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.

9. Afghanistan is deeply divided along ethnic lines. Tajiks and Uzbeks are minority groups in Afghanistan who generally dislike Pashtuns as well as Pakistanis. The Pashtuns who make up the largest single ethnic group in Afghanistan live mostly in the south and they are barely represented in the Tajik-dominated Karzai govt in Kabul.

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 few religious militants and no 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.

Here's British Writer William Dalrymple talking about India and Pakistan:



Here's a video clip of Former Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh discussing the current situation in Pakistan:



Here's another video clip from Intelligence Squared debate about Pakistan:



Related Links:

FATA Faceoff Fears

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan

Interview with Mathew Hoh

Why is US Losing in Afghanistan?

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

China's Growing Role in Afghanistan

Taliban or RAW-liban?

Why We Should Leave Afghanistan

Twentieth Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Feudal Slavery in South Asia

The State, Religion, Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan

53 comments:

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...

Riaz,

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.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091204/ts_nm/us_pakistan_violence

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

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2008/20080506/biz.htm#1

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting analysis of how Pakistan has changed in this decade by a Ahsan, a blogger on Five Rupees:

In the last decade, this picture has changed dramatically due to three central factors.

The first and most important factor is the explosion of private electronic media. In the 1990s, it was difficult for most Pakistanis -- the vast majority of which cannot or do not read newspapers -- to get information that was not government-sponsored or, less mildly, propagandistic. ....

This picture has changed drastically, as anyone with even a cursory interest in Pakistan will be able to tell you. There are now dozens of news channels in Pakistan, each with their own ideological and partisan bent. Some are national-level, others more regionally and ethnically focused. The trend began in the early part of this decade and has plateaued only recently, as the market gets sated. And while few of these channels will win awards for calm understatement or presciently sedate analysis, the fact remains that the media -- if it can be spoken of as a collective -- has given voice to a mass of the population previously unheard from. It has become a player of truly monumental importance for its ability to shape, mold, and excite the public. It is, at once, sensationalistic, blood-thirsty, xenophobic, conspiratorial, humorous, investigative, and anti-government. And yet its arrival on the scene is more than welcome, first for providing the venue for disenfranchised interests to make themselves known and second because the alternative is much worse.

The second significant factor, related to but distinct from the first, is the rise of communication technologies in Pakistan, particularly cellular phones. In 2002, there were 1.2 million cell-phone subscriptions in the country. By 2008, this number had risen to 88 million -- an increase of more than seven thousand percent. In addition, more than one in ten Pakistanis had access to the internet by the end of the decade; low by advanced countries' standards but an astronomical rise by Pakistan's. These developments in communications meant that political narratives became congealed and disseminated at speeds never heard of before, and that information and the wider "war" for public opinion became incredibly hard to win if a battle was lost at any stage.

The third major factor is the economic growth that took place in Pakistan in the first half of the 2000s. Pakistan's GDP doubled between 1999 and 2007, and more than kept pace with population growth, as GDP per capita increased by almost sixty percent between 2000 and 2008. More to the point, this growth was overwhelmingly powered by expansion of the service sector, which is concentrated, quite naturally, in the urban centers of the country. For the first time since independence, the term "Pakistani urban middle class" was not a contradiction in terms.

This development had two effects. First, and more trivially, the urban middle class did what urban middle classes do: they bought televisions and computers. In turn, that allowed them to plug into the private media explosion in ways simply unimaginable previously. Second, it shattered the elite-only edifice of Pakistani politics, and made challenges to government based on Main Street issues -- the price of flour, the lack of electricity, the selective application of the rule of law -- a viable process. Fifty years ago, Seymour Lipset wrote one of the canonical articles in Political Science on the process of democratization, its relationship to urbanized middle classes, and how the demands and values of the latter lead almost inexorably to support for the former. Here was living proof of Lipset's analysis.

Riaz Haq said...

Lately, there have been some arrests of American-Muslim and Pakistani-American youths on suspicions of terror. The Internet has been identified as a tool for radicalization and proposals made to deal with it. Here's an interesting post by Reem Salahi in HuffingtonPost on this subject:

Yet even in cases where agent provocateurs were not employed, the reality is that the government and media have too long treated Islam and Muslims as a homogeneous, non-dynamic, suspect group. Whenever a Muslim engages in a criminal act, the individual is always qualified by his religious background. Very rarely do we see similar treatment of non-Muslims. For example, I have never read an article describing Timothy McVeigh as the Christian white man. But nearly every article on Nidal Hasan qualifies him as a Muslim and Palestinian within the first few sentences.

