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Posts: 42483

« Reply #250 on: November 14, 2008, 03:08:34 PM »,2933,451941,00.html
Taliban Blamed for Acid Attack on Afghan Schoolgirls
Friday, November 14, 2008

Nov. 14: Shamsia Husainai, 17, rests on a hospital bed in Kabul after an acid attack on her Wednesday in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan  —  No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls' school in the Taliban's spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened.

A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid. The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces.  One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.

"Today the school is open, but there are no girls," Qaderi said Thursday. "Yesterday, all of the classes were full." His school has 1,500 students.

Afghanistan's government condemned the attack as "un-Islamic" and blamed it on the "country's enemies," a typical reference to Taliban militants. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, denied the insurgents were involved.

Girls were banned from schools under the rule of the Taliban, the hard-line Islamist regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Women were only allowed to leave the house wearing a body-hiding burqa and accompanied by a male family member.
Qaderi said he believes there were multiple teams of assailants because the attacks took place at the same time in different neighborhoods. Provincial Police Chief Mati Ullah Khan said three people have been arrested. He would not provide further details because the investigation was not completed.

The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taliban ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children — mostly all boys — attended school under Taliban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.

But many conservative families still keep their girls at home and the acid attacks are a reminder that old biases remain.

"They don't want us go to school. They don't like education," said Susan Ibrahimi, who started teaching at Mirwais Mena four months ago. She and her mother, also a teacher at the school, were wearing burqas on their walk to work when the motorbike stopped next to them.

"They didn't say anything. They just stopped the motorbike and one of the guys threw acid on us and they went away," Ibrahimi said in a telephone interview.

The acid ate through the cloth covering Ibrahimi's face and left burns down her left cheek. The acid also burned her mother's hand.

"I am worried that I will have scars on my face," said Ibrahimi, who is 19 years old and not married.

Fifteen people were hit with acid in all, including four teachers, Qaderi said.  Ibrahimi said it was the Taliban that attacked her but then explained that she used the term to refer to anyone who was against education for women.

The United Nations called the attack "a hideous crime."

First lady Laura Bush on Thursday decried the attack as cowardly, saying in a statement the "shameful acts are condemned by honorable people in the United States and around the world."

The attacks are "contrary to previous assurances Afghans have been given that there would not be further attacks against schools or students," the U.N. said in a statement.

Arsonists have repeatedly attacked girls' schools and gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls' school in central Logar province last year. UNICEF says there were 236 school-related attacks in Afghanistan in 2007. The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of attacking schools in an attempt to force teenage boys into the Islamic militia.

In Wednesday's attack, three young women were hospitalized for burns. Two were released Thursday morning, but 17-year-old Shamsia Husainai was still lying on a hospital bed unable to open her eyes. Her brother Masood Morbi said her body shook about every 10 seconds.  She could talk, but her brother said her words were mangled. Her face was covered with a cream to treat her burns. The doctors were giving her pills to blunt the pain. 

Husainai's younger sister told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they had been walking on the street with a group of friends, all of whom were wearing a typical Afghan school uniform of black pants, white shirt, black coat and white headscarf.

Fourteen-year-old Atifa Bibi was also badly burned on her face but she was released from the hospital late Wednesday.

Qaderi, the principal, said no one in the school had reported any direct threats but one of the teachers attacked Wednesday had reported an incident two days ago in which two men threatened her.

"She told me when she was walking two men said to her, 'Oh, you are putting on makeup and going to the school. Okay, we will see you.'"

Husainai and Bibi's aunt, Bibi Meryam, said no one had threatened them but they would consider keeping the girls at home until it felt safer.  A handful of teachers showed up Thursday, but Qaderi said the only students who tried to attend were about 20 primary school students who arrived late in the afternoon and were sent home because the school had already decided not to hold classes. 
Ibrahimi, the young teacher who was burned, said she and her mother stayed home.

"Yesterday we didn't go to school. Today we didn't go to school. I don't know about the future," she said.
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Posts: 15533

« Reply #251 on: November 14, 2008, 03:18:00 PM »

Acid to the face of improperly garbed or less than submissive women, is popular around the islamic world.
« Reply #252 on: November 14, 2008, 05:19:06 PM »

Wait a second, it happened in Afghanistan, so we have to be culturally sensitive. Missives about the oppression of women are only appropriate when they focus on instances of sexism occurring in Western democracies. At least I think thats the current standard, though I confess I get confused when calculating which situational ethic trumps what heinous act.
« Reply #253 on: November 14, 2008, 05:41:55 PM »

Please provide proof or delete your comment. This  horrific attack was condemned all over the feminist blogosphere

edited to add
Here are two examples
« Last Edit: November 14, 2008, 05:54:49 PM by rachelg » Logged
« Reply #254 on: November 14, 2008, 06:40:06 PM »

There are plenty of instances where folks claiming all sorts of PC bona fides stand with thugs who have committed numerous atrocities. The left's love affair with Castro is a case in point, as is its pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel stance. Just about any time any organ of the UN convenes sundry plutocrats, autocrats, kleptocrats, and their attendants spout some anti-Western democratic snivel from their perch atop a downtrodden populace, with rare objection from the left side of the aisle.

My comment was a parody of conversations I've witnessed on many occasions where sweetness and light types have had to invoke situational algebra to figure out how to respond when someone they stand in solidarity with behaves in a manner that would earn a white, male, Republican an excoriation in no uncertain terms. If you have not witnessed the same I would question your veracity and hope that the horror you espouse when the extreme is lampooned informs your thinking in less stark instances.
« Reply #255 on: November 14, 2008, 07:22:36 PM »

I definitely agree that moral relativity is wrong,Castro is horrible, and some  on the left and are wrong on Israel.
However the example you used is false. You could have made your point in many different ways.  Why choose this story --your original accusation is false.   Feminists in this country do stand up for the rights of women all over the world. This case in particular I read in several places before I read it here. 
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« Reply #256 on: November 14, 2008, 07:47:52 PM »

Since I started my study of islam, on 9/12/01, I've read of many instances of "acid to the face" throught the muslim world. During that time, I've seen lots of apologetics for islamic terror and abuse from the left under the guise of multiculturalism and very little, if any condemnation from feminists for the "rape culture" inherent in islam.
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« Reply #257 on: November 14, 2008, 08:59:14 PM »

I understand Rachel's point to be that IN THIS CASE there was general condemnation and I uinderstand BBG's point to apply in general.

The following is a few years old (I originally posted in on the DBMAA forum in Jan '03), but addresses the issues involved:

Why Feminism Is AWOL on Islam
Kay S. Hymowitz

U.S. feminists should be protesting the brutal oppression of Middle Eastern women. But doing so would reveal how little they have to complain about at home.

Argue all you want with many feminist policies, but few quarrel with feminism?s core moral insight, which changed the lives (and minds) of women forever: that women are due the same rights and dignity as men. So, as news of the appalling miseries of women in the Islamic world has piled up, where are the feminists? Where?s the outrage? For a brief moment after September 11, when pictures of those blue alien-creaturely shapes in Afghanistan filled the papers, it seemed as if feminists were going to have their moment. And in fact the Feminist Majority, to its credit, had been publicizing since the mid-90s how Afghan girls were barred from school, how women were stoned for adultery or beaten for showing an ankle or wearing high-heeled shoes, how they were prohibited from leaving the house unless accompanied by a male relative, how they were denied medical help because the only doctors around were male.

But the rest is feminist silence. You haven?t heard a peep from feminists as it has grown clear that the Taliban were exceptional not in their extreme views about women but in their success at embodying those views in law and practice. In the United Arab Emirates, husbands have the right to beat their wives in order to discipline them??provided that the beating is not so severe as to damage her bones or deform her body,? in the words of the Gulf News. In Saudi Arabia, women cannot vote, drive, or show their faces or talk with male non-relatives in public. (Evidently they can?t talk to men over the airwaves either; when Prince Abdullah went to President Bush?s ranch in Crawford last April, he insisted that no female air-traffic controllers handle his flight.) Yes, Saudi girls can go to school, and many even attend the university; but at the university, women must sit in segregated rooms and watch their professors on closed-circuit televisions. If they have a question, they push a button on their desk, which turns on a light at the professor?s lectern, from which he can answer the female without being in her dangerous presence. And in Saudi Arabia, education can be harmful to female health. Last spring in Mecca, members of the mutaween, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue, pushed fleeing students back into their burning school because they were not properly covered in abaya. Fifteen girls died.

You didn?t hear much from feminists when in the northern Nigerian province of Katsina a Muslim court sentenced a woman to death by stoning for having a child outside of marriage. The case might not have earned much attention?stonings are common in parts of the Muslim world?except that the young woman, who had been married off at 14 to a husband who ultimately divorced her when she lost her virginal allure, was still nursing a baby at the time of sentencing. During her trial she had no lawyer, although the court did see fit to delay her execution until she weans her infant.

You didn?t hear much from feminists as it emerged that honor killings by relatives, often either ignored or only lightly punished by authorities, are also commonplace in the Muslim world. In September, Reuters reported the story of an Iranian man, ?defending my honor, family, and dignity,? who cut off his seven-year-old daughter?s head after suspecting she had been raped by her uncle. The postmortem showed the girl to be a virgin. In another family mix-up, a Yemeni man shot his daughter to death on her wedding night when her husband claimed she was not a virgin. After a medical exam revealed that the husband was mistaken, officials concluded he was simply trying to protect himself from embarrassment about his own impotence. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, every day two women are slain by male relatives seeking to avenge the family honor.

The savagery of some of these murders is worth a moment?s pause. In 2000, two Punjabi sisters, 20 and 21 years old, had their throats slit by their brother and cousin because the girls were seen talking to two boys to whom they were not related. In one especially notorious case, an Egyptian woman named Nora Marzouk Ahmed fell in love and eloped. When she went to make amends with her father, he cut off her head and paraded it down the street. Several years back, according to the Washington Post, the husband of Zahida Perveen, a 32-year-old pregnant Pakistani, gouged out her eyes and sliced off her earlobe and nose because he suspected her of having an affair.

In a related example widely covered last summer, a teenage girl in the Punjab was sentenced by a tribal council to rape by a gang that included one of the councilmen. After the hour-and-a-half ordeal, the girl was forced to walk home naked in front of scores of onlookers. She had been punished because her 11-year-old brother had compromised another girl by being been seen alone with her. But that charge turned out to be a ruse: it seems that three men of a neighboring tribe had sodomized the boy and accused him of illicit relations?an accusation leading to his sister?s barbaric punishment?as a way of covering up their crime.

Nor is such brutality limited to backward, out-of-the-way villages. Muddassir Rizvi, a Pakistani journalist, says that, though always common in rural areas, in recent years honor killings have become more prevalent in cities ?among educated and liberal families.? In relatively modern Jordan, honor killings were all but exempt from punishment until the penal code was modified last year; unfortunately, a young Palestinian living in Jordan, who had recently stabbed his 19-year-old sister 40 times ?to cleanse the family honor,? and another man from near Amman, who ran over his 23-year-old sister with his truck because of her ?immoral behavior,? had not yet changed their ways. British psychiatrist Anthony Daniels reports that British Muslim men frequently spirit their young daughters back to their native Pakistan and force the girls to marry. Such fathers have been known to kill daughters who resist. In Sweden, in one highly publicized case, Fadima Sahindal, an assimilated 26-year-old of Kurdish origin, was murdered by her father after she began living with her Swedish boyfriend. ?The whore is dead,? the family announced.

As you look at this inventory of brutality, the question bears repeating: Where are the demonstrations, the articles, the petitions, the resolutions, the vindications of the rights of Islamic women by American feminists? The weird fact is that, even after the excesses of the Taliban did more to forge an American consensus about women?s rights than 30 years of speeches by Gloria Steinem, feminists refused to touch this subject. They have averted their eyes from the harsh, blatant oppression of millions of women, even while they have continued to stare into the Western patriarchal abyss, indignant over female executives who cannot join an exclusive golf club and college women who do not have their own lacrosse teams.

But look more deeply into the matter, and you realize that the sound of feminist silence about the savage fundamentalist Muslim oppression of women has its own perverse logic. The silence is a direct outgrowth of the way feminist theory has developed in recent years. Now mired in self-righteous sentimentalism, multicultural nonjudgmentalism, and internationalist utopianism, feminism has lost the language to make the universalist moral claims of equal dignity and individual freedom that once rendered it so compelling. No wonder that most Americans, trying to deal with the realities of a post-9/11 world, are paying feminists no mind.

To understand the current sisterly silence about the sort of tyranny that the women?s movement came into existence to attack, it is helpful to think of feminisms plural rather than singular. Though not entirely discrete philosophies, each of three different feminisms has its own distinct reasons for causing activists to ?lose their voice? in the face of women?s oppression.

The first variety?radical feminism (or gender feminism, in Christina Hoff Sommers?s term)?starts with the insight that men are, not to put too fine a point upon it, brutes. Radical feminists do not simply subscribe to the reasonable-enough notion that men are naturally more prone to aggression than women. They believe that maleness is a kind of original sin. Masculinity explains child abuse, marital strife, high defense spending, every war from Troy to Afghanistan, as well as Hitler, Franco, and Pinochet. As Gloria Steinem informed the audience at a Florida fundraiser last March: ?The cult of masculinity is the basis for every violent, fascist regime.?

Gender feminists are little interested in fine distinctions between radical Muslim men who slam commercial airliners into office buildings and soldiers who want to stop radical Muslim men from slamming commercial airliners into office buildings. They are both examples of generic male violence?and specifically, male violence against women. ?Terrorism is on a continuum that starts with violence within the family, battery against women, violence against women in the society, all the way up to organized militaries that are supported by taxpayer money,? according to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who teaches ?The Sexuality of Terrorism? at California State University in Hayward. Violence is so intertwined with male sexuality that, she tells us, military pilots watch porn movies before they go out on sorties. The war in Afghanistan could not possibly offer a chance to liberate women from their oppressors, since it would simply expose women to yet another set of oppressors, in the gender feminists? view. As Sharon Lerner asserted bizarrely in the Village Voice, feminists? ?discomfort? with the Afghanistan bombing was ?deepened by the knowledge that more women than men die as a result of most wars.?

If guys are brutes, girls are their opposite: peace-loving, tolerant, conciliatory, and reasonable??Antiwar and Pro-Feminist,? as the popular peace-rally sign goes. Feminists long ago banished tough-as-nails women like Margaret Thatcher and Jeanne Kirkpatrick (and these days, one would guess, even the fetching Condoleezza Rice) to the ranks of the imperfectly female. Real women, they believe, would never justify war. ?Most women, Western and Muslim, are opposed to war regardless of its reasons and objectives,? wrote the Jordanian feminist Fadia Faqir on ?They are concerned with emancipation, freedom (personal and civic), human rights, power sharing, integrity, dignity, equality, autonomy, power-sharing [sic], liberation, and pluralism.?

Sara Ruddick, author of Maternal Thinking, is perhaps one of the most influential spokeswomen for the position that women are instinctually peaceful. According to Ruddick (who clearly didn?t have Joan Crawford in mind), that?s because a good deal of mothering is naturally governed by the Gandhian principles of nonviolence such as ?renunciation,? ?resistance to injustice,? and ?reconciliation.? The novelist Barbara Kingsolver was one of the first to demonstrate the subtleties of such universal maternal thinking after the United States invaded Afghanistan. ?I feel like I?m standing on a playground where the little boys are all screaming ?He started it!? and throwing rocks,? she wrote in the Los Angeles Times. ?I keep looking for somebody?s mother to come on the scene saying, ?Boys! Boys!? ?

Gender feminism?s tendency to reduce foreign affairs to a Lifetime Channel movie may make it seem too silly to bear mentioning, but its kitschy naivet? hasn?t stopped it from being widespread among elites. You see it in widely read writers like Kingsolver, Maureen Dowd, and Alice Walker. It turns up in our most elite institutions. Swanee Hunt, head of the Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard?s Kennedy School of Government wrote, with Cristina Posa in Foreign Policy: ?The key reason behind women?s marginalization may be that everyone recognizes just how good women are at forging peace.? Even female elected officials are on board. ?The women of all these countries should go on strike, they should all sit down and refuse to do anything until their men agree to talk peace,? urged Ohio representative Marcy Kaptur to the Arab News last spring, echoing an idea that Aristophanes, a dead white male, proposed as a joke 2,400 years ago. And President Clinton is an advocate of maternal thinking, too. ?If we?d had women at Camp David,? he said in July 2000, ?we?d have an agreement.?

Major foundations too seem to take gender feminism seriously enough to promote it as an answer to world problems. Last December, the Ford Foundation and the Soros Open Society Foundation helped fund the Afghan Women?s Summit in Brussels to develop ideas for a new government in Afghanistan. As Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler described it on her website, the summit was made up of ?meetings and meals, canvassing, workshops, tears, and dancing.? ?Defense was mentioned nowhere in the document,? Ensler wrote proudly of the summit?s concluding proclamation?despite the continuing threat in Afghanistan of warlords, bandits, and lingering al-Qaida operatives. ?uilding weapons or instruments of retaliation was not called for in any category,? Ensler cooed. ?Instead [the women] wanted education, health care, and the protection of refugees, culture, and human rights.?

Too busy celebrating their own virtue and contemplating their own victimhood, gender feminists cannot address the suffering of their Muslim sisters realistically, as light years worse than their own petulant grievances. They are too intent on hating war to ask if unleashing its horrors might be worth it to overturn a brutal tyranny that, among its manifold inhumanities, treats women like animals. After all, hating war and machismo is evidence of the moral superiority that comes with being born female.

Yet the gender feminist idea of superior feminine virtue is becoming an increasingly tough sell for anyone actually keeping up with world events. Kipling once wrote of the fierceness of Afghan women: ?When you?re wounded and left on the Afghan plains/And the women come out to cut up your remains/Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains.? Now it?s clearer than ever that the dream of worldwide sisterhood is no more realistic than worldwide brotherhood; culture trumps gender any day. Mothers all over the Muslim world are naming their babies Usama or praising Allah for their sons? efforts to kill crusading infidels. Last February, 28-year-old Wafa Idris became the first female Palestinian suicide bomber to strike in Israel, killing an elderly man and wounding scores of women and children. And in April, Israeli soldiers discovered under the maternity clothes of 26-year-old Shifa Adnan Kodsi a bomb rather than a baby. Maternal thinking, indeed.

The second variety of feminism, seemingly more sophisticated and especially prevalent on college campuses, is multiculturalism and its twin, postcolonialism. The postcolonial feminist has even more reason to shy away from the predicament of women under radical Islam than her maternally thinking sister. She believes that the Western world is so sullied by its legacy of imperialism that no Westerner, man or woman, can utter a word of judgment against former colonial peoples. Worse, she is not so sure that radical Islam isn?t an authentic, indigenous?and therefore appropriate?expression of Arab and Middle Eastern identity.

The postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault, one of the intellectual godfathers of multiculturalism and postcolonialism, first set the tone in 1978 when an Italian newspaper sent him to Teheran to cover the Iranian revolution. As his biographer James Miller tells it, Foucault looked in the face of Islamic fundamentalism and saw . . . an awe-inspiring revolt against ?global hegemony.? He was mesmerized by this new form of ?political spirituality? that, in a phrase whose dark prescience he could not have grasped, portended the ?transfiguration of the world.? Even after the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and reintroduced polygamy and divorce on the husband?s demand with automatic custody to fathers, reduced the official female age of marriage from 18 to 13, fired all female judges, and ordered compulsory veiling, whose transgression was to be punished by public flogging, Foucault saw no reason to temper his enthusiasm. What was a small matter like women?s basic rights, when a struggle against ?the planetary system? was at hand?

Postcolonialists, then, have their own binary system, somewhat at odds with gender feminism?not to mention with women?s rights. It is not men who are the sinners; it is the West. It is not women who are victimized innocents; it is the people who suffered under Western colonialism, or the descendants of those people, to be more exact. Caught between the rock of patriarchy and the hard place of imperialism, the postcolonial feminist scholar gingerly tiptoes her way around the subject of Islamic fundamentalism and does the only thing she can do: she focuses her ire on Western men.

To this end, the postcolonialist eagerly dips into the inkwell of gender feminism. She ties colonialist exploitation and domination to maleness; she might refer to Israel?s ?masculinist military culture??Israel being white and Western?though she would never dream of pointing out the ?masculinist military culture? of the jihadi. And she expends a good deal of energy condemning Western men for wanting to improve the lives of Eastern women. At the turn of the twentieth century Lord Cromer, the British vice consul of Egypt and a pet target of postcolonial feminists, argued that the ?degradation? of women under Islam had a harmful effect on society. Rubbish, according to the postcolonialist feminist. His words are simply part of ?the Western narrative of the quintessential otherness and inferiority of Islam,? as Harvard professor Leila Ahmed puts it in Women and Gender in Islam. The same goes for American concern about Afghan women; it is merely a ?device for ranking the ?other? men as inferior or as ?uncivilized,? ? according to Nira Yuval-Davis, professor of gender and ethnic studies at the University of Greenwich, England. These are all examples of what renowned Columbia professor Gayatri Spivak called ?white men saving brown women from brown men.?
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« Reply #258 on: November 14, 2008, 09:00:10 PM »

Spivak?s phrase, a great favorite on campus, points to the postcolonial notion that brown men, having been victimized by the West, can never be oppressors in their own right. If they give the appearance of treating women badly, the oppression they have suffered at the hands of Western colonial masters is to blame. In fact, the worse they treat women, the more they are expressing their own justifiable outrage. ?When men are traumatized [by colonial rule], they tend to traumatize their own women,? Miriam Cooke, a Duke professor and head of the Association for Middle East Women?s Studies, told me. And today, Cooke asserts, brown men are subjected to a new form of imperialism. ?Now there is a return of colonialism that we saw in the nineteenth century in the context of globalization,? she says. ?What is driving Islamist men is globalization.?

It would be difficult to exaggerate the through-the-looking-glass quality of postcolonialist theory when it comes to the subject of women. Female suicide bombers are a good thing, because they are strong women demonstrating ?agency? against colonial powers. Polygamy too must be shown due consideration. ?Polygamy can be liberating and empowering,? Cooke answered sunnily when I asked her about it. ?Our norm is the Western, heterosexual, single couple. If we can imagine different forms that would allow us to be something other than a heterosexual couple, we might imagine polygamy working,? she explained murkily. Some women, she continued, are relieved when their husbands take a new wife: they won?t have to service him so often. Or they might find they now have the freedom to take a lover. But, I ask, wouldn?t that be dangerous in places where adulteresses can be stoned to death? At any rate, how common is that? ?I don?t know,? Cooke answers, ?I?m interested in discourse.? The irony couldn?t be darker: the very people protesting the imperialist exploitation of the ?Other? endorse that Other?s repressive customs as a means of promoting their own uniquely Western agenda?subverting the heterosexual patriarchy.

The final category in the feminist taxonomy, which might be called the world-government utopian strain, is in many respects closest to classical liberal feminism. Dedicated to full female dignity and equality, it generally eschews both the biological determinism of the gender feminist and the cultural relativism of the multiculti postcolonialist. Stanford political science professor Susan Moller Okin, an influential, subtle, and intelligent spokeswoman for this approach, created a stir among feminists in 1997 when she forthrightly attacked multiculturalists for valuing ?group rights for minority cultures? over the well-being of individual women. Okin admirably minced no words attacking arranged marriage, female circumcision, and polygamy, which she believed women experienced as a ?barely tolerable institution.? Some women, she went so far as to declare, ?might be better off if the culture into which they were born were either to become extinct . . . or preferably, to be encouraged to alter itself so as to reinforce the equality of women.?

But though Okin is less shy than other feminists about discussing the plight of women under Islamic fundamentalism, the typical U.N. utopian has her own reasons for keeping quiet as that plight fills Western headlines. For one thing, the utopian is also a bean-counting absolutist, seeking a pure, numerical equality between men and women in all departments of life. She greets Western, and particularly American, claims to have achieved freedom for women with skepticism. The motto of the 2002 International Women?s Day??Afghanistan Is Everywhere??was in part a reproach to the West about its superior airs. Women in Afghanistan might have to wear burqas, but don?t women in the West parade around in bikinis? ?It?s equally disrespectful and abusive to have women prancing around a stage in bathing suits for cash or walking the streets shrouded in burqas in order to survive,? columnist Jill Nelson wrote on the MSNBC website about the murderously fanatical riots that attended the Miss World pageant in Nigeria.

As Nelson?s statement hints, the utopian is less interested in freeing women to make their own choices than in engineering and imposing her own elite vision of a perfect society. Indeed, she is under no illusions that, left to their own democratic devices, women would freely choose the utopia she has in mind. She would not be surprised by recent Pakistani elections, where a number of the women who won parliamentary seats were Islamist. But it doesn?t really matter what women want. The universalist has a comprehensive vision of ?women?s human rights,? meaning not simply women?s civil and political rights but ?economic rights? and ?socioeconomic justice.? Cynical about free markets and globalization, the U.N. utopian is also unimpressed by the liberal democratic nation-state ?as an emancipatory institution,? in the dismissive words of J. Ann Tickner, director for international studies at the University of Southern California. Such nation-states are ?unresponsive to the needs of [their] most vulnerable members? and seeped in ?nationalist ideologies? as well as in patriarchal assumptions about autonomy. In fact, like the (usually) unacknowledged socialist that she is, the U.N. utopian eagerly awaits the withering of the nation-state, a political arrangement that she sees as tied to imperialism, war, and masculinity. During war, in particular, nations ?depend on ideas about masculinized dignity and feminized sacrifice to sustain the sense of autonomous nationhood,? writes Cynthia Enloe, professor of government at Clark University.

