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« Reply #400 on: April 14, 2009, 10:25:05 AM »

Its the NYT, so be on the lookout for misleading and dishonest agendas:

April 14, 2009

Militants Unite in Pakistan’s Populous Heart


DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan — Taliban insurgents are teaming up with local militant groups to make inroads in Punjab, the province that is home to more than half of Pakistanis, reinvigorating an alliance that Pakistani and American authorities say poses a serious risk to the stability of the country.

The deadly assault in March in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, against the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the bombing last fall of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the national capital, were only the most spectacular examples of the joint campaign, they said.

Now police officials, local residents and analysts warn that if the government does not take decisive action, these dusty, impoverished fringes of Punjab could be the next areas facing the insurgency. American intelligence and counterterrorism officials also said they viewed the developments with alarm.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand the gravity of the issue,” said a senior police official in Punjab, who declined to be idenfitied because he was discussing threats to the state. “If you want to destabilize Pakistan, you have to destabilize Punjab.”

As American drone attacks disrupt strongholds of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, the insurgents are striking deeper into Pakistan — both in retaliation and in search of new havens.

Telltale signs of creeping militancy abound in a belt of towns and villages near here that a reporter visited last week. Militants have gained strength considerably in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan, which is a gateway both to Taliban-controlled areas and the heart of Punjab, the police and local residents say. Many were terrified.

Some villages, just north of here, are so deeply infiltrated by militants that they are already considered no-go zones by their neighbors.

In at least five towns in southern and western Punjab, including the midsize hub of Multan, barber shops, music stores and Internet cafes offensive to the militants’ strict interpretation of Islam have received threats. Traditional ceremonies that include drumming and dancing have been halted in some areas. Hard-line ideologues have addressed large crowds to push their idea of Islamic revolution. Sectarian attacks, dormant here since the 1990s, have erupted once again.

“It’s going from bad to worse,” said a senior police official in Dera Ghazi Khan. “They are now more active. These are the facts.”

American officials agreed. Bruce Riedel, who led the Obama administration’s recently completed strategy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the Taliban now had “extensive links into the Punjab.”

“You are seeing more of a coalescence of these militant groups,” said Mr. Riedel, a former C.I.A. official. “Connections that have always existed are becoming tighter and more public than they have in the past.”

The Punjabi militant groups have had links with the Taliban, who are mostly Pashtun tribesmen, since the 1980s. Some of the Punjabi groups are veterans of Pakistan’s state-sponsored insurgency against Indian forces in Kashmir. Others made targets of Shiites.

Under pressure from the United States, former President Pervez Musharraf cut back state support for the Punjabi groups. They either went underground or migrated to the tribal areas, where they deepened their ties with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

At least 20 militants killed in American strikes in the tribal areas since last summer were Punjabi, according to people from the tribal areas and Pakistani officials. One Pakistani security official estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of militants in the tribal regions could be Punjabi.

The alliance is based on more than shared ideology. “These are tactical alliances,” said a senior American counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss intelligence matters. The Pashtun Taliban and Arab militants, who are part of Al Qaeda, have money, sanctuary, training sites and suicide bombers. The Punjabi militants can provide logistical help in Punjabi cities, like Lahore, including handling bombers and target reconnaissance.

The cooperation between the groups intensified greatly after the government’s siege of Islamic hard-liners at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, in mid-2007, Pakistani and American security officials say. The siege has since become a rallying cry.

One such joint operation, an American security official said, was the Marriott bombing in Islamabad in September, which killed more than 50 people.

As this cooperation intensifies, places like Dera Ghazi Khan are particularly vulnerable. This frontier town is home to a combustible mix of worries: poverty, a growing phalanx of hard-line religious schools and a uranium processing plant that is a part of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

It is also strategically situated at the intersection of two main roads. One is a main artery into Pakistan’s heartland, in southern Punjab. The other connects Baluchistan Province in the west to the North-West Frontier Province, both Taliban strongholds.

“We are being cornered in a blind alley,” said Mohammed Ali, a local landlord. “We can’t breathe easily.”

Attacks intended to intimidate and sow sectarian strife are more common. The police point to a suicide bombing in Dera Ghazi Khan on Feb. 5. Two local Punjabis, with the help of Taliban backers, orchestrated the attack, which killed 29 people at a Shiite ceremony, the local police said.

The authorities arrested two men as masterminds on April 6: Qari Muhammad Ismail Gul, the leader of a local madrasa; and Ghulam Mustafa Kaisrani, a jihadi who posed as a salesman for a medical company.

They belonged to a banned Punjabi group called Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, but were tied through phone calls to two deputies of the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the police said.

“The phone numbers they call are in Waziristan,” said a police official, referring to the Taliban base in the tribal areas. “They are working together hand in glove.” One of the men had gone for training in Waziristan last summer, the police said. The operations are well-supported. Mr. Kaisrani had several bank transfers worth about $11 million from his Pakistani account, the authorities said.

Local crimes, including at least two recent bank robberies in Dera Ghazi Khan, were also traced to networks of Islamic militants, officials said.

“The money that’s coming in is huge,” said Zulfiqar Hameed, head of investigations for the Lahore Police Department. “When you go back through the chain of the transaction, you invariably find it’s been done for money.”

After the suicide attack here, the police confiscated a 20-minute inspirational video, titled “Revenge,” for the Red Mosque, which gave testimonials from suicide bombers in different cities and post-attack images.

Umme Hassan, the wife of a fiery preacher who was killed during the Red Mosque siege, now frequently travels to south Punjab, to rally the faithful. She has made 12 visits in the past several months before cheering crowds and showing emotional clips of the attack, said a Punjabi official who has been monitoring her visits.

“She claimed that they would bring Islamic revolution in three months,” said Umar Draz, who attended a rally in Muzzafargarh.

The situation in south and west Punjab is still far from that in the Swat Valley, a part of North-West Frontier Province that is now fully under Taliban control after the military agreed to a truce in February. But there are strong parallels.

The Taliban here exploit many of the same weaknesses that have allowed them to expand in other areas: an absent or intimidated police force; a lack of attention from national and provincial leaders; a population steadily cowed by threats, or won over by hard-line mullahs who usurp authority by playing on government neglect and poverty.

In Shadan Lund, a village just north of here, militants are openly demanding Islamic law, or Shariah, said Jan Sher, whose brother is a teacher there. “The situation is sharply going toward Swat,” Mr. Sher said. He and others said the single biggest obstacle to stopping the advance of militancy was the attitudes of Pakistanis themselves, whose fury at the United States has led to blind support for everyone who goes against it.

Shabaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, said he was painfully aware of the problems of insurgent infiltration and was taking steps to restore people’s faith in government, including plans for new schools and hospitals. “Hearts and minds must be won,” he said in an interview Monday. “If this struggle fails, this country has no future.”

But people complain that landowners and local politicians have done nothing to stop the advance and, in some cases, even assist the militants by giving money to some of the religious schools.

“The government is useless,” said Mr. Ali, the local landlord. “They live happy, secure lives in Lahore. Their children study abroad. They only come here to contest elections.”

The police are left alone to stop the advance. But in Punjab, as in much of the rest of Pakistan, they are spread unevenly, with little presence in rural areas. Out of 160,000 police officers in Punjab, fewer than 60,000 are posted in rural areas, leaving frontier stations in districts virtually unprotected, police officials said.

Locals feel helpless. When a 15-year-old boy vanished from a madrasa in a village near here recently — his classmates said to go on jihad — his uncle could not afford to go look for him, let alone confront the powerful men who run the madrasa.

“We are simple people,” the man said. “What can we do?”

Go to the article for graphics and photos
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« Reply #401 on: April 14, 2009, 12:31:10 PM »

Pakistan: A Peace Deal Becomes Law
Stratfor Today » April 13, 2009 | 1936 GMT


An armed Pakistani Taliban in Buner near the Swat valley on April 7, 2009Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on April 13 signed the Nizam-i-Adl (System of Justice) Regulation into law. Earlier in the day, Parliament overwhelmingly approved the regulation, which stems from a Feb. 17 agreement between the provincial government of the North-West Frontier Province and the jihadist movement in the Swat region that calls for a shariah-based legal system to be implemented in the area in exchange for an end to the insurgency. Islamabad had been hesitant to approve the deal between Peshawar and the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) — the jihadist group based in the greater Swat region — saying the central government wanted the TNSM militia to lay down its weapons before Islamabad endorsed the deal.

The Nizam-i-Adl Regulation becoming law without the militants laying down their arms is thus far the most significant example of the Pakistani state’s retreat in the face of a powerful jihadist insurgency. It underscores the extent to which the state has been weakened and the degree of incoherence within both the state and society regarding the jihadist threat and how to combat it. The expectation is that the deal will bring an end to the militancy in the greater Swat area, and that Talibanization can be confined to that region.

However, the TNSM has no intention of limiting its sphere of influence to the Swat region. Therefore, this development will only boost the confidence of the Taliban and their transnational allies in Pakistan and beyond. The Swat area effectively will become an emirate from which a wider Talibanization campaign can be launched. In many ways, this has already begun, with the Swat-based insurgents projecting power into adjoining districts such as Buner.

Not only will Pakistan see greater domestic turmoil as a result of the passage of this law, but the new regulation will further aggravate tensions between Islamabad and Washington, complicating Western efforts to combat the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. The United States may even move to expand its unilateral airstrikes and covert operations deeper into Pakistani territory.
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« Reply #402 on: April 16, 2009, 11:37:24 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Making of a Taliban Emirate in Pakistan
April 14, 2009

The legislative and executive branches of the Pakistani government on Monday approved a Feb. 17 peace agreement between the provincial government in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and a Taliban rebel group based in NWFP’s Swat district. The agreement allows for the enforcement of a legal system based on “Islamic” law in the greater Swat region, in exchange for an end to the Taliban insurgency. Arguing that legal systems will vary from area to area in keeping the local culture, the supporters of the move — both within the government and society — say that the agreement will lead to the end of violence. Given the jihadist agenda, it is unlikely that this will happen; rather, the state’s capitulation will only embolden the jihadists to pursue their goals with greater vigor.

Lacking any strategy to combat the spreading insurgency, the Pakistani state over the past couple of years has lost more and more ground to Pashtun jihadists in its northwest. But until now, there has been only a de facto evaporation of the writ of the state – a situation Islamabad viewed as temporary. The approval of the Sharia deal by an overwhelming majority in Parliament, however, and the president’s signature on the peace agreement represent an acknowledgment of defeat on the part of the state — a situation that is very difficult to reverse, especially for a country that is grappling with all sorts of domestic and international issues.

Allowing a special political and legal dispensation in a given part of its territory essentially amounts to recognizing the autonomy of the region in question. It should be noted that the Pakistani state has, since its inception, fiercely resisted the minority provinces’ demands for autonomy.

The recognition of what amounts to a Taliban emirate in a significant portion of the NWFP comes at a time when Balochistan, the large province in southwest Pakistan, is experiencing a fresh wave of violence — triggered by last week’s killing of three key separatist leaders, allegedly by the country’s security apparatus. Not only will legislating a Taliban-style legal system for the greater Swat region facilitate the Talibanization of significant parts of the country, it also will embolden Baloch separatism. In other words, the two provinces that border Afghanistan could spin out of control. An accelerating meltdown of Islamabad’s writ in its western periphery seriously undermines the Obama administration’s regional strategy concerning the Taliban and transnational jihadism.

Insurgencies in the Pashtun and Baloch areas threaten Western military supply routes running through the two provinces and make it increasingly difficult for U.S. and NATO forces to level the battlefield in Afghanistan. The situation on the Afghan-Pakistani border is becoming even more fluid, allowing Taliban insurgents on both sides to make gains in their respective theaters. Such a scenario has a direct bearing on the political component of the U.S. strategy, as it makes negotiations with pragmatic Taliban elements all the more elusive.

In fact, the negotiations between the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat region and Islamabad set a bad precedent, undermining any U.S. efforts to reach out to pragmatic Taliban in Afghanistan. Seeing the success of their counterparts in Swat, the Afghan Taliban are likely to insist that they will negotiate with their fellow Afghans only after Western forces leave the country. This means that Western forces are looking at a long conflict — one in which the jihadists, and not the United States and NATO, will have the advantage called Pakistan.
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« Reply #403 on: April 17, 2009, 12:41:09 PM »

Its the NYTimes, so caveat lector:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here.

Supporters of Islamic law on Thursday in the Swat Valley, a Pakistani region where the Taliban exploited class rifts to gain control.

The strategy cleared a path to power for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, where the government allowed Islamic law to be imposed this week, and it carries broad dangers for the rest of Pakistan, particularly the militants’ main goal, the populous heartland of Punjab Province.

In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.

To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said.

The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation.

“This was a bloody revolution in Swat,” said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan.”

The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal.

Unlike India after independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained a narrow landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient, the officials and analysts said. Successive Pakistani governments have since failed to provide land reform and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist.

Analysts and other government officials warn that the strategy executed in Swat is easily transferable to Punjab, saying that the province, where militant groups are already showing strength, is ripe for the same social upheavals that have convulsed Swat and the tribal areas.

Mahboob Mahmood, a Pakistani-American lawyer and former classmate of President Obama’s, said, “The people of Pakistan are psychologically ready for a revolution.”

Sunni militancy is taking advantage of deep class divisions that have long festered in Pakistan, he said. “The militants, for their part, are promising more than just proscriptions on music and schooling,” he said. “They are also promising Islamic justice, effective government and economic redistribution.”

The Taliban strategy in Swat, an area of 1.3 million people with fertile orchards, vast plots of timber and valuable emerald mines, unfolded in stages over five years, analysts said.

The momentum of the insurgency built in the past two years, when the Taliban, reinforced by seasoned fighters from the tribal areas with links to Al Qaeda, fought the Pakistani Army to a standstill, said a Pakistani intelligence agent who works in the Swat region.

The insurgents struck at any competing point of power: landlords and elected leaders — who were usually the same people — and an underpaid and unmotivated police force, said Khadim Hussain, a linguistics and communications professor at Bahria University in Islamabad, the capital.

At the same time, the Taliban exploited the resentments of the landless tenants, particularly the fact that they had many unresolved cases against their bosses in a slow-moving and corrupt justice system, Mr. Hussain and residents who fled the area said.

Their grievances were stoked by a young militant, Maulana Fazlullah, who set up an FM radio station in 2004 to appeal to the disenfranchised. The broadcasts featured easy-to-understand examples using goats, cows, milk and grass. By 2006, Mr. Fazlullah had formed a ragtag force of landless peasants armed by the Taliban, said Mr. Hussain and former residents of Swat.

At first, the pressure on the landlords was subtle. One landowner was pressed to take his son out of an English-speaking school offensive to the Taliban. Others were forced to make donations to the Taliban.

Then, in late 2007, Shujaat Ali Khan, the richest of the landowners, his brothers and his son, Jamal Nasir, the mayor of Swat, became targets.

After Shujaat Ali Khan, a senior politician in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, narrowly missed being killed by a roadside bomb, he fled to London. A brother, Fateh Ali Mohammed, a former senator, left, too, and now lives in Islamabad. Mr. Nasir also fled


Page 2 of 2)

Later, the Taliban published a “most wanted” list of 43 prominent names, said Muhammad Sher Khan, a landlord who is a politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, and whose name was on the list. All those named were ordered to present themselves to the Taliban courts or risk being killed, he said. “When you know that they will hang and kill you, how will you dare go back there?” Mr. Khan, hiding in Punjab, said in a telephone interview. “Being on the list meant ‘Don’t come back to Swat.’ ”

One of the main enforcers of the new order was Ibn-e-Amin, a Taliban commander from the same area as the landowners, called Matta. The fact that Mr. Amin came from Matta, and knew who was who there, put even more pressure on the landowners, Mr. Hussain said.

According to Pakistani news reports, Mr. Amin was arrested in August 2004 on suspicion of having links to Al Qaeda and was released in November 2006. Another Pakistani intelligence agent said Mr. Amin often visited a madrasa in North Waziristan, the stronghold of Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, where he apparently received guidance.

Each time the landlords fled, their tenants were rewarded. They were encouraged to cut down the orchard trees and sell the wood for their own profit, the former residents said. Or they were told to pay the rent to the Taliban instead of their now absentee bosses.

Two dormant emerald mines have reopened under Taliban control. The militants have announced that they will receive one-third of the revenues.

Since the Taliban fought the military to a truce in Swat in February, the militants have deepened their approach and made clear who is in charge.

When provincial bureaucrats visit Mingora, Swat’s capital, they must now follow the Taliban’s orders and sit on the floor, surrounded by Taliban bearing weapons, and in some cases wearing suicide bomber vests, the senior provincial official said.

In many areas of Swat the Taliban have demanded that each family give up one son for training as a Taliban fighter, said Mohammad Amad, executive director of a nongovernmental group, the Initiative for Development and Empowerment Axis.

A landlord who fled with his family last year said he received a chilling message last week. His tenants called him in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, to tell him his huge house was being demolished, he said in an interview here.

The most crushing news was about his finances. He had sold his fruit crop in advance, though at a quarter of last year’s price. But even that smaller yield would not be his, his tenants said, relaying the Taliban message. The buyer had been ordered to give the money to the Taliban instead.
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« Reply #404 on: April 17, 2009, 12:48:46 PM »

Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban With Swift and Lethal Results
Published: April 16, 2009

KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — Only the lead insurgents were disciplined as they walked along the ridge. They moved carefully, with weapons ready and at least five yards between each man, the soldiers who surprised them said.

Last week, members of Second Platoon, Company B, surprised a Taliban column and killed at least 13.

Behind them, a knot of Taliban fighters walked in a denser group, some with rifles slung on their shoulders — “pretty much exactly the way we tell soldiers not to do it,” said Specialist Robert Soto, the radio operator for the American patrol.

If these insurgents came close enough, the soldiers knew, the patrol could kill them in a batch.

Fight by fight, the infantryman’s war in Afghanistan is often waged on the Taliban’s terms. Insurgents ambush convoys and patrols from high ridges or long ranges and slip away as the Americans, weighed down by equipment, return fire and call for air and artillery support. Last week a patrol from the First Infantry Division reversed the routine.

An American platoon surprised an armed Taliban column on a forested ridgeline at night, and killed at least 13 insurgents, and perhaps many more, with rifles, machine guns, Claymore mines, hand grenades and a knife.

The one-sided fight, fought on the slopes of the same mountain where a Navy Seal patrol was surrounded in 2005 and a helicopter with reinforcements was shot down, does not change the war. It was one of hundreds of firefights that have occurred in the Korangal Valley, an isolated region where local insurgents and the Americans have been locked in a bitter stalemate for more than three years.

But as accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province, who have seen it as a both a validation of their equipment and training and a welcome bit of score-settling in an area that in recent years has claimed more American lives than any other.

The patrol, 30 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, had left this outpost before noon on April 10, and spent much of the day climbing a ridge on the opposite side of the Korangal River, according to interviews with more than half the participants.

Once the soldiers reached the ridge’s crest, almost 6,000 feet above sea level on the side of a peak called Sautalu Sar, they found fresh footprints on the trails, and parapets of rock from where Taliban fighters often fire rifles and rocket-propelled grenades down onto this outpost.

The platoon leader, Second Lt. Justin Smith, selected a spot where trails intersected, and the platoon dug shallow fighting holes before dark. Claymore antipersonnel mines were set among the trees nearby.

At sunset, Lieutenant Smith called for a period of absolute silence, which lasted into darkness. Then he ordered three scouts to sit in a listening post about 100 yards away, 10 feet off the trail.

The scouts set in. Less than a half-minute later, a column of Taliban fighters appeared, walking briskly their way.

Sgt. Zachary R. Reese, a sniper, whispered into his radio. “We have eight enemy personnel coming down on our position really fast,” he said. He could say no more; the Taliban fighters were a few feet away.

More appeared. Then more still. The sergeant counted 26 gunmen pass by.

The patrol, Second Platoon of Company B, was in a place where no Americans had spent a night for years, and it seemed that the Afghans did not expect danger.

The soldiers waited. The rules of the ambush were long ago drilled into them: no one can move, and no one can fire until the patrol leader gives the order. Then everyone must fire at once.

The third Taliban fighter in the column switched on a flashlight, the soldiers said, and quickly switched it off. About 50 yards separated the two sides, but Lieutenant Smith did not want to start shooting too soon, he said, “because if too many lived then we’d be up there fighting them all night.”

He let the Taliban column continue on. The soldiers trained their weapons’ infrared lasers, which are visible only with night-vision equipment, on the fighters as they drew closer. The lasers mark the path a bullet will fly.

The lead fighter had almost reached the platoon when Pvt. First Class Troy Pacini-Harvey, 19, his laser trained on the lead man’s forehead, moved his rifle’s selector lever from safe to semi-automatic. It made a barely audible click. The Taliban fighter froze. He was six feet away.

(Page 2 of 2)

Lieutenant Smith was new to the platoon. This was his fourth patrol. He was in a situation that every infantry lieutenant trains for, but almost no infantry lieutenant ever sees. “Fire,” he said, softly into the radio. “Fire. Fire. Fire.”

As accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province.

The platoon’s frontage exploded with noise and flashes of light as soldiers fired. Bullets struck all of the lead Taliban fighters, the soldiers said. The first Afghans fell where they were hit, not managing to fire a single shot.

Five Taliban fighters bolted to the soldiers’ left, unwittingly running squarely into the path of machine-gun bullets and the Claymore mines. For a moment, the soldiers heard rustling in the brush. They detonated their Claymores and threw hand grenades. The rustling stopped.

Two other Taliban fighters had dashed to the right, toward an almost sheer drop. One ran so wildly in the blackness that his momentum carried him off the cliff, several soldiers said.

Another stopped at the edge. Pvt. First Class Brad Larson, 19, had followed the man with his laser. “I took him out,” he said.

The scout at the listening post shot three of the fleeing fighters, and dropped two more with hand grenades. “We stopped what we could see,” Sergeant Reese said.

The shooting had lasted a few minutes. The hillside briefly fell quiet. The surviving Taliban fighters, some of whom had run back up the trail, began shouting in the darkness. “We could hear them calling out to one another,” Specialist Soto said.

Lieutenant Smith called the listening post back in. After two Apache attack helicopters showed up, an F-15 dropped a bomb on the Taliban’s escape route, about 600 yards up the trail. Then the lieutenant ordered teams to search the bodies they could find on the crest.

Sergeant Reese gave his rifle to another sniper to cover him while he tried to cut away a Taliban fighter’s ammunition pouches with a four-inch blade. The fighter had only been pretending to be dead, the soldiers said. He lunged for Sergeant Reese, who stabbed him in the left eye.

In all, the soldiers found eight bodies on the crest. They photographed them to try to identify them later, and collected their weapons, ammunition, radios and papers. Then the patrol swept down a gully where a pilot said he saw more insurgents hiding.

Four scouts, using night-vision gear, spotted five fighters crouching behind rocks, and killed them with rifle and machine-gun fire, the scouts said. The bodies were searched and photographed, too. The platoon began to hike back to the outpost, carrying the captured equipment.

Second Platoon, Company B has endured one of the most arduous assignments in Afghanistan. Eight of the platoon’s soldiers have been wounded in nine months of fighting in the valley, part of a bitter contest for control of a small and sparsely populated area.

Three others have been killed.

In a matter of minutes, the ambush changed the experience of the surviving soldiers’ tours. The degree of turnabout surprised even some the soldiers who participated.

“It’s the first time most of us have even seen the guys who were shooting at us,” said Sgt. Thomas Horvath, 21.

The next day, elders from the valley would ask permission to collect the villages’ dead. Company B’s commander, Capt. James C. Howell, would grant it.

But already, as the soldiers slid and climbed down the mountain, word of the insurgents’ defeat was traveling through Taliban networks.

Specialist Robert C. Oxman, 21, had put a dead fighter’s phone in his pocket. As the platoon descended, the phone rang and rang, apparently as other fighters called to find out what had happened on Sautalu Sar. By sunrise, it had been ringing for hours.
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« Reply #405 on: April 20, 2009, 03:35:49 PM »

Extremist tide rises in Pakistan

After deal in north, Islamists aim to install religious law nationwide

By Pamela Constable

The Washington Post

updated 12:49 a.m. ET, Mon., April 20, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A potentially troubling era dawned Sunday in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where a top Islamist militant leader, emboldened by a peace agreement with the federal government, laid out an ambitious plan to bring a "complete Islamic system" to the surrounding northwest region and the entire country.

Speaking to thousands of followers in an address aired live from Swat on national news channels, cleric Sufi Mohammed bluntly defied the constitution and federal judiciary, saying he would not allow any appeals to state courts under the system of sharia, or Islamic law, that will prevail there as a result of the peace accord signed by the president Tuesday.

"The Koran says that supporting an infidel system is a great sin," Mohammed said, referring to Pakistan's modern democratic institutions. He declared that in Swat, home to 1.5 million people, all "un-Islamic laws and customs will be abolished," and he suggested that the official imprimatur on the agreement would pave the way for sharia to be installed in other areas.

