Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Once hailed by President Ronald Reagan as "moral equivalents of America's founding fathers" and described by US Congressman Charlie Wilson as “goodness personified”, the Haqqanis of Afghanistan are now bedeviling the US military efforts in Afghanistan and straining US-Pakistan alliance as never before.

In addition to echoing and justifying the latest American allegations against Pakistani spy agency ISI of supporting the "Haqqani network", the New York Times has some additional interesting facts about the Haqqanis and the history of US ties with what the Times now describes as "the Brutal Haqqani Crime Clan".

Here are some of the key elements of the Times story:

1. The Haqqani clan is led by veteran Afghan fighter Jalaluddin Haqaani, who was welcomed to the White House by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and his two sons: Sirajuddin and Badruddin.

2. The group has an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

3. The Haqqanis will outlast the United States troops in Afghanistan and command large swaths of territory there once the shooting stops.

4. One former American intelligence official, who worked with the Haqqani family in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, said he would not be surprised if the United States again found itself relying on the clan. “You always said about them, ‘best friend, worst enemy.’ ”

5. Over the past five years, with relatively few American troops operating in eastern Afghanistan, the Haqqanis have run what is in effect a protection racket for construction firms — meaning that American taxpayers are helping to finance the enemy network.

6. Maulavi Sardar Zadran, a former Haqqani commander, calls this extortion “the most important source of funding for the Haqqanis,” and points out that a multiyear road project linking Khost to Gardez in southeastern Afghanistan was rarely attacked by insurgent forces because a Haqqani commander was its paid protector.

7. The Haqqanis are Afghan members of the Zadran tribe, but it is in the town of Miram Shah in Pakistan’s tribal areas where they have set up a ministate with courts, tax offices and radical madrasa schools producing a ready supply of fighters. They secretly run a network of front companies throughout Pakistan selling cars and real estate, and have been tied to at least two factories churning out the ammonium nitrate used to build roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

8. American intelligence officials believe that a steady flow of money from wealthy people in the gulf states helps sustain the Haqqanis, and that they further line their pockets with extortion and smuggling operations throughout eastern Afghanistan, focused in the provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. Chromite smuggling has been a particularly lucrative business, as has been hauling lumber from Afghanistan’s eastern forests into Pakistan.

9. For Americans who worked with them in the 1980s, the fact that the Haqqanis are now fighting their former American allies is no shock. The Russians were the foreign occupiers before; now the Americans are. “The Haqqanis have always been the warlords of that part of the country,” said Mr. Sageman, the former C.I.A. officer. “They always will be.”

10. The new urgency for a political settlement in Afghanistan has further limited Washington’s options for fighting the Haqqani network. During high-level discussions last year, Obama administration officials debated listing the group as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” which allows for some assets to be frozen and could dissuade donors from supporting the group. While some military commanders pushed for the designation, the administration ultimately decided that such a move might alienate the Haqqanis and drive them away from future negotiations.

As the Afghan war becomes less and less popular at home, and the Obama administration works toward significant troop withdrawals before the next presidential elections, I see a new high level desperation at the Pentagon in Washington and the CIA headquarters at Langley, particularly since the latest series of daring Taliban attacks in the heart of the Afghan Capital Kabul. This desperation is the reason why they are now scapegoating Pakistan to cover up their own failures and those of their Afghan allies. I just hope that this CYA exercise in America does not trigger a new wider war in the region that does not serve the best interests of the Americans or the Pakistanis. I think it's time for real diplomats to take over the crucial US-Pakistan relationship from the spies and warriors to guide it to a better outcome for all parties involved.

Here's a video clip of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on US role in creating militancy in Pakistan:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

FATA Face-off Fears

Facts and Myths About Afghanistan and Pakistan

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Appeasement in Swat
ISI Rogues-Real or Imagined?

Daily Carnage in Pakistan

King's Hypocrisy

India's Guantanamos abd Abu Ghraibs

Obama McCain Debate on Pakistan Policy


Haseeb said...

Your conclusion is right on target. These accusations are just political posturing to pressure Pakistan into taking larger burden of war for US. It is a shame that USA keep putting blame of its failures on ISI while ISI cannot protect itself from vicious attacks.

Anonymous said...

Right on target Mr. Haq. If we attack the Haqqanis we lose the support of Pashtoons in our country and will alienate them. If we don't they will take over Afghanistan when the American leave. This could be counter productive as well because then they would want to increase their influence in all Pashtoon majority areas like KP. America as well as Pakistan are in a catch 22 situation and there seems to be no exit in sight anywhere for both the countries.

Mayraj said...

This report from the Open Society Foundations examines how the recent, dramatic increase in night raids by international forces has affected Afghan civilians and fueled even deeper hostility towards such operations. Broader targeting strategies have put more civilians in harm’s way, as have mass, indiscriminate detentions of civilians, leaving Afghans feeling increasingly caught between the two sides of the conflict. Civilian casualties, detentions, cultural offense, property destruction, and lack of accountability continue to provoke popular and political blowback that risks seriously undermining relations with the Afghan government as well as the international community’s long-term security and political goals.
The Cost of Kill/Capture: Impact of the Night Raid Surge on Afghan Civilians recommends that international forces 1) cease targeting noncombatants and the indiscriminate detention of civilians; 2) employ alternative detention methods and law enforcement tactics, particularly whenever detaining non-combatants; and 3) implement reforms to improve transparency and accountability over night raids operations.

The Cost of Kill/Capture: Impact of the Night Raid Surge on Afghan Civilians

Haseeb said...

At the bottom of NYT's article this last paragraph summarizes cluelessness of this US administration,

["Is there any formula for Pakistan to agree to stop supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan and instead help broker and be satisfied with a political settlement?” asked Karl W. Eikenberry, who served as both America’s top military commander in Afghanistan and its ambassador to the country.
“We don’t know the answer to that question,” he said."].

