Catch21 - Our Charity ArmCatch21 is a charitable production company set up in 2005 which trains young people to make videos and engage with their communities.Catch Creative - Our Video Production ArmCatch Creative offers a complete video production service, from Conception to Distribution.Catch EngagementCatch Engagement is the new video interaction platform from Catch21 which allows you to run a campaign using both user generated films as well as professionally shot ones which are displayed via Video 'Walls'. Catch Engagement is all about using films to build an online community - welcome to the future of video.

We shoot cutting edge videos and provide a forum to give people a voice.
Engagement. Discussion. Empowerment.


All content featured on our charity site is produced by young volunteers with the support and mentoring of our professional production team.

Blog no image

Published on November 29th, 2011 | by Ben Phillips
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="203" caption="American soldiers in Afghanistan. Photo credit: US Army"][/caption] The killing of twenty-four Pakistani soldiers in a NATO air strike in the border province of Mohmand, during the early hours of Saturday morning, marks a new low in relations between Pakistan and the American-led forces prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. A joint ISAF-Afghan counterinsurgency operation on the Afghan side of the border, coming under fire, called in NATO air support, which proceeded to destroy two fortified border positions on the Pakistan side. NATO's protestations that the incident was a horrible accident have met with the pointed refusal of Pakistani officials to rule out the possibility of a deliberate strike. Enraged at this latest example of NATO's carelessness and disdain for Pakistan's sovereignty, Islamabad has cut off communications with Brussels, closed the two principal Afghan border crossings that facilitate a large part of NATO's logistical operation, and given American forces a deadline of two weeks in which to leave the airfield at Shamsi, in Baluchistan. Just over ten years on from the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, in which Pakistan was an early, if rather reluctant, ally of the coalition, this episode has highlighted unprecedented levels of tension, distrust and antipathy both in the cross-border relationship and that between Pakistan and the United States. It's hard to disagree with Simon Tisdall when he argues that this deterioration is, in very large part, the Americans' fault. Since 2001, he writes, 'Pakistan has struggled under a plethora of imperious American demands, démarches and impositions that are at once politically indefensible and contrary to the perceived national interest.' As Islamic militancy has spilled over the border from Afghanistan, so too it has been nurtured by a decade of American policy in which Pakistan, with casualty figures from the 'war on terror' far outstripping those of all the western allies combined, has played the role of a stooge and had its sovereignty violated at every turn. An endless succession of American blunders and heavy-handed shows of force, from years of Predator drone strikes that kill more civilians than terrorists to the Bin Laden raid and a double murder in Lahore perpetrated by a CIA officer, have seen anti-Americanism become the norm both at the higher levels of Pakistani politics and in the nation's society as a whole. For Tisdall, the events of the last few days are harbingers of truly dire developments that still lie ahead. 'If Washington does not quickly learn to tread more carefully', he writes, 'it may find the first US-Pakistan war is beginning just as the fourth Afghan war supposedly ends.' Yet between one senator's hawkish dismissal of Pakistani anger and continued talk of a fully-fledged American intervention on the ground in North Waziristan, there's little sign of the Americans changing their stance. The Washington Post goes so far as to suggest that the border positions hit on Saturday morning might indeed, as Pakistan suggested, have been deliberately targeted, noting long-held suspicions amongst American commanders that Taliban militants operate alongside the Pakistani military. Still, it might be going too far to conclude that the stage is being set for an intervention in Waziristan. The question raised by the weekend's events is simply how much more strain the US-Pakistan relationship can take, and the consensus appears to be that the blow dealt by this incident will prove damaging but not fatal. There are good reasons for that: the continuing level of mutual dependence between the two nations cannot be understated. Simply in terms of enabling NATO's operations in Afghanistan from the logistical perspective, Pakistan is not as important as it was in the early years of the war. In recent years, under ever fewer illusions about the deterioration of relations with Islamabad, both NATO and the American forces have worked to reduce their dependency on the so-called southern distribution network, wherein sea-borne supplies arrive at Pakistan's ports on the Arabian Sea and continue their journey overland to the Afghan border. As of this year, only 30% of US military supplies arrive in Afghanistan this way - considerably less than in previous years. The other 70% are either airlifted or, more usually, arrive through the northern distribution network - a series of purely overland routes originating in central Europe and travelling through first Russia and then the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. These figures alone allow for operations in Afghanistan to continue uninterrupted for several months after such a closure of the Afghan-Pakistan border as occured this weekend, although the resultant scenario does mean the Americans handing Moscow an unprecedented trump card. Still, as Pakistan's importance has declined in this respect, so it has increased in other respects. Kicking the Americans out of the Shamsi airbase is, in a sense, quite a foolish move. Only ever used as a relief runway, Predator operations at Shamsi allegedly ceased in April this year. As such, the move has no strategic significance, just symbolic value rendered rather hollow by the way it belies the Pakistani government's former claims that the Americans never actually had use of the facility. Nonetheless, Shamsi is representative of the Americans' strategic dependence on Pakistan's goodwill until such time as they cease to care even a little bit for the idea of national sovereignty. Likewise, as the Economist points out, continued integration with Pakistan's intelligence services and a degree of proximity to Pakistan's nuclear weapons represent powerful strategic imperatives for the United States. These factors might, they suggest, result in the weekend's events ultimately playing to the advantage of Pakistan's leadership:

'For a start it makes it easier for them to demand more American aid and assistance to justify prolonging a deeply unpopular working relationship. Just as useful, for Pakistan’s army, is that public anger against the Americans gives it an excuse to put off, yet again, a long-sought military intervention in North Waziristan against the Haqqani network...Being seen to do the bidding of the Americans, Pakistani leaders can easily say, would be to court an unacceptable level of internal instability.'
As such, the US-Pakistan relationship will probably survive this crisis, at least in the short term. Yet the longer-term results of that relationship for Pakistan may well be awful. Whatever immediate benefits Pakistan's hierarchy derive from this episode, theirs is a nation in crisis, caught between the rock of American interests and the hard place of Islamic militancy. As an insightful article published by the online edition of the Pakistani newspaper Dawn argues, the US-Pakistan relationship is a relationship in the service of American hegemony, a hegemony which has 'crushed and suppressed the hopes and dreams of millions of people from the Shah's Iran to Mubarak's Egypt and beyond.' Pakistan's challenge is to somehow free itself from this noxious association without falling into the clutches of Islamism, but without an obvious third way between the two presenting itself - as the writer concedes, democratic liberalism in Pakistan hardly has the most auspicious track record - the nation is left with a miserable trade-off between 'the [tyrannies] of both Uncle Sam and the mullah'. A few years' more American posturing and the victory of the latter will probably be assured, and with it the rise of a second Iran - one which already has nuclear weapons.

0

Pakistan: the aftermath of the border attack

American soldiers in Afghanistan. Photo credit: US Army

The killing of twenty-four Pakistani soldiers in a NATO air strike in the border province of Mohmand, during the early hours of Saturday morning, marks a new low in relations between Pakistan and the American-led forces prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. A joint ISAF-Afghan counterinsurgency operation on the Afghan side of the border, coming under fire, called in NATO air support, which proceeded to destroy two fortified border positions on the Pakistan side. NATO’s protestations that the incident was a horrible accident have met with the pointed refusal of Pakistani officials to rule out the possibility of a deliberate strike. Enraged at this latest example of NATO’s carelessness and disdain for Pakistan’s sovereignty, Islamabad has cut off communications with Brussels, closed the two principal Afghan border crossings that facilitate a large part of NATO’s logistical operation, and given American forces a deadline of two weeks in which to leave the airfield at Shamsi, in Baluchistan. Just over ten years on from the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, in which Pakistan was an early, if rather reluctant, ally of the coalition, this episode has highlighted unprecedented levels of tension, distrust and antipathy both in the cross-border relationship and that between Pakistan and the United States.

