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Posts: 42521

« Reply #150 on: December 28, 2007, 02:46:22 AM »

I gather her administration was quite corrupt, but nonetheless she seemed to have substantial genuine support.  Perhaps he death at the hands of the IslamoFascists will p*ss off a lot of Pakistanis similar to how AQ PO'd Sunni Iraqis?
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« Reply #151 on: December 28, 2007, 03:51:02 PM »

Wow. Ralph Peters did not think much of Bhutto.

December 28, 2007 -- FOR the next several days, you're going to read and
hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of
Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after
her death than she did in life.

We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists
behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and
utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.

She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and
"hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in
the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.

In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak
poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more
concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her
program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or
social decency.

Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble
education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious

During her years as prime minister, Pakistan went backward, not forward. Her
husband looted shamelessly and ended up fleeing the country, pursued by the
courts. The Islamist threat - which she artfully played both ways - spread
like cancer.

But she always knew how to work Westerners - unlike the hapless Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how
to package himself.

Military regimes are never appealing to Western sensibilities. Yet, there
are desperate hours when they provide the only, slim hope for a country
nearing collapse. Democracy is certainly preferable - but, unfortunately,
it's not always immediately possible. Like spoiled children, we have to have
it now - and damn the consequences.

In Pakistan, the military has its own forms of graft; nonetheless, it
remains the least corrupt institution in the country and the only force
holding an unnatural state together. In Pakistan back in the '90s, the only
people I met who cared a whit about the common man were military officers.

Americans don't like to hear that. But it's the truth.

Bhutto embodied the flaws in Pakistan's political system, not its potential
salvation. Both she and her principal rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, failed to offer a practical vision for the future - their political
feuds were simply about who would divvy up the spoils.

From its founding, Pakistan has been plagued by cults of personality, by
personal, feudal loyalties that stymied the development of healthy
government institutions (provoking coups by a disgusted military). When she
held the reins of government, Bhutto did nothing to steer in a new
direction - she merely sought to enhance her personal power.

Now she's dead. And she may finally render her country a genuine service (if
cynical party hacks don't try to blame Musharraf for their own benefit).
After the inevitable rioting subsides and the spectacular conspiracy
theories cool a bit, her murder may galvanize Pakistanis against the
Islamist extremists who've never gained great support among voters, but who
nonetheless threaten the state's ability to govern.

As a victim of fanaticism, Bhutto may shine as a rallying symbol with a far
purer light than she cast while alive. The bitter joke is that, while she
was never serious about freedom, women's rights and fighting terrorism, the
terrorists took her rhetoric seriously - and killed her for her words, not
her actions.

Nothing's going to make Pakistan's political crisis disappear - this crisis
may be permanent, subject only to intermittent amelioration. (Our State
Department's policy toward Islamabad amounts to a pocket full of platitudes,
nostalgia for the 20th century and a liberal version of the white man's
burden mindset.)

The one slim hope is that this savage murder will - in the long term -
clarify their lot for Pakistan's citizens. The old ways, the old
personalities and old parties have failed them catastrophically. The country
needs new leaders - who don't think an election victory entitles them to
grab what little remains of the national patrimony.

In killing Bhutto, the Islamists over-reached (possibly aided by rogue
elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, one of the murkiest
outfits on this earth). Just as al Qaeda in Iraq overplayed its hand and
alienated that country's Sunni Arabs, this assassination may disillusion
Pakistanis who lent half an ear to Islamist rhetoric.

A creature of insatiable ambition, Bhutto will now become a martyr. In
death, she may pay back some of the enormous debt she owes her country.

prentice crawford
« Reply #152 on: December 28, 2007, 07:46:19 PM »

 I get the feeling that Mr. Peters would say the same thing about any member of any Royal or wealthy family regime including the British Royals or the Kennedy's. It doesn't take much research to figure out that the corruption charges against her where brought up by her opposition and the enemies of her father who was himself killed in office. Peters also fails to mention that all charges were dropped against her for this reason.
 Peter's quest to be a force in the world of punditry leads him to write in a self-serving way; that in my opinion, makes him more of a putz than a pundit. Speaking of Bhutto's murder by our enemies as if it was a good thing, is sickening. His comments adds nothing of any use to the story, but he is right that her death may lead to a more stable government in the long run; however, that stability would have came much sooner and without the bloodshed and the unrest if she had lived to have been elected by the majority of the Pakistani people. Of course Mr. Peters thinks he knows what the Pakistani people need. Hell, maybe he should hand pick all the world leaders for us. tongue What an nut job.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2007, 01:56:44 AM by prentice crawford » Logged
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« Reply #153 on: December 30, 2007, 03:50:40 PM »

FWIW (I have no idea who to believe or what is truth, what is opinion, and what is distortion):
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« Reply #154 on: December 30, 2007, 04:00:29 PM »

I dunno, Wikepedia has sections that get into more details about the sources  and allegations of Bhutto and her husband laudaring money that has all the appearances of bribes.  Of course as I have pointed out in the past Wikepedia is not always reliable either:
prentice crawford
« Reply #155 on: December 30, 2007, 07:34:29 PM »

 There is no doubt that a ton of charges were brought against her and her husband because of evidence brought to the attention of various banks or nations that somehow were completly clueless that all this corruption was going on under their noses. The question is whether this material evidence that came out of the investigations by Bhutto's enemies was manufactured. If you read down past the list of allegations in the Wikipedia section on the corruption charges, it states that the Auditor General of Pakistan supports Bhutto's claim that her political enemies falsified and forged the documents and filed a report that brought out that then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan Illegally paid legal advisor's 28 million Rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband based on documents they forged in 1990 that resulted in their being ousted from power. tongue
« Last Edit: December 30, 2007, 09:27:05 PM by prentice crawford » Logged
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« Reply #156 on: December 31, 2007, 07:20:37 PM »

The Musharraf Problem: Full Text from WSJ
With the permission of the Wall Street Journal, I reproduce below my whole article of yesterday on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

I drafted this article in the first few hours after Bhutto's death before any public attribution of responsibility. Since then, as partly reflected in the final version, the Government of Pakistan has claimed it has evidence or the responsibility of Baitullah Mahsud, Amir of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan (Tahrik-i Taliban-i Pakistan), and Mahsud has denied involvement through his spokesman, Mawlawi Umar. 

As Juan Cole reports today, signs of a cover-up are increasing. Please note that the hypotheses of a plot by al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban on the one hand and of involvement by the Pakistani military and government (including in a cover-up) on the other hand are not mutually exclusive. 

The Musharraf Problem

Barnett R. Rubin

Reprinted with permission from the Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2007

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was probably a strategic attack by al Qaeda and its local allies—the Pakistani Taliban—aimed at achieving Osama bin Laden's and Ayman al-Zawahiri's most pressing political objective: destabilizing the government of Pakistan, the nuclear-armed country where al Qaeda has re-established the safe haven it lost in Afghanistan.

Many in Pakistan nevertheless will blame their own military, which has failed to stop the suicide bombings over the past five years, including that of Bhutto's motorcade in Karachi in October. Pakistani intelligence now claims to have intercepted a phone call from Baitullah Mahsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, offering congratulations for the operation. It may be true. But the skepticism with which this announcement was greeted in Pakistan shows that the Bush administration's strategy of trying to shore up the power of President (former general) Pervez Musharraf cannot work. Even if it is innocent of involvement in this assassination, the Pakistan military under Mr. Musharraf has no intention of ceding power to civilians.

Pakistani newspapers have already published what they claim are the planned results of the rigged elections. Nothing short of a genuine transition to democracy that replaces rather than complements military rule has a chance of establishing a government with the capacity to regain control of the country's territory and marginalize the militants.

The murder of Bhutto was not just an attempt to derail Pakistani democracy, or prevent an enlightened Muslim woman from taking power. It was a counterattack, apparently by the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda, against a U.S.-backed transition from direct to indirect military rule in Pakistan by brokering a forced marriage of "moderates."

According to last July's National Intelligence Estimate on the al Qaeda threat, bin Laden has re-established his sanctuary in the Pakistani tribal agencies. According to a report by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, the suicide bombers for Pakistan and Afghanistan are trained in these agencies.

Most global terrorist plots since 9/11 can be traced back to these areas. And Pakistan's military regime, not Iran, has been the main source of rogue nuclear proliferation. It is therefore the U.S. partnership with military rulers in Pakistan that has been and is the problem, not the solution.
Last September, bin Laden released a video declaring jihad on the Pakistani government. When Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile on Oct. 18—as part of a U.S.-backed strategy to shore up Musharraf's power through elections—her motorcade was bombed as it passed by several military bases in Karachi, killing over 100.

In October and November, groups allied with the Pakistani Taliban captured several districts in Swat, in the Northwest Frontier Province, not in the tribal agencies. When I was in Pakistan in early November, I was told that this offensive was part of a larger effort by the Pakistani Taliban to surround Peshawar, capital of NWFP, and put increasing pressure on nearby Islamabad, the capital. The next key step, I was told on Nov. 5, would be an attack on Charsadda, northeast of Peshawar, on the Muslim feast of 'Id al-Adha.

Sure enough, on Dec. 21 a suicide bomber killed 56 people during 'Id worship in Charsadda. This suicide attack followed by a week the announcement that leaders of various Taliban groups had agreed to establish a common organization—the Taliban Movement of Pakistan—under the command of Baitullah Mahsud, the Taliban commander in the South Waziristan Tribal Agency, where the meeting took place.

But if bin Laden declared jihad against Mr. Musharraf, Pakistan's leader saw greater threats elsewhere. When he declared an emergency on Nov. 3, he was responding mainly to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which was about to rule that his standing for president while a serving general violated the constitution. Mr. Musharraf continued the longstanding policy of the Pakistani military of putting its own power, justified by the Indian threat, ahead of all other concerns.

Mr. Musharraf dissolved the Supreme Court and arrested thousands of democratic opponents before sending the army to recapture portions of Swat. His priorities—seeing unarmed civilian opponents as the main threat to the country—helps explain why many Pakistanis believe that the military is behind Bhutto's assassination.

These priorities are consistent with the message that Mr. Musharraf has been sending for years. On Sept. 19, 2001, he told the Pakistani public that he would support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan in order to "save Afghanistan and Taliban, ensure that they suffer minimum losses." He presented Pakistan's support for U.S. efforts against the Taliban as reluctant compliance, required to assure the security of Pakistan from India.

Bhutto, however, had started to present a different message: that the people of Pakistan want a government and a state that serves them, not a state that serves the military's pursuit of a failed strategic mission. She spoke of the Pakistani Taliban and their al Qaeda backers as the greatest threat to the country. She and other parties proposed to extend civil authority over the tribal agencies, ending their role as a platform for covert actions.

An interim of emergency rule and the postponement of national elections may now be inevitable. But if the military re-imposes martial law, further guts Pakistan's judiciary and legal system, and blocks democratization, Pakistan's people will resist.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, respect for the military as an institution has plummeted. The vacuum of authority and legitimacy created by military rule will provide the Taliban and al Qaeda the opportunity they seek.

The Bush administration's nightmare scenario—the convergence of terrorism and nuclear weapons—is happening right now, and in Pakistan, not in Iraq or Iran. Yet as recently as Dec. 11, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, speaking to the House Armed Services Committee with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, hardly mentioned Pakistan, and characterized Afghanistan as second in priority to Iraq.

It is critical that the Bush administration put Pakistan and Afghanistan where they should have been for the past six years: at the top of this country's security agenda. The most fitting memorial to Bhutto would be to recognize that the battle for a democratic Pakistan is the centerpiece of the global fight against terrorism.
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« Reply #157 on: January 01, 2008, 09:04:10 AM »

Analysis: Military slew Bhutto -- sources   

Dec 31 11:11 AM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on orders of lower- and middle-level officers of the Pakistani army and air force, according to various intelligence sources, including members of India's counterintelligence service.

According to a source who asked to remain unnamed, members of the Pakistani armed forces involved in Thursday's killing of the former prime minister and leader of the opposition are sympathizers of the ultra-conservative Islamists with ties to the jihadis.

"It's worrying when half of your lower or mid-level Pak intelligence analysts have bin Laden screen savers on their computers," a former official of the CIA was reported to have commented.

More than one analyst is of the opinion al-Qaida and other jihadis have managed to successfully penetrate Pakistan's armed forces and security services. Given the fact Pakistan is in possession of nuclear weapons, the possibility of a pro-al-Qaida regime replacing President Pervez Musharraf would radically change the entire geopolitical alignment in southwest Asia, and it would have a spin-off effect on the Middle East, as well, primarily in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

And it's not for lack of trying, either. Pro-Islamist groups have tried to assassinate Musharraf multiple times. Two attempts took place in December 2003 when rockets were fired at his vehicle during a visit to Rawalpindi, the same city where Bhutto was assassinated last Thursday.

Then there was an attempt to shoot his plane down with anti-aircraft fire in early 2007. There were also two suicide attacks on the army's general headquarters and two attacks outside the offices of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency after Pakistani security forces, acting on orders from Musharraf, assaulted the Red Mosque in Islamabad last July; Islamists had sought refuge inside the mosque with dozens of hostages. Scores of people died in the assault, and hundreds were arrested.

Following the two attacks on Musharraf, lower-ranking army and air force officers were placed under arrest. The investigation that followed discovered that the officers had ties with Jaish-e-Mohammad, an Islamist group. In the rocket attack, security forces arrested the son of an army brigadier general. According to the same source, however, only lower-ranking army officials were arrested and court-martialed. "The investigations are dead in the water," said the source.

Bhutto's main fear, according to a well-placed source in the intelligence community, was that retired Brig. Gen. Ijaz Shah of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau would prove a grave threat to her. Bhutto was worried about her security but did not make a big issue of it, some say believing in destiny. But as recently as Dec. 26 she complained that the electronic jammers used to neutralize improvised explosive devices provided by the government were faulty.

Bhutto was well aware of the dangers she faced, having been briefed and having received death threats from her enemies. "She was warned of the dangers yet she continued to behave in a way in which the Secret Service in the U.S. would never accept," said Thomas Houlahan, director of military assessment with the Center for Security and Science in Washington.

Bhutto insisted on having her own people run her protection, said Houlahan, who added, "but nothing would protect her when she decided to stand through the sunroof of her car."

"That was extremely reckless," he said. "I don't see what could have been done."

Opposition to Bhutto was to be found not only in the country's armed forces and bin Laden sympathizers, but also from old Zia ul-Haq loyalists who did not want the daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in a position of power. "They especially loathed the idea that Bhutto had pledged the United States to allow U.S. intelligence to interrogate rogue atomic scientist A.Q. Khan and allow U.S. forces to hunt for bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

"She did not have much of a chance," Houlahan said.

(Claude Salhani is Editor of the Middle East Times.)

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« Reply #158 on: January 01, 2008, 12:44:25 PM »



Here's the WSJ's take:

Target: Pakistan
Losing in the West, the jihadis hit Pakistan, with its nuclear prize.

Friday, December 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

"In Pakistan there are two fault lines. One is dictatorship versus democracy. And one is moderation versus extremism." Thus did Benazir Bhutto describe the politics of her country during an August visit to The Wall Street Journal's offices in New York. She was assassinated yesterday for standing courageously, perhaps fatalistically, on the right side of both lines.

We will learn more in coming days about the circumstances of Bhutto's death, apparently a combined shooting and suicide bombing at a political rally in Rawalpindi in which more than 20 others were also murdered. But there's little question the attack, which had every hallmark of an al Qaeda or Taliban operation, is an event with ramifications for the broader war on terror. With the jihadists losing in Iraq and having a hard time hitting the West, their strategy seems to be to make vulnerable Pakistan their principal target, and its nuclear arsenal their principal prize.

In this effort, murdering Bhutto was an essential step. Hers is the highest profile scalp the jihadists can claim since their assassination of Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1981. She also uniquely combined broad public support with an anti-Islamist, pro-Western outlook and all the symbolism that came with being the most prominent female leader in the Muslim world. Her death throws into disarray the complex and fragile efforts to re-establish a functional, legitimate government following next month's parliamentary elections, which seemed set to hand her a third term as prime minister.

This is exactly the kind of uncertainty in which jihadists would thrive. No doubt, too, there are some in the Pakistani military who will want to use Bhutto's killing as an excuse to cancel the elections and reconsolidate their own diminished grip on power. In the immediate wake of the assassination, members of Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party have accused President Pervez Musharraf of being complicit in it. But whatever Mr. Musharraf's personal views of Bhutto--with whom he had an on-again, off-again political relationship--his own position has only been weakened by her death. It would be weakened beyond repair if he sought to capitalize on it by preventing the democratic process from taking its course.

That goes even if the immediate beneficiary of Bhutto's death is her onetime archrival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif, an Islamist politician with close ties to Saudi Arabia and a reputation for incompetence and corruption, said yesterday he would boycott next month's election even as he is seeking to assert himself as the man around whom all opponents of Mr. Musharraf can rally. We have no brief for Mr. Sharif, except to say that his claim to that position would be strengthened if the military indefinitely postpones or usurps the election.

Beyond the elections, Mr. Musharraf needs to move aggressively to confront the jihadists, and not the lawyers and civil-rights activists he has been jailing in recent months. Hundreds of Pakistanis have been murdered in recent months in terrorist acts perpetrated by fellow Muslims, and many of these perpetrators have, in different ways and at different times, been connected to the Pakistani government itself: as beneficiaries of the terrorist war Pakistan has supported over the years in Kashmir, or as beneficiaries of the support Pakistan gave to the Taliban until 9/11, or as beneficiaries of the ill-conceived "truce" Mr. Musharraf signed last year with Taliban- and al Qaeda-connected tribal chiefs in the Waziristan province. Worst of all has been the look-the-other-way approach successive Pakistani governments have taken to the radical, Saudi-funded madrassas throughout the country.
That will require a more radical reshaping of Pakistan's politics than Mr. Musharraf has so far been able, or willing, to undertake. But if Bhutto's assassination has any silver lining, it may be to show that there is no real alternative.

During her meeting with us last summer, Bhutto warned that while the jihadist movement would never have the popular support to win an election in its own right, they had sufficient means at their disposal to "unleash against the population, to rig an election, to kill the army and therefore to make it possible to take over the state." Today those words seem grimly prophetic. And while she was in many ways a flawed figure, her answer to that challenge--a real fight against terrorism that would give jihadists no rest; and a real democracy that would give them no fake grievance--looks to be the only formula by which Pakistan may yet be saved.

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« Reply #159 on: January 01, 2008, 12:47:57 PM »

Third post of the day:

In response to some questions from me, the following is from a friend who is a MD in India.  Over the years informed by a far greater level of coverage than is the case here in the US, he has been a serious student of these matters and so I give weight to what he says.


Assuming an honest vote, I dont think Bhutto can win.  I doubt, the average Pakistani is going to vote for Mr.10% her husband. My experience from India has been again and again that even the uneducated masses will choose an honest leader and kick out the corrupt. In this election there are three complicating factors. The importance of the sympathy vote, the role of Bilawal and the growing clout of AQ/Taliban.
Sympathy vote: This could be huge, but is mitigated by Mr.10%. Bilawal is only 19 and ineligible for Parliament. Any victory for  Bhutto's party will leave Mr.10% as lead dog. This cannot be acceptable to many Pakistanis.
Bilawal: He will be a force to reckon with in the future...but not now. To rule on the asian sub-continent, you need to be a son of the soil...somebody who speaks the language, somebody who was bought up in the country, went to school in the country. Bilawal is an oxford educated elite...he would be an important voice in the future, akin to Sonia Gandhi...king maker but not king.
AQ/Taliban: I think they are the underdogs...soon to be lead dogs. Nawaz Sharif is on relatively good terms with them. From what I read the Taliban already control large areas of the NWFP, call themselves the Islamic Emirates or something to that effect.
For the present I think no party can win an absolute majority, but if Nawaz Sharif plays his cards right (gets the support of Taliban) and the Army he could have a future. I think Mush will have to go, but he may take a last stand.
Army: The Pak army is a professional force, While their leadership is likely not in nexus with the AQ/Taliban types,  I read that there is sympathy for the Taliban in the lower ranks of the army. The army however has a vested interest to maintain power, for they have always done so. What many people dont realize is that the army elite are a ruling class, they have great perks and a lot of money is chanelled to them. I once read it is a significant portion of the national income (distinct from the weapons purchases). A purely civilian ruler may decide to cut back on the army's priviledges. So I dont see the army giving all this up. Any leader must have the support of the army.
ISI: The spy agencies are thoroughly infiltrated with AQ/Taliban sympathizers. The ISI is like our CIA...deep infiltration of the CIA could have severe consequences for national security.
Nukes: Time and again one reads that the US has some assets/means to monitor the nukes. Even if this is true, I doubt Pak would be stupid enough to give all control to the US, they likely have some assets hidden outside of US control. I suspect it is these which could get in the hands of the wrong guys. But we are not there yet, for this to happen AQ/Taliban needs to become stronger more influential. This may happen if Nawaz Sharif comes into power. With govt. support, a AQ can achieve a lot. Overall, its not a question of IF but WHEN AQ will be able to get their hands on the stuff.
I dont know enough about nukes to say if they can be destroyed, but certainly Pak's main nuclear reactors are well known. Bombing them would certainly over throw the govt...and like a nuclear reaction, the aftermath of that is unpredicatable.
Future of Pak: Atleast I am not very optimistic on the country, they have been dismembered once (Bangladesh), many areas of NWFP are outside govt control, others like Balochistan seek independence. To rule such a place, requires making unsavoury alliances, as well as selling your soul. This is the reason, one cannot find a honest candidate.
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« Reply #160 on: January 02, 2008, 08:41:49 AM »

Cleric’s chilling warning to UK

Chief Feature Writer
in Kahuta, Pakistan

Published: 31 Dec 2007

A FANATICAL Pakistani cleric told The Sun yesterday of his chilling dream to turn the world Muslim – by force if necessary.

Qari Hifzur Rehamn, 60, spoke openly of imposing Islamic law’s stoning and beheading on Britain – as Pakistan was rocked by unrest over the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

He warned: “We want Islamic law for all Pakistan and then the world.

“We would like to do this by preaching. But if not then we would use force.”

Rehamn, 60, spoke in the Pakistani town of Kahuta as the call to prayer echoed over the dusty streets.

He is Imam of the town’s fundamentalist religious school or madrassa, where classes for kids as young as nine include Jihad or Holy War and barbaric punishments. His teachings are frightening enough. But his mosque lies in the shadow of the secret bunker where Pakistan produces nuclear weapons.  And when asked if it would be right to nuke British infidels, he laughed and answered: “Probably.”

Rehamn, in a flowing grey beard and turban, explained Islamic, or Sharia Law as we sat surrounded by some of his 250 students.

He said: “Adulterers who are married should be buried in earth to the waist and stoned to death.

“Homosexuals must be killed – it’s the only way to stop them spreading. It should be by beheading or stoning, which the general public can do.

“Thieves should have their hands cut off. Women should remain indoors and films and pop music should be banned.”

So what does he think of Britain? The dad insisted: “The nonbelievers must be converted to Islam. Morals in your society, with women wearing revealing clothes, have gone wrong.”

Scary ... playground nuke

The spot where enriched uranium is produced for Pakistan’s 80 to 120 nuclear warheads is behind razor wire less than five miles from where we spoke. A dummy missile even sits in a children’s playground in Kahuta.

Only this month, doomed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto raised the spectre of al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants seizing control of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads – and activity by radicals near Kahuta.  Despite the efforts of politicians such as her to champion democracy, the country has long been a hotbed of Islamic extremism and there is no shortage of potential martyrs.

At the Red Mosque in the heart of the capital Islamabad, Maulana Mohavya Irshad, 24, stared coldly at me. He said: “I’m ready to become a suicide bomber and lay down my life for Islam. Democracy is wrong. Earth belongs to God and God’s law must be implemented.

“I hope Britain and the rest of the world will have Sharia Law this century. We will continue to sacrifice our lives to achieve this.”

Meanwhile, the al-Qaeda warlord accused of masterminding the death of Ms Bhutto, 54, has warned his 13,000-strong private army will fight to the death against any troops sent to seize him. Long-bearded Baitullah Mehsud, holed up in the bandit country of South Waziristan on the Afghan border, denied being behind Bhutto’s murder last Thursday in a suicide bomb attack in Rawalpindi.

But his cousin Shehryar Mehsud, 34, told The Sun: “Baitullah and the rest of us will fight to the last man. Our army of thousands of Muslim brothers is ready for Jihad against the infidels and against the infidel government in Pakistan. UK and America are the enemy number one of Islam. We have joined the Taliban troops fighting in Afghanistan and will continue Jihad until we liberate the country.”

The Pakistani government claims a phone-tap caught Mehsud, 34, and a cleric gloating over Bhutto’s death, calling it “spectacular”.

