Strategic Decision Making: Pakistan’s Support to the US War on Terror


The decision by the Pakistani leadership to unconditionally support the US in their war on terror after the 9/11 attacks has had long-term consequences. Now that the US intervention in Afghanistan is rapidly moving towards its denouement, the implications have become painfully clear. Pakistan has to contend with a declining economy, poor law and order situation and a deteriorating relationship with the West.

At the time the decision was made, the obtaining environment dictated the Government of Pakistan to act quickly in favour of the USA. To defy the US would have meant grave consequences. Pakistan lacked the means and resources to chart an independent path. In this atmosphere of overwhelming coercion and fear, the only rational choice was total and complete cooperation. The Government of Pakistan chose to unconditionally side with the US.

This paper argues that the decision-making process is short circuited when a single person is calling the shots and the long-term consequences can be less than satisfactory. A multi-layered decision-making process not only buys time for the decision makers, it makes for greater responsibility and reduces the negative fallout to a great extent. A holistic response requires greater participation from all stakeholders. It also needs courage and imagination on the part of all concerned. An extraordinary situation must be thought through in reat detail before making a strategic commitment.

The Decision-Making Environment

Arguably, anyone in President Musharraf’s place would have decided in favour of siding with the US in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. What has since become contentious is the ‘carte blanche’ that he gave to the Americans.1 In hindsight a number of questions come to mind i.e.: What choices were available to the Pakistani decision maker(s)? Was unconditional cooperation the only rational choice?2 Was a standard procedure for making a decision followed? Were all the pros and cons carefully considered? What approach was

exactly adopted? Can the decision be ultimately classified as slick realpolitik or crass appeasement?

To find an answer, one needs to understand the prevailing domestic and international environment. At the moment of reckoning, the final word on all national issues rested with the President, General Pervez Musharraf. As a military strongman, he had the liberty to decide on national security issues unilaterally –A choice not available to most civilian leaders in Pakistan.3 His background in the Special Forces had trained him to make decisions independently and speedily in adverse conditions. One can assume that he made some of his quick-fire decisions on gut feelings and his gambler’s instinct.4 Those who knew General Musharraf well, describe a certain ‘wild streak’ and a ‘rakish attitude’ that could at times land him into trouble.5 His lucky escapades, dash and enterprise were qualities that endeared him to his men as a junior leader.

9/11 put him in a tight spot. He was expected to make a quick decision. The entire world held its breath. The US had been badly hurt and it was time to pay homage to the victims and express unhindered solidarity to the lone superpower. As the world at large expressed sympathy and support, the US prepared to seek revenge and bring to book the perpetrators of the attack and all those, who had been complicit in the dastardly act. The deck was heavily stacked against anyone defying the US or the prevalent international mood. Any wrong step could be fatal. Alternative choices were non-existent. Very prudently and with a great deal of alacrity, General Musharraf decided to side with the US and do their bidding.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s archenemy, India, had already offered three airbases in Jammu, Punjab and Gujarat, in addition to unspecified port facilities, as a part of its offer for operational support to US war effort in Afghanistan.6In a newspaper interview, Musharraf highlighted the India factor in his decision making:

Pakistan was not ready to face the combined might of the US and India after 9/11 … India was ready to extend all out support to the US if we did not. Not only would our airspace and land have been

violated, the Kashmir cause and our nuclear capability would also have been badly compromised.7

Anatomy of Strategic Decision Making

Strategic decision making at the government level follow a standard procedure. The first step in the process begins with identifying the problem. This includes an objective analysis of the situation, the assessment of the prevailing environment and an audit of the resources and time available to respond to it. The process requires institutional support including objective and unbiased inputs by aides, advisors, colleagues and concerned experts. In national decision making, the major service providers are the intelligence agencies. Before taking a decision, a set of possible options is examined and after considering the cost-benefit analysis, a strategic choice is made. A decision, particularly an important one is always backed up by a number of alternative strategies.8The ultimate decision is taken keeping in account the short and long-term consequences. Did General Pervez Musharraf follow the Standard Operating Procedures prevalent in the military and civilian bureaucracies that he was simultaneously heading? Did he war-game the problem the way it is taught and practiced in the Army schools of instruction i.e. analysing the problem from ‘own’ and the ‘enemy’s’ points of view? Did he subject it to the tenets of game theory – the much beloved tool of the western decision makers?9

After leaving office, General Musharraf would admit that he had accepted ‘some’ of the US demands,10 but only after making “a dispassionate military style analysis of our options, weighing the pros and cons. Emotion is all very well, but it cannot be relied on for decisions like this.”11 In the Pakistan Army, important matters are referred to the corps commanders, who represent a collegiate forum of institutionalised decision making.12 The issues that are deliberated at this forum include decisions ranging from promotion boards to higher ranks to the military’s stance on Kerry-Lugar aid package.13 There is a feeling that in this particular case, General Musharraf may have used the meeting to simply inform his fellow generals (of) the reasons for taking the decision to accept American demands.14 Musharraf’s Chief of General Staff, Shahid Aziz would accuse his

former boss of keeping the corps commanders in the dark about his volte face on Afghanistan.15

Lieutenant General Hamid Javaid, Musharraf’s Chief of Staff (COS), in a newspaper interview marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11, reiterated Musharraf’s efforts at consensus building:

The decision to become a US ally was taken after detailed discussion between President Pervez Musharraf and his cabinet, National Security Council, GHQ, the chief justice, politicians, corps commanders, religious scholars, intellectuals and representatives of other sections of society.16

One does not know what kind of advice was rendered by Hamid Javaid. He had assumed his job in September 2001 and was too new in office to have made any meaningful intervention. His predecessor, Lieutenant General Ghulam Ahmed was killed in August 2001 in a car crash and had the reputation and “moral courage to dissent with the boss.”17

To General Musharraf’s good luck there was no major domestic opposition to his decision. Ordinary people heaved a collective sigh of relief for the rational choice of not supporting the Taliban. The widespread feeling was that had he stuck out his neck for the mullahs ruling Afghanistan, the nation would have certainly incurred the wrath of the Americans. With time, his decision to unconditionally grant concessions to the Americans without getting the necessary quid pro quo benefits, would invite critical comment from the domestic media.18

