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.
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."
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 frenemy...it 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:
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
Haq sahib..as usual u are on the dot.Thanks for projecting positive image of Pak.Can I get in touch withvu through email.
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.
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.
“Amateurs discuss strategy; professionals discuss logistics.” General Omar Bradley. “Armies march on their stomach.” Napoleon.
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”
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.
#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.
G.Ali: " https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21733978-reformers-are-trying-make-up-generations-neglect-pakistan-home-most-frenetic"
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.
First #Djibouti ... now #Pakistan's #Gwadar tipped to have #China's naval base. #India #Iran #Chabahar #Navy #Military #Hormuz #RedSea https://sc.mp/2CINAJb 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.”
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.
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 coöperation 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
Former #American ally #Taliban founder of #Haqqani network dies in #Afghanistan, debunking #US claims of him being in #Pakistan. https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2018/09/04/taliban-say-founder-of-haqqani-network-dies-in-afghanistan/#.W49Cr9EfY6w.twitter
The founder of Afghanistan’s much-feared Haqqani network, a former U.S. ally turned fierce enemy, has died after years of ill health, a Taliban spokesman said Tuesday. Jalaluddin Haqqani was 71.
Haqqani died Monday inside Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. The elderly founder of the outlawed Afghanistan-based organization, once hailed as a freedom fighter by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, had been paralyzed for the past 10 years.
In announcing his death Tuesday, Mujahed called Haqqani a religious scholar and exemplary warrior.
Because of his infirmity, Haqqani’s network has been led by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also deputy head of the Taliban. Considered the most formidable of the Taliban’s fighting forces, the Haqqani network has been linked to some of the more audacious attacks in Afghanistan. The elder Haqqani joined the Taliban when they overran Kabul in September 1996, expelling feuding mujahedeen groups, whose battles left the capital in ruins.
Militants wore US military uniforms in attack in Afghanistan’s capital
Islamic State militants, including two suicide bombers, dressed in military uniforms and riding in two armored vehicles launched a surprise attack on the Interior Ministry in Kabul on Wednesday but Afghan forces managed to repel the assault, leaving all the attackers dead.
By: Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press
Since then, the network has been among the fiercest foes fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The elder Haqqani's death is not expected to impact the network's military might or strategy.
It was the second death of an insurgent leader in Afghanistan announced within days. On Aug. 27, U.S. and Afghan officials said a U.S. strike the previous weekend killed a senior Islamic State commander in eastern Afghanistan. The strike in Nangarhar province killed Abu Sayeed Orakzai, a senior leader in the extremist group, according to Shah Hussain Martazawi, deputy spokesman for the Afghan presidency.
Haqqani was among the Afghan mujahedeen, or holy warriors, the United States backed in the 1980s to fight the former Soviet Union's invading army, sent to Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up the pro-Moscow government. Haqqani was praised by the late U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson as "goodness personified." After 10 years, Moscow negotiated an exit from Afghanistan in an agreement that eventually led to the collapse of Kabul's communist government and a takeover by the mujahedeen.
In 2012 the United States declared the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. Haqqani had not been heard from in several years and reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Declassified U.S. cables called Haqqani a “moderate socialist” who did not embrace the Taliban’s strict rules that denied girls education. “Haqqani functions more in the military area, and is not a force in setting Taliban political or social issues,” the cables read.
How the #UnitedStates Government Misleads the #American Public on #Afghanistan.....since 2017, the #Taliban have held more #Afghan territory than at any time since the #American invasion. #Trump #Pakistan https://nyti.ms/2NY0J2C
Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan, American officials routinely issue inflated assessments of progress that contradict what is actually happening there.
More than 2,200 Americans have been killed in the Afghan conflict, and the United States has spent more than $840 billion fighting the Taliban insurgency and paying for relief and reconstruction. The war has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after World War II. That investment has created intense pressure for Americans to show the Taliban are losing and the country is improving.
But since 2017, the Taliban have held more Afghan territory than at any time since the American invasion. In just one week last month, the insurgents killed 200 Afghan police officers and soldiers, overrunning two major Afghan bases and the city of Ghazni.
The American military says the Afghan government effectively “controls or influences” 56 percent of the country. But that assessment relies on statistical sleight of hand. In many districts, the Afghan government controls only the district headquarters and military barracks, while the Taliban control the rest.
On paper, Afghan security forces outnumber the Taliban by 10 to 1, or even more. But some Afghan officials estimate that a third of their soldiers and police officers are “ghosts” who have left or deserted without being removed from payrolls. Many others are poorly trained and unqualified.
