Wednesday, January 3, 2018

General Petraeus Rejects Trump's Charges of "Lies and Deceit" Against Pakistan

General David Petraeus, former CIA director and commander and US Forces in Afghanistan, has rejected  President Donald Trump's charges of "lies and deceit" against Pakistan.  He did so back in late 2016. Here's a brief excerpt of what he said:

"I looked very very hard then (as US commander in Afghanistan) and again as CIA director at the nature of the relationship between the various (militant) groups in FATA and Baluchistan and the Pakistan Army and the ISI and I was never convinced of what certain journalists have alleged (about ISI support of militant groups in FATA).... I have talked to them (journalists) asked them what their sources are and I have not been able to come to grips with that based on what I know from these different positions (as US commander and CIA director)".

Here's a short video clip of it:

Here's a longer blog post I wrote about it back in November, 2016 after Petraeus spoke at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London:

General David Petraeus, former CIA director and commander of US troops in Afghanistan, has said there is no evidence of Pakistan playing a double game and supporting terrorists in Afghanistan. Petraeus' remarks are now particularly significant given the fact that he is on a short list of President-Elect Donald Trump's nominees for Secretary of State.  He was answering a question posed to him at a presentation at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British security think tank based in London.

Is Pakistan Duplicitous?

The question was asked by a female Afghan Ph.D. student at the end of remarks by the general on "Security Challenges Facing the Next US Administration". Here's the question:

"General you have stated that democracies can not win long wars (General Petraeus interrupted and said he did not say that and added "in fact I take issue with that" as the student continued). Afghanistan is now US's longest war. What stops the US to win the long war..whether Pakistan intelligence is the cause of the long war? Why does the US not take action against the Pakistan ISI which continues killing and supporting terrorists?"

General David H. Petraeus's response:

Here's part of Gen Petraeus' response: "I looked very very hard then (as US commander in Afghanistan) and again as CIA director at the nature of the relationship between the various (militant) groups in FATA and Baluchistan and the Pakistan Army and the ISI and I was never convinced of what certain journalists have alleged (about ISI support of militant groups in FATA).... I have talked to them (journalists) asked them what their sources are and I have not been able to come to grips with that based on what I know from these different positions (as US commander and CIA director)".

Gen Petraeus did acknowledge that "there's communication between the ISI and various militant groups in FATA and Balochistan (Haqqanis, Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, etc) but some of it you'd do anyway as an intelligence service." He added that "there may be some degree of accommodation that is forced on them (Pakistanis) because of the limits of their (Pakistan's) forces."

US-Pakistan Ties:

On the question of the nature of US-Pakistan relations and Washington's influence in Islamabad, General Petraeus said:

"Some people say Pakistan is a is just very very difficult to pin down (blame on Pakistan) and it's even more difficult to figure out how to exert leverage that in a meaningful way resolves the issue.  There was a period when we cut off all assistance and ties (to Pakistan) and held up F-16s that we were supposed to deliver for a while and that did not help our influence there (in Pakistan). It's a very very tough situation and it may be among the top two or three challenges for the new administration right up there with Syria".

General Petraeus acknowledged Pakistan's cooperation and sacrifices in fighting terror in the following words:

“Pakistan Army suffered casualties and had limited Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities though the US did try to help and there existed enormous amount of cooperation between the two militaries. However, the unfortunate episodes of Raymond Davis and publications of book by Bob Woodward and WikiLeaks did impact negatively on this cooperation”.


General David H. Petraeus has thoroughly debunked intense and ongoing media propaganda campaign of allegations of duplicity against Pakistan Army and ISI. He has also ruled out cutting ties with Pakistan as an option. His recommendations have now assumed added significance because he is now on a short list of President-Elect Trump's nominees for secretary of state.

Here's the video of General Petraeus at RUSI. His remarks on Pakistan are in the last 8 minutes of the video:

Brief 1-minute clip:

Complete Video of  Presentation by Gen Petraeus:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Husain Haqqani vs Riaz Haq on India vs Pakistan

Impact of Trump's Top Picks on Pakistan

Husain Haqqani Advising Trump on Pakistan Policy?

Gall-Haqqani-Paul Narrative on Pakistan

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-US-Japan

Robert Gates' Straight Talk on Pakistan's "Lies and Deceit"

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel


waqar khan said...

Haq usual u are on the dot.Thanks for projecting positive image of Pak.Can I get in touch withvu through email.

