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Topic: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan (Read 182962 times)
CNN reporter and Lone Survivor
Reply #1400 on:
January 12, 2014, 11:56:33 AM »
POTH: Withdrawal seen as peril to drone mission
Reply #1401 on:
January 27, 2014, 05:41:03 AM »
What do we think of this? Would it suffice to tell a man, a parent, a nation why we were sending their son there/why her/her son had died there?
Last Edit: January 27, 2014, 05:52:11 AM by Crafty_Dog
US objects to prisoner release
Reply #1402 on:
January 27, 2014, 11:13:52 AM »
Obama Flirts with Losing the "Must Win" War
Reply #1403 on:
January 28, 2014, 08:33:02 PM »
Obama Flirts With Losing the 'Must Win' War
Withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a defeat for America and a victory for al Qaeda.
By Frederick W. Kagan
Jan. 27, 2014 7:27 p.m. ET
The Soviet-installed government of Najibullah fell three years after the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan—and mere months after the Soviets stopped supporting it financially. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved against his Sunni political opponents within 24 hours of the departure of the last American soldier, starting to set the conditions for the loss of all the gains purchased with much American and Iraqi blood. Yet Washington is full of leaks that the Obama administration is planning to end America's military presence in Afghanistan in 2016. And Congress has already slashed U.S. financial assistance to the fifth-poorest country in the world.
It seems we are about to repeat the mistakes of the past vainly hoping for a different outcome. We will be disappointed.
Candidate Barack Obama declared in 2008, "we will not repeat the mistake of the past, when we turned our back on Afghanistan following Soviet withdrawal. As 9/11 showed us, the security of Afghanistan and America is shared." He was right about the urgency. He was a poor prophet of his own future policy.
Our security remains tied to Afghanistan's. Al Qaeda leadership remains battered but defiant (and still operational) in Pakistan despite Osama bin Laden's death. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are enormously larger and more competent than they were when Obama took office, but they are still unable to function independently against an insurgency that remains lethal and determined. Afghanistan remains unable to survive financially without massive infusions of international support. It is preparing for its first peaceful transition of power in many decades. It is impossible to argue for withdrawal on the grounds that Afghanistan no longer needs help.
Afghan children play in the outskirts of Herat, Jan. 23. aref karimi/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Many Americans think Afghanistan no longer wants our help. President Hamid Karzai fuels that belief almost every time he speaks, ranting about American abuses, reviling the U.S., and refusing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that would give legal basis to continued U.S. presence. Who could possibly want to help a man like that or the country for which he pretends to speak?
But Mr. Karzai is not Afghanistan. On the contrary, the gathering of influential elders and leaders he convened in November to consider the Bilateral Security Agreement emphatically endorsed it and called on him to sign it quickly. Almost every major candidate running to succeed Mr. Karzai has supported signing the agreement. Advertisements are running on Afghan television stations calling on Mr. Karzai to sign.
Mr. Karzai's refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement has virtually no support among Afghans. He does not speak for them. And in a few months he will not be leading them. It would be worse than folly to base policies touching long-term American interests on the outbursts of a jaded politician fading gracelessly from the scene.
The only reason that remains for abandoning Afghanistan is the belief that the cause there is simply lost. It is clear that many advisers to the president such as Douglas Lute have long thought so, opposing a counterinsurgency strategy on the grounds that it cannot succeed and is not necessary. Possibly President Obama himself has come to the conclusion that the strategy he endorsed and partially resourced in 2009 was mistaken.
The facts do not support this belief. Eight years of a very light-footprint, development-oriented, targeted-strike-focused strategy in Afghanistan left the Taliban on the verge of seizing Kandahar City and almost all of Southern Afghanistan in 2009. Mr. Karzai then was in reality little more than the mayor of Kabul, whose approaches the Taliban controlled or contested. There were fewer than 100,000 members in the ANSF—police and army combined—for a country of 32 million. They were equipped with rifles and pickup trucks. The Afghan Air Force did not fly a single aircraft.
