This random rant is brought to you courtesy of Tacitus:
Pakistan itself, meanwhile, is happily engaging in its national pasttime of effectively ignoring its extremists and conducting small-scale aggression against its neighbors. Is Islamabad an ally? I guess if Riyadh is, sure. And I deserved to get hit, because he works hard and I didn’t have dinner ready.
Ally? Who says Pakistan is an ally or friend! Doesn’t Tacitus remember the idea of states having interests and not friends? Was it Washington or Jefferson who said that? We have an interest in Pakistan helping us with Al-Qaeda and Taliban, but we should not delude ourselves into thinking that other countries will act according to our will in this or other matters. They will look towards their national interest. They will do some of our bidding because let’s face it we are big and rich. The Pakistanis will do whatever they think is in their interest and that’s ok by me even if their interests don’t match with ours.
Also remember that the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is not properly marked. According to the Washington Post,
“This is a dotted-line border,” the ambassador said. “It has not really been demarcated. So what happens is that the soldiers, not knowing where the exact border would lie, they trespass into Afghanistan territory or Pakistan territory by 100 meters or 200 meters for a better location. These things happen.”
Some Western diplomats, however, accuse Pakistan of using the international battle against terrorism as cover to assert territorial claims over its impoverished neighbor by establishing military outposts.
Let us remember what was happening in the same border areas last year.
U.S. military authorities announced today that a brief shootout erupted between U.S. and Pakistani troops along the Afghan border Sunday, prompting the U.S. forces to call in an F-16 warplane that dropped a 500-pound bomb on the Pakistanis to end the clash.
[…]Reports from Pakistani officials in South Waziristan, the tribal administrative zone on the Pakistani side of the border, said at least two members of the Pakistani Border Scouts were killed in the bombing, which they said hit a Muslim religious school on the Pakistani side of the border in which some of the Border Scouts had taken refuge.
[…]Details of Sunday’s shooting and the subsequent bombing remained unclear —- including exactly where it happened. A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Steve Clutter, said the incident occurred in a “gray area” between Pakistan and Afghanistan along the Durand Line, which was defined in the 19th century by the British and is often disputed or ignored by both sides. A Pentagon official said, however, that the military believes both the shooting and the bombing took place inside Afghanistan.
Seems like we never can agree which side of the border things happen over there! The reason seems to be the Durand line. It is a mostly unmarked 2,430km (1,510 miles) long arid mountainous border which is named after Sir Mortimer Durand who basically forced Abdur Rahman Khan, amir of Afghanistan, to agree on the border in 1893. It basically divided the Pashtun tribal areas into half as a sort of buffer between Afghanistan and British India.
Afghanistan did not like the Durand line and was in fact the only state to vote against Pakistan’s admission to the UN in 1947 because of the border dispute. The original agreement was for 100 years and Pakistani efforts in 1996 to get the Taliban to agree on the Durand line as a permanent border were not fruitful.
And if you think that Pakistan is always meddling in Afghan affairs, here’s some news for you: It didn’t start that way. Afghanistan had a claim on the Pashtun areas of FATA, NWFP and Baluchistan from the beginning. There used to be this idea called Pashtunistan (or Pakhtunistan), an independent state for all the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nationalist Pashtuns and the Afghan government wanted the Pashtun-dominated areas of Pakistan to secede. Now no government likes that irrespective of the validity or otherwise of the claims of parties trying to secede. Afganistan’s government, especially under the Prime Ministership of Sardar Daud (who later overthrew his cousin King Zahir Shah in 1973), helped the Pakhtunistan cause quite diligently.
Prime Minister Daud Khan (1953—63) took a stronger line on Pashtunistan, and, to the surprise of many, turned to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance.
The Pashtunistan issue precipitated Daud Khan’s downfall. In retaliation for Afghan agitation, Pakistan closed the border with Afghanistan in August 1961. Its prolonged closure led Afghanistan to depend increasingly on the Soviet Union for trade and in-transit facilities. To reverse the trend, Daud Khan resigned in March 1963, and the border was reopened in May.
Pakistani interference started after Sardar Daud overthrew King Zahir Shah in 1973 and increased quite a lot when Daud was overthrown by People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in 1978. The Soviets invaded in 1979 and the rest is history.
As I said, this is just a rant against the simplified view of history and international relations that conservatives generally have. I don’t have any clue why the Pakistani army is wandering in the border area since it has never really controlled the tribal areas of Pakistan. One guess is that they see this as a chance to assert army and federal authority over the fiercely independent tribes in FATA.
Also, I have long criticized the Pakistani army doctrine of “strategic depth” which calls for a friendly or client Afghan state to get some depth in a war with India. That is a crazy idea and can only lead to problems with Afghanistan.