His cousin insisted: “Baitullah Mehsud is not involved in the killing of Western ally Benazir Bhutto. We did not kill her but she was against Islam and Islamic teachings.”

Another of his clan, Mohamad Ali Mehsud, 26, bragged to The Sun about Mehsud striking from his lair in Pakistan against British and US forces in Afghanistan.

Mohamad said: “Baitullah is cunning. He moves positions all the time and uses disguises. Many times he has survived by a whisker. His men cross into Afghanistan, fight infidel soldiers and steal laptops, mobile phones and money. They bribe the soldiers guarding the border to get back into Pakistan.”

But did Mehsud kill Bhutto? Mohamad said: “Baitullah didn’t like Bhutto’s lipstick and Western ways. But he didn’t kill her. He only kills men.”
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« Reply #161 on: January 02, 2008, 09:30:41 AM »

Second post of the day:

Tribes of Terror
A guide to the wilds of northwest Pakistan.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST

Lord Curzon, Britain's viceroy of India and foreign secretary during the initial decades of the 20th century, once declared:

No patchwork scheme--and all our present recent schemes . . . are mere patchwork--will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steam-roller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine.
Nowadays, this region of what is today northwest Pakistan is variously called "Al Qaedastan," "Talibanistan" or, more properly, the "Islamic Emirate of Waziristan." Pakistan gave up South Waziristan to the Taliban in spring 2006, after taking heavy casualties in a failed four-year campaign to consolidate control of this fierce tribal region. By the fall, Pakistan had effectively abandoned North Waziristan. The nominal truce--actually closer to a surrender--was signed in a soccer stadium, beneath al Qaeda's black flag.
Having recovered the safe haven once denied them by America's invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda and the Taliban have gathered the diaspora of the world-wide Islamist revolution into Waziristan. Slipping to safety from Tora Bora, Osama bin Laden himself almost certainly escaped across its border. Now Muslim punjabis who fight the Indian army in Kashmir, Chechen opponents of Russia, and many more Islamist terror groups congregate, recuperate, train and confer in Waziristan. This past fall's terror plotters in Germany and Denmark allegedly trained in Waziristan, as did those who hoped to hijack trans-Atlantic planes leaving from Britain's Heathrow Airport in 2006. The crimson currents flowing across what Samuel Huntington once famously dubbed "Islam's bloody borders" now seem to emanate from Waziristan.

Slowly but surely, the Islamic Emirate's writ is pushing beyond Waziristan itself, to encompass other sections of Pakistan's mountainous tribal regions--thereby fueling the ongoing insurgency across the border in Afghanistan. With a third of Pakistanis in a recent poll expressing favorable views of al Qaeda, and 49% registering favorable opinions of local jihadi terror groups, the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan may yet conquer Pakistan. Fear of a widening Islamist rebellion in this nuclear-armed state was Gen. Pervez Musharraf's stated reason for the recent imposition of a state of emergency. And in fact Osama bin Laden publicly called for the overthrow of Mr. Musharraf's government this past September. It is for fear of provoking such a disastrous revolt that we have so far dared not loose the American military steamroller in Waziristan. When Lord Curzon hesitated to start up the British military machine, he was revolving in his mind the costs and consequences of the great 1857 Indian "Mutiny" and of an 1894 jihadist revolt in South Waziristan. Surely, Curzon would have appreciated our dilemma today.

Foreign journalists are now banned in Waziristan, and most local reporters have fled in fear for their lives. Because scholars have long neglected this famously inhospitable region, Waziristan remains a dark spot, and America remains proportionately ignorant of the forces we confront in the terror war. Yet an extraordinary if neglected window onto the inner workings of life in Waziristan does exist--a modern book, with deep roots in the area's colonial past.
The British solution in Waziristan was to rule indirectly, through sympathetic tribal maliks (elders), who received preferred treatment and financial support. By treaty and tradition, the laws of what was then British India governed only 100 yards on either side of Waziristan's main roads. Beyond that, the maliks and tribal custom ruled. Yet Britain did post a representative in Waziristan, a "political agent" or "P.A.," whose headquarters was protected by an elite military force, and who enjoyed extraordinary powers to reward cooperative maliks and to punish offenders. The political agent was authorized to arrest and jail the male kin of miscreants on the run (particularly important given the organization of Waziristan's tribes around male descent groups). And in special cases, the political agent could blockade and even destroy entire settlements. After achieving independence in 1947, Pakistan followed this British scheme, indirectly governing its many tribal "agencies" and posting P.A.s who enjoyed the same extraordinary powers as under the British.

Akbar Ahmed, a British-trained social anthropologist, served as Pakistan's P.A. in South Waziristan from 1978 through 1980. Drawing on his academic background and political experience, he has written a fascinating book about his days as "king" (as the tribesmen used to call the political agent). First published in 1983 under the title "Religion and Politics in Muslim Society," the book was reissued in 1991, and revised and released again in 2004, each time under the title "Resistance and Control in Pakistan." Its obscure title and conventional academic introductory chapters explain why it has been neglected. Yet that neglect is a serious mistake. Given Waziristan's newfound status as the haven and headquarters of America's global enemies, Mr. Ahmed's book is an indispensable guide to thinking through the past and anticipating the future of the war on terror. In addition to shedding new and unexpected light on the origins of the Taliban, "Resistance and Control in Pakistan" offers what is, in effect, a philosophy of rule in Muslim tribal societies--a conception of government that has direct relevance to our struggle to stabilize Iraq.

Since completing the book, Mr. Ahmed, a devout Muslim who holds a chair in Islamic studies and is a professor of international relations at American University, has gone on to write several works analyzing the dilemmas of the Islamic world and explaining Muslim perspectives to Westerners. These include "Islam Under Siege" (2003) and his recently published "Journey Into Islam." For a time, he served as the high commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, and in a note at the end of "Journey Into Islam," he says that he coined the term "Islamophobia" shortly after taking that post.

Having once been tasked with governing the most notoriously unruly tribes in the Muslim world, Mr. Ahmed never entirely embraces the politically fashionable line. More than his academic colleagues in Middle East studies, he acknowledges the contribution of tribalism's violence and traditionalism to the Middle East's contemporary dilemmas. In fact, the story of the "king" of Waziristan's transformation into the man who coined the term "Islamophobia" reveals some extraordinary tensions and tragedies lurking beneath our polarized political debates.

The first thing that strikes the reader of "Resistance and Control in Pakistan" is the pervasive nature of political violence in South Waziristan. And here, in contrast to his later work, Mr. Ahmed himself is at pains to emphasize the point. A popular novelist of the British Raj called Waziristan tribesmen "physically the hardest people on earth." British officers considered them among the finest fighters in the world. During the 1930s Waziristan's troublesome tribesmen forced the British to station more troops in that agency than in the remainder of the Indian subcontinent. In more settled agricultural areas of Pakistan's tribal Northwest Frontier Province, Mr. Ahmed says, adults, children and soldiers mill about comfortably in the open, while women help their men in the fields. No guns are visible. But arid Waziristan is a collection of silent, fortresslike settlements. Women are invisible, men carry guns, and desolation rules the countryside.
Even in ordinary times, from the British era through the present, the political agent's headquarters at Wana in South Waziristan wears the air of a fortress under perpetual siege. Five British political agents died in Waziristan. Mr. Ahmed reports that during a visit to Wana by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1976, the entourage of Pakistan's prime minister was kept nervously awake most of the night by machine gun and rifle fire from the surrounding hills. In short, the Wana encampment in South Waziristan seems like nothing so much as a century-old version of Baghdad's Green Zone.

Politics in Waziristan is inseparable from violence. A British official once called firing on government officers the local "equivalent for presenting a petition." Sniping, explosions on government property, and kidnappings are common enough to necessitate continuous military protection for political officials. And the forms of routinized political violence extend well beyond direct attacks on government personnel.

Because government allowances are directed to tribal elders who control violent troublemakers in their own ranks, ambitious maliks have reason to insure that such outlaws do in fact emerge. Waziristan's many "Robin Hoods," who make careers out of kidnapping even non-government officials and holding them for ransom, are simultaneously encouraged and controlled by local maliks. This double game allows the clans to profit from their own capacity for causing trouble, while also establishing a violence valve, so to speak, through which they can periodically convey displeasure with the administration. "To create a problem, control it, and terminate it is an acknowledged and highly regarded yardstick of political skill," writes Mr. Ahmed. For the most part, income in Waziristan is derived from "political activity such as raiding settled districts" and "allowances from the administration for good behavior." Unfortunately, a people that petitions by sniper fire seems poorly suited to democratic citizenship.

In his later work, Mr. Ahmed's insight into the subtle choreography of tribal violence dissolves in a haze of cultural apologetics. In "Islam Under Siege," for example, he argues that Americans misunderstand what they see when Afghan tribesmen fire rifles into the sky, or store ammunition and weapons in caves. Although Americans associate these actions with terrorism, Mr. Ahmed calmly explains that firing into the sky is simply a mark of celebration at birth and marriage. Weapons storage, he reassures his readers, is merely "insurance against tribal rivalries." But is there not some connection between the resort to terror tactics, on the one hand, and societies characterized by violent tribal rivalry and demonstrative gunfire, on the other?

The connection arises from the way Middle Eastern tribes are organized. These tribes are giant lineages, traced from male ancestors, which subdivide into tribal segments, which in turn divide into clans, subclans and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins, or brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever-fusing and -dividing ancestral groups. (Anthropologists call such tribes "segmentary lineages.")
In such tribes, the central institution is the feud. Absent state policing, security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given family, clan, tribe, etc., to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be killed for an offense committed by a relative, just as all lineage members would collectively share in compensation should peace be made (through, say, a tribal council or the mediation of a holy man). Tribal feuding and segmentation allow society to keep a rough (sometimes very rough) peace in the absence of a state. Conversely, societies with strong tribal components tend to have weak states.

A powerful code of honor ties the system together. Among the Pushtun tribes that populate Waziristan and much of Afghanistan, that code is called "Pushtunwali." Avenging lineage honor is only one aspect of Pushtunwali. The code also mandates that hospitality and sanctuary be provided to any stranger requesting them. Thus a means is provided whereby, in the absence of a state, zones of security are established for travelers. Yet the system is based on an ever-shifting balance of terror which turns friends into enemies, and back again into friends, in a heartbeat. And this ethos of honor writes violent revenge and collective guilt deep into the cultural psyche. Although the British political agents who learned to live with Pushtunwali generally lionized it, Winston Churchill condemned it as a "system of ethics, which regards treachery and violence as virtues rather than vices." In any case, the dynamics of the war on terror are easily recognizable as an extension of this tribal system of collective guilt, honor, humiliation and revenge.

The years immediately prior to Mr. Ahmed's term as South Waziristan's P.A. saw the rise and seeming collapse of an Islamist rebellion that, in retrospect, clearly stands as a precursor to the Taliban. Led by a mullah named Noor Muhammad, the movement was crushed by Pakistan's army in 1976. Armed with documentary resources, including access to the personal diary of Noor Muhammad, Mr. Ahmed takes us through the riveting story of this uprising.
On the one hand, the mullah's rebellion was classically Islamist. He established a traditional madrassah (religious school) in South Waziristan, whose students, or talibs (whence the word "Taliban"), were among the rebellion's core supporters. He criticized Pakistan's government for failing to adopt Islamic law, forbade the use of "un-Islamic" innovations, like the radio, and had violators of his various prohibitions beaten. Yet these familiar Islamist features were built upon a tribal foundation. The mullah's ascent was due, in part, to his ability to mediate tribal feuds.

South Waziristan is populated by two major tribes, the Wazirs and the Mahsuds. (A century ago the Mahsuds were part of the Wazirs, but have since split off and gained their own identity.) The Mahsuds traditionally outnumbered the Wazirs and were at least relatively more integrated into modern society. After Pakistan gained independence in 1947, a few Mahsuds moved to "settled areas" and entered school. Many of these made their way into government service, thus connecting the Mahsuds to influential bureaucratic networks. Others started businesses, which brought a modern source of wealth to the tribe.

Noor Muhammad's ability to resolve tribal feuds, at a time when the Wazirs felt intense humiliation in the face of rising Mahsud power and wealth, turned him into a symbol of Wazir honor. Under the mullah's leadership, the Wazirs effectively declared a jihad against both the government of Pakistan and the Mahsuds, demanding a separate tribal agency for themselves. Properly speaking, of course, a jihad can be fought only against non-Muslims. The mullah solved this problem by declaring the Mahsuds to be infidels--a tribe of toadies to an un-Islamic Pakistani regime--who had sold out their Wazir cousins for government allowances and debased modern ways. Of course, this accusation of infidelity is exactly how al Qaeda and the Taliban justify their attacks on fellow Muslims today.

Notice, too, that Noor Muhammad's movement developed in the early '70s, well before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The rise of the Taliban is often ascribed to "blowback" from CIA support of Pakistani Islamists who fought the Soviets in the 1980s. Mr. Ahmed's account shows that simplistic "blame America" theories cannot hold. Critics of the blowback argument rightly note that America had no other means of fighting the Soviet invasion than to work through the Pakistani government, which for its own reasons needed to deploy Islamist proxies. (Supporting Pushtun nationalist proxies, the only other option, would have played into the hands of those in Afghanistan and India seeking to dismember Pakistan.) The problem is that this entire debate passes over the deeper social sources of the contemporary Islamist ascendancy.

Mr. Ahmed argues that the mullah's insurrection was "generated by Muslim actors as a result of internal tensions in society." And at one level, this proto-Taliban movement was deeply traditional. Mullah-led tribal rebellions have a long history, not only in Waziristan but in Muslim society as a whole. The great 14th-century philosopher-sociologist Ibn Khaldun famously described a cyclical process in which, unified by a righteous mullah, fierce outlying tribes conquer an effete and corrupt state. Over time the new set of ruling tribesmen falls into luxury, disunity and corruption, and is in turn overthrown by another coalition of the righteous. These rebellions generally fuse an Islamic aspect with some narrower tribal interest, and the Wazirs' jihad against an allegedly "infidel" rival tribe certainly fits the bill.

There may be at least something new under that harsh Waziristan sun, however. Modernity's manifold economic opportunities seem to supercharge traditional tribal resentment at substantial disparities of wealth and status. And paradoxically, modern wealth also subverts such shallow internal tribal hierarchies as once existed, with explosive results.

Following the oil boom of the 1970s, Wazirs and Mahsuds alike migrated to the Persian Gulf to work the oil fields and send their remittances back home. Maliks from the most prestigious tribal lineages initially resisted the call of migration. So the oil boom created an opening that "depressed lineages" happily filled. By the time the maliks began to send their sons to the Gulf, intratribal disparities of wealth and influence were disappearing.
So while the Mahsuds had outpaced the Wazirs, the power of maliks was waning among the Wazirs themselves. Now the Wazirs could afford to throw off those pliant elders who had taken and distributed British and later the Pakistan government's pelf; and by supporting a radical mullah, the restive tribe could feed its resentment of both the government and the Mahsuds.

As Mr. Ahmed notes, and in pointed contrast to the "poverty theory" of Islamism, modern education and wealth seem to have sparked this early Islamist rebellion. Instead of spurring further development, economic opportunities have fed the traditionalist reaction. Waziristan's tribesmen understand full well that their rulers mean to transform their way of life, thereby "taming" them through the seductions of education and modern forms of wealth. While some have accepted the trade, the majority consciously reject it. During the colonial period, education was despised as an infidel plot. In the 1970s, conservative tribesmen systematically destroyed electrical poles, which were seen as a threat to Waziristan's isolation and therefore to the survival of traditional Pushtun culture. Economic development might well "tame" these tribesmen, yet poverty is less the cause of their warlike ways than the result of a deliberate decision to preserve their traditional way of life--their Pushtun honor--even at material cost.

The Islamist revolution is a conscious choice--an act of cultural self-defense against the intrusions and seductions of an alien world. Although the social foundations of the traditional Muslim way of life have been shaken, they are far from broken. So long as these social foundations cohere, advancing globalization will provoke more rebellion, not less--whatever America decides to do in Iraq and beyond. The root of the problem is neither domestic poverty nor American foreign policy, but the tension between Muslim social life and globalizing modernity itself.
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« Reply #162 on: January 02, 2008, 09:31:30 AM »

In a sense, we are the Mahsuds. The Wazirs ached with humiliation at the loss of their dominance. Their grudge against the Mahsuds stemmed far more from Waziri decline than from any specific complaint. Even as the Mahsuds were scapegoated for the Wazirs' diminishment, America and the West have been blamed for world-wide Muslim decline. Addressing Muslim "grievances" won't solve this problem, because the professed grievances didn't start the jihad to begin with.
Mr. Ahmed is clearly embarrassed by the Wazirs' intra-Muslim jihad against the Mahsuds. Foreshadowing his later apologetics, he is at pains to distinguish between "authentic" Islam and Noor Muhammad's seemingly bogus claim of Mahsud infidelity--a claim obviously rooted in narrow tribal rivalry and interest. In his recent work, Mr. Ahmed puts much of what seems warlike or problematic in traditional Muslim society into the "tribal" basket, segregating out a supposedly pure and peaceful Islam. There is some justification for this procedure. Middle Eastern conceptions of honor, marriage practices, female seclusion, revenge and much else can fairly be understood as practices with tribal roots, rather than formal Islamic commandments. Reformist Muslims therefore make a point of separating the tribal dross from authentic Islamic teachings.

Yet there is clearly some sort of "elective affinity" between Islam, in the strict sense, and tribal social life. The two levels interact and interpenetrate, leaving the boundaries undefined. Pushtuns who set out to avenge purely personal offences will dress and scent themselves as if embarking on jihad. So a given theologian's "true" Islam is one thing; "actual existing" Islam on the ground is another. Noor Muhammad's jihad against Muslims he judged to be infidels turns out to be representative of the new religious wave, and reflects a complex and longstanding Muslim synthesis between theology and tribalism. Nor was the mullah's accusation of Mahsud infidelity without resonance. He accurately identified the modernist thread that united his immediate tribal enemies, the developing state of Pakistan, and ultimately the West itself.

If Islamist rebellion and narrow tribal interest are difficult to disentangle, the opportunity to separate them is the key to America's sophisticated new counterinsurgency strategy (actually a rediscovery of classic British and Pakistani strategies for dealing with Muslim tribes). Inveterate Wazir/Mahsud rivalry was the single greatest weakness of the tribes throughout the British era in Waziristan. The British ignored tribal feuding when the stakes were small. Yet if one tribe seemed at risk of gaining a permanent upper hand, the Brits intervened to keep opponents more or less equally at each other's throats. And since nearly every clan troublemaker has rival kin, the P.A. cultivated multiple factions, so as to play one off against the other. Under Pakistan, the tribes have sometimes turned this game against the government, playing a sympathetic official (often a fellow Pashtun) against a rival administrator.
America's new counterinsurgency strategy seeks to appeal to tribal interests, as a way of breaking the link between al Qaeda's global jihad and its erstwhile Sunni allies in Iraq. So far the new strategy has helped to stabilize Anbar and other rebellious tribal regions in Iraq. The danger is that the tribal winds will shift, and our military will likely come under constant pressure to favor one tribal faction or another. If mishandled, this could drive less favored clans back into enemy hands. Tribal politics can be mastered, yet it requires a constant presence. And learning to play the tribal game is very different from establishing a genuine democracy, which would mean transcending the game itself.

Can America or Pakistan adopt this new strategy in Waziristan itself--breaking the link between al Qaeda and the tribal coalition now united against us in jihad? Theoretically this is possible, yet the outlook is far from ideal. Al Qaeda has already murdered many of Waziristan's maliks. (Mullah Noor Muhammad rose to power in the '70s on assassination threats and violence against traditional maliks.) Insofar as economic and educational change has penetrated Pakistan's tribal areas, it seems to have undercut the basis for creating a new generation of government-friendly maliks, and fed into a populist Islamist revolt instead. Nevertheless, there are unconfirmed reports that America and Pakistan are even now exploiting latent tensions between al Qaeda and the Taliban in Waziristan.

In the 1970s, once Noor Muhammad's combination Islamist rebellion/tribal war got out of hand, Pakistan was forced to crush it. The army bulldozed Wana's thriving traditional market, turning the Wazirs' most important trading center into little more than freshly plowed ground. Tipped off, the mullah took to the hills. Employing tactics reminiscent of Britain's original P.A.s, Pakistan seized his followers' property and systematically blew up their homes and encampments. After three months of this, the disheveled mullah and his followers came down from the hills and surrendered. Nowadays, burning a thriving Waziristan marketplace to the ground and blowing up civilian settlements as ways of getting to Osama bin Laden would doubtless elicit global howls of protest. Yet far from the glare of international publicity, Pakistan once freely employed such tactics.

When, a couple of years after the destruction of Wana's market, Mr. Ahmed took over as P.A., the defeated Wazirs were looking to restore their lost honor and prove their loyalty to Pakistan. Trained as an anthropologist and convinced he could use the Pushtun's code of honor to good effect, he decided to give the Wazirs their chance. Breaking with established agency precedents, he placed his own life at risk by taking regular evening strolls around Wana without bodyguards. Mr. Ahmed could easily have been kidnapped and held in exchange for the imprisoned mullah's release, but the Wazirs left him untouched. Mr. Ahmed then visited the Wazirs' holiest shrine, on the far border with Afghanistan--territory where no P.A. had ever set foot. As a guest of the Wazirs, he once again staked his own life and honor on the Pushtunwali of his Wazir hosts. In this way, he both pacified the Wazirs and extended Pakistan's writ in Waziristan further than it had ever gone. He even managed to coax a number of the region's storied "Robin Hoods" into surrender.
Based on these impressive successes, Mr. Ahmed concludes in his book that despite their reputation for violence and double-dealing, tribesmen can be peaceably governed within the terms of their own code of honor, if only they are given the chance. He regards solving tribal problems through military action as a sign of failure. Unfortunately, despite his considerable insight, his optimistic conclusions far outrun the terms of his own account.

Mr. Ahmed was the consummate good cop, in the right place at the right time. His ability to use the Pushtunwali code to evoke the best in the Wazirs clearly depended upon the army's violent actions in Wana two years before. Even the cross-border miscreants talked into surrender were balancing the refuge and respect he promised against the substantial dangers of living under the Soviets, who had entered Afghanistan during Mr. Ahmed's term. The former P.A. acknowledges some of this in passing, yet his unrelievedly sunny conclusions about tribal governance don't begin to acknowledge the depth of his own dependence on Soviet and Pakistani bad cops for success. His account has much to teach us. The honor code can indeed serve to offset and minimize tribal violence, and that effect can be encouraged by wise rule. But taken alone, Mr. Ahmed's analysis and prescriptions are dangerously misleading and incomplete.

The thesis of his next book, "Islam Under Siege," was an extension of the analysis presented in "Resistance and Control in Pakistan." The Muslim world as a whole is suffering from a loss of dignity and honor, Mr. Ahmed argues. As mass-scale urbanization, uneven economic development, migration and demographic expansion undercut traditional social forms, the Muslim response has been to resist these changes and interpret them as outrages against collective honor. His solution was for the West to accept, support and ally with traditional Muslim society, thereby helping the Islamic world to recapture its lost sense of honor.

Mr. Ahmed's latest book, "Journey into Islam," is riven by tensions between the author's public battle against "Islamophobia" and his reluctant acknowledgment that the Islamist ascendancy might be worth fearing after all. "Journey Into Islam" is based on Mr. Ahmed's recent travels across the global Muslim community, and he bills this tour of the Muslim world (with American students in tow) as an "anthropological excursion." Yet constant coverage of his entourage in Middle Eastern media outlets likely gentled his interviewees' responses. Pictures of Mr. Ahmed and his smiling American students posing with friendly Muslims get the central message across. Unless one desperately wants to be persuaded that all is well, however, his reassurances fall flat.
The book's Panglossian facade is broken by a single, searingly powerful moment. Mr. Ahmed's entourage visited Aligarh University in India, expecting to rediscover an academic beacon of Anglo-liberalism that had long and famously spread democratic values throughout India and Pakistan. Aligarh University shaped Mr. Ahmed himself in his youth, allowing him to synthesize his pride in Islam with a genuinely liberal and modern sensibility.

Yet moments after entering the Aligarh University campus, Mr. Ahmed and his American companions were surrounded by furious Muslim students praising bin Laden and raging at President Bush. Students came even closer to descending into mob violence here, at India's erstwhile bastion of Muslim liberalism, than they had during Mr. Ahmed's visit to Deoband, the acknowledged center of South Asian Islamism. This frightening, unexpected encounter at his beloved alma mater was clearly agonizing for Mr. Ahmed, and forced him to acknowledge the collapse of the "Aligarh model" of liberal Islam. "The nation-state and the Aligarh model are not a viable alternative in the Muslim world at present," he concedes sadly.

