Although NATO has in recent years has attacked the former Yugoslavia, invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, and is now doing the same in Libya, the so-called "defensive" alliance's first victim was a small sovereign country long since forgotten, In fact, there are probably not many people who have ever heard of the Kingdom of Tavolara, a small island off the north coast of Sardinia.
Tavolara was an sovereign kingdom until 1962 when NATO depopulated most of the island for a U.S. Navy very low frequency (VLF) submarine communication station and a National Security Agency/U.S. Navy high-frequency direction finding (HFDF) radio-goniometric station, part of the CLASSIC BULLSEYE system. The Tavolara base was built in concert with the construction of the nearby U.S. nuclear submarine base at La Maddalena on Sardinia.
Tavolara's independence is still recognized by the United Kingdom, a recognition conveyed by Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria even placed a portrait of the Tavolara royal family in Buckingham Palace, a painting which still hangs in the palace to this day.
Tavolara's independence can be traced back to 1767, nine years before the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain. In 1836, the Sardinian monarchy acknowledged the independence of Tavolara under King Giuseppe Bertoleoni. From 1996 to around 1895, Tavolara was a republic. In 1903, Italian King Victor Emmanuel III recognized Tavolara's independence under the restored monarchy, led by King Carlo I. King Paolo II succeeded to the throne in 1928 and he continued to claim Tavolaran independence until his death in 1962, the year that NATO decided to move in and take over the island.
Italy never formally annexed Tavolara but the conquest of one of the world's smallest countries by NATO spelled its doom. The Italian Prime Minister who gave the island to NATO, which was a violation of international law, was Amintore Fanfani, a Christian Democratic champion of the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner of the present-day European Union. Fanfani was a leading ideologist for Benito Mussolini's fascist party and in one Italian fascist publication he wrote, "the European continent will be organized into a vast supranational area guided by Italy and Germany. Those areas will take authoritarian governments and synchronize their constitutions with Fascist principles." The European Union has, in effect, morphed into the dream-come-true of both Mussolini and his German Axis partner, Adolf Hitler, a supranational European state ruled politically from Brussels and financially from Frankfurt, with Brussels-headquartered NATO acting as its military enforcement arm.
Flag of the Kingdom of Tavolara, invaded, depopulated, and occupied by NATO.
Tavolara would not be the only small island swallowed up by NATO. In 1965, in what would be the first major move in NATO's Nazi-like "drang nach osten" (thrust toward the East), Britain purchased the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Chagos Islands from its colony of Mauritius. The British established a territorial contrivance known as the British Indian Ocean Territory to cement its claims on the islands. In 1966, the United Kingdom signed an agreement with the United States that permitted the U.S. military to establish bases on any of the Chagos Islands for 50 years. In 1971, the U.S. Navy moved on to the island of Diego Garcia to begin construction of a naval and air base.
The native coconut plantation workers on Diego Garcia were moved to other Chagos islands, Mauritius, and Seychelles. In 1972, the dislocated islanders residing on the other Chagos isles were moved to Seychelles and Mauritius. The Chagossians were placed into slum-like dwellings on Mauritius, where some 8000 Chagossians now live, unable to return to their homeland. Mauritius claims the Chagos Islands as its territory, a move opposed by Britain and the United States.
Flag of the Chagos Islands: Another early victim of NATO's "Drang nach osten."
The history of NATO is that of not a defensive organization but a brutal offensive "evil alliance" that has transformed itself from a Cold War entity to a neo-colonialist enforcement grouping that has extended its tentacles into the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and beyond. NATO's offensive moves into the Middle East, the Caucasus, and North Africa practically mirror the plans of Hitler's General Staff.
With NATO military forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and possibly soon in Syria, Somalia, and South Sudan, it should be recalled that NATO's first victim was the tiny, defenseless kingdom of Tavolara. The name should serve as a rallying cause for those who want to see the total abolition of NATO....
Once again, the Pak. Army proves the level at which it has been compromised by Imperial interests. If Kayani and friends were not obsessed with impressing upon American leaders the depth of their struggle in this war, then they would not bother with all of this elaborate play-acting. If this had been a real mission to eliminate the TTP in Kurram, then the public would be unaware of it before it actually began. It would not have been announced ahead of time and encirclement of Kurram would have preceded any eradication operation . How many innocent Pakistani tribesmen have perished as the price for these theatrical productions? There has never been a real tribal military campaign in Pakistan's recent history, despite the fact that thousands of soldiers have died in firefights with militants/miscreants since entering the Tribal Region. From the beginning with Nek Mohammed, to Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban have served as a fierce acting troop, putting on shows to entertain their Imperial overlords. The fighting goes on long enough to give the impression that it is genuine war, then another peace deal is struck. A lot is made in the Western press about Pak Army support for the Afghan Taliban, but nary a word is said in speculation that Pakistan might support the TTP, as well. This goes to show just how effective Pakistan's "psywar" has been, up to this point. Will this latest act in Kurram fool Obama?