As a consequence, Muslims are forced to account for the (negative) actions of a fourth of the world's population. Ironically, I have never been congratulated for the positive actions of other fellow Muslims. The acts of a few bad apples or even a few misguided youth become the norm and not the exceptions. Put differently, it would be like suspecting that every White high school student was prone to commit a massacre as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the killers at Columbine High School, did.

The reality is that the discourse on radicalization and homegrown terrorism is fundamentally racist and Islamophobic. It is based on seeing Muslims as the "other" and viewing our actions through an "orientalist" lens which frames any Muslim's questionable action as terrorism. Hence, a Muslim overstaying an immigration visa or improperly filing taxes or even paintballing becomes evidence of terrorism and radicalization, justifying the government's infiltration of our mosques, surveillance of our youth groups, and mapping of our populations. Maybe, just maybe, Muslims don't need to be understood by a different rubric than other populations. Further, by framing Muslims as terrorists and as the internal enemy within, the government and media have alienated and disenfranchised many law-abiding Muslims who seek nothing more than to actually live "unremarkable" lives.

Those in the media, in the government, and in Muslim organizations who have jumped on the bandwagon, you have missed the boat. Muslims and Muslim youth are not intrinsically prone to radicalization through the aid of the internet, just as White youth are not intrinsically prone to commit massacres or lynch ethnic minorities in solidarity with the KKK. Rather, the problem is the media and the government's continued vilification and the consequential disenfranchisement of the Muslim community. It is the government's infiltration of mosques and community centers with informants and agent provocateurs. It is the FBI's prolonged fishing expeditions and false prosecutions of many innocent Muslims. And it is an ever-worsening foreign policy that wastes away our tax dollars on killing innocent civilians throughout the world. So please stop parroting the misguided construct of homegrown terrorism and Islamic radicalization as the problem, when the real problem is xenophobia couched in politically correct terms.

Riaz Haq said...

According to a PBS news report, the UNODC estimates that the Taliban earned $90 million to $160 million per year from taxing the production and smuggling of opium and heroin between 2005 and 2009, as much as double the amount they earned while in power nearly a decade ago, reported the Agence France-Presse.

"The Taliban's direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex and increasingly widespread," Antonio Maria Costa said.

He called the Afghanistan-Pakistan border "the world's largest free-trade zone in anything and everything that is illicit -- drugs of course, but also weapons, bomb-making equipment, chemical precursors, drug money, even people and migrants."

Less than 2 percent of the opium and heroin is seized by authorities before it leaves Afghanistan, with 40 percent of the heroin trafficked out of the country through Pakistan, 30 percent into Iran and about 25 percent through Central Asia, Reuters reported.

Central Asian nations intercept just 5 percent of the drugs flowing into their countries, as opposed to 20 percent in Iran and 17 percent in Pakistan, the report says, according to the AFP.

Worldwide, only 20 percent of Afghan opiates are intercepted before reaching addicts, while twice as much cocaine from South America is seized, the study said.

Of the 15.4 million opiate users worldwide, 11.3 million use heroin, while the rest use opium, the thick paste from poppies that is used to make heroin, reported Reuters.

Nearly half the world's heroin is consumed in Europe and Russia, and 42 percent of the world's opium users are in Iran.

Heroin and opium cause up to 100,000 deaths a year. Opiates are also helping spread HIV at an unprecedented rate through users sharing needles, the report said.


It should be recalled that the Taliban had completely eradicated poppy from Afghanistan when they ruled in 2000-2001.

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...

In a presentation to Pakistani media, Gen Kayani reiterated his widely reported comments on the Pakistan Army’s view of the situation in Afghanistan and the way forward there.

History, unresolved issues, India’s military capability and its ‘Cold Start’ doctrine meant that Pakistan could not afford to let its guard down. Repeating a well-known formulation, Gen Kayani said: “We plan on adversaries’ capabilities, not intentions.”

