“What we figured out is that people in the Pech (Afghanistan) really aren’t anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone. Our presence is what’s destabilizing this area.”
The above quote is attributed in today's New York Times to US military sources explaining their decision to withdraw from a valley in Afghanistan's Kunar province.
This decision follows the killing of 65 civilians, including 50 women and children, in a recent NATO air strike in the Kumar province, as reported by the BBC. As is normal in such increasingly frequent incidents, the US and NATO disagree with the Afghan government and deny civilian deaths. But Afghans are convinced that NATO routinely bombs and shoots innocent people - and that belief is one of the things that keeps the insurgency alive.
I think the conflicting Afghan and American narratives of such incidents can easily be extended to what is happening in US predator strikes in Pakistan's FATA region. Such strikes from the sky are creating a much more dangerous situation by killing many innocent civilians and fueling the revenge attacks that are destabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Research by New America Foundation found that civilians made up 32 percent of deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan. This count appears to be low, as its data is taken from major U.S. and English-language Pakistani news outlet reports and accepts their characterizations of "civilians" and "militants."
The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) conducted an on-the ground investigation of American drone strikes (from 2009 and early 2010), and concluded that the nine attacks they surveyed produced a total of 30 civilian deaths (10/10). The CIVIC report points out that Pakistani media outlets, based on government figures, put the civilian death rate from drones at about 90 percent.
The increasing deaths of innocent civilians from American CIA drones are not helping enhance the security of the Americans or Pakistanis. On the contrary, such illegal and immoral tactics are fueling more revenge attacks by suicide bombers in Pakistan. It's become a macabre war of the drones pitting American Predators and Reapers on one side against the suicide bombing human drones on the other side, with devastating carnage of mostly innocent civilian Pakistanis. There has been at least one case of Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad who cited drone deaths in Pakistan as his reason for wanting to harm innocent American civilians.
It is time for the US to recognize that its continued military presence and CIA's covert war "is what’s destabilizing” not just a small valley in Kunar province but the entire region. The people in the region are not inherently "anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone". And the sooner America recognizes this reality, the better it will be for the peace and security of the Americans and the people of the entire "Af-Pak" region.
Can US Afghan War Remake Pakistan?
Blackwater Bribing in Pakistan?
Jihadis Growing in Tenth Year of Afghan War
Valuing Life in Afghanistan and Pakistan
US Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?
$50 Million Per Dead Taliban
Obama's High-Tech Warfare
Newsweek Defends Drone Hits
Campaign For Innocent Victims in Conflict
It is a known fact that america was messing around the world but no body had the guts to say as it is the super power till now.
I really would not know whether this is the end of the game or beginning of another game in another fashion.
What is more surprising is the duration of this fact (collateral damage) being reckoned and still no change of tactics been ever devised for past decade.
Dear Riaz, Another great article from your prolific pen. I would like to add to it by saying that CIA spies like Raymond Davis are hurting Pakistan immensely by supporting TTP and orchestrating suicide bombings to incite fear and destabilize Pakistan further. It is a very bad policy on US government’s part and must be stopped immediately. Haseeb
Pakistan arrests US security contractor as rift with CIA deepens
ISI tells American agency to unmask all its covert operatives after arrest of Aaron DeHaven in Peshawar, over visa expiry
Pakistani and Indian Newspapers Say US CIA Contractor Raymond Davis is a Terrorist
Here's an excerpt from a piece by Jack Hunter titled "Peter King's Radical Ignorance" in The American Conservative magazine:
This is not unlike when we are told that terrorists simply “hate our freedom,” as President Bush and his Republican supporters like Rep. King have always considered a satisfactory explanation for our problems with radical Islam. Yet using two of the very examples cited at King’s hearings—Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan and the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad—what can we deduce about what actually causes domestic Islamic terrorism? If virtually every would-be domestic Islamic terrorist cites the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as their primary motivation—which virtually all of them do including Hasan and Shahzad—and yet we are still fighting wars in both countries allegedly in the name of fighting terrorists… might it be time to reexamine and perhaps reassess our foreign policy? Are we attacking the problem of radical Islam or helping to create it? Has the War on Terror actually become a war for it?
Yet few dare raise these most pertinent questions. When longtime DC-based tax activist Grover Norquist suggested in January that conservatives should begin to have a conversation about the wisdom of our war in Afghanistan, he was swiftly denounced by many on the Right for even daring to discuss the matter. Norquist defended his suggestion: “I’m confident about where that conversation would go. And I think the people who are against that conversation know where it would go, too.” Addressing some of his harsher critics, Norquist shot back: “Shut up is not an argument… Many of the people who want us to stay in Afghanistan are smart people. There are good arguments for their position. So let’s hear them.”
But hearing any serious cost/benefit analysis about our current foreign policy is about as likely to happen as Washington leaders addressing and correcting our reckless domestic policy of trillion dollar deficits and debt. It is simply assumed that the status quo, whatever it may be, is somehow beneficial and necessary by its own volition. Or perhaps worse, politicians fear that the many special interests involved could potentially be jeopardized by any substantive examination of the way Washington conducts its business.
This characteristic intellectual laziness among the political class is particularly troubling when it comes to the threat of terrorism, domestic or otherwise. We continue to fret over the Islamic terror effect while steadfastly refusing to even consider the cause of Islamic terrorism, making King’s hearings last week little more than another example of Washington’s typical grandstanding buffoonery. Yes, King and his allies on this issue are indeed right that the problem of domestic Islamic terrorism is a concern—but their ongoing blindness toward the primary cause of their concern prevents them from even attempting to examine this issue comprehensively. Peter King might as well have called for congressional hearings on the problem of teenage sex while leaving raging hormones completely out of the equation. And let us hear no more from Washington leaders who want to “keep us safe” until they are first willing to look at the policies of their own making that continue to endanger us the most.
Here's an interesting analysis of US-Pakistan relations as published on Reuters Blog:
...One of the more interesting explanations lies in the statement itself:
“Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, strongly condemns the Predator Strike carried out today in North Waziristan Agency resulting into loss of innocent lives. It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life. In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism. It is imperative to understand that this critical objective can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all.”
His criticism of the United States putting tactical gains ahead of the longer-term needs of battling terrorism goes to the heart of the mismatch between U.S. and Pakistani priorities. The United States, keen to end the war in Afghanistan, needs Pakistan’s help quickly in fighting militants on its side of the border. Pakistan says it can’t fight all militant groups at once and that moving too fast would unleash fresh instability in Pakistan itself.
Now put these comments into the context of the strains in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The United States has a short-term priority – to end the war in Afghanistan and bring its troops home by 2014. Pakistan has a long-term challenge in rolling back militant groups — and the mindset that accompanies them — something that could take a generation to achieve. And while the U.S. focus is on Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army’s priority (at risk of stating the obvious) is stability in Pakistan.
With some care and attention, these two different but overlapping priorities, and two different but overlapping timescales, can in theory be reconciled. But the area of overlap is narrow – a bit like a Venn diagram which is also constantly moving, as it is buffeted by volatility of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and the unpredictability of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Imagined this way, you can see why — at least from Pakistan’s point of view – Kayani would argue that, “this critical objective (of the fight against terrorism) can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all.”
Here's piece by Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings recommending closer US ties with Pakistan, including free trade deal and nuclear cooperation similar to US-India nuclear deal:
Under these circumstances, part of the right policy is to keep doing more of what the Obama administration has been doing with Pakistan -- building trust, as with last month's strategic dialogue in Washington; increasing aid incrementally, as with the new five-year $2 billion aid package announced during that dialogue; and coordinating militarily across the border region. But Obama also needs to think bigger.