This is indeed a tragedy. Mr. Ahmed himself embodies another side of the Aligarh model's fate in today's world. Modern and liberal though he may be, he is unwilling to concede the need for fundamental reform within Islam. Instead of facing the evident incompatibility with modernity of core aspects of Muslim religious and social life, he reverts to sanitized accounts, accusations of Islamophobia, and complaints about American foreign policy. Although he bitterly resents the influence of Bernard Lewis on American conservatives, Mr. Ahmed periodically (and reluctantly) mimics Mr. Lewis's claim that Americans are being scapegoated for the Muslim world's own decline. Mr. Lewis's conviction that the use of force must be a key aspect of American foreign policy in the Middle East infuriates Mr. Ahmed. Yet, rightly understood, his own account in "Resistance and Control in Pakistan" confirms Mr. Lewis's insight. Without the destruction of the Wana market and the capture of Noor Muhammad, not to mention the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Mr. Ahmed's gentle, honor-based rule in Waziristan would not have been possible.

In a sense, global Islam is now Waziristan writ large. Mr. Ahmed rightly spots tribal themes of honor and solidarity throughout the Muslim world--even in places where tribal social organization per se has receded. Literally and figuratively, Waziristan now seeks to awaken the tribal jihadist side of the global Muslim soul. This has effectively thrust the leaders of the Western world into the role of British and Pakistani P.A.s (a famously exhausting job, Mr. Ahmed reminds us). With technological advance having placed once-distant threats at our doorstep, the West may soon resemble South Waziristan's perpetually besieged encampment at Wana. Perhaps it already does. Yet Waziristan was ruled indirectly, without ordinary law or policing. Preventing terror plots and the development of weapons of mass destruction requires a more active hand.
Muslim society will have to reform far more profoundly than Akbar Ahmed concedes if the worst is to be avoided. Our best option may be to reintroduce somehow the Aligarh University tradition of liberal learning and merit-based employment (independent of kinship ties) to the Muslim world. With our strategy in Iraq now reinforcing tribalism, the obvious front to try this is Europe, where concerted efforts must be made to assimilate Muslims to Western values. Globalization may then work for us, as cultural changes bounce back to the Middle East.

Even in the best case, we face a long-term struggle. Simmering tensions between modernity and Muslim social life are coming to a head. Yet all our present recent schemes are patchwork. And someday, perhaps at the peak of a post-emergency civil war between the army and the Islamists in Pakistan, the military steamroller may be called upon to settle the Waziristan problem once and for all. Who knows if, even then, it will work.

Mr. Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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« Reply #163 on: January 02, 2008, 04:41:10 PM »

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« Reply #164 on: January 02, 2008, 05:12:19 PM »


What a bizarre saga this is.  The list of plausible suspects is quite long , , ,
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« Reply #165 on: January 02, 2008, 09:02:34 PM »


Yeah, probably a half dozen other would-be assassins were killed when the IED detonated in the crowd.....
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« Reply #166 on: January 03, 2008, 07:20:26 AM »

Pakistan, Bhutto and the U.S.-Jihadist Endgame
January 2, 2008 | 2205 GMT
By George Friedman

The endgame of the U.S.-jihadist war always had to be played out in Pakistan. There are two reasons that could account for this. The first is simple: Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda command cell are located in Pakistan. The war cannot end while the command cell functions or has a chance of regenerating. The second reason is more complicated. The United States and NATO are engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000. Any hope of defeating the Taliban, or of reaching some sort of accommodation, depends on isolating them from Pakistan. So long as the Taliban have sanctuary and logistical support from Pakistan, transferring all coalition troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would have no effect. And withdrawing from Afghanistan would return the situation to the status quo before Sept. 11. If dealing with the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda are part of any endgame, the key lies in Pakistan.

U.S. strategy in Pakistan has been to support Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and rely on him to purge and shape his country’s army to the extent possible to gain its support in attacking al Qaeda in the North, contain Islamist radicals in the rest of the country and interdict supplies and reinforcements flowing to the Taliban from Pakistan. It was always understood that this strategy was triply flawed.

First, under the best of circumstances, a completely united and motivated Pakistani army’s ability to carry out this mission effectively was doubtful. And second, the Pakistani army was — and is — not completely united and motivated. Not only was it divided, one of its major divisions lay between Taliban supporters sympathetic to al Qaeda and a mixed bag of factions with other competing interests. Distinguishing between who was on which side in a complex and shifting constellation of relationships was just about impossible. That meant the army the United States was relying on to support the U.S. mission was, from the American viewpoint, inherently flawed.

It must be remembered that the mujahideen’s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan shaped the current Pakistani army. Allied with the Americans and Saudis, the Pakistani army — and particularly its intelligence apparatus, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — had as its mission the creation of a jihadist force in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. The United States lost interest in Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet Union, but the Pakistanis did not have that option. Afghanistan was right next door. An interesting thing happened at that point. Having helped forge the mujahideen and its successor, the Taliban, the Pakistani army and ISI in turn were heavily influenced by their Afghan clients’ values. Patron and client became allies. And this created a military force that was extremely unreliable from the U.S. viewpoint.

Third, Musharraf’s intentions were inherently unpredictable. As a creature of the Pakistani army, Musharraf reflects all of the ambivalences and tensions of that institution. His primary interest was in holding on to power. To do that, he needed to avoid American military action in Pakistan while simultaneously reassuring radical Islamists he was not a mere tool of the United States. Given the complexity of his position, no one could ever be certain of where Musharraf stood. His position was entirely tactical, shifting as political necessity required. He was constantly placating the various parties, but since the process of placation for the Americans meant that he take action against the jihadists, constant ineffective action by Musharraf resulted. He took enough action to keep the Americans at bay, not enough to force his Islamist enemies to take effective action against him.

Ever since Sept. 11, Musharraf has walked this tightrope, shifting his balance from one side to the other, with the primary aim of not falling off the rope. This proved unsatisfactory to the United States, as well as to Musharraf’s Islamist opponents. While he irritated everybody, the view from all factions — inside and outside Pakistan — was that, given the circumstances, Musharraf was better than the alternative. Indeed, that could have been his campaign slogan: “Vote for Musharraf: Everything Else is Worse.”

From the U.S. point of view, Musharraf and the Pakistani army might have been unreliable, but any alternative imaginable would be even worse. Even if their actions were ineffective, some actions were taken. At the very least, they were not acting openly and consistently against the United States. Were Musharraf and the Pakistani army to act consistently against U.S. interests as Russian logistical support for U.S. operations in Afghanistan waned, the U.S./NATO position in Afghanistan could simply crack.

Therefore, the U.S. policy in Pakistan was to do everything possible to make certain Musharraf didn’t fall or, more precisely, to make sure the Pakistani army didn’t fragment and its leadership didn’t move into direct and open opposition to the United States. The United States understood that the more it pressed Musharraf and the more he gave, the less likely he was to survive and the less certain became the Pakistani army’s cohesion. Thus, the U.S. strategy was to press for action, but not to the point of destabilizing Pakistan beyond its natural instability. The priority was to maintain Musharraf in power, and failing that, to maintain the Pakistani army as a cohesive, non-Islamist force.

In all of this, there was one institution that, on the whole, had to support him. That was the Pakistani army. The Pakistani army was the one functioning national institution in Pakistan. For the senior leaders, it was a vehicle to maintain their own power and position. For the lowest enlisted man, the army was a means for upward mobility, an escape from the grinding poverty of the slums and villages. The Pakistani army obviously was factionalized, but no faction had an interest in seeing the army fragment. Their own futures were at stake. And therefore, so long as Musharraf kept the army together, they would live with him. Even the less radical Islamists took that view.

A single personality cannot maintain a balancing act like this indefinitely; one of three things will happen. First, he can fall off the rope and become the prisoner of one of the factions. Second, he can lose credibility with all factions — with the basic political configuration remaining intact but with the system putting forth a new personality to preside. Third, he can build up his power, crush the factions and start calling the shots. This last is the hardest strategy, because in this case, it would be converting a role held due to the lack of alternatives into a position of power. That is a long reach.

Nevertheless, that is why Musharraf decided to declare a state of emergency. No one was satisfied with him any longer, and pressure was building for him to “take off his uniform” — in other words, to turn the army over to someone else and rule as a civilian. Musharraf understood that it was only a matter of time before his personal position collapsed and the army realized that, given the circumstances, the collapse of Musharraf could mean the fragmentation of the army. Musharraf therefore tried to get control of the situation by declaring a state of emergency and getting the military backing for it. His goal was to convert the state of emergency — and taking off his uniform — into a position from which to consolidate his power.

It worked to an extent. The army backed the state of emergency. No senior leader challenged him. There were no mutinies among the troops. There was no general uprising. He was condemned by everyone from the jihadists to the Americans, but no one took any significant action against him. The situation was precarious, but it appeared he might well emerge from the state of emergency in a politically enhanced position. Enhanced was the best he could hope for. He would not be able to get off the tightrope, but at the same time, simply calling a state of emergency and not triggering a massive response would enhance his position.

Parliamentary elections were scheduled for Jan. 8 and are now delayed until Feb. 18. Given the fragmentation of Pakistani society, the most likely outcome was a highly fragmented parliament, one that would be hard-pressed to legislate, let alone to serve as a powerbase. In the likely event of gridlock, Musharraf’s position as the indispensable — if disliked — man would be strengthened. By last week, Musharraf must have been looking forward to the elections. Elections would confirm his position, which was that the civil institutions could not function and that the army, with or without him as official head, had to remain the center of the Pakistani polity.

Then someone killed Benazir Bhutto and changed the entire dynamic of Pakistan. Though Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party probably would have gained a substantial number of seats, it was unlikely to sweep the election and seriously threaten the military’s hold on power. Bhutto was simply one of the many forces competing for power. As a woman, representing an essentially secular party, she was unlikely to be a decisive winner. In many ways, she reminds us of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was much more admired by Westerners than he ever was by Russians. She was highly visible and a factor in Pakistani politics, but if Musharraf were threatened, the threat would not come from her.

Therefore, her murder is a mystery. It is actually a mystery on two levels. First, it is not clear who did it. Second, it is not clear how the deed was done. The murder of a major political leader is always hard to unravel. Confusion reigns from the first bullet fired in a crowd. The first account of events always turns out to be wrong, as do the second through fifth accounts, too. That is how conspiracy theories are spawned. Getting the facts straight in any murder is tough. Getting them straight in a political assassination is even harder. Paradoxically, more people witnessing such incidents translates into greater confusion, since everyone has a different perspective and a different tale. Conspiracy theorists can have a field day picking and choosing among confused reports by shocked and untrained observers.

Nevertheless, the confusion in this case appears to be way beyond the norm. Was there a bomber and a separate shooter with a pistol next to her car? If this were indeed a professional job, why was the shooter inappropriately armed with a pistol? Was Bhutto killed by the pistol-wielding shooter, shrapnel from the bomb, a bullet from a third assassin on a nearby building or even inside her car, or by falling after the bomb detonated? How did the killer or killers know Bhutto would stand up and expose herself through her armored vehicle’s sunroof? Very few of the details so far make sense.

And that reflects the fact that nothing about the assassination makes sense. Who would want Bhutto dead? Musharraf had little motivation. He had enemies, and she was one of them, but she was far from the most dangerous of them. And killing her would threaten an election that did not threaten him or his transition to a new status. Ordering her death thus would not have made a great deal of sense for Musharraf.

Whoever ordered her death would have had one of two motives. First, they wanted to destabilize Pakistan, or second, they wanted to kill her in such a way as to weaken Musharraf’s position by showing that the state of emergency had failed. The jihadists certainly had every reason to want to kill her — along with a long list of Pakistani politicians, including Musharraf. They want to destabilize Pakistan, but if they can do so and implicate Musharraf at the same time, so much the sweeter.

The loser in the assassination was Musharraf. He is probably too canny a politician to have planned the killing without anticipating this outcome. Whoever did this wanted to do more than kill Bhutto. They wanted to derail Musharraf’s attempt to retain his control over the government. This was a complex operation designed to create confusion.

Our first suspect is al Qaeda sympathizers who would benefit from the confusion spawned by the killing of an important political leader. The more allegations of complicity in the killing are thrown against the regime, the more the military regime is destabilized — thus expanding opportunities for jihadists to sow even more instability. Our second suspects are elements in the army wanting to use the assassination to force Musharraf out, replace him with a new personality and justify a massive crackdown.

Two parties we cannot imagine as suspects in the killing are the United States and Musharraf; neither benefited from the killing. Musharraf now faces the political abyss and the United States faces the destabilization of Pakistan as the Taliban is splintering and various jihadist leaders are fragmenting. This is the last moment the United States would choose to destabilize Pakistan. Our best guess is that the killing was al Qaeda doing what it does best. The theory that it was anti-Musharraf elements in the army comes in at a very distant second.

But the United States now faces its endgame under far less than ideal conditions. Iraq is stabilizing. That might reverse, but for now it is stabilizing. The Taliban is strong, but it is under pressure and has serious internal problems. The endgame always was supposed to come in Pakistan, but this is far from how the Americans wanted to play it out. The United States is not going to get an aggressive, anti-Islamist military in Pakistan, but it badly needs more than a Pakistani military that is half-heartedly and tenuously committed to the fight. Salvaging Musharraf is getting harder with each passing day. So that means that a new personality, such as Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, must become Washington’s new man in Pakistan. In this endgame, all that the Americans want is the status quo in Pakistan. It is all they can get. And given the way U.S. luck is running, they might not even get that.

prentice crawford
« Reply #167 on: January 03, 2008, 07:28:16 PM »

 Now that we are connecting the dots, I think we can see just how wrong Ralph Peters was in his article. wink
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« Reply #168 on: January 03, 2008, 11:28:51 PM »

A lucid point PC cheesy  What do you make of this?
NY Times

WHEN, in May 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India was killed by a suicide bomber, there was an international outpouring of grief. Recent days have seen the same with the death of Benazir Bhutto: another glamorous, Western-educated scion of a great South Asian political dynasty tragically assassinated at an election rally.

There is, however, an important difference between the two deaths: while Mr. Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lankan Hindu extremists because of his policy of confronting them, Ms. Bhutto was apparently the victim of Islamist militant groups that she allowed to flourish under her administrations in the 1980s and 1990s.

It was under Ms. Bhutto’s watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency’s dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.

While it is true that the recruitment of jihadists had started before she took office and that Ms. Bhutto was insufficiently strong — or competent — to have had full control over either the intelligence services or the Pakistani Army when she was in office, it is equally naïve to believe she had no influence over her country’s foreign policy toward its two most important neighbors, India and Afghanistan.

Everyone now knows how disastrous the rule of the Taliban turned out to be in Afghanistan, how brutally it subjected women and how it allowed Al Qaeda to train in camps within its territory. But another, and in the long term perhaps equally perilous, legacy of Ms. Bhutto’s tenure is often forgotten: the turning of Kashmir into a jihadist playground.

In 1989, when the insurgency in the Indian portion of the disputed region first began, it was largely an amateur affair of young, secular-minded Kashmiri Muslims rising village by village and wielding homemade weapons — firearms fashioned from the steering shafts of rickshaws and so on. By the early ’90s, however, Pakistan was sending over the border thousands of well-trained, heavily armed and ideologically hardened jihadis. Some were the same sorts of exiled Arab radicals who were at the same time forming Al Qaeda in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan.

By 1993, during Ms. Bhutto’s second term, the Arab and Afghan jihadis (and their Inter-Services Intelligence masters) had really begun to take over the uprising from the locals. It was at this stage that the secular leadership of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front began losing ground to hard-line Islamist outfits like Hizbul Mujahedeen.

I asked Benazir Bhutto about her Kashmir policy and the potential dangers of the growing role of religious extremists in the conflict during an interview in 1994. “India tries to gloss over its policy of repression in Kashmir,” she replied. “India does have might, but has been unable to crush the people of Kashmir. We are not prepared to keep silent, and collude with repression.”

Hamid Gul, who was the head of the intelligence agency during her first administration, was more forthcoming still. “The Kashmiri people have risen up,” he told me, “and it is the national purpose of Pakistan to help liberate them.” He continued, “If the jihadis go out and contain India, tying down their army on their own soil, for a legitimate cause, why should we not support them?”

Benazir Bhutto’s death is, of course, a calamity, particularly as she embodied the hopes of so many liberal Pakistanis. But, contrary to the commentary we’ve seen in the last week, she was not comparable to Myanmar’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Ms. Bhutto’s governments were widely criticized by Amnesty International and other groups for their use of death squads and terrible record on deaths in police custody, abductions and torture. As for her democratic bona fides, she had no qualms about banning rallies by opposing political parties while in power.

Within her own party, she declared herself the president for life and controlled all decisions. She rejected her brother Murtaza’s bid to challenge her for its leadership and when he persisted, he was shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances during a police ambush outside the Bhutto family home.

Benazir Bhutto was certainly a brave and secular-minded woman. But the obituaries painting her as dying to save democracy distort history. Instead, she was a natural autocrat who did little for human rights, a calculating politician who was complicit in Pakistan’s becoming the region’s principal jihadi paymaster while she also ramped up an insurgency in Kashmir that has brought two nuclear powers to the brink of war.

William Dalrymple is the author, most recently, of “The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857.”

Here's this from Stratfor:

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Jan. 2 he will deploy the army during the general elections scheduled for Feb. 18. He did not say what would happen to anyone brazen enough to question the results.

The political situation in Pakistan is chaotic and delicate. The Dec. 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto undid most of the political compromises made in the past several months — Bhutto was widely expected to be invited into the government in the aftermath of the upcoming elections. Now Pakistan’s various factions — especially those within the military, the only institution in Pakistan that truly matters — are all scrambling for alternatives.

For Musharraf, Bhutto’s departure from this world is a mixed blessing. While it certainly complicates his efforts to maintain control — Bhutto would have, after all, been joining his government — it also forces everyone else into a new round of negotiations with each other. As president and, until recently, military chief, Musharraf holds an institutional advantage in that race. He is one man with an apparatus at his back, rather than a collection of men who need to consult and build an alliance.

But as one might expect in a country where the military holds supreme power, Musharraf’s strength comes far more from his links to the military than his holding of the presidency. Thus it attracted our attention on Thursday when Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chairing his first corps commanders conference since becoming chief of the army, flatly stated, “Ultimately it is the will of the people and their support that is decisive.” That, he said, will allow the army to “thwart and defeat all kinds of threats.”

This statement is the first sign that Musharraf and Kayani may not be on the same page as far as how to deal with the issue of elections. There are two potential outcomes of the Feb. 18 elections, both equally dangerous for Musharraf’s political health.

The first possibility is that the election is viewed by his opponents –- the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — as reasonably free and fair, because it has produced a parliament dominated by them. The resulting government will in turn eventually be engaged in a tug of war over power between an aggressive parliament and a presidency asserting its right to oversight of the political system. This is not to mention the problems Musharraf could face in attempts to legalize his Nov. 3 move to suspend the constitution. Nevertheless, two past presidents were forced to step down by the military in similar gridlock situations during the 1990s.

A second possibility is that the opposition gets fewer seats than it is expecting and the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League emerges with a disproportionately greater number of seats. Such a move is very likely to stir up the proverbial hornet’s nest. A much more organized and sustained version of the rioting that took place in the aftermath of Bhutto’s assassination can be expected.

Given that his opponents have little faith in the judiciary or the election commission, which they see as consisting of Musharraf appointees, agitation is an even more likely recourse on the part of the opposition. Musharraf is well aware of this potential scenario, which is why he has specifically noted that the army will remain deployed even after the elections and that no one will be allowed to engage in civil disturbances. But this assumes that the army chief will order troops to open fire on unarmed demonstrators angry over what they perceive as government foul play in the elections.

Considering the current political climate and the existing negative sentiment against the army’s hold over the state, Kayani is unlikely to play with fire to salvage the future of one man, even if it is the president. His statements on Thursday serve as an indicator of what he is likely to do when faced with such a situation.

In no country is a spat between the president and the army something to scoff at, and Pakistan is not exactly known for having robust civilian oversight of the military. We are hardly to the point of a coup yet, but this is how the path to a coup starts.

Musharraf should know. He staged the last one.

« Last Edit: January 04, 2008, 08:10:07 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
prentice crawford
« Reply #169 on: January 05, 2008, 01:27:40 AM »

 I think Mr. Dalrymple is right that the conditions under her regime made a good soup for militants to prosper in but we could say the same for the leadership of India, Russia, and the U.S. who's intell agencies all played a role at the same time and made deals with the devil so to speak. Bhutto had little choice but to deal with the players in the game, the same as everyone else. That doesn't mean that she personally intended to give rise to the conditions we face now any more than we did. The political climate of that area is brutal and if you're going to survive as a politician there you are going to be rubbing elbows with the worse of the worse, so I'm not saying Bhutto is without blood on her hands, I'm saying she was the closest thing to it that would have been willing to deal with us. It could be pointed out to Mr. Dalrymple, that the militants had their own agenda and are themselves responsible for their own actions and that Bhutto was killed because she, like Gandhi would have had a policy of confronting them if she had lived. I will note that Mr. Darlymple also has a soft spot for India, now do you think he would let that color his view of Pakistan and its leadership? Nah! rolleyes
« Last Edit: January 05, 2008, 02:06:04 AM by prentice crawford » Logged
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« Reply #170 on: January 05, 2008, 09:24:25 AM »

You seem to have followed this area more than most people.  I am curious:

Where do you think things heading?

What do you think the US should do?
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« Reply #171 on: January 05, 2008, 11:27:42 AM »

Second post of the morning.  This very interesting piece was sent to me by a friend in India.  As best as I can tell, I have found the commentary from India about Afg-Pak often to be quite superior to that which we generate here in the US.

2008: Bleeding Pakistan - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 345

By B. Raman

"It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out Jihad and fighting to remove Pervez, his government, his army and those who help him.  We in al-Qaida Organization call on Allah to witness that we will retaliate for the blood of Maulana Abd al-Rashid Ghazi and those with him against Musharraf and those who help him, and for all the pure and innocent blood, foremost of which is the blood of the champions of Islam in Waziristan - both North and South - among them the two noble leaders, Nek Muhammad and Abdullah Mahsud." (My comment: Maulana Ghazi died in the Pakistan Army commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad between July 10 and 13, 2007) ---- From my article on "Bin Laden's Fatwa Against Musharraf & Pakistani Army" of September 22, 2007, at


Pakistan has gone through a traumatic 2007. The trauma started with the Pakistan Army commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007, during which about 300 young tribal girls from the Pashtun tribal belt, who were studying in a girls' madrasa run by the masjid, were allegedly killed.  These girls came from poor tribal families. Many of them were the daughters or sisters of Pashtuns from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) serving in the Army and other security forces.

2.The anger caused by the commando action, the resulting death of a large number of young tribal girls and the damage to the masjid triggered off a wave of suicide terrorism, the like of which Pakistan had not seen before.  The number of acts of suicide terrorism increased nine-fold from six in 2006 to 55 in 2007. The most dramatic victim of this wave was Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, who was killed by unidentified terrorists at Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

3. Unless one constantly keeps in mind the traumatic impact of the commando action on the minds of the Pashtuns, one is likely to err in one's assessment of the worsening state of jihadi terrorism in Pakistan and blame everything that is happening in Pakistan on Al Qaeda. There has been a frightening wave of tribal anger in the wake of the Lal Masjid operation. Al Qaeda and other pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorist organisations have been capitalising on this anger to promote their own pan-Islamic, anti-US and anti-Musharraf agenda, but they were not the cause of this anger.

4. President Pervez Musharraf caused this anger by his inept handling of the Lal Masjid episode. Initially, he did not act against the members of the Laskar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), who were gathering inside the Masjid in order to instigate the madrasa students against the Government and the liberal sections of the Pakistani society. When these extremists started targeting some Chinese women working in Islamabad, he over-reacted, sent the commandos of the US-trained Special Services Group (SSG) in and used force, which was perceived by many as disproportionate.

5. The result---the current wave of suicide terrorism by angry tribals and others. The suicide bombers are of varying backgrounds--- Al Qaeda, pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda tribals, the LEJ, which is largely an anti-Shia organisation of Punjabis, ex-servicemen not belonging to any organisation whose daughters or sisters died in the commando raid, the male students of a madrasa attached to the Lal Masjid, who want to avenge the death of the women students etc. Attempts to attribute everything to Al Qaeda and see everything that has been happening in Pakistan as part of Al Qaeda's global jihad against the US are too simplistic and would not permit a lucid understanding of the situation.

6. The international community and the post-9/11 crop of Al Qaeda watchers, who are largely influenced by American perceptions, may have difficulty in understanding the roots of the anger sweeping across Pakistan's tribal belt, but we in India should be able to understand it better. We passed through a similar trauma in the months after the Army's raid into the Golden Temple at Amritsar in June 1984, to flush out a group of Khalistani terrorists, who had taken control of the Temple. During the Army operation, many civilians, including Bhindranwale, the religious mentor of the extremists, were killed and some parts of the temple premises were badly damaged by the exchange of fire between the Army and the terrorists. The only saving grace for us was that there were no religious schools inside the temple complex and hence no young students were killed.

