuing influence in the civilian realm is very harmful, even existential for Pakistan as it will move us towards a harsh, fascist society!

The big white elephant in the room?

Should Gen. Bajwa get an extension? Should he be offered one? Should he accept one?

My personal opinion is a NO to all three.

While he’s done an outstanding job, I think he should retire gracefully, let the system continue and let the institution continue to support the Executive as its doing now! He could continue to serve as a National Security Advisor or Minister of Defence!

Having said that, there is a strong argument in many circles that because of his deep understanding of the issues facing Pakistan and his strong relationship with Imran, there’s a case for him to continue on.

But my view is that there will always be exceptional circumstances. There will always be an argument to break a rule! But the system must go on!

I have NEVER heard of a retiring Lt. General being given an extension! Never an extension to an Air Chief or the Naval Chief!

So why the Army Chief?

In summary, Imran faces a huge Herculean task at home!

We are a hugely dysfunctional society and country.

Our institutions do not work effectively.

Our past rulers, both military and civilians have systematically destroyed our institutions resulting in the elite capture of all our institutions and sources of power by a small group of corrupt, rich and powerful people, who’ve either used the hypocritical garb of democracy (our politicians) or the Doctrine of Necessity (our military rulers) to grab and hold onto power.

This elite capture has resulted in an environment of desperate survival by the poor and the exploited, desperately latching on to those who represent this corrupt ststem to seek recourse, justice, employment and succour.

Just sheer survival!

The masses accept as a given, a system of plunder, loot and handouts as symbolised by the Sharifs and Zardaris and their courtiers and hence accept the status quo, because their self interest and survival are now also interlinked to this corrupt system.

They do not believe that Imran or anybody can change the system to a more equitable one with equal opportunity for all!

Their hopes have been dashed to the ground again and again! Bhutto, Zia, Musharraf….now Imran!

This is a battle for the Soul of Pakistan and our future and those of our children and beyond.

It is a battle to provide equitable opportunities of healthcare, education, employment, entrepreneurship, business etc.

We hope this rotten political and electoral system is destroyed which continues to elect from a small, corrupt coterie of looting, plundering mafia like Plutocrats and Kleptocrats!

We hope no son, daughter, brother, nephew, uncle of any politician gets into power simply because of a biological event!

Mrs. Safdar and Master Bilawal being two of the ugliest most evil symbols of this terrible accursed system!

We hope our civilian institutions are strengthened so our Army retreats into its defined role and does not exercise the immense and inordinate power they exercise now, directly and indirectly and their support is indispensable to remain in power.

We hope we have a media of serious objective analysts, journalists and anchors who do not sell their souls to the highest bidder.

We hope of a judicial system which dispenses quick and fair justice and holds everyone accountable, high and low. We hope sons and daughters, sons and daughter in laws, nieces and nephews of former and serving Judges are not the only ones elevated to our High Courts and the Supreme Court

We hope we have an electoral process which allows people of competence and integrity to get into positions of power, authority, governance and into our legislatures.

Mrs. Safdar and Master Bilawal do not represent these hopes for Pakistan.

PM Imran does!

With all his inadequacies, which he is fast overcoming, he is still our best fighting chance!

The poor await a Pakistan where they live in peace and security, get quality healthcare and education, earn a decent livelihood and get speedy and fair justice!

Today they are burdened with massive back breaking inflation, high prices, but they still wait patiently!

Now its time for you to conquer Pakistan, PM Khan!

And you can only do it if you have competent people of integrity around you. A great team that can execute and implement effectively!

Because its a long hard tough battle and there is no such thing as “Spontaneous Combustion”, or a “Magic Wand”, PM Khan!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

The “New” Saudi Arabia!

The “New” Saudi Arabia
– By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
(5 – 7 minute read)

Recently we saw an assertive Saudi Arabia slam Canada with a volley of diplomatic and economic punches which left Canada reeling and a trifle stunned.

They expelled the Canadian Ambassador, recalled their’s, ordered 15000 college and university students and 900 medical students and doctors to leave Canada by September.

They announced they won’t buy Canadian wheat and barley, and also stopped direct airline flights to Toronto.

But they stopped short of halting oil exports to Canada and cancelling a $15 Billion light armoured vehicles deal. Two actions which would have had far more serious economic impact on Saudi Arabia then the other actions they announced.