Riaz Haq said...

waqar khan: "Thanks for projecting positive image of Pak.Can I get in touch withvu through email."

Thank you for your feedback.

Please send me a facebook request to get in touch.

Riaz Haq said...

There is little that is, or ever will be, new in #Trump’s #Pakistan policy. Why? Because #Pakistan has all the leverage over #Trump. #TrumpDumpsPak #Afghanistan

Even as the tweet continued to titillate Trump enthusiasts in India and at home, however, the responsible members of Trump’s government were strategizing how to roll it back. Later that same day, a White House National Security Council spokesperson explained what, specifically, to expect: “The United States does not plan to spend the $255 million in FY 2016 foreign military financing for Pakistan at this time.” This is not the sweeping cutoff that Trump implied in his braggadocios tweet.

In fact, there is little that is, or ever will be, new in Trump’s Pakistan policy.In fact, there is little that is, or ever will be, new in Trump’s Pakistan policy. That’s true for two simple reasons: the logistics of staying the course in Afghanistan and the night terrors triggered by imagining how terrifying Pakistan could be without American money.


Without an alternative port, the United States will have no choice but to continue working with Pakistan if it wants to remain engaged in Afghanistan, as Trump intends to do. (The proposed troop surge is now complete with about 14,000 U.S. troops in the country.) While Trump can tweet whatever he wants about Pakistan or Iran, the professionals on his staff know the truth: U.S. policy in Afghanistan requires a port with road or rail access to Afghanistan. This administration — like each one before — has cast its lot with Pakistan. And this administration will confront the same failures as its predecessors. Logistics will beat strategy every time.

Ahmad F. said...

“Amateurs discuss strategy; professionals discuss logistics.” General Omar Bradley. “Armies march on their stomach.” Napoleon.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: “Amateurs discuss strategy; professionals discuss logistics.” General Omar Bradley. “Armies march on their stomach.” Napoleon."

Will Rogers was once asked for a strategy to deal with the menace of German U boats in WWII. He said “Boil the ocean”. When asked how, he said “I’m a strategist, not a logistics guy”

Riaz Haq said...

Declining #US payments (from $2.6 billion in 2012 to $526m now) to #Pakistan translate into declining leverage over it. Pakistan with its #NATO supply lines now has more leverage over #Trump than vice versa. …

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump's unfair attack on #Pakistan.. Actual disbursed #US funds to #Pakistan since 2001 are significantly less than the $33 Billion allocated and claimed by Trump. #TrumpDumpsPak #Afghanistan @CNN

Facts matter. As does math. Trump's claim of "33 billion dollars in aid" is based on a number provided by the Congressional Research Service, which documents allocated aid -- but not actual dispersed funds. This figure is a sum of $19 billion in security and economic aid and an additional $14.59 billion from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which reimburses US allies for logistical and military support.

However, since 2001, according to USAID, the US has only given Pakistan $14.79 billion in civilian and military aid, and funds from the CSF have periodically been revised, delayed or blocked. Not all of the allocated funds have been disbursed, due to concerns regarding Pakistan's efforts to target Islamist militant groups, such as the Haqqani network, aligned with the Afghan Taliban and responsible for launching attacks in Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...


G. Ali

Riaz Haq said...

G.Ali: ""

Here's another recent piece from The Economist on education in Pakistan

Pakistan’s lessons in school reform

What the world’s sixth most populous state can teach other developing countries

Pakistan has long been home to a flourishing market of low-cost private schools, as parents have given up on a dysfunctional state sector and opted instead to pay for a better alternative. In the province of Punjab alone the number of these schools has risen from 32,000 in 1990 to 60,000 by 2016. (England has just 24,000 schools, albeit much bigger ones.)

More recently, Pakistani policymakers have begun to use these private schools to provide state education. Today Pakistan has one of the largest school-voucher schemes in the world. It has outsourced the running of more government-funded schools than any other developing country. By the end of this year Punjab aims to have placed 10,000 public schools—about the number in all of California—in the hands of entrepreneurs or charities. Although other provinces cannot match the scope and pace of reforms in Punjab, which is home to 53% of Pakistanis, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are implementing some similar changes on a smaller scale.

