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Topic: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan (Read 358790 times)
Reply #200 on:
July 08, 2008, 07:37:17 AM »
July 7, 2008
A suicide bombing Monday in a central part of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, killed 19 people — 15 of whom were policemen — and wounded dozens of others. The bomber targeted a security detachment at an event organized by radical Islamists to mark the first anniversary of the storming of the city’s Red Mosque by elite Pakistani military units. The operation — ordered by then-military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf after Islamist militants occupied the mosque — ended July 11, 2007, with an official death toll of more than 100 and unofficial claims that several hundred were killed, including women and children.
Islamabad regained control of the mosque, but in the year since then it has lost control of large parts of the Pashtun-dominated northwestern areas along the border with Afghanistan to Taliban forces. Furthermore, the use of suicide bombings has allowed these forces to reach beyond their strongholds and strike with impunity at the core of Pakistan, including the country’s main urban centers. Accompanying the rapidly deteriorating security situation has been political instability, which has only grown after the Feb. 18 elections. As Stratfor predicted, the elections — which the country’s main opposition won by a landslide — failed to quell the political unrest that severely weakened not only Musharraf’s hold on power but also the army’s. Musharraf’s regime has been replaced by a civil-military hybrid which lacks the willingness and/or ability to take on the threat posed by Islamist extremism and militancy. The fact is that the civilian government and the country’s military establishment appear to be losing control of the situation.
By opting to negotiate with the jihadists from a position of weakness, the Pakistani authorities inadvertently are sending a message to every armed non-state actor of any worth in the country (of which there is no shortage) that all the jihadists have to do to make the government more pliable is use their weapons. This signal has led to the spread of the Taliban in Pakistan. Any pause in militancy is not because the state has succeeded in containing the insurgency; rather, it is because the jihadists have made a tactical decision to pause in keeping with their strategy. While the jihadists are brimming with confidence, judging from the way Islamabad is randomly oscillating between negotiations and military operations, the government does not appear to have a discernable policy for dealing with this situation.
Stratfor extensively has addressed Pakistan’s intelligence problem which enables militant activity and prevents the state from doing much about it. The problem is actually far larger than an intelligence failure: We are told that many of Pakistan’s senior and military officials are caught up in Pakistani society’s conspiracy theories about the causes of the growing chaos in the country. In other words, there is national lack of acknowledgement that the country is being torn apart by religious extremism.
What is even worse for Pakistan is that its jihadist problem is a geopolitical issue rather than a strictly political one. This means that the Pakistanis cannot deal with it at a time of their choosing. This would explain the United States’ increasingly aggressive attitude in dealing with the situation. U.S. airstrikes in the country’s tribal badlands have become an almost daily occurrence, and it is only a matter of time before Washington escalates its unilateral military operations deeper into Pakistani territory.
A key purpose of Stratfor’s diary is to try and look over the horizon at what can be expected. A year after Red Mosque operation, Pakistan appears to be spinning out of control. It is difficult to say with any clarity what will happen in another year, other than that there do not appear to be many arrestors to counter the current trend toward anarchy — even if the military steps in.
Asia Times: AQ/Taliban prepare for borderless war
Reply #201 on:
July 17, 2008, 08:56:25 AM »
From asia times..
Militants ready for a war without borders
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - From thinly disguised insinuations against Pakistan following the suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul this month to outright accusations against Islamabad by the Afghan government over the unrelenting Taliban-led insurgency, the blame game has entered a critical time: a major regional battle could erupt in a matter of days.
Last week, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen paid a sudden visit to Pakistan during which he revealed to Pakistani leaders and military officials the possibility of surgical strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda networks operating in the border regions and that coalition forces in Afghanistan would not hesitate
to conduct hot-pursuit raids into Pakistan.
Mullen urged Pakistani leaders to play their part from their side. He pin-pointed the North and South Waziristan tribal areas as a focal point, along with the areas of Razmak, Shawal, Ghulam Khan and Angor Ada along the border with Afghanistan. Across the divide, Khost province is considered a likely target for carpet bombing and an offensive by the Afghan National Army.
Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani was quick to call in senior strategic analysts, who pointed out that the military would only follow the directions of the civilian government. Yet just days earlier, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani had announced that all decisions concerning military operations would be decided by the army chief. This does not bode well for Pakistan's whole-hearted cooperation.
But regardless of how sincerely the Pakistani army fights against the Taliban, the fact is that the Taliban have already staged a virtual coup in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan.
They have established a reign of terror against which the state writ is powerless. In all districts, the Taliban have taken security officials hostage to press their demands that a strict Islamic code be enforced. Many officials have been killed when the Taliban's wishes have not been granted.
As a result, the middle and lower members of the security forces are effectively non-functional and answer to the Taliban's call across NWFP.
This has left the secular and relatively liberal government of the province, led by the Awami National Party, with no choice but to form "defense committees" at the district level to organize civilians against a complete Taliban take-over.
Across the border, a similar situation exists in Ghazni province, close to the capital Kabul, where, apart from the provincial headquarters, the Taliban call the shots in all districts once dusk descends - the district administrations and the police simply give up control, giving the Taliban freedom of movement.
In Kunar and Nooristan provinces, the Taliban are fighting for similar dominance and already most security checkpoints have been abandoned out of fear of the Taliban.
On Monday, a high-level al-Qaeda shura (council) concluded in Miramshah in North Waziristan with instructions to all members with families to retreat to safe locations in expectation of the Afghan war spreading into Pakistan's tribal areas.
Not that this alarms al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. They reason that should coalition forces seriously enter into Pakistan (they have in the past sent unmanned Predator drones on raids into Pakistan), the reaction in Pakistan, even among liberals, would be so fierce that the Pakistani army would not dare to follow up with action of its own. This would leave the militants with a free hand to launch operations inside Afghanistan.
The shura also noted that militant ranks in the region had received their biggest boost since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, including growing numbers from Muslim countries.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at
Reply #202 on:
July 18, 2008, 08:59:14 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: The Situation on the Afghan-Pakistani Border
July 17, 2008
Media reports about a Western military buildup in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan have created a considerable stir in the region and beyond about a potential U.S. offensive against jihadists in northwestern Pakistan. This is something we at Stratfor have been predicting for some time. There is definitely a buildup taking place, but we are not quite yet at the point where U.S. forces will be conducting large-scale military operations on Pakistani soil.
Following a large, coordinated Taliban attack on a small military outpost in the eastern province of Nuristan in Afghanistan that killed nine U.S. soldiers July 13, reports have been flying of military activity on the border by both sides. Unconfirmed reports (later denied by both Pakistan and NATO) of U.S. armored vehicles, artillery and troops taking up positions along the border further south in Paktika province, opposite North and South Waziristan, emerged July 15. That night, NATO claims the Afghan National Army and U.S. Special Forces killed some 150 fighters entering Afghanistan from Pakistan and insisted that most were Pakistani. Then, on July 16, Pakistani security forces reportedly engaged Taliban fighters on their side of the border. U.S. forces, meanwhile, abandoned the outpost that was attacked over the weekend, claiming that it was only temporary anyway. The Taliban quickly claimed to have overrun it. A counteroffensive could be in the works.
Though the toll to U.S. forces July 13 was high, much of the subsequent activity — some unconfirmed — is not necessarily out of the ordinary. As Taliban fighters in Afghanistan rest and resupply in Pakistan, NATO and U.S. military activity along the border is hardly abnormal (the United States is heavily involved in the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East, which is responsible for that portion of the border). Furthermore, with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri still at large (likely somewhere in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan), the White House has renewed interest in securing a capture before inauguration day in 2009.
But ultimately, there is no doubt that activity along that part of the border has been on the rise in the past few months, and it is equally clear that both NATO and the United States are publicly emphasizing the problem.
The extent of the problem is difficult to overstate. Top U.S. military commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus has been confirmed as the new head of U.S. Central Command, and as we have argued, his tenure is largely about bringing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan under control. His challenge extends across the border into Pakistan. Islamabad has never really been able to control the tribal belt. In 2004, the Pakistani army was unable to impose a military solution when under U.S. pressure it entered the Waziristan region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); instead, it negotiated several arrangements and left the paramilitary Frontier Corps as a notional presence. However, those arrangements were short-lived, and the situation has deteriorated to the point that Taliban control is not limited to the autonomous tribal belt but has spread to many areas of the NWFP.
For most of the time since the Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan fell in late 2001, Taliban activity was concentrated predominantly in the southern provinces, with very little activity in the eastern parts of the country along the border with Pakistan’s tribal belt. In the last year or so, Taliban forces in Pakistan’s Pashtun areas have been able to undermine the writ of the state (which is already weakened by political strife). The deterioration of the situation in FATA and NWFP has affected the areas west of the border — hence the rise in jihadist activities in eastern Afghanistan in recent months.
In turn, this has led to the growing impatience in Washington, Kabul, and New Delhi over the state of affairs in Pakistan, where paralysis has exacerbated the regional security situation. Stratfor has on several prior occasions discussed the growing U.S. assertiveness to deny the Taliban and al Qaeda the sanctuaries they enjoy in Pakistan. But that goal remains elusive because of tactical realities on the ground — insufficient troops, inhospitable terrain, lack of intelligence capabilities and the strong anti-U.S. sentiment among the natives.
This would explain why until fairly recently the United States mostly relied on precision airstrikes using Predator drones and clandestine operations, which have grown more frequent in recent months. The situation created by Islamabad’s engaging in talks with militants from a position of weakness has forced Washington to take a much more aggressive stance — an example of which was the airstrike that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers manning an outpost toward the northern rim of the FATA. To a great extent, the increase in pressure from the United States is designed to force Islamabad to adopt a more decisive attitude towards the problem.
The incoherence within Pakistan’s political and military circles, however, prevents any success in this regard. This leaves the United States with no choice but to move ahead on the unilateral front. As cross-border ground operations — such as hot-pursuits, interdiction of militant traffic, or hitting targets of opportunity — become the norm it will create a battlefield that doesn’t recognize the Afghan-Pakistani frontier — at least in the FATA. The jihadists are actually hoping for large-scale U.S. military activity on Pakistani soil because they desperately want to broaden the scope of their insurgency from one currently being waged by a religious ideological minority to one of a nationalistic flavor bringing in participation from more mainstream cross-sections of Pakistan.
In the meantime, Petraeus will be massing troops and formulating a strategy. The Pentagon also announced July 16 the potential for additional troops to be surged to Afghanistan this year. This will take time (and the Afghan winter will soon begin to loom), but the tempo, nature and depth of U.S. operations into Pakistan will play an important role in the way the situation escalates. However, it is the definition of a slippery slope, as the United States has neither the troops nor the legal authority to attempt to command the ground in — much less reconstruct — Pakistani territory. While it would almost certainly limit itself to pointed raids and focus on denying the territory as sanctuary for the Taliban, the consequences in terms of nationalist sentiment in Pakistan will be profound. And ultimately, the Pakistani state has the most to lose from such a scenario, as it will be caught between the United States and its own people.
Reply #203 on:
July 20, 2008, 09:11:11 PM »
SECOND RESURGENCE OF TALIBAN: INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR—PAPER
The Neo Taliban of Afghanistan has demonstrated a dual capability---- as a
terrorist organization specializing in suicide terrorism and as a
conventional guerilla force capable of conventional set-piece battles
involving attack-stand-and fight tactics.
2. Its capability as a terrorist organization has remained unimpaired for
the last two years. So far this year, it has already committed 73 acts of
suicide terrorism as compared to 137 during the whole of last year.
3. Its acts of suicide terrorism are almost as numerous as those witnessed
in Iraq, but not as deadly due to the poor training of the suicide bombers.
4. It demonstrated its capability for set-piece conventional battles
involving the engagement of large forces during the fighting season of
2006-07. The Taliban units engaged in many of those battles in Afghan
territory were trained, motivated and led by Mulla Dadullah.
5.The death of Mulla Dadullah in Afghan territory in an incident in
May,2007, impaired its conventional capability. It faced difficulty in
finding a suitable replacement for him. This had an impact on the ground
situation during the summer of 2007. The much-threatened (by the Taliban)
and much-dreaded (by the NATO forces) summer offensive did not materialize.
6. As the NATO commanders were hoping that the tide has started turning
against the Taliban, it is showing signs of a second resurgence of its
conventional prowess. One has already seen two instances of this. The first
was its audacious attack on the Kandahar prison on June 13,2008, during
which it took the NATO and Afghan National Army (ANA) forces totally by
surprise and rescued about 400 imprisoned Taliban cadres and took them away
in motor vehicles without being intercepted by the Canadian forces deployed
for the security of this area.
7. The second instance was on July 13,2008, when an estimated 200 jihadi
fighters , who had taken shelter, without being detected, in a village
called Wanat in the Kunnar province in Eastern Afghanistan managed to attack
and over-run an outpost jointly manned by US and ANA forces, after killing
nine US soldiers. The US has since vacated this indefensible area, which has
reportedly been occupied by the jihadi fighters.
8.What should be worrying is not the occupation of this area by the
jihadis, but their ability to keep their movement, assembling in the village
and preparations for the attack a secret and the tenacity with which they
reportedly fought despite the US outpost calling for air strikes to disperse
9.The identity of the fighters and their commander is not yet certain. The
Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe
Islami and Al Qaeda are known to be active in this area-----with greater
activity by the Hizbe Islami than others. There have also been reports from
tribal sources in Pakistan that the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which has been
operating in tandem with Maulana Fazlullah's
Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in the Swat Valley of the
North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), has now moved some of its trained
cadres to the Kunnar province to fight along with the Hizbe Islami. However,
the JEM is essentially a terrorist organization with very little
10.The kind of conventional capability, which was exhibited during the
2006-07 fighting season and is being exhibited now, could come only from
either serving or retired Pashtun soldiers of the Pakistani and Afghan
armies and those trained by them.
11. In a report carried by it on July 18,2008, the "Financial Times" of
London has quoted Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of
Staff, as saying that the July 13's "well co-ordinated" attack by hundreds
of insurgents against a US military outpost near the border with Pakistan
demonstrated that the enemy in Afghanistan had "grown bolder, more
sophisticated, and more diverse".
12. He added: "We're seeing a greater number of insurgents and foreign
fighters flowing across the border with Pakistan, unmolested and unhindered.
We simply must all do a better job of policing the border region and
eliminating the safe havens, which serve today as launching pads for attacks
on coalition forces."
13. An agency report carried by the "News" of Pakistan on July 17,2008, has
quoted Admiral Mullen as further saying as follows: "The group that launched
the attack trained in safe havens in Pakistan. We see this threat
accelerating, almost becoming a syndicate of different groups who heretofore
had not worked closely together."
14. Till recently, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and
the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, were content with
keeping their role confined to training the jihadis of the Taliban, the
various Pakistani organizations and volunteers from outside. They were not
participating in actual battles due to their small number, which they wanted
to conserve for operations outside this region. There have been reports that
their number has now been bolstered by the arrival of not only experienced
fighters from Iraq, but also fresh recruits from the Central Asian
Republics, Chechnya and Turks and members of the Uighur diaspora from
15. The Pentagon is reported to have ordered an enquiry into the July 13
fiasco in order to establish the identity of the jihadi forces which
attacked the outpost, how the outpost was taken by surprise and how the
intelligence agencies failed to detect the movement and assembling of the
jihadis near the outpost. It has been reported that the jihadis managed to
plan and carry out the attack within two days of the outpost being set up.
16. The US forces should re-examine their present policy of setting up
thinly-manned outposts in apparently indefensible areas. They only hand over
a seemingly spectacular victory on a platter to the jihadis. They should
reverse this tactics and inveigle the jihadis into setting up their presence
in such areas and then attack and kill them with superior force. The
objective in such isolated areas should be not territorial control, but
inflicting heavy attrition on the jihadis.
17.The jihadi battles presently going on in Pakistan's tribal belt and in
Afghanistan have serious security implications for India. Mehsuds, Wazirs
and Afridis were the tribals used by the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 to capture
what is now called the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). The Pakistan Army
again used them before and during the war of 1965. Zia-ul-Haq used them for
suppressing a Shia revolt in Gilgit in 1988.
18. President Bush often says with some validity that if the US troops
withdraw from Iraq without defeating Al Qaeda, the Arab terrorists now
operating in Iraq could move over to Europe and the US and step up
19. If the US and other NATO forces fail to prevail over the jihadis in the
Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt, these tribals, fresh from their victories
in that region, would move over to Kashmir to resume their jihad against
India. What we are now seeing in Kashmir is the beginning of the end of one
phase of the jihad involving jihadis of the 1980s vintage. We might see the
beginning of a new phase involving better-trained and better-motivated
jihadis of the latest stock.
* **(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.
of India, New Delhi, and ,presently, Director, Institute For Topical
Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China
Reply #204 on:
July 22, 2008, 09:21:07 AM »
One of the biggest concerns I have is the near complete failure of reports and analysis putting the problems there in the context of the drug trade. Afg supplies some 90-95% of the world's opium and THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY a goodly % of which goes into our enemies hands. The alliance between the Taliban, AQ, and the people dedicated to producing opium seems to me to be a key piece of the puzzle, yet I see no one really address it.
I have no idea as to the merits of this article. I post it here because it addresses questions and doubts I have about how we are going about things.
Afghanistan Doesn't Need a 'Surge'
By ANN MARLOWE
July 22, 2008; Page A17
Afghanistan needs many things, but two more brigades of U.S. troops are not among them.
Barack Obama said: "We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there." Mr. Obama should have supported the surge in Iraq, but that doesn't mean that advocating one in Afghanistan makes sense.
Afghanistan's problems are not the same as Iraq's. Its people aren't recovering from a brutal, all-controlling tyranny, but from decades of chaos and centuries of bad government. Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, is largely illiterate and has a relatively undeveloped civil society. Afghan society still centers around the family and, for men, the mosque. Its society and traditions are still largely intact, in contrast to Iraq's fractured, urbanized and half-modernized population.
The Afghan insurgency has no broad popular base and doesn't mirror an obvious religious or ethnic fault line. It is also far more linked with Pakistani support than the Iraqi insurgency or militias were with Iran. Afghanistan needs a better president, judiciary and police force -- and a Pakistani government that is not playing footsie with the Taliban.
In Afghanistan, the situation can differ radically in provinces just a half-hour helicopter ride away. There has been much recent hysteria about an incident on July 13 when nine American soldiers were killed in an insurgent assault on a combat outpost in Want, in Nuristan (mistakenly reported as taking place in Wanat in neighboring Kunar Province). This was the deadliest attack on American soldiers since 16 troops were killed in Kunar in 2005. It was a tragic event, but does not demonstrate that the American effort in Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster, as some commentators have risibly argued.
"RC-East has pushed up to new areas and the bad guys are pushing back there," a serving U.S. government official who requested anonymity told me. Regional Command East has been applying a standard formula in 14 Afghan provinces, usually with great success. Even privates can tell you that it's about living among the people, building projects for them, and, in the Pashtun belt, getting the tribes on your side. This won't do the trick unless the governor and sub-governors are decent and respected by the tribal leaders, and the tribes themselves are cohesive.
"But there is no such thing as tribe in Nuristan," the official continued. "There is no unit above the corporate community." The last governor was fired, but it's not clear how much even a brilliant, honest governor could do in a place so unaccustomed to authority above the village level.
Nuristanis -- who were converted from paganism to Islam only about 100 years ago -- live in isolated villages in terrain that is rugged even by Afghan standards. There are no paved roads in the province, and helicopters can be shot down from above in the narrow valleys, as two U.S. military helicopters were in the last year.
So how do we bring security to Nuristan? Is bringing in thousands of American troops the answer?
