The Strategic Depth of Pakistan

The Strategic Depth of Pakistan

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Daniele Perra


Zia ul-Haq and the Quest for strategic depth in Afghanistan.

On August 22, 2018, in a lecture given at the Ron Paul Institute, retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (former chief of staff to the infamous former US Secretary of State Colin Powell) stated the following:

We are in Afghanistan for the same reason we were in Germany after World War II. We want to be as close as possible to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI ). If we have to strike with our military might we can do it from Afghanistan. The second reason is to be able to stabilize Pakistan’s nuclear power. The third reason is that if the CIA is to mount an operation as done through Erdogan against Assad, the best way would be to foment the Uighurs through Afghanistan ” [1] .

Almost three years after this declaration, it is possible to ask, given the “withdrawal” of the North American and NATO contingent from Afghanistan, whether the US strategy has changed? The answer is provided by an article that appeared in the New York Times on April 26, 2021 (therefore, even before the date set for the official withdrawal, September 11, 2021) in which General Austin S. Miller (head of the coalition led by the United States in Afghanistan) stated that a “declared” presence of troops will be followed by a silent and inconspicuous presence based on operational coordination between special forces and mercenary forces under the umbrella of the CIA [2] .

This “disguised” presence, in the Pentagon’s plans, should be accompanied by an increase in the US military presence in the vicinity of Afghanistan, from central Asia to southern Asia, with the express purpose of keeping Chinese expansion and any potential projects under control. of regional cooperation aimed at reducing North American influence in the area. However, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in the columns of the Pakistan Today newspaper, however assuring support for the withdrawal maneuvers, announced Islamabad’s refusal to grant (again) its bases to the US military, also asserting ( with unusual bluntness) that there are forces that are not at all interested in the stabilization and pacification of Afghanistan[3].

The Pakistani choice (which will, in any case, have to deal with the internal pro-US currents), in fact, stands in stark contrast to some decades in which (albeit alternately) Islamabad acted as the main instrument for the prosecution of North American geopolitical interests in the region.

There are historically three fundamental (and interconnected) relationships that have dominated the evolution of Pakistan: that between the army and civil society; that between Islam and the state; that between the army and Islam

When General Zia ul-Haq came to power in 1977 after the ousting of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan became a kind of pariah state. The latter, in 1978, re-proposing a formula that in style is quite close to certain statements (inspired by Puritanism) of some North American presidents, declared: ” I have a mission that God gave me, the mission of bringing the Islamic order to Pakistan ” [4].

As ruthless and vindictive as he is shy and truly devoted, Western impressions of Zia changed rapidly starting in 1979 when, following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, he became the main “ally” of the United States [5].

Now, before going further, it should be emphasized that, at the end of the 1970s, the main structural problems that still afflict Pakistan today had already become evident.

There are historically three fundamental (and interconnected) relationships that have dominated the evolution of Pakistan: that between the army and civil society; that between Islam and the state; that between the army and Islam [6]. Furthermore, Pakistani politics has developed from the beginning following two fundamental guidelines: paternalism and repression. This constitutes in all respects a direct legacy of the British Raj which in the territories of today’s Pakistan had consolidated its system of power on the one hand through the alliance with the class of wealthy landowners (to which, even today, it belongs a large part of the political class and of which Bhutto himself belonged) and, on the other, by recruiting, for the most part, ethnic Punjabi subjects from the ranks of the army. Add to this the profound identity crisis generated by the British colonial rule itself that led Muslims, once sovereigns of India, to find themselves part of a “westernized” state in which they were regarded with undisguised suspicion. The British, in fact,

Once Pakistan was created, Punjab (the largest and most populous province) provided the bulk of the bureaucracy and the armed forces, generating latent discontent and forms of ethnic nationalism that were exploited several times also by forces outside the country (think, in addition to the creation of Bangladesh, to the uprisings in Balochistan of 1948, 1958-59, 1962-63, 1973-77, 2002).

