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Topic: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan (Read 176215 times)
October 05, 2006, 10:31:28 AM »
Herewith a thread dedicated to this area.
Taliban lay plans for Islamic intifada
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
THE PASHTUN HEARTLAND, Pakistan and Afghanistan - With the snows approaching, the Taliban's spring offensive has fallen short of its primary objective of reviving the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, as the country was known under Taliban rule from 1996-2001.
Both foreign forces and the Taliban will bunker down until next spring, although the Taliban are expected to continue with suicide missions and some hit-and-run guerrilla activities. The Taliban will
take refuge in the mountains that cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where they will have plenty of time to plan the next stage
of their struggle: a countrywide "Islamic Intifada of Afghanistan" calling on all former mujahideen to join the movement to boot out foreign forces from Afghanistan.
The intifada will be both national and international. On the one hand it aims to organize a national uprising, and on the other it will attempt to make Afghanistan the hub of the worldwide Islamic resistance movement, as it was previously under the Taliban when Osama bin Laden and his training camps were guests of the country.
The ideologue of the intifada is bin Laden's deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has assembled a special team to implement the idea. Key to this mission is Mullah Mehmood Allah Haq Yar. Asia Times Online was early to pinpoint Haq Yar as an important player (see Osama adds weight to Afghan resistance, September 11, 2004).
Oriented primarily towards Arabs, especially Zawahiri, Haq Yar speaks English, Arabic, Urdu and Pashtu with great fluency. He was sent by Taliban leader Mullah Omar to northern Iraq to train with Ansarul Islam fighters before the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. He returned to Afghanistan in 2004 and was inducted into a special council of commanders formed by Mullah Omar and assigned the task of shepherding all foreign fighters and high-value targets from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan.
He is an expert in urban guerrilla warfare, a skill he has shared with the Taliban in Afghanistan. His new task might be more challenging: to gather local warlords from north to south under one umbrella and secure international support from regional players.
A major first step toward creating an intifada in Afghanistan was the establishment of the Islamic State of North Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal area this year. This brought all fragmented sections of the Taliban under one command, and was the launching pad for the Taliban's spring offensive.
Subsequently, there has been agreement between a number of top warlords in northern Afghanistan and the Taliban to make the intifada a success next year. Credit for this development goes mainly to Haq Yar.
Haq Yar was recently almost cornered in Helmand province in Afghanistan by British forces. Before that, he spoke to Asia Times Online at an undisclosed location in the Pashtun heartland straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Asia Times Online: When are the Taliban expected to announce the revival of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan?
Haq Yar: Well, the whole Islamic world is waiting for the revival of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, but it will take some time. But sure, it will ultimately happen, and this is what the Taliban's struggle is all about.
ATol: Can you define the level of Taliban-led resistance in Afghanistan?
Haq Yar: It has already passed the initial phases and now has entered into a tactical and decisive phase. It can be measured from the hue and cry raised by the US and its allies. Daily attacks on NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] forces are now routine and suicide attacks are rampant.
ATol: To date, the Taliban have been very active in southwestern Afghanistan, but traditionally success comes when a resistance reaches eastern areas, especially the strategically important Jalalabad. When will this happen?
Haq Yar: Well, I do not agree that the Taliban movement is restricted to southwest Afghanistan. We have now established a network under which we are allied with many big and small mujahideen organizations, and in that way we are fighting foreign forces throughout Afghanistan. In a recent development, the deputy chief of the Taliban movement, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, is now positioned in the eastern zone, including Jalalabad, from where he is guiding attacks on coalition forces. This eastern zone is also part of the Taliban's stronghold.
ATol: What is the role of bin Laden and Zawahiri?
Haq Yar: We are allies and part and parcel of every strategy. Wherever mujahideen are resisting the forces of evil, Arab mujahideen, al-Qaeda and leaders Osama bin Laden and Dr Zawahiri have a key role. In Afghanistan they also have a significant role to support the Taliban movement.
ATol: Is the present Taliban-led resistance against the US and its allies a local resistance or is it international? That is, are resistance movements in other parts of the world led from Afghanistan?
Haq Yar: Initially it was a local movement, but now it is linked with resistance movements in Iraq and other places. We are certainly in coordination with all resistance movements of the Muslim world.
ATol: What is the Taliban strategy with groups like Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (Khalis)?
Haq Yar: The Hezb-i-Islami of Hekmatyar and the Taliban are fighting under a coordinated strategy and support each other. The leadership of the Khalis group is now in the hands of his son, who is coordinating everything with Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani.
ATol: What is the Taliban's weaponry? Is it old Russian arms or they have acquired new ones - and if so, where are they getting them?
Haq Yar: The Taliban have all the latest weaponry required for a guerrilla warfare. Where does it come from? Well, Afghanistan is known as a place where weapons are stockpiled. And forces that provided arms a few decades ago - the same weapons are now being used against them.
ATol: The Taliban contacted commanders in northern Afghanistan. What was the result?
Haq Yar: About one and a half years ago these contacts were initiated. Various groups from the north contacted us. We discussed the matter with [Taliban leader] Mullah Mohammed Omar Akhund and then, with his consent, I was assigned to negotiate matters with the Northern Alliance.
The first meeting was held in northern Afghanistan, where I represented the Taliban. Many individuals from various groups of the Northern Alliance attended the meeting and they all condemned the foreign presence in the country, but insisted that the Taliban should take the lead, and then they would follow suit. Another meeting was held after that in which various individuals come up with some conditions, and there was no conclusion. There was no collective meeting, but there are contacts.
ATol: What is the role of the tribal chiefs?
Haq Yar: The tribal chiefs have always been supportive of the Taliban and still are. How could they not be? The US bombed and killed thousand of their people and the puppet [President Hamid] Karzai government is silent. All Afghans are sick and tired of US tyrannies and daily bombardment, whether they are commoners or chiefs, and that is why they are all with the Taliban.
Actually, we have also worked on organizing that support. On the instructions of Mullah Mohammed Omar Akhund, I met with tribal chiefs last year and prepared the grounds for this year's battle [spring offensive], and all tribal chiefs assured me of their support. And now there is support - it is there for everybody to see.
ATol: It is said that the Taliban are now fueled by drug money. Is this correct, and if not, how do they manage their financial matters?
Haq Yar: It is shameful to say that the Taliban, who eliminated poppies from Afghanistan, are dependent on the drug trade to make money. This is wrong. As far as money is concerned, we do not need much. Whatever is required, we manage it through our own limited resources.
ATol: Are you satisfied with the media's role?
Haq Yar: Not at all. They do not publish our point of view. They never tried to talk to the genuine Taliban. Rather, they go after not genuine people who are basically plants and rejected by the Taliban leadership.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at
'War on terror' returning to its cradle (Oct 5, '06)
Pakistan reaches into Afghanistan (Oct 3, '06)
Afghanistan: Why NATO cannot win (Sep 30, '06)
Military policy in Afghanistan 'barking mad' (Sep 30, '06)
Geopolitical Diary: Musharraf Gets a Warning
A bomb exploded on Wednesday around 9:30 p.m. local time in Rawalpindi's Ayub public park, about a mile from Pakistani President Gen. Perez Musharraf's army residence. The explosion took place at a time when most residents in the area would have been indoors attending congregational prayers after breaking their fast for Ramadan. No casualties have been reported and Pakistani officials deny that this was an attempt against Musharraf's life.
Though Musharraf has more enemies than Saudi Arabia has princes, assassination attempts against him are usually more serious than this. Recall December 2003, when Musharraf's convoy was targeted twice by al Qaeda in the same month as his car crossed the bridge leading to his army house in Rawalpindi. When Musharraf's assassins get to work, they mean business.
Instead, Wednesday's explosion appears to be carrying a political message for the embattled president, who has come under intense pressure upon his return home from a lengthy visit to the United States. Musharraf has been placed in the hot seat by the White House to deliver a high-value al Qaeda target and suppress the Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. His peculiar behavior in the past month revealed that he has caved in to U.S. demands -- and is struggling for ways to absolve himself of blame and buy time before U.S. forces expand their operations on Pakistani soil.
The thought of Musharraf sacrificing Pakistan's territorial sovereignty is troubling, to say the least, for the Pakistani masses; but is of utmost concern for former members of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). There are a number of former ISI officers who were heavily involved in supporting the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, and then went on to support militant groups working on the Kashmir front to aid in the Pakistani policy of keeping India's hands tied. These former officers see the militants (both in Afghanistan and Kashmir) as state assets that they worked long and hard to cultivate -- and they fear Musharraf is now compromising those assets and throwing everything away.
While Musharraf has more or less cleansed the ISI of dissenters, many former ISI officers maintain close links with the Pakistani establishment. These officers are often paid as military contractors to maintain contacts with various militant groups after retiring from service; or they are given other civilian jobs, as was the case with former ISI Director-General Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed, who got the boot the day the United States began bombing Afghanistan in October 2001.
This network of ISI veterans has ideological and material interests in maintaining the status quo. They strike a delicate balance between supporting Musharraf on the one hand, to avoid being arrested and stay on the military's payroll, while on the other hand furthering their ideological interest in resisting foreign intervention by providing support to militant groups such as the Taliban. Musharraf has threatened this delicate balance in his deals with the United States and in recent remarks he made on the involvement of former ISI officials with the Taliban. In an interview with NBC News, Musharraf said he keeps a "very tight watch" on his intelligence agency as army chief, though he has "some reports that some dissidents, some retired people who were in the forefront in ISI during the period of 1979 to 1989, may be assisting the links [to the Taliban] somewhere here and there."
This blatant admission by Musharraf prompted a flood of backlash from former ISI officials, who have taken every opportunity to voice their criticism of the president. Former ISI Director-General Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani said there was no evidence to support Musharraf's remarks. Another former ISI director, Hameed Gul, called Musharraf a team captain scoring goals against his own team, and said that Pakistan was astonished to see the captain hell-bent on his own team's defeat. While saying that he prays for the Taliban's success to drive U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, Gul said that no Afghan leader, including President Hamid Karzai, has leveled such an allegation against the ISI.
In a particularly eye-opening statement, retired squadron leader and former ISI official Khalid Khawaja said "General Musharraf is playing the role Saddam Hussein played in Middle East. He did all the nuisance jobs in the region with U.S. support, but could not save his own country from American occupation. Similarly, the real target here is Pakistan, its army, ISI and Pakistan's nuclear program. The U.S. used Musharraf to destroy them one after other."
Khawaja's remark about the nuclear program refers to mid-October 2001, when the United States began to launch airstrikes in Afghanistan. Washington did not feel it could rely on the ISI at the time, and took it as its duty to secure access to Pakistani nuclear facilities in order to prevent nuclear materials from being handed over to the ISI. The United States threatened not only to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age, but also to take out the country's nuclear capabilities if Musharraf failed to cooperate.
Cooperating, however, has also put Musharraf in a dangerous position. The level of outrage against the president by former ISI operatives strongly suggests that Wednesday's explosion was, not an assassination attempt, but rather a stern warning: Musharraf cannot unravel the old system without suffering the consequences.
Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 01:20:13 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #1 on:
October 05, 2006, 11:37:39 AM »
This is about 4 weeks old.
Pakistan: Hello al-Qaeda, goodbye America
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
MIRANSHAH, North Waziristan - With a truce between the Pakistani Taliban and Islamabad now in place, the Pakistani government is in effect reverting to its pre-September 11, 2001, position in which it closed its eyes to militant groups allied with al-Qaeda and clearly sided with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
While the truce has generated much attention, a more significant development is an underhand deal between pro-al-Qaeda elements and Pakistan in which key al-Qaeda figures will either
not be arrested or those already in custody will be set free. This has the potential to sour Islamabad's relations with Washington beyond the point of no return.
On Tuesday, Pakistan agreed to withdraw its forces from the restive Waziristan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan in return for a pledge from tribal leaders to stop attacks by Pakistani Taliban across the border.
Most reports said that the stumbling block toward signing this truce had been the release of tribals from Pakistani custody. But most tribals had already been released.
The main problem - and one that has been unreported - was to keep Pakistan authorities' hands off members of banned militant organizations connected with al-Qaeda.
Thus, for example, it has now been agreed between militants and Islamabad that Pakistan will not arrest two high-profile men on the "most wanted" list that includes Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
Saud Memon and Ibrahim Choto are the only Pakistanis on this list, and they will be left alone. Saud Memon was the owner of the lot where US journalist Daniel Pearl was tortured, executed and buried in January 2002 in Karachi after being kidnapped by jihadis.
Pakistan has also agreed that many people arrested by law-enforcement agencies in Pakistan will be released from jail.
Importantly, this includes Ghulam Mustafa, who was detained by Pakistani authorities late last year. Mustafa is reckoned as al-Qaeda's chief in Pakistan. (See Al-Qaeda's man who knows too much, Asia Times Online, January 5. As predicted in that article, Mustafa did indeed disappear into a "black hole" and was never formally charged, let alone handed over to the US.)
Asia Times Online contacts expect Mustafa to be released in the next few days. He was once close to bin Laden and has intimate knowledge of al-Qaeda's logistics, its financing and its nexus with the military in Pakistan.
Militants at large
"Now they [Pakistani authorities] have accepted us as true representatives of the mujahideen," Wazir Khan told Asia Times Online at a religious congregation in Miranshah. "Now we are no longer criminals, but part and parcel of every deal. Even the authorities have given tacit approval that they would not have any objections if I and other fellows who were termed as wanted took part in negotiations."
Wazir Khan was once a high-profile go-between for bin Laden and one of his closest Waziristan contacts. He was right up there on the "wanted" list. Now he can move around in the open. "The situation is diametrically changed," he said.
From a personal point of view, things have changed for Wazir Khan and others like him, but in the bigger picture things have also changed diametrically.
Pakistan, the leading light in the United States' "war on terror" and a "most important" non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, is returning to the heady times of before September 11 when it could dabble without restraint in regional affairs, and this at a time when Afghanistan is boiling.
"The post-September 11 situation [in Pakistan] was draconian," a prominent militant told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity. "All jihadi organizations were informed in advance how they would be [severely] dealt with in the future and that they had better carve out an alternative low-profile strategy. But some people could not stop themselves from unnecessary adventures and created problems for the establishment. This gave the US the chance to intervene in Pakistan, and over 700 al-Qaeda mujahideen were arrested.
"Now the situation changed again ... we know the state of Pakistan is important for the Pakistan army, but certainly we know that the army would never completely compromise on Islam."
The truce between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan has been a bitter pill for Washington to swallow, although Pakistan's pledge to allow foreign troops based in Afghanistan hot pursuit into a limited area in Pakistan softens the blow a bit.
Islamabad's overriding concern, though, is to earn some breathing space domestically, as well as get Uncle Sam off its back.
The situation in Waziristan was becoming unmanageable - it's already virtually a separate state - and trouble is ongoing in restive Balochistan province, especially since the killing at the hands of Pakistani security forces of nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. Fractious opposition political parties have shown rare unity in attacking the government of President General Pervez Musharraf on the issue.
Redrawing the map
An article by retired US Major Ralph Peters titled "Blood borders" published in the Armed Forces Journal last month has given Pakistan some food for thought over manipulating the geopolitical game on its own terms and conditions.
Peters, formerly assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, where he was responsible for future warfare, argues that borders in the Middle East and Africa are "the most arbitrary and distorted" in the world and need restructuring.
Four countries - Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - are singled out for major readjustments. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are also defined as "unnatural states".
Though the US State Department was quick to deny that such ideas had anything to do with US policymaking, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey read much between the lines of talk of restructuring their boundaries.
Among Peters' proposals was the need to establish "an independent Kurdish state" that would "stretch from Diyarbakir [eastern Turkey] through Tabriz [Iran], which would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan".
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz recently visited Turkey and then Lebanon, where he announced that his country would not send any peacekeeping troops to the latter. Ankara then said that if peacekeeping forces tried to disarm Hezbollah, Turkey would pull out of the peace mission. These decisions are the result of back-channel diplomacy among Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.
Across Pakistan's border in Afghanistan, the Taliban have control of most of the southwest of the country, from where Mullah Omar is expected soon to announce the revival of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan - the name of the country before the Taliban were driven out in 2001. Once the proclamation is made, a big push toward the capital Kabul will begin.
The sounds of jail doors opening in Pakistan will jar with the United States, as will Islamabad adopting a more independent foreign policy and, crucially, aligning itself with the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, which once again could become a Pakistani playground.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at
Reply #2 on:
October 05, 2006, 12:18:57 PM »
The 7 clips on this site, plus the readings therein are well worth the time:
Another recent reading from
On 9/14/06, :
Geopolitical Diary: The Afghan Stalemate
The NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, publicly requested an additional 2,000-2,500 troops last week for operations in Afghanistan, to supplement the 20,000 already in-country. That request was soundly rebuffed on Wednesday in Brussels when a meeting of the 26-nation alliance failed to produce a single offer of reinforcements on the first day of the conference. Hopes are not high that there will be a change. Britain and Canada in particular are already stretched thin.
However, a leak to the press Sept. 11 revealed that Canada is planning to deploy 15 Leopard C2 main battle tanks and some 120 additional personnel to Afghanistan to reinforce its own units already there. This will certainly give the Canadians more firepower, though the bulk of Afghanistan is not particularly suited to tank warfare. The Canadian military will now have a full 25 percent of its tanks deployed overseas -- the first time a Canadian tank has headed into foreign combat since the World War II.
Military commanders in Afghanistan admit to being surprised at the intensity of fighting that has occurred this summer. Twenty-three NATO soldiers have been killed in the southern part of the country since deploying there in July. When British troops deployed earlier this year, their government expressed hopes of a deployment with no shots fired; last week, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported that some 80,000 rounds had already been expended. Meanwhile, suicide attacks are on the rise, with 14 in August. September is on track for even more.
The Taliban have successfully regained strength since the 2001 invasion. While the U.S. military conducted and continues to conduct major operations, some sources report that a bunker mentality fell over U.S. operations in Afghanistan: patrols were not conducted as often as they might have been, interactions with the population were not proactive and attempts were not made to integrate operations with the fledgling Afghan National Army.
So as we watch the violence in Afghanistan rise, we are seeing two phenomena. First, the Taliban are back with a vengeance, with poppy cultivation offering both a solidified financial base and a point of major contention that drives farmers away from the Afghan government and toward the Taliban. With an unstable countryside, reconstruction has not progressed as it might have and the government has not been reaching out to people. The public increasingly feels alienated from the Karzai government; there is a growing perception that the aid money coming to the government has not improved the lives of the common man. This situation is being exploited by the Taliban and their allies, helping allow the jihadist insurgency to grow. Meanwhile, tactics and techniques from the Iraqi insurgency have continued to flow eastward as foreign jihadists and new aggressive commanders pour in.
At the same time, new British and Canadian NATO operations are leaving their forward operating bases more often and taking new initiatives to interact with the people -- and in the process they are coming in more regular contact with Taliban forces. For centuries, controlling the countryside has always been the challenge for foreign powers in Afghanistan. The main cities, connected by a long road loop, have been comparatively easy to maintain control over; but any effort to win the "hearts and minds" of the populace has to risk moving out into the countryside.
Fighting will almost certainly become more intense before the winter downturn, but it will not be an entirely quiet winter. Supplies of both ammunition and explosives, as well as foreign jihadist radicals who carry out many of the suicide bombings in Afghanistan, will be hindered by the harsh climate. But they will not halt, and bombings in urban areas could continue unabated. Thus, despite all these problems, there is no reason to suggest that the stalemate between NATO and the Taliban will see any major shifts. The Taliban are no longer a national-level movement with the capacity to overrun the Afghan nation as they did in the 1990s -- at least not while NATO troops are in the country.
Last Edit: October 05, 2006, 12:21:48 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #3 on:
October 06, 2006, 07:44:37 PM »
Taliban put Pakistan on notice
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - With trouble on the battlefield, US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has recommended, for the first time since September 11, 2001, the need to bring the Taliban into the Afghan government. At the same time, Pakistan is secretly playing its own game of carrot and stick in Afghanistan to influence events to its liking.
However, two quick warning signals to Islamabad this week convey the unmistakable message that regardless of what
Washington or Islamabad might desire, the Taliban are the ones who will decide which carrots and which sticks to play.
Last month could prove to be pivotal in determining the ultimate fate of the Taliban and Afghanistan, and even the United States' "war on terror".
The Taliban, after the success of this year's spring offensive, have drawn up a blueprint for an Islamic intifada in Afghanistan next year in the form of a national uprising and an internationalization of their resistance.
This followed a "peace" deal between the Pakistani Taliban in the Waziristan tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan in which Islamabad agreed to release some al-Qaeda suspects in return for the Taliban stopping cross-border activities.
President General Pervez Musharraf then went to Washington, where he announced that foreign forces in Afghanistan would be given the right of hot pursuit into the tribal areas. He also said the authorities would take action against former army officials associated with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for supporting the Taliban.
That all is not well with this agreement is illustrated by two events this week. First, a missile landed in Ayub Park, the highest-security zone in Rawalpindi, just a few hundred meters from Musharraf's official residence at Army House. The next day, several rockets apparently linked to a mobile phone for firing were found near parliament in Islamabad.
Asia Times Online has learned that the incidents were a clear show of disapproval in Waziristan over Musharraf's basking in "Washington's charm", and that he had not implemented a key aspect of the peace accord - the release of al-Qaeda suspects - despite numerous promises.
In other words, the Pakistani Taliban are using their own stick to keep Islamabad in line.
The sore point, as mentioned, was the release of "al-Qaeda-linked" Pakistani militants arrested in Pakistani cities. The Pakistani authorities did release many, but a few, whose arrest was also known to US intelligence, were not. Musharraf said they would be freed once he returned from Washington, but this did not happen. Negotiations were still taking place when an incident happened that angered the Pakistani Taliban.
Shah Abdul Aziz of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a six-party religious alliance, is a member of the National Assembly from Karak in North-West Frontier Province. Though his direct party affiliation is with the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam led by Maulana Samiul Haq (the father of the Taliban), his real status derives from his being a veteran mujahideen from the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He vocally supports the Taliban, Arab militants and Osama bin Laden, and his fiery speeches on these topics are compiled into compact discs that are popular among the Pakistani Taliban.
Shah Mehboob Ahmed is a younger brother of Shah Abdul Aziz and also enjoys a great deal of respect among local as well as Afghan Taliban for helping the mujahideen.
The story starts when Mehboob hosted a British-born Pakistani, known only as Abdullah, who was on a list of wanted people. Abdullah then went to Islamabad and met with the biggest Taliban-supporting cleric, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, at Lal Mosque. As Abdullah left the mosque, he was picked up by intelligence agencies. One of the leads acquired from Abdullah was that he had been hosted by Mehboob. So Mehboob was also detained.
Shah Abdul Aziz, the member of parliament, contacted ISI high-ups about his brother's arrest and was informed that he would be released soon after formal investigations. However, neither Abdullah nor Mehboob was released.
This took tension between the Pakistani Taliban and the authorities to boiling point, with the former charging that not only had Islamabad not fulfilled its promises to release all Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees, but it was violating the agreement and arresting such people as Mehboob and Abdullah.
Islamabad responded that the two were part of Indian intelligence's proxy network, and that was why they had been held - not because of any possible links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban did not buy this and made it clear that as the authorities had violated the agreement, they should be ready to face the Taliban's music.
At this point Musharraf said in an interview in the US that some retired ISI officials could be assisting Taliban insurgents, adding: "We are keeping a very tight watch and we will get hold of them if that at all happened. I have some reports that some dissidents, some retired people who were in the forefront in the ISI during the period of 1979 to 1989, may be assisting the links somewhere here and there."
This set off heated debate in Pakistan, leading some people to speculate that Hamid Gul, one of the most popular Islamist generals and Musharraf's immediate boss and close associate before September 11, 2001, might be arrested. Speaking to Asia Times Online, Gul termed Musharraf's statement a reflection of his "impulsive nature" and said he was in danger of opening up a "Pandora's box".
The upshot of all this, according to signals reaching this correspondent, is that Musharraf has been put on notice. The first two incidents this week caused no damage. That was possibly the intent. This is unlikely to be the case with the next ones.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at
Reply #4 on:
October 11, 2006, 06:23:52 PM »
British hire anti-Taliban mercenaries
The Sunday Times - October 08, 2006
Christina Lamb, Kabul
BRITISH forces holed up in isolated outposts of Helmand province in Afghanistan are to be withdrawn over the next two to three weeks and replaced by newly formed tribal police who will be recruited by paying a higher rate than the Taliban.The move is the result of deals with war-weary locals and reverses the strategy of sending forces to establish ?platoon houses? in the Taliban heartland where soldiers were left under siege and short of supplies because it was too dangerous for helicopters to fly in.
Troops in the four northern districts of Sangin, Musa Qala, Nawzad and Kajaki have engaged in the fiercest fighting since the Korean war, tying up more than half the mission?s available combat force. All 16 British soldiers killed in the conflict died in these areas.
?We were coming under as many as seven attacks a day,? said Captain Alex Mackenzie of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, who spent a month in Sangin. ?We were firing like mad just to survive. It was deconstruction rather than reconstruction.?
Lieutenant-General David Richards, commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, has long been critical of tying up troops in static positions, while the British government has grown increasingly concerned that it was affecting public support for the mission.
Since taking command of the British forces at the end of July, Richards has been looking for a way to pull them out without making it look like a victory for the Taliban.
?I am confident that in two to three weeks the securing of the districts will be achieved through a different means,? he said. ?Most of the British troops will then be able to be redeployed to tasks which will facilitate rapid and visible reconstruction and development, which we?ve got to do this winter to prove we can not only fight but also deliver what people need.?
The districts will be guarded by new auxiliary police made up of local militiamen. They will initially receive $70 (?37) a month, although it is hoped that this will rise to $120 to compete with the $5 per fighting day believed to be paid by the Taliban. ?These are the same people who two weeks ago would have been vulnerable to be recruited as Taliban fighters,? said Richards.
?It?s employment they want and we need to make sure we pay more than the Taliban.?
The withdrawal of the British troops will coincide with the departure of 3 Para, whose six-month deployment is coming to an end. The battalion will be replaced by Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade who started arriving last week.
Locals in these districts are fed up with the fighting that has led to the destruction of many homes, bazaars and a school. A delegation of more than 20 elders from Musa Qala met President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday evening and demanded to be allowed to look after their own security. ?The British troops brought nothing but fighting,? they complained. They pledged that if allowed to appoint their own police chief and district chief, they would keep out the Taliban.
The other crucial factor has been Nato?s success last month in inflicting the heaviest defeat on the Taliban since their regime fell five years ago. The two-week Operation Medusa in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province left between 1,100 and 1,500 Taliban dead, many of whom were believed to be committed fighters rather than guns for hire.