The results are promising—and they hold lessons for reformers in other countries. One is that “public-private partnerships” can improve children’s results while costing the state less than running schools itself. A paper published in August by the World Bank found that a scheme to subsidise local entrepreneurs to open schools in 199 villages increased enrolment of six- to ten-year-olds by 30 percentage points and boosted test scores. Better schools also led parents to encourage their sons to become doctors not security guards, and their daughters to become teachers rather than housewives.

Other new research suggests that policymakers can also take simple steps to fix failures in the market for low-cost private schools. For example, providing better information for parents through standardised report cards, and making it easier for entrepreneurs to obtain loans to expand schools, have both been found to lead to a higher quality of education.

Another, related lesson is that simply spending more public money is not going to transform classrooms in poor countries. The bulk of spending on public education goes on teachers’ salaries, and if they cannot teach, the money is wasted. A revealing recent study looked at what happened between 2003 and 2007, when Punjab hired teachers on temporary contracts at 35% less pay. It found that the lower wages had no discernible impact on how well teachers taught.

Such results reflect what happens when teachers are hired corruptly, rather than for their teaching skills. Yet the final and most important lesson from Pakistan is that politicians can break the link between political patronage and the classroom. Under Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab’s chief minister, the province has hired new teachers on merit, not an official’s say-so. It uses data on enrolment and test scores to hold local officials to account at regular high-stakes meetings.

Shifting from “the politics of patronage” to “the politics of performance”, in the words of Sir Michael Barber, a former adviser to the British government who now works with the Punjabis, would transform public services in poor countries. Pakistan’s reforms have a long way to go. But they already have many lessons to teach the world.

Riaz Haq said...

First #Djibouti ... now #Pakistan's #Gwadar tipped to have #China's naval base. #India #Iran #Chabahar #Navy #Military #Hormuz #RedSea via @SCMP_News

Beijing plans to build its second offshore naval base near a strategically important Pakistani port following the opening of its first facility in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa last year.

Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming said the base near the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea would be used to dock and maintain naval vessels, as well as provide other logistical support services.

“China needs to set up another base in Gwadar for its warships because Gwadar is now a civilian port,” Zhou said.

“It’s a common practice to have separate facilities for warships and merchant vessels because of their different operations. Merchant ships need a bigger port with a lot of space for warehouses and containers, but warships need a full range of maintenance and logistical support services.”

Another source close to the People’s Liberation Army confirmed that the navy would set up a base near Gwadar similar to the one already up and running in Djibouti.

“Gwadar port can’t provide specific services for warships ... Public order there is in a mess. It is not a good place to carry out military logistical support,” the source said.

The confirmation follows a report this week on Washington-based website The Daily Caller in which retired US Army Reserve colonel Lawrence Sellin said meetings between high-ranking Chinese and Pakistani military officers indicated Beijing would build a military base on the Jiwani peninsula near Gwadar and close to the Iranian border.

Sellin said the plan would include a naval base and an expansion of the existing airport on the peninsula, both requiring the establishment of a security zone and the forced relocation of long-time residents.

Gwadar port is a key part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s broader “Belt and Road Initiative” to link China through trade and infrastructure to Africa and Europe and beyond. The corridor is a multibillion-dollar set of infrastructure projects linking China and Pakistan, and includes a series of road and transport links.

Sellin also said the Jiwani base could be “signs of Chinese militarisation of Pakistan, in particular, and in the Indian Ocean”.

Chinese military observers said Gwadar had great geostrategic and military importance to China but China was not about to “militarise” Pakistan.

Zhou said China wanted better access to the Indian Ocean, which was now largely limited to the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia. The Gwadar port could be a transit hub for sea and land routes once the corridor’s railway was up and running, helping improve and cut the cost of logistics for China.

“The Chinese naval flotilla patrolling in the Gulf of Aden and other warships escorting Chinese oil tankers in the Indian Ocean need a naval base for maintenance as well as logistical supplies because they can’t buy much of what they need in Pakistan,” Zhou said.

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, said India was well aware of China’s plans in Pakistan.

“China finds it very useful to use Pakistan against India and ignore India’s concerns, particularly on terrorism issues. That has created a lot of stress in the relationship between Beijing and Delhi,” he said.

“[But] Indian naval capabilities and experience in the Indian Ocean region are fairly good. Much better than Pakistan and China.”

Riaz Haq said...