MBS may appear impetuous and reckless which he is, in my opinion, but he’s also pretty smart as well, when it comes to money!

The Saudis have demanded nothing short of a full and unqualified apology from Canada for “…..interfering in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia….”

And all this because of an ill thought through tweet by the Canadian Foreign office on the arrest of Samar Badawi, sister of the already arrested and convicted Saudi Blogger and human rights activist, Raif Badawi.

The world’s silence was deafening!

The so-called human rights leaders, the crocodile and hypocritical tear shedding USA and UK, asked Canada to clean up their own mess.

Germany and Sweden, still smarting from Saudi knuckle raps in 2015 and 2017, offered no comment. The EU requested “more information” which really means “Sorry, Saudis, we have to do it for the sake of form, but kindly ignore”

Egypt, UAE and Pakistan announced support.

Pakistan’s stance perhaps the most surprising, indicating the emerging influence Saudi Arabia has again begun to exercise on us, which had considerably waned given our neutral positions on Syria, Iran and Yemen. They likely arm twisted and demanded this statement, in exchange for financial favors to follow.

Pakistan readily obliged given our dire economic condition and our desperation for financial help.

This position, will, in my view, come to haunt us tomorrow when we condemn human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir or Assam or Myanmar or on Palestinians in Israeli occupied territories.

Smugly, I can then foresee India and Israel turning around and telling us to shut up and “stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries”.

Whatever our compulsions and whoever the architect, this was a stupid and ill thought through decision!

The three calls from King Salman and Crown Prince MBS to PM elect Imran Khan, and the invitation to visit Saudi Arabia, all within the space of a week are also unprecedented!

But this piece isn’t about the Canadian Saudi dispute but more trying to understand what’s happening in the Kingdom!

So what’s going on in Saudi Arabia?

Kamran Bokhari, Vice President at Center for Global Policy, a Washington-based research and policy think tank and author of Political Islam in the age of Democratization, believes that since MBS’s taking over as Crown Prince in 2017, and effectively the reins of Saudi Arabia, a massive sea change has taken place in their internal traditional power structures and their foreign policy.

For example the 90-year-old symbiotic and close relationship between the Saudi State and the Religious Clergy has ended.

He believes that the power and influence of the ultra conservative Wahabi Clergy was highly overrated to begin with, and today, MBS has easily managed to defang them by either buying them off, browbeating them into submission and in some cases putting the very few who didn’t toe his line, behind bars.

There’s also a common view amongst young Saudis, that MBS is as much a conservative Wahabi or traditional Muslim as is Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, an Iranian Shia!

MBS’s secular outlook is driving his desire to purge Saudi society of its centuries old baggage of religious conservatism and obscurantism and open it to modernization.

But, and here is where the problem lies, at the same time, he wants total and unquestionable power and autocratic control and absolutely no political dissent.

This approach of modernization and religious secularism endears him to a large segment of the 60% Saudi youth of both genders, his main constituency. Hence the widely welcomed curbs on the activities of the religious police, the limitations and restrictions on issuing religious Fatwas and the permission to women to drive cars.

But to retain total power, he realizes that the traditional power sharing structure with other members of the Royal family and power centers in the country would always pose an existential danger to his authority and writ!

Hence in one extremely risky but daring move, he imprisoned thousands of the very rich and powerful from within and without the Royal circle for several weeks, and defanged them by taking away their most lethal weapons, their wealth and their positions in government.

He must have surmised that as long they had wealth and political power, the Royals and other powerful people would continue to be a threat. By taking away their wealth and political clout, he believes he’s neutralized or minimised this threat.

Externally, he’s cleverly allied himself to Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel to forestall any serious external pressures and threats.

This alignment gave him the space to play havoc with hapless Yemen, launch a political and economic boycott of Qatar, kick Canada in the shins, and assert Saudi Arabia’s new-found independance of no longer being a USA appendage, but an emerging regional power and partner.

A partner which, he thinks, will look after US interests and by proxy, Israel interests, as a regional policeman, especially in the context of Iran, Syria, Iraq and perhaps even Afghanistan.

