It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.” Henry Kissinger 1968
What Dr. Kissinger said about South Vietnam in 1968 is just as relevant today for US allies Mexico and Pakistan. Both nations are paying with their blood every day for being US allies.
In yet another blow to the already fragile US-Pakistan ties, the US Congress has frozen $700 million in aid to Pakistan until it gives assurances it is helping fight the spread of improvised bombs, or IEDs, in the region by regulating the distribution of calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer. While the loss of a few hundred American lives to IEDs each year in a war zone needs to be reduced, the hypocrisy US legislators is evident by its failure to legislate to control guns in America that claim 30,000 lives (including suicides) each year in the United States, and tens of thousands more in drug related gun violence in Mexico.
The most recent figure released by the Mexican government on the number of dead during the last 4 years is just over 34,000, according to Los Angeles Times. It's the consumption of drugs in the United States that makes drug smuggling highly profitable for powerful drug cartels, and it's the US made guns smuggled across the border into Mexico that account for the bulk of the Mexican fatalities.
US Military commanders say fertilizer bomb in Afghanistan could be as crucial to the Taliban as the surface-to-air missile was to the Afghan mujahedeen fighters in their war in the 1980s against the Soviets, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
In response to US concerns, Afghanistan government banned the use of Ammonium Nitrate last year. Pakistan followed suit by banning its use in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province which borders Afghanistan. The ban has been effective in significantly cutting IED casualties in 2011. There have been 192 IED related deaths till Sept this year, down from 368 last year, according to report in Time magazine. Part of the decline is attributed to the fact that the Taliban are now detonating roadside bombs with electronic signals, serving two purposes: they let the triggerman allow civilian vehicles to pass safely, and also let him time the explosion so the increasingly-sophisticated shaped-charged IEDs would do the most damage to the target vehicle.
As a land-locked and food deficit nation, Afghanistan gets the bulk of what it needs to survive from or through Pakistan across the 1500 mile long border shared by the two nations. Stricter controls on smuggling of Ammonium Nitrate may help reduce it but it's unrealistic to expect to completely eliminate it. Similar fertilizer is used by other Afghan neighbors and it is probably already being smuggled by determined insurgents into the country.
While the number of IED related deaths in Iraq number in hundreds, there are 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence each year. In addition to those who are killed or injured, there are countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones.
There are obvious parallels between the the US-Mexican border and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in terms of cross border smuggling and violence. The key difference is that the number of casualties in Afghanistan is only a small fraction of the death toll in Mexico and Pakistan. Given the Congressional inaction on gun control in the United States, the demands made on Pakistan are just hypocritical. Such demands and threat of punitive action against Pakistan will only worsen the US-Pakistan relations and damage the US efforts in the region.
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