Paradoxically, the proxy war on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan allowed Pakistan to temporarily freeze internal ethnic and social tensions through the substantial aid program from the enlarged “West”. And the eleven-year period during which Zia ul-Haq remained in power has left a lasting effect that continues to be felt even today. In fact, during this period, in addition to the process of forced Wahhabi-style Islamization, thanks to the CIA, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was transformed into a formidable intelligence agency.able not only to manage the Afghan conflict trying to channel it according to their own wishes (and those of “allies”) but also to decisively determine the internal political process of Pakistan itself.

In theory, the Pakistani action in Afghanistan had its geopolitical reasons that went beyond the mere function of containing/weakening the Soviet expansion that the United States had attributed to it.

Based on these beliefs, after refusing (too small) aid of $ 400 million from the Carter administration in 1980, he accepted a five-year (1981-1986) aid plan of $ 3.2 billion (which also included sending of 40 F-16 fighters) advanced by the Reagan administration and to which a new 4.02 billion plan was to be added for the period 1987-1993 (although the latter was never completed)

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have always been quite complex. Over the years there have been several Afghan claims on some territories of Balochistan and the NWFP – North Western Frontier Province. Between 1955 and 1962, relations between the two countries broke down when Kabul supported the “Greater Pashtunistan” project: that is, the creation of a large Pashtun state that incorporated, in addition to Afghanistan, the territories inhabited by this ethnic group in Pakistan.

In the 1980s, Zia self-convinced that Pakistani support for anti-Soviet jihad would put an end to this type of claim by installing a Pashtun government, Islamist and loyal to Islamabad in Kabul. Furthermore, this would have guaranteed Pakistan a strategic depth that its elongated geographic conformation, and devoid of what in geopolitical terms is defined as a “shore” (a border that is difficult to cross), could not ensure in the event of a prolonged war with the ‘India.

This aspect is of considerable importance because it is also linked to the subsequent Pakistani support for the Taliban which we will try to examine later. At the moment, it will be useful to remember that Zia, in addition to these geopolitical considerations, was also guided by some (not too veiled) personal aspirations. Like a Turkish-Mongolian emperor, in fact, he had dreamed of recreating a great Sunni Islamic space between the infidel Hindostan, the “heretic” Iran, and Christian Russia. He was convinced that the message of the Afghan mujahideen would spread throughout Central Asia creating a geopolitical bloc of Muslim nations led by Pakistan which, by doing so, would finally fulfill its historical-ideological task.

Between 1982 and 1988, over a thousand new Koranic schools ( madrasahs) were financed by Wahhabi money causing a real eradicating phenomenon towards the traditional Islamic culture of Central and South Asia. During the same period, North American universities openly supported the “culture of jihad ” by funding the printing of school texts in local languages ​​to indoctrinate young Pakistani and Afghan refugees (over 3 million)

Based on these beliefs, after refusing (too small) aid of $ 400 million from the Carter administration in 1980, he accepted a five-year (1981-1986) aid plan of $ 3.2 billion (which also included sending of 40 F-16 fighters) advanced by the Reagan administration and to which a new 4.02 billion plan was to be added for the period 1987-1993 (although the latter was never completed) [7].

Starting from the early 1980s, Pakistan, like Turkey in the more recent Syrian scenario, became a real highway for Islamist militiamen backed by the “West”. During this period, more than 35,000 militiamen arrived in Pakistan from different parts of the Islamic world through recruitment channels, more or less directly linked to the CIA, to enter Afghanistan. Since 1982, the Afghan mujahideen began to regularly receive 600 million dollars a year from the United States and another 600 from the monarchies of the Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia in the lead) who also used this flow of money to promote Wahhabism outside the Peninsula. Arabica. 

Between 1982 and 1988, over a thousand new Koranic schools ( madrasahs) were financed by Wahhabi money causing a real eradicating phenomenon towards the traditional Islamic culture of Central and South Asia. During the same period, North American universities openly supported the “culture of jihad ” by funding the printing of school texts in local languages ​​to indoctrinate young Pakistani and Afghan refugees (over 3 million) who had crossed the Durand Line. In 1985, Ronald Reagan even went so far as to define the mujahideen as the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers of the United States during a visit by some of them to the White House. Among these was also Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (quoted in a previous note), political leader of the Party and paramilitary group Hezb-e-Islami, which will play a key role in the development of the Afghan conflict.