?Militarily it was against the odds ? it was only because the Taliban were silly enough to take us on in strength when we had superior firepower and because of very, very brave fighting on the part of Americans, Canadians, British and Dutch, as well as the Afghan national army,? said Richards.
The Taliban, emboldened by their successes in Helmand, had changed their strategy from hit-and-run tactics to a frontal attack, apparently intending to try to take the key city of Kandahar. They had taken advantage of a change of command of foreign troops in the south from American to Canadian and eventually Nato to move large amounts of equipment and men into the Panjwayi district southwest of the city. The area was a stronghold of the mujaheddin during the Russian occupation and contains secret tunnels and grape-drying houses amid orchards and vineyards alongside the Argandab River.
After initial setbacks, including the crash of a British Nimrod aircraft in which 14 servicemen died and an incident in which an American A10 bomber strafed Canadian forces, killing one and wounding 35, Nato forces turned the situation around. Wave after wave of Taliban arriving on pick-ups to join the fight were mown down. More than 100 are believed to have been captured and reports from Quetta in neighbouring Pakistan suggest that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, has instructed his men to return to their old guerrilla tactics.
The number of daily ?contacts? between troops and insurgents has since dropped from a high of 24 in September to just two, although the lull in fighting may be partly because of Ramadan, the fasting month.
Richards believes that the victory has won his forces a six-month window during which the international community must make visible changes for the people of southern Afghanistan or risk losing everything.
?Fighting alone is not the solution,? he warned. ?We?ve got to win over the 70% of people in southern Afghanistan who are good peasant stock and basically want security and the means to feed their families. If it?s only fighting they see ahead of them for the next five years, chances are that they will say well, we?d rather have the Taliban and all that comes with it.
?The means to persuade them is not just to show we can win, as we have done, but also that it?s all worth it, which means pretty visible and ready improvements.?
He added: ?The military can?t do much more ? it?s up to the government and development agencies. At the moment somehow it isn?t happening and we?re beginning to lose time.?
The military is locked in a debate with the Department for International Development (DFID) which has ?20m to spend in Helmand but feels that the situation is too insecure for development and believes the focus should be on long-term projects.
Asked last week what reconstruction it had carried out in Helmand so far, a DFID representative could cite only the rebuilding of market stalls in two districts. The official added that the department did not want to draw attention to any improvements because that might make them targets.
The military want the DFID to hand over some of its funds to enable them to carry out work. ?We have to prove to the population today that tomorrow is worth waiting for,? said Richards.
He said that in Helmand?s main town of Lashkar Gah last month, only one young man in a group of 20 he met had a job. ?If there aren?t any jobs and the Taliban come along and say we?ll offer you $5 a day for taking pot-shots at the Brits then they will,? he said.
?That?s where we should be spending our money ? creating jobs. And it really isn?t good enough just doing the long-term stuff.?
Karzai will chair a meeting on reconstruction this week, including ministers and foreign donors, in the hope of kickstarting programmes such as road building and irrigation.
?We?ve got six months to prove to the 70% that it?s all worth it, that we can not only deliver security but the things they really want,? Richards said. ?If we do, I think things will be much better and we will have turned the curve. If we don?t, then my prognosis is that next year will be even worse than this year.?
Reply #5 on:
October 16, 2006, 07:45:21 AM »
Moving GM's post from "Islam in Islamic Countries" to here:
Pak signed deal with Mullah Omar's men to halt Wazir fighting
Islamabad, Oct 14: The much-talked about deal between tribal elders in Waziristan and Pakistan Government which was defended by President Pervez Musharraf during his recent US visit was actually signed by pro-Taliban militants owing allegiance to Mullah Omar, a media report said today.
The agreement, which aroused suspicion all around was signed with militants and not with tribal elders, as is being officially claimed, it said.
"As such the argument that the peace agreement is against the Taliban, and not with the Taliban, just does not hold water. One expert asks: How could the militants in North Waziristan, who owe their allegiance to Mullah Omar and his commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is responsible for southern Afghanistan, sign a deal against their brothers in arms", the Dawn quoted an official as saying.
The deal was signed between the administrator of North Waziristan and pro-Taliban militants and clerics who until September 5 were on the wanted list.
Among them are Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Maulana Sadiq Noor who were top militant clerics and the remaining six, Azad Khan, Maulvi Saifullah, Maulvi Ahmad Shah Jehan, Azmat Ali, Hafiz Amir Hamza and Mir Sharaf, were nominated by them to co-sign the agreement.
The agreement says that there will be no cross-border infiltration but NATO military officials stationed in Afghanistan have been quoted as saying there is a 300 per cent increase in militant activity in the Afghan border regions.
The death of a local militant commander, Maulvi Mir Kalam and his men in an operation across the border and the capture of 10 of their comrades by security forces is a case in point, it said.
Reply #6 on:
October 22, 2006, 07:10:24 AM »
In the Land of the Taliban
By ELIZABETH RUBIN
Published: October 22, 2006
One afternoon this past summer, I shared a picnic of fresh mangos and plums with Abdul Baqi, an Afghan Taliban fighter in his 20?s fresh from the front in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. We spent hours on a grassy slope under the tall pines of Murree, a former colonial hill station that is now a popular resort just outside Pakistan?s capital, Islamabad. All around us was a Pakistani rendition of Georges Seurat?s ?Sunday on La Grande Jatte? ? middle-class families setting up grills for barbecue, a girl and two boys chasing their errant cow with a stick, two men hunting fowl, boys flying a kite. Much of the time, Abdul Baqi was engrossed in the flight pattern of a Himalayan bird. It must have been a welcome distraction. He had just lost five friends fighting British troops and had seen many others killed or wounded by bombs as they sheltered inside a mosque.
He was now looking forward to taking a logic course at a madrasa, or religious school, near Peshawar during his holiday. Pakistan?s religious parties, he told me through an interpreter, would lodge him, as they did other Afghan Taliban fighters, and keep him safe. With us was Abdul Baqi?s mentor, Mullah Sadiq, a diabetic Helmandi who was shuttling between Pakistan and Afghanistan auditing Taliban finances and arranging logistics. He had just dispatched nine fighters to Afghanistan and had taken wounded men to a hospital in Islamabad. ?I just tell the border guards that they were wounded in a tribal dispute and need treatment,? he told me.
And though Mullah Sadiq said they had lost many commanders in battles around Kandahar, he and Abdul Baqi appeared to be in good spirits, laughing and chatting loudly on a cellphone to Taliban friends in Pakistan and Afghanistan. After all, they never imagined that the Taliban would be back so soon or in such force or that they would be giving such trouble to the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai and some 40,000 NATO and U.S. troops in the country. For the first time since the fall of 2001, when the Taliban were overthrown, they were beginning to taste the possibility of victory.
As I traveled through Pakistan and particularly the Pashtun lands bordering Afghanistan, I felt as if I were moving through a Taliban spa for rehabilitation and inspiration. Since 2002, the American and Pakistani militaries have focused on North Waziristan and South Waziristan, two of the seven districts making up Pakistan?s semiautonomous tribal areas, which are between the North-West Frontier Province and, to the south, Baluchistan Province; in the days since the 9/11 attacks, some tribes there had sheltered members of Al Qaeda and spawned their own Taliban movement. Meanwhile, in the deserts of Baluchistan, whose capital, Quetta, is just a few hours? drive from the Afghan city of Kandahar, the Afghan Taliban were openly reassembling themselves under Mullah Omar and his leadership council. Quetta had become a kind of free zone where strategies could be formed, funds picked up, interviews given and victories relished.
In June, I was in Quetta as the Taliban fighters celebrated an attack against Dad Mohammad Khan, an Afghan legislator locally known as Amir Dado. Until recently he was the intelligence chief of Helmand Province. He had worked closely with U.S. Special Forces and was despised by Abdul Baqi ? and, to be frank, by most Afghans in the south. Mullah Razayar Nurzai (a nom de guerre), a commander of 300 Taliban fighters who frequently meets with the leadership council and Mullah Omar, took credit for the ambush. Because Pakistan?s intelligence services are fickle ? sometimes supporting the Taliban, sometimes arresting its members ? I had to meet Nurzai at night, down a dark lane in a village outside Quetta.
My guide was a Pakistani Pashtun sympathetic to the Taliban; we slipped into a courtyard and behind a curtain into a small room with mattresses and a gas lamp. In hobbled a rough, wild-looking graybeard with green eyes and a prosthetic limb fitted into a permanent 1980?s-era shoe. More than a quarter-century of warring had taken its toll on Nurzai?s 46-year-old body but not on his spirit. It was 10 at night, yet he was bounding with energy and bombast about his recent exploits in Kandahar and Helmand. A few days earlier, Nurzai and his men had attacked Amir Dado?s extended family. First, he told me, they shot dead his brother ? a former district leader. Then the next day, as members of Dado?s family were driving to the site of the first attack, Nurzai?s men ambushed their convoy. Boys, cousins, uncles: all were killed. Dado himself was safe elsewhere. Nurzai was mildly disappointed and said that they had received bad information. He had no regrets about the killings, however. Abdul Baqi was also delighted by the attack. He would tell me that Dado used to burn rocket casings and pour the melted plastic onto the stomachs of onetime Taliban fighters he and his men had captured. Abdul Baqi also recalled that during the civil war that ended with the Taliban?s seizure of Kabul, Dado and his men had a checkpoint where they ?grabbed young boys and robbed people.?
Mullah Omar and his followers formed the Taliban in 1994 to, among other things, bring some justice to Afghanistan and to expel predatory commanders like Dado. But in the early days of Karzai?s government, these regional warlords re-established themselves, with American financing, to fill the power vacuum that the coalition forces were unwilling to fill themselves. The warlords freely labeled their many enemies Al Qaeda or Taliban in order to push the Americans to eradicate them. Some of these men were indeed Taliban. Most, like Abdul Baqi, had accepted their loss of power, but they rejoined the Taliban as a result of harassment. Amir Dado?s own abuses had eventually led to his removal from the Helmand government at United Nations insistence. As one Western diplomat, who requested anonymity out of personal safety concerns, put it: ?Amir Dado kept his own prison, authorized the use of serious torture, had very little respect for human life and made security worse.? Yet when I later met Amir Dado in Kabul, he pulled out a letter that an officer in the U.S. Special Forces had written requesting that the Afghan Ministry of Defense install him as Helmand?s police chief and claiming that in his absence ?the quality of security in the Helmand Province has dramatically declined.?
One Place, Two Stories
I went to Afghanistan and Pakistan this summer to understand how and why the Taliban were making a comeback five years after American and Afghan forces drove them from power. What kind of experience would lead Afghans to reject what seemed to be an emerging democratic government? Had we missed something that made Taliban rule appealing? Were they the only opposition the aggrieved could turn to? Or, as many Afghans were saying, was this Pakistan up to its old tricks ? cooperating with the Americans and Karzai while conspiring to bring back the Taliban, who had been valued ?assets? before 9/11?
And why has the Bush administration?s message remained that Afghanistan is a success, Iraq a challenge? ?In Afghanistan, the trajectory is a hopeful and promising one,? Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrote on the op-ed page of The Washington Post earlier this month. Afghanistan?s rise from the ashes of the anti-Taliban war would mean that the Bush administration was prevailing in replacing terror with democracy and human rights.
Meanwhile, a counternarrative was emerging, and it belonged to the Taliban, or the A.C.M., as NATO officers call them ? the Anti-Coalition Militia. In Kabul, Kandahar and Pakistan, I found their video discs and tapes in the markets. They invoke a nostalgia for the jihad against the Russians and inspire their viewers to rise up again. One begins with clattering Chinooks disgorging American soldiers into the desert. Then we see the new Afghan government onstage, focusing in on the Northern Alliance warlords ? Abdul Rashid Dostum, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Karim Khalili, Muhammad Fahim, Ismail Khan, Abdul Sayyaf. It cuts to American soldiers doing push-ups and pinpointing targets on maps; next it shows bombs the size of bathtubs dropping from planes and missiles emblazoned with ?Royal Navy? rocketing through the sky; then it moves to hospital beds and wounded children. Message: America and Britain brought back the warlords and bombed your children. In the next clip, there are metal cages under floodlights and men in orange jumpsuits, bowed and crouching. It cuts back to the wild eyes of John Walker Lindh and shows trucks hauling containers crammed with young Afghan and Pakistani prisoners ? Taliban, hundreds of whom would suffocate to death in those containers, supposedly at the command of the warlord and current army chief of staff, General Dostum. Then back to American guards wheeling hunger-striking Guant?namo prisoners on gurneys. Interspliced are older images, a bit fuzzy, of young Afghan men, hands tied behind their backs, heads bowed, hauled off by Communist guards. The message: Foreigners have invaded our lands again; Americans, Russians ? no difference.
During the period from 1994 to 2001, the Taliban were a cloistered clique with little interest in global affairs. Today they are far more sophisticated and outward-looking. ?The Taliban of the 90?s were concerned with their district or province,? says Waheed Muzhda, a senior aide at the Supreme Court in Kabul, who before the Taliban fell worked in their Foreign Ministry. ?Now they have links with other networks. Before, only two Internet connections existed ? one was with Mullah Omar?s office and the other at the Foreign Ministry here in Kabul. Now they are connected to the world.? Though this is still very much an Afghan insurgency, fueled by complex local grievances and power struggles, the films sold in the markets of Pakistan and Afghanistan merge the Taliban story with that of the larger struggle of the Muslim umma, the global community of Islam: images of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Israelis dragging off young Palestinian men and throwing off Palestinian mothers clinging to their sons. Humiliation. Oppression. Followed by the same on Afghan soil: Northern Alliance fighters perching their guns atop the bodies of dead Taliban. In the Taliban story, Special Forces soldiers desecrate the bodies of Taliban fighters by burning them, the Koran is desecrated in Guant?namo toilets, the Prophet Muhammad is desecrated in Danish cartoons and finally an apostate, Abdul Rahman, the Afghan who was arrested earlier this year for converting to Christianity, desecrates Islam and is not only not punished but is released and flown off to Italy.
It is not at all clear that Afghans want the return of a Taliban government. But even sophisticated Kabulis told me that they are fed up with the corruption. And in the Pashtun regions, which make up about half the country, Afghans are fed up with five years of having their homes searched and the young men of their villages rounded up in the name of counterinsurgency. Earlier this month in Kabul, Gen. David Richards, the British commander of NATO?s Afghanistan force, imagined what Afghans are thinking: ?They will say, ?We do not want the Taliban, but then we would rather have that austere and unpleasant life that that might involve than another five years of fighting.?? He estimated that if NATO didn?t succeed in bringing substantial economic development to Afghanistan soon, some 70 percent of Afghans would shift their loyalty to the Taliban.
In the middle of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, a metal sign tilts into the road advertising the New York English Language Center. It is a relic of the last American nation-building scheme. Half a century ago, this town, built at the confluence of the Arghandab and Helmand Rivers, was the headquarters for an ambitious dam project partly financed by the United States and contracted out to Morrison-Knudsen, an engineering company that helped build Cape Canaveral and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lashkar Gah (literally, ?the place of soldiers?) was to be a model American town. Irrigation from the project would create farms out of the desert. Today you can still see the suburban-style homes with gardens open to the streets, although the typical Afghan home is a fort with walls guarding the family?s privacy. Those modernizing dreams of America and Afghanistan were eventually defeated by nature, culture and the war to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan in the 1980?s. What remains is an intense nostalgia among the engineers, cooks and farmers of Lashkar Gah, who remember that time as one of employment and peace. Today, Lashkar Gah is home to a NATO base.
Down the road from the base stands a lovely new building erected by an N.G.O. for the local Ministry of Women?s Affairs. It is big, white and, on the day I visited, was empty except for three women getting ready to leave. ?It?s so close to the foreigners, and the women are afraid of getting killed by car bombs,? the ministry?s deputy told me. She was a school headmistress and landowner, dressed elegantly in a lime-colored blouse falling below the knees and worn over matching trousers. She weighed the Taliban regime against this new one in terms of pragmatic choices, not terror or ideology. She said that she had just wrapped up the case of a girl who had been kidnapped and raped by Kandahari police officers, something that would not have happened under the Taliban. ?Their security was outstanding,? she said.
Under the Taliban, she said, a poppy ban was enforced. ?Now the governors tell the people, ?Just cultivate a little bit,?? she said. ?So people take this opportunity and grow a lot.? The farmers lease land to grow poppies. The British and the police eradicate it. The farmer can?t pay back the landowner. ?So instead of paying, he gives the landowner his daughter.?
A few weeks before I arrived in Helmand, John Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters that Afghan authorities were succeeding in reducing opium-poppy cultivation. Yet despite hundreds of millions of dollars being allocated by Congress to stop the trade, a United Nations report in September estimated that this year?s crop was breaking all records ? 6,100 metric tons compared with 4,100 last year. When I visited Helmand, schools in Lashkar Gah were closed in part because teachers and students were busy harvesting the crop. A prosecutor from the Crimes Department laughed as he told me that his clerk, driver and bodyguard hadn?t made it to work. They were all harvesting. It requires a lot of workers, and you can earn $12 a day compared with the $2 you get for wheat. Hence the hundreds of young, poor Talibs from Pakistan?s madrasas who had flocked to earn that cash and who made easy converts for the coming jihad.
Walters had singled out Helmand for special praise. Yet just a short drive from the provincial capital, I was surrounded by poppy farmers ? 12-year-old boys, 75-year-old men ? hard at work, their hands caked in opium paste as they scooped figlike pulp off the bulbs into a sack tied around their waists. One little boy was dragging a long poppy stem attached to a car he had made out of bulbs. Haji Abdul, a 73-year-old Moses of a man, was the owner of the farm and one of those nostalgic for the heyday of the Helmand Valley project. He had worked with Americans for 15 years as a welder and manager. He was the first to bring electricity to his district. Now there was none.
?Why do you think people put mines out for the British and Italians doing eradication when they came here to save us?? He answered his own question: ?Thousands of lands ready for harvest were destroyed. How difficult will it be for our people to tolerate that! You are taking the food of my children, cutting my feet and disabling me. With one bullet, I will kill you.? Fortunately he didn?t have to kill anyone. He had paid 2,000 afghanis per jerib (about a half acre) of land to the police, he told me, adding that they would then share the spoils with the district administrator and all the other Interior Ministry officials so that only a small percentage of the poppy would be eradicated.
Reply #7 on:
October 22, 2006, 07:12:12 AM »
Page 3 of 10)
When I asked Manan Farahi, the director of counterterrorism efforts for Karzai?s government, why the Taliban were so strong in Helmand, he said that Helmandis had, in fact, hated the Taliban because of Mullah Omar?s ban on poppy cultivation. ?The elders were happy this government was coming and they could plant again,? Farahi told me. ?But then the warlords came back and let their militias roam freely. They were settling old scores ? killing people, stealing their opium. And because they belonged to the government, the people couldn?t look to the government for protection. And because they had the ear of the Americans, the people couldn?t look to the Americans. Into this need stepped the Taliban.? And this time the Taliban, far from suppressing the drug trade, agreed to protect it.
A Dealer?s Life
The Continental Guest House in Kandahar, with its lovely gardens, potted geraniums and Internet access in every room, was mostly empty when I arrived, a remnant of the city?s recently stalled economic resurgence.
To find out how the opium trade works and how it?s related to the Taliban?s rise, I spent the afternoon with an Afghan who told me his name was Razzaq. He is a medium-level smuggler in his late 20?s who learned his trade as a refugee in Iran. He was wearing a traditional Kandahari bejeweled skull cap, a dark blazer and a white shalwar kameez, a traditional outfit consisting of loose pants covered by a tunic. He moved and spoke with the confident ease of a well-protected man. ?The whole country is in our services,? he told me, ?all the way to Turkey.? This wasn?t bravado. From Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, he brings opium in the form of a gooey paste, packaged in bricks. From Badakhshan in the northeast, he brings crystal ? a sugary substance made from heroin. And from Jalalabad, in the east on the road to Peshawar, he brings pure heroin. All of this goes through Baramcha, an unmanned border town in Helmand near Pakistan. Sometimes he pays off the national soldiers to use their vehicles, he said. Sometimes the national policemen. Or he hides it well, and if there is a tough checkpoint, he calls ahead and pays them off. ?The soldiers get 2,000 afghanis a month, and I give them 100,000,? he explained with an angelic smile. ?So even if I had a human head in my car, they?d let me go.? It?s not hard to see why Razzaq is so successful. He has a certain charm and looks like the modest tailor he once was, not a man steeped in illegal business.
Razzaq?s smuggling career began in Zahedan, a remote and unruly Iranian town near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is filled with Afghan refugees who, like Razzaq and his family, fled after the Russian invasion in 1979. Razzaq apprenticed as a tailor under his father and eventually opened his own shop, which the Iranians promptly shut down. They said he had no right as a refugee to own a shop. He began painting buildings, but that, too, proved a bureaucratic challenge. He was paid in checks, and the bank refused to cash them without a bank account, which he could not get.
Razzaq was newly married with dreams of a good life for his family. So one day he took a chance. ?I had gotten to know smugglers at my tailoring shop,? he told me over a meal of mutton and rice on the floor of my hotel room. ?One of them was an old man, so no one ever suspected him. The smugglers asked me to go with him to Gerdi Jangel? ? an Afghan refugee town in Pakistan ? ?and bring back 750 grams of heroin to Zahedan. The security searched us on the bus, but I?d hidden it in the heels of my shoes, and of course they didn?t search the old man. I was so happy when we made it back. I thought I was born for the first time into this world.?
So he took another chance and managed to fly to Tehran carrying four kilos in his bag. Each time he overcame another obstacle, he became more addicted to the easy cash. When the Iranian authorities imported sniffing dogs to catch heroin smugglers, Razzaq and his friends filled hypodermic needles with some heroin dissolved in water and sprayed the liquid on cars at the bus station that would be continuing on to Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. ?The dogs at the checkpoint went mad. They had to search 50 cars. They decided the dogs were defective and sent them back, and that saved us for a while.? Eventually, he said, they concocted a substance to conceal the heroin smell from the new pack of dogs.
After the fall of the Taliban, Razzaq moved back to Helmand, built a comfortable house and began supporting his extended family with his expanding trafficking business. Razzaq?s main challenge today is Iran. While the Americans have turned more or less a blind eye to the drug-trade spree of their warlord allies, Iran has steadily cranked up its drug war. (Some 3,000 Iranian lawmen have been killed in the last three decades battling traffickers.) To cross the desert borders, Razzaq moves in convoys of 18 S.U.V.?s. Some contain drugs. The rest are loaded with food supplies, antiaircraft guns, rocket launchers, antitank missiles and militiamen, often on loan from the Taliban. The fighters are Baluch from Iran and Afghanistan. The commanders are Afghans.
Razzaq?s run, as he described it, was a scene out of ?Mad Max.? Three days were spent dodging and battling Iranian forces in the deserts around the earthquake-stricken city of Bam. Once they made it to Isfahan, however, in central Iran, they were home free. They released the militiamen, transferred the stuff to ordinary cars and drove to Tehran, where other smugglers picked up the drugs and passed them on to ethnic Turks in Tabriz. The Turks would bring them home, and from there they went to the markets of Europe.
Should he ever run into a problem in Afghanistan, he told me, ?I simply make a phone call. And my voice is known to ministers, of course. They are in my network. Every network has a big man supporting them in the government.? The Interior Ministry?s director of counternarcotics in Kabul had told me the same thing. Anyway, if the smugglers have problems on the ground, they say, they just pay the Taliban to destroy the enemy commanders.
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Razzaq has at times contemplated getting out of the smuggling trade, he said, but the easy money is too alluring. Depending on the market, he can earn from $1,500 to $7,500 a month. Most Afghans can?t make that in a year. Besides, he said, ?all the governors are doing this, so why shouldn?t we??
Losers Become Winners
In December 2001, not long after the Taliban were routed, I visited the Shah Wali Kot district, several hours? drive on unpaved roads from Kandahar, a Mordor land of rock mountains shaped like sagging crescents and mud-baked houses melting into the dunes. The Taliban leaders had fled, mostly to Pakistan. Gul Agha Shirzai, formerly a local warlord and soon-to-be new governor, and his soldiers had swarmed into power while the Americans set up their operations base in Mullah Omar?s Xanadu-like residence. I was with a large group of Populzai, the clan of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
We were in a big guest room with more than a dozen men gathered in a circle, all wearing the kind of turbans that look like gargantuan ice-cream swirls. The ones in black turban swirls were giggling, chatting and slapping one another on the back. The ones in white turban swirls were sulking, grumbling or mute. In this group, the miserable white turbans were Taliban men. They had just lost their pickup trucks, weapons, money, prestige and jobs, all of which had gone to the gleeful black turbans.
Today those miserable white turbans have taken to the mountains to fight. The gleeful black turbans are under siege. I saw one of the black turbans this summer, the Shah Wali Kot district leader, in the garden of the Kandahar governor?s palace. He was a mess. He chuckled loudly when I asked him how it was back in Shah Wali Kot. ?Frankly, we are just defending ourselves from the Taliban,? he said. ?Our head is on the pillow at night, but we do not sleep.?
That small division among the Populzai in Shah Wali Kot echoes the larger division of the Pashtun into two main branches: the Durrani and the Ghilzai. The Durrani, Karzai?s tribe, have dominated for the last two centuries in Afghanistan and regard themselves as the ruling elite. In the south, the Ghilzai were often treated as the nomadic, scrappy cousins. With the exception of Mullah Omar, who had been a poor Ghilzai farmer, the leaders of the Taliban tended to be Durrani. These days, the perception among the southern Ghilzai is that they are persecuted, that the jails are filled with their people, while the Durrani in the south received all the Japanese, U.S. and British contracts and jobs. From what I could gather during my weeks in Afghanistan, these perceptions were mostly true. But even if they were exaggerated, such perceptions, in an illiterate society, have a way of quickly morphing into reality.
Take Panjwai, a district just outside Kandahar, where hundreds of Taliban massed this summer, taking advantage of the changeover from American soldiers to a NATO force of Canadian troops. One afternoon I met a red-haired propagandist and writer for the Taliban in a Kandahar office building. With his slight lisp, chain-smoking habit and eclectic reading ? French novelists and Arabic philosophers ? he seemed more a tormented graduate student than the landless villager from Panjwai he was. Panjwai is a mishmash of tribes, and the Taliban were exploiting the grievances of the Nurzai, a tribe that has felt persecuted and unfairly targeted for poppy eradication. Traders in Kandahar, he said, were donating money to the Taliban. Landowners were paying them to fight off eradicators. The Taliban were paying poor, unemployed men to fight. And religious scholars were delivering the message that it was time for jihad because the Americans were no different from the Russians. Just a few weeks earlier, the Taliban went on a killing spree in Panjwai. They beheaded a tribal leader in his home, shot another in the bazaar and hanged a man near a shrine with a note tacked on his body: ?SPY.?