The tough, matter-of-fact line on India was in stark contrast to that of Gen Kayani’s predecessor, Gen (retd) Musharraf, who tried hard to push for peace with India in his latter years in power.
------------------------
The general was particularly keen to highlight the threat posed by India’s ‘Cold Start’ doctrine. Turing the traditional theory of war on its head, ‘Cold Start’ would permit the Indian Army to attack before mobilising, increasing the possibility of a “sudden spiral escalation”, according to Gen Kayani.

The Pakistan Army’s concerns about ‘Cold Start’ are well known, but Gen Kayani went as far as to put a timeline on its implementation: two years for India to achieve partial implementation and five years for full.

If true, the strategic impact could be of the highest order: defence analysts have speculated that ‘Cold Start’ may lead the Pakistan Army to lower its nuclear threshold as a way of deterring any punitive strikes or rapid capture of territory by the Indian armed forces.

Yet, Gen Kayani was also keen to point out that he did not have a one-dimensional view of security. Despite the fact that India’s defence budget is “seven times” that of Pakistan’s “there has to be a balance between development and military spending,” the general said.

He also pleaded that “peace and stability in South Asia should not be made hostage to a single terrorist act of a non-state actor”, a reference to the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Refusing to talk to Pakistan would send a bad signal on two counts: one, the non-state actors would know that they have the power to nudge India and Pakistan towards war; and two, within India it would become clear that relations with Pakistan could be suspended indefinitely.

The comments on India, though, came only later in an extended Power Point Presentation that covered everything from the operations in Swat and South Waziristan to the “way forward” in Afghanistan. Gen Kayani seemed relatively pleased with the reaction his presentation received when first unveiled at a meeting of chiefs of defence staff of Nato and its allied countries in Brussels late last month.

Emphasising what he termed the “fundamentals”, he claimed that until the Afghan government improved its credibility and governance record and until the Afghan population began to change its perception that Isaf is not winning, the Afghan government would not be able to establish its writ and the local Taliban would not be “weaned off”.

But on Afghanistan, too, India featured in Gen Kayani’s comments. Rejecting India’s reported interest in training the Afghan National Army and the country’s police force, Gen Kayani argued that Pakistan had a more legitimate expectation to do so.

Taken together, Gen Kayani’s comments suggest that the possibility of a thaw in relations between India and Pakistan any time soon is low.

Both India and Pakistan appear to have firmly lapsed into the old pattern of highlighting the differences between them and the threats they face from each other, while nominally leaving the door open to an improvement in relations if one side addresses the other’s concerns.

Unlike the past, though, the stakes appear to be higher because of the uncertain future of Afghanistan and a ‘nuclear overhang’ that may be affected by ‘Cold Start’.

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...

Here's a recent Newsweek story on Pakistan complaining to the US about the absence of the US "hammer" to Pakistan's "anvil" in joint "hammer and anvil" strategy:

As the U.S. army retreated last week from its final outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley--the short way up to Kabul for insurgents coming over the remote Pakistani border--American officials tried to frame the move as part of the administration's new strategy to shift focus away from the frontier and toward protecting large population centers and main roads. But Pakistan fears the pullout confirms the U.S. is walking away from a key military agreement.

Under the "hammer and anvil" deal, the two sides agreed to coordinate efforts to prevent insurgents escaping an offensive on one side of the border from taking sanctuary on the other. The Pakistani military has spent two years exerting control over its side of the Korengal border, just to see an estimated 700 Taliban take refuge in Afghanistan, unchallenged by withdrawing U.S. forces.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a case for "Developmental Realism" by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman:

..... The North African ones are clearly Europe's responsibility. The remainder include Jordan, a Syria which demonstrates some commitment to reform and international responsibility, Bangladesh, a few of the Muslim states of West Africa and the Sahel, and Pakistan. Pakistan is in fact a perfect case for ethical and developmental realism. As repeated democratic failures have shown, this country's dreadful problems are not amenable to solution by the shallow, short-term, and inexpensive nostrums of Democratism; they require profound, and very expensive, long-term commitments on the part of the U.S..1