Five years on things are very different. The Taliban have failed to regain their former positions in and around Kandahar despite the withdrawal of most of the international forces. They are fighting hard to regain positions in Helmand that had formerly been their fortified strongholds—and Afghans are fighting back. The ANSF numbers over 350,000, with increasingly modern vehicles, artillery and even its own helicopter support. Some Taliban strongholds around Kabul have been disrupted, although the premature withdrawal of the surge forces has left lethal foes too close to Afghanistan's capital (and international airport). Complaints that Mr. Karzai controls too much of Afghanistan are valid—but more promising in some respects than when he controlled nothing at all. Corruption and hyper-centralization can be corrected, albeit with great difficulty. Anarchy is infinitely harder to cure.
And Afghanistan still matters to American national security. Mr. Obama was right in 2008 when he called Afghanistan "a war that must be won." The al Qaeda franchises growing around the world threaten the U.S. more imminently than their confederates in Afghanistan or possibly even Pakistan. But they are all looking expectantly to the defeat of another superpower in South Asia. They intend to re-establish themselves in the land where bin Laden founded their organization and from which he hurled planes like thunderbolts at the American foe. History matters to these people and it should matter to us.
Withdrawal from Afghanistan, whether financial or military or both, will be a defeat for the U.S. and a victory for al Qaeda. It really is that simple.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle can speechify and expound arguments about how we are winning and losing simultaneously, and how, either way, we should leave now. They may persuade themselves and the American people. But they will be just as wrong as George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were to ignore Afghanistan in the 1990s, to our great pain and suffering.
We have seen many times what will happen if the U.S. adopts the policy now being leaked. We can be sure that it will end very badly for us.
Mr. Kagan is director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.
Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan
Reply #1404 on:
January 28, 2014, 10:31:24 PM »
I am not unsympathetic to the points being made, but I have substantial doubts which have their roots in:
1) Bush did a hideous job with Afpakia, after the initial success with overthrowing the Taliban. Even the success was tainted with our using the drug lord riddled Northern Alliance as part of the overthrow. In hindsight Col. Peters call for leaving right then and there seems to have had considerable merit.
2) The strategy chosen was, as I have vigorously commented here for several years now (educated in great part by our YA) spectacularly incoherent; I trust I have no need here and now to restate my thinking in this regard;
3) Topping off this incoherence was the inattention paid to this war by Bush (as predicted by many critics of going into Iraq who said we needed to finish what we started in Afpakia). Michael Yon was reporting as early as 2006 that the we were losing the war, perhaps irreparably so.
4) As deftly analyzed by Stratfor, our coalition/alliance was riddled with spies-- the trust necessary for success would have been, and indeed was, suicidal-- witness the attacks on our troops by Taliban in the Afghani Army.
In short, Obama entered into office facing a truly hideous situation. We need to be honest about this.
Thoughts on what is ahead
Reply #1405 on:
February 01, 2014, 12:28:09 PM »
IMHO, there are a couple of things going on in Af-Pak.
1. Karzai: Karzai has seen the writing on the wall. He also wants to have his cake and eat it too. The US is leaving, which means the Taliban will be ascendant soon. When he refuses to sign the agreement for US forces to stay, he looks good with the Taliban. He does not want to suffer the fate of Najibullah (castration +hanging). If OTOH, he can convince US forces to stay, he will have a role to play with any US mediated negotiation with the Taliban and Pak. Win-Win for him.
2. Pak: The US wants to appease them, so that there may be an orderly withdrawl. Pak wants the US to withdraw pronto, so that they get money (I read somewhere they had only 2 Bill$ in foreign reserves!), gain strategic depth (their long standing strategy against India). Paki's in their wisdom have become an IT hub (not Information Technology but Islamic Terrorism). Export of IT is a money making business (note the Saudi's offer to Putin to holdback IT from Sochi Olympics). Unfortunately, IT is getting out of hand, even for the paki's. They have lost control and their country is mired with daily bomb blasts. The only solution out for them is to redirect these battle hardened IT towards India (Kashmir cause), otherwise their own country goes up in flames.