"No!" the official said. "It's using Special Forces to get the bad guys who are infiltrating from Pakistan. Our enemy only attacks when they expect to win. If we have to go after them, we need the capacity to hunt them with stealth over trackless mountainsides for which our infantry, cavalry and airborne soldiers are not trained or equipped to operate." Defeating the enemy is best accomplished by highly trained fighters who travel light.
Counterinsurgency is not one-size-fits-all. While there are best practices, they must be applied in a nuanced way. In poorly governed countries where insurgencies are likely to arise, the solution may vary from valley to valley.
It shouldn't be hard to see that adding men, helicopters or projects is not always the solution. But then, a would-be commander in chief who announces his prescription for Afghanistan before setting foot there has a lot to learn about America's top job.
Ms. Marlowe is a New York-based writer. This year she completed her 10th trip to Afghanistan and her third embed with U.S. forces there.
Reply #205 on:
July 22, 2008, 10:51:02 AM »
We've chosen to pursue our anti-drug agenda, thus ensuring AQ and the Talibs have a sufficient money supply to continue their jihad in the Stans and globally.
Reply #206 on:
July 22, 2008, 05:02:32 PM »
I have long objected to our War on Drugs based on libertarian type thinking-- and am surprised to read what you say here
What would you suggest we do?
Reply #207 on:
July 22, 2008, 07:28:59 PM »
There is no policy decision that won't result in ugly spinoff consequences. The legalization of drugs will create a loss of life and impact the social fabric of the US, still not to the degree that a drug money-fueled global jihad will. Not a happy choice, but one that needs to be examined.
Reply #208 on:
July 27, 2008, 10:02:09 AM »
Rebels could win Pakistan's nuke haven
Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent | July 26, 2008
A CRISIS meeting of Pakistan's new coalition Government has been warned that it could lose control of the North West Frontier Province, which is believed to hold most of its nuclear arsenal.
The warning came yesterday from the coalition leader, who, although he is part of the new Government, is regarded as having the closest links to al-Qa'ida and Taliban militants sweeping through the region.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman bluntly told his colleagues: "The North West Frontier province is breaking away from Pakistan. That is what is happening. That is the reality."
This came just days before new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's scheduled meeting with US President George W. Bush to discuss al-Qa'ida and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.
Reports last night said Maulana Fazlur Rehman, regarded as having unparalleled insight into the mood of the three million tribesmen in the NWFP, and leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, was backed in his assessment by members of the coalition Government from the Awami National Party, which rules in the province's capital, Peshawar.
They, too, told the meeting of jihadi militant advances throughout the province, with their influence extending to most so-called "settled areas", including Peshawar.
Yesterday, the army was reported to have abruptly ended an operation in the Hangu district, close to Peshawar, after threats by militant leaders.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the ANP members blamed the worsening situation on "President (Pervez) Musharraf's eight-year policy to deal with the issue through the barrel of a gun, and the alliance with America".
The crisis meeting resolved to pursue dialogue with the jihadis, a policy derided by US and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
It also declared itself to be implacably opposed to US or other forces entering Pakistani territory to deal with the growing jihadi militancy.
Analysts in Islamabad believe the warning about the situation in the NWFP will prompt renewed concern about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Australia, suggested the restive border region was the source of a surge in Taliban-related violence in Afghanistan, and said Pakistan needed to do more to prevent attacks.
"We understand that it's difficult, we understand that the North West Frontier area is difficult, but militants cannot be allowed to organise there and to plan there and to engage across the border," Dr Rice said.
"So, yes, more needs to be done."
Al-Qa'ida's operational commander in Afghanistan, a 53-year-old Egyptian named Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, was interviewed on Pakistani television yesterday and claimed the organisation's strength in Afghanistan was growing so rapidly it would "soon occupy the whole country".
He claimed that "the morale of our fighters in Afghanistan is very high and they are putting up a tough fight against US troops".
He also claimed responsibility in the interview for a terrorist attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad.
The fact of the interview, as much as what he said, is seen as indicating an important new stage in the crisis.
"The bad guys are even popping up and giving television interviews: that's a reflection of what's happening," one foreign diplomat in Islamabad said last night.
A leading think tank warned this week about the Taliban's use of a media strategy to exaggerate their strength and undermine confidence in the Afghanistan Government.
The International Crisis Group says the administration and its backers must counter this propaganda if they are to defeat an insurgency "that is driving a dangerous wedge between them and the Afghan people", in a report entitled Taliban Propaganda: Winning the War of Words?
The Taliban now publicise their messages, warnings and claims of battle successes through a website, magazines, DVDs, cassettes, pamphlets, nationalist songs, poems and mobile telephones.
Audacious tactics such as the Kandahar jailbreak last month and the April assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai show that the intent is to grab attention.
"The result is weakening public support for nation building, even though few actively support the Taliban," the report says.
It says the international community should also examine its own actions, adding the benefits of military action are outweighed by the alienation they cause.
"The Taliban is not going to be defeated militarily and is impervious to outside criticism," the ICG says.
"Rather, the legitimacy of its ideas and actions must be challenged more forcefully by theAfghan government and citizens."
Additional reporting: AFP, AP
Strat: ISI fiasco
Reply #209 on:
July 28, 2008, 04:45:20 PM »
The Pakistani government has been forced to reverse a move to place the country’s top intelligence service under civilian control. The incoherence of the various stakeholders in Islamabad, which Stratfor has been pointing out, is a key reason behind this fiasco. The ill-fated move underscores the immense difficulty of reforming the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, which is a precondition for Islamabad to solve its jihadist problem and play its role as an ally in the U.S.-jihadist war.
Pakistan’s recently elected Pakistani People’s Party (PPP)-led government, under pressure from the military, had to take back its July 26 decision to place the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate — the country’s main intelligence service — under civilian control, Pakistan’s English-language daily Dawn reported July 28.
According to the report, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas explained that the army chief and the top brass had not been taken into confidence on the issue. “Although there is an ongoing debate that there should be close coordination between all intelligence agencies, placing ISI under the direct control of the interior division was never discussed. When we realized that the decision had been taken, we discussed the issue with the government and are thankful that there was a realization of ground realities and our position was accepted,” the Director-General of the Inter-Services (DG-ISI) Public Relations was quoted as saying.
Pakistan: The Struggle For The ISI
Stratfor’s initial analysis on this matter pointed out that it is extremely unlikely that the army would allow the ISI — a powerful arm of the military that plays a major role in domestic and foreign policy matters — to come under civilian control. We had also noted that, due to the civil-military imbalance in favor of the latter, the civilians are incapable of just assuming control of the directorate. Such a move requires a decision by the army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani in coordination with the top generals. It turns out that that is exactly what did not happen.
There were discussions between the civil and military leadership on how to improve the country’s intelligence operations — especially the ISI — in the wake of the international pressure on Islamabad because of the directorate’s complex relations with jihadists. In a mixture of miscommunication and the PPP government’s desire to increase its influence over the organization, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani — who is currently in Washington for meetings with U.S. officials — likely overstepped the consensus (or the lack thereof) with the military. This would explain why PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that he did not know at what level the earlier decision was made, adding that he thought “a miscommunication had led to the mess.”
This is not the first time that a PPP government has tried to expand its influence over the ISI. Assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989 was able to remove Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul (a known jihadist sympathizer) as DG-ISI and replace him with a retired three-star general, Shamsur Rahman Kallu. Then-army chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg countered the move by having Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani — director-general of Military Intelligence (MI) at the time — handle both ISI and MI for some time. The tensions that emerged between the Bhutto government and army hierarchy played a key role in the dismissal of her government in 1990.
Now, the current PPP government is engaging in damage control, with de facto party leader and Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari giving a statement that the move was designed to shield the army from growing international criticism. PPP Information Minister Sherry Rehman was also quoted by state-owned news agency the Associated Press of Pakistan as saying that the ISI was already under civilian control because it reports to the prime minister.
Constitutionally, the prime minister has the authority to appoint the ISI chief. President Pervez Musharraf exercised that authority during his regime. But functionally, the ISI is a branch of the army and thus falls under the command of the army chief.
Thus, control over the directorate was already in many ways a contested matter, which this fiasco has exacerbated. While both the civilian and military leaders are trying to downplay the matter, the incident has likely irked sensibilities (to say the least) within the military-intelligence complex, already feeling threatened as the ongoing political strife and a raging jihadist insurgency weaken its hold over the state. The army will increase its oversight on the PPP government, which could lead to additional tensions.
All of this is happening as the United States — now more than ever — wants the Pakistanis to deal with the jihadist problem both at home and in neighboring Afghanistan. Gilani’s visit to Washington centers on this very issue; the ISI fiasco just made matters worse regarding his efforts to get the United States to limit its unilateral actions in the tribal areas. Even on July 28, a U.S. missile strike on a madrassa in South Waziristan killed six people.
Elsewhere, Pakistan’s Chairman of Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Tariq Majeed, in a meeting with acting U.S. CENTCOM chief Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey warned that U.S. operations on its Pakistani soil would lead to a deterioration of relations between Islamabad and Washington. Both the Gilani administration and the Pakistani army have been relaying to the Bush administration that the current setup in Islamabad is under the threat of destabilization in the wake of U.S. pressure, and the alternative could very likely be chaos that works to the jihadists’ advantage.
This is why the ISI fiasco is important: It has further exposed the internal contradictions within the Pakistani system. More importantly, however, it shows how very difficult it is to reform the directorate — a step that must be taken for Islamabad to defeat the jihadists threatening it at home and to act as an ally to Washington in the war against militant Islamists.
Reply #210 on:
July 29, 2008, 11:45:00 AM »
An Indian friend knowledgeable about these things comments:
A lot has changed in pak. A year or two ago Pak denied that the US was
even allowed to fly over pak..let alone bomb at will. now its an
everyday occurence. the US has a lot of leverage over Pak
military...and the one who controls the military controls pak. This
leverage is financial...becaue much of the US money goes to finance
the lavish life style of the officers and not to fight terrorism as we
are told. Pak's main fear is that they will be left behind India
militarily. This fear is also being exploited with the recent sale of
F16's to ostensibly fight terrorism. The ISI otoh is a jihadist
organization since it was the ISI who created much of the terror
groups. Cracking down on the ISI is harder because they are a more
ideological org...and until the isi is broken things will not change.
This is the reason pak is being pressurized to bring it under civil
Reply #211 on:
July 29, 2008, 04:17:29 PM »
If there is a coherent strategy here, I'm not seeing it. Again, the issue of the money from the drug trade simply is not on the radar screen. The idea that ISI or the army will really turn on the Whackos is self-delusion. So if we ain't doing it ourselves, it aint gettin' done. And it doesn't look like we are willing to look that one in the face. Where's the raw material for a Surge type of success in the Whackostans? For that matter do we have a strategy for Afg? Looks to me we are headed for doing more of what hasn't worked-- kind of like JFK got us into Vietnam as a way out of Laos.
Geopolitical Diary: U.S., Pakistan and the Saudi Analogy
July 29, 2008 | 0319 GMT
A combination of events brought Pakistan to the forefront on Monday, casting light on the complexity of the problem that the United States faces in attempting to stabilize operations in Afghanistan and pressuring Islamabad to reassert control over the jihadists operating on its side of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
In Washington, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani met with U.S. President George W. Bush, while in Islamabad, acting U.S. Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey met with Pakistan’s top generals, Ashfaq Kayani and Tariq Majid. In both negotiations, tensions ran high, with the Americans warning that they are growing increasingly impatient with lawlessness on the border and the Pakistanis replying that they are doing everything within their power to stop it.
Two incidents served to ratchet tensions even higher as the U.S.-Pakistani talks took place. First, the government in Islamabad retracted its decision on July 26 to bring the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency under civilian control. The ISI fiasco helps to explain the jihadists’ ineradicable involvement in Pakistan’s state structures, since the agency is notorious for having operatives with hidden links to jihadists. The prospect of bringing the ISI under the civilian government’s supervision was never actually feasible because the military — the real source of power in Pakistan — opposed it. Later came news that a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle had fired missiles at a religious school in South Waziristan, killing six civilians on Pakistani soil and fueling Pakistani hostility toward their own government and the United States.
The ISI incident and the airstrike exemplify both the internal and external challenges facing Pakistan. If it is to rein in the jihadists, Pakistan must consider three basic strategies for fighting such an insurgency. The first involves using its military’s brute force to stamp out the threat, as Egypt, Syria and Libya have done in the past. The second consists of allowing the United States to quell the insurgency unilaterally, as it has attempted to do in Iraq and Afghanistan. The third entails trying to resolve the conflict solely by means of negotiations and diplomacy. Any one of these strategies is inadequate on its own, however, and only a clever combination of negotiation and force has a chance of arresting the conflict’s downward spiral.
Such a combination of strategies is precisely what Saudi Arabia employed, beginning in 2004, to shut down its jihadist insurgency. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are drastically different countries, but what they share is the potential to host thriving Islamist movements — emerging among the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and the Deobandis in Pakistan — that exist at radical variance with the U.S.-supported, conservative central governments. These religious movements create a wide social network that lends support to militant jihadist groups that define themselves in contrast to the regime and the United States.
Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan, was an ideal breeding ground for jihadist militants, but the Saudis were able to dampen homegrown militant ideology through a full-fledged security crackdown enabled by dependable intelligence, under-the-table politicking and bribes to gain the cooperation of various factions, and deliberate engagement with the religious establishment to promote nonviolent alternatives. For a time, the Saudis also sent jihadists to join the fray in Iraq, further whittling down the movement’s ranks, though the United States soon put a stop to this practice just as it is attempting to do with the Pakistani militants funneling into Afghanistan. By 2005, Saudi Arabia had dramatically trimmed its radical Islamist fringe, with militants consistently botching their attacks or security forces pre-empting them.
Yet the Saudi analogy only goes so far — in fact, it contrasts so starkly as to make the challenges of Pakistan even clearer. Pakistan’s mountainous terrain makes it difficult to scour the whole country as easily as Saudi security forces scoured theirs, and Pakistan does not have an official religious hierarchy like the Saudis’ ulema, capable of exerting organizational control over masses of believers while working in tandem with the government. Also, crucially, the Saudis had petrodollars to throw at the problem, while Pakistan must rely on U.S. aid to fund its civilian activities.
Moreover, while Saudi Arabia’s jihadist movement emerged out of resentment of U.S. foreign policy, that policy has a harsh and direct bearing on Pakistanis today — making them unwilling to play into Washington’s hands. As the United States has grown more frustrated with Pakistan’s inability to control its rogue elements, it has taken more strident and independent military actions, occasionally harming or killing Pakistani civilians and thus generating sharper resistance within Pakistan. A distinct danger of U.S. military operations in Pakistan is that as anger with the United States grows, so does the possibility of driving people toward sympathizing with the jihadist factions.
Furthermore, the United States has limitations on how much pressure it can apply on Pakistan’s military. Since the military is the sole guarantor of order in Pakistan — a nuclear-armed country — the United States needs it to stay in a strong and stable position. Washington cannot push too hard to have its way without making the military vulnerable to reaction by anti-U.S. popular forces within Pakistan.
As the U.S. military draws closer to tying up the loose ends in Iraq, the complications of the task awaiting it in Afghanistan seem to multiply. Pakistan is the source of much uncertainty and contingency in this theater, and there is no clear solution to the mess there. If the United States and its allies are to succeed, they will have to do so despite exceedingly narrow constraints.
Tommy Friedman agrees with me on Afg
Reply #212 on:
July 30, 2008, 09:39:58 AM »
but misses the point on drilling:
Drilling in Afghanistan
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: July 30, 2008
Sometimes in politics, particularly in campaigns, parties get wedded to slogans — so wedded that no one stops to think about what they’re saying, whether the reality has changed and what the implications would be if their bumper stickers really guided policy when they took office. Today, we have two examples of that: “Democrats for Afghanistan” and “Republicans for offshore drilling.”
Skip to next paragraph
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman
Go to Columnist Page » Republicans have become so obsessed with the notion that we can drill our way out of our current energy crisis that re-opening our coastal waters to offshore drilling has become their answer for every energy question.
Anyone who looks at the growth of middle classes around the world and their rising demands for natural resources, plus the dangers of climate change driven by our addiction to fossil fuels, can see that clean renewable energy — wind, solar, nuclear and stuff we haven’t yet invented — is going to be the next great global industry. It has to be if we are going to grow in a stable way.
Therefore, the country that most owns the clean power industry is going to most own the next great technology breakthrough — the E.T. revolution, the energy technology revolution — and create millions of jobs and thousands of new businesses, just like the I.T. revolution did.
Republicans, by mindlessly repeating their offshore-drilling mantra, focusing on a 19th-century fuel, remind me of someone back in 1980 arguing that we should be putting all our money into making more and cheaper IBM Selectric typewriters — and forget about these things called the “PC” and “the Internet.” It is a strategy for making America a second-rate power and economy.
But Democrats have their analog. For many Democrats, Afghanistan was always the “good war,” as opposed to Iraq. I think Barack Obama needs to ask himself honestly: “Am I for sending more troops to Afghanistan because I really think we can win there, because I really think that that will bring an end to terrorism, or am I just doing it because to get elected in America, post-9/11, I have to be for winning some war?”
The truth is that Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Pakistan are just different fronts in the same war. The core problem is that the Arab-Muslim world in too many places has been failing at modernity, and were it not for $120-a-barrel oil, that failure would be even more obvious. For far too long, this region has been dominated by authoritarian politics, massive youth unemployment, outdated education systems, a religious establishment resisting reform and now a death cult that glorifies young people committing suicide, often against other Muslims.
The humiliation this cocktail produces is the real source of terrorism. Saddam exploited it. Al Qaeda exploits it. Pakistan’s intelligence services exploit it. Hezbollah exploits it. The Taliban exploit it.
The only way to address it is by changing the politics. Producing islands of decent and consensual government in Baghdad or Kabul or Islamabad would be a much more meaningful and lasting contribution to the war on terrorism than even killing bin Laden in his cave. But it needs local partners. The reason the surge helped in Iraq is because Iraqis took the lead in confronting their own extremists — the Shiites in their areas, the Sunnis in theirs. That is very good news — although it is still not clear that they can come together in a single functioning government.
The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is not because there are too few American soldiers, but because there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die for the kind of government we want.
Take 20 minutes and read the stunning article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine by Thomas Schweich, a former top Bush counternarcotics official focused on Afghanistan, and dwell on his paragraph on Afghan President Hamid Karzai:
“Karzai was playing us like a fiddle: The U.S. would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure improvement; the U.S. and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai’s friends could get rich off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009, he would be elected to a new term.”
Then read the Afghan expert Rory Stewart’s July 17 Time magazine cover story from Kabul: “A troop increase is likely to inflame Afghan nationalism because Afghans are more anti-foreign than we acknowledge, and the support for our presence in the insurgency areas is declining ... The more responsibility we take in Afghanistan, the more we undermine the credibility and responsibility of the Afghan government and encourage it to act irresponsibly. Our claims that Afghanistan is the ‘front line in the war on terror’ and that ‘failure is not an option’ have convinced the Afghan government that we need it more than it needs us. The worse things become, the more assistance it seems to receive. This is not an incentive to reform.”
Before Democrats adopt “More Troops to Afghanistan” as their bumper sticker, they need to make sure it’s a strategy for winning a war — not an election.
Reply #213 on:
August 01, 2008, 09:30:57 PM »
Is Al Zawa-lumpy now a martyr? My fingers are crossed.....
Why Terror Flourishes in Pak
Reply #214 on:
August 04, 2008, 07:09:31 PM »
Why terror flourishes in Pak
5 Aug 2008, 0052 hrs IST, Subodh Varma,TNN
NEW DELHI: In the Global War on Terror (GWOT) declared by the United States after the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan has occupied a key status. In the past seven years, the US government has given over $10 billion to Pakistan for the specific purpose of fighting extremists and helping in the war in Afghanistan. Over 80% of cargo and 40% of fuel supplies for the US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan pass through Pakistan.