First, he needs to make clear America's commitment to South Asia, to wean Pakistan away from its current hedging strategy. Obama has frequently used general language to try to reassure listeners in the region that there will be no precipitous U.S. withdrawal next summer. But few fully believe him. Hearing stories like Bob Woodward's accounts of how the vice president and White House advisors have generally opposed a robust counterinsurgency strategy in favor of a counterterrorism-oriented operation with far fewer U.S. troops, they worry that next summer's withdrawal will be fast. Obama needs to explain that he will not revert to such a minimalist "Plan B" approach under any imaginable circumstances. More appropriate would be a "Plan A-minus" that involves a gradual NATO troop drawdown as Afghan forces grow in number and capability, without necessarily first stabilizing the entire south and east, should the current strategy not turn around the violence by next summer or so. This would represent a modification to the current plan rather than a radical departure. The president can find a way to signal that this is in fact his own thinking, sooner rather than later -- ideally before the year is out.
Second, Obama should offer Islamabad a much more expansive U.S.-Pakistani relationship if it helps win this war. Two major incentives would have particular appeal to Pakistan. One is a civilian nuclear energy deal like that being provided to India; Pakistan's progress on export controls in the wake of the A.Q. Khan debacle has been good enough so far to allow a provisional approval of such a deal if other things fall into place as well. Second is a free trade accord. Struggling economically, Pakistan needs such a shot in the arm, and a trade deal could arguably do even more than aid at this point.
But the key point is this: Pakistan should be told that these deals will only be possible if the United States and its allies prevail in Afghanistan. Small gestures of greater helpfulness are not adequate; bottom-line results are what count and what are needed. If Afghanistan turns around in a year or two, the deals can be set in motion and implemented over a longer period that will allow the United States to continually monitor subsequent Pakistani cooperation in the war.
It may seem harsh to Pakistan that America would put things in such stark terms -- but in fact, it is not realistic that any U.S. president or Congress would carry out such deals if the United States loses the war in Afghanistan partly due to Pakistani perfidy. As such, these terms are really just common sense, and they are based on political realism about America's domestic politics as well as its strategic interests.
America's current strategy for the war in Afghanistan is much improved. But it is not yet sound enough to point clearly toward victory. The most crucial problem is the role of Pakistan in the war, and so far, the Obama administration is not thinking creatively enough about how to fix it.
More civilian casualties reported in NATO strikes, according to the BBC:
Western forces have accidentally killed seven civilians in an air attack in the Afghan province of Helmand, the governor's office there has said.
Nato said it ordered the attack on Friday after hearing that a Taliban leader and several of his subordinates were travelling in two vehicles.
The car that was targeted had exploded next to another carrying the civilians. Three children were among those killed.
The air strike took place in the Naw Zad district.
Two men, two women and three children were killed in the attack, the office of the provincial governor said.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said it was targeting a Taliban leader and other militants, but Isaf spokesman Major Tim James could not confirm whether the Taliban chief was present.
Helmand is one of the biggest flashpoints in the Taliban insurgency, which began after a US-led invasion brought down their regime in 2001.
Nine children died in another Nato air strike in eastern Kunar province earlier this month.
That led the US troop commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, to make a public apology.
The issue of civilian deaths has severely strained relations with Afghan authorities.
President Hamid Karzai told Gen Petraeus his apology for the deaths of the nine children was "not enough".
Here's an interesting Op Ed warning Obama about possible loss of Pakistan to Chinese influence:
The United States and Pakistan are becoming increasingly divided over the fight against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. There are strong elements in Pakistani intelligence (ISI) who openly back the Taliban. And there is deep resentment against the United States for drone strikes and attacks against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. Now the Pakistani government is warming up further to China in the hopes of counterbalancing US strength in the region. Pakistan has already invited China to deploy 11,000 troops in their country. A high-ranking Chinese PLA delegation visited the Pakistan-Afghan border last year. At the same time, Pakistan is pushing for the Chinese to become more heavily involved in Afghanistan and they are actively buying Chinese weapons, aircraft and ships.
The fate of Pakistan matters not just because of how it will affect the fight against radical Islam. It also matters because Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And China is the source of nuclear reactors for Pakistan. Were Pakistan to move into firmly China’s orbit, it would be a big geopolitical win for Beijing. It would give the Chinese a foothold in the Middle East. It would give Pakistan a protector, with China providing cover much as it already does for North Korea. And we all know how loose the leash is for Kim Jung Il. Hello, but do we really want a nuclear-armed Pakistan where we have little or no influence?
The Obama Administration needs to stand tough and firm before we lose Pakistan to China.
Pakistan Tells U.S. It Must Sharply Cut C.I.A. Activities. NY Times
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has demanded that the United States steeply reduce the number of Central Intelligence Agency operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it put on hold C.I.A. drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan. The request was a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies.
In all, about 335 American personnel — C.I.A. officers and contractors and Special Operations forces — were being asked to leave the country, said a Pakistani official closely involved in the decision.
A C.I.A. spokesman, George Little, called the meetings “productive” and said the relationship between the two services “remains on solid footing.”
The Pakistani Army firmly believes that Washington’s real aim in Pakistan is to strip the nation of its prized nuclear arsenal, which is now on a path to becoming the world’s fifth largest, said the Pakistani official closely involved in the decision on reducing the American presence.
In a rare public rebuke, a White House report to Congress last week described the Pakistani efforts against the militants as disappointing.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Davis was involved in a covert C.I.A. effort to penetrate one militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has ties to Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, has made deepening inroads in Afghanistan, and is perceived as a global threat.
In addition to the withdrawal of all C.I.A. contractors, Pakistan is demanding the removal of C.I.A. operatives involved in “unilateral” assignments like Mr. Davis’s that the Pakistani intelligence agency did not know about, the Pakistani official said.
An American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said without elaborating that the Pakistanis had asked “for more visibility into some things” — presumably the nature of C.I.A. covert operations in the country — “and that request is being talked about.”
General Kayani has also told the Obama administration that its expanded drone campaign has gotten out of control, a Pakistani official said. Given the reluctance or inability of the Pakistani military to root out Qaeda and Taliban militants from the tribal areas, American officials have turned more and more to drone strikes, drastically increasing the number of attacks last year.
The drone campaign, which is immensely unpopular among the Pakistani public, had morphed into the sole preserve of the United States, the Pakistani official said, since the Americans were no longer sharing intelligence on how they were choosing targets. The Americans have also extended the strikes to new parts of the tribal region, like the Khyber area near the city of Peshawar.
“Kayani would like the drones stopped,” said another Pakistani official who met with the military chief recently. “He believes they are used too frequently as a weapon of choice, rather than as a strategic weapon.” Short of that, General Kayani was demanding that the campaign return to its original, more limited, scope and remain focused narrowly on North Waziristan, the prime militant stronghold.
General Kayani’s request to reduce the number of Special Operations troops by up to 40 percent would result in the closing of the training program begun last year at Warsak, close to Peshawar, an American official said.
Here are a few excerpts from a News Op Ed by Najam Sethi:
Who could have imagined that a serving commander of the Pakistan Army in the Waziristan badlands would have consciously knocked the popular myth that American drone strikes in Fata are part of the problem and not part of the solution of terrorism? But that’s exactly what happened on March 8.
Maj Gen Ghayur Mehmud, GOC 7th Div North Waziristan, did not mince words in his printed brief ‘“Myths and Rumours about US Predator Strikes” handed out to journalists from his command post in the area. He made two main points: (1) A majority of those killed by drone strikes are “hardcore Taliban or Al Qaeda elements, especially foreigners,” while civilian casualties are “few”. (2) But by scaring local populations and compelling displacement through migration, drone attacks create social and political blowbacks for law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the first consequence is good and welcome as part of the national “solution” strategy and the second is problematic and should be minimised because it creates local “problems” of a tactical nature.