Having rejected the patriarchal liberal nation-state, with all the democratic machinery of self-government that goes along with it, the utopian concludes that there is only one way to achieve her goals: to impose them through international government. Utopian feminists fill the halls of the United Nations, where they examine everything through the lens of the ?gender perspective? in study after unreadable study. (My personal favorites: ?Gender Perspectives on Landmines? and ?Gender Perspectives on Weapons of Mass Destruction,? whose conclusion is that landmines and WMDs are bad for women.)

The 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), perhaps the first and most important document of feminist utopianism, gives the best sense of the sweeping nature of the movement?s ambitions. CEDAW demands many measures that anyone committed to democratic liberal values would applaud, including women?s right to vote and protection against honor killings and forced marriage. Would that the document stopped there. Instead it sets out to impose a utopian order that would erase all distinctions between men and women, a kind of revolution of the sexes from above, requiring nations to ?take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women? and to eliminate ?stereotyped roles? to accomplish this legislative abolition of biology. The document calls for paid maternity leave, nonsexist school curricula, and government-supported child care. The treaty?s 23-member enforcement committee hectors nations that do not adequately grasp that, as Enloe puts it, ?the personal is international.? The committee has cited Belarus for celebrating Mother?s Day, China for failing to legalize prostitution, and Libya for not interpreting the Qur?an in accordance with ?committee guidelines.?

Confusing ?women?s participation? with self-determination, and numerical equivalence with equality, CEDAW utopians try to orchestrate their perfect society through quotas and affirmative-action plans. Their bean-counting mentality cares about whether women participate equally, without asking what it is that they are participating in or whether their participation is anything more than ceremonial. Thus at the recent Women?s Summit in Jordan, Rima Khalaf suggested that governments be required to use quotas in elections ?to leapfrog women to power.? Khalaf, like so many illiberal feminist utopians, has no hesitation in forcing society to be free. As is often the case when elites decide they have discovered the route to human perfection, the utopian urge is not simply antidemocratic but verges on the totalitarian.

That this combination of sentimental victimhood, postcolonial relativism, and utopian overreaching has caused feminism to suffer so profound a loss of moral and political imagination that it cannot speak against the brutalization of Islamic women is an incalculable loss to women and to men. The great contribution of Western feminism was to expand the definition of human dignity and freedom. It insisted that all human beings were worthy of liberty. Feminists now have the opportunity to make that claim on behalf of women who in their oppression have not so much as imagined that its promise could include them, too. At its best, feminism has stood for a rich idea of personal choice in shaping a meaningful life, one that respects not only the woman who wants to crash through glass ceilings but also the one who wants to stay home with her children and bake cookies or to wear a veil and fast on Ramadan. Why shouldn?t feminists want to shout out their own profound discovery for the world to hear?

Perhaps, finally, because to do so would be to acknowledge the freedom they themselves enjoy, thanks to Western ideals and institutions. Not only would such an admission force them to give up their own simmering resentments; it would be bad for business.
The truth is that the free institutions?an independent judiciary, a free press, open elections?that protect the rights of women are the same ones that protect the rights of men. The separation of church and state that would allow women to escape the burqa would also free men from having their hands amputated for theft. The education system that would teach girls to read would also empower millions of illiterate boys. The capitalist economies that bring clean water, cheap clothes, and washing machines that change the lives of women are the same ones that lead to healthier, freer men. In other words, to address the problems of Muslim women honestly, feminists would have to recognize that free men and women need the same things?and that those are things that they themselves already have. And recognizing that would mean an end to feminism as we know it.

There are signs that, outside the academy, middlebrow literary circles, and the United Nations, feminism has indeed met its Waterloo. Most Americans seem to realize that September 11 turned self-indulgent sentimental illusions, including those about the sexes, into an unaffordable luxury. Consider, for instance, women?s attitudes toward war, a topic on which politicians have learned to take for granted a gender gap. But according to the Pew Research Center, in January 2002, 57 percent of women versus 46 percent of men cited national security as the country?s top priority. There has been a ?seismic gender shift on matters of war,? according to pollster Kellyanne Conway. In 1991, 45 percent of U.S. women supported the use of ground troops in the Gulf War, a substantially smaller number than the 67 percent of men. But as of November, a CNN survey found women were more likely than men to support the use of ground troops against Iraq, 58 percent to 56 percent. The numbers for younger women were especially dramatic. Sixty-five percent of women between 18 and 49 support ground troops, as opposed to 48 percent of women 50 and over. Women are also changing their attitudes toward military spending: before September 11, only 24 percent of women supported increased funds; after the attacks, that number climbed to 47 percent. An evolutionary psychologist might speculate that, if females tend to be less aggressively territorial than males, there?s little to compare to the ferocity of the lioness when she believes her young are threatened.

Even among some who consider themselves feminists, there is some grudging recognition that Western, and specifically American, men are sometimes a force for the good. The Feminist Majority is sending around urgent messages asking for President Bush to increase American security forces in Afghanistan. The influential left-wing British columnist Polly Toynbee, who just 18 months ago coined the phrase ?America the Horrible,? went to Afghanistan to figure out whether the war ?was worth it.? Her answer was not what she might have expected. Though she found nine out of ten women still wearing burqas, partly out of fear of lingering fundamentalist hostility, she was convinced their lives had greatly improved. Women say they can go out alone now.

As we sink more deeply into what is likely to be a protracted struggle with radical Islam, American feminists have a moral responsibility to give up their resentments and speak up for women who actually need their support. Feminists have the moral authority to say that their call for the rights of women is a universal demand?that the rights of women are the Rights of Man.

Feminism Behind the Veil

Feminists in the West may fiddle while Muslim women are burning, but in the Muslim world itself there is a burgeoning movement to address the miserable predicament of the second sex?without simply adopting a philosophy whose higher cultural products include Sex and the City, Rosie O?Donnell, and the power-suited female executive.

The most impressive signs of an indigenous female revolt against the fundamentalist order are in Iran. Over the past ten years or so, Iran has seen the publication of a slew of serious journals dedicated to the social and political predicament of Islamic women, the most well known being the Teheran-based Zonan and Zan, published by Faezah Hashemi, a well-known member of parliament and the daughter of former president Rafsanjani. Believing that Western feminism has promoted hostility between the sexes, confused sex roles, and the sexual objectification of women, a number of writers have proposed an Islamic-style feminism that would stress ?gender complementarity? rather than equality and that would pay full respect to housewifery and motherhood while also giving women access to education and jobs.

Attacking from the religious front, a number of ?Islamic feminists? are challenging the reigning fundamentalist reading of the Qur?an. These scholars insist that the founding principles of Islam, which they believe were long ago corrupted by pre-Islamic Arab, Persian, and North African customs, are if anything more egalitarian than those of Western religions; the Qur?an explicitly describes women as the moral and spiritual equals of men and allows them to inherit and pass down property. The power of misogynistic mullahs has grown in recent decades, feminists continue, because Muslim men have felt threatened by modernity?s challenge to traditional arrangements between the sexes.

What makes Islamic feminism really worth watching is that it has the potential to play a profoundly important role in the future of the Islamic world?and not just because it could improve the lot of women. By insisting that it is true to Islam?in fact, truer than the creed espoused by the entrenched religious elite?Islamic feminism can affirm the dignity of Islam while at the same time bringing it more in line with modernity. In doing this, feminists can help lay the philosophical groundwork for democracy. In the West, feminism lagged behind religious reformation and political democratization by centuries; in the East, feminism could help lead the charge.

At the same time, though, the issue of women?s rights highlights two reasons for caution about the Islamic future. For one thing, no matter how much feminists might wish otherwise, polygamy and male domination of the family are not merely a fact of local traditions; they are written into the Qur?an itself. This in and of itself would not prove to be such an impediment?the Old Testament is filled with laws antithetical to women?s equality?except for the second problem: more than other religions, Islam is unfriendly to the notion of the separation of church and state. If history is any guide, there?s the rub. The ultimate guarantor of the rights of all citizens, whether Islamic or not, can only be a fully secular state
« Reply #259 on: November 15, 2008, 07:43:58 AM »

Feminists in this country do stand up for the rights of women all over the world.

Uhm, yeah, right. Just like all of them did when Palin was nominated. Duck over to the Daily Kos or the Democratic Underground some day if you want a full dose of situational ethics on full display. Whether it's support of petty dictators like Hugo Chavez, apologists for home grown terrorists like Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn, or boneheads who think our dead troops got their just desserts, there are a lot of folks on the left who have a very hard time defining a standard and then applying it consistently, which is the reason I no longer count myself among their ranks.
« Reply #260 on: November 16, 2008, 08:56:25 PM »

I  disagree strongly that  war is always wrong , and that violence is never the  answer.   It is true that  feminism and  the peace movement often gone hand in hand historically. It may be true that war was the best thing that ever happened to Afghanistan women  recently  but  case in point it certainly didn't t solve all their problems and won't.

However it is wrong to say that the Feminist  movements doesn't care what happens to women in other countries.

There are regular articles  and petitions about women in the Middle East. They and I do care.

See examples here

 I have a right to care about what happens in the Country.  American women do have it better  than in any other country  because people in general in America have it better in any other country.   It doesn't mean that it selfish to want things to improve.

Between 1-4 and 1-6 women  in America are victims of attempted sexual assault or sexual violence.
Rape is not just a problem in the Middle East.

I think you would have some problems with below arguments  if they were made about free speech which I think is very important.

How can you complain about free speech when we have so much better than in China.    Also how can you worry about free speech when there is hunger in the world. Isn't keeping people from starving to death more important than whether or not  you  have free speech. Really you have nothing to complain about relatively

I  honestly don't know what feminist blogs were saying about the Middle East after 2001. I was not reading them then.   If you are going to criticize the Feminist movement for their behavior NOW  I request you that you use recent relevant examples.   That seems to be standard expected  behavior for all other topics.

Marc  the article  you posted spent about half its time criticizing feminist moments that are not mainstream.   I don't think women or men are better and  I happen to like the Western democracies a lot  better than non- democracies.

My understanding of feminism is that it treating women equally makes the world better for everyone not just woman.

 I don't like Daily Kos  and I will  never willing visit that site.   There is a reason there is a separate feminist movement from the rest of the left. 

Sarah Palin sexism watch
There are many other examples. I had posted a couple myself

Both the right and left have hypocrites and extremists and those who use situational ethics.   I have many problems with both the far right and the far left.  I am a democrat because of their ideas not because  I believe democrats are better people.

P.S--   My time is very limited lately since I have been working a lot more because of recent layoffs at my job.   It is quite possible that I will be starting conversations and not finishing them until much later. I apologize in advance.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2008, 06:56:51 AM by rachelg » Logged
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« Reply #261 on: November 17, 2008, 10:37:43 AM »

Good Morning Rachel:

I posted the article because a) it was on point, and b) I had it at hand.  smiley  Agreed I should have put in a brief introduction/description to it (just like I so often tell GM  embarassed  cheesy )

Sorry to hear about pressures at work.  May I ask here what it is that you do?
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« Reply #262 on: November 18, 2008, 10:28:38 AM »

I have voiced my concerns over what I perceive as an absence of a coherent strategy for Afg-Pak.  Here's one POV:

==============n't Negotiate With the Taliban
Afghanistan is making progress despite its president.By ANN MARLOWEArticle
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Khost Province, Afghanistan

The British have been muttering in recent weeks about talking with the Taliban to end the Afghan insurgency. And Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently offered amnesty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he would return to Afghanistan for peace talks. Mr. Karzai said that if foreign nations disapproved they could either withdraw their troops or remove him (the latter being the best suggestion he has had in a long time). So the terrible idea of talks with the Taliban has penetrated American military and political circles, part of a new pessimism that threatens to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

"The security situation is better than it was when the 82nd Airborne left in April. I am satisfied." So says Haji Doulat, the 63-year-old subgovernor of Mandozai, one of the 12 districts of Khost Province. He has worked hard with American troops to develop this rural farming community of 120,000.

Khost is one of the frontline provinces in the war on terror. It shares a 112 mile border with some of the most lawless areas of Pakistan. And its Zadran tribe counts as a member the insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who regularly stages attacks on Coalition forces from across the border. The first two girls admitted to Khost's university this fall are so fearful of reprisals that they study at home and go to the campus only for exams. But Khost is also one of the places where we are winning the war against the Taliban, if slowly and expensively.

Since 2007, the U.S. commanders in Khost have dispersed their fighters among the province's districts to live in force-protection facilities alongside the subgovernors like Mr. Doulat and the Afghan National Police. These troops and the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, a civil-military partnership, use their Commander's Emergency Response Program Funds to improve Afghans' lives.

In 2002, there were 13 schools in this province of a million people. Now there are 205, of which 53 were built by the U.S. and 30 by other donors including NGOs, the World Bank and foreign governments. U.S. troops are building 25 more now. Before the invasion not a single girl went to school in all of Khost Province. In 2002 approximately 3,000 attended school. This year, 8,000 girls in Mandozai District alone were in school, and 50,047 attended in all of Khost.

The economy in Mandozai, as in other districts of Khost, has boomed thanks to the hardtop roads financed by the U.S. This week, Mr. Doulat sent men to take a first-ever survey of all the shops in his district with a view of increasing tax rolls and jumpstarting a small bazaar area. There were 61 shops in one half of Mandozai, most with more than 50,000 afghanis ($1,000) in capital. At the beginning of 2007, there were only about 15 shops in all of Mandozai bazaar. (There are 11,300 shops in the city of Khost, the provincial capital, with 2,000 added in the past year, according to Kiramert Khan, the head of the shopkeepers' union.)

Good governance is an essential part of progress. Mr. Doulat is considered the best of Khost's subgovernors by U.S. commanders. On a national level, much that's gone wrong is the fault of Mr. Karzai's wavering and often incompetent government.

This is why Mr. Karzai has been calling for talks with the Taliban and the ruthless war criminal Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- who in his Kabul University days splashed acid on the faces of unveiled female students -- for a couple of years now. Exaggerating the potency of the insurgents is a way of excusing his own failures. It may also help him retain the support of hard-line Pashtun nationalists, nearly his only constituency now.

American commanders have nothing to cover up. In the 14 eastern provinces they command, progress is obvious. But talking with the Taliban will send the wrong message to everyone, from the feckless Mr. Karzai to energetic, courageous Afghans like Mr. Doulat to the little girls going to school for the first time.

– Robert C. Pozen and Yaneer Bar-YamAhmad Nadar Nadary, commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, is about to publish a 30-page report on Taliban atrocities, including about 700 Afghan civilians murdered between June 2007 and July 2008. (Look for it on One recent attack came on Oct. 30, when the Taliban attacked Afghanistan's Ministry of Culture. Three insurgents murdered a policeman and four civilians. The people who commit such killings are criminals who should be punished.

Apart from the ethics of talking with the Taliban, it would also be a fool's errand. If they weren't losing, they would have no interest in dialogue. Those who've been killing their own countrymen for the past few years aren't interested in the democratic process. Any Taliban who is interested is already in the government. (About 30%-40% of Afghan Parliament's Lower House are religious fundamentalists.)

Victory in Afghanistan -- defined as the time when we can pack up and leave Afghans to govern and defend their own country -- will come. It will take patience, however. After meeting with Mr. Doulat, I visited a girls' school in neighboring Tani District and stepped into a first-grade class with about 20 girls. None of them had a mother who was literate. They were being taught by an ancient, bearded, good-hearted man. I asked him who the top girl in the class was, and he pulled skinny, seven-year-old Meena to her feet. Her father is a laborer, and her clothes were ragged. If her illiterate parents have enough faith in the future that they send her to school, against cultural norms, we must not betray them or her.

An Afghanistan that officially acknowledges Taliban ideology by talking to Taliban leaders about their grievances and concerns offers nothing for its Meenas.

Ms. Marlowe is a New York-based writer who travels frequently to Afghanistan.

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« Reply #263 on: November 18, 2008, 02:52:47 PM »

And here is a hero of mine, Michael Yon:
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« Reply #264 on: November 20, 2008, 10:51:16 AM »

Afghanistan: The Search for Safer Supply Routes
Stratfor Today » November 19, 2008 | 2324 GMT

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers leading supplies for NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan at the Pakistani border town of JamrudSummary
The United States is considering Central Asia as an alternate route for ferrying supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan. However, considerable logistical and geopolitical issues require the United States to continue depending on Pakistan despite the deteriorating conditions in that country.

An uptick in attacks by Pakistani Taliban fighters on convoys ferrying supplies through Pakistan to U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan has forced the United States to explore alternative routes from Central Asia into landlocked Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Nov 19. According to the report, which cites an Oct. 31 Pentagon document, Washington has already begun negotiations with countries along what the Pentagon has called a new northern route. An agreement with Georgia has been reached, and talks are ongoing with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The U.S. Transportation Command, however, said it does not expect transit agreements with Uzbekistan or Iran, and is seeking contractors that could handle as many as 50,000 rail containers per year through a Europe-Caucasus route and/or through Central Asia.

Though the deteriorating political, economic and security situation in Pakistan is making it harder for the United States and its NATO allies to move food, ammunition, fuel and other supplies through the country, the alternatives are no less problematic. Thus, for the foreseeable future, Pakistan will remain the land corridor through which Western forces will continue receiving their supplies, and Washington will pressure Pakistan to improve the security of these shipments.

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There are good reasons why some three-quarters of U.S./NATO supplies goes through Pakistan. It is the shortest overland route to places like Kabul and Kandahar; supplies are shipped from U.S. and European ports to Karachi, then transported via road through two routes — one going through the southwestern Pakistani border town of Chaman into the Kandahar region, and the other going through Torkham in northwestern Pakistan and over the Khyber Pass. In using Pakistan as a supply route, Washington has the ease of dealing with a single government with whom it has had a working (albeit troubled) relationship since the mission in Afghanistan began in late 2001.

Additionally, refineries in Pakistan provide the vast majority of fuels for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Two other refineries (one in Baku, Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea, and one in Turkmenistan) provide most of the rest. It could be difficult to move away from the Pakistani refineries, and especially so to find spare capacity elsewhere; the U.S. and NATO forces consume on the order of 75 million gallons of various fuels annually — most of it aviation fuel refined in Pakistan.

For the longest time, there were hardly any security issues threatening the logistical supply chain running through Pakistan. The military regime headed by former President Pervez Musharraf was firmly entrenched in Islamabad and extended considerable facilities to Washington and NATO. More importantly, there was no Pakistani Taliban insurgency. (It did not appear until late 2006 or early 2007.)

Musharraf’s complex relationship with Washington on one hand and the Taliban on the other, however, weakened his hold on power. Even before he was forced out of office, Pakistan had come under the grip of a fierce jihadist insurgency. While the focus of this insurgency has been Pakistani security targets, there have been many attacks on trucks carrying shipments meant for U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan, which is why the U.S. Defense Department is looking into northerly routes in order to decrease dependency on Pakistan as a transit state.

(click map to enlarge)
But the option under consideration has its own set of problems in that it is a much longer, more expensive and politically complex route. Goods would have to be shipped from U.S. and European ports through the Black Sea to Georgia. From there, the containers would have to be put on rail to Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea ports, where they would have to be loaded onto ships to Turkmenistan and then travel by road either directly to Afghanistan or via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Even if the United States and its NATO allies were willing to incur the physical hassle of shipping supplies through the above route — which would add one ship reloading and two countries, at minimum, to the supply chain — there is the huge issue of dependency on Russia. This is the Kremlin’s near abroad, and Moscow will want to exact a significant price to guarantee the route’s security. At a time when Russia is trying to re-emerge as the United States’ main global rival, this becomes a huge issue for Washington.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of its military intervention in Georgia, Russia made some subtle insinuations about threatening NATO supply lines going to Afghanistan. The Uzbek and Turkmen governments also are very wary of the threat of U.S.-engineered color revolutions.

The “best” alternative, logistically speaking, would be using Iran as a transit state. Given what is happening in terms of Iraq and both the current and incoming U.S. administrations’ efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, this is not beyond the pale if the political issues can be sorted out. Supplies could be offloaded from ships docking at the Chahbahar port in the Persian Gulf and then sent by road to the southwestern Afghan town of Zaranj, which is connected to the main Afghan highway by a road recently completed by the Indian army’s engineer corps.

The Iranians, given their massive interests in Afghanistan, would be more than willing to provide this assistance. Iran has a long border with Afghanistan and has deep ethnic, linguistic and sectarian ties to the country. Furthermore, after securing Iraq, Tehran does not want its regional archrival, Saudi Arabia, to use Afghanistan as a tool against it.

But this depends on how fast the United States and Iran can put three decades of hostility behind them. Given that the two sides cooperated significantly in the move to oust the Taliban from power following the 9/11 attacks, this is quite feasible. However, like the Russians, the Iranians would want to exact a price for providing security for the convoys. More importantly, it would take time to build the trust for such an option to be pursued. The U.S. military is not about to link its operational capabilities to the goodwill of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, even if the two sides were to find a way to bury the hatchet. Also, the United States would be concerned that Iran could use the supply line as leverage in future talks.

Between the huge actual and political costs associated with the Central Asian route and the political hurdles of using Iran as a transit state, the United States and NATO will likely continue to work with Pakistan, despite its problems. But the fact that the United States was willing to take a concerted look at alternative routes raises questions about how bad the Pentagon feels the Pakistani routes have become — and how bad they are expected to get.
United States: Pushing Deeper into Pakistan
Stratfor Today » November 19, 2008 | 2310 GMT

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
A U.S. Air Force UAV in August 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev.Summary
A U.S. missile strike in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Nov. 19 killed five al Qaeda members, including Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, thought to have been a high-ranking member of the group. Until now, all reported missile strikes by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan had been in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Hitting targets in NWFP will test the boundaries on how far the United States will go in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the early hours of Nov. 19, two missiles suspected to have been launched from a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hit a house in the Pakistani village of Hindi Khel, about 8 miles west of Bannu city in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In the house was Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, a high-ranking al Qaeda leader who, according to U.S. security officials, was closely linked to deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and acted as a liaison to the Taliban. Al-Saudi was killed in the strike, along with four or five other foreign militants. Seven civilians in the vicinity were injured.

UAV-launched missile strikes have become quite common in Pakistan along the Afghan border. Strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), especially in North and South Waziristan, have been occurring once or twice a week since September and have become so routine that Stratfor no longer issues situation reports when they occur. That this strike hit some 3 miles over the FATA and NWFP border border in NWFP — an area that had been immune from U.S. strikes — suggests the United States is pushing the envelope in its hunt for al Qaeda prime and in its effort to undermine the Taliban’s war-making capabilities in Afghanistan.

Pakistani opposition to U.S. attacks in the FATA has been vocal, with politicians in Islamabad demanding an end to airstrikes on their territory. But there has been no serious retaliation by the Pakistanis and the strikes continue. There has also been a certain logic to the FATA focus. The United States contends that the tribal areas actually are not part of sovereign Pakistan since they are partially autonomous and ruled by local governments; moreover, by cutting deals with militants, Islamabad has relinquished its writ over the area. Furthermore, al Qaeda and the Taliban use the FATA as a launchpad for attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, giving the United States all the more reason to carry out strikes there. There are even reports of an understanding between Washington and Islamabad in which the latter has agreed to U.S. strikes in Pakistan’s tribal badlands.

But the NWFP is another story. It is a full-fledged province of Pakistan where the governing party (the Awami National Party, or ANP) has cooperated in opposing Islamist militants. However, the NWFP (not the FATA) is where the primary leaders of al Qaeda are most likely hiding. Hard by the border, the FATA is too close to Afghanistan and al Qaeda’s U.S. and NATO enemies for it to be such a sanctuary, while the NWFP is farther away and somewhat buffered by the FATA. The death of al-Saudi, who was an important link between al Qaeda and the Taliban, further suggests that the apex leadership of al Qaeda is likely hiding in NWFP.

The U.S. strategy may be to slowly creep closer and closer to al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries until UAV airstrikes in NWFP’s target-rich environment seem just as routine as those in the FATA. Meanwhile, the United States will have a good chance to weigh the range of responses from its allies on this latest escalation during a meeting of NATO defense chiefs that began Nov. 19 in Brussels. Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Kayani will be in attendance.

We are also likely to see additional attacks in NWFP districts located along the north-south expanse of the FATA. These districts have seen considerable Taliban activity over the past year or so while Islamabad’s writ in the area has diminished. Indeed, this “Talibanization” has spread further east into settled areas such as Peshawar, the NWFP capital. A more aggressive U.S. campaign in these areas will incite increasing public outrage and make Islamabad’s job of maintaining stability that much more difficult. Ultimately, the United States is much more capable of going after Islamist militants in Pakistan’s border region than the Pakistani army is — a fact not lost on Islamabad.

The United States is currently in political flux as President George W. Bush closes out his administration and President-elect Barack Obama readies his. Unable to craft and implement a comprehensive strategy to play out the end game against al Qaeda and the Taliban, the Bush administration has used an interim strategy of increased UAV strikes while a conclusive strategy awaits an Obama administration.

