Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Invasion of Waziristan

Press TV has conducted an interview with Liaquat Ali Khan, law professor at Washburn University from Kansas, to discuss why the Pakistani government has decided to launch an offensive against Taliban militants in the country’s northwest.
What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Another question that a lot of people are asking is why did Pakistan decide to launch a war on the militants when it previously distinguished between “good and bad militants” and engaged in talks with them?     
Khan: There are several factors. I don’t think there is only one reason why the Pakistani armed forces decided to go into North Waziristan. I think the foremost is the pressure from the United States and other international forces to attack the resistant forces in North Waziristan which are also fighting the Americans on the other side of the border.

I think the United States has been demanding for last many years that the armed forces, the pressure on the eastern side so that the life becomes somewhat easier for the United States in Afghanistan. So, that was one reason that was in the background.

But the more immediate reason was some very high-valued attacks in Pakistan, for example, the attack on Karachi airport and then the shooting of the plane in Peshawar. So, it seems like there is a lot of pressure on the armed forces to do something both from the international side and now from the domestic side, so I think that is the reason they decided to go into the area and actually fight the people on the ground.

Press TV: In April 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, I am bringing again a quote here, “The US created Taliban and the abandoned Pakistan,” and Clinton acknowledged there that the US too had a share in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today. I’d like to hear your view about the US role in the creation of the Taliban. 
Khan: I think the United States would create any domestic groups that can fight the causes of the United States. I think the United States has done this in so many countries and they want to create some local groups which will fight alongside the United States. So, yes, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the United States wanted some local groups to fight the Soviets and that’s how the Taliban were created.
But the United States has also created a local group in Libya, in Syria. They are trying to create a local group even in Iran, though unsuccessfully. So, I think that’s a very favorite formula for the United States to create local groups that would fight the causes that the United States wants to advance. So, yes.

But now that these Taliban have turned against the United States and now they are called terrorists. They do terrorize, I mean, that’s a fact too.  

Press TV: Some analysts are saying that trying to distinguish in the region, not just in Pakistan, but also in Iraq, in Syria elsewhere between moderate fighters and the extremist fighters, the good Taliban, the bad Taliban etc. This is what’s creating the problem because it’s giving the excuse they say to the United States or its allies to give these groups funds, give these groups arms and that’s creating more chaos and unrest. Do you agree with that view?                                               
Khan: I think war is a very complex thing and when you are fighting a war, then you don’t divide the battlefield into black and white. You see the grey area and therefore if within the enemy group somebody can help you, you seek their help. So, I think the distinction between good enemy and bad enemy or good Taliban and bad Taliban, from a logistical viewpoint, from an operational viewpoint, that distinction might be useful.

But at the level of principle it seems like the issues are different. At the level of the principle, the first question is should the Pakistani armed forces invade its own people? And should it choose a policy under which many hundreds of thousands of people are displaced from their homes?

I think what bothers me is that Pakistanis never think that people living in Waziristan are actually Pakistanis. It is unlikely that Pakistan’s civilian or military governments would ever allow this many people to be displaced in Sindh or in Punjab or in any other provinces. It seems like the people living in Waziristan are the foreign nation. It seems like the foreign people. And therefore, it is so much easier if you define them as foreign people to invade them and to tolerate their displacement from their homes.

Press TV: How do you think the government should be treating this problem then, the problem of militants?

Khan: I think I am a great believer in negotiations.

Press TV: But has the government been negotiating for months now, I mean the reason for this was the Karachi attack, they said that these talks are getting nowhere. They are saying that has left them with no option but to go to war.

Khan: That’s true. I think just like war negotiations are never linear and they are never easy. I think we tend to expect that war is difficult but negotiations should be easy. I think negotiations can be very difficult and just like there are setbacks in a battlefield; similarly there are setbacks in negotiations.

So, if the negotiations fail temporarily ... that doesn’t mean you go to war. You keep on negotiating; you keep on engaging the people just like you keep on engaging the enemy in the battlefield even though you have lost the battle. It seems like the nations get very frustrated and very easily frustrated, if the negotiation don’t promptly produce some results, of course, the Taliban will not negotiate in good faith, neither was the Pakistani civilian government but that is part of the negotiation. So, once you say we are going to negotiate, setbacks are part of the negotiations.