Yet, Pakistan has slowly descended into an ever-widening whirlpool of extremist violence, with its western region bordering Afghanistan becoming a virtual safe haven for extremists. Data from the World Incident Tracking System of the US National Counter-terrorism Centre shows that more people were killed in terror attacks in Pakistan than in Afghanistan in 2008 (527 against 351 till March). While the number of deaths in such incidents was under 400 from 2004 to 2006, they went up to 1,335 in 2007 and the trend in the current year suggests it could be worse.
The 'long war' against international terrorism appears to be floundering right next door to India, which is itself fighting an increasing terrorist threat, often with links in Pakistan. So, why is it that despite the full backing of the world's foremost economic and military power, terror continues to flourish in Pakistan?
Recent hearings of the US Congress, and audit reports of the funding of GWOT in Pakistan have, for the first time, started giving answers to this question. At a recent hearing of the sub-committee on Middle East and South Asia, its chairman, Gary Ackerman sarcastically noted that US foreign assistance has three pillars — lawyers, guns and money, except that, in Pakistan, only these pillars are there, without any structure to uphold.
Experts say that the huge funding has largely gone to shore up Pakistan's military facilities and line the pockets of the military establishment. According to the testimony of Gene Dodaro, acting comptroller general before a Senate sub-committee in May this year, of the $5.56 billion directed at the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), 96% was spent on military, 3% on border security and just 1% ($40 million) on developmental activities. FATA, which has a 600km long border with Afghanistan and has become a safe haven for extremists, remains a very poor and backward region.
In a belated recognition of the need to spend on development, President Bush in 2007 announced a five-year programme for spending $1 billion for economic and social development in FATA. Even, this has come under question with Mark Ward, a senior official in USAID admitting that up to 30% of such funds may be costed as overheads and never leave the US.
The propensity of the US government to keep funding the military in Pakistan, which in turn bargains for ever more, has come in for increasing criticism. In his testimony before a House sub-committee, Husain Haqqani, director, Center for International Relations, Boston University said that between 1954 and 2002, "on average, US aid to Pakistan amounted to $382.9 million for each year of military rule compared with only $178.9 per annum under civilian leadership."
Apart from the fact that much of the funding is misdirected, there is accumulating evidence of embezzlement too. "The Bush administration has provided $1.6 billion in foreign military financing and $5.56 billion in coalition support funds. The former funds to buy radars and antisubmarine planes to track the nonexistent al-Qaida air force and navy, and the latter funds disappeared into the Pakistani treasury for unspecified services allegedly rendered," Ackerman said at the hearing.
An audit done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the expenditure incurred by Pakistan from the Coalition Support Fund given under GWOT during 2004-2007, found huge anomalies in the government's claims for reimbursements of over $2.2 billion.
These included expenses claimed without backing of documents, unreasonably high rates for certain items, like food for navy sailors billed at $800 per month, claims for construction of bunkers and roads without any evidence of these actually being built, and using a standard exchange rate for conversion of dollars to Pakistani rupees even though the rupee's value had declined by over 6% during the period.
Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to reel under economic and social backwardness, with nearly 10% unemployment and a 34% literacy rate. In the FATA, literacy is a shocking 2%. No political parties are allowed and a special law — Frontier Crimes Regulation of 1901 — governs its 3.1 million people, with no recourse to appeal.
WSJ: Curtains for Musharraf
Reply #215 on:
August 11, 2008, 08:59:48 AM »
It's Curtains for Musharraf
By NAJAM SETHI
August 11, 2008; Page A13
After months of prevarication, the Pakistani government, led by Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, has finally decided to impeach President Pervez Musharraf. Although a fighting man, Mr. Musharraf is expected to quit within the week. He doesn't have enough parliamentary backing to thwart the move, and the army and America, his main sources of support, have abandoned him in the face of popular pressure.
The government has been mulling this move for months. Mr. Zardari, of the People's Party of Pakistan (PPP), and Mr. Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), both hate the president for political and personal reasons.
Mr. Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif from power in 1999, exiled him to Saudi Arabia, and only allowed him to return last year to contest the February elections because of Saudi pressure. Mr. Zardari was imprisoned for six years, then permitted to leave the country to join his wife Benazir Bhutto in exile in Dubai. Thanks to American pressure, she was allowed to return last October to contest the elections, and he only returned after she was assassinated in December.
The popular Bhutto accused Mr. Musharraf of an assassination attempt last October. When she was killed two months later, many Pakistanis remembered that accusation.
The Zardari-Sharif cooperation has been driven by political missteps on all sides. Mr. Zardari's decision to work with Mr. Musharraf -- under American urging -- alienated the PPP's rank and file, which has been historically antiarmy and anti-American. At the same time, Mr. Sharif took an anti-Musharraf and anti-America stance, boosting his popularity. Mr. Musharraf didn't help matters when he tried to oppose Mr. Zardari's prime minister pick. Later, he also criticized the new government's "dysfunctionality" in the face of an "impending economic meltdown."
Mr. Musharraf's biggest mistake was to lose focus on the war on terror, alienating his Washington backers without winning domestic public support. For months now, the U.S. has been upset at Pakistan's lackluster cooperation with coalition forces in the war on terror in Pakistan's tribal areas. Washington also accused Pakistan's powerful Interservices Intelligence (ISI) agency, which is associated with Mr. Musharraf, of complicity in the Taliban attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul last month. On the eve of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's state visit to Washington last month, the government decreed the ISI would henceforth be answerable to the home ministry, instead of to the army chief or President Musharraf.
Mr. Musharraf couldn't countenance this loss of power. He accused the government of trying to "politicize the ISI and undermine national security" at America's prodding, forcing it to backtrack clumsily and lose face. To stave off a possible sacking at Mr. Musharraf's hands, Mr. Zardari joined hands with Mr. Sharif to impeach the president.
Washington, which had not so long ago advocated "working relations" between Mr. Zardari and Mr. Musharraf -- and later shifted its stance to a "dignified exit" for Mr. Musharraf -- responded with a studied silence. "The impeachment of President Musharraf is an internal matter for Pakistan that must be resolved in accordance with the law and constitution," said a White House spokesman on Aug. 7, the day the impeachment decision was announced.
In other words, "go Musharraf go." The U.S. realizes that Mr. Musharraf is extremely unpopular at home, and has concluded that the army is not prepared to risk propping him up any longer. So he is no longer useful. A working relationship with the new civilian order is a better bet.
The Pakistan army is the key to what happens next. Formally, the impeachment of Mr. Musharraf is a numbers game. The ruling coalition needs 295 votes out of 442 in a joint sitting of both houses of parliament to clinch it. They claim the motion will sail through.
But the result will critically depend on about 27 independent members of parliament, and members from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. If the ISI chooses to support Mr. Musharraf, it could probably manage to sway the tribal votes for the president. But it would need the green light from the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, before doing this.
It's unlikely Gen. Kayani will dive into this fray. The army is hugely unpopular at home for fighting "America's war on terror." It is dispirited because it is being criticized by its American ally not just for not doing enough, but for complicity in harboring and protecting the Afghan Taliban. It is demoralized, having lost over 2,000 men fighting terrorists in the tribal areas without sufficient training or motivation. The army remains the prime target of suicide bombers in the urban areas of the country, so much so that its officers no longer go about town in uniform.
Gen. Kayani successfully salvaged some public respect by refusing to tilt the February election results in favor of Mr. Musharraf's party. Therefore, while the officers abhor the "corrupt and bungling civilians," the grudging view is that any overt or covert military backing for Mr. Musharraf would be hugely unpopular, and any formal intervention untenable in the difficult economic and political environment facing the country.
If Mr. Musharraf throws in the towel this week, the current political paralysis might end, but the instability will remain. Mr. Sharif will play to public opinion and press Mr. Zardari to punish Mr. Musharraf for treason. He wants the deposed chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and his erstwhile colleagues restored with full powers.
Mr. Zardari, for his part, may heed advice from the army and Washington and facilitate a safe exit for the president. He will, in all likelihood, refuse to reinstate the chief justice for fear that a reinvigorated judiciary will hold every Musharraf action to date as illegal, including the amnesty from corruption charges granted to him in November. Mr. Zardari also wants to become president himself, a prospect Mr. Sharif cannot stomach.
Pakistan's neighbors India and Afghanistan, and its strategic ally America, cannot be too sanguine about this continuing political instability. Their core interests require Pakistan's civilian leadership to lean on the Pakistan army to rein in and retool the ISI, support the war on terror in Afghanistan, and refrain from refueling Islamist jihad in India-administered Kashmir. But with the army sulking politically and licking its wounds militarily, the Zardari government looks unlikely to deliver on these fronts -- with or without a President Musharraf.
Mr. Sethi is editor of the Friday Times and Daily Times in Lahore, Pakistan.
Reply #216 on:
August 11, 2008, 12:15:32 PM »
"Pakistan's neighbors India and Afghanistan, and its strategic ally America, cannot be too sanguine about this continuing political instability. Their core interests require Pakistan's civilian leadership to lean on the Pakistan army to rein in and retool the ISI, support the war on terror in Afghanistan, and refrain from refueling Islamist jihad in India-administered Kashmir. But with the army sulking politically and licking its wounds militarily, the Zardari government looks unlikely to deliver on these fronts -- with or without a President Musharraf"
If we have a coherent strategy for Pak-Afg, I'm not seeing it.
Reply #217 on:
August 11, 2008, 12:42:53 PM »
I think the problem with Pakistan is that it's such a mess, that if we push them too hard they could crumble and then we have a nuclear armed Al-qaedastan in it's place.
Reply #218 on:
August 11, 2008, 01:46:22 PM »
So why don't we:
a) Do an Osirak on their nuke capabilities, and
b) burn all the opium fields in Afg
c) leave them to stew in their own mess?
Reply #219 on:
August 11, 2008, 02:04:24 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on August 11, 2008, 01:46:22 PM
So why don't we:
a) Do an Osirak on their nuke capabilities, and
Their nukes are dispersed specifically to prevent India from being able to launch a successful first strike against Pakistan's nuclear assets. We have SpecOps assets pre-positioned to seize their nukes in the worse case scenario of Pakistan falling apart, but I'd tend to think this would be a "Hail-Mary" rather than something that would have a high potential for success.
b) burn all the opium fields in Afg
Burned opium fields grow back. It might raise the price of heroin a bit globally, but they'd be planting as soon as the last embers faded.
c) leave them to stew in their own mess?
One of the lessons of 9/11 is that failed states are incubators for nightmares that can transit the globe and kill us right here at home. Those big oceans that once sheltered us are meaningless in a technologically networked planet.
Reply #220 on:
August 11, 2008, 08:02:44 PM »
I know, I know. I'm venting.
But another lesson of Life is not to get sucked into endless quagmires-- which in the absence of a coherent strategy, may well be where we are headed.
Reply #221 on:
August 11, 2008, 08:19:58 PM »
Very rarely do we have "good" policy solutions to the world's problems. Usually it's a matter of choosing between bad and worse.
Reply #222 on:
August 11, 2008, 10:03:08 PM »
"So why don't we: a) Do an Osirak on their nuke capabilities, and b) burn all the opium fields in Afg c) leave them to stew in their own mess?"
I agree with the other comments. A Hail Mary is right but the idea of strikes without further occupation should certainly be on the table. Many lessons come from the Iraq effort. For me, I question whether the obligation exists to guarantee security after a justified strike. I would say no. The rebuild dollars and the human sacrifice to win long term security needs to be with conditions and only where it lines up with our own best interests IMO. In the case of Iraq, it was broken before we deposed Saddam. Remember the pre-war the Afghan economy. George Gilder described it as incapable of manufacturing a flashlight. Yet they harbored the training facilities to attack us with our own assets and technology. Also, the Afghanistan choices come with the constraint of being part of a coalition.
An occupation and security guarantee in Pakistan I assume is impossible and leaving nukes in the wrong hands after a coup or shakeup is unthinkable. Maybe our friends the Indians have a take out plan.
Reply #223 on:
August 11, 2008, 10:33:52 PM »
I'm fairly sure India's plan has Pakistan looking like a post-apocalyptic scene from the "Terminator" movies, only quieter.
Reply #224 on:
August 20, 2008, 09:08:38 AM »
August 19, 2008
Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years, was forced to resign Monday in the face of moves by the South Asian country’s recently elected coalition government to impeach him. Musharraf’s resignation has been a long time coming, with stops along the way over the last nine months during which he was forced to give up control over the military and then the government.
Almost immediately following his announcement, Pakistanis took to the streets to celebrate, demanding that he be tried for crimes against the nation. Musharraf’s personal fate is of no consequence to the continuity (or discontinuity) in the geopolitics of Pakistan. But the conditions in which he fell from power have wide-ranging geopolitical implications not just in his country, but for U.S. policy toward Southwest Asia.
His exit from the scene symbolizes an end of an era for many reasons. The former Pakistani leader was the pointman in U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in Washington’s war against jihadism, which many Pakistanis — both within the government and in wider society — feel has destabilized their country. Now, the country’s democratic government must search for the elusive balance between domestic and foreign policy considerations. This will prove challenging for all the stakeholders in the post-Musharraf state. It also will complicate (to put it mildly) U.S. efforts to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
A far greater implication of the decline and fall of the Musharraf regime, however, is that the process has altered the nature of the Pakistani state. Until fairly recently, the Pakistani state was as robust as its army’s ability either directly to govern the country or to maintain oversight over civilian administrations. Policies pursued under the Musharraf government generated two very different kinds of potent opposition to the state, however. The state found itself caught between democratic forces on the one hand and Islamist militant forces on the other, something compounded by a deteriorating economic situation.
As a result, for the first time in the history of the country, the army is no longer in a position to step in and impose order as before. Recognizing that any attempt to impose order militarily on a growing crisis of governance would only further destabilize the country, the army’s new leadership has put its weight behind the civilian government. But since Pakistani civilian institutions historically have never really functioned properly, serious doubts about the viability of the newly democratic Pakistan arise.
Musharraf’s decision to quit has greatly empowered parliament, but the legislature is a collection of competing political forces that for most of their history have engaged in zero-sum games. Meanwhile, the civil-military imbalance — despite the desire of the army to back the government — remains a source of tension within the political system. Moreover, at a time when parliament really has yet to consolidate power, the rise of an assertive judiciary is bound to further complicate governance.
Islamabad will be searching for pragmatic prescriptions to balance the domestic sentiment against the war against jihadism with the need to play its role as a U.S. ally and combat the extremism that also threatens Pakistan. At the same time, however, the legislature and the newly empowered judiciary will be playing an oversight role over the actions of the government in keeping with public sentiment. It will emphasize due process, which will force the hands of the government in the fight against both transnational and homegrown militancy. In other words, an already weakened state will be further handicapped in dealing with the need to combat a growing jihadist insurgency.
The multiple problems Pakistan faces now that the military no longer can simply step in and stabilize the system underscore the potentially dangerous situation in the South Asian country. And this has obvious and grave geopolitical implications for the wider region and the United States.
Stay or go?
Reply #225 on:
August 31, 2008, 06:03:54 PM »
When the summer holidays end tomorrow, the parents of 1,400 pupils at the Badabher Government Girls' School will face a difficult choice. By Nick Meo in Peshawar
Last Updated: 7:22PM BST 30 Aug 2008
Should they let their daughters go back to lessons in the rubble of their school, blown up by the Taliban in the middle of the night, or should they keep them safe at home?
Hashim, the caretaker who was held at gunpoint by masked gunmen, was warned that they would be back if the school is rebuilt. He fears that next time they could blow it up with pupils inside.
Yet this is not Kandahar, the Taliban capital of southern Afghanistan, but Peshawar - a city of 1.4 million people in neighbouring Pakistan, once celebrated as a cultural haven for artists, musicians and intellectuals.
A year ago schools were considered safe in the city, the capital of North-West Frontier Province. But the Taliban insurgency that has been growing in the wild mountains that rise in the distance is spreading into urban Pakistan.
Clerics and political leaders critical of the Taliban have been kidnapped and shot dead, around 15 suicide bombers have attacked inside the city, and to escape kidnappers businessmen are giving up and moving to the capital Islamabad, two hours drive away, or overseas to Dubai if they can afford to.
Nobody has ever known the city so fearful.
Musli Khan, a clerk who lives near the remains of the school, was disconsolately picking through the mess. The main building collapsed from the force of the explosion and the walls that were left were riddled with giant cracks.
Some chairs and schoolbooks had been pulled from the rubble, he said, gesturing at a damaged Koran.
"And these people say they are Muslims," Mr Khan muttered, shaking his head sadly before checking himself: it is dangerous now to be too critical of the Taliban, especially in suburbs on the outskirts of Peshawar. Here, at night, the police must lock themselves into fortified outposts for safety, and armed fighters prowl at will.
During a hasty and nervous drive to Badabher, only six miles from the city centre, The Sunday Telegraph passed three police stations which have been attacked with rockets in the past few weeks. "You must not stop for long at the school," said our guide, a local reporter. "Out here the Taliban have their spies everywhere."
On the same morning that the school was blown up last week, America's chief diplomat in the province narrowly escaped assassination when her car was ambushed as she drove to work.
A day earlier four Pakistani employees of an international aid organisation were kidnapped.
The stuttering new government in Islamabad has promised a bold strategy to fight militants with new vigour, but their words were greeted with jaded sceptism by those who can't afford to leave the besieged and fearful city.
A protective ring of security checkpoints is supposed to hold back the anarchy in the mountains, at the edge of a huge swathe of the nation that the Government has lost to bandits and rebels, but the checkpoints are slowly retreating nearer to the city and some police stations are now abandoned entirely at night.
Muhammad Asaf, president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce, said that for the first time ordinary people are really scared.
"The Taliban is getting stronger day by day," he said. "They are more confident now – every time there is a suicide bomb they are on television claiming responsibility. They didn't used to do that."
Mr Asaf, whose daughter lives in Britain, counts himself as a friend of America but he blames the US for goading former president Pervez Musharraf into a bloody war with the Pushtun tribes around Peshawar, some of which support the Taliban and al-Queda. "The tribal people are peaceful but if you bomb their lands their families will want revenge," he said.
Sultan Agha, the head of a moderate Sufi religious sect and a man of influence who is consulted before a chief minister is appointed for the province, said he now travels no more than six miles from Peshawar's boundary.
"It is unsafe to say anything against the Taliban because they will come and kill you," he said over a cup of green tea, before listing the moderate clerics who have been murdered for speaking out against suicide bombers – now known as "suiciders" in Pakistani English.
"The Taliban are growing in number and it is quite possible that they could take control of Peshawar," he said. "The Government could stop them, certainly, but it is too preoccupied with political infighting."
Since Pervez Musharraf was forced from office a fortnight ago, the ruling coalition has fallen apart amid bitter recriminations, leaving Pakistan hovering on the brink of violent political turmoil.
The former coalition partners, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, are now preparing to fight an electoral battle for control of the country - but their feuding has raised a disturbing question: can the eventual winner cope with the terrorism that threatens to destroy their troubled nation?
Britain and America, deeply alarmed at the deterioration, are throwing money at development projects in the almost lawless tribal areas, but in conditions of anarchy it is hard to know whether the cash is being well spent.
It is too dangerous for the influx of aid workers who have arrived in Peshawar's safer suburbs to get out and visit the projects, so they have no idea whether their efforts to build schools or drainage systems are winning over tribesmen.
