Open season on Pakistan

What Colonel Sellin prescribes for his own people is for domestic consumption but the analysis takes on alarming proportions when the world’s sole super-power puts countries like Pakistan on notice

Donald Trump has unleashed a variety of hawks to breath down Pakistan’s neck. Military commentators like Lawrence Sellin PhD who do more harm than good. Sellin is a retired colonel and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, find it convenient to present their two cents in books like ‘Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution’. The Colonel’s assessment of the current state of affairs is that there is a Cold Civil War underway in the United States to determine who should control the federal government. He opines that it is not a contest between the Democrat and Republican ideologies, but a battle between the entrenched power of the bipartisan political establishment versus the rights and liberties of the American people. He believes that this Cold Civil War is a conflict between those who want to adhere to the Constitution and the rule of law and the party leaders, who wish to continue the practices of political expediency and crony capitalism. Sellin concludes that the US no longer has representative government. Members of Congress seek election, not to uphold the Constitution and serve the American people. Their goal is to obtain power, and to use that power to accrue professional and financial benefits for themselves and their major supporters. The ruling elites of a now hopelessly corrupt political system are just one major blunder away from revolution. What Colonel Sellin prescribes for his own people is for domestic consumption but the analysis takes on alarming proportions when the world’s sole super-power puts countries like Pakistan on notice, holds them responsible for the blunders of subsequent U.S. Commanders in Afghanistan and uses them as scapegoats.

Colonel Sellin cites Paul McLeary, quoting General John Nicholson, head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, that after 16 years of war, the United States and its Afghan partners “have turned the corner,” the “momentum is now with Afghan security forces,” and we are now “on a path to a win.”

McLeary points out that the U.S. also ‘turned corners’ in 2007, 2011 and 2012 and Nicholson is the eighth commander in the last ten years to predict an American victory.

Colonel Sellin, in a typically hawkish manner prescribes that the U.S. stop focusing on the insurgencies plaguing Afghanistan and instead focus on separating Balochistan from Pakistan

In contrast to Nicholson’s upbeat assessment, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported in October 2017 that the Afghan government controls 56 percent of the country, down from 62 percent in 2016. This is the end result of over $60 billion of American taxpayer money spent to train and equip the Afghan security forces.

Using the same counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy, Nicholson promises to do with 14,000 troops what counterinsurgency guru General David Petraeus couldn’t achieve with 100,000 troops. That is, force the Taliban to “reconcile, face irrelevance, or die.”

The more perilous and radical views of Colonel Sellin pertain to Balochistan and Afghanistan. In his Op-Ed ‘Will Pakistan be the next Syria-like battleground?’ the writer surmises that Pakistan and Iran fuel the insurgency in Afghanistan; Balochistan has strong presence of the Taliban and serves as a support base for war in Afghanistan; Taliban, madaris and the Iran-Saudi factor may trigger a Shia-Sunni war in Balochistan which will create a Syria like situation in Balochistan; Iran is also fuels Baloch insurgents and there are serious differences between Iran and Pakistan. The erudite scholar fires a broadside against China, construing that “China will use CPEC to acquire strategic advantage. Completion of CPEC will seriously hurt US interests.”

Colonel Sellin, in a typically hawkish manner prescribes that the U.S. must stop focusing on the insurgencies plaguing Afghanistan and instead focus on separating Balochistan from Pakistan. He believes that such an effort will eliminate Taliban safe havens, training and support infrastructure in Balochistan; resultantly, Taliban’s Peshawar Shura and the Haqqani network will be isolated and can later be dismantled.

The ‘master strategist’ professes that if Balochistan is liberated; Afghanistan would have a reliable route to the sea and would no longer be subjected to Pakistan’s economic stranglehold. An embryonic transnational terrorist epicentre containing the Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist Wahabi groups would be prevented (He opines Balochistan is likely to be centre of next Shia-Sunni turf war). Further advantages, which Colonel Sellin promises are that the flow of opium and heroin originating in Afghanistan, which fuels the Taliban and other insurgent elements and much of the world’s illicit drug market, would be disrupted. He presents the conspiracy theory that Chinese regional ‘hegemony’ as represented by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the related construction of Chinese military bases on the Arabian Sea would be thwarted. Iranian infiltration and military action in Balochistan to counter groups supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would be halted and reduce the likelihood of another Syria-like crisis. An independent and secular Balochistan would drive a stake into the heart of Pakistan’s Islamisation policy and its reliance on Islamic terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy.

Pakistan needs to be wary of such master strategists, who have failed to learn from American mistakes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or even Vietnam.

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF. He is a columnist, analyst and TV Talk show host, who has authored six books on current affairs, including three on China

Published in Daily Times, January 6th 2018.