At the end of the 1980s, with the evident discontent of Washington (always ready to postpone the protection of “democracy” when it comes to one’s own advantage and never when other actors act in compliance with their interests), rumors began to circulate about Pakistan’s clandestine development (with Chinese aid) of nuclear weapons.

Pakistan, in this period, experienced a GDP growth that stood at around 6% per year. However, the steady flow of money was used not for investments in infrastructure, public health, or youth education, but to fuel a vast system of patronage and corruption. Like what will happen with the “war on terror” of the early 2000s, the money ended up in the hands of the usual suspects (corrupt politicians, inefficient bureaucracy, secret services, extremist groups of various kinds, criminal organizations linked to smuggling) who from that from then on they continued to rely on international aid to maintain their privileged status. However, this “idyll” between the US and Pakistan did not last long. Goals soon began to diverge. In Washington, in fact, he did not like the Pakistani idea of ​​setting up Hekmatyar in Kabul and the geopolitical project of Zia, whose death, which occurred in a plane crash, still remains shrouded in mystery today. 

For Mackinder, who enunciated his thesis in 1904, there is a gigantic natural fortress, inaccessible to maritime power, extending from Central Asia to the Arctic and from which, over the centuries, various invasions have originated (Huns, Mongols, Turks) that affected the entire Eurasian space (from Europe to the Far East). 

After all, it would not be the first time that the United States, after having used it extensively, gets rid of an ally that has become too uncomfortable (the story of Osama Bin Laden and the alternating current alliance with al-Qaeda, created precisely in the context of the Afghan conflict, is there to prove it) [8]. Add to this that precisely at the end of the 1980s, with the evident discontent of Washington (always ready to postpone the protection of “democracy” when it comes to one’s own advantage and never when other actors act in compliance with their interests), rumors began to circulate about Pakistan’s clandestine development (with Chinese aid) of nuclear weapons. News without official confirmation but which would find confirmation in the dualistic nature of the Pakistani secret service itself, historically animated by two currents: a pro-American and a pro-Chinese [9].

Karl Haushofer, in turn, takes up Mackinder’s views on the fundamental importance of Central and Eastern Europe, but overturns his political conclusions, since he defends the idea of ​​a Russian-German alliance, a Eurasian Kontinentalblock

The strategic role of Central Asia and the “war on terror”.

The geographical space of Central Asia played a leading role in all the main geopolitical theories (and strategies) of the twentieth century. Among these, undoubtedly, the “continentalist” theories (albeit on opposite sides) of the Englishman Sir Halford J. Mackinder (1861-1947) and the German Karl Haushofer (1869-1946) stand out.

According to their approach, mostly along the East-West axis, two centers of world power are in conflict: one continental and one maritime (thalassocracy). For Mackinder, who enunciated his thesis in 1904, there is a gigantic natural fortress, inaccessible to maritime power, extending from Central Asia to the Arctic and from which, over the centuries, various invasions have originated (Huns, Mongols, Turks) that affected the entire Eurasian space (from Europe to the Far East). The domain of this region, which Mackinder initially calls ” pivot area ” and later ” heartland ” (With the sense of“ heart of the world ”), would guarantee the dominion of the entire Eurasian continental mass and, consequently, of the world. Says Mackinder: “Whoever controls Eastern Europe controls the heartland; who controls the heartland controls the world island (Eurasia), and whoever controls the world island controls the world ” [10]. To control Eurasia, it is, therefore, necessary to prevent its continental unity in all its forms. And, not surprisingly, for the entire nineteenth century, Central Asia was subjected to the game of spies between Great Britain and Tsarist Russia, with the former firmly determined to prevent Moscow from accessing the warm seas of the Indian Ocean [ 11].