USA is giving India all the nuclear perks while always saying negative things about Pakistani interests. Even in the business relationships India gets much better deals from US than Pakistan does. USA does all this while calling Pakistan its ally and then turns around and invades Pakistan in killing OBL without Pakistan's knowledge. With all this going on why do they believe that Pakistan will fully cooperate??? My guess is that US government is not clueless but is dishonest and really has no interest in Pakistani welfare. US past actions do support this opinion.

Anonymous said...

the qestions that need to asked is what do we do with Haqanis once US leaves Afghanistan? Do we encourage them to take over Afghanistan? Does this risk radicalizing the population of Afghanistan and fata-kp thus creating a never ending prob for Pakistan? Will Haqanis nature Al Qaeda again afghanistan and thus isolate Pakistan internationally? Should Pakistan then take on Haqanis alienating pashtoon in afghanistan and fata-kp? Which option is in Pakistan's best interest? Can Haqanis be ever tamed and reformed by Pakistan after US leaves the region?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Riaz haqqanis might look as a tool for furthering Pakistani interests in Afghanistan in the short run but in the long run they wouldnt be satisfied with power only in afghanistan. I think US has realised their mistake of breeding terrorists in this part of the world after 9/11 but will Pakistan also realise it?

Mayraj said...

Freedom Isn't Free at the State Department
Peter Van Buren, TomDispatch: "On the same day that more than 250,000 unredacted State Department cables hemorrhaged out onto the Internet, I was interrogated for the first time in my 23-year State Department career by State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and told I was under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information.... Why me? It's not like the Bureau of Diplomatic Security has the staff or the interest to monitor the hundreds of blogs, thousands of posts, and millions of tweets by Foreign Service personnel. The answer undoubtedly is my new book, 'We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.'"
Read the Article

"Van Buren is being harassed because he included a link from his blog to some cables describing the US dealing weapons to Moammar Qaddafi, including this account of John McCain and Lindsey Graham sucking up to the dictator."
The Government Once Again Harrasses Others to Hide Its Own Failures

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Washington Post story indicating that Adm Mullen overstated the case when he called the Haqqanis a "veritable arm of the ISI":

U.S. officials have long accused Pakistan of providing support to the Haqqani network and allowing it to operate along the Afghanistan border with relative impunity, a charge that Pakistani officials reject.

But Mullen seemed to take the allegation an additional step, saying that the Haqqani network “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” a phrase that implies ISI involvement and control.

That interpretation might be valid “if we were judging by Western standards,” said a senior U.S. military official who defended Mullen’s testimony. But the Pakistanis “use extremist groups — not only the Haqqanis — as proxies and hedges” to maintain influence in Afghanistan.

“This is not new,” the official said. “Can they control them like a military unit? We don’t think so. Do they encourage them? Yes. Do they provide some finance for them? Yes. Do they provide safe havens? Yes.”

That nuance escaped many in Congress and even some in the Obama administration, who voiced concern that the escalation in rhetoric had inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

U.S. officials said that even evidence that has surfaced since Mullen’s testimony is open to differences in interpretation, including cellphones recovered from gunmen who were killed during the assault on the U.S. Embassy.

One official said the phones were used to make repeated calls to numbers associated with the Haqqani network, as well as presumed “ISI operatives.” But the official declined to explain the basis for that conclusion.

The senior Pentagon official treated the assertion with skepticism, saying the term “operatives” covers a wide range of supposed associates of the ISI. “Does it mean the same Haqqani numbers [also found in the phones], or is it actually uniformed officers” of Pakistan’s spy service?

U.S. officials said Mullen was unaware of the cellphones until after he testified.

Pakistani officials acknowledge that they have ongoing contact with the Haqqani network, a group founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was one of the CIA-backed mujaheddin commanders who helped drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Now in poor health, Haqqani has yielded day-to-day control of the network to his son, Sirajuddin.

Shams said...

Mike Mullen is retiring and Afghanistan is still out of control. He has to save his skin and Pakistan presents itself as a good scapegoat due to its internal strife and lawlessness.

There is hardly any chance that the US will end aid, or attack Pakistan. The US does not attack armed countries, but only the unarmed ones like Iraq or Afghanistan. The US will not end aid since Pakistani military are acting as road runners for NATO supplies.

Pakistan is more likely to end from its own internal blowout. If that happens, I plan not to cry for that Evita.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from the BBC on rising violence in Afghanistan this year:

There has been a 39% rise in violent incidents in Afghanistan so far this year compared with the same period last year, a UN report says.

In the past three months alone, there have been 7,000 violent incidents in the country, says the report by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The violence mainly involves gunfights and attacks using improvised bombs.

The report said most of the incidents were in the south and south-east, many of them near to Kandahar city.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Kabul says the document does not make comforting reading for Nato or the Afghan government.

He says the figures seem to suggest that Taliban attacks are falling in places where Nato is bolstering its numbers, but violence and insecurity is spreading to other parts of the country.

The report says the average monthly rate of violent incidents for the year is 2,108 and details figures for violent incidents in June (2,626), July (2,605) and August (2,306).

Mr Ban, who presented the quarterly update to the Security Council, blames most of the violence on insurgents.

"The increase can be attributed, in the context of overall intensified fighting, mainly to the use by anti-government elements of landmine-like pressure-plate improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks, in violation of international humanitarian law," says Mr Ban's report.

Over June, July and August, the number of civilians killed or injured in attacks rose by 5% compared with the same quarter last year.

The secretary general said at least 77% of those casualties were caused by the government's enemies.

His report also says there was an increase in the number of so-called complex attacks, where a group of suicide bombers and gunmen assault a high-profile building.