The Afghan government says it killed 13,600 insurgents and arrested 2,000 more last year — nearly half the estimated 25,000 to 35,000 Taliban fighters an official United States report said were active in the country in 2017. But in January, United States officials said insurgents numbered at least 60,000, and Afghan officials recently estimated the Taliban’s strength at more than 77,000.
With the status of the battlefield looking grim, American officials say that at least the coalition has improved Afghan living standards — although often they use exaggerated claims there, too.
The most blatant example may be maternal mortality, one of the most important indicators of a society’s health. In 2002, American officials reported that 1,600 Afghan mothers died for every 100,000 live births, a rate comparable to Europe during the Middle Ages. By 2010, the United States Agency for International Development said the rate had improved drastically, falling to 327.
Researchers noted that not since the world discovered antibiotics has any nation seen such a big improvement in maternal health. The long-running security and development challenges Afghanistan faces are factored into health researchers’ estimates of maternal mortality. The British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group cited a study indicating that 1,575 women died out of 100,000 births in 2010. Other estimates cited by the group put the figure at 885 to 1,600 of 100,000 — meaning that nearly one in a hundred Afghan women will die giving birth. The rate in the United States is 24 in 100,000.
USAID points to a similarly drastic improvement in life expectancy, to 63 years in 2010, up from 41 years in 2002. But the figures were adjusted to ignore a high death rate in early childhood, which skewed results.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, estimated in 2009 that Afghan life expectancy was 48 years. Even the C.I.A. does not agree with USAID’s number, estimating in 2017 that Afghans typically live to age 51.
Bob Woodward quotes Dr. Peter Lavoy, staffer in charge of South Asia for Obama's NSC, in his book "Fear" as follows:
"There are literally thousands of sub-tribes in Afghanistan. Each has a grievance. If the Taliban cease to exist you would still have an insurgency in Afghanistan".
#UnitedSates and #Taliban Edge Toward Deal to End #America’s Longest #War. Ex Ambassador Ryan Crocker to #Afghanistan and #Pakistan: “This isn’t anything other than a way out for us that we can style as something less than losing the war” #India #China https://nyti.ms/2HwQG5C
The United States and the Taliban are closing in on a deal to end America’s longest war after six days of some of the most serious Afghan peace negotiations to date wrapped up on Saturday.
The talks in Doha, Qatar, lasted much longer than planned and longer than any previous attempt to end the 17-year conflict, and both sides publicly reported progress — a rarity. The chief American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Twitter that the talks were “more productive than they have been in the past” and he hoped they would resume shortly.
He also said he was flying to the Afghan capital, Kabul, for consultations with the government.
“We have a number of issues left to work out. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and ‘everything’ must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive cease-fire,” he said.
Mr. Khalilzad’s comments suggested that the key sticking points were the terms of a Taliban cease-fire and getting the insurgents to give up their longstanding refusal to speak to the Afghan government, which they deride as an American puppet.
Still, this is the first time in nine years of intermittent peace efforts that all sides seem serious about reaching a deal that, in the first phase, would exchange a Taliban cease-fire for a phased withdrawal of American forces. The Taliban would also pledge not to allow international terror groups to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks against the United States.
Then the Afghans and the Taliban would need to detail exactly what the peace will look like in terms of the Taliban sharing power in government and how that might affect an array of other issues, such as the status of women in the country.
“Since the United States started to engage the Taliban, this by far is the closest to a deal,” said Hekmat Khalil Karzai, a former Afghan deputy foreign minister who leads the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies and has been involved in the peace efforts for years.
“On both sides I sense there is seriousness, I sense there is commitment, and I feel there is resolve,” he said.
The Americans would promise to withdraw their 14,000 troops, and the Taliban would agree to never again allow their territory to be used by extremists like Al Qaeda, the terrorist network that staged the 2001 attacks on the United States from Afghanistan and set off the start of the war.
That much seemed in agreement. But as always, the devil is in the details. How long would the cease-fire be, and would it start before, after or even during the American withdrawal? How long a time frame would the withdrawal cover?
All of these questions are potential deal-breakers.
Taliban sources remained optimistic, even as Western diplomats expressed concern that there would not be a deal from this round of Doha talks. On Saturday afternoon, Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban official who now lives in Kabul but keeps close contacts with insurgent leaders, said he had just spoken to them.
“I have been told that talks are going ahead very well and we are close to an agreement,” he said. Whatever the result this time, Mr. Agha said, “Afghanistan was never so close to peace in these past years. What is happening now has never happened before.”
Ryan Crocker, a former American ambassador to Afghanistan, said it was a rush for the exits.