The Taliban were feeling bold enough that one afternoon Mullah Ibrahim, a Taliban intelligence agent, dropped by my hotel for lunch. He was a Ghilzai, from Helmand, and told me he had tried to lead a normal life under the official amnesty program. Instead, he was locked up, beaten and so harassed by Helmandi intelligence and police officers that his tribal elders told him to leave for Pakistan and join the Taliban there. Then, about a year ago, he decided that he was tired of fighting and living as a fugitive and accepted a reconciliation offer from an Afghan general. Pakistani intelligence got wind of this and imprisoned him; upon his release, the Pakistanis gave him money and a motorbike and pressured him to go back to war. He is still tired of war, but the Pakistanis won?t let him live in peace, and now if he tries to reconcile with the Kabul government, he told me, the Taliban will kill him.
When fighting broke out on the main highway near Kandahar, I saw that the police had tied up a group of villagers ? but the Taliban had all escaped. One of those village men, his hands bound behind his back, told me that he had peeped out from his house earlier that day and saw some 200 Taliban with new guns and rocket launchers. They wanted food and threatened him and other villagers. ?But I am not afraid of them,? he said loudly. ?I am only afraid of this government.? Why? ?Look at what they do. They can?t get the Taliban, so they arrest us. We have no hope from them anymore. And when we call and tell them Taliban are here, no one comes.? As an engineer from Panjwai who had been an Afghan senator during the Communist era told me: ?We are now like camels. In Islam, a camel can be slaughtered in two different ways.
Reply #8 on:
October 22, 2006, 07:13:21 AM »
(Page 5 of 10)
?The Taliban are using rivalries and enmities between people to get soldiers, the same tactics as the mujahedeen used against the Russians,? the engineer continued. ?Just like in Russian times they come and say, ?We are defending the country from the infidels.? They start asking for food. Then they ask the people for soldiers and say, ?We will give you weapons.? And that?s how it starts. And the emotions are rising in the people now. They are saying, ?Kaffirs have invaded our land.??
Qayum Karzai, the president?s older brother and a legislator from Kandahar, seemed utterly depressed when I met him. ?For the last four years, the Taliban were saying that the Americans will leave here,? he said. ?We were stupid and didn?t believe it. Now they think it?s a victory that the Americans left.?
With the Americans on their way out and the NATO force not yet in control, the Kandahar Police were left on the front line: underfinanced, underequipped, untrained ? and often stoned. Which is perhaps what made them so brave. One afternoon I ran into a group who said their friends had just been killed when a Talib posing as a policeman served them poisoned tea. A shaggy-haired officer in a black tunic was standing by his pickup, freshly ripped up by a barrage of bullets, and staring at my feet. ?I envy your shoes,? he said, looking back at his own torn rubber sandals. ?I envy your Toyota,? he said and laughed. And then looking at my pen and notebook, he said, ?I envy you can read and write.? It?s not too late, I offered feebly, but he tapped his temple and shook his head. ?It doesn?t work anymore,? he said. ?I smoke hash. I smoke opium. I?m drinking because we?re always thinking and nervous.? He was 35. He had been fighting for 20 years. Four of his friends had been killed in the fighting the other night. He had to support children, a wife and parents on a salary of about $100 a month. And, he said, ?we haven?t been paid in four months.? No wonder, then, that the population complained that the police were all thieves.
At Kandahar?s hospital I met a 17-year-old policeman (who had been with the police since he was 14) tending to his wounded friend. He was in a jovial mood, amazed he wasn?t dead. He said they had been given an order to cut the Taliban?s escape route. Instead they were ambushed by the Taliban, ran out of bullets and had no phones to call for backup. ?We ran away,? he said with a nervous giggle. ?The Taliban chased us, shouting: ?Hey, sons of Bush! Where are you going? We want to kill you.??
Last month, NATO forces struck back around Panjwai with artillery and aerial bombardments, killing an estimated 500 Taliban fighters and destroying homes and schools. But unless NATO can stay for years, create a trustworthy police force and spend the millions necessary to regenerate the district, the Taliban will be back.
Deciding to Fight
Inside the old city walls of Peshawar, Pakistan, a half-hour drive from the Afghan border, in a bazaar named after the storytellers who enthralled Central Asian gold and silk merchants with their tales of war and tragic love, sits the 17th-century Mohabat Khan Mosque. It is a place of cool, marble calm amid the dense market streets. Yousaf Qureshi is the prayer leader there and director of the Jamia Ashrafia, a Deobandi madrasa. He had recently announced a pledge by the jewelers? association to pay $1 million to anyone who would kill a Danish cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad. Qureshi himself offered $25,000 and a car. I found Qureshi seated on a cushion behind a low glass desk covered with papers and business cards ? ambassadors, N.G.O. workers, Islamic scholars, mujahedeen commanders: he has conversed with them all. His office resembles an antiques shop, the walls displaying oversize prayer beads, knives inlaid with ivory and astrakhan caps. It was day?s end, and Qureshi was checking the proofs for his 51st book, called ?The Benefits of Koran.?
Qureshi told me that he meets with Pakistan?s president, Pervez Musharraf, about twice a year. Qureshi understands Musharraf?s predicament: ?The heart of this government is with the Taliban. The tongue is not.? He didn?t claim total insider knowledge, but he said, ?I think they want a weak government and want to support the Taliban without letting them win.? Why? ?We are asking Musharraf, ?What are you doing,? and he says: ?I?m moving in both ways. I want to support the Taliban, but I can?t afford to displease America. I am caught between the devil and the deep sea.??
Not long ago, Qureshi said, he received three emissaries from Mullah Omar who wanted Qureshi to warn another religious leader to stop preaching against the Taliban. ?I refused,? he said. Later Sheikh Yassin, one of the messengers, was arrested by the I.S.I., Pakistan?s military intelligence service. So why, I asked, does Qureshi say the I.S.I. is supporting the Taliban? ?That is the double policy of the government,? he replied. Even in the 1990?s, he said, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was supporting the official Afghan government of Burhanuddin Rabbani while the I.S.I. was supporting his opponent, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as he rained thousands of rockets upon Rabbani?s government and the citizens of Kabul. Qureshi told me that if he and local traders didn?t want Al Qaeda or the Taliban to flourish, then they wouldn?t. ?We are supporting them to give the Americans a tough time,? he said. ?Leave Afghanistan, and the Taliban and foreign fighters will not give Karzai problems. All the administrators of madrasas know what our students are doing, but we won?t tell them not to fight in Afghanistan.?
The new Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are of three basic types. There are the old war-addicted jihadis who were left out of the 2001 Bonn conference, which determined the postwar shape of Afghan politics and the carve-up of the country. There are the ?second generation? Afghan refugees: poor, educated in Pakistan?s madrasas and easily recruited by their elders. And then there are the young men who had jobs and prestige in the former Taliban regime and were unable to find a place for themselves in the new Afghanistan.
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Coincidentally, there are also now three fronts. One is led by Mullah Omar?s council in Quetta. The second is led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a hero of the jihad against the Soviets who joined the Taliban. Although well into his 80?s, he orchestrates insurgent attacks through his sons in Paktia, Khost and Paktika, the Afghan provinces close to Waziristan, where he is based. Finally, there is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the former leader of Hezb-i-Islami, the anti-Soviet fighters entrusted with the most money and arms by the U.S. and Pakistan. He had opposed the Taliban, living in uneasy exile in Iran until the U.S. persuaded Tehran to boot him out; he sneaked into the mountainous eastern borderlands. Since the early days of Karzai?s government, he has promised to organize Mullah Omar?s followers with his educated cadres and finance their jihad against Karzai and the American invaders. Old competitors are coming together in much the way the mujahedeen factions cooperated to fight the Russians. Hekmatyar adds a lethal ingredient to this stew: his ties and his followers extend all through Afghanistan, including the north and the west, where he is exploiting factional grievances that have nothing to do with the Pashtun discontent in the south.
An Afghan I met outside Peshawar ? for his safety he asked me not to use his full name ? was typical of the 20-something Talibs who had flourished under the Taliban regime. He was from Day Chopan, a mountainous region in Zabul Province, northeast of Kandahar. When the Northern Alliance and the Americans took Afghanistan, he escaped through the hills on an old smuggling route to the North-West Frontier Province.
It was familiar terrain. A.?s father had been a religious teacher who studied in Sami ul-Haq?s famous Haqqaniya madrasa near the Khyber Pass and preached jihad for Harakat, one of the southern mujahedeen parties whose members filled Mullah Omar?s ranks. Those old ties still bind and have provided a network for recruiting. A. grew up in madrasas in the tribal Pashtun lands of Waziristan, where he learned to fire guns as a child in the American-financed mujahedeen camps. As a teenage religious student in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, he would go door to door collecting bread for his fellow Talibs. Behind one of those doors, he saw a girl and fell in love. When his father wouldn?t let him marry the girl, he threatened to go fight in Afghanistan. His father would not relent, and A. signed up at the local Taliban office in Peshawar. ?We got good food, free service, everything was Islamic,? he told me. ?It was the best life, rather than staying in that poor madrasa.? His father soon did relent, and A. became engaged, but he was only 15 and had no money. So he went back to the Taliban and was soon working beside the deputy defense minister. ?Of course, then there were bags of money,? he said.
A., now 28, was living in an Afghan refugee village that used to belong to Hekmatyar?s group. Weak with malaria, he was nevertheless plump and jovial, even funny at times. Only when the Pakistani intelligence services came up did his already sallow hues pale to old bone.
After fleeing the American bombardment in 2001, he told me, the Taliban arrived in Pakistan tattered, dispersed and demoralized. But in the months after the collapse, senior Taliban leaders told their comrades to stay at home, keep in touch and wait for the call. Some Taliban told me that they actually waited to see if there was a chance to work with Karzai?s government.
?Our emir,? as A. referred to Mullah Omar, slowly contacted the commanders and told them to find out who was dead and who was alive. Those commanders appointed group commanders to collect the underlings like A. Weapons stashed away in Afghanistan?s mountains were excavated. Funds were raised through the wide and varied Islamic network ? Karachi businessmen, Peshawar goldsmiths, Saudi oil men, Kuwaiti traders and jihadi sympathizers within the Pakistani military and intelligence ranks.
Mullah Omar named a 10-man leadership council, A. explained. Smaller councils were created for every province and district. Most of this was done from the safety of Pakistan, and in 2003 Mullah Omar dispatched Mullah Dadullah to the madrasas of Baluchistan and Karachi to gather the dispersed Talibs and find fresh recruits. Pakistani authorities were reportedly seen with him. Still, neither Musharraf nor his military men in Baluchistan did anything to arrest him.
Reply #9 on:
October 22, 2006, 07:14:58 AM »
(Page 7 of 10)
It was a perfect job for Dadullah, whose reputation for bravery was matched by his savagery and his many war wounds, collected in more than 25 years of fighting. In 1998, his fighters slaughtered hundreds of Hazaras (Shiites of Mongol descent) in Bamiyan Province, an act so brutal it was even too much for Mullah Omar, who had him disarmed at the time. Dadullah?s very savagery, filmed and now often circulated on videotape, coupled with his promotional flair, were just the ingredients Omar needed to put the Taliban back on the map.
Today, Quetta has assumed the character of Peshawar in the 1980?s, a suspicious place of spies and counterspies and double agents. It is not just the hundreds of men in typical Afghan Pashtun clothing ? the roughly wound turbans, dark shalwar kameez, eyes inked with kohl ? who squat on Thursday afternoons outside the Kandahari mosque in the center of town, comparing notes on the latest fighting in Helmand or the best religious teachers. Rather, as I wandered the narrow alleyways of the Afghan neighborhoods, my local guides would say, ?That?s where Mullah Dadullah was living? or ?That?s where Mullah Amir Khan Haqqani is living.? (Haqqani is the Taliban?s governor in exile for Zabul Province.) Mullah Dadullah is now a folk hero for young Talibs like A. And all the Taliban I met told me that every time Dadullah gives another interview or appears on the battlefield, it serves as an instant injection of inspiration.
By 2004, A. said, he was meeting a lot of Arabs ? Saudis, Iraqis, Palestinians ? who taught the Afghans about I.E.D.?s (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombings. ?They taught us how to put explosives in plastic,? he told me. ?They taught us wiring and triggers. The Arabs are the best instructors in that.? But now the Afghans are doing fine on their own. Pakistani jihadis in Afghanistan received their training, they told me, from Pakistani officers in Kashmir.
The southerners have also forged ties with the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan. There is a free flow of arms and men between Waziristan and the Afghan provinces across the border. According to A., even Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have joined some of the fighters now in A.?s home mountains in Day Chopan.
It was disheartening to hear A. describe his first encounter with Americans, who were trying to set up a base in a remote region of Zabul. Though they were building a road where no roads had gone before, he could perceive that asphalt only as a means for the Americans to transport their armored vehicles and occupy Muslim lands. A friend of his joined us as we were talking. He had just arrived in Pakistan from the Day Chopan region and said that the Americans were like a cyclone of evil, stealing their almonds and violating their Pashtunwali (the Pashtun tribal laws). In this instance, he meant the law by which even a cousin will not enter your house without knocking first.
A. is now a media man in Pakistan, coordinating the editing of films for discs, censoring them in case there are commanders who don?t want their faces seen and distributing them. He proudly offered me the latest disc of Mullah Dadullah beheading some ?spies for the Americans.? He said he had sold 25,000 CD?s about the fighting in Waziristan.
He was full of contradictions. He said that if he didn?t have a house in Day Chopan, he would never spend a single night there because there was no education, no electricity, no power, nothing, just a heap of stones. Yet he did not want America to change all that. ?We don?t like progress by Americans,? he declared. ?We don?t like roads by Americans. We would rather walk on tired feet as long as we are walking in an Islamic state.?
Was it all just bravado speaking? Was an opportunity to build bridges to young men like A. somehow lost or just neglected? It was hard to tell. But when the I.S.I. subject came up again, his tone changed. ?They are snakes,? he told me. He said that they were trying to create a new, obedient leader and oust the independent-minded Mullah Omar, and for that, the real Taliban hated them. Then he said: ?I told you that we burn schools because they?re teaching Christianity, but actually most of the Taliban don?t like this burning of schools or destroying roads and bridges, because the Taliban, too, could use them. Those acts were being done under I.S.I. orders. They don?t want progress in Afghanistan.? An Indian engineer was beheaded in Zabul in April, he said, and that was also ordered by Pakistan, which, from fear of the influence of its enemy, India, was encouraging attacks on Indian companies. ?People are not telling the story, because no one can trust anyone, and if I.S.I. knows I told you,? he said, he would be dead.
There are many theories for why Pakistan might have wanted to help the Taliban reconstitute themselves. Afghan-Pakistani relations have always been fraught. One among the many disputes has to do with the Durand Line, the boundary drawn up by the British in 1893 partly to divide the Pashtun tribes, who were constantly revolting against the British. The Afghan government has never recognized this line, which winds its way from the Hindu Kush mountains of North-West Frontier Province 1,500 miles down to the deserts of Baluchistan, as its border. Nor have the Pashtun tribes. The Pakistanis may hope to force Karzai to recognize the Durand line in exchange for stability.
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Another theory is that Musharraf must appease the religious parties whom he needs to extend his power past the end of his term next year. Musharraf bought them off, gave them control of the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and let them use the Taliban. And finally, the Pakistanis see Afghanistan as their rightful client. They want an accommodating regime, not Karzai, whose main backers are the U.S. and India, Pakistan?s nemesis.
Pakistan?s well-established secular Pashtun nationalist political leaders remain distraught that their lands have again become sanctuaries for the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani religious parties, which, since elections in 2002, rule these provinces and are completing a Talibanization of the region. The secular leaders point to another layer in Pakistan?s games: keeping the tribal areas autonomous enables Pakistan?s intelligence services to ward off the gaze of Westerners and keep their jihadis safely tucked away.
One thing you notice if you visit the homes of retired generals in Pakistan is that they live in a lavish fashion typical of South America?s dictatorship-era military elite. They control most of the country?s economy and real estate, and like President Musharraf, himself a former general, they do not want to relinquish power.
Although there is a secularist strain in the Pakistani military, it has been aligned with religious hard-liners since the army?s inception in 1947. Many officers still see their duty as defending the Muslim world, but their raison d??tre has been undermined by the fact that though Pakistan was founded as a refuge for South Asia?s Muslims, more Muslims today live in India. They seem to envy the jihadis? clarity. The militants had no identity crises. According to Najim Sethi, a prominent Pakistani journalist, military officers often have ?a degree of self-disgust for selling themselves? to the Americans, and they still bear a grudge against the United States for abandoning them after the Afghan jihad and, more recently, for sanctioning Pakistan over its nuclear program. The standard army phrase about the Americans was, he said, ?They used us like a condom.?
Officers spoke to me as if they were simply translating the feelings of the jihadis for a tone-deaf audience, but they sounded more like ventriloquists. One retired colonel I spoke to was a relative of a Taliban leader from Waziristan, Abdullah Massoud, who had earned both sympathy and reverence for his time in Guant?namo Bay. Massoud was captured fighting the Americans and the Northern Alliance and spent two years there, claiming to be a simple Afghan Talib. Upon his release, he made it home to Waziristan and resumed his war against the U.S. With his long hair, his prosthetic limb and impassioned speeches, he quickly became a charismatic inspiration to Waziristan?s youth.
Since 2001, some of Waziristan?s tribes have refused to hand over Qaeda members living among them. Under intense American pressure, Pakistan agreed for the first time in its history to invade the tribal areas. Hundreds of civilians and soldiers were killed. American helicopters were seen in the region, as were American spies. The militants (with some army accomplices) retaliated with two assassination attempts against Musharraf late in 2003. He struck back, but as the civilian casualties mounted and the military began to balk at killing Pakistanis, Musharraf agreed to a deal in the spring of 2004 whereby the militants would give up their guests in return for cash. Pakistani officers and the militants hugged and shed tears during a public reconciliation. But the militants did not relinquish their Al Qaeda guests, and they took advantage of the amnesty to execute tribal elders they said had helped the Pakistani military. The tribal structure in Waziristan was devastated, and the Taliban took to the streets to declare the Islamic emirate of Waziristan. Since Musharraf signed a truce with the militants last month, attacks launched from Waziristan into Afghanistan, according to NATO, have risen by 300 percent.
?Muslim governments are not able to face the Americans,? the retired colonel from Waziristan said, explaining the mujahedeen mind-set. ?If Muslim governments should stand up against duplicity and foreign hegemonic designs, and they don?t, who will? Someone has to stand up to defend the Muslim countries, and it?s this that gives the jihadis the courage and zeal to stand up to the worst atrocities. This is the core issue of the mujahedeen movement. You call it the war on terror. The mujahedeen call it jihad.? And so, essentially, did he.
Reply #10 on:
October 22, 2006, 07:16:15 AM »
Page 9 of 10)
One afternoon, in the midst of a monsoon, I sought out one of the founders of the pro-jihadi strategy, the retired general Mirza Aslam Beg. He lived in Rawalpindi, the military capital half an hour from Islamabad, in a brick and tile-roofed mansion with a basketball hoop, flowing greenery and Judy, his one-eyed cocker spaniel. The house was immaculate, with marble floors, rugs, fine china and porcelain on display behind glass and an amusing portrait of Aslam Beg as a young, Ray-Banned, pommaded officer. His mansion sits across the street from Musharraf?s.
Aslam Beg played a leading role in the military?s creation of ?asymmetrical assets,? jargon for the jihadis who have long been used by the military as proxies in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He was chief of the army staff from 1988 to 1991, while the Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan was selling the country?s nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Beg held talks with the Iranians about exchanging Iranian oil for Pakistani nuclear skill.
Aslam Beg likes to remind visitors that he was one of a group of army officers trained by the C.I.A. in the 1950?s as a ?stay-behind organization? that would melt into the population if ever the Soviet Union overran Pakistan. Those brigadiers and lieutenant colonels then trained and directed the Afghan jihadis.
In the 1980?s, ?the C.I.A. set up the largest support and administrative bases in Mohmand agency, Waziristan and Baluchistan,? Aslam Beg told me. ?These were the logistics bases for eight long years, and you can imagine the relations that developed. And then Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Saudis developed family relations with the local people.? The Taliban, he said, fell back after 2001 to these baselines. ?In 2003, when the U.S. attacked Iraq, a whole new dimension was added to the conflict. The foreign mujahedeen who?d fought in Afghanistan started moving back to Afghanistan and Iraq.? And the old Afghan jihadi leaders stopped by the mansion of their mentor, Aslam Beg, to tell him they were planning to wage war against the American occupiers.
As the rain outside turned to hail, banging against the windows, Aslam Beg ate some English sandwiches that had been wheeled in by a servant. ?As a believer,? he went on, ?I?ll tell you how I understand it. In the Holy Book there?s an injunction that the believer must reach out to defend the tyrannized. The words of God are, ?What restrains you from fighting for those helpless men, women and children who due to their weakness are being brutalized and are calling you to free them from atrocities being perpetuated on them.? This is a direct message, and it may not impact the hearts and minds of all believers. Maybe one in 10,000 will leave their home and go to the conflicts where Muslims are engaged in liberation movements, such as Chechnya, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Now it?s a global deterrent force.?
The Authentic Jihad
The old city of Lahore, with its broad boulevards and banyan-tree canopies, remains the cultural and intellectual heart of Pakistan. It is home to a small elite of journalists, editors, authors, painters, artists and businessmen. Najam Sethi, editor in chief of The Friday Times, and his wife, Jugnu Mohsin, the publisher, are popular fixtures among this crowd. Like so many of Pakistan?s intellectuals, they have had their share of run-ins with government security agents. For pushing the bounds of press freedom, Sethi was dragged from his bedroom during Nawaz Sharif?s reign, beaten, gagged and detained without charge. Musharraf, in his new autobiography, claims that Nawaz Sharif wanted him to court-martial Sethi for treason, an act that seemed ludicrous to him, and he refused.
I met him one afternoon at the newspaper?s offices as he was preparing his weekly editorial. He is a tall, affable man with smiling eyes and large glasses. And he got right down to business, providing an analysis of why Pakistan had decided to bring its ?assets? ? by which he meant the Taliban and Kashmiri jihadis ? off the shelf.
In the days following 9/11, when Musharraf gathered together major editors to tell them that he had no choice but to withdraw his support for the Taliban, Sethi raised the touchy issue of the other jihadis. He said that if Musharraf was abandoning the Taliban, he would have to abandon the sectarian jihadis (fighting the Shiites), the Kashmir jihadis, all of the jihadis, because they were all trained in mind by the same religious leaders and in body by the same Pakistani forces.
In January 2002, Musharraf gave an unusually long televised speech to the nation. He reminded the people that his campaign against extremism was initiated years before and not under American pressure. He vowed that Pakistan would no longer export jihadis to Kashmir, that he was again placing a ban on several jihadi organizations, that camps would be closed and that while the madrasas were mostly educating the poor, some were centers of extremist teaching and would be reformed. A month later, Musharraf was at the White House next to President Bush, who praised him for standing against terrorism.
Page 10 of 10)
Sethi characterized Pakistani authorities as believing that the U.S. in Iraq ?will be a Vietnam.? He said: ?Afghanistan will be neither here nor there. So we cannot wrap up our assets. We must protect them.? The I.S.I. realized it could help deliver Al Qaeda to the U.S. while keeping the Taliban and the jihadis on the back burner. At the same time, Musharraf?s moderate advisers were telling him that holding on to those assets would eventually boomerang. And soon enough, the assets began to come after Musharraf ? while the people of Pakistan were turning against him for being pro-American. ?So going after jihadis who were protecting the Taliban came to a halt,? Sethi said.
Meanwhile the landscape next door in Afghanistan was changing. The warlords were back in action. The drug economy was surging. By 2003 and 2004, Musharraf?s men were becoming hysterical about what they saw as a growing Indian presence in Afghanistan, particularly the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, the Pashtun strongholds that Pakistan considered its own turf. Karzai was doing business with Indians and Americans and was no longer a Pashtun whom Pakistanis would want to do business with.
As Sethi spoke, I recalled a meeting I had with one of Kandahar?s prominent tribal leaders. He recounted a visit from a former Pakistani general who had been active in the I.S.I. The general invited Kandahar?s leaders to lunch and warned them not to let the Indians put a consulate in Kandahar and to remember who their real benefactors were. Today there is a consulate there, and Indian films and music are sweeping through the Pashtun lands. What is more, many Pakistanis believe India is backing the Baluch insurgency in Pakistan?s far south, clouding the prospects for the new, Chinese-built port in Gwadar. The port is Pakistan?s single largest investment in its economic future and has been attacked by Baluch rebels.
In many ways, Pakistani policy is already looking beyond both Karzai and the Americans; they believe it is prudent to imagine a future with neither. That future will be shaped by the past: the past with India, the past with the Soviet Union, the past with America. For Pakistan?s hard-liners, at least, the obvious choice was to take their assets off the shelf and restart the jihad.
A Difficult Choice
On the wall outside the Eid Ga madrasa, in Kuchlak, a parched town near Quetta, Afghan students and teachers were debating the merits of jihad. One boy had just fled an American assault on Day Chopan in Zabul Province. He had never been to Pakistan before. He was frenzied, in shock. As a student from Kandahar led the others in dusk prayer, a young boy whispered to me, ?I like America.? They were hardly a unified group. One young Helmandi told me, ?We want our traditions of Islam and Sharia, not your democracy,? while another argued for peace. Then the Helmandi asked, with genuine confusion: ?Why are Muslims being tortured everywhere in the world, and no one is there to stand up for them? But if you touch one Westerner, the sky is on your head??
Most madrasas in Pakistan are run by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, the religious-party alliance that has joined with Musharraf to keep the popular parties of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from regaining power. The J.U.I. madrasas usually endorse jihad, although even here I met madrasa students who were against the war. They subscribed to a vision of jihad as a struggle for self-improvement and the improvement of society. Mawlawi Mohammadin, a cleric from Helmand, went so far as to tell me that these are the true roots of jihad, though he confessed that his is a lonely voice. He was afraid of everyone ? Taliban, Pakistani intelligence, even his pupils. ?If we start openly supporting Karzai, we could be killed by our own students,? he told me with nervous laughter. Only a month earlier, a Taliban official from Helmand who had reconciled with Karzai?s government was gunned down by assassins on a motorbike in Quetta.
Mohammadin said that it is now open season for jihad in Afghanistan under J.U.I. guidance. Government ministers were even attending funerals to praise Pakistani Pashtuns who had died fighting in Kandahar. He estimates that there are some 10,000 Taliban fighters in Baluchistan. Despite the intimidation, he says he feels that his mission is to steer his students away from war.
