WASHINGTON, March 4: Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has blamed failed US policies for the rise in terrorism in South Asia.
In an article he wrote for the Foreign Policy magazine, the former military ruler said the Americans made the first blunder in 1989 when they abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal and distanced themselves from Pakistan.
“To add insult to injury, the US also developed strategic relations with India,” slapping Pakistan with sanctions, he wrote.
The second US blunder, according to the retired general, was to isolate the Taliban even though they ran most of Afghanistan.
“I suggested a different strategy: the world and the US should recognise the Taliban and open diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. They should work with the Taliban to moderate their behaviour,” Mr Musharraf wrote. But President Clinton didn’t agree and the US continued its policy of isolation.
Had Washington built diplomatic ties with the Taliban, the US and Pakistan could have worked jointly to persuade the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden after 9/11.
“Unfortunately, it was only Pakistan, and we were alone. I sent five delegations of all kinds of people, including religious leaders, to persuade Mullah Omar to abandon Bin Laden,” wrote the former general.
If the US and its Western allies also had diplomatic ties with the Taliban, “maybe the 9/11 attacks would not have taken place. It’s a big thing that I’m saying, but I believe it,” he wrote.
When the US invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, it made the third blunder: “It failed to convert its military victory in Afghanistan into a political victory.”
Gen (retd) Musharraf noted that the US forged a government in Kabul that could not win the support of the population, resulting in the resurgence of the Taliban in 2005 and 2006. “We needed to install a government that was dominated by the Pashtun, because Pashtun are the largest Afghan community.”
Because the US had defeated the Taliban with the help of the Northern Alliance, it felt compelled to install them in the government, said Mr Musharraf. The US should have used the Pashtun, instead of the Northern Alliance, to defeat the Taliban. “I coined a term at that time, all Taliban are Pashtun, but all Pashtun are not Taliban,” he wrote.
But the Americans didn’t listen and installed a government in Kabul which alienated the Pashtuns. “They gradually started to gravitate towards the Taliban, resulting in the group’s resurgence in 2005 and 2006,” Mr Musharraf noted.
“This was the United States’ biggest blunder, but it persisted on going down this path and continues doing so even now. This is a grave mistake, and unless it is corrected, we will not be able to make progress,” he warned.