However, as recent growth figures (in 2005 Pakistan had the second-highest growth rates in all Asia) and infrastructural developments have shown, the Pakistani state, though deeply flawed, is nonetheless reasonably effective - at least as effective, for example, as was South Korea in the 1950s. Despite considerable barriers to Pakistani exports to the U.S., these have grown over the past three years by between 10 and 15 per cent a year. As to Pakistan's own protectionist measures, the U.S. government in early 2006 criticized these, but also praised Pakistan for having "progressively and substantially reduced tariffs and liberalized imports" since 1998. As a result, U.S. exports to Pakistan have also increased steeply. In other words, this is a troubled country with a corrupt bureaucracy, but by no means a basket case.1

So far, however, U.S. assistance to this vital ally has once again been frankly inadequate. By the end of 2006, Pakistan will have received about $3.4 billion in U.S. aid since 9/11. This sounds like a lot but is, in fact, very small in comparison to Pakistan's needs and the size of its population. Moreover, almost half of this aid is not for economic development, but is security-related.1

The biggest single focus of new U.S. aid should be the improvement of Pakistan's water infrastructure, especially in the area of conservation and reducing the appalling degree of waste. As documented by the International Water Management Institute in August 2006, water shortages present the greatest future threat to the viability of Pakistan and other key Muslim countries as states and societies.1

The second focus of U.S. aid to Pakistan should be helping to provide jobs. Improving Pakistan's educational system, especially for women, is important, but if this only produces unemployed and embittered graduates, the effect will be only to increase Islamist radicalism. Because the ultimate motivation for U.S. aid to Pakistan is not charitable but political, it must bring visible benefits to ordinary Pakistanis.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a report about Gen McChrystal's latest admission that "No one is winning in Afghanistan":

"The US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who was boasting of military progress only three months ago, confessed last week that "nobody is winning". His only claim now is that the Taliban have lost momentum compared with last year."

"Pentagon officials increasingly agree with the Afghan villagers that the Marjah operation failed to end Taliban control and put the Afghan government in charge. This puts in doubt General McChrystal's whole strategy which also governs the way in which 10,000 British troops are deployed. He is being held to account for earlier optimism such as his claim at the height of Marjah offensive that "we've got a government in a box ready to roll in". Three months later, people in Marjah say they have yet to see much sign of the Afghan government."

"The one development over the past year which has hit the Taliban hardest happened not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan. Prodded by the US, the Pakistan army has been taking over the federally administered tribal areas along the border where the Afghan Taliban once had safe havens. Soon the army may assault North Waziristan, one of the last Afghan insurgent enclaves and one which is already under repeated attack by US Predator drones. These find their targets because Pakistani military intelligence provides detailed information.

But loss of these safe havens in Pakistan may not be such a blow to the Afghan Taliban as it would have been three years ago when they controlled less of Afghanistan. It is impossible to seal the 2,600km frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan, supposing the Pakistan army wants to do so.

The semi-official Pakistani view is that the US, Britain and Nato forces have become entangled in a civil war in Afghanistan between the Pashtun community, represented by the Taliban, and their Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara opponents who dominate the Kabul government. They expect the Pashtun to go on fighting until they get a real share in power. One Pashtun, a former colonel in the Pakistani army, said: "It will be difficult for the Americans and British to win the hearts and minds of the people in southern Afghanistan since at the centre of Pashtun culture is a hatred of all foreigners."

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.


http://www.smashinglists.com/10-best-intelligence-agencies-in-the-world/

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's an excerpt from a Dawn report on Pakistan's dissatisfaction with KLB follow-up:

ISLAMABAD: In the run-up to the third round of strategic dialogue, Pakistani authorities are getting irritated over the lack of US interest in resolving the country’s long-term regional issues and in providing economic support despite publicly declaring it a key ally in the war on terror and appreciating its sacrifices.

The authorities are also dissatisfied with the ‘triple accounting’ by the United States of its economic assistance to Pakistan, although the overall assistance remained less than $1.5 billion in a year. They also grumble that Pakistan has not been given market access for its products they believe it deserves in comparison to other countries.

“Since our engagement with US after 9/11 about more than nine years ago, the United States has made wide-ranging trading arrangements with Latin American countries, African nations and even some states in the Middle East but greater market access to Pakistan still remains far off,” said a government official.

Officials said that these were some of the issues Pakistani delegation led by Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani would raise again with the US authorities as part of the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue to be held in Washington next week.