7. The Army raid into the Gold Temple, called Operation Blue Star, had a disastrous sequel---- many Sikh soldiers of the Indian Army deserted just as Pakistani tribal soldiers are deserting after  the Lal Masjid raid; four Sikh deserters crossed over into Pakistan and sought political asylum; some of the Sikh deserters shot dead a serving Brigadier; Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister,  was gunned down inside her house by her own Sikh security guards; Gen. A. S. Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff during Operation Blue Star was shot dead by Khalistanis at Pune where he was living after retirement; Khalistanis unsuccessfully tried to assassinate Mr. Jule Ribeiro, who had served as the Punjab police chief, at Bucharest where the Govt. had sent  him as Ambassador in order to protect him from the wrath of the Khalistanis, Mr. Bhajan Lal, former Chief Minister of Haryana, escaped a plot to kill him in the US due to the timely detection of the conspiracy by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Kanishka aircraft of Air India flying from Toronto to India was blown up in mid-air off the Irish coast by Khalistanis, coinciding with the first anniversary of Blue Star; another Air India aircraft escaped a similar disaster due to the premature explosion of the device at the Tokyo airport; Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted at New Delhi was kidnapped, migrant Hindu agricultural workers working in Punjab were targeted and killed; there was an upsurge in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) not only in Punjab, but also in Delhi etc etc. The post-Blue Star trauma and anger started subsiding only after 1992. It lasted eight years.

8. Popular perceptions---right or wrong--- of acts of desecration against places of worship and religious significance have disastrous after-effects. We saw it after Operation Blue Star and after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India. We have been seeing it in Malaysia in recent months. The Hindus of Malaysia were a very law-abiding people. They had never in the past taken their economic and social grievances out into the streets, but their anger over the demolition of some Hindu temples and alleged bulldozing of some Hindu idols by municipal authorities at some places provoked them to come out in the streets in large numbers in defiance of the police and the law. We have been seeing a growing wave of anger among the Hindus of India over the alleged plans of the authorities to demolish the Ramar Setu, a site of religious significance, for the construction of the Sethusamudram Project in India's southern coast.

9. The suicide wave, which we have been seeing in Pakistan, is partly---if not largely--- the result of the anger unleashed among the tribals by what happened in the Lal Masjid. This anger is among the Pashtun tribals on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Even Afghan Pashtuns in large numbers, who were previously fighting against the US and other NATO forces in Afghan territory, have now been moving into Pakistan since July for acts of reprisal against Musharraf and his perceived collaborators----military as well as civilian. Action to kill Musharraf, whom they view as apostate, and other apostates has assumed priority in their eyes over action against the NATO in Afghan territory. Moreover, in their view, if they eliminate these apostates, their jihad in Afghanistan against Western forces would be facilitated.

10. There are over a dozen jihadi terrorist organisations operating from the tribal belt---- Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of which Baitullah Mehsud is the Amir, the TNSM of which Maulana Fazlullah is the Amir, the Lashkar Islam, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), the LEJ, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union etc. Periodically, they have been putting out their own demands. Most of their agenda is influenced by local factors. But there is one agenda item which is common to all of them--- the need to avenge the alleged massacre in the Lal Masjid by Pakistani Army commandoes.

11. Even before the Lal Masjid episode, Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and other jihadi organisations were well entrenched in the tribal belt, but they were facing difficulty in getting volunteers for suicide terrorism, but after the Lal Masjid raid, they are getting volunteers in their hundreds from the tribal areas on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.  In its issue of August 3-9, 2007, the "Friday Times" of Lahore wrote as follows: "Recruits are formally registered with the Taliban as suicide bombers and given a receipt indicating their registration number. At any given point, there are thousands in line waiting to sacrifice their lives, an observer returning from South Waziristan told the weekly. If one of them is selected to be the next bomber, the news is a cause for celebration in his household. Once confirmation arrives of his death, the funeral prayers are substituted with congratulatory messages for the family....Women, because of the Taliban's strict anti-wife-beating policy, are largely in favour of them..... This is part of the strategy of winning over the mothers, who, according to the Taliban, have the greatest influence on the child as he grows up. Women are thus actively involved in the process of indoctrinating children in favour of the Taliban." The deaths of a large number of tribal girls in the Lal Masjid have further motivated Pashtun women to act as recruiters of suicide terrorists for whichever organisation wants them.

12. Al Qaeda is growing stronger in Pakistan. It has spread its tentacles even to Rawalpindi and into the lower and middle ranks of the Armed Forces. But, any counter-terrorism strategy, which focusses exclusively on the physical threat from Al Qaeda, without paying attention to the psychological factors being exploited by it, would prove ineffective. While stepping up action against Al Qaeda and other pro-Al Qaeda organisations, it is equally important to address the post-Lal Masjid anger in the tribal belt through actions such as an enquiry into the alleged deaths, compensation for the families of those killed etc. By refusing to admit the role of the commando raid in the upsurge of jihadi terrorism, Musharraf is only making the situation worse. If he continues with his ill-advised policies, Pakistan will continue to bleed.
prentice crawford
« Reply #172 on: January 05, 2008, 07:40:44 PM »

You seem to have followed this area more than most people.  I am curious:

Where do you think things heading?

What do you think the US should do?

 Well, before Bhutto's death I would have said Pakistan was going to become more balanced between the power that the military holds and the Government institutions and that could lead to a reining in of the various tribal faction leaders and thus a start at rooting out the more militant members of those enclaves where the Taliban and al Qaida have strongholds. But poof, that's all gone now. The key now (as it has always been), is the military. With Musharraf embattled as he is now his situation is only going to worsen as the few supporters he has start to jump ship and even worse than that, start turning against him. Musharraf's days are numbered. The leadership in the higher ranks of the military is fairly solid and General Kayani is firmly pro West. The bad news is that the militants have infiltrated the mid and lower ranks of the military as well as the intell agencies. Not good. So my assessment of the future would be touch and go for Pakistan. It is a very complicated situation on the ground there to say the least. Almost none of the Tribal leaders lend any loyalty to the government or the military, the various militant groups of course don't either, Iran is meddling as well as India, we are pouring billions into the region and the everyday Pakistani that just wants to feed his family, has no place at the table at all. In a word, I think they're screwed and so are we unless Kayani can perform a miracle and manage to purge the military of militants and restore order while bringing back civilian governance that will somehow come up with a way other than just military force, to put pressure on the tribal areas to kick out the Taliban and al Qaida. I think it's going to get worse, much worse and it may never get better.
 As for what the U.S. should do? Get behind kayani, put diplomatic pressure on India and economic pressure on Iran to quit stirring the pot, and quit going after the brass ring of using the Pakistani military to bull their way into the tribal areas to get Bin Laden and the Taliban and start helping the Pakistani civil government in coming up with the carrot on a stick programs that will cause the tribal leaders to want to push out the militants on their own.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2008, 11:08:09 PM by prentice crawford » Logged
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« Reply #173 on: January 06, 2008, 05:33:38 PM »

I confess bafflement and anger at the officials who leak these sorts of things to the press and the press that print them.

I also note the apparent cluelessness of our officials analysis from the perspective of the Indian article that I posted.  I have no idea if the Indian article's point about the anger over the raid on the mosque is correct, I simply note the disparity.

Personally I find myself dubious of the effect of minor, incremental steps.  The Whackostans/Taliban/AQ have repeatedly launched attacks both successful and unsuccessful against the US, UK, and other parts of Europe.  To my way of thinking plenty of causus belli exists.

We helped Afg fight the Soviets, then left them alone.  In return they gave AQ safe harbor to attack us and now the same folks (in Afg and the Whackostans) produce 90% of the world's heroin and opium while lecturing us about morality and decadence and continue to launch attacks upon the US, UK, and elsewhere in Europe.  When I read “He is in South Waziristan agency, and let me tell you, getting him in that place means battling against thousands of people, hundreds of people who are his followers, the Mehsud tribe, if you get to him, and it will mean collateral damage,” my reaction is to wonder whether our incremental and incompetent dithering and meddling will ever get the job done.  Perhaps a goodly dose of Jacksonian War will be required?


NY Times
U.S. Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan
Published: January 6, 2008
This article is by Steven Lee Myers, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt.

The New York Times

Al Qaeda and the Taliban use the tribal areas as a base.
WASHINGTON — President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.

Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.

Many of the specific options under discussion are unclear and highly classified. Officials said that the options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces.

The Bush administration has not formally presented any new proposals to Mr. Musharraf, who gave up his military role last month, or to his successor as the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who the White House thinks will be more sympathetic to the American position than Mr. Musharraf. Early in his career, General Kayani was an aide to Ms. Bhutto while she was prime minister and later led the Pakistani intelligence service.

But at the White House and the Pentagon, officials see an opportunity in the changing power structure for the Americans to advocate for the expanded authority in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country. “After years of focusing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize — creating chaos in Pakistan itself,” one senior official said.

The new options for expanded covert operations include loosening restrictions on the C.I.A. to strike selected targets in Pakistan, in some cases using intelligence provided by Pakistani sources, officials said. Most counterterrorism operations in Pakistan have been conducted by the C.I.A.; in Afghanistan, where military operations are under way, including some with NATO forces, the military can take the lead.

The legal status would not change if the administration decided to act more aggressively. However, if the C.I.A. were given broader authority, it could call for help from the military or deputize some forces of the Special Operations Command to act under the authority of the agency.

The United States now has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan. Any expanded operations using C.I.A. operatives or Special Operations forces, like the Navy Seals, would be small and tailored to specific missions, military officials said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was on vacation last week and did not attend the White House meeting, said in late December that “Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people.”

In the past, the administration has largely stayed out of the tribal areas, in part for fear that exposure of any American-led operations there would so embarrass the Musharraf government that it could further empower his critics, who have declared he was too close to Washington.

Even now, officials say, some American diplomats and military officials, as well as outside experts, argue that American-led military operations on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan could result in a tremendous backlash and ultimately do more harm than good. That is particularly true, they say, if Americans were captured or killed in the territory.

In part, the White House discussions may be driven by a desire for another effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. Currently, C.I.A. operatives and Special Operations forces have limited authority to conduct counterterrorism missions in Pakistan based on specific intelligence about the whereabouts of those two men, who have eluded the Bush administration for more than six years, or of other members of their terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, hiding in or near the tribal areas.

The C.I.A. has launched missiles from Predator aircraft in the tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials said they believed that in January 2006 an airstrike narrowly missed killing Mr. Zawahri, who had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village. But that apparently was the last real evidence American officials had about the whereabouts of their chief targets.

Critics said more direct American military action would be ineffective, anger the Pakistani Army and increase support for the militants. “I’m not arguing that you leave Al Qaeda and the Taliban unmolested, but I’d be very, very cautious about approaches that could play into hands of enemies and be counterproductive,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. Some American diplomats and military officials have also issued strong warnings against expanded direct American action, officials said.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani military and political analyst, said raids by American troops would prompt a powerful popular backlash against Mr. Musharraf and the United States.
In the wake of the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, many Pakistanis suspect that the United States is trying to dominate Pakistan as well, Mr. Rizvi said. Mr. Musharraf — who is already widely unpopular — would lose even more popular support.

“At the moment when Musharraf is extremely unpopular, he will face more crisis,” Mr. Rizvi said. “This will weaken Musharraf in a Pakistani context.” He said such raids would be seen as an overall vote of no confidence in the Pakistani military, including General Kayani.

The meeting on Friday, which was not publicly announced, included Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and top intelligence officials.

Spokesmen for the White House, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon declined to discuss the meeting, citing a policy against doing so. But the session reflected an urgent concern that a new Qaeda haven was solidifying in parts of Pakistan and needed to be countered, one official said.

Although some officials and experts have criticized Mr. Musharraf and questioned his ability to take on extremists, Mr. Bush has remained steadfast in his support, and it is unlikely any new measures, including direct American military action inside Pakistan, will be approved without Mr. Musharraf’s consent.

“He understands clearly the risks of dealing with extremists and terrorists,” Mr. Bush said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “After all, they’ve tried to kill him.”

The Pakistan government has identified a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda, Baitullah Mehsud, who holds sway in tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, as the chief suspect behind the attack on Ms. Bhutto. American officials are not certain about Mr. Mehsud’s complicity but say the threat he and other militants pose is a new focus. He is considered, they said, an “Al Qaeda associate.”

In an interview with foreign journalists on Thursday, Mr. Musharraf warned of the risk any counterterrorism forces — American or Pakistani — faced in confronting Mr. Mehsud in his native tribal areas.

“He is in South Waziristan agency, and let me tell you, getting him in that place means battling against thousands of people, hundreds of people who are his followers, the Mehsud tribe, if you get to him, and it will mean collateral damage,” Mr. Musharraf said.

The weeks before parliamentary elections — which were originally scheduled for Tuesday — are seen as critical because of threats by extremists to disrupt the vote. But it seemed unlikely that any additional American effort would be approved and put in place in that time frame.

Administration aides said that Pakistani and American officials shared the concern about a resurgent Qaeda, and that American diplomats and senior military officers had been working closely with their Pakistani counterparts to help bolster Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.

Shortly after Ms. Bhutto’s assassination, Adm. William J. Fallon, who oversees American military operations in Southwest Asia, telephoned his Pakistani counterparts to ensure that counterterrorism and logistics operations remained on track.

In early December, Adm. Eric T. Olson, the new leader of the Special Operations Command, paid his second visit to Pakistan in three months to meet with senior Pakistani officers, including Lt. Gen. Muhammad Masood Aslam, commander of the military and paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan. Admiral Olson also visited the headquarters of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from border tribes that the United States is planning to help train and equip.

But the Pakistanis are still years away from fielding an effective counterinsurgency force. And some American officials, including Defense Secretary Gates, have said the United States may have to take direct action against militants in the tribal areas.

American officials said the crisis surrounding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination had not diminished the Pakistani counterterrorism operations, and there were no signs that Mr. Musharraf had pulled out any of his 100,000 forces in the tribal areas and brought them to the cities to help control the urban unrest.

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« Reply #174 on: January 06, 2008, 08:46:55 PM »

Most in this country are living in a 9/10 mindset. Until the next time....
prentice crawford
« Reply #175 on: January 10, 2008, 07:35:09 PM »

 I think it would be a disaster if we sent U.S. troops into those tribal areas; yes we could get some immediate success on a few strongholds but we could not possibly hold any ground there and the militants will move back in with even more support from the tribal leaders after we move on to another site. We would in the long run waste tons of money and lose a lot of lives in those mountains and come out in worse condition than we are right now. As I said before the only way I see us getting anywhere in the tribal areas is to get the tribal leaders to push the militants out. That's not going to happen militarily and I hope Musharraf has got more sense than to let the U.S. go in.
 This spring as the Taliban cranks up their attacks in Afghanistan, we will need to boost our troop levels there by about 20,000 and place many of them right there at the border to intercept the hard core Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters that will be moving out of the tribal regions anyway. Why go in there when they are going to be coming to us? I'm normally very hawkish and would love to go after the leadership but now is not the time. A girl scout with a slingshot can protect those mountain passes long enough for the leadership elements to escape an attack, even by our very best.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2008, 08:11:05 PM by prentice crawford » Logged
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« Reply #176 on: January 19, 2008, 08:26:22 AM »

I note that the level of  intel here from a retired Indian cabinet member, FAR exceeds just about anything that we read here.  Why is that?  If correct, and it reads to me like it is , , ,

Baitullah Mehsud Steps up Attacks in South Waziristan - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 355

by B. Raman

The Mehsud followers of Baitullah Mehsud, assisted by some Uzbeks of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), have stepped up their attacks on the thinly-manned outposts of the Frontier Corps (FC) in different parts of South Waziristan. These outposts were withdrawn under a peace agreement signed by the Pakistani Army with Baitullah at the Sararogha fort in February, 2005. When President Pervez Musharraf ordered the commandoes of the Special Services Group (SSG) to raid the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July, 2007, he also ordered the re-establishment of these outposts of the FC since he apprehended that the Mehsuds, many of whose children were studying in the two madrasas attached to the Lal Masjid, could retaliate for the commando action.

2.  Baitullah interpreted the re-establishment of these outposts as a bad breach of faith by Musharraf and announced that the Mehsuds would no longer be bound by the ceasefire agreement of February, 2005. Since then, the Mehsuds have unleashed a wave of suicide attacks not only in South Waziristan, but also in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. He had also resumed the guerilla attacks of his force on the para-military forces and captured nearly 300 of them. Under a fresh cease-fire agreement reached in November, 2007, Baitullah agreed to suspend his operations and release the captured personnel of the FC in return for the Government closing again the FC outposts re-established in South Waziristan, releasing all Mehsuds arrested in South Waziristan and the NWFP, and also Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, the chief cleric of the Lal Masjid, and the students of the madrasas of the mosque arrested during the commando action.

3. Baitullah released all the FC personnel captured by his force. In return, Musharraf ordered the release of all but six of the Mehsuds arrested by his security agencies. He has not ordered the release of these six on the ground that they are under trial before the Anti-Terrorism courts and hence he has no powers to order their release. He has not agreed to release those arrested during the commando raid in the Lal Masjid. Nor has he agreed to withdraw the FC outposts re-established in the area. On the contrary, after the assassination of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, allegedly at the instance of Baitullah, he has reinforced the FC posts in South Waziristan in an attempt to hunt for Baitullah.

4. This has provoked Baitullah to step up attacks on the FC posts. Though the FC consists largely of Pashtun tribals recruited in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the NWFP, these Pashtuns are looked upon by Baitullah and Al Qaeda as apostate for allegedly collaborating with Musharraf, who has already been declared an apostate by Al Qaeda since 2003. The FC comes operationally under the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Army and administratively under the Ministry of the Interior.

5.  Between 1878 and 1903, the British set up the various tribal agencies, which, after Pakistan's independence in 1947, were constituted into the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The British created in each agency para-military forces called militias recruited from amongst the various Pashtun sub-tribes in that agency. Thus came into existence militias such as  the Khyber Rifles (1878), the Zhob Militia (1883), the Kurram Militia (1892), the Tochi Scouts (1894), the Chagai Militia (1896), the  South Waziristan Scouts (1900) , the Chitral Scouts (1903) etc. Lord Curzon, who became the Viceroy in 1899, created the Frontier Corps to serve as the umbrella organisation of these militias and to co-ordinate their functioning in all the tribal agencies. This arrangement has continued till now. The Frontier Corps, whose General Headquarters are located in Peshawar, functions under the over-all supervision of the Corps Commander of the Pakistan Army at Peshawar.

6. As mentioned by me in my article of November 15, 2007, titled "The State of Jihadi Terrorism in Pakistan" (, a major blunder committed by Musharraf was the over-use of  para-military forces such as the Frontier Constabulary and the Frontier Corps in the operations against terrorists in the tribal areas. He wanted to avoid using the Punjabi-dominated Army for ground operations. While the Army is actively involved in the ground operations against the Baloch freedom-fighters in Balochistan, it was confining itself to the barracks in the FATA and in the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). American officials and their counterparts in Pakistan often claim that Musharraf has deployed nearly 80,000 troops in the tribal areas. The Americans cite this as one of the reasons for their strong backing to the General despite his growing unpopularity.

7. What they do not mention is that many of these security personnel are the tribal members of the para-military forces, who come from that area, and not Pakistani military personnel recruited from other areas of the country. A large number of the Pakistani army personnel are used not for ground operations against the terrorists, but for providing physical security to American and other NATO military supplies to Afghanistan from the Karachi port after they are landed there. This has been creating resentment among the tribal personnel of the para-military forces, who feel that Musharraf, under US pressure, is making not only Muslims kill Muslims, but also Pashtuns kill Pashtuns, in the name of the so-called war on terrorism. The FM radio stations operated by pro-Al Qaeda jihadi leaders in the tribal areas have been repeatedly alleging in their broadcasts directed to the fellow-tribals in the para-military forces that innocent tribals are being killed in order to save American lives in the US homeland.

8. As a result of this, there has been a growing number of desertions of Pashtuns serving in the para-military forces.  Musharraf did use regular Army units to counter the supporters of Maulana Fazlullah in the Swat Valley, but afraid that the Pashtun soldiers of the Army too might start deserting their units like the Pashtun members of the para-military forces, he has been avoiding the use of the army in ground operations and has instead been relying increasingly on helicopter gunships. This has, on the one hand, resulted in an increase in the number of civilian casualties due to indiscriminate air-mounted actions and, on the other, further fuelled the resentment in the para-military forces, whose personnel are asking: Are the lives of the Army personnel more precious than those of the Frontier Constabulary and the Frontier Corps?

9. I had also written that Musharraf has so far not told his people and the international community that Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in the tribal areas have been increasingly targeting Shias and Christians. Captured Shia members of the para-military forces are being treated with brutality and killed by beheading or by cutting their throats. Shia members of the civil society are also being targeted. The FM radio stations have been indulging in the most horrible anti-Shia broadcasts. Shias are being projected as American agents in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are alleging that the majority of the prostitutes in Pakistan are Shias and projecting the Shias as the sect of the prostitutes in the Ummah. A highly reputed school for poor tribal girls run in the FATA by a Christian missionary organisation was targeted and forced to close through intimidation. There are no Buddhists in the tribal areas, but many historical Buddhist heritage sites are there. These too are systematically being attacked. Al Qaeda is trying to replicate Iraq in Pakistan by exacerbating the already existing divide between the Shias and the Sunnis in the civil society as well as in the Army.

10. In their renewed offensive in the wake of the assassination of Benazir, the Mehsuds and the Uzbeks of the IMU have been taking advantage of the low morale of the personnel of the FC. After overrunning the FC outpost in the Sararogha fort on January 15, 2008, they are reported to have overrun another post  of the FC located at a place called  Seplatoi in South Waziristan.  What is disquieting  is that whereas the FC personnel at   Sararogha put up a fight against the Mehsuds and Uzbeks and suffered fatalities before they were overrun, those ( 60 in number) at Seplatoi are alleged to have either run away or surrendered without even a semblance of a fight.

11. Of course, the Army has strongly denied this, but other reliable sources say this incident did happen. The declining morale of the Pashtun members of the Frontier Corps should be a matter of serious concern. Can it spread to the Pashtuns in the Pakistani Army? That is a question, which should worry not only Musharraf, but also the international community.

12. The time has come for Pakistan and the international community to review the physical security arrangements in Pakistan's nuclear establishments in order to look for signs of declining morale there. While Pakistan's principal nuclear establishments are located in Punjab and are guarded by carefully selected Punjabi soldiers, its nuclear waste dumps are located in the tribal areas of the NWFP such as Dera Ismail Khan and are guarded by the FC.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:
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« Reply #177 on: January 24, 2008, 08:42:59 AM »

 evil HA-HA!  evil

Suicide bomber falls down stairs ...
Article from: Agence France-Presse
From correspondents in Khost, Afghanistan
January 24, 2008 12:39pm

A WOULD-be suicide bomber fell down a flight of stairs and blew himself up as he headed out for an attack in Afghanistan, police say.

It was the second such incident in two days, with another man killing himself and three others on Tuesday when his bomb-filled waistcoat exploded as he was putting it on in the southern town of Lashkar Gah.

Yesterday's blast was in a busy market area of the eastern town of Khost, a deputy provincial police chief said.

The would-be attacker tripped as he was leaving a building apparently to target an opening ceremony for a mosque that was expected to be attended by Afghan and international military officials, said Sakhi Mir.

"Coming down the stairs, he fell down and exploded. Two civilian women and a man were wounded,'' Mir said.