Karl Haushofer, in turn, takes up Mackinder’s views on the fundamental importance of Central and Eastern Europe, but overturns his political conclusions, since he defends the idea of ​​a Russian-German alliance, a Eurasian Kontinentalblock

On the basis of Spykman’s theories, it is evident that the United States, since the end of the Second World War, has focused, in addition to the Near and Middle East, on the search for a form of control of the coastal strip of the South Asia (where the port of Karachi has a significant strategic value) and South East Asia; is the reason why Pakistan has never given up (geopolitically and ideologically) the pursuit of its strategic depth on both sides of its borders: in Afghanistan and in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The theories of Mackinder and Haushofer are contrasted by those on the maritime domination of the North American Admiral Alfred T. Mahan (1840-1914) and Nicholas J. Spykman. Both, however, once again attribute a central role to central Asian space as both Mahan and Spykman, almost prophetically, identified China as an even greater potential threat to North American global hegemony than Japan (Mahan) and Japan. ‘USSR (Spykman). Spykman himself turns out to be the main exponent of that “marginalist” school that has known so much fortune among North American strategists. 

His thinking is purely deterministic [12]. According to Spykman, geography is the most important element in the foreign policy of states (hegemonic struggles arise from geography that is perpetuated in history). “Ministers come and go – said Spykman – seas, rivers, and mountain ranges stay where they are”. The concerns of Tsar Alexander I and Stalin for access to warm seas, for example, were the same. Furthermore, according to Spykman, the improvement of one’s position of power is (or should be) the goal of the internal and foreign policy of each state.

In the perspective of the North American theorist, however, it is not the control of the heartland that determines global hegemony but the control over the “marginal territory” (the rimland ): that is, the peninsular and insular belt that surrounds the Eurasian coastal strip. The defense of US interests necessarily entails the control of this area and its fragmentation, because its unification would be disastrous for the United States. Therefore, to Mackinder’s continentalist formula, Spykman contrasts the formula of peninsular power: “Whoever controls the rimland dominates Eurasia; whoever dominates Eurasia controls the destinies of the world ” [13].

On the basis of Spykman’s theories, it is evident that the United States, since the end of the Second World War, has focused, in addition to the Near and Middle East, on the search for a form of control of the coastal strip of the South Asia (where the port of Karachi has a significant strategic value) and South East Asia; is the reason why Pakistan has never given up (geopolitically and ideologically) the pursuit of its strategic depth on both sides of its borders: in Afghanistan and in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Like the Russian “obsession” with the search for an outlet on warm seas [14], Pakistani geopolitics, regardless of who is in power, will never be able to give up the attempt to exert its influence on Afghanistan, to free Kashmir and, from “telluric power” in a nutshell, to increase its interconnection with Central Asia.

In fact, one of the main reasons that led Pervez Musharraf to the total capitulation towards the USA after 11 September 2001 was precisely the risk of seeing both the efforts made in Kashmir and the further development of the Pakistani nuclear program and installations thwarted. . Musharraf’s fear, in a historical context in which the Indian lobbies wasted no time in presenting Pakistan as a “state supporting terrorism”, was that of having to face a geopolitical defeat of the same magnitude (or perhaps even worse) than that suffered in 1971: a national trauma that led to the separation of the eastern part of the country. To better understand the “mentality” that led to Musharraf’s surrender to US wishes, a small step back is needed.

On May 28, 1998, Pakistan had become a full-fledged nuclear power after carrying out six tests following those carried out by New Delhi. The West responded by imposing heavy sanctions that further undermined an already deeply depressed economy since at least 1996.

On June 28, 1998, despite the crisis, the Ministry of Finance nevertheless announced the payment of 300 million rupees (6 million dollars) to the Taliban administration in Kabul. Between 1997 and 1998, Pakistan provided $ 30 million in aid to the Taliban [15] .

Pakistan’s support for the Koranic Student Movement dates back to Benazir Bhutto’s second term as Prime Minister (1993-1996). This had already had the opportunity to govern from 1988 to 1990 when, after the death of Zia and thanks to the mediation of the United States, it had managed to find a compromise with the military through the assurance that it would not affect the defense budget and would leave to them the management of foreign policy. After heavy accusations of corruption (directed above all to her husband Asif Ali Zardari who exploited not a little the position of his wife), she was forced to leave the government in 1990. However, for the entire following decade,

This period of time also coincides with some notable geopolitical events: first, the dissolution of the Soviet Union. If the US strategy in the 1980s had focused on the creation of a sort of “green belt” (governments with Islamist-fundamentalist traction) on the southern borders of the USSR [16], from the mid-1990s onwards, this ( also by virtue of the theories of the former National Defense Councilor of the Carter Zbigniew Brzezinski administration) [17]he focused mainly on (more or less direct) control of Central Asia. Not surprisingly, between 1998-99, some ex-Soviet republics in the region experienced an increase in terrorist activities (for example, the formation of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which was stationed in the strategic Fergana Valley) which will bring them, willingly or not, having to accept the presence of US bases on their territory.