Gen Mehmud hasn’t been fired or reprimanded. This means he had the green signal from the GHQ to make his brief. His statement explains the consciously nurtured “duality” of official policy versus popular position on drone strikes and confirms the Wikileaks summary that both secret authorisation and popular criticism go hand in hand in Pakistan where both civilian and military leaders are on the same page.
A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, a pro-US establishment paper, sums up the American position bluntly. It is titled: The Pakistan Ultimatum: choose whose side it is on. “Maybe the Obama Administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the U.S. will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan’s cooperation... Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India... After 9/11 Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.
So it’s time for Pakistan’s military leaders to make up their minds and deal with its consequences. They must be upfront with America – because it’s a greatly beneficial “friend” to have and a deadly “enemy” to make – and honest with Pakistanis – because they’re not stupid and can eventually see through duplicity, as they did in the Raymond Davis case.
The military cannot forever hunt with America and run with an anti-American Pakistani public they have helped to create. They cannot instruct the DG-ISPR in Islamabad to convey the impression of tough talking in Langley while asking the GOC 7 Division in Waziristan to give a realistic brief to the media about the critical benefits of drone strikes amidst all the “myths and rumours” of their negativity. This double-dealing confuses the public, annoys a strategic partner, and discredits the military all round when it is exposed.
The duality or contradiction in the military’s private and public position vis a vis its relationship with civilians in Pakistan and its relationship with America is a direct consequence of two inter-related factors: First, the military’s threat perception of India’s rising military capability, and second, its fear of losing control over India-centred national security policy to the civilians who are keen to start the process of building permanent peace in the region, thereby diluting the military’s pre-eminent role in Pakistan’s polity.----------
Here are excerpts from a CNN report on the closure of Shamsi airfield in Pakistan used by the CIA to launch drone strikes in FATA region:
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A senior Pakistani intelligence official told CNN Friday that U.S. military personnel have left a southern base said to be a key hub for American drone operations in the country's northwestern tribal areas.
It is the Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan's Balochistan Province, from which drones are said to take off and where they are refueled for operations against Islamic militants.
The development comes amid a public furor over American drone attacks, which have killed civilians.
A suspected U.S. drone strike Friday in the Pakistani tribal region killed 25 people, including eight civilians and 17 militants, a Pakistani intelligence source said. This came after another strike on March 17 killed 44 people, most of them civilians.
The departure of American personnel -- if confirmed -- would be significant because of increasing strain between Islamabad and Washington sparked by the continuing drone attacks and by the Raymond Davis affair, in which a CIA contractor fatally shot two Pakistani men in a Lahore neighborhood.
It has always been unclear how many drone bases the United States operates in or near Pakistan. But the Friday attack in North Waziristan that killed 25 people would indicate the United States maintains the capability to strike tribal areas with drones.
Carl Forsberg, research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War think tank, said he doesn't think the alleged move will affect the effort using drones to target the Haqqani Network and other militant groups holed up in the tribal region.
That's because many strikes have been conducted from closer bases, such as those across the Pakistani border in eastern Afghan provinces. He said the Pakistanis could be making the alleged move to appease a populace angry at the United States.
The southern air base, he said, doesn't appear to be integral to the tribal area fight and is probably a supporting base.
"It's not like the Pakistanis shut down the program," he said. "It's possible they want to do this as a means of pre-empting drone strikes in Balochistan," where there is a Taliban presence.
"The United States has an interest in going after the Taliban in Balochistan" he said, and in an ideal world the United States would like to target Taliban sanctuaries in that region with drones.
Also, he said, it's possible the Pakistanis are using pressure on the United States to offset any U.S. pressure on them.
He said it's no coincidence that the development emerged after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Islamabad.
In an interview that aired Wednesday on Pakistan's Geo TV, Mullen spoke forcefully about the Haqqani Network, which he said "very specifically facilitates and supports the Taliban who move in Afghanistan, and they're killing Americans."
Here's a Guardian Op Ed by Geoff Simons, author of Drone Diplomacy, on expanding use of drones for target killings from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Libya:
President Obama's authorisation of the use of missile-armed drones is a further escalation of the Libya conflict that is sure to result in yet more civilian casualties (Obama sends in Predator drones to help Misrata, 22 April). The evidence is overwhelming that drone usage in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere massively increases "collateral damage". On 6 May 2002 a drone killed 10 Afghan civilians in a car convoy. On 5 January 2006 a drone targeting al-Qaida's Ayman al-Zawahiri blew up a house in Pakistan. He wasn't there and eight civilians were killed. A week later a Predator ordered into action from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, destroyed three houses in Demadola, Pakistan, killing 22 civilians, including five women and five children.
On 19 May 2009 a drone attacked homes of villagers in North Waziristan thought to be aiding insurgents, killing 14 women and children. On 2 December 2010, Conflict Monitoring Centre in Islamabad issued a report charging that the US was deliberately ignoring Pakistani civilian deaths (2,043 over five years) caused by drones. On 23 January 2011, after 13 more civilians were killed, 2,000 tribesmen in North Waziristan held a protest against drone missile strikes.
In May 2010 Philip Alston, UN special representative on extrajudicial executions, highlighted the prevalence of a "PlayStation" mentality among drone operators in the US, in effect playing video games with distant and depersonalised targets. Alston, a professor of law at New York University, said: "I'm particularly concerned that the US asserts an ever-expanding entitlement to target individuals across the globe ... an ill-defined licence to kill without accountability."
Here's a Wall Street Journal report saying Pakistan wants Karzai to dump US:
Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan's president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally—for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.
Pakistan enjoys particular leverage in Afghanistan because of its historic role in fostering the Taliban movement and its continuing support for the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Washington's relations with Pakistan, ostensibly an ally, have reached their lowest point in years following a series of missteps on both sides.
Pakistani officials say they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard. "Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest," said a senior Pakistani official. "We're not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the U.S. If they're leaving, they're leaving and they should go."
The leaks about what went on at the April 16 meeting officials appear to be part of that effort. Afghans in the pro-U.S. camp who shared details of the meeting with The Wall Street Journal said they did so to prompt the U.S. to move faster toward securing the strategic partnership agreement, which is intended to spell out the relationship between the two countries after 2014. "The longer they wait…the more time Pakistan has to secure its interests," said one of the pro-U.S. Afghan officials.
Yet in a reflection of U.S. concerns about Pakistan's overtures, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Gen. David Petraeus, has met Mr. Karzai three times since April 16, in part to reassure the Afghan leader that he has America's support, and to nudge forward progress on the partnership deal, said Afghan and U.S. officials.
Formal negotiations on the so-called Strategic Partnership Declaration began in March. Details of talks between U.S. and Afghan negotiators so far remain sketchy. The most hotly contested issue is the possibility of long-term U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to buttress and continue training Afghan forces and carry on the fight against al Qaeda.
The opening of talks in March was enough to raise alarms among Afghanistan's neighbors. Senior Iranian and Russian officials quickly made treks to Kabul to express their displeasure at the possibility of a U.S. military presence after 2014, Afghan officials said. The Taliban have always said they wouldn't sign on to any peace process as long as foreign forces remain.
Mr. Gilani repeatedly referred to America's "imperial designs," playing to a theme that Mr. Karzai has himself often embraced in speeches. He also said that, to end the war, Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to take "ownership" of the peace process, according to Afghans familiar with what was said at the meeting. Mr. Gilani added that America's economic problems meant it couldn't be expected to support long-term regional development. A better partner would be China, which Pakistanis call their "all-weather" friend, he said, according to participants in the meeting. He said the strategic partnership deal was ultimately an Afghan decision. But, he added, neither Pakistan nor other neighbors were likely to accept such a pact.