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« Reply #265 on: November 23, 2008, 01:35:32 PM »

US missiles striking terror into Pakistani militants

How the British Islamist Rashid Rauf may have been caught up in the US campaign to tackle terrorists in Pakistan

Jason Burke in Islamabad, Saturday November 22 2008 12.09 GMT

United States forces are believed to have carried out about 20 missile attacks since August in north-west Pakistan, a sharp rise that reflects Washington's frustration at Islamabad's efforts to tackle militants on its own soil.

Though the attacks have killed a number of high-profile militant leaders, civilian casualties and wounded national pride has led to outrage in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has been forced to repeatedly deny reports that a secret pact has been agreed with the US to allow the missile attacks from Afghanistan territory to go ahead.

Pakistani government officials and military officers last week denied the existence of a "secret list" of 20 individuals against whom missile strikes had been sanctioned by Islamabad without prior consultation. They repeatedly told the Observer that the strikes were causing problems by angering local people. "One strike and you have a whole village radicalised," said Shafir Ullah Nasir, the political agent in the Bajaur tribal agency where fighting has raged for months.

Pakistan's new civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, has urged Washington to share intelligence and equip Pakistani forces so they can pursue militants on their own side of the border.

Intelligence officials in Islamabad have told the Observer that the strikes have demoralised militants, forcing many to sleep in different locations every night or even sleep under trees for cover rather than risk staying in a house. The heightened rate of attrition among the militants has sparked a hunt for a suspected spy within their ranks, diverting attention and resources from offensive actions, the officials said.

Pakistan has played a key role in the evolution of the terrorist threat in the UK. Many major bomb plots in Britain have involved British or dual-nationality citizens who have travelled to Pakistan for training or strategic advice from the hardcore al-Qaida leadership who have regrouped in the lawless tribal zones along the Afghan frontier in recent years.

Several dozen British citizens who are known to the UK government make their way to the frontier region each year, with Pakistani militant groups often acting as intermediaries. Intelligence officials suspect there are others who they have been unable to identify.

Some go on to fight in Afghanistan, others return to the UK. Britain's MI6 overseas intelligence agents work closely with their American counterparts to track individuals who they believe pose a "material" threat to the UK. Rashid Rauf would have fallen squarely into this category.

As MI6 has neither the capability nor the legal right to undertake lethal operations in Pakistan, intelligence is passed to the Americans who run a fleet of drones fitted with Hellfire missiles powerful enough to destroy a mud-walled home and burn everyone inside. Rauf may well have fallen into the latter category too.
US kills alleged transatlantic airline plot leader, reports say

British Islamist Rashid Rauf said to have been killed by missile attack in north-west Pakistan

Jason Burke in Islamabad, Saturday November 22 2008 12.43 GMT

A British man suspected of close links with al-Qaida leaders and involvement in a plot to blow up transatlantic airplanes has reportedly been killed by a United States missile strike in the volatile border regions of Pakistan.

Rashid Rauf, originally from Birmingham, was said to have died along with at least four other militants with links to al-Qaida in an attack in the restive North Waziristan tribal agency, a key base for hardline extremists, according to local television stations and intelligence officials.

Pakistani intelligence sources in Islamabad said they had intercepted communications between militants after the strike indicating that Rauf was among those killed, but cautioned that no direct evidence of his death had yet been found. Investigations were still continuing, officials said.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said it was investigating the reports.

Rauf, who is 27 and holds both British and Pakistani citizenship, is wanted by West Midlands police in relation to the 2002 murder of his uncle and has been named as a "key person" in the so-called "airlines plot" of 2006. Rauf was arrested in Pakistan that year after an apparent tip-off from British anti-terrorism officers, days before a series of raids in the UK in which 23 were arrested. After the operation hand baggage restrictions on flights were tightened.

Eight men went on trial earlier this year accused of conspiring to smuggle home-made liquid bombs on board a series of transatlantic passenger flights. Three were found guilty of conspiracy to murder but face retrial next year on a more serious charge alongside four other defendants on whom the jury did not return verdicts. One of the defendants was acquitted.

Aftab Sherpao, the Pakistani interior minister at the time, told the Observer earlier this week that Rauf was considered the mastermind of the plot and was linked to al-Qaida.

Rauf, however, escaped from police custody outside a court in Rawalpindi last December following an extradition hearing. Officers had removed his handcuffs to allow him to wash before prayers.

He married a relative of one of Pakistan's notorious militants, Azhar Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Rauf's lawyer said that the suspected militant's family in Pakistan, who live in the eastern city of Bahawalpur, had no news. "They have no information," Hasmat Habib told the Observer. "He was an innocent man a god-fearing, devout polite man and this is an extra-judicial killing."

Today's missile strike, shortly before dawn, is thought to have killed several foreigners. At least one is believed to have been Egyptian, named as Abu Zubair al-Masri.

A Taliban spokesman said all those killed were civilians, and that three children were injured.

"None was a foreigner," Ahmedullah Ahmedi said in a statement delivered to reporters in Miran Shah, the region's main town.

But officials said the attack targeted a house in the village of Ali Khel, close to the small town of Miram Shah. The house belonged to Khaliq Noor, a leader of the coalition of local extremist groups known as the Pakistan Taliban, and he regularly sheltered foreign fighters, officials said.
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« Reply #266 on: December 04, 2008, 06:25:26 PM »

German soldiers deemed 'too fat to fight'
Thomas Coghlan in Kabul
First they were accused of not wanting to fight. Then they were blamed for failing in their main mission to train the Afghan police.

Now Germany’s battered military reputation has received a further humiliating blow. According to official reports the 3,500 troops in northern Afghanistan drink too much and are too fat to fight.

A German parliamentary report has revealed that in 2007 German forces in Afghanistan consumed about 1.7 million pints of beer and 90,000 bottles of wine. During the first six months of this year 896,000 pints of beer were shipped to German forces in Afghanistan. British and US bases in the country enforce a strict ban on alcohol.

The physical condition of the soldiers was already in question after a German armed forces report found that 40 per cent of its soldiers aged 18-29 were overweight, compared to 35 per cent of the civilian population of the same age.

The report, published in March, concluded that the Bundeswehr lived on beer and sausages while shunning fruit and vegetables. It said that an overdeveloped bureaucracy was also contributing to a “passive lifestyle” on the part of the soldiers.

Reinhold Robbe, the parliamentary commissioner for the German armed forces, concluded: “Plainly put, the soldiers are too fat, exercise too little and take little care of their diet.”

“Yes, it is true, the German soldiers in Kunduz are allowed to drink two cans of beer per day,” Lieutenant-Colonel Rainer Zaude, a spokesman for the forces, confirmed.

Even more damning is the allegation from a senior officer that Germany is failing in its main mission to train the Afghan police. General Hans-Christoph Ammon, the commander of the special commando unit, the KSK, described the efforts as “a miserable failure”.

The Government is also reported to have banned any reference to Krieg (war), in press statements on Afghanistan. Caveats imposed by the German Government limit the forces to operations in the relatively passive north.

Twenty-eight German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, including two in a suicide bomb attack in Kunduz province last month.

The Germans in Afghanistan

German Tornado aircraft are limited to unarmed reconaissance.  German Medevac helicopters have to be back at base by dusk. 
German forces limited to the northern areas of the country where there is a lower level of fighting (though the level of fighting there is now beginning to change)

US forces have been very frustrated by the caution of German rules of engagement - German troops operating alongside US forces have refused to open fire on occasion for fear of causing civilian casualties.

A trial is currently underway in the German courts following an incident in which German soldiers opened fire on a car that approached a checkpoint believing it contained a suicide bomb - several civilians died in the incident.

AP: Officers outgunned and underfinanced compared with insurgents
The Associated Press
updated 4:06 p.m. MT, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2008

BADABER, Pakistan - Brothers Mushtaq and Ishaq Ali left the police force a month ago, terrified of dying as their colleagues had — beheaded by militants on a rutted village road before a shocked crowd.  They went straight to the local Urdu-language newspaper to announce their resignation. They were too poor to pay for a personal ad, so the editor of The Daily Moon, Rasheed Iqbal, published a news story instead. He has run dozens like it.

"They just want to get the word out to the Taliban that they are not with the police anymore so they won't kill them," said Iqbal. "They know that no one can protect them, and especially not their fellow policemen."

Outgunned and out-financed, police in volatile northwestern Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against insurgents, dozens of interviews by The Associated Press show. They are dying in large numbers, and many survivors are leaving the force.  The number of terrorist attacks against police has gone up from 113 in 2005 to 1,820 last year, according to National Police Bureau. The death toll for policemen in that time increased from nine to 575. In the northwestern area alone, 127 policemen have died so far this year in suicide bombings and assassinations, and another 260 have been wounded.

The crisis means the police cannot do the nuts-and-bolts work needed to stave off an insurgency fueled by the Taliban and al-Qaida. While the military can pound mountain hideouts, analysts and local officials say it is the police who should hunt down insurgents, win over the people and restore order.

"The only way to save Pakistan is to think of extremism and insurgency in North West Frontier Province as a law-enforcement issue," said Hassan Abbas, a South Asia expert at Harvard University's Belfer Center Project for Science. "Rather than buying more F-16s, Pakistan should invest in modernizing its police."

Bombings, beheadings commonplace

In the Swat Valley, militants have turned a once-idyllic mountain getaway into a nightmare of bombings and beheadings despite a six-month military operation to root them out. About 300 policemen have fled the force already. On a recent evening in Mardan, Akhtar Ali Shah had just slipped out of his deputy police inspector's uniform to head home. In an escort vehicle, a half-dozen of his guards had inched outside the giant white gates of the police station for a routine security check.

The bomb exploded minutes later. Through a cloud of dust and dirt, Shah saw five of his six guards lying dead near the blood-smeared gate. The head of the suicide bomber rested nearby.

"We are the ones who are getting killed by the terrorists that we are facing," Shah said later.

Al-Qaida-linked militants ferry truckloads of explosives from the tribal regions through Mardan to targets deep within Pakistan, often slipping past scores of police checkpoints. But Shah said his men lack the technical expertise, training or equipment to hunt down big-name terrorists or even identify would-be suicide bombers.  His voice laced with frustration, Shah held up his small black cell phone.

"These people are among us. Look here: Our technical capabilities are so weak that we don't even have the ability to listen or to trace these phone calls," he said. "How are we supposed to know who it is that is coming here to kill us and when?"

Surviving on $80 a month

Most of Pakistan's 383,000 police are poorly paid constables. Malik Naveed Khan, who heads the force of 55,000 in the North West Frontier Province, said he has one policeman for every 364 miles of some of the most dangerous terrain in the world.

"Insurgents can see when I go someplace and wait for me to return and kill me," he said. "It isn't my own death that I fear, but every time there is an attack, it demoralizes the whole police force."

Khan said his men fight with World War II-vintage, single-shot weapons against the rapid-fire Kalashnikov rifles carried by the militants. The police go out on patrol without bulletproof vests or helmets. And of Khan's 18 armored personnel carriers, six are 1960s-era Soviet models that break down so often he now sends a mechanic along with the police.

A Pakistani constable makes about $80 a month, compared with about $170 for a Taliban foot soldier, Khan said.  Even in death, militants do better than the Pakistani police. Militant groups pay more than $20,000 to the families of suicide bombers, compared with $6,000 given to a policeman's survivor, Khan said.

"Where is their money coming from?" he asked.

He said he believes a lot of it comes from the flourishing opium trade next door in Afghanistan, donations from devout Muslims and extortion of wealthy Muslims in the Middle East.

Lack of money, resources

Most police stations in Pakistan don't even have cameras to photograph the crime scene or criminals. There were two functioning forensic laboratories in Pakistan in 2001, and since then four more have been approved — a start, but far short of the 50 or so police say they need. Khan said Pakistani police also lack enough explosives-sniffing dogs to check the truckloads coming from the tribal region.  The Pakistani government recognizes the need to train, develop and equip local police, said Sherry Rahman, information minister. But she added that Pakistan has little money for such investment and needs help from the international community.

Most U.S. aid to Pakistan goes to the military, not the police. Washington gave $731 million for military spending last year and $862 million the year before, according to a September report issued by the Pakistan Policy Working Group, an independent, nonpartisan group. By contrast, the U.S. gave $4.9 million for law enforcement and the judicial system last year.  The crisis among the police is also hobbling the courts, said Imtiaz, a deputy jail superintendent who wanted to use only one name because he feared reprisals from militants and his bosses.  Interviewed at a central jail in northwest Pakistan, the jailer said he has been threatened repeatedly by militants who found his phone number. Late-night calls warn him to treat jailed insurgents with a kind hand.  He told of an insurgent caught by police and imprisoned for an attack on a girls' school. At the only anti-terrorist court in town, the judge — who had also been threatened — heard the case, listened to the militant's confession and then acquitted him, Imtiaz said.

"No one believes the police can protect them," Imtiaz said with a laugh. "I am part of the police, and I know they can't protect me."

Fighting back

The police are trying to fight back with citizen councils and the beginnings of an elite force of 7,500 men who will be given good salaries and trained in investigative skills, profiling and weaponry training, said Khan, the provincial police chief. The first 2,000 men are being trained.  About a half-dozen civilian forces, fashioned along the lines of Iraq's Awakening Councils, have also been enticed into taking up arms against the militants in return for more development. Some of the councils, which call themselves Peace Committees, number more than 300 villagers.

"The people of this area have learned as children how to fire a rifle, how to handle a gun," Khan said. "Everyone has a gun, whether licensed or unlicensed. They don't need to be shown how to use them."

In Badaber, a dusty village barely six miles from the provincial capital of Peshawar, a civilian force patrols the streets at night. Abdul Hafeez, who runs a gas station in Badaber, said even government or army trucks must now get permission from villagers blocking the road to pass at night.
The job of the patrols, he said, is to keep out the militants, the military — and the police.  Hafeez said he had told the police a day in advance about rumors that militants were planning to blow up an electrical tower in Badaber. The next day, they did. The police did nothing.

"No, no, no — no one will go to the police," he said. "The police can't do anything. They can't stop these Taliban even when they know they are going to attack."


« Last Edit: December 05, 2008, 02:54:07 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #267 on: December 07, 2008, 06:40:48 AM »

KABUL, Afghanistan — Most of the additional American troops arriving in Afghanistan early next year will be deployed near the capital, Kabul, American military commanders here say, in a measure of how precarious the war effort has become.

It will be the first time that American or coalition forces have been deployed in large numbers on the southern flank of the city, a decision that reflects the rising concerns among military officers, diplomats and government officials about the increasing vulnerability of the capital and the surrounding area.  It also underscores the difficult choices confronting American military commanders as they try to apportion a limited number of forces not only within Afghanistan, but also between Afghanistan and Iraq.

For the incoming Obama administration, a first priority will be to weigh which is the greater risk: drawing down American forces too quickly in Iraq, potentially jeopardizing the gains there; or not building up troops quickly enough in Afghanistan, where the war effort hangs in the balance as security worsens.

The new Army brigade, the Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan in January and will consist of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. The “vast majority” of them will be sent to Logar and Wardak Provinces, adjacent to Kabul, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for the American units in eastern Afghanistan. A battalion of at least several hundred soldiers from that brigade will go to the border region in the east, where American forces have been locked in some of the fiercest fighting this year.

In all, the Pentagon is planning to add more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in response to a request from Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan. Those troops are expected to be sent to violent areas in the south. But they are expected to be deployed over 12 to 18 months. Nearly all would be diverted from Iraq, officials say.

The plan for the incoming brigade, then, means that for the time being fewer reinforcements — or none at all — will be immediately available for the parts of Afghanistan where the insurgency is most intense.

It also means that most of the newly arriving troops will not be deployed with the main goal of curbing the cross-border flow of insurgents from their rear bases in Pakistan, something American commanders would like and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has recommended.  In recent months, amid a series of American military operations that caused civilian casualties, Mr. Karzai has repeatedly said that the fight against the insurgents should not be waged “in the villages” of Afghanistan but rather in the rugged borderlands to the east and south.

In an interview, the president’s spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, said there was no conflict between the January deployment and Mr. Karzai’s declarations. While Mr. Karzai had requested a focus on border areas, the spokesman said, additional reinforcements were also needed throughout the country, including in Wardak and Logar.

There are about 62,000 international troops currently in Afghanistan, including about 32,000 Americans, a military spokesman said, but they are spread thinly throughout the country, which is nearly the size of Texas.  American commanders say they desperately need more. Military officials say that if General McKiernan’s requests are met, deployments in the next year and a half or so will include four combat brigades, an aviation brigade equipped with attack and troop-carrying helicopters, reconnaissance units, support troops and trainers for the Afghan Army and the police, raising American force levels to about 58,000.

The United States and NATO forces are hoping to expand the Afghan Army to 134,000 from nearly 70,000 over the next four or five years. Col. Gregory S. Julian, a top military spokesman, said that for security reasons he could not say where exactly those troops would go, but NATO’s southern command in Afghanistan includes Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan and Zabul Provinces.

Of immediate concern, American and NATO commanders say, is the need to safeguard the capital, to hit new Taliban strongholds in Wardak and Logar, and to provide enough security in those provinces for development programs, which are essential to maintaining the support of Afghan villagers.

Unlike in previous winters, when there was a lull in fighting as many Taliban fighters returned to Pakistan, American commanders expect more Taliban fighters to remain in Afghanistan and continue the fight. If so, the change would seem to reflect an effort by the emboldened insurgency to maintain its momentum and hold newly gained territory.

Page 2 of 2)

Wardak and Logar had been relatively secure until late last year. But by most accounts, Taliban activity has soared in the two provinces in the past year, as the insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan and foreign forces, sometimes even controlling parts of major roads connecting Kabul to the east and south.

The number of attacks in Wardak by the Taliban and other insurgent groups has increased about 58 percent since last year, and in Logar about 41 percent, according to statistics collated by Sami Kovanen, a security analyst in Kabul.

Insurgents now have significant influence, if not control, in much of the two provinces, said Mr. Kovanen, who draws his information from a wide range of government, nongovernment and private sources.

The American military command said it had incomplete statistics for the level of violence in those provinces. “Frankly, in Wardak and Logar, we don’t know what we don’t know,” Colonel Nielson-Green said in an e-mail message. “There are few of our forces present in those areas, hence the reason for the incoming brigade there.”

“I suspect that violence will increase as we place this unit but will go down over time,” she added, “because we assess that there are considerable enemy support areas in both provinces and we will be going after them.”

In June, three American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed in an ambush when their vehicles were hit by mines and rocket-propelled grenades as they drove through Wardak Province.

In August, three Western women and an Afghan driver, all working for the International Rescue Committee, a relief group based in New York, were killed in Logar. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The next month, the governor of Logar Province and three of his guards were killed in the explosion of a mine buried in a road.

American and NATO military commanders eventually hope to turn over the country’s security to Afghan forces, but the Afghan police and military are nowhere near ready to assume that responsibility, officials say.

The Afghan government has already begun to work with local and provincial elected officials to extend the influence of the central government in the region, improve public services and gain the support of residents. But the government’s efforts have been continually hampered by criminal gangs and insurgent groups.

Sediqa Mubariz, a member of Parliament from Wardak, said in an interview that she would welcome any additional American troops in her province.

Ms. Mubariz said security had been so poor that since last year she had not been able to travel from Kabul to her home district in Wardak, only 50 miles away.

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« Reply #268 on: December 09, 2008, 11:47:08 PM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Afghanistan Surge and Pakistan's Role
December 9, 2008

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar remained defiant as ever Monday, declaring in a message posted on an Islamist radical Web site that a planned surge of foreign troops to Afghanistan would result only in more targets for Taliban fighters. He also refused to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul so long as foreign soldiers remain in Afghanistan.

Though such a statement is not exactly surprising, coming from a hardliner like Mullah Omar, even his more moderate colleagues are not feeling compelled to entertain negotiations with the government at the moment. Despite U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s statements about a “soft surge” strategy analogous to a model used in Iraq — a surge that could total 20,000 U.S. troops, on top of more than 60,000 U.S. and NATO forces already present — the Taliban movement is not quaking in its boots.

No one is suggesting a cut-and-paste application of the Iraq strategy, but the underpinning is the same: A significant influx of combat forces to turn the tide of the conflict and change regional perceptions.

In the Iraq experience, it is not that the 30,000 extra troops altered the balance of power — far from it. It was the arrival of those troops in context that was significant. U.S. President George W. Bush committed the forces immediately after his party lost the 2006 congressional elections and thus control over both houses of Congress. The obvious decision would have been to throw in the towel and begin a withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, Bush surged forces. The general feeling in the region — and particularly in Iran — was shocked confusion. For if the Americans were willing to double down after a bad election result, what would it take for them to back off? The result was a shift in calculus in Tehran and among Iraq’s sectarian groups that led to negotiations, a significant reduction in violence and ultimately the Status of Forces Agreement, which defines terms of the U.S. military presence in Iraq for the next three years.

The U.S. hope now is that the architect and implementer of the Iraq surge strategy, Gen. David Petraeus, can translate the Iraq success to the Afghan theater, largely using forces that are being freed up from Iraq. Just as the surge into Iraq caused the Iranians to wonder if the Americans had lost their minds, the logic goes, a surge into Afghanistan might cause the Pakistanis to shift their position. Specifically, the Americans want the Pakistanis to take a much firmer line against militant Islamists in the region bordering Afghanistan.

However, a direct Iraq-to-Afghanistan comparison is impossible because the war theaters are quite different — perhaps too different to make the surge strategy applicable.

First and most critically, there is no single government in Pakistan. In fact, many of the factions in Pakistan fully side with the radical Islamists that the United States wants to target in the border region. And as the last couple of weeks have illustrated, there are sound reasons to doubt that Pakistan’s government would be able to effect a difference in the security situation, even if it does possess the will to crack down on the Islamist rogues that are causing trouble.

Second, there is a belief within the Pakistani government — among those who are making at least some efforts to help out the war effort — that the Americans surely will not take any steps that would threaten the coherence of the Pakistani state itself. To do so would, in their eyes, destroy Pakistan and release what pressure that has been brought to bear on the militants in the first place. The key bluff (assuming it is a bluff) of an Afghan surge would be for the Americans to convince this faction that, no, Washington is less concerned with the fragility of the Pakistani state than with eradicating Islamist militants, so Islamabad had better step up.

Third, even if the bluff works, there is always the concern that India will be compelled to take military action against Pakistan itself — with or without U.S. consent — in retribution for the Mumbai attacks, and in hopes of keeping such an attack from occurring again. In other words, if the Pakistanis become all the more concerned about rival India to the east, they will have even less incentive to worry about problems on their western border with Afghanistan. In fact, Pakistan could grow even more reliant on Islamist militant irregulars to use against India as tensions escalate.

It is an imperfect comparison, and applying the surge strategy to Afghanistan is probably a long shot at best. But right now it is the only page in the game book that appears to have some relevance.
« Reply #269 on: December 16, 2008, 07:42:13 AM »

December 16, 2008
US accuses Britain over military failings in Afghanistan

Allegations that British troops in Helmand are snide, underequipped and often need rescuing have soured relations

Tom Baldwin in Washington and Michael Evans, Defence Editor

The performance of Britain’s overstretched military in Afghanistan is coming under sustained criticism from the Pentagon and US analysts even as Gordon Brown ponders whether to send in further reinforcements.

Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary who has been asked to remain in his job under Barack Obama, is understood to have expressed strong reservations about counterinsurgency operations in British-controlled Helmand province.

He has already announced plans for a surge of 20,000 US troops into Afghanistan but Mr Brown, who was given a bleak progress report when he visited Afghanistan at the weekend, is said to be reluctant about committing another 2,000 British troops on top of the 8,400 already there.

A total of 132 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001 and the Government is worried about public opinion turning against the campaign. British officials are concerned that the US may take over control of Helmand – where Mr Gates plans to deploy an extra 5,000 troops – if Mr Brown fails to support the surge. The Americans have grievances over Britain’s lack of equipment, including helicopters, which has left troops unable to perform the same tasks as US counterparts and led to more cautious tactics. There is also grumbling about the regularity with which US airstrikes are called to rescue British troops.

Drivers supplying Nato troops go on strike

Brown poised to reject Obama's surge plans

General James Jones, who has been picked at Mr Obama’s National Security Adviser, co-chaired a bipartisan panel this year which cautioned that Afghanistan was close to becoming a failed state and called for better coordination among Nato forces.

It is understood that there has been “tension and resentment” over the air of superiority adopted by British commanders such as Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who suggested that his American counterparts needed to take lessons from Britain’s experience in Northern Ireland and Malaya.

David Kilcullen, an adviser to the US State Department, told a recent seminar that there had been “lots of fairly snide criticism” from the British whose attitude had been: “Look at us, we’re on the street in our soft caps and everyone loves us.”

He added that such claims had been undercut by the performance since then. “It would be fair to say that in 2006 the British Army was defeated in the field in southern Iraq.” At the same event, Daniel Marston, an American consultant who until recently was a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and has been embedded with troops in Afghanistan, said that Britain was being forced to learn some humility after being “embarrassed by their performance”.

Mr Brown hinted at some of his doubts when he told reporters in Kabul: “We are the second largest force in Afghanistan and we will expect as part of the burden-sharing that other countries will do more.” Senior diplomatic sources say there is also frustration in Britain’s military over the lack of a coherent mission statement for the Nato forces in Afghanistan. This has led to problems with US forces sometimes wrecking carefully nurtured community relations in their pursuit of al-Qaeda.