More lethal Westerners are also said to be at large. Crew-cut, Pushtun-speaking Americans have arrived again in the big hotels, keeping themselves to themselves and reminding people of the 1980s when CIA operatives haunted Peshawar as they armed the tribesmen against the Soviets.
As Pakistanis never tire of pointing out, those same tribesmen are now fighting jihad once again, but this time against American soldiers on the other side of the border.
Taliban influence has even crept into Qissa Kawani, the street of the storytellers, in the heart of Peshawar's bazaars, where the mournful chanting of a Taliban CD was playing.
"I hate that noise," said Insanullah, the owner of a shop selling Pushtun music DVDs which he is now too scared to play.
Music store owners have been killed in bombings and he receives threatening letters but said he will continue because he has invested all his money in his little shop and has no other livelihood. On the city outskirts most have closed down.
"People still like music, but they are afraid for their lives and business is terrible," he said.
One of the city's most famous singers, Baryali, moved to Kabul to be safe and another, Wazir Khan, was briefly kidnapped by the Taliban and has gone into hiding since his release.
The city's cinemas are almost empty because customers fear bombs and even Peshawar's poets are censoring themselves.
Taous Dilsouz used to write songs about the war against the Soviets, then about Pakistani politics, but these days he sticks to safe subjects. "No poets will write songs about what is happening to our city," he said. "And even if they did they could not find singers who are brave enough to sing them."
Outside Peshawar it is much worse. Assadullah Khan, a watchman from the town of Mardan which is still nominally under government control, said: "Out of five brothers in my town, one will support the Taliban. The people are poor and illiterate, and they listen to what the clerics say. Some of my friends have joined the Taliban – they pay them for fighting."
In Bajaur Agency, a Taliban stronghold a few hours from Peshawar, the new government has launched a military offensive which it said has killed hundreds of militants.
According to the UN 260,000 have fled the fighting, and refugees interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph spoke of civilians killed in bombing raids. Dislike of the Taliban runs so deep that many want the government to continue the offensive nevertheless.
"We want to be part of Pakistan and we want the army to get rid of the Taliban," said one 18-year-old, who described seeing dogs eating the bodies of bombing victims lying in his village before he fled.
However, with ordinary people suffering in the air raids, a new generation is turning its anger on the government. It is a sign that the blunt instrument of the Pakistani army may sometimes be counter-productive.
Mohammad Ali, a 20-year-old man who was squatting in the middle of a flyblown camp rolling a lump of hashish in the palm of his hand said he could still hear the sound of the planes and the bombing in his head.
"Why didn't they just arrest those Taliban, why were they bombarding us?" he asked. He claimed that about a dozen civilians had died in his village but that the Taliban fighters had left long before the planes arrived.
"We want peace, but we can not have it because of this terrorist America which orders our government to attack its own people," he said. "The Taliban are Godly people, they are Islamic, and we are happy that they send suicide bombers for revenge.
"If it is God's Will, definitely I will join them now. We have to defend our villages and our religion."
WSJ: Selling the Taliban
Reply #226 on:
September 02, 2008, 11:53:01 AM »
Selling the Taliban
By JOANNA NATHAN
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
September 2, 2008
In the West, assumptions about Afghanistan too often seem premised on the idea that the Taliban are "men in caves," raising questions about why thousands of international troops cannot quickly defeat them.
However, an insurgency is at its heart a battle of wills and staying power, not of military might. Insurgents in Afghanistan appreciate this and have created a sophisticated propaganda operation that both targets what is seen as weakening support back in foreign capitals and seeks to mold perceptions among the Afghan population.
This is no small-scale operation. The efforts include a Web site, Al Emarah, which is updated several times a day in five languages. The English may often be laughable -- with reference to gourds (guards), a "poppet" (puppet) government and "spatial fours" (special forces) -- but it does the job. The Web site mocks government weakness and highlights every perceived foreign misstep to tap a deep vein of nationalism in Afghanistan -- and to raise questions back in foreign capitals about the role of their forces.
For the local audience there are also magazines in Arabic and Pashto, DVDs showing gruesome beheadings and Taliban attacks, and audio cassettes of nationalist chants -- also available as ringtones. Much of this material apparently is produced across the border in Pakistan in the name of the former regime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or by supporters and sympathizers. All of it seeks to tap historic patriotism and fuel often legitimate grievances in Afghanistan. Journalists can reach Taliban spokesmen for a fiery quote day and night, in stark contrast to their government and international counterparts.
All in all, the Taliban are successfully driving the news agenda and creating a perception of a movement far stronger and more omnipresent than it really is. Taliban atrocities often go unreported in areas they have made off-limits to independent verification. And their methods to control the message go beyond those of your typical press office: Community leaders and journalists who might speak up are cowed with threats or worse.
While the Taliban use their media operation to highlight civilian casualties caused by foreign forces, they also deliberately target civilians -- as with the recent murder of three Western women aid workers and their Afghan colleague just an hour from Kabul. Much less reported internationally are the Afghans who work for international NGOs or the government in rural areas and who often face roadblocks where they are checked for any sign of working with foreigners.
One journalist from an insurgency-hit province, whom I recently met, has moved to Kabul because of the relentless pressure. Among other incidents, he says some pupils he interviewed at the opening of a new government school were killed soon afterward for taking part in the event.
The Taliban realize that they will never win head-on engagements with the international forces, but also that they do not have to. A new emphasis on spectacular attacks in 2008, such as the June jailbreak in Kandahar and an assault on Kabul's only five-star hotel in January, has won global headlines and aims to erode international consensus on the need to stay the course. There is talk on the streets of Afghanistan's "worst ever military defeat," with images circulating of local soldiers fleeing April's three-man attack on a military parade attended by President Hamid Karzai and foreign and local dignitaries.
To combat the Taliban, international forces -- and even more importantly the Afghan administration -- need to be much more responsive and proactive in getting their messages out. Highlighting the Taliban's brutality will undercut its claims to legitimacy.
The corollary to this would be enhancing the government's legitimacy, particularly through support of Afghan institutions and security forces. International troops are essential to create a security umbrella for such developments to take place. However, the current focus on increasing troop numbers is meaningless if there is not a strategic plan in which building local capacity is the priority. Most Afghans are still far more fearful of what would happen should foreign troops leave than if they stay, but there are limits to their patience. Enhanced Afghan institutions taking the lead would help negate the Taliban's relentlessly xenophobic campaign.
The Afghan government still needs to prove that this is an administration worth fighting for. It should tackle the current culture of impunity in cases of corruption and abuses by members of the administration. The international community, too, must foster accountability in its actions. With Guantanamo having entered the folk culture of Afghanistan, appearing in poems and songs and undercutting claims about the rule of law, arbitrary detentions by Afghan and foreign forces alike must stop. Much greater transparency and accountability is also needed in cases where there are civilian deaths.
Propaganda may be powerful, but it can be countered by both better communications and, ultimately, with deeds on the ground.
Ms. Nathan is senior adviser in Kabul for the International Crisis Group.
Reply #227 on:
September 02, 2008, 05:25:48 PM »
second post of the day:
Pakistan's Next President
Is a Category 5 Disaster
September 2, 2008; Page A21
If there's a case to be made against democracy, few countries make it better than Pakistan.
On Saturday, Pakistani legislators will elect a new president to replace Pervez Musharraf, the general-turned-strongman who resigned the office last month.
In one corner there is Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a former journalist and one-time political prisoner of Mr. Musharraf who is nonetheless running as the candidate of the general's old party. Mr. Mushahid, probably the best of the bunch, stands next to no chance of winning.
In another corner there is Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, candidate of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party. Mr. Sharif -- whose record includes bankrupting his country, presiding over a disastrous military campaign against India, and attempting to implement Sharia law while awarding himself near-dictatorial powers -- has made it clear he intends to gut the powers of the presidency should he return to office.
And then there is Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and leader of the Pakistan People's Party. Mr. Zardari, who has compared himself to Jesus (an innocent accused of crimes he did not commit), is easily one of the most notorious figures in the long parade of horribles that make up the country's political history. He is, of course, expected to win Saturday's ballot handily.
Just how bad is Mr. Zardari? It would be a relief if it were true that he was merely suffering from dementia, a diagnosis offered by two New York psychiatrists last year. But that diagnosis seems to have been produced mainly with a view toward defending himself against corruption charges in a British court.
Mr. Zardari -- who earned the moniker "Mr. 10%" for allegedly demanding kickbacks during his wife's two terms in office -- has long been dogged by accusations of corruption. In 2003, a Swiss magistrate found him and Mrs. Bhutto guilty of laundering $10 million. Mr. Zardari has admitted to owning a 355-acre estate near London, despite coming from a family of relatively modest means and reporting little income at the time it was purchased. A 1998 report by the New York Times's John Burns suggests he may have made off with as much as $1.5 billion in kickbacks. This was at a time when his wife was piously claiming to represent the interests of Pakistan's impoverished masses and denouncing corrupt leaders who "leave the cupboard bare."
It's an open question whether Mr. Zardari will be more or less restrained in his behavior if he's elected: His return to politics has meant the dropping of all charges against him and the release of millions in frozen assets. (The presidency will also confer legal immunity.) That may make him one of the few men in Pakistan to get richer this year: The economy, which grew in an unprecedented way under Mr. Musharraf, has tanked under civilian management. The Karachi stock exchange has lost about a third of its value and the currency about a fifth in recent months. Markets often have better memories than voters.
It's also an open question whether Pakistan's increasingly dire security outlook will focus Mr. Zardari's mind on the urgent tasks of governance. Mr. Zardari has sought to parley himself internationally as a pro-Western candidate, and maybe he is. Yet over the weekend the Pakistani government agreed to stop its air strikes on the Taliban, in exchange for which Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a religious party, agreed to throw its support to Mr. Zardari. The Taliban has used previous cease-fires to regroup and re-arm for operations against both Afghanistan and Islamabad.
Then there is al Qaeda, now openly endeavoring to use its last redoubts in Pakistan to take over the country. Last month, Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a long broadcast (in English, no less) denouncing Mr. Musharraf as an American tool and calling on Pakistan's army to come over to his side.
That call was unlikely to be heeded against Mr. Musharraf, who could count on the loyalty of his troops. But Mr. Zardari is a caricature of everything that's morally bankrupt with the country's Westernized elite, and thus an inviting propaganda target for al Qaeda and the Taliban. It doesn't help, either, that they are working fertile political soil: 71% of Pakistanis oppose cooperating with the U.S. in counterterrorism, and 51% oppose fighting the Taliban at all, according to a June poll.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban feed on chaos, and a Zardari presidency will almost certainly provide more of it. For Pakistanis, this is a self-inflicted wound and a rebuke to their democracy. For the rest of world, it's a matter of hoping that Pakistan will somehow muddle through. For now, however, this looks like a Category 5 hurricane, dark and vast and visible just offshore.
Reply #228 on:
September 05, 2008, 08:50:09 AM »
Originally posted by BBG in the China thread:
China to provide Pakistan four AWACS aircrafts
Updated at: 1510 PST, Friday, September 05, 2008
ISLAMABAD: Air Chief Marshall Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed on Friday said China would provide four AWACS aircrafts to Pakistan for the purpose of aerial surveillance, adding an agreement in this regard has been signed by the two countires.
Talking to Geo News, he said talks were also underway to purchase FC-20 aircrafts from China and added 30 to 40 planes would be provided to Pakistan under the agreement signed by China and Pakistan.
Air chief Marshall further said four such aircrafts were being also acquired from Sweden for aerial surveillance.
Politics of Pakistani Deception, 1
Reply #229 on:
September 06, 2008, 12:27:52 PM »
Every now and then the old gray hag publishes something interesting.
September 7, 2008
Right at the Edge
By DEXTER FILKINS
I: The Border Incident
Late in the afternoon of June 10, during a firefight with Taliban militants along the Afghan-Pakistani border, American soldiers called in airstrikes to beat back the attack. The firefight was taking place right on the border itself, known in military jargon as the “zero line.” Afghanistan was on one side, and the remote Pakistani region known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, was on the other. The stretch of border was guarded by three Pakistani military posts.
The American bombers did the job, and then some. By the time the fighting ended, the Taliban militants had slipped away, the American unit was safe and 11 Pakistani border guards lay dead. The airstrikes on the Pakistani positions sparked a diplomatic row between the two allies: Pakistan called the incident “unprovoked and cowardly”; American officials regretted what they called a tragic mistake. But even after a joint inquiry by the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it remained unclear why American soldiers had reached the point of calling in airstrikes on soldiers from Pakistan, a critical ally in the war in Afghanistan and the campaign against terrorism.
The mystery, at least part of it, was solved in July by four residents of Suran Dara, a Pakistani village a few hundred yards from the site of the fight. According to two of these villagers, whom I interviewed together with a local reporter, the Americans started calling in airstrikes on the Pakistanis after the latter started shooting at the Americans.
“When the Americans started bombing the Taliban, the Frontier Corps started shooting at the Americans,” we were told by one of Suran Dara’s villagers, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being persecuted or killed by the Pakistani government or the Taliban. “They were trying to help the Taliban. And then the American planes bombed the Pakistani post.”
For years, the villagers said, Suran Dara served as a safe haven for jihadist fighters — whether from Afghanistan or Pakistan or other countries — giving them aid and shelter and a place to stash their weapons. With the firefight under way, one of Suran Dara’s villagers dashed across the border into Afghanistan carrying a field radio with a long antenna (the villager called it “a Motorola”) to deliver to the Taliban fighters. He never made it. The man with the Motorola was hit by an American bomb. After the fight, wounded Taliban members were carried into Suran Dara for treatment. “Everyone supports the Taliban on both sides of the border,” one of the villagers we spoke with said.
Later, an American analyst briefed by officials in Washington confirmed the villagers’ account. “There have been dozens of incidents where there have been exchanges of fire,” he said.
That American and Pakistani soldiers are fighting one another along what was meant to be a border between allies highlights the extraordinarily chaotic situation unfolding inside the Pakistani tribal areas, where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban, along with Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, enjoy freedom from American attacks.
But the incident also raises one of the more fundamental questions of the long war against Islamic militancy, and one that looms larger as the American position inside Afghanistan deteriorates: Whose side is Pakistan really on?
PAKISTAN’S WILD, LARGELY ungoverned tribal areas have become an untouchable base for Islamic militants to attack Americans and Afghans across the border. Inside the tribal areas, Taliban warlords have taken near-total control, pushing aside the Pakistani government and imposing their draconian form of Islam. And for more than a year now, they have been sending suicide bombers against government and military targets in Pakistan, killing hundreds of people. American and Pakistani investigators say they believe it was Baitullah Mehsud, the strongest of FATA’s Taliban leaders, who dispatched assassins last December to kill Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister. With much of the North-West Frontier Province, which borders the tribal areas, also now under their control, the Taliban are increasingly in a position to threaten the integrity of the Pakistani state.
Then there is Al Qaeda. According to American officials and counterterrorism experts, the organization has rebuilt itself and is using its sanctuaries inside the tribal areas to plan attacks against the United States and Europe. Since 2004, six major terrorist plots against Europe or the United States — including the successful suicide attacks in London that killed 52 people in July 2005 — have been traced back to Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University. Hoffman says he fears that Al Qaeda could be preparing a major attack before the American presidential election. “I’m convinced they are planning something,” he told me.
At the center of all this stands the question of whether Pakistan really wants to control the Talibs and their Qaeda allies ensconced in the tribal areas — and whether it really can.
This was not supposed to be a major worry. After the attacks of Sept. 11, President Pervez Musharraf threw his lot in with the United States. Pakistan has helped track down Al Qaeda suspects, launched a series of attacks against militants inside the tribal areas — a new offensive got under way just weeks ago — and given many assurances of devotion to the antiterrorist cause. For such efforts, Musharraf and the Pakistani government have been paid handsomely, receiving more than $10 billion in American money since 2001.
But as the incident on the Afghan border suggests, little in Pakistan is what it appears. For years, the survival of Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders has depended on a double game: assuring the United States that they were vigorously repressing Islamic militants — and in some cases actually doing so — while simultaneously tolerating and assisting the same militants. From the anti-Soviet fighters of the 1980s and the Taliban of the 1990s to the homegrown militants of today, Pakistan’s leaders have been both public enemies and private friends.
When the game works, it reaps great rewards: billions in aid to boost the Pakistani economy and military and Islamist proxies to extend the government’s reach into Afghanistan and India.
Pakistan’s double game has rested on two premises: that the country’s leaders could keep the militants under control and that they could keep the United States sufficiently placated to keep the money and weapons flowing. But what happens when the game spins out of control? What happens when the militants you have been encouraging grow too strong and set their sights on Pakistan itself? What happens when the bluff no longer works?
II. Being a Warlord
Late in June, to great fanfare, the Pakistani military began what it described as a decisive offensive to rout the Taliban from Khyber agency, one of seven tribal areas that make up the FATA. “Forces Move In on Militants,” declared a headline in Dawn, one of Pakistan’s most influential newspapers. Reporters were kept away, but footage on Pakistani television showed troops advancing behind trucks and troop carriers. The Americans were pleased. “We think that’s a positive development and certainly hope and expect that this government will continue,” Tom Casey, the deputy spokesman at the State Department, said.
The situation was serious indeed: Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province and just east of Khyber agency, was almost entirely surrounded by Taliban militias, which had begun making forays into the city. The encirclement of Peshawar was the culmination of the Taliban’s advance: first they conquered the tribal areas, then much of the North-West Frontier Province, and now they were aiming for the province’s capital itself. The Talibs were cutting their well-known medieval path: shutting girls’ schools, banishing women from the streets, blowing up CD kiosks and beating barbers for shaving beards.
A few days into the military operation, the photographer Lynsey Addario and I, dressed in traditional clothes and with a posse of gunmen protecting us, rode into Khyber agency ourselves. “Entry by Foreigners Prohibited Beyond This Point,” the sign said on the way in. As we drove past the dun-colored buildings and corrugated-tin shops, every trace of government authority vanished. No policemen, no checkpoints, no guards. Nothing to keep us from our appointment with the Taliban.
It was a Friday afternoon, and our guides suggested we pull off the main road until prayers were over; local Taliban enforcers, they said, would not take kindly to anyone skipping prayers. For a couple of hours we waited inside the home of an uncle of one of our guides, listening to the muezzin call the locals to battle.
“What is the need of the day?” a man implored in Pashto over a loudspeaker. “Holy war — holy war is the need of the day!”
After a couple of hours, we resumed our journey, traveling down a mostly empty road. And that is when it struck me: there was no evidence, anywhere, of the military operation that had made the news. There were no Pakistani soldiers, no trucks, no tanks. Nothing.
After a couple of miles, we turned off the road and headed down a sandy path toward a high-walled compound guarded by young men with guns. I had come to my destination: Takya, the home village of Haji Namdar, a Taliban commander who had taken control of a large swath of Khyber agency.
Pulling into Namdar’s compound, I felt transported back in time to the Kabul of the 1990s, when the Taliban were at their zenith. A group of men and boys — jittery, clutching rifles and rocket-propelled grenades — sat in the bed of a Toyota Hi-Lux, the same model of truck the Taliban used to ride to victory in Afghanistan. A flag nearly identical to that of the Afghan movement — a pair of swords crossed against a white background — fluttered in the heavy air. Even the name of Namdar’s group, the Vice and Virtue brigade, came straight from the Taliban playbook: in the 1990s, bands of young men under the same name terrorized Afghanistan, flogging men for shaving their beards, caning women for walking alone and thrashing children for flying kites.
The young fighters were chattering excitedly about a missile that had recently destroyed one of their ammunition dumps. An American missile, the kids said. “It was a plane without a pilot,” one of the boys explained through an interpreter. His eyes darted back and forth among his fellows. “We saw a flash. And then the building exploded.”