The specter haunting Indian pundits scouring the Hindu Kush is of anarchy and civil war beyond 2014 when the United States pulls out its troops. They visualize the fragile Afghan nation splitting on ethnic lines and irredentists taking up arms. It explains prime minister Manmohan Singh’s crest-fallen remark last week that the draw-down that president Barack Obama ordered “hurts us.”
It was a surprising remark since if one single conclusion can be drawn from the 10-year old war, it is that so long as foreign occupation continues, Afghanistan will remain in turmoil and it impacts negatively on regional stability.
The fear psychosis of Pakistan engineering a Taliban takeover stems from a false assumption that it is the US military presence that prevents the deluge and the mistaken belief that Pakistan is indeed capable of making another attempt as it did in the 1990s to conquer Afghanistan. Alas, the legend survives that starry-eyed young Talibs in black headgear stormed Kabul in September 1996 and drove out the battle-hardened militia of Ahmed Shah Massoud. But in actuality, it was a full-fledged Pakistani military operation.
A repetition of this invasion is beyond Pakistan’s capability today. Nor is the Pakistani military leadership naïve to overlook that the political environment has changed. The paranoia of civil war is whipped up by lumpen elements who thrive when a war prolongs and becomes an industry. Both among (non-Pashtun) Afghans and among western war contractors, they are to be found. Two, the US is interested in stirring up the insecurities of non-Pashtuns, which provides raison d’etre for continued western military presence.
However, what we are currently witnessing on Pakistan’s border region with eastern Afghanistan may turn out to be the politico-military scenario for the foreseeable future. It is four months since the US forces began withdrawing from combat positions in the Pech valley in the eastern province of Kunar bordering Pakistan.
The withdrawal that began on February 15 was completed over two months and was, according to American claims, part of a shift of the forces to more populated areas. Suffice to say, the region has become a safe haven for hard core militant groups, ranging from Taliban who fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hizb-i-Islami and Al-Qaeda affiliates to Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Pakistan complained that in cross-border attacks, militants have killed 56 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers and tribal police and injured 81 personnel in June alone. In turn, Afghan officials say Pakistani forces launched hundreds of rockets onto their side and killed at least 40 people.
President Hamid Karzai put the figure as 470 rockets in June. On Sunday, over 300 militants crossed into Pakistan and attacked a Pakistani checkpost. The Pakistani army spokesman Maj Gen Attar Abbas has been quoted as saying, “For quite some time we have been highlighting that there are safe havens across the border. Something should be done about these.”
The Durand Line, which Pashtun tribes never accepted as legitimate border, has all but disappeared. Pakistan has virtually come under armed attack by Pashtuns from the Afghan side. Big chunks of militant groups that Pakistan trained and equipped have turned against their mentors.
This is the profoundly troubling ground reality. The US commander in Afghanistan, David Petraeus responded that the ‘focus of the war’ is about to shift from the Taliban strongholds in the south to the poorly-guarded border with Pakistan in the east. His tantalising offer is that Pakistan faces a veritable ‘low intensity war’ across the Durand Line and the US can help salvage the war and assist Pakistan regain control over its territory.
The political reality is no less grim. The Pakistani bombardment incites Pashtun anger. Hundreds of Pashtuns took part in anti-Pakistan demonstrations in Kabul over the weekend. At the same time, Pakistan’s grip over the Quetta Shura is loosening. The western intelligence has gained direct access to the Taliban leadership and can do without Pakistan’s help.
The first meeting between the US officials and Taliban leaders took place in a village outside Munich in Germany as far back as November. The talks were apparently productive and lasted for 11 hours. A second meeting took place in February in Qatar and a third again in Germany in May. Following the meeting in May, the US approached the United Nations to separate the Taliban from Al-Qaeda in the world body’s list of terrorists.
In short, Pakistan’s assumption of being the central player in Afghanistan is under challenge. Make no mistake that the US military has been humbled in the Hindu Kush and Petraeus is leaving the battlefield to head the CIA as a dissatisfied general who failed to win his last war.
The Pentagon surveys the unfinished legacy. Obama warned Pakistan in no uncertain terms in his speech on the drawdown of troops. As a commentator put it, ‘AfPak’ has transformed as ‘PakAf’.
The happening in Kunar has ominous overtones and the Pakistani military leadership senses the need of rethink. As far as India is concerned, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao did the right thing by taking note of incipient signs of rethink. This is a crisis Pakistan has to tackle and the best India can do is not to do or say anything that exacerbates Pakistan’s acute sense insecurity. There is no scope for triumphalism because we too are stakeholders in the outcome of the battle Pakistan is waging for survival.
By M K Bhadrakumar