Mohammed's dramatic speech echoed a rousing sermon in Islamabad on Friday by another radical cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, who appeared at the Red Mosque in the capital after nearly two years in detention and urged several thousand chanting followers to launch a crusade for sharia nationwide.

Arc of radical Islam
Together, these rallying cries seemed to create an arc of radical religious energy between the turbulent, Taliban-plagued northwest region and the increasingly vulnerable federal capital, less than 100 miles to the east. They also appeared to pose a direct, unprecedented religious challenge to modern state authority in the Muslim nation of 176 million.

"The government made a big mistake to give these guys legal cover for their agenda. Now they are going to be battle-ready to struggle for the soul of Pakistan," said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of security studies at Quaid-i-Azam university here. He predicted a further surge in the suicide bombings that have recently become an almost daily occurrence across the country. Two recent bombings at security checkpoints in the northwest killed more than 40 people.

Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to the region, said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN that the decision by insurgents to keep fighting in spite of the peace deal should be a "wake-up call to everybody in Pakistan that you can't deal with these people by giving away territory as they creep closer and closer to the populated centers of the Punjab and Islamabad."

Also Sunday, a suspected U.S. missile strike killed three people at a Taliban compound in the South Waziristan tribal region; such attacks have become a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups in Pakistan as anti-American sentiment builds.

‘We really had no other choice’
The government agreed to Mohammed's demands in an effort to halt violent intimidation by Taliban forces that the army was unable to quell despite months of operations in the former tourist haven. In recent interviews, Swati leaders and refugees described armed men in black turbans whipping suspected thieves on the spot, cutting off the ears and noses of village elders who opposed them, and selling videos of police beheadings.

"We really had no other choice. We had no power to crush the militants, and people were desperate for peace," said Jafar Shah, a Swati legislator. His Awami National Party, though historically secular, sponsored the sharia deal. "Now people are calling us Taliban without beards," he said ruefully, "but it was the only option available."

Provincial and federal officials also hoped their show of good faith would halt further insurgent inroads and buy time for foreign aid programs to shore up the impoverished northwest against the Islamists' message of swift justice and social equality.

Instead, the evidence suggests that the extremist forces have drawn the opposite lesson from their victory in Swat and are gearing up to carry their armed crusade for a punitive, misogynistic form of Islam into new areas. There have been numerous reports of Taliban fighters entering districts south and west of Swat, where they have brandished weapons, bombed and occupied buildings, arrested aid workers, and killed female activists.

"When we achieve our goals in one place, we need to struggle for it in other areas," Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told Pakistani news services by telephone last week. "Sharia does not permit us to lay down our arms if the government continues anti-Muslim policies." The goal, he said, is to "enforce the rule of Allah on the land of Allah."

In the northwestern town of Mardan, insurgents attacked girls schools, forced CD shops to close, ordered barbers not to shave beards and bombed the office of a nonprofit aid agency, killing a female worker. Taliban commanders accused the agency of "propagating obscenity." Taliban fighters occupied the Buner district for several days, closed a religious shrine and burned DVDs in the streets. They then toured the region in a convoy of trucks, even entering a secured army area while displaying heavy weapons.

"The inescapable reality is that another domino has toppled and the Taliban are a step closer to Islamabad," the Pakistan-based News International newspaper warned last week after the Buner takeover. The paper compared Pakistan to Vietnam: a weak and corrupt state being "nibbled away" by determined insurgents: "The Taliban have the upper hand, and they know it."

Surprisingly, there has been little official or public protest against the creeping tide of Islamist extremism. Analysts said this is partly because of fear of retaliation and partly because of strong religious sentiments that make Pakistanis reluctant to criticize fellow Muslims.

Even in especially shocking cases, such as the public flogging of a Swati girl suspected of having an affair, the response from national leaders was a muddle of denial and obfuscation. Some said the incident, which surfaced last month on a videotape, had been staged to sabotage the peace deal. Others said it was a minor issue compared with U.S. cross-border missile strikes.

Raising alarm
A handful of influential Pakistanis have begun to raise the alarm, warning in newspaper columns or speeches that government and society need to confront the enemy within and acknowledge the difference between conventional sharia and the crude, brutally enforced Taliban version of an extremist Islamist state.

"In Swat they got their system imposed at gunpoint, and now they are ready to Taliban-ize the whole country," Altaf Hussain, the exiled head of the Muttahida Qaumi Majlis political party, said at a teleconference of Muslim clerics in Karachi on Sunday. Denouncing the insurgents' abusive and autocratic methods, he said, "We have to decide between our country and the Taliban."

Sharia in Pakistan, as in Afghanistan, exists in tandem with a modern legal code but does not supersede it. Sharia courts rule on certain religious and moral issues, while other cases are tried by regular courts. Mohammed, Aziz and other radicals espouse a more severe version like the one Taliban rulers imposed on Afghanistan in the 1990s, which segregates women and imposes harsh punishments.

Supporters of the Swat agreement pointed out that residents have been demanding sharia for years to replace the slow, corrupt justice system. But Swati leaders said that the local version of Islamic law was traditionally moderate and that in elections last year Swatis voted overwhelmingly for two secular parties.

Indeed, older natives of Swat like to recall earlier days when serenity and tolerance prevailed in the region of apple orchards, forested hills and glacial streams. Tourists from Japan and Europe came to explore ancient Buddhist ruins, while residents practiced a timeless mix of tribal customs and Islamic faith.

"There was something in the soil that made the people soft," said Asad Khan, a Swat native in his 40s who lives in the city of Peshawar. "Our culture was one of civilized hospitality. Everyone was a Muslim, but almost no one was a fundamentalist. The climate was not good for harsh people and ideas."

This week, after the peace accord was endorsed, officials and pro-government news media described the atmosphere in Swat as relieved and heading back to normalcy. But several people who visited the Swati capital of Mingora this week said they saw worried faces, no women in the markets, and clusters of black-turbaned men watching everyone closely.

"Things are confused and unclear. People have suffered a lot, and they are desperate for peace, but they don't know if it will last," said Afzal Khan Lala, a provincial legislator, reached by phone in Mingora. "If the Taliban are sincere, then peace should prevail. But if they have ulterior aims and seek supremacy over the state, I doubt peace will come to Swat."
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« Reply #406 on: April 20, 2009, 07:32:36 PM »

Sent to me by someone who has seen and done interesting things in Afpakia:

----- Original Message -----
From: Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 5:30 PM
Subject: Fw: Buy your ammo now

Experts predict Pakistan's collapse
Kansas City Star
17 April 2009
A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists.
“It's a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution,” said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity.
Pakistan's fragmentation into warlord-run fiefdoms that host al-Qaida and other terrorist groups would have grave implications for the security of its nuclear arsenal; for the U.S.-led effort to pacify Afghanistan; and for the security of India, the nearby oil-rich Persian Gulf and Central Asia, the U.S. and its allies.
“Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American Army, and the headquarters of al-Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.
“Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, a backward, isolated, landlocked place that outsiders get interested in about once a century,” agreed the U.S. intelligence official. “It's a developed state.”
He added: “The implications of this are disastrous for the U.S.”
The experts interviewed by McClatchy Newspapers said their views aren't a worst case scenario, but a realistic expectation based on the militants' gains and the failure of Pakistan's leadership to respond.
“The place is beyond redemption,” said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified. He continued: “If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants.”
That pessimistic view has been bolstered by Islamabad's surrender this week of areas outside the frontier tribal region to Pakistan's Taliban movement and by a growing militant infiltration into the rest of the nation.
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« Reply #407 on: April 23, 2009, 03:20:42 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Taliban Problem Going Critical in Pakistan
April 22, 2009

A spokesman for Pakistan’s military said Tuesday that the peace agreement between the government and Islamist militants in the Swat region has given the Taliban an opportunity to regroup, after having been flushed out by army operations some months back. Elsewhere, the information ministers of both the federal government and North-West Frontier Province warned the Taliban group in Swat, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-Muhammadi (TNSM), to uphold its end of the peace deal and disarm, or face government action.

These comments followed statements made during the weekend by TNSM leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad: He denounced Pakistan’s constitution, parliament and Supreme Court as un-Islamic and called for Sharia to be imposed throughout the country. In a related development, the rebellious imam of Islamabad’s Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz — who led a bloody rising in July 2007 — was released on bail. He told followers to be ready to make sacrifices to ensure that Islam is enforced through the entire country.

As expected, the Swat “Sharia for peace” deal appears to be falling apart — within a week of being ratified. The collapse is yet another manifestation of a weakened Pakistani state being manipulated by Taliban rebels. But a far important point is that the current situation is untenable.

Pakistani government leaders cannot remain on the path of negotiations while the Taliban are going for the jugular. The entire rationale behind the peace agreement was that the insurgency in Swat could be ended if Sharia was enforced in the restive area. The Taliban not only have shown that they are unwilling to disarm, but their ambitions are escalating from a local to a national level.

This leaves the government with two choices: Either continue down the current path — allowing the jihadists to advance their cause while trying to avoid confrontation — or draw the line. In either case, conflict would be inevitable.

The difference is one of time and location. The Pakistanis either can fight the jihadists now, seeking to limit the conflict to the Pashtun regions of the northwest, or wait to fight — while the jihadists move to strengthen their ability to strike in Punjab province, the heart of Pakistan. The state is being pushed toward taking action by both the deteriorating security situation at home and mounting pressure from the United States. But it is not clear whether there is sufficient political will in Islamabad to go on the offensive.

Much of this is because the state is caught between the contradictory needs to combat the “bad” Taliban (those that fight in Pakistan) while still maintaining influence over the “good” ones (those that fight in Afghanistan). This distinction itself is a problem: The jihadist landscape is far more complicated than such neat binary categorizations would seem to allow. The problems Islamabad faces in this regard offer a glimpse of what the Obama administration can expect in its efforts to distinguish between what Washington sees as Taliban it can deal with versus Taliban it cannot deal with.

Overall, Pakistan’s situation is far more dire than the situation the United States will face in Afghanistan as it increases troop commitments and seeks out pragmatic Taliban with whom to negotiate. For Islamabad, the war is hitting home now more than ever.

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« Reply #408 on: April 23, 2009, 11:53:28 AM »


Now can anyone see why terrorists should not be negotiated with?  Give 'em an inch and they take a mile.  Pak needs to nip this one in the bud while they still have a chance otherwise they can look forward to ... well there's really nothing that I can think of unless a nuclear winter can be something to be looked forward to  undecided

"Much of this is because the state is caught between the contradictory needs to combat the “bad” Taliban (those that fight in Pakistan) while still maintaining influence over the “good” ones (those that fight in Afghanistan)."  They are considered "good" by certain people in Pakistan because they keep Afghanistan weak.  Do you think Pak wants enemies on both sides?  Well, I think their little plan backfired and now they have to deal with "the enemy within".  I think that if it gets too bad in Pakistan that India will have no problem rolling through and I don't think many would mind it at all.


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« Reply #409 on: April 23, 2009, 12:21:12 PM »


The possible reactions of the Indians to all this is a very interesting point.

Would it be to neutralize Pak nukes?  How clear are they/we on where the nukes and nuke material is?  How well protected is it?  Or would the plan be to simply kick ass, take names, and then , , , what?

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« Reply #410 on: April 23, 2009, 01:15:44 PM »

Woof Guro Crafty,

Nobody knows for sure publicly but I would like to think that SOMEBODY knows.  India's Intelligence Bureau, CIA, MI5, China's MSS...  Somebody knows something about the nukes.  As far as a plan?  I don't mean to sound too cynical but everyday I spend over here (not sure about India), the less I think that the concept of a "plan" is something easily comprehended by folks in this part of the world unless they are directly benefited by it immediately and tangibly.
A couple of days old but interesting...


India: The Missing Factor In Afghanistan, Pakistan

By John Tsucalas, For The Bulletin
Monday, April 20, 2009
Take a look at a map of the Indian Ocean, the great trade route for shipping oil not only to India and China, but also the Pacific Ocean. Let the eye move to the north to sight India in the approximate center of the landmass, then moving westward to, in order, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. Then move eastward to encompass China and the South China Sea off its coast.

Beyond the importance of the area for shipping, especially oil, the area is captive to nuclear weapons either held or with nations aspiring to develop them. Among those who have such weapons within the region, count China, India and Pakistan; the aspiring ones are North Korea and Iran, assuming no recent, significant breakthrough by these two in the development of those weapons.

A closer look at the map shows that Iran has to go through some hoops to get oil to say China, a huge consumer as is India. Iran must exit the Persian Gulf, pass through the narrow Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Oman, then traverse the Arabian Sea into the Indian Ocean and turn eastwards through the tight Strait of Malacca, Indonesia, into the South China Sea.

This route can be easily bottled up by a well-built and diversified naval fleet, such as ours. Should we consider doing this? No, I wouldn’t advise it unless China started something, which it won’t. However, this explains importantly why China is developing a strong navy; when it comes to thirst for oil, it’s vulnerable.

As a bottom line, China and India are highly competitive with each other. However, India is too attentive to Pakistan to allow it to be embroiled in a conflict with China. On Pakistan’s eastern boundary, it and India have a common border. Indeed our envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, is looking to bring Pakistan and India into a combined effort to defeat jihadists in the area. While impracticable, it’s a creative idea because it could succeed in a dual way: lessen tensions between the two, while possibly sharpening our fighting capability against jihadists. NATO is worthless in the whole region.

However, the combination is unlikely to occur. The Pakistanis have not helped much in our fight to defeat jihadists; they are as terrible as NATO. Worse still, Pakistan has become a sanctuary for the Taliban and al-Qaida, especially the former. Moreover, the Taliban have successfully negotiated for the establishment of Muslim law (Shariah) in parts of Pakistan. I fear that there’s a fifth column at work in Pakistan, largely operating through the powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, but in concert with the Taliban, itself a sort of fifth column. They hide among the civilian population, even dressing as that population does. Therefore, they are hard to identify to kill or capture. In connection with Shariah, President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, signed approval of Shariah at the federal level, another nail in our coffin.

In August, Afghanistan will hold its presidential election. The incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, in the mold of Mr. Zardari, will be on the ballot; he is only good at verbally attacking us after aircraft of the United States Air Force (USAF) have inadvertently killed civilians while in air support of Special Forces. From carriers in the Indian Ocean, the Navy has joined the fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan, using the latest in the Hornet series, the Super Hornet, an all-purpose attack aircraft that, along with their pilots, have done an excellent job. Most of the aircraft used and missions done are notably by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, itself all-purpose, of USAF.

President Obama has announced his strategy for the area. It is a smart approach, seeing Afghanistan and Pakistan as one combined area. That is why Mr. Holbrooke is the envoy to both. Additionally, he sees the main thrust to be one of killing or capturing jihadists, meaning keep the pressure on both al-Qaida and the Taliban. He has continued assaults by drones on Pakistan. He is doing a sensible job.

Now to what we should ask of India: Attack Pakistan and remove it as a factor in the battle against jihadists! There is a risk, of course, of a nuclear exchange between the two countries, both possessing the weapons for it. It is easy to say that both should eschew the use of them. However, the losing side is too likely to use them, and to me, that’s Pakistan doing it first.

It’s looking promising, especially if we can convince India to join the battle.

John J. Tsucalas, former deputy auditor general of Pennsylvania, is a Philadelphia corporate consultant on finance. He can be reached at

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« Reply #411 on: April 24, 2009, 10:35:09 PM »

Forwarded to me by a MD friend in India:

Some incisive comments about why the puki army wont fight the telebunnies.. from
0230 GMT April 25, 2009

With Pakistan, there's the news...

Pakistan Army chief delivers stern warning to the militants that they will be severely dealt with unless they stop taking over more territory...Chief says Army rank and file have decided to do their duty...Taliban withdrawing from Buner...Army operation in Swat imminent in 48 hours...Chief says US pronouncements warning of collapse of Pakistan are to be condemned...a democratic nation of 170-million cannot be intimidated by a few insurgents...Army will be gloves off in dealing with rebels in Swat...Government says Buner is being dealt with, 250 troops have been sent to restore law and order...etc etc etc


Then there's the news


Non-resident Taliban are withdrawing from Buner; local Taliban will stay, and will not carry arms as Taliban has come to Buner "only to preach true Islam" and wish to harm no-one...non-resident Taliban have been responsible for looting some local houses...250 lightly armed police did try and enter Buner, but after one convoy was ambushed the police are withdrawing...locals says Taliban controls entire district, including government/administration builds, government officials have fled, women nowhere to be seen in the bazaars except a few fully covered...withdrawing Taliban are moving into Swabi District...etc etc etc


You've guessed it...


The first version is the Pakistan Government's official version, the second is the reality. How can the Pakistan Army, which has been sitting licking its wounds, and which did absolutely nothing as the Pakistan overran Buner, and taunted the army by staging a victory past right outside the Punjab Regimental Center in Mardan, now suddenly launch a major operation to clear Swat in 48 hours? Doesn't it take a couple of weeks at least to plan things in detail, make sure officers and men know what they're doing, arrange the logistics, etc etc.?

Could it be a co-inky-dinky that the army began issuing these stern warnings right after Massa Sam threatened the direst consequences if Pakistan did not move against the insurgents? PS: you didn't hear about the US threats to Pakistan because that's all "diplomacy" behind the scenes.

And having had its sorry rear whupped three times by the Taliban in Swat by the Taliban, how come the Army will eliminate the insurgents? And 'scuse us, are you going to drop nukes on the Taliban when you say you will be gloves off? Because, dear Army, you already have many times thrown everything you have against the Taliban to no avail: tank, artillery, helicopter gunships, and unrestricted air bombardment.


Now let's analyze the real news a bit...

So suppose its World War II, and the Allies are advancing up Italy, and several divisions are withdrawn. Do the Germans think the Allies are defeated and so they are withdrawing. No, dear boys and girls, those withdrawing divisions are going to a new invasion of Southern France, opening a new front against Germany. The Allies are so confident they're going to take Italy they decide to redeploy several divisions (was it seven divisions? memory is a bit foggy). As far as GHQ Berlin is concerned, this is Not Good News.

So look at this folks: just week before last, Taliban had not overrun Swabi District. It was contested territory. So if they are now "withdrawing" from Buner into Swabi, is it for the spring time blossoms and fresh air? Hardly. They're preparing to overrun Swabi District. This is Not Good News. as Bill Roggio has explained, once they take control of Swabi, Mardan, and Haripur  Districts, it's the beginning of the end for Islamabad.

The situation is so serious, Pakistan Government is deploying Rangers to the hills outside Islamabad, and the Rangers HQ is issuing heroic statements such as: "To get to Islamabad they will have to get past us."

Problemo, dudes. Agreed the Rangers are not the Frontier Corps, but they are also lightly-armed paramilitary. They havent seen action for 37 years. They are also locally recruited, and where do people think the insurgents fighting India in Kashmir for the last 22 years come from? Surprise: they come from the Punjab. So if we say the Frontier Corps would not fight the insurgents in the NWFP because they were kin, why should Pakistan Rangers fight to defend Islamabad when they will also be fighting kin?

Not so fast, McGee you say, there's no such thing as the Punjab Taliban. Quite right, Meinherr. Punjab fundamentalist insurgent groups go by different names, and they've joined up with the Taliban. They want now to overthrow the Government of Pakistan as much as the Taliban do because they believe the GOP, under pressure from US, has abandoned the jihad against India; even though the Kashmir insurgency has restarted, these lads have bigger ambitions than just getting killed in Kashmir for the next 22 years.

And - surprise: the bulk of the Pakistan Army is Punjabi. a lot of hot air has been passed about the Pakistan Army not wanting to fight the Taliban because they are brothers. Hello, peeps. There's unlikely to be any village in Pakistan Punjab that doesn't have a significant number of men in the Army. Pakistan Army Punjabi, Sindhi, and Baluchi troops refused to fight the NWFP Taliban just as much as the NWFP troops. Why when upward of 70% of the Army is Punjabi, are these men now going to suddenly start fighting, particularly when their own brothers (literally) join in the attack on Islamabad?


Now to the nub of the matter


Every time we try and explain why Pakistan won't fight the Taliban regardless of what the US does, we get diverted by events. These darn insurgents don't have the decency to wait till Editor finishes his exposition before making their next advance. Bally unsporting. So we're going to summarize our argument in a few  quick paras, and expound away another time.

First, Pakistan is not going to sacrifice its national security for the US, and its national security requires control of Afghanistan.

Second, every last person in Pakistan aside from a few bootlickers have had it to here with the Americans. Americans have beaten and cursed and spat on the Pakistani dog for so long, the dog is ready to fight back even if its knows it will be killed. There is a point beyond you cannot push a human being: he will not do your will, even if you shoot him. The Pakistanis are there.

Editor and others who know what's going in Pakistan can assure Washington: if the Army is required by its senior officers to take anything more than symbolic action against the Taliban, the senior officers will be killed. The senior officer have no intention of being killed, if only because they above all have had to smile and bow and scrape to the Americans.

But you are wrong, Editor, will say a dozen people who have just returned from their tenth trip to Pakistan. The government, bureaucracy, army, are all against the Taliban. They will fight.

Really? So when is it they will fight? They haven't so far, and pretty soon - months, likely, all of Pakistan west of the Indus will be Indian country. We can go only by Pakistan's deeds, not words, and its deeds show it has not fought. So where's the evidence they will fight?

Oh right, they SAY they will fight. So in eight years the Americans have not learned the Pakistanis are past masters of saying one thing and doing another? Every American who deals with the Pakistanis know this. If Head Office doesn't know it, then good luck America, you deserve to lose Pakistan.

The rank and file Pakistani soldier doesn't want to fight Taliban. He wants to kick American butt, all the way to Kabul and points west. Rank and file cannot go up against the Americans: the Americans will destroy the Pakistan military inside of two weeks. But they can kick away by continuing to back the Taliban.

Last, and perhaps most important, we're going to say something that is so obvious to anyone familiar with Pakistan, but that's so not obvious to the great majority of Americans: the army and the people of Pakistan no longer want to fight for Pakistan under the command of the current military and civil leadership.

For decades Pakistanis have chafed under the rule of the Brown Imperialists. They hate them, but saw no alternative, and saw no way of overthrowing their brown oppressors. All this business about Benazir the Great Democrat was just so much twaddle. Benazir was no different from anyone else who have ruled Pakistan in six decades. They have ALL been oppressors.

The Taliban, for the first time in Pakistan's history, are offering an alternative to the Brown Imperialists. They are offering Pakistanis a reason and a means to fight - not the Taliban, but the BI's. And guess who the Americans are allied and identified with?

Hint 1: Its not the people of Pakistan. Hint 2: Restudy Russia 1917, particularly the army. Hint 3: after that, study Iran 1979.

Is the Pakistan revolution going to happen tomorrow? Cant say. Will it happen day after? Still cant say. Is it never going to happen? Can say: it is going to happen.

As for Head Office, aka Toon Town, aka Washington, here's our solution to the problem: Pray, and pray hard. We got nothing to lose. Because its all lost already.

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« Reply #412 on: April 25, 2009, 08:10:54 AM »

Woof JKrenz:

Following up on your previous post concerning the matter of "plans":

First, I hope I do not grate on your nerves as a "nattering nabob of negatavism" (my fellow seniors may recognize an effort at humor here-- the quote is from disgraced VP under Richard Nixon Spiro Agnew).  There you are, fighting to protect us and I keep whining "Where's the plan?  WTF is the plan?"

You wrote:

"As far as a plan?  I don't mean to sound too cynical but everyday I spend over here (not sure about India), the less I think that the concept of a "plan" is something easily comprehended by folks in this part of the world unless they are directly benefited by it immediately and tangibly."

No doubt this is true, but my concern is US.  As events in Iraq showed us, having the right plan/strategy is essential.  As events in Iraq showed, and show us right now, having a Commander in Chief with commitment to the cause is essential-- and lack of commitment is catastropic.  I could be wrong, but IMHO right now we may be beginning to see the unraveling of everything we have fought for in Iraq because of the President's determination to bug out regardless of the consequences.  In a larger sense I worry about his innate ability to commit to anything requiring force of arms when the going gets tough-- and General Petraeus has just said that Afpakia could easily be a worse situation than Iraq was.    Do we the American people have what it takes to stay the course?  Does our President?

But I am getting ahead of myself-- so allow me to return to the matter of "WTF is "The Plan"?"

One example of a plan would be what retired Col Ralph Peters has suggested-- working from memory it was something like this:  Go in and kick ass, then leave while saying "Do something stupid again" and we'll be back even harder to kick your asses again.

Another example of a plan would be to seek to establish democracy and women's rights and defund the enemy by taking out the opium crops.

Another example would be to maintain a low grade war of indefinite duration keeping the AQ-Taliban distracted by by lobbing in Predators and the life.

Another example would be to take out Pakistan's nukes and come home.

These are all plans.  WTF is the plan under President Obama?