The above makes sense to him, as the USA attempts to exit from very expensive operations in the Region, such as in Afghanistan, a $45 Billion hole. MBS believes this is the time to assert Saudi credentials as a regional power. The last more significant now given the serious disputes between Turkey and USA.

Easier said then done!

So who is MBS? This is how I read him!

He’s first and foremost a complete autocrat, wanting total and absolute power like a Kim Jong un of North Korea.

He’s secondly a Saudi, wanting to modernize the country but in his own way and style, much like the opening up of China by the Chinese Communist leadership and harshly stamping out any dissent by activists like Rauf and Samar Badawi, who can potentially snowball a tiny movement into a major political reform movement in which he is not a player!

Third, he’s an ambitious Arab nationalist, wanting to dominate the Region vying against Iranian or Turkish or even Pakistani, domination and influence.

And last and definitely the least, he’s a secular, indifferent Muslim who doesn’t really care a flying frog about religion or Muslim Unity or the so-called mirage of the Ummah, a daily dream of many simple Pakistanis!

So the big question is?

Will he succeed in his objectives in modernizing Saudi Arabia, becoming a dominant regional player and simultaneously retaining absolute and total control of the country?

I think he will partially succeed in opening up the country to modernization but not at the pace and manner he would want. A genie or movement once let loose no longer listens to its master and takes a life of their own. I don’t think he will be able to manage or control this “guided modernization”!

On becoming the Regional Policeman, the environment is even harsher!

His support from a more inward looking USA will no longer be a long-term guarantee. And may become even more questionable if Trump doesn’t win a second term.

The Turkish-USA divide, while seemingly an opportunity for MBS’s ambitions will create more instability as the battle heats up and as the big boys, Russia and China also step into the fray.

A post USA withdrawal Afghanistan conjures up several nightmare scenarios of the Warlordism of the 90’s or even Balkanization of the country but most likely the collapse of the Ghani government.

In any of these scenarious, Saudi Arabia has much less influence in Afghanistan then say, Pakistan and their arch-enemy, Iran.

So pretty much, no dice here.

And as we are seeing they will not be able to exercise any influence over an increasingly assertive Assad ruled Syria, now silently supported by the US, fearing a return of the Daesh phenomenon and their alliance with the Kurds, as well as a much more stable Iraq.

And finally closer to home in Pakistan.

Here we have a PM elect like Imran who unlike Nawaz, owes no personal loyalty or obligation to them, has no financial interests at stake in the Kingdom, and importantly has publicly stated to take a neutral policy in inter regional disputes and act as a mediator!

Given all this and their extremely limited military clout, despite their modern weaponry but poor training and small size, I don’t think his dream of being a regional Arab power will come true.

But he may get some short-term traction as he continues to exercise his economic clout, and for want of a better word, economic blackmail as used against Qatar and Canada, and silently against the Europeans and now becoming more visible in our case as well.

This clout becomes more potent given the recently imposed US sanctions on Iran and US tariffs on Turkey!

Internally, he will continue his path to modernization, which is quite the Catch-22 for him!

The more he modernizes Saudi society and “we are open for business” the stronger will be the demand by people for even more reform and more rights, especially given the large number of Saudis educated in Western Universities and the vibrant and extensive use of social media, especially Twitter in the Kingdom.

This will, in my opinion, set in motion harsher repressive measures by him to stamp out such activism and here is where I fear, the proverbial tipping point will happen.

Either towards a much more open society or leading towards an internal implosion.

If the former than its great for everybody, except MBS, unless he morphs his role into a Constitutional Monarchy. This seems unlikely given his style and character and autocratism!

The latter is a very real possibility given the presence of a large number of highly militant elements of the DAESH ilk stepping in and taking advantage of the chaos.

This, in my opinion, will be a far more serious nightmare scenario than any we have seen unfolding in the Middle East, thus far!

Young MBS must remember that controlled change or controlled chaos, has never succeeded! He will become a victim of his own change! And there’s no turning back now, as he rides the Saudi Tiger!

And Pakistan?

While we must retain our close ties and relations with the Saudi state, we must closely and privately work with MBS to ensure he takes measures which don’t implode Saudi society, resulting in its horrifying consequences for the Region and Pakistan.

We must caution and advise him against any further foolhardy military adventurism in the region, or exacerbate existing ones. More importantly, urge him to pull back and stop where they are involved, such as Yemen. It’s here where we can play a very effective mediation role!