3. US: I have always said the state sponsored terror hub is Pak, that's where they get their nourishment. The main reason that the US humors Pak is the possibility of export of nukes to the west, and secondly to keep India checkmated (the US doctrine is to maintain balance of power within nations). So occasionally, the US also supplies India with arms etc to keep China checkmated. I dont think we have major strategic interests in Afghanistan that we can work on, the geography and logistics gives Iran, Russia and China the upperhand. The US should not stay any longer in Afghanistan, because no clear aim is present. Nor can the US maintain forces for long, if the host nation does not want them there. Terrorism will not come from afghanistan, but from Pak which has the hardliner imams preaching IT.
4. India: is quite worried that these battle hardened taliban will wage jihad in India. India has a lot of experience with counterinsurgency, perhaps the most experience thanks to the pakis. So as a counter to this Pak strategy, India supplies some arms and training to Afghans. Most of the Afgh military officers train in India, which irritates the Pakis no end. So its a kind of circle within a circle with interlinked cause and effects.
Future: So based on the above, the US will leave Afghanistan, which will leave a vacuum. This vacuum will be filled by Islamic hardliners. They will command the southern parts of Afghanistan and the Northern Forces will retain the northern parts of Afghanistan. Pakistan will support the taliban in achieving their goals, but these fighters need to stay employed, and will be directed towards India. The question is will the taliban devour the NWFP pashtoon region of Pak too. I do not think that terrorism in Pak can be controlled, unless they agree to become a hardline islamic state. Pak may even have to initiate a war with India, ostentabily over the allocation of Indus river waters. India gives a lot of water to pak at the moment (beyond what the treaty requires), the International courts recently agreed that pak should get only about 9 mcusec (some unit of water), whereas they had gone to court asking a 100!.
Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 01:19:24 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #1406 on:
February 06, 2014, 02:09:48 PM »
How to Understand the Not-So-Crazy Karzai
His mistrust of the White House runs deep, and he wants to keep whatever leverage he can.
By Haroun Mir
Feb. 5, 2014 6:46 p.m. ET
Many Afghanistan observers are struggling to understand why President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, which would ensure an American military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 to combat terrorism and train Afghan forces. The security agreement should be a closed case: Last year the agreement was finalized by both countries, and the Loya Jirga assembly overwhelmingly approved it. Yet Mr. Karzai, to the dismay of Washington, wants to renegotiate its terms. Why?
Some wrongly believe that Mr. Karzai is seeking personal advantage, such as political immunity for himself and his family. Others think that by making controversial statements critical of NATO forces and the Obama administration, he is trying to appease the Taliban, and thus guarantee himself an important political role in post-2014 Afghanistan. There are even some who naively accuse him of being a stooge of neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran.
None of these explanations would make sense to the majority of Afghans, who consider President Karzai a devoted nationalist, deeply concerned about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan. While he has been harshly criticized for his failure in managing the country, which is crippled by widespread corruption and bad governance, he enjoys relative respect among ordinary people. In large part, that's because he is willing to stand up to the U.S.—which gets to the real reasons he isn't signing the BSA.
Mr. Karzai has had a strained relationship with Washington ever since Mr. Obama was elected in 2008. His first disagreement began over the White House's flawed counterinsurgency strategy, which avoided going after terrorist havens in Pakistan. Mr. Karzai repeatedly insisted that the war on terror should not be fought in Afghan homes, but in North Waziristan, Quetta and Peshawar, where al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been hiding.
But the U.S. refused to reconsider its policy, which pushed Mr. Karzai to question America's true intentions, even suggesting that America is secretly orchestrating insurgent attacks with the ultimate aim of weakening his position. Intelligence provided by his friends in the region, like former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, no doubt strengthened this belief.
Mr. Karzai's mistrust of the Obama administration deepened further after the 2009 Afghan presidential election, when he accused the U.S. of attempting to undermine his legitimacy by discounting his initial win and pushing for a runoff. That accusation was backed up in Robert Gates's recent memoirs, in which the former defense secretary writes that the late Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, tried to manipulate the election.