“I can’t see this as anything more than an effort to put lipstick on what will be a U.S. withdrawal,” he said. Mr. Crocker said it reminded him of the Paris peace talks on Vietnam.
“By going to the table, we basically were telling the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, ‘We surrender. We’re here just to work out the terms.’ I just cannot see this getting to any better place. We don’t have a whole lot of leverage here.”
Late General Hameed Gil: “The I.S.I., with the help of America, defeated America.” #Biden’s #Afghan Pullout Is a Victory for #Pakistan . But at What Cost? #US #CIA #ISI #Taliban - The New York Times
Near the peak of the American war in Afghanistan, a former chief of neighboring Pakistan’s military intelligence — an institution allied both to the U.S. military and to its Taliban adversaries — appeared on a talk show called “Joke Night” in 2014. He put a bold prediction on the record.
“When history is written,” declared Gen. Hamid Gul, who led the feared spy service known as the I.S.I. during the last stretch of the Cold War in the 1980s, “it will be stated that the I.S.I. defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the help of America.”
“Then there will be another sentence,” General Gul added after a brief pause, delivering his punchline to loud applause. “The I.S.I., with the help of America, defeated America.”
In President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by September, Pakistan’s powerful military establishment finally gets its wish after decades of bloody intrigue: the exit of a disruptive superpower from a backyard where the I.S.I. had established strong influence through a friendly Taliban regime before the U.S. invaded in 2001.
A return of the Taliban to some form of power would dial the clock back to a time when Pakistan’s military played gatekeeper to Afghanistan, perpetually working to block the influence of its archenemy, India.
If Afghanistan descends into chaos, Pakistanis are bound to feel the burden again just as they did after Afghanistan disintegrated in the 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal. Millions of Afghan refugees crossed the porous border to seek relative safety in Pakistan’s cities and towns.
And more: A Taliban return to power, either through a civil war or through a peace deal that gives them a share of power, would embolden the extremist movements in Pakistan that share the same source of ideological mentorship in the thousands of religious seminaries spread across Pakistan. Those groups have shown no hesitation in antagonizing the country’s government.
While Pakistan’s military played a dangerous game of supporting militants abroad and containing extremists at home, the country’s Islamist movements found a rallying cause in the presence of an invading foreign force next door, openly fund-raising for and cheering on their Afghan classmates. New extremist groups kept shrinking the civil society space in Pakistan — often targeting intellectuals and professionals for abuse or attack — and even found sympathizers in the ranks of Pakistan’s security forces.
Pakistani generals have resorted to a mix of force and appeasement in tackling the country’s own growing militancy problem, said Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. But a strategy for countering the spread of extremism has been elusive.
“It scares me, it scares me,” Dr. Siddiqa said. “Once the Taliban come back, that should trouble the Pakistani government, or any government. It will be inspiring for all the other groups.”
Said Nazir, a retired brigadier and defense analyst in Islamabad, said Pakistan had “learned some lessons” from the blowback of past support to jihadist groups. The country would need to tread more cautiously in the endgame of the Afghan war.
“Victory will not be claimed by Pakistan, but tacitly the Taliban will owe it to Pakistan,” Mr. Nazir said. “Pakistan does fear the replay of past events and fears a bloody civil war and violence if hasty withdrawal and no political solution occur simultaneously.”
Fareed Zakaria: “For the past 20 years, facing the world’s most powerful army — with the most advanced weaponry and intelligence in history — the ragtag Taliban has survived and often prevailed”. #Afghanistan #Taliban #Biden #US The Washington Post
To understand why the United States couldn’t win, we should remember the dictum coined by Henry Kissinger in 1969 when describing the war in Vietnam: “The guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.” Or recall the famous exchange between a North Vietnamese commander and Col. Harry Summers, in which the American officer told his Vietnamese counterpart just before the fall of Saigon in 1975, “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield.” To which the Vietnamese replied, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.” The guerrillas win by not losing.
The question we don’t ask enough, however, is not why the United States failed but why the Taliban has succeeded. For the past 20 years, facing the world’s most powerful army — with the most advanced weaponry and intelligence in history — the ragtag Taliban has survived and often prevailed. We spend a lot of time condemning the Taliban for its fanatical ideology and its treatment of women. We call its members terrorists. But we don’t seem to ask, despite all that, why it has done so well.
