Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Facts and Myths in Afghanistan Surge Debate

President Barack Obama has announced plans to send another thirty thousand American soldiers to Afghanistan, bringing the total US troops strength to 100,000 there in the ninth year of the Afghan war, already the longest in US history. This troops surge is part of the latest U.S. attempt to improve the security situation in Afghanistan, defeat the Al Qaeda and the Taliban militants, and to transfer security responsibilities to an Afghan national force to be trained by the Americans by mid-2011. Are these goals achievable? To answer these questions, it is important to understand a few facts and myths about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Afghanistan Facts: 1. Afghans are fiercely independent. They have rarely been colonized in their entire history. The British occupied the country for brief periods of time but they could never maintain their rule. Unlike the neighboring states of India and Pakistan which became their colonies, the British did not build any western-style state institutions, or railroad systems, or road network, or electricity grid or telecommunications network or other similar systems in Afghanistan. 2. Although no foreign power has been able to gain and keep control of Afghanistan for any significant length of time, it has not stopped them from trying to increase their influence via proxies. During the British Raj in India, for example, both Britain and Russia fiercely competed for influence in the country. The last several decades have seen the India-Pakistan rivalries played out in the resource-rich landlocked nation. Others, including China, have an interest in Afghanistan, as demonstrated by the Chinese contract for a multi-billion dollar Aynak copper mining project. 3. Contrary to the impressions of many Americans or Europeans, Afghanistan is not comparable to either Iraq or Pakistan or any other nation in the region. The country is not a modern nation-state by any stretch of the imagination. It has almost no history of strong central government and working institutions such as functional bureaucracy, central government tax collection and revenue service, effective police or strong national army, capable of asserting national authority over the entire population. It has been ruled by a weak central authority dependent on the goodwill of the various local tribal chiefs, and warlords with their private militias. 4. During the Communist era starting in the 1970s, the army split into government-backed soldiers and Mujaheddin rebels. By 1991, the military of Afghanistan became dysfunctional, dissolving into portions controlled by different warlord factions when President Mohammad Najibullah was forced out of power and the mujaheddin rebel groups took control of the country. This was later followed by the Taliban take over, who established a military force on the basis of Islamic sharia law. 5. It is among the poorest, minimally urbanized, and least developed countries in the world with very low levels of human development. There is an extremely small middle class in the country. 6. It is a tribal society with its mostly rural population widely dispersed over a large area and extremely difficult terrain. 7. The last several decades have been devastating for Afghanistan because of constant warfare, first against the Russians in the 1980s, then amongst the multiple ethnic/tribal factions led by various warlords in the 1990s, then the Taliban rule characterized by relative peace through ruthless central control imposed by the Mullahs, and finally the American invasion and occupation since 2001. 8. Afghan public spending has historically relied on foreign assistance because of the consistently low level of domestic revenue collected by the central government. Revenue generation had always been a problem for the government. Between 1939 and 1972 revenue grew by only 26 percent after discounting for inflation. Although revenue grew much more quickly between 1978 and 1982, the 170-percent increase in revenue could not keep pace with the hike in spending. Afghanistan's ratio of total domestic revenues-both tax and nontax-to GDP (only $400 per capita--one of the lowest the world) was about 19 percent, considered by observers to be relatively low. Government revenues remained comparatively small because of the low level of taxation. The country's tax administration depended, as did that of all central governments, on a monetized tax base. In Afghanistan, however, much of national production was subsistence agriculture production largely beyond the reach of tax collectors. 

Afghan Ethnic Groups

  Al Qaeda Facts: 1. Al Qaeda was an organization with central leadership, command and control located in Afghanistan prior to 911. But that is no longer true. According to former State Department official Mathew Hoh who served in Afghanistan, al Qaeda is an elastic, amorphous entity, one based not on geography but ideology. “Al Qaeda is a collection of ideas, of independent, autonomous cells,” Hoh says. “They don’t need a lot of funding. They need an apartment with an Internet connection.” 2. Even the 911 hijackers were not all recruited and trained in any one country. They came from different nations and were educated and trained mostly in the United States and Western Europe. What they shared in common was an ideology rather than a geography. 3. Hundreds of al Qaeda members, including many top leaders, have been captured or killed by Pakistani and US military in the region since 911. 4. There have been multiple reports of al Qaeda popping up in several countries around the world, confirming Mathew Hoh's arguments that al Qaeda is not confined to a particular geography in central or south Asia. Pakistan Facts: 1. In spite of some regional radicalization promoted to fight the Soviet menace in the 1980s, Pakistan is a moderate Islamic state where the religious parties have had little public support in multiple elections organized since the nation's independence from Britain in 1947. 2. Although democracy has not thrived in Pakistan, the country does have a significant and growing middle class, an active civil society, vibrant mass media, an array of political parties, elected government and parliament, functioning bureaucracy, judiciary and police, and a powerful national military armed with nuclear weapons. 3. There were no religious militants or incidents of suicide bombings in Pakistan before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. 4. There was practically no presence of the Taliban or al Qaeda in Pakistan prior to 911. But in recent years, thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians have died fighting, killing or capturing the militants who fled into Pakistan from Afghanistan. 5. There have been thousands of casualties from high-profile terrorist incidents in Pakistan. Both the government and people of Pakistan have greatly suffered as a major terrorist target in recent years after joining the US war on terror. 6. India-Pakistan rivalry continues to play itself out in Afghanistan, close to the Pakistani border, with each nation building alliances there to serve their interests. Since returning to Afghan after US invasion in 2001, India has done its own surge with thousands of diplomats, intelligence agents and workers into Afghanistan and pumped hundreds of millions of dollars to build its presence along the Pakistan border in Afghanistan. All of these Indian activities make Pakistanis justifiably suspicious, creating a sense of siege in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis see the rural-tribal Pashtun supporters of the Afghan Taliban as counterweight to India's growing influence threatening Pakistan's western borders. 

Afghan Taliban Facts: 1. According to Maximilian Forte, the Taliban expert Ahmad Rashid points out that the core and founding leadership of the current Taliban movement did indeed form part of the anti-Soviet mujahidin struggle. 2. The Taliban are all local Pashtuns with deep roots in Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan invited some of those who later became founders of the Taliban movement to the White House and hailed them as "moral equivalents of America's founding fathers". 3. None of the 911 hijackers were Afghans, or Pakistani, or the Taliban. They were all Arabs, who were educated in the West and trained to fly planes in the United States in preparation for their terror attacks. 4. The Taliban now control most of the territory in Afghanistan with the acquiescence of the Afghan population, afraid of the Taliban or disenchanted with the corruption and incompetence of the Karzai government, which is seen to be supported by the United States. 

Conclusion: Given the above facts, the chances of success of the Obama strategy of immediate surge with 30,000 troops followed by exit from Afghanistan beginning in 18 months appear to be remote. The best that US and NATO can hope for is to fight to a stalemate in Afghanistan. The goal of training a national Afghan army and transfer of security is almost impossible to achieve, as the Soviets learned more than twenty years ago, when they were defeated. The US surge in Afghanistan and expansion of drone attacks in Pakistan will simply increase fighting, causing more US and Afghan casualties and it will push more fighters into Pakistan. This strategy will result in higher death toll in Pakistan and further destabilization of the entire neighborhood, a far more dangerous prospect for the whole world that the current situation in Afghanistan. The biggest obstacles in the efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan and security for the United States are the corrupt and incompetent Karzai government, the brutal and unscrupulous Afghan warlords, and the continuing India-Pakistan rivalry playing itself out in the region, and destabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan

Recommendation: The best course of action now open for the US is to use the 18 month transition period to reach a direct accommodation with the Afghan Taliban that guarantees that they will not permit any one to launch terrorist attacks against any nation from the Afghan soil. The US military withdrawal from the region should begin immediately after such a peace deal with the Taliban backed by regional guarantors, including Pakistan and China. Beyond Afghanistan, the global terrorist threat from al Qaeda needs to be met with a coordinated international effort that relies on carrots and sticks to give the insurgents a stake in maintaining world peace. 


Zainab said...

Making Pakistan a guarantor of Afghanistan's security. That's a weighty contingency.

Riaz Haq said...

It was the US efforts to isolate the Taliban prior to 911 that helped al Qaeda become strong in Afghanistan, in the opinion of Taliban expert Ahmad Rashid, an opinion I happen to agree with. Engagement, rather than isolation, can have a moderating effect on the Taliban. Both China and Pakistan can help in the process by providing economic opportunity to the Afghans and help guarantee peace in the region.

The alternatives are far worse for Pakistan, and the entire region.

Sibte-J said...

Dear Riaz,
Excellent analysis and absolutely correct conclusion. What you have recommended is the only solution with full declared supprtice participation by Paistan but what about India? Will India support this move? Remember, stable and prosperous Paistan does not suit India

Riaz Haq said...