Adding to Mr. Karzai's frustration was his failed peace initiative, which he launched in 2010. He genuinely believed that it would bear fruit, especially because he received the endorsement of countries in the region and major NATO powers. But the plan never picked up momentum despite Mr. Karzai's unilateral concessions, such as removing the Taliban from the United Nations sanctions list and releasing hundreds of their members from Afghan prisons.
Adding insult to injury, the Taliban have refused to negotiate with Mr. Karzai, even as they have negotiated directly with the U.S. These secret meetings between the Taliban and officials from the U.S. and other Western countries, beginning in 2010, led to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar in 2012. This infuriated Mr. Karzai and reinforced his theory about a secret American agenda.
Mr. Karzai knows that the Taliban are strongly opposed to joining the current political process by accepting positions in the government because they question its legitimacy. However, there are rumors that during their secret meetings with U.S. officials, the Taliban showed interest in administering the territories in the southern part of the country under their control. Even they might honor the BSA and accept the presence of U.S. military forces in exchange for administrative autonomy.
Either because of his fear of a conspiracy, or on the basis of intelligence available only to him, President Karzai is opposed to a U.S.-Taliban deal that would make him politically irrelevant. In addition, he is worried that such a deal—though the U.S. adamantly denies its existence—would guarantee the loss of his political base in the south, and even his own village, which might be administered by the Taliban. Ultimately, Mr. Karzai is worried that he might be remembered as the leader who contributed to a de facto partition of his country.
At this point, President Karzai's resistance to signing the BSA is his only leverage over the U.S. As a rational person who has less than three months left in power, this move makes good sense: He desperately wants to save his legacy and his future political relevance.
Mr. Mir is a political analyst based in Kabul.
Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan
Reply #1407 on:
February 11, 2014, 08:31:43 PM »
Karzai Arranged Secret Contacts With the Taliban
By AZAM AHMED and MATTHEW ROSENBERGFEB. 3, 2014
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has refused to sign a deal he brokered for security after Western troops leave. Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States.
The secret contacts appear to help explain a string of actions by Mr. Karzai that seem intended to antagonize his American backers, Western and Afghan officials said. In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has continued to refuse to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington that he negotiated, insisted on releasing hardened Taliban militants from prison and distributed distorted evidence of what he called American war crimes.
The clandestine contacts with the Taliban have borne little fruit, according to people who have been told about them. But they have helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy endgame of the Afghan conflict even more volatile. Support for the war effort in Congress has deteriorated sharply, and American officials say they are uncertain whether they can maintain even minimal security cooperation with Mr. Karzai’s government or its successor after coming elections.
Frustrated by Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security agreement, which would clear the way for American troops to stay on for training and counterterrorism work after the end of the year, President Obama has summoned his top commanders to the White House on Tuesday to consider the future of the American mission in Afghanistan.
Western and Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the peace contacts, said that the outreach was apparently initiated by the Taliban in November, a time of deepening mistrust between Mr. Karzai and his allies. Mr. Karzai seemed to jump at what he believed was a chance to achieve what the Americans were unwilling or unable to do, and reach a deal to end the conflict — a belief that few in his camp shared.
The peace contacts, though, have yielded no tangible agreement, nor even progressed as far as opening negotiations for one. And it is not clear whether the Taliban ever intended to seriously pursue negotiations, or were simply trying to derail the security agreement by distracting Mr. Karzai and leading him on, as many of the officials said they suspected.
As recently as October, a long-term agreement between the United States and Afghanistan seemed to be only a few formalities away from completion, after a special visit by Secretary of State John Kerry. The terms were settled, and a loya jirga, or assembly of prominent Afghans, that the president summoned to ratify the deal gave its approval. The continued presence of American troops after 2014, not to mention billions of dollars in aid, depended on the president’s signature. But Mr. Karzai repeatedly balked, perplexing Americans and many Afghans alike.
Peace Contacts Fade
The first peace feeler from the Taliban reached Mr. Karzai shortly before the loya jirga, Afghan officials said, and since then the insurgents and the government have exchanged a flurry of messages and contacts.
Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Mr. Karzai, acknowledged the secret contacts with the Taliban and said they were continuing.
“The last two months have been very positive,” Mr. Faizi said. He characterized the contacts as among the most serious the presidential palace has had since the war began. “These parties were encouraged by the president’s stance on the bilateral security agreement and his speeches afterwards,” he said.
But other Afghan and Western officials said that the contacts had fizzled, and that whatever the Taliban may have intended at the outset, they no longer had any intention of negotiating with the Afghan government. They said that top Afghan officials had met with influential Taliban leaders in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in recent weeks, and were told that any prospects of a peace deal were now gone.
The Afghan and Western officials questioned whether the interlocutors whom Mr. Karzai was in contact with had connections to the Taliban movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose blessing would be needed for any peace deal the group were to strike.
Though there have been informal contacts between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders since the very early days of the war, the insurgents’ opaque and secretive leaders have made their intentions difficult to discern. Afghan officials have struggled in recent years to find genuine Taliban representatives, and have flitted among a variety of current and former insurgent leaders, most of whom had only tenuous connections to Mullah Omar and his inner circle, American and Afghan officials have said.
The only known genuine negotiating channel to those leaders was developed by American and German diplomats, who spent roughly two years trying to open peace talks in Qatar. The diplomats repeatedly found themselves incurring the wrath of Mr. Karzai, who saw the effort as an attempt to circumvent him; he tried behind the scenes to undercut it.
Then, when an American diplomatic push led to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, Mr. Karzai lashed out publicly at the United States. Afghan officials said that to them, the office looked far too much like the embassy of a government-in-exile, with its own flag and a nameplate reading “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Within days, the Qatar initiative stalled, and Mr. Karzai was fuming at what he saw as a plot by the United States to cut its own deal with Pakistan and the Taliban without him.
In the wake of the failure in Qatar, Afghan officials redoubled their efforts to open their own channel to Mullah Omar, and by late autumn, Mr. Karzai apparently believed those efforts were succeeding. Some senior Afghan officials say they did not share his confidence, and their doubts were shared by American officials in Kabul and Washington.
Both Mr. Karzai and American officials hear the clock ticking. American forces are turning over their combat role to Afghan forces and preparing to leave Afghanistan this year, and the campaigning for the Afghan national election in April has begun. An orderly transition of power in an Afghanistan that can contain the insurgency on its own would be the culmination of everything that the United States has tried to achieve in the country.
“We’ve been through numerous cycles of ups and downs in our relations with President Karzai over the years,” Ambassador James B. Cunningham said during a briefing with reporters last week. “What makes it a little different this time is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple of months.”
Mr. Karzai has been increasingly concerned with his legacy, officials say. When discussing the impasse with the Americans, he has repeatedly alluded to his country’s troubled history as a lesson in dealing with foreign powers. He recently likened the security agreement to the Treaty of Gandamak, a one-sided 1879 agreement that ceded frontier lands to the British administration in India and gave it tacit control over Afghan foreign policy. He has publicly assailed American policies as the behavior of a “colonial power,” though diplomats and military officials say he has been more cordial in private.
Mr. Karzai reacted angrily to a negative portrayal of him in a recent memoir by the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and he is still bitter over the 2009 presidential election, when hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots were disqualified and, as he sees it, the Americans forced him into an unnecessary runoff against his closest opponent.
In some respects, Mr. Karzai’s outbursts have been an effort to speak to Afghans who want him to take a hard line against the Americans, including many ethnic Pashtuns, who make up nearly all of the Taliban. With the American-led coalition on its way out and American influence waning, Mr. Karzai is more concerned with bridging the chasms of Afghan domestic politics than with his foreign allies’ interests.
If the peace overture to the Taliban is indeed at an end, as officials believe, it is unclear what Mr. Karzai will do next. He could return to a softer stance on the security agreement and less hostility toward the United States, or he could justify his refusal to sign the agreement by blaming the Americans for failing to secure a genuine negotiation with the insurgents.