Carter Malkesian, an expert at the Centre of Naval Analysis, said: “Among those in the Department of Defence who are paying attention to these operations, Britain’s reputation has probably fallen. But they still recognise that the British Army, among all the allies, are those that fight the most and fight the best.”

A British officer in Afghanistan expressed surprise at the criticism from the US. “They have few enough allies who will actually do any fighting,” he told The Times.

“It may be that our lay-down is presented as one brigade – when in fact it is far larger – and those away from the coal face simply do not realise the scale of what we do.”

A senior British defence source said: “We are punching above our weight in Afghanistan and are the second biggest contributor of all the Nato allies, so for anyone to single us out for criticism is plainly wrong and unfair.”

Yesterday it emerged that the Ministry of Defence expects its budget for Afghanistan to rise by more than 50 per cent next year from £1.51 billion in the financial year to £2.32 billion.

— A soldier with 29 Commando Royal Artillery became the 133rd British serviceman to die in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001, the Ministry of Defence said. The soldier was at a Forward Operating Base in the Gereshk area of Helmand province when he was wounded by enemy fire. He was taken by helicopter to the military hospital at Kandahar but died later of his wounds. His family has been informed. The death comes three days after four Royal Marines died in two separate explosions in the Sangin area of Helmand. Three were killed by a 13-year-old suspected suicide bomber.
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« Reply #270 on: December 16, 2008, 07:59:51 AM »

Interesting BBG.  I wonder what Michael Yon is saying about all this?

Anyway, in a totall different vein, here's this from the WSJ:

Every visitor to Pakistan has seen them: 20-foot tall roadside replicas of a remote mountain where, a decade ago, Pakistan conducted its first overt nuclear tests. This is what the country's leaders -- military, secular, Islamist -- consider their greatest achievement.

A model of Chaghi mountain, the site of Pakistan's nuclear test.
So here's a modest proposal: Let's buy their arsenal.

A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear program (and midwife to a few others), likes to point out what a feat it was that a country "where we can't even make a bicycle chain" could succeed at such an immense technological task. He exaggerates somewhat: Pakistan got its bomb largely through a combination of industrial theft, systematic violation of Western export controls, and a blueprint of a weapon courtesy of Beijing.

Still, give Mr. Khan this: Thanks partly to his efforts, a country that has impoverished the great mass of its own people, corruptly enriched a tiny handful of elites, served as a base of terrorism against its neighbors, lost control of its intelligence services, radicalized untold numbers of Muslims in its madrassas, handed the presidency to a man known as Mr. 10%, and proliferated nuclear technology to Libya and Iran (among others) has, nevertheless, made itself a power to be reckoned with. Congratulations.

But if Pakistanis thought a bomb would be a net national asset, they miscalculated. Yes, Islamabad gained parity with its adversaries in New Delhi, gained prestige in the Muslim world, and gained a day of national pride, celebrated every May 28.

What Pakistan didn't gain was greater security. "The most significant reality was that the bomb promoted a culture of violence which . . . acquired the form of a monster with innumerable heads of terror," wrote Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy earlier this year. "Because of this bomb, we can definitely destroy India and be destroyed in its response. But its function is limited to this."

In 2007, some 1,500 Pakistani civilians were killed in terrorist attacks. None of those attacks were perpetrated by India or any other country against which Pakistan's warheads could be targeted, unless it aimed at itself. But Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has made it an inviting target for the jihadists who blew up Islamabad's Marriott hotel in September and would gladly blow up the rest of the capital as a prelude to taking it over.

The day that happens may not be so very far off. President Asif Ali Zardari was recently in the U.S. asking for $100 billion to stave off economic collapse. So far, the international community has ponied up about $15 billion. That puts Mr. Zardari $85 billion shy of his fund-raising target. Meantime, the average Taliban foot soldier brings home monthly wages that are 30% higher than uniformed Pakistani security personnel.

Preventing the disintegration of Pakistan, perhaps in the wake of a war with India (how much restraint will New Delhi show after the next Mumbai-style atrocity?), will be the Obama administration's most urgent foreign-policy challenge. Since Mr. Obama has already committed a trillion or so in new domestic spending, what's $100 billion in the cause of saving the world?

Today in Opinion Journal


Barack Obama-sanCondi's Korean FailureThe Sole of Liberation


Global View: Let's Buy Pakistan's Nukes
– Bret StephensMain Street: Gitmo Lawyers Are the Latest in Radical Chic
– William McGurn


The Return of Realpolitik in Arabia
– Fouad AjamiThe Lessons From 30 Years of Chinese Reform
– Hugo RestallHow Blackwater Serves America
– Erik D. PrinceBankruptcy Is the Perfect Remedy for Detroit
– Todd J. ZywickiThis is the deal I have in mind. The government of Pakistan would verifiably eliminate its entire nuclear stockpile and the industrial base that sustains it. In exchange, the U.S. and other Western donors would agree to a $100 billion economic package, administered by an independent authority and disbursed over 10 years, on condition that Pakistan remain a democratic and secular state (no military rulers; no Sharia law). It would supplement that package with military aid similar to what the U.S. provides Israel: F-35 fighters, M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters. The U.S. would also extend its nuclear umbrella to Pakistan, just as Hillary Clinton now proposes to do for Israel.

A pipe dream? Not necessarily. People forget that the world has subtracted more nuclear powers over the past two decades than it has added: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and South Africa all voluntarily relinquished their stockpiles in the 1990s. Libya did away with its program in 2003 when Moammar Gadhafi concluded that a bomb would be a net liability, and that he had more to gain by coming to terms with the West.

There's no compelling reason Mr. Zardari and his military brass shouldn't reach the same conclusion, assuming excellent terms and desperate circumstances. Sure, a large segment of Pakistanis will never agree. Others, who have subsisted on a diet of leaves and grass so Pakistan could have its bomb, might take a more pragmatic view.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that it remains a country that can't do the basics, like make a bicycle chain. If what its leaders want is prestige, prosperity and lasting security, they could start by creating an economy that can make one -- while unlearning how to make the bomb.
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« Reply #271 on: December 23, 2008, 01:23:55 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Afghanistan Surge
December 22, 2008

U.S. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Kabul on Saturday that the United States will send an additional 20,000 to 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the first half of 2009. The plan is in line with President-elect Barack Obama’s statements during the presidential campaign and therefore is likely to come about. The United States currently has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, while other NATO countries have about 17,000 troops. Thus, the deployment will roughly double U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The first issue is the military purpose of the buildup. Doubling the force will put a total of about 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan — 77,000 troops including the NATO contribution. That should be enough to secure the urban areas, but it is still far short of the force that would be needed to seal the border with Pakistan. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine a force large enough to achieve that mission.

The United States cannot win a defensive war in Afghanistan. In a defensive war, the assumption is that the enemy will run out of either troops or the willingness to lose soldiers before the United States does. That does not strike us as a reasonable scenario. Therefore, if this is a military move, we must assume that the purpose is to create an offensive opportunity. The targets are the remnants of al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden in northwestern Pakistan, and the intention is to keep al Qaeda’s core from rebuilding its capability. Obama said during the campaign that he intended to target al Qaeda and bin Laden, but it is difficult to imagine how a conventional force of this size would be effective in a mission better left to special operations troops. And it is not clear how the capture of al Qaeda leaders would secure Afghanistan against the Taliban.

The other option is to use the forces to strike at Taliban bases inside Pakistan in order to disrupt their lines of supply and communications. That would be effective, but it is hard to imagine a force of 60,000 both securing vulnerable urban areas in Afghanistan and conducting substantive offensive operations into Pakistan. Undoubtedly, Obama will be asking NATO to increase its manpower in Afghanistan. Some NATO members could halt withdrawals already scheduled or even send more troops (though U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock at NATO headquarters has acknowledged that Washington’s NATO allies will not provide any major troop increases). But the size of the force needed to conduct sustained operations against the Taliban in Pakistan would be enormously larger than anything conceived or conceivable, and the willingness and ability of the Pakistanis to carry out the mission themselves simply isn’t there.

What is being proposed is a force that can shore up Afghanistan, but which is not sufficiently larger than the current force to seriously threaten the Taliban. We must always remember that the Soviets — with 130,000 troops, a border with Afghanistan and highly liberal rules of engagement — could not achieve a decisive military victory in almost 10 years. Sixty thousand troops dependent on a line of supply that stretches through Pakistan and back to the United States are unlikely to succeed.

Mullen and Obama certainly know this. So does Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the surge in Iraq. It would seem to us that the plan is to re-create that surge. The key to Iraq was not that the 30,000 troops sent there made a qualitative difference militarily, but that they helped to create a psychological perception — demonstrating that the United States was not about to withdraw. That allowed talks to open between the United States and the Sunni insurgents previously vilified by the Americans, which set in motion the political process under way in Baghdad.

The question is whether what worked in Iraq will work in Afghanistan. The political dynamics of Iraq left the Sunnis in fear of isolation, should the Americans reach an agreement with the Shia. The Taliban are not concerned about being isolated. They emerged as the victors in the civil war of the 1990s, and they are confident they can do so again. Furthermore, the sectarian divide that is inherent to Iraq isn’t present in Afghanistan, where the insurgency is far less fragmented. The Taliban are also aware of the other pressures the United States is facing and are doubtful that Obama is inclined to allow the conflict in Afghanistan to continue interminably. Their view is that time is on their side.

Now if Petraeus can split the Taliban, that would be another story. And that could be the intention behind this deployment. How it would work is unclear, but what is clear is that barring a dramatic change in Pakistani policy (which is not out of the question but is highly unlikely), splitting the Taliban and negotiating with some factions is the key. The success of that strategy is in the hands of the Taliban; Mullah Mohammed Omar reportedly has named seven conditions for ending the insurgency. The surge is intended to increase American control over the process. It is unclear why the United States thinks this will happen — it is not impossible, but it is unclear.
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« Reply #272 on: December 25, 2008, 08:29:10 PM »

It being the NYT the enemy's indignation at UAV attacks goes unquestioned even as they deliberately target civilians and throw acid at little girls for attending school.  rolleyes

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — This frontier city boasts a major air base and Pakistani Army and paramilitary garrisons. But the 200 Taliban guerrillas were in no rush as they methodically ransacked depots with NATO supplies here two weeks ago.

An important NATO supply line goes over Khyber Pass.
The militants began by blocking off a long stretch of the main road, giving them plenty of time to burn everything inside, said one guard, Haroon Khan, who was standing next to a row of charred trucks.

After assuring the overmatched guards they would not be killed — if they agreed never to work there again — the militants shouted “God is great” through bullhorns. They then grabbed jerrycans and made several trips to a nearby gas station for fuel, which they dumped on the cargo trucks and Humvees before setting them ablaze.

The attack provided the latest evidence of how extensively militants now rule the critical region east of the Khyber Pass, the narrow cut through the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that has been a strategic trade and military gateway since the time of Alexander the Great.

The area encompasses what is officially known as the Khyber Agency, which is adjacent to Peshawar and is one of a handful of lawless tribal districts on the border. But security in Khyber has deteriorated further in recent months with the emergence of a brash young Taliban commander who calls news conferences to thumb his nose at NATO forces, as well as with public fury over deadly missile attacks by American remotely piloted aircraft.

Khyber’s downward spiral is jeopardizing NATO’s most important supply line, sending American military officials scrambling to find alternative routes into Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia. Three-quarters of troop supplies enter from Pakistan, most of the goods ferried from Karachi to Peshawar and then 40 miles west through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.

A half-dozen raids on depots with NATO supplies here have already destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvees this month. American officials insist that troop provisions have not suffered, but with predictions that the American deployment in Afghanistan could double next year, to 60,000 soldiers, the pressure to secure safer transportation is even more intense.

For NATO the most serious problem is not even the depots in Peshawar but the safety of the road that winds west to the 3,500-foot Khyber Pass. The route used to be relatively secure: Afridi tribesman were paid by the government to safeguard it, and they were subject to severe penalties and collective tribal punishment for crimes against travelers.

But now the road is a death trap, truckers and some security officials say, with routine attacks like one on Sunday that burned a fuel tanker and another last Friday that killed three drivers returning from Afghanistan.

“The road is so unsafe that even the locals are reluctant to go back to their villages from Peshawar,” said Gul Naseem, who lives in Landi Kotal, near the border.

The largest truckers’ association here has gone on strike to protest the lack of security, saying that the job action has sidelined 60 percent of the trucks that normally haul military goods. An American official denied that the drop-off had been that severe.

“Not a single day passes when something doesn’t happen,” said Shakir Afridi, leader of the truckers’ group, the Khyber Transport Association. He said at least 25 trucks and six oil tankers were destroyed this month. “Attacks have become a daily affair,” he said.

There are new efforts to deter Taliban raids, including convoy escorts by a Pakistani paramilitary group, the Frontier Corps. But now militants are attacking empty — and unguarded — trucks returning to Pakistan. The road from Peshawar to the border has become far more perilous than the route on the other side in Afghanistan, truckers say.

“Our lives are in danger and nobody cares,” said Shah Mahmood Afridi, a driver who was in the returning convoy attacked on Friday. “They fired at the trucks and killed three men inside. There is no security provided when we are empty.”

Escalating violence on the Khyber road has paralleled the rise of Hakimullah Mehsud, a young Taliban commander and lieutenant of Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the main Pakistani Taliban faction.

Earlier this year, Hakimullah Mehsud’s forces took control of Orakzai Agency and instituted the strict Islamic laws known as Shariah. At a news conference there one month ago, Hakimullah Mehsud declared his intention to intensify attacks on NATO supply convoys. Some security officials say they believe that he was behind the assassination in August of a rival militant leader, Hajji Namdar, in Khyber.


Page 2 of 2)

At the same time, another powerful Khyber warlord, Mangal Bagh, who officials say has not been attacking the convoys, has seen the geographic range of his influence narrow somewhat, easing the path for Mr. Mehsud’s authority to expand inside some parts of Khyber. “I have no love for Mangal Bagh, but the fact remains that Mangal Bagh does not do these attacks,” said Tariq Hayat, the Khyber political agent, the top government official in the region.

Pakistani employees two weeks ago inspected trucks burned by Taliban guerrillas at a depot with NATO supplies in Peshawar.
Increased missile attacks by remotely piloted American aircraft — like one that killed seven people in the South Waziristan Agency on Monday — have enraged residents in Khyber and other tribal areas near the border, increasing sympathy for attacks on convoys. Mr. Afridi, of the truckers’ association, condemns the strikes and blames them for increased assaults on his drivers. “We are a tribal people, and if the Americans hit innocent people in Waziristan, we also feel the pain,” he said.

Raising the prospect of an even wider threat to the convoys, an influential Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, staged a rally last week in Peshawar, turning out thousands to condemn the missile strikes. The marchers demanded that Pakistan end the NATO convoys, and they vowed to cut the supply lines themselves.

Taliban militants have also moved into Khyber after Pakistani military campaigns in nearby areas like Bajaur Agency. Their migration is reminiscent of a tactic that bedeviled the American military in Iraq for years — dubbed “whack a mole” by combat officers — in which guerrillas eluded large American combat operations and moved to take up positions in areas with understaffed troop contingents.

All those factors have been amplified, in the view of some officials, by the torpor of the Pakistani government. Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier who until 2006 was in charge of security in the western tribal regions, said the government had the manpower to drive militants out of Khyber but had mounted only a weak response.

He recounted a recent conversation with a senior Pakistani government official. “You have the chance to wake up,” he said he told the official. “But if you don’t wake up now, there is a good chance you won’t wake up at all.”
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« Reply #273 on: December 27, 2008, 01:51:03 AM »

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  #1       Today, 05:11 PM 
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 Viagra Helps CIA Win Friends in Afghanistan


Washington Post
By Joby Warrick
updated 6:01 a.m. ET Dec. 26, 2008

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills. For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country's roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

'Whatever it takes'
In their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the officials say, the agency's operatives have used a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos, the officials said.

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people — whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra," said one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours. Like other field officers interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity when describing tactics and operations that are largely classified.

Officials say these inducements are necessary in Afghanistan, a country where warlords and tribal leaders expect to be paid for their cooperation, and where, for some, switching sides can be as easy as changing tunics. If the Americans don't offer incentives, there are others who will, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents in the region.
The usual bribes of choice — cash and weapons — aren't always the best options, Afghanistan veterans say. Guns too often fall into the wrong hands, they say, and showy gifts such as money, jewelry and cars tend to draw unwanted attention.

"If you give an asset $1,000, he'll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone," said Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan and now chief executive of SCG International, a private security and intelligence company. "Even if he doesn't get killed, he becomes ineffective as an informant because everyone knows where he got it."

The key, Smith said, is to find a way to meet the informant's personal needs in a way that keeps him firmly on your side but leaves little or no visible trace.

"You're trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century," Smith said, "so you look for those common things in the form of material aid that motivate people everywhere."

Sex as a motivator
Among the world's intelligence agencies, there's a long tradition of using sex as a motivator. Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer and author of several books on intelligence, noted that the Soviet spy service was notorious for using attractive women as bait when seeking to turn foreign diplomats into informants.

"The KGB has always used 'honey traps,' and it works," Baer said. For American officers, a more common practice was to offer medical care for potential informants and their loved ones, he said. "I remember one guy we offered an option on a heart bypass," Baer said.

For some U.S. operatives in Afghanistan, Western drugs such as Viagra were just part of a long list of enticements available for use in special cases. Two veteran officers familiar with such practices said Viagra was offered rarely, and only to older tribal officials for whom the drug would hold special appeal. While such sexual performance drugs are generally unavailable in the remote areas where the agency's teams operated, they have been sold in some Kabul street markets since at least 2003 and were known by reputation elsewhere.

"You didn't hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones," said one retired operative familiar with the drug's use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives — the maximum number allowed by the Koran — and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could "put them back in an authoritative position," the official said.

Both officials who described the use of Viagra declined to discuss details such as dates and locations, citing both safety and classification concerns.

'Think out of the box'
The CIA declined to comment on methods used in clandestine operations. One senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the agency's work in Afghanistan said the clandestine teams were trained to be "resourceful and agile" and to use tactics "consistent with the laws of our country."

"They learn the landscape, get to know the players, and adjust to the operating environment, no matter where it is," the official said. "They think out of the box, take risks, and do what's necessary to get the job done."

Not everyone in Afghanistan's hinterlands had heard of the drug, leading to some awkward encounters when Americans delicately attempted to explain its effects, taking care not to offend their hosts' religious sensitivities.

Such was the case with the 60-year-old chieftain who received the four pills from a U.S. operative. According to the retired operative who was there, the man was a clan leader in southern Afghanistan who had been wary of Americans — neither supportive nor actively opposed. The man had extensive knowledge of the region and his village controlled key passages through the area. U.S. forces needed his cooperation and worked hard to win it, the retired operative said.

After a long conversation through an interpreter, the retired operator began to probe for ways to win the man's loyalty. A discussion of the man's family and many wives provided inspiration. Once it was established that the man was in good health, the pills were offered and accepted.  Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.

"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.' And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area."
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« Reply #274 on: December 30, 2008, 08:57:14 AM »

"Watch the video, you will see the suicide bomber weaving through the barriers designed to slow down vehicles. The school children are walking against the wall on the right, and are in clear view. The suicide bomber clearly had a view of the children - he was moving slowly enough. Yet he detonated his bomb just as the line of children passed by his car. "
Pakistan: The Khyber Pass and Western Logistics in Afghanistan
Stratfor Today » December 30, 2008 | 1811 GMT

A truck with supplies for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan transiting the Khyber PassSummary
A Pakistani security operation that began early Dec. 30 has temporarily closed the Khyber Pass to truck convoys supplying U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Though necessary, the operation is unlikely to address the larger issues of border and internal security meaningfully — especially while Indo-Pakistani tensions remain high.

Related Links
Countries in Crisis: Pakistan
Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
Part 2: A Crisis in Indian-Pakistani Relations
Part 3: Making It on Its Own
The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World
Related Special Topic Pages
Militant Attacks In Mumbai and Their Consequences
Pakistani Democracy and the Army
Pakistani security forces began an operation before dawn Dec. 30 to root out militants and Taliban fighters in and around Khyber Agency who have raided NATO supply convoys and supply depots and begun operating in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. Just Dec. 29, these militants attacked tanker trucks bound for Afghanistan with rocket fire. As part of the Pakistani government operation, the critical Torkham crossing through the Khyber Pass has been temporarily closed to convoys carrying fuel and supplies for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

This is not the first time that the Khyber Pass has been temporarily shut down. It was closed for two days in early September in protest of U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle strikes inside Pakistan. It also was closed for one day during a November security operation; when it reopened Nov. 17, paramilitary escorts from Pakistan’s Frontier Corps accompanied convoy traffic.

Ultimately, the November operation and the subsequent escorts have not done much to stem the rise in attacks — and little indicates that the new operation will be any more effective. While Islamabad has massed security forces in the area and reinforced them with armor and attack helicopters, overall it is drawing military units and personnel away from the Afghan border to reinforce the Indian border while tensions with New Delhi remain high. Already, some 20,000 Pakistani troops have been shifted to the Indian border.

While the government could make temporary security gains in Khyber Agency, an isolated operation there is hardly going to address the issues and problems underlying border security.

Of course, logistical disruptions are nothing new to Afghanistan. The geographically isolated country has long presented challenges for supply because it is so far from the sea and lacks transit infrastructure and links. The United States and NATO have long maintained stocks to deal with such interruptions, and those stockpiles recently have been increased. Statements from Western forces in Afghanistan suggest that there are at least several weeks’ worth of supplies on hand in country.
And though the United States and NATO have searched for alternative routes, there simply are few other options. Given that the United States and NATO are looking to pour additional forces into Afghanistan, this logistical burden will only get heavier.

At present, more than 300 container and tanker trucks combined generally cross into Afghanistan each day at two crossings. One is Torkham; the other is the Chamman crossing, which connects the Pakistani province of Balochistan with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The latter crossing remains open, though Kandahar remains an area of high Taliban activity. This is especially true of the Kandahar-Kabul province corridor, which trucks that otherwise would have used the Khyber Pass probably will use. More than 70 percent of the supplies used by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan arrive via these two crossings.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is mired in a deep crisis with India just as the United States is looking to ratchet up pressure on Islamabad to tackle militants on the Afghan border. While the actions Washington and New Delhi are pressuring Islamabad to take — namely, rooting out corruption in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency and establishing its writ throughout its territory — are not contradictory, they mainly require military campaigns in different parts of Pakistan. Islamabad simply lacks the capacity to carry them all out, especially while Pakistan remains deeply insecure about India’s intentions and keeps the bulk of its frontline military forces parked on the Indian border.

And while the logistical problem the United States and NATO face in Pakistan is nothing new, given these new tensions, it is especially important for Islamabad to remind Washington of its importance. (Mechanisms in place for the coordination of military activity along the Afghan-Pakistani border make it very likely that the United States was forewarned about the closure and the security operation.) Pakistan thus might have carried out the closure for two reasons. First, it might have sought to remind the United States of just how critical Pakistan’s territory and cooperation are to the new U.S. focus on the Afghan campaign. Second, it might be trying to show that it is doing enough to establish and maintain security on the Afghan border to prevent Washington from writing Pakistan off as a lost cause.

During this particularly critical moment in the crisis with India, as New Delhi contemplates military action against Pakistan, Islamabad needs the United States to continue to act to restrain Indian military action rather than to take India’s side. And whether or not the Khyber closure will last for only a day or two as before, the closure serves as a reminder of the deep logistical challenges for Western forces in Afghanistan that lie ahead.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2008, 01:52:23 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #275 on: January 01, 2009, 05:18:14 AM »

Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
December 17, 2008 | 1203 GMT
The fundamental challenge to Pakistan’s survival is twofold. First, the only route of expansion that makes any sense is along the Indus River Valley, the country’s fertile heartland, but that path takes Pakistan into India’s front yard. Second, Pakistan also has an insurmountable internal problem: In its efforts to secure buffers, it is forced to include various ethnic groups that, because of mountainous terrain, are impossible to assimilate. When the government used religion as a tool to unify the buffer regions with the Indus Valley core, it did not anticipate that the strategy would threaten the state’s survival.

Related Special Topic Pages
Countries In Crisis
Pakistani Democracy and the Army
Related Link
The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a series on Pakistan.

While Pakistan’s boundaries encompass a large swath of land stretching from the peaks of the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, the writ of the Pakistani state stops short of the country’s mountainous northwestern frontier. The strip of arable land that hugs the Indus River in Punjab province is the Pakistani heartland, where the bulk of the country’s population, industry and resources are concentrated. For Pakistan to survive as a modern nation-state, it must protect this core at all costs.

But even in the best of circumstances, defending the Pakistani core and maintaining the integrity of the state are extraordinarily difficult tasks, mainly because of geography.

The headwaters of the Indus River system are not even in Pakistan — the system actually begins in Indian-administered Kashmir. While Kashmir has been the focus of Indo-Pakistani military action in modern times, the area where Pakistan faces its most severe security challenge is the saddle of land between the Indus and the broader, more fertile and more populated Ganges River basin. The one direction in which it makes sense to extend Pakistani civilization as geography would allow takes Pakistan into direct and daily conflict with a much larger civilization: India. Put simply, geography dictates that Pakistan either be absorbed into India or fight a losing battle against Indian influence.