As best as I can tell it is to:

1) Give less troops than required and lob predators until , , , what?
2) Not address the role of the opium trade in financing the enemy
3) Continue to maintain the fantasy of the Durand Line (i.e. that there is a border between Afg and Pak and not simply Pashtunstan)
4) Wonder WTF to do as Pak collapses.
5) Lack the will to go after Pak's nukes-- and certainly Secretary Clinton and his recent responses to North Korea's missile test bodes quite poorly here.

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« Reply #413 on: April 25, 2009, 10:48:15 PM »

Jkrenz may be busy with more pressing matters.  Until he has time to join us once again and perhaps comment on my preceding post, here's this:

April 26, 2009

In Taliban’s Surge in Pakistan, a Pattern of Guile and Force


Initially, Buner was a hard place for the Taliban to crack. When they attacked a police station in the valley district last year, the resistance was fearless. Local people picked up rifles, pistols and daggers, hunted down the militants and killed six of them.

But it was not to last. In short order this past week the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The militants flooded in by the hundreds, startling Pakistani and American officials with the speed of their advance.

The lesson of Buner, local politicians and residents say, is that the dynamic of the Taliban insurgency, as methodical and slow-building as it has been, can change suddenly, and the tactics used by the Taliban can be replicated elsewhere.

The Taliban took over Buner through both force and guile — awakening sleeping sympathizers, leveraging political allies, pretending at peace talks and then crushing what was left of their opponents, according to the politicians and the residents interviewed.

Though some of the militants have since pulled back, they still command the high points of Buner and have fanned out to districts even closer to the capital.

That Buner fell should be no surprise, local people say. Last fall, the inspector general of police in North-West Frontier Province, Malik Naveed Khan, complained that his officers were being attacked and killed by the hundreds.

Mr. Khan was so desperate — and had been so thoroughly abandoned by the military and the government — that he was relying on citizen posses like the one that stood up to the Taliban last August.

Today, the hopes that those civilian militias inspired are gone, brushed away by the realization that Pakistanis can do little to stem the Taliban advance if their government and military will not help them.

The people of Buner got nothing for their bravery. In December, the Taliban retaliated for the brazenness of the resistance in the district, sending a suicide bomber to disrupt voting during a by-election. More than 30 people were killed and scores were wounded.

Severe disenchantment toward the government rippled out of the suicide bombing for a very basic reason, said Amir Zeb Bacha, the director of the Pakistan International Human Rights Organization in Buner. “When we took the injured to the hospital there was no medicine,” he said.

The election was rescheduled but turned out to be a farce. Voters were too scared to show up, said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister, who lives in the area and has twice escaped Taliban suicide bombers.

The peace deal the military struck with the Taliban in February in neighboring Swat further demoralized people in Buner. Residents and local officials said they asked themselves how they could continue to resist the Taliban when the military itself had abandoned the effort. The Taliban were emboldened by the deal: it called for the institution of Shariah, the strict legal code of Islam based on the Koran, throughout Malakand Agency, which includes Swat and Buner. It allowed the Taliban amnesty for their killings, floggings and destruction of girls schools in Swat.

Still, when the Taliban rolled into Buner from Swat through the town of Gokan on April 5, a well-to-do businessman, Fateh Mohammed, organized another posse of civilian fighters to take on the militants in the town of Sultanwas.

Five civilians and three policemen were killed, he said. Some newspaper reports said 17 Taliban were killed.

At that point, the chief government official in charge of Malakand, Mohammed Javed, proposed what he called peace talks. Mr. Javed, an experienced bureaucrat in the Pakistani civil service, was appointed in late February as the main government power broker in Malakand even though he was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban, a senior government official in North-West Frontier Province said. The government had been under pressure to bring calm to Swat and essentially capitulated to Taliban demands for Mr. Javed’s appointment, the official said.

In an apparent acknowledgment that Mr. Javed had been too sympathetic to the Taliban, the government announced Saturday that he had been replaced by Fazal Karim Khattack.

In what some residents in Swat and now in Buner say had been a pattern of favorable decisions led by Mr. Javed on behalf of the Taliban, the talks in Buner turned out to be a “betrayal,” said a former police officer from the area, who was afraid to be identified.

The talks gave the militants time to gather reinforcements from neighboring Swat, he said. And at the same time, the Taliban put such pressure on the members of Mr. Mohammed’s posse, or lashkar, that they disappeared or fled, Mr. Mohammed said.

“The police part of our lashkar left, and I was all alone,” he said. On the night of April 11, he fled, too, he said in a telephone conversation from Karachi, where he has gone to hide.

The militants at that point occupied his three gas stations, his flour mill and his 20-room house, he said. They had also commandeered more than 20 other houses in Sultanwas belonging to his relatives, he said.

In a show of who was in charge in Mr. Mohammed’s absence, the Taliban established a training camp in Sultanwas, said Mr. Bacha, the human rights officer.

To bolster their strength, and insinuate themselves in Buner, the Taliban also relied heavily on the adherents of a hard-line militant group, the Movement for the Implementation of the Shariah of Muhammad, which has agitated for Islamic law in Pakistan.

Their leader, Sufi Mohammed, comes from the region around Swat and Buner and has done the job of whipping up local support and intimidating Taliban opponents.

The group has called on graduates of a huge madrasa near the main town of Daggar in Buner to run local district governments, beckoning one from as far as the southern port of Karachi to run a municipality, said Khadim Hussain, a professor of linguistics and communication at Bahria University in Islamabad.

Estimates of the number of militants in Buner vary. Some local residents said they believed that there were about 3,000, including fighters trained for combat in Kashmir. District Police Officer Abdul Rashid, the chief of police in Buner, said in a telephone interview that there were only 200.

Whatever the number, early last week the Taliban showed their power by ordering the state courts shut. They announced that they would open Islamic courts, practicing Shariah, by the end of the month.

The militants have also placed a tax payable to the Taliban on all marble quarried at mines, said a senior police officer who worked in Buner.

At gas stations belonging to Mr. Mohammed, they pumped gas and drove off without paying, the officer said.

“No one dare ask them for payment,” he said.

The police were so intimidated they mostly stayed inside station houses, he said. “They are setting up a parallel government.”

With their success in Buner, the Taliban felt flush with success and increasingly confident that they could repeat the template, residents and analysts said. In the main prize, the richest and most populous province, Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, the Taliban are relying on the sleeper cells of other militant groups, including the many fighters who had been trained by the Pakistani military for combat in Kashmir, and now felt abandoned by the state, they said.

“We see coordination all over the country,” Mr. Hussain, the university professor, said. “The situation is very dangerous.”

It would not be difficult for the Taliban to seize Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, by shutting down the airport and blocking the two main thoroughfares from Islamabad, a Western official with long experience in the province said.

At midweek, a convoy of heavily armed Taliban vehicles was seen barreling along the four-lane motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar, according to Mr. Sherpao, the former minister of the interior.

Across North-West Frontier Province, the Taliban are rapidly consolidating power by activating cells that consisted of a potent mix of jihadist groups, he said.

In some places, the Taliban have entered mosques saying they had come only to preach, but in fact the strategy is to spread fear that pushes people into submission and demoralizes the police, he said.

Everywhere, they have preyed on the miseries of the poor, saying that Islamic courts would settle their complaints against the rich. “Every district is falling into their lap,” Mr. Sherpao said.
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« Reply #414 on: April 26, 2009, 08:47:29 AM »

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Initially, Buner was a hard place for the Taliban to crack. When they attacked a police station in the valley district last year, the resistance was fearless. Local people picked up rifles, pistols and daggers, hunted down the militants and killed six of them.

But it was not to last. In short order this past week the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The militants flooded in by the hundreds, startling Pakistani and American officials with the speed of their advance.

The lesson of Buner, local politicians and residents say, is that the dynamic of the Taliban insurgency, as methodical and slow-building as it has been, can change suddenly, and the tactics used by the Taliban can be replicated elsewhere.

The Taliban took over Buner through both force and guile — awakening sleeping sympathizers, leveraging political allies, pretending at peace talks and then crushing what was left of their opponents, according to the politicians and the residents interviewed.

Though some of the militants have since pulled back, they still command the high points of Buner and have fanned out to districts even closer to the capital.

That Buner fell should be no surprise, local people say. Last fall, the inspector general of police in North-West Frontier Province, Malik Naveed Khan, complained that his officers were being attacked and killed by the hundreds.

Mr. Khan was so desperate — and had been so thoroughly abandoned by the military and the government — that he was relying on citizen posses like the one that stood up to the Taliban last August.

Today, the hopes that those civilian militias inspired are gone, brushed away by the realization that Pakistanis can do little to stem the Taliban advance if their government and military will not help them.

The people of Buner got nothing for their bravery. In December, the Taliban retaliated for the brazenness of the resistance in the district, sending a suicide bomber to disrupt voting during a by-election. More than 30 people were killed and scores were wounded.

Severe disenchantment toward the government rippled out of the suicide bombing for a very basic reason, said Amir Zeb Bacha, the director of the Pakistan International Human Rights Organization in Buner. “When we took the injured to the hospital there was no medicine,” he said.

The election was rescheduled but turned out to be a farce. Voters were too scared to show up, said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister, who lives in the area and has twice escaped Taliban suicide bombers.

The peace deal the military struck with the Taliban in February in neighboring Swat further demoralized people in Buner. Residents and local officials said they asked themselves how they could continue to resist the Taliban when the military had abandoned the effort. The Taliban were emboldened by the deal: it called for the institution of Shariah, the strict legal code of Islam based on the Koran, throughout Malakand Agency, which includes Swat and Buner. It allowed the Taliban amnesty for their killings, floggings and destruction of girls schools in Swat.

Still, when the Taliban rolled into Buner from Swat through the town of Gokan on April 5, a well-to-do businessman, Fateh Mohammed, organized another posse of civilian fighters to take on the militants in the town of Sultanwas.

Five civilians and three policemen were killed, he said. Some newspaper reports said 17 Taliban were killed.

At that point, the chief government official in charge of Malakand, Mohammed Javed, proposed what he called peace talks. Mr. Javed, an experienced bureaucrat in the Pakistani civil service, was appointed in late February as the main government power broker in Malakand even though he was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban, a senior government official in North-West Frontier Province said. The government had been under pressure to bring calm to Swat and essentially capitulated to Taliban demands for Mr. Javed’s appointment, the official said.

In an apparent acknowledgment that Mr. Javed had been too sympathetic to the Taliban, the government announced Saturday that he had been replaced by Fazal Karim Khattack.

In what some residents in Swat and now in Buner say had been a pattern of favorable decisions led by Mr. Javed on behalf of the Taliban, the talks in Buner turned out to be a “betrayal,” said a former police officer from the area, who was afraid to be identified.


(Page 2 of 2)

The talks gave the militants time to gather reinforcements from neighboring Swat, he said. And at the same time, the Taliban put such pressure on the members of Mr. Mohammed’s posse, or lashkar, that they disappeared or fled, Mr. Mohammed said.

Taliban militants in the main town of Daggar in the Buner District of Pakistan.
“The police part of our lashkar left, and I was all alone,” he said. On the night of April 11, he fled, too, he said in a telephone conversation from Karachi, where he has gone to hide.

The militants at that point occupied his three gas stations, his flour mill and his 20-room house, he said. They had also commandeered more than 20 other houses in Sultanwas belonging to his relatives, he said.   In a show of who was in charge in Mr. Mohammed’s absence, the Taliban established a training camp in Sultanwas, said Mr. Bacha, the human rights officer.

To bolster their strength, and insinuate themselves in Buner, the Taliban also relied heavily on the adherents of a hard-line militant group, the Movement for the Implementation of the Shariah of Muhammad, which has agitated for Islamic law in Pakistan.  Their leader, Sufi Mohammed, comes from the region around Swat and Buner and has whipped up local support and intimidated Taliban opponents.

The group has called on graduates of a huge madrasa near the main town of Daggar in Buner to run local district governments, beckoning one from as far as the southern port of Karachi to run a municipality, said Khadim Hussain, a professor of linguistics and communication at Bahria University in Islamabad.

Whatever the number, early last week the Taliban showed their power by ordering the state courts shut. They announced that they would open Islamic courts, practicing Shariah, by the end of the month.

The militants have also placed a tax payable to the Taliban on all marble quarried at mines, said a senior police officer who worked in Buner.

At gas stations belonging to Mr. Mohammed, they pumped gas and drove off without paying, the officer said.

“No one dare ask them for payment,” he said.

The police were so intimidated they mostly stayed inside station houses, he said. “They are setting up a parallel government.”

With their success in Buner, the Taliban felt flush with success and increasingly confident that they could repeat the template, residents and analysts said. In the main prize, the richest and most populous province, Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, the Taliban are relying on the sleeper cells of other militant groups, including the many fighters who had been trained by the Pakistani military for combat in Kashmir, and now felt abandoned by the state, they said.

It would not be difficult for the Taliban to seize Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, by shutting down the airport and blocking the two main thoroughfares from Islamabad, a Western official with long experience in the province said.

At midweek, a convoy of heavily armed Taliban vehicles was seen barreling along the four-lane motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar, according to Mr. Sherpao, the former minister of the interior.   Across North-West Frontier Province, the Taliban are rapidly consolidating power by activating cells that consisted of a potent mix of jihadist groups, he said. In some places, the Taliban have entered mosques saying they had come only to preach, but in fact the strategy is to spread fear that pushes people into submission and demoralizes the police, he said.   

Everywhere, they have preyed on the miseries of the poor, saying that Islamic courts would settle their complaints against the rich. “Every district is falling into their lap,” Mr. Sherpao said.
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« Reply #415 on: April 27, 2009, 11:54:46 AM »

U.S.-NATO: Facing the Reality of Risk in Pakistan
Stratfor Today » April 27, 2009 | 1119 GMT
Pakistan is the primary channel through which U.S. and NATO supplies travel to support the war effort in Afghanistan. The reason for this is quite simple: Pakistan offers the shortest and most logistically viable overland supply routes for Western forces operating in landlocked Afghanistan. Once Pakistan found itself in the throes of an intensifying insurgency mid-2007, however, U.S. military strategists had to seriously consider whether the United States would be able to rely on Pakistan to keep these supply lines open, especially when military plans called for increasing the number of troops in theater.

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In late 2008, as Pakistan continued its downward spiral, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. David Petraeus began touring Central Asian capitals in an attempt to stitch together supplemental supply lines into northern Afghanistan. Soon enough, Washington learned that it was fighting an uphill battle in trying to negotiate in Russian-dominated Central Asia without first reaching a broader understanding with Moscow. With U.S.-Russian negotiations now in flux and the so-called “northern distribution network” frozen, the United States has little choice but to face the reality in Pakistan.

This reality is rooted in the Pakistani Taliban’s desire to spread south beyond the Pashtun-dominated northwest tribal badlands (where attacks against the U.S.-NATO supply lines are already intensifying) into the Pakistani core in Punjab province. Punjab is Pakistan’s industrial heartland and home to more than half of the entire Pakistani population. If the Taliban manage to establish a foothold in Punjab, then the idea of a collapsing Pakistani state would actually become a realistic scenario. The key to preventing such a scenario is keeping the Pakistani military, the country’s most powerful institution, intact. However, splits within the military over how to handle the insurgency while preserving ties with militant proxies are threatening the military’s cohesion. Moreover, the threats to the supply lines go even further south than Punjab. The port of Karachi in Sindh province, where U.S.-NATO supplies are offloaded from ships, could be destabilized if the Taliban provoke local political forces.

In league with their jihadist brethren across the border in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban and their local affiliates are just as busy planning their next steps in the insurgency as the United States is in planning its counterinsurgency strategy. Afghanistan is a country that is not kind to outsiders, and the overwhelming opinion of the jihadist forces battling Western, Pakistani and Afghan troops in the region is that this is a war that can be won through the power of exhaustion. Key to this strategy will be an attempt to make the position of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan untenable by increasing risk to their supply lines in Pakistan.

(click image to enlarge)

A Dearth of Security Options
As the pre-eminent global maritime power, the United States is able to sustain military operations far beyond its coastlines. Afghanistan, however, is a landlocked country whose inaccessibility prevents the U.S. military from utilizing its naval prowess. Instead, the United States and NATO must bring in troops, munitions and militarily sensitive materiel directly by air and rely on long, overland supply routes through Pakistan for non-lethal supplies such as food, building materials and fuel (most of which is refined in Pakistan). This logistical challenge is compounded by the fact that the overland supply routes run through a country that is trying to battle its own jihadist insurgency.

The deteriorating security situation in Pakistan now requires an effective force to protect the supply convoys. Though sending a couple of U.S.-NATO brigades into Pakistan would provide first-rate security for these convoys, such an option would be political dynamite in U.S.-Pakistani relations. Pakistan already has an extremely low tolerance for CIA activity and U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle attacks on its soil. The sight of Western forces operating openly in the country would be a red line that Islamabad simply could not cross. Even if this were an option, U.S.-NATO forces are already stretched to the limit in Afghanistan and there are no troops to spare to send into Pakistan — nor is there the desire on the part of the United States or NATO to insert their troops into such a dicey security situation.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David PetraeusEnlisting the Pakistani military would be another option, but the Pentagon has thus far resisted allowing the Pakistani military to take direct charge of protecting and transporting U.S.-NATO supplies through Pakistan into Afghanistan. The reasons for this are unclear, but they likely can be attributed (at least in part) to U.S. distrust for the Pakistani military-intelligence apparatus, which is heavily infiltrated by Islamist sympathizers who retain links to their militant Islamist proxies.

Instead, CENTCOM’s logistics team has given the security responsibility to private Pakistani security contractors. This is not unusual in recent U.S. military campaigns, which have come to rely on private contractors for many logistical and security functions, including local firms in countries linked to the military supply chain. In Pakistan, such contractors provide security escorts to Pakistani truck drivers who transport supplies from the port of Karachi through Pakistan via a northern route and a southern route into Afghanistan, where the supplies are then delivered to key logistical hubs. While this approach provided sufficient security in the early years of the Afghan campaign, it has recently become an issue because of increasingly aggressive attacks by Taliban and other militants in Pakistan.

STRATFOR is told that many within the Pakistani military have long resented the fact that Washington has not entrusted them with the responsibility to secure the routes. The reasons behind the Pakistani military’s complaints are twofold. First, the military feels that its authority is being undermined by the dealings between the U.S. military and local contractors. Even beyond these deals, the Pakistani military consistently expresses its frustration when it is not the chief interlocutor with the United States in Pakistan, and has done so as much when U.S. officials have met with local leaders in the country and with the civilian government in Islamabad.

Second, there is a deep financial interest on the part of the military, which does not want to miss out on the large profits reaped by private security contractors in protecting the supply routes. As a result, Pakistani security forces are believed to turn a blind eye and occasionally even facilitate attacks on U.S. and NATO convoys in Pakistan in order to pressure Washington into giving the contracts to the better-equipped Pakistani military. That said, it is unclear whether the Pakistani military could fulfill such a commitment since the military itself is already stretched thin between its operations along the Afghan-Pakistani border and its massive military focus on the eastern border with India.

Many of the private Pakistani security companies guarding the routes are owned by wealthy Pakistani civilians who have strong links to government and to retired military officials. The private Pakistani security firms currently guarding the routes include Ghazi Security, Ready Guard, Phoenix Security Agency and SE Security Agency. Most of the main offices of these companies are located in Islamabad, but these contractors have also hired smaller security agencies in Peshawar. The private companies that own terminals used for the northern and southern supply routes include al Faisal Terminal (whose owner has been kidnapped by militants and whose whereabouts are unknown), Bilal Terminal (owned by Shahid Ansari from Punjab), World Port Logistics (owned by Major Fakhar, a nephew of former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf), Raziq International, Peace Line, Pak-Afghan and Waqar Terminal.

While the owners of these security firms make a handsome profit from the U.S.-NATO military contracts, the guards who actually drive and protect the trucks ferrying supplies make a meager salary, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 rupees (under $65) per month. Not surprisingly, the security is shoddy, with three to five poorly trained and equipped guards usually spread throughout a convoy who are easily overrun by Taliban forces that frequently attack the convoys in hordes. Given their poor compensation, these security guards feel little compulsion to hold their positions and resist concerted assaults.

A Pakistani soldier stands guards on top of an armored personnel carrier on a street in Quetta on April 12The motivations for attacks against the supply infrastructure can vary. The Taliban and their jihadist affiliates are ideologically driven to target Western forces and increase the cost for them to remain in the region. There are also a number of criminally motivated fighters who adopt the Taliban label as a convenient cover but who are far more interested in making a profit. Both groups can benefit from racketeering enterprises that allow them to extort hefty protection fees from private security firms in return for the contractors’ physical safety.

One Pakistani truck driver relayed a story in which he was told by a suspected Taliban operative to leave his truck and come back in the morning to drive to Afghanistan. When the driver returned he found the truck on fire. Inadequate security allows for easy infiltration and manipulation by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which is already heavily penetrated by Islamist sympathizers. Drivers will often strike a deal with the militants allowing raids on the convoys in return for a cut of the proceeds once the goods are sold on the black market. One indication of just how porous U.S.-NATO security arrangements are in Pakistan is that the commander of the most active Taliban faction in Khyber agency, Mangal Bagh of Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), is allegedly a former transporter himself now using jihad as a cover for his criminal activities.

STRATFOR is not aware of any plans by the Pentagon to turn these security contracts over to the Pakistani military. It is even more unclear whether doing so would do much to improve the situation. If the U.S. military continues to rely on these contractors to guard the supply routes in the face of a growing Taliban threat, certain changes could be made to enhance the contractors’ capabilities. Already, U.S. logistics teams are revising the northern route by moving some of the supply depots farther south in Punjab where the security threat is lower (though the Taliban are attempting to expand their presence there). More funding could also be directed toward these security contractors to ensure that the guards protecting the convoys are properly trained and paid sufficiently to give them more of an incentive to resist Taliban attacks. Nonetheless, the current outsourcing to private Pakistani security firms is evidently fraught with complications that are unlikely to be resolved in the near term.

Karachi: The Starting Point
Both supply routes originate in Pakistan’s largest city and primary seaport, Karachi. The city is Pakistan’s financial hub and provides critical ocean access for U.S.-NATO logistics support in Afghanistan. If Karachi — a city already known to have a high incidence of violence — were to destabilize, the Western military supply chain could be threatened even before supplies embarked on the lengthy and volatile journey through the rest of Pakistan.

There are two inter-linking security risks in Karachi: the local ruling party — the Mutahiddah Qaumi Movement (MQM) — and the Islamist militancy. The MQM is a political movement representing the Muhajir ethnic community of Muslims who migrated to Pakistan from India. Since its rise in the 1980s, the party has demonstrated a proclivity for ethnic-driven violence through its armed cadres. While the MQM does not have a formal militia and is part of the Sindh provincial legislature as well as the national parliament, the party is very sensitive about any challenges to its power base in the metropolitan Karachi area and controls powerful organized crime groups in the city. On many occasions, clashes between MQM and other rival political forces have paralyzed the city.

STR/AFP/Getty Images
Armed Pakistani militantsIdeologically speaking, the MQM is secular and has been firmly opposed to Islamist groups since its inception. The party has been watching nervously as the Taliban have crept southward from their stronghold in the country’s northwest. In recent weeks, the MQM also has been the loudest political voice in the country sounding the alarm against the growing jihadist threat. The party is well aware that any jihadist strategy that aims to strike at Pakistan’s economic nerve center and the most critical node of the U.S.-NATO supply lines makes Karachi a prime target.

The MQM is particularly concerned that Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will try to encroach on its turf in Karachi. While the Waziristan-based TTP itself has very little presence in Karachi, it does have a jihadist network in the city that could be utilized. Many Taliban members come from Pashtun tribes and derive much of their political support from Pashtun populations. Karachi has a Pashtun population of 3.5 million, making up some 30 percent of the city’s population. Moreover, Karachi police have reported that Taliban members are among the “several hundred thousand” tribesmen fleeing violence in the frontier regions who have settled on the outskirts of Karachi.

Jihadists have thus far demonstrated a limited ability to operate in the city. In 2002, jihadists kidnapped and killed U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and attacked the U.S. Consulate. In a 2007 suicide attack on a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, jihadists killed a U.S. diplomat and injured 52 others on the eve of one of then-President George W. Bush’s rare trips to Pakistan. A host of Pakistani jihadist groups as well as “al Qaeda Prime” (its core leadership) have been active in the area, evidenced by the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, deputy coordinator of the 9/11 attacks, in Karachi in 2002.

Until now the MQM did not perceive the Taliban to be a direct threat to its hold over the city, but the MQM is now feeling vulnerable given the Taliban’s spread in the north. There has been a historic tension between the MQM and the significant Pashtun minority in Karachi. The MQM regards this minority with deep suspicion because it believes the Pashtuns could provide a safe haven for Pashtun jihadists seeking to extend their influence to the south.

In the wake of the “shariah for peace” agreement in the Swat district of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), tensions have risen between the MQM and the country’s largest Pashtun political group, the Awami National Party (ANP), which rules the NWFP and is the party chiefly responsible for negotiating the peace agreement with the Tehrik-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), the jihadist group in the greater Swat region. MQM’s 19 members of parliament were the only ones who did not vote in favor of the Swat peace deal, which has amplified its concerns over the threat of Talibanization in Pakistan. In response, TNSM leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad has declared parliamentarians who oppose the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation non-Muslims. The MQM is also trying to mobilize religious groups that oppose the Sunni Islamic Deobandi movement, particularly Barelvis, against the Taliban.

