On New Year’s Day, the American President Donald Trump tweeted that despite giving claimed $33 billion aid to Pakistan, the South Asian country has provided only ‘lies and deceit’ and has provided sanctuary to various terror outfits. This tirade was part of a rhetoric which has been questioning the efforts of Pakistan’s contribution to Global War on Terror (GWOT) for past several years.
Following the tragic 9/11 attacks, the US decided to attack Afghanistan with the aim of eliminating Al-Qaeda (AQ), the terror group which was considered responsible for September 11 attacks. In order to prevent AQ from further use of Afghanistan as a base, the US also planned to overthrow the government of Afghan Taliban, who were in power since 1996.
Pakistan appeared as a frontline state in GWOT. During Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Pakistan provided basing and over-flight permission for the US-led coalition. It allowed the coalition forces to use its air bases/airfields in Dalbadin, Jacobabad, Kohat, Pasni, Shamsi and Zhob. On average, 400,000 litres of fuel per day had been provided to the US forces in addition to other services. In case of an emergency, the US was also permitted to land its planes anywhere in Pakistan.
For facilitating the launch of air operations into Afghanistan, Pakistan provided 2/3rd of its airspace as air corridor to the coalition forces. In doing so, Pakistan had to reschedule/redirect much of its commercial air traffic. According to Senator Mushahid Hussain, who is heading Senate Defence Committee, Pakistan allowed the coalition forces to undertake more than one million free overflights since 2001 to conduct counter-terrorism and other missions. Pakistan also allowed the US to install radar at three airfields, enabling the latter to cover Pakistan’s whole airspace.
In terms of naval facilities, Pakistan Navy (PN) provided landing facility to coalition ships at Pasni. To accommodate coalition navies, PN had to curtail its own training operations. Upto 100,000 gallons per day were used for various operations/sorties from Pasni. These operations were the largest amphibious operations that the Marine Corps had conducted since the Korean War.
Prior to increased attacks on NATO tankers, more than 75% of NATO supplies (200-250 containers/day on average) passed through Pakistan which included gas, food, military equipments, etc. Presently, supplies to Afghanistan are routed through Chaman and Torkham border crossings via Karachi seaports.
To stop the spillover of terrorists from Afghanistan, more than 150,000 army and para-military personnel were deployed along Afghan and Iranian borders. Consequently, more than 3,500 AQ members were arrested trying to escape into Pakistan.
Intelligence-sharing was another important component. Pakistan helped the US by providing the latter with information on terrorists and extremists in order to avert terrorist attacks and weaken their capabilities. In August 2006, intelligence information shared by Pakistan helped the UK authorities to avert the use of chemical explosives on a civil aircraft by terrorists. Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency ISI, helped in various phases of OEF. Since the start of GWOT, Pakistani security forces, in collaboration with CIA, have been able to kill and capture various AQ leaders and members.
The contributions of Pakistan during OEF were praised by then Commander of the US Central Command, Gen. Abizaid, by saying that ‘Pakistan has done more for the United States in the direct fight against Al Qaeda than any other country’. The US Departments of State and Defense also praised the unprecedented levels of cooperation afforded by Pakistan. In recognition of its efforts, Pakistan was declared as a ‘major non-NATO ally’ by the US in June 2004.
Apart from providing logistics and military support to GWOT, Pakistan also took other significant measures to curb terrorism. These steps include immigration control measures, reformation and regulation of madrassahs, action against the terrorist organizations by arresting and killing their leaders, banning terror outfits and regulation of mosques.
TTP was virtually in control of FATA and was influencing a larger part of KPK by 2008. More than 24,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives due to terrorism. The losses suffered by the economy amounts to more than $123 billion.
To flush out terrorists who managed to escape into tribal areas from Afghanistan, Pakistan security forces conducted several military operations since late 2001. The rise of TTP in late 2007, coupled with post-Lal Masjid Operation situation, resulted in an unprecedented increase of terror activities all across the country. TTP was virtually in control of FATA and was influencing a larger part of KPK by 2008. More than 24,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives due to terrorism. The losses suffered by the economy amounts to more than $123 billion. It was predicted that the country will become a failed state by 2015.
However, the state responded in tribal areas militarily to root out the physical infrastructure of terror outfits and to make that region free from terrorists. Since 2002, nearly 34,000 terrorists have been killed. Consequently, normalcy returned to the country. No physical infrastructure of terror outfits now exists in tribal areas, heinous crimes in Karachi have reduced by more than 90%. Despite fragile security situation, the insurgency in Balochistan is now marred by infightings and has resulted in surrendering of more than 2,800 separatists.
Pakistani efforts in uprooting terror outfits have been appreciated by several countries. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during the December 2015 Heart of Asia Conference, said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb is responsible for fleeing of terrorists from Pakistan. In March 2016, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon termed Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts as a ‘role model’ for the rest of the world.
Despite fighting the GWOT as a frontline state, several key American civil and military officials have not been much appreciative of Pakistani contributions and had always raised questions about the counter-terror measures taken by Islamabad.
The US did provide $33.4 billion but only $18.8 billion (only 56%) was the actual aid. The remaining $14.573 billion was service payments for providing logistical and operation support for the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan.
Apart from many reasons which create doubts about the seriousness of Pakistan to eliminate the menace of terrorism, Pakistani state is itself also responsible for creating a void by not well-informing the international community about the achievements it has gained in the GWOT and the sacrifices it has rendered for the betterment of the world. Despite suffering from economic losses of more than $123 billion, the American president incorrectly claimed of giving Pakistan $33 billion. The US did provide $33.4 billion but only $18.8 billion (only 56%) was the actual aid. The remaining $14.573 billion was service payments for providing logistical and operation support for the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan.
It is important for the Pakistani state to chalk out an effective diplomatic campaign so that the key global and regional powers become more appreciable of the counter-terror efforts of Pakistan and be informed about the sacrifices rendered by the people of Pakistan in defeating the scourge of terrorism from their soil. Similarly, various soft power measures are also needed to be taken to project a positive image of Pakistan in the international community.
Fahad Nabeel is currently pursuing M.Phil in International Relations from National Defence University. He has graduated in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Virtual University of Pakistan. Fahad has considerably researched on regional geo-political issues and militancy trends. Currently, he is working as a Senior Research Associate at CSCR.