Controlling the Buffers
Pakistan must protect its core by imposing some semblance of control over its hinterlands, mainly in the north and west, where the landscape is more conducive to fragmenting the population than defending the country. The arid, broken highlands of the Baluchistan plateau eventually leak into Iran to the southwest. To the north, in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), the Federally Administered Northern Area (FANA) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the terrain becomes more and more mountainous. But terrain in these regions still does not create a firm enough barrier to completely block invasion. To the southwest, a veritable Baluch thoroughfare parallels the Arabian Sea coast and crosses the Iranian-Pakistani border. To the northwest, the Pashtun-populated mountains are not so rugged that armies cannot march through them, as Alexander the Great, the Aryans and the Turks historically proved.

To control all these buffer regions, the Pakistani state must absorb masses of other peoples who do not conform to the norms of the Indus core. Russia faces a similar challenge; its lack of geographic insulation from its neighbors forces it to expand to establish a buffer. But in Pakistan, the complications are far worse. Russia’s buffers are primarily flat, which facilitates the assimilation of conquered peoples. Pakistan’s buffers are broken and mountainous, which reinforces ethnic divisions among the regions’ inhabitants — core Punjabis and Sindhis in the Indus Valley, Baluch to the west and Pashtuns to the north. And the Baluch and Pashtuns are spread out over far more territory than what comprises the Punjab-Sindh core.

Thus, while Pakistan has relatively definable boundaries, it lacks the ethnic and social cohesion of a strong nation-state. Three of the four major Pakistani ethnic groups — Punjabis, Pashtuns and Baluch — are not entirely in Pakistan. India has an entire state called Punjab, 42 percent of Afghanistan is Pashtun, and Iran has a significant Baluch minority in its Sistan-Baluchistan province.

Thus, the challenge to Pakistan’s survival is twofold. First, the only route of expansion that makes any sense is along the fertile Indus River Valley, but that takes Pakistan into India’s front yard. The converse is also true: India’s logical route of expansion through Punjab takes it directly into Pakistan’s core. Second, Pakistan faces an insurmountable internal problem. In its efforts to secure buffers, it is forced to include groups that, because of mountainous terrain, are impossible to assimilate.

The first challenge is one that has received little media attention of late but remains the issue for long-term Pakistani survival. The second challenge is the core of Pakistan’s “current” problems: The central government in Islamabad simply cannot assert its writ into the outer regions, particularly in the Pashtun northwest, as well as it can at its core.

The Indus core could be ruled by a democracy — it is geographically, economically and culturally cohesive — but Pakistan as a whole cannot be democratically ruled from the Indus core and remain a stable nation-state. The only type of government that can realistically attempt to subjugate the minorities in the outer regions, who make up more than 40 percent of Pakistan’s population, is a harsh one (i.e., a military government). It is no wonder, then, that the parliamentary system Pakistan inherited from its days of British rule broke down within four years of independence, which was gained in 1947 when Great Britain split British India into Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. After the 1948 death of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, British-trained civilian bureaucrats ran the country with the help of the army until 1958, when the army booted out the bureaucrats and took over. Since then there have been four military coups, and the army has ruled the country for 33 of its 61 years in existence.

While Pakistani politics is rarely if ever discussed in this context, the country’s military leadership implicitly understands the dilemma of holding onto the buffer regions to the north and west. Long before military leader Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) began Islamizing the state, the army’s central command sought to counter the secular, left-wing, ethno-nationalist tendencies of the minority provinces by promoting an Islamic identity, particularly in the Pashtun belt. At first, the idea was to strengthen the religious underpinning of the republic in order to meld the outlands more closely with the core. Later, in the wake of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan (1978-1989), Pakistan’s army began using radical Islamism as an arm of foreign policy. Islamist militant groups, trained or otherwise aided by the government, were formed to push Islamabad’s influence into both Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir.

As Pakistan would eventually realize, however, the strategy of promoting an Islamic identity to maintain domestic cohesion while using radical Islamism as an instrument of foreign policy would do far more harm than good.

Militant Proxies
Pakistan’s Islamization policy culminated in the 1980s, when Pakistani, U.S. and Saudi intelligence services collaborated to drive Soviet troops out of Afghanistan by arming, funding and training mostly Pashtun Afghan fighters. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989, Pakistan was eager to forge a post-communist Islamist republic in Afghanistan — one that would be loyal to Islamabad and hostile to New Delhi. To that end, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency threw most of its support behind Islamist rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hizb i-Islami.

But things did not quite go as planned. When the Marxist regime in Kabul finally fell in 1992, a major intra-Islamist power struggle ensued, and Hekmatyar lost much of his influence. Amid the chaos, a small group of madrassah teachers and students who had fought against the Soviets rose above the factions and consolidated control over Afghanistan’s Kandahar region in 1994. The ISI became so impressed by this Taliban movement that it dropped Hekmatyar and joined with the Saudis in ensuring that the Taliban would emerge as the vanguard of the Pashtuns and the rulers of Kabul.

The ISI was not the only one competing for the Taliban’s attention. A small group of Arabs led by Osama bin Laden reopened shop in Afghanistan in 1996, looking to use a Taliban-run government in Afghanistan as a launchpad for reviving the caliphate. Ultimately, this would involve overthrowing all secular governments in the Muslim world (including the one sitting in Islamabad.) The secular, military-run government in Pakistan, on the other hand, was looking to use its influence on the Taliban government to wrest control of Kashmir from India. While Pakistan’s ISI occasionally collaborated with al Qaeda in Afghanistan on matters of convenience, its goals were still ultimately incompatible with those of bin Laden. Pakistan was growing weary of al Qaeda’s presence on its western border, but soon became preoccupied with an opportunity developing to the east.

The Pakistani military saw an indigenous Muslim uprising in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1989 as a way to revive its claims over Muslim-majority Kashmir. It did not take long before the military began developing small guerrilla armies of Kashmiri Islamist irregulars for operations against India. When he was a two-star general and the army’s director-general of military operations, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf played a leading role in refining the plan, which became fully operational in the 1999 Kargil War. Pakistan’s war strategy was to infiltrate Kashmiri Islamist guerrillas across the Line of Control (LoC) while Pakistani forces occupied high-altitude positions on Kargil Mountain. When India became aware of the infiltration, it sought to dislodge the guerrillas, at which point Pakistani artillery opened up on Indian troops positioned at lower-altitude base camps. While the Pakistani plan was initially successful, Indian forces soon regained the upper hand and U.S. pressure helped force a Pakistani retreat.

But the defeat at Kargil did not stop Pakistan from pursuing its Islamist militant proxy project in Kashmir. Groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Al Badr spread their offices and training camps throughout Pakistani-occupied Kashmir under the guidance of the ISI. Whenever Islamabad felt compelled to turn up the heat on New Delhi, these militants would carry out operations against Indian targets, mostly in the Kashmir region.

India, meanwhile, would return the pressure on Islamabad by supporting Baluchi rebels in western Pakistan and providing covert support to the ethnic Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, the Taliban’s main rival in Afghanistan. While Pakistan grew more and more distracted by supporting its Islamist proxies in Kashmir, the Taliban grew more attached to al Qaeda, which provided fighters to help the Taliban against the Northern Alliance as well as funding when the Taliban were crippled by an international embargo. As a result, al Qaeda extended its influence over the Taliban government, which gave al Qaeda free rein to plan and stage the deadliest terrorist attack to date against the West.

The Post 9/11 Environment
On Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon were attacked, the United States put Pakistan in a chokehold: Cooperate immediately in toppling the Taliban regime, which Pakistan had nurtured for years, or face destruction. Musharraf tried to buy some time by reaching out to Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar to give up bin Laden, but the Taliban chief refused, making it clear that Pakistan had lost against al Qaeda in the battle for influence over the Taliban.

Just a few months after the 9/11 attacks, in December 2001, Kashmiri Islamist militants launched a major attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi. Still reeling from the pressure it was receiving from the United States, Islamabad was now faced with the wrath of India. Both dealing with an Islamist militant threat, New Delhi and Washington tag-teamed Islamabad and tried to get it to cut its losses and dismantle its Islamist militant proxies.

To fend off some of the pressure, the Musharraf government banned LeT and JeM, two key Kashmiri Islamist groups fostered by the ISI and with close ties to al Qaeda. India was unsatisfied with the ban, which was mostly for show, and proceeded to mass a large military force along the LoC in Kashmir. The Pakistanis responded with their own deployment, and the two countries stood at the brink of nuclear war. U.S. intervention allowed India and Pakistan to step back from the precipice. In the process, Washington extracted concessions from Islamabad on the counterterrorism front, and official Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban withered within days.

The Devolution of the ISI
The post 9/11 shake-up ignited a major crisis in the Pakistani military establishment. On one hand, the military was under extreme pressure to stamp out the jihadists along its western border. On the other hand, the military was fearful of U.S. and Indian interests aligning against Pakistan. Islamabad’s primary means of keeping Washington as an ally was its connection to the jihadist insurgency in Afghanistan. So Islamabad played a double game, offering piecemeal cooperation to the United States while maintaining ties with its Islamist militant proxies in Afghanistan.

Related Links
Pakistan: Islamists and the Benefit of Indo-Pakistani Conflict
Pakistan: Anatomy of the ISI
The Jihadist Insurgency in Pakistan
Pakistan and Its Army
But the ISI’s grip over these proxies was already loosening. In the run-up to 9/11, al Qaeda not only had close ties to the Taliban regime, but also had reached out to ISI handlers whose job it was to maintain links with the array of Islamist militant proxies supported by Islamabad. Many of the intelligence operatives who had embraced the Islamist ideology were working to sabotage Islamabad’s new alliance with Washington, which threatened to destroy the Islamist militant universe they had created. While the ISI leadership was busy trying to adjust to the post-9/11 operating environment, others within the middle and junior ranks of the agency started to engage in activities not necessarily sanctioned by their leadership.

As the influence of the Pakistani state declined, al Qaeda’s influence rose. By the end of 2003, Musharraf had become the target of at least three al Qaeda assassination attempts. In the spring of 2004, Musharraf — again under pressure from the United States — was forced to send troops into the tribal badlands for the first time in the history of the country. Pakistani military operations to root out foreign fighters ended up killing thousands in the Pashtun areas, creating massive resentment against the central government.

In October 2006, when a deadly U.S. Predator strike hit a madrassah in Bajaur agency, killing 82 people, the stage was set for a jihadist insurgency to move into Pakistan proper. The Pakistani Taliban linked up with al Qaeda to carry out scores of suicide attacks, most against military targets and all aiming to break Islamabad’s resolve to combat the insurgency. A major political debacle threw Islamabad off course in March 2007, when Musharraf’s government was hit by a pro-democracy movement after he dismissed the country’s chief justice. Four months later, a raid on Islamabad’s Red Mosque, which Islamist militants had occupied, threw more fuel onto the insurgent fires, igniting suicide attacks in major Pakistani cities like Karachi and Islamabad, while the writ of the state continued to erode in the NWFP and FATA.

Musharraf was forced to step down as army chief in November 2007 and as president in August 2008, ushering in an incoherent civilian government. In December 2007, the world got a good glimpse of just how dangerous the murky ISI-jihadist nexus had become when the political chaos in Islamabad was exploited with a bold suicide attack that killed Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Historically, the Pakistani military had been relied on to step in and restore order in such a crisis, but the military itself was coming undone as the split widened between those willing and those unwilling to work with the jihadists. Now, in the final days of 2008, the jihadist insurgency is raging on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, with the country’s only guarantor against collapse — the military — in disarray.

Kashmiri Groups Cut Loose
India has watched warily as Pakistan’s jihadist problems have intensified over the past several years. Of utmost concern to New Delhi have been the scores of Kashmiri Islamist militants who had been operating on the ISI’s payroll — and who had a score to settle with India. As Pakistan became more and more distracted with battling jihadists within its own borders, the Kashmiri Islamist militant groups began loosening their bonds with the Pakistani state. Groups such as LeT and JeM, who had been banned and forced underground following the 2001 Indian parliament attack, started spreading their tentacles into major Indian cities. These groups retained links to the ISI, but the Pakistani military had bigger issues to deal with and needed to distance itself from the Kashmiri Islamists. If these groups were to continue to carry out operations, Pakistan needed some plausible deniability.

Over the past several years, Kashmiri Islamist militant groups have carried out sporadic attacks throughout India. The attacks have involved commercial-grade explosives rather than the military-grade RDX that is traditionally used in Pakistani-sponsored attacks, another sign that the groups are distancing themselves from Pakistan. The attacks, mostly against crowded transportation hubs, religious sites (both Hindu and Muslim) and marketplaces, were designed to ignite riots between Hindus and Muslims that would compel the Indian government to crack down and revive the Kashmir cause.

However, India’s Hindu nationalist and largely moderate Muslim communities failed to take the bait. It was only a matter of time before these militant groups began seeking out more strategic targets that would affect India’s economic lifelines and ignite a crisis between India and Pakistan. As these groups became increasingly autonomous, they also started linking up with members of al Qaeda’s transnational jihadist movement, who had a keen interest in stirring up conflict between India and Pakistan to divert the attention of Pakistani forces to the east.

By November 2008, this confluence of forces — Pakistan’s raging jihadist insurgency, the devolution of the ISI and the increasing autonomy of the Kashmiri groups — created the conditions for one of the largest militant attacks in history to hit Mumbai, highlighting the extent to which Pakistan has lost control over its Islamist militant proxy project.

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« Reply #276 on: January 01, 2009, 05:21:07 AM »

Second post of AM

Part 3: Making It on Its Own
December 19, 2008 | 1218 GMT
Constrained by its geography since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has found it virtually impossible to develop a strong economy, so it has had to think outside the box. One effective strategy has been to leverage the political and security aspects of its geography, posed by the confluence of countries and cultures in the region. This mix of Iran, India, Afghanistan, Shiite Islam, Sunni Islam and Hinduism has meant that powers beyond Pakistan’s immediate frontiers have had a vested interest in its survival. But this could be changing as the world moves away from Pakistan and as it moves closer to its day of reckoning as a functioning nation-state.

Related Special Topic Page
Countries In Crisis
Related Links
Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
Part 2: A Crisis in Indian-Pakistani Relations
The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World
Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a series on Pakistan.

Very few developing states boast strong economies. Even those that do, such as Brazil, suffer from a host of problems, including insufficient infrastructure and technical personnel, high levels of corruption, shallow local capital markets, currency risk and overdependence on commodities. Pakistan suffers from all of these ailments — and more, as we have discussed in earlier installments of this series.

As we look at the economic factors contributing to Pakistan’s problems, we will first evaluate the Pakistani economy on its merits (or lack thereof). Then we will explain how things are just about as good as they can possibly get.

Security, Debt and Deficit
Pakistan historically has been an economically weak, mismanaged and corrupt state. The Pakistani military elite, deeply entrenched in the economy, holds much of the country’s wealth as well as a number of key assets in the corporate and real estate sectors. The agricultural industry remains the country’s economic backbone, employing some 44 percent of the population, yet accounting for only 21 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP). The remainder of the GDP comes from services (53 percent) and industry (27 percent).

Pakistan’s most fundamental economic problem is that it has very few natural resources to tap in the first place. And it is not necessarily a matter of lacking the resources; security issues in the country’s northwest have long constrained even basic exploration in much of the country, going back to times that predate the British colonial experience. In order to industrialize, therefore, Pakistan has been forced to import whatever materials it needs without first being able to establish a source of income. The unavoidable results are high debt and a sustained, massive trade deficit. As of 2008, the country’s national debt was more than 60 percent of GDP, and the trade deficit about 9.3 percent of GDP.

Even agriculture, the cash cow of many developed states, is a bit of a no-go for the Pakistanis. The Indus River Valley might be productive — indeed, Pakistan has leveraged it to become the 11th-largest producer of wheat — but the country remains a net importer of foodstuffs largely due to the a burgeoning population of 168 million. Though Pakistan is the fifth-largest exporter of rice and 14th-largest exporter of cotton, floods and pest pressure over the past year have hit rice and cotton production hard, with the growth rate last reported by the agricultural sector (for fiscal year 2008) at a dismal 1.5 percent.

Related Links
Pakistan: Grabbing the IMF Lifeline
Pakistan: Biting the IMF Bullet
Pakistan: IMF the Only Option
Pakistan: Flirting With Bankruptcy
The bulk of Pakistan’s exports come from low-value-added products such as textiles and chemicals, but the relative income from such sources has been declining for three decades and is somewhat in danger of disappearing altogether. Pakistan used to enjoy access to the broad Commonwealth market, but starting in 1973, when the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (EEC, a predecessor to the European Union), that market evaporated, forcing Pakistan to compete internationally on its own merits. And now that textiles are subject to the full/normal trading rules of the World Trade Organization, Pakistan lacks much of a competitive advantage. China, Bangladesh and India can regularly produce textiles at lower cost. In fact, the only true growth industry in Pakistan is its near-monopoly on fuel supply to NATO forces in Afghanistan. Aside from refining, nearly all of Pakistan’s economic sectors face massive challenges at best, and are flirting with collapse at worst.

The net result is not only a low level of development (with the notable exception of Karachi, the center for Pakistan’s international trade, and Lahore, the country’s agricultural capital), but also a chronic lack of capital to invest in the sorts of projects, such as infrastructure, education and finance, that could enable Pakistan to make true economic progress. Pakistan’s only substantial source of capital comes from abroad, and access to that capital is dependent upon factors such as currency rates, the global economic situation and the price of oil — factors that remain firmly beyond Islamabad’s influence.

And the need for new sources of capital is now greater than ever. In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a collapse of its infrastructure, with power outages of up to six hours a day across the country. The 2008 spikes in energy and food prices almost bankrupted the state. In the year to date, Pakistan’s food bill has jumped by 46 percent over 2007 figures, and its oil bill by 56 percent. Simultaneously, the deteriorating security environment has manifested itself in major cities in the form of suicide bombings — Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi have not proved immune — and has done an excellent job of chasing away foreign and even domestic investors. Foreign direct investment (FDI) per capita in Pakistan has plunged to a barely noticeable US$32 per year. (By comparison, sub-Saharan Africa’s per capita FDI is US$50 per year.)

Pakistan is holding the line only by spending money that it does not have to spare. What social stability that remains can largely be credited to food and energy subsidies, which have contributed to an annual inflation rate of more than 25 percent. The costs of those subsidies, along with ongoing military deployments, have landed the budget in deficit to the tune of 7.4 percent of GDP, among the world’s highest. Recent spending has reduced Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves by 75 percent in the course of one year to US$3.45 billion. This is only enough to cover one month of imports, bringing the country dangerously close to defaulting on its debts. Though it has seen some respite in the form of sharply declining oil prices, Pakistan’s ability to finance the debt through bond issues has effectively ended; during a credit crisis, few investors want to lend to well-managed countries, much less a badly run country like Pakistan.

The Economic Limits of Geography
What truly sets Pakistan apart from other countries in terms of economic performance is a geography that greatly curtails its economic opportunities. Of Pakistan’s cities, only Karachi remains globally competitive by most measures. Karachi is the country’s only real port and has easy access to major trade lanes. Moving north along the Indus Valley, one becomes tightly hemmed in by marshes and deserts to the east and arid highlands to the west. The result is that Karachi functions as a city-state unto itself, with the bulk of Pakistan’s population found much farther upstream, where the Indus Valley widens.

The upper Indus is where the country’s best infrastructure is located and where any deep, integrated development might take place. But such development is impossible for three reasons. First, the region’s high population has required extensive irrigation, which has drawn down the Indus’ water level, making it unnavigable by any but the smallest of ships. The upper Indus region is, in effect, cut off from Karachi except by far more expensive rail or road transport. Second, the upper Indus’ natural market and trading partner is none other than India. Indian-Pakistani hostility denies the region the chance for progress. Finally, what water the Indus does have is not under Pakistan’s control; the headwaters of not just the Indus but nearly all of its major tributaries lie not in Pakistan, but in Indian-controlled territory. India is damming up those rivers, both to generate electricity and to further tilt the balance of power away from Pakistan.

The remainder of Pakistan’s population is split off (or perhaps more accurately, sequestered) into the mountainous region of the North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a region that is simply too remote to justify developing under normal circumstances. With the notable exception of Karachi, economic development in Pakistan is virtually impossible without the country somehow getting past its conflict with India.

Thus, the question must be asked: How is Pakistan able to survive? Economic development has been nearly impossible since partition from India, and certainly since the United Kingdom joined the EEC. The answer, put simply, is that Islamabad has been very creative. What Pakistan has succeeded in doing is leveraging the political and security aspects of its geography in order to keep its system going. Just as geography has been Pakistan’s curse, to a great degree it also has become its lifeline. Pakistan sits at the intersection of many regions, countries and cultures, including Iran, India, Afghanistan, Shiite Islam, Sunni Islam and Hinduism. This mix makes ruling Pakistan a major headache on the best of days, but it also means that powers beyond Pakistan’s immediate frontiers have a vested interest in seeing Pakistan not fail.

British diplomatic and economic support has maintained the Pakistani-Indian balance of power. All manner of Chinese support, including the sharing of nuclear technology, has strengthened Pakistan against a far superior India. Economic and energy support from Arabs of the Persian Gulf has lent strength to Pakistan when it seemed that India would overwhelm it. And support from the United States, which proved critical in backing the Pakistanis against the Soviet-leaning Indians during the Cold War, continues today in exchange for Pakistan’s support in the war against militant Islamism.

Islamabad’s success in leveraging its geography means that the country has not had to succeed economically on its merits for decades. Put another way, Pakistan has leveraged its geopolitical position not only to push for softer security policies from the United States or India, but also to pay the bills.

This has certainly been replicated in current times. None other than U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus was reported to have personally intervened with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure that Pakistan received a US$7.6 billion loan in November, a loan for which Pakistan certainly did not qualify. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates chipped in another US$2 billion in credit, while China contributed US$500 million and the Asian Development Bank provided another US$300 million — all in the past few weeks.

While these funds certainly will delay Pakistan’s day of reckoning, they are unlikely to prevent it. Pakistan’s economy is flirting with becoming nonfunctional, and it cannot operate in the black any more. Doing that would at a minimum require slashing military and subsidy expenditures, an impossible move for a socially seething country operating on a war footing (and, incidentally, a move the IMF loan supposedly will require).

But the real danger is that the world is shifting away from Pakistan, and with that shift, Pakistan’s ability to leverage its geography diminishes. The United States views Pakistan to be as much part of the problem of the Afghan insurgency as it is part of the solution. Oil prices have dropped by US$100 a barrel in less than five months, drastically limiting the Gulf Arabs’ ability to dole out cash. China has many concerns, and fighting Islamist extremism that has leaked into its own western provinces is something Beijing is now weighing against its commitment to Pakistan. The result might not prove to be a total cutoff of funds, but a slackening of support certainly seems to be in the offing. And without such outside support, Pakistan will have to make it or break it on its own — something it has never proved capable of doing.

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« Reply #277 on: January 02, 2009, 12:00:09 PM »

Bribes Corrode Afghans’ Trust in Government

Published: January 1, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan — When it comes to governing this violent, fractious land, everything, it seems, has its price.

The mansions of Afghan officials in the Sherpur neighborhood of Kabul are a curiosity not only for their size, but also because government salaries are not very big.

Want to be a provincial police chief? It will cost you $100,000.

Want to drive a convoy of trucks loaded with fuel across the country? Be prepared to pay $6,000 per truck, so the police will not tip off the Taliban.

Need to settle a lawsuit over the ownership of your house? About $25,000, depending on the judge.

“It is very shameful, but probably I will pay the bribe,” Mohammed Naim, a young English teacher, said as he stood in front of the Secondary Courthouse in Kabul. His brother had been arrested a week before, and the police were demanding $4,000 for his release. “Everything is possible in this country now. Everything.”

Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.

A raft of investigations has concluded that people at the highest levels of the Karzai administration, including President Karzai’s own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are cooperating in the country’s opium trade, now the world’s largest. In the streets and government offices, hardly a public transaction seems to unfold here that does not carry with it the requirement of a bribe, a gift, or, in case you are a beggar, “harchee” — whatever you have in your pocket.

The corruption, publicly acknowledged by President Karzai, is contributing to the collapse of public confidence in his government and to the resurgence of the Taliban, whose fighters have moved to the outskirts of Kabul, the capital.

“All the politicians in this country have acquired everything — money, lots of money,” President Karzai said in a speech at a rural development conference here in November. “God knows, it is beyond the limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen.”

The decay of the Afghan government presents President-elect Barack Obama with perhaps his most underappreciated challenge as he tries to reverse the course of the war here. Mr. Obama may be required to save the Afghan government not only from the Taliban insurgency — committing thousands of additional American soldiers to do so — but also from itself.

“This government has lost the capacity to govern because a shadow government has taken over,” said Ashraf Ghani, a former Afghan finance minister. He quit that job in 2004, he said, because the state had been taken over by drug traffickers. “The narco-mafia state is now completely consolidated,” he said.

On the streets here, tales of corruption are as easy to find as kebab stands. Everything seems to be for sale: public offices, access to government services, even a person’s freedom. The examples mentioned above — $25,000 to settle a lawsuit, $6,000 to bribe the police, $100,000 to secure a job as a provincial police chief — were offered by people who experienced them directly or witnessed the transaction.