“The US actions and assurances do not match when it comes to Pakistan’s role and returns it should get,” the official said.

In background discussions, the official said the US leadership never missed an opportunity to assure Islamabad how central they considered a stable Pakistan to achieve global and regional peace and yet they looked the other way when the government discussed US role in resolving a ‘proxy water war launched by India’ besides the longstanding Kashmir issue that was the key to regional stability.

They said India had launched a full-scale water aggression against Pakistan by initiating a number of controversial projects on rivers allocated to Pakistan under the 1960 waters treaty.

Pakistan wanted the US to play its role in addressing its concerns, they said.

They said these irritants had repeatedly been discussed with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s special envoy Richard Holbrooke but without any tangible progress beyond diplomatic pleasantries. They, however, agree that the US has moved in appreciating Pakistan’s concerns relating to the Afghan situation.

Sources said the United States had committed to provide $7.5 billion assistance in five years to Islamabad under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act at the rate of $1.5 billion in a year.

As part of Friends of Democratic Pakistan, the United States had assured last year to help Pakistan overcome its economic problems by offering more assistance but “when we got back to the US authorities for follow up, we realised that its pledges at FoDP were part of its earlier commitments made under the KLB Act”.

The flood-related US support, the sources said, also came under the KLB amount of $1.5 billion a year.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an analysis by Ahmad Quraishi on the eve of Pak-US strategic dialog:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—There is a very simple question that every Pakistani government official needs to ask the Americans: If you fail to pacify the Pashtun in Afghanistan, is it Pakistan’s responsibility to sever historical ties and wage war against them?

This is the mother of all questions because it deals with the issue of some, not all, of the Afghan Taliban using Pakistani territory to attack occupation armies in their country. Apparently this is the excuse the United States is using to expand its failed Afghan war into Pakistan. US officials say Pakistanis are unable to exercise sovereignty over their own territory. US proxies inside Pakistan – in politics and media – then use this argument to ask another question: Isn’t Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban violating Pakistani sovereignty by using our border pockets as hideouts away from action inside Afghanistan? This argument is used to justify US violations of the Pak-Afghan international border. If Afghan Taliban can violate Pakistan’s border, why not the US military? So the justification goes.

Pakistan still has time to come out strongly with two arguments at policy level. One, there is no way of completely stopping Pakistani Pashtuns – who are an integral part of the Pakistani nation – from sympathizing with the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. And Two, US must solve the ‘Pashtun problem’ inside Afghanistan. The solution is not by starting a war between the Pakistani military – manned in substantial part by the Pashtuns – and between Pakistani or Afghan Pashtuns, like the so-called Haqqani network. This will not fix the toy the Americans broke in Afghanistan.

In other words: What is it the US is doing wrong in Afghanistan to spur Pashtun and Taliban resistance, including pushing some of them into Pakistan? And should Pakistan respond by killing the Pashtun because the US says so?

There are two more strong arguments that can strengthen a Pakistani policy review, which is overdue nine years into a failed war.

One is the fact that Pashtun and Taliban resistance against occupation in Afghanistan is not a function of Pakistani tribal areas. The US military dare not claim that Pakistan’s devastated tribal belt is alone responsible for the rout facing US, NATO and ISAF forces across Afghanistan. But this is what the Americans imply when they shift the world focus to Pakistan without anyone from the Pakistani side disputing this twisted American logic.

And the second argument has to do with al Qaeda. Pakistan needs to dispute the American claims about the quality and strength of Al Qaeda presence in the Pakistani tribal belt. London’s International Institute of Strategic Studies is not exactly a den of antiwar activism. In a report last month, the think tank questioned the US policy line that al Qaeda is strong enough to threaten anyone beyond Afghanistan or Pakistan.

If anything, we are seeing a US-occupied Afghanistan becoming a magnet for unknown terrorists from multiple backgrounds and questionable loyalties using Afghan soil to enter our tribal belt, as in the case of the Germans involved in the alleged Mumbai-style Europe terror plot. Washington is conveniently using these conspiracy theories to expand its war inside Pakistani territory without any credible evidence.