Kabul has seen several of those recently including those targeting the US embassy and the British Council.

The secretary general also notes what he calls a disturbing trend towards attacking targets such as hospitals or mosques.

For example, more than 30 civilians were killed in an attack on a hospital in the province of Logar in July.

Riaz Haq said...

US Senator Lindsey Graham threatened US military action Pakistan after Adm Mullen testimony alleging that Pakistan supports attacks by Haqqanis in Afghanistan. Here are some comments by Prof Juan Cole of Univ of Michigan on Graham's statement:

Here are some problems with Graham’s startling suggestion.

The US does not have a prayer of succeeding in Afghanistan without a Pakistani partner. Pakistan is a complex place, and its civilian politicians have a different agenda than its conventional army, which in turn has a different agenda from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Even within the ISI, there appear to be secret rogue cells. Some ISI officers appear to be hooked up with the Haqqani Network and with terrorist organizations such as the Lashkar-i Tayyiba. But Pakistan has lost thousands of troops fighting the more militant Afghan and Pakistani-Pashtun fundamentalist groups, and it is not a task the US could take on by itself.

Pakistan is a nuclear state. The United States has never fought a major military engagement with a nuclear-armed country, and it would be unwise to begin now. Would you really want to take the risk that they might feel cornered and find a way to deliver a warhead against an American target? In the Cold War, the nuclear standoff was called ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’ (MAD). There is no reason to think that such considerations have lapsed or do not obtain when the US is facing a state with a smaller nuclear arsenal.

Pakistan is a close ally of China as well as trying to keep an alliance with the US. Graham’s sort of talk will have the effect of pushing Islamabad further into the arms of Beijing. China is unlikely to stand idly by as one of its major geopolitical assets in its contest with India is taken out by the United States. That is, US-Pakistan war would very likely become US-China war.

Pakistan has a regular army of 610,000 men, and can call up about 500,000 reserves if it needs to. Some 15,000 Taliban in Afghanistan have been pinning down tens of thousands of US troops, so what would happen if they faced over a million?

Pakistan’s population is at least 170 million. The US was defeated by an Iraqi insurgency in a small country of 25 million; imagine how a country 7 times more populous could tie it down.
So now Iraq has been devastated and made supine and the US has to be on a war footing with Iran in order to “protect” Iraq from the latter. But Iraq’s Shiite government likes Iran and doesn’t see it as a threat, so Graham would be “protecting” Iraq against the will of Iraqis. Moreover, Graham doesn’t seem to think he needs to ask the Iraqi parliament whether it will permit any US troops to remain in Iraq at all.

Graham keeps trying to find a pretext for the next war, dismayed at the prospect of the US slipping into peace. He had tried to get up a war against Iran, but hasn’t had any takers.

Just as Graham wants to keep a division in Iraq because of Iran, he wants permanent bases in Afghanistan. And now he is looking for a fight with Pakistan, representing himself as “protecting” the US-installed Afghan government from Islamabad. But most Pashtuns would choose Pakistan over Graham any day of the week.

Pakistan’s alliance with the US is a marriage of convenience. Pakistan wants to see some groups, such as the Old Taliban and the Hikmatyar Hizb-i Islami, much weakened. But cells within the Inter-Serices Intelligence appear determined to retain the Haqqani Network, based in North Waziristan, as a means of projecting authority into Afghanistan. That emphasis makes Pakistan both an ally to the US in fighting some Taliban, but makes it only a partial ally, since it has its own reasons to use some of those Taliban to project its own authority and prepare for the peace after the US leaves. This difficult kind of alliance is nothing new in US history. Abruptly turning on such a complex ally and starting yet another war is madness.

Riaz Haq said...

There is some backpedaling in Washington on Mullen accusations against Pakistani after a strong reaction in Islamabad. Here's an excerpt from a Reuters' report:

Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, softened his rhetoric on Friday, telling a ceremony marking the end of his tenure that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan was "vexing and yet vital."

"I continue to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan, and no stable future in the region without a partnership," said Mullen, who sometimes referred to himself as Pakistan's best friend in the U.S. military.

Obama acknowledged on Friday that Pakistan's relationship to the militant Haqqani network, believed responsible for the Embassy attack, is murky. But he urged Islamabad to tackle the problem anyway.

"The intelligence is not as clear as we might like in terms of what exactly that relationship is," Obama said in a radio interview, when asked about the Haqqani network.

"But my attitude is, whether there is active engagement with Haqqani on the part of the Pakistanis or rather just passively allowing them to operate with impunity in some of these border regions, they've got to take care of this problem," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Reuters' blog post talking about Pakistan nuclear weapons as a deterrent not just against India but also the United States:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have been conceived and developed as a deterrent against mighty neighbour India, more so now when its traditional rival has added economic heft to its military muscle. But Islamabad may also be holding onto its nuclear arsenal to deter an even more powerful challenge, which to its mind, comes from the United States, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who led President Barack Obama’s 2009 policy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan and the United States are allies in the war against militancy, but ties have been so troubled in recent years that some in Pakistan believe that the risk of a conflict cannot be dismissed altogether and that the bomb may well be the country’s only hedge against an America that looks less a friend and more a hostile power.

Last year the Obama administration said there could be consequences if the next attack in the West were to be traced backed to Pakistan, probably the North Waziristan hub of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups.No nation can ignore a warning as chilling as that, and it is reasonable to expect the Pakistan military to do what it can to defend itself.

Riedel in a piece in The Wall Street Journal says Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani may well have concluded that the only way to hold off a possible American military action is the presence of nuclear weapons on its soil and hence the frenetic race to increase the size of the arsenal to the point that Pakistan is on track to become the fourth largest nuclear power after the United States, Russia and China.