Although a U.S. ally, Pakistan has its own interests in Afghanistan, believing it needs a pliant government in Kabul to protect its rear flank from India. Pakistani officials regularly complain of how India's influence over Afghanistan has grown in the past decade. Some Pakistani officials say the presence of U.S. and allied forces is the true problem in the region, not the Taliban.
Here's an Op Ed by a retired Indian diplomat KH Bhadrakumar published in The Hindu:
The fact of the matter is that the U.S. has been holding direct talks with the Taliban. It has been able to do this largely because of the extensive intelligence network it has created in Pakistan — which became possible because Islamabad allowed it to happen. That, ironically, enables Washington to dispense with the good offices of the Pakistani military and the ISI, and opt for direct interaction with the insurgent groups. The U.S. intelligence network within Pakistan has penetrated the range of insurgent groups — the Afghan Taliban, the “Pakistan Taliban,” and non-Taliban (Afghan and Pakistani) militant groups. Evidently, if the drone attacks are becoming more “result-oriented,” it is due to real-time intelligence inputs. During the six weeks of gruelling interrogation of U.S. intelligence operative Raymond Davis, the Pakistani military caught on to a host of home truths. By now, the Pakistani military would have a fair idea of the extent of the American intelligence network and its potential to play merry havoc by splintering insurgent groups, pitting one group against another, manipulating factionalism within groups, monitoring the terror network and, conceivably, even turning some of the insurgent groups into instruments of U.S. regional policies. (Tehran insists that the U.S. is indulging in covert operations in Pakistan and Iran.)
Suffice it to say the Pakistani military leadership wishes to draw a redline for the U.S.' covert operations so that Washington will be compelled to deal with militant Afghan groups through the single window of the ISI — within the parameters set by what old-timers call the “[Ronald] Reagan rules” during the Afghan jihad of the 1980s. There is hardly any leeway for Pakistan to compromise on this demand, which aims at revising the ground rules of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership in the conduct of the Afghan war (based hitherto on unspoken, unwritten, ever-deniable and flexible templates of collaboration).
Of course, Pakistan is justified in wondering what is there for it in this scenario. This wasn't how the war was supposed to end. Obviously, Washington's priorities will change once the intensity of the fighting declines. For one thing, the U.S. aid flow will decline. Once the U.S. strengthens its direct line to the insurgents, its dependence on the Pakistani military can only decline. But Pakistan's objective of gaining “strategic depth” in Afghanistan remains elusive. Equally, Pakistan will be left grappling with an assortment of militant groups along its long, disputed border with Afghanistan that have been highly radicalised by the U.S.-led war. These include some groups which have been alienated one way or the other by Pakistan's role as the U.S.' “key non-NATO ally.”
Pakistan faces an existential crisis in its Pashtun tribal tract that has borne the brunt of the U.S.-led war. As last Saturday's London Times report shows, there will be all sorts of attempts to muddy the waters. It suits the U.S. strategy to give the Afghan endgame the exaggerated overtones of an India-Pakistan turf war. The Indian establishment acted wisely to open dialogue with Pakistan in Mohali.
Here's an ABC News report on Navy Seals operation to kill Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan:
The Navy SEAL team of military operatives who killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on Sunday night was made up of some of the best-trained troops in the world. SEAL Team Six, the "Naval Special Warfare Development Group," was the main force involved in Sunday's firefight.
The daring operation began when two U.S. helicopters flew in low from Afghanistan and swept into the compound where Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding late Sunday night Pakistan time, or Sunday afternoon Washington time. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy SEALs disembarked from the helicopters as soon as they were in position and stormed the compound. The White House says they killed bin Laden and at least four others with him. The team was on the ground for only 40 minutes, most of that was time spent scrubbing the compound for information about al Qaeda and its plans.
The Navy SEAL team on this mission was supported by helicopter pilots from the 160th Special Ops Air Regiment, part of the Joint Special Operations Command. The CIA was the operational commander of the mission, but it was tasked to Special Forces.
U.S. Navy Sea, Air and Land Teams, commonly known as SEAL Teams, are the best of the best. Their creed is to be "a special breed of warrior ready to answer our nation's call."
In an interview with ARY TV, retired Pakistani Army chief Aslam Beg speculated that the Americans may have jammed Pakistani air defense system to avoid detection during the operation reportedly carried out by US helicopters flying in from Afghanistan.
Here are summary and salient points of Anatol Lieven's Pakistan: A Hard Country:
In the past decade Pakistan has emerged as a country of immense importance. Large, heavily populated, strategically placed between Iran, Afghanistan and India, Pakistan has since its creation just over sixty years ago been pulled in several different, irreconcilable directions.
In the wake of Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons, Osama Bin Laden's presence in its unpoliceable border areas, its shelter of the Afghan Taleban, and the spread of terrorist attacks by groups based in Pakistan to London, Bombay and New York, there is a clear need to understand this remarkable and highly contradictory place.
Far from seeing Pakistan as the failed state often portrayed in the media, Lieven's extraordinary new book instead treats it as a viable and coherent state that, within limits and by the standards of its own region rather than the West, does work. Lieven argues strongly against US actions that would risk destroying that state in the illusory search for victory in Afghanistan.
This work is based on a profound and sophisticated analysis of Pakistan's history and its social, religious and political structures. Lieven has interviewed hundreds of Pakistanis at every level of society, from leading politicians and soldiers to village mullahs and rickshaw drivers. In particular, his examination of the roots of popular sympathy for the Taleban in Pakistan draws on the testimony of people whose views are rarely consulted by Western analysts.
1. For most of the years since 1947, Pakistan has had higher economic growth rates than did India. Pakistan does not have the same pockets of extreme poverty, or for that matter the extreme wealth. The level of economic equality in Pakistan is relatively high.
2. Charitable donations run almost five percent of gdp, one of the highest percentages in the world and this reflects the emphasis on alms-giving in Islam.
3. A good quotation from a businessmen: “One of the main problems for Pakistan is that our democrats have tried to be dictators and our dictators have tried to be democrats.”
4. Agriculture pays virtually no tax and the government lends lots of money to businesses and doesn’t seriously ask for it back. As a result Pakistan collects far less revenue than does India, even comparing areas of comparable per capita income. If Pakistan were a state of India, it still would be considerably richer per capita than India’s poorest regions, such as Bihar.
5. The Pakistani state is nonetheless a lot more stable than most people think. In part this is because of the conservative structure of kinship and landholder power in the country.
6. The main threats to the future of Pakistan have to do with ecology and water, not politics.
7. The end of the book has a very interesting discussion about how U.S. actions in Pakistan affect different coalitions, feelings of humiliation, relative status relationships, etc.
Definitely recommended, as are Lieven’s books on the Baltics and Ukraine.
Here are some excerpts from "Playing the China Card: Has the Obama Administration Miscalculated in Pakistan?" by Dilip Hiro, as published in The Huffingon Post:
Washington often acts as if Pakistan were its client state, with no other possible patron but the United States. It assumes that Pakistani leaders, having made all the usual declarations about upholding the “sacred sovereignty” of their country, will end up yielding to periodic American demands, including those for a free hand in staging drone attacks in its tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. This is a flawed assessment of Washington’s long, tortuous relationship with Islamabad.
A recurring feature of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been its failure to properly measure the strengths (as well as weaknesses) of its challengers, major or minor, as well as its friends, steadfast or fickle. To earlier examples of this phenomenon, one may now add Pakistan.