Pakistan does not have a quarrel with Afghan Pashtuns or the Afghan Taliban. The latest US reports and assertions that Pakistan or its spy agencies maintain contacts with either are ridiculous. Islamabad must maintain those contacts. In fact, we must expand contacts with the Afghan Taliban in view of the double game the United States played with us in Afghanistan over the last eight years, where it turned Kabul into Anti-Pakistan Central and deliberately expanded and continues to encourage Indian presence on our western borders...."

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 excerpts from a piece by Beena Sarwar on secularism debate in Pakistan:

First of all, the very fact that this discussion is taking place in a mainstream newspaper -- even though it is in English, which limits its outreach -- is something to appreciate.

Secondly, the discussion is taking place at a time when Pakistan, indeed the world, finds itself polarised as never before. Never before have we seen such extremes jostling for ascendency at the same time. In Pakistan, the extremes are most visible in the attire people, particularly women, wear out on the streets (from jeans to burqas), the gatherings and functions they attend (from religious gatherings to musical evenings, fashion shows and wild underground parties), what they are reading (religious literature to Communist readings that would have landed them in jail in the Zia years), the television and films they are watching (religious shows to uncensored films on DVD, and Indian films at mainstream cinemas), and how they express their views (through writings, art, music, seminars and peaceful candlelight demonstrations to violent protests and suicide bombings).

The entire gamut is there, from the extreme left to the extreme right, from wild permissiveness to ultra-conservatism -- the latter apparently on the rise not just in Pakistan but around the world. In fact, this ascendency of the Right is so strong that the demons of religion-based militancy unleashed during the Zia years can take down even those who adhere to the late General's world views: a Zaid Hamid can lose even as Gen Zia wins, as the UK-based researcher Anas Abbas interestingly posited it. The charismatic right-wing cult leader, who had sucked into his fold youth icons like the fashion designer Maria B and rock singer Ali Azmat, had to go into hiding not because progressive Pakistanis prevailed against his virulent pan-Islamist, anti-India world view, but because he offended his own.

This is a time when the 'blasphemy laws' as they are applied in Pakistan are causing a worldwide uproar because of the injustice they perpetuate; ......

We're talking about secularism at a time when supposedly educated people, including parliamentarians and politicians are 'warning' the government not to tamper with these blasphemy laws, or else face the 'consequences'. It is ironic that such a warning was issued recently by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q)....
We can now have this debate in the pages of this English-language newspaper, 20 years after Gen. Zia's departure, because those who hold these violent beliefs consider us to be irrelevant. So is the situation hopeless for people like us? No, because these discussions are not taking place in a vacuum. There is a lot of questioning going on in Pakistan at various levels about religion and its role in the state. These discussions are taking place in many languages and at many fora. Thousands if not millions of activists, political workers and ordinary citizens in Pakistan share the belief that religion should be a private matter, which should not be imposed violently.

The rise of the Internet -- according to one estimate, as many as 18 million Pakistanis have Internet access -- means that people have other alternatives to share information that the dominant news media sidelines. Blogs or facebook pages like SecularPakistan or SayNoToTheStateReligion may not have millions of followers but their readership is growing. Amidst the cacophony of jihadist views that regularly find space on radio and television networks are also voices that courageously question the role religion has been given in Pakistan. The trickle may not become a flood anytime soon, but neither is it about to dry up and disappear.

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.

http://www.truth-out.org/slain-writers-book-says-us-nato-war-served-al-qaeda-strategy/1307637223

Mayraj said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8585242/US-funded-Afghan-militias-beat-rob-and-kill-with-impunity.html
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."

http://blogs.forbes.com/beltway/2011/06/23/the-real-reason-were-leaving-afghanistan/
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.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/256430/americas-spectre-syndrome-in-afghanistan/

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...


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203911804576648971550801968.html

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is a resilient country, says Anatol Lieven according to Dawn:

In Pakistan’s diversity lies a measure of its resilience. This was argued by distinguished journalist and author Anatol Lieven during his talk at the Oxford University Head Office on Saturday.