Trump's message: If Afghanistan isn't going well, Pakistan's to blame

Analysis by Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

Updated 10:19 AM ET, Fri January 5, 2018

Afghanistan is experiencing its worst security crisis in perhaps more than a decade, with ISIS moving into its least stable areas. In the past week, Afghan officials reported that three French nationals were among a group of ISIS fighters killed by an airstrike.
US officials declined to comment on whether French nationals had managed to join ISIS's new redoubt, but ISIS are finding it easier to get a foothold in the country, partly because NATO allies are so utterly exhausted with trying to "win" in Afghanistan.

But you can't begin to win in Afghanistan unless youshave the assistance of Pakistan. Pressure on Pakistan is a keystone of something quite rare: an actual set of policy goals and objectives laid out by the Trump administration, specifically over how to "win" in Afghanistan.
It's been tried before: the Obama administration pushed Islamabad into military operations in its tribal border regions to crack down on the Pakistani Taliban, but also the Afghan Taliban and other militants the group sometimes shelters in its midst. The Obama White House offered billions worth of aid in an attempt to sway Pakistan's hand, and threatened -- often in the pages of the New York Times -- to reduce the funding if they didn't see results. Towards the end, they too froze some aid.
But the Trump administration is -- rhetorically at least -- protesting louder, freezing all aid not mandated by law, the State Department said Thursday. It's unclear exactly how much that effects, but here's what could happen now:

But the Trump administration is -- rhetorically at least -- protesting louder, freezing all aid not mandated by law, the State Department said Thursday. It's unclear exactly how much that effects, but here's what could happen now:
1. Pakistani officials dig in, taking the broader view that the Trump administration is a short-lived outlier in the global community, and deciding that they don't need to launch a massive and costly military operation in the tribal areas that will bring reprisals to their populated cities. They decide to live without the money, for now, cut off the land supply route into Afghanistan that the American operations there depend upon, and wait it out. Security in Afghanistan continues to worsen, and eventually the US tries to restore aid and relations to get Pakistan on side again.
2. Pakistan launches some short-lived and tokenistic operations against the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, which has been behind a lot of the more sophisticated attacks in Afghanistan. The US beings to pay the aid money again, and the Pakistani military elite -- who run a lot of the country and economy -- keep seeing the millions they depend upon. Not a huge amount changes, but the point is made, likely to the sacrifice of Pakistani lives.
3. There's a fudge: Pakistan keeps letting the US use the land route to resupply its 14,000 troops in Afghanistan (that's a very expensive 42,000 meals that would otherwise have to be flown daily into a landlocked country). The US slowly allows some "exceptions" to the aid ban to increase, and essentially most of the money keeps coming. But Trump has made his rhetorical point.
Related: Trump's White House chaos leaves world with room to breathe
Many of the key decision makers around Trump have personal history in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis served there, as did National Security Advisor HR McMaster. Chief of Staff John Kelly's son -- a Marine -- died there.
The move to censure Pakistan may not be a new tactic for Washington, but it is steeped in these men's mutual shared past, and suggests a renewed focus on America's longest -- and ongoing -- war.

Riaz Haq said...

The C.I.A.’s Maddening Relationship with Pakistan

By Nicholas Schmidle3:56 P.M.

“Here’s the truth,” a former senior U.S. intelligence official told me. Pakistan has been “in many ways” America’s best counterterrorism partner, the official said. “Nobody had taken more bad guys off the battlefield than the Pakistanis.”

And, in general, Pakistani co√∂peration with America’s counterterrorism campaign has been strong: their government permitted the C.I.A. to fly armed drones over Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, where many militants hid. Initially, the agency even based its drones on Pakistani soil, working off a list jointly drawn up with its I.S.I. counterparts. As those on the “target deck” were killed, new names—most of them foreign Al Qaeda leaders—were added.

Riaz Haq said...

Kabul under siege while America's longest war rages on
In 16 years, the Afghan War has cost 2,400 American lives and $1 trillion. But with the country's capital under siege, the end still seems far away

The war in Afghanistan is the longest in U.S. history. It's lasted over 16 years and in that time, America's goals and strategies have changed. Now there's another new plan. President Trump has sent 3,000 more troops to train and assist the Afghan army. But in the Afghan capital you don't have to go far to see the problems. Kabul is so dangerous, American diplomats and soldiers are not allowed to use the roads. They can't just drive two miles from the airport to U.S. headquarters. They have to fly. After all these years, a trillion dollars, and 2,400 American lives -- Kabul is under siege.