Last month’s military action in Libya, the third Muslim nation attacked by the United States in the ten years since 9/11, can only heighten anxieties in Pakistan. Indeed Libya holds an opposite lesson for Pakistan’s security planners. This is a country that gave up a nuclear weapons programme - ironically assisted by Pakistan’s disgraced nuclear scientist A.Q.Khan – under a deal with the West following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Suppose for a moment that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had held on its nuclear weapons, would there have been air strikes then ?

Indeed none of the three countries attacked by the United States had nuclear weapons including, as it turned out, Iraq although the whole idea of invading it was to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction. You could further argue that this perhaps is the one reason why the United States hasn’t taken on North Korea because of its advanced nuclear programme with a bomb or two in the basement.

Kayani and the generals have therefore concluded the only reason the United States may hesitate to use force against Pakistan, should ties break down completely, will be because of the 100-odd weapons it has. It only makes sense to expand it further to make the Americans think twice before launching an action.

But such nuclear brinkmanship cannot come without consequences of its own, and one of them will be India reviewing its nuclear posture. A Pakistan battling a deadly Islamist militancy and beset with economic difficulties but on a fast track to expand its nuclear weapons programme is a nightmare scenario. Riedel says India has exercised restraint on its weapons program me, but seeing an acceleration in the Pakistani efforts, it may well step up production of its own.....

Riaz Haq said...

Adm Mullen knew and said nothing about US contacts with Haqqanis when he accused Pakistan prior to retiring, according to ABC:

Eleven days ago, the United States' top military official seemed to sum up Washington's current relationship with Pakistan when he accused the country's premiere intelligence service of supporting insurgents who attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

But what Admiral Mike Mullen did not say is that the U.S. had secretly met with a member of that same insurgent group -- known as the Haqqani network -- as part of efforts to find a political end to the war in Afghanistan, and that the institution that helped set up the meeting was the same intelligence agency he had condemned: the Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence, or I.S.I.

The meeting, according to two current U.S. officials and a former U.S. official, was held in the months before the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. embassy and NATO's military headquarters, which U.S. officials have blamed on the Haqqani network. In his congressional testimony Sept. 22, Mullen called the Haqqanis a "veritable arm" of the I.S.I., but failed to mention that the I.S.I. facilitated the meeting between the U.S. and Ibrahim Haqqani, a son of founder Jalaluddin Haqqani and a major player in the group, according to a senior U.S. official.

The meeting suggests there is much more to the recent spat between Islamabad and Washington while the violence in Afghanistan has increased as U.S. troops have begun to withdraw. At stake, U.S. officials said, is how they will try to reduce the violence in Afghanistan and to what extent Pakistan will be allowed a say.

From Pakistan's point of view, military and intelligence officials have long argued that their connections with the Haqqani network -- going back decades in the Pakistani tribal areas and in Afghanistan -- can facilitate the only way to end the war: through political negotiation. But for U.S. officials, even as the debate in Washington continues over the best way to wind down the war, there was a high-level decision after the embassy attack to name and shame the I.S.I. for supporting the Haqqanis, hoping it would work where no previous pressure or incentives placed on Pakistan had worked, according to a senior Western official.
The fact that the U.S. and Pakistani intelligence service set up the meeting with Haqqani and discussed how to stop a Haqqani attack suggests a much more nuanced -- and very often, confounding -- relationship with Pakistan's intelligence service than Adm. Mullen and other military officials have publicly admitted in the last two weeks.

The Pakistanis, in turn, have tried to portray themselves as the victims of a smear campaign headed by Mullen. As Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wrote in the Washington Post Friday, "While we are accused of harboring extremism, the United States is engaged in outreach and negotiations with the very same groups."

Anonymous said...

A story in NY Times by Eric Schmitt on the contradictory nature of U.S. policies toward Afghan insurgent groups. Schmitt reports that U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon met secretly with Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to pressure Pakistan to do more to tamp down the Haqqani Network just a month before U.S. officials reportedly met with Haqqani leaders to discuss their possible integration into the Afghan government.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a CBS interview with Pak UN ambassador Haroon:

U.S.-Pakistan relations are at an all-time low. Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussein Haroon, speaking to CBS News about the allegations of Pakistani-ISI links to insurgents, said that Pakistan wants to end terrorism in his country and that Washington and Afghanistan are blaming Pakistan, making it the scapegoat for a conflict which victimizes Pakistan more than it hurts the U.S. or Afghanistan.

"For the past few months it's been the U.S. who keeps trying to put pressure by saying Pakistan this or Pakistan that," Haroon said. "That policy needs reappraisal. You need to talk as allies, don't talk down to us. This is not going to succeed. Politics should be transactional, not coercive. We want success. We don't want this mess on our doorstep for the next 100 years. It's not of our making, not of our choosing, not of our doing. We've paid the highest price for this war."

As the U.S. assesses the projected dates for the drawdown of U.S. troops and the recent spike in some types of violent incidents, a CBS News poll found that, although most Americans support the military, the American public thinks the United States should not be fighting in Afghanistan and the war has not been worth it.

Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador, who has been in his country's foreign service all his adult life, said bluntly that the U.S. had ignored the lessons of history in deciding to, and how to, invade Afghanistan.

"The Soviets lost Afghanistan by not learning the lessons of history... History is again repeating itself because the Americans have repeated the mistakes made by the Soviets and everyone else."

Haroon said U.S. leaders "overestimated their own capabilities and underestimated those of the Afghan guerillas."

The ambassador accuses the U.S. of underestimating the Taliban.

"I believe this needs to be reassessed because misappreciation of the enemy has always led to military setbacks."

Adding to his list of alleged U.S. failures, Haroon said American military commanders failed to assess the physical terrain on which they were planning to fight.