People pay bribes for large things, and for small things, too: to get electricity for their homes, to get out of jail, even to enter the airport.

Governments in developing countries are often riddled with corruption. But Afghans say the corruption they see now has no precedent, in either its brazenness or in its scale. Transparency International, a German organization that gauges honesty in government, ranked Afghanistan 117 out of 180 countries in 2005. This year, it fell to 176.

“Every man in the government is his own king,” said Abdul Ghafar, a truck driver. Mr. Ghafar said he routinely paid bribes to the police who threatened to hinder his passage through Kabul, sometimes several in a day.

Nowhere is the scent of corruption so strong as in the Kabul neighborhood of Sherpur. Before 2001, it was a vacant patch of hillside that overlooked the stately neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan. Today it is the wealthiest enclave in the country, with gaudy, grandiose mansions that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Afghans refer to them as “poppy houses.” Sherpur itself is often jokingly referred to as “Char-pur,” which literally means “City of Loot.”

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about Sherpur is that many of the homeowners are government officials, whose annual salaries would not otherwise enable them to live here for more than a few days.


One of the mansions — three stories, several bedrooms, sweeping balconies — is owned by Abdul Jabbar Sabit, a former attorney general who made a name for himself by declaring a “jihad” against corruption.

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Danfung Dennis for The New York Times
Farooq Farani has been trying to resolve a property dispute. An Afghan judge wants $25,000, but Mr. Farani has refused.
After he was fired earlier this year by President Karzai, a video began circulating around town showing Mr. Sabit dancing giddily around a room and slurring his words, apparently drunk. Mr. Sabit now lives in Canada, but his house is available to rent for $5,000 a month.

An even grander mansion — ornate faux Greek columns, a towering fountain — is owned by Kabul’s police chief, Mohammed Ayob Salangi. It can be had for $11,000 a month. Mr. Salangi’s salary is unknown; that of Mr. Karzai, the president, is about $600 a month.

Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, said the plots of land on which the mansions of Sherpur stand were doled out early in the Karzai administration for prices that were a tiny fraction of what they were worth. (Mr. Ghani said he was offered a plot, too, and refused to accept it.)

“The money for these houses was illegal, I think,” said Mohammed Yosin Usmani, director general of a newly created anticorruption unit.

Often, the corruption here is blatant. On any morning, you can stand on the steps of the Secondary Courthouse in downtown Kabul and listen to the Afghans as they step outside.

One of them was Farooq Farani, who has been coming to the court for seven years, trying to resolve a property dispute. His predicament is a common one here: He fled the country in 1990, as the civil war began, and returned after the fall of the Taliban, only to find a stranger occupying his home.

Yet seven years later, the title to Mr. Farani’s house is still up for grabs. Mr. Farani said he had refused to pay the bribes demanded by the judge in the case, who in turn had refused to settle his case.

“You are approached indirectly, by intermediaries — this is how it works,” said Mr. Farani, who spent his exile in Wiesbaden, Germany. “My house is worth about $50,000, and I’ve been told that I can have the title if I pay $25,000 — half the value of the home.”

Tales like Mr. Farani’s abound here, so much so that it makes one wonder if an honest man can ever make a difference.

Amin Farhang, the minister of commerce, was voted out of Mr. Karzai’s cabinet by Parliament earlier last month for failing to bring down the price of oil in Afghanistan as the price declined in international markets. In a long talk in the sitting room of his home, Mr. Farhang recounted a two-year struggle to fire the man in charge of giving out licenses for new businesses.

The man, Mr. Farhang said, would grant a license only in exchange for a hefty bribe. But Mr. Farhang found that he was unable to fire the man, who, he said, simply bribed other members of the government to reinstate him.

“In a job like this, a man can make 10 or 12 times his salary,” Mr. Farhang said. “People do anything to hang on to them.”

Many Afghans, including Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, place responsibility for the collapse of the state on Mr. Karzai, who, they say, has failed repeatedly to confront the powerful figures who are behind much of the corruption. In his stint as finance minister, Mr. Ghani said, two moments crystallized his disgust and finally prompted him to quit.

The first, Mr. Ghani said, was his attempt to impose order on Kabul’s chaotic system of private property rights. The Afghan government had accumulated vast amounts of land during the period of Communist rule in the 1970s and 1980s. And since 2001, the government has given much of it away — often, Mr. Ghani said, to shady developers at extremely low prices.

Much of that land has been sold and developed, rendering much of Kabul’s property in the hands of unknown owners. Many of the developers who were given free land, Mr. Ghani said, were also involved in drug trafficking.

When he proposed drawing up a set of regulations to govern private property, Mr. Ghani said, he was told by President Karzai to stop.

“ ‘Just back off,” he told me,’ ” Mr. Ghani said. “He said that politically it wasn’t feasible.”

A similar effort to impose regulations at the Ministry of Aviation, which Mr. Ghani described as rife with corruption, was met with a similar response by President Karzai, he said.

“Morally the question was, am I becoming the fig leaf to legitimate a system that was deeply corrupt? Or was I there to serve the people?” Mr. Ghani said. “I resigned.”

Mr. Ghani, who then became chancellor of Kabul University, is today contemplating a run for the presidency.

Asked about Mr. Ghani’s account on Thursday, Humayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said he could not immediately comment.  The corruption may be endemic here, but if there is any hope in the future, it would seem to lie in the revulsion of average Afghans like Mr. Farani, who, after seven years, is still refusing to pay.

“I won’t do it,” Mr. Farani said outside the courthouse. “It’s a matter of principle. Never. But, I don’t have my house, either, and I don’t know that I ever will.”

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« Reply #278 on: January 12, 2009, 06:49:03 PM »

Afghanistan's Drug Problem
by Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of eight books on international affairs, including Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America (2008). He is also a contributing editor to The National Interest.

Added to on December 5, 2008

This article appeared in the National Interest (Online) on December 5, 2008

General James Jones, President-elect Obama's choice as national-security adviser, said earlier this week that a more "comprehensive" strategy was needed to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Part of his comprehensive approach would be to intensify the campaign against the illegal drug trade. That would be a disastrous mistake. The opium trade is such a huge part of Afghanistan's economy, that efforts to eradicate it would alienate millions of Afghans and play into the hands of the terrorists.

Under pressure from Washington, President Hamid Karzai has already called on the Afghan people to wage war against narcotics with the same determination and ferocity that they resisted the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Given the economic and social realities in Afghanistan, that is an unrealistic and potentially very dangerous objective.

Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of eight books on international affairs, including Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America (2008). He is also a contributing editor to The National Interest.

Despite the comments of General Jones, there has long been skepticism in U.S. and NATO military circles about the wisdom of pursuing a vigorous war on drugs in Afghanistan. Commanders correctly believe that such an effort complicates their primary mission: eradicating al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.

There is little doubt that al-Qaeda and other anti-government elements profit from the drug trade. What drug warriors refuse to acknowledge is that the connection between drug trafficking and terrorism is a direct result of making drugs illegal, thereby creating an enormous black-market premium. Not surprisingly, terrorist groups in Afghanistan and other countries are quick to exploit such a vast source of potential funding. Absent a worldwide prohibitionist policy, the profit margins in drug trafficking would be a tiny fraction of their current levels, and terrorist groups would have to seek other sources of revenue.

In any case, the United States faces a dilemma if it conducts a vigorous drug-eradication campaign in Afghanistan in an effort to dry up the funds flowing to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Those are not the only factions involved in drug trafficking. Evidence has emerged that officials in Karzai's government, perhaps even the president's brother, are also recipients of largesse from the narcotics trade. Even more important, many of Karzai's political allies are warlords who control the drug commerce in their respective regions. They use the resulting revenues to pay the militias that keep them in power in their fiefdoms and give them national political clout. Some of these individuals backed the Taliban when that faction was in power, switching sides only when the United States launched its military offensive in Afghanistan in October 2001. Antidrug campaigns might cause them to change their allegiance yet again.

In addition to the need to placate cooperative warlords, the U.S.-led coalition relies on poppy growers as spies for information on movements of Taliban and al-Qaeda units. Disrupting the opium crop alienates those vital sources of information.

Washington’s pressure on Karzai is myopic.

The drug trade is a crucial part of Afghanistan's economy. Afghanistan accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's opium supply, and opium poppies are now grown in most provinces. The trade is roughly one-third of the country's entire gross domestic product. According to the United Nations, some five hundred nine thousand Afghan families are involved in opium poppy cultivation. Even measured on a nuclear-family basis, that translates into about 14 percent of Afghanistan's population. Given the role of extended families and clans in Afghan society, the number of people affected is much greater than that. Indeed, it is likely that at least 35 percent of the population is involved directly or indirectly in the drug trade. For many of those people, opium poppy crops and other aspects of drug commerce are the difference between modest prosperity (by Afghan standards) and destitution. They do not look kindly on efforts to destroy their livelihood.

Despite those daunting economic factors, the Bush administration has put increased pressure on the Karzai government to crack down on the drug trade, and the incoming Obama administration apparently intends to continue that strategy. The Afghan regime is responding cautiously, trying to convince Washington that it is serious about dealing with the problem without launching a full-blown antidrug crusade that will alienate large segments of the population. It has tried to achieve that balance by focusing on high-profile raids against drug-processing labs—mostly those that are not controlled by warlords friendly to the Kabul government. Afghan officials have been especially adamant in opposing the aerial spraying of poppy fields—a strategy that Washington has successfully pushed allied governments in Colombia and other South American drug-source countries to do.

Washington's pressure on Karzai is myopic. The Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies are rapidly regaining strength, especially in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, perhaps not coincidentally the areas of the most vigorous antidrug campaigns. If zealous American drug warriors alienate hundreds of thousands of Afghan farmers, the Karzai government's hold on power could become even more precarious. Washington would then face the unpalatable choice of risking the reemergence of chaos in Afghanistan, including the prospect that radical Islamists might regain power, or sending more U.S. troops to stabilize the situation beyond the reinforcements already contemplated for 2009.

U.S. officials need to keep their priorities straight. Our mortal enemy is al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime that made Afghanistan into a sanctuary for that terrorist organization. The drug war is a dangerous distraction in the campaign to destroy those forces. Recognizing that security considerations sometimes trump other objectives would hardly be an unprecedented move by Washington. U.S. agencies quietly ignored drug-trafficking activities of anticommunist factions in Central America during the 1980s when the primary goal was to keep those countries out of the Soviet orbit. In the early 1990s, the United States also eased its pressure on Peru's government regarding the drug-eradication issue when President Alberto Fujimori concluded that a higher priority had to be given to winning coca farmers away from the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement.

The Obama administration should adopt a similar pragmatic policy in Afghanistan and look the other way regarding the drug-trafficking activities of friendly warlords. And above all, the U.S. military must not become the enemy of Afghan farmers whose livelihood depends on opium-poppy cultivation. True, some of the funds from the drug trade will find their way into the coffers of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. That is an inevitable side effect of a global prohibitionist policy that creates such an enormous profit from illegal drugs. But alienating pro-Western Afghan factions in an effort to disrupt the flow of revenue to the Islamic radicals is too high a price to pay. General Jones should reconsider his views.
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« Reply #279 on: January 14, 2009, 07:39:41 AM »

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside them on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.

As War Enters Classrooms, Fear Grips Afghans (July 10, 2007)
“Are you going to school?”

Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read.

But if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.

Today, nearly all of the wounded girls are back at the Mirwais School for Girls, including even Shamsia, whose face was so badly burned that she had to be sent abroad for treatment. Perhaps even more remarkable, nearly every other female student in this deeply conservative community has returned as well — about 1,300 in all.

“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”

In the five years since the Mirwais School for Girls was built here by the Japanese government, it appears to have set off something of a social revolution. Even as the Taliban tighten their noose around Kandahar, the girls flock to the school each morning. Many of them walk more than two miles from their mud-brick houses up in the hills.

The girls burst through the school’s walled compound, many of them flinging off head-to-toe garments, bounding, cheering and laughing in ways that are inconceivable outside — for girls and women of any age. Mirwais has no regular electricity, no running water, no paved streets. Women are rarely seen, and only then while clad in burqas that make their bodies shapeless and their faces invisible.

And so it was especially chilling on Nov. 12, when three pairs of men on motorcycles began circling the school. One of the teams used a spray bottle, another a squirt gun, another a jar. They hit 11 girls and 4 teachers in all; 6 went to the hospital. Shamsia fared the worst.

The attacks appeared to be the work of the Taliban, the fundamentalist movement that is battling the government and the American-led coalition. Banning girls from school was one of the most notorious symbols of the Taliban’s rule before they were ousted from power in November 2001.

Building new schools and ensuring that children — and especially girls — attend has been one of the main objectives of the government and the nations that have contributed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Some of the students at the Mirwais school are in their late teens and early 20s, attending school for the first time. Yet at the same time, in the guerrilla war that has unfolded across southern and eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban have made schools one of their special targets.

But exactly who was behind the acid attack is a mystery. The Taliban denied any part in it. The police arrested eight men and, shortly after that, the Ministry of Interior released a video showing two men confessing. One of them said he had been paid by an officer with the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency, to carry out the attack.

But at a news conference last week, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, said there was no such Pakistani involvement.

One thing is certain: in the months before the attack, the Taliban had moved into the Mirwais area and the rest of Kandahar’s outskirts. As they did, posters began appearing in local mosques.

“Don’t Let Your Daughters Go to School,” one of them said.

In the days after the attack, the Mirwais School for Girls stood empty; none of the parents would let their daughters venture outside. That is when the headmaster, Mahmood Qadari, got to work.

After four days of staring at empty classrooms, Mr. Qadari called a meeting of the parents. Hundreds came to the school — fathers and mothers — and Mr. Qadari implored them to let their daughters return. After two weeks, a few returned.

So, Mr. Qadari, whose three daughters live abroad, including one in Virginia, enlisted the support of the local government. The governor promised more police officers, a footbridge across a busy nearby road and, most important, a bus. Mr. Qadari called another meeting and told the parents that there was no longer any reason to hold their daughters back.

“I told them, if you don’t send your daughters to school, then the enemy wins,” Mr. Qadari said. “I told them not to give in to darkness. Education is the way to improve our society.”

The adults of Mirwais did not need much persuading. Neither the bus nor the police nor the bridge has materialized, but the girls started showing up anyway. Only a couple of dozen girls regularly miss school now; three of them are girls who had been injured in the attack.

“I don’t want the girls sitting around and wasting their lives,” said Ghulam Sekhi, an uncle of Shamsia and her sister, Atifa, age 14, who was also burned.

For all the uncertainty outside its walls, the Mirwais school brims with life. Its 40 classrooms are so full that classes are held in four tents, donated by Unicef, in the courtyard. The Afghan Ministry of Education is building a permanent building as well.

The past several days at the school have been given over to examinations. In one classroom, a geography class, a teacher posed a series of questions while her students listened and wrote their answers on paper.

“What is the capital of Brazil?” the teacher, named Arja, asked, walking back and forth.

“Now, what are its major cities?”

“By how many times is America larger than Afghanistan?”

At a desk in the front row, Shamsia, the girl with the burned face, pondered the questions while cupping a hand over her largest scar. She squinted down at the paper, rubbed her eyes, wrote something down.

Doctors have told Shamsia that her face may need plastic surgery if there is to be any chance of the scars disappearing. It is a distant dream: Shamsia’s village does not even have regular electricity, and her father is disabled.

After class, Shamsia blended in with the other girls, standing around, laughing and joking. She seemed un-self-conscious about her disfigurement, until she began to recount her ordeal.

“The people who did this,” she said, “do not feel the pain of others.”
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« Reply #280 on: January 14, 2009, 08:30:40 AM »

U.S. Marines Find Iraq Tactics Don't Work In Afghanistan

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

DELARAM, Afghanistan — On a sunset patrol here in late December, U.S. Marines spotted a Taliban unit trying to steal Afghan police vehicles at a checkpoint. In a flash, the Marines turned to pursue, driving off the main road and toward the gunfire coming from the mountain a half mile away.

But their six-ton vehicles were no match for the Taliban pickups. The mine-resistant vehicles and heavily armored Humvees bucked and swerved as drivers tried to maneuver them across fields that the Taliban vehicles raced across. The Afghan police trailed behind in unarmored pick-up trucks, impatient about their allies' weighty pace.

The Marines, weighted down with 60 pounds of body armor each, struggled to climb up Saradaka Mountain. Once at the top, it was clear to everyone that the Taliban would get away. Second Lt. Phil Gilreath, 23, of Kingwood, La., called off the mission.

"It would be a ghost chase, and we would run the risk of the vehicles breaking down again," Gilreath said. The Marines spent the next hour trying to find their way back to the paved road.

The men of the 3rd Batallion, 8th Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, are discovering in their first two months in Afghanistan that the tactics they learned in nearly six years of combat in Iraq are of little value here — and may even inhibit their ability to fight their Taliban foes.

Their MRAP mine-resistant vehicles, which cost $1 million each, were specially developed to combat the terrible effects of roadside bombs, the single biggest killer of Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a country of highways and paved roads, and the heavily armored vehicles are cumbersome on Afghanistan's unpaved roads and rough terrain where roadside bombs are much less of a threat.

Body armor is critical to warding off snipers in Iraq, where Sunni Muslim insurgents once made video of American soldiers falling to well-placed sniper shots a staple of recruiting efforts. But the added weight makes Marines awkward and slow when they have to dismount to chase after Taliban gunmen in Afghanistan's rough terrain.

Even the Humvees, finally carrying heavy armor after years of complaints that they did little to mitigate the impact of roadside explosives in Iraq, are proving a liability. Marines say the heavy armor added for protection in Iraq is too rough on the vehicles' transmissions in Afghanistan's much hillier terrain, and the vehicles frequently break down — so often in fact that before every patrol Marine units here designate one Humvee as the tow vehicle.

The Marines have found other differences:

*In Iraq, American forces could win over remote farmlands by swaying urban centers. In Afghanistan, there's little connection between the farmlands and the mudhut villages that pass for towns.

*In Iraq, armored vehicles could travel on both the roads and the desert. Here, the paved roads are mostly for outsiders - travelers, truckers and foreign troops; to reach the populace, American forces must find unmapped caravan routes that run through treacherous terrain, routes not designed for their modern military vehicles.

*In Iraq, a half-hour firefight was considered a long engagement; here, Marines have fought battles that have lasted as long as eight hours against an enemy whose attacking forces have grown from platoon-size to company-size.

U.S. military leaders recognize that they need to make adjustments. During a Christmas Eve visit here, Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway told the troops that the Defense Department is studying how to reconfigure the bottom of its MRAPs to handle Afghanistan's rougher terrain. And Col. Duffy White, the commander of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, said he anticipates that Marines will be wearing less armor by spring, when fighting season begins again.

The next Marine battalion arriving here will need more troops and more helicopters. And because of terrain, patrols will change.

"Hopefully we have not become wedded to the vehicles," White said, a reference to the MRAPs, which currently are required for every patrol. "We have to set the standard operation procedure for how to do this. This not Iraq."

Just how quickly the U.S. military can shift its weapons, tactics and mindset to Afghanistan after nearly seven years of training almost exclusively for Iraq is a major question as President-elect Barack Obama takes office promising to transfer combat units out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.

Students of the Iraq war know that change came slowly and only after years of casualties made worse by inadequate equipment.

As in Iraq, where the U.S. didn't increase the number of troops, despite the growing insurgency and violence until 2007, U.S. forces Afghanistan fear they are undermanned, despite the Pentagon's plan to double the U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 60,000.

The 3,000 troops here are in charge of an area with few city centers that is roughly the size of Vermont. In Washir, the neighboring district, the Taliban operates freely because there are not enough troops.

"They tell me that Afghanistan is Iraq on steroids," said Gilreath, who is on his first deployment and hasn't served in Iraq.

But 40 percent of the 3-8 has served previously in Iraq's Anbar province. Indeed, the 3-8 was originally scheduled to deploy to the Iraqi/Syrian border and learned just two months before it shipped out that it was headed to Afghanistan instead. By then they had finished most of their training, all of it geared toward Iraq.

So they are learning on the ground.

At times, Afghanistan can feel deceptively like Iraq, they say. During a patrol that found the Marines surrounded by poppy fields, they spotted two men on a motorcycle trailing them. It was the only other vehicle on an otherwise unused paved road.

"You see that. They're watching us," Gilreath radioed to his fellow Marines.

In Iraq, such trailing often meant an attack was imminent. But not here. Marines said it could be months before the Taliban turns that information into an attack.

"The lack of attacks has me asking: Are we doing something right or wrong?" asked company commander Capt. Sven Gosnell, 36, of Torrance, Calif., an Iraqi veteran.

When the Taliban does take on the Marines, it's a different kind of fight, Marines said. For one, the Taliban'll wait until they're ready, not just when an opportunity appears. They'll clear the area of women and children, not use them as shields. And when the attack comes, it's often a full-scale attack, with flanks, trenches and a plan, said one Marine captain and Iraq veteran who asked not to be identified because he wasn't sure he was allowed to discuss tactics.

Afghans "are willing to fight to the death. They recover their wounded, just like we do," said the captain. "When I am fighting here, I am fighting a professional army. If direct fighting does not work, they will go to an IED. They plan their ammunition around poppy season. To fight them, you are pulling every play out of the playbook."

U.S. troops also are frustrated by the different rules of engagement they must operate under in Afghanistan. Until Jan. 1, U.S. forces in Iraq operated under their own rules of engagement. If they saw something suspicious, they could kick down a door, search a home or detain a suspicious person.

But in Afghanistan, they operate under the rules of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, of which U.S. troops are part. Under those regulations, only Afghans can search buildings and detain people.

Gilreath felt that frustration shortly after he spotted the trailing motorcycle. Radio chatter mentioned a local bomb-making factory, though it didn't say where. Gilreath decided to investigate two nearby homes. Trailing behind was one Afghan police truck, the only one available that day.

The Marines secured the perimeter and the handful of Afghan police officers searched one clay structure, then the other. But they moved slowly. Some Marines started peeking the windows, doing their best to honor ISAF rules and still satisfy their urge to search.

As the burka-clad women huddled with their children outside, and the men tried to assure the Marines they were law abiding, a single Afghan man began walking off through a nearby field. There weren't enough Afghan police to both search the homes and stop the man.

"We just need more everything," Gilreath said afterward.
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« Reply #281 on: January 14, 2009, 10:27:31 AM »

3rd post of the AM

Geopolitical Diary: The Pakistan Problem
January 14, 2009 | 0256 GMT
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. David Petraeus traveled Tuesday to Astana, Kazakhstan, where he was set to meet with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. That visit was to be followed by a one-day trip to Kyrgyzstan on Jan. 17, according to unconfirmed media reports.

Petraeus’ tour through Central Asia is centered around the problem of Afghanistan, which in turn centers on Pakistan. The CENTCOM commander and his closest advisers are in the process of revising campaign strategies in Afghanistan, where the Taliban- and al Qaeda-led insurgency is intensifying and spreading deeper into neighboring Pakistan. The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will be strengthened by up to 32,000 troops in 2009 – bringing the total force of uniformed U.S. and NATO forces above 90,000, supposedly by this summer. However, this is no more sufficient to establish a military reality on the ground any more than was the surge in Iraq (the Soviets, after all, sustained some 118,000 troops in Afghanistan during the height of their invasion). If the United States is really to turn the tide against the insurgency, it must do something about Pakistan.

But what, exactly, is the problem of Pakistan? There are numerous issues. First, al Qaeda and Taliban forces operate on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While Afghanistan provides fertile ground for an insurgency, Pakistan — a nuclear-armed state with a strong radical Islamist current — presents an even more tantalizing opportunity for jihadists committed to reviving the Caliphate.
Pakistan’s military establishment is the dominant force and guarantor of stability in the country. As long as the military holds together, Pakistan will not devolve into a failed state that can be overrun by jihadists. The Pakistani military still has a fairly solid grip on Pakistan’s core, in the Punjabi heartland, but is losing control of its periphery in the northwestern tribal areas. And that is where things get exceedingly complicated for the United States.

The United States needs Pakistan – despite its complicity in the jihadist insurgency — in order to fight the war in Afghanistan. Geographically, Pakistan provides the shortest and least complex connection to the open ocean, from which all U.S. supplies not flown directly into Afghanistan are delivered. Those supplies include fuel, much of which is refined in Pakistan itself. As of late, however, Pakistan has become an increasingly unreliable supply route for the Americans and NATO. Not only has the Taliban targeted NATO convoys within Pakistani territory (perhaps with the aid of some elements of the Pakistani intelligence apparatus), but the United States is losing patience with the way Islamabad manages its insurgency.

The Pakistanis are dealing with the fact that segments of the military establishment itself are the fuel for the insurgent fire. In order to retain control, the military has adopted a complex strategy that distinguishes between “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban” — using the good guys to box in the bad guys and attempting to keep the insurgents’ focus across the border, in Afghanistan. After all, without an insurgency for the United States to contend with, Pakistan’s utility to the United States as a tactical ally diminishes. And with the United States set on developing a long-term, strategic partnership with India, the Pakistani regime must do whatever it takes to maintain its ties with Washington.

Islamabad’s method of managing the jihadist insurgency obviously does not align with U.S. interests. So rather than contending with the same Pakistani headache, Petraeus and his team are now trying to expand their options and essentially deprive Pakistan of much of its leverage in the jihadist quagmire.