Suicide attacks are regular feature of an insurgency led by the extremist Taliban movement that was in government between 1996 and 2001. The most deadly was in November 2007 and killed nearly 80 people, most of them school students.
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« Reply #178 on: January 27, 2008, 07:24:56 AM »

A well-informed friend in India sends the following:

These 2 items are related. Apparently about 40 % of NATO supplies to Afghan go via Pak. Now the Taliban is starting to hijack the military trucks/tunnels. This may in part explain the US offer to "help" in ferreting out Talib from NWFP. Interesting times ahead ... X.
Pakistan troops pound militants holding key tunnel PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 27 (AFP) - Pakistan artillery backed by gunship helicopters pounded militant positions in an attempt to take back control of a key road tunnel, blocking traffic between the main city of Peshawar in North West Frontier Province and the city of Kohat. As the operation entered a third day Sunday, troops were using artillery, long-range weapons and helicopters to dislodge militants from their bunkers on hills overlooking the tunnel, a military spokesman said. Residents said hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the tunnel, with the militants having erected barricades on the road to the tunnel. "Fighting is going on near Kohat tunnel and troops have purged militants from a large area," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP. Troops had made good progress in their advance, he said, expressing hope that the rebels would be flushed out from the area by Monday and the tunnel freed. "They are holding key positions on mountain tops; that is why it is taking time," the spokesman said, adding security forces suffered no casualties and there were no details of militant losses in the latest clash. He said 25 militants were killed late Saturday. On Friday the troops said they had killed 30 rebels and lost two soldiers in Darra Adam Khel, which is known for its weapons bazaar and illegal arms manufacturing factories.(Posted @ 11:21 PST, Updated @ 17:09 PST)

Top U.S. intelligence officials made secret trip to Pakistan WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (AP): The top two U.S. intelligence officials made a secret visit to Pakistan in early January to seek permission from President Musharraf for greater involvement of American forces in trying to ferret out Al-Qaeda and other militant groups active in the tribal regions along the Afghanistan border, a senior U.S. official said. The official wishing to remain anonymous, declined to disclose what was said, but Musharraf was quoted two days after the Jan. 9 meeting as saying U.S. troops would be regarded as invaders if they crossed into Pakistan to hunt Al-Qaeda militants. The New York Times which first reported the secret visit by CIA Director Michael Hayden and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, said Musharraf rebuffed an expansion of an American presence in Pakistan at the meeting, either through overt CIA missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces. In a Jan. 11 interview, Musharraf told The Straits Times of Singapore that U.S. troops would be considered invaders if they set foot in the tribal regions. "If they come without our permission, that's against the sovereignty of Pakistan," he said. "I challenge anybody coming into our mountains. They would regret that day." (Posted @ 10:00 PST)
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« Reply #179 on: February 06, 2008, 10:24:29 AM »

Canadians need help fighting the resurgent Taliban in Kandahar. A top provincial official says only Americans can do the job.
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 6, 2008
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- As the most powerful Afghan official in the troubled southern province of Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai says he knows just how to tame the shadowy Taliban campaign of suicide bombs and assassinations that have raised the specter of a country sliding toward anarchy.

He wants more American soldiers on the ground.

"The Canadians are fine, but Americans are Americans -- the mentality is different," said Karzai, chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar where the Canadian-led military mission has struggled to contain the regrouped Taliban.

Amid the recent deluge of discouraging reports citing declining security in swaths of southern Afghanistan, Karzai's is a rare voice of optimism, claiming that U.S. special forces already have begun to turn the tide in Kandahar with targeted strikes against individual commanders of the fundamentalist group, which was ousted from power six years ago.

"These operations are extremely quiet. They cause no civilian casualties and no damage to the villages," said Karzai, whose power derives in part from being the younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"The Americans are very professional," he said. "They go in; they get out. It's just like you see in the movies."

Karzai is about to get his wish for a greater American presence. About 3,200 U.S. Marines are set to deploy to Afghanistan in coming weeks, most of them ticketed for a seven-month stay in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's traditional heartland and home of its revived insurgency.

Beleaguered Canadians in Kandahar can't wait for the Americans to arrive either. They acknowledge that their 2,500 troops have not been enough to create much of a footprint across the province. And they say they are not able to undertake regular patrols of the dangerous back roads in the fertile farming region outside the city of Kandahar, with the result that the Taliban now operates with impunity in some villages not far from the provincial capital.

The implications of a Taliban comeback are being felt far beyond Kandahar, placing a major stress on the 41,000-strong international alliance, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that was supposed to secure and rebuild all of Afghanistan. The jump in insurgent violence over the last two years has led to recriminations within NATO, with the U.S. military leaders questioning whether their partners have the stomach for the fight against the Taliban, and the Canadians, British and Dutch complaining that risks are not being evenly shared across the alliance.

The Canadian government recently warned that it would end its mission in Kandahar by early 2009 unless NATO sends an additional 1,000 soldiers into the fray. The British are also appealing for help containing an equally violent insurgency in neighboring Helmand province.

And the violence has opened up wide disagreements over strategy, mostly over how much force to direct against the Taliban.

In Kandahar, the Canadians are particularly bitter over U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' widely quoted comments last month that some of America's allies "don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations."

His unusually pointed criticism was part of a wider whispering campaign by American officials that accuses Canadian and European forces of being locked in a peacekeeping mind-set, of playing fanciful diplomatic games trying to woo less extreme elements of the Taliban away from the hard core, and of not pushing Afghan soldiers into the forefront of counterinsurgency missions.

"I frankly don't know where Gates gets that," said Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche, who commands the Canadian contingent in Kandahar. Laroche contends that training the Afghan army and police to take over the sharp end of the fighting is actually now the centerpiece of the Canadian approach in Kandahar.

And suggestions that the Canadians might be trying to avoid casualties enrages soldiers who have been taking a pounding from roadside bombs. With 78 soldiers and one diplomat killed since 2002, Canada has the highest casualty percentage among all nations in the NATO forces, and Canadian officers say attacks against troops in Kandahar rose by 50% last year from 2006.

Laroche said there is no friction between Canadian and American troops on the ground. Yet Canadian soldiers and diplomats also say they do not share what some see as an American obsession with tracking down the Taliban.

"We're not hunting Taliban," Laroche said. "We're not going to win by killing every Taliban. We're going to win by getting the Afghan population to say 'enough' to the Taliban."

Canadian troops did initially find themselves engaged in ferocious fighting with the Taliban when they took over command of the NATO forces in the province in 2006. But the Taliban has mostly avoided direct engagements since then, and Laroche says he is happiest avoiding the kinds of clashes that can kill civilians.

Instead, the Canadians say their counterinsurgency strategy is based on securing areas where productive reconstruction and development can occur: supervising the recent completion of a bridge across the Arghandab River north of the city of Kandahar using well-paid local labor, and a road-paving project that will employ 400 Afghans.

Yet the Canadians say their attempt to build trust among the people of Kandahar is undermined by confusion surrounding the future of the mission.

"The Afghans have to make a decision about where to put their loyalties," said one Canadian officer who deals with the people in Kandahar on a regular basis. "They say, 'You're here during the day, a couple of times a week, but the Taliban are here all the time.' I tell them not to worry, that we're staying, that the rest is just politics.

"But they worry that they are going to be stuck with the Taliban."
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« Reply #180 on: February 13, 2008, 10:29:22 AM »

The Jihadist Insurgency in Pakistan
February 6, 2008 | 1616 GMT
By Kamran Bokhari

The increasing crisis of governance in Pakistan over the past several months has triggered many queries from Stratfor readers, most wanting to know how events will ultimately play out. Would a collapse of the Musharraf regime lead to a jihadist takeover? How safe are the country’s nuclear weapons? What are the security implications for Afghanistan? Topmost among the questions is whether Pakistan will remain a viable state.

Globally, there are fears that the collapse of the current regime could lead to an implosion of the state itself, with grave repercussions on regional and international security. Pakistanis themselves are very much concerned about a disaster of national proportions, particularly if the Feb. 18 elections go awry.

Although there are conflicting theories on what will happen in and to Pakistan, most have one thing in common. They focus on the end result, seeing the unfolding events as moving in a straight line from Point A to Point B. They deem Point B — the collapse of Pakistan — to be an unavoidable outcome of the prevailing conditions in the country. Such predictions, however, do not account for the many arrestors and other variables that will influence the chain of events.

Though there are many, many reasons for concern in Pakistan, state breakdown is not one of them. Such an extreme outcome would require the fracturing of the military and/or the army’s loss of control over the core of the country — neither of which is about to happen. That said, the periphery of the country, especially the northwestern border regions, could become an increasing challenge to the writ of the state.

We have said on many occasions that Islamabad is unlikely to restore stability and security any time soon, largely because of structural issues. In other words, the existing situation is likely to persist for some time — and could even deteriorate further. This raises the question: How bad can things get?

The answer lies in the institutional cohesiveness of Pakistan’s military establishment and the geographical structure of the country.

The Army
Stratfor recently pointed out that the army — rather than any particular military general — is the force that holds the state together. Therefore, the collapse of the state would come about only if the military establishment were to fracture. For several reasons, this is extremely unlikely.

Pakistan’s army is a highly disciplined organization made up of roughly half a million personnel. This force usually is led by at least two four-star generals — the chief of the army staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The leadership also consists of nine corps commanders and several other principal staff officers — all three-star generals. Beneath these approximately 30 lieutenant generals are about 150 two-star generals and some 450 one-star generals.

Moreover, and unlike in the Arab world, the Pakistani army has largely remained free of coups from within. The generals know their personal well-being is only as good as their collective ability to function as a unified and disciplined force — one that can guarantee the security of the state. The generals, particularly the top commanders, form a very cohesive body bound together by individual, corporate and national interests.

It is extremely rare for an ideologue, especially one with Islamist leanings, to make it into the senior ranks. In contrast with its Turkish counterpart, the Pakistani military sees itself as the protector of the state’s Islamic identity, which leaves very little room for the officer corps to be attracted to radical Islamist prescriptions. Thus, it is extremely unlikely that jihadism — despite the presence of jihadist sympathizers within the junior and mid-level ranks — will cause fissures within the army.

In the absence of strong civilian institutions, the army also sees itself as the guardian of the republic. Because of the imbalance in civil-military relations — there is virtually no civilian oversight over the military — the army exercises nearly complete control over the nation’s treasury. Having directly ruled Pakistan for some 33 years of the country’s 60-year existence, the army has become a huge corporation with massive financial holdings.

While these interests are a reason for the army’s historical opposition to democratic forces, they also play a major role in ensuring the cohesiveness of the institution. Consequently, there is no danger of the state collapsing. By extension, it is highly unlikely that the country’s nuclear assets (which are under the control of the military through an elaborate multilayered institutional mechanism) would fall into the wrong hands.

Although a collapse of the state is unlikely, the military is having a hard time running the country. This is not simply because of political instability, which is hardwired into Pakistan’s hybrid political system, but rather because of the unprecedented jihadist insurgency.

While civilian forces (political parties, civil society groups, the media and the legal community) are pushing for democratic rule, jihadists are staging guerrilla-style attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the rural Pashtun districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Moreover, they are mounting a campaign of suicide bombings in major urban centers. The military does not have the bandwidth to deal with political unrest and militancy simultaneously — a situation that is being fully exploited by the jihadists. The likely outcome of this trend is the state’s relative loss of control over the areas in the northwestern periphery.

Geography and Demography
From a strictly geopolitical point of view, Pakistan’s core is the area around the Indus River, which runs from the Karakoram/Western Himalayan/Pamir/Hindu Kush mountain ranges in the North to the Arabian Sea in the South. Most areas of the provinces of Punjab and Sindh lie east of the Indus. The bulk of the population is in this area, as is the country’s agricultural and industrial base — not to mention most of the transportation infrastructure. The fact that seven of the army’s nine corps are stationed in the region (six of them in Punjab) speaks volumes about its status as the core of the country.

In contrast, the vast majority of the areas in the NWFP, FATA, Balochistan province, the Federally Administered Northern Areas and Pakistani-administered Kashmir are sparsely populated mountainous regions — and clearly the country’s periphery. Moreover, their rough terrain has rendered them natural buffers, shielding the core of the country.

In our 2008 Annual Forecast for South Asia, we said the country’s Pashtun areas could become ungovernable this year, and there already are signs that the process is under way. Pakistani Taliban supported by al Qaeda have seized control of many parts of the FATA and are asserting themselves in the districts of NWFP adjacent to the tribal areas.

While Islamism and jihadism can be found across the country, the bulk of this phenomenon is limited to the Pashtun areas — the tribal areas, the eastern districts of NWFP and the northwestern corridor of Balochistan province. Unlike the vast majority of Pakistanis, the Pashtuns are disproportionately an ultra-conservative lot (both religiously and culturally), and hence are disproportionately more susceptible to radical Islamist and jihadist impulses. It is quite telling that in the last elections, in 2002, this is roughly the same area in which the Islamist alliance, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), won the bulk of its seats in the national legislature. In addition to maintaining a large parliamentary bloc, the MMA ran the provincial government in NWFP and was the main partner with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League in the coalition government in Balochistan.

Social structures and local culture, therefore, allow these areas to become the natural habitat of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Because of the local support base, the jihadists have been able not only to operate in these parts, but to take them over — and even to project themselves into the more settled areas of the NWFP. In addition to this advantage by default, security operations, which are viewed by many within the country as being done at the behest of the United States, have increasingly alienated the local population.

Given the local culture of retribution, the Pashtun militants have responded to civilian deaths during counterinsurgency operations by increasingly adopting suicide bombings as a means of fighting back. (It was not too long ago that the phenomenon of suicide bombings was alien to the local culture). The war in Afghanistan and its spillover effect on the border regions of Pakistan have created conditions in the area that have given al Qaeda and the Taliban a new lease on life.

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency
Resentment first toward Islamabad’s pro-U.S. policies and then the security crackdown that began in early 2004 to root out foreign fighters has developed into a general uprising of sorts. A younger, far more militant generation of Pashtuns enamored of al Qaeda and the Taliban has usurped power from the old tribal maliks. Not only has the government failed to achieve its objective of driving a wedge between foreign fighters and their local hosts, it has strengthened the militants’ hand.

One of the problems is the government’s haphazard approach of alternating military operations with peace deals. Moreover, when the government has conducted security operations, it not only has failed to weaken the militancy, it has caused civilian casualties and/or forced local people to flee their homes, leading to a disruption of life. When peace agreements are made, they have not secured local cooperation against Taliban and al Qaeda elements. The lack of a coherent policy on how to deal with the jihadists has caused the ground situation to go from bad to worse. At the same time, on the external front, Islamabad has come under even more U.S. pressure to act against the militants, the effects of which further complicate matters on the ground.

On a tactical level, while the Pakistani army has a history of supporting insurgencies, it is ill-equipped to fight them. Even worse, despite the deployment of some 100,000 soldiers in the region, the bulk of security operations have involved paramilitary forces such as the Frontier Corps, which is mostly made up of locals who have little incentive to fight their brethren. Furthermore, Pakistan’s intelligence capabilities already are compromised because of militant penetration of the agencies.

In addition to these structural problems, the Musharraf government’s battle for political survival over the past year has further prevented the government from focusing on the jihadist problem. The only time it acted with any semblance of resolve is when it sent the army to regain control of the Red Mosque in the summer of 2007. However, that action was tantamount to pouring more fuel on the militant fire.

President Pervez Musharraf, by stepping down as army chief and becoming a civilian president, did not resolve his survival issues. In fact, it has led to a bifurcation of power, with Musharraf sharing authority with his successor in the militaryGen. Ashfaq Kayani. While Musharraf remains preoccupied with making it through the coming election, Kayani is increasingly taking charge of the fight against jihadism. The assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto further complicated the regime’s struggle to remain in power, leaving very little bandwidth for dealing with the jihadists.

What Lies Ahead
With the army’s successful retaking of the district of Swat from militants loyal to Mullah Fazlullah, Kayani has demonstrated his abilities as a military leader. Despite this tactical victory, however, the situation is far from stable. From a strategic point of view, Kayani’s plans to deal with the insurgency depend heavily on the outcome of the Feb. 18 elections (if indeed they are held). The hope is that the political turmoil can be brought back within acceptable parameters so the army can focus on fighting jihadists.

That would be an ideal situation for the army, because the prevailing view is that the military needs public support in order to be successful in combating religious extremism and terrorism. Such public support can only be secured when an elected government comprising the various political stakeholders is in charge. The assumption is that the policies of such a government would be easier to implement and that if the army has to use a combination of force and negotiations with the militants, it will have the public’s backing instead of criticism.

But the problem is that there is an utter lack of national consensus on what needs to be done to defeat the forces of jihadism, beyond the simplistic view that the emphasis should be on dialogue and force should be used sparingly. Most people believe the situation has deteriorated because the Musharraf regime was more concerned with meeting U.S. demands than with finding solutions that took into consideration the realities on the ground. Islamabad knows it cannot avoid the use of force in dealing with the militants, but because of public opposition to such action, it fears that doing so could make the situation even worse.

Moreover, regardless of the election outcome (assuming the process is not derailed over cries of foul play), the prospects for a national policy on dealing with the Islamist militancy are slim. Circumstances will require that the new government be a coalition — thus it will be inherently weak. This, along with the deteriorating ground reality, will leave the army with no choice but to adopt a tough approach — one it has been avoiding for the most part.

Having led the country’s premier intelligence directorate, Inter-Services Intelligence, Kayani is all too aware of the need to overhaul the country’s intelligence system and root out militant sympathizers. This is the principal way to reduce the jihadists’ ability to stage attacks in the core areas of the country, where they have limited support structure. While this lengthy process continues, the army will try to contain the jihadist phenomenon on the western periphery along the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government also needs to address the problems it has created for itself by distinguishing between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” Taliban. Islamabad continues to support the Taliban in Afghanistan while it is at war with the Pakistani Taliban. Given the strong ties between the two militant groups, Islamabad cannot hope to work with those on the other side of the border while it confronts those in its own territory.

Further complicating matters for Islamabad is the U.S. move to engage in overt military action on Pakistani soil in an effort to root out transnational jihadist elements. The Pakistanis need U.S. assistance in fighting the jihadist menace, but such assistance comes at a high political cost on the domestic front. The ambiguity in the Pakistani position could allow the Taliban and al Qaeda to thrive.

What this ultimately means is that the Pashtun areas could experience a long-term insurgency, resulting in some of these areas being placed under direct military rule. With the militants already trying to create their own “Islamic” emirate in the tribal areas, the insurgency has the potential to transform into a separatist struggle. Historically, the Pakistani army tried to defeat Pashtun ethnic nationalism by promoting Islamism — a policy that obviously has backfired miserably.

The Bottom Line
The good news for the Pakistanis — and others interested in maintaining the status quo — is that the ongoing jihadist insurgency and the political turmoil are unlikely to lead to the collapse of the state. The structure of the state and the nature of Pakistani society is such that radical Islamists, though a significant force, are unlikely to take over the country.

On the other hand, until the army successfully cleans up its intelligence system, suicide bombings are likely to continue across the country. Much more significant, the Pashtun areas along the Afghan border will be ungovernable. Pashtun jihadists and their transnational allies on both sides of the Durand Line will continue to provide mutual benefit until Pakistan and NATO can meaningfully coordinate their efforts.

Imposing a military solution is not an option for the Pakistanis or for the West. Negotiations with the Taliban in the short term are not a viable alternative either. Therefore, a long-term insurgency, which is confined to the Pashtun areas on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, is perhaps the best outcome that can be expected at this time.
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« Reply #181 on: February 20, 2008, 08:26:34 AM »


Beyond Musharraf
February 20, 2008; Page A15

Pakistan has never voted a military ruler out of office. That could change following Monday's parliamentary elections. Though President Pervez Musharraf was not on the ballot, the election was about his fate.

The people voted overwhelmingly against Mr. Musharraf. Even though the election was held under rules that favored his political allies, almost every candidate who served in his government lost. So did all major leaders of the Kings Party that Mr. Musharraf cobbled together with the help of his security services soon after taking power in a 1999 military coup. The Islamists, who Mr. Musharraf used as bogeymen to garner Western support, were trounced. This is good news for everyone worried about an Islamist takeover of the world's only nuclear-armed, Muslim-majority nation.

The result was a posthumous victory for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This victory vindicated the sacrifice of every Pakistani who was imprisoned or exiled during eight years of autocratic rule but continued demanding freedom. Bhutto returned to the country seeking its return to democracy, only to be assassinated by terrorists on Dec. 27.

Pakistan's powerful army, now under the command of Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, is beginning to distance itself from politics. The army's refusal to side with Mr. Musharraf's political allies sealed their fate. Now, the army must help put Pakistan back on the constitutional path by undoing the arbitrary constitutional amendments decreed by Mr. Musharraf as army chief a few days before he relinquished his command.

The depth of opposition to Mr. Musharraf, coupled with his tendency to change or break rules to stay in power, had raised serious concerns that Mr. Musharraf would manipulate the election results in favor of his allies. In the end, international pressure, represented by the presence of three prominent U.S. senators -- John Kerry (D., Mass.), Joe Biden (D., Del.) and Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) -- on Election Day helped stay Mr. Musharraf's hand. Mr. Musharraf also seemed to think that tilting the rules in his party's favor would be enough for victory, and thus fraud on polling day would be unnecessary.

That does not mean, however, that Mr. Musharraf might not still try to manipulate the situation to cling to power. He could try and create rifts between the various opposition parties by negotiating separately with them, and by using his intelligence services to bribe or blackmail individual politicians. Late last year, Mr. Musharraf had himself "elected" president by Pakistan's outgoing parliament, which was itself chosen through a dubious election in 2002. He then fired 60% of superior court judges to forestall judicial review of the presidential election.

Trying such antics again would be a disastrous mistake. Some members of the Bush administration have repeatedly described Mr. Musharraf as an indispensable ally in the war against terrorism. Economic and military assistance from the U.S. and other Western countries has been crucial for Mr. Musharraf's political survival thus far, and has probably contributed to his arrogance.

This might be the moment for Mr. Musharraf's Western backers to help him understand that annulment or alteration of the election results would plunge Pakistan deeper into chaos. Mr. Musharraf should not only abide by the verdict of his people but also recognize that Pakistan -- not he -- is the crucial ally the world needs to defeat terrorists.

Pakistan faces an al-Qaeda-backed insurgency along its border with Afghanistan, which is spilling over into other parts of the country. Any attempt by Mr. Musharraf to insist on retaining absolute power -- rather than allowing opposition leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari to return Pakistan to normal constitutional governance -- would only anger the vast majority of Pakistanis who have just voted for moderate, antiterrorist parties. The ensuing chaos could strengthen the violent Islamist insurgents.

Pakistan's two major opposition parties -- the pro-Western, center-left Pakistan Peoples Party now led by Bhutto's widower Asif Zardari, and the center-right Pakistan Muslim League -- together could have a two-thirds majority in the 342-seat National Assembly. Mr. Musharraf's allies have been virtually wiped out. The opposition can now form a government that is no longer subservient to Mr. Musharraf.

Even if he remains president, Mr. Musharraf will no longer remain the most powerful man in Pakistan. He has said in the past that he would rather step down than face the ignominy of being impeached by the newly elected parliament, which is now possible. The opposition would be well advised to exercise restraint. At the same time, Mr. Musharraf would have to reverse many of his arbitrary decisions in order to qualify for the opposition's minimal cooperation.

Since 9/11, Mr. Musharraf has marketed himself to the West as the man most capable of saving Pakistan from a radical Islamist takeover. But under his rule Pakistan has become more vulnerable to terrorists than before. Mr. Musharraf's government has squandered good will through its arbitrary actions against the political opposition and judiciary. Furthermore, only a small sliver of the country's 160 million people have benefited from the economic achievements of the past eight years.

The recent election campaign was marred by violence, which the government blames on terrorists. But the targets of violence have been the secular opposition parties -- the most notable victim being Bhutto, who became an icon of democracy for Pakistanis after her assassination. Opposition politicians justifiably questioned why the terrorists have not attacked pro-Musharraf groups, if he was the one fighting terror.

Mr. Musharraf must now accept the consequence of defeat, and work out an honorable exit or a workable compromise with the opposition. The two parties that have emerged with popular support from this election should get full backing from the international community in restoring democracy to Pakistan. This might prove more effective in combating terrorism than continuing to prop up a discredited and despised dictator.

Mr. Haqqani, professor of international relations at Boston University, is co-chair of the Hudson Institute's Project on Islam and Democracy. He is the author of the Carnegie Endowment book, "Pakistan Between Mosque and Military" (2005), and served as an adviser to former prime ministers, including Benazir Bhutto.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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« Reply #182 on: February 23, 2008, 09:59:37 PM »

New Pakistani Leaders, U.S., at Odds on Militants
Key Parties Seek Talks
With Islamic Forces;
Americans Urge Battle
By YOCHI DREAZEN in Washington and ZAHID HUSSAIN in Pakistan
February 23, 2008; Page A4

The U.S. wants Pakistan to take stronger measures against Islamic militants who are threatening the stability of neighboring Afghanistan. But the country's new leaders are already signaling that they would prefer a softer approach.

With Pakistan being hit by a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks, including a car bomb Friday that killed at least 12 people, U.S. policymakers believe senior Pakistani military officials have come to see Islamic violence as a serious threat to the country's future and may now be willing to mount an aggressive campaign against the religious militants responsible for the bloodshed.

•  The News: The U.S. wants Pakistan to take stronger measures against Islamic militants who are threatening the stability of neighboring Afghanistan.
•  The Background: Policy makers believe Pakistani officials have come to see Islamic violence as a serious threat and may be willing to mount an aggressive campaign against the militants.
•  The Other Side: The country's new leaders already are signaling that they would prefer a softer approach.Pakistan's unpopular president, Pervez Musharraf, has expressed concern about the possible "Talibanization" of his country by al-Qaeda and Taliban militants and periodically ordered his military to battle the extremists.