All the errors, he said, "contributed to the impasse which has resulted in Afghanistan."

As U.S.-Pakistan relations sour and anti-U.S. troop sentiment in Pakistan rises, Haroon offered some advice: "You cannot solve Afghanistan without Pakistan and Pakistan cannot be free of its own troubles without Afghanistan first being free of all its troubles. That is the conundrum."

"Whenever anyone has set a date for withdrawal in Afghanistan, before the army has effectively left their borders, their imposed government falls and runs with them towards the border. You have undermined yourselves completely... by setting an exit date."
"We're getting treated like we're a pariah," complained Haroon. "Very, very sad shape, and it is not what we expect of a great country like America."

"Do you know why in New York, why nothing happened (this year) on September 11? You gave us a list of three people, 'help us find them,' you said. We went out of our way and did find them. The White House said fantastic, we have the people that could have harmed us and, by God's grace, nothing happened. Three key people were handed over on the 5th of September. Were people told in America that the reason that New York is safe is because Pakistan helped us capture these people?"

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent Christine Fair opinion piece in Time magazine:

Early in the war, Pakistan was praised for its indispensable assistance — likely because the cooperation centered on a common foe: al-Qaeda. But as Pakistan watched the U.S. grow closer to India — not just passing the U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal but also encouraging India's presence in Afghanistan — it concluded that its interests and those of the U.S. were on a collision course.

In part because of that realization, Pakistan supported the Taliban's newly invigorated insurgency in Afghanistan. The Americans, however, resisted putting pressure on Pakistan for fear of compromising cooperation against al-Qaeda. Thus an ironic equilibrium was established: Pakistan received increasing financial "rewards" for its support of the global war on terrorism while it subsidized the very groups killing thousands of Americans and allies in Afghanistan.

With the American endgame in Afghanistan looming, U.S. officials can no longer ignore this duplicity. Pakistan's influence over the Afghan Taliban and other allies like the Haqqani network is a key obstacle to Afghans' being able to secure their country themselves. What is becoming increasingly clear is that a strategic relationship is not possible when strategic interests diverge so starkly. Observers on both sides are quietly asking whether the other is a problematic partner, an outright foe or both.

Read more:,28804,2096478_2096477_2096476,00.html #ixzz1a9K6tjzy

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent report in The News about India's war preps against Pakistan:

First, in the context of current events, is Afghan President Karzai’s recent visit to New Delhi and the signing of a strategic accord with India at the heels of ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s assassination. While one side of the equation that has been brought into the spotlight shows that the accord will pave the way for India to train the Afghan armed forces and police, the other side that remains veiled could contain clauses that may affect Pakistan’s internal and external security. According to policymakers here in Islamabad, the accord requires careful thought at all levels. The critical point to remember is that India has no role whatsoever in Afghanistan yet Indian interference and policies are at the root of many of the problems that Pakistan is facing today. “This accord is a short-sighted narrow-minded move that would harm Afghanistan, both in the short and long term,” warned a regional expert while evaluating the accord and its impact on the region.

Second, the Indian army is holding a massive two-month long winter exercise at the Pakistan border, bringing a potent strike corps, the Bhopal based 21 Corps, in the Rajasthan desert. The exercise involves battle tanks and artillery guns besides Indian Air Force assets. Intriguingly, ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ Corps will be aiming to build its capacities for “breaching the hostile army’s defences and capturing important strategic assets deep inside enemy territory.” The exercise is the third of its kind this year. The summer war game Vijayee Bhava, in the Rajasthan desert, involved the Ambala-based 2 Kharga Corps, and the Pine Prahar exercise in the plains of Punjab was staged by the Jalandhar-based 11 Vajra Corps, both held in May this year. The question is: why is India holding three massive war games in a year at the Pakistan border that aim at capturing important strategic assets deep inside the enemy territory?

Third, a key development across the border has been the deployment of Su-30 fighter aircraft near the Pakistan border. The significance of the fact that the aircraft is the most sophisticated in the region and that it has been deployed along the Pakistan border at this crucial juncture is not lost on policymakers in Islamabad.

Two other related but under-reported events have been the extension of the runway at Kargil by India and its decision to acquire six more C-130J aircraft, the latest version of the intractable workhorse, reinforcing fears in Islamabad that New Delhi is preparing for a war that may engulf the whole region.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting claims made in Financial Times about secret Zardari-Obama exchange as reported by The News:

..According to an analyst this obviously meant that President Zardari was considering firing General Kayani. The offer was sent through a prominent American citizen of Pakistani origin, investment banker and businessman Mansoor Ijaz. In an article in FT which was almost a confession, Mansoor Ijaz admitted that he received the message from a senior Pakistani diplomat and sent it to Admiral Mullen and claimed that his channel was used to “bypass the Pakistan Army and intelligence channels.”
“Gen Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, and his troops were demoralised by the embarrassing ease with which US special forces had violated Pakistani sovereignty. Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s feared spy service, was charged by virtually the entire international community with complicity in hiding bin Laden for almost six years. Both camps were looking for a scapegoat; Mr Zardari was their most convenient target.

“The diplomat made clear that the civilian government’s preferred channel to receive Mr Zardari’s message was Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff. He was a time-tested friend of Pakistan and could convey the necessary message with force not only to President Barack Obama, but also to Gen Kayani.

“In a flurry of phone calls and emails over two days, a memorandum was crafted that included a critical offer from the Pakistani president to the Obama administration: “The new national security team will eliminate ‘Section’ S of the ISI charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network, etc. This will dramatically improve relations with Afghanistan.”

“The memo was delivered to Admiral Mullen at 14.00 hours on May 10. A meeting between him and Pakistani national security officials took place the next day at the White House. Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs, it seems, neither heeded the warning, nor acted on the admiral’s advice.