That involves developing alternative supply routes to support the war effort in Afghanistan. The alternatives at this point involve Russia in one way or another. The Caspian Sea cannot easily or quickly accommodate a meaningful expansion of sea transport. Therefore, any logistics traffic will have to be pushed north, into Russia’s sphere of influence — where the supply route will have to connect through Kazakhstan with roads in either Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan. In Kyrgyzstan, the United States needs to ensure it can continue to rely on the government for permission to use an air base it already has at Manas. While the technical details are manageable, the “Russian” supply route is still in many ways a logistical nightmare for the United States.

There are more than logistics for the United States to worry about. Russia is on a resurgent path and is taking full advantage of the fact that the United States has been bogged down for years in a jihadist war. Russia needs to ensure its long-term survival. To do that, it must re-establish its influence in the former Soviet sphere, beginning with Georgia (with which Russia recently fought a brief war; it is now building more military bases in the disputed South Ossetia region) and then Ukraine (which is now at the center of a natural gas crisis, designed to reshape the government into a pro-Russian regime). Next, Russia likely will turn its attention to the Baltic states and Poland. Russia wants the United States to stay out of its way, and will use any leverage it has over the war in Afghanistan to clear its path.

So far, it appears that CENTCOM is willing to incur these risks. The Pentagon is working on the alternate logistics plan, with deliberate leaks that are making Pakistan more nervous by the day. Petraeus and his team are on a mission to fix a broken war in Afghanistan, even if that involves bringing Moscow into the loop. Whether this plan bears fruit, however, will depend on how far the White House intends to go with the Russians.
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« Reply #282 on: January 21, 2009, 10:32:46 AM »

I have been harping for some time now on our apparent lack of a coherent strategy in Afg-Pak.  As the previous post of Stratfor informs, we face ugly choices.

So, my fellow armchair generals, what should President Obama, what should America do?
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« Reply #283 on: January 22, 2009, 07:01:18 AM »

This is from the hip so.......Moving the supply routes through Russia is not the answer.  Putin is not a trustworthy ally and it did not work for the Russians.  There are 2 choices both bad.  1) Pull out of the region and let things fester, while keeping an eye on things (leaving assets in country to spy can not be understated!), then go back in and take out the leadership and when you do go with our whole army and fight in the whole region including the tribal areas of Pak.  2) Why wait?  Start by removing the border issue and fight in the tribal regions of Pak.  We need to take the gloves off the CIA and allow them to "suppress" the enemy even if it is a operative in the Pak intelligence.  One action we could take is to bribe the Pak military to aid us while we remove any who oppose us through politics and or any means we have available.  This would fall under the heading of taking the gloves off.  Make them an offer they can't refuse.  Of coarse for that to work you have to be willing to fallow through.  My great grandfather used to say, "bluff till you can't bluff no more then do everything you said you would!"

So I realize the political implications but what do you want from an armchair general? evil grin
« Reply #284 on: January 22, 2009, 08:03:54 AM »

Few good choices here and there is already a long history of Western powers being sucked into futile Afghan efforts. China and Russia both have a vested interest in countering American influence, getting the US sucked into a futile effort likely serves their interests and allows them to measure a wet behind the ears president, said president is already making it clear he wants to abandon the strategic victory in Iraq and instead focus on playing whack a mole with Bin Laden in the Afghan/Pakistan mountains. NATO is proving fairly useless and their constituent nations are already mewling about withdrawal so, combined with the logistics problems it's pretty hard to imagine a good outcome emerging.

If it were up to me I'd advocate a low intensity conflict model similar to the one used by the Brits in Malaysia. Problem is that would take a decade or two to succeed and I don't think the MSM or the American public has the background to understand or the patience to wait as that sort of plan is carried out.
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« Reply #285 on: January 22, 2009, 11:01:56 AM »

Good start.  Still, the question remains:  WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?

I submit that it is to have a situation where they no longer use Afg-Pak as launch pads for attacks on America.  I submit that we need to make this clear-- I bet the people there don't know any better why we are there than apparently we do.  Something along the lines of "We helped you drive out the Russians, and then leave you alone.  You repay us by hosting attacks on our homeland.  You FCUKERS!!!  Knock it off or we will get primeval with your butts!"

I note that no one has yet addressed my questions about our incoherence with regard to the opium trade.  My thought is that the War on Drugs is fundamentally an error and that we to to end it.  This will take profits out of opium trade that supports the Taliban/AQ , , , AND address the gathering crisis/disaster in Mexico.

Here's this from a friend in India:
Some interesting video...see part 3, These videos show that the Pak army is afraid to take on the Taliban (video 3 with retreating tanks!, no motivation to fight the Taliban). When they kill or capture "Taliban", its usually civilians, e.g. the last video shows that they arrested civilians (based on the conversation shown). Any money offered to Pak to take on the Taliban/AQ is going to go down the drain....Yash
Pakistan's War: On the Front Line

Part 1 ... re=channel
Part 2 ... re=channel
Part 3 ... re=channel
Part 4
« Reply #286 on: January 22, 2009, 12:14:07 PM »

I note that no one has yet addressed my questions about our incoherence with regard to the opium trade.  My thought is that the War on Drugs is fundamentally an error and that we to to end it.  This will take profits out of opium trade that supports the Taliban/AQ , , , AND address the gathering crisis/disaster in Mexico.

The drug war is the gift that keeps on giving . . . to our enemies. Nothing does a better job of swaying hearts and minds the Taliban's way than this attack on subsistence farmers' one cash crop. If the US was to buy up the opium stock and burn it we'd be better off in the long run.

About the only argument I have against bailing is that I think it serves our long term interests to help establish prosperous, moderate Muslim states. That end is in sight in Iraq though a cut and run seems to be looming. If our current presence in Afghanistan can be parlayed that directions I'd say it's worth doing. But if devolution into some NATO clusterfornication is all that's likely, then it's time to disengage.
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« Reply #287 on: January 23, 2009, 12:45:11 PM »

"coherent strategy in Afg-Pak...fellow armchair generals, what should President Obama, what should America do?"

No small question - you have 32 million people in Afghan and 172 million in Pakistan, the 6th largest country in the world, almost all with nothing going on from a civilized-world point of view.

Afghan:  I favor the Guinness "low intensity conflict", conducted by NATO or whoever defines the allies of the fight, with American special forces overlaying the conflict to take out major security threats.  The circumstances are different from the insurgency of Iraq but many of the lessons learned should apply.  One difference is that I think there is no hurry to succeed or to get out.  Afghan is not a country but a territory waiting for the next bad actors to step in.  Two of the things accomplished upon the original liberation were giving people including women the right to vote and also the right including women to be educated.  Forget 10-20 years, I would say 20-50 years to turn this into something other than a wasteland and breeding ground for drugs or terror.

I don't have an answer for the opium trade.  I don't think legalization is realistic and prosecuting a war on drugs while we partner with the cultivators makes no sense.  Just like the third world of America's inner city streets, drug lording is the easiest and quickest path that they see, but no real wealth is created.

Pakistan:  Looks to me like the cat and mouse game of crossing the border with special ops should continue or else we allow the terror organizations to win.  I was hopeful with reports of raids last Sept. the symbolic prize of OBL's head would be ours.  No such luck.  OBL remains only in occasional media release.  Maybe Obama's people can outsmart him and track him through this channel. More important is to track and destroy all groups as they form and before they act.  I am not optimistic. 

We certainly do not want to be in the business of nation building or trying to govern Pakistan.  That would make Iraq look like schoolyard play.  Maybe Obama's Indonesia is a model for Pakistan.  A little more stable but not much to aspire to.

One reason terror organizations fester and have success recruiting is because nothing else is going on economically.  As one looks at the Pak map with borders to Iran and Aghan, it is hard to imagine economic progress in Pakistan in a global economy that doesn't involve peace, trade and commerce with India.
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« Reply #288 on: January 25, 2009, 09:13:08 AM »

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan’s most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing — or a beheading.

Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.
“They control everything through the radio,” said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. “Everyone waits for the broadcast.”

International attention remains fixed on the Taliban’s hold on Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas, from where they launch attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But for Pakistan, the loss of the Swat Valley could prove just as devastating.

Unlike the fringe tribal areas, Swat, a Delaware-size chunk of territory with 1.3 million residents and a rich cultural history, is part of Pakistan proper, within reach of Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the capital.

After more than a year of fighting, virtually all of it is now under Taliban control, marking the militants’ farthest advance eastward into Pakistan’s so-called settled areas, residents and government officials from the region say.

With the increasing consolidation of their power, the Taliban have taken a sizable bite out of the nation. And they are enforcing a strict interpretation of Islam with cruelty, bringing public beheadings, assassinations, social and cultural repression and persecution of women to what was once an independent, relatively secular region, dotted with ski resorts and fruit orchards and known for its dancing girls.

Last year, 70 police officers were beheaded, shot or otherwise slain in Swat, and 150 wounded, said Malik Naveed Khan, the police inspector general for the North-West Frontier Province.

The police have become so afraid that many officers have put advertisements in newspapers renouncing their jobs so the Taliban will not kill them.

One who stayed on the job was Farooq Khan, a midlevel officer in Mingora, the valley’s largest city, where decapitated bodies of policemen and other victims routinely surface. Last month, he was shopping there when two men on a motorcycle sprayed him with gunfire, killing him in broad daylight.

“He always said, ‘I have to stay here and defend our home,’ ” recalled his brother, Wajid Ali Khan, a Swat native and the province’s minister for environment, as he passed around a cellphone with Farooq’s picture.

In the view of analysts, the growing nightmare in Swat is a capsule of the country’s problems: an ineffectual and unresponsive civilian government, coupled with military and security forces that, in the view of furious residents, have willingly allowed the militants to spread terror deep into Pakistan.

The crisis has become a critical test for the government of the civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, and for a security apparatus whose loyalties, many Pakistanis say, remain in question.

Seeking to deflect blame, Mr. Zardari’s government recently criticized “earlier halfhearted attempts at rooting out extremists from the area” and vowed to fight militants “who are ruthlessly murdering and maiming our citizens.”

But as pressure grows, he has also said in recent days that the government would be willing to talk with militants who accept its authority. Such negotiations would carry serious risks: security officials say a brief peace deal in Swat last spring was a spectacular failure that allowed militants to tighten their hold and take revenge on people who had supported the military.

Without more forceful and concerted action by the government, some warn, the Taliban threat in Pakistan is bound to spread.

“The crux of the problem is the government appears divided about what to do,” said Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier who until 2006 was in charge of security in the western tribal areas. “This disconnect among the political leadership has emboldened the militants.”


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From 2,000 to 4,000 Taliban fighters now roam the Swat Valley, according to interviews with a half-dozen senior Pakistani government, military and political officials involved in the fight. By contrast, the Pakistani military has four brigades with 12,000 to 15,000 men in Swat, officials say.

The Taliban are thought to be responsible for the killing of a popular Swat Valley dancing girl, Shabana, whose body, above, was found Jan. 2 in Mingora. The Taliban have made gains in the strategic region, in part by meting out harsh punishments.

But the soldiers largely stay inside their camps, unwilling to patrol or exert any large presence that might provoke — or discourage — the militants, Swat residents and political leaders say. The military also has not raided a small village that locals say is widely known as the Taliban’s headquarters in Swat.

Nor have troops destroyed mobile radio transmitters mounted on motorcycles or pickup trucks that Shah Doran and the leader of the Taliban in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, have expertly used to terrify residents.

Being named in one of the nightly broadcasts often leaves just two options: fleeing Swat, or turning up headless and dumped in a village square.

When the army does act, its near-total lack of preparedness to fight a counterinsurgency reveals itself. Its usual tactic is to lob artillery shells into a general area, and the results have seemed to hurt civilians more than the militants, residents say.

In some parts of Pakistan, civilian militias have risen to fight the Taliban. But in Swat, the Taliban’s gains amid a large army presence has convinced many that the military must be conspiring with the Taliban.

“It’s very mysterious how they get so much weapons and support,” while nearby districts are comparatively calm, said Muzaffar ul-Mulk Khan, a member of Parliament from Swat, who said his home near Mingora was recently destroyed by the Taliban.

“We are bewildered by the military. They patrol only in Mingora. In the rest of Swat they sit in their bases. And the militants can kill at will anywhere in Mingora,” he said.

“Nothing is being done by the government," Mr. Khan added.

Accusations that the military lacks the will to fight in Swat are “very unfair and unjustified,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the chief military spokesman, who said 180 army soldiers and officers had been killed in Swat in the past 14 months.

“They do reach out, and they do patrol,” he said.

Military officials also say they are trying to step up activity in Swat. This weekend, soldiers were deployed to protect a handful of educational buildings in Mingora, amid a wave of school bombings.

General Abbas said the military did not have the means to block Taliban radio transmissions across such a wide area, but he disputed the view that Mingora had fallen to the militants.

“Just because they come out at night and throw down four or five bodies in the square does not mean that militants control anything,” he said.

Few officials would dispute that one of the Pakistani military’s biggest mistakes in Swat was its failure to protect Pir Samiullah, a local leader whose 500 followers fought the Taliban in the village of Mandal Dag. After the Taliban killed him in a firefight last month, the militants demanded that his followers reveal his gravesite — and then started beheading people until they got the information, one Mandal Dag villager said.

“They dug him up and hung his body in the square,” the villager said, and then they took the body to a secret location. The desecration was intended to show what would happen to anyone who defied the Taliban’s rule, but it also made painfully clear to Swat residents that the Pakistani government could not be trusted to defend those who rose up against the militants.

“He should have been given more protection,” said one Pakistani security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the subject. “He should have been made a symbol of resistance.”

Gruesome displays like the defilement of Pir Samiullah’s remains are an effective tactic for the Taliban, who have shown cruel efficiency in following through on their threats.

Recently, Shah Doran broadcast word that the Taliban intended to kill a police officer who he said had killed three people.

“We have sent people, and tomorrow you will have good news,” he said on his nightly broadcast, according to a resident of Matta, a Taliban stronghold. The next day the decapitated body of the policeman was found in a nearby village.

Even in Mingora, a town grown hardened to violence, residents were shocked early this month to find the bullet-ridden body of one of the city’s most famous dancing girls splayed on the main square.

Known as Shabana, the woman was visited at night by a group of men who claimed to want to hire her for a party. They shot her to death and dragged her body more than a quarter-mile to the central square, leaving it as a warning for anyone who would flout Taliban decrees.

The leader of the militants in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, gained prominence from making radio broadcasts and running an Islamic school, becoming popular among otherwise isolated homemakers and inspiring them to sell their jewelry to finance his operation. He also drew support from his marriage to the daughter of Sufi Mohammed, a powerful religious leader in Swat until 2001 who later disowned his son-in-law.

Even though Swat does not border Afghanistan or any of Pakistan’s seven lawless federal tribal areas, Maulana Fazlullah eventually allied with Taliban militants who dominate regions along the Afghan frontier.

His fighters now roam the valley with sniper rifles, Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortar tubes and, according to some officials, night-vision goggles and flak vests.

His latest tactic is a ban on girls’ attending school in Swat, which will be tested in February when private schools are scheduled to reopen after winter recess. The Taliban have already destroyed 169 girls’ schools in Swat, government officials say, and they expect most private schools to stay closed rather than risk retaliation.

“The local population is totally fed up, and if they had the chance they would lynch each and every Talib,” said Mr. Naveed Khan, the police official. “But the Taliban are so cruel and violent, no one will oppose them. If this is not stopped, it will spill into other areas of Pakistan.”
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« Reply #289 on: January 25, 2009, 01:38:09 PM »

"Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill."

 - If true, I can't imagine anyone still thinking this movement is less dangerous than Hitler-Nazi-ism was.
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« Reply #290 on: January 26, 2009, 07:34:31 AM »

So, what are we to do?


NY Times, so caveat lector

MEHTARLAM, Afghanistan — The American military declared the nighttime raid this month a success, saying it killed 32 people, all Taliban insurgents — the fruit of an emphasis on intelligence-driven use of Special Operations forces.

But the two young men who lay wincing in a hospital ward here told a different story a few days later, one backed up by the pro-American provincial governor and a central government delegation.

They agreed that 13 civilians had been killed and 9 wounded when American commandos broke down doors and unleashed dogs without warning on Jan. 7 in the hunt for a known insurgent in Masamut, in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan. The residents were so enraged that they threatened to march on the American military base here.

The conflicting accounts underscore a dangerous rift that has grown between Afghans and the United States forces trying to roll back widening Taliban control of the countryside.

With every case of civilian casualties or mistaken killings, the anger that Afghans feel toward the government and foreign forces deepens and makes residents less likely to help American forces, Afghan officials warn. Meanwhile, American forces are reluctant to share information about future military raids with local officials, fearing that it will be passed on to the Taliban.

Added to all that is a complication for American forces here: many villagers are armed, in the absence of an effective local police force.

Into that increasingly complex environment, the Obama administration is preparing to send as many as 30,000 more troops this year. As the plan moves forward, Afghan officials and some Western coalition partners are voicing concern that the additional troops will only increase the levels of violence and civilian casualties, after a year in which as many as 4,000 Afghan civilians were killed.

The outrage over civilian deaths swelled again over the weekend. Hundreds of angry villagers demonstrated here in Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman Province, on Sunday after an American raid on a village in the province on Friday night. The raid killed at least 16 villagers, including 2 women and 3 children, according to a statement from President Hamid Karzai.

The president condemned the raid, saying it had not been coordinated with Afghan officials, and called for such raids to stop. The United States military said that 15 armed militants, including a woman, had been killed.

In a sign of how serious the episode was, an American military spokesman, Col. Greg Julian, said the military would send an investigation team to the area, The Associated Press reported.

Raids like the ones in Laghman Province by United States Special Operations forces, on Jan. 7 and on Friday, have been a special focus of complaint for several years.

Provincial governors say the tactics used, and the lack of coordination with Afghan and other American and NATO forces, alienate villagers and cause unneeded casualties among civilians. The raids are undoing much of the good work done by other American and international troops and reconstruction teams, they say.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission warned that the lack of accountability of those conducting such raids, and the lack of redress for civilian victims, was stoking resentment. “The degree of backlash and community outrage that they provoke suggests they may often not be an advisable tactic within the Afghan context,” the commission concluded in a report in December.

Mr. Karzai said in an address at the opening of Parliament on Tuesday that he had once more sent written requests to United States forces and to NATO to end civilian casualties.

Afghans would never complain about casualties among their security forces, but they would never accept the suffering of civilians, he said, to a great shout of support from the chamber. The speaker of the Senate, Sebaghatullah Mojadeddi, followed with a warning that if more care was not taken, the nation could rise up against the foreign troop presence here.

A number of different American units, Special Forces and others, have been conducting counterterrorism operations around the country for the past seven years, operating out of the Bagram and Kandahar airfields, and several small Special Forces bases. They do not operate under NATO command and usually do not coordinate their operations with Afghan forces, since they argue that the element of surprise is critical.

Military spokesmen often release results of raids but do not identify the forces involved. Philip Alston, a United Nations special rapporteur, or investigator, complained last year that despite high-level meetings with the military, he had been unable to identify some of the groups conducting the raids or to establish the chain of command under which they operated.

Afghan officials and others suspect some of the raids may also be carried out by the C.I.A.

The raid in Masamut on the night of Jan. 7 was typical of many conducted in Afghanistan. United States Special Operations forces entered the village under cover of darkness looking for a known Taliban insurgent, Gul Pacha, who was killed in the raid, along with a visitor to his home, another Taliban member, Bahadur Khan.

According to several villagers, the nighttime raid stirred alarm and confusion as people were roused from their sleep.

One of the first to be shot and killed was a man called Qasem, a member of the Afghan Border Police who was at home on leave. His brother, Wazarat Khan, said Qasem was killed as soon as he looked out his front door.

“We did not think they were Americans; we thought they were thieves,” he said. “They killed my brother right in the doorway.”

One of the men in the hospital, Abdul Manan, 25, who had a bullet wound in the shoulder, said he woke up when he heard a female neighbor calling for help and heard three shots.


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He said he came out of his house and saw soldiers wearing headlamps. “I thought they were smoking cigarettes,” he said. “They said something in English that I did not understand, and then they shot me.”

Another man, Darwaish Muhammad, 18, hospitalized with shrapnel wounds, said he was awakened by the mother of a neighbor, Shahpur Khan, calling for help. He had been shot.
Mr. Muhammad said he and two others rushed to help carry the woman’s son on a rope bed down a slope outside the village to get help. They were 10 minutes from the village when a helicopter fired a rocket at them, killing the wounded man and two of the bearers. He and the mother were badly wounded, he said.

A United States military spokesman, Col. Jerry O’Hara, confirmed that United States air support forces had fired on a group of five carrying a wounded person outside the village. He said all five had been killed and all were militants. That some of the villagers survived may explain some of the discrepancy of the death toll.

Colonel O’Hara added that care had been taken not to use air power inside the village, to avoid civilian casualties. He dismissed the villagers’ accounts that they had mistaken the soldiers for thieves. “I am not buying that,” he said. “These people were acting as sentries.”

In a statement, Colonel O’Hara said, “Coalition forces exercised great restraint and prevented any civilian casualties at the same time the enemy placed the whole village in harm’s way by operating the way they do.”

In an interview, he also expressed frustration that four years after his earlier tour in Afghanistan, people still were not coming forward with information against Taliban members. “Until there is active involvement amongst Afghan civilians to turn in or give a tip on people with explosives, you are not going to get on the road to peace,” he said.

Yet, after seven years of war, Afghans say that villagers are less and less inclined to side with a foreign army that still conducts house searches and bombardments.

The villagers of Masamut readily acknowledged that Mr. Pacha had been a member of the Taliban. They had even nicknamed him “Al Qaeda.” But they criticized the United States forces for killing his elderly father and two sons along with him, and for the shooting of the other villagers.

“The government should have informed us not to come outside while they surrounded the house of Gul Pacha,” said Mawla Dad, 35, whose brother, nephew and cousin, an off-duty policeman, were all killed.

The governor of Laghman Province, Lutfullah Mashal, acknowledged that some of the villagers were armed. But he explained that because there was no police force to speak of in rural areas, villages kept security through a kind of neighborhood watch. “Whoever came out with a weapon, he was shot because the American forces have night-vision devices,” the governor said.

Villagers of Masamut, and local officials who visited the village afterward, protested the tactics used in the raid to United States military officials. The governor also complained that the raid had been conducted without coordination with Afghan forces or even with other American forces based in the province.

The raid undermined the government, Mr. Mashal said, and the tactics violated Afghan customs and whipped up a religious hatred, which was very damaging for both the government and the international forces.

“The people are angry with us,” he said. “Unless the international community, and especially military forces, coordinate with us, we are not going to win this war, because to win the war is to win the hearts and minds of the people, and then you can beat the enemy.”
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« Reply #291 on: January 26, 2009, 07:39:49 AM »

second post:

KABUL, Afghanistan — It looked like an ordinary neighborhood playground: six children tumbling off their skateboards to the tune of laughter. But only hours before, just 20 yards away, the body of a suicide car bomber was sprawled beside a glistening pool of blood.

Oliver Percovich’s current skateboard park is a decrepit concrete fountain. His Skateistan school will be eight miles away.
Afghan youth have learned to recover almost instantly from such routine violence. One person determined to inject some normalcy into their lives is Oliver Percovich. A 34-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, he plans to open this country’s first skateboarding school, Skateistan, this spring. He sees sport as a way to woo students into after-school activities like English and computer classes, which are otherwise reserved for the elite.
“Teenagers are trying to dissociate from old mentalities, and I’m their servant,” Percovich said. “If they weren’t interested, I would’ve left a long time ago.”

Now, when he pulls his motorcycle into a residential courtyard here, a dozen youngsters pounce before it comes to a stop, yanking six chipped skateboards with fading paint off the back. The children, most participating in a sport for the first time in their war-hardened lives, do not want to waste any time.

Their skateboard park is a decrepit Soviet-style concrete fountain with deep fissures. The tangle of novice skaters resembles bumper cars more than X Games.

But Percovich has raised the money needed to build an 8,600-square-foot bubble to house the nonprofit Skateistan complex, and the Kabul Parks Authority has tentatively donated land. He is still waiting for official permission to begin the project. And since a spate of kidnappings and the car bombing in late November, he has reduced his daily sessions at the fountain to once or twice a week.

Among those who look forward to his visits is Maro, an elfin 9-year-old girl who was terrified of skateboarding at first.

“It gives me courage, and once I start skating, I completely forget about my fears,” she said.

All the children spoke through an interpreter.

Maro’s glittery Mickey Mouse shirt indicated middle-class status. She stood out from the street children in muddied clothes who shared the skate space. Because the sport is so new and unusual here, Percovich said, it may help mend the nation’s deep social and ethnic divisions.

But for Hadisa, a 10-year-old girl from a conservative family, skateboarding has not been accepted. She said two older brothers beat her with wires for skating with poorer children in September. Several friends said they had seen blood flowing from her leg.

“I’m not upset with my brothers for beating me,” Hadisa whispered on a recent day when she did not skate because her oldest brother was nearby. “They have the right.”

But some girls cannot skate enough because their window for participation is short. When Afghan girls reach puberty, they must be veiled and can no longer associate with men outside the family. Percovich said his indoor skate park could be part of the solution, with boys and girls in separate classes.