But key officials in Pakistan's two main opposition parties -- the Pakistan People's Party, led by the widower of assassinated former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League of ex-Premier Nawaz Sharif -- say that they want instead to open talks with the Islamic militants operating along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

"We will use force wherever it is necessary, but will also use other means to veer them away from extremism," said Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's widower and the leader of the PPL.

The two parties swept to victory in the past week's parliamentary elections and are working together to form a new government. They spent Friday mulling candidates for prime minister.

The Bush administration is using the violence to prod Pakistan to take steps it has long resisted, like giving the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Operations commandoes a freer hand to hunt Islamic militants within Pakistan and agreeing to have larger numbers of American military trainers deploy to Pakistan to help the country's army prepare for a long-term struggle against Islamic guerillas.

Pentagon officials have also publicly expressed a willingness to mount joint combat operations with the Pakistani military, should Pakistan request such assistance.

"If I was wearing a different hat and was in the Pakistani military, I would be deeply concerned about the unrest and the lack of stability and security that appears to be caused by Talibanization," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, who commands the Army's 101st Airborne Division, which is deploying to Afghanistan this spring.

The push comes amid mounting American concern about the situation in the largely lawless tribal regions along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, which have devolved into safe havens for Islamic militants carrying out attacks inside both countries. Senior American commanders had long worried that an unstable Afghanistan had the potential to spark unrest inside Pakistan but now worry just as much about instability inside Pakistan spilling over into Afghanistan.

U.S. officials worry that Pakistan's next government may try to back out of agreements Mr. Musharraf made with the Pentagon on operations in the tribal areas, including the mobilization of a tribal military unit and the aggressive use of American Predator drones to attack terrorist targets.

"We're not saying that the leader has to be Musharraf," said a U.S. official working on Pakistan. "But we're concerned that politics could end up distracting" Pakistan from the growing threat posed by the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The Pakistani armed forces have long believed that India posed the biggest threat to Pakistani national security, and senior Pakistani officials may be unwilling -- or unable -- to reorient their military towards a protracted conflict with Islamic militants inside their own borders.

"The Pakistani armed forces are trained to fight India and fighting pro al-Qaeda insurgents in the tribal areas is a completely new experience for them," a senior Pakistani official acknowledged.

James Dobbins, an analyst at the Rand Corp. who served as the Bush administration's first envoy to Afghanistan, said many Pakistani leaders fundamentally disagree with American officials about the magnitude of the threat posed by Islamic violence. "The popular attitude towards the attacks is that they are a reaction to the U.S. war on terror rather than an intended threat to the Pakistani sovereignty and government," he said.

Pakistani officials say that they have nearly 30,000 troops battling militants in northwest Pakistan and in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, as well as an additional 70,000 deployed on the entire 1,500-mile-long border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The size of that deployment, they argue, shows that the country is already serious about battling Islamic extremists.

Still, Pakistani commanders acknowledge that their forces have struggled to oust the well-entrenched militants, who have inflicted heavy casualties on the Pakistani troops and shown resiliency in the face of Pakistani and U.S. strikes.

A senior Pakistani commander said that the army's morale had plummeted after a long series of tactical setbacks, including the killings of hundreds of troops by suicide bombers who struck their convoys, camps and mess halls, and the videotaped beheadings of some of the soldiers who fell into the hands of the militants. "This challenge cannot be met until the army's standing is restored," the officer said.

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« Reply #183 on: February 25, 2008, 12:32:49 PM »

A Feb. 25 suicide bombing in Rawalpindi killed the Pakistani army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmed Baig. This is the second attack in less than a month that has targeted the army’s medical corps in Rawalpindi, and it likely signifies that Pakistan’s jihadists now are targeting senior military officials.

A Feb. 25 suicide bombing in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi killed the army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmed Baig. Preliminary reports said the bomber, who was disguised as a beggar, approached Baig’s car in a crowded commercial area on Mall Road, not far from the army’s general headquarters, and detonated. Baig was traveling with his driver and bodyguard. Eight people were killed and another 35 were injured. This is the second attack targeting the army’s medical corps in Rawalpindi in less than a month; on Feb. 4, a suicide bomber drove his car into a bus carrying doctors from the Army Medical College, killing eight people.

Baig is the first general to be killed in the jihadist insurgency, which mostly has targeted security forces, especially the army. The three-star surgeon general is among the lesser-known principal staff officers. He likely was the easiest to target, given his modest security. Nevertheless, it seems that the jihadists, after striking various key institutions (the army, air force, Inter-Services Intelligence and Special Service Group), have started targeting senior military officials — several of whom live and work in Rawalpindi.

It is worth noting that the Pakistani Taliban, led by Abdullah Mehsud, declared a cease-fire a few days ago, and Islamabad said it is engaged in talks with the group. Following the Feb. 18 elections, which passed without any jihadist-related violence, Mehsud issued a statement via his spokesman saying he is ready to enter into a peace agreement with the new government.

That said, the jihadist insurgency is a key issue for Pakistan’s new civilian government.
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« Reply #184 on: February 26, 2008, 12:13:41 PM »

Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and the Good War
February 25, 2008
By George Friedman

There has been tremendous controversy over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which consistently has been contrasted with Afghanistan. Many of those who opposed the Iraq war have supported the war in Afghanistan; indeed, they have argued that among the problems with Iraq is that it diverts resources from Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been seen as an obvious haven for terrorism. This has meant the war in Afghanistan often has been perceived as having a direct effect on al Qaeda and on the ability of radical Islamists to threaten the United States, while Iraq has been seen as unrelated to the main war. Supporters of the war in Iraq support the war in Afghanistan. Opponents of the war in Iraq also support Afghanistan. If there is a good war in our time, Afghanistan is it.

It is also a war that is in trouble. In the eyes of many, one of the Afghan war’s virtues has been that NATO has participated as an entity. But NATO has come under heavy criticism from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for its performance. Some, like the Canadians, are threatening to withdraw their troops if other alliance members do not contribute more heavily to the mission. More important, the Taliban have been fighting an effective and intensive insurgency. Further complicating the situation, the roots of many of the military and political issues in Afghanistan are found across the border in Pakistan.

If the endgame in Iraq is murky, the endgame if Afghanistan is invisible. The United States, its allies and the Kabul government are fighting a holding action strategically. They do not have the force to destroy the Taliban — and in counterinsurgency, the longer the insurgents maintain their operational capability, the more likely they are to win. Further stiffening the Taliban resolve is the fact that, while insurgents have nowhere to go, foreigners can always decide to go home.

To understand the status of the war in Afghanistan, we must begin with what happened between 9/11 and early 2002. Al Qaeda had its primary command and training facilities in Afghanistan. The Taliban had come to power in a civil war among Afghans that broke out after the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban had close links to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). While there was an ideological affinity between the two, there was also a geopolitical attraction. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan concerned Pakistan gravely. India and the Soviets were aligned, and the Pakistanis feared being caught in a vise. The Pakistanis thus were eager to cooperate with the Americans and Saudis in supporting Islamist fighters against the Soviets. After the Soviets left and the United States lost interest in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis wanted to fill the vacuum. Their support of the Taliban served Pakistani national security interests and the religious proclivities of a large segment of the ISI.

After 9/11, the United States saw Afghanistan as its main problem. Al Qaeda, which was not Afghan but an international Islamist group, had received sanctuary from the Taliban. If the United States was to have any chance of defeating al Qaeda, it would be in Afghanistan. A means toward that end was destroying the Taliban government. This was not because the Taliban itself represented a direct threat to the United States but because al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan did.

The United States wanted to act quickly and decisively in order to disrupt al Qaeda. A direct invasion of Afghanistan was therefore not an option. First, it would take many months to deploy U.S. forces. Second, there was no practical place to deploy them. The Iranians wouldn’t accept U.S. forces on their soil and the Pakistanis were far from eager to see the Taliban toppled. Basing troops in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan along the northern border of Afghanistan was an option but also a logistical nightmare. It would be well into the spring of 2002 before any invasion was possible, and the fear of al Qaeda’s actions in the meantime was intense.

The United States therefore decided not to invade Afghanistan. Instead, it made deals with groups that opposed the Taliban. In the North, Washington allied with the Northern Alliance, a group with close ties to the Russians. In the West, the United States allied with Persian groups under the influence of Iran. The United States made political arrangements with Moscow and Tehran to allow access to their Afghan allies. The Russians and Iranians both disliked the Taliban and were quite content to help. The mobilized Afghan groups also opposed the Taliban and loved the large sums of money U.S. intelligence operatives provided them.

These groups provided the force for the mission. The primary U.S. presence consisted of several hundred troops from U.S. Special Operations Command, along with CIA personnel. The United States also brought a great deal of air power, both Navy and Air Force, into the battle. The small U.S. ground force was to serve as a political liaison with the Afghan groups attacking the Taliban, to provide access to what weapons were available for the Afghan forces and, above all, to coordinate air support for the Afghans against concentrations of Taliban fighters. Airstrikes began a month after 9/11.

While Washington turned out an extraordinary political and covert performance, the United States did not invade. Rather, it acquired armies in Afghanistan prepared to carry out the mission and provided them with support and air power. The operation did not defeat the Taliban. Instead, it forced them to make a political and military decision.

Political power in Afghanistan does not come from the cities. It comes from the countryside, while the cities are the prize. The Taliban could defend the cities only by massing forces to block attacks by other Afghan factions. But when they massed their forces, the Taliban were vulnerable to air attacks. After experiencing the consequences of U.S. air power, the Taliban made a strategic decision. In the absence of U.S. airstrikes, they could defeat their adversaries and had done so before. While they might have made a fight of it, given U.S. air power, the Taliban selected a different long-term strategy.

Rather than attempt to defend the cities, the Taliban withdrew, dispersed and made plans to regroup. Their goal was to hold enough of the countryside to maintain their political influence. As in their campaign against the Soviets, the Taliban understood that their Afghan enemies would not pursue them, and that over time, their ability to conduct small-scale operations would negate the value of U.S. airpower and draw the Americans into a difficult fight on unfavorable terms.

The United States was not particularly disturbed by the outcome. It was not after the Taliban but al Qaeda. It appears — and much of this remains murky — that the command cell of al Qaeda escaped from Afghan forces and U.S. Special Operations personnel at Tora Bora and slipped across the border into Pakistan. Exactly what happened is unclear, but it is clear that al Qaeda’s command cell was not destroyed. The fight against al Qaeda produced a partial victory. Al Qaeda clearly was disrupted and relocated — and was denied its sanctuary. A number of its operatives were captured, further degrading its operational capability.

The Afghan campaign therefore had these outcomes:

Al Qaeda was degraded but not eliminated.
The Taliban remained an intact fighting force, but the United States never really expected them to commit suicide by massing for U.S. B-52 strikes.
The United States had never invaded Afghanistan and had made no plans to occupy it.
Afghanistan was never the issue, and the Taliban were a subordinate matter.
After much of al Qaeda’s base lost its sanctuary in Afghanistan and had to relocate to Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan became a sideshow for the U.S. military.
Over time, the United States and NATO brought about 50,000 troops to Afghanistan. Their hope was that Hamid Karzai’s government would build a force that could defeat the Taliban. But the problem was that, absent U.S. and NATO forces, the Taliban had managed to defeat the forces now arrayed against them once before, in the Afghan civil war. The U.S. commitment of troops was enough to hold the major cities and conduct offensive operations that kept the Taliban off balance, but the United States could not possibly defeat them. The Soviets had deployed 300,000 troops in Afghanistan and could not defeat the mujahideen. NATO, with 50,000 troops and facing the same shifting alliance of factions and tribes that the Soviets couldn’t pull together, could not pacify Afghanistan.

But vanquishing the Taliban simply was not the goal. The goal was to maintain a presence that could conduct covert operations in Pakistan looking for al Qaeda and keep al Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan. Part of this goal could be achieved by keeping a pro-American government in Kabul under Karzai. The strategy was to keep al Qaeda off balance, preserve Karzai and launch operations against the Taliban designed to prevent them from becoming too effective and aggressive. The entire U.S. military would have been insufficient to defeat the Taliban; the war in Afghanistan thus was simply a holding action.

The holding action was made all the more difficult in that the Taliban could not be isolated from their sources of supply or sanctuary; Pakistan provided both. It really didn’t matter whether this was because President Pervez Musharraf’s government intended to play both sides, whether factions inside the Pakistani military maintained close affinities with the Taliban or whether the Pakistani government and army simply couldn’t control tribal elements loyal to al Qaeda. What did matter was that all along the Afghan border — particularly in southern Afghanistan — supplies flowed in from Pakistan, and the Taliban moved into sanctuaries in Pakistan for rest and regrouping.

The Taliban was and is operating on their own terrain. They have excellent intelligence about the movements of NATO forces and a flexible and sufficient supply line allowing them to maintain and increase operations and control of the countryside. Having retreated in 2001, the Taliban systematically regrouped, rearmed and began operating as a traditional guerrilla force with an increased penchant for suicide attacks.

As in Vietnam, the challenge in fighting a guerrilla force is to cut it off from its supplies. The United States failed to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and that allowed men and materiel to move into South Vietnam until the United States lost the appetite for war. In Afghanistan, it is the same problem compounded. First, the lines of supply into Pakistan are even more complex than the Ho Chi Minh trail was. Second, the country that provides the supplies is formally allied with the United States. Pakistan is committed both to cutting those lines of supply and aiding the United States in capturing al Qaeda in its Northwest. That is the primary mission, but the subsidiary mission remains keeping the Taliban within tolerable levels of activity and preventing them from posing a threat to more and more of the Afghan countryside and cities. There has been a great deal of focus on Pakistan’s assistance in northwestern Afghanistan against al Qaeda, but much less on the line of supply maintaining the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. And as Pakistan has attempted to pursue a policy of balancing its relations with the Taliban and with the United States, the Pakistani government now faces a major jihadist insurgency on its own turf.

Afghanistan therefore is not — and in some ways never has been — the center of gravity of the challenge facing the United States. Occupying Afghanistan is inconceivable without a fundamental shift in Pakistan’s policies or capabilities. But forcing Pakistan to change its policies in southern Afghanistan really is pointless, since the United States doesn’t have enough forces there to take advantage of a Pakistani shift, and Washington doesn’t care about the Taliban in the long run.

The real issue is the hardest to determine. Is al Qaeda prime — not al Qaeda enthusiasts or sympathizers who are able to carry out local suicide bombings, but the capable covert operatives we saw on 9/11 — still operational? And even if it is degraded, given enough time, will al Qaeda be able to regroup and ramp up its operational capability? If so, then the United States must maintain its posture in Afghanistan, as limited and unbalanced as it is. The United States might even need to consider extending the war to Pakistan in an attempt to seal the border if the Taliban continue to strengthen. But if al Qaeda is not operational, then the rationale for guarding Kabul and Karzai becomes questionable.

We have no way of determining whether al Qaeda remains operational; we are not sure anyone can assess that with certainty. Certainly, we have not seen significant operations for a long time, and U.S. covert capabilities should have been able to weaken al Qaeda over the past seven years. But if al Qaeda remains active, capable and in northwestern Pakistan, then the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will continue.

As the situation in Iraq settles down — and it appears to be doing so — more focus will be drawn to Afghanistan, the war that even opponents of Iraq have acknowledged as appropriate and important. But it is important to understand what this war consists of: It is a holding action against an enemy that cannot be defeated (absent greater force than is available) with open lines of supply into a country allied with the United States. It is a holding action waiting for certain knowledge of the status of al Qaeda, knowledge that likely will not come. Afghanistan is a war without exit and a war without victory. The politics are impenetrable, and it is even difficult to figure out whether allies like Pakistan are intending to help or are capable of helping.

Thus, while it may be a better war than Iraq in some sense, it is not a war that can be won or even ended. It just goes on.

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« Reply #185 on: March 11, 2008, 08:52:31 AM »

Pakistan's Progress
March 11, 2008; Page A20

A democratic transition of power is taking shape in Pakistan. Last month, the country held parliamentary elections that were a resounding defeat for President Pervez Musharraf. This week the country's two main political parties worked out a power-sharing agreement. A new prime minister could be named within days.

This is encouraging, but it fuels a debate in Washington over whether the United States should prop up Mr. Musharraf. My view is that we have a better chance of finding a strong ally in the war on terror in Pakistan if a legitimate democratic government takes root.

And make no mistake, we need a strong ally against al Qaeda in Pakistan. The country is fighting terrorism at every level of its society, but its ability to carry on this fight is weakened by the fragility of its constitutional order and the impotence of its governing institutions. Terrorists thrive when a nation can't control its own territory, and when the government is seen as illegitimate by its people -- two conditions that have existed in Pakistan for years as it has exported both terrorism and black-market nuclear technology.

Unfortunately, all of Pakistan's leaders are flawed. Mr. Musharraf took power in 1999 in a military coup. Ali Zardari, head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), spent time in prison on corruption charges, which he claimed were politically motivated (some have recently been dismissed). Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who is head of the Muslim League, has a tendency toward anti-Americanism.

However, there are redeeming qualities in all of these men. Mr. Musharraf loosened his grip on power, took off his military uniform, and allowed fair parliamentary elections. He also conceded defeat on election day. He has been a partner in the war on terror. He believes that, above all else, Islamist extremists must be defeated. He is willing to defer to the new parliamentary majority and possibly to step down or slip into a ceremonial and advisory role.

Mr. Zardari succeeded his wife, Benazir Bhutto, as head of the Pakistan People's Party after she was killed in a terrorist attack in December. He has publicly pledged to fight the war on terror and echoes his late wife's calls for a strong democracy, a parliament that represents the people, and improved education and economic conditions.

Mr. Sharif often seems hostile to America. In the 1990s, he supported Shariah law and tended to interfere with the judiciary. When asked who might replace Mr. Musharraf as president, Mr. Sharif once responded with the name of A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and the chief proliferator of nuclear technology. But even Mr. Sharif now champions the rule of law and an independent judiciary, and defends Pakistan's constitution.

Regardless of who becomes the next prime minister, the issue of how he comes to power is now vitally important. Mr. Musharraf must be allowed enough room to peacefully transition to a strong democracy, and to figure out how to exit the stage with the grace of a leader who recognizes the will of the people.

There is talk of hastening him out the door with impeachment proceedings. The U.S. should caution Pakistani leaders to consider the consequences carefully. Impeachment could destabilize Pakistan and postpone work that must be done to establish an independent judiciary, crack down on terrorists, and jump-start development.

The new coalition has suggested that it might de-emphasize military operations against terrorists along the western frontier provinces where al Qaeda made its stronghold after the fall of Afghanistan. The leaders have suggested dialogue, economic development, and political enfranchisement as the key tools for pacifying Pakistan's frontier. These comments concern many of us who take this as a sign that Pakistani efforts against the terrorists might further flag. But the emphasis on providing services to the population -- from security to running water -- in order to win their participation in the political life of the state is fundamental to starving extremists of popular support. The Islamist parties' dismal showing in the recent election suggests that this strategy may already be working.

As long as Pakistan's leaders support democracy and practice it, we will be their enthusiastic partner. Our security depends on helping them improve internal security and the rule of law, which are prerequisites of popular legitimacy for any government and essential for foreign investment. As support for a secular and democratic government grows, our ongoing efforts to help turn the Pakistani army into an effective counter-terrorism force will start paying enormous dividends. If that happens, Pakistan will emerge as a more effective and reliable partner in the war against terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Ms. Hutchison, a Republican U.S. senator from Texas, recently returned from a trip to Pakistan.
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« Reply #186 on: March 13, 2008, 05:32:27 PM »

This article was sent to me by someone who has been to Afg. more than twice.  The piece does manage to leave out the little matter that after being helped by us against the Russians it hosted the preparations of a brutal terrorist attack upon us.

Afghanistan comes full circle as NATO seeks Russian help, Canada
Mon. Mar 10
ONE OF THE most ironic twists to the ongoing mission in Afghanistan emerged from the NATO meetings held in Brussels last week. With member countries either reluctant or unable to add military resources, NATO is now seeking assistance from Russia, its erstwhile Cold War enemy and one-time "evil occupier" of Afghanistan. In fact, the irony is so thick that we should first roll back decades’ worth of propaganda and start at the very beginning.

NATO was formed in 1949 as a collective self-defence alliance to prevent any encroachment of the Soviet Union into Western Europe. The Soviets responded to this by creating their own defensive coalition of Communist countries (the Warsaw Pact) to protect them from any eastward expansion of NATO’s influence. The nuclear arms race was at its zenith and even Europeans, still recovering from the massive destruction and carnage of the Second World War, understood the importance of maintaining large conventional armies. Troops and tanks were regarded as a preferable deterrent to an apocalyptic mushroom cloud.

The impasse that resulted in Europe did not prevent the U.S. and Soviets from waging war by proxy in non-aligned Third World countries around the world. Afghanistan, in fact, became a key battleground for the CIA and the KGB. Since it bordered the Soviet Union’s central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the U.S. knew that Moscow could not afford to ignore events in impoverished and underdeveloped Afghanistan.

Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, Soviet engineers undertook several major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including the construction of the Salang tunnel through the Hindu Kush Mountains, which provided the first viable access between the country’s northern and southern provinces. A full-scale program was introduced to train Afghan army officers and a large number of economic aid packages were extended to Kabul’s Communist government.

The Americans decided things were going a little too smoothly for the Kremlin, so they decided to stir things up a little. By arming and funding Afghan Muslim extremists who were already resisting the social changes, the Americans sought to draw the Soviets into a full-scale military intervention. By 1979 events had escalated to the point where the instability, lawlessness and flourishing drug trade along their shared border could no longer be ignored by the Kremlin. Following a coup staged by the KGB in Kabul, the newly appointed Afghan Communist president invited Soviet troops to deploy a security assistance force to help him stabilize Afghanistan.

It would have been high-fives all around for the CIA planners watching the Soviet tank columns rolling south through the Salang tunnel. The Russian bear had taken the bait and put his paw squarely on the American trap. On the surface, the U.S. vehemently denounced the invasion of Afghanistan and in protest they pulled their athletes out of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Behind the scenes, the U.S. ramped up military aid to the Afghan guerrillas and assisted in bringing in foreign mujahedeen fighters — such as a young Saudi Arabian zealot named Osama bin Laden — to bleed the Soviets white.

The stated objectives of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan were to provide a secure environment, equality for women, a centralized education and medical system, and the training of a self-sufficient Afghan army. While this may sound eerily similar to the current wish list for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, a friend of mine at the American embassy was quick to point out one fundamental difference: "The (Soviets) were Communists," he emphatically stated, as if that in itself made any further explanation unnecessary.

The U.S. plan worked like a charm and by the time the last of the Russian troops retreated out of Afghanistan in 1989, they had left behind 50,000 dead comrades, the Moscow treasury was bankrupt and the Soviet Union was in a state of dissolution. The U.S.-equipped Afghan warlords finally triumphed over the Communist regime in Kabul and then turned on each other in an orgy of destruction and bloodletting. Whatever Soviet-built infrastructure was still intact in Kabul in 1996 was destroyed when the Taliban movement forced the mujahedeen warlords north of the Hindu Kush.

In the wake of 9-11, the planners in the White House must have suffered from short-term memory loss as they rushed to throw their troops into the very same trap they had built to destroy the Soviets. After using military force to topple the Taliban, the Americans appointed Hamid Karzai as president. His first act as leader was to invite the U.S.-led coalition to deploy a security assistance force to prop up his regime.

Unlike the Soviets, the Americans didn’t need to deploy in support of this request — they were already on the ground.
Now into the seventh year of their occupation and with the American economy on the point of collapse, NATO is looking to Russia for help in transporting troops and equipment into Afghanistan. (Any source of this assertion?) With the skyrocketing oil prices boosting the Russian ruble to dizzy new heights and no one asking for their troops to fight and die in Afghanistan, it would seem that the wheel of fate has turned a full circle.

If you want to drive this point home, go out and rent an old copy of Rambo III. That’s the sequel wherein Sylvester Stallone fights alongside the guerrillas, and the final credits dedicate the movie to "the brave mujahedeen in Afghanistan."

I kid you not.

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« Reply #187 on: March 18, 2008, 08:46:08 AM »

Hello muddah, hello fatah, meet Baitullah.
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« Reply #188 on: March 20, 2008, 10:06:04 AM »

Appearing in the NY Times, our embassador to the UN makes a proposal

Published: March 20, 2008
BAN KI-MOON, secretary general of the United Nations, has appointed a seasoned Norwegian diplomat, Kai Eide, as his special representative to Afghanistan. Mr. Eide’s success will depend not only on his skills, but also on the friends of Afghanistan at the United Nations providing him with the proper mission, mandate and resources.

The most important task for the new special representative is to form a trusting, collaborative relationship with President Hamid Karzai, enabling them to agree on Afghanistan’s key challenges and on how aid money and military assistance can best be used. Today in New York, the Security Council is scheduled to extend the mandate of the United Nations’ Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for another year — the perfect chance to provide a clear set of priorities.