Mr. Karzai has insisted that he will not sign the agreement unless the Americans help bring the Taliban to the table for peace talks. Some diplomats worry that making such a demand allows the Taliban to dictate the terms of America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan. Others question Mr. Karzai’s logic: Why would the insurgency agree to talks if doing so would ensure the presence of the foreign troops it is determined to expel?
The White House expressed impatience on Monday with Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the agreement. “The longer there is a delay, the harder it is for NATO and U.S. military forces to plan for a post-2014 presence,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. “This is a matter of weeks, not months.”
The military leaders expected to attend the planning conference at the White House on Tuesday include Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of American forces in Afghanistan; Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the former Iraq commander now serving as head of the United States Central Command; and Adm. William H. McRaven, head of the United States Special Operations Command.
In recent statements, Mr. Karzai’s office in Kabul has appeared to open the door to a resolution of the impasse over the security agreement. The presidential spokesman, Mr. Faizi, has said that if one party is obstructing the American efforts to get talks going, the United States need only say so publicly.
“Once there is clarity, we can take the next step to signing” the agreement, he said.
Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.
Taliban raid kills 21 Afgan Army soldiers in their sleep
Reply #1408 on:
February 24, 2014, 04:52:23 AM »
WSJ: Pakistan pays a price
Reply #1409 on:
at 11:25:38 AM »
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan—Each day, Cpl. Hamid Raza helps strap Cpl. Mohammed Yakub to a physiotherapy bench, lifts it and wipes the sweat off his bewildered comrade's forehead. Eyes darting, Cpl. Yakub often screams and grunts through the procedure, flailing his hands.
"Traumatic head injury," Cpl. Raza says softly. "He realizes it's me, and he tries to speak, but he can't. He can't eat, he can't talk, he can't remember the words."
Both men are fortunate to be alive. A year ago, a Taliban roadside bomb hit a truck ferrying Pakistani soldiers from Cpl. Raza's 18th Punjab Battalion after a troop rotation in the North Waziristan tribal region on the Afghan frontier. Seventeen men were killed, and only a handful survived. It was their first home leave.
The Pakistani army has lost roughly twice as many soldiers in the conflict with Taliban fighters as the U.S. It is a toll that keeps rising as American forces prepare to withdraw from next-door Afghanistan by December amid an intensifying war on both sides of the border.
In Washington and Kabul, officials often accuse Pakistan of being a duplicitous and insincere ally, charges fueled by alleged covert aid to the Afghan Taliban from some elements of the Pakistani security establishment. In 2011, the then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described the Haqqani network, a group of insurgents operating from bases in North Waziristan who are affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, as a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Pakistan's government denied the accusation.
Murky as this war is, one fact is clear: The price ordinary Pakistani soldiers pay in the struggle against Taliban fighters is real and high. Since Pakistan's army began moving into the tribal areas along the Afghan border to confront the Pakistani Taliban in 2004, more than 4,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed and more than 13,000 injured, according to military statistics.
By comparison, the U.S. has lost 2,315 service members, just over 1,800 of them killed in combat, in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
Many Pakistanis complain that their efforts aren't sufficiently appreciated by the U.S. " 'Pakistan is not sincere, Pakistan is not doing enough'—these are buzzwords that I hate so much. They don't see the sacrifices that are being made," says retired Maj. Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan's former national-security adviser and ambassador to Washington. "It's a heavy toll. We have not lost so many military people in any other war before this."
Just last month, the Taliban executed 23 Pakistani troops they had captured, prompting the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to suspend tentative peace talks with the militants. That bloodshed followed several deadly attacks in January, including a bombing of a convoy heading to North Waziristan that killed 26 and a blast that killed eight soldiers here in Rawalpindi, just a few hundred yards from the army's headquarters.
Though the Pakistani Taliban, known formally as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, recognize the spiritual authority of Afghan Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, they operate separately. The ISI, an arm of Pakistan's military, provides considerable support to the Afghan Taliban, according to U.S. and Afghan officials. The Pakistani Taliban, by contrast, consider the Pakistani state as their main enemy and attack military and ISI targets.