This is rush hour at Kabul International Airport -- a swarm of helicopters that's earned the nickname 'Embassy Air.' It's how Americans and their allies working at the U.S. Embassy and military headquarters travel back and forth from the airport. It's just a five-minute flight. The chopper we boarded was making its tenth trip of the day.

A few years ago American convoys regularly drove on the airport road below. Now the view from the helicopter window is all most on board will see of Kabul. They'll stay behind blast walls for the rest of their time in Afghanistan. We wanted to know what it says about where we are in this war if American troops can't drive two miles down a road in Kabul.

John Nicholson: It's a country at war. And it's a capital that is under attack by a determined enemy.

No U.S. General has spent more time here than John Nicholson -- the commander of American forces in Afghanistan.

John Nicholson: We do everything possible to protect our forces. So…

Lara Logan: You're not using the roads.

John Nicholson: Protecting the lives of our troops is our number-one priority. If we can fly instead of drive and that offers them a greater degree of safety, then it's the prudent and the right thing to do.

Lara Logan: In military terms, that's called surrendering the terrain.

John Nicholson: I disagree. I think it's answering our moral imperative to protect the lives of our soldiers and civilians. So that's what we do.


Lara Logan: If you can't secure the capital, how are you going to secure the rest of the country?

Ashraf Ghani: You tell me. Can you prevent the attack on New York? Can you prevent the attack on London?

Lara Logan: We're not talking about one attack. A series of attacks right here on your doorstep, a bomb that blew out the windows in your palace that has turned this city into something of a concrete prison.

Ashraf Ghani: What do you want? What's your alternative, ma'am?

Lara Logan: What is the alternative?

Ashraf Ghani: The alternative is resolve.

Riaz Haq said...

CIA's Ex Officer Michael Scheuer Talks About Pakistan's ISI

There continues to be a concerted effort by some western and Indian governments and the mainstream media to demonize the ISI, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan. Some Pakistanis, particularly Pakistani liberals, are also part of this anti-ISI campaign.

To put unrelenting attacks on the ISI in perspective, let's read some excerpts from an interview of ex CIA officer and chief Bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer on ISI, and watch the following video:

1. ISI is like all other intelligence services--like the Australian service or the American service.

2. ISI works for the interest of their country, not to help other countries.

3. The idea that ISI is a rogue organization is very popular--and even the Pakistanis promote it---but having worked with ISI for the better part of 20 years, I know the ISI is very disciplined and very able intelligence agency.

4. Pakistanis can not leave the area (AfPak) when we (Americans) do. They have to try and stabilize Afghanistan with a favorable Islamic government so they can move their 100,000 troops from their western border to the eastern border with India which---whether we like it or not, they see as a bigger threat.

5. We (US) have created the mess in South Asia and the Pakistanis have to sort it out. Our (US) problems in Afghanistan are of our own making.

6. Al Qaeda has grown from just one platform (Afghanistan in 2001) to six platforms now.

Riaz Haq said...

Directorate S author Steve Coll with Terry Gross on NPR Fresh Air

When the Bush administration went into Afghanistan right after September 11, in those conversations, they said, well, what are our really important, vital interests that justify this war? And they said there are really two. One is al-Qaida. We've got to disrupt them, got to destroy them. And the other was, we've got to keep Pakistan stable so that its nuclear weapons don't fall into the wrong hands.


the Obama administration came back to the same question of war aims that had really befuddled the Bush administration. The reviews concluded that there were really only two vital interests in Afghanistan, the kinds of interests that would justify putting young American men and women in harm's way. One was al-Qaida and the other was the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. But in 2009, when these reviews were taking place, neither of those problems really existed in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida had left Afghanistan and was now in Pakistan in a serious way.

And of course, Pakistan's nuclear weapons were across the border. So they talked themselves into fighting a kind of indirect war. Well, we'll go to Afghanistan, we'll fight the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan from collapsing because if it collapsed, al-Qaida would come back. And the general instability of that war might mess up Pakistan and jeopardize the security of its nukes. So it's a very convoluted conclusion. And at the heart of it was President Obama, who really did not want to fight a war against the Taliban.

Some of his generals did. President Obama saw that that was a very long slog, and he didn't see that the U.S. public would support such a war indefinitely. We were in the middle of the recession at that point. So...