Sibte: "Excellent analysis and absolutely correct conclusion. What you have recommended is the only solution with full declared supprtice participation by Paistan"

Dear Sibte Sahib,
Thanks for your comments.
Indians came in to Afghanistan after the US invasion and occupation. They are there because of the United States.
The day the Americans leave will be the last day for Indian presence in Afghanistan.
The Indians know it; that's why they want the Americans to stay and not negotiate with the Talibs.

Sibte: "Remember, stable and prosperous Paistan does not suit India"

I think it's a mistake if Indians believe that. The fact is that Indians NEED a stable and prosperous Pakistan to maintain their own security and economic growth in a secure neighborhood.

Haseeb said...


Very good analysis of the situation. I think US will do itself much good by exploring your recommendations seriously and urgently. It will produce the most favorable results for US and the region. Keep up the good work!

Anwar said...

Ariana Huffington said something interesting.
She said that if the problem is in Pakistan, why not give Pakistan the $30 Billion.
They will go in Afghanistan and kill all the miscreants.
Pakistan may have the solution to the problem because of it's proximity, similarity of culture and sub-conscious and the poverty, which may lead them to think above religion or relationships.

Riaz Haq said...

Anwar:"Ariana Huffington said something interesting.
She said that if the problem is in Pakistan, why not give Pakistan the $30 Billion...."

I think Ariana's analysis is very shallow and completely off the mark.

We have seen time and again that Pakistani military can not succeed against the militants without the backing of the people of Pakistan. That's why they were reluctant to go into Swat and South Waziristan until the public opinion clearly turned against the Taliban.

There continues to be a sense of kinship in Pakistan with the Afghans, particularly the Pashtuns. So my opinion is that that Pakistanis will not do whatever the US asks them to do. But they will negotiate and work with the Talibs to moderate them, and stop them from hosting al Qaeda which carried out the attacks in the United States.

It was the US efforts to isolate the Taliban prior to 911 that helped al Qaeda become strong in Afghanistan, in the opinion of Taliban expert Ahmad Rashid, an opinion I happen to agree with. Engagement, rather than isolation, can have a moderating effect on the Taliban. Both China and Pakistan can help in the process by providing economic opportunity to the Afghans and help guarantee peace in the region.

The alternatives are far worse for Pakistan, and the entire region.

Anwar said...

I agree with what you are saying and respect what you analyzed.
But just imagine if the whole of Sind and Punjab went against the Talibans, including the common man, (if the money trickles down to them), and we can always have some support if the price is right in the northern areas, then it would be extremely difficult for the miscreants to move
imagine the media, the govt., the administration, the security forces,if they all combine , because of a future of good living, it would be extremely difficult.
Deep down our people are still poor and even a small amount of monetary assistance could do wonders.
one liter of gas at Rs 66/-???????????????

Riaz Haq said...

Anwar, "But just imagine if the whole of Sind and Punjab went against the Talibans, including the common man, (if the money trickles down to them), and we can always have some support if the price is right in the northern areas, then it would be extremely difficult for the miscreants to move.."

Let's not forget that Pakistan's economy and per capita incomes almost doubled during the Musharraf era, and yet people rose up against him in the end, partly because he was seen to be acting on behalf of the US interests. So there is a limit to how much and for how long the people let their decisions be guided by economic benefits.

However, if we were to accept that the money would make a difference here, the price would have to be many times more than $30 billion, so that the average people see the benefit to them and have a stake in maintaining peace in the neighborhood. Given the high levels of corruption in democratic Pakistan (and Afghanistan), I don't see how any significant amount of US aid will actually trickle down to the ordinary people to buy their support.

The real benefit of US departure that I see for ordinary Pakistanis is the possible end to the current murder and mayhem that is unfolding on the streets of Pakistan almost daily.

Anonymous said...

" think it's a mistake if Indians believe that. The fact is that Indians NEED a stable and prosperous Pakistan to maintain their own security and economic growth in a secure neighborhood."

As an Indian I can tell you that this is both true and false.

True: Yes we want a stable pakistan so as not to release its strategic assets, aka, jihadist to India.

False: We don't want a Pak strong enough to start competing with India for exports. In the competitive market, one country can grow only at the expense of other country. So Indian business community would hate competition from Pakistan.

By god's grace ever since WTO quotas were lifted India has been kicking ass of Pakistan. I also read that Pak is losing to India in exports to gulf countries too.

Anonymous said...

for the last 2 weeks there was a lull in pak. I was concerned. But looks like all is fine in pakistan.


Riaz Haq said...

anon: "But looks like all is fine in pakistan."

I think you are part of ghoulish gang in India that Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express takes to task for "unconcealed delight" for the suffering of your neighbors. You better heed Gupta's warning:

"It is time therefore to stop jubilating at the unfolding tragedy in Pakistan. India has to think of becoming a part of the solution. And that solution lies in not merely saving Pakistan — Pakistan will survive. It has evolved a strong nationalism that does bind its people even if that does not reflect in its current internal dissensions. It is slowly building a democratic system, howsoever imperfect. But it has a very robust media and a functional higher judiciary. Also, in its army, it has at least one national institution that provides stability and continuity. The question for us is, what kind of Pakistan do we want to see emerging from this bloodshed? What if fundamentalists of some kind, either religious or military or a combination of both, were to take control of Islamabad? The Americans will always have the option of cutting their losses and leaving. They have a long history of doing that successfully, from Vietnam to Iraq and maybe Afghanistan next. What will be our Plan-B then?"

Anonymous said...

" think you are part of ghoulish gang in India that "

Yawn. Jaisee karnee waisee barnee.
(reap as your sow)

Are you telling that Pakistan offered full sympathy to India during 1980s Punjab terrorism.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Are you telling that Pakistan offered full sympathy to India during 1980s Punjab terrorism."

It seems your hatred has affected your memory. The ending of Sikh militancy and the desire for a Khalistan catalyzed when the then-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto handed all intelligence material concerning Punjab militancy to the Indian government, as a goodwill gesture. The Indian government used that intelligence to put an end to those who were behind attacks in India and militancy.

Anonymous said...

Why not india. India is a regional power which is concerned about china and pakistan as both are fiddling around india for a long time It is the current mess internal of pakistan which has to some extent stopped the fiddling by pakistan.

I think india must be involved in afghan so that it counter the extrerme communism and fundamentalism of china and pakistan respectively.

Anonymous said...

best part of the pakistan is that it want america to listen to what is feels as correct solution.

Best way to get heard is that pakistan must work out with isreal and then it ideas might get sold.

In my perception, america is keeping the arms industry going by this war which in turn provides employment in the industry and also in the war. That is the reason obama has sent more soldiers to afghan.

Few american soldiers will die but the damages is for the local economy. i donot think so that the time frame for withdrawal is never ever to work.

It will run for a decade where the local economy and the people are broken completely.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting analysis of the Obama Afghan strategy by Bob Churcher a British officer who served in Afghanistan since 2001 and retired recently:

But what about the heart of the strategy, the Afghan National Army? This force is supposed to "stand up as we stand down." Sadly this is a phantom Army. Made up from the recombined remnants of Northern Alliance militias, held together by British and American money and training, it has nowhere near the numbers needed nor claimed. Drug addiction and demoralization are rampant among its soldiers.

Most importantly, the ANA is a largely Tajik army. Tajiks are the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and are based in the north of the country. The Pashtun are the largest group and dominate the south. The Taliban draws its support from the Pashtun. Tajik and Pashtuns are bitter rivals.

In the eyes of Tajik leaders, Karzai (a Pashtun) isn't "their" president, and this isn't "their" war, nor are Tajiks too keen on getting killed in it, as many US soldiers have noticed.

Even if Tajik forces were willing to fight and replace NATO soldiers, sending the Tajik dominated ANA into the south to control the Pashtun would not amount to a "national army" fighting "its own" war. The Pashtun would and do see these Tajiks as invaders.

In short, this is not the force that will beat the Taliban.

What about our other ally, Pakistan? Regardless of what they tell you, the Pakistani military is not on America's side. They pretend to be because they enjoy receiving billions and billions of dollars in aid every year, but in the end the Pakistani Army is obsessed with India. Their fear of India means they want a weak Islamic Afghanistan behind them.

The Pakistani officer class sees the current Afghan government as allied to India and thus hostile to Islamabad -- which it is. India supported the communist government of Afghanistan and then the northern Alliance and now the Karzai government. It is heavily involved in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is determined that it will dominate Afghanistan once we, the foreigners, leave.

Despite its weakness, Afghanistan's political leaders have always coveted large areas of Pakistan: the Pashtun inhabited North West Frontier Province, (the NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (the FATA). Afghanistan lost these regions to what was British India in 1893 when it accepted the so-called "Durand line" which is now the border with Pakistan.

In the 1950s and early 60s, Afghanistan did its best to destabilise Pakistani control in these regions, and actually sent armed tribal groups to invade them. This did much to encourage Islamabad's later enthusiastic support of the US-back Mujahadeen in the late 1970s and 1980s.