More or less in the same time frame, Afghanistan, after having exhausted the task of undermining Soviet power, sank into a sort of black hole in which warlords and drug lords shared power (often even clashing with one another). with others) managing it also to the detriment and on the skin of the civilian population.

The initial success and consensus enjoyed by the Taliban were linked precisely to the popular desire for order, justice, and stability against the abuses of the warlords. Pakistan began promoting the Taliban cause in 1993 and General Nasrullah Babar played a prominent role in this. Islamabad, starting from this date, gradually began to reduce the support granted to Hekmatyar (unable to carry out the mission that the ISI had entrusted to him) [18]and to fund the Movement led by Mullah Omar. The goal, once again, was to stabilize Afghanistan by giving it a pro-Pakistani government (the risk of Indian, Russian, and Iranian influence in Kabul, through Burhanuddin Rabbani, was extremely high) also with a view to building a direct trade route to Central Asia. Pakistani efforts in this direction intensified since 1995: the year the Taliban conquered Herat.

However, the Taliban soon proved to be much more “autonomous” than the ISI itself could believe and extremely connected with the economic and socio-political fabric of Pakistan. These, in fact, in many cases possessed Pakistani documents; they had studied and been trained in Pakistan; they already had deep connections with Pakistani Islamist political parties and criminal groups linked to smuggling.

That smuggling has historically been a serious problem for Pakistan is certainly not new. The zeal with which the South Asian country is trying to carry out, together with Beijing, the projects of the New Silk Road, despite the tensions and attempts at sabotage [19] , is also linked to the desire to regulate traffic to and from the ports of Gwadar and Karachi.

Smuggling that extends from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf, Iran, and Pakistan represents a serious loss in terms of revenue for each country involved. Pakistan, given its particular geographical position and not being particularly rich in raw materials, is the one that suffers the most damage from these lost revenues. Furthermore, its local industry has been repeatedly challenged by the clandestine introduction of consumer goods from abroad.

The main source of support for the Taliban movement, even before the ISI opted for open support, in fact, was the “toll” paid by the haulers in exchange for opening Afghan roads to smuggling. Wanting to make a comparison with events closer in time, one could refer again to what happened in the Syrian-Iraqi scenario with the self-styled “Islamic State” able to exploit the routes to Turkey and the porosity of the borders for the smuggling of crude oil and precious artifacts. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid reported that between 1992 and 1993 the loss in customs revenue for Pakistan was 3 billion rupees; in 94-95 it was 11 billion; in 97-98 of 30 billion [20]. So he wrote in his study on the birth and development of the Taliban phenomenon:

“The underground economy in Pakistan rises from 15 billion rupees in 1973 to 1115 in 1996 […] During the same period, tax evasion – including the evasion of customs duties – from 1.5 billion rupees reaches a peak of 152 billion ” [21] .

This form of uncontrolled and never completely hindered “evasion” has for years also contributed to enriching various (corrupt) power groups within Pakistan [22] . In the 1990s, moreover, the repercussions of the proxy war on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan began to be felt. This, in fact, had created the culture of heroin, Kalashnikov and Wahhabi madrasa. In ten years of war, the social profile of the country had been profoundly distorted.

The ISI, in its support of the Taliban, has tried to replace the criminal groups in Quetta linked to smuggling. When the Taliban entered Mazar-i Sharif in 1998, Pakistani military leaders regarded this victory as a Pakistani victory. They also believed that the Taliban government, unlike any previous Afghan regime, would recognize the Durand Line and keep Pashtun nationalism at bay in the NWFP, while giving an outlet to Pakistani radical Islamists (1994-2001 over 80,000 Pakistani militiamen are fighting in the ranks of the Taliban) [23] and preventing the creation of a home front.