You know who our boss is, President Obama. Who are you (Taliban rep Tayyab Agha)? We don't even know that you know who Mullah Mohammed Omar is or that you have anybody's authority to be doing this. How can you prove to us that you have authority to really negotiate toward an end to the war? And so they work out these secret protocols where he places messages in the Taliban's media system in the name of Mullah Mohammed Omar.

He brings them a proof-of-life video of Bowe Bergdahl, the Army specialist who had been captured by part of the Taliban, the Haqqani network. And even at one point, he brought a letter from Mullah Mohammed Omar addressed to President Obama. It was sort of on Taliban stationery. But it wasn't, you know, very formal stationery. And the gist of the letter was, Mr. President, you know, I've had to take a lot of hard decisions to talk peace. You should take some hard decisions. Let's get this done.

And the negotiations went on for, let's see, three years or so until they reached a point where there was a deal to open a Taliban office in Qatar, which was the step that would proceed what the Americans hoped would be very serious negotiations to end the war and find a settlement. And the whole negotiation over that office was a fiasco. It alienated President Karzai. It blew up and the Taliban walked away from the whole deal.


In Afghanistan, for some reason, we just don't seem to have the capacity - haven't had the capacity to do that. And I do fear that the Trump administration, which doesn't seem to think the State Department is a very important part of its foreign policy, is pretty much the last administration that's going to take on the really complicated and uncertain challenges of that kind of negotiation.

Riaz Haq said...

Q&A with Steve Coll on ‘America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan’

Q: What is India’s role in Afghanistan?

A: It’s nowhere near as significant as Pakistan thinks it is. It has had a long relationship with the Afghan government, and supported Afghanistan when the government was reconstituted in 2001. It’s soft power — roads, hospitals, some military training. They don’t want to … further provoke the paranoia of ISI. As long as we (the United States) are in there fighting the terrorists, they can free-ride on our military commitment.

Q: Your book shows how officers within the ISI have continued to support the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite numerous deadly attacks within Pakistan and on Pakistanis by branches of the Taliban operating there. What is the motivation?

A: The Pakistani officer class — and they are ultimately the directors of the spy service as well — have a proud nationalistic tradition. There’s a conviction that India is under every pillow, that it’s out to destroy Pakistan. Over the years that (belief) has become a rationale for army influence in Pakistani politics … the whole country has moved to the right as the years have gone by.

The practical reason is that Pakistan feels vulnerable to Afghanistan. They share a long and open border, and the people along the border don’t even recognize its legitimacy. The fear is that without a buffer strategy of political influence, that India will use Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan.

Q: Islam is the state religion of Pakistan — how does religious faith affect the motives of the ISI?

A: It’s a very diverse officer corps. The junior officers are more pious; the senior officers are ardently nationalist, more nationalist than even 20 years ago, given the violence and pressure they have come under. When you talk nationalism you’re talking about a country that was founded on the basis of Islam. I think Americans have always struggled to figure out how personal faith among Pakistani officers may affect their political judgment. The lazy way is to take them out for a drink. That doesn’t work with these guys.

Q: How do you see Afghanistan’s future unfolding?

A: I’m not a great forecaster, but I don’t think anything is likely to change. The presence of the U.S. military makes it very difficult for the Taliban to win. They don’t have an air force, they don’t have anti-aircraft weapons. They don’t have the amazing technology of the opposition.

The Afghan government is stuck. In 40 percent or more of the country’s rural districts, the Taliban are embedded. They are present in other parts of the country where they don’t have ethnic or religious roots … It’s even more complicated, because now all this violence has created an ethnic polarization in the rest of the country, and there’s a constitutional crisis in Kabul that’s been going on for three-and-a-half years.

Riaz Haq said...

Can the U.S. End Pakistan's Double Game?
A Q&A with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll on America's forever war against the Taliban.
By Nisid Hajari
7 February 10, 2018, 6:00 AM PST

Steve Coll’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ghost Wars” laid out in gut-wrenching detail the chain of events that led from one modern war in Afghanistan -- against the Soviets -- to the Sept. 11 attacks and the brink of another conflict. When the book came out in 2004, the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda seemed on the wane, at least compared to the then-raging insurgency in Iraq. Soon, however, with the aid of their longtime sponsors in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the Taliban would reconstitute their movement and seize control over great swathes of the Afghan countryside, dueling the U.S. and the Afghan Army to a stalemate. If current trends hold, the U.S. will in the not-too-distant future be sending soldiers to the “graveyard of empires” that hadn’t even been born on 9/11.