With rising Muhajir-Pashtun ethnic tensions, the MQM-ANP spat and the MQM’s fear of a jihadist threat to its authority, conditions in Karachi are slowly building toward a confrontation. Should jihadists demonstrate a capability to step up operations in the city, the MQM will show little to no restraint in cracking down on the city’s Pashtun minority through its armed cadres, which would lead to wider-scale clashes between the MQM and the Pashtun community. There is a precedent for urban conflict in Karachi, and it could cause authorities to impose a citywide curfew that would disrupt operations at the port and impede supplies from making their way out of the city.

The situation described above is still a worst-case scenario. Since Karachi is the financial center of the country, the MQM-controlled local government, the federal government in Islamabad and the Rawalpindi-based military establishment all share an interest in preserving stability in this key city. It will also likely take some time before Pakistani jihadists are able to project power that far south. Even a few days or weeks of turmoil in Karachi, however, will threaten the country’s economy — which is already on the verge of bankruptcy — and further undercut the weakened state’s ability to address the growing insecurity. So far, the MQM has kept its hold over Karachi, but the Taliban already have their eyes on the city, and it would not take much to provoke the MQM into a confrontation that could threaten a crucial link in the U.S.-NATO supply chain.

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« Reply #416 on: April 27, 2009, 11:55:26 AM »

The Northern Route
The northern route through Pakistan, used for transporting the bulk of U.S.-NATO overland supplies to Afghanistan, travels through four provinces — Sindh, Punjab, the NWFP and the tribal badlands of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) — before it snakes its way through the Khyber Pass to reach the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan.

Route Variations
Convoys generally travel on main north-south national highway N-5 or a combination of N-5 and N-55 from Karachi to Torkham, a distance that can range from approximately 1,325 kilometers to 1,820 kilometers. Most transporters say they prefer the combination of N-5 and N-55, which allows them to cut across Sindh by switching from N-5 to N-65 near Sukkur and then jumping onto N-55 at Shikarpur before heading into Punjab. A small percentage of trucks (some 5 percent) use a combination of national highways and what are called “motorways,” essentially expressways that allow for better security, have no traffic lights and avoid urban centers. These motorways also have fewer chokepoints and thus fewer opportunities for militant ambushes, but they also lack rest stops, which is why most convoys travel on the national highways.

Pakistani transporters tell STRATFOR that they typically decide on a day-to-day basis whether to go the longer N-5 route or the shorter N-55 route. If they feel the security situation is bad enough, they are far more likely to take the longer N-5 route to Peshawar, which reduces their risk because it goes through less volatile areas — essentially, less of the NWFP. With the Taliban rapidly taking over territory in the NWFP, trucks are likely to rely more heavily on N-5.

Once the trucks leave Karachi, the stretch of road through Sindh province is the safest along the entire northern route. Most of Sindh, especially the rural areas, form the core support base of the secular Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which controls both the federal and the provincial governments. Outside of Karachi, there is virtually no serious militant Islamist presence in the province. However, small pockets of jihadists do pop up from time to time. In 2004, a top Pakistani militant leader, Amjad Farooqi of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), who worked closely with al Qaeda Prime operational commander Abu Faraj al-Libi and was responsible for assassination attempts on Musharraf, was killed in a shootout with police in the town of Nawabshah in central Sindh.

Once out of Sindh and into Punjab province, the northern supply route enters the core of Pakistan, the political, industrial and agricultural heartland of the country where some 60 percent of the population is concentrated. The province is also the mainstay of the country’s powerful military establishment, with six of the army’s nine corps are headquartered in the key urban areas of Rawalpindi, Mangla, Lahore, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur and Multan.

This province has not yet witnessed jihadist attacks targeting the U.S.-NATO supply chain, but the jihadist threat in Punjab is slowly rising. Major jihadist figures have found a save haven in the province, evidenced by the fact that several top al Qaeda leaders, including the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were captured in various parts of Punjab, including Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Gujarat. Punjab also has witnessed a number of high-profile jihadist attacks in major cities, including suicide bombings in the capital, Islamabad, and its twin city Rawalpindi (where the military is headquartered) as well as manpower-heavy armed assaults in the provincial capital, Lahore, where teams of gunmen have assaulted both moving and stationary targets. The attacks have mostly targeted Pakistani security installations and have been conducted mainly by Pashtun jihadists in conjunction with Punjabi jihadist allies. The bulk of jihadist activity in the province takes place in the northern part of Punjab, closer to the NWFP border, where suicide bombings have been concentrated.

Pakistani soldiers guard trucks carrying NATO supplies on a street in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border on Jan. 1The Punjabi jihadist phenomenon was born in the 1980s, when the military regime of Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq aggressively pursued a policy of Islamization to secure power and weaken his principal opponent, the PPP, whose government he had overthrown to come to power. It was during the Zia years that Pakistan, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States, was heavily involved in backing Islamist militias to fight the Marxist government and its allied Soviet troops Afghanistan, where many of the Punjab-based groups joined the Pashtun groups and had their first taste of battle. Later in the 1990s, many of these Punjabi groups, who followed an extremist Deobandi interpretation of Sunni Islam, were used by the security establishment to support the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and to aid the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir. Sectarian groups like Sipah Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) were also developed to help the regime keep the Shiite minority in Pakistan contained.

Pakistan’s Afghan and Kashmiri jihadist project suffered a major setback with the 9/11 attacks against the United States and the American response. Caught between contradictory objectives — the need to align itself with the United States and to preserve its Islamist militant assets — Pakistan eventually lost control of many of its former Islamist militant assets, who then started teaming up with al Qaeda-led transnational jihadists in the region.

Most alarming for Islamabad is the fact that these groups are now striking at the core of Pakistan in places like Lahore, where brazen assaults were launched on March 3 against a bus carrying the Sri Lankan national cricket team and on March 30 against a police academy. These attacks illustrated this trend of Pakistan’s militant proxies turning against their erstwhile patron — first in the Pashtun areas and now in Punjab. The Lahore attacks also both involved multi-man assault teams, a sign that the jihadists are able to use a large number of Islamist recruits from the province itself.

Though Pakistan came under massive pressure to crack down on these groups in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have considerable influence in the Lahore region. Similarly, LeJ and JeM have growing pockets of support in various parts of Punjab, particularly in southern Seraiki-speaking districts such as Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan. One of the major causes of rising support for such jihadist groups in Punjab stems from a incident in 2007, when a clerical family hailing from the border region between Punjab and Balochistan led an uprising at Islamabad’s Red Mosque. The subsequent security operation to regain control of the mosque from the militants turned many locals against the military and into the arms of the Islamists.

While the major urban areas of Punjab have not been spared by jihadists, most jihadist activity in the province is concentrated closer to the provincial border with the NWFP. The route that travels along N-5 must pass through Wah, Kamra and Attock, the three main towns of northwestern Punjab. Each of these towns has been rocked by suicide attacks. Attock was the scene of a July 2004 assassination attempt against former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Kamra, home of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, an aircraft servicing and manufacturing facility, was the scene of a December 2007 suicide attack targeting a school bus carrying children of air force personnel. In August 2008 in Wah, a pair of suicide bombers struck Pakistan’s main ordnance factory.

There are indications that such jihadist activity could creep further south into the heart of Punjab and potentially target the U.S.-NATO supply chain. The Taliban are growing bolder by the day now that they have made significant territorial gains in the greater Swat region in the NWFP further north. As the security situation in the NWFP and FATA deteriorates, U.S.-NATO supply depots and terminals are being moved further south to Punjab where they will be safer, or so it is thought. However, locals in the area are already protesting the relocation of these terminals because they know that they will run a greater chance of becoming Taliban targets the more closely attached they are to the U.S.-NATO supply chain. These people have good reason to be nervous. The jihadists are now openly declaring grander intentions of spreading beyond the Pashtun-dominated periphery into Punjab, Pakistan’s core. Though it would take some time to achieve this, these jihadist groups would have a strategic interest in carrying out attacks against Western supply lines in Punjab that could demonstrate the jihadist reach, aggravate already intense anti-U.S. sentiment and hamper U.S.-NATO logistics for the war in Afghanistan.

The last leg of the northern supply line runs through the NWFP and the tribal badlands of the FATA. This is by far the most dangerous portion along the route and where Taliban activity is already reaching a crescendo.

Once in the NWFP the route goes through the district of Nowshehra before it reaches the provincial capital Peshawar and begins to hug Taliban territory. A variety of Taliban groups based in the FATA, many of whom are part of the TTP umbrella organization and/or the Mujahideen Shura Council, have taken over several districts in western NWFP and are now on Peshawar’s doorstep. There have been several attacks in Peshawar and further north in Charsaddah, where former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao twice escaped assassination at the hands of suicide bombers, and east in Nowshehra, where an army base was targeted.

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers inspect seized ammunition on Jan. 2Though suicide attacks have occurred in these areas, the Pashtun jihadists are not in control of the territory in the NWFP that lies east of Peshawar. All attacks on the northern route have taken place to the west of Peshawar, on the stretch of N-5 between Peshawar and the Torkham border crossing, a distance of nearly 60 kilometers where jihadist activity is intensifying.

Once the transporters reach Peshawar, they hit what is called the “ring road” area, where 15 to 20 bus terminals are located for containers coming from Karachi to stop and then head toward Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass. The area where the bus terminals are situated is under the jurisdiction of Peshawar district, a settled and relatively calm area. But when the trucks travel east on the Peshawar-Torkham road toward Afghanistan, they enter a critical danger zone. Some Pakistani truckers have refused to drive this stretch between Peshawar and the Khyber Pass for fear of being attacked. Militants destroyed a key bridge in February on the Peshawar-Torkham road, where there are a dozen of other bridges that can be targeted in future attacks. The most recent and daring attack on highway N-5 between Peshawar and Torkham was the March 27 suicide bombing of a mosque during Friday prayers that killed dozens of local political and security officials.

For those convoys that make it out of the Peshawar terminal-depot hub, the next major stop is the Khyber Pass leading into Khyber agency, where the route travels along N-5 through Jamrud, Landikotal and Michni Post and then reaches the border with Afghanistan. The border area between Peshawar district and Khyber agency is called the Karkhano Market, which is essentially a massive black market for stolen goods run by smugglers, drug dealers and other organized-crime elements. Here one can find high quality merchandise at cheap prices, including stolen goods that were meant for U.S. and NATO forces. STRATFOR sources claim they have seen U.S.-NATO military uniforms and laptops going for $100 in the market.

Khyber agency (the most developed agency in the tribal belt) has been the scene of high-profile abductions, destroyed bridges and attacks against local political and security officials. Considering the frequency of the attacks, it appears that the militants can strike at the supply chain with impunity, and with likely encouragement from Pakistani security forces. This area is inhabited by four tribes — the Afridi, Shinwari, Mullagori and Shimani. But as is the case in other agencies of the FATA, the mullahs and militia commanders have usurped the tribal elders in Khyber agency. As many as three different Taliban groups in this area are battling Pakistani forces as well as each other.

Militiamen of the most active Taliban faction in Khyber agency, Mangal Bagh’s LI, heavily patrol the Bara area and have blown up several shrines, abducted local Christians and fought gunbattles with police. LI is not part of Baitullah Mehsud’s TTP umbrella group but maintains significant influence among the tribal maliks. Mehsud is allied with another faction called the Hakimullah Group, which rivals a third faction called Amr bil Maarouf wa Nahi Anil Munkar (“Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”), whose leader, Haji Namdaar, was killed by Hakimullah militiamen.
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« Reply #417 on: April 27, 2009, 11:56:31 AM »

part three

Not all the Khyber agency militants are ideologically driven jihadists like Baitullah Mehsud of the TTP and Mullah Fazlullah of the TNSM. Some are organized-crime elements who lack religious training and have long been engaged in smuggling operations. When the Pakistani military entered the region to crack down on the insurgency, these criminal groups saw their illegal activities disrupted. To continue to earn a livelihood, many of these criminal elements were reborn as militants under the veil of jihad.

Trucks remain at a standstill on a road after Islamic militants destroyed a bridge in Khyber district on Feb. 3, 2009LI commander Bagh (the alleged former convoy driver) is uneducated overall, and never received any kind of formal religious education. He became the leader of LI two years ago when he succeeded Deobandi cleric Mufti Munir Shakir. Bagh stays clear of targeting Pakistani military forces and says his objective is to clean up the area’s criminal elements and, like his counterparts in other parts of the Pashtun region, impose a Talibanesque interpretation of religious law. This tendency on the part of organized-crime elements in Pakistan to jump on the jihad bandwagon actually runs the risk of weakening the insurgency. Because criminal groups are not ideologically driven, it is easier for Pakistani forces and U.S. intelligence operatives to bribe them away from the insurgency.

The Southern Route
The southern route into Afghanistan is the shorter of the two U.S.-NATO supply routes. The entire route traverses the 813-kilometer-long national highway N-25, running north from the port of Karachi through Sindh and northwest into Balochistan before crossing into southern Afghanistan at the Chaman border crossing.

About 25 to 30 percent of the supplies going to U.S.-NATO forces operating in southern Afghanistan travel along this route. Though most of the southern route through Pakistan is relatively secure, the security risks rise dramatically once the trucks cross into Afghanistan on highway A-75, which runs through the heart of Taliban country in Kandahar province and surrounding areas.

Once out of Karachi, the route through Sindh is secure. Problems arise once the trucks hit Balochistan province, a resource-rich region where ethnic Baloch separatists have waged an insurgency for decades against Punjabi rule. The Baloch insurgency is directed against the Pakistani state and is led by three main groups: the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the People’s Liberation Army. The BLA is the most active of the three and focuses its attacks on Pakistani police and military personnel, natural gas pipelines and civil servants. The Pakistani military deals with the Baloch rebels with an iron fist, but the Baloch insurgency has been a long and insoluble one. (Balochistan enjoyed autonomy under the British, and when Pakistan was created it forcibly took over the province; successive Pakistani regimes have mishandled the issue.)

Once inside Balochistan, the supply route runs first into the major industrial town of Hub (also known as Hub Chowki) and then into the Baloch capital of Quetta. These are areas that have witnessed a number of Baloch separatist attacks in recent years, including the December 2004 bombing of a Pakistani military truck in Quetta (claimed by the BLA), the killing of three Chinese engineers working at Gwadar Port in May of the same year and, more recently, the abduction of the head of the U.N. refugee agency (an American citizen) in February 2009 from Quetta. Although the Baloch insurgency has been relatively calm over the past year, unrest reignited in the province in early April after the bodies of three top Baloch rebel leaders were discovered in the Turbat area near the Iranian border. The Baloch separatist groups claim that the rebel leaders died at the hands of Pakistani security forces.

The Baloch rebels have no direct quarrel with the United States or NATO member states and are far more interested in attacking Pakistani targets. But they have struck foreign interests before in Balochistan to pressure Islamabad in negotiations. Baloch rebels also demonstrated the ability to strike Western targets in Karachi when they bombed a KFC fast-food restaurant in November 2005. Although the separatists have yet to show any interest in attacking U.S.-NATO convoys running through the region, future attacks cannot be ruled out.

The main threat along this route comes from Islamist militants who are active in the final 150-kilometer stretch of the road between the Quetta region and the Chaman border crossing. This section of highway N-25 runs through what is known as the Pashtun corridor in northwest Balochistan, bordering South Waziristan agency on the southern tip of the FATA.

Although the supply route traversing this region has seen very few attacks, the situation could easily change. A number of jihadists who have sought sanctuary from the firefights farther north as well as Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar and his Quetta Shura (or leadership council) are believed to be hiding in the Quetta area. The Pashtun corridor also is the stronghold of Pakistan’s largest Islamist party, the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam. In addition, the al Qaeda-linked anti-Shiite group LeJ has been engaged in sectarian and other attacks in the region. Northwestern Balochistan also is a key launchpad for Taliban operations in southern Afghanistan and is the natural extension of Pakistani Taliban activity in the tribal belt. Although the Baloch separatists are firmly secular in their views, they have been energized by the rise of Islamist groups fighting the same enemy: the Pakistani state.

A Worrisome Outlook
The developing U.S. military strategy for Afghanistan suffers from a number of strategic flaws. Chief among them is the fact — and there is no getting around it — that Pakistan serves as the primary supply line for both the Western forces and the jihadist forces fighting each other in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s balancing act between the United States and its former Islamist militant proxies is becoming untenable as many of those proxies turn against the Pakistani state. And as stability deteriorates in Pakistan, the less reliable the landscape is for facilitating the overland shipment of military supplies into Afghanistan. The Russians, meanwhile, are not exactly eager to make life easier for the United States in Afghanistan by cooperating in any meaningful way on alternate supply routes through Central Asia.

Jihadist forces in Pakistan’s northwest have already picked up on the idea that the long U.S.-NATO supply route through northern Pakistan makes a strategic and vulnerable target in their campaign against the West. Attacks on supply convoys have thus far been concentrated in the volatile tribal badlands along the northwest frontier with Afghanistan. But the Pakistani Taliban are growing bolder by the day and are publicly announcing their intent to spread beyond the Pashtun areas and into the Pakistani core of Punjab. The Pakistani government and military, meanwhile, are strategically stymied. They cannot follow U.S. orders and turn every Pashtun into an enemy, and they cannot afford to see their country crushed under the weight of the jihadists. As a result, the jihadists gain strength while the writ of the Pakistani state erodes.

But the jihadists are not the only ones that CENTCOM should be worrying about as it analyzes its logistical challenges in Pakistan. Islamist sympathizers in Pakistan’s security apparatus and organized crime elements can take — and have taken — advantage of the shoddy security infrastructure in place to transport U.S.-NATO supplies through the country. In addition, there are secular political forces in play — from the MQM in Karachi to the Baloch rebels in Quetta — that could tip the balance in areas now considered relatively safe for transporting supplies to Afghanistan.

The United States is becoming increasing reliant on Pakistan, just as Pakistan is becoming increasingly unreliable. There are no quick fixes to the problem, but the first step in addressing it is to understand the wide array of threats currently engulfing the Pakistani state.
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« Reply #418 on: April 27, 2009, 10:14:06 PM »

Woof Guro Crafty,

"Where's the plan?  WTF is the plan?"
I honestly couldn't tell you

"Do we the American people have what it takes to stay the course?"

"Does our President?"
No Comment.

"WTF is "The Plan"?"

"One example of a plan would be what retired Col Ralph Peters has suggested-- working from memory it was something like this:  Go in and kick ass, then leave while saying "Do something stupid again" and we'll be back even harder to kick your asses again."
Personally my all time favorite approach and the ideal approach to American foreign policy when people somewhere else act like idiots by flying planes into buildings and whatnot. 

"Another example of a plan would be to seek to establish democracy and women's rights..."
probably not going to happen in this neck of the woods anytime soon.

"...and defund the enemy by taking out the opium crops."
Then what about the poor farmers that need to feed their families by growing poppy?  If we piss them off by destroying their opium crop, they might go join the TB...  Not so fast!  They wont if the TB can't pay 'em.  Sure, they might be pissed at first but I guess they'll have to cultivate some other type of crop.  In reality they should be considered "enablers" or "auxilliary enemy forces" since they are in fact enabling the enemy to continue with their activities and they should be treated as the enemy.

"Another example would be to maintain a low grade war of indefinite duration keeping the AQ-Taliban distracted by by lobbing in Predators and the life."
So far it's not doing much

"Another example would be to take out Pakistan's nukes and come home."
Pakistan still has a "legitimate" government in place and is considered an "ally" to the U.S.

"As best as I can tell it is to:

1) Give less troops than required and lob predators until , , , what?
2) Not address the role of the opium trade in financing the enemy
3) Continue to maintain the fantasy of the Durand Line (i.e. that there is a border between Afg and Pak and not simply Pashtunstan)
4) Wonder WTF to do as Pak collapses.
5) Lack the will to go after Pak's nukes-- and certainly Secretary Clinton and his recent responses to North Korea's missile test bodes quite poorly here."

Maybe not the best courses of action to take but...
hell why not.  Seems like were getting pretty good at all of that stuff  rolleyes


Strike first, strike hard, no mercy
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« Reply #419 on: April 29, 2009, 08:30:59 AM »

Its the NYTimes.  Caveat lector!

Looks like it could be a major development.  Perfect timing in view of Krenz's point two above-- it would have been really nice if the President gave the generals the troops they tell him they need instead of half the number  angry


ZANGABAD, Afghanistan — American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations.

The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency. The additional troops, the centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to reverse the course of the seven-year war, will roughly double the number already in southern Afghanistan. The troops already fighting there are universally seen as overwhelmed. In many cases, the Americans will be pushing into areas where few or no troops have been before.

Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to reap as much as $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade, which now makes up 90 percent of the world’s total. That is enough, the Americans say, to sustain all of the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan for an entire year.

“Opium is their financial engine,” said Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. “That is why we think he will fight for these areas.”

The Americans say that their main goal this summer will be to provide security for the Afghan population, and thereby isolate the insurgents.

But because the opium is tilled in heavily populated areas, and because the Taliban are spread among the people, the Americans say they will have to break the group’s hold on poppy cultivation to be successful.

No one here thinks that is going to be easy.

Only 10 minutes inside the tiny village of Zangabad, 20 miles southwest of Kandahar, a platoon of American soldiers stepped into a poppy field in full bloom on Monday. Taliban fighters opened fire from three sides.

“From the north!” one of the soldiers yelled, spinning and firing.

“West!” another screamed, turning and firing, too.

An hour passed and a thousand bullets whipped through the air. Ammunition was running low. The Taliban were circling.

Then the gunships arrived, swooping in, their bullet casings showering the ground beneath them, their rockets streaking and destroying. Behind a barrage of artillery, the soldiers shot their way out of Zangabad and moved into the cover of the vineyards.

“When are you going drop the bomb?” Capt. Chris Brawley said into his radio over the clatter of machine-gun fire. “I’m in a grape field.”

The bomb came, and after a time the shooting stopped.

The firefight offered a preview of the Americans’ summer in southern Afghanistan. By all accounts, it is going to be bloody.

Like the guerrillas they are, Taliban fighters often fade away when confronted by a conventional army. But in Afghanistan, as they did in Zangabad, the Taliban will probably stand and fight.

Among the ways the Taliban are believed to make money from the opium trade is by charging farmers for protection; if the Americans and British attack, the Taliban will be expected to make good on their side of that bargain.

Indeed, Taliban fighters have begun to fight any efforts by the Americans or the British to move into areas where poppy grows and opium is produced. Last month, a force of British marines moved into a district called Nad Ali in Helmand Province, the center of the country’s poppy cultivation. The Taliban were waiting. In a five-day battle, the British killed 120 Taliban fighters and wounded 150. Only one British soldier was wounded.

Many of the new American soldiers will fan out along southern Afghanistan’s largely unguarded 550-mile-long border with Pakistan. Among them will be soldiers deployed in the Stryker, a relatively quick, nimble armored vehicle that can roam across the vast areas that span the frontier.

All of the new troops are supposed to be in place by Aug. 20, in order to provide security for Afghanistan’s presidential election.

The presence of poppy and opium here has injected a huge measure of uncertainly into the war. Under NATO rules of engagement, American or other forces are prohibited from attacking targets or people related only to narcotics production. Those people are not considered combatants.

But American and other forces are allowed to attack drug smugglers or facilities that are assisting the Taliban. In an interview, General Nicholson said that opium production and the Taliban are so often intertwined that the rules do not usually inhibit American operations.

“We often come across a compound that has opium and I.E.D. materials side by side, and opium and explosive materials and weapons,” General Nicholson said, referring to improvised explosive devices. “It’s very common — more common than not.”
Page 2 of 2)

But the prospect of heavy fighting in populated areas could further alienate the Afghan population. In the firefight in Zangabad, the Americans covered their exit with a barrage of 20 155 millimeter high-explosive artillery shells — necessary to shield them from the Taliban, but also enough to inflict serious damage on people and property. A local Afghan interviewed by telephone after the firefight said that four homes had been damaged by the artillery strikes.

Then there is the problem of weaning poppy farmers from poppy farming — a task that has proved intractable in many countries, like Colombia, where the American government has tried to curtail poppy production. It is by far the most lucrative crop an Afghan can farm. The opium trade now makes up nearly 60 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product, American officials say. The country’s opium traffickers typically offer incentives that no Afghan government official can: they can guarantee a farmer a minimum price for the crop as well as taking it to market, despite the horrendous condition of most of Afghanistan’s roads.

“The people don’t like to cultivate poppy, but they are desperate,” Mohammed Ashraf Naseri, the governor of Zabul Province, told a group of visitors this month.