Civil-Military Relations

A quirk of fate had placed Musharraf in the hot seat.19 He was a surprise choice for the position of the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) – the most powerful station in the Pakistani ‘establishment.’ His turn came up sooner than he had expected. His predecessor Jahangir Karamat had resigned prematurely after a difference of opinion with the political leadership.20 Nawaz Sharif appointed Musharraf the army chief superseding two senior generals

“calculating that this son of a mohajir (migrant) family would not wield great influence over the Punjabi-Pashtun-dominated high command.” This assumption proved wrong and “Nawaz Sharif’s relationship with his new COAS soon deteriorated.”21 The main reasons for disagreement were conflicting perceptions on the Kargil conflict and the sacking of Lieutenant General Tariq Pervez (TP), a pro-Nawaz Sharif man.22 Nawaz’s warming up to the Indian prime minister during the Lahore summit of February 1999 was seen as the beginning of a split in the civil-military relations. The Summit Communiqué had failed to mention Kashmir – A core issue for Pakistan and one, over which the armed forces had thrice fought wars.23 Like other military officers, Musharraf was trained to fight a war over Kashmir. An initiative to correct the ground position in the disputed territory could be his legacy as the top commander.

The Kargil initiative had a number of unintended fallouts. It not only disturbed the regional balance, it brought Musharraf into direct conflict with the political leadership. To begin with Pakistani troops had carried out a brilliant tactical surprise in the glacial heights of the Karakoram ranges, much to the liking of a Special Services man like Musharraf. They had capitalised on the Indian practice of vacating some of their forward posts during winters in the Kargil sector. Before they could reoccupy their positions after the spring thaw, the Pakistanis forces had infiltrated across the Line of Control (LoC) and occupied approximately 500 square miles.24 This manoeuvre was meant to dominate the Leh-Manali road; the main supply line for troops positioned on the Siachin glacier. According to the semi-official Pakistani military narrative, this was not a counter-stroke for the Indian interdiction of the Neelam Valley route during the summers.25 No such strategic objective was in mind. It was a tactical offensive to improve the defensive posture and to pre-empt suspected Indian military actions along the LoC.26 However, the artillery interdiction of Neelum Valley in 1994-96 and the greater humiliation at Siachin in 1984 might just have been the reason for the Kargil operation.27 Musharraf had evidently “not drawn all the right conclusions about Kargil.”28 It was to be another of his ‘wild gamble.’29 The Kargil operation blew out of proportion. After the Indians got over the initial shock, they aggressively used air and artillery to dislodge the intruders.

As the battle dragged on, the Pakistani infiltrators found themselves low on supplies and without air cover. The Pakistani political leadership had not contended with an extended war and to their utter dismay, the Indian media and aggressive diplomacy isolated them internationally.30 As the ground situation changed for the worse, Nawaz Sharif rushed to Washington D.C. to seek the American President’s help to come out of a tricky situation.31 In a meeting held on 4th of July holiday, President Clinton was in no mood to humour his self-imposed guest. He played upon Nawaz’s fears that his generals were on the verge of starting a nuclear war without his knowledge.32 On Clinton’s insistence, Nawaz Sharif agreed to unconditionally order the withdrawal of his forces to their peacetime locations and pledged to respect the “sanctity of the LoC.”33 This was a highly unpopular decision. “The Army was shaken, and the young officers, especially felt betrayed.” The Army chief had a hard time reviving their morale and sagging spirits.34 The frontline soldier had paid a heavy price with his blood and was disappointed by the decision to withdraw. The rumblings within the army could be heard outside the barracks. Kargil became a prickly issue. The politicians and generals blamed each other for different reasons. Their differing perspectives can best be described as the Rashoman effect.35 Reports of misunderstanding between political and military hierarchy became rife and the army chief had to go on record to dispel these. Subsequently General Musharraf met with the Sharif brothers and their patriarch in their Raiwind palace to patch up.36

However, there was no let-up in the mutual mistrust. On October 12, 1999 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a ‘ham-handed’ though entirely ‘legal’ decision to dismiss Musharraf from his position as COAS.37 This was high drama. Musharraf was in mid-air, on his way back from an official tour of Sri Lanka. Short on fuel and denied permission to land, he was saved by loyal generals, who took control of the situation and reversed Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal orders.38 Once in power, Musharraf thought he could set “Pakistan right under the army’s tutelage.”39 He positioned himself as a “modern and even progressive military man,”40 and claimed that he would bring in “true democracy.”41 Ironically his seven-point agenda did not include a clause regarding the restoration of

democracy. The only promise he made in this regard was sixth in the order of priority and it referred only to the “Devolution of power to grass roots level.”42 Initially, his gambit paid off. He was hailed by many as his country’s ‘saviour.’ High expectations were pinned on him. It was generally expected that he would be able to steer his country back from the brink of economic disaster.43 Musharraf remained in power for eight years. The sum total of the decisions that he took while in office, whether in good faith or for personal survival, have placed him in the dubious category of ‘another failed general.’44

The US Threat Matrix

After the Cold War new threats were spotted on the US security radar. Two of the predominant ones were terrorism and the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Scenarios like US homeland coming under attack and fundamentalists assuming power in nuclear armed countries were being regularly trotted out by reputed think tanks.45 After the attacks on the US embassies in East Africa in 1998, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda was in the crosshair of the American intelligence agencies. Retaliatory measures against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan ranged from missile strikes training camps,46 to covert plans to snatch bin Laden while he joined a UAE hunting party in 1998.This plan never materialised because neither the Americans nor the Pakistanis were 100 per cent sure of bin Laden’s presence.47

As soon as the Taliban emerged as a credible force in Afghanistan, South Asian analysts at the US Department of State assessed that they could simply not be wished away.48 Their links with Al Qaeda made it all the more necessary to engage with them. The US government approached them indirectly through Unocal; a Texas-based Oil Company, whom they had helped to outbid an Argentinean company, Bridasin, a gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan.49Ahmed Shah Massoud’s Afghan Northern Alliance had accepted a $1 million payment from Bridas in a New York account and feared that the Americans were supporting the Taliban to come into power because they wanted to further Unocal’s commercial interests.50 As a part of their efforts to

influence the Afghans, the Unocal not only sent their top official Marty Miller to Kandahar,51 they also invited Taliban delegations to visit the US in 1997.52 The Taliban soon realised that Unocal was the veritable “arm of the US government.”53 What they did not know was that Unocal was also keeping tabs on bin Laden. The company had rented office accommodation across their Saudi guest’s compound in Kandahar and its executives and liaisons were regularly reporting on his movements.54 While the Unocal dealt directly with the Taliban, the US diplomats worked on the Turkmen, and the Pakistani governments to agree to the pipeline project.55 After so many years, the US government is still pushing for Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.56