It’s hard to disagree with Simon Tisdall when he argues that this deterioration is, in very large part, the Americans’ fault. Since 2001, he writes, ‘Pakistan has struggled under a plethora of imperious American demands, démarches and impositions that are at once politically indefensible and contrary to the perceived national interest.’ As Islamic militancy has spilled over the border from Afghanistan, so too it has been nurtured by a decade of American policy in which Pakistan, with casualty figures from the ‘war on terror’ far outstripping those of all the western allies combined, has played the role of a stooge and had its sovereignty violated at every turn. An endless succession of American blunders and heavy-handed shows of force, from years of Predator drone strikes that kill more civilians than terrorists to the Bin Laden raid and a double murder in Lahore perpetrated by a CIA officer, have seen anti-Americanism become the norm both at the higher levels of Pakistani politics and in the nation’s society as a whole. For Tisdall, the events of the last few days are harbingers of truly dire developments that still lie ahead. ‘If Washington does not quickly learn to tread more carefully’, he writes, ‘it may find the first US-Pakistan war is beginning just as the fourth Afghan war supposedly ends.’ Yet between one senator’s hawkish dismissal of Pakistani anger and continued talk of a fully-fledged American intervention on the ground in North Waziristan, there’s little sign of the Americans changing their stance. The Washington Post goes so far as to suggest that the border positions hit on Saturday morning might indeed, as Pakistan suggested, have been deliberately targeted, noting long-held suspicions amongst American commanders that Taliban militants operate alongside the Pakistani military.

Still, it might be going too far to conclude that the stage is being set for an intervention in Waziristan. The question raised by the weekend’s events is simply how much more strain the US-Pakistan relationship can take, and the consensus appears to be that the blow dealt by this incident will prove damaging but not fatal. There are good reasons for that: the continuing level of mutual dependence between the two nations cannot be understated. Simply in terms of enabling NATO’s operations in Afghanistan from the logistical perspective, Pakistan is not as important as it was in the early years of the war. In recent years, under ever fewer illusions about the deterioration of relations with Islamabad, both NATO and the American forces have worked to reduce their dependency on the so-called southern distribution network, wherein sea-borne supplies arrive at Pakistan’s ports on the Arabian Sea and continue their journey overland to the Afghan border. As of this year, only 30% of US military supplies arrive in Afghanistan this way – considerably less than in previous years. The other 70% are either airlifted or, more usually, arrive through the northern distribution network – a series of purely overland routes originating in central Europe and travelling through first Russia and then the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. These figures alone allow for operations in Afghanistan to continue uninterrupted for several months after such a closure of the Afghan-Pakistan border as occured this weekend, although the resultant scenario does mean the Americans handing Moscow an unprecedented trump card. Still, as Pakistan’s importance has declined in this respect, so it has increased in other respects. Kicking the Americans out of the Shamsi airbase is, in a sense, quite a foolish move. Only ever used as a relief runway, Predator operations at Shamsi allegedly ceased in April this year. As such, the move has no strategic significance, just symbolic value rendered rather hollow by the way it belies the Pakistani government’s former claims that the Americans never actually had use of the facility. Nonetheless, Shamsi is representative of the Americans’ strategic dependence on Pakistan’s goodwill until such time as they cease to care even a little bit for the idea of national sovereignty. Likewise, as the Economist points out, continued integration with Pakistan’s intelligence services and a degree of proximity to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons represent powerful strategic imperatives for the United States. These factors might, they suggest, result in the weekend’s events ultimately playing to the advantage of Pakistan’s leadership:

‘For a start it makes it easier for them to demand more American aid and assistance to justify prolonging a deeply unpopular working relationship. Just as useful, for Pakistan’s army, is that public anger against the Americans gives it an excuse to put off, yet again, a long-sought military intervention in North Waziristan against the Haqqani network…Being seen to do the bidding of the Americans, Pakistani leaders can easily say, would be to court an unacceptable level of internal instability.’

As such, the US-Pakistan relationship will probably survive this crisis, at least in the short term. Yet the longer-term results of that relationship for Pakistan may well be awful. Whatever immediate benefits Pakistan’s hierarchy derive from this episode, theirs is a nation in crisis, caught between the rock of American interests and the hard place of Islamic militancy. As an insightful article published by the online edition of the Pakistani newspaper Dawn argues, the US-Pakistan relationship is a relationship in the service of American hegemony, a hegemony which has ‘crushed and suppressed the hopes and dreams of millions of people from the Shah’s Iran to Mubarak’s Egypt and beyond.’ Pakistan’s challenge is to somehow free itself from this noxious association without falling into the clutches of Islamism, but without an obvious third way between the two presenting itself – as the writer concedes, democratic liberalism in Pakistan hardly has the most auspicious track record – the nation is left with a miserable trade-off between ‘the [tyrannies] of both Uncle Sam and the mullah’. A few years’ more American posturing and the victory of the latter will probably be assured, and with it the rise of a second Iran – one which already has nuclear weapons.

Tags: , , , ,


About the Author



Back to Top ↑