Thursday, 21 November, 2019

Pakistan’s General Faiz Hameed Holds the Key to Trump’s Afghan Endgame


By  Robert Gallimore

President Trump is rightly taking credit for helping to end the war in Afghanistan.

He more than any American President is going to finally bring to a close this bloody, futile engagement. To keep it closed, U.S.-Pakistani relations must be strengthened and there is distance to be travelled by both.

Four years ago I sat opposite a genial British-educated Pakistani senior officer on a clear and fresh Islamabad morning discussing how Pakistan could address the West’s misinterpretations — some borne of ignorance, some deliberate — of Pakistan’s motivations and actions.

I somewhat tentatively approached the elephant in the room that was Usama Bin Laden’s discovery in Pakistan’s martial heartland.

I mooted that surely the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) had known and surely they had some role in his capture and the offence taken at SEAL boots on Pakistan land was entirely faux and for the consumption of an unruly segment of their own domestic audience.

The General’s response staggered me: “Of course we gave him to the Americans, everyone here knows that, they [USA] know that.”

My eyes lit up and for a second I felt that this was my moment where I would transition from soldier to ground-breaking journalist exposing the false narrative of a unilateral USA action.

My excitement was palpable and the General quickly dampened my fire with a witty play on Jane Austen’s most famous opening line: “It is a truth universally unacknowledged. It never will be. They must be seen to have got their man.”

I found this narrative thoroughly depressing and Pakistan’s acceptance of it almost more so.

I was therefore thrilled to see Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighting recently in an interview to Fox News not only Pakistan’s role in the capture of UBL but perhaps more importantly, the absence of American denunciations of the Prime Minister’s assertion of these facts.

My heart was lifted not only because I love Pakistan but I love the USA too and right now the USA needs a collaborative and most critically honest relationship with Pakistan to leave Afghanistan in an orderly and responsible manner. And that honesty must cover the present, future, and past.

If Trump’s extraction from Afghanistan is to work — and it will not be judged on how he gets out but what he leaves behind — he must have an intimate and trusting relationship with Pakistan’s security forces. This is a sine qua non.

Equally importantly the Pakistani security forces must be working toward the same end on their north-western border. And with the ISI under General Faiz’s invigorated leadership at their vanguard, it would appear that they very much are. There had been a long list of various brigands and quasi-terrorist groups that the Pakistani state had stated in all sincerity that they had intended to incarcerate in order to pacify both Pakistan and in turn southern Afghanistan but these aspirations have for a plethora of reasons stagnated into resourced intentions that were not anticipated to come to pass.

All has now changed under General Faiz, and in a flurry of activity nearly all are behind bars and awaiting trial: Jamat Dawa, Dawood Azhar, and Hafiz Saeed have grabbed the headlines but there are legion more. The ISI’s efficiency is nothing new but the accompanying transparency of these operations is and it is hugely refreshing.

There is often much criticism of the USA seeing international affairs through the paradigm of a Cowboy movie — usually from ever-critical elements of the western liberal press, the rest of the world knows it often is like that! — but here I would urge my former brothers in arms to do exactly that and look at what is going on in Pakistan as a Western: there is a new sheriff in town locking up the bad guys and his name is General Faiz.

How we leave Afghanistan matters to me: there are too many dead friends, too much love for the country, and too many of my beloved ANA still there for it not to. I served proudly with the United States Marine Corps and as our closest regional ally, the British and the Americans must understand Pakistan better for global security.

The late Senator John McCain came to bat for the Pakistanis in saying they had turned a tide and were fully fighting against terror.

So has recently Senator Lindsey Graham who played a big part in the Trump-Khan summit which featured General Faiz Hameed in the White House too.

Under Faiz’s watch the Pakistanis as acknowledged by President Trump last month are now helping the United States end their longest almost two-decade war in Afghanistan. At the same time, we owe it to the Afghans to not throw them into the Taliban’s mercy — and for this close coordination between the U.S. and the Pakistanis is key — a point emphasised by General Mattis when leaving his post of Secretary of Defence. For us to leave well Pakistan and the USA. For Trump’s achievement in Afghanistan to be an enduring one — just like the Operation’s name promised — the Snow Leopard and the Bald Eagle must acknowledge, honour and then embrace each other.

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