One of these was Mohamed Nader, who had just attended a cousin?s funeral and was wondering what it all meant. His cousin?s family was poor, and without their knowledge, he had gone to earn money first by harvesting poppies in Helmand and then by fighting for the Taliban. Finally he was killed. Among the biggest problems, Nader told me, was that the cohesion of the Afghan family has been shredded by decades of poverty and refugee life in Pakistan. In a typically strong Afghan family, young adults obey their parents, even asking for permission to go fight. But here, boys just run off.
Rahmatullah was one of those who had run off and returned. He was skinny and disheveled, having just faced heavy fighting in Kandahar. Though an Afghan, he had grown up in Baluchistan, near the border, in an area where he said 200 fighters were now living. The mullah at his madrasa told all the students that it was time for jihad. And the I.S.I. was paying cash. But his father was old and against the war; he pleaded with him to abandon fighting. So he sent Rahmatullah to his friend Mohammadin, hoping he might open another path for his son. Rahmatullah told me that he wasn?t sure yet which mullah he would listen to.
(Next week, Part 2: How U.S. and NATO forces have been battling the Taliban and fighting for hearts and minds.)
Reply #11 on:
October 24, 2006, 10:34:31 AM »
A quiet salute to our Canadien brothers in arms.
OTTAWA - Sgt. Darcy Tedford's widow gently stroked her husband's beret and medals as he was laid to rest today at the national war cemetery.
Family, friends and comrades from the Royal Canadian Regiment gathered at the graveside under a grey sky to pay their last respects following a private funeral service.
With her two young daughters by her side, Charmaine Tedford was presented with her husband's beret, medals and the Canadian flag that had been draped across his coffin.
No family members or friends spoke at the burial, but Charmaine and daughter Kaeleigh touched the coffin in a final tearful farewell.
Tedford, 32, was killed in Afghanistan along with Pte. Blake Williamson on Oct. 14.
They were patrolling a road west of Kandahar when their unit was ambushed by Taliban insurgents, who fired a flurry of rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.
Several Canadian soldiers have died along the stretch of road, which is under construction in the Panjwaii district.
Tedford, based at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario., was remembered by friends serving overseas as a quietly confident soldier who had several deployments to his credit.
In an interview shortly after both men were killed, Capt. Ryan Carey said Tedford could be relied on for wise advice.
Forty-two Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.
Reply #12 on:
October 24, 2006, 05:53:27 PM »
AFGHANISTAN: Taliban fighters are planning attacks on civilians in Europe in retaliation for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, Taliban commander Mullah Amin said Oct. 23 on Sky television, Pakistani newspaper The News reported. Amin added that ordinary people in Europe are acceptable targets because they voted for their governments. He also said tactics used by Iraqi insurgents, such as suicide bombers, land mines and remote-detonated bombs, inspired the Taliban.
Reply #13 on:
October 25, 2006, 10:21:19 PM »
One of FBI's 'Most Wanted Terrorists' confirmed dead
From Henry Schuster
(CNN) -- An al Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings was killed in April in Pakistan, American officials have confirmed.
Pakistani officials had said that Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah was killed in North Waziristan during an airstrike by Pakistani forces near the border with Afghanistan.
DNA testing confirmed the Pakistani government's claim, U.S. officials said, and Atwah's name was removed from the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists.
Atwah, 42, was born in Egypt. He was indicted in connection with al Qaeda's suicide bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
There was a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Atwah, who also went by the alias Abdel Rahman al-Muhajer, had been a member of al Qaeda since at least 1990 and provided explosives training in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, according to his indictment.
The indictment also charged that Atwah had been part of an al Qaeda cell operating in Somalia in the early 1990s that provided training to Somali tribesmen who attacked U.S. forces in that country.
Reply #14 on:
October 26, 2006, 10:57:15 AM »
The West is Running Out of Time in Afghanistan
10/17/2006 - By Michael Scheuer (from Terrorism Focus, October 17) - From all observables, the Taliban insurgency is spreading from its deeply rooted base in southern and southeastern Afghanistan to provinces in the west and east. In addition, several Islamist insurgent organizations active during the 1979-89 jihad against the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan?the "old mujahideen"?have allied themselves with the Taliban. Among the more important and militarily powerful of these long-established groups are Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami and the forces of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, which belong to the Hezb-e-Islami-Khalis organization. Historically, both groups have been able to deploy substantial forces in the strategically vital corridors from the Khyber Pass through Jalalabad to Kabul, and along the only major highway running from Kabul to the southern provinces. Prior to the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, the first of these organizations was hostile to the Taliban, while the second was at best neutral toward it (Asia Times, October 5).
Also noticeable in 2006 has been the strongly Afghan-centric nature of the insurgency. As in the jihad against the Red Army, the most important insurgent forces are made up of the Afghans themselves. Since Western leaders and the media focus so much attention on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the Afghans' dominant role in the war is often lost sight of. While al-Qaeda fighters and other so-called foreign fighters are active in Afghanistan?London's al-Hayat reports that more and more Saudi men are going to fight there since the Taliban assumed the military initiative this year?they are important but secondary contributors to the war effort (al-Hayat, October 3). As in the 1980s, the Afghans publicly and correctly point out that the U.S.-led coalition is increasingly facing a "nation in arms." On this question, for example, Taliban spokesman Abdul-Hai Mutamen highlighted the always intense nationalism and xenophobia of his countrymen when he said that while Afghans and foreign fighters "have spiritual sympathy with each other...Our resistance is a pure Afghan resistance" (Pakistan Observer, October
Another aspect of the Taliban's current agenda that is identical to the mujahideen's political tack in the 1980s is its definitive position that it will not participate in, or even negotiate with, President Karzai's government. In words familiar to those knowledgeable about the absolute intransigence of the Soviet-era mujahideen leaders, Taliban spokesman Mutamen recently explained that there would be no peace talks with Kabul because: "There is no independent government in Afghanistan now. The foreigners have established the current government. The occupying forces should first leave Afghanistan. We can then think of future peace talks...Our resistance, which has now spread throughout the country, is not for the sake of power or government. This is a very silly thought. We want to regain independence so our people can live under the system which they desire which is, of course, and Islamic government" (Afghan Islamic Press, October 7).
As much as the Taliban's improved military performance is an ill omen for Karzai's government and the U.S.-led coalition, three other factors greatly augment the progress that the Taliban is making on the battlefield:
Law-and-order: Western media reporting, newspapers published in Kabul, Herat and Kandahar, and statements by the Taliban show that crime rates are high in urban areas and that much of rural Afghanistan is plagued by bandits, warlords and narcotics traffickers. In other words, the law-and-order situation in most of the country is uncannily similar to the neatly anarchic environment that helped facilitate the Taliban's ascendancy in 1996. The failure of the Karzai government and its Western allies to deploy enough military forces to establish a reliable, country-wide law-and-order regime is the Taliban's most valuable non-military ally. Afghans invariably put the security of their families, businesses and farms above the implementation of elections and parliaments.
Pakistan and Waziristan: The Afghan government and some Western officials have condemned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's peace deal with the Pashtun tribes in the country's Waziristan region as being intended to strengthen the Taliban. The reality, however, seems to be that Musharraf made the deal because his army's presence in the tribal lands had become unsustainable politically. In addition to suffering heavy casualties in fighting Pashtun tribes, the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Waziristan?heavier casualties than those sustained by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan?the Pakistani army's "invasion" of the province smashed Islamabad's 50-year-old modus vivendi with the tribes to live-and-let-live and brought the area to the verge of civil war. In making peace, Musharraf did what he had to do by choosing to protect Pakistan's political stability and geographic integrity over continuing an armed intervention that threatened both and which would ultimately be feckless because of the U.S.-led coalition's failure to defeat the Taliban and control the Afghan countryside. There is no question that the Taliban is stronger because of the deal?if for no other reason than the safe haven it provided?but so is Pakistan's political stability, which was being undermined by the radicalizing impact that the army's incursion had on the country's powerful pro-Taliban and pro-al-Qaeda religious parties (Daily Times, October 3).
Time: The old adage that familiarity breeds contempt is no place on earth truer than in Afghanistan, and there it additionally always breeds armed resistance. In the Afghans' view, the U.S.-led coalition has occupied Afghanistan for five-plus years, has failed to deliver a more prosperous and safer society, has killed a large number of Afghan civilians and shows no sign of planning a near-term departure. Always short of patience in regard to foreigners running their affairs, most Afghans probably would concur with Taliban spokesman Mutamen's statement that "the people of Afghanistan...never accept foreign dominance...America has attacked Afghanistan without any reasonable plan or suggestions. The Americans, therefore, get nothing but the death of their soldiers in Afghanistan. We want NATO and other foreign troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible" (Afghan Islamic Press, October 7). Ominously, another Taliban leader, Mullah Mehmood Allah Haq Yar, claims that not only has the Pashtun-dominated Taliban's patience run out, but that the forces of the late Ahmed Shah Masood?heretofore backing Karzai?are beginning to decide that they did not defeat and evict Moscow only to be ruled by the West. In late spring 2005, Yar claims to have talked with Northern Alliance representatives who "condemned the foreign presence in the country, but insisted that the Taliban take the lead [in attacking it] and then they would follow suit." Yar claims that the Taliban's contacts with the Alliance commanders are continuing (Asia Times, October 5).
Overall, the increasing pace of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan suggests it is only a matter of time until the commanders of the U.S.-led coalition are faced with telling their political leaders that a decision must be made to either heavily reinforce coalition forces?it appears that more than the 120,000 men Moscow deployed to Afghanistan in the 1980s would be necessary?or begin preparations to withdraw from the country. If taken now, such a decision would be made in the context of polls showing popular opinion in Canada and Britain turning decidedly against continued participation in the Afghan war and media reports that France may begin to withdraw its special forces from Afghanistan next spring (Associated Press, October 15).
Michael Scheuer served as the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He is now a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation.
Reply #15 on:
October 31, 2006, 10:32:03 AM »
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Geopolitical Diary: Claiming a Strike in Pakistan
A Pakistani seminary in Chingai, near the border with Afghanistan, was struck by missiles on Monday -- an attack that leveled the building and killed at least 80 people. A Pakistani source told ABC News that al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri was the target of the strike, but thus far only one known militant -- a local leader thought to have provided shelter to al-Zawahiri -- has been confirmed dead; most of those killed are thought to have been teachers and students from the madrassa.
There have been conflicting reports as to who carried out the airstrike: Authorities have barred journalists from entering the area, in Bajaur agency, of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but eyewitnesses and residents have said the hit was carried out by U.S. forces using an unmanned Predator drone. Other reports suggest the strike came amid a joint operation by U.S. and Pakistani forces. And still other reports, the most curious of all, cited Pakistani officials who said the strike came from their own military forces.
It certainly is interesting that the seminary targeted in Monday's attack was just over a mile from the village of Damadola, the site of a U.S. airstrike that killed four senior al Qaeda operatives in January. (Al-Zawahiri was the chief target, but was not present when that attack occurred.) But that this second attempt on his life should come in such close proximity to the first, and within a matter of months, should not be surprising. Al-Zawahiri reportedly is married to a woman from the Mohmand tribe who lives with her father in the border area between Bajaur and Mohmand agencies, toward the northern end of the tribal badlands. Bajaur also borders the Dir and Malakand districts of the North-West Frontier Province -- which we long have believed to be the likely hiding place of al Qaeda leaders.
The notion that Pakistani forces would themselves have carried out the strike, however, does raise an eyebrow.
For one thing, Pakistani forces have not attempted targeted strikes against militants in this area in the past. Second, it would be highly unusual for Pakistani forces to carry out such an attack while the government is engaging in high-profile negotiations with leaders in the tribal badlands -- hoping they will prevent the area from being used by Islamist militants as a safe haven and launch-point for attacks, especially in Afghanistan. And of course, there are the eyewitness reports saying that three missiles were fired by a U.S. Predator, reportedly seen flying over the same area the previous night.
Though CIA-operated Predators have launched precision strikes using Hellfire missiles on at least two occasions, the actions of Pakistani forces against militant strongholds (which are widely dispersed through the region) have been limited to standard military assaults, lasting several days. Moreover, Stratfor has learned that Pakistani forces in the past have been reluctant to take part in attacks against their fellow countrymen, especially if there is a possibility of civilian casualties.
This, in fact, is one of the reasons the government opted to pursue negotiations with tribal leaders, hoping to minimize the need for a military option. Therefore, it is unlikely that Pakistani forces would even attack a seminary -- knowing it would house a number of teenaged religious students, in addition to any potential militants -- let alone level the place.
Moreover, statements by both U.S. President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in September made it clear that Musharraf's government has been under intense pressure to permit U.S. forces to operate on Pakistani soil.
Musharraf assigned the governor of the North-West Frontier Province, retired Lt. Gen. Ali Jan Muhammad Orakzai, the task of forging agreements with tribal maliks, seeking to counter the rise of Pashtun and other transnational jihadists. The deal made with the tribal leaders in North Waziristan has been advanced by Islamabad as a model to be replicated not only in other parts of FATA, but in Afghanistan as well. Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, also have agreed for each country to host loya jirgas, hoping to undermine support for the jihadist cause.
Though Washington publicly has expressed support for these initiatives, the administration remains unsatisfied. In fact, Central Command chief Gen. Johan Abizaid, who meets often with Pakistani military leaders, has been skeptical of the tribal deal. The Washington Times quoted him on Oct. 27 as saying, "I did talk to President Musharraf about it. I told him I was concerned about it ... The long run is, you've got to go forward in the tribal areas with economic, political and military solutions that the tribes cooperate with. But I'm very, very skeptical about this notion that people that have been harbored in the tribal areas are no longer going to be harbored. I'll believe that when I see it."
From all appearances, Monday's airstrike was either a U.S. operation or one that involved Pakistani forces at a minimal level. The curious question is why Pakistan would claim -- as some reports had it -- that the operation was carried out by its own military forces instead.
To answer that, it must be recalled that -- in addition to pursuing political deals in hopes of quashing support for transnational militants -- Musharraf also has agreed that U.S. forces can carry out their own operations, as intelligence dictates. And that means allowing the Americans to act without regard for Islamabad's timetable. Should Pakistani citizens be killed in those operations, claims of responsibility by the government at least help to counter perceptions that Islamabad no longer has any say in the matter.
From Musharraf's standpoint, the notion that Pakistani forces carried out a strike against their fellow citizens is somewhat less damaging than the perception that he has permitted infringements of national sovereignty. The problem, of course, is that the public already harbors both views, to varying degrees -- and the strongest card Musharraf has to play in this matter represents only the lesser of two evils.
Reply #16 on:
November 08, 2006, 09:52:10 PM »
Pakistan: Attacks and Retaliation in the NWFP
A suicide bombing killed more than 42 soldiers at a Pakistani army training base Nov. 8 in the town of Dargai, in the country's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). This followed a Nov. 7 attack in which tribal militants fired rockets during NWFP Gov. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai's visit to the town of Wana, in the tribal belt. These attacks are retaliation for the Pakistani military's Oct. 30 strike against a religious school in the Bajaur area, which the army asserted was being used as a militant training facility. The Pakistani military will almost certainly respond aggressively to such a blatant provocation, especially considering the army's precedent for responding to militant attacks. Such a response will further destabilize the country's restive northwest.
More than 42 Pakistani soldiers died in a Nov. 8 suicide bombing attack at an army training base in Dargai, a town in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). On the previous day, during NWFP Gov. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai's visit to the town of Wana -- the capital of South Waziristan, in the country's northwestern tribal areas -- tribal militants fired two rockets during the assembly and three more after the delegation had left the area. Security forces responded by firing mortar shells at the hills southeast of Wana.
It is hard to conclude that these attacks were anything other than retaliation for the Pakistani army's Oct. 30 strike against a madrassa in the Bajaur area. The army base targeted Nov. 8 is located about 30 miles southeast of the site of the Oct. 30 military strike. The town of Dargai is a stronghold of the banned pro-Taliban movement Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-Mohammadi, and sentiment ran strongly against Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf there even before the madrassa attack. Furthermore, Dargai is located in the Malakand tribal region, a possible hideout for al Qaeda's top leaders.
Tribesmen had publicly promised to retaliate against the madrassa attack, so the Nov. 8 suicide bombing attack was hardly a surprise, even if the scale and audacity of the attack were substantial. The Pakistani military had shown a willingness to talk with the militants and strike a deal, but the deadly attack against the military base destroyed any chances for diplomacy between the two parties by practically guaranteeing a bloody retaliation.
Militant jihadists, who are very much in league with tribal pro-Taliban forces in Pakistan's restive northwest, are attempting to make it clear to Pakistan's security establishment that their strength has yet to be sapped. This is a major escalation on the militants' part, in that they now are striking at the country's top institution -- the military, whose leaders they see as agents of the United States. The use of suicide bombers draws comparisons with militant tactics in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. Furthermore, the al Qaeda-linked jihadists sense that Musharraf's domestic standing -- especially within the military -- has deteriorated and they are exploiting that deterioration as a window of opportunity, narrow though it is.
However, the Pakistani army will not allow the Nov. 8 attack to go unpunished. The army thinks of itself as the steward of the nation and cannot accept an attack that demonstrates its vulnerability. The military has never been shy about hitting back when it is threatened or under attack; for example, the upswing in military operations in Balochistan in January followed the December 2005 attack against the helicopter of the army's Frontier Corps inspector-general, Maj. Gen. Shujaat Zamir Dar. The military also has conducted largely retributive operations in the wake of assassination attempts against Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Musharraf's military deputy, Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat.
Furthermore, considering that the United States was likely heavily involved in the Oct. 30 strike, it is highly possible that militants will seek to attack U.S. interests in Pakistan. Vulnerable targets include U.S. diplomats' residences, consulates in Lahore or Peshawar (as opposed to the more heavily guarded Karachi consulate) and five-star hotels frequented by Western nationals.
Reply #17 on:
November 10, 2006, 04:14:27 PM »
When we think of brave, thoughful and patriotic reporters, Michael Yon is amongst the first we should think of. Here's his most recent entry. He says if we don't change what we are doing in Afg-Pak, we are going to lose.
Reply #18 on:
November 13, 2006, 12:22:46 AM »
Michael Yon is the MAN! If you are going to read anyone, read him.
Reply #19 on:
November 26, 2006, 02:15:49 PM »
SPIEGEL ONLINE - November 24, 2006, 05:40 PM
Headquarters of the Taliban
By Susanne Koelbl
The strongholds of the Taliban lie in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
To understand the war in Afghanistan, one must go to Pakistan. There, in Quetta, the leaders of the Taliban find safe harbor. Afghan President Hamid Karzai claims Taliban leader Mullah Omar is living there.
Quetta is located in western Pakistan. It is the capital of Balochistan, the largest and poorest of the Pakistani provinces. Somewhat like a lunar outpost, the 800,000-resident city is situated at an altitude of nearly 1,700 meters between the sand-brown peaks of Chiltan, Takatoo, Mordar and Zarghun. Quetta originally means "fort," and it has always been just that: a fortress, where opposing forces are battling for regional hegemony.
Quetta is considered the center of terror and resistance against the Americans and their allies -- the "occupiers" of Afghanistan. In the backrooms of radical parties and in the white-washed mosques whose towers spiral decoratively skywards, the elite of the holy warriors meet regularly to organize their comeback. Right out in the open streets -- between the market stalls with pomegranates and dates, the currency exchanges and the vats where meat and beans steam on open fires -- the Taliban recruit the holy warriors who will blow themselves up as suicide bombers in Afghanistan.
Quetta is also home to the "Command and Staff College," the elite school of the Pakistani military and the headquarters of the Frontier Corps of Balochistan with some 40,000 men. Both embody the power of the Pakistani General President Pervez Musharraf, America's most important regional ally in the war on terror.
What may seem like a contradiction -- the co-existence of extremists with the Pakistani government in the same place -- is perhaps best explained by a visit to the Shaldara Koran School in the Pashtunabad slum. Roughly 700 children of penniless parents receive a free religious education here, most of the time by memorizing the Koran in didactic lessons. Western intelligence services consider the madrassa to be one of the secret headquarters of the Taliban. Indeed, school director Maulana Noor Mohammed openly supports the jihad in Afghanistan.
His office is situated along a dusty downtown alley, a room in a narrow courtyard. The Sharia teacher is sitting bare-footed and cross-legged on a floor pillow; he is wearing white harem pants and a white shirt, his turban is as white as his long beard. For over 30 years, Noor Mohammed has been in the business of holy war. He wants to free Afghanistan of the "infidels" and erect a theocracy there. Then the movement will expand to neighboring countries "and finally to the whole world."
A servant brings a tin pitcher with green tea and sets down small porcelain bowls on the worn velour rug. An old-fashioned landline telephone sits on the floor. Men sneak in silently, they kiss Noor Mohammed's hands.
Islamic agitators like Maulana Noor Mohammed are not prosecuted in Quetta, as the Afghan and American governments have been demanding for months. On the contrary: He is a respected member of the community. As the Balochistani leader of the radical Islamic party Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam he belongs to a politically influential alliance of Islamists, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). When necessary, the MMA mobilizes people on the street against the government and threatens to destabilize the country, which is, after all, a nuclear power.
Mullah Dadullah, 40, the military head of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan was a former student of Noor Mohammed. He lost a leg in the war and organizes terrorist attacks. He deals with "traitors" who cooperate with the Afghan government by chopping off their heads, live on camera. "I am proud of him," says Noor Mohammed.
Under massive pressure from the United States, President Musharraf is now taking action against the Taliban. He ordered the bombing of a Koran school -- allegedly a "terror camp with terrorist activities" and many foreigners -- in the village Chingai on the Afghan border in the tribal region of Bajaur. Among the 80-plus casualties was the school's director, Maulana Liaqatullah Hussain, without a doubt a supporter of the extremists. But the victims also included students and innocent civilians.
After that, 15,000 people protested against Musharraf and the meddling of the US in their affairs, while leading Islamists swore revenge. Since then, the atmosphere in the tribal area has been fervid. "Now more than ever, Bajaur could become Talibanized, as could other tribal areas," says a lawyer who traveled through the region to investigate the incident with colleagues.
Not long ago, the British commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, David Richards, paid a visit to President Musharraf in Islamabad. Previously, secret intelligence had trickled through: Videos and satellite images show training camps in Pakistan and document how terrorists, with the help of Pakistani security officials, slip through the border into Afghanistan unhindered. Recently imprisoned Taliban fighters testified that they were trained by agents of the Pakistani secret service Inter-Services Intelligence. The message was that the Pakistani president has to prove which side he supports.
Western allies have often demanded this of Musharraf, not always successfully. And the Pakistani president probably has no other choice but to play a double game. If he were to align himself fully with one side -- say, with the West -- then the jihadists could turn against him, plunging Pakistan into a wave of terror. This would also not be in the interest of the West.
"En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero
acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que viv?a un hidalgo de los de
lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, roc?n flaco y galgo corredor."
Reply #20 on:
November 29, 2006, 01:19:41 AM »
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NATO and the Taliban
November 28, 2006; Page A14
The NATO forces battling resurgent Taliban in southern Afghanistan call to mind the Normandy landing. Once again, mostly Canadian, British and American troops are fighting and dying. Most of the rest of Europe is absent from the fight, a fact sure to be discussed at the NATO summit this week.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is desperately seeking an additional 2,500 troops to suppress the Taliban. But with a few exceptions, such as the Dutch and Danes, most NATO members prefer the by now traditional division of labor: The Anglo-Saxons do the fighting while the others compete for popularity as armed aid workers.
The cover of last week's Der Spiegel magazine neatly captured the problem. "Germans Must Learn to Kill" read the headline above a picture of a German soldier in Afghanistan. The magazine wasn't advocating a more muscular German army. Rather, it was citing what American officials had told Karsten Voigt, Berlin's coordinator for U.S.-German relations.
The 2,900 German troops in Afghanistan are concentrated in the relatively safe north, focusing on reconstruction. France may withdraw its 200 special forces and opposes American plans for NATO to establish stronger links with like-minded countries outside the alliance. Most NATO members, including Italy, France and Spain, have placed absurd restrictions on their troops in Afghanistan. Some can operate only in certain (read: calm) regions; others won't fight in winter. These limits partly reflect the insufficient training and equipment of many European armies. While the U.S. spends about 4% of GDP on defense, the European average is half that.
Whatever the reason, this resistance to committing the troops and funds necessary to defeat the Taliban hardly matches the rhetorical commitment to the cause. The same NATO partners that refuse to provide adequate resources declare that losing Afghanistan is not an option. And right they are. If the Taliban are allowed to re-establish Afghanistan as global jihad's international headquarters, Europe would probably suffer more than the U.S. or Canada. The terrorists are opportunistic killers, attacking where there is the least resistance. Since September 11, they have failed to carry out another attack on U.S. soil. Scores have died in bomb attacks in Europe.
Afghanistan is both a test case for the West's resolve in the fight against Islamic terror and portent for the future of NATO. It is supposedly the "good" war, the multilateral war, the war that even the United Nations approved. If NATO can't muster the forces to defeat the remnants of al Qaeda's original state sponsor, what is it good for?
Reply #21 on:
December 01, 2006, 01:44:30 AM »
**I wish someone would explain to them that "jihad" is an internal struggle against sin.**
Disembowelled and murdered for teaching girls
Thursday November 30, 2006
By Kim Sengupta
GHAZNI - The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.
The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely.
But his life was over.
He was partly disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes. The remains were put on display as a warning to others against defying Taleban orders to stop educating girls.
Halim is one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taleban and United States and Afghan forces.
The day we arrived an Afghan policeman and eight insurgents died during an ambush in an outlying village. Rockets were found, primed to be fired into Ghazni city during a visit by the American ambassador a few days previously. But, as in the rest of Afghanistan, it is the civilians who are bearing the brunt of this murderous conflict.
At the village of Qara Bagh, Halim's family is distraught and terrified. His cousin, Ahmed Gul, shook his head. "They killed him like an animal. No, no. We do not kill animals like that. They took away a father and a husband, they had no pity. We are all very worried. Please go now, you see those men standing over there? They are watching. It is dangerous for you, and for us."
Fatima Mustaq, the director of education at Ghazni, has had repeated death threats, the notorious 'night letters'. Her gender, as well as her refusal to send girls home from school, has made her a hate figure for Islamist zealots. "I think they killed him that way to frighten us, otherwise why make a man suffer so much? Mohammed Halim and his family were good friends of ours and we are very, very upset by what has happened. He came to me when the threats first began and asked what he should do. I told him to move somewhere safe. I think he was trying to arrange that when they came and took him."