In the Pakistani military's view, the international community will leave Afghanistan, as they did after the Soviets left, and indeed as Obama has promised to do. When that happens Pakistan feels that it must be in position to install a friendly regime in Kabul, one that will expel the Indian advisors, spies, diplomats, contactors, etc and provide a potentially friendly area to the rear of Pakistan in the event of another major war with India. This is the Pakistani idea of "strategic depth."

Who would be that friendly government: most likely, the Taliban.

And if they cannot get a friendly government in Kabul, an ungoverned Afghanistan is better than the present Indian dominated one.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from recent Reuters report about Pakistan:

"Indeed, for sheer spotlessness, efficiency and emptiness there is nothing like the M2 in the rest of South Asia.

It puts paid to what's on offer in Pakistan's traditional foe and emerging economic giant India, where village culture stubbornly refuses to cede to even the most modern motorways, making them battlegrounds of rickshaws, lorries and cows.

There are many things in Pakistan that don't get into the news. Daily life, for one. Pakistani hospitality to strangers, foreigners like myself included, is another. The M2 is another sign that all is not what it appears in Pakistan, that much lies hidden behind the bad news.

On a recent M2 trip, my driver whizzed along but kept his speedometer firmly placed on the speed limit. Here in this South Asian Alice's Wonderland, the special highway police are considered incorruptible. The motorway is so empty one wonders if it really cuts through one of the region's most populated regions.

"130, OK, but 131 is a fine," said the driver, Noshad Khan. "The police have cameras," he added, almost proudly. His hand waved around in the car, clenched in the form of a gun.

On one of my first trips to Pakistan. I arrived at the border having just negotiated a one-lane country road in India with cows, rickshaws and donkey-driven carts.

I toted my luggage over to the Pakistan side, and within a short time my Pakistani taxi purred along the tarmac. The driver proudly showed off his English and played U.S. rock on FM radio. The announcer even had an American accent. Pakistan, for a moment, receded, and my M2 trip began."

Here's another one from 2007 by William Dalrymple in Guardian:

"On the ground, of course, the reality is different and first-time visitors to Pakistan are almost always surprised by the country's visible prosperity. There is far less poverty on show in Pakistan than in India, fewer beggars, and much less desperation. In many ways the infrastructure of Pakistan is much more advanced: there are better roads and airports, and more reliable electricity. Middle-class Pakistani houses are often bigger and better appointed than their equivalents in India.
Moreover, the Pakistani economy is undergoing a construction and consumer boom similar to India's, with growth rates of 7%, and what is currently the fastest-rising stock market in Asia. You can see the effects everywhere: in new shopping centers and restaurant complexes, in the hoardings for the latest laptops and iPods, in the cranes and building sites, in the endless stores selling mobile phones: in 2003 the country had fewer than three million cellphone users; today there are almost 50 million."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Indian report from last year about India significantly lagging Pakistan in clean energy and CNG usage:

New Delhi, May 5, 2008
India is way behind Pakistan in terms of its gas pipeline network, with the neighbouring country’s network stretching around 56,400 km against its 10,500 km, connecting only 20 cities compared to Pakistan’s 1,050, industry body Assocham said.

Pakistan’s pipeline density, at present is 1044 km/mmscmd (million metric standard cubic meter per day) per day compared to 116 km/mmscmd of India, Assocham said in its paper on gas sector ‘A Comparison between India and Pakistan’.

The neighbouring country has created a 31,000 km distribution network to serve its domestic and commercial consumers in large locations, against the 11,000 km network that have so far been build in India to serve the needs of its consumers in limited pockets, the report said.

While Pakistan has nearly 1,600 CNG stations, India has 380. The gas throughput in Pakistan is 38 mmscmd per day as against 8.5 mmscmd gas in India.

The number of gas customers and vehicles running on CNG in Pakistan is about 19 lakh and 15.6 lakh respectively, while in India the number is 5.50 lakh and 4.60 lakh.

“The gas availability in Pakistan is undoubtedly quite large, compared to India but given the imports of gas and even its domestic availability in India, its pipeline network is extremely poor and the main reason attributed for the low and limited pipeline network in India is because this sector has been thoroughly regulated which has now been opened for competition,” Assocham president Venugopal Dhoot said.

The paper added that since the pipeline network in India does not reach out to most of the potential demand centres, a number of industrial projects, which would ideally run on gas, have to depend on much more costlier and more polluting alternative fuels.

“Thus the unmet gas demand in India is probably much higher than what is reported,” he said, adding India, “at present has only one major cross country pipeline in the form of Hizira-Bijaipur-Jagdishpur pipeline and there is estimated to be considerable unmet demand even in the states serviced by this pipeline”.

With the increased availability of gas, the country needs to gear up quickly to meet the increased requirement of cross country as well as regional and local downstream gas distribution networks, he said. — PTI


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about Helen Thomas' persistence in seeking answers on the core question as to "why do they want to harm us?"

After Obama briefly addressed L'Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote "must do better" on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas to break through the vapid remarks about channeling "intelligence streams," fixing "no-fly" lists, deploying "behavior detection officers," and buying more body-imaging scanners.

Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.

She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did.

Thomas: "Why do they want to do us harm? And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why."

Brennan: "Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents... They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he's (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death."

Thomas: "And you're saying it's because of religion?"

Brennan: "I'm saying it's because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way."

Thomas: "Why?"

Brennan: "I think this is a - long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland."

Thomas: "But you haven't explained why."

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how evil al Qaeda continues to pervert a religion and entice and exploit impressionable young men.

There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

Riaz Haq said...

This seems to a winter of hope in Afghanistan, when the fighting usually subsides until the arrival of spring. Afghans are expressing more optimism about the future, accoding to a BBC survey:

Most Afghans are increasingly optimistic about the state of their country, a poll commissioned by the BBC, ABC News and Germany's ARD shows.

Of more than 1,500 Afghans questioned, 70% said they believed Afghanistan was going in the right direction - a big jump from 40% a year ago.

Of those questioned, 68% now back the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, compared with 63% a year ago.

For Nato troops, including UK forces, support has risen from 59% to 62%.

The survey was conducted in all of the country's 34 provinces in December 2009.

In 2009 only 51% of those surveyed had expected improvement and 13% thought conditions would deteriorate.

But in the latest survey 71% said they were optimistic about the situation in 12 months' time, compared with 5% who said it would be worse.

The other significant theme which emerges from the figures is growing antipathy towards the Taliban.

Ninety per cent said they wanted their country run by the current government, compared with 6% who said they favoured a Taliban administration.

Sixty-nine per cent believed the Taliban posed the biggest danger to the country, and 66% blamed the Taliban, al-Qaeda and foreign militants for violence in Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a BBC report about Taliban's brazen Kabul attacks and how the Taliban deliberately avoided civilian casualties, unlike the Pakistani Taliban:

The Taliban, we learned later, having failed to storm the government buildings they had at first targeted, sought shelter elsewhere.

At least four went into a crowded shopping centre.

If their intention had been to kill as many people as possible, it would have been achievable there.

But they didn't. They ordered everyone - shoppers and shopkeepers alike - out. Soon the building was on fire.

The Taliban fighters died amid the flames, most of them in a volley of gunfire, while the last man alive blew himself up.

The number of civilians who died was - given the scale of what was happening - surprisingly low.

From Pakistan, we learned, a Taliban spokesman had called a news agency, while the attack was still under way, to announce that 20 of its militants were involved.

The public relations management was as vital to the perpetrators as the co-ordination of the attack itself.

This care, this determination to avoid civilian deaths is now part of the conflict in Afghanistan.

It is something the Taliban shares with its Nato enemies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an opinion piece from Tom's Dispatch about CIA's information and self-deception about its drone war in Pakistan:

"...there’s a deeper, more dangerous level of deception in Washington’s widening war in the region: self-deception. The CIA drone program, which the Agency’s Director Leon Panetta has called “the only game in town” when it comes to dismantling al-Qaeda, is just symptomatic of such self-deception. While the CIA and the U.S. military have been expending enormous effort studying the Afghan and Pakistani situations and consulting experts, and while the White House has conducted an extensive series of seminars-cum-policy-debates on both countries, you can count on one thing: none of them have spent significant time studying or thinking about us.

As a result, the seeming cleanliness and effectiveness of the drone-war solution undoubtedly only reinforces a sense in Washington that the world’s last great military power can still control this war -- that it can organize, order, prod, wheedle, and bribe both the Afghans and Pakistanis into doing what’s best, and if that doesn’t work, simply continue raining down the missiles and bombs. Beware Washington’s deep-seated belief that it controls events; that it is, however precariously, in the saddle; that, as Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal recently put it, there is a “corner” to “turn” out there, even if we haven’t quite turned it yet.