When the Sudanese government blocked Osama bin Laden’s return to their country in 1996, Al Qaeda found refuge in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. From this time onwards Pakistan became the second most important country for the US in their fight against terrorism.57 The US officials began putting enormous pressure on the Pakistani government to use their influence with the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden. Karl Inderfurth, President Clinton’s Under Secretary of State for South Asia visited Islamabad after the military takeover. He pressed DG ISI Lieutenant General Mahmood to track down Abu Zubaydah, the chief perpetrator of the millennium plot, who at that time was believed to be living in Peshawar. Mahmood reportedly told the Americans that he had no information about Zubaydah’s whereabouts. The Americans were convinced that Zubaydah was recruiting Jihadis for ISI for their operations in Kashmir.58 Inderfurth ratcheted up the pressure during his meeting with General Musharraf. He allegedly ‘warned’ the new President that Washington was of the view that Pakistan was actively supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Musharraf promised to personally go to Kandahar to see Mullah Omar and ask him to handover bin Laden. Knowing that his secular credentials would not cut ice with the rigid Taliban leadership, he sent his trusted Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed to talk to Kandahar. Mahmood found the Taliban leadership not agreeable on the issue of Osama. The Americans concluded that since Mahmood was well-inclined towards the Taliban,59 he hadn’t tried hard enough. There were reports, that during his abortive mission to get Osama,

Mahmood had assured Mullah Omar that his country would not be hostile to Al Qaeda, provided it “did not harm Pakistan’s interests.”60 The Americans refused to give up. During his one day visit to Pakistan in 2000, Clinton asked Musharraf to “use Pakistan’s influence with Taliban to get bin Laden.” He was worried about the possibility of the Taliban acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction. Musharraf promised to do as much as he could, but the next day told Under Secretary, Thomas Pickering, that his country had “little leverage” with the Taliban.61 The Taliban policy of not listening to anyone and exercising their judgment was quite evident, when Pakistan’s Interior Minister Lieutenant General Moinuddin Haider failed to convince them not to destroy the ancient Bamiyan Buddha in March 2001.62

The Americans, however, clung to the view that Mahmood had influence over the Taliban. Mahmood Ahmed was among the clique of loyal generals, who had brought Musharraf into power.63 For his loyalty during the ‘counter coup,’64 Mahmood was appointed the DG ISI.65 He replaced Ziauddin, a Nawaz loyalist.66 CIA had hoped that Ziauddin would help them catch bin Laden.”67 Now that he was gone, they had to construct a new relationship with his successor. The Pakistani intelligence remained their ‘fastest’ and ‘easiest’ route to “capture or kill bin Laden.”68 The Americans found Mahmood a difficult man. He was a ‘proud man’ and was not very keen on visiting the US. He did not like being lectured about Pakistan’s inability to get Osama bin Laden from the Taliban. He also “hated being rebuffed when he tried to explain Pakistan’s need for strategic depth,” i.e. a friendly government in Afghanistan.69 Mahmood had responded to American slights by tightening up “American access to every sector of the Pakistan Army and intelligence services.” He had also directed his subordinates in the ISI to go by the book in enforcing strict liaison rules, blocking “American contacts with Pakistani corps commanders, division commanders and other generals.” During his tenure “CIA access to Pakistani intelligence officers remained limited.”70

The CIA wanted to reconnect with the ISI quickly and break the barrier that the new DG ISI had erected around himself. To detect the chink in his armour, they worked on his profile. Mahmood was

an artillery officer and he and Musharraf had served in the same unit. Case officers discovered that as student at the Quetta Staff College, he had written a research paper on the battle of Gettysburg. The CIA station chief in Islamabad extended an invitation to the new ISI chief to visit his counterpart in Langley on a “get to know” visit. As an added incentive he was promised a “guided tour” of the battlefield at Gettysburg.71 During President Clinton’s 24-hour long visit to Pakistan in 2000, the CIA was successful in extracting Mahmood’s formal commitment to visit the United States.72 The visit took place in the ill-fated month of September 2001. The conducted tour to Gettysburg was a great success and the CIA was confident of winning Mahmood over.73 They needn’t have taken the trouble to take him to Gettysburg. Fate was about to intervene in the most sinister way. Mahmood was still in the US, when the hijackers of 9/11 struck. He was about to become part of one of the quickest U-turn decisions in Pakistan’s history.

9/11 and the Pressure on Pakistan

During his visit to the US, the American intelligence community were able to build their opinion about Mahmood first hand. In a lunch meeting on September 9, two days before the attacks, Director CIA George Tenet learnt from Mahmood that Taliban leader Mullah Omar “wanted only the best for his people.” To Tenet, Mahmood appeared “immovable, when it came to the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.” He was already aware that Mahmood’s message of condolence on the attack on USS Coleon October 12, 2000 had not offered any help in going after the Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. Now that the US was under attack, not by the horrific Weapons of Mass Destruction but hijacked commercial airliners, the Americans desperately needed Pakistani support. Mahmood was the shortest and the quickest way to approach Musharraf to help get the perpetrators of the attacks.74 At the precise moment of the attacks, the DG ISI was holding a breakfast meeting with Porter Goss (later Director CIA) and his colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee on the Capitol Hill. The meeting was hastily adjourned to witness the ‘nightmare’ live on television. Mahmood rushed back to the hotel, where he was staying.75 As he was being driven along the Constitution Avenue, someone pointed out to the plume of