We must not take or be seen taking sides and or partisan positions in regional disputes or get drawn into major military arrangements with Saudi Arabia or any other country in exchange for money.

And it will truly be a crowning glory for Pakistan if we can bring Iran and Saudi Arabia closer and to the negotiating table!

As the current Army Chief, General Bajwa stated in a conference in Germany in February 2018, with reference to regional conflicts:

“……… the Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979…..”

Let not any myopic policies be adopted today!

Imran and Pakistan have to walk a very tight rope with great care, keeping our long-term national interests, paramount!

The three calls from the King and the Crown Prince and those from the Iranian President must be seen in this context as well !

Pakistan must not punch above its weight, but work for peace all around, including with India!

More later, on options with India!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

The General’s Visit to the Senate!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

The General came, presented, answered questions and left. The questions were petty. As petty as the people who asked them.

The General’s briefings were detailed and deeply insightful with a message. Kindly get your act together.

His briefing to the Senate is being termed as a triumph for democracy and elevates its Chairman Raza Rabbani to the status of a near god and as the “true conscience” of Parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. Here’s my view about this so called great democratic pretender and conscience keeper.

 How can we call this elitist, egotistical, pretentious, hypocritical person the “conscience” of parliamentary democracy?
A man, who smilingly and obsequiously,  twiddles his thumb, standing slavishly behind a twenty something idiotic twit, and calls him his party leader?
A man who will condone the corruption, rape, loot and plunder of Asif Zardari and his sister and his cronies and continue to accept him as his party leader?
A man who will allow dynastic rule in the PPP and not oppose it so he can conveniently enjoy the perks and privileges and power of office?
A man who has had it good cannot be what people say he is. This is not being a conscience keeper of Parliamentary democracy. It is being a gravy train beneficiary and a boot licker, leeching off a corrupt system and enjoying it’s power, perks and privileges.
Either we need to redefine parliamentary democracy or conscience to justify these accolades to the Senate Chairman.
Raza Rabbani and  people like him are even more dangerous because they enrobe themselves in the holy garb of democratic pretenders and many good and well meaning people fall for these wolves in sheep clothing.
He and all those like him are hypocrites who have supported a putrid, decayed, morally and financially corrupt order and system.
If this is our definition of a representative  democratic order, then may we be saved from this stinking system and from painting these crooks as honourable people.
The quicker these people are dead and buried along with this terrible system they represent and perpetuate, the better for Pakistan.
-Haider Mehdi

Continue reading “The General’s Visit to the Senate!”

Trumpistan! The Trumpeter’s policy on Afghanistan is really their Policy on China.

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

My late father, Col S.G. Mehdi M.C, would oft say. “Understanding a country’s history, especially events in the recent past and a Map is all one needs to understand their national interests, strategies and tactics.

The USA has no intentions of leaving Afghanistan ever unless it’s like the last soldier clinging onto a helicopter lifting off from the rooftop of the USA embassy in Saigon. This is a bold assessment based on what drives their national interests.

Picture this.  In the last 30 years the USA, both Democrat and Republican administrations, have  waged 13 wars, intervened in over 100 countries, spent over $14 Trillion, of this $1 Trillion alone in Afghanistan and caused 3 million deaths.  2 million in Afghanistan and 1 million in Iraq. Their own casualties. Barely 7000 of their own.  A ratio of 1 to 400. Does this look like a country which will leave Afghanistan?

Why does the USA do this? Why do they wage war all over the world? To answer this in detail is a subject for another time, but for the time being, sufficeth to say that global economic domination is the overriding national interest driven by its most dominant sector, the defense establishment. Annually, the USA spends more money on military spending than next 10 countries combined.  Their current 2018 defense budget is $652 billion. The combined military budgets of the next 10 countries ($660 Billion).

Here are the current defence spending bills for the top 11 countries.
1. USA – $652 Billion ($885 billion if veterans, civil defence and military aid included).
2. China – $215 Billion.
3. Russia – $69 Billion
4. Saudi Arabia $64 Billion.
5. India – $56 Billion.
6. France – $56 Billion.
7. UK – $48 Billion.
8. Japan – $46 Billion.
9. Germany – $41 Billion.
10. South Korea – $37 Billion.
11. Italy – $28 Billion

For context, Pakistan’s defence budget for 2017 is about $9 Billion.