Mr Lieven’s talk basically gave a sketch of his book ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country.’ He began by asserting that Pakistan was not a failed state and said the people who had gathered to listen to him were proof of it. Pakistan was not Afghanistan, Chechnya or Somalia. He maintained that his book was about the sources of resilience in Pakistan, which could be sources of stagnation as well (in terms of development). To explain his point, he said he had used the expression ‘Janus-faced’ many a time in the book, and that the editors had made 18 deletions of the phrase, leaving just half a dozen. The book was an attempt at discussing power in the country, how it is exercised and what are its roots – religious, cultural etc. This central theme was set against the background of the war in Afghanistan and the rise of militancy in Pakistan. He told the gathering that when an American publisher read it he was taken aback because he had thought that it would be about the Taliban and an impending Islamic revolution in Pakistan. He added that it also discussed the role of the military and the four provinces and the difference within those provinces.

Mr Lieven said he had spent a lot of time talking about the diversity in Pakistan. For example, how Karachi was different from the rest of Sindh and how Punjab was an immensely varied region. Also, the important role that kinship played in the country’s politics and power struggles. In his view, a measure of its resilience lay in the country’s diversity, because of which, however, it was sometimes difficult to get things done. He argued that Pakistan couldn’t have an Iran-style revolution because it didn’t have a monolithic culture.

Mr Lieven said that as he was a journalist he got quotes from the Pakistani people in their own words. The problem with the West was that it didn’t listen to people directly and therefore had a flawed understanding of things. If you were to know about the tribal justice system in Balochistan, you had to talk to a Baloch sardar, he pointed out.

With respect to militancy in Pakistan Mr Lieven said that although the fear of terrorism was pervasive, and that it had claimed numerous victims, the insurgency was limited, particularly after the 2009 Swat operation in which militants were driven back. However, he added that insurgency was common in the region and, except for Bangladesh, every country had faced it.

Mr Lieven said sympathy for the Afghan Taliban in areas like Peshawar was similar to the support for the mujahideen in the ‘80s. It did not necessarily mean an Islamic revolution. He argued that up to a certain point the situation did appear perilous but the post-Musharraf scenario proved that if the state and the army made a concerted attempt things could be done. He said his book also took issue with the US foreign policy. The US should realise that Pakistan is a much more important country than Afghanistan and that it needs to tread lightly here. He said however that the Osama bin Laden operation had impacted public opinion in the US, and if there was a terrorist attack in the US or India in future, US retaliation could be severe. It was important for Pakistan to continue visible cooperation against international terrorism, he remarked.

Replying to a question, Mr Lieven said one of the reasons he used the word ‘hard’ in the title of the book was that he would often hear the phrase ‘Pakistan is a hard country’ from the locals. He gave the example of a Chaudhry in Punjab who, explaining the killing of his detractors, commented that Pakistan was a hard country....


http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/05/pakistan-is-a-resilient-country.html

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.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-98596-Indias-arms-mostly-target-Pakistan

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."..


http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/21/afghanistan-india-idUSL3E8EL1PB20120321

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.


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/national/18-Apr-2012/army-following-sustainable-uplift-plan-in-fata-corps-commander

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a VOA report on Afghan dependence on Pakistan:

Farmers and traders in eastern Afghanistan say that despite a decade of foreign development projects, they remain economically dependent on their neighbors in Pakistan.

The main bazaar in the capital, Jalalabad is crowded with people buying and selling fresh melons, ripe tomatoes and sacks full of onions and potatoes. Fruits and vegetables from all across the country come to this market where it is sold to locals. But due to unreliable electricity and cold storage a lot of Afghan farmers' produce goes just across the border into neighboring Pakistan where it is stored and then re-sold.

"My name is Allah Mohammad," a local vegetable seller says introducing himself. He is selling his tomatoes from one of the many produce carts that line a busy road.

"We have heard there are no storage facilities and electricity. But in Pakistan they have facilities and electricity," he says.

Not far from the market, at the main loading station, onions and potatoes are being inspected and then loaded onto trucks headed for Pakistan. Gul Morad, head of inspection and regional chief for fruit and vegetable traders whose office is above the station says matter-of-factly, that cold storages do exist in the districts.

“Three to four years ago, USAID and DIA built us small cold rooms under the name ‘storages’ - but their capacity is only 4 to 5 tons. For these you have to use generators.” Morad explains. “Even if the generator stops for one hour, the room gets hot and the goods lose their quality.”

USAID says the deserted units do not appear to be theirs. The agency did however help fund Morad’s 24-ton cold-storage which he pays to maintain. The unit runs on both generators and power from the electrical grid and is a key part of the local economy.