His description matched that of a Predator, an airborne drone that America uses to hunt militants in the tribal areas. Publicly, at least, the Predator is the only American presence the Pakistani government has so far allowed inside its borders.
We walked into the compound’s main building. In a corner, Namdar sat on the floor, wearing a traditional salwar kameez, but also a vest that looked as if it had been plucked from a three-piece suit. He stood to shake my hand, and he gave a small bow. To break the ice, I handed him a map of Pakistan and asked him to show me where we were. Namdar peered at the chart for several seconds, his eyes registering nothing. He handed it to one of his deputies. He resumed his stare.
Trying again, I asked about the Pakistani military operation — the one that was supposed to be unfolding right now, chasing the Taliban from Khyber.
Why, I asked Namdar, aren’t the Pakistani forces coming after you?
“The government cannot do anything to us, because we are fighting the holy war,” he said. “We are fighting the foreigners — it is our obligation. They are killing innocent people.” Namdar’s aides, one of whom spoke fluent English, looked at him and shook their heads to make him speak more cautiously. Namdar carried on.
“When the Americans kill innocent people, we must take revenge,” he said.
Tell me about that, I asked Namdar, and his aides again shook their heads. Finally Namdar changed his line. “Well, we can’t stop anyone from going across” into Afghanistan, he said. “I’m not saying we send them ourselves.” And with that, Namdar raised his hand, declining to offer any more details.
By many accounts — on the streets, among Western analysts, even according to his own deputies — Namdar was regularly training and dispatching young men to fight and blow themselves up in Afghanistan. An aide, Munsif Khan, told me that his group had sent “hundreds of people” to fight the Americans. At one point, he described for me how the Vice and Virtue brigade had recently set a minimum-age requirement for suicide bombers. “We are opposed to children carrying out suicide bombings,” Khan said. “We get so many young people coming to us — 15, 16 years old — wanting to go on martyrdom operations. This is not the age to be a suicide bomber. Any man who wants to be a suicide bomber should be at least 20 or 25.”
Khan himself, a former magazine reporter in Peshawar, had been gravely wounded in a car-bomb attack last year. His feet were mangled, and he could walk only with crutches. A bloody struggle for power rages among the many Taliban warlords of the FATA; Khan said his assailants had likely been dispatched by Baitullah Mehsud, the powerful warlord in South Waziristan, because Namdar had refused to submit to Mehsud’s authority.
Another of Namdar’s aides had spoken enthusiastically of his commander’s prowess in battle. “He is a great fighter!” the aide told me. “He goes to Afghanistan every month to fight the Americans.”
So here was Namdar — Taliban chieftain, enforcer of Islamic law, usurper of the Pakistani government and trainer and facilitator of suicide bombers in Afghanistan — sitting at home, not three miles from Peshawar, untouched by the Pakistani military operation that was supposedly unfolding around us.
What’s going on? I asked the warlord. Why aren’t they coming for you?
“I cannot lie to you,” Namdar said, smiling at last. “The army comes in, and they fire at empty buildings. It is a drama — it is just to entertain.”
Entertain whom? I asked.
“America,” he said.
Last Edit: September 06, 2008, 12:33:23 PM by Body-by-Guinness
Politics of Pakistani Deception, 2
Reply #230 on:
September 06, 2008, 12:31:01 PM »
III. Playing the Game
The idea that Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies could simultaneously be aiding the Taliban and like-minded militants while taking money from the United States is not as far-fetched as it may seem.
The relationship dates to the 1980s, when, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan became the conduit for billions of dollars of American and Saudi money for the Afghan rebels. Pakistan’s leader, the fundamentalist Gen. Zia ul-Haq, funneled the bulk of the cash to the most religiously extreme guerrilla leaders. After the Soviet Union withdrew in 1989, Pakistani military and intelligence services kept on supporting Islamist militants, notably in the Muslim-majority Indian state of Kashmir, where they threw their support behind a local uprising. Through time, with the Pakistanis closely involved, the Kashmiri movement was taken over by Islamist extremists and foreign fighters who moved easily between Pakistan and Kashmir.
Then, in 1994, Pakistani leaders made their most fateful move. Alarmed by the civil war that engulfed Afghanistan following the Soviet retreat, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her government intervened on behalf of a small group of former anti-Soviet fighters known for their religious fanaticism. They called themselves “the students”: the Taliban.
With Pakistan providing support and the United States looking the other way, the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996. “We created the Taliban,” Nasrullah Babar, the interior minister under Benazir Bhutto, told me in an interview at his home in Peshawar in 1999. “Mrs. Bhutto had a vision: that through a peaceful Afghanistan, Pakistan could extend its influence into the resource-rich territories of Central Asia.” That never happened — the Taliban, even with Pakistani support, never completed the conquest of Afghanistan. But the training camps they ran, sometimes with the help of Pakistani intelligence officers, were beacons to Islamic militants from around the world.
By all accounts, Pakistan’s spymasters were never terribly discriminating about who showed up in their training camps. In 1998, when President Bill Clinton ordered missile strikes against camps in Afghanistan following Al Qaeda’s bombings of American embassies in East Africa, several trainers from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were killed. Osama bin Laden was supposed to be there when the missiles struck but apparently had already left.
After 9/11, President George W. Bush and other senior American officials declared in the strongest terms that Pakistani leaders had to end their support for the Taliban and other Islamic militants. Pakistan’s military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, promised to do so.
Yet the game did not end; it merely changed. In the years after 9/11, Musharraf often made great shows of going after militants inside Pakistan, while at the same time supporting and protecting them.
In 2002, for instance, Musharraf ordered the arrest of some 2,000 suspected militants, many of whom had trained in Pakistani-sponsored camps. And then, quietly, he released nearly all of them. Another revealing moment came in 2005, when Fazlur Rehman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, one of the most radical Islamist parties, denounced Musharraf for denying the existence of jihadi groups. Everyone knows, Rehman said in a speech before Pakistan’s National Assembly, that the government supports the holy warriors. “We will have to openly tell the world whether we want to support jihadis or crack down on them,” Rehman declared. “We cannot afford to be hypocritical any more.”
In 2006, a senior ISI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told a New York Times reporter that he regarded Serajuddin Haqqani as one of the ISI’s intelligence assets. “We are not apologetic about this,” the ISI official said. For a presumed ally of the United States, that was a stunning admission: Haqqani, an Afghan, is currently one of the Taliban’s most senior commanders battling the Americans in eastern Afghanistan. His father, Jalaluddin, is a longtime associate of bin Laden’s. The Haqqanis are believed to be overseeing operations from a hiding place in the Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan.
But such evidence, however intriguing, fails to answer the critical questions: Exactly who in the Pakistani government is helping the militants and why?
THE MOST COMMON THEORY offered to explain Pakistan’s continued contact with Islamic militants is the country’s obsession with India. Pakistan has fought three major wars with India, from which it split violently upon independence from Britain in 1947. To the east, the Pakistani military and intelligence services have long tolerated and sometimes directed militants moving into Indian Kashmir. To the west, Afghanistan has long been seen as a potentially critical arena of competition with India. After the U.S.-led invasion in the fall of 2001, for example, India lost no time in setting up consulates throughout Afghanistan and beginning an extensive aid program. According to Pakistani and Western officials, Pakistan’s officer corps remains obsessed by the prospect of Indian domination of Afghanistan should the Americans leave. The Taliban are seen as a counterweight to Indian influence. “We are saving the Taliban for a rainy day,” one former Pakistani official put it to me.
Another explanation is growing popular hatred of the United States. Pakistan’s leaders — whether Musharraf or the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, or the country’s leading civilian politicians — are finding it more and more difficult to mobilize their own army and intelligence services to act against the Taliban and other militants inside the country. And while the Pakistan Army used to be a predominantly secular institution, increasingly it is being led by Islamist-minded officers.
The pro-Islamist and anti-American sentiments pervading the armed forces might help explain why a group of ill-trained, underpaid Pakistani Frontier Corps soldiers would open fire on American troops fighting the Taliban. Those same sentiments buttress the notion, offered by some American and Pakistani officials, that rogue officers inside the army and ISI are supporting the militants against the wishes of their superiors.
Finally, there is the problem of the Pakistan Army’s competence. For all the myths that officers like Musharraf have spread about the institution, the simple fact is that it isn’t very good. The Pakistan Army has lost every war it has ever fought. And it isn’t trained to battle an insurgency. Each of the half-dozen offensives the army has launched into the tribal areas since 2004 has left it bloodied and humbled.
For all these reasons, when it comes to the militants in their midst, it’s easier for Pakistan to do as little as possible.
“There is a growing Islamist feeling in the military, and it’s inseparable from anti-Americanism,” I was told by a Western military officer with several years’ experience in the region. “The vast majority of Pakistani officers feel they are fighting our war. There is a lot of sympathy for the Taliban. The result is that the Pakistanis do as little as they possibly can to combat the militants.”
These are reasonable explanations, offered by reasonable people. But are such explanations enough? The more Pakistanis I talked to, the more I came to believe that the most reasonable explanations were not necessarily the most plausible ones.
ONE SWELTERING AFTERNOON in July, I ventured into the elegant home of a former Pakistani official who recently retired after several years of serving in senior government posts. We sat in his book-lined study. A servant brought us tea and biscuits.
Was it the obsession with India that led the Pakistani military to support the Taliban? I asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
Or is it the anti-Americanism and pro-Islamic feelings in the army?
“Yes,” he said, that too.
And then the retired Pakistani official offered another explanation — one that he said could never be discussed in public. The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military’s complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the official called the Pakistani military’s “strategic games.” Like other Pakistanis, this former senior official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.
“Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate,” the official told me. “The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works.”
As an example, he cited the Pakistan Army’s first invasion of the tribal areas — of South Waziristan in 2004. Called Operation Shakai, the offensive was ostensibly aimed at ridding the area of Taliban militants. From an American perspective, the operation was a total failure. The army invaded, fought and then made a deal with one of the militant commanders, Nek Mohammed. The agreement was capped by a dramatic meeting between Mohammed and Safdar Hussein, one of the most senior officers in the Pakistan Army.
“The corps commander was flown in on a helicopter,” the former official said. “They had this big ceremony, and they embraced. They called each other mujahids. ”
“Mujahid” is the Arabic word for “holy warrior.” The ceremony, in fact, was captured on videotape, and the tape has been widely distributed.
“The army agreed to compensate the locals for collateral damage,” the official said. “Where do you think that money went? It went to the Taliban. Who do you think paid the bill? The Americans. This is the way the game works. The Taliban is attacked, but it is never destroyed.
“It’s a game,” the official said, wrapping up our conversation. “The U.S. is being taken for a ride.”
Politics of Pakistani Deception, 3
Reply #231 on:
September 06, 2008, 12:31:56 PM »
IV. A New Government, A New Tack
In February, nationwide elections lifted to power Pakistan’s first full-fledged civilian government in nine years. The elections followed the tumultuous events of Benazir Bhutto’s return from exile and her assassination.
If there was any reason to hope that the government’s games with the Taliban would end, this was it: Pakistan’s new leaders declared they had a popular mandate to steer the country in a new direction. That meant, implicitly, reining in the military and the spy agencies. At the same time, the country’s new civilian leaders, led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, made it clear that they would not be taking orders from officials in the Bush administration, whom they resented for having supported Musharraf for so long. (Musharraf, facing impeachment, finally resigned from the presidency last month.) Instead of launching military operations into the tribal areas, Pakistan’s new leaders promised to embark on negotiations to neutralize the militants.
The leader of this new civilian effort in the tribal areas is Owais Ahmed Ghani, governor of the North-West Frontier Province. Since February, Ghani is said to have embarked on a series of negotiations in tribal areas.
I went to see Ghani earlier this summer at the governor’s mansion in Peshawar, inside a lovely compound built by the British at the height of their imperial power. Ghani seemed as if he might have stepped from the Raj himself: he gave off an air of faint amusement, a British affectation common in the upper tiers of Pakistani society. On his wall hung a British-made Enfield rifle, preserved from colonial days. Outside, peacocks strolled across the manicured lawn.
“You know the joke about the Pathans,” Ghani began, using the old British name for the Pashtuns, the ethnic group that dominates the tribal areas and the Taliban. “A Pathan’s heart hammers harder when he has a gun than a woman!”
Suddenly turning serious, Ghani spelled out a state-of-the-art counterinsurgency campaign to defeat the militants in control of the FATA. He emphasized that the purely military approach to the tribal areas had failed — not merely because the army has been unable to succeed militarily but also because it no longer could count on popular support. “No government can afford to make war on its own people for very long,” Ghani said.
The new approach, Ghani said, would entail negotiations and economic development. Under the plan, the government would pour billions into the region over the next five years to build schools, roads and health clinics. (The United States has agreed to pitch in $750 million.) The political negotiations, Ghani said, would be conducted by civilian members of the government and the region’s tribal leaders, not, as in the past, by military officers and Taliban militants. Ghani called this new strategy “Jang and Jirga” — the Pashto words for “war” and “tribal council.” Carrot and stick.
“The idea is to drive a wedge between the militants and the people,” Ghani said. “There will be no negotiations with the militants themselves.”
Ghani’s previous post had been as governor of Baluchistan Province, to the south, where he had weakened an ethnically based insurgency that had churned on for decades. He said he was confident he could do the same here. “Don’t underestimate the Pakistani desire to confront the militants,” he insisted. “Ninety percent of the country is behind us.”
It was sundown when Ghani and I finished talking. As I strolled across the grounds of the governor’s compound, a group of soldiers had just begun lowering the Pakistani flag. Another man blew into a bugle, playing “A Hundred Pipers,” a Scottish air.
FOR GHANI AND PAKISTAN’S civilian government, the crucial players in achieving peace are traditional tribal leaders whose power is independent of the Taliban or other militants. This method of governing the tribal areas — indirect rule through local chiefs — dates back to the British imperial period. The British put tribal leaders — known as maliks — on the payroll to stand in for the central government, which imposed no taxes or customs duties and, in turn, did very little. At the same time, imperial administrators reserved for themselves extraordinary powers of arrest and punishment that extended to collective reprisals against entire tribes. The purpose of the malik system was to keep the tribal areas quiet and at least nominally under the thumb of the imperial government. This preserved a feudal political structure, and feudal levels of economic development, into the 20th century.
The British system, with a little tinkering, has survived to this day: the FATA stands apart from the rest of Pakistan, with little or no government presence and little or no development. Not 1 person in 5 can read or write. Pakistani political parties are banned. Universal suffrage wasn’t allowed until 1997. Until recently, tribesmen could claim no protection by Pakistan’s Constitution or its courts. Inside the FATA, the locals do not even change the time on their clocks, as other Pakistanis do, when daylight savings begins. “English time,” it is called.
A few days after my talk with Ghani, I met an elder of one of the two main tribes of South Waziristan. He refused to give his name and insisted that I refer to him as Jan. South Waziristan is believed to contain the largest number of militant Arabs and other foreign fighters, possibly even bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. To be more specific about Jan — to use his name, to identify the tribe he leads, to name the town where he lives — would almost certainly, he said, result in his death at the hands of the militants and Taliban fighters who control South Waziristan.
“There are many Arab fighters living in South Waziristan,” Jan told me. “Sometimes you see them in the town; you hear them speaking Arabic.
“But the important Arabs are not in the city,” he continued. “They are in the mountains.”
Important Arabs? I asked.
“They ride horses, Arabian horses; we don’t have horses like this in Waziristan,” Jan said. “The people from the town take food to the Arabs’ horses in the mountains. They have seen the horses. They have seen the Arabs. These horses eat better than the common people in the town.”
How do you know?
“I am a leader of my tribe. People come to me — everyone comes to me. They tell me everything.”
What about Osama? I asked. Is he in South Waziristan?
“Osama?” Jan said. “I don’t know. But they” — the Arabs in the mountains — “are important.”
The labor it took to persuade Jan to speak to me is a measure of what has become of the area over which his family still officially presides. Since it was not possible for me to go to South Waziristan — “Baitullah Mehsud would cut off your head,” the Taliban leader, Namdar, told me — I had to persuade Jan to come to Peshawar. For several days, military checkpoints and roadblocks made it impossible for Jan to travel. Finally, after two weeks, Jan left his home at midnight in a taxi so no one would notice either him or his car.
Jan had reason to worry. Seven members of his family — his father, two brothers, two uncles and two cousins — have been murdered by militants who inhabit the area. Jan said he believed his father was killed by Uzbek and Tajik gunmen who fled to South Waziristan after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. His father had opposed them. Jan’s cousins, he said, were killed by men working for Baitullah Mehsud. Jan’s father was a malik, and thousands of Waziri tribesmen came to his funeral: “the largest funeral in the history of Waziristan,” Jan said.
The rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has come at the expense of the maliks, who have been systematically murdered and marginalized in a campaign to destroy the old order. In South Waziristan, where Mehsud presides, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have killed more than 150 maliks since 2005, all but destroying the tribal system. And there are continual reminders of what happens to the survivors who do not understand this — who, for example, attempt to talk with Pakistan’s civilian government and assert their authority. In June, Mehsud’s men gunned down 28 tribal leaders who had formed a “peace committee” in South Waziristan. Their bodies were dumped on the side of a road. “This shows what happens when the tribal elders try to challenge Baitullah Mehsud,” Jan said.
Like Taliban militias in other parts of Pakistan, Mehsud’s men have been strong-arming families into turning over their young sons to join. “They have taken my own son to be a suicide bomber,” Jan said. “He is gone.” The Talibs, he said, now control the disbursement of all government money that comes into the area.
The Taliban have not achieved this by violence alone. They have capitalized on the resentment many Pakistanis feel toward the hereditary maliks and the government they represent. Taliban leaders and their foot soldiers come mostly from the lower classes. Mehsud, the Taliban chieftain, was an unemployed man who spent his time lifting weights before he picked up a gun. Manghal Bagh, the warlord in Khyber agency whom the Pakistan military went after in June, swept public buses. “They are illiterate people, and now they have power,” Jan said.
EVERYWHERE I TRAVELED during my stay in the tribal areas and in Peshawar, I met impoverished Pakistanis who told me Robin Hood-like stories about how the Taliban had challenged the wealthy and powerful people on behalf of the little guys. Hamidullah, for instance, was an illiterate wheat farmer living in Khyber agency when, in 2002, a wealthy landowner seized his home and six acres of fields. Hamidullah and his family were forced to eke out a living from a nearby shanty. Neither the local malik nor the government agent, Hamidullah told me, would intervene on his behalf. Then came Namdar, the Taliban commander. He hauled the rich man before a Vice and Virtue council and ordered him to give back Hamidullah’s home and farm.
Now Hamidullah is one of Namdar’s loyal militiamen.
“There are so many guys like me,” he said, cradling a Kalashnikov.
The social revolution that has swept the tribal areas does not bode well for the plans, laid out by Governor Ghani, to oust the Taliban by boosting the tribal elders. Nor does it hold out much promise for the Americans, who have expressed hope that they could do in the FATA what they were able to do with the Sunni tribes in Iraq. There, local tribesmen rose up against, and have substantially weakened, Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia.
Indeed, in some cases the distinction between tribe and Taliban has vanished altogether. Baitullah Mehsud, for instance, comes from the Mehsud tribe, one of the two largest clans of South Waziristan. (“The Taliban is the Mehsud tribe,” Jan said. “They are one and the same now.” )
Mehsud is the most powerful of dozens of Taliban chieftains who control the tribal areas. Some of them answer to Mehsud; some do not. The others are no less brutal: in July, for instance, in Bajaur tribal agency, the Taliban leader Faqir Mohammed staged a public execution of two men “convicted” of spying for the United States. One was shot; the other beheaded. A photograph of the men’s last moments was displayed on the front page of The News, a Pakistani newspaper.