In fact, Washington is not in the saddle and that corner, if there, if turned, will have its own unpleasant surprises. Washington is, in this sense, as oblivious as those CIA operatives were as they waited for “their” Jordanian agent to give them supposedly vital information on the al-Qaeda leadership in the Pakistani tribal areas. Like their drones, the Americans in charge of this war are desperately far from the ground, and they don’t even seem to know it. It’s this that makes the analogy drawn by TomDispatch regular and author of Halliburton’s Army, Pratap Chatterjee, so unnerving. It’s time for Washington to examine not what we know about them, but what we don’t know about ourselves. Tom"

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a recent Op Ed by Indian career diplomat M K Bhadrakumar on India's worries in Afghanistan:

...The big question is whether Delhi is pragmatic enough to accept that new thinking has become necessary. First and foremost, it does not help if India ignores the nascent processes of Afghan national reconciliation. Delhi on its own is incapable of calibrating the Afghan reconciliation process and the Indian and US approaches diverge. Enduring peace can only come out of an inclusive political settlement in Kabul.

Delhi lost much time quibbling over the "good" and "bad" Taliban while the international community and regional players moved on. There was initially some uneasiness that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai was seeking reconciliation with the insurgent groups.

But more worrisome for Delhi is the fact Karzai has begun seeking help from Pakistan. The fault lies entirely with the Indians in having failed to support him in recent months. Delhi backed losing candidate Abdullah Abdullah in last year's presidential elections on the facile assumption that Washington wished to see him in power. That was a disastrous error of judgment.

Karzai is expected to unfold a road map on reconciliation within the next six weeks. He hopes to hold a loya jirgha (grand council) on April 29 with a view, as he put it, to "get guidance from the Afghan people on how to move forward towards reintegration and reconciliation [with the Taliban]". And in his estimation, if there is greater participation by insurgent elements in parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in August, then further coalition-building becomes possible.

Delhi can anticipate that in all this, Karzai hopes for cooperation from Pakistan and as a quid pro quo he can be expected to factor in Pakistan's interests. The day after Menon concluded his visit, Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiani met Karzai in Kabul to discuss "matters of mutual interest". Karzai followed it up with a two-day visit to Islamabad that started on Wednesday.

Pakistan's assertiveness is bothering Indian strategists but Delhi seems to have overlooked that many factors work in Islamabad's favor. The Afghan elites in Kabul have close social and family kinships with Peshawar. The Afghan economy is dependent on imports from Pakistan. Pakistan has influence over Taliban groups and unlike in the past it has also cultivated the non-Pashtun groups of the erstwhile Northern Alliance. It also shouldn't be forgotten that more than 80% of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supplies for the war in Afghanistan pass through Pakistan.

And most of all, Delhi underestimated that Pakistan is the US's key non-NATO ally in the war and that implicit in this is Pakistan's expectation to be recognized by Washington as a regional power. In fact, the US has been harping on a fundamental theme: Pakistan has a choice to make, namely, whether it wants to have a comprehensive partnership with the US and NATO; and if so, that it must cooperate with Washington's strategies in the region.

The prevailing view in India is that the Pakistani military continues to play it both ways. But they may be in for disillusionment as there strong likelihood is that Pakistani army chief Kiani may have begun to explore the potential of the US offer.

Pakistan estimates that it is closer than at any time before to gaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan - and this time, Washington may acquiesce....

Riaz Haq said...

The ISI is hated by Pakistan's enemies mainly because it is the best at what it does in terms of protecting Pakistan interests. Some in the CIA, RAW and Mossad show a natural professional jealousy and envy of the ISI....and they try and slander it as often as they can through their friendly media and its blind followers.

Here's a website "smashinglits.com" that ranks as ISI #1 intelligence agency in the world...followed by MOSSAD, MI6, CIA, MSS, BND, FSB, DGSE, RAW and ASIS.

Here's what the website says about ISI:

Formed 1948
Jurisdiction Government of Pakistan
Headquarters Islamabad, Pakistan
Agency executive Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, PA Director General

With the lengthiest track record of success, the best know Intelligence so far on the scale of records is ISI. The Inter-Services Intelligence was created as an independent unit in 1948 in order to strengthen the performance of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. Its success in achieving its goal without leading to a full scale invasion of Pakistan by the Soviets is a feat unmatched by any other through out the intelligence world. KGB, The best of its time, failed to counter ISI and protect Soviet interests in Central Asia. This GOLD MEDAL makes it rank higher than Mossad. It has had 0 double agents or Defectors through out its history, considering that in light of the whole war campaign it carried out from money earned by selling drugs bought from the very people it was bleeding, The Soviets. It has protected its Nuclear Weapons since formed and it has foiled Indian attempts to attain ultimate supremacy in the South-Asian theatres through internal destabilization of India. It is above All laws in its host country Pakistan ‘A State, with in a State’. Its policies are made ‘outside’ of all other institutions with the exception of The Army. Its personnel have never been caught on camera. Its is believed to have the highest number of agents worldwide, close to 10,000. The most striking thing is that its one of the least funded Intelligence agency out of the top 10 and still the strongest.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a recent piece in Newsweek explaining the critical importance of Pakistan for US Afghan campaign:

The events of the past week make clear why the United States has been so solicitous. After a U.S. helicopter attack across the border killed two Pakistani soldiers at a frontier outpost, Islamabad shut down one of the main crossings into Afghanistan in protest. Three quarters of nonlethal supplies intended for Coalition troops in Afghanistan travel through Pakistan. The crossing point quickly clogged with trucks that couldn’t pass, making them easy targets. Militants torched more than 100 fuel tankers as Pakistani authorities largely stood aside and watched.

Impeding supply routes is not the strongest leverage Pakistan can bring to bear. The high-tech drone war that has eviscerated Al Qaeda’s ranks—killing 17 commanders in the last nine months—is run out of Pakistan and is largely dependent on Pakistani intelligence for targeting. Islamabad publicly denies any role in the Predator strikes, and loudly protests the collateral damage when civilians are killed. But it hasn’t grounded the CIA’s drones—so far.

America’s forbearance, though, is waning. In a report sent to Congress on Oct. 4, the Obama administration admitted that “the Pakistan military [has] continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda forces in North Waziristan.” There is a reason for this—a “political choice,” as the report says. The Pakistani military has long tolerated Afghan insurgents like the Haqqanis, who direct their attacks into Afghanistan only. Those groups—which include the Quetta Shura, led by the one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar—are Islamabad’s insurance policy, agents who are meant to look after Pakistani interests when the United States eventually withdraws the bulk of its forces from the region. (Pakistan vehemently denies supporting any militant groups.)

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from a New York Times report filed Sabrina Tavernise on Pakistan:

In Mr. Dasti’s area, one of the hardest hit by the recent flooding, the state has all but disappeared. Not that it was ever very present. In the British colonial era, before Pakistan became a separate country, the state would show up a few times a month in the form of a representative from the Raj dispensing justice.

Later, the local landowner took over. For years, feudal lords reigned supreme, serving as the police, the judge and the political leader. Plantations had jails, and political seats were practically owned by families.

Instead of midwifing democracy, these aristocrats obstructed it, ignoring the needs of rural Pakistanis, half of whom are still landless and desperately poor more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state.

But changes began to erode the aristocrats’ power. Cities sprouted, with jobs in construction and industry. Large-scale farms eclipsed old-fashioned plantations. Vast hereditary lands splintered among generations of sons, and many aristocratic families left the country for cities, living beyond their means off sales of their remaining lands. Mobile labor has also reduced dependence on aristocratic families.

In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and its most economically advanced, the number of national lawmakers from feudal families shrank to 25 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 1970, according to a count conducted by Mubashir Hassan, a former finance minister, and The New York Times.

“Feudals are a dying breed,” said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based fellow with the Carnegie Foundation. “They have no power outside the walls of their castles.”

Mr. Dasti, a young, impulsive man with a troubled past, is much like the new Pakistan he represents. He is one of seven siblings born to illiterate parents. Despite his claims of finishing college, he never earned a degree, something his political opponents used against him in court this spring. One of the 35 criminal cases against him is for murder, a charge he said was leveled by his political opponents. Detractors accuse him of blackmailing rich people in a job at a newspaper. He said he was writing exposés.