The total current annual global military expenditure is nearly $1.7 trillion ($1,7000,000,000,000) and the USA has a whopping 50% share of global defence expenditure.  America has been in an uninterrupted cycle of war for nearly 80 years since the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. Today, inarguably, it is the biggest, the most powerful, and the most violent war mongering nation on the planet.  And this is the country Pakistan faces as an adversary in Afghanistan and the Region.

But and it’s a happy but. They have suffered defeats in Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. Because even if you’re the world’s mightiest military machine on ground, air and sea with the most sophisticated munitions, you still cannot defeat a determined population defending their homelands. You can blow up the whole country but you can’t blow up their ideologies and passion to defend themselves and so it is with the Afghans. And this the USA understands.

So then why will the USA not work towards a peaceful resolution to Afghanistan’s seemingly intractable problem, knowing that they cannot be defeated into submission?

Why should Trump say that the US objective in Afghanistan is not “nation building again but killing terrorists”? Knowing that in 16 years of war and with a 130,000 US troops they could not do it.

The answer – China’s race towards Global economic leadership.

According to Steve Bannon, the former Chief White House Strategist, a role especially created for him and even today considered by many Washington insiders to be Trump’s closest political advisor, China is the biggest threat to USA’ world domination.

He believes China, if not checked by the USA, will become in the next 10 to 15 years the world’s pre-eminent and dominant economic power, ahead of the USA.  And this is what the USA fears most!

Also militarily, while USA defence expenditures have remained fairly constant in the $600 billion to $650 billion range in the last 10 years, with increases above $700 Billion from 2009 to 2012, China more than doubled its military budget from about $100 Billion to $215 billion today.  And if China continues to increase its military budget at the same rate, not only will they gallop ahead of the USA economically, but be very close to matching the US military might.
So stopping China’s economic outreach is the overriding USA strategic objective and thereby its military prowess as well.

The question is how will the USA attempt to do that and the answer lies in OBOR – China’s One Belt, One Road program, Its most ambitious economic initiative to date. An estimated spend of $5 Trillion across 64 countries in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe, is what keeps the USA awake at night. And OBOR’s three major flagship projects are the $46 billion CPEC, China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a 3,000km high-speed railway connecting China and Singapore, and gas pipelines across central Asia.

USA military presence in Afghanistan provides them the perfect staging ground and opportunity to attempt to disrupt, scuttle and eventually destroy CPEC and thereby significantly dent China’s OBOR strategy.  It’s really as simple as that.

The USA are not there to kill the Taliban as said the Trumpeter, but will be happy to, wherever and whenever they can find them. And simultaneously trying to negotiate mineral mining rights for the estimated $3 Trillion in precious metals and minerals in Afghanistan.

They have no desire to turn Afghanistan into a peaceful country at peace with its neighbours, because then Afghanistan will become an essential extension of OBOR and CPEC.

They have no desire to talk peace with the Taliban and to form an inclusive government of all warring groups, because then it will mean a China and Pakistan friendly Afghanistan.

They know that no “safe havens” exist in Pakistan anymore, given that nearly 50% of Afghanistan is under Taliban control and that, today, they have not been able to find a single Taliban training camp inside Pakistan.  A challenge the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen. Bajwa threw to Gen. Nicholson and all visiting US military and civilian leaders who trooped in recently, to find such a camp, using all their sophisticated wizardry and drones.

They are not here to ensure that terrorists do not attack America because that is now near nigh impossible.  They know that the Taliban have agreed to all conditions to participate in Afghan reconciliation, including accepting the Ghani government, laying down arms, participating in free and fair elections, except one proviso.  The USA must leave Afghanistan.  And this they cannot.

They know that Pakistan has played an extremely constructive and positive role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, but that is not their intent. They know that Pakistan and its Army are no longer playing a “double game” if one can call looking after one’s own interest, that.  And admittedly this part of our strategy and policy was handled extremely ham handedly in the past.  But then hindsight is always 20/20.

But for the USA to acknowledge that the Taliban want peace.  To acknowledge that Pakistan also wants a peaceful Afghanistan. To acknowledge that all countries in the region, China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran, except India, want a stable Afghanistan is totally contrary to their goals of defeating China.