The threats against Mushtaq also extend to her husband Sayyid Abdul and their eight children. "When the first letters arrived, I tried to hide them from my husband. But then he found the next few. He said we must stand together. We talked, and we decided that we must tell the children, so that they can be prepared. But it is not a good way for them to grow up."
During the Taleban's rule she and her sister ran secret schools for girls at their home. "They found out and raided us. We managed to persuade them that we were only teaching the Koran. But they spied and found out we were teaching algebra. So they came and beat us. Can you imagine, beating someone for teaching algebra."
Reply #22 on:
December 01, 2006, 08:06:03 AM »
**I wish someone would explain to them that "jihad" is an internal struggle against sin.**
I read an interesting article just recently about the situation in Afghanistan. There was a quite well-stated comment from an Afghan, saying that the Taliban are only muslims because its the only thing in their miserable life that promises them glory in death - they have nothing else but war. Their funding by drugs is in islamic terms forbidden, it's dirty money . Therefore there are many radical muslims, even Shiites in Iraq and Pakistan, which even though being radical, consider the Taliban to be unworthy of Islam. Interesting notion.
"En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero
acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que viv?a un hidalgo de los de
lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, roc?n flaco y galgo corredor."
Reply #23 on:
December 02, 2006, 01:14:21 AM »
It depends on who is doing the interpreting, there are those who find theological justification in using drugs to fund the jihad.
Reply #24 on:
December 02, 2006, 10:23:50 AM »
Today's NY Times
KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 29 — After a series of bruising battles between British troops and Taliban fighters, the Afghan government struck a peace deal with tribal elders in Helmand Province, arranging for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of both sides from one southern district. A month later, the ripples are still being felt in the capital and beyond.
The New York Times
The elders in the Musa Qala district brokered a local peace pact.
The accord, reached with virtually no public consultation and mediated by the local governor, has brought some welcome peace for residents of the district, Musa Qala, and a reprieve for British troops, who had been under siege by the Taliban in a compound there for three months.
But it has sharply divided former government officials, legislators and ordinary Afghans.
Some say the agreement points the way forward in bringing peace to war-torn parts of the country. Others warn that it sets a dangerous precedent and represents a capitulation to the Taliban and a potential reversal of five years of American policy to build a strong central government. They say the accord gives up too much power to local leaders, who initiated it and are helping to enforce it.
“The Musa Qala project has sent two messages: one, recognition for the enemy, and two, military defeat,” said Mustafa Qazemi, a member of Afghanistan’s Parliament and a former resistance fighter with the Northern Alliance, which fought the Taliban for seven years.
“This is a model for the destruction of the country,” he said, “and it is just a defeat for NATO, just a defeat.”
As part of the deal, the district has been allowed to choose its own officials and police officers, something one member of Parliament warned would open a Pandora’s box as more districts clamored for the right to do the same.
Some compare the deal to agreements that Pakistan has struck with leaders in its tribal areas along the Afghan border, which have given those territories more autonomy and, critics say, empowered the Taliban who have taken sanctuary there and allowed them to regroup.
“It is the calm before the storm,” one senior Afghan military officer said of the accord.
Even President Hamid Karzai, who sanctioned the deal, has admitted to mixed feelings. “There are some suspicions in society about this,” he said in a recent radio interview with Radio Free Europe.
“I trust everything these elders say,” Mr. Karzai said, but he added that two recent episodes in the area — of killing and intimidation — gave pause and needed investigation.
For their part, foreign military officials and diplomats expressed cautious optimism, saying the accord had at least opened a debate over the virtues of such deals and time is needed to see if it will work. “If it works, and so far it appears to work, it could be a pointer to similar understandings elsewhere,” said one diplomat, who would speak on the topic only if not identified.
The governor of Helmand, Mohammad Daud, brokered the deal and defended it strongly as a vital exercise to unite the Pashtun tribes in the area and strengthen their leaders so they could reject the Taliban militants.
Appointed at the beginning of the year, Mr. Daud has struggled to win over the people and control the lawlessness of his province, which is the largest opium-producing region as well as a Taliban stronghold.
Some 5,000 British soldiers deployed in the province this year as part of an expanding NATO presence have come under repeated attack. Civilians have suffered scores of casualties across the south as NATO troops have often resorted to airstrikes, even on residential areas, to defeat the insurgents.
It was the civilians of Musa Qala who made the first bid for peace, Mr. Daud explained.
“They made a council of elders and came to us saying, ‘We want to make the Taliban leave Musa Qala,’ ” he said in a telephone interview from the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. “At first we did not accept their request, and we waited to see how strong the elders were.”
But the governor and the British forces soon demanded a cease-fire, and when it held for more than a month, they negotiated a withdrawal of British troops from the district, as well as the Afghan police who had been fighting alongside them. The Taliban then also withdrew.
Eventually the governor agreed on a 15-point accord with the elders, who pledged to support the government and the Afghan flag, keep schools open, allow development and reconstruction, and work to ensure the security and stability of the region. That included trying to limit the arming of people who do not belong to the government, namely the Taliban insurgents.
They drew up a list of local candidates for the posts of district chief and police chief, from which the governor appointed the new officials. They also chose 60 local people to serve as police officers in the district, sending the first 20 to the provincial capital for 20 days of basic training, according to provincial officials.
“Musa Qala is the way to do it,” Mr. Seraj said. “Sixty days since the agreement, and there has not been a shot fired.”
The agreement has been welcomed by residents of Musa Qala, who said in interviews by telephone or in neighboring Kandahar Province that people were rebuilding their houses and shops and planting winter crops, including the ubiquitous poppy, the source of opium.
The onset of the lucrative poppy planting season may have been one of the incentives behind their desire for peace, diplomats and government officials admitted.
Elders and residents of the area say the accord has brought calm, at least for now. “There is no Taliban authority there,” said Haji Shah Agha, 55, who led 50 members of the Musa Qala elders’ council to Kabul recently to counter criticism that the district was in the hands of the Taliban.
“The Taliban stopped fighting because we convinced them that fighting would not be to our benefit,” he said. “We told the Taliban, ‘Fighting will kill our women and children, and they are your women and children as well.’ ”
What the Taliban gained was the withdrawal of the British forces without having to risk further fighting. Meantime, the Taliban presence remains strong in the province, so much so that road travel to Musa Qala for a foreign journalist is not advised by United Nations security officials. While residents are happy with the peace, they do not deny that the militants who were fighting British forces all summer have neither disbanded nor been disarmed.
According to a local shopkeeper, Haji Bismillah, 40, who owns a pharmacy in the center of Musa Qala, the Taliban have pulled back to their villages and often come into town, but without their weapons.
“The Taliban are not allowed to enter the bazaar with their weapons,” he said in a telephone interview. “If they resist with guns, the tribal elders will disarm them,” he said.
He said the elders had temporarily given the Taliban “some kind of permission to arrest thieves and drug addicts and put them in their own prison,” since the elders did not yet have a police force of their own.
The district’s newly appointed police chief, Haji Malang, said the Taliban and the police had agreed not to encroach on each other’s territory. “They have their place which we cannot enter, and we have our place and they must not come in,” he said in a telephone interview this week.
Some residents said the deal would benefit the Taliban. “This is a very good chance for the Taliban,” said Abdul Bari, 33, a farmer who accompanied a sick relative to a hospital in neighboring Kandahar province.
“The people now view the Taliban as a force, since without the Taliban, the government could not bring peace in the regions.” he said. “It is not sure how this agreement will work, but maybe the Taliban will get more strength and then move against the elders.”
Opponents of the agreement warned that the elders were merely doing the bidding of the Taliban and would never be strong enough to face down Taliban commanders.
“The Taliban reappeared by the power of the gun, and the only way to defeat them is fighting, not dealing,” said Haji Aadil Khan, 47, a former police chief from Gereshk, another district of Helmand.
One event that has alarmed all sides was the killing and beheading of Haji Ahmad Shah, the former chief of a neighboring district, who returned to his home after the agreement was signed. Beheading is a tactic favored by some Taliban groups, and his friends say it is a clear sign that the Taliban are in control of the area. Elders of Musa Qala said that Mr. Shah had personal enemies and that they were behind the killing.
The governor, Mr. Daud, and the elders said a number of the opponents to the agreement were former militia leaders who did not want peace. “The people of Musa Qala took a step for peace with this agreement,” said the chief elder, Haji Shah Agha. “The Taliban are sitting calmly in their houses.”
Another elder, Amini, who uses only one name, said: “For four months we had fighting in Musa Qala and now we have peace. What is wrong with it, if we have peace?”
Reply #25 on:
December 08, 2006, 05:15:36 PM »
AFGHANISTAN: British marines withdrew after attacking a Taliban-held valley in southern Afghanistan when artillery fire and airstrikes failed to stop a Taliban counterattack. Resistance was expected, but the British force did not anticipate its strength, Reuters reported, citing British Maj. Andy Plewes. He added that there were not enough coalition troops in the area to hold it completely.
Reply #26 on:
December 11, 2006, 07:04:04 AM »
THE BORDER Pakistan has a military base in South Waziristan, an unruly region on the Afghan border that is dominated by local tribes. But one sign of how limited the Pakistani government’s reach is here is that soldiers on a United States base nearby say they routinely see Taliban fighters cross the mountains at night.
By CARLOTTA GALL and ISMAIL KHAN
Published: December 11, 2006
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan, vastly expanding their training of suicide bombers and other recruits and fortifying alliances with Al Qaeda and foreign fighters, diplomats and intelligence officials from several nations say. The result, they say, is virtually a Taliban mini-state.
The militants, the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross-border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year.
The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes and spreading their influence to neighboring areas, according to several American and NATO officials and Pakistani and Afghan intelligence officials.
This year more than 100 local leaders, government sympathizers or accused “American spies” have been killed, several of them in beheadings, as the militants have used a reign of terror to impose what President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan calls a creeping “Talibanization.” Last year, at least 100 others were also killed.
While the tribes once offered refuge to the militants when they retreated to the area in 2002 after the American invasion of Afghanistan, that welcome is waning as the killings have generated new tensions and added to the region’s volatility.
“They are taking territory,” said one Western ambassador in Pakistan. “They are becoming much more aggressive in Pakistan.”
“It is the lesson from Afghanistan in the ’90s,” he added. “Ungoverned spaces are a problem. The whole tribal area is a problem.”
The links among the various groups date to the 1980s, when Arabs, Pakistanis and other Muslims joined Afghans in their fight to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, using a network of training camps and religious schools set up by the Pakistani intelligence agency and financed by the C.I.A. and Saudi Arabia.
The training continued with Pakistani and Qaeda support through the 1990s, and then moved into Afghanistan under the Taliban. It was during this time that Pakistanis became drawn into militancy in big numbers, fighting alongside the Taliban and hundreds of foreign fighters against the northern tribes of Afghanistan. Today the history of the region has come full circle.
Since retreating from Afghanistan in 2002 under American military attacks, the Taliban and foreign fighters have again been using the tribal areas to organize themselves — now training their sights on the 40,000 American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
After failing to gain control of the areas in military campaigns, the government cut peace deals in South Waziristan in 2004 and 2005, and then in North Waziristan on Sept. 5. Since the September accord, NATO officials say cross-border attacks by Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and their foreign allies have increased.
In recent weeks, Pakistani intelligence officials said the number of foreign fighters in the tribal areas was far higher than the official estimate of 500, perhaps as high as 2,000 today.
These fighters include Afghans and seasoned Taliban leaders, Uzbek and other Central Asian militants, and what intelligence officials estimate to be 80 to 90 Arab terrorist operatives and fugitives, possibly including the Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The tightening web of alliances among these groups in a remote, mountainous area increasingly beyond state authority is potentially disastrous for efforts to combat terrorism as far away as Europe and the United States, intelligence officials warn.
They and Western diplomats say it also portends an even bloodier year for Afghanistan in 2007, with the winter expected to serve as what one official described as a “breeding season” to multiply ranks.
“I expect next year to be quite bloody,” the United States ambassador in Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, said in a recent interview. “My sense is the Taliban wants to come back and fight. I don’t expect the Taliban to win, but everyone needs to understand that we are in for a fight.”
One of the clearest measures of the dangers of this local cross-fertilization is the suicide bombings. Diplomats with knowledge of the area’s Pashtun tribes say they have little doubt the tactic emerged from the influence of Al Qaeda, since such attacks were unknown in Pakistan or Afghanistan before 2001.
This year suicide attacks have become a regular feature of the Afghan war and have also appeared for the first time in Pakistan, including two in this frontier province in recent weeks, indicating a growing threat to Pakistan’s security.
In recent weeks, Afghan officials say they have uncovered alarming signs of large-scale indoctrination and preparation of suicide bombers in the tribal areas, and the Pakistani minister of the interior, Aftab Khan Sherpao, publicly acknowledged for the first time that training of suicide bombers was occurring in the tribal areas.
The Afghan intelligence service said last week in a statement that it had captured an Afghan suicide bomber wearing a vest filled with explosives. The man reportedly said he had been given the task by the head of a religious school in the Pakistani tribal region of Bajaur, and that 500 to 600 students there were being prepared to fight jihad and be suicide bombers.
The bomber said that the former head of Pakistani intelligence, Gen. Hamid Gul, was financing and supporting the project, according to the statement, though the claim is impossible to verify. Pakistani intelligence agencies have long nurtured militants in the tribal areas to pressure the rival government in Afghanistan, though the government claims to have ceased its support.
December 11, 2006
(Page 2 of 3)
So numerous are the recruits that a tribal leader in southern Afghanistan, who did not want to be named because of the threat of suicide bombers, relayed an account of how one would-be suicide bomber was sent home and told to wait his turn because there were many in line ahead of him.
The Taliban retreated to Pakistan after American forces drove them out of Afghanistan. They now train fighters in camps across the lawless region.
American military officials say they believe much of the training in Waziristan is taking place under the aegis of men like Jalaluddin Haqqani, once one of the most formidable commanders of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen forces who joined the Taliban in the 1990s.
He has had a close relationship with Arab fighters since the 1980s, when Waziristan was his rear base for fighting the Soviet occupation. Arab fighters had joined him there in the struggle, among them Mr. bin Laden.
Mr. Haqqani later became the Taliban’s minister of tribal affairs and was the main protector for the foreign fighters on their exodus from Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. He and his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, remain the most important local partners for Al Qaeda in Waziristan.
Mr. Haqqani bases himself in North Waziristan and has a host of other Taliban and foreign commanders, in particular Uzbeks, who are loyal to him, United States military officials say.
Money continues to flow in from religious supporters at home and in the Persian Gulf, as well as from a range of illicit activities like a lucrative opium trade, smuggling and even kidnapping, said diplomats, United Nations analysts and local journalists.
“There are clearly very substantial training facilities that are still operating in Waziristan, both north and south, and other parts of FATA and Baluchistan,” said a diplomat in Kabul, referring to the region by the acronym for its formal name, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“Even more worrying is the continued presence of the Taliban and Haqqani leadership networks,” the diplomat said, dismayed at what he characterized as Pakistani passivity in breaking up the networks.
“They haven’t been addressed at all on the Pakistani side,” he added. “They haven’t been pursued.”
The diplomat also singled out Saddique Noor, a Pakistani militant commander in his mid-40s who he said was training suicide bombers in Waziristan and sending them into Afghanistan. Mr. Noor fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban in the 1990s and is a determined opponent of the American and NATO presence in Afghanistan.
Another commander, Beitullah Mehsud, about 40 and also from the region, is now probably the strongest Pakistani Taliban commander and may also be dispatching suicide bombers. He also fought in Afghanistan under the Taliban and claims to have 15,000 fighters under him now.
Both men are loyal to Mr. Haqqani, whom Western diplomats consider one of the most dangerous Taliban commanders because of his links to Al Qaeda and his strong local standing.
The other, for the same reason, is Mullah Dadullah, a ruthless Taliban commander from southern Afghanistan, who has emerged as the main figure in the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban.
The one-legged Dadullah — he lost a leg in fighting — has a flamboyant if cruel reputation. He narrowly escaped capture in northern Afghanistan in 2001, often gives boastful interviews to news agencies, and is known to have personally ordered the killings of aid workers. His latest announcement, made in a phone call to Reuters, was that the Taliban had infiltrated suicide bombers into every Afghan city.
He is widely thought to be based in or around the southern Pakistani town of Quetta but is reported to be constantly on the move. He visited various areas of southern Afghanistan this year and has traveled to Waziristan repeatedly, in particular as the tribes of North Waziristan negotiated their Sept. 5 peace deal with the government, which he sanctioned, according to local reporters and intelligence officials.
Push for Order
The increasingly urgent question for Pakistani, Afghan, American and NATO officials is what can be done to bring the region under control. The Pakistani government’s latest attempt was the Sept. 5 peace accord in North Waziristan.
Under the deal, both the government and militants agreed to cease attacks, and the militants agreed to end cross-border help for the Afghan insurgency, the killings of tribal leaders and accused government sympathizers, and to cease the “Talibanization” of the area.
Page 3 of 3)
Taliban commanders sanctioned the deals, arguing that the militants should concentrate their efforts on the foreign armies in Afghanistan and not waste their energies on clashing with the Pakistani military, journalists working in Waziristan say.
Critics say that the agreement is fatally flawed since it lacks any means of enforcement, and that it has actually empowered the militants. In a report to be released on Dec. 11, the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization, brands it as a policy of appeasement.
The government has taken down checkpoints, released detainees, returned confiscated weapons and vehicles and issued an amnesty. But the militants have increased their activities, benefiting from the truce with the Pakistani military, the groups said.
“From the start the agreement was not good because there are too many concessions and no clauses that are binding,” said Brig. Mahmood Shah, who served as secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas until 2005. “This agreement is not going to work, and if it is working, it is working against the government interest.”
Afrasiab Khattak, a local politician and spokesman for the Awami National Party in Peshawar, also criticized the agreement. The militants rather than the traditional tribal leaders have the power now, he said.
“They have imposed a new elite in Waziristan,” he said. “More than 200 tribal chiefs have been killed, and not a single culprit brought to justice.”
Still, Javed Iqbal, the newly appointed Pakistani secretary of the tribal areas, defended the North Waziristan accord as an effort to return to the traditional way of running the tribal areas, through the tribal chiefs. That system, employed by the British and Pakistani rulers alike, was eroded during the military campaigns of the last few years.
“We have tried the coercive tactic, we did not achieve much,” he said in an interview in Peshawar. “So what do you do? Engage.”
He said the government had let down the tribal elders in Waziristan who had wanted dialogue with the government, but were murdered one after another by the militants. But the big turnout of some 500 to 600 tribal elders at a meeting in Miramshah in North Waziristan in November was encouraging, he said, and showed that the tribes wanted to engage. “We are back in business,” he said.
Loss of Control
Some Pakistani officials admit they have made a serious mistake in allowing the militants so much leeway, but only if they will not be quoted publicly.
Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leadership networks run training camps in various parts of the 500-mile length of the tribal areas, from Baluchistan in the south to the hub of North and South Waziristan, and farther north to Bajaur, said a Western diplomat in Kabul.
A diplomat who visited Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, said the government had almost no control over either of the Waziristans.
“They are absolutely not running the show in North Waziristan, and it runs the risk of becoming like South Waziristan,” he said. “In South Waziristan the government does not even pretend to have a remit that runs outside of its compounds.”
The fundamentalists’ influence is seeping outward, with propaganda being spread on private radio stations, and through a widening network of religious schools and the distribution of CDs and DVDs. It can now be felt in neighboring tribal departments and the settled areas of the North-West Frontier Province. In recent months, Pakistani newspapers have reported incidents of music and barber shops being closed, television sets burned and girls’ schools threatened.
The militants are more powerful than the military and the local tribal police, kill with impunity and shield criminals and fugitives. Local journalists say people blame the militants for a rising tide of kidnappings, killings, robberies and even rapes.
The brutality of some foreign militants has led to rising discontent among their Pakistani hosts, many of whom are also armed and militant, making the region increasingly volatile and uncontrollable.
“Initially, it was sympathy,” one Pakistani intelligence official said. “Then came the money, but it was soon followed by fear. Now, fear is overriding the other two factors, sympathy and money.”
For now, however, the Taliban commanders and the Pakistani militants under them remain unswervingly loyal to jihad in Afghanistan and, despite the tensions, still enjoy local support for the cause, officials and local journalists say.
The failed government military campaigns of recent years, which are seen as dictated by the United States, have further radicalized the local population, many in the region say.
As a potential indicator of local support, the families of two suicide bombers sent to Afghanistan from Waziristan gained renown in the community, according to a local journalist.
“The people support the militants because they are from their own tribe, they are family,” said the journalist, who asked not to be named out of fear of the militants.
Morale is high among the resurgent Taliban after their revival in Afghanistan this year, one Pakistani security official said. That will lead to still more recruitment and better organization and planning in the year ahead.
Fighting traditionally dies down in winter because of the inhospitable conditions in the mountains.
But the new fighting season in the spring will be even bloodier, a Western diplomat in Kabul said. “We have to assume that things will be bad again,” he said, “because none of the underlying causes are being addressed
Reply #27 on:
December 13, 2006, 07:55:25 AM »
One War We Can Still Win
By ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN
Published: December 13, 2006
NO one can return from visiting the front in Afghanistan without realizing there is a very real risk that the United States and NATO will lose their war with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the other Islamist movements fighting the Afghan government.
Declassified intelligence made available during my recent trip there showed that major Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Islami sanctuaries exist in Pakistan, and that the areas they operate in within Afghanistan have increased fourfold over the last year.
Indeed, a great many unhappy trends have picked up speed lately: United States intelligence experts in Afghanistan report that suicide attacks rose from 18 in the first 11 months of 2005 to 116 in the first 11 months of 2006. Direct fire attacks went up from 1,347 to 3,824 during the same period, improvised explosive devices from 530 to 1,297 and other attacks from 269 to 479. The number of attacks on Afghan forces increased from 713 to 2,892, attacks on coalition forces from 919 to 2,496 and attacks on Afghan government officials are 2.5 times what they were.
Only the extensive use of American precision air power and intelligence assets has allowed the United States to win this year’s battles in the east. In the south, Britain has been unable to prevent a major increase in the Taliban’s presence.
The challenges in Afghanistan, however, are very different from those in Iraq. Popular support for the United States and NATO teams has been strong and can be rebuilt. The teams have created core programs for strengthening governance, the economy and the Afghan military and police forces, and with sufficient resources the programs can succeed. The present United States aid efforts are largely sound and well managed, and they can make immediate and effective use of more money.
The Islamist threat is weak, but it is growing in strength — political as well as military. The Afghan government will take years to become effective, reduce corruption to acceptable levels and replace a narcotics-based economy. As one Afghan deputy minister put it to me during my trip: “Now we are all corrupt. Until we change and serve the people, we will fail.”
No matter what the outside world does, Afghans, the United States team and NATO representatives all agree that change will take time. The present central government is at least two or three years away from providing the presence and services Afghans desperately need. The United States’ and NATO’s focus on democracy and the political process in Kabul — rather than on the quality of governance and on services — has left many areas angry and open to hostile influence. Afghanistan is going to need large amounts of military and economic aid, much of it managed from the outside in ways that ensure it actually gets to Afghans, particularly in the areas where the threat is greatest.
This means the United States needs to make major increases in its economic aid, as do its NATO allies. These increases need to be made immediately if new projects and meaningful actions are to begin in the field by the end of winter, when the Islamists typically launch new offensives.
At least such programs are cheap by the standards of aid to Iraq. The projects needed are simple ones that Afghans can largely carry out themselves. People need roads and water, and to a lesser degree schools and medical services. They need emergency aid to meet local needs and win hearts and minds.
The maps of actual and proposed projects make it clear that while progress is real, it covers only a small part of the country. Even a short visit to some of the districts in the southeast, near the border with Pakistan, suggests that most areas have not seen any progress. Drought adds to the problem, much of the old irrigation system has collapsed, and roads are little more than paths. The central government cannot offer hope, and local officials and the police cannot compete with drug loans and income.
The United States has grossly underfinanced such economic aid efforts and left far too much of the country without visible aid activity. State Department plans call for a $2.3 billion program, but unless at least $1.1 billion comes immediately, aid will lag far behind need next year.
Additionally, a generous five-year aid plan from both the United States and its NATO allies is needed for continuity and effectiveness. The United States is carrying far too much of the burden, and NATO allies, particularly France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are falling short: major aid increases are needed from each.
And United States military forces are too small to do the job. Competing demands in Iraq have led to a military climate where American troops plan for what they can get, not what they need. The 10th Mountain Division, which is responsible for eastern Afghanistan, has asked for one more infantry brigade. This badly understates need, even if new Polish forces help in the east. The United States must be able to hold and build as well as win — it needs at least two more infantry battalions, and increases in Special Forces. These increases are tiny by comparison with American forces in Iraq, but they can make all the difference.
The NATO allies must provide stronger and better-equipped forces that will join the fight and go where they are most needed. The British fight well but have only 50 to 75 percent of the forces they need. Canadians, Danes, Estonians, Dutch and Romanians are in the fight. The Poles lack adequate equipment but are willing to fight. France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey are not allowed to fight because of political constraints and rules of engagement. Only French Special Forces have played any role in combat and they depart in January. NATO must exercise effective central command; it cannot win with politically constrained forces, and it must pressure the stand-aside countries to join the fight.
Finally, the United States and NATO have repeated the same mistakes that were made in Iraq in developing effective Afghan Army and police forces, rushing unready forces into combat. The manning of key Afghan army battalions is sometimes below 25 percent and the police units are often unpaid. Corruption and pay problems are still endemic, equipment and facilities inadequate. Overall financing has been about 20 percent of the real-world requirement, and talks with Afghan and NATO officials made it brutally clear that the Germans wasted years trying to create a conventional police force rather than the mix of paramilitary and local police forces Afghanistan really needs.
The good news is that there is a new realism in the United States and NATO effort. The planning, training and much of the necessary base has been built up during the last year. There are effective plans in place, along with the NATO and American staffs to help put them into effect.
The bad news is the same crippling lack of resources that affect every part of the United States and NATO efforts also affect the development of the Afghan Army and police.
It was obvious during a visit to one older Afghan Army battalion that it had less than a quarter of its authorized manpower, and only one man in five was expected to re-enlist. At one police unit, although policemen were supposed to be paid quarterly, they were sometimes not paid at all, leaving them no choice but to extort a living. (In one case, the officer in charge of pay didn’t even fill out forms because he had been passed over for promotion because of his ethnicity.)
The United States team has made an urgent request for $5.9 billion in extra money this fiscal year, which probably underestimates immediate need and in any event must be followed by an integrated long-term economic aid plan. There is no time for the administration and Congress to quibble or play budget games. And, once again, the NATO countries must make major increases in aid as well.
In Iraq, the failure of the United States and the allies to honestly assess problems in the field, be realistic about needs, create effective long-term aid and force-development plans, and emphasize governance over services may well have brought defeat. The United States and its allies cannot afford to lose two wars. If they do not act now, they will.