“I have more enemies than numbers of hairs in my head,” he said, bouncing down a road in a borrowed truck. “They don’t like my style, and I don’t like theirs.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some impressions of the Waziri tribes described by retired Pakistani Brigadier Marghoob Qadir as published in Daily Times:

The people belonging to the tribal belt that girdles Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the west live with an inexplicable mix of chivalry, banditry, personal liberty and tribal customs. It was 1985, I was commanding a unit in Kohat and we were travelling from Thal to Miranshah. I had ordered the regulation armed escort to stay put in Thal Fort. I knew it was irregular and quite risky also, but I had always regarded that such escorts, being cumbersome, normally impede speed and are at risk themselves. We were travelling through wild Waziristan practically bare handed. However, I had quietly slipped a service revolver into the jeep’s dashboard just in case. A few miles out of Thal, we saw a man sitting under a distant tree pointing his Kalashnikov at something directly above. As we got closer, he fired and whatever was left of a poor sparrow floated lifelessly to the ground below. Satisfied with his marksmanship he rolled his sheet, placed it under his head and lay down for a leisurely catnap.
We were negotiating a narrow and hilly tract of road short of Miranshah, when a rifle shot rang out from very close range. Then the second shot and a piece of rock scattered into bits as the bullet hit the rock face inches above the jeep bonnet. I told the driver to stop, climbed out of the jeep and looked straight into the barrel of a rifle pointed at me by a young Waziri a few yards up the opposite slope. There was a short verbal exchange in Pashto between the two of us and then we resumed our journey to Miranshah. It transpired that by firing those ‘near miss’ shots, the Wiziri youngster wanted to find out if we were afraid or not. Admittedly, I countered him by saying that he would also be scared if the same weapon were aimed at him without a fair chance. The boy understood and gave up further confirmation of my valour or fear.

En route, we had stopped for a cup of tea in a sprawling fort manned by scouts. It was a treat in old style hospitality and was altogether overwhelming. The scouts in that fort observed a strange water collection ritual every day at a given time. They had shared the only water spring some distance outside the fort with a neighbouring Waziri village ever since the fort was built in British times. The water filled up in a large but open ground level cemented water tank. Under a treaty concluded between the Waziri villagers and the British, the Waziris were conceded the right to collect water in the early part of the day. The scouts would do so in the afternoon. Fearing treachery, the British thought of a brilliantly inexpensive and simple test. A pair of white swans is officially kept and trained by the fort scouts. As the fort door opens for the water collection party, this pair of swans marches out towards the water tank, leading. Dipping their beaks in the water tank they drink till their pouches fill. The scouts’ party commander would observe them keenly for a few minutes for any signs of poisoning. If found in good health, the party would collect water in their containers and march back into the fort with the swans leading. Proper funds were allocated for the maintenance of this pair of swans, we were told.
They hold their privacy, which has to be understood in the broadest possible terms as being very dear to them. An actual or perceived trespass can have grave consequences. Their concept of privacy roughly corresponds to the modern day notion of sovereignty. For example, to pass through a Waziri village in a high-strung military truck is to trespass. To chance upon a female water-filling point is a serious infringement and so on. It may be understood that the Waziri concept of privacy is actually a function of perception more than the action.

Riaz Haq said...

US-NATO War Served Al-Qaeda Strategy
Thursday 9 June 2011
by: Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Truthout.org

Al-Qaeda strategists have been assisting the Taliban fight against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan because they believe that foreign occupation has been the biggest factor in generating Muslim support for uprisings against their governments, according to the just-published book by Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistani journalist whose body was found in a canal outside Islamabad last week with evidence of having been tortured.

That Al-Qaeda view of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, which Shahzad reports in the book based on conversations with several senior Al- Qaeda commanders, represents the most authoritative picture of the organisation's thinking available to the public.

Shahzad's book "Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban" was published on May 24 – only three days before he went missing from Islamabad on his way to a television interview. His body was found May 31.

Shahzad, who had been the Pakistan bureau chief for the Hong Kong- based Asia Times, had unique access to senior Al-Qaeda commanders and cadres, as well as those of the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban organisations. His account of Al-Qaeda strategy is particularly valuable because of the overall ideological system and strategic thinking that emerged from many encounters Shahzad had with senior officials over several years.

Shahzad's account reveals that Osama bin Laden was a "figurehead" for public consumption, and that it was Dr. Ayman Zawahiri who formulated the organisation's ideological line or devised operational plans.

Shahzad summarises the Al-Qaeda strategy as being to "win the war against the West in Afghanistan" before shifting the struggle to Central Asia and Bangladesh. He credits Al-Qaeda and its militant allies in North and South Waziristan with having transformed the tribal areas of Pakistan into the main strategic base for the Taliban resistance to US-NATO forces.

But Shahzad's account makes it clear that the real objective of Al-Qaeda in strengthening the Taliban struggle against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan was to continue the US-NATO occupation as an indispensable condition for the success of Al-Qaeda's global strategy of polarising the Islamic world.

Shahzad writes that Al-Qaeda strategists believed its terrorist attacks on 9/11 would lead to a US invasion of Afghanistan which would in turn cause a worldwide "Muslim backlash". That "backlash" was particularly important to what emerges in Shahzad's account as the primary Al-Qaeda aim of stimulating revolts against regimes in Muslim countries.

Shahzad reveals that the strategy behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the large Al-Qaeda ambitions to reshape the Muslim world came from Zawahiri's "Egyptian camp" within Al-Qaeda. That group, under Zawahiri's leadership, had already settled on a strategic vision by the mid-1990s, according to Shahzad.

The Zawahiri group's strategy, according to Shahzad, was to "speak out against corrupt and despotic Muslim governments and make them targets to destroy their image in the eyes of the common people". But they would do so by linking those regimes to the United States.


Mayraj said...

US-funded Afghan militias 'beat, rob and kill with impunity'
American-funded Afghan militias raised to protect villages from the Taliban have begun to prey on residents and in some cases are beating, robbing and even killing with impunity it is claimed.

Mayraj said...

"But the real reason Washington wants to depart is that its leaders now understand the limitations of the Afghans as allies and nation-builders. Most Americans have only the vaguest notion of who the Afghans are, just as they had little understanding of the Vietnamese, Somalis, Slavs and Iraqis who populated other recent battlefields where U.S. forces have fought. After ten years of counter-insurgency warfare, though, senior U.S. leaders know the Afghans all too well, and they have figured out that Afghanistan is not the kind of stuff from which happy endings can be fashioned.
A few salient facts about the country are in order. Afghanistan’s per capita GDP is about two-percent of America’s, and according to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 97 percent of economic activity is tied to the U.S. military presence or international aid. The country’s biggest export is opium. Its biggest import is weapons. Nearly half the population is under the age of 15, and among those who are 15 or older, three-quarters can’t read or write (including seven out of eight women). The polyglot culture is fractured among communities speaking three major languages and 30 minor ones.
Afghan society is characterized by extreme poverty and widespread criminality. The government is weak and corrupt. There are chronic shortages of housing, jobs, electricity and medical care. If you think this sounds too harsh, don’t blame me: I’m quoting from the CIA’s World Factbook entry on Afghanistan. It is very depressing reading, and proof that Afghanistan does not have what it takes to be a self-sustaining democracy.
In other words, there was a reason why Osama bin Laden sought sanctuary in Afghanistan in 1996, and it wasn’t the weather. He knew the country was so isolated, primitive and divided that a small amount of money could buy him all the protection he needed. Having now killed him and two-thirds of his lieutenants over the last two years, the Obama Administration realizes that’s probably the most it can hope for from such an inhospitable place. Economic growth and political stability are not feasible unless America sticks around forever, buying off the warlords and injecting billions of (borrowed) dollars into a backward economy.
The problem here isn’t lack of American resolve. U.S. forces have remained in places such as Germany and South Korea for generations, even when the number of American lives at risk was far greater than the losses incurred in Afghanistan. But there were major economic and security benefits to those commitments, and politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington have begun to doubt the value of remaining in Afghanistan. Even the geography works against us."

The Real Reason We’re Leaving Afghanistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from an Op Ed by Ejaz Haider published in The Express Tribune:

The fact is that the Afghanistan problem is not just about the Haqqani Network. Afghanistan has multiple problems, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Haqqanis. Even if the Haqqani Network were entirely taken out, Afghanistan would remain largely the same. In fact, if the only stumbling block between an Afghanistan gone bad and an idyllic Afghanistan were the Network, Afghanistan would have been a piece of cake, not the wicked problem it has become.

Secondly, if the insurgency in Afghanistan was only run by the Haqqanis, JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) would not be conducting thousands of night operations for the last year-and-half across all of Afghanistan, operations that are terribly unpopular.

Thirdly, if use of force was the only answer to Afghanistan’s problems, the US would have, by now, brought it under control. But the use of force, by itself, is clearly not enough. As Mr Abdullah Abdullah told me in April in Washington, what is missing is the ability of the Afghan government to reach out to its people. It is common knowledge that the Afghan governors cannot even survive in their respectivevilayats without striking some kind of deal with the Taliban commanders in the area.

Fourthly, the three spectacular attacks in recent weeks, beginning with the downing of a Chinook carrying a SEAL team, the suicide attack that injured 70 US troops, both in Maydan Wardag, and now the September 13 Kabul attack clearly show that the line of communication of the insurgents cannot stretch back to North Waziristan. All these attacks have happened deep inside the Afghan territory and indicate the steady loss of control of territory by the Afghan government and the foreign troops.

If, for the sake of the argument it is conceded that the Taliban line of communication does extend back to North Waziristan, then the ability of the fighters to go deep in and mount attacks makes an utter mockery of the military and intelligence capabilities of the US and its allies despite the tremendous resources at their disposal.