To offer an alternative to poppy farming, the American military is setting aside $250 million for agriculture projects like irrigation improvements and wheat cultivation. General Nicholson said that a $200 million plan for infrastructure improvements, much of it for roads to help get crops to market, was also being prepared. The vision, General Nicholson said, is to try to restore the agricultural economy that flourished in Afghanistan in the 1970s. That, more than military force, will defeat the Taliban, he said.

“There is a significant portion of the enemy that we believe we can peel off with incentives,” the general said. “We can hire away many of these young men.”

Even if the Americans are able to cut production, shortages could drive up prices and not make a significant dent in the Taliban’s profits.

The foray into Zangabad suggested the difficulties that lie ahead. The terrain is a guerrilla’s dream. In addition to acres of shoulder-high poppy plants, rows and rows of hard-packed mud walls, used to stand up grape vines, offer ideal places for ambushes and defense.

But the trickiest thing will be winning over the Afghans themselves. The Taliban are entrenched in the villages and river valleys of southern Afghanistan. The locals, caught between the foes, seem, at best, to be waiting to see who prevails.

On their way to Zangabad, the soldiers stopped in a wheat field to talk to a local farmer. His name was Ahmetullah. The Americans spoke through a Pashto interpreter.

“I’m very happy to see you,” the farmer told the Americans.

“Really?” one of the soldiers asked.

“Yes,” the farmer said.

The interpreter sighed, and spoke in English.

“He’s a liar.”

« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 08:34:12 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #420 on: April 29, 2009, 11:44:17 AM »

Second post of AM

Pakistan’s Frontier Corps paramilitary unit and army sent troops, backed by fixed-wing aircraft, into Buner district in the North-West Frontier Province to flush out Taliban fighters, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas announced April 28. Abbas added that the army had completed another operation launched a day earlier in southern parts of the Dir district. Both these offensives come in the wake of the Taliban move to project power beyond Swat, especially into Buner, within days of the ratification of the Swat peace agreement.

Islamabad has oscillated between military operations and peace agreements with jihadist groups in the Pashtun northwest ever since the army first began operations in the Waziristan region in March 2004. Since then, the Talibanization has spread from the autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border deeper into the NWFP, with Swat becoming a major stronghold for Pakistani Taliban. After failing to defuse the insurgency in Swat with military operations, the state negotiated a “Shariah for peace” deal in hopes that it will help keep the Swat-based Taliban within the confines of the district.

(click image to enlarge)
Islamabad’s objective was bound to fail, however; not only do the Taliban have larger national and transnational ambitions, but the agreement itself was applicable to the greater Swat region, including the adjoining districts of Dir, Malakand, Buner,and Shangla. The vague nature of the implementation of the “Shariah” system in the area gave the Taliban the perfect opening to send militiamen into regions such as Dir and Buner.

Another problem with the deal is that it was made with the founder of the local Taliban group Tehrik-i-Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, who shares control of the Swat-based jihadists with his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. There are other Taliban factions, such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, in Swat. Furthermore, the Swat deal has encouraged the rise of other more localized Taliban commanders in the various parts of the greater Swat region who are not necessarily accountable to those with whom the NWFP provincial government cut a deal.

Meanwhile, there is a growing realization within the army and the government that while Islamabad lacks the capability and the comprehensive national strategy to deal with jihadists, the Taliban cannot be allowed to expand their operational sphere in the NWFP. Therefore, the short-term strategy is to keep the Pashtun jihadists boxed into Swat — hence the move to flush the Taliban out from those areas before they set up shop in the adjacent districts.

The problem is that this approach jeopardizes the peace agreement, which will widen the scope of the counter-insurgency offensive beyond Islamabad’s current wishes. Tactical-level operations devoid of any coherent strategic plan are unlikely to help in the long run, and Islamabad could soon find itself fighting jihadists for control of the province.
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« Reply #421 on: May 04, 2009, 11:07:55 AM »

Pakistan Strife Raises U.S. Doubts on Nuclear Arms
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy DAVID E. SANGER
Published: May 3, 2009
WASHINGTON — As the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda spreads in Pakistan, senior American officials say they are increasingly concerned about new vulnerabilities for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, including the potential for militants to snatch a weapon in transport or to insert sympathizers into laboratories or fuel-production facilities.

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Times Topics: Pakistan | TalibanThe officials emphasized that there was no reason to believe that the arsenal, most of which is south of the capital, Islamabad, faced an imminent threat. President Obama said last week that he remained confident that keeping the country’s nuclear infrastructure secure was the top priority of Pakistan’s armed forces.

But the United States does not know where all of Pakistan’s nuclear sites are located, and its concerns have intensified in the last two weeks since the Taliban entered Buner, a district 60 miles from the capital. The spread of the insurgency has left American officials less willing to accept blanket assurances from Pakistan that the weapons are safe.

Pakistani officials have continued to deflect American requests for more details about the location and security of the country’s nuclear sites, the officials said.

Some of the Pakistani reluctance, they said, stemmed from longstanding concern that the United States might be tempted to seize or destroy Pakistan’s arsenal if the insurgency appeared about to engulf areas near Pakistan’s nuclear sites. But they said the most senior American and Pakistani officials had not yet engaged on the issue, a process that may begin this week, with President Asif Ali Zardari scheduled to visit Mr. Obama in Washington on Wednesday.

“We are largely relying on assurances, the same assurances we have been hearing for years,” said one senior official who was involved in the dialogue with Pakistan during the Bush years, and remains involved today. “The worse things get, the more strongly they hew to the line, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got it under control.’ ”

In public, the administration has only hinted at those concerns, repeating the formulation that the Bush administration used: that it has faith in the Pakistani Army.

“I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday, “primarily, initially, because the Pakistani Army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands.” He added: “We’ve got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation.”

But that cooperation, according to officials who would not speak for attribution because of the sensitivity surrounding the exchanges between Washington and Islamabad, has been sharply limited when the subject has turned to the vulnerabilities in the Pakistani nuclear infrastructure. The Obama administration inherited from President Bush a multiyear, $100 million secret American program to help Pakistan build stronger physical protections around some of those facilities, and to train Pakistanis in nuclear security.

But much of that effort has now petered out, and American officials have never been permitted to see how much of the money was spent, the facilities where the weapons are kept or even a tally of how many Pakistan has produced. The facility Pakistan was supposed to build to conduct its own training exercises is running years behind schedule.

Administration officials would not say if the subject would be raised during Mr. Zardari’s first meeting with Mr. Obama. But even if Mr. Obama raises the subject, it is not clear how fruitful the conversation might be.

Mr. Zardari heads the country’s National Command Authority, the mix of political, military and intelligence leaders responsible for its arsenal of 60 to 100 nuclear weapons. But in reality, his command and control over the weapons are considered tenuous at best; that power lies primarily in the hands of the army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the former director of Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s intelligence agency.

For years the Pakistanis have waved away the recurring American concerns, with the head of nuclear security for the country, Gen. Khalid Kidwai, dismissing them as “overblown rhetoric.”

Americans who are experts on the Pakistani system worry about what they do not know. “For years I was concerned about the weapons materials in Pakistan, the materials in the laboratories,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who ran the Energy Department’s intelligence unit until January, and before that was a senior C.I.A. officer sent to Pakistan to determine whether nuclear technology had been passed to Osama bin Laden.

“I’m still worried about that, but with what we’re seeing, I’m growing more concerned about something going missing in transport,” said Mr. Mowatt-Larssen, who is now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Several current officials said that they were worried that insurgents could try to provoke an incident that would prompt Pakistan to move the weapons, and perhaps use an insider with knowledge of the transportation schedule for weapons or materials to tip them off. That concern appeared to be what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was hinting at in testimony 10 days ago before the House Appropriations Committee. Pakistan’s weapons, she noted, “are widely dispersed in the country.”

“There’s not a central location, as you know,” she added. “They’ve adopted a policy of dispersing their nuclear weapons and facilities.” She went on to describe a potential situation in which a confrontation with India could prompt a Pakistani response, though she did not go as far as saying that such a response could include moving weapons toward India — which American officials believed happened in 2002. Other experts note that even as Pakistan faces instability, it is producing more plutonium for new weapons, and building more production reactors.

David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security wrote in a recent report documenting the progress of those facilities, “In the current climate, with Pakistan’s leadership under duress from daily acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces and organized political opposition, the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question.” The Pakistanis, not surprisingly, dismiss those fears as American and Indian paranoia, intended to dissuade them from nuclear modernization. But the government’s credibility is still colored by the fact that it used equal vehemence to denounce as fabrications the reports that Abdul Qadeer Khan, one of the architects of Pakistan’s race for the nuclear bomb, had sold nuclear technology on the black market.

In the end, those reports turned out to be true.
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« Reply #422 on: May 04, 2009, 02:20:30 PM »

Second post of the day

London Sunday Telegraph
May 3, 2009

Taliban Planning To Down British Chinook

By Thomas Harding and Ben Farmer

The Taliban is planning a "show stopper" attack to destroy a British Chinook helicopter, defence sources have disclosed.

Insurgents are actively seeking to bring down one of the eight Chinooks operating in Afghanistan, which routinely carry more than 40 armed troops, in the hope it will weaken Britain's resolve to continue the campaign in Helmand.

In the last fortnight coalition forces have destroyed four anti-aircraft guns mounted on trucks averting a potential disaster.

Intelligence sources suggest that the Taliban's surface-to-air missiles have been made redundant by sophisticated jamming systems fitted to every British aircraft.

The insurgents have now resorted to the tactic of using AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) that was highly successful during Soviet occupation and are actively seeking to buy the weapons.

Using a twin barrelled 14.5mm cannons mounted on the back of a truck the Taliban would easily be able to destroy one of the eight slow moving Chinook helicopters operating in Afghanistan.

An operational helicopter commander said "any British helicopter" would be a high priority target for them but "a Chinook would be a great coup, a bonanza".

"We have been extremely lucky so far with a mixture of tactics and a combination of good risk assessment," he added.

"But as something that keeps me awake at night the loss of a Chinook would be the most recurring nightmare."

Every Chinook flight is always escorted by Apache attack helicopters as a further layer of security.

Within the space of 12 hours local villager reported two ZPU-1s (anti-aircraft guns) mounted on the back of pick-ups trucks were destroyed by US aircraft in the Nad-e-Ali district close to the town of Lashkar Gah where the British brigade headquarters is based and is frequently visited by Chinooks, often carrying VIPs.

The weapons were loaded and ready to fire in an area which has been a focus of heavy fighting between British forces and the Taliban in recent months.

A few days later the deadly twin-barrelled ZPU-2 model appeared on April 25 and was destroyed followed a day later by another ZPU-2 towed by a tractor that was taken out by Hellfire missiles fired from a Reaper drone.

The Taliban almost had a "spectacular" success when they hit a British Chinook which was carrying Gulab Mangal, the governor of Helmand, with AAA hidden in a wadi dry river bed. The pilot, Flt Lt Alex Duncan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for landing the aircraft safely after a round punched a large hole in a rotor and damaged the hydraulics.

As all four weapons were destroyed it has been difficult for forensic analysis to be carried out on their origins. But there is some intelligence that suggests the guns were of Chinese origin and might have been bought from arms dealers in Iran and slipped across established smuggling routes through its border into Afghanistan.

There is confirmed intelligence that Taliban have been in the market for AAA weapons for the last year and could have purchased the weapons from Hezbollah, Pakistan or even China. The insurgent's treasury has been substantially boosted by the opium trade that is said to raise £40 million for fighting.

"The destruction of this anti-aircraft weapon without a doubt saved the lives of Afghan and Coalition forces," said a US military spokesman.

Helicopters are critical in covering the vast distances in Helmand to deliver supplies, troops and medical evacuation.

Originally produced by the Soviet Union immediately after the Second World War, the single barrelled ZPU-1 and double barrelled ZPU-2 machine guns were feared by US helicopter pilots in the Vietnam War.
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« Reply #423 on: May 05, 2009, 08:06:13 AM »

Its the NYT, so caveat lector:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — President Obama is pouring more than 20,000 new troops into Afghanistan this year for a fighting season that the United States military has called a make-or-break test of the allied campaign in Afghanistan.

But if Taliban strategists have their way, those forces will face a stiff challenge, not least because of one distinct Taliban advantage: the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan barely exists for the Taliban, who are counting on the fact that American forces cannot reach them in their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

One Pakistani logistics tactician for the Taliban, a 28-year-old from the country’s tribal areas, in interviews with The New York Times, described a Taliban strategy that relied on free movement over the border and in and around Pakistan, ready recruitment of Pakistani men and sustained cooperation of sympathetic Afghan villagers.

His account provided a keyhole view of the opponent the Americans and their NATO allies are up against, as well as the workings and ambitions of the Taliban as they prepared to meet the influx of American troops.

It also illustrated how the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of many brands of jihadist fighters backed by Al Qaeda, are spearheading wars on both sides of the border in what for them is a seamless conflict.

The tactician wears a thick but carefully shaped black beard and a well-trimmed shock of black hair, a look cultivated to allow him to move easily all over Pakistan. He spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by his fellow Taliban members.

But on an array of issues, discussed over six months of interviews with The Times, he showed himself to be knowledgeable of Taliban activities, and the information he provided matched up consistently with that of other sources.

He was well informed — and unconcerned, he said — of the plans of the head of the United States Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus, to replicate in Afghanistan some of the techniques he had used in Iraq to stop the Sunni tribes from fighting the Americans.

“I know of the Petraeus experiment there,” he said. “But we know our Afghans. They will take the money from Petraeus, but they will not be on his side. There are so many people working with the Afghans and the Americans who are on their payroll, but they inform us, sell us weapons.”

He acknowledged that the Americans would have far superior forces and power this year, but was confident that the Taliban could turn this advantage on its head. “The Americans cannot take control of the villages,” he said. “In order to expel us they will have to resort to aerial bombing, and then they will have more civilian casualties.”

The one thing that impressed him were the missile strikes by drones — virtually the only American military presence felt inside Pakistan. “The drones are very effective,” he said, acknowledging that they had thinned the top leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the area. He said 29 of his friends had been killed in the strikes.

The drone attacks simply prompted Taliban fighters to spend more time in Afghanistan, or to move deeper into Pakistan, straddling both theaters of a widening conflict. The recruits were prepared to fight where they were needed, in either country, he said.

In the fighting now under way in Buner and Dir Districts, in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban are taking on the Pakistani Army in a battle that is the most obvious front of a long-haul strategy to destabilize and take over a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban are directly singling out the United States and NATO forces by sending guerrillas to assist their Afghan Taliban allies in ousting the foreigners from Afghanistan.

While to the Taliban those conflicts are one fluid and sprawling war, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has long presented a firm barrier for the United States.

Although Pakistan is an official ally of the United States, the Pakistanis will not allow American troops to cross the border from Afghanistan. They will also not allow the troops to be present as a fighting force alongside the Pakistani military in the tribal areas that Al Qaeda and the Taliban use as a base.

The United States has helped Pakistan and Afghanistan recently open a series of joint posts to share intelligence and improve border monitoring. But those efforts are slight when compared with the demands of a 1,600-mile frontier of unforgiving terrain.

Despite years of demands by American and NATO commanders for Pakistan to control Taliban infiltration, the Taliban tactician said getting his fighters over the border was not a problem. The Pakistani paramilitary soldiers from the Frontier Corps who guard the border were too busy looking after their own survival, he said.

He has already begun moving 80 Taliban fighters in four groups stealthily into Afghanistan in the past month to meet the new American forces, he said.

The tactician says he embeds his men in what he described as friendly Afghan villages, where they will spend the next four to six months with the residents, who provide the weapons and succor for the missions against American and NATO soldiers.


Page 2 of 2)

In March, he made a reconnaissance trip by motorcycle to Paktika Province in Afghanistan from Wana, the main city in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, to make sure the route was safe for his men. It was.

The main task for his first two groups of fighters will be to ambush convoys of NATO goods and soldiers on the Kandahar-Kabul highway, a major supply line for the allied war effort. “We want to inflict maximum trouble, to lower their morale, to destabilize,” he said.

His guerrillas, in their late teens to mid-20s, are handpicked for their endurance and commitment, he said. Some, like him, were trained by the Pakistani government as proxy fighters against India in Kashmir and have now joined the Qaeda and Taliban cause.

In a new twist, cameramen instructed to capture video of faltering American soldiers for propaganda DVDs are increasingly accompanying the guerrillas.

The tactician, a heavily built man who says he has put on weight in the past two years and is now too heavy and old to fight, said he was loyal to a commander named Mullah Mansoor.

In turn, Mr. Mansoor serves under the aegis of Siraj Haqqani, the son of a veteran Afghan mujahedeen leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The tactician worked mostly from Wana, where he owns a small business and where, he acknowledged, the American drone strikes had disrupted life. The threat of the drones had ended the custom of gathering in groups of 10 to 20 men to discuss the issues of the day. “The gossip has finished,” he said.

The relationship between the Pakistani Taliban and Qaeda operatives, most of whom are Arabs, is respectful but distant, according to his descriptions.

The Arabs often go to the bazaar in Wana. But they bristle when asked questions, he said. “They never tell us their activities,” he said.

But the Taliban are willing providers for Al Qaeda. “When they need a suicide bomber, like blowing up a government building, we provide it,” he said.

There was respect for the scale of Al Qaeda’s ambitions. “They have a global agenda, they have a big design,” he said.

The Taliban goal was more narrow. “Capturing Afghanistan is not an Al Qaeda mission,” he said. “It’s a Taliban mission. We will be content in capturing Afghanistan and throwing the Americans out.”

The Pakistani Taliban will fight as long as it takes to defeat the Americans, he said. At the end of this fighting season, he said, “We will have a body count, and we will see who has broken whose back.”
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« Reply #424 on: May 05, 2009, 08:19:43 AM »

OTOH, here's this, which somehow the NYT missed  rolleyes

I get back in August/September time. My next assignment is going to be at Camp
__________. Things are wild here. We got ambushed yesterday by about 40-60
Taliban. I was the lead vehicle and we saw guys running away, the gunner put the
.50 on them and then an RPG flew at us and then my gunner immediately opened up,
killing 4 right off the bat. The 2nd vehicle stopped in the kill zone because it
had been hit with several small arms, so I backed up and my gunner continued to
engage Taliban and vehicles, all three of our vehicles were stopped and engaging
the enemy for about 2-3 minutes while recieving fire. We finally got off the
objective and assessed our vehicles; our vehicles were several times, but no
injuries. We got back to our FOB and our Marine Special Forces guys told us that
had been told through a source of theirs that we had killed 15 Taliban and
destroyed two of their vehicles. Now, take in to consideration that we were only
9 Americans and 3 up armored HMMWVs. Now that's something to talk about.
I just wanted to share that war story with you, as it just happened yesterday.
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« Reply #425 on: May 05, 2009, 10:16:53 AM »

"President Obama is pouring more than 20,000 new troops into Afghanistan this year"

Just a note on political support for the wars, I notice most signs and stickers on liberal homes and cars that said "Stop the War" and "End the War" seem to be down.  Turns out it was more about who they were protesting than what they were opposing.
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« Reply #426 on: May 05, 2009, 11:04:31 AM »


Now that its BO's war, I wonder if they will cheer this story, which the NYT happened to miss as well?
I got back from my R&R leave about two weeks ago and have already been in two firefights with the Taliban. One of them was pretty funny. We were about to enter a narrow pass and decided to test fire our machine guns and automatic grenade launcher on a mountain side, and I'll be damned, but there was an ambush set there. Evidently, the Taliban thought we had seen them and
started to run off the hill. Well at that point it was just engaging the enemy from about 200 meters. Fun for us, not so much for them.
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« Reply #427 on: May 06, 2009, 04:30:47 PM »

WASHINGTON -- The Red Cross confirmed that "dozens" of Afghan civilians were killed in American airstrikes earlier this week, casting a pall over a high-profile summit between President Barack Obama and the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Red Cross said that women and children were among the dead in the western Afghan village of Granai. U.S. and Afghan forces in the area have been battling the Taliban militants who regularly ambush Afghan soldiers and police and execute local civilian officials.

American military officials in Kabul acknowledged that U.S. forces had been fighting in the village and said a joint U.S.-Afghan team traveled there Wednesday to begin investigating the incident.

In a statement, the Red Cross said that many of the dead civilians had been buried by the time its investigators made it to the village, making it impossible for the aid group to determine an exact casualty count.

"We know that those killed included an Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family," the head of the Red Cross team in Kabul, Reto Stocker, said. "We are deeply concerned by these events."

Washington Asserts Loyalty to Pakistan's Zardari Collapse of Pakistan Truce Worsens Refugee Crisis Afghan officials in Kabul said the death toll was at least 90 and could ultimately exceed 100. If those estimates prove accurate, the airstrike would be one of the bloodiest incidents since the start of the war in 2001.

Reports of the high civilian death toll in Granai threatened to overshadow the summit meetings here. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in Washington for the meetings, said the deaths were "unjustifiable and unacceptable" and promised to push Mr. Obama to take concrete steps to reduce the numbers of civilian casualties from American military operations.

Capt. Elizabeth Matthias, a spokeswoman for the American command in Kabul, said the incident began Monday when Taliban militants publicly executed three local government officials.

She said that Afghan security forces traveled to the village to investigate the incident and apprehend those responsible, only to come under attack by well-armed fighters. Fearful of being overrun and wiped out by the militants, the Afghans radioed for help to nearby U.S. forces, she said.

Capt. Matthias said an American quick response force went to the area, but was also attacked by the Taliban. The American troops called in airstrikes on locations believed to house the fighters taking part in the hours-long gun battle, she said.

The joint American-Afghan team investigating the incident will remain in the area at least through Thursday, she said.

The mounting civilian death toll from American airstrikes has stirred public anger in Afghanistan and caused a rift between Afghan and American officials.

Last year, Afghan officials said 90 civilians died in a U.S. strike on the village of Azizabad. The U.S. command initially denied that any civilians died, and then later acknowledged that 33 Afghans had been killed. The United Nations confirmed the higher death toll, and Afghan officials accused the U.S. of a whitewash.

At meetings Wednesday with top Afghan and Pakistani officials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed "my personal regret and certainly the sympathy of our administration" for the killing of any civilians in Afghanistan. Though she emphasized the U.S. still did not know all the circumstances, she vowed to conduct a joint investigation with the Afghan government of civilian deaths.

"Any loss of life, any loss of innocent life, is particularly painful," Ms. Clinton said, sitting between Mr. Karzai and Pakistani President Asef Ali Zardari. "I want to convey, to the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, that, you know, we will work very hard, with your governments and with your leaders, to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life. And we deeply, deeply regret that loss."

In Afghanistan Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived to talk to the troops, the Associated Press reported. Mr. Gates was scheduled to be in the country for two days. He planned to get a ground-level view of what U.S. troops need as they continue to push the Taliban south and try to stop extremists from crossing into the country over the Pakistan border.

"We have a new policy, a new strategy, a new ambassador, and we have a lot of new troops going into the area, and I just want to go out and see for myself how they're doing," Mr. Gates told reporters in Saudi Arabia Wednesday afternoon, shortly before flying to Afghanistan.
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« Reply #428 on: May 08, 2009, 11:01:32 AM »

I have no opinion on this, I offer it here simply as an interesting read.
Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

The only way to reach Viper Company of the 26th Regiment, First Infantry Division, is by helicopter. When I fly in, Capt. Jimmy Howell greets me. "I'm holding a shura [meeting of village elders]," he says. "We won't be shot at until they leave." The steep-sided Korengal Valley, 70 miles northeast of Kabul, is the scene of the war's fiercest fighting, claiming 57 American lives over the past three years.

Sure enough, an hour after the elders leave the shura, 30-millimeter shells strike the outpost. Cpl. Marc Madding, an Afghan army adviser, begins firing .50 caliber rounds at the enemy position, laughing as an Afghan soldier scurries from the latrine with shells bursting behind him. Capt. Howell adjusts mortar and artillery shells on the hillside, followed by an A-10 aircraft dropping 250-pound bombs. It's another afternoon in the Korengal, the hot spot in a district that's recorded some 1,990 similar engagements since mid-2005.

Overwhelming American firepower forced the wily fundamentalist insurgents to maintain a respectful distance. A few days earlier, an enemy unit had let down its guard and lost 15 combatants to a well-staged American ambush. Most of the fundamentalists killed were from villages that frequently receive food and medical aid from the U.S. Army outpost. The following day, an American soldier was killed outside a nearby village.

In what Rudyard Kipling called "the arithmetic of the frontier," fundamentalism and tribal hostility fuel persistent attacks, year after year, here in the Korengal. It's not well known stateside, but the Taliban are just one of many fundamentalist gangs waging war against our forces here. Like the U.S. Cavalry fighting the Apaches in the 19th century, it is problematical whether the Americans should push deeper into this treacherous valley or simply bottle up the local fighters.