Coll’s new book, “Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” tells the story of this new war in equally magisterial fashion. The narrative is punctuated by folly, frustration and hubris, with the U.S. striving unsuccessfully to convince the Pakistanis to abandon support for their Islamist proxies -- tools, generals in Rawalpindi believe, to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan -- and to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield. It comes out just as a series of horrific attacks in Kabul have reminded the world how ineradicable the Afghan insurgency remains. I spoke with Coll about where he thinks America’s longest war is headed and how it might, finally, end. The following is an edited and condensed version of our conversation:

NISID HAJARI: Now that the Trump Administration has released its “new strategy” for Afghanistan, including an increase in the number of airstrikes, you’re starting to hear U.S. commanders talk again about gaining momentum and reaching a “turning point” in the war. After retracing the first 15 years of this conflict, what do you think when you hear such comments?

STEVE COLL: Well, the history is dispiriting when you excavate it because it's so repetitive. And some of the reason is what you suggest, that new commanders come in, they don't stay for longer than two years in high military command, sometimes shorter. Not to be too cynical about it, but their career depends on a narrative of achievement. I remember Eliot Cohen, who was a counselor to [then-Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice during the Bush Administration, recounting how he discovered that the six-month command rotations had a common pattern: A new commander would come in and say, “This looks like it's going to be very, very difficult.” And then, six months later, he’d say, “We've irreversibly changed the momentum of the war.” As a writer, it was a narrative challenge, because at a certain point I would think, "Haven't I already told this story?"

Riaz Haq said...

Can the U.S. End Pakistan's Double Game?
A Q&A with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll on America's forever war against the Taliban.
By Nisid Hajari
7 February 10, 2018, 6:00 AM PST


NH: The unofficial Pakistani defense for supporting the Taliban has always been that India is the one destabilizing the situation, by seeking to dominate the Afghan government and thus encircle Pakistan. Do such claims have any merit?

SC: Well, it’s a complicated picture. Let’s start with the hardcore Pakistani allegations -- for example that NDS [the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency] is an Indian project, or that the disposition of Indian consulates and the activities of Indian citizens in Afghanistan are really just a massive cover for destabilization operations inside Pakistan. That’s exaggerated if not entirely fanciful in my assessment. I mean, the NDS is a CIA operation. It has Iranian connections. It has Russian connections. It has a few Indian liaisons. But the idea that NDS is a proxy for RAW [India’s Research and Analysis Wing espionage service] is just incorrect.

You know, the Indians have been very careful about the kinds of things they do in Afghanistan -- building hospitals, roads, a little bit of military training. From time to time they get a little bolder. Does India sponsor or run sometimes in cooperation with Afghan clients, covert action against Pakistan? Yes, they do. They clearly have their fingerprints in Baluchistan [the site of a long-running separatist insurgency]. When the war got really nasty and there was NDS collaboration with elements of the Pakistani Taliban, as a tit-for-tat response to Pakistani collaboration with the Afghan Taliban, was India aware of that? Did it perhaps support it at some level? Maybe. But NDS was in this game for its own reasons.

India asserts, and I think any reasonable person would recognize, that it has a right to provide aid to support Afghanistan’s recovery. Does it take satisfaction that this annoys Pakistan? Yes. Is it the most important priority in Indian foreign policy? Not at all.

NH: Pakistan’s support for the Taliban, and the sanctuary it provides Taliban leaders, is obviously critical to prolonging the war. But there’s an endless list of other contributing factors as well, from government dysfunction in Kabul to corruption to the drug economy. How would you rank them in terms of their importance to ending the conflict?

SC: I think the most important one, and it may be as important as the Pakistani sanctuary and ISI support, is the political crisis in Afghanistan among the elites. It’s kind of a paradox because Afghan nationalism is very strong and has been strengthened by the experience of Pakistani interference. I mean, the main thing that ISI has accomplished in Afghanistan, apart from seizing some territory through the Taliban, is to rally Afghans around a national idea greater than ethnic identity.

But having said that, ethnic factionalism and the failure to create a unity government after the 2014 elections has left Afghanistan in a grave position. And the other thing that’s new is social media, which has really modernized the country and plugged in a new generation, but also exacerbated factionalism and ethnic polarization. It’s really a virus.