“If my family doesn’t let me skate when I grow up, and they tell me I need to be at home, then I have to respect my family,” Maro said. “And I won’t be able to skate.”

Maro’s grandfather, Abdul Hai Muram, a retired political commentator, stroked her ponytail as he considered her future. He said he wanted her to be able to play outside when she turned 15 but worried about society’s reaction.

“Families are still careful and thoughtful about letting their daughters out,” Muram, 65, said. “We’re entitled to be very strict and afraid because negative consequences from the Taliban time are still out there, and men do whatever they want to women.”

He added, “It may take 10 years for things to be normal for women.”

Perhaps no one is more excited for the skateboard park than Mirwais, a 16-year-old boy who can do an ollie, an aerial trick that is the foundation for more advanced moves. Mirwais, who dropped out of school after second grade, first noticed the skate sessions from an adjacent parking lot, where he washed cars for $4 a day to support his family of eight. Percovich said Mirwais was often high from sniffing glue.

Now Mirwais looks more tidy and earns $8 a day working for the Skateistan project, repairing boards, running errands and assisting at the informal skate sessions.

“I want to improve as much as I can, and continue to support my family with skating,” he said. “It’s my future.”

Still, many middle- and upper-class youngsters complain that Mirwais ridicules them using foul language, evidence of the challenge with mixing social classes and ethnic groups here.


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But Percovich is determined to overcome the obstacles. He arrived here rather impulsively in early 2007 because his girlfriend at the time had taken a job in Kabul. He gave up his bakery business, stuffed some clothes — and his skateboards — into a bag and left Australia.

“It gives me courage, and once I start skating, I completely forget about my fears,” one girl said.
Unable to find work, Percovich did what he has done since he was 6. He rode his skateboard, undaunted by the military convoys, pushcarts, donkeys, a suffocating film of dust and occasional car bombings.
“Whenever I turned up, kids gathered around and asked, ‘What is that?’ ” he said, referring to his skateboard. “They’d ask to have a go, and I realized quite fast it’s an excellent way to interact with youth.”

Afghanistan has the highest proportion of school-age children in the world, 1 in 5, according to the United Nations. For a vast majority of these seven million youngsters, sports are virtually nonexistent.

Most public schools, stretched to provide basic materials like desks, do not have playgrounds. Boys play pickup soccer or volleyball games on dusty fields. But sports are an afterthought for most girls, who are discouraged from public gatherings.

About 20 embassies and nongovernmental organizations rejected Percovich’s financing proposal for a skateboarding school. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he said, he was down to $1,500 and had maxed out his credit card to pay the rent.

“I was banging my head against the wall, saying, ‘What am I doing with no money?’ ” Percovich said. “But in the afternoon, I was laughing and skating with kids running toward me saying, ‘Oli, Oli, Oli.’ ”

Even his successes have been somewhat frustrating. Last March, an Australian retailer donated 30 skate sets — including boards, shoes and body pads — but Percovich could not afford the $5,000 for shipping. The equipment remains in Melbourne.

Percovich’s break came last October, when the Canadian, Norwegian and German governments pledged a combined $120,000. The Kabul Parks Authority chose a site in a poor area of the city, about eight miles from the fountain.

Andreas Schüetzenberger, whose German company, IOU Ramps, has built 300 skate ramps in places like Israel and Mongolia, plans to install the platforms at no cost once Skateistan is built.

Percovich also recruited Titus Dittman, who delivered one ton of secondhand skate equipment this month. In 1982, Dittman transformed a parking lot in Germany into one of the world’s most well-known cult skate scenes, Monster Mastership, which has since become the World Skateboarding Championships.

The goals for Skateistan are a bit more grounded.

“Afghan kids are the same as kids all over the world,” Percovich said. “They just haven’t been given the same opportunities. They need a positive environment to do positive things for Afghanistan and for themselves.”
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« Reply #292 on: January 26, 2009, 08:17:09 PM »

At last a serious effort at answering my question!!!  No surprise that it comes from Stratfor.



Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda
January 26, 2009

By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
The Devolution of Al Qaeda
Washington’s attention is now zeroing in on Afghanistan. There is talk of doubling U.S. forces there, and preparations are being made for another supply line into Afghanistan — this one running through the former Soviet Union — as an alternative or a supplement to the current Pakistani route. To free up more resources for Afghanistan, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq probably will be accelerated. And there is discussion about whether the Karzai government serves the purposes of the war in Afghanistan. In short, U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to focus on Afghanistan seems to be taking shape.

We have discussed many aspects of the Afghan war in the past; it is now time to focus on the central issue. What are the strategic goals of the United States in Afghanistan? What resources will be devoted to this mission? What are the intentions and capabilities of the Taliban and others fighting the United States and its NATO allies? Most important, what is the relationship between the war against the Taliban and the war against al Qaeda? If the United States encounters difficulties in the war against the Taliban, will it still be able to contain not only al Qaeda but other terrorist groups? Does the United States need to succeed against the Taliban to be successful against transnational Islamist terrorists? And assuming that U.S. forces are built up in Afghanistan and that the supply problem through Pakistan is solved, are the defeat of Taliban and the disruption of al Qaeda likely?

Al Qaeda and U.S. Goals Post-9/11
The overarching goal of the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, has been to prevent further attacks by al Qaeda in the United States. Washington has used two means toward this end. One was defensive, aimed at increasing the difficulty of al Qaeda operatives to penetrate and operate within the United States. The second was to attack and destroy al Qaeda prime, the group around Osama bin Laden that organized and executed 9/11 and other attacks in Europe. It is this group — not other groups that call themselves al Qaeda but only are able to operate in the countries where they were formed — that was the target of the United States, because this was the group that had demonstrated the ability to launch intercontinental strikes.

Al Qaeda prime had its main headquarters in Afghanistan. It was not an Afghan group, but one drawn from multiple Islamic countries. It was in alliance with an Afghan group, the Taliban. The Taliban had won a civil war in Afghanistan, creating a coalition of support among tribes that had given the group control, direct or indirect, over most of the country. It is important to remember that al Qaeda was separate from the Taliban; the former was a multinational force, while the Taliban were an internal Afghan political power.

The United States has two strategic goals in Afghanistan. The first is to destroy the remnants of al Qaeda prime — the central command of al Qaeda — in Afghanistan. The second is to use Afghanistan as a base for destroying al Qaeda in Pakistan and to prevent the return of al Qaeda to Afghanistan.

To achieve these goals, Washington has sought to make Afghanistan inhospitable to al Qaeda. The United States forced the Taliban from Afghanistan’s main cities and into the countryside, and established a new, anti-Taliban government in Kabul under President Hamid Karzai. Washington intended to deny al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan by unseating the Taliban government, creating a new pro-American government and then using Afghanistan as a base against al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The United States succeeded in forcing the Taliban from power in the sense that in giving up the cities, the Taliban lost formal control of the country. To be more precise, early in the U.S. attack in 2001, the Taliban realized that the massed defense of Afghan cities was impossible in the face of American air power. The ability of U.S. B-52s to devastate any concentration of forces meant that the Taliban could not defend the cities, but had to withdraw, disperse and reform its units for combat on more favorable terms.

At this point, we must separate the fates of al Qaeda and the Taliban. During the Taliban retreat, al Qaeda had to retreat as well. Since the United States lacked sufficient force to destroy al Qaeda at Tora Bora, al Qaeda was able to retreat into northwestern Pakistan. There, it enjoys the advantages of terrain, superior tactical intelligence and support networks.

Even so, in nearly eight years of war, U.S. intelligence and special operations forces have maintained pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan. The United States has imposed attrition on al Qaeda, disrupting its command, control and communications and isolating it. In the process, the United States used one of al Qaeda’s operational principles against it. To avoid penetration by hostile intelligence services, al Qaeda has not recruited new cadres for its primary unit. This makes it very difficult to develop intelligence on al Qaeda, but it also makes it impossible for al Qaeda to replace its losses. Thus, in a long war of attrition, every loss imposed on al Qaeda has been irreplaceable, and over time, al Qaeda prime declined dramatically in effectiveness — meaning it has been years since it has carried out an effective operation.

The situation was very different with the Taliban. The Taliban, it is essential to recall, won the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal despite Russian and Iranian support for its opponents. That means the Taliban have a great deal of support and a strong infrastructure, and, above all, they are resilient. After the group withdrew from Afghanistan’s cities and lost formal power post-9/11, it still retained a great deal of informal influence — if not control — over large regions of Afghanistan and in areas across the border in Pakistan. Over the years since the U.S. invasion, the Taliban have regrouped, rearmed and increased their operations in Afghanistan. And the conflict with the Taliban has now become a conventional guerrilla war.

The Taliban and the Guerrilla Warfare Challenge
The Taliban have forged relationships among many Afghan (and Pakistani) tribes. These tribes have been alienated by Karzai and the Americans, and far more important, they do not perceive the Americans and Karzai as potential winners in the Afghan conflict. They recall the Russian and British defeats. The tribes have long memories, and they know that foreigners don’t stay very long. Betting on the United States and Karzai — when the United States has sent only 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and is struggling with the idea of sending another 30,000 troops — does not strike them as prudent. The United States is behaving like a power not planning to win; and, in any event, they would not be much impressed if the Americans were planning to win.

The tribes therefore do not want to get on the wrong side of the Taliban. That means they aid and shelter Taliban forces, and provide them intelligence on enemy movement and intentions. With its base camps and supply lines running from Pakistan, the Taliban are thus in a position to recruit, train and arm an increasingly large force.

The Taliban have the classic advantage of guerrillas operating in known terrain with a network of supporters: superior intelligence. They know where the Americans are, what the Americans are doing and when the Americans are going to strike. The Taliban declines combat on unfavorable terms and strikes when the Americans are weakest. The Americans, on the other hand, have the classic problem of counterinsurgency: They enjoy superior force and firepower, and can defeat anyone they can locate and pin down, but they lack intelligence. As much as technical intelligence from unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites is useful, human intelligence is the only effective long-term solution to defeating an insurgency. In this, the Taliban have the advantage: They have been there longer, they are in more places and they are not going anywhere.

There is no conceivable force the United States can deploy to pacify Afghanistan. A possible alternative is moving into Pakistan to cut the supply lines and destroy the Taliban’s base camps. The problem is that if the Americans lack the troops to successfully operate in Afghanistan, it is even less likely they have the troops to operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States could use the Korean War example, taking responsibility for cutting the Taliban off from supplies and reinforcements from Pakistan, but that assumes that the Afghan government has an effective force motivated to engage and defeat the Taliban. The Afghan government doesn’t.

The obvious American solution — or at least the best available solution — is to retreat to strategic Afghan points and cities and protect the Karzai regime. The problem here is that in Afghanistan, holding the cities doesn’t give the key to the country; rather, holding the countryside gives the key to the cities. Moreover, a purely defensive posture opens the United States up to the Dien Bien Phu/Khe Sanh counterstrategy, in which guerrillas shift to positional warfare, isolate a base and try to overrun in it.

A purely defensive posture could create a stalemate, but nothing more. That stalemate could create the foundations for political negotiations, but if there is no threat to the enemy, the enemy has little reason to negotiate. Therefore, there must be strikes against Taliban concentrations. The problem is that the Taliban know that concentration is suicide, and so they work to deny the Americans valuable targets. The United States can exhaust itself attacking minor targets based on poor intelligence. It won’t get anywhere.

U.S. Strategy in Light of al Qaeda’s Diminution
From the beginning, the Karzai government has failed to take control of the countryside. Therefore, al Qaeda has had the option to redeploy into Afghanistan if it chose. It didn’t because it is risk-averse. That may seem like a strange thing to say about a group that flies planes into buildings, but what it means is that the group’s members are relatively few, so al Qaeda cannot risk operational failures. It thus keeps its powder dry and stays in hiding.

This then frames the U.S. strategic question. The United States has no intrinsic interest in the nature of the Afghan government. The United States is interested in making certain the Taliban do not provide sanctuary to al Qaeda prime. But it is not clear that al Qaeda prime is operational anymore. Some members remain, putting out videos now and then and trying to appear fearsome, but it would seem that U.S. operations have crippled al Qaeda.

So if the primary reason for fighting the Taliban is to keep al Qaeda prime from having a base of operations in Afghanistan, that reason might be moot now as al Qaeda appears to be wrecked. This is not to say that another Islamist terrorist group could not arise and develop the sophisticated methods and training of al Qaeda prime. But such a group could deploy many places, and in any case, obtaining the needed skills in moving money, holding covert meetings and the like is much harder than it looks — and with many intelligence services, including those in the Islamic world, on the lookout for this, recruitment would be hard.

It is therefore no longer clear that resisting the Taliban is essential for blocking al Qaeda: al Qaeda may simply no longer be there. (At this point, the burden of proof is on those who think al Qaeda remains operational.)

Two things emerge from this. First, the search for al Qaeda and other Islamist groups is an intelligence matter best left to the covert capabilities of U.S. intelligence and Special Operations Command. Defeating al Qaeda does not require tens of thousands of troops — it requires excellent intelligence and a special operations capability. That is true whether al Qaeda is in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Intelligence, covert forces and airstrikes are what is needed in this fight, and of the three, intelligence is the key.

Second, the current strategy in Afghanistan cannot secure Afghanistan, nor does it materially contribute to shutting down al Qaeda. Trying to hold some cities and strategic points with the number of troops currently under consideration is not an effective strategy to this end; the United States is already ceding large areas of Afghanistan to the Taliban that could serve as sanctuary for al Qaeda. Protecting the Karzai government and key cities is therefore not significantly contributing to the al Qaeda-suppression strategy.

In sum, the United States does not control enough of Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda sanctuary, can’t control the border with Pakistan and lacks effective intelligence and troops for defeating the Taliban.

Logic argues, therefore, for the creation of a political process for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan coupled with a recommitment to intelligence operations against al Qaeda. Ultimately, the United States must protect itself from radical Islamists, but cannot create a united, pro-American Afghanistan. That would not happen even if the United States sent 500,000 troops there, which it doesn’t have anyway.

A Tale of Two Surges
The U.S. strategy now appears to involve trying a surge, or sending in more troops and negotiating with the Taliban, mirroring the strategy used in Iraq. But the problem with that strategy is that the Taliban don’t seem inclined to make concessions to the United States. The Taliban don’t think the United States can win, and they know the United States won’t stay. The Petraeus strategy is to inflict enough pain on the Taliban to cause them to rethink their position, which worked in Iraq. But it did not work in Vietnam. So long as the Taliban have resources flowing and can survive American attacks, they will calculate that they can outlast the Americans. This has been Afghan strategy for centuries, and it worked against the British and Russians.

If it works against the Americans, too, splitting the al Qaeda strategy from the Taliban strategy will be the inevitable outcome for the United States. In that case, the CIA will become the critical war fighter in the theater, while conventional forces will be withdrawn. It follows that Obama will need to think carefully about his approach to intelligence.

This is not an argument that al Qaeda is no longer a threat, although the threat appears diminished. Nor is it an argument that dealing with terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not a priority. Instead, it is an argument that the defeat of the Taliban under rationally anticipated circumstances is unlikely and that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan will be much more difficult and unlikely than the settlement was in Iraq — but that even so, a robust effort against Islamist terror groups must continue regardless of the outcome of the war with the Taliban.

Therefore, we expect that the United States will separate the two conflicts in response to these realities. This will mean that containing terrorists will not be dependent on defeating or holding out against the Taliban, holding Afghanistan’s cities, or preserving the Karzai regime. We expect the United States to surge troops into Afghanistan, but in due course, the counterterrorist portion will diverge from the counter-Taliban portion. The counterterrorist portion will be maintained as an intense covert operation, while the overt operation will wind down over time. The Taliban ruling Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States, so long as intense counterterrorist operations continue there.

The cost of failure in Afghanistan is simply too high and the connection to counterterrorist activities too tenuous for the two strategies to be linked. And since the counterterror war is already distinct from conventional operations in much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, our forecast is not really that radical.
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« Reply #293 on: January 26, 2009, 08:32:44 PM »

I think India pushing into Pakistan is the game changer.
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« Reply #294 on: January 26, 2009, 09:12:50 PM »

Care to expound on that further?  Perhaps in the India-Pak thread?
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« Reply #295 on: January 26, 2009, 10:58:46 PM »

I have several questions.  What is the tribal make up of Afghanistan?  What are we doing to win over the tribes to our side?  It seems to me when dealing with a tribal society one must win over the tribes.  Don't these tribes cross over borders?  Could not this be the key to the region?  Ignore countries and borders and work on a tribal level.  Hold the tribal leaders responsible for the actions of their tribes.
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« Reply #296 on: January 27, 2009, 07:41:25 PM »

What does "holding them responsible" mean?  Punishing them if someone in their tribe does something?  How do you think that will play?

What do you suggest we do about the drug trade?  Annoy all the people for whom it is the most profitable option by far and let the Taliban et al benefit too?  Or?


KABUL, Afghanistan -- A contingent of Army Rangers was moving toward a target in late October when it came under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Fearful the team would be wiped out, U.S. officers called in air strikes. When the dust settled, 22 Afghans lay dead and six American soldiers were wounded.

Just who these dead Afghans were is still unclear. Afghan and some U.S. officials say they were hired by an Afghan road-construction firm to protect nearby workers. The security company confirms their employment. But other U.S. military officials say the Afghans were militants who targeted American troops.

Armed private security companies are proliferating in Afghanistan -- hired in many cases to protect Afghan companies doing work for the U.S. And for the American forces who regularly encounter these armed men, it is perilously hard to discern their identities and their loyalties. Some of these guards may be linked to the militant leaders or drug traffickers who regularly battle U.S. troops.

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The aftermath of a firefight in November in which U.S. forces killed more than a dozen Afghan men said to be guards for a road-building project.
U.S. commanders and Afghan officials say there have been at least three significant firefights between American forces and Afghan guards in recent months, and a host of other violent incidents.

In Iraq, private security companies hired by the U.S. government, such as Blackwater Worldwide, also have been involved in violent incidents that have stirred controversy. But the situation in Afghanistan, in some ways, is more confusing and dangerous. Private security forces there don't work for the U.S. government, but for Afghan and foreign companies. And they employ native Afghans, not Westerners.

Last year was the bloodiest year yet for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, as well as for Afghan personnel and civilians. In recent months, militants from the Taliban and other extremist groups have launched a campaign to kill Afghans who work on U.S.-funded road and construction projects across the country. Those attacks have led many Afghan contractors to hire security firms or individual guards. Kidnapping rings that target wealthy Afghans inside major cities like Kabul also have contributed to the security industry's rapid growth.

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U.S. soldiers search an Afghan security guard whose firm escorts truck convoys, after they found illegal weapons in his vehicle last year.
President Barack Obama has characterized Afghanistan as a higher priority than Iraq. U.S. commanders are finalizing plans to deploy 30,000 additional troops to the nation by the summer, which would double the size of the American military presence.

American commanders acknowledge that security in much of the country remains poor, and that many construction projects would come to a halt without private security personnel. Most of the guards are legitimately trying to protect their employers, U.S. officials say.

"We authorize these guys to carry weapons in areas that need more security," says Capt. Mark Davis, an American commander in eastern Afghanistan. "But the risk is that you're allowing more people to walk around with guns who aren't part of the government and don't answer to it."

U.S. and Afghan officials believe some guards take orders from the Taliban or drug gangs. The officials also worry that the legitimate guards lack proper training or oversight, raising the chances of an accidental and potentially deadly run-in with U.S. or Afghan forces.

 "Private security companies are a new experience for Afghanistan, and they pose a huge threat to our country," said Lt. Gen. Abdul Manan Farahie, an Afghan Interior Ministry official charged with overseeing the companies, in a recent interview in his office in Kabul. "They recruit former fighters who answer to the Taliban, and they recruit criminals."

Late last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed regulations requiring security companies to register with the government. Gen. Farahie said he had already registered 39, far more than he had expected. One of the biggest firms, which has an array of lucrative government contracts, is owned by a cousin of Mr. Karzai, according to the government office that licenses the firms.

Gen. Farahie estimates the companies employ at least 20,000 Afghans, while thousands of other Afghans work freelance security jobs. He said many of the guards have more powerful weapons than the national police and army, including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. By comparison, in Iraq, there were roughly 40,000 private security personnel at the peak.

By law, the guards are supposed to carry nothing more powerful than AK-47 assault weapons, but the government is ill equipped to take away the heavier weaponry. "For security reasons, we can't collect all of their weapons," said Gen. Farahie. "We're not strong enough."

Private security is one of the few growth industries in Afghanistan, and it doesn't require workers to be literate or formally educated. Guards say they receive about $75 to $150 a month, a decent wage in a country with an unemployment rate of more than 50%. Security teams are usually hired locally. That means that any guards killed by U.S. forces tend to have many friends and relatives in the surrounding areas, which can exacerbate already high tensions.

In early November, a team of Navy Seals tracking a senior commander from an extremist group led by warlord and Taliban ally Jalaluddin Haqqani found itself in a firefight with a group of 15 armed men. The men were guarding a trio of sport-utility vehicles carrying the commander and his associates, according to U.S. officials.

During the battle, near Khost, one of the trucks exploded. The force of the blast led U.S. officials to conclude it was carrying explosives. All 15 of the fighters, including the main target, were killed.

Businessman Mohammad Arif said recently that the dead men were guards hired by his company, Rahim Road Building Construction Co., to protect a road crew, and that they weren't guarding an extremist commander. When the guards first saw the approaching U.S. helicopters, he said, they felt a sense of relief.

"We were happy at first that these helicopters came for our security," Mr. Arif said. The guards didn't shoot, he said, and the explosion was caused by U.S. weaponry. In the aftermath, he said, he briefly had trouble finding men willing to work as guards.

"At first, most people didn't want to work with security companies because it is too risky," he said. "But eventually they came back."

U.S. officials say surveillance footage from unmanned aerial drones supports their version of events.

In late December, an Afghan road-construction company that had hired local men to protect its workers said two guards were killed by a U.S. artillery shell in Seray, in eastern Afghanistan. The U.S. military says it's investigating the incident, which it believes might have been caused by an errant U.S. shell.

The deadliest known skirmish came in October. It began when a contingent of Army Rangers was moving toward a target near the town of Qarabagh, in the eastern province of Ghazni.

U.S. officials familiar with the incident say the troops came under machine-gun and rocket-propelled-grenade fire from four separate locations. Pinned down, the Rangers returned fire and called in air strikes.

A senior U.S. commander who monitored the firefight while it was happening says it was one of the only times in his career when he "worried about losing all or most of the force."

Shortly after sunrise, reinforcements from the 101st Airborne Division pushed into the area to assist the Rangers and help evacuate the wounded Americans. Those forces also came under fire, and a second firefight erupted. When the shooting stopped, 22 Afghans were dead, and six Americans, most of them Rangers, were wounded, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

Maj. Pat Seiber, a spokesman for the 101st Airborne troops who took part in the second firefight, says U.S. soldiers found identification badges on some of the dead Afghans.

"From what we can tell, the badges were from a legitimate security company," he says. "What we don't know is whether or not the people with the badges were legitimate employees of the company."

Three officers from the military's Special Operations Command, which oversees elite units such as the Rangers, Delta Force and the Seals, disputed the notion that the dead Afghans were legitimate security personnel.

"Why they were awake at 0200 local, and firing accurately (on a moonless night) at a patrol, and their compound looked like an armed fortress -- all unanswered questions," a senior commander with U.S. Special Operations Command said via email. "The circumstances ... did not point to any actions in good faith."

Officials from the Afghan government and the company that hired the guards, Marouf Sharif Construction, blame the U.S. for the deaths of the Afghans. Abdul Latif Adil, an executive with Marouf Sharif, said the firm hired 40 guards to protect workers paving an 11-mile stretch of highway.

The governor of Ghazni and the provincial police chief both said in interviews that they knew about the guards and had given them permission to possess AK-47s while on duty. The two officials and the construction-company executive said that the American troops fired first, and that the Afghans were doing their jobs when they shot back.

"Our guards didn't fire on the U.S. forces in the beginning," Mr. Adil said. "We didn't start anything. It was all a horrible mistake."

The identities of the dead men are in dispute even within the U.S. military. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, the top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, said they appeared to be legitimate guards.

"The fog of war certainly played a major role," he said in an interview. "The security companies use the same weapons and ammo as the insurgents, so it makes it extraordinarily hard to tell the difference."

In the aftermath of the incident, U.S. forces helped transport the bodies of the slain guards back to their families for burial, Gen. Schloesser said.
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« Reply #297 on: January 27, 2009, 08:05:59 PM »

Anyone else find Obamas comments funny on the US now working to international law, mean while he has UAV's shooting up Pakistani villages?Huh  Not sure what brain trust advised him to up the rhetoric against Pakistan, unless their goal is to destabilize a nuclear power.  The govt their is barely holding power as it is, and the general population already hates the west.
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« Reply #298 on: January 27, 2009, 08:12:30 PM »


Please email me at

There is a long Indian intel piece I'd like to send you.
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Posts: 192

« Reply #299 on: January 27, 2009, 08:34:59 PM »

I do business with Indians on a daily basis.  Most of them would be more then hapy to nuke pakistan into an unpleasent memory.  They are always quick to remind me that the brits forced the Indians to give up their land to make a home land for the muslims of that region.  Kasmir should be a non issue.  Pakistan did not exist prior to the 1940's, just another festering wound created by tampering westerners.
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