This resolution rightly gives Mr. Eide the powers to directly coordinate all of the support provided by international donors. As things stand, more than 30 national embassies and bilateral development agencies, several United Nations agencies, four development banks and international financial institutions, and about 2,000 nongovernmental organizations and contractors are involved in rebuilding in Afghanistan.

However, because of a lack of coordination among these donors, reconstruction resources often fail to arrive in a timely way after areas have been cleared of the enemy. Hundreds of projects are undertaken by allies and nongovernmental groups without coordination with the Afghan government, leading to cases of “ghost” schools or health clinics that are built but sit idle because they cannot be staffed or equipped.

Ministries are often hamstrung by having to comply with the varying procurement and accounting rules of dozens of foreign agencies, many of which are not consistent with Afghan law. This puts the international community at cross purposes with our goal of helping Afghanistan build coherent national systems for education, health and other services.

There is only one way to end the confusion: the United Nations must take on the primary coordination role, and donors must show a willingness to be coordinated. The new resolution allows this to happen in a number of ways.

First, Mr. Eide will need to oversee the coordination of civilian assistance with military efforts of the two military organizations operating in Afghanistan, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force. While it’s promising that those two organizations are meeting in Bucharest, Romania, next month to discuss better integrating their efforts, success against the insurgency will require efforts to ensure that military actions to secure areas from the enemy are coordinated with civilian efforts to establish good governance and economic development.

Second, Mr. Eide must coordinate the efforts of the international community to support the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year plan agreed upon in 2006 by the government of Afghanistan, the United Nations and the international community that requires Afghan leaders to take steps in reform and institution-building in exchange for commitments of sustained support. The United Nations must have a stronger role in overseeing the increasing capacity of Afghan ministries and their anti-corruption efforts.

Third, the new United Nations special representative should help the leaders and people of key donor countries understand achievements and challenges. This is the only way that the friends of Afghanistan can fully appreciate the return on their investments.

Last, Mr. Eide will have a mandate to engage Afghanistan’s neighbors to help stabilize the country. In the aftermath of 9/11, regional powers came together to support the so-called Bonn agreement, which enabled Afghans to freely choose their own government. Reclaiming the spirit of Bonn must be a priority.

The United States is fully behind the United Nations in the mission. Afghanistan is important not only because it was the origin of the attacks of 9/11 but also because it is the keystone of the geopolitical stability of Central and South Asia. Moreover, success in Afghanistan will be a major step in helping to create security, stability and progress in the broader Middle East, which is the defining challenge of our time.

Zalmay Khalilzad is the United States permanent representative to the United Nations.

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« Reply #189 on: April 10, 2008, 09:16:04 AM »

Sent to me by someone who has seen interesting things in Pak and Afg.

It's Payback Time
Times of India, India
Haroun Mir
9 Apr 2008
In 1994 when Pakistani officials decided to create a dreadful monster called the Taliban, they didn't bother to estimate its impact on their own society.

In fact, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence's (ISI) militaristic policies, which consisted of bleeding the Indian army in Kashmir and turning Afghanistan into their virtual fifth province, have blinded them to the consequences.

Their ill-conceived strategy has failed once again. Consequently, the Indian military has emerged stronger from the long conflict in Kashmir and the coalition forces have assisted Afghans to liberate Kabul from the grasp of the Taliban.

Eventually, Pakistan has become the biggest loser because the same radical movements, which its military leaders have created, threaten its very existence.

In the spring of 1992, the communist regime fell and Ahmad Shah Massoud's forces entered Kabul. Pakistani officials instructed their trusted man and surrogate Gulbudin Hekmatyar (leader of Hezb-e-Islami), who had just been appointed the prime minister of the newly established coalition government in Kabul, to burn down the city.

From 1992 to 1994, the Afghan capital became a living hell. Despite intensive efforts, Hekmatyar's forces were stuck in the southern and eastern parts of Kabul and were unable to make significant progress. Pakistani authorities decided to shift their support from Hekmatyar to a then-unknown radical movement — the Taliban.

Along with the ISI the late Benazir Bhutto and Nasrullah Babar — then respectively the prime minister and interior minister of Pakistan — are also to blame because the movement was created under their direct watch.

Few politicians in Pakistan and in the rest of the world ever questioned Pakistan's dangerous policy of purposely nurturing a radical Islamist group.

In September 1995, Colonel Imam (a senior ISI official), with impunity and consent of western officials who had an interest in the Turkmen pipeline project, personally led Taliban forces to capture Herat, which is the largest city in western Afghanistan.

In 1996 when Bin Laden's airplane landed in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, no alarm went off in the capitals of the West.

When the Taliban were beating women, destroying schools, and holding public executions, Pakistani officials were trying to convince the rest of the world by saying that Afghanistan was a backward, fragmented, and ethnically divided country which needed an iron hand to stabilise it.

Today, the same ills that destroyed Afghanistan plague Pakistan. Pakistani society today has become fundamentally divided. The home to Pakistan's intellectuals and moderate middle class is Punjab and Sindh, while radicalism, terrorism and poverty thrive in the Pashtun heartland and in Baluchistan province.

Up to the present moment, Pakistan's military authorities have favoured radical Islamist groups at the expense of moderate and democratic movements.

For example, President Musharraf didn't hesitate to jail lawyers who protested in favour of rule of law and democracy but appeased murderous radical Islamists and Taliban leaders under the phony Pashtun code of conduct enforced in the tribal area.

Until now, Pakistani authorities have been able to avoid a full confrontation with local Taliban groups for fear of alienating Pashtuns who constitute over 15 per cent of Pakistan's popu-lation, but are intentionally over-represented up to 25 per cent in Pakistan's army.

Despite continuous pressure from the US, Pakistan's military authorities have resisted bringing their Punjabi elite units to the tribal battlegrounds against the Pashtun radical movements.

Instead, they heavily relied on militia forces from the tribal zone to secure the area. Pakistani leaders rigorously want to avoid a rift and direct confrontation between Punjabis and Pashtuns.

Indeed, there is a real risk that the "war on terror" in Pakistan might transform into a full war for autonomy or independence of Pashtun tribes from Islamabad.

Pakistani authorities have broken the status quo in the tribal zone by promoting radical Islam and extremist religious leaders at the expense of traditional tribal leaders and institutions.

Pakistan's policy in the tribal zone has been a continuation of former British colonial policy, which consisted of keeping Pashtun tribes economically dependent, politically fragmented, and intellectually backward.

The government in Islamabad has continued to subsidise them and bribe their leaders, instead of creating a sustained economy and providing modern education.

The ageing Al-Qaida leaders and Afghan veterans of the Soviet war are ceding leadership to much younger and emerging local Taliban leaders.

Baitullah Mehsud is the best example of the new leaders, who want to set the agenda rather than follow anyone's orders.

Despite the efforts of ISI and Pakistani religious leaders to force him to fight against "infidel troops" in Afghanistan, Mehsud persisted with his goal to take the battle to Islamabad instead of Kabul.

Many fellow Afghans praise him for taking on Pakistani forces. Indeed, Pakistani authorities created Taliban to protect their interests in Afghanistan and in Kashmir, but are now faced with uncalculated consequences, which seriously threaten Pakistan's own existence.

The newly elected civilian leaders will have a hard time setting right the mistakes committed by the military over more than three decades.

(The writer served as a special assistant to late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan's former defence minister.)
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« Reply #190 on: April 14, 2008, 03:06:39 PM »

Afghanistan: Why India’s Cooperation is a Problem for Pakistan
Stratfor Today » April 11, 2008 | 2253 GMT

Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Abdul Rahim WardakSummary
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak is visiting India amid talks of New Delhi providing counterinsurgency assistance to Kabul. Increased Indian-Afghan cooperation — at a time when Islamabad’s Taliban card has become problematic — would place the Pakistanis at a disadvantage with India, its long-time rival.

The Indian army will train Afghanistan’s army in counterinsurgency operations — the latest development in a growing alliance between India and Afghanistan that threatens the country sandwiched between: Pakistan.

For Pakistan, it would appear that this triangular relationship is coming full circle.

Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak met with his Indian counterpart A. K. Antony in the Indian capital April 10 to discuss bilateral military cooperation, The Associated Press of Pakistan reported April 11.

While the Indian defense minister ruled out any military involvement in Afghanistan, the increased cooperation between New Delhi and Kabul puts Pakistan in a weakened position with its neighbors.

Wardak also visited the 15th Corps of the Indian army headquartered in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, and will visit the Indian air force’s training command and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore in southern India. These visits are coming amid reports that Afghanistan might be considering sending its air force pilots for training to India. Moreover, Wardak said his country would seek New Delhi’s help in maintaining Soviet-era helicopter gun ships and medium helicopters to provide logistical support to its armed forces.

Related Links
Making Sense of the Fighting in Kashmir
Pakistan: Democratization and U.S. Interests
Pakistan: Democracy and the Jihadist Threat
Pakistan: Toward Constitutional Regime Change?
Pakistan: Adjusting Relations with the Taliban Under U.S. Pressure
The Jihadist Insurgency in Pakistan
Afghanistan, Pakistan: The Implications of Talibanization
NATO can also use the increased interest in Indian involvement in counterterrorism with Afghanistan as leverage against Pakistan to rein in militants on its soil.

India and Afghanistan are pushing the idea that the faster India trains the Afghan army, the quicker NATO can withdraw troops from Afghanistan. India’s goal is to gain a toehold in the Afghan military establishment, creating goodwill that it can cash in when the time comes. This prospect worries Pakistan, which sees India as its biggest rival. Antony assured Wardak that India would remain “actively engaged” in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-wrecked Afghanistan.

While it will be some time before the relationship between the Indian and Afghan militaries is solidified in a meaningful way, even the meager assistance India provides Afghanistan would be a significant enhancement of its military involvement, which until now has been mostly related to reconstruction and development work in Afghanistan. New Delhi’s key interest in Afghanistan has to do with its security vis-a-vis its neighboring rival, Pakistan, and the transnational Islamist militant groups headquartered in Pakistan.

To best understand the impact of India’s growing support in Afghanistan, one must understand Pakistan’s recent history of backing Islamist militant groups and how Pakistan has tried to use Afghanistan to gain strategic advantage against India.

Long before the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Islamabad viewed Kabul as aligned with New Delhi. Pakistan felt sandwiched between its archrival to the east and a hostile regime to the west. Another issue was secular left-leaning Pakistani Pashtun forces were pushing for a separate homeland for their ethnic group — a demand backed by Afghanistan in those days.

To deal with these threats, the Pakistanis decided to employ the Islamist card to counter Pashtun nationalism on both sides of the Durand Line — the line drawn in 1893 that divides the Pashtun people, and a continual source of tension between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Even before 1977, when the Islamist-leaning regime of Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq came to power, the Pakistanis had aligned themselves with Afghan Islamist dissidents such as Gulbadin Hekmatyar. Then came the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan starting in 1979, when Islamabad’s backing for Afghan Islamists increased, with the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

By the time the Soviets withdrew in defeat from Afghanistan a decade later, the Pakistanis had successfully contained ethnic Pashtun nationalism. Pakistan unwittingly sowed the seeds of a deadlier Frankenstein’s monster in the form of jihadism, which would bite the hand of its creator years later.

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan provided the Pakistanis the opportunity to direct its attention to Indian-administered Kashmir, the disputed region on the border that Pakistan has long sought to control. A separatist rising in Kashmir gave Pakistan a chance to play a new hand in its same Islamist militant strategy. As early as the 1947-1948 India-Pakistan War, the Pakistanis employed Pashtun tribesman in its bid to seize control of the parts of Kashmir that are now under Pakistani administration.

In 1996, the Pakistani military realized its objective of installing a pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul when it supported the Taliban, the extremist Islamist movement that controlled Afghanistan until the U.S.-backed coalition drove them from power after Sept. 11, 2001. Pakistan had hoped that with its rear flank secure it could then deal with India, especially in the context of Kashmir, which it unsuccessfully tried to do in the Kargil mini-war in 1999. Between the failure of the Kargil operation and the events of 9/11, Pakistan lost its ability to project power into Kashmir and Afghanistan. The Pakistanis also began to lose control over the Islamist militant landscape with the rise of al Qaeda, which brought together the various strands of militant forces that threatened both Kabul and New Delhi.

Thus, Pakistan opened a process of normalization with India and established a cooperation of sorts with Washington against al Qaeda but continued to maintain an ambiguous stance toward the Taliban. That was because the Pashtun jihadist movement was the only available card Islamabad could play as it pursued its interests in Afghanistan and keep India out.

By offering economic and developmental assistance to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, India has been able to establish a sphere of influence, which has alarmed the Pakistanis. Even so, Islamabad had been able to take comfort in knowing that it had an asset in the insurgent Taliban, which they could use to block Indian moves in Afghanistan.

However, things have changed. With the complex nature of Pakistan’s alignment with the United States and the gravitation of jihadist forces toward al Qaeda, Islamabad no longer has an effective response to India’s plans for counterinsurgency cooperation with Afghanistan.

The relationship between Islamabad and the Afghan Taliban has been complicated by the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Moreover, Pakistan’s ability to counter India’s moves has been weakened because it is going through internal convulsions brought on as a coalition government — formed by foes of President Pervez Musharraf — swept parliamentary elections, and Musharraf no longer heads the military. If, at some point in the future, the Taliban gain a larger share of power in Afghanistan, Pakistani influence would be limited because of the break between the Taliban and Islamabad.

With the Taliban no longer in the Pakistani camp as they once were, Afghanistan could return to being hostile to Pakistan. There is significant anti-Pakistani sentiment in Afghanistan because of the perception of Pakistani interference in their country. In contrast, Afghan attitudes in general are far more positive toward India because of the increased assistance India has begun to provide.

Thus, when it comes to Pakistan and its complicated relationship with neighbors Afghanistan and India, it appears what goes around comes around.
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« Reply #191 on: April 23, 2008, 08:58:15 AM »


 • Afghans Build an Army, and a Nation


Bret Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. He joined the Journal in New York in 1998 as a features editor and moved to Brussels the following year to work as an editorial writer for the paper's European edition. In 2002, Mr. Stephens, then 28, became editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, where he was responsible for its news, editorial, electronic and international divisions, and where he also wrote a weekly column. He returned to his present position in late 2004 and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum the following year.

Mr. Stephens was raised in Mexico City and educated at the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics. He lives with his family in New York City. He invites comments to 
Afghans Build an Army, and a Nation
April 22, 2008; Page A23
Kabul, Afghanistan

From a hard and arid plain about a 30-minute drive out of downtown Kabul, a squad of Afghan soldiers is mounting an attack on a small rise to the south. Three soldiers lie flat on their stomachs, providing covering fire as four of their comrades rush forward, Kalashnikovs in hand. Shots are fired, startling a visiting columnist.

"Um, they're blanks," explains Lt. Col. Paul Fanning. "Live-fire exercises take place behind that hill over there," he adds, pointing north.

Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, US Army 
Afghan army recruits in basic training at the Kabul Military Training Center, April 21, 2008.
Lt. Col. Fanning, of the New York National Guard, has recently deployed to nearby Camp Alamo to help train the Afghan National Army. Adjacent to the camp is the rehabilitated Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), whose principal ornament is a Soviet T-55 tank chassis mounted with a T-62 turret. In the past six years, more than 70,000 recruits have spent 10 weeks or more learning the basics of soldiering. Of that number, about a third trained here in the last year alone.

I came to Afghanistan with the idea that the key to building a nation is building its army. Militaries attract young men who otherwise would have remained strangers, if not enemies, and might well have joined militias or criminal gangs. Militaries instill discipline, purpose, patriotism, values and the brotherhood of the foxhole. Militaries create their own middle class: The salary of an Afghan private, at $1,300 a year, may seem minuscule but is twice the Afghan average. And militaries get soldiers to fight a common enemy, instead of each other.

That point is not lost at the KMTC, whose motto, "Unity Starts Here," is inscribed in large letters over the entrance gate. On the field, about 100 recruits sit on the clay earth waiting their turn to "take the hill." The faces are Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik, Pashtun; a mixture that is nearly as racially and ethnically diverse as what you'll find in the U.S. military. Dari and Pashto are spoken interchangeably, but the army being forged here is a genuinely national one.

Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, US Army 
It is also one that's willing to fight. "The Afghan soldiers are a lot tougher than the Iraqis," says Lt. James Harryman, one of the British trainers on site. "This is a warrior culture." Between March 1, 2007, and March 30, 2008, some 370 Afghan soldiers were killed in Afghanistan – by comparison, U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan numbered 117; British fatalities, 43; Canadian fatalities, 36. Still, Afghan soldiers routinely express shame that foreigners are doing the work of dying for their country. That job, they insist, is one they want for themselves.

"I want to protect my country from terrorists who call themselves Taliban," says Said Ismail, a 21-year-old recruit from Mazar-i-Sharif. "These people call themselves Muslims but they are killing Muslims." Three of his buddies gather around, nodding agreement.

This isn't to say the Afghan Army is problem-free. Lt. Harryman complains about an ingrained culture of soldiers not wanting to "get into trouble" by taking responsibility for their decisions. Afghan officers and NCOs are in the habit of seeking the consent of their soldiers before undertaking operations. The army still lacks some of the most basic logistical and command-and-control skills.

But many of the Afghan army's problems are a function of NATO's neglect. France was supposed to have taken the lead in training the army – a role it abandoned in 2003. Ditto for the Germans and the Afghan police.

Nor has the U.S. been blameless. The Afghans are only now getting their first sizeable shipments of M-16 rifles and up-armored Humvees. There was no Afghan air force to speak of until this year. That's now being remedied by the acquisition of some Russian-made Mi-17 and Mi-35 cargo and attack helicopters, along with some medium-sized prop planes. None of the American officers I interviewed can offer a clear explanation for the delays, though the likely answer is that a sense of urgency about Afghanistan's security situation only came about after it became a news story early last year.

Then again, that precariousness has been somewhat exaggerated. "A year ago people were talking about the Taliban taking Kandahar and isolating Kabul," says Maj. Gen. Robert Cone. It didn't happen. Neither has the Taliban's fabled "spring offensive," which should be happening right around now but isn't.

How much of this can be attributed to the Afghan army, how much to NATO operations, how much to Taliban weakness, and how much to luck and circumstance is anyone's guess. What is clear is that Afghanistan really does have an army that's willing to stand up for its country – and, as a result, a country that is prepared to stand by their army. All this bodes well for Kabul. And once the dust settles in Basra, we might begin to say the same about Iraq and its army, too.

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« Reply #192 on: April 25, 2008, 12:42:55 PM »

The New Strategy for Afghanistan's Cops
April 25, 2008; Page A13


Afghanistan will be a stable, self-sufficient state only when it can both defend its borders and provide law and order to its citizens.

The country is much further along on the first test: The Afghan National Army hasn't lost an engagement with the insurgents in a year, and is beginning operations without coalition aid.

But the Afghan National Police (ANP) is still dysfunctional, despite years of training by NATO and U.S. mentors. A new American plan offers hope of changing that.

"The police are the face of government in Afghanistan," says Maj. Gen. Robert W. Cone, the American commander in charge of police training. He has a tough mission: reforming a police force of 78,000 and overseeing 7,000 trainers in 280 locations. "We don't need to make these cops as good as the 82nd Airborne," he says, referring to the storied unit that just finished a 15-month rotation here. "We just need to make them two-and-a-half times better than the enemy."

This is already happening with the elite units of the ANP. The 1,600-strong Afghan National Civil Order Police (Ancop) has only lost one man to the insurgency since it was fielded in May 2007. In southern Zabul province, a police unit recently eliminated the Taliban forces that attacked them.

But for the most part, the ANP has proved an expensive quagmire. After Europeans charged with its training failed, the U.S. Army took up the task in late 2005, spending more than $1 billion in 2006 and $2.5 billion in 2007. This bought training, new Ford Ranger pickup trucks, weapons and barracks for the police in two-thirds of the country. Much of the $2.5 billion won't be spent until later this year, and much of this year's $800 million budget will be used in 2009, due to the timing of Congressional appropriations.

Gen. Cone's men are trying to improve the police faster than the insurgents can kill them, which is often by explosives. The ANP is especially vulnerable in unarmored, U.S.-provided Ford Ranger trucks. The Afghan National Army is just now getting up-armored Humvees like those of U.S. troops. But neither the army nor the police have the jamming capacity to prevent phone-activated, improvised-explosive devices.

The police casualty rate has been alarming. According to Gen. Cone, 825 police died last year. By comparison, 181 police died in the line of duty in the 10-times larger U.S. in 2007.

So Gen. Cone is trying a new approach. The Focused District Development (FDD) plan was rolled out last year in seven of Afghanistan's most dangerous districts, selected to track the ring road around the country. The same process is scheduled for 172 districts by 2010. (Afghanistan has 365 districts, but many are in the relatively tranquil north, west or center regions.)

Assessment teams vetted the cops in the seven districts, separating the irredeemable officers from the promising. The latter were sent to a regional training center for two months to learn everything from how to handcuff suspects and search a house to what rights suspects have. They worked with police mentoring teams composed of U.S. Army and Dynacorp trainers.

The Ancops were sent in for two months while the old cops trained. ("A lot of the people didn't want the Ancops to leave," Gen. Cone comments. "They say that these police are on our side.") Then the new trainees came back with their police mentoring teams to live and work together for two to four months. Eventually, the mentoring teams would no longer live with the police, but come in for occasional inspections and advice.

Reform will not happen overnight. Gen. Cone explains: "We're going as fast as we can, and the product we put out at eight weeks training can survive on this battlefield, in Helmand and Kandahar. We need 2,300 more trainers to do this job. I've used up 81 training teams to date, the next round of FDD will take 11 more, and I've only got 102 mentor teams."

It is too soon to tell if the first phase has led to more local support for the police, and greater police effectiveness against the insurgents. Gen. Cone's attempts to attract better cops may be succeeding, even if the eight-week training doesn't work on everyone. Recently, in the district of Zurmat in Paktia province, the existing police returned from their training. Some of the better qualified officers caught eight of the freshly trained ANP setting up illegal checkpoints.

There is still a ways to go. But if our Army can make the ANP a respected and trusted institution, Afghanistan will have passed a major milestone on the road to self-sufficiency.

Ms. Marlowe is a New York-based writer who just finished her third embed with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

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« Reply #193 on: April 28, 2008, 09:29:41 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Difficulty of Managing Afghanistan
April 28, 2008
A Taliban attack April 27 in Kabul, Afghanistan, shook up a ceremony celebrating the mujahideen victory over the Marxist regime in 1992. The strike left three people dead; Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was in attendance, escaped uninjured. The attack underscores the problems of achieving some kind of stability in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is made up of a central mountain range (the Hindu Kush) surrounded by plains. It has no meaningful barriers, and the plains that surround it are a virtual invitation for invasion. Mountains form an excellent defense, but since they are in the center of the country rather than on the edges, they divide Afghanistan rather than protect it. The British created Afghanistan to put some breathing room between its Indian colonies and an aggressive Russia to the north. Afghanistan excels as a buffer zone, but as a state, it struggles terribly. The country’s geography disjoints it so that it is, in reality, ruled by whatever army happens to control its separate regions. Currently, NATO is battling it out with the Taliban for that control.

The country’s lack of cohesion is a detriment to the authority of the man overseeing this geographic nightmare. Karzai is Afghanistan’s president basically because the United States picked him shortly after the 2001 invasion. However, his position is very weak; the country he is in charge of is so splintered that consensus is nearly impossible. He is in power because an intervening force found him to be the least offensive candidate and has protected him ever since. Karzai is the linchpin making Afghanistan work for now, but his primary purpose is to survive and represent a fledgling government. He is far from being the country’s true power broker.

This brings us to Gen. David Petraeus, whom U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently tapped to take the helm at Central Command. In his new position, Petraeus’ area of responsibility would shift from Iraq to the entire Middle Eastern theater — focusing on Afghanistan. The general was relatively successful at handling the situation in Iraq, but Afghanistan is a different picture.

In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran (and the Central Asian countries, to a lesser degree) are needed to secure the country so that militant Islam can be kept in check without NATO forces. The Pakistanis face a dilemma in how to handle the Taliban, and the Iranians will only help for a price. Furthermore, the United States does not want to give Iran another bargaining chip during attempts to find a solution in Iraq.

In Iraq, Petraeus made some progress in creating a system that will hopefully, one day, establish a balance of power between the Sunnis and Shia, and the Arabs and the Iranians. In Afghanistan, his goal will be much more modest. NATO and the United States are increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, which will help Petraeus keep the Taliban back — for now, at least — and prevent incidents like the April 27 attack. But even with more troops — and Karzai alive and in office — Petraeus faces the tough task of getting disparate groups, interests and militias to coalesce into a country that can survive on its own. Meanwhile, geography will not be on his side.
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« Reply #194 on: April 28, 2008, 11:36:10 AM »

Pakistan: A New Peace Deal With the Taliban
Stratfor Today » April 25, 2008 | 2240 GMT

Pakistani army soldiers display weapons recovered from militantsSummary
Pakistan and the Taliban are about to conclude a peace deal on April 25, the first fruits of the new government’s effort to increase dialogue with the Taliban. Unless the Pakistanis come up with a comprehensive strategy, the deal will ultimately empower the jihadists.