The chieftains’ rivalries are intense, too. Six weeks after I met Namdar, he was gunned down by one of his bodyguards, in the very house where I met him. It isn’t entirely clear who ordered the killing of Namdar, but many of his followers suspect it was Mehsud.
V. The Game Changes
While most of the Taliban chieftains do share a basic ideology, they appear to be divided into two distinct groups: those who send fighters into Afghanistan to fight the Americans and those who do not. And that is an important distinction for the Pakistanis, as well as for the Americans.
After the rout of the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, many militants fled across the border, and the Taliban inside Pakistan grew. At first, they largely confined their activities to the tribal areas themselves, from where they could send fighters into Afghanistan. That started to change last year. Militants began moving out of the FATA and into the rest of Pakistan, taking control of the towns and villages in the neighboring North-West Frontier Province. Militants began attacking Pakistani police and soldiers. Inside the FATA, Mehsud was forming Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella party of some 40 Taliban groups that claimed as its goal the domination of Pakistan. Suddenly, the Taliban was not merely a group of militants who were useful in extending Pakistan’s influence into Afghanistan. They were a threat to Pakistan itself.
The turning point came in July last year, when the government laid siege to a mosque in Islamabad called Lal Masjid, where dozens of militants had taken shelter. The presence of the militants inside Islamabad itself, Pakistan’s stately, secular-minded capital, was shock enough to the country’s ruling class. Then, after eight days, on orders from Musharraf, security forces stormed the mosque, sparking a battle that left 87 dead. The massacre at Lal Masjid became a rallying cry for Islamic militants across the country. Mehsud and other Islamists declared war on the government and launched a campaign of suicide bombings; there were 60 in 2007 alone. In an act of astonishing humiliation, Mehsud’s men captured 300 Pakistan Army soldiers that came into South Waziristan; Mehsud eventually let them go. And then, in December, a suicide bomber, possibly dispatched by Mehsud, killed Bhutto.
The bloody siege of Lal Masjid, Western and Pakistani officials say, finally convinced senior Pakistani military and ISI leaders that the Taliban fighters they had been nurturing for so many years had grown too strong. “Now, the militants are autonomous,” one retired Pakistani official told me. “No one can control them anymore.”
IN JANUARY OF THIS YEAR, Pakistan opened an offensive into South Waziristan that was far fiercer than any that had come before. It inflicted hundreds of casualties on Mehsud’s forces and caused at least 15,000 families to flee. Then, after just three weeks, the operation ended. As they had before, Pakistani commanders and Mehsud struck a deal. But this time, remarkably, the deal seemed to stick. The army dismantled its checkpoints and pulled back its troops, and the suicide bombings all but stopped.
What happened? A draft of the peace agreement struck between the army and Mehsud may help explain. The agreement itself, which has not been officially released, provides a look into the Pakistani government’s new strategy toward the militants. According to the agreement, members of the Mehsud tribe agreed to refrain from attacking the Pakistani state and from setting up a parallel government. They agreed to accept the rule of law.
But sending fighters into Afghanistan? About that, the agreement says nothing at all.
And that appears to be the essence of the new Pakistani game. As long as the militants refrain from attacking the state, they are free to do what they want inside the tribal areas — and across the border in Afghanistan. While peace has largely prevailed between the government and the militants inside Pakistan since earlier this year, the infiltration of Taliban fighters from the tribal areas into Afghanistan has risen sharply. Even the current Pakistani offensive, according to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, the top American commander in eastern Afghanistan, has failed to slow the influx.
In short, the chaos has been redirected.
This must have been why Namdar told me with such confidence that “fighting the jihad” insulated him from the Pakistani government. The real purpose of the government’s Khyber operation became clear: to tame Manghal Bagh, the warlord who does not send men into Afghanistan and who was encroaching on Peshawar. Indeed, after more than a week of enduring the brunt of the army’s assault, Bagh agreed to respect the Pakistani state. Namdar had been left alone by government troops all the while.
If channeling the Taliban into Afghanistan and against NATO and the Americans is indeed the new Pakistani game, then one more thing is also clear: the leaders of the Pakistan Army and the ISI must still be confident they can manage the militants. And it is certainly the military and ISI officers who are doing the managing — not the country’s elected leaders. When I asked Jan, the tribal elder, about the negotiations that Ghani had described for me — talks between the country’s new civilian leaders and FATA’s tribal elders — Jan laughed. “The only negotiations are between the army and the Taliban, between the army and Baitullah Mehsud,” he said. “There are no government officials taking part in any negotiations. There are no tribal elders taking part. I’m a tribal elder. I think I would know.”
Western officials agreed that the influence of Pakistan’s new civilian leaders over strategy in the tribal areas was close to nil. “Until the civilians get their act together, the military will play the dominant role,” a Western analyst in Pakistan, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told me. The parliamentary coalition cobbled together earlier this year is already falling apart.
“It’s a very close relationship,” Jan said, describing the meetings between the Pakistan Army and the Taliban. “The army and the Taliban are friends. Whenever a Taliban fighter is killed, army officers go to his funeral. They bring money to the family.”
Indeed, American officials said in July that the ISI helped Jalaluddin Haqqani’s fighters bomb the Indian Embassy in Kabul. The attack killed 54, including an Indian defense attaché. American officials said the evidence of the ISI’s involvement was overwhelming. “It was sort of this ‘aha’ moment,” one of them said.
Politics of Pakistani Deception, 4
Reply #232 on:
September 06, 2008, 12:32:43 PM »
VI. The Path of Jihad
After I met Namdar, the Taliban commander, he ordered some of his young fighters to take me to the Afghan border. The mountains that ran along the border shimmered in the monsoon rains, and a new stream was running down from the peaks. It was this range, called the White Mountains, through which Osama bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora in December 2001. The Afghan frontier, the fighters told me, was a day’s walk over the hills.
It was along a similar route, two years ago, that an 18-year-old Pakistani named Mudasar trekked into Afghanistan to blow himself up. His family, who live in the town of Shakhas in Khyber agency, told me they learned of his fate in a telephone call. “Your son has carried out a suicide operation inside of Afghanistan,” a man said without identifying himself. There was no corpse to send home to Pakistan, so Mudasar’s family and the rest of the villagers of Shakhas gathered for a ghaibana, a funeral without a body.
“It is very respectable to die this way,” Abu Omar, Mudasar’s brother, told me one day at a cafe in Peshawar. Mudasar and Abu Omar were both part of the tide of young Pakistani men that has been surging across the Afghan border to fight the Americans. Abu Omar described his brother as intensely religious, without hobbies — unlike Abu Omar himself, whose passion was playing fullback on the soccer field. “Mudasar would lie awake at night crying for the martyred people in Afghanistan,” Abu Omar said.
What finally drove Mudasar to want to kill Americans was a single spectacular event. In January 2006, the Americans maneuvered a Predator drone across the border into Pakistan and fired a missile at a building they thought contained Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s deputy leader. The missile reportedly missed Zawahiri by a couple of hours, but it killed his son-in-law and several other senior Al Qaeda members. A number of civilians died as well, including women and children. Television footage from the scene, showing corpses lying amid the rubble, sparked protests across Pakistan.
“My brother saw that and resolved to become a martyr,” Abu Omar told me.
Confiding in only his mother and brother, Mudasar enrolled in a local camp for suicide bombers. Abu Omar declined to tell me who ran the camp or where it was, saying such things were military secrets. “There are many such camps,” he said and shrugged.
It was during our second meeting, in Peshawar’s main shopping area, that Abu Omar agreed to talk about his own mission across the border. We sat in a shabby second-floor office in the Saddar bazaar. Last October, following the death of his brother, Abu Omar enrolled in one of the Taliban training camps inside Khyber agency operated by Mehsud’s organization. The camp, Abu Omar said, was split into three sections: one for bomb making, one for reconnaissance and ambushes and one for firing large weapons. Abu Omar’s section was given a heavy machine gun.
“Big enough to shoot down helicopters,” he said.
Abu Omar spoke listlessly but in great detail. The militant camp sat within a few miles of the Afghan border, he said, and only a few miles from a Pakistan military base. Most of the volunteers were Pakistani, he said, although foreigners trained, too, including a Muslim convert from Great Britain.
“He had blond hair, but a very long beard,” Abu Omar said, breaking into his only smile of the afternoon. “A good Muslim.”
When the time finally came, Abu Omar said, he and about 20 of his comrades moved at night to a safe house near the Afghan frontier, in Mohmand tribal agency. They were just across the border from Kunar, one of the most violent of Afghanistan’s provinces. There, he said, he and his comrades waited for two days until the way was clear. Then, when the signal came, they moved across. None of the men, Abu Omar said, were particularly worried about what would happen if they were spotted by Pakistani troops. “They are Muslims,” he told me. “They support what we are doing.”
Fighting in Afghanistan, Abu Omar said, was a hit-and-miss, sometimes tedious affair: once across the border, he and the other fighters sat inside another safe house for two days, waiting for word to launch their attack. Finally, Abu Omar’s commander told them that there were too many American and Afghan soldiers about and that they would have to return to Pakistan.
The second time, the mission worked. Crossing into Kunar once more, Abu Omar and the other fighters attacked a line of Afghan army check posts just inside the border. Omar put his heavy machine gun to good use, he said, and four of the posts were overrun. “We killed seven Afghan soldiers,” he claimed. “Unfortunately, there were no Americans.”
Their attack successful, Abu Omar and his comrades trekked back across the Pakistani border. The sun was just rising. The fighters saw a Pakistani checkpoint and headed straight for it.
“They gave us some water,” he said of the Pakistani border guards. “And then we continued on our way.”
VII. The Rose Garden
From the Rose Garden of the White House, you could just make out the profile of the Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, sitting across from President Bush inside the Oval Office. It was Gilani’s first official visit and, by all accounts, not a typical one. That same day, July 28, as Gilani’s plane neared the United States, a Predator drone had fired a missile into a compound in South Waziristan, killing Abu Khabab al-Masri, an Al Qaeda poison and bombing expert. The hit was a significant one, and Al Qaeda posted a eulogy to al-Masri on the Internet a couple of days later. Gilani, according to the American analyst who was briefed by officials, knew nothing of the incident when he arrived in Washington. “They just did it,” the analyst said. The Americans pressed Gilani, telling him that his military and security services were out of his control and that they posed a threat to Pakistan and to American forces in Afghanistan.
At the Rose Garden, though, appearances were kept up in grand style. Bush and Gilani strode from the Oval Office side by side. Gilani laughed as the two leaders stopped to face the assembled reporters. Over to the side, to the right of the reporters, the senior members of Bush’s foreign-policy team had gathered, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, John Negroponte.
“Pakistan is a strong ally and a vibrant democracy,” Bush said. “We talked about the common threat we face: extremists who are very dangerous people. We talked about the need for us to make sure that the Afghan border is secure as best as possible: Pakistan has made a very strong commitment to that.”
“Thank you,” Gilani said, hesitating, looking at Bush. “Now?”
“Please, yes, absolutely,” the president said.
Gilani played his part. “We are committed to fight against those extremists and terrorists who are destroying and making the world not safe,” Gilani said. “There are few militants — they are hand-picked people, militants, who are disturbing this peace,” he concluded. “And I assured Mr. President we’ll work together for democracy and for the prosperity and peace of the world.”
And then the two men walked together back into the White House, with Rice and Negroponte trailing after them.
Dexter Filkins, a correspondent for The Times, reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan from 1997 to 2002. He is the author of ‘‘The Forever War.’’
Reply #233 on:
September 07, 2008, 03:11:55 AM »
That was an excellent read, thank you for taking the time to post.
Respects to the reporter for both courage and quality of reporting.
What do we make of the following? I continue to deepen in my concern that our strategy in Afg-Pak is conceptually clueless and unsound.
Pakistan closes Torkham border crossing, shuts down NATO's supply line
By Bill RoggioSeptember 6, 2008 12:04 AM
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS' Frontline. Click to view.
Pakistan closed the Torkham border crossing in the Khyber tribal agency. The road through the Khyber Pass is NATO's primary supply line into Afghanistan.
The government claimed Taliban threats and poor security on the strategic road into Afghanistan forced the closure. The road has been shut down exclusively for NATO traffic.
"All Afghanistan-bound supplies for the International Security Assistance Force have been stopped as the [Torkham] highway is vulnerable," the Khyber Agency’s political agent told Daily Times.
According to Dawn, the closure only applies to fuel trucks heading to Afghanistan. But trucks carrting supplies other than fuel have been held up at the border. "Over 20 heavily-loaded vehicles, including oil tankers, were stranded at the border town of Torkham following the government’s decision," the Pakistani newspaper reported.
An estimated 70 percent of NATO supplies move through Khyber to resupply troops fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The bulk of NATO's supplies arrive in the port city of Karachi, move north to Peshawar, and head west to the Torkham crossing into Afghanistan and the final destination in Kabul. The rest of the supplies pass through the Chaman border crossing point in Baluchistan or arrive via air.
The Taliban has increased attacks against trucks shipping NATO supplies. The group has issued death threats to Pakistani truckers hauling NATO goods into Afghanistan.
A response to US attacks in Pakistan
The closure of the Torkham crossing point to NATO traffic occurs just as the US has ramped up its cross-border strikes inside Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.
The Pakistani government denied the move to close the road in Khyber to NATO traffic was related to the recent US airstrikes and a ground assault in the Waziristan tribal agencies further south.
"This decision has nothing to do with the situation in Waziristan or the US attacks,' the political agent said.”This is purely a security issue and we want no untoward incident to take place as far as supplies for ISAF are concerned." No timeframe was given for the reopening of the road for NATO supply columns.
The move to close the border occurred the same day the Pakistani military said it could respond to US attacks inside Pakistani territory.
"Pakistan reserves the right to appropriately retaliate in future," General Tariq Majid, the Chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, told Germany defense minister.
The US has conducted an unprecedented air campaign over the past week in North and South Waziristan. The US has conducted five cross-border attacks inside Pakistan since Aug 31. Three of the strikes occurred in North Waziristan, and two in South Waziristan.
The US has stepped up its attacks against al Qaeda and the Taliban's networks inside Pakistan over the past year. There have been 13 confirmed cross-border attacks by the US in Pakistan this year [see list below]. Five safe houses have been hit in North Waziristan, six have been hit in South Waziristan, and two have been targeted in Bajaur this year. Only 10 such cross-border strikes were recorded in 2006 and 2007 combined.
The most controversial strike involved special operations teams inserted by helicopters in a village in South Waziristan just one mile from the Afghan border on Sept. 3. This is the second recorded incident of the direct involvement of US ground troops in a raid inside Pakistan since 2006.
Reply #234 on:
September 07, 2008, 12:53:19 PM »
Crafty: "What do we make of the following?" - The first part seems like terrible news, a border crossing closed that is essential for NATO supply lines. Reminds me of Turkey blocking us late in the planning of operation Iraqi freedom. Also a threat of retaliation for any American attack.
Far more importantly, the piece ends with this mention in passing:
"The US has conducted an unprecedented air campaign over the past week in North and South Waziristan. The US has conducted five cross-border attacks inside Pakistan since Aug 31. Three of the strikes occurred in North Waziristan, and two in South Waziristan. The US has stepped up its attacks against al Qaeda and the Taliban's networks inside Pakistan over the past year. There have been 13 confirmed cross-border attacks by the US in Pakistan this year. Five safe houses have been hit in North Waziristan, six have been hit in South Waziristan, and two have been targeted in Bajaur this year. The most controversial strike involved special operations teams inserted by helicopters in a village in South Waziristan just one mile from the Afghan border on Sept. 3."
From a 'war on terror' standpoint, this is GREAT news. This administration can't communicate or articulate (on anything) and likely has limitations on what can or should be said while a serious operation is in progress, but this information would indicate that a) we are getting specific intelligence, b) we are acting militarily on it, not limited by the border or politics, and c) we are taking these risks in hot pursuit of a successful outcome.
Killing or capturing bin Laden and his top liutenants would not be the end of our security problems, but it would be another important milestone, sending a signal to potential enemies and to our so-called allies about who is winning and who is losing in this costly effort.
US-Pakistan: The crisis
Reply #235 on:
September 12, 2008, 05:42:13 PM »
Tensions between the United States and Pakistan continue to mount. Although the U.S. Special Operations Command clearly has been conducting operations in Pakistan for years, the White House chose to make it known that the United States was prepared to conduct such operations without Pakistani permission. The head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, responded by saying, “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside of Pakistan.” He said that he had told this directly to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. And, on Thursday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas took it a step further by saying that the army had been ordered to hit back in the face of any action by foreign forces on Pakistani territory.
The crisis with the United States comes at the worst time for the Pakistani military. The external crisis is unfolding amid a deteriorating political, economic and security situation. While Kayani and his generals appear to be willing to work with the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his governing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the crisis with Washington can lead to civil-military tensions because of potential disagreements between the military and the government over how to deal with overt unilateral U.S. military action on Pakistani soil. Already there is a perception that Zardari and his PPP are more flexible on the issue. However, since the United States’ violation of Pakistani sovereignty is a politically sensitive issue, Kayani has moved to take the hard-line position. But this response should not be dismissed as merely internal Pakistani politics. There is a serious crisis going on in U.S.-Pakistani relations.
The United States has long been suspicious of the commitment of the Pakistani military, and particularly its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), to the fight against al Qaeda. In fact, there were elements in the ISI who did not want to see former President Pervez Musharraf align with the Americans after 9/11. And there has long been suspicion among the Americans that not only wasn’t the Pakistani army doing all it could, but that some elements might be passing information about U.S. operations to al Qaeda, allowing the militants to escape.
When he spoke of unilateral action in Pakistan, U.S. President George W. Bush was saying that he was not comfortable with joint operations under these circumstances. From the point of view of the U.S. military, this has been a long time coming. Indeed, there undoubtedly have been operations in Pakistan against al Qaeda that were unilateral, but this is extending it from operations against al Qaeda to the Taliban.
The Taliban are a military organization, operating as guerrillas. They maintain base camps in Pakistan that are not detected and destroyed by the Pakistanis. In the past, their level of activity was insufficient to warrant destabilizing American relations with Pakistan. That is no longer the case. The Taliban have grown much stronger, and U.S. and NATO forces are under pressure from them. Reinforcements are being sent to them. But the base camps and the lines of supply that go into Pakistan are the center of gravity of the Taliban. The United States is no longer in a position to ignore this. The Taliban are too strong.
Therefore, the United States and Pakistan are on a collision course. The Taliban have roots in Pakistan and sympathizers in the military. Attacking the Taliban’s bases and cutting off the flow of supplies is difficult politically for Pakistan. The United States, on the other hand, is not doing well in Afghanistan. It needs the Taliban in Pakistan to be destroyed, and it is saying that if the Pakistanis don’t do it, the United States will have to — and this will take more than Special Operations forces to achieve.
This moment was bound to come. The United States could not manage Afghanistan so long as the Taliban had sanctuary in Pakistan. The Pakistanis were not going to fight a war in Pakistan to solve the American problem. So we are now down to the final crisis of the war that began seven years ago. Iraq is under control. Afghanistan is coming apart. The key to Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan is unable, by itself, to deal with the Taliban. The United States has little choice but to abandon Afghanistan or go into Pakistan.
Thus the crisis.
Reply #236 on:
September 21, 2008, 04:03:04 PM »
Over three years ago (April 2005) in Bye Bye Bolivia, you learned that under Evo Morales, Bolivia would someday break apart. Ever since, Evo's puppet master Hugo Chavez has desperately tried to prevent this. Now, this week, the moment of dissolution seems to have arrived.