Whatever the strategy in the Korengal, the broader war across eastern Afghanistan is showing signs of progress. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, commanding Joint Task Force 101, has deployed his forces in a 300-mile swath that runs from south of Kabul northeast to the Pakistan border. Partnered with Afghan units in over 100 patrol bases along the populated river valleys, JTF 101 has driven the fundamentalist fighters back into the hills and blocked the infiltration routes from Pakistan. The price for an AK-47 rifle smuggled in from Pakistan has doubled in the past four months. For Maj. Gen. Schloesser, the art of command hinges on applying sufficient power to prevent sanctuaries inside the remote valleys without diverting too much power from the populated areas. The restrained military goal is to control the majority of the population around Kabul and to the east, not to pacify the entire region.

The next challenge is to gain control over the southern portion of the country. In the next few months, 10,000 American soldiers and marines will join NATO forces down south. The steady gains by JTF 101 showed that enemy fighters are not fanatics determined to die. Similarly, by the fall the Taliban will be driven back from the populated areas in the south, as they have been in the east.

But as long as Pakistan is a sanctuary, U.S. forces here will be on the strategic defensive, no matter how skillful their military tactics. We can't stay forever. The basic question is: How to consolidate the battlefield gains? That depends upon how the mission is defined. President Barack Obama has avoided promising to build a vibrant democratic nation. "The achievable goal," he said recently, "is to make sure it [Afghanistan] is not a safe haven for terrorists." Such a minimalist policy can be achieved in one of two ways.

The first is to apply the classic counterinsurgency model: After the military push the enemy from a populated area, the police take over, while government appointees provide honest governance and basic services. This approach pursues the expensive nation-building that Mr. Obama has not endorsed. It requires thousands of additional police trainers and hundreds of civilian advisers in the districts. These advisers also serve as watchdogs against corruption, acting as a shadow government to restrain officials prone to skimming and payoffs. It's a sound approach that is slow and expensive.

The second option is to expand the role of the Afghan army to act as the facilitators and watchdogs of governance. Today, American commanders like Capt. Howell routinely participate in shuras or councils. They can gradually hand off such governance-related tasks to Afghan officers.

To do so requires funding a military pension plan conditioned upon retiring a generation of superannuated senior Afghan officers and promoting the younger generation. Afghan battalions would remain in set locales for years instead of rotating every few months as many now do. By homesteading, the Afghan army would develop sources to make arrests or deals beyond our ken. Unlike the police, they could ward off retaliatory attacks. In a de facto way, the military -- the most respected institution in Afghanistan -- would become the real backbone connecting the locals to the central government.

The new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan is retired Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who commanded the NATO force there a few years ago. While lacking presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke's flamboyance and adulatory press, Gen. Eikenberry doesn't ruffle feathers and understands the political-military dynamic. In 2004, for instance, he deftly removed control over the fledgling Iraqi army from the incompetent Coalition Provisional Authority. As our ambassador in Kabul, he can facilitate an expanded managerial role for the military in government activities while fostering the civilian political process.

If that sounds like double-talk, it is. An activist Afghan military is reminiscent of earlier eras of shadow military influence in Turkey (or in Pakistan, Jordan, Mexico, Argentina, etc.). During internal strife, however, many governments have expanded the powers of their military. It should not be the job of America to build a European-style democracy in Afghanistan. The Afghan military is more trustworthy than either the police or the civilian bureaucracy.

Capt. Howell of Viper Company has been called out of the Korengal for a few days to receive the U.S. Army's highest award for leadership. Then it's back into the fray. There's a price we must pay to ensure the Taliban don't reclaim Afghanistan. But let's not add to the cost by expanding our national objectives. We can't manage the skein of tribal loyalties and jealousies. The fastest way to reduce the size of our involvement is to build up the Afghan Army and quietly encourage it to play an active, expansionist role in governance.

Mr. West, a former combat marine and assistant secretary of defense, reports frequently from Iraq and Afghanistan. His third book on the Iraq war, "The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics and the Endgame in Iraq," was published last year by Random House.

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« Reply #429 on: May 08, 2009, 02:18:43 PM »

Second post of the day

FOR several years, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been trying to negotiate and reconcile with supposedly moderate elements of the Taliban to end the insurgency. This approach has failed every time. Thus it is puzzling to many Afghans that President Obama has also been talking about negotiating with “moderates.” Let’s hope that when the two men met in Washington this week, along with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, the idea of reaching out to the Islamic extremists was shelved once and for all.

After all, President Karzai’s efforts have simply revealed the weakness of the Afghan government and its international allies. Taliban spokesman have repeatedly demanded unacceptable conditions for talks, including the departure of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and the establishment of Shariah law.

Indeed, shortly after Mr. Obama raised the subject of reconciliation, the Taliban rejected his proposal, stating there were no extremists or moderate groups within their ranks. On this point at least, the Taliban are right. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, put it very clearly: “The Taliban were united under the leadership of Mullah Muhammad Omar. All the fighters follow and obey orders of one central command. The existence of moderates and extremist elements within the rank and file of Taliban is wishful thinking of the West and the Afghan government.”

What can be the purpose of talks with the Taliban? These men deprive women of their rights, throw acid in the faces of schoolgirls, reject religious freedom and oppose constitutional democracy. They also threaten to kill any Afghans who have worked with Western militaries and nongovernmental groups or had other contact with foreigners.

Is it possible, as some have said, that the Taliban have mellowed since being toppled in 2001? Muhammad Ibrahim Hanafi, a top Taliban commander, answered that question in an interview in March with CNN: “Our law is still the same old law which was in place during our rule in Afghanistan.”

The more President Karzai and his Western allies talk about reconciliation, the farther their public support will plummet. I returned to Afghanistan in 2001 after more than two decades in America and founded a manufacturing company with the intention of using part of its profits to help young women get an education. In the early days, the discussions at our organization’s meetings were dominated by talk of building schools and other big plans. Lately, however, the main topic has been the future of us women in Afghanistan under another Taliban regime. We know that there is not, and will never be, any “moderate Taliban.” Extremists and ideologues do not compromise.

The atmosphere has been made worse by the president’s signing of a family law affecting Shiite Muslims that places restrictions on when a woman can leave her house and states the circumstances in which she is obliged to have sex with her husband. I was part of a group of civil-society representatives who recently met with President Karzai to express our concerns about the law; he replied that he hadn’t known the full details when he signed it and promised to “fight for us” to have it amended. We’ll see. But his later statement that “there are no reconciliation processes” going on with the Taliban, which seems at odds with the facts, did not inspire much hope.

The family law and other governmental efforts to appease religious extremists are having one effect that reminds me of the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of 1979: Afghanistan is being drained of the people who would be most effective at putting it back together. It seems as if every group of Afghans that attends training programs in the West now returns just a bit smaller. Last year, the accountant and the top administrator of my factory left for the Netherlands with their families. My new accountant recently went to Islamabad, Pakistan, to meet with German Embassy officials about a possible visa.

This is a far cry from the 1960s and ’70s, when many Afghans, including my father and five of my uncles, studied abroad on scholarships but returned to work in the government or to start businesses and create jobs. That sense of nationalism has disappeared; unless we rediscover it, Afghanistan will become a failed state.

The only “reconciliation” strategy that is going to work is one between the Kabul government and the Afghan people. The key is making changes at the community level. Many local mullahs and citizens who have tolerated the Taliban in the past are open to working with a government that can protect them and help them find livelihoods. The government and its allies can best weaken the insurgency by better protecting the population, organizing local citizens’ groups to cooperate on economic development, and hiring more people from every part of the country into the growing Afghan Army and police force.

This is the only way that the reconcilables will be separated from the irreconcilables. We need to understand where Afghanistan’s true moderates are to be found, and not look for them in leadership positions of one of the most repressive organizations on earth.

Hassina Sherjan is the president of Boumi, a manufacturer of decorative products for the home, and the director of Aid Afghanistan for Education, a nonprofit group.
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« Reply #430 on: May 09, 2009, 05:12:31 PM »

The Pakistani army are readying for an urban battle unprecedented in the short history of its battle against the Taliban

Sana al Haq in Mingora and Declan Walsh in Islamabad
Saturday 9 May 2009 17.01 BST

The skiing season at Malam Jabba, Pakistan's only ski resort, is over. Yesterday the pistes echoed with the sound of explosions as fighter jets screamed overhead, part of the Pakistan military's intensifying campaign to dislodge the Taliban from the Swat Valley.

An hour's drive away in Mingora, the war-racked valley's main town, the Taliban and army are readying for an urban battle unprecedented in the short history of Pakistan's battle against the Taliban.

Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, today said the army was fighting for "the survival of the country", speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting.

The country's leaders, encouraged by the US, launched the full-scale offensive in Swat last week in order to halt the spread of Taliban control which had spread to districts within 60 miles of the capital. The battle has now been taken to the heart of the north-west region of the country which the Taliban has seized as its powerbase, and in particular to the beleaguered, frightened town of Mingora.

This once-bustling riverside community, nestled between orchards and rolling mountains, has become a hub of the dispossessed and the desperate. Since fighting erupted last Tuesday, following the collapse of a fragile peace deal, tens of thousands of frantic residents have fled, scrambling on to buses, cars and even rickshaws. They left behind a ghost city controlled by the Taliban, under siege from army mortar fire and helicopter gunship assaults, and tensed in the expectation of an army ground offensive that could lead to urban warfare reminiscent of Russian bids to clear Grozny, Chechnya, in 1999 and 2000.

At Mingora hospital yesterday embattled medics struggled to tend to dozens of residents injured by army shelling and stray gunfire. Riaz Khan, a 36-year-old teacher, his wife and two daughters occupied four of the beds, suffering shrapnel wounds to the arms and legs. His two other daughters were killed by an army mortar last week, he told an Associated Press reporter.

If, as expected, the army launches a major ground offensive to dislodge the Taliban, casualties are expected to rise on all sides. Yesterday the army said it had killed 55 fighters in clashes over the previous 24 hours. The Taliban have laid mines under bridges and along roads across the city. In some cases, wires trail from the bombs into houses where fighters, some fresh-faced teenagers, lie in wait.

Others have seized the tallest buildings, mounting rocket launchers on rooftops and taking cover behind water tanks. At the Continental Hotel, a former haunt of the local and foreign journalists, the rooms are occupied by fighters, the walls are pocked with bullet holes and many windows have shattered.

Education has always been a hot issue for the Taliban – last January they ordered the closure of all girls' schools – so it is perversely appropriate that the war is being fought between schools.On Thursday the Observer visited the Pamir building, which until recently housed the Educators School and College. It was filled with Taliban, their weapons trained on a contingent of soldiers located in a deserted school a few streets away.

The target is the last military bastion in the otherwise Taliban-controlled city, and the soldiers hunkered down inside also face fire from a second position: the Mullababa high school, on the far side of a desiccated riverbed. The army says that 15,000 members of the security forces are located in Swat, many under siege in two camps across the river Swat in Kanju village. One is located on the city golf course, where heavy artillery booms from the rutted greens; the other is inside an unused air strip that has been the target of several Taliban assaults.

The Taliban are bringing in fresh fighters, drawing others back from the Buner valley nearby, where they have been engaged in fierce combat for two weeks. To reach Mingora they pass along a mountain road that crosses the White Palace, a luxury hotel where the Queen stayed during a visit to Swat in 1961.

The army has scored some successes. Yesterday the body of Taliban commander Akbar Ali laid unclaimed in no man's land, a day after he was killed. An earlier rocket assault targeted Taliban fighters in a nearby emerald mine a few kilometres from the city. The mine was reopened a few months ago by Sirajuddin, a local commander with a scraggly gray beard whose previous job was as Taliban spokesman. He laid down strict rules – miners would pray at the appointed times, suffer the loss of an arm and a leg if they attempted to steal gemstones, and give one third of their takings to the Beit ul Mal, or Taliban treasury.

The mine provided rich, illicit pickings. One commander told the Observer he had sold half a million rupees worth of emeralds (£4,200) to a trader, one of about two dozen who came to the mine from Peshawar for a weekly auction. But the Taliban gravy train ground to a halt last Thursday when helicopter gunships pounded the mine, killing 35 militants, the army said.

On the plains to the south of the valley, in Mardan and Swabi districts, a humanitarian nightmare is brewing. More than 200,000 people have fled, another 300,000 are on the move or about to leave, according to the UN, adding to another 550,000 people displaced by earlier fighting in the tribal belt and Frontier province.

As aid workers rush to erect camps, supplies are limited and tempers quickly fray. Yesterday afternoon a riot briefly erupted in Sheikh Shahzad camp, near Mardan, as angry villagers looted UN supplies. Gilani appealed for international help with the ballooning humanitarian crisis that affects up to one million people, according to the UN. He promised the army would strive to end the crisis quickly – an outcome that appeared highly unlikely.

Not everyone has escaped. An unknown number of besieged residents remain trapped, unwilling or unable to leave their homes. Hunkered behind thin walls they survive with no electricity, dwindling water supplies and in fear of stray bombs and gunfire.

Those left behind fear what lies ahead. Reached by phone Khaista Bibi, 55, a resident, said she had hardly eaten in two days. "The situation seems impossible."
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« Reply #431 on: May 11, 2009, 11:45:54 AM »

Mideast Stars and Stripes
May 10, 2009

Taliban Command Of Afghan Terrain Makes Fighting Conditions Difficult

By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes

ZANGABAD, Afghanistan — Two companies of American soldiers accompanied Canadian forces on a recent four-day operation into Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district, where some of the sharpest fighting has occurred against the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan.

The American mission was to help secure a narrow dirt track that led to the village of Mushan, about 10 kilometers to the west, where the Canadians would tear down a small outpost that had been occupied since late 2006 by eight Canadian advisers and 60 Afghan soldiers.

According to U.S. and Canadian officers, the small force had not been able to do much to counter the Taliban in the area. The fort had been under frequent attack. So the troops would be pulled out as part of a new NATO strategy to reposition forces around Kandahar and other major population centers in southern Afghanistan.

By early afternoon on the third day, the mission was almost complete. The engineers had finished their work, and the armored column of more than 400 Canadians, 200 Americans and 100 Afghans was beginning to move out.

Then a Taliban bomb struck a Canadian tank, wounding two soldiers and putting the tank out of action.

There was no way for the rest of the convoy to move around the wreckage. The high-walled compounds and deeply trenched opium and wheat fields along the road gave almost no room to maneuver. With most of the column bottled up behind the disabled tank, the convoy was stalled for most of another day as recovery specialists worked to extract the vehicle.

"It’s amazing that 10 dudes with shovels can stop a whole battalion," said Capt. Chris Brawley, commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, commenting on how a single Taliban bomb had brought the convoy to a halt.

The column moved safely out of the area the next morning. Soldiers with Company A engaged in three firefights, but suffered no casualties. A soldier from Company D had been slightly injured in a blast, one of several bombs that had either exploded or been found along the route.

By any measure, the mission had been a success, but it bore out a fundamental challenge that U.S. and other NATO forces face in southern Afghanistan: While western troops have the technology, the Taliban own the terrain.

Although U.S. and NATO troops enjoy the edge over the Taliban in almost every respect — superior weapons, communications gear, tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and air support by fighters, bombers, helicopters and unmanned drones — those tactical advantages are often offset by terrain that favors guerrilla tactics and a lightly armed, highly maneuverable enemy.

"The fighting conditions here are amazingly difficult," said Brawley, 28, of Ellington, Mo. "The enemy pretty much has free rein down here, and there’s just endless places to hide."

Another complicating factor in the Mushan operation was that "there’s only one way in, and there’s one way out," said Brawley, allowing the Taliban to detonate bombs along the route that were probably buried weeks and months ago.

Panjwayi district lies about 40 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital of Kandahar and has long been considered a Taliban stronghold. During Operation Medusa in 2006, Canadian and other NATO forces fought one of the bloodiest battles so far of the eight-year-old Afghan war in Panjwayi and nearby Zhari district.

The area is heavily cultivated with wheat, grapes, opium, marijuana and other crops. The fields are partitioned by thick mud walls, and irrigation ditches crisscross the landscape like a maze. A group of soldiers on patrol in a grape field can suddenly drop six to 10 feet into a series of trenches in which an enemy can move undetected.

Rows of open slats in the two-story structures the soldiers refer to as "grape huts" offer the Taliban ready-made firing ports that they use to fire on NATO forces from concealed positions. The thick mud walls of the buildings can withstand multiple hits from all but the heaviest ordnance.

"[The enemy] definitely has the advantage down here," said Company A 1st Sgt. Christopher Kowalewski, 36, of Chicago. "[Despite] all of the technology that we have — all of our helicopters — he still has the advantage down here."

Soldiers from Company A engaged in three gunbattles with Taliban fighters over a two-day period during the Mushan operation. An estimated 10 fighters ambushed about 30 soldiers on the first day, keeping them pinned down for about two hours. The firefight ended only after American troops called for mortar and artillery fire, support from Kiowa helicopter gunships and, finally, an airstrike.

At one point, the Taliban were firing on the Americans from three sides. First Lt. Ashton Ballesteros, of 3 Delta platoon, said Canadian troops familiar with Taliban tactics in the area had told him the fighters typically "cloverleaf" around NATO forces during a fight, probing for weak spots.

"That’s exactly what they were trying to do to us," said Ballesteros, 24, of Grayson, Ga.

U.S. mortar teams fired more than 30 rounds of 60 mm high explosives and nearly 30 rounds of white-phosphorous smoke, according to Staff Sgt. Jason Calman, 27, of Las Vegas. Fire batteries at a nearby Canadian camp fired nearly 30 rounds of high-explosive 155 mm artillery rounds and another 18 rounds of white-phosphorous smoke. A NATO jet dropped a 500-pound bomb.

The soldiers used the smoke to cover their retreat. They made their way back to their patrol base through fields of wheat, opium and grapes, the latter with trenches that were deeper than the soldiers were tall.

"You could sit out an artillery barrage in this stuff and probably survive everything but a direct hit," one soldier said during a short rest break.

A second gunbattle broke out a couple of kilometers to the south when 2nd Platoon of Company A was ambushed by another group of Taliban fighters. The platoon was hit for a second time the next day not more than 100 meters from its patrol base.

An Afghan man with a child was spotted several times at various points during the second day’s action. The soldiers believed the man was acting as spotter for the Taliban and using the child as a shield.

"They know we’re not going to shoot him when he’s with a kid," said 1st Lt. Jared Wagner, 25, of Hillsborough, N.J. "It’s frustrating."

With so much Taliban activity around Zangabad and Mushan, Brawley predicted that NATO forces would have to "retake this whole area" at some point.

With Canadian forces scaling back their presence in Panjwayi and with more American forces coming into the south, that job will very likely fall to U.S. troops.
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« Reply #432 on: May 11, 2009, 07:03:41 PM »

The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan
May 11, 2009

By George Friedman

After U.S. airstrikes killed scores of civilians in western Afghanistan this past week, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones said the United States would continue with the airstrikes and would not tie the hands of U.S. generals fighting in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus has cautioned against using tactics that undermine strategic U.S. goals in Afghanistan — raising the question of what exactly are the U.S. strategic goals in Afghanistan. A debate inside the U.S. camp has emerged over this very question, the outcome of which is likely to determine the future of the region.

On one side are President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a substantial amount of the U.S. Army leadership. On the other side are Petraeus — the architect of U.S. strategy in Iraq after 2006 — and his staff and supporters. An Army general — even one with four stars — is unlikely to overcome a president and a defense secretary; even the five-star Gen. Douglas MacArthur couldn’t pull that off. But the Afghan debate is important, and it provides us with a sense of future U.S. strategy in the region.

Petraeus and U.S. Strategy in Iraq
Petraeus took over effective command of coalition forces in Iraq in 2006. Two things framed his strategy. One was the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm congressional elections, which many saw as a referendum on the Iraq war. The second was the report by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan group of elder statesmen (including Gates) that recommended some fundamental changes in how the war was fought.

The expectation in November 2006 was that as U.S. President George W. Bush’s strategy had been repudiated, his only option was to begin withdrawing troops. Even if Bush didn’t begin this process, it was expected that his successor in two years certainly would have to do so. The situation was out of control, and U.S. forces did not seem able to assert control. The goals of the 2003 invasion, which were to create a pro-American regime in Baghdad, redefine the political order of Iraq and use Iraq as a base of operations against hostile regimes in the region, were unattainable. It did not seem possible to create any coherent regime in Baghdad at all, given that a complex civil war was under way that the United States did not seem able to contain.

Most important, groups in Iraq believed that the United States would be leaving. Therefore, political alliance with the United States made no sense, as U.S. guarantees would be made moot by withdrawal. The expectation of an American withdrawal sapped U.S. political influence, while the breadth of the civil war and its complexity exhausted the U.S. Army. Defeat had been psychologically locked in.

Bush’s decision to launch a surge of forces in Iraq was less a military event than a psychological one. Militarily, the quantity of forces to be inserted — some 30,000 on top of a force of 120,000 — did not change the basic metrics of war in a country of about 29 million. Moreover, the insertion of additional troops was far from a surge; they trickled in over many months. Psychologically, however, it was stunning. Rather than commence withdrawals as so many expected, the United States was actually increasing its forces. The issue was not whether the United States could defeat all of the insurgents and militias; that was not possible. The issue was that because the United States was not leaving, the United States was not irrelevant. If the United States was not irrelevant, then at least some American guarantees could have meaning. And that made the United States a political actor in Iraq.

Petraeus combined the redeployment of some troops with an active political program. At the heart of this program was reaching out to the Sunni insurgents, who had been among the most violent opponents of the United States during 2003-2006. The Sunni insurgents represented the traditional leadership of the mainstream Sunni tribes, clans and villages. The U.S. policy of stripping the Sunnis of all power in 2003 and apparently leaving a vacuum to be filled by the Shia had left the Sunnis in a desperate situation, and they had moved to resistance as guerrillas.

The Sunnis actually were trapped by three forces. First, there were the Americans, always pressing on the Sunnis even if they could not crush them. Second, there were the militias of the Shia, a group that the Sunni Saddam Hussein had repressed and that now was suspicious of all Sunnis. Third, there were the jihadists, a foreign legion of Sunni fighters drawn to Iraq under the banner of al Qaeda. In many ways, the jihadists posed the greatest threat to the mainstream Sunnis, since they wanted to seize leadership of the Sunni communities and radicalize them.

U.S. policy under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been unbending hostility to the Sunni insurgency. The policy under Gates and Petraeus after 2006 — and it must be understood that they developed this strategy jointly — was to offer the Sunnis a way out of their three-pronged trap. Because the United States would be staying in Iraq, it could offer the Sunnis protection against both the jihadists and the Shia. And because the surge convinced the Sunnis that the United States was not going to withdraw, they took the deal. Petraeus’ great achievement was presiding over the U.S.-Sunni negotiations and eventual understanding, and then using that to pressure the Shiite militias with the implicit threat of a U.S.-Sunni entente. The Shia subsequently and painfully shifted their position to accepting a coalition government, the mainstream Sunnis helped break the back of the jihadists and the civil war subsided, allowing the United States to stage a withdrawal under much more favorable circumstances.

This was a much better outcome than most would have thought possible in 2006. It was, however, an outcome that fell far short of American strategic goals of 2003. The current government in Baghdad is far from pro-American and is unlikely to be an ally of the United States; keeping it from becoming an Iranian tool would be the best outcome for the United States at this point. The United States certainly is not about to reshape Iraqi society, and Iraq is not likely to be a long-term base for U.S. offensive operations in the region.

Gates and Petraeus produced what was likely the best possible outcome under the circumstances. They created the framework for a U.S. withdrawal in a context other than a chaotic civil war, they created a coalition government, and they appear to have blocked Iranian influence in Iraq. But these achievements remain uncertain. The civil war could resume. The coalition government might collapse. The Iranians might become the dominant force in Baghdad. But these unknowns are enormously better than the outcomes expected in 2006. At the same time, snatching uncertainty from the jaws of defeat is not the same as victory.

Afghanistan and Lessons from Iraq
Petraeus is arguing that the strategy pursued in Iraq should be used as a blueprint in Afghanistan, and it appears that Obama and Gates have raised a number of important questions in response. Is the Iraqi solution really so desirable? If it is desirable, can it be replicated in Afghanistan? What level of U.S. commitment would be required in Afghanistan, and what would this cost in terms of vulnerabilities elsewhere in the world? And finally, what exactly is the U.S. goal in Afghanistan?

In Iraq, Gates and Petraeus sought to create a coalition government that, regardless of its nature, would facilitate a U.S. withdrawal. Obama and Gates have stated that the goal in Afghanistan is the defeat of al Qaeda and the denial of bases for the group in Afghanistan. This is a very different strategic goal than in Iraq, because this goal does not require a coalition government or a reconciliation of political elements. Rather, it requires an agreement with one entity: the Taliban. If the Taliban agree to block al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, the United States will have achieved its goal. Therefore, the challenge in Afghanistan is using U.S. power to give the Taliban what they want — a return to power — in exchange for a settlement on the al Qaeda question.

In Iraq, the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds all held genuine political and military power. In Afghanistan, the Americans and the Taliban have this power, though many other players have derivative power from the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; where al-Maliki had his own substantial political base, Karzai is someone the Americans invented to become a focus for power in the future. But the future has not come. The complexities of Iraq made a coalition government possible there, but in many ways, Afghanistan is both simpler and more complex. The country has a multiplicity of groups, but in the end only one insurgency that counts.