Fifthly, as should be clear from Sirajuddin Haqqani’s interview to Reuters, his fighters are not based in North Waziristan. It makes eminent sense for him to have relocated to the Loya Paktia given the heightened frequency of the drone attacks in North Waziristan and the fact that the Network controls the three provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. They are also unlikely to be based either in Dande Darpa Khel in North Waziristan or Zambar in Khost, both locations known to intelligence agencies.

Finally, Siraj’s interview dispels the propaganda that the Haqqani Network is Al Qaeda. Instead, Siraj told Reuters that “we would support whatever solution our shura members suggest for the future of Afghanistan”, a clear reference to the Afghan Taliban leadership. Siraj also said that they rejected previous attempts at talks by the US and the Afghan government because those overtures were aimed at “creating divisions” among the Taliban. It is therefore misleading to suggest that the Haqqanis operate outside the overall strategic objectives of the Taliban.


Riaz Haq said...

Karzai says Afghans will support Pakistan if US attacks, reports the Wall Street Journal:

KABUL—America's latest attempts to strengthen its relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai received an unexpected jolt over the weekend, as the Afghan leader said he would back Pakistan if it went to war with the U.S.

"God forbid, if any war took place between Pakistan and the United States, we will stand by Pakistan," Mr. Karzai said an interview broadcast Saturday on Pakistan's Geo television network. "If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan needed Afghanistan's help, Afghanistan will be there with you."

The prospects for a U.S. war with Pakistan are remote, and Mr. Karzai's comments were viewed by some Afghan and Western officials in Kabul as a poorly executed effort to blunt his recent angry comments about Pakistan's support for Afghan insurgent groups.

"This is not about war with each other," said Gavin Sundwall, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. "This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries."

On Sunday, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Mr. Karzai's deputy national security adviser, said the president's comments had been taken out of context and didn't reflect a change in Afghan policy in the region.

"I think the president's remarks have been blown up without looking at the real context of the message he was trying to convey," he said. "It is a 50 minute-long interview. Of course one or two sentences can't speak for a 50 minute-long interview on a specific subject."

Meanwhile, Mr. Karzai's comments came as a surprise to some Western officials in Kabul, who were heartened by the success of last week's visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In the past, Mr. Karzai has alienated his Western allies with comments suggesting that he might side with the Taliban, or that America could come to be seen as an occupier if its forces didn't stop killing Afghan civilians.

Mr. Karzai's latest remarks struck a nerve with some Afghan and Western officials in Kabul who were reminded of the president's penchant for criticizing the U.S.-led coalition that supports and funds his government.

"It was totally careless, unnecessary and, yes, irresponsible," said one Afghan official. "He hasn't pleased anyone except, maybe, a few Pakistani generals."

American officials said, however, that Mr. Karzai's remarks wouldn't overshadow Mrs. Clinton's visit. Mr. Karzai and Mrs. Clinton were united during her trip in demanding that Pakistan stop supporting the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have vacillated over the past year between spells of political chill and attempts at a rapprochement.

Mr. Karzai and the U.S. have sought to pressure Pakistan in recent weeks to clamp down on the Haqqani insurgent network suspected of staging a series of deadly attacks on American and Afghan targets.

Afghan officials also accused Pakistan's spy agency of involvement in last month's assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan president who had been leading the country's peace entreaties to the Taliban. Pakistan denied these accusations.

Earlier this month, Mr. Karzai flew to New Delhi to sign a strategic agreement with Pakistan's archenemy India. The move angered Pakistani officials, who viewed it as political provocation...


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Farrukh Saleem Op Ed in The News on Indian military buildup being aimed at Pakistan:

According to a report by Stratfor, the Texas-based private intelligence agency, “China has been seen as a threat to India, and simplistic models show them to be potential rivals. In fact, however, China and India might as well be on different planets. Their entire frontier runs through the highest elevations of the Himalayas. It would be impossible for a substantial army to fight its way through the few passes that exist, and it would be utterly impossible for either country to sustain an army there in the long term. The two countries are irrevocably walled off from each other. Ideally, New Delhi wants to see a Pakistan that is fragmented, or at least able to be controlled. Toward this end, it will work with any power that has a common interest and has no interest in invading India.”

On March 16, Pranab Mukherjee, India’s Finance Minister, jacked up India’s defence budget by a wholesome 17 percent-one of the sharpest ever jump over the past 65 years. The defence allocation now stands at a colossal $38.6 billion up an alarming 350 percent in rupee terms since 1999.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is upgrading its entire fleet of 51 Mirage 2000s. IAF has already assigned the nuclear strike role to its ‘Vajra’ fighter jets and now the fleet is getting “new RDY-3 radars with greater air-air and air-ground capability, a new night vision compatible all-digital cockpit and improved electronic warfare systems.” Then there is a hefty $20 billion in the new budget for 126 Rafale twinjet combat aircraft for “high-accuracy strikes and nuclear strike deterrence.” There also is $4 billion for an artillery modernization programme that includes 145 ultra-light howitzers for India’s mountain divisions stationed opposite Pakistani borders.

India has six neighbours-Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Nepal and China. Pakistan’s defence spending stands at $5.16 billion, Bangladesh $1.137 billion, Nepal $100 million and Burma $30 million. Collectively, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Nepal spend $6.5 billion a year on defence. India just by itself now spends a colossal $38.6 billion on defence. Who is India going to fight with?

Bharatiya Sthalsena (the Indian Army) already has 3,773,000 troops plus 1,089,700 paramilitary forces and is second only to China in size. IAF already has 1,700 aircraft and is the world’s 4th largest. The Indian Navy already operates some 13-dozen vessels with INS Viraat as its flagship, the only “full-deck aircraft carrier operated by a country in Asia or the Western Pacific, along with operational jet fighters.”

On the ground, Bharatiya Sthalsena has a total of 13 corps of which 6 are strike corps. Of the 13 corps more than half have their guns pointed at Pakistan. The 3rd Armoured Division, 2nd Armoured Brigade, 4 RAPID, Jaisalmer AFS, Utarlai AFS and Bhuj AFS are all aiming at splitting Pakistan into two (by capturing the Kashmore/Guddu Barrage-Reti-Rahimyar Khan triangle).

For the record, the 2011 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report ranked India 45th amongst leading countries with hunger situation. According to the United Nations Development Programme 37.2 percent of Indians live below the national poverty line. Amazingly, poverty is so deep-rooted that India alone has 33 percent of world’s poor.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' report on India seeking to mine iron ore in Afghanistan & transport through Pakistan:

India will explore a route through rival Pakistan to transport iron ore from Afghanistan, the head of a consortium involved in the $11 billion project said, hoping that economic benefits will outweigh political hostility.

Despite a spike in tension in Afghanistan and uncertainty over the future once foreign combat forces leave in 2014, India was committed to developing the Hajigak mines and a 6 million tonne steel plant alongside, C. S. Verma, chairman of Steel Authority of India, told Reuters in an interview.

A contract is to be signed in two months in what will be the biggest foreign investment in Afghanistan's resources sector, larger than the $4.4 billion the Chinese are investing in the Aynak copper mine.

Mining work is expected to begin in late 2014 just when Afghan security forces take over security responsibilities and it remains a big concern whether they will be able to tackle a Taliban insurgency at its worst.

For the Indians, the challenge of transporting the ore out of the landlocked country is an additional issue given they have no direct access.

Pakistan is the obvious route and the alternative is a longer way westwards to Iran and then shipping it through the port of Chabahar that India has promoted to reduce Afghanistan's dependence on Pakistan.

But Verma told Reuters that the consortium made up of seven state and private firms was looking to move the ore along Pakistani roads crossing over to India, believing the benefits far outweighed political hostility between the two countries.

"What we have here is a gold mine, more than just an iron mine. I believe this is what everyone else will eventually realise. Ultimately the economic interests of everyone in the region including Pakistan will take precedence".

The Hajigak deposit contains an estimated 1.8 billion tonnes of ore, with an iron concentration of anything between 61 percent to 64 percent. "Where will you find such high grade ore? People have invested in mines elsewhere in the world with much less ferrous content," Verma said.

India, he said, would pursue the Pakistani option both as a way to truck the ore out and a route to build a slurry pipeline. "We are very bullish and believe that over the longer term this will be a productive investment. Not just for us, but others in the region including Pakistan. There are license fees, logistics, etc."..


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation report on Pak Army's work in FATA:

The corps commander said that Pakistan Army has conducted more than 300 major and 760 minor operations in militancy-hit areas in the last few years, most of them in the year 2009-10. He added that peace has been restored in entire north of Pakistan and road accesses to majority of Fata have been established.

From the year 2008 to 2012, writ of government has been established in 91 per cent of Fata while eight per cent remain in contested control. Army is working on the sustainable development plan in order to improve the livelihood condition of ordinary people in Fata, he added.