Pakistan is on the verge of completing a new peace deal with Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the militant jihadist group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North and South Waziristan, Reuters reported April 25. Though the TTP claimed responsibility for a car bombing targeting police in Mardan today, the group maintains that the peace deal is still moving ahead. The deal will entail the cessation of hostilities by the Pashtun fighters, an exchange of prisoners, and the withdrawal of Pakistan forces from the area.

Pakistan’s government has negotiated with militants in the tribal badlands before: President Pervez Musharraf’s regime made three pacts with radical groups between April 2004 and September 2006. Yet these pacts were essentially ad hoc, involving payments of cash or exchange of prisoners, and orchestrated under the tacit assumption that hostilities would shortly resume.

The new peace deal is different. The recently formed democratic coalition government under the leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party is broadly in agreement about the need to increase official talks with radical groups to work out a lasting cease-fire. Both of the major political factions want to move past the purely military strategy of combating extremism, which they see as a result of Musharraf’s close alignment with the United States. They are touting a homegrown policy with public support that features greater emphasis on negotiations and dialogue as a means of reducing violence.

Signals from the jihadists also suggest that the current peace initiative differs from previous ones. No bombing has occurred under the new government (the last one happened March 20, four days before the administration took office). Also, the Pashtun jihadists have announced their willingness to endorse talks between the provincial government and tribal leaders. For their part, Pakistani authorities have sought to encourage the jihadists’ cooperation by releasing Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the founder of the Swat-based militant Movement for the Imposition of the Shariah of Muhammad.

The latest peace effort could well usher in a respite from violence. The new government is weak and must restore peace in order to fulfill its mandate and gain the confidence of the people. From its point of view, the current peace initiative is a test case to find out which groups are willing to compromise. If it leads to a breakthrough, the relative security will meet with widespread relief from the Pakistani public, which has endured a jihadist campaign for more than a year and a half.

Yet the long-term effects of the deal are likely to benefit the jihadists and create an even more deeply entrenched militant presence in Pakistan. First of all, the government’s willingness to grant the jihadists an official audience means that suicide bombing has successfully weakened the government’s will. The jihadists will recognize that they are in the better position to negotiate, since Islamabad is pleading for peace. Moreover, Pakistan’s and the Taliban’s aims are irreconcilable, and the jihadists will resort to militant tactics in the future knowing that they are effective.

Furthermore, the jihadist ideology conceives of any negotiations in light of an epic struggle to establish a transnational Islamist state in the region. The core members of the movement do not recognize Pakistan in its current form and therefore do not accept the legitimacy of any talks. They are willing to cease attacks in Pakistan if Islamabad eases pressure on their tribal areas, marking an effective return to the status quo before March 2004, when the Pakistani army first entered the area to support U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Such a peace will allow the militant groups to focus on the battle in Afghanistan, or rest up and consolidate their forces before waging the next assault.

The United States is cautiously supporting Pakistan’s new approach to the Taliban. Gen. David Petraeus, the current top U.S. commander in Iraq, is slated to be the next Central Command chief — an indication that the United States will be far more focused on Afghanistan than before. Ideally Washington does not want to undermine an already weak state, especially one so crucial to its interests in the region. But if solid intelligence comes through revealing Pakistani jihadists’ support of their allies in Afghanistan, or the whereabouts of high-level jihadist targets in Pakistan, Washington will either force Pakistan into acting or act unilaterally (it may not want to wait). Such action would trigger a response from militants in Pakistan, destroying the peace agreement.

Islamabad is trying to strike a balance between its international commitments and the need to maintain security at home. Unless it can come up with a comprehensive strategy for containing terrorism — one that addresses the jihadists’ tendency to take advantage of cease-fires — it will risk failing in its commitments to the United States and to international security, and might not even forestall violence at home.

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« Reply #195 on: May 03, 2008, 04:53:02 PM »


Canadian troops in Afghanistan are looking for opportunities to carry out
tactical-level talks with Taliban insurgents, Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail
reported on Thursday. The paper added that discussions are under way in Afghan
government circles regarding strategic negotiations with the Taliban, including some
controversial suggestions that Taliban leaders could receive political appointments
or provincial governing posts. Furthermore, international stakeholders in the Policy
Action Group reportedly are discussing "red lines" to set boundaries for what the
talks could include.

The West has come to the realization that "solving" Afghanistan is not something
that can be done militarily. The country, with its size and geographic complexity,
is -- at best -- an artificial state held together by nothing more than an occupying
force and neighbors who think that imposing direct control is more trouble than it
is worth. Put another way, if the Soviets -- with as many troops in Afghanistan as
the United States now has in Iraq and with the will to kill anyone, anywhere --
could not handle the country, NATO will certainly not be able to handle it with
Western rules of engagement.

Yet that is how the war has been fought since 2002. Note we say 2002, not 2001. In
2001, the war was a different creature: The operation entailed overthrowing the
then-Taliban government, and not imposing some flavor of stability. Overthrowing a
manpower-light, geographically dispersed military proved rather simple. But then
again, most of the Taliban chose not to stand still and let themselves be bombed
from 20,000 feet; they melted away into the countryside. They began their resurgence
in 2002 -- which, six years later, has taken the form of a full-fledged insurgency.

The state of war that has existed since the Taliban began their comeback is what has
defined the "country" for the past six years. And that war is what the U.S.
administration is now attempting to redefine. The first step in that process is the
installment of Gen. David Petraeus as chief of U.S. Central Command.

Petraeus' most impressive claim to fame so far was turning the Iraqi war of
occupation around. Instead of using military force to make Iraq look like a sandy
Wisconsin, he instead engaged select foes and turned them into allies, adding
American firepower to their own. This not only whittled down the number of militants
fighting U.S. forces, but it allowed those forces to concentrate their efforts on
the foes that they had to fight, instead of needing to patrol regions that -- with
the right deals cut -- could patrol themselves.

The war in Iraq is hardly "over," but Petraeus' strategy has proven sufficient to
make the task manageable. Perhaps there are lessons from Iraq that can be put to
work in Afghanistan such that the United States and its NATO allies can reach a
point where the chaos there can be managed as well. If re-Baathification worked and
the Americans are working with Islamist actors in Iraq (both Sunni and Shiite),
perhaps they can do the same in Afghanistan. In other words, if there is a need to
bring back the Taliban, then that has to be managed.

Petraeus has juggled a complex situation in Iraq, consisting of multiple groups
divided along ethno-sectarian, ideological, political and tribal lines. Dealing with
a much less complex militancy landscape involving (more or less) a singular trend --
that of the Taliban -- is therefore not an unreasonable expectation. That said,
there is one major difference: Unlike the Iraqi actors Washington has dealt with,
the Taliban could be the first jihadist group with which the United States engages
in talks.

The operating assumption in any negotiations is that an armed nonstate actor is
willing to be pragmatic --  something very difficult for religious ideologues. What
this means is that initial talks will be about gaining a clear understanding of the
nebulous nature of the Taliban phenomenon such that pragmatic elements can be
identified among what appears to be a collection of armed Pashtun mullahs.
Separating those who are willing to do business from those who are engaged in a
zero-sum game could help transform the belligerents into a much more manageable

The West's goal in Iraq is to re-create a buffer state that can contain an Iran with
regional ambitions, whereas the objective in Afghanistan is far more modest. In
Afghanistan, the West is not even looking to create a state in the normal sense of
the word. An arrangement that can keep chaos within tolerable parameters would

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« Reply #196 on: May 16, 2008, 08:10:51 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Possible Meanings of an Airstrike in Pakistan
May 15, 2008
An airstrike in the northwestern Pakistani town of Damadola on Wednesday struck the home of a Taliban leader, according to a militia spokesman quoted by Pakistan’s AAJ TV. Normally such events would not hold our attention, but a conflux of events on Wednesday suggests that this attack is laden with implications.

Details are still sketchy — partly due to the location’s remoteness, partly due to the security concerns of any U.S. military force acting there, partly due to the opaqueness of the Taliban’s internal workings and partly because the locals tend to recycle names with such alacrity that positive identifications require an uncomfortable amount of guesswork — but here is what seems to have happened.

The airstrike appears to have been launched from Afghan airspace, suggesting that it was almost certainly American in origin. This in and of itself is not particularly odd.

The United States only has two routes of supply into Afghanistan: one through the political ice floes of post-Soviet Central Asia and one through Pakistan. That dependence on Pakistan has forced the United States to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s own blind eye regarding the Taliban. Pakistan’s government — especially its intelligence arm — sees some Taliban factions as a tool of influence, and so grants them succor. This limits U.S. military flexibility in hunting the Taliban, and similarly leads the Taliban to use the Pakistani side of the border to rest, recuperate, recruit and rearm.

What results is a merry-go-round of denials. The Taliban deny that they operate in Pakistan (yet have bases there), the United States denies that it pursues Taliban targets in Pakistan (yet has special forces on sustained deployments there hunting the aforementioned bases), and Pakistan denies that either of the others is doing anything in Pakistani territory (yet cooperates with the Taliban in hiding from the Americans and with the Americans in hunting the Taliban). This is all standard fare in Afghan-Pakistani border politics.

But two twists prompt us to think something more is going on.

The first — and this is where the tendency for a large number of people to use a small number of names comes into play — regards the name of the Taliban leader whose house was hit: Maulvi Ubaidullah. Maulvi Ubaidullah is the name of the Taliban defense minister from the pre-9/11 era when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. In April the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan was kidnapped, and the terms of the ambassador’s release included Islamabad setting free captured Taliban leaders — including one Maulvi Ubaidullah. For someone to be terminated by Hellfire within a few weeks of being in Ameri-, er, Pakistani custody indicates more might be at work than simple coincidence. (In the American counterterrorism lexicon, such operations are called “catch and release.” Suspects are caught, interrogated and released so American operatives can track them back to their bases and allies — at which point liberal amounts of American military hardware are distributed from altitude.)

Second, the Pakistani army began “thinning out” troops from two areas in the South Waziristan region and had a prisoner exchange in an effort to make peace with the Taliban a day after the provincial government in North-West Frontier Province agreed to implement Shariah in the Swat and Malakand districts. Pakistan is in the throes of an unsteady freshman coalition government desperate to prove its strength. One surefire crowd-pleaser in Pakistan is to snub the United States publicly.

Taken together, the events point to one of two possible intriguing conclusions. First, that just because the United States is willing to grimace its way around Pakistan’s blind eye, it cannot let naked collusion pass. The Ubaidullah assassination could have been simply to emphasize for the new Pakistani authorities that Islamabad can say — and maybe even do — whatever it likes, but when it comes down to it the United States will not hesitate to attack high-value targets who have allied with al Qaeda, no matter in whose territory they happen to bed down. And if that destabilizes Pakistan, then so be it. For Washington, progress in the Afghan war might now (oddly) be more important than retaining the means to fight it effectively.

Second — and not particularly more or less likely — is that U.S. cooperation with the Pakistani government is independent of public relations between the two states. Washington has long enjoyed functional and fruitful — if not always friendly — ties with the Pakistani military, which remains the real power in the country. It is certainly feasible that American-Pakistani military cooperation has not suffered a whit even as political Islamabad becomes ever more shrill in voicing its unwillingness to cooperate with Washington.
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« Reply #197 on: May 21, 2008, 06:50:56 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Pakistani-Indian Rivalry Intensifies
May 20, 2008
After much delay, India and Pakistan will hold foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad on May 20 as part of the ongoing Indo-Pakistani peace process. Confidence-building measures will be discussed, including expanding trade and transit links across the border, but the political theater of the summit will still do little to cover up a growing security conflict between the two South Asian rivals.

The peace talks are taking place against a backdrop of heightened border tensions across the Line of Control (LoC) — the border that splits the highly disputed region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The past month, in particular, has witnessed a series of cease-fire violations across the LoC (ostensibly provoked by Pakistan) detailed below that have placed India on guard.

May 8: Indian border guards spotted a group of armed men cutting through a barbed wire fence to cross into Indian-held Kashmir in the Samba sector, prompting cross-border fire.
May 13: Islamist militants, likely backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, launched a bomb attack in the northern Indian city of Jaipur, killing 63 people. India’s ruling Congress party refrained from blaming Pakistan outright, but said a “foreign hand” was responsible for the attack
May 14: The Indian military accused Pakistani troops of firing at an Indian army post across the LoC in the Tangdhar region.
May 15: India announced its deployment of an additional 5,000 troops to Tangdhar, Keran, Macchal and Gurez along the LoC to prevent further militant infiltration. A few days later it was announced that another 1,000 troops were deployed to the Samba sector.
May 19: Pakistan rejected as baseless an Indian claim that Pakistani troops had fired on an Indian post across the LoC, killing an Indian soldier. Cross-border firing is typically used as cover for insurgents to cross the border into Indian-administered Kashmir.
The situation has not yet reached a critical point, but as we watch further developments along this geopolitically contentious border, we must keep in mind the competing interests of the three main players who have a stake in the conflict: the United States, India and Pakistan.

The current U.S. priority in South Asia is to sustain pressure on Islamabad to deliver on its counterterrorism commitments. With the U.S. military focus shifting more toward NATO operations in Afghanistan, Washington is not exactly thrilled with the Pakistani government’s preferred method of dealing with its insurgents — which usually entails a balancing act of backdoor deals with militants that do little to stem the insurgent tide across the Afghan-Pakistani border. One way for Washington to turn the screws on Pakistan is to try the old U.S. game of exploiting tensions between India and Pakistan and then swooping in to demand concessions from Islamabad in return for getting the Indians to stand down. It is not yet clear whether this is a strategy Washington wants to pursue, however.

India so far has given off a fairly muted response to the recent Pakistani actions. After the Jaipur attack, India was quick to reaffirm that it would not walk away from its scheduled peace talks with Pakistan, while taking care not to blame the Pakistani government outright. The troop build-up along certain sectors of the LoC was motivated primarily by the ruling government’s need to fend off domestic opposition for being “soft on terror.” With state and general elections looming, the ruling Congress party has to show it actually has the political muscle to deal with Pakistan, but it also is facing a slew of problems domestically over rising inflation, food and fuel prices. Starting things up with Pakistan could allow the Indian government to distract the people from their domestic ailments, but it’s highly questionable whether the government can deal effectively with an escalated military conflict across its Pakistani border while juggling these other issues.

Pakistan meanwhile appears to be pursuing a far more complex strategy. As mentioned, the Pakistanis are facing pressure from all sides to get a grip over their jihadist problem. While insurgent management is a tricky business, the Pakistani security apparatus has an old method of reshuffling its militant proxies back and forth between its border with India and Afghanistan depending on its geopolitical priority at the time. Since Pakistan can’t afford to employ a force-only method in dealing with the insurgents, it has instead given the green light to a number of Islamist militant groups to ramp up attacks in Kashmir to go along with its plan of gradually shifting the militant focus away from the Pakistani-Afghan theater.

Just as the United States has played the India card, Pakistan, too, appears to have learned the benefits of raising the specter of a military conflict with India to deal more effectively with Washington. Pakistan needs to get the United States off its back as it tries to figure out how to manage its militant problem, particularly as the United States is exhibiting a higher tolerance for incurring domestic instability in Pakistan. In light of the domestic political pressures India currently faces, if Pakistan can show it’s willing to go the extra step to provoke a military conflict with India, it can distract its populace from the insurgency problem and spur the United States to reconsider pushing Pakistan too far.

And there is yet another added benefit to this strategy for Pakistan: Since 2001, Islamabad has warily been eyeing Washington’s warming relationship with New Delhi. Islamabad thus will jump at any opportunity to throw a wrench into U.S.-Indian relations. As long as Pakistan can plant the idea in India that the United States is turning a blind eye to an uptick in Kashmiri militant traffic in return for Pakistan’s cooperation in stemming jihadist traffic along the Afghan border, the United States and India could be headed for a rough patch.
Pakistan’s government on May 21 reached a 15-point peace deal with Taliban militants in the country’s northern Swat valley, The Associated Press reported, citing Bashir Bilour, a senior minister in the North-West Frontier Province. The deal, which was signed in Peshawar, requires militants to recognize government authority, halt suicide and bomb attacks and turn over foreign militants in the region, Bilour said. In return, Bilour said the government must release prisoners and make certain concessions on the demands of pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah for Islamic law in the region. The army also will gradually pull out of the Swat area, Bilour added, one of the militants’ key demands.
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« Reply #198 on: June 08, 2008, 12:15:22 AM »

A thoughtful Indian friend forwards me the following:

While this sort of thing is usual at the Indo-Pak border, at the present
time...Mush may use this as a pretext to bring back military rule....Yash

Pak troops fire at Indian post
8 Jun 2008, 0232 hrs IST,Anil Kotwal,TNN
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   JAMMU: In yet another incident of unprovoked cross-border firing,
Pakistani troops targeted second battalion of Eighth Gurkha Rifles at the
Krnati post along the Line of Control in Poonch district's Mendhar area,
official sources said in Jammu.

Sources also said intermittent firing was reported for more than an hour at
the post on Thursday. They said the Gurkhas returned the fire without
suffering any casualty. Army spokesperson Lt Col S D Goswami, however,
refused to comment on the latest ceasefire violation.

Pakistani troops had resorted to firing at Regal in Samba, Salhutri in
Mendhar and Tangdhar in Kupwara sector in violation of ceasefire agreement.

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« Reply #199 on: June 21, 2008, 10:52:56 AM »

Afghanistan: British troops shooting themselves in the foot over Taliban fight

By Thomas Harding
Last updated: 2:15 AM BST 21/06/2008

Outdated tactics and severe equipment shortages are our worst enemies in Afghanistan, not the Taliban, argues Thomas Harding.

It's been a good fortnight for the Taliban. Nine British soldiers dead in 10 days, hundreds of imprisoned fighters set free in a daring jailbreak and the floundering Afghan government struggling to convince the population that the security they long for is close at hand.

They will be happy, too, that they have probably made the British commander regret telling me three weeks ago that the insurgency was on the verge of defeat.

Power in Afghanistan is all about posture and perception. The Taliban swept through the country in 1996, barely firing a shot, because local warlords saw that the future was with the black turban and did not want to be left behind. What will be the perception now?

First a suicide bomber killed three Paras, and then a well-planned ambush accounted for another two. Tuesday's bomb attack left a further four soldiers dead – including, in an invaluable publicity coup for the insurgents, Corporal Sarah Bryant, 26, the first female British soldier to die in Afghanistan.

From the safety of their hideouts in Pakistan, the Taliban's leaders and their al-Qa'eda cronies will be counting the dollars from the opium harvest haul, ready to purchase more men, bombs and bullets as the fighting season begins.

After spending a week on the ground with our commanders in Lashkar Gah, and then a fortnight marching, eating and sleeping alongside the Parachute Regiment, I have heard first-hand the worries of our troops – and their diagnosis of the problem.

They fear that the "war of our generation" is turning into a slog that will suck in more troops, who will require increasing logistical support, which will in turn give the enemy many more targets.

This is because the Taliban's tactics are changing. For the first two years, we fought pitched battles against an insurgency determined to over-run our undermanned outposts, which often came close to running out of food and ammunition.

The Taliban's losses were very heavy – in the thousands. But the last fortnight could signal the start of a new approach. Why waste a score of fighters when a suicide bomber or well-placed mine will do?

With more than 8,000 British troops in Helmand, supported by 2,400 Americans, there are plenty of targets to go round.

The Taliban knows the value of public opinion – so important in a counter-insurgency battle – but you sometimes suspect that Whitehall does not. In the opening rounds of the battle for Helmand in 2006, there was no serious public debate about what the mission was. When it became clear that a very serious battle was unfolding, Downing Street banned the press from covering it, in case the public got a whiff that another bloody campaign was unravelling while the insurgency in Iraq was in full cry.

The senior members of the military cannot complain. They were the ones who assured ministers that fighting a war on two fronts was feasible, so long as troop numbers came down in Basra. They also agreed with the politicians that 3,000 men was a suitable number to contain Helmand.

Two years on, we are approaching three times that number, but the increase has gone largely unnoticed, with increments of a few hundred here and there.

Many of our best and brightest military minds – such as Brigadier Ed Butler of the SAS – have called it a day, fed up with poor pay, uncaring civil servants and having to spend too much time away from their families. But there are some very sharp men left, and many of them believe that our greatest enemy is not the Taliban, but our own doctrines and regulations.

The enemy has been forced to adapt to survive. A full-frontal assault on allied positions will fail: indeed, firing anything more than a couple of mortar rounds will attract a vicious hail of retaliatory fire.

So when he hears an Apache attack helicopter approaching, or sees a jet overhead, he no longer stands and fights, but drops his weapon and melts away, no longer a legitimate target. He knows the rules: if you are not carrying a weapon, you cannot be killed. And time is on your side.

Yes, the British might enter a district for a few weeks, but when they leave, the Taliban return, meting out brutal punishment to anyone who has co-operated with the foreigners. And the amount of force needed to take these towns and overwhelm the Taliban makes our own troops less nimble, thereby absorbing manpower, supplies and precious helicopter hours.

"The problem," says one officer, "is that we are focusing on protective mobility. We are definitely going down the road the Russians went in the Eighties, with over-reliance on massive armoured vehicles."

The debate is starting on the ground because soldiers are frustrated that they can march their hearts out all day to track the enemy, only to be blown up by a mine. They query how a lumbering convoy of 100 armoured vehicles can ever surprise an enemy who knows every rock and cave in his own back yard. The time has come, suggest some, to fight the way the enemy fights – but smarter.

In the Rhodesian insurgency, tiny units called fire forces, working in groups of four or eight, would drop into enemy territory by parachute or helicopter, unheard and unseen.

With the aid of local trackers, they remained concealed for days, watching the enemy's movements and waiting patiently for the optimum time to strike. Again and again the guerrillas were horrified as their safety cordon unravelled, with colleagues falling dead around them.

By contrast, our strategy is static, based on bases in fixed locations. Troops leave them to go on patrol in full view of the enemy – which had fatal consequences this month. "It's bloody hard to deceive the enemy with a column of ground movement that can be picked up 500 metres beyond the base," says one veteran. "The effect of four helicopters disgorging 100 soldiers from an unexpected direction would have a huge impact, and would lead to a reduction in the opportunities to blow us up with mines."

Partly, the problem is the same risk-averse culture that enveloped our campaign in Basra, where the highest priority, to which everything else was subordinated, was avoiding British deaths.

At the moment, regular troops are only allowed to move around in numbers considerably larger than the small groups of the Rhodesian campaign. Even snipers, whose pricey new long-range rifles could be a massive asset, are not allowed to go out with just a spotter, but have to be part of more unwieldy units.

For some soldiers, the excuses about excessive danger wear thin, given the huge support available from air and artillery if things go sour. "At times," one told me wearily, "I am waiting for someone to mention the Health and Safety Executive."

However, the single greatest symbol of what is going wrong with our campaign is the lack of helicopters. At some point a senior commander is going to have to find the courage to mortgage his career and say in public what so many have said to me in private – that we are losing lives needlessly because there are not enough.

The eight RAF Chinooks are being flown relentlessly, and fatigue must be setting in. The Ministry of Defence says that the answer is to fly them for even more hours per month, but that's a stupid argument: we need more airframes, more spare parts and more pilots.

This is a refrain that occurs again and again in conversations with senior officers and seasoned NCOs. "Helicopters would put you in places where vehicles cannot," says one. Another says wistfully: "If I could get my hands on four Chinooks for two whole days…"

The reason why the US Marines were so successful in southern Helmand this spring was because they were able to land 600 troops in one lift in one night. In the two weeks I was with them, the Paras could only muster one air assault of two helicopters that had to go in three lifts, hugely increasing the risk of the enemy assembling an anti-aircraft team to attack them.

Then, as we pushed further into Taliban territory, we were forced to travel on foot alongside vehicles, because there were no helicopters available. The Taliban probably just laughed and walked off into the next valley.

Even when we detained a suspected roadside bomber – after slogging through the desert for hours – we almost had to release him because there was no helicopter to take him back to a legal holding facility for three days – the maximum detention time is four days.

The MoD knows that what we have is not enough, and has done for years. But the bean counters have never listened. "If the Government really cared about troops, they would pull their fingers out and get the resources out here," says one soldier.

We can win in Afghanistan, but to do so we will have to find the courage and resourcefulness shown by the enemy – not to mention a few of those long-prayed-for Chinooks.

Story from Telegraph News:
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