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Founding Editor view on Aerospace Special Issue

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There is a game of serious brinkmanship underway between Pakistan and the United States of America. Actually the game has been started by Pakistan and the US willy-nilly has to partake in it. Because that is the peculiar nature of the game and since it involves countless lives and at least three countries. All of it revolves around the shape and structure of a post troop withdrawal Afghanistan.

The US is determined that the hapless country not fall into extremist hands all over again and allow another Al Qaeda type base to appear in its ungoverned lands. Pakistan is determined that it be part of the final settlement and those it considers its proxies feature in the governing set-up. And Afghanistan is determined to do things its own way, as it suits the country and its people. That’s a fair call, but the problems begin when there are those who remain determined to impose their own idiosyncratic worldview, by the barrel of the gun.

Such forces are being supported by the Inter Services Intelligence says the outgoing US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Adm Mike Mullen. A number of senior Cabinet and official members of the US government have supported him in this allegation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reportedly told her Pakistani counterpart that the country is fast losing friends in Washington. The implication being that no longer are US officials willing to turn the eye when the ISI continues to remain in mischief making mode. All of this is the outcome of the 13 September attack on the US Embassy and surrounding offices in Kabul. The attack lasted 22 hours before it was finally over. Audacious by any stretch of imagination. But this has been the pattern over the last few years in Kabul, where the world’s focus remains wedded. Beginning with the ghastly attack on the Indian Embassy in 2008, there has been a spate of such incidents in Kabul, the deadliest ones of course restricted to Indian establishments. Even after the first embassy attack there were murmurs in the US that the ISI was in the know of things. But now the cat is out of the bag, so to say, since the target was explicitly American.

The Haqqani network has been accused for the attack, just as it had been for the Indian Embassy one. This is one amongst many groups that can quite easily be called the Taliban, for they all appeal to similarly nihilistic ideologies and seek a seat on the Afghan high table through similar violent means. There is little to differentiate between the groups other than the names, or possibly tribal or clan subscriptions. And all of them are firmly based in territory that flies the Pakistani flag and under the influence of the ISI. Now as the end game nears Pakistan is becoming more defiant in its actions and even daring the US to take further steps. All of it driven by a belief that the US needs Pakistan as much as Pakistan needs the US. Forgetting for a moment that needs are never permanent, but friends and interests are. And in Afghanistan’s case it is clear where the friends are and what their interests. Pakistan seems to have lost its way looking for Kabul. It needs to find itself first before it can find its way out of the mess. None of it portends well for the near future.



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