That country has an active partnership with another major power, potentially a viable substitute for the U.S. should relations with the Obama administration continue to deteriorate. The Islamabad-Washington relationship has swung from close alliance in the Afghan anti-Soviet jihad years of the 1980s to unmistaken alienation in the early 1990s, when Pakistan was on the U.S. watch list as a state supporting international terrorism. Relations between Islamabad and Beijing, on the other hand, have been consistently cordial for almost three decades. Pakistan’s Chinese alliance, noted fitfully by the U.S., is one of its most potent weapons in any future showdown with the Obama administration.
Another factor, also poorly assessed, affects an ongoing war. While, in the 1980s, Pakistan acted as the crucial conduit for U.S. aid and weapons to jihadists in Afghanistan, today it could be an obstacle to the delivery of supplies to America’s military in Afghanistan. It potentially wields a powerful instrument when it comes to the efficiency with which the U.S. and its NATO allies fight the Taliban. It controls the supply lines to the combat forces in that landlocked country.
Taken together, these two factors make Pakistan a far more formidable and independent force than U.S. policymakers concede publicly or even privately.
The Supply Line as Jugular
Angered at the potential duplicity of Pakistan in having provided a haven to Osama bin Laden for years, the Obama administration seems to be losing sight of the strength of the cards Islamabad holds in its hand.
To supply the 100,000 American troops now in Afghanistan, as well as 50,000 troops from other NATO nations and more than 100,000 employees of private contractors, the Pentagon must have unfettered access to that country through its neighbors. Among the six countries adjoining Afghanistan, only three have seaports, with those of China far too distant to be of practical use. Of the remaining two, Iran -- Washington’s number one enemy in the region -- is out. That places Pakistan in a unique position.
Currently about three-quarters of the supplies for the 400-plus U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan -- from gigantic Bagram Air Base to tiny patrol outposts -- go overland via Pakistan or through its air space. These shipments include almost all the lethal cargo and most of the fuel needed by U.S.-led NATO forces. On their arrival at Karachi, the only major Pakistani seaport, these supplies are transferred to trucks, which travel a long route to crossing points on the Afghan border. Of these, two are key: Torkham and Chaman.
Operated by some 4,000 Pakistani drivers and their helpers, nearly 300 trucks and oil tankers pass through Torkham and another 200 through Chaman daily. Increasing attacks on these convoys by Taliban-allied militants in Pakistan starting in 2007 led the Pentagon into a desperate search for alternative supply routes.
Here's a Wall Street Journal report on insider involvement by Pakistani military personnel in terror attacks:
ISLAMABAD—Pakistani investigators probing last week's attack by the Taliban on a naval base in Karachi have detained a former navy commando and two other people, in further signs of concern about the infiltration of radical Islamist groups into the country's armed forces.
Pakistani investigators Friday picked up Kamran Ahmed Malik, 36 years old, along with his brother, Zaib Ahmed, from a middle-class neighborhood of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, according to security officials in the city.
Another person was earlier detained in Faisalabad, an industrial town near Lahore, and held for questioning. None of the men have been formally charged.
Mr. Malik, a former commando, was dismissed from the navy in 2003 on disciplinary grounds after serving in the force for almost ten years. He had been treated for mental disorders before being dismissed, security officials said.
Investigators are looking into whether Mr. Malik developed a network inside the Mehran base, where he was stationed while serving in the navy.
"We are probing whether he helped the terrorists in providing the details of the base or if he was in touch with any of his former colleagues inside," a Lahore-based security official said. "We are also investigating about his possible contacts with extremist and militant groups."
Mr. Malik was suspected by Pakistani officials to have links with al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Punjab-based sectarian group linked to the Pakistan Taliban. Mr. Malik couldn't be reached for comment.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said the investigations are focusing on whether the militants had been provided help from inside.
Pakistan's navy is generally regarded as less permeated by conservative Islamic groups than other branches of the armed forces.
The push by radical groups to indoctrinate members of the armed forces with Islamist teachings, begun in earnest in the 1980s during the military rule of Gen. Zia ul-Haq, was centered largely on the army.
Other security services have been dealing with mounting radicalism. In January, the governor of Punjab province was shot dead by a member of his elite police bodyguard, who was a member of an Islamist group.
"I believe that the lower cadre of the armed forces has been infiltrated by Islamic militant groups, though at a small level till now," says defense analyst, Saad Mohammad, a retired army brigadier. "There is an urgent need to carry out screening of lower cadre and change recruitment policy."
The latest attack was the biggest yet on Pakistan's navy, which isn't on the front lines of Pakistan's war against Taliban militants, although it takes part in a U.S.-led antiterrorism naval task force in the Arabian Sea.
In the weeks before the Mehran siege, the Taliban had targeted naval buses in Karachi with roadside bombs, possibly because they provided a soft target. More commonly, militants have struck at army targets, sometimes using insiders to help carry out attacks.
The army for three years has been fighting the Pakistan Taliban in the country's mountainous northwest border regions with Afghanistan.
In October 2009, Islamic militants attacked the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, leading to a 22-hour commando operation. It was masterminded by a militant commander who had served in the army medical corps.
Former President Pervez Musharraf twice escaped assassination bids in 2003 planned by Islamic militants in which serving army personnel were implicated.
There is a split in the Obama admin on CIA's drone attack campaign in Pakistan, according to the Wall Street Journal:
WASHINGTON—Fissures have opened within the Obama administration over the drone program targeting militants in Pakistan, with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in the Central Intelligence Agency's aggressive pace of strikes.
Such a move would roll back, at least temporarily, a program that President Barack Obama dramatically expanded soon after taking office, making it one of the U.S.'s main weapons against the Pakistan-based militants fighting coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The program has angered Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants. The debate over drones comes as the two sides try to repair relations badly frayed by the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January, a wave of particularly lethal drone strikes following Mr. Davis's release from Pakistani custody in March, and the clandestine U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.
The White House National Security Council debated a slowdown in drone strikes in a meeting on Thursday, a U.S. official said. At the meeting, CIA Director Leon Panetta made the case for maintaining the current program, the official said, arguing that it remains the U.S.'s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies.
The result of the meeting—the first high-level debate within the Obama administration over how aggressively to pursue the CIA's targeted-killing program—was a decision to continue the program as is for now, the U.S. official said.
Another official, who supports a slowdown, said the discussions about revamping the program would continue, alongside talks with Pakistan, which is lobbying to rein in the drone strikes.
Most U.S. officials, including those urging a slowdown, agree the CIA strikes using the pilotless aircraft have been one of Washington's most effective tools in the fight against militants hiding out in Pakistan. The weapons have killed some top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and left militants off balance in a swath of mountainous territory along the Afghan border with Pakistan where they once operated with near impunity. No one in the administration is advocating an outright halt to the program.
The pushback by some U.S. officials against the drone program comes as U.S. diplomats and officials serving in Pakistan express dissatisfaction with what they see as the generally hostile tenor of the U.S.'s policy toward Pakistan.
These diplomats and officials say the deep vein of anti-Americanism that runs through Pakistani society forces its elected and military leaders, including army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to distance themselves from Washington to avoid a popular backlash.
"What's worrying a lot of us is whether we're turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries," said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.
A senior U.S. official said the key is figuring out what level of drone strikes can satisfy U.S. security needs and at the same be tolerated by the Pakistanis. "I think we underestimate the importance of public opinion in Pakistan to our detriment," the official said. The Pakistanis have "a legitimate concern."
Islamabad has proposed narrowing the scope of the CIA program to target militants that have been agreed to by both sides, a Pakistani official said.
US-NATO War Served Al-Qaeda Strategy
Thursday 9 June 2011
by: Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Truthout.org
Al-Qaeda strategists have been assisting the Taliban fight against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan because they believe that foreign occupation has been the biggest factor in generating Muslim support for uprisings against their governments, according to the just-published book by Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistani journalist whose body was found in a canal outside Islamabad last week with evidence of having been tortured.