Reply #28 on:
December 18, 2006, 09:40:48 PM »
Some details...below..note the relationships in the 2 imams from MA...Yash
TERRORISM INDICATORS FROM PAKISTAN - INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO. 165
By B. Raman
(A collation of reports carried by the Pakistani media)
JIHADIS PLAN REPRISAL ATTACK
Militants belonging to banned jihadi outfits are planning suicide attacks on army installations in Pakistan and foreign troops in Afghanistan in revenge for the air strike on a Bajaur madrassa on October 30, 2006. According to reports submitted by intelligence agencies to the Interior Ministry, Maulvi Inayatur Rehman and Maulana Faqir Mohammad of the Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) have pledged before their supporters to target VIPs in Pakistan and US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The bombed Bajaur madrassa was run by the TNSM and is thought to have been used as a training camp for militants. British and US diplomats and nationals were also possible targets of the militants. Leaders of the Harkatul Mujahideen (HUM), Lashker-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)and Khudamul Islam have also pledged to cooperate with the TNSM and called for a joint strategy. These banned militant organisations have procured explosives and recruited and trained a number of suicide bombers. The training and enrolment of suicide bombers is the sole responsibility of the LEJ. The suicide bombers are most likely to hit targets in the guise of beggars with explosive material weighing 2.5-3.3kg fastened around their bodies, say the reports.
The suicide bombers could also target army installations and units in the tribal areas, Peshawar, Nowshera, Risalpur, Dir, DI Khan, Abbottabad, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Jhelum, Khariaan, Lahore, Multan, Hyderabad and Karachi. In the light of these reports, the Interior Ministry has ordered the police to tighten security around important personalities. The Islamabad, Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir administrations have also been directed to check people who had previously provided shelter to militants.-----DAILY TIMES of Lahore, dated December 18, 2006.
THREAT OF HELICOPTER-BORNE ATTACKS
2. The intelligence agencies have unearthed a plan of the jihadi organisations to hijack helicopters used by courier services and humanitarian relief organisations and use them for launching terrorist strikes. They have told the Interior Ministry that the jihadis might also try to hijack helicopters of the Civil Aviation Authority and the Maritime Security Agency. The jihadi organisations have formed a special task force for carrying out these operations. They are also planning to kidnap and kill senior government officials in emulation of the tactics followed by the jihadis in Iraq.----DAILY TIMES, dated December 4, 2006
NEO TALIBAN: SUICIDE TERRORISM TRAINING IN PAKISTAN
3. According to Sayed Ansari, a spokesman for the Afghan National Directorate of Security, 17 suicide attackers were arrested in Afghanistan in September, 2006, before they could carry out their suicide missions. He said: "All the detained have confessed that they had received training for launching deadly suicide attacks against individuals and institutions in Afghanistan from Arab, Chechen and Uzbeck instructors on the Pakistan side of the border. "The bombers were being trained at Shamshatoo, an Afghan refugee camp near Peshawar, and at another place near Data Khel in North Waziristan.--- POST of Peshawar, dated October 20, 2006.
NEO TALIBAN: WINTER & POST-WINTER PLANS
4. With the onset of winter, the NATO forces and the Neo Taliban are expected to bunker down till next spring, but the Neo Taliban will continue with its suicide missions and hit and run guerilla activities. The Neo Taliban militia is planning to take refuge in the mountains that traverse the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and plan the next stage of their struggle, which will be a countrywide Islamic Intifada campaign in Afghanistan. All former Mujahideen commanders will be urged to join it to throw out the foreign troops from the Afghan soil. The forthcoming Islamic Intifada will be both national and international. While organising a national uprising, it will seek to make Afghanistan once again the base for the global jihad as it was before 9/11. Dr.Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, has assembled a special team to implement this idea. A key role will be played by Mulla Mehmood Allah Haq Yar, who was sent to Northern Iraq by Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, before 9/11 to undergo training in a training camp of the Iraqi Ansar-ul-Islam. Mulla Yar returned to Afghanistan from Iraq in 2004 and was inducted by Mulla Omar into a special council of commanders. The council was given the special task of mobilising all foreign jihadis in Pakistani territory for paticipating in the jihad in Afghanistan. A major step towards the launching of the Islamic Intifada was the establishment in September, 2006, of an Islamic Emirate of Waziristan to bring under one umbrella the various jihadi groups operating in the border areas. Many Neo Taliban supporters in Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment believe that the Intifada to be launched in April, 2007, would bring about the downfall of the Hamid Karzai Government and the return of the Neo Taliban to power.---- POST of Peshawar,dated October 20,2006
THE NEO TALIBAN BACK IN SOUTH WAZIRISTAN
5. At a meeting of the Shura of the Neo Taliban held at Wana in South Waziristan on November 26, 2006, Mullah Nazir was appointed as the commander-in-chief of all Mujahideen groups operating in South Waziristan. He is in his 40s and belongs to the Kakakhail sub-tribe of the Wazir Tribe. He enjoys the total support of Mullah Mohammad Omar and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar of the Hizb-e-Islami as well as of Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam of Pakistan. He had fought against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and returned to Waziristan from Afghanistan in November, 2001. He started operating in Waziristan along with Naik Mohammad, Haji Omar, Muhammad Sharif, Mullah Abdul Aziz, and Maulvi Abbas. Of the various Mujahideen groups operating in South Waziristan, the Haji Omar group, the Noor Islam group, the Halimullah group, the Saifuddin group, the Meta Khan group, the Malang group, and the Javed group have accepted the leadership of Mullah Nazir and agreed to fight jointly under him. The Iftikhar group and the Ghulam Jan group, which refused to accept his leadership, have been dissolved by the Neo Taliban. The Shura also appointed a three-member committee consisting of Bakht Khan Giyankhail from Afghanistan, an Arab (name not given), and an Uzbeck (name not given) to advise Mullah Nazir in his operations. He has been told that he should not take any action without its approval. ---POST of December 1, 2006
RE-ORGANISATION OF LASHKAR-EJHANGVI (LEJ)
6. The intelligence agencies have informed the Interior Ministry that Matiur Rehman, the 32-year-old explosive expert close to Al Qaeda, has been tasked with re-organising the cells of the LEJ all over Pakistan. He belongs to Bahawalpur, which is also the home town of Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). He is one of the prime suspects in the plot discovered by the British Police on August 10,2006, to blow up a number of US-bound planes. He is also a wanted suspect in the cases relating to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist in Karachi in January-February, 2002, the two assassination attempts on Gen.Pervez Musharraf at Rawalpindi in December, 2003, the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Shukat Aziz (then Finance Minister) at Fateh Jhang in June 2004, and the explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi in March 2006 in which a US diplomat was killed. The LEJ, which has become the favourite organisation of intending jihadis, is estimated to have carried out 500 terrorist strikes all over Pakistan since its formation in 1996, resulting in the death of over 1500 persons. It was also strongly suspected in the Nishtar Park suicide bombing in Karachi in April, 2006, in which 58 people, including many Barelvi leaders, were killed and in the May 2005 suicide attack on a Shia congregation at the Bari Imam shrine of Islamabad in which 25 Shias were killed. When the Taliban was in power in Kabul, the LEJ had set up its headquarters near Kabul and its training centres in Afghan territory. After the fall of the Taliban, it shifted to Pakistani territory. Initially, its preferred modus operandi (MO) was to attack its targets from moving motor-bikes. It then started using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with timers, hand-grenades and machine guns. Of late, it follows the MO of throwing hand grenades on a crowd and then opening fire with a machine gun or carrying out a suicide attack on those fleeing. It operates in cells of not more than two to seven trained volunteers. The trained volunteers are called "the armoured corps of jihad". After training, the volunteers are advised to return to their normal avocations and await instructions till they are called for an operation. They are told that while following their normal avocations, they should not keep beards and should dress normally so that they do not attract attention to themselves and should not indulge in any unlawful activities. Muhammad Ajmal alias Akram Lahori is believed to be its Saalar-e-Aala (Commander-in-chief). He and two of his associates were arrested in June, 2002, and prosecuted before an anti-terrorism court on a charge of killing Dr. Safdar, a Shia doctor of Karachi. The court sentenced them to death, but they were acquitted on appeal by the Sindh High Court on November 30, 2005.---POST of November 25, 2006.
RASHID RAUF: CURIOUSER & CURIOUSER
7. Rashid Rauf, a 25-year-old Mirpuri from Birmingham related by marriage to Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, who was arrested by the Pakistani authorities in August, 2006, and projected as close to Al Qaeda and as the Pakistan-based co-ordinator of the alleged conspiracy to blow up a number of US-bound planes originating from the UK, has been acquitted of terrorism charges by Judge Safder Hussan Malik of the Rawalpindi Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on December 13, 2006.He has transferred the case of Rashid Rauf to the city's District and Sessions Court for trial on charges of false impersonation, document forging and possession of material capable of being used as explosives. The prosecution had argued that Rauf's possession of 29 bottles of hydrogen peroxide underlined his intent to make bombs. However, Rauf's lawyer had argued that the chemical compound was also a recognised antiseptic used to clean wounds. The Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz has said that he would contest the ATC verdict and pursue the case, especially relating to hydrogen peroxide, in the sessions court under the same charges. A senior security official familiar with the case said that Rauf could be detained without charge for up to a year under the Security of Pakistan Act.-----DAILY TIMES, dated December 14, 2006.
(Please see the previous article on Rashid Rauf at
HM DEPUTY CHIEF RELEASED
8. Karamatullah Awan, deputy chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), has returned home after being detained for six months by security officials. He refused to disclose the identity of his captors and how he had been treated during his detention. He said that he had been released a few days ago, but stopped short of giving the exact date. "Contact the Jamaat-e-Islami provincial chief if you want more details on the issue," said Awan. The HM deputy leader and two others had been taken into custody six months ago, but his companions were freed after four months.-----DAILY TIMES , dated December 16,2006.
ANOTHER NOTORIOUS TERRORIST RELEASED
9. Law-enforcement agencies have released Maulana Abdul Jabbar, chief of the banned Khudamul Furqan, after almost three years in detention. Jabbar was arrested with his close aides on charges of attacking President Musharraf on December 14, 2003 in Rawalpindi. "Jabbar was released recently after a long detention," sources told Daily Times. The sources said that Khudamul Furqan militants were suspected to be behind terrorist attacks on churches in Pakistan. Maulana Jabbar started his militant career by joining the Harkatul Ansar, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, in the early 1980s and stayed in Afghanistan till the fall of the Taliban government there. He later joined the Jaish-e-Mohammad formed by Maulana Masood Azhar, but after developing differences with Azhar, Jabbar formed the Khudamul Furqan. Jabbar is an expert in Afghan affairs, heading the Afghan cell of each militant group he was in, and maintained close contacts with Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders.---DAILY TIMES, dated November 13, 2006.
LET CHIEF'S RELATIVES ARRESTED IN US
10. Two imams recently arrested in the US for visa violations and released on bail in Boston are related to Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), now operating as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD).The 33 arrests made in November, 2006, were part of a wide swoop carried out by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in eight states and the district of Columbia in connection with an ongoing investigation into a specific visa fraud scheme that was designed to help large numbers of illegal aliens, primarily from Pakistan, fraudulently obtain religious worker visas to enter or remain in the United States. The two imams, Hafiz Muhammad Hannan and Hafiz Muhammad Masood are related to Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. Masood is his brother and Hannan his brother-in-law. Masood is an imam at the Islamic Centre of New England, Sharon, Massachusetts, while Hannan is an imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell, Massachusetts. . Masood's son, Hassan was also arrested. Another member of the family, Imam Hafiz Mahmood Hamid, who is the brother of both Hafiz Saeed and Hafiz Masood, has also been arrested.Hafiz Masood came on a student exchange visa to the Boston University in 1988 and studied there till 1990, but stayed on, violating his visa status. Hafiz Hannan came to the US and applied for a religious worker visa which was granted. He made his application through one Muhammad Khalil of Brooklyn, New York. In 2004, Khalil was convicted of visa fraud and is currently in prison.---DAILY TIMES, dated December 8,2006.
FATWA TO KILL DANISH CARTOONIST
11. The chief priest of Peshawar's Mohabbat Khan Mosque, Khateeb Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Qureshi, said on December 13, 2006, that a fatwa (decree) issued by him for killing the Danish cartoonist who had drawn caricatures of the Holy Prophet last year continues to remain in force and would not be withdrawn. "We have put a price on the blasphemer's head, and will pay one million dollars to the person who kills him," Qureshi told the "Daily Times".----DAILY TIMES, dated December 14,2006.
FUND COLLECTION BY BANNED TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS
12. US authorities have expressed their concern to the Pakistani authorities over the fact that banned or suspected terrorist organisations such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa ( the parent organisation of the LET), Al Rashid Trust etc continue to collect funds in Pakistan through advertisements in the Urdu press. Following this, the authorities have advised the Urdu press not to accept advertisements from such organisations.---POST of November 25, 2006.
TAKING JIHAD TO NEPAL
13. The Pakistani authorities arrested at Karachi on October 17 one Shafiq Alam Falahi, a resident of Basantpur in Nepal, on a charge of unauthorised fund collection for a madrasa being run by him at Basantpur. He was subsequently released following the intervention of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), which clarified that he had come along with 10 other Muslims from Nepal at its invitation with valid visas for fund collection for the Basantpur madrasa. The JEI also clarified that they had been coming every year for fund collection.---DAILY TIMES of October 18, 2006
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:
Reply #29 on:
December 23, 2006, 02:19:28 PM »
U.S.: TOP BIN LADEN ASSOCIATE KILLED: MULLAH AKHTAR MOHAMMAD OSAMI: U.S. FORCES SAY THEY HAVE SEVERAL SOURCES SAYING HE WAS KILLED. A top Taliban military commander described as a close associate of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar was killed in an airstrike this week close to the border with Pakistan, the U.S. military said Saturday.Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani was killed Tuesday by a U.S. airstrike while traveling by vehicle in a deserted area in the southern province of Helmand, the U.S. military said. "We have various sources saying he was in fact killed in the attack," coalition spokesman Col. Tom Collins told CNN in an exclusive interview Saturday.
Reply #30 on:
December 29, 2006, 10:00:19 AM »
PAKISTAN -- Pakistan will begin laying mines and fencing its borders with Afghanistan in order to stop militants from crossing into Afghanistan, Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said Dec. 29. The move has been protested by both Afghanistan and the United Nations. Pakistan has so far deployed 80,000 troops and established more than 800 checkpoints in an attempt to stop the cross-border movement of terrorists.
Reply #31 on:
January 11, 2007, 07:38:44 AM »
1244 GMT -- AFGHANISTAN -- NATO-led ground troops backed by air support killed about 150 Taliban militants in a late Jan. 10 battle in Afghanistan's Paktika province, close to the Pakistani border, NATO said in a statement Jan. 10. NATO had observed the two large groups of insurgents infiltrating the province from Pakistan, according to the statement.
Reply #32 on:
January 23, 2007, 07:55:08 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Considering Mullah Omar's Location
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is not harboring Taliban leader in Afghanistan Mullah Muhammad Omar, a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Monday. She added that Mullah Omar is probably in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar gathering fighters.
The denial comes a day after The New York Times published a report that details the role ISI played in supporting the Taliban resurgence. On Jan. 17, Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, released a video in which captured Taliban spokesman Abdul Haq Haqiq confesses to his role in the Pashtun jihadist movement and says Mullah Omar is hiding in Pakistan under the ISI's protection in the southwestern city of Quetta.
These are the latest in a flurry of recent statements alleging the Taliban leader is in Pakistan and that Islamabad supports the jihadist movement to maintain its influence over Afghanistan. U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte recently told a Senate committee hearing that al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are seeking refuge in Pakistan's frontier areas, namely Quetta. There are a few explanations for the sudden increase in discussion about the Pakistani connection to the Taliban and the whereabouts of Mullah Omar.
The Taliban are expected to resume their operations on a grand scale in spring. Given the problems that U.S., NATO and Afghan forces faced before the winter snow brought the fighting season to an end, Kabul and the West hope to increase the pressure on Pakistan to cooperate in order to help thwart Taliban attempts to strike.
Afghanistan and NATO also want to get as much cooperation as they can from Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf before his time is devoted to the upcoming elections. Musharraf needs to promote domestic political stability, and knows any U.S. action on Pakistani soil would stir up jihadist and Islamist groups inside Pakistan, as well as secular groups opposed to what they consider U.S. violations of Pakistani sovereignty.
The Pakistani Taliban are now regularly targeting Pakistani security forces. Both Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and NATO think this threat could force Musharraf to cooperate in fighting the Taliban. The United States also hopes that U.S. airstrikes on jihadists inside Pakistani territory could further aid in pushing Musharraf into a corner during an election year.
Though Mullah Omar's location is not known for certain, he likely is in an area that affords him security as well as the ability to lead the insurgency. This means he can probably cross the Afghan-Pakistani border when needed. However, he is probably more secure on the Pakistani side of the border since it offers some protection from the Afghan and NATO forces searching for him.
However, Mullah Omar's likely location must also let him directly communicate with his commanders -- whose base of operations is in southeastern Afghanistan in the provinces of Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan. Mullah Omar's hideout in Pakistan is likely near these areas -- he is not hiding in the North-West Frontier Province, and is unlikely to be in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas since it is the focus of global attention and the target of U.S. airstrikes and Pakistani operations. Mullah Omar also must be in a tribal and religiously conservative Pashtun region.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, only one area is left -- the Pashtun belt in the northwestern part of Pakistan's Balochistan province, as it is directly located opposite the Taliban stronghold areas in Afghanistan.
Reply #33 on:
February 03, 2007, 06:12:17 AM »
Afghan Town Is Overrun by Taliban
By CARLOTTA GALL and TAIMOOR SHAH
Published: February 3, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 2 — Taliban militants overran the town of Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan just three months after NATO troops had withdrawn and handed over control to a tribal council, officials said Friday. The insurgents detained police officers and tribal elders, seized weapons and government equipment and bulldozed part of the district offices, according to residents.
An Afghan’s Path From U.S. Ally to Drug Suspect (February 2, 2007) Residents fled in fear that the Taliban’s arrival would precipitate further fighting with NATO forces, according to one family. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Zemarai Bashary, confirmed the attack, which took place on Thursday night, and said the Taliban had disarmed the police stationed there.
A provincial governor, Asadullah Wafa, told Agence France-Presse on Friday that the Taliban had left the town again and that the district offices were now empty. In a statement, NATO said that although the situation remained unclear, the town elders were safe in their homes. A NATO security force was monitoring the situation and ready to support the government and the elders of Musa Qala, it said.
The attack ended a British-brokered experiment aimed at bringing some control over remote regions and keeping Taliban insurgents at bay. Under the plan, British troops agreed to withdraw from the town, leaving a tribal council in charge with a locally recruited police force, and Taliban forces agreed to withdraw to nearby villages.
American officials in Afghanistan had opposed the agreement because it left the broader district of Musa Qala, a poppy-growing region of Helmand Province, open to the Taliban. But the British commander in Helmand at the time defended it as a way to release his men from a pointless and occasionally bloody siege of the town. Residents had welcomed the deal, brokered in October, because it brought a temporary peace to the badly damaged town. But some had warned at the time that it was handing a victory to the Taliban.
A Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Ghafoor, led the assault on the town Thursday in a rage, because his brother had been killed a few days before in a NATO airstrike, residents said. Leading a large group of armed men, he used a bulldozer to smash through the wall of the district office, said Abdul Razziq, a shopkeeper who said his family fled Musa Qala on Friday. Mullah Ghafoor ordered the elders to leave the compound, burned the government flag and hoisted the banner of the Taliban, Mr. Razziq said.
Reply #34 on:
February 05, 2007, 08:38:19 PM »
Afghanistan: Indications of a Busy Year Ahead
February 05, 2007 22 41 GMT
Taliban fighters attacked Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers Feb. 4 in western Afghanistan's Farah province. The attack came as the Afghan government vowed to retake Musa Qala, a town in southern Afghanistan that has been overrun by the Taliban. Both the attack in Farah and the looming battle for Musa Qala indicate 2007 will be a busy year for NATO forces and the ANA in Afghanistan.
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and coalition troops fought a small-arms battle against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Farah province Feb. 4. The fight started when the Taliban attacked an ANA checkpoint near the village of Farah. One Afghan soldier was killed and two were wounded in the battle. At least 10 Taliban fighters were reported dead. The engagement at Farah came as the Afghan government pledged to retake Musa Qala, a town in southern Afghanistan, from the Taliban.
The Farah engagement and the ANA's preparation for the battle in Musa Qala are examples of the ANA's increasing involvement in the fight against the Taliban -- and indications that the ANA will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its abilities in the coming year.
NATO, coalition forces and contractors in Afghanistan are heavily engaged in training ANA units in an effort to prepare them to play a more active role in the fight against the Taliban and the insurgents' allies. Troops from the ANA's 201st Corps, based in Pole-i-Charki, east of Kabul, increasingly are taking responsibility for security in the capital and recently formed the second of three authorized brigades.
NATO's focus on training the ANA is switching to a heavier emphasis on mobile training teams, which give ANA units instruction on staff operations, noncommissioned officer battle staff management, training management and decision-making. These skills are required if ANA officers and noncommissioned officers are to organize and lead their units in the field in a way that is compatible with NATO and coalition units.
On Feb. 1, just a few days before the battle in Farah, the U.S. military gave the ANA more than 200 up-armored Humvees, 800 trucks and 12,000 small and heavy arms. This was the U.S. military's first major presentation of new equipment to the Afghan forces.
Despite the equipment, the ANA will still depend completely on NATO and U.S. forces for air and artillery support. However, the new equipment replaces the ANA's old worn-out Soviet-era equipment, which was not compatible with the gear NATO and U.S. forces use. This new equipment and training will make the ANA more mobile and more capable of conducting patrols and taking on other battlefield responsibilities.
This move is geared toward NATO's overall strategy of eventually being able to hand over security to some form of native force so that NATO can leave -- but, realistically, this cannot happen for years. This kind of equipment is similar to that which the United States handed over to the Lebanese armed forces after the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. Humvees and machine guns will give the ANA enhanced mobility and better firepower, but -- unlike heavier weapons, such as armored fighting vehicles and artillery -- they do not indicate that NATO especially trusts the ANA.
The equipment handover and intensified training comes ahead of the anticipated spring offensive by the Taliban and their al Qaeda and local militia allies. This offensive happens annually as the winter snows melt, clearing the mountain passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. NATO believes that although the Taliban and their allies will launch a spring offensive, the Taliban are no longer capable of overrunning and holding any part of the country for any significant length of time. This diminished capability is likely due to the constant pounding NATO has delivered to the Taliban over the last several months in response to a record number of militant attacks, including a dramatic increase in suicide bombings.
This year is shaping up to be a violent one in Afghanistan, despite NATO's efforts. The spring offensive is expected to be intense, with large numbers of suicide attacks. NATO is preparing by sending in more forces. The ANA's increased mobility will allow it to join in the fight to a greater extent in 2007.
The Italians come through
Reply #35 on:
February 07, 2007, 05:13:40 PM »
ITALY/AFGHANISTAN: Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's Unione coalition voted to keep 1,800 troops in Afghanistan during a late-night coalition meeting, despite disagreements among coalition members. Prodi's allies in the coalition confirmed their full support for the prime minister and the military operation. Approximately 50 percent of Italians oppose Italy's involvement in the war.
Reply #36 on:
February 09, 2007, 06:24:27 PM »
Just started watching, but seems to be quite intersting , , ,
Reply #37 on:
February 12, 2007, 11:29:12 PM »
Pakistan, U.S.: Gates, Musharraf and Political Ammunition
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates briefly met with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Feb. 12 in Pakistan, where Gates praised the Pakistani leader for his strong efforts in containing jihadist activity in the region. With a counterterrorism operation in Pakistan's northwestern Pashtun areas in the works, Musharraf needs political ammunition from the United States in order to win support from his allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. Part of containing the political fallout from these operations also will include giving the Pakistani military more authority to carry out attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda militants on Pakistani soil.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held a one-hour meeting with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Feb. 12 at the Pakistani president's home in Rawalpindi, where the two discussed how the Pakistani and U.S. militaries would work together to combat the Taliban's renewed spring offensive in neighboring Afghanistan. After traveling to Munich, Germany, for an international security conference, Gates added 30 hours of travel time to his original itinerary for the meeting with the Pakistani president.
Gates was particularly generous in his praise for Musharraf, saying, "Pakistan is clearly a very strong ally of the United States" and "is playing a very constructive role" in containing the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency in the region. Pakistan, he added, is "incurring a significant cost in lives and, I might add, in treasure, in fighting this battle on the border."
Gates' comments were most welcome by Musharraf as he has spent the last month fending off strong criticism from the United States that Islamabad is providing refuge for Taliban and al Qaeda leaders along Pakistan's frontier. The apparent shift in U.S. attitude toward Pakistan can be attributed to an anticipated uptick in counterterrorism operations and Pakistan's willingness to engage in a more comprehensive military strategy in its northwestern areas along the border with Afghanistan. Thus far, Pakistan has agreed to limited operations on a case-by-case basis. Musharraf probably has sorted out his domestic political situation, managing to balance it with U.S. demands and allowing Pakistan to make a more concerted effort against jihadists.
The Taliban and its allies in al Qaeda are prepping for a renewed spring offensive. As soon as the ice melts in the mountain passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters will be able to ramp up their campaign against NATO forces in the region with increased suicide attacks. The United States and its NATO allies are in the process of diminishing Taliban and al Qaeda capabilities as much as possible prior to the spring offensive, which inevitably will involve counterterrorism operations against militant strongholds on Pakistani soil. U.S. forces already have increased their presence along the Afghan side of the border in preparation for this counteroffensive.
For Musharraf to completely sign on to these operations, he must receive assurances from the United States that Washington has no plans to compromise his political career or that seriously would risk destabilizing the country, particularly since Pakistan is in the middle of a heated election season. Musharraf and his allies want assurances that there will not be a decline in U.S.-Pakistani relations once U.S. counterterrorism goals are accomplished. Such a guarantee is critical for Musharraf's ability to mitigate the domestic risk of cooperating with the United States. Gates assured Musharraf and his political allies that the United States has a long-term investment in Pakistan, saying, "After the Soviets left, the United States made a mistake. We neglected Afghanistan, and extremism took control of that country. The United States paid a price for that on Sept. 11, 2001. We won't make that mistake again. We are here for the long haul."
