Spy’s eye: Trump’s war on terror
Apr 21 2017
The Nangarhar bombing should be seen as a resumption of the ‘war on terror’ that India supported
There is little doubt that Obama administration's tentative approach towards Afghanistan after the elimination of Osama bin Laden and the ambiguity of Pakistan's military establishment towards Islamic radicals, facilitated the consolidation of like-minded Al Qaeda-Taliban- ISIS conglomerate in Afghanistan. Some theorists projected a non-existent rivalry between ISIS and Al Qaeda, which possibly created a false comfort among the US strategists about the scene in Afghanistan. In reality the hold of Islamic radicals steadily increased in the Afghan-Pak belt as Pakistan pretending to be on the frontline in the 'war on terror' only hoodwinked the US by playing games about 'negotiations' with Taliban. Pakistan army devoted all its time to keeping up cross border terrorism in Kashmir valley to put down India. It also worked for gaining 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan encouraged by the fact that China would back Pakistan to the hilt in keeping India out of the frame in Afghanistan.
The Nangarhar bombing, as it signals a determination of the Trump administration not to abandon Afghanistan in an environ of increasing threat of Islamic radicals, should be seen as a resumption of the 'war on terror' that India had firmly supported with a legitimate expectation that the US would curb all Islamic militant groups operating out of Pakistan too. President Trump must realise that Pak military and ISI together, completely control their country's polity and that they should not be allowed to convert Pakistan into a breeder of Islamic extremism any further. American policy makers must understand that the radicals are digging in throughout the Pak- Afghan belt because the ISI-mentored militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad had been given a free play and allowed to create a domestic umbrella under which anti-US Islamic radicals were breaking new grounds. Unless something is done about this it will make it virtually impossible for the US to win the 'war on terror'.
Developments in the last few years firmly indicate that in the post-cold war era the world is heading towards a new kind of global warfare between the radical Islamic extremists carrying a faith-based motivation on one side and the US- led West upholding the cause of democratic republics, on the other. It is natural that India came on board with the US-led coalition in this war that was precipitated by 9/11.
Radical Islam carries the historical legacy of the Jehad launched by the Wahabis in the middle of the 19th century against the Western encroachment on the Muslim lands. This powerful faith-based offensive rooted in the belief that Muslims must go back to the uncompromising Islam of the 'pious Caliphs', is working for Al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIS. Their Jehad is an 'asymmetric' war in which they are able to use the terrorist instrument of suicide bombers on a fairly large scale.
American establishment must never forget that when George W Bush launched the 'war on terror', his twin strategy was to get the 'moderate' leadership of the Muslim world to join the fight against the Islamic radicals at home and to liberally fund these leaders for establishing democracy in their countries. Pakistan, which came on board with the US led coalition under coercion - much after India had joined in - has not measured up to that expectation because the Pak army and ISI had themselves installed Taliban-Al Qaeda combine in power in Afghanistan in 1996 and but for the compulsion of post-9/11situation, had no problem in dealing with radical Islam as an accepted part of Pakistan's religious spectrum.
Also, the US out of cold war geo-politics had given full support to the Pak promoted Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM) - the militant front of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and the Saudi-funded Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) who together were to lead the anti-Soviet armed campaign in Afghanistan. And now that Pak army is using these militant outfits for cross border terrorism against India and letting them create an environment of religious extremism all through Pakistan, US policy makers do not know what to do about it. Islamic radicals are now flourishing in Pakistan and extending their outreach to India as well. The US must shed the logic of making a distinction between Islamic radicals and other extremists patronised by friendly regimes of OIC like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The new faith- based global terror would not be defeated otherwise.
The 'war on terror' energised by Donald Trump should not get distracted by the baggage of cold war when Saddam Hussain, Nasser and Hafez al Assad - father of present Syrian President Bashar Assad - all Alawite secularists if not atheists tilting towards USSR - were brought down by the US-backed militant Islamists of Muslim Brotherhood and its successor - the Maudoodian Jamaat-e-Islami. The present Syrian President, who is anti-US, is being confronted by the US-supported Islamic rebels and not unsurprisingly is backed by President Putin of Russia. The ISIS of Sunni extremists, is independently conducting its anti-US war in the terror mode. Both China and Russia are trying to have a finger in the Afghan pie with the help of Pakistan and their advantage is that they can replicate the 'great game' of the cold war era without getting directly involved in the new global confrontation between the Islamic radicals and the US-led West.
The US has to get Pakistan to combat radical Islam at home and not collude with China or Russia in Afghan istan. India's obvious strategic option is to join up with US and Israel in dealing with Islamic extremism, counter all threats emanating from Sino-Pak alliance firmly and to objectively handle Russia in a manner that served our national interests. A new global scene is emerging and India's security and foreign policies must quickly shape up to cope with it on a long-term basis.
(The writer is a former Director, IB)