“On September 22, in his farewell testimony to the Senate armed services committee, Admiral Mullen said he had “credible intelligence” that a bombing on September 11 that wounded 77 US and Nato troops and an attack on the US embassy in Kabul on September 13 were done “with ISI support.” Essentially, he was indicting Pakistan’s intelligence services for carrying out a covert war against the US - perhaps in retaliation for the raid on bin Laden’s compound, or perhaps out of strategic national interest to put Taliban forces back in power in Afghanistan so that Pakistan would once again have the “strategic depth” its paranoid security policies against India always envisioned.

“Questions about the ISI’s role in Pakistan have intensified in recent months. The finger of responsibility in many otherwise inexplicable attacks has often pointed to a shadowy outfit of ISI dubbed “S-Wing”, which is said to be dedicated to promoting the dubious agenda of a narrow group of nationalists who believe only they can protect Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

“The time has come for the US State Department to declare S-Wing a sponsor of terrorism under the designation of “foreign governmental organisations”. Plans by the Obama administration to blacklist the Haqqani network are toothless and will have no material impact on the group’s military support and intelligence logistics; it is S-Wing that allegedly provides all of this in the first place. It no longer matters whether ISI is wilfully blind, complicit or incompetent in the attacks its S-Wing is carrying out. S-Wing must be stopped...........

Riaz Haq said...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riaz Haq said...

Here are parts of an Op Ed by Robert Dreyfuss published in The Nation:

The closing may yet be reversed, but it’s a sign of Pakistan’s ability to undermine or even shut down the US war effort. (It’s not really possible to supply US forces by using the so-called northern route through Russia and the ’Stans, not is it possible to airlift supplies such as fuel, heavy machinery, and construction equipment in sufficient quantities.) As always, Pakistan has the United States over a barrel.

Worse, the Pakistan government is threatening to boycott the December 5 international conference on Afghanistan, at which 1,000 delegates from fifty countries are scheduled to convene in Germany to discuss plans to wind down the war. As everyone who’s paying attention knows, winding down the war—removing 30,000 American troops in 2012 and taking out the rest by 2014—means getting Pakistan and its cat’s-paw, the Taliban, to the bargaining table. If Pakistan doesn’t play, it’s game over.

The most intelligent comment on the crisis comes from Vali Nasr, a regional expert who served as a consultant to the late Af-Pak coordinator Richard Holbrooke. Nasr told the New York Times that there is not one but two policies toward Afghanistan, the first one being the White House and State Department policy of seeking a political accord, and the second being the Department of Defense and the military command policy of killing the enemy. “It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog. U.S. commanders on the ground are deciding U.S.-Pakistan policy.” That may exaggerate the point slightly, since the White House is in charge, but it does point to the fact that if a war can’t be won militarily, it’s probably best not to let the military try to win it.

Crabby comments from US politicians, including Senators John Kyl and Dick Durbin, badly miss the point. Rather than “get tough” with Pakistan, the United States has to recognize that when and if the war ends Pakistan will be the dominant player in Afghanistan. So the United States needs Pakistan’s help. At the same time, the United States has to led a diplomatic surge to get Russia, India and Iran to rein in their warlike allies among the anti-Karzai Northern Alliance, so that some sort of deal can be struck to stabilize Afghanistan after the United States leaves. Otherwise, the country will be plunged into a full-scale civil war such as the one that raged in the early 1990s after the USSR withdrew and before the Taliban took over to end the bloodshed.

Riaz Haq said...

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

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

Here's another excerpt as published in Washington Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg Op Ed titled "No More Bullying Pakistan" written by former State Dept official Vali Nasr:

It took eight months, but the U.S. has finally apologized for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in a firefight on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

With that, the U.S. military is again able to use routes through Pakistan to supply its forces in Afghanistan without paying exorbitant fees. Plus the threat that Pakistan will bar U.S. drone strikes is for now moot.
However, the main implication of the apology, a triumph of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over both the White House and the Pentagon, is that it ends the experiment of the U.S. trying to bully Pakistan into submission.

The clash in November between U.S. and Pakistani forces was a mess, with miscommunication on both sides but fatalities on only one. Pakistan, still seething over the U.S. breach of its sovereignty in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, closed U.S. military supply routes to Afghanistan when the U.S. initially refused to apologize. The U.S., in turn, froze $700 million in military assistance and shut down all engagement on economic and development issues. In a further deterioration of ties, the Pakistani Parliament voted to ban all U.S. drone attacks from or on Pakistani territory.
No Sympathy

The Pakistanis held firm in their insistence on an apology. Officials at the Pentagon thought the case didn’t merit one. Many had no sympathy for the Pakistanis, whom they regarded as double-dealers for stoking the insurgency in Afghanistan and providing haven to the notorious extremists of the Haqqani Network. The White House feared that an apology would invite Republican criticism. Throughout the crisis, Clinton and her senior staff argued that the U.S. should apologize. She supported re-engaging with Pakistan to protect a critical relationship while also holding Pakistan accountable for fighting the Taliban and other extremists, a point she has raised in each of her conversations with Pakistani leaders.

Clinton’s recommendations were contrary to the policy the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency put in place in early 2011. Relations had soured when the Pakistanis held CIA operative Raymond Davis after he shot two Pakistanis. Frustrated with Pakistan’s foot-dragging on counterterrorism, the two agencies successfully lobbied for a strategy to reduce high-level contacts with Pakistan, shame Pakistan in the news media, and threaten more military and intelligence operations on Pakistani soil like the bin Laden assassination. It was a policy of direct confrontation on all fronts, aimed at bending Pakistan’s will.

It failed. Pakistan stood its ground. Far from changing course, Pakistan reduced cooperation with the U.S. and began to apply its own pressure by threatening to end the drone program, one of the Obama administration’s proudest achievements.
The conclusion: Open conflict with Pakistan was not an option. It was time to roll back the pressure.