However, the exact opposite occurred. The Taliban victory virtually eliminated a border (theoretically never existed) that had been crossed in both directions for decades. But the total failure of the Pakistani strategy was definitively recorded starting from September 2001.

In 1999, a military coup toppled Nawaz Sharif who had made support for the Taliban ever more explicit since 1997. The coup d’état was the result of the disastrous military adventure in the heights of Kargil (in Kashmir occupied by India) following which the nuclear option was even feared. Main responsible for the operation was Pervez Musharraf, then head of the armed forces. This, having learned of Sharif’s intention to relieve him from office, anticipated it by assuming the leadership of the country.

As with Zia twenty years earlier, Musharraf was in a position where Pakistan enjoyed a very bad reputation internationally. One of the main concerns for the North American administrations at the turn of the new millennium was precisely to establish what kind of relations to maintain with Islamabad. Already Bill Clinton greatly strengthened relations with India and imposed sanctions on the Pakistani military regime.

In January 2001, the UN had imposed heavy sanctions on the Emirate of Afghanistan (then recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) for the express purpose of blocking arms supplies that came from Pakistan.

On 11 September 2001, General Mehmood Ahmad, then head of the ISI, paradoxically found himself in New York, in conversation with the CIA leaders who invited him to persuade the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Laden. The day after the attacks, Mehmood was received, along with Maleeha Lodhi (then Pakistani ambassador to Washington), by Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage who specifically asked the two which side Pakistan intended to support. Mehmood stated that Pakistan had always been on the side of the United States and that, on the contrary, it was Washington who often and willingly left Pakistan in the lurch [24].

In fact, Pakistan’s foreign policy for the next ten years had already been decided. Musharraf was informed of the attack during a military conference in Karachi. He knew that the “United States would react like a wounded bear” [25] and attack Afghanistan. His choice, the simplest way, was to establish that Pakistan should not oppose US demands (while not directly participating in the aggression on Afghanistan) and should immediately stop supporting the Taliban so as not to run the risk of exposure to a possible North American attack. However, the United States, for its part, should have lifted the sanctions and guaranteed immediate economic aid to Islamabad.

General Mohammed Aziz, the main architect of the Taliban victory over the Northern Alliance, was one of the few to oppose it. Together with Muzaffar Usmani and Mehmood Ahmad himself, he pointed out that total capitulation to US wishes would mean the zeroing of any contractual power and geopolitical autonomy for Pakistan in the short and long term. In fact, although with some obvious contradictions [26] , this is what happened. Suffice it to say that, in defiance of what has always been Pakistan’s worst geopolitical nightmare, a pro-Indian government like that of Ahmed Karzai was established in Kabul.

The Bush administration’s “war on terror” and its aftermath in subsequent administrations, like the decade of the anti-Soviet jihad, have had deleterious and dramatic effects on Pakistani society and on the credibility of institutional figures who, presenting themselves as “modernizers” (Musharraf he declared himself an admirer of Seyyed Ahmad Khan and of the father of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal), they allowed a foreign power to bomb their own people.


Notes

[1]     What is the Empire’s strategy? , Col. Lawrence Wilkerson speech at Ron Paul Institute Media and War Conference (August 22, 2018), www.youtube.com.

[2]     See US Military final begins withdrawal from Afghanistanwww.nytimes.com.

[3]     Pakistan refused to give military bases to the US: FM, www.pakistantoday.com.pk. In this regard, it is important to underline that the CIA used support bases in Pakistan to target Islamist militants (both on Pakistani and Afghan territory) until 2011. In fact, since 2011, relations between the US and Pakistan have been having rapidly deteriorated, both following the Raymond Davies case and after the operation that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden near Abbottabad. The Davies case deserves a brief study. The latter, then on the payroll of the CIA, in fact, was arrested by the Pakistani authorities after killing two people in the streets of Lahore on January 27, 2011 (according to him in self-defense, although it seems that the victims were shot in the back). According to the Pakistani authorities, Davies was involved in several clandestine operations within the country related mainly to the espionage of the Pakistani military and nuclear installations. The case caused a profound diplomatic crisis between the US and Pakistan, bringing the two countries back to a tension that had not been recorded since the late 1990s. Davies was released from prison following the payment of cash compensation of 2.4 million dollars (what in Islamic law falls under the name of diyya ) to relatives of the victims from the US government. On the deterioration of relations between the United States and Pakistan, see also A. Rashid, Pericolo Pakistan , Feltrinelli, Milan 2013.

