The endgame is nigh

General Kayani’s moves suggest that he sees the final lap

President Barack Obama gave his Af-Pak speech at West Point on December 1st, 2009 where he announced his intention “to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.” General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani signaled his policy by the end that month when a suicide bomber attacked a CIA facility at Khost.

Mr Obama’s speech might have triggered the Pakistani military-jihadi complex into implementing its endgame strategy. Pakistani actions over the last three months suggest that it is both attempting to hasten the US exit from Afghanistan and neutralising the other regional actors—Iran and India—which might oppose a pro-Pakistan post-US arrangement in Kabul. From the attack on the CIA at Khost; to the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi; to the terrorist attack at German Bakery in Pune; to the raid on Kabul city centre; to the rendition of Abdolmalek Rigi to Iran; and most recently, the attack on Indian officials at Kabul, General Kayani & Co have executed their moves masterfully.

Mullah Baradar was not only a ‘moderate’ among the Quetta Shura Taliban, but also actually negotiating with the United States and the Karzai government, against the wishes of the ISI. ‘Capturing’ him not only allowed Pakistan to undermine the US-Afghan political initiative but also allowed General Kayani to be seen as arresting a ‘high-ranking Taliban leader’. This was a brilliant move—Washington had to praise Pakistan even after receiving a kick below the belt. It was, nevertheless, a significant setback for independent US political efforts in Afghanistan. It meant that the United States relies a little more on Pakistan to act as the, well, interlocutor with the Taliban.

Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of a Iranian-Baloch-Sunni terrorist organisation called Jundallah, was almost certainly a CIA asset. The Iranian government has accused him of both being a US agent and of having links with al-Qaeda. Both these charges are perhaps true—contradictory as they might seem. The ISI allowed him to operate from Pakistani territory, for the CIA, against Iran for several years. But after India, Iran and Russia—whose interests were ignored at the London conference on the future of Afghanistan—started coming together, the ISI played the CIA out and handed him over to Iran. The United States can’t complain too loudly, after all, like Mullah Baradar, hasn’t Pakistan just acted against a terrorist with links to al-Qaeda?

(There was the little issue of how to hand Rigi over without setting a precedent that New Delhi might exploit—so an elaborate drama became necessary)

With Iran it was mollification. With India it is aggression. The attack on Indian officials in Kabul is intended to scare India out of Afghanistan. Even as the Pakistani military-jihadi complex seeks to hasten US military withdrawal, it is working towards installing its proxies into the corridors of power in Kabul. It will allow President Karzai to remain in office just long enough to provide a political cover for the United States—but before long, a pro-Pakistan regime will take his place.

Is General Kayani overplaying his hand? Maybe. But bringing the situation to a head before 2011 works to Pakistan’s advantage.

Will the United States watch silently as the Pakistani military-jihadi complex destroys its assets and—brazenly, if cleverly—frustrates its designs? Will the vaunted COIN campaign work fast enough? Will the United States intensify its covert war inside Pakistan to counter General Kayani’s moves? Let’s see.

7 thoughts on “The endgame is nigh”

  1. Wow! U gotta hand it to them! Then what exactly has changed in the post 9/11 scenario? Its back to the same game again then come 2011.
    In other words, a lost decade for india?

  2. Kayani is due to retire in Nov 2010. Wonder if all this is part of ensuring that the choice of his successor by Zardari is a fait-accompli

  3. Obama declaring the July 2011 withdrawal proved his Naivety then and more so in retrospect now and proved to be a big morale booster for Pak Army. America seems more defeatist than even India. India’s only choice is to first call Pakistan’s bluff by taking them to the brink of war by raising the cost of their misadventures. Otherwise they will keep attacking and will further raise the Water bogey into major campaign along with Kashmir.

  4. Would be interesting to further unpack the phrase “With Iran it was mollification. With India it is aggression.”

    Very interesting perspective and analysis. Probably a bit too much assume Rigi is a CIA “asset”, whatever that means. Does not weaken the analysis.

    I would assume India’s interest here is to keep the Karzai government strong. Does that extend to having the US keep a more permanent base in Afghanistan? Is there anything that India can do to move that piece forward (logistics, troops, etc). Also ignores the budget pressure Obama will face from the DOD who needs a war in Afghanistan to justify continuing high investments in troops and equipment.

  5. Good article. The last three questions are very pertinent.

    But I have one question with the narrative. Money. Wouldn’t it be in Pak’s interest if US stays in Afg longer. Pak does not do much except maybe handing in or killing some high value targets once in a while. In essence the status quo continues. That way they will continue to milk the US cash cow and get their aid money. However if US leaves lock, stock and barrel they wouldn’t be getting this money!

    In any case Mr. Kiyani will find it very difficult to take Afg back to the 90s. There are too many players with interests in Afg. Plus Karzai and Afg govt of today are much stronger than in the 90s. Also if Kayani tries to put too much pressure on these Taleban groups they mite even go against PA and ISI!

  6. That would leave MJC with only one natural enemy, india, i hope our maibaps are aware.

  7. Will the United States watch silently as the Pakistani military-jihadi complex destroys its assets and—brazenly, if cleverly—frustrates its designs? Will the vaunted COIN campaign work fast enough? Will the United States intensify its covert war inside Pakistan to counter General Kayani’s moves? Let’s see.

    Well ,after the London Conference, after the US Defense Sec Gates “asking” India to resume its monologue with Pakistan, and after Holbrooke doing his best to cover ISI’s ass in the German Bakery blast and after India failed to even mention Hafiz Saeed’s name in the recent “talks”, these questions seem to be moot.

    Obama declaring the July 2011 withdrawal proved his Naivety then and more so in retrospect now and proved to be a big morale booster for Pak Army. America seems more defeatist than even India.
    He was’nt “naive” – he WANTS to leave AfPak at the earliest. The current “surge” is the last American effort at leaving AfPak with some face.

    In the absence of a real Afghan Army and Police that can stand up and fight for itself (which has not happened in the last decade), the US is now trying to install a pro Pakistan regime in Afghanistan and bribe the Pakis to “influence the Taliban” into not using Afghan territory for attacking them again like they did on 9/11.

    All that India can do is mutter and stammer at how the US should not be providing high tech weapons to Pakis in the name of “fighting terror” – or how the Pakistan’s should “disband terrorist camps” blah blah..

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