smoke rising from the Pentagon building across the Potomac.76 He gravely turned to the Pakistani defence attaché, and shared his darkest thoughts: “It is Pearl Harbour all over again.”77 The next day Gen. Mahmood met American officials twice. First he called upon Director CIA Tenet, who was in a ‘state of shock.’ Next he was ushered into a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca and few other State Department officials. Mahmood was accompanied by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi and Deputy Chief of Mission Zameer Akram. Armitage, whom Mahmood found to be a ‘big, hulking bully,’ was beside himself with rage and wanted to get back to perpetrators of the attacks. Mahmood noted a lot of ‘anger, frustration, and resentment’ in his demeanour. When Mahmood began to repeat the narrative of Pak-US relations, Armitage cut him short, “History begins today.” Not used to being talked in that tone Mahmood was visibly shaken.78 Armitage wanted clear cut positions, “You are either 100 per cent with us or 100 per cent against us.” He gave them no choice: “There were no grey areas.”79 As the Pakistani delegation was leaving after the meeting, a US official startled Mahmood by swearing that a discussion was going on the possible the use of nuclear weapons on a target probably in Afghanistan80 – A clear indication that the Americans could go to any extreme. Mahmood called Islamabad and informed the Pakistani President about the gist of his meeting. According to one account, Musharraf made a ‘snap’ decision there and then. He told Mahmood to give the Americans what they wanted. At 3 in the afternoon, Armitage held a second meeting with Lodhi and Mahmood. This time he had more specific demands. The US wanted basic logistical support and a high degree of intelligence cooperation. Mahmood assured Armitage that Pakistan would cooperate.81 Armitage, a muscular man with a bald pate had been a professional wrestler and was the perfect choice to convey American anger. His forbidding manner was used to coerce the Pakistanis into thinking that defiance could not even be an option.82 Mahmood was no wimp. He had a gruff exterior. Handlebar moustaches and a serious mien gave him a commanding presence. A public school education had prepared him for the rough and tumble of life, but the turn of events had taken him by surprise. He was not prepared for anything like this. He was petrified. He reported sombrely to Musharraf, that Richard Armitage

had threatened to bomb Pakistan “back into the Stone Age” should it chose to side with the terrorists.83

The worst kind of reaction was expected from America. Ever since the demise of the Soviet Union, the Americans had increasingly resorted to unilateral military actions with overwhelming force. The 1991 Gulf War was a prime example of American unilateralism. To avenge the bombing of their embassies in East Africa, the Americans had rained cruise missiles from warships deployed in the Persian Gulf against Al Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan on August 20, 1998.84 The missiles had to pass through Pakistani airspace, but the Americans did not want to inform Pakistan in advance. They suspected that the Pakistanis would warn the Taliban, “and by extension, Al Qaeda.” The Americans also knew that the Pakistani intelligence service used some of the Al Qaeda training camps for the insurgents fighting in Kashmir.85 Ever since 1989, when an insurgency had broken out in Indian-held Kashmir, Pakistan army and the ISI had been supporting militant groups committed to liberating Kashmir.86 This would not be the first or the last occasion that the Americans would keep the Pakistanis in the dark. There was, however, one caveat, Pakistanis could misjudge “the flying missiles had been launched at them by India and retaliate conceivably even with nuclear weapons.” To preclude this possibility, Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Ralston was sent to Pakistan to inform the top Pakistani military commander minutes before the attack that the missiles were American. Giving them no time to either “alert the Taliban or Al Qaeda,” or shoot them down or “sparking a counter-attack on India.”87 This was the first direct strike against Osama bin Laden’s infrastructure using Pakistani air space. The damage caused in Khost was not significant, but those killed included 11 Pakistanis belonging to the Harkatul Ansar organisation. Since there was no damage caused within Pakistan, there were only minor protests.88 On the contrary, it had hardened Mullah Omar’s resolve not to hand over bin Laden.89

Americans had been playing the good cop – bad cop game with Pakistan for a long time. While the State Department or those in the CIA and sometimes the President himself had indulged in arm

twisting,90 the military-to-military relationship had been built around trust and sympathy. General Anthony Zinni, Commander-in-Chief (CINC) US Central Command (CENTCOM) was one American general, who prided himself for his close working relationship with Pakistani top generals.91 In October 1999, when Musharraf had run afoul of the US Government for mounting a coup and removing the civilian government, Zinni’s personal relationship was temporarily put on hold. He was allowed to take one personal call from Musharraf, but was advised not to make any personal commitments. It is instructive though that he was told to seek Musharraf’s help in December for apprehending Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, planning a massive plot to kill American tourists at the turn-of-millennium celebrations in Jordan and throughout the Middle East. Musharraf responded by arresting the terrorists and giving Americans access to them and their confiscated computer disks and throwing in several other favours. Zinni wanted the US Government to return the favours by at least reconnecting with him, but he was told not to do so.92

After 9/11, the Americans took no time in putting the blame on Osama bin Laden.93 President Bush declared the attacks to be “acts of war,” and threatened to “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed the acts and those who harbour them.”94 In his address to the nation, that evening, Bush stated that no American will “ever forget this day.”95 On September 20, in an address to the Congress, Bush put the entire world on notice: “We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems around the world.”96 In a November 6, joint press conference with the French President, Jacques Chirac, he sounded even more strident. He demanded: “A coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy, a coalition partner must perform.” In his opinion this meant “different things for different nations.” He knew that some nations didn’t want to contribute troops and some just wanted to be a part of the intelligence-sharing network, “But all nations, if they want to fight terror, must do something.” He warned: “Over time it’s going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity.” He added: “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” Bush reminded everyone that although there

was no evidence that Al Qaeda possessed weapons of mass destruction, there were threats by Osama bin Laden to use these seriously. Bush described bin Laden as “an evil man,” who was out to harm the western civilisation. Therefore it was of utmost importance to defeat him and win the war.97 The demand for unified action against the attackers and their supports was reinforced by among others former US Ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrook. Holbrook advocated unified action against any country that had “Harboured, sheltered Osama bin Laden or abetted or did not cooperate in his handing over to the United States.”98 Holbrook would become President Obama’s first envoy to the Af-Pak (Afghanistan-Pakistan) region.99 As if on cue, the UN Security Council called for joint action against the attackers.100 As Washington readied for war against the regime next door in Afghanistan, Musharraf prepared to ditch the Taliban and throw in Pakistan’s lot with the United States, making it a strategic ally in the “global war on terror” despite quiet misgivings among his top military brass.101