With the lowland provinces of the "Media Luna" in outright rebellion, Morales has been unable to trust his military enough to order it to crush the rebels. The New York Times is reporting that Chavez is publicly ridiculing the Bolivian military and threatening to invade the country with Venezuelan soldiers.
One or another, Morales or the country itself as an intact nation will not be around for much longer.
Speaking of nations that may not be around brings up Pakistan. It's so upset over the US sending real live soldiers based in Afghanistan across its border to kill Taliban terrorists trying to kill them that the whole country is having a temper tantrum over the violation of its sacred "sovereignty."
The reason for the tantrum is that the sovereignty they demand the US "respect" doesn't exist.
I've crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan - on foot, on horseback, by truck, even in a raft across the Kabul River - and vice versa many times. I have seen with my own eyes: there is no border. Pakistan has never exercised anything approaching sovereign authority over its border with Afghanistan.
That 1600-mile border was drawn by a British civil servant, Sir Mortimer Durand (1850-1924), in 1893 in his capacity as Foreign Secretary of British India. The government of Afghanistan has never recognized the "Durand Line" as a legitimate border - since it divides the Pushtun people (who make up the majority of Afghans) in two.
Further, the Durand Line Agreement - which the Brits claimed Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan signed, but only in English which he didn't speak or read - was valid for 100 years and expired in 1993. No subsequent Afghan government has renewed the Durand Agreement.
Thus the Afghan-Pakistan border does not exist either legally or actual reality.
The Pakistan "government-within-a-government," the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency or ISI, is conducting a proxy war against the United States and the government of Afghanistan via the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists. The US, NATO, and Afghan military forces have every right to take whatever measures are necessary to shut this war down in territory the Paks have no legal right to nor control.
Pakistan is rapidly becoming a failed state - so failed that there is an increasing chance it may break apart into its constituents: Baluchistan, the Sindh, Punjab, and "Pushtunistan" which may merge with Afghanistan. India and the US better have a well-thought out and well-practiced plan to seize control of Pak nukes if necessary.
Turning point in Pak attitudes?
Reply #237 on:
September 23, 2008, 12:19:41 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: A Turning Point in Pakistan's Attitude Toward Jihadist War?
September 22, 2008
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that the Prime Minister House in Islamabad was the original target of the Sept. 20 suicide bombing at the Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital but that militants could not attack the house due to tight security.
Whether or not Gilani is correct, the Marriott attack — considered by many Pakistanis as the worst terrorist attack in the history of the country — hit close to home for the Pakistani government. At the time of the bombing, the who’s who of Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership — including Gilani, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and President Asif Ali Zardari — were at a dinner gathering at the Prime Minister House, located about half a mile from the Marriott. When the blast occurred, there was a large commotion at the Prime Minister House as officials scurried to make sure the president was protected.
The Marriott bombing was a major wake-up call for the Pakistani government, which until now has waffled on its handling of Islamist militants operating in the country. After such a dramatic attack so close to so many high-ranking government officials, Zardari announced that his government will now be going on the offensive against the militants, much like U.S. President George W. Bush did after the Sept. 11 attacks. Zardari is a controversial figure among the public as well as the military because of past corruption charges, and his bad reputation is likely to get in the way of his attempts to get tough with jihadists.
But he may have help, in that this latest bombing has also had an impact on public perceptions, which have thus far been against fighting what is seen as an American war that has destabilized the country. The attack is getting a lot of play in the media, and as more Pakistanis see the magnitude of the damage, popular perceptions are undergoing a shift. We are hearing of a move to organize local forces in the Pashtun areas to counter the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.
The biggest problem facing the United States since the beginning of the war against militants has been Pakistan’s reluctance to aggressively pursue the jihadists. A lot of this has been because Islamabad does not want to see the complete neutralization of the Afghan Taliban — a key asset for Pakistan in its attempt to re-establish influence in Afghanistan. Even after the rise of the Pakistani Taliban, which has been waging war against Islamabad, the policy has been to distinguish between rogue Taliban and those still under control.
This attitude, along with the view within Washington that Islamabad was unwilling to seriously deliver on its commitments as an ally in the jihadist war, were key factors that led to Washington engaging in unilateral actions on Pakistani soil. The destruction of the Marriott hotel could be a turning point in terms of the Pakistanis mustering up the political will for decisive action against jihadist forces. A behavioral shift in Islamabad could offset recent frictions with Washington.
The extent to which Pakistan will get tough on the jihadists, however, remains to be seen. What is clear though is that the destruction of the Marriott has demonstrated that Islamabad can no longer afford to remain on the defensive.
Pakistan s Ambassador
Reply #238 on:
September 26, 2008, 02:05:33 AM »
Pakistan and Afghanistan
Unite Against Terrorism
By HUSAIN HAQQANI and SAID T. JAWAD
President Hamid Karzai and the new democratically elected president of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, are firmly committed to fighting terrorism in a united front, as common allies of the United States and victims of terrorism. As part of this struggle, we need to find new ways to deny terrorists the opportunity to capitalize on abject poverty that engulfs the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This is crucial: People who are well fed are not desperate. People who have confidence in public education do not turn toward political madrassas to educate their children. People who have good jobs do not shelter terrorists. In other words, prosperity is one of the most important predictors of political stability, which in turn is the single most critical element in the containment of fanaticism and terrorism.
One innovative idea now before the U.S. Congress does exactly that -- the creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The legislation, introduced on a bipartisan basis by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) would allow the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan to produce and export a wide range of textiles, handicrafts, carpets, gemstones and other products to the U.S. duty free. This concept is consistent with similar, successful programs for Jordan, Egypt and some other countries.
The list of duty-free goods has been crafted to be attractive to investors but tightly defined to avoid impact on U.S. domestic production. The rights of laborers will be protected; and the zones will offer legitimate, sustained income to local populations, providing alternatives to joining and supporting terrorists and extremists.
These zones would also draw Pakistan and Afghanistan's economies closer together, increasing cooperation and integration. Trade between our two countries has increased dramatically in recent years, with Pakistani exports to Afghanistan jumping from $25 million to $1.2 billion in the last six years. Further cooperation would only increase trade and expand joint efforts on matters of mutual concern -- terrorism chief among them.
The ROZ concept is enthusiastically supported by the Bush administration. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said that "these programs will boost sustainable economic development for citizens in impoverished areas at the epicenter of the war on terror and drugs."
Sens. Joe Biden (D., Del.) and Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), the chairman and the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have made enhanced trade and economic development a priority for building a prosperous, stable and democratic Central and South Asia. This is an idea whose time truly has come.
We, the ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan, urge Congress to move expeditiously to enact ROZ legislation. It will constitute a much-needed affirmation to the people of both our countries that America is a dependable ally, and that it understands that more than military action alone is needed in the war against terrorists.
Reconstruction Opportunity Zones are an essential part of a broader, realistic, multifaceted policy that will choke off the oxygen of terrorism. As a brave leader committed to fighting terrorism, the late Benazir Bhutto wrote at the end of her posthumously published book, "Reconciliation": "Extremism thrives under dictatorship and is fueled by poverty, ignorance and hopelessness. The extremist threat within the Islamic world and between the Islamic world and the West can be solved, but it will require addressing all the factors that breed it."
For the United States, this is a critical moment -- a moment that could very well determine the long-term success of the civilized world's containment of fanaticism and terrorism. Creative policies such as ROZ now and in the future can solve it.
Mr. Haqqani is Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Jawad is Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S.
Afg a narco-terrorist state
Reply #239 on:
September 28, 2008, 08:07:53 PM »
Is Afghanistan becoming a narco-terrorist state?
By Amitai Etzioni - September 25, 2008, 9:32AM
In his response to my original post in this series, Stephen Schwartz objects to my application of the term "narco-terrorism state" to Afghanistan. He claims that I either "misuse the term" or else "libel the government of Hamid Karzai." I let the facts speak for themselves.
Afghanistan now supplies 93% of the world's heroin. The drug trade now amounts to about one half of Afghanistan's GDP--some $4 billion a year. This, after dramatic increases in production in 2006 and 2007.
A considerable chunk of this drug money is being funneled into the very groups that continue to wage an insurgency against the U.S. and Afghan national forces. In a July 2008 report, former U.S. Drug Czar and Retired Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey finds that drug production and export in Afghanistan has become the main source of funding for Taliban and al Qaeda. McCaffrey refers to Afghanistan as a "narco-state" in the report and calls on the international community to either eradicate the drug crop or risk losing the battle against insurgents.
Thomas Schewich, who served as the State Department's top counternarcotics official, shows that the lack of an effective drug-eradication policy which has allowed production and profits to soar over the last several years is not a sign of incompetence, but rather the product of a corrupt Afghani government with close ties to the drug trade. In his July 27, 2008 New York Times Magazine article, Schewich shows how the influence of the drug trade has infiltrated all levels of the Afghani government, all the way up to President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai's "roots and power base" are in wealthier areas of the Pashtun south, Schewich explains, where much of the opium is produced. A September 2007 Kabul Weekly article emphasizes this point: "More than 95 percent of the residents of...the poppy growing provinces--voted for President Karzai." As a result, Karzai is bound to serve the interests of the drug-trade, or else risk getting voted out of power.
As Schewich shows, Karzai has been "playing us like a fiddle" by preaching anti-drug messages on the one hand, but winking and serving the interests of his drug-dependent constituency. For instance, Schewich explains Karzai's successful opposition to a proposed comprehensive aerial crop-eradication program in a September 2007 speech:
"[Karzai] made antidrug statements at the beginning of the speech, but then lashed out at the international community for wanting to spray his people's crops...He got a wild ovation. Not surprising since so many in the room were closely tied to the narcotics trade. Sure, Karzai had Taliban enemies who profited from drugs, but he had even more supporters who did."
Karzai's loyalty to the drug-world is also on display in his record of selecting numerous known drug traffickers for government positions. To head his anticorruption commission, for instance, Karzai appointed a convicted heroin dealer, Izzatulla Wasifi.
The drug trade in Afghanistan is both fuelling the insurgency and corrupting the government--both on a very large scale. If that's not a "narco-terrorist state," what is?
(More to come about the other, equally fallacious, arguments Mr. Schwartz casts about. As to other comments I received, I will answer all those who will own up to their statements and stop hiding behind their aliases.)
I am indebted to Alex Platt for helping to prepare this statement.
Amitai Etzioni is Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University and author of Security First (Yale 2007)
Reply #240 on:
September 29, 2008, 05:25:55 PM »
October 6, 2008
U.S. Stops Spec Ops Raids Into Pakistani Tribal Areas
By Sean D. Naylor
U.S. special operations forces have paused ground operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but military and civilian government officials differ over why the cross-border raids have been halted.
The issue of U.S. raids into the tribal areas was thrust into the international spotlight by a Sept. 3 raid in Angor Adda, in the South Waziristan tribal agency, by Navy SEALs working for a Joint Special Operations Command task force.
“We have shown a willingness starting this year to pursue those kinds of missions,” a Pentagon official said. However, he said, after temporarily granting JSOC more latitude to do cross-border missions, U.S. leaders had decided to restrain the command, at least as far as cross-border missions with ground troops are concerned, to allow Pakistani forces to press attacks on militants in the tribal areas.
“We are now working with the Pakistanis to make sure that those types of ground-type insertions do not happen, at least for a period of time to give them an opportunity to do what they claim they are desiring to do,” the Pentagon official said. The pause did not apply to airstrikes from unmanned aerial vehicles at targets inside tribal areas.
Although JSOC is the organization tasked, along with the Central Intelligence Agency, with finding and killing or capturing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Sept. 3 raid was not aimed at “a huge type of target,” the Pentagon official said. “There were just consistent problems in that area that had come to a point where there was significant evidence that there was complicity on the part of the [Pakistani military’s] Frontier Corps and others in allowing repetitive raids and activities to go on. And there was a firm desire to, one, send a message, and two, also establish any intelligence audit that could be established that would be useful to respond to a frequent question that we get from the other side of the border, which is, ‘Well, show us and tell us where the problem is, then we’ll deal with it.’”
But a U.S. government official closely involved with policy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region said the military had underestimated the Pakistani response and was reconsidering its options.
The official’s comments were echoed by a field grade special operations officer with Afghanistan experience.
The Sept. 3 raid “was an opportunity to see how the new Pakistani government reacted,” the officer said. “If they didn’t do anything, they were just kind of fairly passive, like [former Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf was, ... then we felt like, OK, we can slowly up the ante, we can do maybe some more of these ops. But the backlash that happened, and especially the backlash in the diplomatic channels, was pretty severe.”
The raid represented “a strategic miscalculation,” the U.S. government source said. “We did not fully appreciate the vehemence of the Pakistani response,” which included the Pakistan government’s implication that it was willing to cut the coalition’s supply lines through Pakistan.
The military’s comments about the Sept. 3 raid sending a message represented a smokescreen, said the government official, who added that the mission “was meant to be the beginning of a campaign.”
“Once the Pakistanis started talking about closing down our supply routes, and actually demonstrated they could do it, once they started talking about shooting American helicopters, we obviously had to take seriously that maybe this [approach] was not going to be good enough,” the government official said. “We can’t sustain ourselves in Afghanistan without the Pakistani supply routes. At the end of the day, we had to not let our tactics get in the way of our strategy.”
However, a Washington source in government said, “I don’t think there’s been another strategic decision to back off.” Instead, JSOC would “go about it a different way.”
U.S. Central Command spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith declined to comment for this story.
Under questioning on Capitol Hill Sept. 23, Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not deny that U.S. forces had made cross-border strikes. “We will do what is necessary to protect our troops,” he said, acknowledging the Pentagon had been granted “authorities” for such action.
Past FATA raids
The Sept. 3 raid was not the first time JSOC forces, the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta and the Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DevGru, also known as SEAL Team 6, have launched into the tribal areas.
In the past, small JSOC elements have operated with the Pakistani Special Services Group in the tribal areas, and the special operations officer with Afghanistan experience said he was aware of “two or three” cross-border operations similar to the Angor Adda raid. “They have happened, but it was by no means a common occurrence,” he said.
However, the government official closely involved with Afghanistan-Pakistan policy said, JSOC “has been pushing hard for several years” to step up their raids into the tribal areas. JSOC’s argument has been “Give us greater latitude; we’ve got to hit where their sanctuaries are,” the official said.
“In the wake of the increased Taliban attacks we’ve seen over the last several months and the sense of frustration that we haven’t been more successful, their point of view has finally gained traction,” the government official said.
Two government sources identified the Taliban’s July 13 attack on a U.S. outpost in the Korengal valley as a turning point in the debate.
“Clearly, we saw what happened in the Korengal valley as a watershed moment,” said the government official closely involved with policy in the region.
The Sept. 3 raid into Pakistan is part of a heightened operational tempo for JSOC forces based in Afghanistan, several sources said.
JSOC has expanded its target list from the original so-called “big three” of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar to a broader list that includes figures in the Taliban-allied network of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami group (sometimes referred to as HiG by the U.S. military).
The U.S. government official involved with policy in the area described JSOC’s targets as fitting into two categories: the “big guys” with whom the U.S. has “unfinished business,” and “those people that threaten us operationally and tactically on the ground right now.”
Several sources said the Sept. 3 raid appeared to have been aimed at the Haqqani network, along with some of its Uzbek allies.
JSOC is “targeting a range of actors, but one of the big ones is Haqqani,” said a civilian expert on Afghanistan, adding that targeting the Haqqani network represented “payback” for its alleged involvement in attacks on the Indian embassy, the Serena hotel in Kabul and an assassination attempt against Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The U.S. government official closely involved with the region’s policy agreed that U.S. forces were targeting Haqqani as “payback,” but also because the network — mostly controlled by Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin — “is seen as ... the low-hanging fruit,” because its bases in Waziristan are more easily accessible than the terrain of the Bajaur tribal agency, where Hekmatyar’s fighters operate.
“None of the JSOC activity has been going on in the areas around the sanctuary for Mullah Omar’s Taliban,” which is located in and around the Pakistani city of Quetta, the civilian expert on Afghanistan said. “It’s all happening in the tribal areas.”
Reply #241 on:
October 05, 2008, 07:15:39 AM »
Taliban's yearly dope take is put at $100M
BY JAMES GORDON MEEK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Thursday, October 2nd 2008, 12:04 AM
WASHINGTON - The resurgent Taliban get a yearly injection of $100 million from drug trafficking, the top U.S. Army general in Afghanistan said Wednesday.
"That's a conservative estimate," added Gen. David McKiernan, who also commands NATO troops.
McKiernan also bluntly stated that America's focus on Iraq means victory in Afghanistan is too far off to predict.
"Obviously our national priority has been Iraq," McKiernan said. "The consequence of not placing more force capability in Afghanistan means it will take longer to win [and] at a higher price."
With so many military resources diverted to Iraq, McKiernan said, there are too few available helicopters to supply and transport troops in Afghanistan.
"We don't have enough of them," he admitted.
McKiernan has asked for three additional combat brigades - 6,000 to 10,000 troops - to battle an influx of Arab and other foreign fighters.
President Bush has announced that a Marine battalion that was slated to go to Iraq in November would go to Afghanistan instead, and an Army combat brigade wouldfollow.
The general, in a news conference before meeting with Bush, insisted a "surge" of forces isn't needed.
McKiernan questioned the commitment of a number of European allies. "Some come to conduct war, some come to summer camp," he said.
Turning the fight over to fledgling Afghan forces won't happen "anytime soon," he predicted.
Afghanistan's thriving Islamist insurgency has used its eye-popping opium profits to fuel its escalating war against the elected government in Kabul and to oppose U.S. and NATO allies.
Reply #242 on:
October 10, 2008, 11:41:27 AM »
Can we get a clear answer from anyone anymore as to how to deal with our enemies?
Is Petraeus "Beyond Naive"?
He thinks we should negotiate with our enemies—just like Obama.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, at 11:56 AM ET
If Gov. Sarah Palin ever becomes president, will she tell Gen. David Petraeus that he's "beyond naive" and "dangerous"?
That, you may recall, was how she characterized Sen. Barack Obama's advocacy of talking to our enemies "without preconditions."
Yet look at what Petraeus—not just the architect of the Iraqi counterinsurgency strategy but also Sen. John McCain's demigod—said on Oct. 8, toward the end of an hourlong address to the neocon elite at the Heritage Foundation.
Asked about a British officer's recent statement that at some point, we'll have to strike a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, matter-of-factly, "You have to talk to enemies."
He added that the British know this especially well, as they've "sat down with thugs throughout their history, including us, I suspect."
Petraeus quickly added that, of course, you have to go into the talks with an agenda, and you have to know what your objectives are. But his point and these particular caveats are consistent with the distinction that Obama has repeatedly made between "preparations" and "preconditions"—the former being common sense and the latter being an insistence that the other side satisfy our demands before we so much as sit down with them (a position that even President Bush, its most dogmatic advocate, has recently begun to reconsider, especially in North Korea).
Palin's condemnation of Obama was no freelance swipe. McCain, too, has shaken his head in grave condescension and muttered that the junior senator from Illinois simply doesn't understand the world. Would he dare say the same of Petraeus?
In Iraq, the general recalled in his Heritage speech, "we sat down with some of those who were shooting at us"—a painful task but "an explicit part of our campaign." These talks formed the basis for the Anbar Awakening—in which Sunni insurgents allied themselves with U.S. forces to beat back the common foe of al-Qaida in Iraq—and for the tactical success of the "surge" itself.
Petraeus, the former commander of multinational forces in Iraq and soon the chief of U.S. Central Command, added that he didn't know how much of his Iraq strategy would work in Afghanistan. Some of its concepts are "transplantable," he said, while "others perhaps are not." (Here, too, the general contradicted McCain, who has said in two debates that Petraeus will win in Afghanistan by replicating his Iraq strategy.)