[4]     A. Rashid, Chaos Asia. The Western Failure in the Powder Keg of the World, Feltrinelli, Milan 2008, p. 78.

[5]    A note on this point is needed. On July 17, 1973, taking advantage of King Zahir’s absence from the country, former Prime Minister Mohammed Daud Khan led a quick coup, transforming Afghanistan from a monarchy to a republic with the support of the military and the PDPA – People’s Democratic Party. Afghanistan. His policies immediately encountered a certain hostility between the Afghan people and neighboring Pakistan. In 1974, Pakistani agents evacuated two characters from Kabul who will play a central role in the following decades: Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. 1978 is the year of a new coup, this time orchestrated by the PDPA, following which Daud was assassinated. Thus was born the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan under direct Soviet protection (Daud tried to maintain a substantial equidistance between the two sides). In this period, the literacy programs, the fight against landlordism and nationalization, went to mix with the hostility of the traditional rural communities and with the accentuated repression of the central authorities. Around mid-1979, the rebellion (also pushed by themullahs stationed in Pakistan) had already reached a large scale and led, in September, to the assassination of President Nur Mohammad Taraki. Direct Soviet intervention officially began in December of the same year, although initially aimed only at patrolling infrastructure (airports and main roads). Real propaganda myths have been built on this intervention both in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the “West”. Specifically, the myth of the “atheist army” which intended to destroy tradition and Islam seems to be completely misleading and devoid of real historical foundations. Here, of course, we do not want to deny that there have been episodes of violence (even brutal), however, as General Gromov reports: “In 1980 alone, the 40th Army carried out 127 civilian operations which included the repair of houses, the construction of roads, the distribution of food and medicines, the organization of cultural events and the preservation of heritage ”. In this regard, see M. Morigi, Afghanistan. History, geopolitics, heritage , Anteo Edizioni, Cavriago 2021.

[6]     In this regard, see E. Giunchi, Pakistan between ulama and generals , Franco Angeli Editore 2002.

[7]     Chaos Asia , cited therein, p. 79.

[8]     In this regard, see R. Dreyfuss, Devil’s game: How the United States helped unleash fundamentalist Islam, Metropolitan books, New York 2005.

[9]     Of great interest in this sense is the article by Stefano Vernole, entitled Pakistan and the “great Afghan game” , which appeared in “Eurasia. Review of geopolitical studies “(nr. 3/2021).

[10]   HJ Mackinder, Democratic ideals and reality: a study in the politics of reconstruction , London Constable and Company LTD, London 1919, p. 150. By the same author see also The geographical pivot of history , contained in “The geographical journal”, Vol. 23, No.4, (April 1904), pp. 421-437.

[11]   The tones used by British propaganda during the “Great Game” or “tournament of shadows” were not unlike those used today in the context of the new cold war between the West and Eurasia. In this regard, it will be useful to quote from Peter Hopkirk’s book ” The Great Game ” (Adelphi Edizioni, Milan 2010, p. 226): ” In Great Britain and India anti-Russian sentiments were almost at the level of hysteria and the imminent adventure [the first Anglo-Afghan war]he could count on a huge consensus from public opinion. Certainly on that of the Times that thundered: ‘From the borders of Hungary to the heart of Burma and Nepal … the Russian devil haunts and upsets mankind, and diligently perpetuates his perfidious frauds … to the detriment of our industrious and essentially peaceful empire ” .