Sanctioned and isolated internationally, the domestic environment on the eve of the 9/11 terrorist attack in Pakistan was one of shock and bewilderment. As opposed to jubilation in some Palestinian refugee camps,102 and in Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan,103 there were no public celebrations in Pakistan. If there was any lurking sentiment of ‘serves them right,’ it remained muted and private. The Pakistani press reported the attacks in the US with black banner headlines and included photographs of death and carnage in Manhattan.104 The News reported: “Unknown terrorists demolished symbols of American and military power – the World Trade Centre and Pentagon … in unprecedented airborne attacks involving four hijacked commercial aircraft, killing hundreds or maybe thousands of people.”105 As if to prove that Pakistan had been personally hurt, it was pointed out that hundreds of Pakistanis working in the WTC may have died in the attacks.106

Commentaries in Pakistani newspapers hinted at serious repercussions for any country found remotely complicit with the attacks.107 In his newspaper analysis dated September 12, experienced commentator on Taliban affairs, Rahimullah Yusufzai

wrote that since Islamabad had close ties with Taliban, it risked more sanctions from the US, unless it gave up on them and helped them get bin Laden. He also feared that an attack to get bin Laden could fuel anti-US protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan and provoke the Islamists.108

Pakistani Response

Musharraf was in Karachi engrossed in a meeting with the local corps commander, when his military secretary interrupted by switching on CNN’s live transmission of the Twin Towers collapsing. What Musharraf saw was ‘unbelievable.’ The enormity of the event was ‘palpable.’ His sentiments recorded in his book were:

The world’s most powerful country had been attacked on its own soil, with its own aircraft used as missiles. This was a great tragedy, and a great blow to the ego of the superpower. America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear. If the perpetrator turned out to be Al Qaeda, then the wounded bear would come charging straight towards us. Al Qaeda was based in neighbouring Afghanistan under the protection of those international pariahs, the Taliban. Not only that: we were the only country maintaining diplomatic relations with the Taliban and their leader Mullah Omar. September 11 marked an irrevocable turn from the past into an unknown future. The world would never be the same.109

Musharraf was advised by the foreign office to give a statement immediately. He wrote one out himself and went live on the TV to condemn the ‘vile act.’ He expressed his disdain for “all forms of terrorism,” assured the Americans that his country stood by them “at this appalling time,” and offered all possible assistance.110 The next morning, while chairing a meeting in Governor House Karachi, Musharraf was interrupted by a call by Secretary Colin Powell. Musharraf wanted to return the call after he was done with the meeting, but the American Secretary of State insisted that he attend to him right away. “You are with us or against us,” Powell demanded from Musharraf. This was a short and sharp ultimatum. There were no other demands.111 Upon his return to Islamabad from Karachi, in the evening of September 12, he went straight into a

“high-level meeting to discuss the grave issue and the implications for Pakistan.” The foreign office waited for a formal list of demands from the US State Department before a swift retribution against the Taliban materialised.112 A swift letter of condolence was sent from the office of the Pakistani President to the American President and was reproduced in the local papers on September 12. In the letter, General Musharraf “strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington” and called upon the world to unite in fight against terrorism in all its forms and root out what he called ‘this modern day evil.’113

Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban were no secret. After 9/11 it was widely expected that Pakistan would be pressurised into abandoning them once for all. All major international players were likely to extend their unqualified support to the US without ascertaining the Taliban complicity with bin Laden. NATO allies and other friendly countries could offer military forces, while Arab countries in the Persian Gulf and Central Asian countries north of Afghanistan could provide landing facilities to the US armada. The Indians had already proposed ‘Indo-US cooperation against terrorism’ and were expected to offer more help. Pakistan Foreign Office considered the situation grave and ruled out a policy of defiance.114 Foreign Minister Sattar worried that Pakistan could be bracketed with Taliban and declared a ‘terrorist state’ and that Pakistani territory including that of Azad Jammu Kashmir could be attacked to eliminate ‘terrorist bases’, and that India could be given a ‘free hand’ to target Pakistan’s vital interests (read nuclear sites). It was quite evident to those at the helm of the affairs that Pakistan had to protect its ‘security and strategic interests’ and “avoid offence to the US.” At the moment they were not thinking of exploiting their country’s ‘geo-strategic position,’ they were simply calculating the cost of ‘non-cooperation.’115 At the moment, they were only concerned about how to cooperate with the US. Everything else was secondary. It would take the Government of Pakistan nearly a year to withdraw recognition from the Taliban government and hand over their envoy to Islamabad to the Americans. The official policy was set within the parameters of ‘balanced and regional constraints,’ ‘immediate imperatives and long-term interests,’ and “national priorities and the norms of an international order based on principles

of international law.” The only feasible course of action was ‘cautious cooperation’ in an UN-approved action against the Taliban. It was considered prudent to ‘join the global consensus,’ and “not oppose US attacks against targets within Afghanistan.” Most importantly it was important to cooperate with the US should they ask for it. Foreign Office advised “a positive approach and negotiate details later. Such a ‘Yes-but’ approach would allow Pakistan tactical flexibility.”116 If such an approach was indeed adopted, one wonders why the details weren’t worked out as the Pakistani-American collaboration in the war on terror became a reality.

As expected, the US wanted complete cooperation. It had been conveyed through diplomatic channels to Islamabad the US government wanted all countries to stand with them in their hour of grief and assist them in “finding out who has perpetrated this heinous crime.”117 Concrete demands from the US Government were expected to follow. A high-level conclave was held in the evening of September 12, at the Army chief’s official residence.118 Musharraf was scheduled to meet the new American ambassador, Wendy Chamberlain, the next day and wanted to define his position. His game plan was simple. He was not going to defy the Americans. He had explicitly condemned the ‘terrorist attacks,’ reiterated the need for all countries to unite in fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and assured President George Bush of his country’s “unstinted cooperation” in the fight against terrorism.119 On September 13 Wendy Chamberlain presented her credentials to General Musharraf. As he reassured the American envoy of his ‘unstinted’ support, she formally put forward a list of seven demands. The US government in short order wanted the Pakistani government:

to stop Al Qaeda operatives at its borders and end logistical support for bin Laden;

to give the United States blanket over-flight and landing rights for all necessary military and intelligence operations;

to provide territorial access to the US and allied military intelligence and other personnel to conduct operations against Al Qaeda;

to provide the US with intelligence operation;

to continue to publicly condemn the terrorist acts;

to cut off all shipment of fuel to the Taliban and stop recruits from going to Afghanistan;

to break relations with the Taliban government, if the evidence implicated bin Laden and Al Qaeda and the Taliban continued to harbour them.120