Musharraf's principal allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) fear that U.S. operations on Pakistani soil will prove costly for them in the coming elections, and Musharraf shares these concerns. A recent incident, in which U.S. soldiers fired artillery rounds from Afghanistan into Pakistan at Taliban targets, allegedly in self-defense, has exacerbated these political sensitivities. With parliamentary elections approaching in early 2008, the PML worries it will be the main party to suffer from another major U.S. operation in the country, such as the October 2006 madrassa strike in the northwestern tribal belt that resulted in a high number of civilian casualties. Whereas Musharraf has the means to split his political opponents and ensure his own victory, PML party members face a more difficult challenge in holding onto their supporters, and cannot risk the political fallout of supporting these U.S. operations.
The PML probably has received a guarantee from Musharraf that the United States will allow Pakistan to take more control over these operations and demonstrate that it has not become a U.S. lackey in fighting jihadists at the expense of Pakistan's sovereignty. As a result, the coming airstrikes and operations in Pakistan's tribal areas primarily will be conducted by Pakistani forces. The ongoing suicide attack campaign in Pakistan also has provided Musharraf with the political justification to crack down on jihadist targets in the South Asian country. Though Musharraf and his allies are sure to face considerable constraints in the coming months in containing the domestic backlash from these counterinsurgency operations, Gates' assurances have provided Musharraf with a bit more room for maneuver in the political arena.
Geopolitical Diary: Osama Bin Who?
Reply #38 on:
February 14, 2007, 11:18:45 AM »
Look for a renewed level of violence and aggression in Afghanistan, regardless of a possible loss of Osama Bin Laden
Geopolitical Diary: Osama Bin Who?
Feb 14, 2007
A new audiotape surfaced Tuesday from al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In this latest message, al-Zawahiri pledges allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who he calls the leader of the worldwide jihadist movement. Even more striking, there is no mention whatsoever of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. This suggests that al Qaeda has been weakened to the point that a major shift in the leadership of the wider jihadist movement is under way.
There is no proof that bin Laden is dead, but he is certainly missing in action. His last video message surfaced more than two years ago -- a few days before the U.S. presidential election in 2004. That said, bin Laden did issue an audio statement as recently as July 1, 2006.
In comparison, there has been a robust flow of video and audio communiques from al-Zawahiri since late 2004. This means that bin Laden is most likely incapacitated, or at least is unable to oversee operational matters personally. Al-Zawahiri has been left to lead the movement.
While al-Zawahiri might be the network's theoretician and even bin Laden's ideological guru, he does not possess bin Laden's leadership qualities. And not only is al-Zawahiri trying to fill in for bin Laden, he is doing this pretty much by himself, given that the U.S.-jihadist war has resulted in the death or capture of many of the senior leaders of al Qaeda "prime."
Al-Zawahiri is also heavily dependent upon his Pashtun hosts in northwestern Pakistan -- not just for the ability to operate, but also for his own physical security and that of his surviving comrades who constitute al Qaeda's central leadership circles. Meanwhile, there has been a significant resurgence of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan's Pashtun regions. From al Qaeda's point of view, Afghanistan is starting to look more promising than Iraq -- where, with Sunnis in the minority, the movement's influence is fundamentally limited by demographics.
These circumstances have created a situation that has allowed Mullah Omar to reassert himself as the leader of the jihadists. This is not the first time that al Qaeda has been forced to recognize Mullah Omar as its overall leader. After the U.S. cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan, in retaliation for the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998, the question of authority became an issue between Mullah Omar and bin Laden.
At the time, bin Laden agreed to respect the leadership of Mullah Omar and promised that al Qaeda would not behave as a state within a state. Instead, the jihadist network would coordinate its activities with the Taliban regime. In 2005, however, Mullah Omar met with the al Qaeda leadership and expressed his displeasure at their over-emphasis on Iraq and neglect for Afghanistan. Mullah Omar reminded bin Laden that the Taliban had sacrificed their own regime for the sake of al Qaeda.
It was as a result of this important meeting that al Qaeda began reinvesting in Afghanistan, most significantly by providing funds and suicide bombers, and training the Taliban in the art of suicide bombings. In fact, the Taliban resurgence to a great degree has been made possible by the renewed al Qaeda commitment to the Taliban insurgency.
Now that bin Laden is no longer leading al Qaeda, and with the Taliban revived as a major force, al-Zawahiri has no choice but to acknowledge Mullah Omar as the supreme jihadist leader. Al Qaeda's dependency on the Taliban (as opposed to the other way around) will create a struggle over operational planning and allocation of resources -- directly impacting the network's global reach.
Copyright 2007 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.
Last Edit: February 14, 2007, 11:50:36 AM by Crafty_Dog
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
(I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.)
Reply #39 on:
February 14, 2007, 12:02:45 PM »
Interesting how "off the radar screen" OBL has become , , ,
I must say that it looks to me like the Bush Administration really took its eye off the ball here and has allowed what was a promising situation turn into , , , a mess.
Anyway, here's this from today's WSJ.
February 14, 2007; Page A20
American and NATO military planners in Afghanistan are bracing for what they anticipate will be a major Taliban offensive this spring. Expect more terrorism in Kabul, attacks on positions in and around the key Pashtun city of Kandahar, ambushes on vehicles and attacks on European and Canadian forces, which the Taliban consider, with good reason, to be the weak link in the NATO chain. Expect, too, for the Taliban to be decisively defeated.
The year 2006 was a bad one for Afghanistan. The rate of suicide bombings throughout the country soared. The Taliban found sanctuary in Pakistan's Waziristan province and, thanks to their "truce" with Islamabad, more than doubled the number of raids into Afghanistan. Entire provinces in the country had almost no military or police presence to speak of. And NATO was unable to secure further troop commitments from its non-U.S. members.
Now the picture is brightening. A year ago there were no Afghan troops and no more than 150 U.S. special forces in the southern province of Helmand. Today, there is an Afghan infantry battalion and a British air-assault brigade. The U.S. is deploying thousands of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division while extending the deployment of the Tenth Mountain Infantry brigade in anticipation of the spring offensive. That brings total U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to 24,000, roughly 6,000 more than this time last year. So much for the idea that the surge in Iraq is starving our efforts in Afghanistan.
The situation with the Afghan military is also improving, though a senior U.S. military official describes the process as a "steep uphill climb." In 2005, the desertion rate was 25%. Today it is 10%. It helps that the Afghan soldier has now had a raise, to about $100 a month. It helps, too, that the U.S. is now investing $8.6 billion over two years to better equip and train the army, and to double its size to 70,000.
Where the U.S. still has significant problems is with its partners in the region. The fighting capabilities of European, Canadian and even British forces continue to lag far behind America's, as does their willingness to fight. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has been under intense political pressure to withdraw Italy's 1,800-man contingent in Afghanistan. This week, a Canadian senate committee recommended withdrawing their forces if other NATO countries don't increase theirs.
More problematic is Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf's recent proposal to mine the border with Afghanistan along the so-called "Durand line" is probably not serious, but if it were it would not be helpful. And while it's true that the Pakistan army lost some 400 soldiers in fighting against the Taliban, it's also true that their September truce represents an abdication of their sovereign responsibility to control their borders.
Still, the combination of more troops and a keen appreciation of last year's mistakes puts the U.S. and Afghanistan in a better position than a year ago to repulse the Taliban's expected spring offensive. We hope our wavering NATO allies feel the same way. After all, isn't Afghanistan supposed to be the "good war" in the broader war on terror?
Reply #40 on:
February 16, 2007, 10:57:55 AM »
As best as I can tell, there is merit to the analysis that says that President Bush really took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan. Although I supported the decision to go into Iraq, I cannot say that those who said we needed to finish in Afghanistan first did not have a valid point.
Afg in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban seemed to have plenty of warm fuzzies for what we might bring, but now 5 years later much more has happened and the terrain is different.
Do we have a coherent strategy at this point?
WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 — President Bush warned on Thursday that he expected “fierce fighting” to flare in Afghanistan this spring, and he pressed NATO allies to provide a bigger and more aggressive force to guard against a resurgence by the Taliban and Al Qaeda that could threaten the fragile Afghan state.
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Back Story With The Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg (mp3)With American and NATO commanders pressing for more troops and experts predicting that further gains by the Taliban could put the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai in danger, Mr. Bush used his presidential platform to lay out what he said was substantial progress in Afghanistan since 2001, but also a continuing threat.
The remarks, to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization here, amounted to an unusually high-profile acknowledgment from Mr. Bush of the precarious state of the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a country the administration long held up as a foreign policy success story.
The speech renewed criticism from Democrats that had the United States not been tied down in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan would not have turned dire. At the same time, some Republican lawmakers said Mr. Bush’s new strategy would not do enough to tamp down the Afghan drug trade. Outside experts criticized the president for painting too rosy a picture.
The speech was also a striking effort by the White House to focus attention back on Afghanistan at a time when Congress is debating resolutions criticizing Mr. Bush’s strategy in Iraq and the administration is making a case that Iranian forces are supplying Shiite militants in Iraq with roadside bombs.
“Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly fivefold,” Mr. Bush said. “These escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country.”
Mr. Bush said the question now was whether to “just kind of let this young democracy wither and fade away” or to step up the fight.
“The snow is going to melt in the Hindu Kush mountains, and when it does we can expect fierce fighting to continue,” Mr. Bush said. “The Taliban and Al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense, but to go on the offense.”
Mr. Bush noted that he has already extended the tour of a 3,200-soldier American brigade and called on Congress to provide $11.8 billion more to pay for operations in Afghanistan over the next two years.
The president said his administration had completed a review of its Afghan strategy, and would work to increase the size of the Afghan army from 32,000 troops to 70,000 by the end of next year, and to bring in additional allied troops to support the fledgling army.
“When there is a need, when the commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, ‘We need additional help,’ our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in the mission,” Mr. Bush said.
He promised to build new roads that would help spur economic development, to battle an increase in the opium trade and to try to forge better ties between Afghanistan and its neighbor, Pakistan.
At the same time, Mr. Bush pledged to work with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to root out Taliban and Qaeda fighters who hide in that country’s remote mountainous regions — a situation he described as “wilder than the Wild West.” And, echoing his lament that 2006 was a difficult and disappointing year for Iraq, the president said the same had been true in Afghanistan.
Some critics of the administration’s handling of Afghanistan said Mr. Bush was still understating the difficulties there.
“We underfinanced, undermanned and under-resourced the war in Afghanistan for the last four years, and now we face a serious threat that the Taliban will succeed in destabilizing the country enough in 2007 to make the Karzai government collapse at some point,” said Bruce Riedel, a scholar at the Saban Center for Middle East Studies at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning research organization in Washington. He called the speech “a long overdue recognition that we need to do a lot more.”
Both Mr. Riedel and Rick Barton, an expert in Afghanistan reconstruction at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Mr. Bush’s new strategy did not do enough to promote security and economic development. Mr. Barton, who published a report in 2005 measuring progress in Afghanistan in that year, is about to publish another, and said the situation has turned measurably worse since his first study.
“We’ve gotten into a situation where things have really turned negative and the average Afghan has lost confidence in both the safety of his country and the ability of the leadership to turn things around,” Mr. Barton said. He said the president “is definitely acknowledging that, but his reality therapy is not as thorough or as complete as I think it needs to be.”
On Capitol Hill, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, released a statement criticizing the speech. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen and several other Republicans have been pressing the Bush administration to do more to crack down on Afghanistan’s opium trade; she said the new strategy lacked “practical initiatives to target major drug kingpins and warlords whose trade in opium finances the Taliban’s campaign.”
As Iraq has dominated the American psyche, some lawmakers, most recently the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, have called Afghanistan “the forgotten war.” The Democratic National Committee, responding to Mr. Bush’s speech on Thursday, issued a statement saying, “The Bush administration took its eye off the ball in Afghanistan.”
But Mr. Bush pointed to what he called “remarkable progress” since the American invasion in 2001: A democratically elected government with a parliament that includes 91 women; more than five million children in school as opposed to 900,000 under the Taliban; and the return of more than 4.6 million refugees.
The president’s speech came after his new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, attended his first conference of NATO defense ministers last week in Seville, Spain. At the meeting, Mr. Gates pressed his allied counterparts to fulfill their commitments of troops in time for a spring offensive against the Taliban.
Currently, NATO has about 35,000 troops in Afghanistan, about 13,000 of them American. The United States has 9,000 more troops in Afghanistan operating outside the NATO mission, handling tasks like specialized counterterrorism work and helping to train Afghan forces. Gen. David J. Richards of Britain, the outgoing NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last month that NATO was 4,000 to 5,000 troops short.
But NATO commanders have been constrained by so-called caveats — restrictions imposed by member nations on how their troops may be used and where they may be sent. The Bush administration has been pressing the allies to lift those restrictions, and the president renewed that call on Thursday, saying NATO commanders “must have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make a stand.”
Reply #41 on:
February 26, 2007, 08:42:56 AM »
Bush to Warn Pakistan to Act on Terror
By DAVID E. SANGER and MARK MAZZETTI
Published: February 26, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 — President Bush has decided to send an unusually tough message to one of his most important allies, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda, senior administration officials say.
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The Reach of War
Go to Complete Coverage » The decision came after the White House concluded that General Musharraf is failing to live up to commitments he made to Mr. Bush during a visit here in September. General Musharraf insisted then, both in private and public, that a peace deal he struck with tribal leaders in one of the country’s most lawless border areas would not diminish the hunt for the leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban or their training camps.
Now, American intelligence officials have concluded that the terrorist infrastructure is being rebuilt, and that while Pakistan has attacked some camps, its overall effort has flagged.
“He’s made a number of assurances over the past few months, but the bottom line is that what they are doing now is not working,” one senior administration official who deals often with South Asian issues said late last week. “The message we’re sending to him now is that the only thing that matters is results.”
Democrats, who took control of Congress last month, have urged the White House to put greater pressure on Pakistan because of statements from American commanders that units based in Pakistan that are linked to the Taliban, Afghanistan’s ousted rulers, are increasing their attacks into Afghanistan.
For the time being, officials say, the White House has ruled out unilateral strikes against the training camps that American spy satellites are monitoring in North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border. The fear is that such strikes would result in what one administration official referred to as a “shock to the stability” of General Musharraf’s government.
General Musharraf, a savvy survivor in the brutal world of Pakistani politics, knows that the administration is hesitant to push him too far. If his government collapses, it is not clear who would succeed him or who would gain control over Pakistan’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.
But the spread of Al Qaeda in the tribal areas threatens to undermine a central element of Mr. Bush’s argument that he is succeeding in the administration’s effort to curb terrorism. The bomb plot disrupted in Britain last summer, involving plans to hijack airplanes, has been linked by British and American intelligence agencies to camps in the Pakistan-Afghan border areas.
General Musharraf has told American officials that Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas in recent years so alienated local residents that they no longer provide the central government with quality intelligence about the movements of senior Islamic militants.
Congressional Democrats have threatened to review military assistance and other aid to Pakistan unless they see evidence of aggressive attacks on Al Qaeda. The House last month passed a measure linking future military aid to White House certification that Pakistan “is making all possible efforts to prevent the Taliban from operating in areas under its sovereign control.”
Pakistan is now the fifth-largest recipient of American aid. Mr. Bush has proposed $785 million in aid to Pakistan in his new budget, including $300 million in military aid to help Pakistan combat Islamic radicalism in the country.
The rumblings from Congress give Mr. Bush and his top advisers a way of conveying the seriousness of the problem, officials said, without appearing to issue a direct threat to the proud Pakistani leader themselves.
“We think the Pakistani aid is at risk in Congress,” said the senior official, who declined to speak on the record because the subject involved intelligence matters.
The administration has sent a series of emissaries to see the Pakistani leader in recent weeks, including the new secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates. Mr. Gates was charged with prompting more action in a region in which American forces operate with great constraints, if they are allowed in at all.
“This is not the type of relationship where we can order action,” said an administration official involved in discussions over Pakistan policy. “We can strongly encourage.”
Relations between General Musharraf and Mr. Bush have always been tense, as the Pakistani leader veers between his need for American support and protection and his awareness that many Pakistani people — and the intelligence service — have strong sympathies for Al Qaeda and the resurgent Taliban. Officials involved with the issue describe the current moment between the leaders as especially fraught.
Mr. Bush was deeply skeptical of the deal General Musharraf struck with the tribal leaders last year, fearing that it would limit the government’s powers to intercede in what Mr. Bush has called the “wild west” of Waziristan, administration officials said at the time.
During his visit to Washington last fall, General Musharraf said the agreement he signed with tribal leaders, giving them greater sovereignty in the region, had “three bottom lines.” He said one was “no Al Qaeda activities in our tribal agencies or across the border in Afghanistan.” The second was “no Taliban activity” in the same areas. And the third was “no Talibanization,” which he described as “obscurantist thoughts or way of life.”
American intelligence officials have made an assessment that senior Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have re-established significant control over their global network and are training operatives in some of the camps for strikes on Western targets.
One American official familiar with intelligence reports about Pakistan said intelligence agencies had established “clear linkages” between the Qaeda camps and the plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights that was thwarted last August. American analysts said the recent trials of terrorism suspects in Britain showed that some defendants had been trained in Pakistan.
American officials say one reason General Musharraf agreed to pull government troops back to their barracks in North Waziristan and allow tribal leaders greater control over security was to give him time to rebuild his intelligence network in the border region gradually.
Reply #42 on:
March 07, 2007, 12:37:03 PM »
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he is willing to hold talks with the nationalist rebels in Balochistan in order to stop the violence in the region, the Press Trust of India reported. Musharraf made the comments during a public meeting in the district of Sibbi, where he also said the Pakistani government is ready to "give [the rebels] everything." Musharraf made it clear, however, that no amount of force would separate Balochistan from Pakistan.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan troops captured senior Taliban leader Mullah Mahmood on March 6 as he attempted to flee the Panjwaii area, NATO said. Mahmood is believed to be an expert bombmaker who organized suicide attacks.
Last Edit: March 07, 2007, 02:14:01 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #43 on:
March 08, 2007, 11:11:22 AM »
The first is from 2/27 and the second is from today:
The Relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan's Domestic Stability
By Kamran Bokhari
While returning from East Asia on Feb. 26, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise stopover in Islamabad, where he met with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The same day, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett also met with Musharraf, urging him to control the Taliban traffic along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Meanwhile, reports surfaced that U.S. President George W. Bush has sent a strong message to Musharraf, warning him that the Democratic-controlled Congress could cut aid to Pakistan unless Islamabad aggressively cracks down on jihadist activity in the country.
Beckett's was the latest in a long series of calls from senior U.S. officials and those representing Washington's NATO allies for the Musharraf government to do more in the fight against jihadists. Given that the war in Iraq has gone badly for the United States, the Bush administration is under great pressure domestically to show progress in Afghanistan (and by extension Pakistan). Similarly, their military involvement in Afghanistan is a major domestic issue for many European states.
Though political concerns at home are contributing to the U.S./Western pressure on Islamabad to get tougher on the jihadist problem, Pakistan's inability to oblige its Western allies is also a function of its own domestic political concerns. There also is a certain level of unwillingness on Islamabad's part because its interest in maintaining relations with Washington goes beyond having status as an ally in the war on terrorism. The United States and the Europeans understand the concerns of the Pakistanis and do not want to rock the Musharrafian boat, especially when the country is headed into presidential and parliamentary elections beginning as early as September.
That said, the West is not willing to continue with business as usual, which has led to the strengthening of the jihadist forces in Afghanistan and allowed al Qaeda to continue its global operations -- albeit at a reduced pace. From viewpoint of the United States and its NATO allies, the Pakistanis could be doing a lot more without triggering political instability on the home front.
The Pakistanis, on the other hand, say they are fed up with being asked to do more, arguing that using force alone is undermining their own domestic security -- which could indeed start churning up a tide of political instability. Musharraf is caught between the external pressure to assume a more robust attitude with regards to counterterrorism, and dealing with terrorism from within.
On both counts, Islamabad has a point. Following the U.S. airstrike on a madrassa in the northern part of the tribal belt in late October 2006, jihadists have unleashed an unprecedented wave of suicide attacks across the country against government and Western targets. Other than a few bombings against Western targets and assassination attempts against Musharraf, jihadists had not attacked inside Pakistan. In fact, until this recent wave of suicide attacks, jihadists in Pakistan were using the country as a launchpad for attacks against third parties.
This nascent jihadist insurgency does not have widespread support within the country and, given the militants' limited capabilities, is a problem Pakistani security forces can handle. The real obstacles to Musharraf's ability to wage a successful crackdown have to do with domestic political stability in light of the coming elections.
At present, Musharraf's domestic position is secure, in that no political force (party or even a coalition of parties) exists that can remove him from office through mass unrest. The fact that the political structure that emerged from the 2002 elections is managing to reach the end of its term clearly underscores his ability to maintain power. This, to a great degree, is the result of Musharraf being a military ruler.
Despite the military-dominated political order, however, the current civil-military government is not completely exempt from public accountability, especially if it expects to garner votes. On the contrary, the civilian setup that Musharraf is relying on to sustain his hold on power and to keep his political opponents at bay is a complex system crafted with great difficulty. Musharraf has kept this system afloat by forging alliances and creating and sustaining divisions among the opposition parties.
Both the president and the parliamentary component of his regime will have to pass the test of elections. Musharraf has told Stratfor he wants to remain president for another five years to reach the goals he has outlined for himself. For this he needs to have the current ruling coalition led by the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), at a bare minimum, retain its majority in the parliament and its current standing in the provincial legislatures. Accomplishing this task could guarantee his re-election as president.
But Musharraf is uncertain whether the next round of parliamentary elections -- set for January 2008 -- will produce the desired results, which is why he has moved to hold the presidential election in September. This way he can be certain of his own re-election as president in the event that his allies are not able to retain their majority in the federal and provincial legislatures.
Musharraf's opponents, however, are up in arms over his bid to seek a second term from the same electoral college. So the question is, can the opposition pull together the much-discussed grand alliance to force Musharraf's hand? Here is where terrorism and counterterrorism play a pivotal role in shaping events. Attacks in the country, along with the government's counterterrorism efforts, can create a dynamic that his opponents can exploit to generate public unrest. Certain forces already are taking advantage of the suicide attacks as an opportunity to target rival political forces in the hope of stirring political unrest ahead of the elections.
The purpose of the jihadist suicide bombing campaign is to create enough political problems for the Musharraf government to force Islamabad's attention away from counterterrorism operations. The situation in Afghanistan and the threat from the wider jihadist movement, however, has Musharraf under pressure to stay focused on counterterrorism. Thus, he needs to be able to figure out a way to satisfy international demands with regards to counterterrorism and keep his opponents from undercutting stability.
While Musharraf is reluctant to take on the risks associated with going after the Afghan Taliban, he is also deeply worried about the Talibanization of certain parts of his own country. In particular, the jihadists' influence is growing in the Pashtun-dominated areas in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and northwestern Balochistan.
Musharraf also wants to be able to roll back the power of the six-party Islamist political coalition, Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA). The MMA not only controls the NWFP government and is part of the coalition government with the pro-Musharraf PML in Balochistan, but also is the largest opposition bloc in the national parliament. The Islamists, who historically were divided and never gained more than a handful of seats in any previous election, contested the 2002 elections on a single platform and exploited the anti-American sentiment among the Pashtuns and others in the country in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Another key reason behind the MMA's extraordinary showing at the polls was the fact that the mainstream opposition parties -- the Pakistani People's Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) -- were marginalized because of certain electoral and constitutional engineering aimed at preventing the two groups from making significant gains in the elections. Furthermore, the Musharraf government engineered a significant number of post-election defections of parliament members from the PPP-P. The PPP-P emerged as the largest opposition party in parliament in the last elections. The defections, however, decreased the number of seats it controlled -- and the MMA, which was in third place, emerged as the largest opposition bloc.
Since the last elections, Musharraf has seen how the military's historical relationship with Islamist and jihadist forces has cost the country -- and not just in terms of external pressure. It also has allowed these forces to emerge as a threat on the domestic front. Though the jihadists have staged a few suicide bombings in response to counterterrorism operations by Pakistani and U.S. forces, the MMA can exploit this issue in the elections, potentially consolidating its hold in the Pashtun areas and even enhancing it.
This would explain why Musharraf sees the coming parliamentary elections as a decisive battle between the forces of extremism and moderation. Though Musharraf might have clearly identified the battle line, he faces problems in gathering the forces of moderation to defeat the radicals.
The quandary has to do with the fact that two critical moderate political forces -- the PPP-P and the PML-N -- are not ready to do business with him. These two parties, which together form the secular opposition bloc called the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), are not willing to accept a president in military uniform.
That he is the president as well as the military chief is not only the source of Musharraf's power; it is also the biggest sore point with regard to his future as leader of the country. Musharraf realizes that at some point he needs to step down as chief of the army staff. But from his point of view, how does he do so without incurring a loss of sovereignty? One way to do this, perhaps, is to change the political system from a parliamentary to a presidential one.
Considering that the constitution says the country should have a parliamentary form of government, he needs to be able to balance the powers of the parliament with those of the presidency. This can be done by amending the constitution in keeping with a negotiated power-sharing mechanism. This way Musharraf could retain control over power by serving as a balance between the military establishment and the civilians. But for this to materialize, he and his allies must get over the hurdle of the twin elections. In this respect, there are two possible outcomes.
1. Musharraf is able to get re-elected in September without any backlash from the public, meaning he is able to keep not just the ARD and MMA apart, but also to sustain internal divisions within the two alliances. Additionally, his civilian allies at a bare minimum retain more or less the same number of seats in the incumbent legislatures. Given the divided state of the Pakistani electorate, achieving this objective is not impossible.
2. Should an outcry occur over vote-rigging -- one big enough for the opposition to exploit -- then Musharraf would be in trouble, both and home and abroad. The Bush administration, for instance, would not want to come out in support of him in the wake of mass cries of fraud. In such a situation, things could spiral out of hand and he could be forced to step down. In the event of major public protests, even his generals could be forced to call on him to step down or strike a compromise with the opposition.
Musharraf would want to avoid at all costs the latter outcome, which means his government cannot afford to allow the opposition to exploit the issue of electoral fraud. This is why it is even more important that he not engage in actions that will make it even more difficult for him and his allies to get re-elected.
This complex domestic political situation raises the question of whether the United States and its allies can delay their demand for Islamabad to take more action until after the electoral storm for Musharraf has passed. In many ways it is a timing issue because NATO is looking at the coming spring offensive from the Taliban and needs Pakistani cooperation to act. Musharraf and Washington, therefore, likely will work out a formula whereby the jihadists can be dealt with without creating problems for Musharraf in the elections. This is because, from Washington's point of view, long-term success in the war against the jihadists depends on political continuity in Islamabad.