Mao once noted that guerrillas can succeed only if they can move among the people “as a fish swims in the sea.” The Taliban have managed to do that. Scholars on the ground have found that ethnic identity and solidarity are key to understanding Taliban success, far more important than military prowess, economic aid or even good government. Many people, particularly Pashtuns (the largest ethnic group in the country), identify with the Taliban. The Kabul government is often associated with the outsider, with foreigners. In his brilliant book, “The Accidental Guerrilla,” counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen recounts a battle in which local Afghans joined the Taliban even though they were not ideologically aligned with the group. They simply felt they had to join the fight against the outsiders. And no matter how much money and services the United States may provide, it remains the outsider.
There are other reasons for Taliban success, as well. The group has enjoyed a haven in Pakistan and received help from that country’s military. It is difficult to think of a single case in history in which an insurgency was defeated when it had a sanctuary across the border. The Taliban also benefited from the massive corruption unleashed by the tens of billions of dollars of U.S. aid and military spending that has utterly distorted the Afghan economy. The United States weakened the Kabul government by insisting that it fight opium production, which for better or worse has been a staple agricultural product in provinces such as Helmand for centuries.
But ultimately, it comes down to a simple reality: An outside force that has an ambitious set of goals — establishing a functioning democracy, ending the opium trade, ensuring equality for women — cannot succeed without a powerful, competent and legitimate local partner.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker on #US exit from #Afghanistan:"We have again validated their (#Pakistanis) skepticism". Pakistanis "knew we (US) will go home but they aren’t going anywhere--this is where they live".They'd not "turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy" https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/21/opinion/us-afghanistan-pakistan-taliban.html
I recall the comment attributed to a captured Taliban fighter from a number of years ago: You Americans have the watches, but we have the time. Sadly that view proved accurate — the Taliban outlasted us and our impatience. After the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of U.S.-trained and armed mujahedeen in 1989, training that was facilitated by Pakistan, we decided we were done. We could see the Afghan civil war coming — the only thing holding the disparate Afghan groups together was a common enemy. But that was not our problem — we were leaving. On the way out, we stopped helping Pakistan in a key way: We ended security and economic assistance because of its nuclear weapons program, something we’d exempted before. So Pakistan, in its own narrative, went from being the most allied of allies to the most sanctioned of adversaries. That is why Pakistan threw its support to the Taliban when they started gaining ground in the 1990s: It could end a dangerous conflict along Pakistan’s own unstable borders.
And that is why a decade later after 9/11, Pakistan welcomed the return of the United States — and U.S. assistance. It would work with us against Al Qaeda. But we soon learned that the Taliban were a sticky matter. I was ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007. I pushed Pakistani officials repeatedly on the need to deny the Taliban safe havens. The answer I got back over time went like this: “We know you. We know you don’t have patience for the long fight. We know the day will come when you just get tired and go home — it’s what you do. But we aren’t going anywhere — this is where we live. So if you think we are going to turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy, you are completely crazy.”
We have again validated their skepticism.
The Washington Post notes that “as the Taliban swept across neighboring Afghanistan, some Pakistanis saw it as a reason to celebrate.” Yet I doubt there are many high fives being exchanged in Islamabad today. The American disaster in Afghanistan that Mr. Biden’s impatience brought about is not a disaster just for us. It has also been a huge boost for the Taliban, whose narrative now is that the believers, clad in the armor of the one true faith, have vanquished the infidels. That is resonating around the world, and certainly next door in Pakistan where the T.T.P. — the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks the overthrow of their government — has certainly been emboldened, as have Kashmiri militant groups created by Pakistan but that threaten Pakistan itself as well as India. Mr. Biden’s strategic impatience has given a huge boost to militant Islam everywhere.
We need to be engaged with Pakistan on ways to assess and deal with this enhanced threat. The prospect of violent destabilization of a country with about 210 million people and nuclear weapons is not a pretty one. The same is true in Iran. It’s always good to see the Great Satan take a kick in the face, and it’s worth a little gloating, but the Islamic Republic and the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate almost went to war in 1998. A region is worried, and it is right to be so.
#British General Nick Carter's response to BBC's Yalda Hakim's charge of #Taliban "safe havens" in #Pakistan: Pakistanis have hosted millions of #Afghan refugees for years & "they end up with all sorts of people"....they can't "heartlessly" kick them out https://youtu.be/aTAz9p9uv6E
Responding to the familiar charge of "safe havens" for Taliban in Pakistan, General Nick Carter told BBC's Yalda Hakim that Pakistanis have hosted millions of Afghan refugees for many years and "they end up with all sorts of people". "We would be very worried if they heartlessly kicked out" the Afghans from Pakistan. He said that Pakistan's Army Chief General Bajwa genuinely wants to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
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