This was tantamount to asking for a blanket approval for establishing ‘extraterritorial rights in Pakistan.’ Demands that, according to one commentator no self-respecting government or a ‘sovereign nation worth its salt’ could have accepted in totality. Musharraf is said to have denied to acceding to the ‘especially the second and the third ones.’ Evidence, however, indicates that bases were provided to the Americans for more than ‘logistic and aircraft recovery.’ Pakistani officials have privately admitted that small groups of US Special Forces personnel were admitted into ‘operational territory in Waziristan’ for counter-insurgency operations and were allowed the use of the military base in Tarbela. At one time the estimated presence of the US soldiers in Pakistan was between ‘one to three regiments.’121 According to the 9/11 Report, in the afternoon of September 13, US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, informed the NSC session that Pakistan had agreed to all seven demands. Obviously Musharraf wanted full American support for the ‘substantial territorial concessions’ he was making for which he was likely to pay a ‘domestic price.’ To counterbalance the loss in his standing at home, he wanted his countrymen to see that their country “was benefiting from his decisions.”122 One can assume that Musharraf wanted economic and military aid for his country.

On September 14, Musharraf informed his corps commanders that they were faced with a ‘stark choice.’123 The chances of being

declared a ‘rogue state’ were dire.124 Time was short and the consequences of defying the USA were grave. Reportedly some of the corps commanders objected to abandoning the Taliban and expressed concerns that it could have dangerous domestic consequences and send a negative signal to jihad is fighting in Indian held Kashmir.125 Those who objected included religious-minded generals like Usmani, Aziz Khan and also Mahmood.126 The same day, Musharraf held a 90 minutes meeting with the US Ambassador and the political counsellor and accepted all their demands without any preconditions. He informed the officials that his corps commanders and other ranking officers and concurred with his decision.127 Having secured Pakistan’s willingness President Bush signed into law on September 18, a joint resolution authorising the use of force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. This resolution was considered the legal rationale for “sweeping measures to combat terrorism, from invading Afghanistan, to eavesdropping on US citizens without a court order, to standing up the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”128

On September 19, Musharraf addressed the nation and explained the rationale for siding with the Americans. The Americans had three targets: Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda movement, the Taliban and international terrorism. From Pakistan, they wanted Intelligence-Information exchange, use of airspace and logistic support. They already had the necessary international support at the Security Council including the vote of the Muslim members. The UNSC resolution prescribed punishment for those committing terrorism. A decision at this moment was “as critical as the events of 1971.” He informed the nation that he had consulted his corps commanders, politicians and prominent Pakistanis and that he would consult the tribal leaders the next day. He admitted the opinion was divided but the vast majority supported him. In his assessment, only “about 15 per cent” were “tending towards emotional reactions.” He asked his countrymen to look at the Indian reaction. They had extended full cooperation to the US and were planning to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state. They had met with some other governments in Dushanbe to plan installing an ‘anti-Pakistan government in Afghanistan.’ They were upto harming Pakistan and were airing hostile propaganda on television. He then addressed the

Indian leadership directly and told them to “layoff.” He warned: “Our forces were fully prepared for a do or die mission.” Reverting to the domestic audience, he informed them that his critical concerns were: “Our sovereignty, second our economy, third our strategic assets (nuclear and missiles) and fourth our Kashmir cause.” He feared that all four would be harmed “if we made a wrong decision.” He noted that the decision “must be according to Islam.” It was “not a question of bravery or cowardice. But bravery without thinking is stupidity.” He appealed to his fellow countrymen to resort to ‘hikmat’ (wisdom) and that “Pakistan comes first, everything else is secondary.” To those ulema (religious leaders), who were being emotional he drew parallels from Islam’s early history in which the holy Prophet (PBUH) had entered into a no-war pact with the Meccans to lessen the Jewish threat. He explained his concerns about Afghanistan and the Taliban and his efforts to convince the world leaders not to impose sanctions in the past but it has all been in vain. He was still trying to convince the Taliban to be ‘wise.’ His government had also asked the US to provide evidence against Bin Laden, but it was in the interest of Afghanistan to work with the international community instead of against them. He signed off by advising the people not to work for their ‘personal agendas,’ lest they play into the hands of the enemy, which was working to harm Pakistan, which was the ‘fort’ of Islam.129

The Taliban Remain Unmoved

On September 16, Musharraf sent a delegation to Kandahar to convince Mullah Omar of the futility of not handing over Osama to the Americans. General Mahmood was part of the delegation. The delegation met with the Taliban leadership on September 17. On September 18, Mahmood spoke to US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, on telephone for 5 minutes and gave him the gist of his meeting with Mullah Omar and other members of the Afghan government and judiciary ministry officials. Mahmood had clearly laid out the substance of his discussions with Armitage the previous week before his Afghan interlocutors. This included the American “Demands, Expectations and Consequences” associated with the decisions faced by the Afghans. He had emphasised on Afghanistan’s Islamic leadership that since the world was united

against terrorism and that they had also denounced terrorism; it was time for critical action. This included meeting three conditions i.e.: “One, they must hand-over UBL (sic) to the International Court of Justice, or extradite him. Two, they must hand-over or extradite the 13 top lieutenants/associates of UBL (sic)…and three, they must close all terrorist training camps.” To this Mahmood had added a fourth condition on his own, namely: “They [Afghans] must open terrorist training sites for inspection by neutral international observers from the west, ‘including even the United States.” According to Mahmood, “The response was not negative on all these points,” and that the Grand Council would be meeting soon, most likely the next day, to make the decisions. Mahmood said that he had “framed the questions to Mullah Omar and other Afghans in the manner that as essentially choosing between one man and his safe haven versus the well-being of 25 million citizens of Afghanistan.” Mahmood was of the opinion that the Taliban leadership was engaged “in deep introspection” about their decision. At the end of the telephone conversation, Mahmood thanked Armitage “For the arrangements made by the US Government for his return to Pakistan.” He said that he and his “wife were both grateful to have the safe and comfortable travel.”130 Accompanying Lieutenant General Mahmood to Kandahar was a group of religious figures known to have good relations with the Taliban. This included Mufti Shamzai of the Binori mosque in Karachi.131 An ISI official informed Musharraf that Shamzai had allegedly encouraged Mullah Omar to start a jihad if the United States attacked Afghanistan.132 In a meeting with American Ambassador on September 23, 2001, Gen. Mahmood said he was planning to meet Mullah Omar again soon to convince him to accept the US demands. He would take along Pakistani clerics, who had influence over him and the meeting could take, as early as September 25. His efforts would take place in parallel to the US-Pakistani military planning. In his opinion, a negotiated settlement was better than the military option. Mahmood was convinced that in his first meeting, he had gotten through to Omar. He was of the opinion that Omar was a frightened man and that no action should be taken against him in anger. A military strike could “produce thousands of frustrated young Muslim men. It will be an incubator of anger that will explode two or three years from now.” The American ambassador

took note of Mahmood’s concerns but told him that her government was on “a tight schedule and that his efforts could not delay the military planning.” In her diplomatic despatch to Washington, the American ambassador noted that the second mission to Afghanistan served the purpose for Musharraf, in telling the domestic audience that he had expended all efforts to convince the Taliban.133