Much more closely aligned with al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban have also attempted attacks on U.S. soil, such as a 2010 failed car bombing on New York City's Times Square.
Both the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network are based in North Waziristan, the only one of Pakistan's seven tribal regions on the Afghan border that has yet to be cleared by the military. The U.S., which provides billions of dollars to fund the Pakistani military, has repeatedly pressured Pakistan to launch an operation against both groups in the area.
The Pakistani Taliban's recent spate of deadly attacks on army targets is making a military operation to retake North Waziristan increasingly likely once the snows in the mountainous region melt in the spring, diplomats and analysts say. If it happens, the Pakistani army would face a formidable enemy there.
Lt. Aqib Nawaz, 23, had his shoulder and back peppered by shrapnel from a Taliban mortar that targeted his outpost in the tribal areas. "They were very persistent, and tactically, they were very sound," he says, with grudging respect.
Though the Pakistani army is present in bases in North Waziristan—some just a few hundred yards from Taliban compounds—soldiers rarely leave the bases except for resupply convoys. Officials say they currently don't have enough manpower in the region to mount offensive missions.
The convoys, such as the one Cpl. Yakub and Cpl. Raza rode in last year, are regularly ambushed or hit with improvised explosive devices and land mines.
"Every day, without fail, the Taliban would attack—with snipers, with rocket launchers. There is no guarantee that you go to these areas and come back alive," Cpl. Raza says.
The luckier victims of such attacks arrive in the halls of the Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Rawalpindi. The Wall Street Journal was provided rare access to the modern hospital, its rooms packed with amputees, some missing as many as three limbs.
In addition to their physical wounds, Pakistan's injured soldiers, like U.S. Vietnam veterans in an earlier era, must deal with a society that doesn't always appreciate their service. The conflict with the Taliban pits soldiers against fellow Muslims and fellow Pakistanis, and against a sizable segment of the public that views the war in the tribal areas as imposed by the U.S. and counter to Islamic values.
"The soldiers are very obedient, very patriotic, but at some level, they are conflicted as to why they are killing Muslims, why they are killing their own people," says Rizwan Taj, a psychiatrist who often treats patients from tribal areas that teem with Taliban. Pakistan's army is focused mainly on India, Dr. Taj says, and its soldiers "are not psychologically, mentally trained for internal disturbances."
In November, Munawar Hassan, the leader of a major Islamist political party that sits in the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, said that Pakistani soldiers killed in battle against the Taliban couldn't be considered martyrs because they fought on America's behalf. He described as a martyr instead Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed that month in a U.S. drone strike. The Pakistani military denounced Mr. Hassan, demanding an apology but getting none.
"I was very hurt by his statement," says Pvt. Mohammed Ali, a patient in the Rawalpindi military hospital. "What we are doing is protecting our country, putting our lives on the line for our mothers and sisters."
A soldier with Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry, Pvt. Ali, 28, lost his right leg during a clearing operation in the Kurram tribal area in 2012. He has had three surgeries since then.
"The Taliban would fire rocket-propelled grenades and attack at night, never showing themselves," he says. Following one of the patrols, which involved a gunfight, Pvt. Ali was returning to his base. He stepped on a freshly planted Taliban mine.
"I didn't lose consciousness after the blast, and the other soldiers carried me down on a stretcher," he recalls.
A fellow amputee, Pvt. Ali Rehman, 21, had just arrived in the Kurram area when his unit was sent to retrieve the body of a soldier killed by the Taliban higher up in the mountains. "We were going through the valley in an open-backed vehicle, and that's when we struck an IED," he recalls. The explosion sheared off his right leg.
Amputees are usually able to serve in a desk job in the military once fitted with prosthetic limbs. The military hospital in Rawalpindi provides some of the most sophisticated such devices, says Maj. Zaheer Gill, its specialist of rehabilitative medicine.
If an army offensive in North Waziristan kicks off this spring, the hospital is likely to deal with a fresh wave of patients. Despite their numbers, the men treated here are just a fraction of the toll. "The most seriously injured rarely survive," Maj. Gill adds, "and never even reach over here."
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