Petraeus argues that the U.S. strategic goal — blocking al Qaeda in Afghanistan — cannot be achieved simply through an agreement with the Taliban. In this view, the Taliban are not nearly as divided as some argue, and therefore their factions cannot be played against each other. Moreover, the Taliban cannot be trusted to keep their word even if they give it, which is not likely.

From Petraeus’ view, Gates and Obama are creating the situation that existed in pre-surge Iraq. Rather than stunning Afghanistan psychologically with the idea that the United States is staying, thereby causing all the parties to reconsider their positions, Obama and Gates have done the opposite. They have made it clear that Washington has placed severe limits on its willingness to invest in Afghanistan, and made it appear that the United States is overly eager to make a deal with the one group that does not need a deal: the Taliban.

Gates and Obama have pointed out that there is a factor in Afghanistan for which there was no parallel in Iraq — namely, Pakistan. While Iran was a factor in the Iraqi civil war, the Taliban are as much a Pakistani phenomenon as an Afghan one, and the Pakistanis are neither willing nor able to deny the Taliban sanctuary and lines of supply. So long as Pakistan is in the condition it is in — and Pakistan likely will stay that way for a long time — the Taliban have time on their side and no reason to split, and are likely to negotiate only on their terms.

There is also a military fear. Petraeus brought U.S. troops closer to the population in Iraq, and he is doing this in Afghanistan as well. U.S. forces in Afghanistan are deployed in firebases. These relatively isolated positions are vulnerable to massed Taliban forces. U.S. airpower can destroy these concentrations, so long as they are detected in time and attacked before they close in on the firebases. Ominously for the United States, the Taliban do not seem to have committed anywhere near the majority of their forces to the campaign.

This military concern is combined with real questions about the endgame. Gates and Obama are not convinced that the endgame in Iraq, perhaps the best outcome that was possible there, is actually all that desirable for Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, this outcome would leave the Taliban in power in the end. No amount of U.S. troops could match the Taliban’s superior intelligence capability, their knowledge of the countryside and their willingness to take casualties in pursuing their ends, and every Afghan security force would be filled with Taliban agents.

And there is a deeper issue yet that Gates has referred to: the Russian experience in Afghanistan. The Petraeus camp is vehement that there is no parallel between the Russian and American experience; in this view, the Russians tried to crush the insurgents, while the Americans are trying to win them over and end the insurgency by convincing the Taliban’s supporters and reaching a political accommodation with their leaders. Obama and Gates are less sanguine about the distinction — such distinctions were made in Vietnam in response to the question of why the United States would fare better in Southeast Asia than the French did. From the Obama and Gates point of view, a political settlement would call for either a constellation of forces in Afghanistan favoring some accommodation with the Americans, or sufficient American power to compel accommodation. But it is not clear to Obama and Gates that either could exist in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, Petraeus is charging that Obama and Gates are missing the chance to repeat what was done in Iraq, while Obama and Gates are afraid Petraeus is confusing success in Iraq with a universal counterinsurgency model. To put it differently, they feel that while Petraeus benefited from fortuitous circumstances in Iraq, he quickly could find himself hopelessly bogged down in Afghanistan. The Pentagon on May 11 announced that U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David McKiernan would be replaced, less than a year after he took over, with Lt. Gen. Stan McChrystal. McKiernan’s removal could pave the way for a broader reshuffling of Afghan strategy by the Obama administration.

The most important issues concern the extent to which Obama wants to stake his presidency on Petraeus’ vision in Afghanistan, and how important Afghanistan is to U.S. grand strategy. Petraeus has conceded that al Qaeda is in Pakistan. Getting the group out of Pakistan requires surgical strikes. Occupation and regime change in Pakistan are way beyond American abilities. The question of what the United States expects to win in Afghanistan — assuming it can win anything there — remains.

In the end, there is never a debate between U.S. presidents and generals. Even MacArthur discovered that. It is becoming clear that Obama is not going to bet all in Afghanistan, and that he sees Afghanistan as not worth the fight. Petraeus is a soldier in a fight, and he wants to win. But in the end, as Clausewitz said, war is an extension of politics by other means. As such, generals tend to not get their way.

« Reply #433 on: May 13, 2009, 12:36:13 PM »

McChrystal and Direct Action

Posted by Benjamin H. Friedman

Fred Kaplan and the New York Times say that the decision to replace General David McKiernan with Lt. General Stan McChrystal as the principle US commander in Afghanistan is another step in the COINification of the Pentagon under Robert Gates. They say we’ve replaced a conventional warfare guy with an unconventional warfare guy.

That’s too simple. McChrystal is known for his mastery of the sharp or kinetic end of the counterinsurgency mission. The command he headed from 2003 to 2008 – Joint Special Operations Command — is essentially the operational component of Special Operations Command, which has really become a fifth service. JSOC organizes special operations missions in war zones.  According to many officers, JSOC has also become enraptured with direct action. That means using intelligence from various sources to plan raids, often kicking down doors in the dead of night, interrogating people to generate more intelligence, doing it again immediately, and eventually capturing or killing insurgent leaders with the intelligence gleaned.

Bob Woodward’s latest book argues that JSOC’s role in employing these tactics in Iraq was crucial to the supposed success of the surge. But some informed observers beg to differ, arguing that standard counterinsurgency tactics and the contributions of Iraqis themselves mattered far more.  Some complain that JSOC’s aggressive tactics and limited coordination with those in the regular chain of command undermined pacification efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the (recently released!) book on the post Cold War evolution of the US military that I co-edited, Colin Jackson and Austin Long have a chapter discussing the politics of special operations command. They argue that the direct action theory of victory in counterinsurgency is a close relative to the air force’s theory of decapitation, which says you can defeat a nation by attacking its leaders from the air.  They explain that direct action has long been the favored tactic of secret or “black” SOF organizations like Delta Force, but that the wars made it the dominant mission in SOCOM as a whole, crowding traditional “white” counterinsurgency missions like population protection, force training, and civil affairs. To them, that is a problem, because the direct action theory of victory is badly flawed.  You can’t kill your way to victory in these sorts of wars, they argue. That’s particularly true in Afghanistan, I’d add, where distance and poor roads make the exploitation of intelligence far more time-consuming.

I don’t know to what extent McChrystal shares the black SOF worldview. He would probably say that direct action is just part of the toolkit.  It is possible, however, that his appointment reflects a decision to downplay nation-building in Afghanistan and focus more on killing raids and training Afghan soldiers.

It is also interesting to speculate about what Michael Vickers (the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities) had to say about this. Vickers — a key advisor to Gates and a carry-over from the Bush administration — is said to be skeptical about troop surges in counterinsurgency, preferring to train local forces.

According to Greg Grant of DoD Buzz:

In a speech before a defense industry gathering last month, Vickers said he foresees a shift over time from the manpower intensive counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan to more “distributed operations across the world,” relying on close to 100 small teams of special operations forces to hunt down terrorist networks, part of a “global radical Islamist insurgency.”

I don’t like the across the world part, but if this appointment means more limited objectives in Afghanistan, it’s good news.

A final note on McChrystal: he reportedly runs many miles a day, sleeps only a few hours, and avoids eating until evening to avoid sluggishness. Apparently the iron-man thing goes over well with Rangers, but I think commanders, whose job is mostly thinking, should get a good night’s sleep and three square.

Benjamin H. Friedman • May 13, 2009 @ 8:40 am
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« Reply #434 on: May 16, 2009, 09:04:50 AM »

(CNN) -- A Vietnam War veteran killed in an Iraq roadside bombing this week has become the oldest American service member to be killed in either Iraq or Afghan combat, the Pentagon has confirmed.

 Maj. Steven Hutchison -- a 60-year-old soldier from Scottsdale, Arizona -- died Sunday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after a bomb went off near his vehicle in the region.

Hutchison spanned two war eras. He enlisted in the Army at 19 and served in Vietnam, according to a news report on CNN affiliate KNXV-TV.

Hutchison wanted to serve again after the September 11 attacks, but his wife opposed that.

His wife died of breast cancer in 2006, and Hutchison was "devastated," his brother Richard Hutchison told KNXV.

Steve Hutchison jogged, got into great physical shape and returned to Army active duty at age 57 in Afghanistan and then Iraq.

He had been assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.

"He's been a soldier his whole life," Richard Hutchison said
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« Reply #435 on: May 20, 2009, 05:47:14 AM »

As noted in the Nuclear War thread, it appears that our money is financing intensification of Pak's nuke program.  Now, surprise!, it appears we are arming the Taliban.   cry cry cry  God bless our troops and keep them safe.


KABUL — Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.

Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

The presence of this ammunition among the dead in the Korangal Valley, an area of often fierce fighting near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, strongly suggests that munitions procured by the Pentagon have leaked from Afghan forces for use against American troops.

The scope of that diversion remains unknown, and the 30 magazines represented a single sampling of fewer than 1,000 cartridges. But military officials, arms analysts and dealers say it points to a worrisome possibility: With only spotty American and Afghan controls on the vast inventory of weapons and ammunition sent into Afghanistan during an eight-year conflict, poor discipline and outright corruption among Afghan forces may have helped insurgents stay supplied.

The United States has been criticized, as recently as February by the federal Government Accountability Office, for failing to account for thousands of rifles issued to Afghan security forces. Some of these weapons have been documented in insurgents’ hands, including weapons in a battle last year in which nine Americans died.

In response, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, the American-led unit tasked with training and supplying Afghan forces, said it had made accountability of all Afghan police and military property a top priority, and taken steps to locate and log rifles issued even years ago. The Pentagon has created a database of small arms issued to Afghan units.

No similarly thorough accountability system exists for ammunition, which is harder to trace and more liquid than firearms, readily changing hands through corruption, illegal sales, theft, battlefield loss and other forms of diversion.

American forces do not examine all captured arms and munitions to trace how insurgents obtained them, or to determine whether the Afghan government, directly or indirectly, is a significant Taliban supplier, military officers said.

The reasons include limited resources and institutional memory of issued arms, as well as an absence of collaboration between field units that collect equipment and the investigators and supervisors in Kabul who could trace it.

In this case, the rifle magazines were captured last month by a platoon in Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry, which killed at least 13 insurgents in a nighttime ambush in eastern Afghanistan. The soldiers searched the insurgents’ remains and collected 10 rifles, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, 30 magazines and other equipment.

Access to Taliban equipment is unusual. But after the ambush, the company allowed the items to be examined by this reporter.

Photographs were taken of the weapons’ serial numbers and markings on the bottoms of the cartridge casings, known as headstamps, which can reveal where and when ammunition was manufactured. The headstamps were then compared with ammunition in government circulation, and with this reporter’s records of ammunition sampled in Afghan magazines and bunkers in multiple provinces in recent years.

The type of ammunition in question, 7.62x39 millimeter, colloquially known as “7.62 short,” is one of the world’s most abundant classes of military small-arms cartridges, and can come from dozens of potential suppliers.

It is used in Kalashnikov rifles and their knockoffs, and has been made in many countries, including Russia, China, Ukraine, North Korea, Cuba, India, Pakistan, the United States, the former Warsaw Pact nations and several countries in Africa. Several countries have multiple factories, each associated with distinct markings.

The examination of the Taliban’s cartridges found telling signs of diversion: 17 of the magazines contained ammunition bearing either of two stamps: the word “WOLF” in uppercase letters, or the lowercase arrangement “bxn.”

“WOLF” stamps mark ammunition from Wolf Performance Ammunition, a company in California that sells Russian-made cartridges to American gun owners. The company has also provided cartridges for Afghan soldiers and police officers, typically through middlemen. Its munitions can be found in Afghan government bunkers.

The “bxn” marking was formerly used at a Czech factory during the cold war. Since 2004, the Czech government has donated surplus ammunition and equipment to Afghanistan. A.E.Y. Inc., a former Pentagon supplier, also shipped surplus Czech ammunition to Afghanistan, according to the United States Army, including cartridges bearing “bxn” stamps.

Most of the Wolf and Czech ammunition in the Taliban magazines was in good condition and showed little weathering, denting, corrosion or soiling, suggesting it had been removed from packaging recently.

There is no evidence that Wolf, the Czech government or A.E.Y. knowingly shipped ammunition to Afghan insurgents. A.E.Y. was banned last year from doing business with the Pentagon, but its legal troubles stemmed from unrelated allegations of fraud.

Given the number of potential sources, the probability that the Taliban and the Pentagon were sharing identical supply sources was small.

Rather, the concentration of Taliban ammunition identical in markings and condition to that used by Afghan units indicated that the munitions had most likely slipped  rolleyes  from state custody, said James Bevan, a researcher specializing in ammunition for the Small Arms Survey, an independent research group in Geneva.


Mr. Bevan, who has documented ammunition diversion in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, said one likely explanation was that interpreters, soldiers or police officers had sold ammunition for profit or passed it along for other reasons, including support for the insurgency. “Same story, different location,” he said.

The majority of cartridges in the remaining 13 Taliban magazines bore headstamps indicating they were made in Russia in the Soviet period. Several rounds had Chinese stamps and dates indicating manufacture in the 1960s and ’70s. A smaller number were Hungarian. Much of this other ammunition was in poor condition.

Hungarian and Chinese ammunition had also been provided to the Afghan government by A.E.Y., making it possible that several of the remaining magazines included American-procured rounds.

The American military did not dispute the possibility that theft or corruption could have steered Wolf and Czech ammunition to insurgents.

Capt. James C. Howell, who commands the company that captured the ammunition, said illicit diversion would be consistent with an enduring reputation of corruption in Afghan units, especially the police. “It’s not surprising,” he said.

But he added that in his experience this form of corruption was not the norm. Rather than deliberate diversion, he said, the more likely causes would be poor discipline and oversight in the Afghan national security forces, or A.N.S.F. “I think most A.N.S.F. don’t want their own stuff coming back at them,” he said.

Captured Taliban rifles provide a glimpse at arms diversion as well.

After the battle in the eastern village of Wanat last year, in which 9 Americans died and more than 20 were wounded, investigators found a large cache of AMD-65 assault rifles in the village’s police post, which was implicated in the attack, according to American officers. In all, the post had more than 70 assault rifles, but only 20 officers on its roster. Three AMD-65s were recovered near the battle as well.

The AMD-65, a distinctive Hungarian rifle, was rarely seen in Afghanistan until the United States issued it by the thousands to the Afghan police. They can now be found in Pakistani arms bazaars.

In the American ambush last month, all of the 10 captured rifles had factory stamps from China or Izhevsk, Russia. Those with date stamps had been manufactured in the 1960s and ’70s.

Photographs of the weapons and serial numbers were provided to Brig. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, the deputy commander of the transition command. Upon checking the Pentagon’s new database, the general said one of the Chinese rifles had been issued to an Afghan auxiliary police officer in 2007. How Taliban insurgents had acquired the rifle was not clear.

The auxiliary police, which augmented the Afghan Interior Ministry, were riddled with corruption and incompetence. They were disbanded last year.

Speaking about the captured Taliban ammunition, General Ierardi cautioned that the range of headstamps could indicate that insurgent use of American-procured munitions was not widespread. He noted that the captured ammunition sampling was small and that munitions might have leaked through less nefarious means.

“The mixed ammo could suggest battlefield losses; it could suggest captured ammo,” he said. He added, however, that he did not want to appear defensive and that accountability of Afghan arms and munitions was of “highest priority.”

“The emphasis from our perspective is on accountability of all logistics property,” he said. Leakage of Pentagon-supplied armaments to insurgents is an “absolutely worst-case scenario,” he said, adding, “We want to guard against the exact scenario you laid out.”

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« Reply #436 on: May 22, 2009, 05:08:19 PM »


And who is paying the people that this ammo is issued to?

"American forces do not examine all captured arms and munitions to trace how insurgents obtained them, or to determine whether the Afghan government, directly or indirectly, is a significant Taliban supplier, military officers said."

Well no we don't examine it.  We issue it out and every (captured) round we issue is accounted for,,, and the Afghan government is not exactly following the straight and narrow.

"The United States has been criticized, as recently as February by the federal Government Accountability Office, for failing to account for thousands of rifles issued to Afghan security forces. Some of these weapons have been documented in insurgents’ hands, including weapons in a battle last year in which nine Americans died."

Would you fight for free???  I don't.  The TB pays pretty good money in this part of the world.  The United States should be criticized.  For half-assing this deal.  We already kicked ass over here, but we're still here.  Why?  Because the government of the US of A (we the people)  says that " we can't just kick someone's ass and leave".  we have to "rebuild" and whatnot.  And we are still trying to "rebuild" because in a land where EVERYTHING is left up to Allah and f@*k a spanking, just dip your unruly child in boiling water... yeah...

These people are almost a lost cause.



« Last Edit: May 22, 2009, 05:25:51 PM by jkrenz » Logged

Strike first, strike hard, no mercy
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« Reply #437 on: May 23, 2009, 05:00:19 AM »

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN)  -- Afghan commandos backed by coalition troops killed 60 militants in a four-day operation in southern Afghanistan and seized an unprecedented amount of narcotics, officials said Saturday.

The operation was in the city of Marjah in Helmand province, where soldiers have been targeting the city's Loy Cherah Bazaar. The bazaar is considered by the U.S. military as the southern region's "militant stronghold and narcotics processing hub."

Afghan and coalition forces launched coordinated air strikes against militant buildings used as drug-making facilities, a joint news release said.

The operation, which started earlier this week, seized about 92,271 kilograms of narcotics.

The haul included 16,850 kilograms of black tar opium, 201 kilograms of processed heroin and 75,000 kilograms of poppy seeds, the release said.

Heroin-processing materials such as ammonium chloride, activated charcoal and soda ash were also found, according to the release.

The combined forces also destroyed bomb-making material, including diesel fuel, improvised explosive device battery systems and homemade explosive materials set for detonation.
"The commandos and their coalition partners relentlessly penetrated an area militants and criminals considered a safe-haven, again proving they will not be denied access to any area in this country," said Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

"The four-day operation severely disrupted one of the key militant and criminal operations, and narcotics hubs in southern Afghanistan," he said.

An unmanned craft was flying over the site to ensure militants do not claim false civilian casualties, according to the release.

Strike first, strike hard, no mercy
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« Reply #438 on: May 23, 2009, 09:14:50 AM »

Good news!  Well done!

Were you part of this operation?
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« Reply #439 on: May 23, 2009, 06:55:50 PM »

Looks interesting, at first glance.
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« Reply #440 on: May 23, 2009, 09:51:47 PM »

Agreed, I will be looking at it again.

The most recent post's premise about a building backlash seems to me a very promising development, as does the fact of a serious operation against the opium trade.
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« Reply #441 on: May 24, 2009, 12:12:04 PM »


"Were you part of this operation?"

Almost, but not this time around cry.  Something about how a CH-47 can only carry so much weight.  The ODA that my team is attached to wasn't going to drop ammo or weapons for this one so they cut food and water from the load first to try and make weight.  Then they cut my team, the PSYOP team and half the SOT-A team and still barely made the load limit.     

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« Reply #442 on: May 25, 2009, 06:23:22 PM »

Pakistani army fights street by street to banish Taliban from Swat valley

Declan Walsh in Islamabad and Sana ul Haq in Barikot
Sunday 24 May 2009 21.32 BST

Pakistani troops and Taliban fighters battled street by street through Mingora, the main town of the Swat valley, today as an army operation to sweep the militants from their mountain stronghold entered a critical phase.

Smoke rose from the city as the army reported early victories, saying it had captured seven major locations including Green Square, previously dubbed "slaughterhouse square" by locals after the Taliban started to dump the bodies of headless victims there.

Following on from more than two weeks of air and artillery strikes, it was the second day of a ground assault on the city, which the army warned could take weeks to complete. "Everyone is sniping one another," a spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said on Saturday.

Fears grew for civilians trapped in the crossfire. Government officials estimate that between 10,000 and 20,000 people are still living in the hill town, which until recently had a population of about 200,000. With food and fuel rations dwindling, some have resorted to scavenging for food during lulls in fighting. Yesterday the army used FM radio to urge residents to report Taliban movements, even though phone lines to the city have been cut.

Last week, residents of some districts said the Taliban had said they would be killed if they obeyed army orders to flee.

The fight for Mingora has become a test of Pakistan's resolve and ability to roll back the Taliban advance across North-West Frontier province and the adjoining tribal belt that has worried western allies.

For three weeks the Taliban have been preparing for a battle in Mingora, setting up rooftop gun positions and laying landmines on roads and bridges. Until now the war against militancy has been largely limited to remote, mountainous areas.

Yesterday the army said it had captured Qamber, a hamlet at the entrance to Mingora and the home town of Shah Doran, a notorious Taliban commander. A Guardian reporter who visited Qamber last week saw Taliban fighters manning newly dug, heavily defended trenches in mountain slopes 50 metres above the main road.

Yesterday in Barikot, a town six miles to the south, a fleeing Qambar resident said he had seen a destroyed army tank after intense fighting.

So far, however, the casualties have been lighter than expected. The army said yesterday it had killed five militants and captured 14 in 24 hours in Mingora. It also reported the deaths of three soldiers.

Western diplomats in Islamabad believe that army casualty figures from Swat are considerably higher than reported.

The president, Asif Ali Zardari, has indicated the Swat campaign could be the start of a wider summer war against the Taliban in the province. A western official said a new offensive was expected to follow in South Waziristan, home of the Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud.

Combat is already spreading across the province. Yesterday army helicopter gunships pounded militant targets in Orakzai tribal agency, west of Peshawar. Meanwhile in Charsadda, a district south of Swat where many people have fled, police announced the arrest of a Taliban commander and six militants.

In Mingora, it is unclear whether the Taliban will hold firm or flee into the hills. Mingora backs on to mountains that could provide an easy escape route and allow them to regroup for guerrilla attacks.

South of the city, along the river Swat, residents reported seeing Taliban fighters going back and forth across the river.

The army is under pressure for a quick resolution. More than two million people have been displaced over three weeks, placing an immense strain on the areas to which they have fled. While about 200,000 people are sheltering in organised camps, at least 1.7 million are squeezed into the homes of friends and relatives, as many as 100 people per house.
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« Reply #443 on: May 27, 2009, 04:37:08 AM »

Many excellent fotos
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« Reply #444 on: June 02, 2009, 12:57:18 PM »

I have consistently thought that one of the key points of the turnaround in Iraq was that AQ simply overdid it and turned people against them.  See e.g. today's entry in the Iraq thread from Our Man in Iraq

Are we seeing the beginning of the same dynamic in Pak?
In symbolic and strategic terms, the fall of Mingora on Saturday marks a potential turning point for Pakistan, and perhaps for the fight against al Qaeda. Three weeks after launching its counteroffensive against the Taliban, Pakistan's military took back the largest city in the Swat Valley and is now pushing further against Islamist insurgents in the unruly tribal regions of that nuclear-armed country.

Only weeks ago, the urgent question was whether Pakistan's government and military had the will to resist Taliban advances. Earlier this year, the army had ceded the scenic northwest region in an ill-thought "peace accord." But the Taliban got greedy, soon expanding from Swat into the neighboring Buner district 60 miles from the capital Islamabad, and imposing its brutal form of Shariah law. The global alarm bells that followed, particularly in Washington, embarrassed the military and government.

 Pakistan's media and public are disenchanted with their leaders and have been prone to sympathize with the bearded anti-American fighters in the hills. But stories of Taliban beheadings and cellphone images of a public flogging of a teenage girl in Swat brought the insurgency distressingly close to home. So did a spate of suicide bombings in Islamabad and the cultural center of Lahore by followers of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Pakistan authorities found themselves called to act by their own people -- and pressed usefully by the Obama Administration.

The success in clearing Buner and Swat, all of which should be in government control in days, shows the military can sustain this sort of campaign. Too often in the past, Pakistan attacks on the Taliban were brief and half-hearted, and the military soon returned its focus to the eastern border with India. This time the military didn't rely on aerial bombing and instead put commandos on the ground. Though impossible to verify, Pakistan claims more than 1,000 militants and 81 of its own soldiers have been killed since the fighting began in early May.

The cost has been high, with an estimated three million refugees having fled the frontier regions. The army also hasn't captured the senior Taliban leaders in Swat, and many of those refugees won't return until the government assures them that they can be protected. But the country seems to back the offensive. "The military feels it's in a much better position to finish the job because it has public support," General Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said.

The even better news is that Pakistanis say the army won't stop at Swat. Next should come a push into lawless Waziristan and the other tribal regions that have become terrorist sanctuaries for al Qaeda and other groups. This will be harder than Swat, because Pakistan's government has never been able to establish its writ over those northwestern frontier regions. But now, with the Taliban retreating, is the time to press the advantage.

Blamed for the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and other terrorist attacks, Mehsud and other Pakistani Taliban are enemies of the democratic government. Washington will also want Pakistan to root out the Afghan Talibs who launch attacks against Afghanistan from camps in Waziristan and around the southwestern city of Quetta. That means turning against Pakistan's erstwhile allies such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, a prominent commander in the Afghan insurgency, and former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. As long as they have sanctuary in Pakistan, Afghanistan will never be peaceful.