The apology is just a first step in repairing ties deeply bruised by the past year’s confrontations. The U.S. should adopt a long-term strategy that would balance U.S. security requirements with Pakistan’s development needs. Managing relations with Pakistan requires a deft policy -- neither the blind coddling of the George W. Bush era nor the blunt pressure of the past year, but a careful balance between pressure and positive engagement. This was Clinton’s strategy from 2009 to 2011, when U.S. security demands were paired with a strategic dialogue that Pakistan coveted. That is still the best strategy for dealing with this prickly ally.

Anonymous said...

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

Riaz Haq said...

Here's WSJ on Haqqanis trying to make peace among TTP factions:

As the Taliban's cease-fire ended on Thursday, the internecine bloodshed has created a new hurdle in the talks process.

"Our interlocutors are badly split. Unless they can resolve this quickly, things aren't looking very bright," Rustam Shah Mohmand, one of the government representatives at the negotiations, told The Wall Street Journal. "The government is also dragging its feet."

"It appears that we're losing momentum. I fear that we're heading toward a dead end."

People with knowledge of the Pakistan army say the institution has concerns about the way the talks are dragging on.

Meanwhile, the U.S., which has targeted militants in the tribal area, has ceased drone strikes against the Pakistani Taliban since the negotiations policy was set, under an understanding between Islamabad and Washington, officials say.

No talks have been held between officials and the Pakistani Taliban for over a week. The group has made demands—such as the designation of a safe area for the militants where security forces won't attack them and the freeing of hundreds of their prisoners—that the government will find politically hard to meet, while offering little in return.

The talks have decreased but not stopped attacks. A market was bombed on the outskirts of Islamabad on Wednesday, killing at least 21 people. The Pakistani Taliban denounced the bombing, saying it was wrong to target civilians. It is unclear whether one of its own factions carried out the attack.

Militants and officials said the Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent group also based in Pakistan's tribal areas, is trying to patch up differences between the warring Taliban factions, which come from the Mehsud tribe.

The Haqqani group has repeatedly intervened in internal Taliban disputes, fearing that such fighting will impede its ability to use the tribal areas as a sanctuary, analysts said.

"The Taliban shura [leadership] will now find it more difficult to come to a unanimous view," said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a veteran journalist who was formally part of the government negotiating team. "They will not give up on the option of talks at this stage. Both the Taliban and the government want to continue talks."

The infighting involves a faction led by Khan Said, known as Sajna, and a rival group led by a commander called Shehryar over leadership of the Taliban's powerful Mehsud wing. The conflict dates back to the enmity between two Mehsud commanders who were killed by U.S. drone strikes last year. Their deaths led to a militant outside the tribe, Mullah Fazlullah, taking control of the Taliban for the first time.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan ZarbeAzb operation targets all militants including Haqqanis:

Pakistan will go after all militant groups in its unfolding operation in the North Waziristan tribal area, including insurgents who target neighboring Afghanistan, in what would be a major shift in policy, the defense minister said.

The minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, told The Wall Street Journal that the military offensive in North Waziristan would target the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Afghan Taliban that has been based in the tribal area for more than three decades. The Haqqanis are seen by the U.S. and Afghan governments as one of the main threats to stability in Afghanistan.

Pakistan launched its offensive in North Waziristan with airstrikes three weeks ago, moving on to ground operations on June 30. North Waziristan, part of Pakistan's wild tribal areas along the Afghan border, is a sanctuary for Pakistani Taliban, Afghan insurgents and al Qaeda. Washington has pushed Islamabad for years to take control of the region.

"We will eliminate all sorts of terrorists from our area without any exceptions," said Mr. Asif. "If there are exceptions made, then the purpose of this operation will be defeated. It has to be without making any differentiation between our Taliban and their Taliban, or good Taliban and bad Taliban."

Pakistan has long been accused by neighbors and U.S. officials of backing jihadist groups as its proxies in Afghanistan and India.

Some Pakistani officials in the past have described the Afghan Taliban and some other jihadist groups as "good," while the government combats the more extreme "bad" militant organizations that turned on the Pakistani state.

In particular, Washington and Kabul have repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Haqqani network.

But Mr. Asif insisted Pakistan has changed its policy.

"They are all bad Taliban. There are no more good Taliban," he said.

Islamabad is trying to persuade Kabul to attack Pakistani Taliban groups that have taken refuge in eastern Afghanistan before and during the North Waziristan operation. Afghan authorities have indicated they won't act unless they see Pakistan fighting Kabul's enemies, such as the Haqqanis.

"If we have to get rid of these people, we have to get rid of them in totality, because this is something plaguing this area for three decades. Both sides of the Durand line, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we are in dire trouble," said Mr. Asif, referring to the border with Afghanistan.

However, such claims in the past of a tougher approach to militancy have been met with skepticism inside and outside Pakistan.

Saifullah Mahsud, director of the FATA Research Center, an independent think tank in Islamabad, said that according to his information, the Haqqani group had left North Waziristan before the operation.

"Pakistan has the opportunity of establishing its writ in North Waziristan now and stopping militants returning there," said Mr. Mahsud.

Joe said...

the caption on the picture is quite disingenuous, to put it mildly. In fact, some might call it a blatant lie. Taliban was never at the White House. That's the afghan mujahideen meeting president Reagan a decade before the existence of Taliban. I did take the time to read your "musings" on this matter. Haqqani was never at the White House or in the US. I've posted a pakistani link below (using my phone so link might not be complete). The 2 people ISI loved the most (haqqani and hekmatyar) weren't in that meeting and neither was the Taliban.

Riaz Haq said...

