Pakistan Must Join the Global Coalition Against ISIS

Source: ipp-news.com

Source: ipp-news.com

In a recently reported statement, the representative of the Pakistan military has denied any intentions to send troops as a part of a global coalition for fighting ISIS. I hope I am reading it wrong but the statement is disappointing to say the least and would cast serious doubts about the nation’s commitment to fight terrorist threats around the world. This is only disappointing considering how the Pakistani military has been acknowledged by international leaders for its contribution in the war against terrorism.

On the other hand, Pakistan Army has already made statements vowing that the existence of ISIS would not be tolerated in Pakistan. While so far the officials have not acknowledged the presence of the terrorist group in Pakistan, critics have good reasons to question how the threat of ISIS in the region is being downplayed.

However, contributing to the global coalition against ISIS does not necessarily have anything to do with the threat in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that increased security is required at home, but we also have a responsibility to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

We are not sure whether the Western leaders have really started to rally a serious coalition for ground forces in Iraq and Syria, but this early statement is not a healthy sign. Nevertheless, the need to build such a coalition as soon as possible, and one which many in the West are underestimating, if not undermining, at best.

While the efforts of the Pakistani military must be appreciated for fighting the terror bases in the North Western tribal areas, this does not mean that the war against terrorist threats is over. Pakistan must fulfill its global responsibilities, and the Pakistani civilian leadership should take a stand on the issue.

The war against ISIS is too important to be left to the lack of enthusiasm and reluctance of nations making up the allies. The United States and other leaders of the coalition should pressure Pakistan, among other countries around the world including India and Middle Eastern countries, to contribute their due share.

Pakistan has a proud tradition of assisting the United States in its campaigns against enemies of freedom around the world. From resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and being an inseparable part of the peacekeeping force to stop genocide in Bosnia, Somalia and Sierra Leone to the war against terrorism, Pakistan has been a responsible ally for the most part. It is time to act in that spirit again.

Muslim majority countries must lead the way to battle Islamist terrorist groups organizing themselves in tyrannical states and it is imperative that Pakistan be in the frontline. Pakistan would also be reluctant to take action on ISIS abroad due to its refusal to participate against the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

There has been a particular reluctance to fight ISIS both among Western powers and Sunni majority countries due to their anti-Shia inclination. However, saner political forces both in the West and in Sunni majority countries do not agree on this dangerous and counterproductive way of countering the Iranian influence.

Tolerating ISIS is also a terrible way to hope for the fall of the Assad regime. Probably a more morally and politically correct way would be to launch a mass invasion on Syria, in the manner of the 2003 Iraq War. Both the United States and the EU did not hesitate for a minute to get directly involved to overturn the Libyan regime. At least we can agree that Assad is far worse than Gaddafi. And if removing Assad is not that important, why even bother with that?

You know the world is dealing with a moral crisis when Russia is actively claiming to fight ISIS, and Turkey and other adjoining nations are just silent witnesses. And even worse, shooting down their planes.

There is no doubt that a ground force or any sort of political intervention is not going to resolve the Sunni-Shia rift in the region, and such a coalition should not aim to achieve any nonsensical goals in the first place. However, such a presence is required to ensure the elimination of the Islamic State and to prevent such organized threats from emerging.

Even today, the public opinion and many liberal politicians oppose deploying ground troops. And many of them are asking valid questions, like the UK opposition enquiring if the airstrikes proposed by Prime Minister Cameron would make any difference and what would be the next step.

The current leadership in the West is not thinking about the next step because of the horrors of the Iraq War campaign. Who are they going to help by bombing ISIS? Assad, Russia and pro-Iran forces? And would it be enough to help what is left of the Syrian Free Army that is currently being targeted by the Russians?

Those opposing substantial military action for the liberation of the ISIS occupied territory might as well not bother with the bombings either, apart from surgical drone strikes targeting ISIS leadership. Also, they should make up their minds about what to do about Assad.

Apparently, many people around the world still need to be convinced that ISIS is a threat worth proactively fighting against. Unfortunately, for political reasons or otherwise, the Pakistani military leadership appears to be among them.

It is important to understand that without a long-term occupying ground force in Iraq and ISIS occupied Syria, stability cannot be achieved.