That Al-Qaeda view of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, which Shahzad reports in the book based on conversations with several senior Al- Qaeda commanders, represents the most authoritative picture of the organisation's thinking available to the public.
Shahzad's book "Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban" was published on May 24 – only three days before he went missing from Islamabad on his way to a television interview. His body was found May 31.
Shahzad, who had been the Pakistan bureau chief for the Hong Kong- based Asia Times, had unique access to senior Al-Qaeda commanders and cadres, as well as those of the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban organisations. His account of Al-Qaeda strategy is particularly valuable because of the overall ideological system and strategic thinking that emerged from many encounters Shahzad had with senior officials over several years.
Shahzad's account reveals that Osama bin Laden was a "figurehead" for public consumption, and that it was Dr. Ayman Zawahiri who formulated the organisation's ideological line or devised operational plans.
Shahzad summarises the Al-Qaeda strategy as being to "win the war against the West in Afghanistan" before shifting the struggle to Central Asia and Bangladesh. He credits Al-Qaeda and its militant allies in North and South Waziristan with having transformed the tribal areas of Pakistan into the main strategic base for the Taliban resistance to US-NATO forces.
But Shahzad's account makes it clear that the real objective of Al-Qaeda in strengthening the Taliban struggle against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan was to continue the US-NATO occupation as an indispensable condition for the success of Al-Qaeda's global strategy of polarising the Islamic world.
Shahzad writes that Al-Qaeda strategists believed its terrorist attacks on 9/11 would lead to a US invasion of Afghanistan which would in turn cause a worldwide "Muslim backlash". That "backlash" was particularly important to what emerges in Shahzad's account as the primary Al-Qaeda aim of stimulating revolts against regimes in Muslim countries.
Shahzad reveals that the strategy behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the large Al-Qaeda ambitions to reshape the Muslim world came from Zawahiri's "Egyptian camp" within Al-Qaeda. That group, under Zawahiri's leadership, had already settled on a strategic vision by the mid-1990s, according to Shahzad.
The Zawahiri group's strategy, according to Shahzad, was to "speak out against corrupt and despotic Muslim governments and make them targets to destroy their image in the eyes of the common people". But they would do so by linking those regimes to the United States.
Here's an Indian analyst MK Bhadrakumar on the CIA penetration and military mutiny in Pakistan:
...The NYT report today is unprecedented. The report quotes US officials not less than 7 times, which is extraordinary, including “an American military official involved with Pakistan for many years”; “a senior American official”, etc. The dispatch is cleverly drafted to convey the impression that a number of Pakistanis have been spoken to, but reading between the lines, conceivably, these could also probably have been indirect attribution by the American sources. A careful reading, in fact, suggests that the dispatch is almost entirely based on deep briefing by some top US intelligence official with great access to records relating to the most highly sensitive US interactions with the Pak army leadership and who was briefing on the basis of instructions from the highest level of the US intelligence apparatus.
The report no doubt underscores that the US intelligence penetration of the Pak defence forces goes very deep. It is no joke to get a Pakistani officer taking part in an exclusive briefing by Kayani at the National Defence University to share his notes with the US interlocutors - unless he is their “mole”. This is like a morality play for we Indians, too, where the US intelligence penetration is ever broadening and deepening. Quite obviously, the birds are coming to roost. Pakistani military is paying the price for the big access it provided to the US to interact with its officer corps within the framework of their so-called “strategic partnership”. The Americans are now literally holding the Pakistani army by its jugular veins. This should serve as a big warning for all militaries of developing countries like India (which is also developing intensive “mil-to-mil” ties with the US). In our country at least, it is even terribly unfashionable to speak anymore of CIA activities. The NYT story flags in no uncertain terms that although Cold War is over, history has not ended.
What are the objectives behind the NYT story? In sum, any whichever way we look at it, they all are highly diabolic. One, US is rubbishing army chief Parvez Kayani and ISI head Shuja Pasha who at one time were its own blue-eyed boys and whose successful careers and post-retirement extensions in service the Americans carefully choreographed fostered with a pliant civilian leadership in Islamabad, but now when the crunch time comes, the folks are not “delivering”. In American culture, as they say, there is nothing like free lunch. The Americans are livid that their hefty “investment” has turned out to be a waste in every sense. And. it was a very painstakingly arranged investment, too. In short, the Americans finally realise that they might have made a miscalculation about Kayani when they promoted his career.
The instability in the region may suit the US’ geo-strategy for consolidating its (and NATO’s) military presence in the region but it will be a highly self-centred, almost cynical, perspective to take on the problem, which has dangerous, almost explosive, potential for regional security. Also, who it is that is in charge of the Pakistan policy in Washington today, we do not know. To my mind, Obama administration doesn’t have a clue since Richard Holbrooke passed away as to how to handle Pakistan. The disturbing news in recent weeks has been that all the old “Pakistan hands” in the USG have left the Obama administration. It seems there has been a steady exodus of officials who knew and understood how Pakistan works, and the depletion is almost one hundred percent. That leaves an open field for the CIA to set the policies.
US designing new creatures to join predator drones, according to NY Times:
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Two miles from the cow pasture where the Wright Brothers learned to fly the first airplanes, military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, to the size of insects and birds.
The base’s indoor flight lab is called the “microaviary,” and for good reason. The drones in development here are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight,” said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill.
From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones, the Cessna-sized workhorses that have dominated unmanned flight since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less widely known are the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it.
The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined.
A Tsunami of Data
The future world of drones is here inside the Air Force headquarters at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., where hundreds of flat-screen TVs hang from industrial metal skeletons in a cavernous room, a scene vaguely reminiscent of a rave club. In fact, this is one of the most sensitive installations for processing, exploiting and disseminating a tsunami of information from a global network of flying sensors.
The numbers are overwhelming: Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the hours the Air Force devotes to flying missions for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance have gone up 3,100 percent, most of that from increased operations of drones. Every day, the Air Force must process almost 1,500 hours of full-motion video and another 1,500 still images, much of it from Predators and Reapers on around-the-clock combat air patrols.
Large or small, drones raise questions about the growing disconnect between the American public and its wars. Military ethicists concede that drones can turn war into a video game, inflict civilian casualties and, with no Americans directly at risk, more easily draw the United States into conflicts. Drones have also created a crisis of information for analysts on the end of a daily video deluge. Not least, the Federal Aviation Administration has qualms about expanding their test flights at home, as the Pentagon would like. Last summer, fighter jets were almost scrambled after a rogue Fire Scout drone, the size of a small helicopter, wandered into Washington’s restricted airspace.
The pressures on humans will only increase as the military moves from the limited “soda straw” views of today’s sensors to new “Gorgon Stare” technology that can capture live video of an entire city — but that requires 2,000 analysts to process the data feeds from a single drone, compared with 19 analysts per drone today.
"In case you haven’t been following the news: last year’s parliamentary election was so chaotic and flawed that it resulted in the near-total disenfranchisement of Afghanistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority, which makes up a healthy 40 percent of the population. Many Pashtuns either didn’t vote, because of sympathy or support for the Taliban and dislike of the Afghan government, or couldn’t vote, because of Taliban threats and violence. As a result, in some provinces in the south and east where Pashtuns dominate, not a single Pashtun was elected to parliament. For Karzai, that was a disaster, especially since he’s trying to reach out to his Pashtun base as part of his search for a deal with the Taliban and its allies. Earlier this year, a special court appointed by Karzai ruled that sixty-two members of parliament, mostly non-Pashtuns, were elected fraudulently, a step toward installing Pashtun members in their place. Not surprisingly, Karzai’s opponents in parliament, especially Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras who oppose Karzai’s outreach to the Taliban, cried foul, challenged the constitutionality of the court, and demanded the impeachment of Karzai.