Geopolitical Diary: The Second Search for Moderate Taliban
In an interview that appeared on Wednesday in German magazine Der Spiegel, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed willingness to negotiate with the Taliban and their Pashtun militant Islamist allies in order to quell the raging jihadist insurgency in his country. Karzai said, "I will embrace [Taliban chief] Mullah [Mohammad] Omar and [Hezb-i-Islami leader and former Prime Minister] Gulbuddin Hekmatyar for peace in Afghanistan, for stability in Afghanistan. But it is the Afghan people who should decide on the atrocities committed against the Afghan people."
This statement raises a couple of questions: Why is Karzai extending an olive branch to the Taliban-led jihadists at a time when their resurgence would allow the Taliban to negotiate from a position of strength? Doesn't the Afghan leader know Mullah Omar is not interested in negotiating with Kabul, given that his alliance with al Qaeda is incompatible with Karzai's ties to the United States? Moreover, Karzai is not in a position to engage in such negotiations unless he has clearance from his NATO supporters.
The Western military alliance has been quietly exploring alternative ways of undercutting the Taliban. It also has been advised to simultaneously push ahead with the military campaign to weaken the Pashtun jihadist movement by focusing on taking out the Mullah Omar-based leadership and exploring negotiations with more pragmatic elements within the Taliban leadership. This would partially explain Karzai's statement.
The president's offer to engage Mullah Omar and Hekmatyar in negotiations can only be understood within the context of the Taliban landscape, which consists of at least three different factions:
1. Those engaged in ground combat inside Afghanistan's Pashtun majority areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
2. Those connected to Pakistan.
3. Those with ties to al Qaeda.
Karzai is aware of this configuration and knows Mullah Omar will reject negotiations. Therefore, by offering to make peace with Mullah Omar and even to include the Taliban in his government, Karzai is attempting to drive a wedge between these various factions. Kabul has no interest in cutting deals with those Taliban who are close to al Qaeda. Instead, he is trying to extract the "moderate Taliban" by creating a schism within the Pashtun jihadists. By demonstrating he is ready to give the Taliban a piece of political pie, Karzai hopes to spur a significant number of the movement's members to move away from Mullah Omar and his cabal.
The Afghan government also hopes to sideline Pakistan's Taliban proxies in order to prevent Islamabad from regaining influence in Kabul. This is not the first time Kabul has attempted such a move. During 2003-2004, then-U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad (a Pashtun) tried to seek out the moderates among the Taliban. Those efforts led a handful of senior Taliban members to part ways with Mullah Omar. But it failed to put a dent in the fighting because the bulk of the Taliban fighters did not heed the call.
This second search for moderate Taliban will meet a similar fate unless Karzai is willing to embrace those Taliban with connections to Pakistan. This is the only way he will be able to isolate the religious nationalists from the transnationalists and potentially isolate Mullah Omar. Therefore, it appears Karzai must work out a deal with Islamabad before he can negotiate with the Taliban.
Last Edit: March 08, 2007, 11:30:32 AM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #44 on:
March 08, 2007, 03:03:10 PM »
AFGHANISTAN: Fugitive Afghan militant leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said his forces have stopped cooperating with the Taliban, and suggested that he is open to talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Hekmatyar told The Associated Press in a video response to questions that his group contacted Taliban leaders in 2003 and agreed to wage a joint holy war against U.S. troops. He did not say when the split occurred, but that "certain elements among the Taliban rejected the idea of a joint struggle against the aggressor." Hekmatyar said his forces are now mounting only restricted operations, partly because of a lack of resources.
Reply #45 on:
March 09, 2007, 03:14:41 PM »
The Afghan guard who stops suicide bombers
A gatekeeper's resolve has earned him the nickname 'Rambo' at a US base in Kabul.
By Mark Sappenfield | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
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Reporters on the Job
We share the story behind the story. KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - There is trouble outside Camp Phoenix. The American base on the dusty outskirts of Kabul has called for English translators. The problem is, the Americans have now hired their translator, and a crowd of Afghan job hunters at the camp gate is getting unruly.
The US soldiers are nervous. One yells obscenities and waves his gun. The crowd cowers but doesn't budge. Then, another soldier steps forward, armed only with a thick wooden staff, wrapped in peeling red tape.
The name tag on his broad chest says "Rambo," and though he wears US Army fatigues, he speaks in perfect Dari, ordering the crowd to leave. It reluctantly disperses.
This is a normal day for Rambo, an Afghan who has stood guard here for more than four years, pledging his life to the American soldiers that rid his land of the Taliban. But on Jan. 16, Rambo's gatekeeping made him a bona fide hero.
On that day, Rambo wrenched open the driver's side door of a moving car and wrestled a suicide bomber into submission before he could detonate his explosives. President Bush lauded him in a nationally televised speech several weeks ago, and before that, slightly exaggerated accounts of his feat circled through cyberspace, pleading for America to offer him citizenship or at least a medal.
Dutiful: Four days off in four years
On this gray day, amid the intermittent raindrops of a coming storm, Rambo seems somewhat weary of the story, asking a lieutenant whether he really needs to tell it again. So far as he is concerned, his only job is to protect those American soldiers at the gate. It is why he has taken only four days off in more than four years, even working Fridays, though that is the Muslim day of rest.
But the lieutenant kindly requests Rambo's patience. To Rambo, that is an order. "If you want me to do it, I will do it," he tells her with martial deference.
In fairness, his story is not just about the day he stopped a suicide bomber, when the steel of his resolve to protect American troops became so apparent to all who did not know him. To those who do, who gave him the "Rambo" nickname, the name tag, and the stick, his devotion was already evident.
At every corner of Camp Phoenix, Rambo stops to salute American officers. Soldiers heading out on patrol call out his name as if he were a fraternity brother. He is unquestionably one of them, because he is so willing to make the same sacrifice that they, too, have been called upon to make.
COMMENDATIONS: The Afghan security guard 'Rambo' was praised in a speech by President Bush, and he proudly displays awards in his room at Camp Phoenix, near Kabul, Afghanistan.
ANDY NELSON – STAFF
The Afghan guard who stops suicide bombers
A gatekeeper's resolve has earned him the nickname 'Rambo' at a US base in Kabul.
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Reporters on the Job
We share the story behind the story. Yet he is also unquestionably Afghan, and never more so than when he smothered his countryman and would-be martyr at the front gate. To Rambo, whose name has been withheld for his protection, what happened that day was a matter of pride – a personal pride that burns deeper than love of country, or family, or faith.
"I made a promise to every American soldier," he says in grave tones. "Even if there is only one American soldier, I will be here to protect him."
Amid Camp Phoenix's soil-filled blast walls and bristling guard towers, designed to keep soldiers separate from the unsettled Afghanistan beyond, Rambo is a living lesson in the character of his country, where friends pledge their lives to defend you and enemies never rest until you have been destroyed.
On a clear, chilly Tuesday in mid- January, those two perceptions of the American presence here collided.
How he spotted the suicide bomber
Having spoken for five loving minutes about his well-worn red stick and its many uses in crowd control, the black-bearded Rambo is at last primed to talk about his legendary feat, his dark eyes bright with enthusiasm. He sits on a cold, wooden picnic bench in the Camp Phoenix compound, immune to the freezing rain, his rough and blackened hands working frantically to depict the scene.
When the driver of an off-white sedan did not brake as he approached the gate, Rambo sensed danger. He ran to the door, flung it open, and saw two buttons by the gearshift, each with a wire running to a gas tank that filled the entire back seat.
Before the terrorist could reach the buttons, Rambo seized his hands, and a Security Forces soldier arrived to help. In an instant, it was over.
Later in the day, the car exploded when a demolition team failed to disarm it, but no one was injured.
Before and since the event, Rambo has gotten recognition for his role at Camp Phoenix. In his dark and low-ceilinged room – a nestlike clutter of boxes and badges and potato-chip bags – Rambo displays a letter from the former commander of NATO. There is a framed commendation that bears both the US and Afghan flags, as well as a jumble of military coins given for his service.
In another corner, he uncovers a pile of letters from American soldiers, their wives, and their mothers – one with a lipstick-stained kiss of gratitude. These are his treasures. The thanks he has always received for his service makes his monastic existence worthwhile. Even before Jan. 16, he stayed here from before dawn until after dusk. Now, he lives on the base full time. In fact, he has not been home for three months.
A gatekeeper's resolve has earned him the nickname 'Rambo' at a US base in Kabul.
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Reporters on the Job
We share the story behind the story. He bears the security measures joyfully. And he doesn't heed the Afghans who roll down their windows and shout obscenities at him as they pass. "I don't care what they say," he says. "I will protect my friends."
Yes, he says, the Americans are here to help hold his country together as it attempts to heal after three decades of misrule and civil war. But more than that, he loves Americans because they have treated him with respect.
"They are good and they have strong hearts," he says.
They have given him this uniform, which is frayed at the cuffs from constant use. They have created a "Rambo fund" to help him get a TV, and have helped two of his sons get jobs. On his shoulder he proudly wears the patches of every unit that has come through Camp Phoenix – each vying for the esteemed piece of real estate that is Rambo's uniform.
"When you think of Camp Phoenix, you think of Rambo," says 1st Lt. John Stephens of 1-180th Infantry Battalion, who is in the midst of his second tour here. "He's the rock of Camp Phoenix."
Taliban rocket killed his wife and child
Rambo's journey to the American side of the war is a simple one. During the days of the Taliban, his wife and one of his children were killed when a rocket crashed into their home. It was not intentional, he says, but it was indicative of the lives ruined by Taliban rule. Moreover, as a member of the Army during a former government, he felt unsafe and eventually fled to Pakistan for refuge.
The fall of the Taliban in 2001 brought him back to Kabul, where he resumed an old job as a truck driver and security guard at a transportation company. When Camp Phoenix commandeered the building used by the transportation company in 2003, Rambo stayed on as a security guard for the new installation. He has been here ever since, and he has been "Rambo" for almost as long.
His handle was the suggestion of a woman who was here during the early days of Camp Phoenix. "I liked Rambo even from before," he says, betraying no knowledge of anyone named Sylvester Stallone, as if Rambo and the actor are synonymous. "Sometimes he is in a movie where he is wild, and sometimes he has a necktie and is very respectable."
Which Rambo is he? "It depends," he says with a smile. "If a polite man comes, I will be a Rambo who is polite and gentle. But if it is Al Qaeda, I will be the wild Rambo."
Soldiers here will vouch for that, telling of instances where Rambo pulled people out of car windows. Back during Communist times, when he was a tank commander, Rambo says that he cut all the medals off the uniform of a superior officer when the officer (falsely, he insists) accused him of not fixing a tank correctly.
Today, he returns to the gate, huddling beside a fire in an old oil drum along with his American colleagues. They are his responsibility, he says, and he is determined not to forsake that trust.
"I don't want to be blamed," he says. "I promised these people a lot. Dying is better than to be blamed."
Reply #46 on:
March 12, 2007, 10:59:29 AM »
AFGHANISTAN: Swiss weekly newspaper SonntagsBlick reported that former Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, who was captured in February in Pakistan, was set free after only two days. While the report has not been confirmed by Pakistan, a SonntagsBlick reporter allegedly met with the former leader Feb. 28.
PAKISTAN: More than 20 people were injured when riot police clashed with 3,000 lawyers in Pakistan. The lawyers were striking to protest the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The strike affected superior and lower courts all over the country.
AFGHANISTAN: The first joint meeting of the Pakistani-Afghan Jirga Commission began. The two-day talks are aimed at convening traditional jirga meetings on both sides of the border in an attempt to control violence in the tribal regions. These talks also will include a discussion of ways to stop illegal cross-border migration.
PAKISTAN: U.S. and Pakistani agents have arrested two suspected German terrorists in Pakistan, German magazine Der Spiegel reported. The men are accused of contacting terrorists and visiting an al Qaeda camp near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Last Edit: March 12, 2007, 03:05:05 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #47 on:
March 13, 2007, 08:57:43 AM »
Today's NY Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan, March 12 — The departing American ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald E. Neumann, said Monday that he did not see the Taliban as the big threat it appeared to represent a year or two ago, and that he was leaving feeling “reasonably optimistic” about the state of the insurgency and the country’s progress.
“We spent a lot of last year worrying about this year,” he told a small group of journalists in the refurbished old embassy building, which reopened recently. “We will certainly face hard fighting in the south,” he said, “but I am going away feeling reasonably optimistic.”
More British and American troops had been supplied for the effort, he noted, providing the needed military support for the anti-insurgency effort, especially in the southern part of the country by fighters associated with the former Taliban rulers.
“We will see a hard fight,” Mr. Neumann said, but added, “We have the basics of what it takes.”
The Taliban, who were ousted in late 2001, mounted a strong comeback last year, leading to fierce fighting with American and NATO forces. The Taliban also appear to have joined forces with drug traffickers in Helmand Province in the south.
The NATO troops who took control of southern Afghanistan last year began a large offensive in the area early this month.
Mr. Neumann said he did not believe that time was on the Taliban’s side. “I don’t see where the Taliban are going to increase,” he said.
Comparing the violence to that of Iraq, where he served in 2004 and 2005, he said there were no battleground cities in Afghanistan like Falluja that would require large-scale military operations to secure. In Afghanistan, “We are talking of protecting a town with 50 police,” he said.
“This does not tell me this is a 10-foot-tall movement,” he said. “It’s tough. It’s resilient. It’s dangerous. I just don’t see it as being that strong. It is still a race, but inch by inch the government is getting a little better.”
The ambassador said that the Afghan Army, which initially had been envisioned as a light force reliant on American allies, was being strengthened, with a goal of building it to 70,000 troops, and that it was being supplied with armored vehicles, aircraft and body armor.
The program to develop a police entity was two years behind that of the army, he said, but current plans also call for more support for the police. He said he was confident that Congress would approve the extra money needed for those efforts.
Of Pakistan, which has come under persistent criticism over the past year for its failure to stem cross-border infiltration by insurgents, he said, “We are getting more cooperation, and I think we need more cooperation.”
He said the Pakistani government should impose more control on the tribal areas along the Afghan border. “It will have to be done one piece at a time, and we need to help them bring control in the tribal areas,” he said, adding that he would like to see Pakistan pursue more Taliban leaders believed to be on its side of the border.
Mr. Neumann said people in Afghanistan and abroad should understand that it would take considerable time to see results in the country. It had taken four years to set up a military justice system for the Afghan National Army — from drafting the law to training legal personnel — before the army could hold its first court-martial, he said. Plans to train a civilian judiciary are proceeding, but the effects will not be felt on the ground even in a year’s time, he said.
International commitment remained high, however, and there were no signs of donor fatigue for Afghanistan, he said. Even though nations have been slow to meet their commitments to provide soldiers for the NATO peacekeeping force, none of the countries were talking of pulling out. “Inch by inch we are seeing more commitment,” Mr. Neumann said.
The Afghan government is also slowly moving in the right direction, he said. The new Parliament has been a generally positive addition, and there have been some improvement in the situation with provincial governors, some of whom were warlords who were seen as more powerful than President Hamid Karzai.
Reply #48 on:
March 14, 2007, 06:11:09 AM »
Today's NY Times
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Along the Afghan border, not far from this northwestern city, Islamic militants have used a firm foothold over the past year to train and dispatch suicide bombers against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistani tribal areas are home to both the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
But in recent weeks the suicide bombers have turned on Pakistan itself, carrying out six attacks and killing 35 people. Militant leaders have threatened to unleash scores more, in effect opening a new front in their war.
Diplomats and concerned residents see the bombings as proof of a spreading “Talibanization,” as Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, calls it, which has seeped into more settled districts of Pakistan from the tribal areas along the border, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have made a home.
In Peshawar and other parts of North-West Frontier Province, which abuts the tribal areas, residents say English-language schools have received threats, schoolgirls have been warned to veil themselves, music is being banned and men are told not to shave their beards.
Then there is the mounting toll of the suicide bombings. One of the most lethal killed 15 people in Peshawar, most of them police officers, including the popular police chief.
The police, on the front line of the violence, have suffered most in many of the suicide attacks, diplomats and officials say. They are increasingly demoralized and cowed, allowing the militancy to spread still further, they warn.
In Tank, a town close to the lawless tribal area of South Waziristan, where militants have their own Taliban ministate, the police have taken off their uniforms, essentially ceding control to the militants, who now use the town as a logistics supply base, according to one Western diplomat in Pakistan.
“It’s not good,” he said. “You have ungovernable space and the impact is expanding ungovernable space.”
Suicide bombings are not new in Pakistan. There have been several high-profile cases linked to Al Qaeda in which bombers have tried to kill General Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and singled out foreign targets, French engineers and the United States Consulate in Karachi.
But the indiscriminate terror, sown by lone bombers, with explosives strapped to their chests wandering into a crowd, is a new experience for Pakistanis, and it has shocked and angered many here.
“Are these attacks isolated incidents of fanatic wrath, or is it some widespread coordinated effort to intimidate the state itself?” asked The Nation, a daily newspaper, in an editorial after the latest bombing against an antiterrorist judge in Multan. “Coordinated or not, these are dangerous times to be seen as representatives of the state; the militants are driving home a point.”
The attacks all stem from the tribal area of Waziristan, according to a senior government official, who asked not to be identified because investigations are continuing. There, he said, groups supporting jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, sectarian groups and militant splinter cells have morphed into a kind of hydra.
“They are all there in South Waziristan’s Wana region,” the official said. “It’s no longer an Afghan-only problem. It has become as much a Pakistan problem too.”
Still, it remains unclear if there is a single strategy behind the suicide bombings. Some have been apparently sectarian in nature, part of a decades-old problem in Pakistan between extremist Shiite and Sunni groups.
But militants allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda appear to be behind four of the six most recent attacks, acting in retaliation for military strikes by Pakistani forces against their groups in the tribal regions.
Of those, at least three attacks can be traced back to Baitullah Mehsud, a militant commander based in South Waziristan, who is known to have sent suicide bombers from his mountain redoubt to Afghanistan, police officials said.
Mr. Mehsud, a former fighter with the Taliban, said his main desire was to fight United States-led coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He entered into a peace deal with the Pakistani government in 2005, agreeing not to attack Pakistani forces, as long as he could continue his jihad across the border.
But under increasing pressure from the United States, and acting on a tip from American intelligence, Pakistani authorities sent helicopters to strike at a presumed hide-out of his followers on Jan. 6, killing eight people.
Mr. Mehsud vowed revenge, and several of the recent suicide bombings are believed to be in retaliation.
Page 2 of 2)
A suicide bomb attack on a military convoy on Jan. 22 was carried out by Mr. Mehsud’s men. Another attack by a bomber on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Jan. 26, which killed a policeman, was attributed to Mr. Mehsud as well. So was an attack that killed a policeman in Dera Ismail Khan on Jan. 29, police officials say.
General Musharraf vowed at a Feb. 2 news conference to go after Mr. Mehsud. But the governor of North-West Frontier Province, Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, preferred to send a delegation of elders to talk to him. The militant commander later denied any involvement, but the bombings slowed.
Mr. Mehsud may also have orchestrated the suicide attack here, in the old city of Peshawar on Jan. 27, when a bomber approached police officers on foot and detonated himself as they were organizing security for the Shiite festival to mark Muharram.
Police investigators say the method, grenade lot numbers and other explosives used were identical to those in previous attacks. DNA tests also showed that all the bombers were 17 to 20 years old, they said.
But a security official said other leads pointed more to another militant group, Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi aimed at setting up Shariah, or Islamic law, which is active in the tribal areas north of Peshawar.
The movement closely supports the Taliban and is linked to Al Qaeda. It was almost certainly behind the suicide bombing that killed 44 military cadets in November in Dargai, in retaliation for an airstrike against a religious school run by one of its members in the tribal area of Bajaur.
The group had been training suicide bombers, Pakistan’s interior minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, said after the Bajaur strike.
The attack on the cadets was a major escalation on the militants’ part. It was apparently aimed at the army as an institution, rather than its top leaders, whom the militants blame for pro-American policies. The target, too, was an easy one — the cadets were unarmed, on an open playing field.
“They are attempting to make it clear to Pakistan’s security establishment that their strength has yet to be sapped,” a private policy group based in the United States, Strategic Forecasting Inc., wrote at the time.
The militant group remains active and may be behind some other attacks in the frontier region, a Western diplomat said. They and other militants are also trying, with increasing effect, to intimidate populations beyond the tribal areas.
A girls’ high school in Mardan was recently warned that the girls should veil themselves or stay home, a tactic typical of groups like Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi. Four English language schools closed for four days last month after the police learned of another possible threat.
“These are acts of terror to psychologically defeat the people to accept the force of the Taliban and the ways of the Taliban,” said Latif Afridi, an opposition politician and a member of the provincial bar association in Peshawar.
The creeping militancy has frustrated government agencies, who disagree over what to do about it, according to one intelligence official.
There is consensus that a large-scale military operation, like the kinds that have failed in recent years, is not the solution. But some diplomats say that the series of peace deals that the government struck with tribal leaders and militants in South and North Waziristan has not worked either.
For instance, according to another Western diplomat, General Musharraf knows the North Waziristan agreement is only 20 to 30 percent effective, but he continues to back it for lack of another plan.
The accord has brought some order to the area’s capital, Miram Shah, according to officials with knowledge of North Waziristan. It has also forced a split among the militants, with the more aggressive followers of Mr. Mehsud and their Qaeda allies congregating in the town of Mir Ali, they said.
Some officials are now arguing that the government should move against the militants in Mir Ali, while supporting the more reasonable ones.
One practical solution is to train local tribesmen to buttress the Frontier Corps, which polices the tribal areas and could be used as a buffer to protect the settled neighboring districts.
Hundreds of recruits from Waziristan are already training in border and customs control, among other things, under a program sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, according to an American diplomat. But it is not clear whether the program will succeed.
While local men would be more acceptable to the tribesmen, their sympathies may well lie with the militants, and the Frontier Corps has been accused of turning a blind eye to the militants’ cross-border activities.
Meanwhile, the problems continue to spread to other part of the tribal areas, and beyond.
“Taliban militants have emerged in Kurram, as well as Orakzai,” said Mr. Afridi, the opposition politician, referring to other tribal regions. “They are trying to emerge in Mohmand.”
“In my area the clouds of Taliban and civil war are in sight,” he added. “We are worried, we really are.”
Reply #49 on:
March 14, 2007, 06:46:46 PM »
Second post of the day:
AFGHANISTAN/RUSSIA: Afghanistan is interested in cooperating with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and in purchasing arms from Russia, RIA Novosti reported, citing CSTO officials. After completing a three-day trip to Kabul, members of the CSTO -- comprised of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- said representatives from Afghanistan spoke unanimously on cooperation and joint initiatives to stem terrorism and drug trafficking in the region.
I have often wondered what would happen to our strategy if Musharef were to fall/be killed. Do Pak's nukes/nuke tech fall into AQ/Taliban hands? Things are looking grimmer for Gen M. This piece from today's Financial Times of London looks at the situation more closely than the usual US enemedia.
This article from todays FT is pertinent to your discussion.
Pakistanis fall out of love with Musharraf
By Jo Johnson andFarhan Bokhari
Published: March 14 2007 02:00 | Last updated: March 14 2007 02:00
In the boardrooms of Karachi, Pakistan's commercial hub, multinationals
are grimly reassessing the "key man risk" line of their business plans.
Throughout the country's history, no military ruler has left power
General Zia ul-Haq died in a mysterious aircraft crash in 1988. Field
Marshal Ayub Khan was drummed out of office in 1969 by protests that
paralysed the country, as was General Yahya Khan after Pakistan's
humiliating defeat in the 1971 war with India.
General Pervez Musharraf, the current president, looks unlikely to be an
exception to the rule. Seven years after he seized power in a bloodless
coup, diplomats say he needs a credible exit strategy of his own.
The honeymoon that followed the 1999 coup, based on relief at an end to
venal party politics, is coming to an end.
Yesterday saw intensified nationwide protests against Gen Musharraf's
decisionto suspend Pakistan's chief justice. The move was seen as a
flagrant attempt to pack the Supreme Court with pliable allies ahead of
expectedlegal challenges to his plans to have himself re-elected
president-in-uniform later this year.
At the same time, US lawmakers have weakened Gen Musharraf by demanding
that aid to Pakistan be made conditional on his doing more to crack down
on Taliban forces sheltering in lawless tribal areas along the Afghan
border, and by pushing for democratic reform.
Analysts said that for Gen Musharraf to push troops back into Taliban
strongholds in tribal areas, from which they were withdrawn in a
controversial agreement with local leaders last August, could lead to
such bloodshed that the military might impose full martial law on Pakistan.
While the Pakistani street may be awakening, big business, for the
moment at least, remains overwhelmingly supportive of Gen Musharraf,
whose seven years in power have seen some of the fastest growth in the
"All governments in the past in Pakistan have spoken of privatisation,
but Musharraf has actually implemented it in a systematic way. It has
taken real political will," said H. Reza-ur-Rahim, JPMorgan's
Karachi-based head of investment banking in Pakistan.
"Investors want continuity and political stability. They do not want to
see too much change."
The head of a big international pharmaceutical group said: "The worst
outcome for Pakistan would be a situation where the political parties
exploit the situation and come out on to the street. The rhetoric from
the US in recent days has even alienated liberals in Pakistan.
"How can we have a longstanding relationship with the US based on them
threatening to take out a big stick? . . . No government can be seen as
weak externally and hope to command respect internally," he said.
Islamist politicians said much of their support was based on surging
anti-Americanism. The situation was made worse by Gen Musharraf's
"revelation" in his autobiography that Richard Armitage, the former US
deputy secretary of state, had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the
Stone Age" if Islamabad failed to help avenge the September 11 2001 attacks.
"Musharraf is associated with America. For ourpeople, US policies are
anchored against Muslims in many countries," said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a
leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of six Islamist parties.
Analysts said that the MMA, which has a share in power in two of
Pakistan's four provinces, would find it easier to harness
anti-Musharraf and anti-US opinion if Pakistan's ruling generals
continued to refuse to allow Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the
leaders of the two main opposition parties, to return from exile.
More destabilising for Gen Musharraf would be a decision by Washington
and its allies to take unilateral action against Taliban forces living
in Pakistani tribal areas.
Western diplomats said that such a scenario, which could trigger a
revolt against Gen Musharraf in the army, was "extremely unlikely".
"Slagging off Pakistan in public is not the best way to solve this
problem," said one western diplomat.
"The US needs Pakistanas a partner in fightingal-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Whatever they do, theywill be at great pains to doit with the support
Even though the temperature is rising in Islamabad, few expect Gen
Musharrafto leave the political scene soon. If he were to do so, the
line of succession, in the short term, seems clear.
General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, an officer with pro-western credentials who
has been the target of assassination attempts by militant groups, would
take over the military.
Mohammad Mian Soomro, chairman of the Senate, would become president.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Last Edit: March 14, 2007, 06:53:45 PM by Crafty_Dog
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