The Commander mentioned 52 ongoing educational projects under Pak Army especially the establishment of Cadet College in South Waziristan Agency, Khyber Institute of Technical Education and Waziristan Institute of Technical education as a major development in improving skill and quality education among people of Fata.

Gen Rabbani categorically stated that no army in the world can win war without the support of its countrymen.

He described political ownership of military operation and operation within tribal system as the way forward in achieving long lasting peace in Pakistani militancy hit areas.

He termed gradual mainstreaming of Fata and its infrastructure development as key towards its socio economic development.

Replying to a question raised by a student, Rabbani said that army remains in a particular area for attaining pace on requisition of the federal government.

He also rejected the perception that army consumes eighty percent of the budget, and explained that all the three forces i.e. Army, Air force and Navy consume 17 per cent of the total budget, in which army share is 8.7 per cent. He stressed the need for perception management of the country and described Pakistani media as key partner in achieving it.

The seminar is a sign of solidarity with our army who are sacrificing their lives for peace within the country, said Prof Dr AZ Hilali, Chairman Department of Political Science. He said that department of political science has been arranging series of national and international seminars on core issues confronting the country and the region for capacity building of the students.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dexter Filkins' piece in the New Yorker on America's Afghan end game:

President Barack Obama, in his June 22nd speech announcing the beginning of the end of the American war in Afghanistan, couched the conflict in the most constricted terms. This is no great surprise. Obama’s discomfort with the Afghan war is visible whenever he talks about it. Last week, he spoke with a palpable lack of passion, and indicated no long-term commitment to the country. His message was clinical: Osama bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is disabled, and American troops can begin coming home. “We are meeting our goals,’’ the President said, in his most expansive description of American progress. Certainly, the large majority of Americans who believe that the war isn’t worth fighting will have little inclination to doubt him.

The President’s terseness had a purpose: it allowed him to skirt a more exhaustive, and dispiriting, discussion of Afghan realities. Two years ago, Obama signed off on the surge, which deployed an additional thirty-three thousand marines and soldiers to Afghanistan. Though the surge is now at its peak, almost every aspect of the American campaign is either deeply troubled or too fragile to justify substantial reductions in military support. It’s true that, with the help of extra forces, the Americans have cleared large areas of Taliban insurgents, many of whom had been operating without opposition. This success has opened the parts of the country that are dominated by Pashtuns—its main ethnic group—to Afghan government control, but it hardly constitutes victory. According to American officers, the level of violence in Afghanistan this year is fifteen per cent higher than it was at this time last year. The insurgents, far from being degraded, appear to be as resilient as ever. And their sanctuaries in Pakistan, where the Taliban leadership resides mostly unmolested, remain more or less intact.

Nor is there any sign that Afghanistan’s Army will be able to maintain control as the Americans leave. Although Afghan forces are growing in number, they are virtually incapable of planning and executing operations on their own. Exactly one Afghan battalion—about six hundred soldiers—is currently classified as “independent.” Ethnic divisions have made the situation even worse: some units, packed with ethnic Tajiks from the north, are said to need translators to operate in the Pashto-speaking areas of southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban predominate. The number of Afghan soldiers who quit or go AWOL remains alarmingly high. Most recruits are illiterate. It is these men, along with members of Afghanistan’s hapless police force, whom Obama expects to take the lead from the Americans three years from now.
For the moment, the prospect of all-out civil war in Afghanistan rests safely on a distant horizon. Even after the thirty-three thousand troops have departed, by the end of 2012, the Americans and their NATO partners will have nearly a hundred thousand soldiers there. The effects of the drawdown might not be visible for years. But the moment of maximum American influence is passing without very much to show for it. “These long wars will come to a responsible end,” the President said toward the end of his speech. That’s an appropriately tortured construction for two badly managed occupations. As a prediction for Afghanistan, though, it seems more like a prayer.


Riaz Haq said...

At Pugwash conf, speakers from the region asking about how #Afghanistan will sustain itself economically,given the donor fatigue. #istanbul

#Afghanistan will survive just as it always has as a tribal society with subsistence economy. #Pakistan

Anonymous said...

PESHAWAR: Posters of turbaned Afghan presidential candidates are rolling off the presses in Pakistan, which will be keeping close watch on the election in its strategic backyard.
Helped by cheaper labour and a favourable exchange rate, printers in Peshawar, less than 60 kilometres from the border, have been busy making Afghan election banners.
“We have been swamped with work for the past two weeks because of the Afghan elections. One candidate has asked me to print 200,000 posters,” said printer Mohammad Sajid.
Business links with Afghanistan have grown in recent years and analysts say Pakistan wants a stable northwestern neighbour, shifting from the interference of the past.
Fear of encirclement by arch-rival India led generations of Pakistani military thinkers to view Afghanistan as a zone of potential risk – and thus legitimate space for covert intervention.
Afghan officials still regularly accuse Pakistan of colluding with militants, most recently over an assault on a luxury Kabul hotel that left nine people dead.
Pakistan vigorously denies the claims and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has worked hard to improve ties with President Hamid Karzai, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms in office.
“I think this change started in the previous government and Pakistan sticks to the policy because probably they have realised this ‘one favourite’ policy has been a disaster,” author and defence analyst Imtiaz Gul of Islamabad’s Centre for Research and Security Studies told AFP.
During the last Afghan presidential election, some Pakistani officials were more favourably disposed towards incumbent Karzai, who shared a good rapport with his then-Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari.
This time, however, Islamabad has been careful not to side with any candidate in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic transition of power.
Pakistan may be reluctant to antagonise whoever might emerge victorious by backing an opponent, but as Gul noted, it also does not have an obvious ally among the three leading candidates.
Zalmai Rassoul is seen as the preferred choice of Karzai, with whom Islamabad’s relations are at a low ebb. Former minister Abdullah Abdullah draws support from the Tajik ethnic group, who have not favoured Pakistan, and economist Ashraf Ghani has “no connection” with Islamabad, Gul said.
Though it may not have a candidate of choice, Pakistan remains a significant player in the election because its border areas serve as a rear base for the Taliban, who have vowed to disrupt the ballot and already claimed a series of attacks.
“They (the Pakistani government) want peace and stability on the Afghan border because it has a direct impact on peace and security in Pakistan,” said Saifullah Khan Mehsud, an expert on Pakistan’s restive tribal border regions at the FATA Research Centre.
Pakistan also fears a new wave of Afghan refugees, who currently number some 1.6 million having fled in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989.
While the refugees were able to vote in 2004, no arrangements have been made this time around.
“We’re frustrated, we’d like to have a say about the future of our country,” said Haji Jumaa Gul, an elderly man at a refugee camp in Peshawar, who says the situation at home is still too volatile to return.


Riaz Haq said...

Robert Grenier, Ex-CIA Chief in Islamabad: ""Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a ... colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards," he writes. "In the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban."


Riaz Haq said...

#US shoots itself in foot in #Pakistan jet deal. Reignites #Pressler memories of 1990s #F16 #sanctions #Afghanistan http://bit.ly/1Tp7aMA

In 1990, the US blocked sales of new F-16 fighter planes on the grounds that Pakistan was making progress towards producing nuclear weapons. In time, the move became controversial as Pakistan simply turned towards its old friend China and ended up producing a home-built fighter plane, the JF-17 Thunder.

More importantly, in strategic terms, Pakistan became a nuclear power just eight years later when it carried out its first nuclear tests in 1998 in response to a series of nuclear tests by India. Even though the US at the time sought to restrain Pakistan from adopting the nuclear route, Washington’s ability was found to be limited. With US sanctions in place, the US was left with few tools to usefully apply on the ruling structure in Islamabad.

Issues such as the case of Dr Afridi clearly fly in the face of reason. The US has itself been faced with situations where individuals caught on its turf spying for foreign governments were promptly prosecuted and sentenced, notably Jonathan Pollard, an American intelligence analyst who was caught spying for Israel.

On other matters too, notably the case of tackling the Haqqani network, Pakistan at best cannot be held entirely responsible for events on foreign soil. But, if indeed, Pakistan has not taken actions that it could have to tackle this issue, US pressure should have best been applied discreetly and in private.

Meanwhile, Washington’s own history in Afghanistan is worth recalling. Tens of thousands of American troops, backed by the most expensive war in history, failed to curb an insurgency that continues to flourish to this day. Holding Pakistan accountable now for a conflict heading southwards flies not only in the face of reason but also fair play.

Ill-advised action

And finally, if indeed the advancement of Pakistan’s nuclear assets partly provoked the US response, Washington’s action is clearly ill-advised. Pakistan lives in a volatile region with a nuclear-armed neighbour — India.


Going forward, Afghanistan will indeed remain a trouble spot not just for itself but the surrounding region too. The thought of a fragmented state, where non-governmental militant groups hold sway on portions of its territory, must be disconcerting for any knowledgeable observer. Afghanistan indeed remains the country from where Osama Bin Laden planned the 9/11 attacks.