Pakistan needs to be an inseparable part of this ground force.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Stain on the Peacemaker’s Legacy

Source: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images, Politico

Source: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Every one of us can recall the larger than life election campaign of President Obama in the 2008 Presidential elections. The campaign stirred so much hope for change, that it inspired the entire world. Apart from the fact that the first African American was about to be elected for President in American history, the world saw this refreshing liberal leader as a new beginning for world peace, progress, and prosperity.

To a great extent, he has delivered on many of his promises. To many others, he has been a terrible disappointment, which of course is going to be the case if you try reconciling his too-good-to-be-true campaign with the reality. He got rid of Osama Bin Laden in a heroic operation in Pakistan and eliminated several Islamist terrorist through targeted drone strikes. He had a major healthcare reform act passed, albeit highly partisan, and just recently designated new national reserve areas in three states.

But his role as an international peacemaker was sealed with the conferring of the Nobel Peace Prize on his election in 2009. He truly broke the ice with his historic decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, probably his greatest foreign policy legacy, and is trying his level best to conclude a civilized agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program at the cost of Israel’s satisfaction. If we ignore his aggressive drone warfare throughout Middle East and Southwest Asia, he certainly looks like an American President who has actually been a force for peace for a change.

But I wonder if many historians would count the rise of ISIS, or ISIL as he calls it, among his lasting legacies as well.

Despite the fact that many of his supporters and the Democratic leaders would dismiss the very mention of this notion and quickly transfer the blame to the policies of his predecessor, the explanation is far from enough.

Obviously, you cannot expect a President in the last year of his Presidency, when he is busy building his legacy, to start a war. That’s something for the next President to worry about. But it is a fair question to ask if he has done enough.

In my humble opinion, the answer is certainly no.

There is no doubt that America is war weary, and they certainly do not want to have anything to do with a war that does not concern them directly. They are right. They should not have been in Iraq in the first place. The sacrifice of thousands of US and allied veterans for their service must not be forgotten and must be appreciated. But at the same time, it should be kept in mind that the problem of ISIS would not have surfaced without the vacuum of power created by Western intervention in the region.

The arming of the Syrian opposition to intensify the Syrian civil war probably contributed as much to this development than the 2003 invasion of Iraq, if not more, though the Shia-leaning central government of Iraq and lack of political understanding in this regard by the Bush administrations are also cited as factors. But what if President Obama would have refrained from fulfilling his campaign promise of withdrawing troops from Iraq? It only would have been the right thing to do in this context.

But what is the use in bickering over the past, as well as the cause? Because either way, it’s the Western intervention that caused the problem, whether due to the actions of a Democratic President or a Republican.

The point to concentrate on is if we want to do something about this problem today, as most Republican leaders are urging, and rightly so.

If you really want some insight into President Obama’s mind and how he has approached the ISIS crisis, hear or read his statement at the Department of Defense press conference on the issue.

His comment about the ISIS problem conceded that “ideologies are not defeated with guns, but better ideas.” It is hard to disagree with his statement, but President Obama must realize that ISIS is not just an ideology. The ideology we are confronting here is militant Islamism. ISIS is a very real political group which is gaining ground every day, and which can only be defeated with military power, not just better ideas.

Nobody wants to look like President Jimmy Carter, who struggled with the Iran hostage crisis in the very last days of his Presidential term. Therefore, ISIS is at just about the safe distance to accord neglect of any remedial action, something to be taken on by the “next generation” in this long battle. The hints toward that direction are not hard to find in the statement, apart from a complete lack of sense of urgency to tackle the issue.

Besides, actively taking on ISIS would be against the Obama doctrine of no boots on ground and relying heavily on drone warfare and other airstrikes. This makes perfectly good sense, but if only it had been good enough to deal with the severity of the threat of ISIS. It calls for forming a global coalition as rallied by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks, hopefully under the United Nations, and with a permanent troop deployment. If US troops can still be stationed in Korea, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, why not in Iraq where they are needed the most?

But in his urge to be the great global peacemaker, to be the great American President who didn’t go to war, and the great liberal statesman who made the world a better place, not worse, is he leaving us with probably the worst entity imaginable just to undo most if not all of that good work?

Yet the very fact that President Obama is a force for peace in the world is a big question mark itself.

A version of this post was published in The Nation blogs.