Joe: "Taliban was never at the White House. That's the afghan mujahideen meeting president Reagan a decade before the existence of Taliban."

Where did the Taliban come from?

Did they fall from the sky?

Did Khalis and his sons not become Taliban?

Were they not called "mujahideeen" when they fought against the Soviet Union?

Read "The Taliban" by Ahmed Rashid, the authority on Taliban, to learn.

Riaz Haq said...

Bhuttos relations with Taliban go back to 1974 when ZAB used Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in response to Afghanistan's Dawood Khan's use of militants against Pakistan.

In 1974, Daoud signed one of two economic packages that would enable Afghanistan to have a far more capable military because of increasing fears of lacking an up-to-date modern army when compared to the militaries of Iran and Pakistan. Daoud hosted General Secretary of the National Awami Party led by Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak,and others like Juma Khan Sufi, Baluch guerriallas etc. and started training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Baluchs and was sending them to Pakistan for sabotage and militancy. So much so that one of Bhutto's senior members, minister of interior and head of provincial party, Hayat Mohammad Sherpao, was killed and the relations with Pakistan further dipped. As a response Pakistan also started the same. By 1975, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has been engaged in promoting a proxy war in Afghanistan. Some of those trained and supported by Pakistan were Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

Ref: The Gem Hunter: True Adventures of an American in Afghanistan
By Gary W. Bowersox

Riaz Haq said...

Why Nelson Mandela was on a terrorism watch list in 2008
By Caitlin Dewey December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela is being remembered across the world (and political spectrum) for his heroic, life-long battle against apartheid and injustice in South Africa. But with all the accolades being thrown around, it’s easy to forget that the U.S., in particular, hasn’t always had such a friendly relationship with Mandela -- and that in fact, as late as 2008, the Nobel Prize winner and former president was still on the U.S. terrorism watch list.
The sticking point was, in Mandela’s case, ideological. In the mid-'80s, as activists in South Africa and around the world began to agitate in earnest for Mandela’s release, the Reagan administration still saw communism as one of its primary enemies -- and defeating communism as one of its foremost foreign policy goals. That complicated the administration’s take on South Africa.

The apartheid regime, it turns out, had supported the U.S. during the Cold War and had worked closely with both the Reagan and Nixon administrations to limit Soviet influence in the region, as Sam Kleiner chronicled in Foreign Policy last July.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress, which Mandela chaired, was peppered with members of the South African Communist Party. Even worse in the eyes of the Reagan Administration was the ANC’s apparent friendliness toward Moscow: The ANC’s secretary general, Alfred Nzo, bore greetings to the Soviet communist party congress in 1986. That was enough to inspire Reagan to accuse the ANC of encouraging communism in a 1986 policy speech, and to rule that South Africa had no obligation to negotiate with a group bent on “creating a communist state.”

Riaz Haq said...

Riaz Haq has left a new comment on your post "General Petraeus Rejects Trump's Charges of "Lies ...":

Sanitization of Haqqanis & #Pakistan-#US relations. New York Times published an Op Ed by Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. No other group better exemplifies #America's long history of playing sides to suit itself. #afghanpeacedeal @AJEnglish

The (NY Times) newspaper's decision to publish the article, provocatively titled "What We, the Taliban, Want," jolted not only ordinary readers and US foreign policy hawks, but also Washington's biggest detractors abroad. As the criticism mounted, The Times' opinion editors issued a statement to try and justify their decision to give a platform to Haqqani.

"Our mission at Times Opinion is to tackle big ideas from a range of newsworthy viewpoints," they stated. "We've actively solicited voices from all sides of the Afghanistan conflict, the government, the Taliban and from citizens. Sirajuddin Haqqani is the second in command of the Taliban at a time when its negotiators are hammering out an agreement with American officials in Doha that could result in American troops leaving Afghanistan. That makes his perspective relevant at this particular moment."

What the Times did not mention, however, was the extent to which the Haqqani question has prickled the relationship between the US and Pakistan - a major non-NATO ally historically accused by many in Washington of not doing enough to facilitate American objectives in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Back in 2011, following an attack on the US embassy in Kabul believed to be perpetrated by the Haqqanis, the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, called the network a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan to eliminate the network and paving the way for more American drone strikes in the country.

Mullen's assertion caused widespread anger and disappointment in Pakistan. In the years that followed, consecutive civilian governments in Pakistan maintained that the infrastructure supporting the network had shifted to Afghanistan and that scapegoating Pakistan for American failures in an interminable war next door was disingenuous and unjust.

For many in Pakistan, no other political group better exemplifies America's long history of playing sides to suit its own strategic objectives. Few American diplomats today care to recount that the Haqqanis started as Washington's closest allies in Afghanistan; that the network's founder Jalaluddin Haqqani was a CIA darling kept flush with money and weaponry, including shoulder-fired Stinger missiles that would ultimately down Soviet aircraft. Fewer still have any compunction over the diplomatic arm-twisting meted out to Pakistan, including the cutting off of vital Coalition Support Fund aid, for allegedly not doing enough to combat the group.

As the US continued to pressure Pakistan for not doing enough to curtail the Haqqani Network's activities in Afghanistan, the grievances against Washington's regional policies started to pile up in in the country. Many in Pakistan came to believe that the US was scapegoating Islamabad to camouflage the deeper contradictions in its military strategy against the Taliban. And they had ample reason to hold this view. In 2015, for example, the US and the Haqqanis came face-to-face during the ill-fated "Murree talks" between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Conveniently, the US raised no objections to the Haqqanis being in the meeting.


On his recent visit to India, President Trump took a softer line on Pakistan, reflecting the hard work that both sides have put into resuscitating the relationship from its worst days....

For Pakistanis, that alone is a welcome shift, even if an official public apology for taking the flak for the Haqqanis, takes time.