[12]  Geographical determinism is a school of thought that compares natural and anthropogenic phenomena by establishing the necessity with which a phenomenon occurs in the presence of a specific cause. Specifically, it is a sort of geographical version of the philosophical-scientific cause / effect link. Born in the second half of the nineteenth century, geographic determinism has its foundations in anthropogeography; matter which, in turn, studies the different influences that geographic space exerts on peoples. This represented an adaptation of geography to the natural material sciences of modernity. In philosophical terms it could be argued that the ontological distinction between being and being has in some way been applied to geography. This approach was deeply criticized by one of the fathers of geopolitics: Friedrich Ratzel. The German geographer, in fact, was convinced that the precise relationship between man (understood both individually and collectively) and the geographical space that surrounds him always generates spiritual forms that cannot be detected by mere determinism. Specifically, the connection between man and soil generates a spiritual form that is reflected in the essence of the social and political structures that each people (or civilization) gives itself in a different way.

[13]   See N. Spykman, American strategy in world politics. The United States and the balance of power , Archon Books 1970.

[14]   The aforementioned Alfred T. Mahan could not help but rejoice at the news of the Russian defeat against Japan in 1905. Defeat that prevented Russia from occupying Manchuria and, therefore, from reaching the East China Sea.

[15]   A. Rashid, Taliban. Islam, Oil and the Great Clash in Central Asia , Feltrinelli, Milan 2001, p. 223.

[16]   This period of time also corresponds to the customs clearance of political Islam in Turkey on a NATO push and in an anti-communist key after the military coup of 1980. Even today, on the web, it is not difficult to find the photos of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Tunisian politician and thinker linked to the Muslim Brotherhood Rachid Ghannouchi seated in front of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; aforementioned prominent exponent of the anti-Soviet Afghan gihad .

[17]   See Z. Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard. American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives , BasicBooks 2016.

[18]   Hekmatyar will still play a major role in the fight against the occupation of Afghanistan by US-led coalition troops after 2001. In 2016, after two decades of inaction, Hekmatyar was pardoned by the Afghan government under the Ashraf Ghani’s presidency. From then on, the paramilitary group he led laid down their arms and Hekmatyar himself, on several occasions, invited the Taliban to sit at the negotiating table.

[19]   Not surprisingly, in April 2021, the city of Lahore (the institutional seat of the CPEC – Sino-Pakistani Economic Corridor) was the scene of riots and riots organized by a party ( Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan ), theoretically of inspiration Barelvi, in rapid (as doubtful) rise. More or less in the same days, a Chinese diplomatic delegation was the subject of an attempted attack on a hotel in Quetta claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban : a Pakistani Taliban group which, unlike the Afghan Taliban, is affiliated with the self-styled “Islamic State “. Furthermore, already in 2018, the port of Gwadar was hit by some sabotage actions.

[20]   Taliban , cited therein, p. 232.

[21]   Ibidem , p. 233.

[22]   In the first decade of the 21st century, income from taxation in Pakistan accounted for approximately 9% of GDP (one of the lowest rates in the world). The proposals for greater control and higher taxation on the wealthiest classes are some of the reasons that led the party led by Imran Khan to victory in 2018.

[23]   Ibidem , p. 235.

[24]   Chaos Asia , cited therein, p. 63.

[25]   Ibidem , p. 64.

[26]   It seems quite clear that the ISI, by cross roads (and not with the same perseverance), has continued to guarantee support and protection to the Taliban. There were even those who supported the thesis that the Pakistani secret service had kept Bin Laden hidden in Abbottabad to obtain US aid as much as possible, giving the appearance of supporting their “battle”. However, in the first decade of the 21st century, Pakistan appears to have spent far more than it received to go along with the wishes of the United States.


Author

Daniele Perra starting from 2017 actively collaborates with “Eurasia: Review of geopolitical studies ”and with its IT site. His analyzes are mainly focused on the relationship between geopolitics, philosophy and the history of religions. Graduated in Political Science and International Relations, in 2015 he obtained a Master’s Degree in Middle Eastern Studies at ASERI – High School of Economics and International Relations of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan. In 2018 his essay On the necessity of the empire as a unitary geopolitical entity for Eurasiawas included in vol. VI of the “Quaderni della Sapienza” published by Irfan Edizioni. He collaborates assiduously with numerous Italian and foreign IT sites and has given several interviews to the Iranian broadcaster Radio Irib. He is the author of the book Being and Revolution. Heideggerian ontology and liberation politics , Preface by C. Mutti (NovaEuropa 2019).


This article was translated from the Eurasia-Rivista Web portal

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