Jalaluddin Haqqani has become one of the most feared ‘pawns’ in the chess game occurring along the Pak-Afghan border. In effect, Haqqani moves more like a bishop in employing a seasoned offensive strategy that he has perfected during the course of the last 30 years. Calculated. Defined. Never in the same direction. In warding off counter-attacks by U.S. drones, it seems that the time elapsed favours Haqqani and his network in holding the upper-hand and perhaps poising them for victory.
Before Islam and sharia prevail from Kabul to Kiribati, remember that al-Qaeda, Haqqani and more broadly, Islamic militants, do not celebrate victory the same way Westerners do. A long drawn out affair or even defeat at the hands of the enemy is sometimes considered a success. In surveying Afghanistan’s recent history, aptly put by author Seth Jones in his book, In the Graveyard of Empires, the country is no stranger to stalemates, frustrating Britain, the once mighty Soviet empire, and now the U.S. Soon entering its 11th year, the invasion of Afghanistan appears to be exactly what Haqqani and Co. wanted.
But to put history in the past — so that we don’t dare repeat it — on Sept. 15, The New York Times ran with a story from the Associated Press on the latest drone attacks in Dargah Mandi, North Waziristan. For what good the most sophisticated and accurate GPS system performed on this particularly occasion, 12 people were killed. Civilians, including women and children were most likely included in the body count.
With the two most active news bureaus in the world having devoted a total of one line to the incident, there is no parallel to 18 U.S. servicemen dying in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. A best-selling reportage book, action film and hundreds of news analyses were written on up until then, an unknown part of the world. For emphasis, ‘Mog’ took place before the advent of blogs, Twitter and well, the widespread use of the Internet.
The point seems to be that some lives are worth more than others. Call them ‘enemy combatants’ or in the art of warfare ‘collateral damage’, whatever the verbiage, those in power need to be held accountable. Certainly in the past U.S. administration it wasn’t such a bad idea to indict Alberto Gonzales and his Justice cronies, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. I’m positive that the docket would be happy to schedule any of these cowards to appear before the International Criminal Court. But I digress.
Those currently thinking that snuffing out Jalaluddin Haqqani in a field of battle perhaps comparable only to the labyrinthine Kashmir, are sadly mistaken. When one falls, four more come forward, and in the elder Haqqani’s case, there is already an apt pupil, his son and predecessor in waiting, Sirajuddin Haqqani.
With all the great military minds at Special Ops Command, who are leading the accompanying raids, one would think that after more than a decade of trying to seal off the region where bin Laden is thought to still be hiding, the strategy does not work. The militants are not being forced to choose between a rock (Pakistan) and a hard place (Afghanistan), because these warriors have such a territorial advantage over their counterparts. For an excruciatingly detailed description of the formidable mujahideen machine’s power structure and terrain, see Robert Fisk’s three interviews with bin Laden in his epic, The Great War for Civilisation. What should be apparent to any reader is the intricate security net that surrounds bin Laden. The description takes on a profound meaning, in one-word, breathtaking. Fisk, for his troubles, nearly perishes after being beaten and attacked within proximity of his subject matter. Fisk is shown a glimpse of their world and understands that the term ‘home field advantage’ is unmistakeably true. The mujahideen don’t lose. They don’t give up. There is no end to the carnage and bloodshed. For devout Muslims, all that is left to be decided is when the Hidden Imam will appear, and in the mean time where the caliph should reign.
Protests regarding the drone attacks by the Pakistani people, coupled with innately-skilled mujahideen, and their mantra of loving death more than life all states that there really is no ‘cut and run’ or ‘quick-fix solution’ for the U.S. Dare I posit that perhaps the best the Americans can hope for is to capitulate and retard the enormous sacrifice of manpower and resources.
Of all people, the self-proclaimed great mediator of the African states, Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi, implored his followers to cries of “Intihar! Intihar!” In 2001, in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing rulings, Qadhafi said it was better to commit suicide (or Intihar in Arabic) than be humiliated or dishonoured. In Neil MacFarquhar’s The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You A Happy Birthday, the author says, “Insulting the dignity of Arabs is a crowning insult, dignity being one essential value, and trying to placate this culture of shame has been the bane of many a Western official”.
It is well known that bin Laden’s bodyguards carry a silver bullet and orders to kill him rather than be taken alive. Bin Laden’s network of al-Qaeda, Haqqani included, feel the same way, and perhaps these drone attacks, this fruitless, unending and relentless pursuit of men along the border is a crowning insult. This is what the Pakistani people have recognized – we are worth less than you. This is what Haqqani has understood, and he is doing everything in his power to end this game of speed chess with a checkmate.