Today, the threat of Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) making advances in Afghanistan presents an acute challenge for the country itself and the surrounding region.

Going forward, in spite of the best efforts by the US, Pakistan and other key foreign players, Afghanistan will likely remain a trouble spot for the foreseeable future. A large-scale protest this month — by ethnic Hazara tribesmen over a planned route for an ambitious new electricity project — provided a glimpse of internal divisions fuelling Afghanistan’s discord in years to come, in addition to the militancy-related challenge.

Such trends make it clear that Pakistan will need to remain a part of any regional security arrangement to stabilise Afghanistan. Within itself, Pakistan’s stability remains of global interest, especially given that the country has emerged as the Islamic world’s only state armed with nuclear weapons.

For the US, as before, it appears that spoiling the relationship with Pakistan is easier than rebuilding it. American officials in the past have clearly been baffled by continued anti-US trends on the streets of Pakistan in spite of periods of generous military and economic assistance.

It would be worthwhile for US decision makers to ask themselves if indeed they can realistically expect the popular mood to swing in their favour on the streets of Pakistan, where many are convinced that America remains an unreliable partner.

Riaz Haq said...

Durand Line: Myths and Facts
By: Shah Zalmay Khan
Durand Line is the 2200+ km border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, from Wakhan-GB-Xinjiang Confluence (where Pakistan, Afghanistan and China meet) in the North to Chagai-Nimroz-Zahedan confluence in the South (where Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran meet). The border was jointly drawn up in the 1890s between the Govt of British India (predecessor of Pakistan) and the Ameer of Afghanistan, according the provisions of the Durand Line Agreement.
The Durand Line Agreement was inked between Sir Henry Mortimer Durand (on behalf of British Indian Govt) and Ameer Abdul Rahman (Ameer/King of Afghanistan) on 12 November 1893 at Kabul, Afghanistan.
Ever since the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Afghan govt has time and again announced that it doesn’t recognize the Durand Line as an international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
For their part, the Afghan side presents several arguments to support their view on the issue. Here we examine each of these arguments critically and on the basis of FACTS.
Argument # 1) Durand Line Agreement had a life of 100 years, so it expired in 1993.
FACT: This is simply not true. Text of the original ‘Durand Line Agreement’ is attached here. It does not have any clause that makes it time-barred.

Argument # 2) Durand Line Agreement was signed by Ameer Abdul Rahman Khan against his will (under duress & British army pressure) and without consulting the other Afghan govt functionaries.
FACT: Durand Line Agreement was signed on 12 November 1893 but it was actually a brief ‘principal document’ with a few paragraphs (without any detailed surveys and real-time demarcation of the 2200+ km long border). The actual demarcation was carried out by four commissions constituted for the purpose jointly by the British Indian govt and Ameer of Afghanistan:-

Argument # 3) Durand Line Agreement was a ‘short term’ agreement made by Ameer Abdul Rahman with the British govt and it expired with his death in 1901.
FACT: As appealing as this argument sounds to the Afghans, facts in this respect are different. Durand Line Agreement was ratified by successive Afghan rulers after Ameer Abdul Rahman, as under:-
After death of Ameer Abdul Rahman, his son Ameer Habibullah Khan and British representative Sir Louis Dane reaffirmed the agreement by signing ‘The Treaty of the Mole’ (also known as Dane-Habibullah agreement), on 21 March 1905, at Kabul.
After 3rd Anglo-Afghan War, Afghan govt mission led by Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Khan signed the ‘Rawalpindi Agreement’ on 8 August 1919 which reaffirmed the Durand Line Agreement. Incidentally, it was first time that the Afghan Govt (not Ameer in personal capacity) ratified the Durand Line Agreement.

Argument # 4) Durand Line Agreement was between British India and Afghanistan. With the division of British India in 1947 (into Pakistan and India), the said agreement also expired.
FACT: The “Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties (VCSSRT)” deals with issues pertaining to succession of states. Article 11 of this convention clearly states that succession of states cannot impact
International border agreed upon in result of an agreement, and
Rights and obligations concerning international border created through an agreement.

Point to ponder: Afghanistan’s borders with Central Asia (then Russia), China and Iran were demarcated by the British (not even by Afghans themselves). How come Afghanistan’s Establishment circles (historically led by Tajiks / Uzbeks / Hazaras) only have issue with the Pakistan border (demarcated with Afghan rulers’ consent) and are perfectly okay with all other borders in which Afghans had no say at all? Why does the Afghan Establishment pitch the Pashtun population of Afghanistan against their Pukhtoon counterparts in Pakistan, on such clumsy myths as those deconstructed above? This is a point for Afghanistan’s Pashtuns to ponder. I rest my case.


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan has friends in Kabul
By Taimur ShamilPublished: January 25, 2018


After returning from my recent trip to Kabul, many people that I met back home were concerned about Pakistan’s image in Kabul — opportunities for cooperation and the intensity of anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan. My answer to them was simple. Pakistan, socially and politically, has friends in Kabul and the opportunities for Pakistan are many, if we try.

Here are the facts: in terms of social relations, every day between 2,000 to 3,000 visas are issued from Kabul alone to Pakistan. The numbers of visas issued from the rest of Pakistani consulates are additional, that may vary from 800 to 1,000 as per Pakistani officials. The Afghans who travel on these visas are usually travelling for health and educational reasons. The patients who travel to Pakistan feel more comfortable in Pakistan than any other country. The reasons being obvious, most of them share the same culture, language, religion and most of the times clans and tribes as well. Also that many of them have been frequently travelling to Pakistan for the last many years. Majority of them have their families in Pakistan that either migrated during the Soviet-Afghan war or later during the last decade. These Afghans who come to Pakistan also find Pakistan economically affordable as compared to other countries in the region. It is to be kept in mind that most of the Afghans live in abject poverty and lack basic health facilities. Therefore, Pakistan is the logical and economical option.

Interestingly almost every third person that I met, Dari (Persian spoken in Afghanistan) dominated, Kabul could speak and understand Urdu. Most of the people who could speak Urdu were young Afghans. They had either been educated or had spent considerable time doing jobs in Pakistan. They have good memories attached to the neighbouring country which welcomed and hosted them.

After meeting the young Afghans, I realised that when it comes to Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, higher education is Pakistan’s strength. While Pakistan has itself improved the quality of higher education, it has worked on giving scholarships to Afghan students who want to pursue their academic ambitions. Islamabad is generally multi-linguistic city and multi-ethnic as well. One can find Hazaras, Persian speaking, and Pakhtuns in large numbers in different universities of the capital. This naturally gives the Afghan students a conducive environment to blend in.

Last year the Higher Education Commission announced scholarships to 3,000 Afghan students and a large number of those are females. These young students are the bridges and ambassadors of peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and a huge potential for the future of democracy and peace in Afghanistan. The tapping of this potential needs the Foreign Office’s attention now more than ever.

A lot of Pakistanis are concerned about anti-Pakistan sentiments brewing in Kabul. The concerns are, no doubt, justified and show Pakistan’s concern and urge to improve its relations with the people of Afghanistan. After all, Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the decades and expects that the refugees become the ambassadors of goodwill between the two countries when they return to their home country. For that Pakistan too needs consideration on smooth transition of refugees from Pakistani soil to Afghanistan. It doesn’t need to be rough and loaded with blame. That ruins the very spirit with which Pakistan hosted them for decades.

Riaz Haq said...

#Biden: "....the likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely" #Afghanistan #Taliban #Daesh #ISIS #Pashtun #Tajik #Uzbek #Hazara #Tribal

You know my record. I can tell by the way you asked the question.

I opposed permanently having American forces in Afghanistan. I argued, from the beginning, as you may recall — it came to light after the administration was over, last — our administration — no nation has ever unified Afghanistan. No nation. Empires have gone there and not done it.

I believe the only way there’s going to be — this is now Joe Biden, not the intelligence community — the only way there’s ultimately going to be peace and security in Afghanistan is that they work out a modus vivendi with the Taliban and they make a judgment as to how they can make peace.

And the likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.

Riaz Haq said...

US DoD Press Secretary John Kirby: “..They’ve an airforce, the Taliban doesn’t. They’ve modern weaponry, the Taliban doesn’t. They’ve organisational skills, Taliban doesn’t. They’ve superior numbers to the Taliban. Again they have the advantage, advantages..”.


"I have the proof that they have a force of over 300,000 soldiers and police. They have a modern Air Force -- an Air Force, by the way, which we continue to contribute to and to -- and to improve. They have modern weaponry; they have -- they have an organizational structure. They have a lot of advantages that the Taliban don't have. Taliban doesn't have an Air Force, Taliban doesn't own airspace, they have a lot of advantages. Now, they have to use those advantages. They have to exert that leadership. And it's got to come both from a political and from the military side"