However, one concept that Petraeus said he will try to transplant is precisely this idea of talking with those enemies who might share, or be persuaded to share, some of our strategic goals. "This is how you end these kinds of conflicts," he said at the Heritage Foundation. There is "no alternative to reconciliation."
Some insurgents, of course, are irreconcilable—al-Qaida, for instance, and the more militant Taliban fighters. If we're at war with them, they must be killed and defeated; any other option is a pipe dream. But one aspect of counterinsurgency involves identifying and co-opting those insurgents who are not so hard-line or who might be weary of fighting or leery of their more ideological comrades. Petraeus noted that Afghan President Hamad Karzai is already doing this, reaching out to certain Taliban factions, using the Saudis as intermediaries.
Will this work? Is there any basis for a "Pashtun Awakening" in Afghanistan to match the Sunni alliance-of-convenience in Iraq? Do the Taliban factions break down along tribal lines, whose fissures might be exploited? Some Afghanistan-watchers have their doubts.
Yet one implication of Petraeus' remarks is that if there are no such openings for maneuver, then this war—which, our senior military leaders say, is going badly and getting worse—may be hopeless. In any case, the strategic goal—to keep Afghanistan from once again becoming a base for international terrorists—will probably require broader, regional cooperation to beat down al-Qaida in neighboring Pakistan. It's the jihadis in northwestern Pakistan who are keeping the Taliban going in Afghanistan. And compared with the dangers of an unstable Pakistan, Afghanistan is a sideshow.
The point here, though, is that according to the soldier-strategist whom John McCain admires most, talking to at least some enemies is a necessary ingredient of success.
A Republican partisan might note that the Taliban in Afghanistan are not the same as the mullahs of Iran. That's true. But from the McCain-Palin point of view, the Taliban are worse. They're killing American soldiers now, and they're trying to recapture an unstable sovereign state by force. It would be more repugnant to engage in face-to-face talks with them than with most other bad guys in the world. Yet if Petraeus is right—if we're going to have to do this with the Taliban—then why is it naive and dangerous to do the same with the leadership of Iran?
Reply #243 on:
October 10, 2008, 10:20:43 PM »
Off the top of my head, it occurs to me to note that we may be losing in Afg. As I have opined here several times recently we have no coherent strategy that I can discern. Thus negotiating with them arguably is a sign of defeat-- as it arguably would be with Iran. Please note that I personally have not taken a position here.
Here is Stratfor's take on things:
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Thursday that the United States would be prepared for a reconciliation with the Taliban if the Afghan government chose to pursue talks to end the war. He made the statement at a NATO conference in Budapest. According to Gates, “There has to be ultimately, and I’ll underscore ultimately, reconciliation as part of the political outcome to this. That’s ultimately the exit strategy for all of us.” Gates made it clear that reconciling with the Taliban does not mean reconciling with al Qaeda, which is something that the United States would never do.
The United States thus has taken the first critical step in moving toward a political resolution to the Afghan war. By distinguishing the Taliban from al Qaeda, Gates is distinguishing between domestic Afghan forces who might share values with al Qaeda, but who did not participate in the 9/11 attacks. This is not only an important distinction, it is a vital one. The Taliban organization was allied with al Qaeda but distinct from it: One was an Afghan movement, the other an internationalist movement. Now it has to be understood that the Taliban gave al Qaeda sanctuary and enabled it to launch its global operations from Afghanistan. However, the Taliban and al Qaeda are technically different organizations, and the Taliban were not directly involved in the 9/11 operation.
This is an important distinction for the United States to make in order to justify a necessary reversal in its policy in Afghanistan. The United States does not have the force to defeat the Taliban, nor is the future makeup of the Afghan government a matter of fundamental national interest for the United States. What is important is that the Taliban movement not enable further attacks by al Qaeda. If it were to agree to that, the United States could secure its interests in Afghanistan and leave, while allowing the Afghan government to make what deal it can make with the Taliban.
There are two problems with the idea. First, why should the United States trust the Taliban to keep their distance from al Qaeda? Second, why should the Taliban agree to any deal with the United States? The United States is not going to defeat them militarily, and from their point of view, time is on their side, since the Americans can’t remain in Afghanistan permanently. These would seem to kill any chance for the deal to get off the ground.
However, there is a key element to consider. The Taliban movement is not a homogenous organization. It has many elements, and some are more rigidly committed to the jihadist cause than others. Some might be very interested in the possibilities that could open up to them as major elements of an Afghan government, controlling important regions for their own use. Certainly, there are elements in the Taliban group that would reject any reconciliation, but the members of the group are sufficiently divided that it might be possible to split the organization and turn factions against each other. There might be factions that have no use for al Qaeda, and they might well be interested in the benefits of reconciliation.
This is, of course, the essence of U.S. Gen. David Petraeus’ strategy in Iraq. First, make a small increase in forces and use that as a psychological tool to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the country. Then enter into relations with the most hardened enemies of the United States — the Sunni insurgents — who then turn on the foreign jihadists calling themselves al Qaeda. At the same time, introduce them into the Baghdad government and slowly begin tiptoeing to the exits.
So, in Afghanistan, we have discussions of increased forces, coupled with indications of a willingness to reconcile with the Taliban. This splits the factions — and the faction wanting a deal turns on the faction opposing it. The former enters into Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, and the United States heads for the exits. And Karzai is left trying to figure out what happened to him.
The real question is whether the United States has enough credibility to attract any faction and whether the faction it attracts is stronger than the faction it doesn’t. The problem is that the Americans have no way to defeat the Taliban with available forces — and the Taliban knows it. However, the United States might be able to shift expectations by increasing forces and massively increasing air operations. The pain the American forces inflict on some factions of the Taliban might be enough to persuade them to split.
The primary virtue of this strategy is that it is the only strategy that has the potential of working. The other option is an extended war without a clear and attainable end. It is interesting that Gates made his statement about reconciliation with the Taliban while U.S. presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have spoken of their commitment to fight this war in Afghanistan. Since the ground truth is the same for them as for the Bush administration, Gates just made either of their lives easier by opening the door to this strategy. Obama or McCain will be able to claim that he was merely following established policy when he sits down with the Taliban. Then there is also a chance that some in the Taliban would like to make a deal with an administration looking for a legacy, rather than a new one that is unpredictable.
Gates’ statement was a major event, but not necessarily a promising one.
Tell Stratfor What You Think
NYT: NATO agrees to take aim at Drug Trade
Reply #244 on:
October 11, 2008, 06:45:12 AM »
This also seems significant to me and seeks address a point I have been making-- of course its significance it could turn out to be that it is meaningless or counterproductive
NATO Agrees to Take Aim at Afghan Drug Trade
By JUDY DEMPSEY and JOHN F. BURNS
Published: October 10, 2008
BUDAPEST — NATO defense ministers agreed Friday to allow troops operating in Afghanistan to attack drug lords and their networks supporting the escalating insurgency in the country.
The United States has identified opium trafficking in Afghanistan as a primary target in the battle against the Taliban, but many poor farmers who toil in the poppy fields, above, depend on it.
Times Topics: Afghanistan
The agreement came after strong pressure from the United States, which has identified opium trafficking in Afghanistan — the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin supplies — as a primary target in the stepped-up battle against the Taliban insurgency that American commanders have begun mapping out in recent weeks.
But the accord also accommodates objections from some of the 26 NATO nations that contribute troops to the 50,000-strong NATO force. Attacks on drug “facilities and facilitators supporting the insurgency” are to occur only if the NATO and Afghan troops involved have the authorization of their own governments, a provision that will allow dissenting nations to opt out of counternarcotics strikes.
The compromise appeared to satisfy the two American officials who pushed the case for the new policy at a meeting here, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Gen. John Craddock, the supreme NATO commander. Afterward, Mr. Gates said that the accord would allow “some to do things that others did not want to do,” and added, “It’s better than nothing.”
On the drug policy, the United States once again ran into a problem that has beset the Afghan war: the widely-differing levels of commitment by its NATO partners, some of whom have committed troops to the effort, but have insisted that they remain in areas of Afghanistan where insurgent threats are low. Reluctance to widening the NATO mandate to include attacks on drug networks has come from Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, among other nations.
Their fear has been that attacks on drug lords, laboratories and supply networks will further alienate ordinary Afghans who have grown wary or hostile toward NATO troops, undercutting efforts to curb the insurgency and increasing threats to NATO troops.
The drug trade is estimated to account for about half of Afghanistan’s meager economy, and some of the nation’s poorest people, including farmers who toil in the poppy fields, are dependent on incomes that flow directly or indirectly from narcotics. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in a recent survey on the 2008 opium yield in Afghanistan, estimated that the average income for the 500,000 families involved in the opium harvest amounted to nearly $2,000.
There have also been concerns that attacks on drug networks will depend heavily on intelligence supplied by Afghans, which has often proved unreliable, contributing to the deaths of civilians in attacks. Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, under pressure from NATO members to rid his government of the corruption and incompetence they say are hampering the war effort, has been increasingly shrill in recent months in his criticism of the civilian toll taken by NATO military action, particularly American airstrikes.
Mr. Karzai has also opposed the forceful eradication of poppy crops, something that did not appear to be sanctioned by the new NATO mandate. Mr. Karzai has argued that other measures, including crop substitution and public education programs, along with foreign aid that provides jobs, are the most effective ways of cutting opium production without the violence likely to be provoked by crop eradication.
But American commanders have concluded that gaining the upper hand in the fight against the resurgent Taliban will require depriving the insurgents of income from the drug trade, which the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, estimated at a Washington briefing last week to be a minimum of $100 million.
Despite the misgivings among some NATO allies, the American push for a NATO mandate that includes attacks on drug networks fueling the insurgency has been backed by the Afghan government, which reiterated the sentiment at the Budapest meeting.
The need for more aggressive action against the drug lords has also been pressed by the United Nations drug agency. In its August report, authored by its executive director, Antonio Maria Costa of Italy, it noted the “inextricable link between drugs and conflict,” and without referring to or sanctioning military action, said that something needed to be done.
Beyond that, the American commanders have been supported by Britain, whose 8,000 troops in Afghanistan are second only in numbers, among NATO nations, to the 33,000 American troops. British support is particularly significant, since most of the British troops are concentrated in Helmand Province in the southwest, the heartland of the opium trade and one of the most intensive battlefields of the insurgency. United Nations figures estimate that Helmand alone accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s opium production.
According to the recent United Nations survey, 98 percent of Afghanistan’s opium comes from seven provinces in the southwest, with no opium at all produced in half of the country’s 34 provinces. The bulk of the NATO troops operating in the southwest come from the United States, Britain, Canada and Denmark, and it is those nations that are likely to be most affected by the new NATO mandate.
Together with the United States, Britain and Canada have already taken the heaviest casualties among the NATO nations fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with NATO troops who have died in the seven-year war now approaching 1,000, including more than 600 Americans.
Judy Dempsey reported from Budapest, and John F. Burns from Kabul, Afghanistan
100 Taliban killed
Reply #245 on:
October 12, 2008, 08:11:46 AM »
Official: More Than 100 Taliban Militants Killed in Afghanistan Clashes
Sunday , October 12, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan —
Taliban militants launched a surprise attack on a key southern Afghan town, sparking a battle that killed some 60 insurgents, an Afghan official said Sunday. A second clash in the same region killed another 40 militants.
Taliban fighters used rockets and other heavy weapons to attack Afghan forces on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, said Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for Helmand's governor.
Militants attacked the city from three sides starting just after midnight and were pushed back only after a battle that involved airstrikes, Ahmadi said. Rockets landed in different parts of the city but there were no civilian casualties, he said.
Authorities recovered the bodies of 41 Taliban fighters on the city's outskirts, from where the attack was launched, he said. He estimated the bodies of another 20 fighters were taken from the battle site by the militants, citing intelligence reports.
British forces are responsible for protecting the area around Lashkar Gah.
In a second battle in Helmand province, Afghan and international troops retook the Nad Ali district center — which had been held by militants — during a three-day fight, Ahmadi said. That battle, which also involved airstrikes, ended Saturday, Ahmadi said.
Afghan police and soldiers were now in control of the district center. There were no casualties among Afghan or NATO troops, Ahmadi said.
Ahmadi's death tolls could not be verified independently. Journalists are not able to travel to remote and dangerous battle sites. Afghan officials have been known to exaggerate death tolls in the past.
The NATO-led force said it was aware of fighting in Helmand but could not provide any information.
Helmand province is the largest drug producing area in the world and the region alone accounts for more than half of Afghanistan's production of opium poppies. More than 90 percent of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan and up to $100 million of the trade's profits are used to finance the Taliban insurgency.
Insurgency related violence has killed more than 4,700 people — mostly militants — this year, according to an Associated Press count of figures from Western and Afghan officials.
A roadside bomb, meanwhile, struck a civilian vehicle traveling in the Shamulzai district of Zabul province on Sunday, killing five people, said Ghulab Shah Alikheil, a provincial official.
Alikheil blamed Taliban militants for planting the bomb.
Reply #246 on:
October 14, 2008, 03:54:39 PM »
London Sunday Times
October 12, 2008
Taliban Leader Killed By SAS Was Pakistan Officer
By Christina Lamb, in Kabul
British officials covered up evidence that a Taliban commander killed by special forces in Helmand last year was in fact a Pakistani military officer, according to highly placed Afghan officials.
The commander, targeted in a compound in the Sangin valley, was one of six killed in the past year by SAS and SBS forces. When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body.
It was the first physical evidence of covert Pakistani military operations against British forces in Afghanistan even though Islamabad insists it is a close ally in the war against terror.
Britain’s refusal to make the incident public led to a row with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who has long accused London of viewing Afghanistan through the eyes of Pakistani military intelligence, which is widely believed to have been helping the Taliban.
“He feels he has been telling everyone about Pakistan for the past six years and here was the evidence, yet London refused to release it, because they care more about their relations with Islamabad than Kabul,” said a source close to the president. “He knows Britain is worried about inflaming its large Pakistani population, but that is no excuse.”
So furious was Karzai that he threatened to expel British diplomats. When some months later he was informed by the governor of Helmand that British officials were secretly negotiating with the Taliban, he expelled two men and accused Britain of wanting to set up a training camp for former Taliban fighters.
Karzai will visit London next month for talks with Gordon Brown in an attempt to repair the strained relations between the two countries.
“He is very sad about the breakdown of relations with Britain,” said the source. “He loves British culture and poetry, had a British education [at a school in India], likes tea in the afternoon and thinks Gordon Brown is a very decent man, not a cheat.”
British officials in Kabul refused to comment on the allegation that they had covered up the discovery of a Pakistani soldier. They insisted Karzai’s government had been informed of the negotiations with the Taliban, adding that “the camp was just a place for them to be reintegrated, learn about hygiene and things”.
During the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, officers from Pakistani military intelligence regularly accompanied Afghan mujaheddin inside Afghanistan and directed operations.
The Afghan claims of Pakistani involvement in Helmand were backed by a senior United Nations official who said he had been told by his superiors to keep quiet after Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN apparently threatened to stop contributing forces to peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is the UN’s biggest supplier of peacekeeping troops.
The coalition’s refusal to confront Pakistan changed after the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul last July, when 41 people were killed. According to both British and US intelligence, phone intercepts led directly back to an Afghan cell of Pakistan’s military intelligence.
The past month has seen US forces carry out bombings and a ground raid on Pakistani territory. Claims of Pakistan’s involvement were rejected by Asif Durrani, the country’s chargé d’affaires in Kabul. “Afghanistan wants to blame someone else for its problems and Pakistan is just the whipping boy,” he said.
However, repeated accusations from Karzai about Pakistan’s active support for the Taliban have been backed by a senior US marine officer.
Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Nash, who commanded an embedded training team in eastern Afghanistan from June 2007 to March this year, told the Army Times that Pakistani forces flew repeated helicopter missions into Afghanistan to resupply a Taliban base camp during a fierce battle in June last year. Nash said: “We were on the receiving end of Pakistani military D-30 [a howitzer]. On numerous occasions Afghan border police checkpoints and observation posts were attacked by Pakistani military forces.”
Comments by Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith in The Sunday Times last week that a decisive military victory against the Taliban was not possible and negotiations should be opened have received widespread backing.
General Jean-Louis Georgelin, France’s military chief, said: “There is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling.”
Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, who initially dismissed the brigadier’s comments as “defeatist”, said on Friday that the US was now prepared to back talks with the Taliban.
Reply #247 on:
October 27, 2008, 10:46:32 AM »
AFGHAN DRUG KINGPIN CHARGED WITH FINANCING
TALIBAN TERRORIST INSURGENCY
(Washington, DC)-MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and MICHELE M. LEONHART, Acting Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today the arrest of HAJI JUMA KHAN, a/k/a “Abdullah,” a/k/a “Haji Juma Khan Mohammadhasni,” an Afghan drug trafficker charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics with intent to support a terrorist organization. KHAN is among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the 2006 federal narco-terrorism statute.
According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
Since at least 1999, KHAN led an international opium, morphine and heroin trafficking organization (the “Khan Organization”) based principally in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces of southern Afghanistan. The Khan Organization arranged to sell morphine base, an opium derivative that can be processed into heroin, in quantities as large as 40 tons – enough to supply the entire United States heroin market for more than
two years. According to the Indictment, the Khan Organization also operated labs in Afghanistan that produced refined heroin and sold the drug in quantities of as much as 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, and more.
KHAN has been closely aligned with the Taliban, which was designated by the President of the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group in 2002. The Taliban’s totalitarian government controlled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until 2001, when it was removed from power by the United States and allied military forces. Since the United States’ military intervention, the Taliban has operated an insurgency aimed at re-establishing its control of Afghanistan and forcibly expelling the United States and its allies through terrorist tactics such as suicide bombings, improvised explosive
devices, shootings and kidnappings, which target American soldiers, Afghan political leaders, security contractors and civilians. The Taliban has publicly claimed credit for terrorist attacks, including a January 14, 2008 attack on civilians and employees at the Serena Hotel in Kabul, in which an American citizen was murdered.
The Taliban’s terrorist insurgency has been funded in part by drug traffickers who provide financing to the Taliban in exchange for protection for their drug routes, production labs, and opium poppy fields. KHAN has supported the Taliban’s efforts to forcibly remove the United States and its allies from Afghanistan by providing financial support in the form of drug proceeds.
“Proceeds from HAJI JUMA KHAN's global drug trafficking organization funded the terrorist activities of the Taliban,” said DEA Acting Administrator MICHELE M. LEONHART. “His arrest disrupts a significant line of credit to the Taliban and will shake the foundation of his drug network that has moved massive quantities of heroin to worldwide drug markets.”
Mr. GARCIA said: “The arrest of HAJI JUMA KHAN is another significant step in the continuing effort to combat terrorism by stopping the flow of narcotics proceeds that help fund the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.”
Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative work of the DEA, with the assistance of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency, and thanked the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Jandarma for their role in the case. He also thanked United States and international INTERPOL authorities for their support.
KHAN will be presented this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge RONALD L. ELLIS for initial appearance and arraignment. United States District Judge NAOMI REICE BUCHWALD will preside over future proceedings in this case; a conference is scheduled before Judge BUCHWALD for October 28, 2008, at 2:30 p.m.
If convicted, KHAN, 54, faces a maximum sentence of life and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys MARSHALL A. CAMP and EUGENE INGOGLIA are in charge of the prosecution.
Reply #248 on:
October 27, 2008, 05:45:40 PM »
Even though I support his efforts on a monthly basis, its been too long since I checked in with Michael Yon.
There are several fine entries at
Reply #249 on:
November 04, 2008, 02:43:23 PM »
Friend and foe in Afg:
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