If the war in Afghanistan ever made any sense at all, this stuff makes it clear that it's close to hopeless."
Government in Afghanistan Nears Collapse
Former US Intelligence Chief Blair calls for end to drone strikes, according to The Washington Post:
For months officials in Pakistan have been demanding an end to CIA drone strikes in the country, and the brokering of a new relationship that would make them equal partners in the pursuit of terrorist groups.
Now they have an unlikely ally in their demands: the former director of U.S. intelligence agencies, Dennis C. Blair.
Speaking at a conference in Aspen, Colo., this week, Blair said the Obama administration should suspend the drone campaign, and resume firing missiles only in cases when there is agreement from Pakistan.
“We should offer to the Pakistanis to put two hands on the trigger,” Blair said, arguing that unilateral attacks have undermined American standing abroad and badly damaged the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.
Blair’s prescription comes at a time when many senior U.S. intelligence officials credit the sustained drone campaign, as well as the killing of Osama bin Laden, with bringing al-Qaeda to the brink of collapse.
But Blair said his view is based in part on a belief that the United States is at a turning point in the fight against al-Qaeda and like-minded groups.
The drone strikes and other counter-terror measures have effectively stripped al-Qaeda and its affiliates of their ability to execute out large-scale plots.
But “by having that [drone] campaign dominate our overall relationship…we are following a policy that cannot take us from that second layer of small attacks down to no attacks,” Blair said. Only deeper cooperation with Pakistan and other countries can do that, he said.
Blair didn’t say whether he had advocated such a position while still serving as Director of National Intelligence, before he was abruptly fired by President Obama last year.
Blair also offered a sobering bit of intelligence budget math. Given the swollen state of intelligence spending, and the relatively small membership of al-Qaeda and other groups, Blair said the United States is spending $20 billion a year to go after an enemy that has about 4,000 people in its ranks.
Former U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday the U.S. should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.
Here's an excerpt from an AP report on Blair opposing drone attacks in Pakistan:
He pointed out that 17 Americans have been killed inside the US by terrorists in the decade since Sept. 11, including the 14 killed in the Ft. Hood massacre, while car accidents and daily crime combined have killed some 1.5 million people during the same 10 years.
Longest 33 day pause in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008, reports Long War Journal:
The covert US drone program that hunts al Qaeda and allied terrorists operating in Pakistan's tribal areas has entered its longest pause since the strikes were ramped up in the summer of 2008.
The US has not launched a Predator or Reaper airstrike against terrorist targets in Pakistan for 33 days, according to statistics compiled by The Long War Journal. The last strike took place on Nov. 16 in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan.
US officials have previously told The Long War Journal that the program is "on hold" due to deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan from the fallout of a cross-border incident by NATO forces in the tribal agency of Mohmand that resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani officers and soldiers.
One US official told The Long War Journal there is concern that another US strike on Pakistani soil will "push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return." Another official said, however, that the US would attack if "an extremely high value target pops up." [See LWJ report, US drone strikes 'on hold' in Pakistan: US official, for more information on the reasons behind the current pause.]
The 33-day-long gap in strikes is the longest since another pause that took place in the spring of 2009 (28 days, May 16 to June 14). US officials attributed that gap to operational issues with the unmanned aircraft.
The third- and fourth-longest pauses also took place earlier this year, during a time of high tensions with Pakistan. A 27-day-long gap in strikes from Jan. 23 to Feb. 20 occurred after CIA contractor Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis in Lahore. The US ended the pause in strikes the day Davis was returned to the US.
And a 25-day-long gap from March 17 to April 13 took place after the US killed dozens of Pakistanis in a strike in North Waziristan. That strike killed a senior Taliban leader and 11 fighters along with an estimated 30 tribesmen who were said to be negotiating mineral rights in the area. Several members of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the military's intelligence arm, which supports the Taliban and other terror groups, were rumored to have also been killed in the strikes.
US officials had previously denied that the two pauses earlier this year were due to tensions with Pakistan, and instead cited operational issues with the unmanned aircraft, to include "weather." There have been significant pauses during that seasonal time period in previous years.
But one US official told The Long War Journal that the two long pauses earlier this year were indeed related to political problems with Pakistan encountered during those time frames.
"If it isn't clear by now, the airstrikes targeting AQAM (al Qaeda and allied movements) have been constrained by deteriorating relations [with Pakistan]," a senior US official said.
Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/12/us_drone_strikes_in.php#ixzz1h2mntuvO
Dr. Afridi, a Pakistani physician working for Save the Children, was used by the CIA to spy on bin Laden in Abbottabad before the US raid. To put it in perspective, here's interesting piece on how CIA operates through various commercial and non-profit organizations in foreign nations:
Everyone knows that the CIA funds various covert operations throughout the world. They do this through various front organizations including known CIA operations groups which funnel funds to “various non-governmental agencies” (NGOs) which then use those funds to achieve objectives both foreign and domestic. There is a tremendous history of this funneling to quasi-private organizations … but it’s also interesting how overt some of it is. Much of how the CIA operates has bubbled up due to failures and successes around the world in countries like Venezuela, Egypt, Pakistan and thanks to some American whistle-blowers.
The #1 thing you have to understand about this…all of this taxpayer money (your money) that is being spent to further geopolitical and corporate goals is not just money spent to overthrow foreign governments…a good amount of that money is being spent to influence the hearts and minds in America too.
America is a case study of how to successfully let the tail wag the dog; there are a LOT of journalists, editors and influential people on the take (propaganda assets). And they’re is always a concerted effort to punish those of us who share any semblance of truth....
A recent CBS 60 Minutes segment on CIA agent Hank Crumpton confirmed how CIA agents operate under cover in various countries.
"A particular U.S. company can provide cover for a CIA officer who's deployed overseas. A U.S. executive who's traveled abroad can come back and agree to a debriefing from the CIA. A foreign institution may have a relationship with an American institution. And that might be a pathway for the CIA to acquire foreign intelligence."
Here's a piece by Noam Chomsky titled "Somebody Else's Atrocity":
In his penetrating study “Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights,” international affairs scholar James Peck observes, “In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us”—whoever “us” is.
Almost any moment in history yields innumerable illustrations. Let’s keep to the past few weeks.
On May 10, the Summer Olympics were inaugurated at the Greek birthplace of the ancient games. A few days before, virtually unnoticed, the government of Vietnam addressed a letter to the International Olympic Committee expressing the “profound concerns of the Government and people of Viet Nam about the decision of IOC to accept the Dow Chemical Company as a global partner sponsoring the Olympic Movement.”
Dow provided the chemicals that Washington used from 1961 onward to destroy crops and forests in South Vietnam, drenching the country with Agent Orange.
These poisons contain dioxin, one of the most lethal carcinogens known, affecting millions of Vietnamese and many U.S. soldiers. To this day in Vietnam, aborted fetuses and deformed infants are very likely the effects of these crimes—though, in light of Washington’s refusal to investigate, we have only the studies of Vietnamese scientists and independent analysts.
Joining the Vietnamese appeal against Dow are the government of India, the Indian Olympic Association, and the survivors of the horrendous 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of history’s worst industrial disasters, which killed thousands and injured more than half a million.
Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the disaster, was taken over by Dow, for whom the matter is of no slight concern. In February, Wikileaks revealed that Dow hired the U.S. private investigative agency Stratfor to monitor activists seeking compensation for the victims and prosecution of those responsible.
Another major crime with very serious persisting effects is the Marine assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004.
Women and children were permitted to escape if they could. After several weeks of bombing, the attack opened with a carefully planned war crime: Invasion of the Fallujah General Hospital, where patients and staff were ordered to the floor, their hands tied. Soon the bonds were loosened; the compound was secure.