Based on their experience, the Americans were quite convinced that the Taliban would not hand over Osama to them.134 Therefore the military preparations to get bin Laden went ahead. Commander US CENTCOM, General Tommy Franks, scheduled visit to Pakistan was called off,135 and aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf was ordered to stay put. The carrier, leading a battle group comprising 12 ships, including a guided missile cruiser and three guided missile destroyers, was preparing to return home on the fateful day of September 11. The same Task Force had been employed in 1998 to attack Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan with Tomahawk cruise missiles.136 Although bin Laden had escaped those attacks, the Taliban were aware that this time the retribution would be far greater. They knew that that they were all alone. The Pakistanis had washed their hands off them and their Arab friends weren’t very pleased with them either. Bound by tribal customs of hospitality and dictates of an obdurate leadership, they tried to make the best of a doomed situation. In Islamabad, the Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef condemned the attacks and hoped that the perpetrators would be caught and brought to justice. In his opinion, their guest Osama bin Laden lacked “the facilities to carry out such activities.”137 In Kandahar, the Taliban spokesman, Abdul Hai Mutmaen surmised: “What happened in the United States was not a job for ordinary people. It could have been work of governments. Osama bin Laden cannot do this work, neither us.” He insisted “We are not supporting terrorism. Osama does not have the capability. We condemn this. This could have been the work of either internal enemies of the United States or its major rivals. Osama cannot do this work.”138 The supreme leader of the Taliban movement Mullah Omar rejected the American demands that Osama be extradited; since he did not believe that Osama lacked trained pilots to carry out such precision attacks. In his view, the Americans were blaming Osama for their own intelligence failure.139 The

Afghan foreign minister, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil claimed that the Americans did not have credible evidence to prove Osama’s involvement and blamed the incident it on their intelligence services.140

Meanwhile a shurah (council) of renowned Afghan Ulema (Religious Elders) in Kabul issued a fatwa (religious edict) about the possibility of war on Afghan soil. The elders expressed their sorrow and condemned the attacks, and hoped that the Americans “would not attack Afghanistan in haste and would thoroughly investigate the matter with patience.”They called upon the UN and the OIC to “conduct an independent investigation to the recent sorry happenings in America, so that facts can be found and undue killing of innocent people (without any reason) should be prevented.” They asked these two organisations to take “into serious consideration the recent statement by the President of United States of America, in which he has said that the war in Afghanistan would be a crusade.” This in their opinion had “damaged the sentiments of Muslims around the world and has endangered the world peace.” They hoped that “such statements may not be repeated in the future and no such controversies be created in the future.” The grand shurah called upon the “Arab Muslim Countries to compel Osama Bin Laden to leave Afghanistan, willingly and, shift his dwelling to some other place.” If, despite such entreaties, the Americans decided to “attack Afghan soil and continued with its hegemony design,” they decreed that as per fiqah (Islamic jurisprudence), it was binding upon Muslims to wage jihad against the aggressor. They also asked all Muslims, regardless of whether they were Afghans or non-Afghans, to render all possible logistics support and facilitation. “Sharing of Information with non-Muslims during the American attack,” they warned would “be liable to death sentence.”141

CNN reported that the Taliban had appealed to the US, the very next day, not to attack Afghanistan. The appeal followed “inconclusive” talks with a Pakistani diplomat carrying a message to the Taliban leadership in Kabul.142 On September 12, NATO invoked Article 5 of the Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.143 In a clear indication that

an attack on Afghanistan was imminent, the withdrawal of diplomats and the UN staff from Kabul was reported on September 13.144 In a September 20 speech to a joint session of Congress, President Bush, announced the start of a “war on terror,” and demanded that the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan turn over all the leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist group based in that country, close every terrorist training camp, hand over all terrorists to appropriate authorities, and give the US full access to terrorist training camps. “These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion,” he said. “The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.” Bush said “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”145

The US invasion of Afghanistan began on 7 October 2001. The Taliban couldn’t match the military might of the US and NATO forces and decided to leave Kabul and go into the countryside. Osama bin Laden went underground, only to be killed in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2, 2011. The war formally came to an end 13 years later in December 2014. 3,500 international soldiers were killed on Afghan battlefields.146 Many more Afghans died. More than 60000 civilians and soldiers were killed in Pakistan due to the war in Afghanistan. The conflict hasn’t ended in Afghanistan and the presence of the US forces will continue at least till the end of 2016. An open-ended counter-insurgency campaign continues in Pakistan. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes in the tribal areas of Pakistan and incidents of terrorism have become common place in the settled areas.


