|By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
It is becoming quite apparent that the recent marathon nine-hour conference that Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistani army chief had with his corps commanders included plans how to continue befooling the US; aim being to convince the Americans that Pakistan was sincere in cooperating with them in fighting terrorism. The operation was to be in the backdrop of Pakistan trying to rebuild bilateral ties frayed after US President Donald Trump accused the country of sheltering terror groups; in August this year Trump had accused Pakistan of harbouring "agents of chaos and terror" and the "very enemy US forces have been fighting in Afghanistan" for the past 17 years. The plan had to be audacious to offset Pakistan coming into the US crosshairs on terror – much better than the false story of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadahv caught "spying" in Balochistan on 3 March 2016, whereas, Jadhav actually was abducted from Iran on ISI's behest and sold to the latter by Taliban. But the plan to con the US had to be more intricate and convincing, replete with official statements and backed by effusive propaganda. So what the Pakistani Army did was to stage a 'rescue' of Caitlan Coleman, an American citizen, and her husband Joshua Boyle, a Canadian citizen, reportedly kidnapped in 2012 in Afghanistan while on a backpacking trip. Coleman, 31, was pregnant at the time of abduction. All of the couple's three children were born in captivity. According to Boyle, his wife (Catilan Coleman) was raped by the captors and his daughter was killed by them.
The scene of rescue described hot car chase by Pakistani military pursuing terrorists fleeing in a vehicle from Afghanistan into Pakistan with Caitlan Coleman, Joshua Boyle and their children, the military puncturing the tyres of the vehicle carrying the captives, and rescuing all the hostages. But there is always a slip in deceit; in this case not a single terrorist-captor was killed "for fear of hitting the hostages", even as there was a UAV supposedly hovering in the area. Plenty publicity was given to the fact that a US Navy Seal Team was standby for the rescue – obviously this would have been requested by the ISI in order to lend authenticity to the fake rescue mission. After the so-called rescue of the hostages, the Pakistan military officials emphasized the importance of co-operation and intelligence sharing by Washington, the army statement avoiding naming the group that had held the family captive, but saying, "The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan's continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy." Former diplomats like Hussain Haqqani were roped in to showcase Pakistan's sincerity in countering terrorism. Hussain's surname being same as the terrorist-captors (Haqqani Network) maybe coincidence and he has been portraying himself as a peacenik lately but while still in service, he once had recommended that India should be destroyed through cyber attacks.
However, now the US has embarrassed Pakistan by publically calling out Pakistan's lies, with both Vice President Mike Pence and CIA Director Mike Pompeo saying the couple and their children were being held in Pakistan, and not Afghanistan. During a recent discussion at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank, Pompeo pointedly said that the US-Canadian coupled kidnapped by terrorists in Afghanistan had been held for five years inside Pakistan before being freed. This has taken the wind out of the Pakistani military euphoria thinking that the US had been successfully duped after President Trump had publicly thanked tweeting "Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts" post the rescue. Recently, Khwaja Asif, Pakistan's foreign minister went on record to say that his country was ready for a joint operation with the US to destroy the Haqqani Network if it provides evidence about the presence of safe havens of the terror outfit in Pakistan. This is all part of the continuing subterfuge by Pakistan. Michael Hughes wrote way back on 6 July 2010, "The Haqqani Network is Al Qaeda. Pakistan has had a close relationship with the Haqqanis for over 30 years, who are still seen as a crucial anti-Indian asset. So, for nine years the Pakistanis protected the Haqqanis and claimed ignorance as to the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and the Quetta Shura. Nine years, nearly $300 billion dollars and 1900 dead coalition soldiers later, the U.S. has officially verified that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the mountains." Vahid Brown, Princeton's senior counter terrorism expert was also of the view in 2011 that senior leaders of Haqqani network had been living in Islamabad past 20 years. Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 had also revealed that senior Haqqani leaders often traveled to the UAE from Pakistan. A report in New York Times of 31 October 2011 had also read, "The Haqqani family, which runs the network like a mafia, maintains several town houses, including in Islamabad and elsewhere, and they have been known to visit military facilities in Rawalpindi, attend tribal gatherings and even travel abroad on pilgrimages.
Now exposing the fake rescue by Pakistan, Pompeo has said, "I think history would indicate that the high expectations for the Pakistanis' willingness to help us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism should be set at a very low level", adding, "President Trump has made it very clear that we are going to do everything we can to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. To do that, you cannot have a safe haven in Pakistan". The US exposure actually amounts to a kick in the face of the Pakistani army chief, with maybe few teeth knocked out. But then he has Beijing dentists on call to provide replacement implants. But in the week since the rescue, Pakistan has been battered by US drone strikes, even as Khwaja Asif maintains that these strikes are in indeterminate territory since the borders with Afghanistan are poorly demarcated in the Kurram region – implying they are not in Pakistan? The CIA will probably acknowledge in time that Pakistan, that generates radical Islamic terrorism, can hardly be expected to cooperate effectively in countering radical Islamic terrorism. Many snakes eat their young but not all; were that the case, snakes would have been extinct long since.