Morad says most of time (when market prices go down) farmers and shopkeepers bring their produce here and store it for one or more days - for free. When the market gets better they take it out and sell it.

Local farmers and traders say proper refrigeration means higher profits, because they can store their own produce and make a better return in the off season.

However with too little cold storage, residents now rely on stored produce imported from Pakistan, which can sell for nearly triple the cost.

Many people, like farmer Ihsanullah from Ghawchak in Sukhroad district believe that some of the marked up vegetables are originally from here, but are imported into Pakistan, stored and then sold back into the Afghan market.

“Two things,” Ihsanullah says “potatoes and onions, they go from Kabul into Pakistan and are kept in storage and sent back to us. We sometimes work in the market so I am certain these two things are bought by big traders, stored and sent back.” He says, “our biggest problem here is that we don’t have storage.”

Inspection chief Morad disagrees and says the stored goods that come to Afghanistan are grown in Pakistan.

But both men agree that farmers and consumers both suffer from the lack of local refrigeration.

Agriculture is the main source of income for the country however Afghans say plans to develop the agriculture sector have not been realized. The Afghan government and the international community’s efforts to build sustainable storage and supply reliable electricity have not met expectations


http://www.voanews.com/content/competition_suspicion_refrigeration_afghan_market_products/667055.html

Riaz Haq said...

A recent book "Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan" by Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrashekharan argues that it's failures primarily in Washington rather than Islamabad and Kabul that have hurt US goals in Afghanistan.

Chandrashekaran writes on page 329 of his book: "The reason was not be found in Kabul or Islamabad. It was in Washington: America's bureaucracy had become America's worst enemy."

Here's another excerpt as published in Washington Post:

To Holbrooke, a towering man with an irrepressible personality, brokering a deal with the Taliban was the only viable strategy to end the war.

He was convinced that the military’s goal of defeating the Taliban would be too costly and time-consuming, and the chances of success were almost nil, given the safe havens in Pakistan, the corruption of Karzai’s government and the sorry state of the Afghan army.

Obama told his aides that he was interested in a peace deal, and less than two months after he took office, the president said publicly that he was open to seeking reconciliation with the Taliban, comparing such an effort to a U.S. initiative to work with former Sunni militants in Iraq who were willing to break with al-Qaeda.

His comments alarmed top military and intelligence officials. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, thought it was too soon even to talk about talking. They wanted to commit more troops first and then talk, but only to Taliban leaders who agreed to surrender. CIA officials argued that the United States could not negotiate with the Taliban until its leadership denounced al-Qaeda.

There was no clear path for Holbrooke to achieve peace talks. The Taliban had no office, mailing address, or formal structure. It was not clear that its leader, the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar, wanted to talk — in 2009, the Taliban appeared to be winning — or whether he and his fellow mullahs would accept the United States’ conditions for negotiations: that they renounce violence, break with al-Qaeda and embrace the Afghan constitution.

Even if they did, would the terms be acceptable to the Karzai government? What about Pakistan and other neighboring powers? If Holbrooke was going to have any chance of success, he needed the backing of others in the administration, starting with the president.

But the White House never issued a clear policy on reconciliation during the administration’s first two years. Instead of finding common purpose with Holbrooke, White House officials were consumed with fighting him. Jones and Lute hated the thought of Holbrooke basking in the spotlight as he did after peace in the Balkans. They wanted him out of the way, and then they would chart a path to peace.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/little-america-infighting-on-obama-team-squandered-chance-for-peace-in-afghanistan/2012/06/24/gJQAbQMB0V_story.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=kvNNc1BIBPgC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=rajiv+chandrasekaran+afghanistan+problems+in+islamabad&source=bl&ots=fGFOYBlUvn&sig=IuzeY49I1vrzTaxE4yOpAqg7jBg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZND0T_SUG6Ws2wWmt_3HBg&ved=0CFIQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=islamabad&f=false

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.


http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2011/07/04/110704taco_talk_filkins

Anonymous said...

Watch this video of a Taliban rep and Barnett Rubin on Charlie Rose Show before 911:

http://youtu.be/eBAEk2dBm4E

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.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/691274/pakistan-keeps-close-eye-on-vote-in-its-afghan-backyard/