The US had defined the jus ad bellum to invade Afghanistan and the world at large had accepted their point of view. The objection of the Muslim world was limited to the codename given to the counter-offensive against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, namely Operation Infinite Justice. To placate the Muslims, whose support as a group was critical, the name was changed to “Operation Enduring Freedom” (OEF). Bush had already run into a controversy for his

unscripted remark: “This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.”147 The OEF included American, British and Australian troops. They were provided assistance on ground by the Afghan Northern Alliance. The OEF would expand to become a NATO operation with non-NATO troops under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Before launching the operation, Bush in a scene reminiscent of a Wild West movie publically declared that he wanted Osama “Dead or Alive.”148 It would take ten years, over a trillion dollars, deaths of thousands of soldiers and civilians, destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, incalculable damage to Pakistan, and another president, to kill Osama.149

The invasion of Afghanistan turned out to be the longest overseas war in American history. The Musharraf decision in the wake of 9/11 was supposed to save the country and its citizens from being bombed back into Stone Age but couldn’t prevent the incalculable losses that Pakistan suffered in this war. The Pakistani military has been sucked into a long-running counter-terrorism/ insurgency campaign in the troubled areas along the border with Afghanistan. Its police and paramilitary forces have been stretched thin to contain terrorism within its cities. Hundreds and thousands of people have been displaced, there is an acute sense of insecurity, tourists do not visit the mountains of Pakistan, and but for the renewed interest of China, foreign direct investments have all but dried up. The relations with the Americans are on the mend, but the damage caused has been long lasting. There is open distrust. While, the US government considers the Pakistani leadership ‘deceitful,’ the common Pakistani is highly distrustful of the American plans in the region.150 According to a Pew Poll result released in June 2012, 74 per cent of them consider America as an enemy country.151 A dubious distinction that till recently was reserved for India. A host of events including the random killing of two Pakistani youth in broad daylight in Lahore by Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, the sneak raid to kill Osama deep inside Pakistani territory, the cold blooded murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a forward outpost in Salala has elicited an extremely negative reaction from Pakistan. The Americans were evicted from Shamsi airbase in Balochistan and the NATO Ground Lines of Communication through Pakistan

were blocked. The third period of Pakistani-US strategic partnership is predictably ending in another divorce.152

To be fair, Musharraf’s choices were limited to two narrow options: He could either execute a 180 degree turn on Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy by abandoning the Taliban altogether and throw in his lot with the Americans unconditionally, or, he could make his cooperation conditional.153 Based on his consultations with his corps commanders, cabinet members and important stakeholders, he did make a few demands, namely, no American combat troops on Pakistani soil, and US mediation on Kashmir. While Americans had no issues with the first demand, they chose to deflect the condition regarding Kashmir.154 There was no documentation on the understanding reached between Pakistan and the US.155 This gave the Americans a wider choice to interpret it to their own benefit.

Pakistani authorities learnt of the consequences of this verbal understanding the hard way. After the Salala tragedy in November 2011, Government of Pakistan retaliated by blocking the NATO ground lines of communication (GLOC) and insisted on a written document to legalise the movement through its territory. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the transportation of non-lethal goods was hammered out and signed on July 31, 2012.156 For eight years, the Americans had used Pakistani road and rail infrastructure without paying any charges. In the ninth year, the US started paying a nominal handling fee of $220 per container to National Logistic Cell – the army’s logistics arm.157According to another report, the Americans started paying $250 for each container after having paid no transit fees at all till 2009.158

Another sore issue that came up was the unwritten permission given to the Americans to carryout drone raids inside Pakistani territory. Those killed included innocent citizens, who were not directly or indirectly involved in terrorist activities.159 If noted American journalist Bob Woodward is to be believed, President Obama broached the issue of civilian deaths in drone strikes with President Zardari in November 2009, but the latter had no qualms about it.160 Connected with the issue of collateral damage was the use of Shamsi airbase for launching predator drones strikes in

FATA. Shamsi had been leased to UAE for the purposes of hunting but was further sublet to the Americans.161 The Americans were asked to leave the base after the Salala incident.

Pakistan Army continues to take human and material casualties in the counter-insurgency operations. The casualty list includes at least one three star general and a couple of two stars. In 2011, the military losses were calculated to be equivalent to two full-fledged infantry brigades.162 The Army Headquarter, Pakistan Naval Base Mehran and a number of other sensitive installations and personnel belonging to the military and their kin have been attacked. The attack on Army Public School Peshawar on December 16, 2014 was the worst incident that could have taken place. Police and paramilitary have borne the brunt of Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) and suicide attacks. Members of the police force and FC are being killed on a daily basis. Hundreds and thousands civilians have been uprooted from their homes in settled and tribal areas and have been internally displaced. Between 40 to 50,000 Pakistani citizens have lost their lives. Most have lost their means of livelihood and have been reduced to penury and begging. Direct economic loss is estimated to be more than $70 billion.163 A far greater amount than what has been doled out in terms of aid. The payments from the Coalition Support Fund for counter-terrorism operations have been occasionally blocked to convey American resentment and ire.164


There is no doubt that decision making on the eve of 9/11 was done in a great deal of haste. The predominant factor was an all-pervading sense of urgency and fear to avoid collateral damage that the Americans were about to inflict on Afghanistan. There was no time to consider the long-term consequences. In contrast to General Musharraf’s rushed judgment, the political government took nearly seven months to reopen the NATO supply routes after the Salala incident.165 The Saudi demand for participation in the military operations was also referred to the parliament. This is in stark contrast to a single man making a hurried decision under tremendous pressure. Collective wisdom, however, muddled or confused, is out of necessity spread out over a longer time period.

This helps gain critical time in making a more nuanced judgement. There is much to learn from the 9/11 decision-making process. The major lesson being that the decision-making apparatus should not be a one-window operation. Its processes should be multi-layered. Although no one will allow a government to drag its feet indefinitely on a critical issue, all institutions of the state or at least those directly concerned with making the strategic choice should be involved. They must share the blame or in case of a better outcome, savour the fruits of victory equally. The accountability should be across the board and its net should be wider. All said and done, fear, either of internal censure or external opprobrium should never be the main factor in making a decision. When more people are involved they have better perspective of the problem and the element of fear lessens, as the resilient firm up the confidence of those prone to wilt under pressure. A sense of shared responsibility brings more strength to the decision.

In contemporary literature, President John F. Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis is often considered as a model in strategic decision-making. The laudatory Western literature often cites it as a courageous handling of a situation fraught with exceptional dangers and Kennedy and his team of decision-makers is credited with dealing with it in a cool and imaginative way.166 The question is, could Musharraf have emulated Kennedy’s example? There is a geographic parallel in the two cases. Cuba was to the US, what Afghanistan is to Pakistan i.e. its immediate backyard. Much before the crisis, the US had been needling the Cubans. Sometimes, Pakistan has also been accused of interference in the affairs of Afghanistan. However, Pakistanis neither had the resources nor the ambition to do a Cuba in Afghanistan.

The decision to support the US after 9/11 suited the prevailing environment. The only correct thing to do with the passage of time could have been to rethink the concessions granted once the situation had begun to stabilise. A course correction would have prevented the hopeless situation that was ultimately created.

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