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VIEW: NATO BOOTS - A LETTER

PRINTED IN THE POST SEP 21, 2008

One of the mandates of our recently elected government was to annihilate Taliban sanctuaries; allowing NATO boots on the ground was also somewhere down the agenda.

It has not escaped notice that the ‘Boots’ have come on the heels of the new presidency. Their presence, confirms that Washington has given the green light to a controversial new strategy their media has been hinting at for months. A strategy that promises more action within Pakistani territory and a planned surge in Afghanistan makes their intentions perfectly clear. The war on terror has taken a crucial turn and there will be more where that came from. And though Pakistani leadership has been slow to react, statements from Pakistan’s military brass indicate that they not happy with this arrangement.

The Pak-Afghan border has been declared a new frontline by Washington, proving that perhaps authorisation or approval is no longer considered central to the partnership. While the new government prefers to stay on the fence regarding this issue, the armed forces are being asked if retaliation is an option. But how appropriate is it really, to raise such questions given that our alliance is still intact, and the terrorist network is at its most active?

Pakistan is not a signatory to the new agreement; it is therefore, unprepared to deal with the fallout of US-led incursions and could be backed into a possible confrontation with its partner. Needless to say, that would be bad. Yet, if a more robust intelligence sharing network kicks in, it would be Pakistan taking these actions, and there will be consequences – hopefully for the militants but possibly for some innocents. We are at war after all.

Ordinarily, coalition partners should not be concerned about border issues when they have a common objective and Former Ambassador Zafar Hilaly made a valid point that the enemy neither respects nor recognizes borders, and yet the nation quibbles about border violations. The fact that militancy found a willing stronghold within the tribal belt shows how easily these people surrendered their ‘sovereignty’ to the enemy.

Those who vow to defend our territorial integrity against the ‘Farangi’ invader forfeited the right when the first Taliban crossed over to Pakistan after 2001. But someone needs to clean up this mess and it is preferable to have Pakistan at the helm only because our national pride will not permit otherwise. If Pakistan can convince the Americans that they can sort out their side of the border, they must then convince this nation to let them.

Images Courtesy of: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3376/3188257024_42f51018bc.jpg

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