The official justification was that the hospital was reporting civilian casualties, and therefore was considered a propaganda weapon.
Much of the city was left in “smoking ruins,” the press reported while the Marines sought out insurgents in their “warrens.” The invaders barred entry to the Red Crescent relief organization. Absent an official inquiry, the scale of the crimes is unknown.
If the Fallujah events are reminiscent of the events that took place in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, now again in the news with the genocide trial of Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, there’s a good reason. An honest comparison would be instructive, but there’s no fear of that: One is an atrocity, the other not, by definition.
As in Vietnam, independent investigators are reporting long-term effects of the Fallujah assault.
Medical researchers have found dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia, even higher than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uranium levels in hair and soil samples are far beyond comparable cases.
One of the rare investigators from the invading countries is Dr. Kypros Nicolaides, director of the fetal-medicine research center at London’s King’s College Hospital. “I’m sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities,” Nicolaides says.
The lingering effects of a vastly greater nonatrocity were reported last month by U.S. law professor James Anaya, the U.N. rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.....
Here's a piece from WSW on Jimmy Carter's NY Times Op Ed:
Ex-US president indicts Obama as assassin
27 June 2012
A column published Monday in the New York Times by Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, constitutes an extraordinary indictment of the Obama administration for engaging in assassinations and other criminal violations of international law and the US Constitution.
Titling his column “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” Carter writes: “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.”
Referring to the infamous provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by Obama on December 31 of last year, Carter writes: “Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or ‘associated forces,’ a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress.” He goes on to refer to “unprecedented violations of our rights” through warrantless wiretapping and electronic data mining.
Elaborating on the US drone strikes, the former president adds, “Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable… We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.”
Carter’s column appeared on the same day that Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations testified before the UN Human Rights Commission, denouncing US drone attacks on his country in which “thousands of innocent people, including women and children, have been murdered.” He said that in 2010 alone, 957 Pakistanis were killed.
Carter goes on to indict the administration for the continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where, he notes, out of 169 prisoners “half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom,” and others “have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.”
In the few cases where prisoners have been brought before military tribunals, he notes, the defendants “have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers.” He continues: “Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of ‘national security.’”
Twelve years after the stolen presidential election of 2000, the central lesson of that crucial episode in American political life has been driven home ever more forcefully: there exists within the US corporate and political establishment no significant constituency for the defense of democratic rights and constitutional methods.
The unprecedented gulf between a ruling financial oligarchy and the masses of working people—which has grown uninterruptedly throughout this period—is wholly incompatible with such rights and such methods.
Carter’s words are a warning. The threat of an American police state and the use of the murderous methods employed by US imperialism abroad against the working class at home is real and growing. The working class must prepare accordingly, mobilizing its independent political power against the capitalist profit system from which these threats arise.
Here's NY Times on Pak civilian victims of US drone strikes:
A new report on targeted killing by C.I.A. drones in Pakistan’s tribal area concludes that the strikes have killed more civilians than American officials have acknowledged, alienated Pakistani public opinion and set a dangerous precedent under international law.
The report, by human rights researchers at the Stanford and New York University law schools, urges the United States to “conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices” including “short- and long-term costs and benefits.” It also calls on the administration to make public still-secret legal opinions justifying the strikes.
Human rights groups have previously reached similar conclusions, and the report draws heavily on previous reporting, notably by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism in London. But the study is among the most thorough on the subject to date and is based on interviews with people injured by drone-fired missiles, their family members, Pakistani officials, lawyers and journalists.
Research is difficult on the ground in Pakistan’s dangerous tribal regions, where militant groups are situated and most drone strikes occur, and the law school teams did not visit them. They did, however, meet in Pakistani cities with 69 people who had been injured in strikes, witnessed strikes or surveillance drones, or had relatives who were witnesses. The report includes excerpts from interviews with a dozen witnesses.
Sarah Knuckey, a veteran human rights investigator who led the N.Y.U. team, said she was particularly struck by the pervasive anxiety that residents of the tribal area described as a result of hearing drones buzzing overhead and knowing that a strike could come at any time. She said Pakistani journalists and humanitarian workers who work in the area described the same fear.
She also noted the pattern of second drone strikes after initial strikes, evidently targeting rescuers and relatives responding to a site. One humanitarian organization, which she said the authors agreed not to name for security reasons, told them its policy is to wait at least six hours after a drone strike before visiting the site.
American officials, including President Obama, have strongly defended the drone strikes, arguing that the remotely piloted aircraft are by far the most precise weapon for eliminating terrorists. They have said that both militants and Pakistani officials have exaggerated the number of civilian deaths.
Many experts on Al Qaeda believe that the strikes have hugely weakened the core Qaeda organization in Pakistan, though some believe that the backlash against the strikes has probably drawn some new recruits to the terrorist network. Many military experts support the government’s claim that using conventional airstrikes or troops on the ground to attack terrorist compounds would be likely to kill far more civilians than the drones have.
The full report, “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan,” whose main authors are Ms. Knuckey, from N.Y.U., and James Cavallaro and Stephan Sonnenberg, of Stanford, and an accompanying video by the filmmaker Robert Greenwald, can be found here: livingunderdrones.org/.
Here's a Wired.com report on UN finding US drone strikes in Pakistan illegal:
...Ben Emmerson spent much of the week in Pakistan soliciting the views of senior government and elected officials about the drone strikes, part of his ongoing effort to investigate the relatively new method of targeted killing. He said in a statement on Friday that he also met with representatives of the tribal areas of western Pakistan that have borne the overwhelming brunt of the drone campaign. The officials underscored to Emmerson that Pakistan doesn’t consent to the U.S. drone effort, and denied extending the tacit consent that its military — with whom Emmerson did not consult — has previously provided.
“As a matter of international law the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State,” Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, said in the statement. “It involves the use of force on the territory of another State without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”
Emmerson’s statement is carefully worded. He portrays himself as conveying Pakistan’s concerns, rather than vouching for their particulars. But it’s still the strongest statement yet by an international official calling for an end to a campaign of targeted killing that briefly flared back up earlier this year. And to call the strikes an unwarranted violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is tantamount to saying the U.S. is waging a war of aggression.
“The Pashtun tribes of the FATA area have suffered enormously under the drone campaign,” Emmerson’s statement continues, referring to the tribal areas. “It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other States.”
If the drone strikes continue into the next Pakistani government, Emmerson warned, the U.S. drone effort could further destabilize the nuclear power, undermining a key U.S. strategic goal at the heart of the drone strikes. He urged patience with a Pakistani military effort to eradicate al-Qaida’s allies in the tribal areas — one that official Washington has long since written off as unserious.
Significantly and subtly, Emmerson raised doubts over repeated U.S. claims that the targeting efforts behind the drones kill terrorists and spare civilians. Last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a staunch drone advocate, claimed that the drones kill only “single digits” worth of civilians annually. Many of the CIA’s strikes, termed “signature strikes,” kill people believed to fit a pattern of extremist behavior, rather than killing specific, known terrorists.
“In discussions with the delegation of tribal Maliks from North Waziristan the Special Rapporteur was informed that drone strikes routinely inflicted civilian casualties, and that groups of adult males carrying out ordinary daily tasks were frequently the victims of such strikes,” Emmerson continued. “They emphasized that to an outsider unfamiliar with Pashtun tribal customs there was a very real risk of misidentification of targets since all Pashtun tribesmen tended to have similar appearance to members of the Pakistan Taliban, including similar (and often indistinguishable) tribal clothing, and since it had long been a tradition among the Pashtun tribes that all adult males would carry a gun at all times. They considered that civilian casualties were a commonplace occurrence and that the threat of such strikes instilled fear in the entire community.”...
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