To accept this means giving China a free hand in the Region and its march towards global domination.

To accept it means that they can no longer feed US and Global public opinion with the narrative that Pakistan is fermenting trouble in Afghanistan and hence the need for US troops to keep Afghanistan “stable and safe”.

To acknowledge full Taliban participation in a peaceful reconciliation of Afghanistan means that a future Afghan government will look east towards Pakistan and China and not west towards the USA. Hence whenever there are serious moves forward to bring the Taliban to the table their leader is bumped off.

And it serves President Ghani of Afghanistan to echo the USA narrative of a Pakistan attempting to destabilize Afghanistan, so they can remain in power and not admit the abject failures to reconcile the warring elements

It is in this context that we must evaluate and analyse Trumpistan as a USA strategy, laden with horrifying consequences to defeat China.  Pakistan is thus in their cross hairs because of CPEC.  The tragedy is that the USA will not succeed in this attempt but in trying to achieve their goals they will wreak havoc on Pakistan.

And this where they are currently out Trumped! How do they get back Pakistan into their sphere and out of China’s grasp? How do they scuttle the CPEC project? And lurking as a close second is their other strategic objective which is totally Pakistan centric. How do they de-nuclearize Pakistan, seen as a potential and catastrophic threat to them, India and Israel?  So good old Pakistan has a handful to deal with and is likely in for a period of serious turmoil and instability.

It is then we understand the prime reason behind the very close USA and India partnership with common and aligned objectives.  Defeat China and de-nuclearize Pakistan.

It is then easy to see why Baluchistan is in turmoil, with India using its Afghan and Iran ingress to attack CPEC.

Iran’s geo-political interests are today closely aligned to China, Pakistan, Russia and for a peaceful Afghanistan.  Iran must realise that allowing India any further ingress into Iran will only be counter productive. Their interests lie in de-linking their relationship with India and reaching out to Pakistan and becoming close friends as they had been in the past.  But the sectarian regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia has been a major factor in stopping this re-conciliation. But now with the Saudi influence in Pakistan fading, the time is opportune for Pakistan and Iran to reconcile and adopt a common strategy to counter the USA threat.

In my view the Saudi Arabia as we know it now, is more a question of when and not if. As are the other Gulf states, especially the UAE.  As is now fairly common knowledge that the UAE has been actively attempting to sabotage the Gwadar port because it directly impacts their trade lifeline and free ports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The USA actively supported by India and with help from the Afghan government, will take full advantage of Pakistan’s current political turmoil to instigate even greater instability and violence.  One can expect them to attack our sectarian, religious, social, ethnic and, provincial fault lines to create unrest and armed conflict.

They will try and bring Pakistan to its knees, economically and then ask for their pound of flesh.

They will unleash Quislings like Husain Haqqani as the poster insider of Pakistan establishment and use his invective and poison to feed US public opinion. It is now easy to connect the dots and understand why a two bit hustler, albeit an intelligent two bit hustler like Husain Haqqani says and writes what what he does.  He should be ignored and shunned and castaway in the garbage heap of history as another who sold his soul!

They will also unleash other similar  moles, hidden deep inside our political, civil and military organizations and our media to create turmoil.

We are our own worst enemies.

I don’t think the US will militarily attack Pakistan. Some drone attacks, certainly.  But will do everything to destabilize us politically and destroy us economically.

Our best bet is a strong government and a regional pact between China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran. I think China has too much at stake to let us drift, despite our own best efforts to destroy ourselves. I think China may be able to prevail upon Ghani that the USA bear hug will be their death.

India will up the ante. Europe will not fall for the American narrative. Turkey as well. So lots in our favour except our own desire to commit suicide. Lots of moving parts.

And I can go as far as to hazard that they will attempt to create circumstances of such turmoil and massive civil unrest with the hope that the Army will take over and hoping, as in the past with Zia and Musharraf before to buy off the new strongman!

This is a ploy and a trap our Army and Gen. Bajwa must not fall for and into. They will use you and Pakistan and discard you once the night is over.  They will destroy the country and de-nuclearize us and leave us at the mercy of the dogs of India!

Beware the Greeks bearing gifts!

-Syed Haider Raza Mehdi