This offensive may have spillover benefits for the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda. The Taliban's advance has created an informal buffer around al Qaeda's sanctuaries in the area, and its retreat could force some foreign jihadists to leave their safe havens. Uprooted and on the move, they are more vulnerable to intelligence intercepts and Predator strikes. The Obama Administration seems to have resisted panicky calls on Capitol Hill to stop the Predator strikes lest they inflame public opinion in Pakistan. Care about civilian casualties is important, but the Predators are the best weapon we have in the mountainous border regions.

The fight ahead is filled with potential detours in Pakistan, which has a weak civilian government, a fractious political class, and a military that worries more about India than its own insurgency. But the news of the last few weeks is that Pakistan's establishment and public have shown they are willing to fight back against radical Islamists who have targeted Pakistan as much as they have America. Now is the time for Congress to show its support by passing Mr. Obama's request for military and economic aid for our allies in Islamabad.  (Have a care here-- a lot of this "aid" ends up elsewhere , , ,)
« Last Edit: June 02, 2009, 01:18:20 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #445 on: June 03, 2009, 05:28:29 AM »

Its the NY Slimes, so reports on subjects such as this one need to be read with care.  Caveat lector!

U.S. Report Finds Airstrike Errors in Afghan Deaths

Published: June 2, 2009
WASHINGTON — A military investigation has concluded that American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a senior American military official.

The official said the civilian death toll would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian casualties. Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours would have been aborted.

The report represents the clearest American acknowledgment of fault in connection with the attacks. It will give new ammunition to critics, including many Afghans, who complain that American forces too often act indiscriminately in calling in airstrikes, jeopardizing the United States mission by turning the civilian population against American forces and their ally, the Afghan government.

Since the raid, American military commanders have promised to address the problem. On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, nominated to be the American commander in Afghanistan, vowed that reducing civilian casualties was “essential to our credibility.”

Any American victory would be “hollow and unsustainable” if it led to popular resentment among Afghanistan’s citizens, General McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a confirmation hearing.

According to the senior military official, the report on the May 4 raids found that one plane was cleared to attack Taliban fighters, but then had to circle back and did not reconfirm the target before dropping bombs, leaving open the possibility that the militants had fled the site or that civilians had entered the target area in the intervening few minutes.

In another case, a compound of buildings where militants were massing for a possible counterattack against American and Afghan troops was struck in violation of rules that required a more imminent threat to justify putting high-density village dwellings at risk, the official said.

“In several instances where there was a legitimate threat, the choice of how to deal with that threat did not comply with the standing rules of engagement,” said the military official, who provided a broad summary of the report’s initial findings on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry was not yet complete.

Before being chosen as the new commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal spent five years as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, overseeing commandos in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special Operations forces have been sharply criticized by Afghans for aggressive tactics that have contributed to civilian casualties.

During his testimony, General McChrystal said that strikes by warplanes and Special Operations ground units would remain an essential part of combat in Afghanistan. But he promised to make sure that these attacks were based on solid intelligence and that they were as precise as possible. American success in Afghanistan should be measured by “the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” not the number of enemy fighters killed, he said.

The inquiry into the May 4 strikes in the western province of Farah illustrated the difficult, split-second decisions facing young officers in the heat of combat as they balance using lethal force to protect their troops under fire with detailed rules restricting the use of firepower to prevent civilian deaths.

In the report, the investigating officer, Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, analyzed each of the airstrikes carried out by three aircraft-carrier-based Navy F/A-18 strike aircraft and an Air Force B-1 bomber against targets in the village of Granai, in a battle that lasted more than seven hours.

In each case, the senior military official said, General Thomas determined that the targets that had been struck posed legitimate threats to Afghan or American forces, which included one group of Marines assigned to train the Afghans and another assigned to a Special Operations task force.

But in “several cases,” the official said, General Thomas determined either that the airstrikes had not been the appropriate response to the threat because of the potential risk to civilians, or that American forces had failed to follow their own tactical rules in conducting the bombing runs.

The Afghan government concluded that about 140 civilians had been killed in the attacks. An earlier American military inquiry said last month that 20 to 30 civilians had been killed. That inquiry also concluded that 60 to 65 Taliban militants had been killed in the fight. American military officials say their two investigations show that Taliban fighters had deliberately fired on American forces and aircraft from compounds and other places where they knew Afghan civilians had sought shelter, in order to draw an American response that would kill civilians, including women and children.

The firefight began, the military said, when Afghan soldiers and police officers went to several villages in response to reports that three Afghan government officials had been killed by the Taliban. The police were quickly overwhelmed and asked for backup from American forces.

American officials have said that a review of videos from aircraft weapon sights and exchanges between air crew members and a ground commander established that Taliban fighters had taken refuge in “buildings which were then targeted in the final strikes of the fight,” which went well into the night.

American troop levels in Afghanistan are expected to double, to about 68,000, under President Obama’s new Afghan strategy.

In his previous job as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, General McChrystal oversaw units assigned to capture or kill senior militants. In his appearance before Congress on Tuesday, he was questioned on reports of abuses of detainees held by his commandos.

Under questioning by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the committee chairman, General McChrystal said he was uncomfortable with some of the harsh techniques that were officially approved for interrogation. At the time, such approved techniques included stress positions, sleep deprivation and the use of attack dogs for intimidation.

He said that all reports of abuse during his command were investigated, and that all substantiated cases of abuse resulted in disciplinary action. And he pledged to “strictly enforce” American and international standards for the treatment of battlefield detainees if confirmed to the post in Afghanistan.

Under questioning, General McChrystal also acknowledged that the Army had “failed the family” in its mishandling of the friendly-fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the professional football star who enlisted in the Army after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

A final review by a four-star Army general cleared General McChrystal of any wrongdoing, but punished a number of senior officers who were responsible for administrative mistakes in the days after Corporal Tillman’s death. Initially, Army officials said the corporal had been killed by an insurgent ambush, when in fact he had been shot by members of his own Ranger team.
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« Reply #446 on: June 05, 2009, 05:21:34 AM »

When the NYT reports good news, it is a man bites dog story cheesy

ABAD, Pakistan — A year ago, the Pakistani public was deeply divided over what to do about its spreading insurgency. Some saw the Taliban militants as fellow Muslims and native sons who simply wanted Islamic law, and many opposed direct military action against them.

Mardan, a town south of Swat, has absorbed many of the people churned up in the fighting. More Photos »
But history moves quickly in Pakistan, and after months of televised Taliban cruelties, broken promises and suicide attacks, there is a spreading sense — apparent in the news media, among politicians and the public — that many Pakistanis are finally turning against the Taliban.

The shift is still tentative and difficult to quantify. But it seems especially profound among the millions of Pakistanis directly threatened by the Taliban advance from the tribal areas into more settled parts of Pakistan, like the Swat Valley. Their anger at the Taliban now outweighs even their frustration with the military campaign that has crushed their houses and killed their relatives.

“It’s the Taliban that’s responsible for our misery,” said Fakir Muhammed, a refugee from Swat, who, like many who had experienced Taliban rule firsthand, welcomed the military campaign to push the insurgents out.

The growing support for the fight against the Taliban could be an important turning point for Pakistan, whose divisions about its Islamic militancy seemed at times to imperil the state itself.

But it is an opportunity that could just as quickly vanish, analysts and politicians warn, if Pakistan’s political leaders fail to kill or capture senior Taliban leaders, to help an estimated three million who have been displaced, or to create a functioning government in areas long ignored by the state. “This is a profound moment in our history,” said Javed Iqbal, the top bureaucrat in the North-West Frontier Province, the area of fighting. “My greatest fear is whether there is sufficient realization of this among people who make decisions.”

On Wednesday, in an audiotape, Osama bin Laden specifically cited the fighting in Swat and Pakistan’s tribal areas, blaming the Obama administration for the campaign and for sowing “new seeds to increase hatred and revenge on America.”

American officials are keenly aware of the potential of the refugee crisis to spawn militancy. Less than a quarter of the $543 million the United Nations has requested for refugees has arrived, according to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.

On Thursday, Richard C. Holbrooke, the American special envoy, visited refugee tents as part of a three-day trip to spread the message that the United States was trying to help. The Obama administration had requested an additional $200 million, he said, noting that it was providing more aid than all other countries combined.

Even so, anti-American feelings still run high in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis blame the United States and the war in Afghanistan for their current troubles.

Pakistanis have long supported the Taliban as allies to exert influence in neighboring Afghanistan. Unlike Afghans, they have never lived under Taliban rule, and have been slow to absorb its dangers.

But that is changing, as the experience of those Pakistanis who have now lived under the Taliban has left many disillusioned.

Over more than a year of fighting, the militants moved into Swat, by killing or driving out the wealthy and promising to improve the lives of the poor. Finally, the military agreed to a truce in February that all but ceded Swat to the Taliban and allowed the insurgents to impose Islamic law, or Shariah.

The prospect of Shariah was alluring, said Iftikhar Ehmad, who owns a cellphone shop in Mingora, the most populous city in Swat, because the court system in Swat was so corrupt and ineffective. But the Taliban’s Shariah was not the benign change people had hoped for. Once the Taliban took power, the insurgents seemed interested only in amassing more, and in April they pushed into Buner, a neighboring district 60 miles from Islamabad.

“It was not Shariah, it was something else,” Mr. Ehmad said, jabbing angrily at the air with his finger in the scorching tent camp in the town of Swabi. “It was scoundrel behavior.”

Daily life became degrading. A woman was lashed in public, and a video of her writhing in pain and begging for mercy stirred wide outrage. Taliban bosses ordered people to donate money. Cosmetics shops and girls’ schools were burned.

By the time the military entered Swat last month, local people began leading soldiers to tunnels with weapons and Taliban hiding places in hotels, the military said. “These people, six months back, weren’t willing to share anything,” said a military official who was involved in planning the campaign. “Gradually they’ve been coming out more and more into the open.”

There has also been a change in other parts of Pakistan, like Punjab, the most populous province, where people used to see the problem of militancy as remote, said Rasul Baksh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences. Now the province has become a target of suicide attacks, most recently last week in Lahore. Mr. Rais cited changes in news coverage of the military campaign and a strong stand by the political parties, even some of the religious ones, as evidence of the shift. “The tables are turned against the Taliban now,” he said. “They are marginalized.”

But the underlying causes that have allowed the Taliban to spread — poverty, barely functioning government, lack of upward mobility in society — remain. Mr. Iqbal is now working frantically to fill those gaps. New judges have recently been identified for Swat, he said, and about 3,000 new police officers will be selected this week.

The Pakistani military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss future operations, said troops would have to remain in Swat for at least six months. Support for the Taliban has not evaporated entirely.

Early this week, on a searing hot street in Mardan, a town south of Swat that has absorbed many of the people churned up in the fighting, a tall man with a long beard, Muhammed Tahir Ansari, grew angry when asked whether the refugees approved of the military operation. “It is illogical to think that people would be happy about this tense situation,” he said curtly.

He was from a charity run by Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the principal religious parties that tacitly support the Taliban, and was directing a frenzied effort to distribute water and hand-held fans.

The government, meanwhile, was nowhere in sight.

Irfan Ashraf contributed reporting from Swabi, Pakistan, and Mardan, Pakistan.
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« Reply #447 on: June 05, 2009, 05:34:05 AM »

second post of morning:

June 4, 2009
Al Jazeera on Wednesday broadcast an audio message from Osama bin Laden, in which he focused on the state of affairs in Pakistan. Although messages from bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders frequently have mentioned Pakistan, none has devoted so much attention as this one to events there. This is somewhat surprising, considering that jihadists have reached their highest levels of success over the past two years in Pakistan.

Bin Laden’s message arrives amid a serious campaign by Pakistani military forces to root out jihadist fighters in the northern Swat district. The fact that such military force is being applied shows how successfully Taliban fighters have entrenched themselves in Pakistan’s northwest — and also how serious the threat has become for Islamabad. Bin Laden’s message attempted to highlight that success in order to bolster support among Pakistanis for al Qaeda Prime’s message.

In the recording, bin Laden continued to criticize the intrusion of foreign forces, the blocking of the spread of Sharia and the plight of 3 million residents who have been affected by anti-jihadist military operations in the Swat region. He accused the United States, Israel and India of conspiring against Pakistan, and he claimed that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani are fighting against Islam instead of against Pakistan’s true enemies — namely, India. This statement plays on the fears of many Pakistanis, who view India as a much greater strategic threat than militant Islamists fighting from within the state — the same argument the Pakistani military makes to Washington about its reluctance to redeploying troops from the eastern border to deal more effectively with the jihadist threat in the west. By playing on this fear, bin Laden is trying to undermine the Pakistani government’s judgment and prevent greater military pressure from being applied against jihadists.

Bin Laden also compared the refugees affected by the Swat conflict to the Palestinian refugees and 9/11 operatives, who he said had been pushed into action by their oppression at the hands of Western forces and under Western-friendly regimes. This discussion underscored worries that some of the 3 million Swat refugees might go on to join jihadist groups and wage more attacks against the state. Finally, bin Laden portrayed the military operation in Swat as an effort to stamp out of Sharia law — a contentious issue for many conservative Pakistanis — and appeal to a broader audience of Muslim listeners who are not necessarily sympathetic to jihadist tactics.

The utility of bin Laden’s media campaign goes only so far. Bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda’s apex leadership have been constrained chiefly to the role of an ideological force, relying on others to operate on the actual battlefield. This shift, from the physical to the ideological battlefield, came about mainly because al Qaeda was forced onto the defensive by ground and aerial strikes in Pakistan that have killed dozens of its operatives. Al Qaeda’s financial and communication networks have been severely affected during the U.S.-led war against jihadists, which in turn has greatly undermined the organization’s ability to operate effectively. Al Qaeda Prime has not demonstrated an ability to carry out attacks successfully beyond the South Asia region — and even there, it must depend on affiliates, such as the Pakistani Taliban faction led by Baitullah Mehsud and groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, to conduct operations.

The ability of the Pakistani Taliban and their jihadist allies to undermine the authority of the Pakistani state and foster anarchy in many parts of the country certainly works in al Qaeda’s favor, which benefits from Pakistan’s inability to control large swathes of territory. But while Pakistan has become the poster child for jihadist success, al Qaeda Prime’s role in that success has declined in recent years, as other groups have assumed the mantle of leadership in the jihadist movement.

Domestic groups that enjoy more local support than the largely foreign-born al Qaeda members have adopted the tactics and ideology of al Qaeda,. This has been a significant factor in their success. But bin Laden and al Qaeda Prime also have extremely limited capabilities: Many Pakistanis doubt the organization’s very existence, viewing it as a Western fabrication designed to undermine Islam in the region.

So, while bin Laden has released a message that attempts to cash in on the jihadist advances made in Pakistan in recent years, his group’s significance has declined significantly as other organizations have gained prominence. These other jihadist groups pose a significant threat to Pakistan — a country that is attractive in their eyes at least partly because of its nuclear arsenal. But al Qaeda must work through its local allies to undermine the Pakistani state, as it attempts to create anarchy on a regional level. The success of al Qaeda’s allies will be linked to the effectiveness of Pakistani security forces in maintaining security, while waging an offensive against Taliban forces in the Swat district and other areas that are largely under jihadist control.
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« Reply #448 on: June 05, 2009, 07:31:06 AM »

Third post of the morning

Pakistani forces are continuing to take out Taliban strongholds June 1 in the Swat region of northwestern Pakistan. With the Swat district headquarters, the city of Mingora, under control, the military is beginning to expand operations to other Taliban strongholds. The main question is whether the military will be able to consolidate the gains it has made against the militant Islamist fighters while carrying out increasingly difficult operations.


Pakistani forces continued rooting out Taliban strongholds in the Swat region June 1, a day after the military announced it had successfully wrested control of Mingora, the district headquarters of Swat in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), from Taliban hands.

A relatively small number of Taliban forces had settled in inside Mingora to fight Pakistani forces. STRATFOR received reports early in the offensive that these militants were planting mines and explosives, digging trenches and stockpiling weapons and ammunition in preparation for the onslaught. But the militants who remained in Mingora were outnumbered and unable to withstand the military’s concerted conventional assault. The Taliban fighters who had fled Mingora were unable to rejoin, supply or otherwise support the militants still in Mingora, who ultimately were defeated by Pakistani forces.

When it became clear that Taliban reinforcements were cut off from Mingora, Taliban commanders began calling on their compatriots to focus their attention on attacks in other parts of Pakistan, particularly in urban areas of Punjab province. The May 27 bombing directed at the Inter-Services Intelligence agency headquarters in Lahore was partly indicative of this call to action, though local Taliban forces have long been attempting to escalate attacks in this critical province.

(click image to enlarge)
The Pakistani military’s focus on conventional warfare and severe inexperience in counterinsurgency have long contributed to its weakness against the jihadist insurgency. However, the military exhibited operational success when it cut off Taliban supply lines to Mingora by encircling the city from Lower Dir to the west, from Malakand district to the southwest, from Buner to the southeast and from Shangla to the east. This both narrowed the potential escape routes for the remaining fighters and prevented their compatriots from aiding the remaining resistance in the city. By isolating the remaining hard-line fighters, the military was able to bring overwhelming conventional firepower to bear. While the operation certainly was not without consequence, it was an important demonstration of strategy and might against entrenched Taliban forces in an urban area.

The Pakistani military has Mingora under control for now and is making efforts to clear surrounding towns, but the overall Swat offensive is clearly far from over. The operations under way aim to flush out remaining Taliban strongholds in Swat, while a number of Taliban are taking cover in the neighboring districts of Dir, Buner, Malakand and Shangla and have blended in with the refugees.

Pakistani forces have retained the initiative and are pushing outward into the more mountainous northern regions of Swat, where a number of Taliban are believed to be holed up. As of June 1, the military was conducting operations in the valley of Kalam, about 56 miles north of Mingora. The military also is moving into a Taliban stronghold called Charbagh, a town located about 12 miles north of Mingora. The military reportedly has set up checkpoints to surround Charbagh from the north and south in the towns of Khwazakhela and Manglawar, respectively. Military forces reportedly are also shelling Taliban positions in Kabal, west of Mingora, and lower Malam Jabba, located to Mingora’s east. However, it will become increasingly difficult for regular troops and special forces to move deeper into mountainous Taliban strongholds like Kalam, especially as they are also trying to hold their ground in villages that have already been cleared without increasing the number of deployments in the Swat region.

This is the largest military operation ever conducted in Swat, and public morale is high for now, but the Taliban are a patient, resilient force and are capable of regrouping and reclaiming lost territory. The Taliban have demonstrated this ability a number of times in Afghanistan, where they have drifted back into towns previously cleared by NATO troops. Moreover, while the Pakistani military has touted the killings of several midlevel commanders, the senior leadership of the Taliban in Swat remains at large.

There are no indications yet that Pakistan will divert more forces from its eastern border with India to reinforce operations in the northwest. This poses a considerable dilemma, as the military has a strategic interest in capitalizing on its current levels of public support to expand the offensive into far more challenging Taliban strongholds farther south in the tribal badlands of North and South Waziristan. Public support in the Swat area is indeed swinging toward the military for the time being. Locals say they are now able to speak openly against the Taliban, which they did not dare to do in previous months. The local populace also has renewed confidence in the military’s will and ability to stand up to the Taliban.

The big question that remains, then, is whether the military will be able to consolidate the security gains made thus far, develop efficient local security and governance to hold the territory against encroaching Taliban, and do the necessary developmental work to restore the livelihoods of some 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) forced from their homes by the fighting. Many IDPs are living temporarily in schools and other government buildings or are staying with friends and relatives. Still, the lower-income families who have no choice but to live in very poorly equipped refugee camps that the military has set up are ideal targets for the Taliban’s recruitment efforts, which likely will intensify in the wake of the Swat offensive as the group attempts to replenish its ranks.

The military also knows it will become harder for its forces to remain in the Swat region in the long term. Public discontent over the military presence is likely to increase, and challenges elsewhere will demand the military’s attentions. Operations are under way to bring in local administrators and accelerate the training of local police forces to secure the villages that have been cleared of Taliban thus far, but these police units are already extremely demoralized, underequipped and underpaid, and they will continue to be the primary targets of Taliban forces seeking to retake the territory. Islamabad’s long-term commitment to fighting the deeper sources of public discontent will therefore be critical to Pakistan’s ability to halt the Talibanization process.

With much work to be done in Swat and surrounding areas in the near term, any talk of a similar large-scale offensive in South Waziristan should be met with skepticism. Military and government officials alike are issuing contradictory statements on how quickly the Swat offensive can be wrapped up so the military can shift its focus farther south to Waziristan. The Waziristan operation is still in the planning stages and, while some preliminary skirmishes are taking place in South Waziristan, no clear or unified decision appears to have been made on expanding the military offensive in a meaningful way beyond the Swat region.

Editor’s Note:This analysis originally said that Kabal is east of Mingora and Malam Jabba is west of Mingora. Kabal is west of Mingora, and Malam Jabba is to the east. The error has been corrected.

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« Reply #449 on: June 11, 2009, 08:28:33 AM »

U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Given More Leeway
Published: June 10, 2009

WASHINGTON — The new American commander in Afghanistan has been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans, as he moves to carry out an ambitious new strategy that envisions stepped-up attacks on Taliban fighters and narcotics networks.

lThe extraordinary leeway granted the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, underscores a view within the administration that the war in Afghanistan has for too long been given low priority and needs to be the focus of a sustained, high-level effort.

General McChrystal is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside Special Operations, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With his promotion approved by the Senate late on Wednesday, General McChrystal and senior members of his command team were scheduled to fly from Washington within hours of the vote, stopping in two European capitals to confer with allies before landing in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

General McChrystal’s confirmation came only after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, went to the floor to make an impassioned plea for Republicans to allow the action to proceed, fearing that political infighting would delay approval of the appointment. He told of a phone call on Wednesday from Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Reid said that Admiral Mullen had told him that there was a sense of urgency that General McChrystal be able to go to Afghanistan that very night. He said that according to Admiral Mullen, “McChrystal is literally waiting by an airplane” to go to Afghanistan as the new commander.

Almost a dozen senior military officers provided details about General McChrystal’s plans in interviews after his nomination. The officers insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the effort, and insisted that their comments not be used until the Senate vote, so as not to preempt lawmakers.

For the first time, the American commander in Afghanistan will have a three-star deputy. Picked for the job of running day-to-day combat operations was Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who has commanded troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez have been colleagues and friends for more than 30 years, beginning when both were Ranger company commanders as young captains.

General McChrystal also has picked the senior intelligence adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, to join him in Kabul as director of intelligence there. In Washington, Brig. Gen. Scott Miller, a longtime Special Operations officer now assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff but who had served previously under General McChrystal, is now organizing a new Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell.

Admiral Mullen said that he personally told General McChrystal that “he could have his pick from the Joint Staff. His job, the mission he’s going to command, is that important. Afghanistan is the main effort right now.”

Just how this new team will grapple with the increasingly violent Taliban militancy in Afghanistan is unclear, although General McChrystal has said he will focus on classic counterinsurgency techniques, in particular protecting the population.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has asked General McChrystal to report back within 60 days of taking command with an assessment of the mission and plans for carrying out President Obama’s new strategy.

“Success will be difficult to define but will come in reduction in I.E.D.’s, reduction in poppy, more interdiction of Taliban crossing the border, some anticorruption arrests/exiles, and greater civilian effort possible as a result of a reduction in the threat,” said Maj. Gen. Peter Gilchrist, a retired British officer and a former deputy commander of allied forces in Afghanistan who praised General McChrystal’s appointment.

At the Pentagon, under General McChrystal’s direction, a large area of the Defense Department’s underground, round-the-clock emergency operations facility — called the National Military Command Center — has already been shifted to the Afghan war effort.

The makeover in the American military command is not the only major set of personnel changes in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has surrounded the new United States ambassador to Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry, a recently retired three-star Army general, with three former ambassadors to bolster diplomatic efforts in the country.

Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., a former ambassador to Egypt and the Philippines, has been tapped as General Eikenberry’s deputy. Earl Anthony Wayne, a former ambassador to Argentina, is heading up economic development initiatives in the embassy. Joseph A. Mussomeli, the former ambassador to Cambodia, will be an assistant ambassador in Kabul.

As director of intelligence on the Joint Staff, General Flynn holds a position, called the J-2, that has often been a springboard to a senior executive position across the alphabet soup of American intelligence agencies. But General Flynn, who was General McChrystal’s intelligence boss at the Joint Special Operations Command, has chosen to return to the combat zone.

In a sign of the importance being given to explaining the new strategy to Afghans, across the region and the world, General McChrystal will also be taking the first flag officer to serve as chief of public affairs and communications for the military in Afghanistan.

Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, who has served as director of communications and spokesman in Iraq during the troop increase under Gen. David H. Petraeus, had been scheduled to retire this summer. But officials said he received a personal request from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to serve in the same capacity for General McChrystal.

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting from New York, and Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Austin, Tex.
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