Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vulnerability of US Supplies in Afghanistan

“Your homeland is like your mother. You can screw people here and there, that’s just business. But you never, ever screw your mother.” Pakistani Transporter Shakir Afridi

One of the biggest challenges of waging war anywhere is supply logistics to deployed troops. The supply challenge becomes even more formidable when the war theater is a landlocked country located thousands of miles away and involves transit through one or more other countries and international border crossings. The United States military has been facing such a challenge since it deployed in Afghanistan in 2001, and it's become only more difficult since the Obama troop surge in 2009 and worsening ties with Pakistan.

There are three different routes being used to supply US troops in Afghanistan: Pakistan Lines of Communication (PLC), Northern Distribution Network (NDN), and Airlift.

Pakistani Lines of Communication:

Pakistan routes are the fastest, shortest and least expensive way to supply US forces in Afghanistan.

The routes begin at the Karachi port in Pakistan. One goes north toward the logistical hub at Bagram Airfield, and the other west toward Kandahar. These have always been the primary option for American forces, being the shortest and cheapest, requiring only one border crossing, and minimal time on the road inside Afghanistan. Nearly 60,000 trucks drive more than 1,200 miles through the length of Pakistan every year carrying supplies and fuel. According to varying figures provided by U.S. and NATO forces, 40 percent to 60 percent of all military supplies used by coalition forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan.

Figures released by the Pakistan Federal Tax Ombudsman illustrate the surge in traffic at Karachi’s port. U.S. military equipment received at the port rose from nearly 16,000 shipping containers in 2005 to more than 54,000 in 2009. Halfway through 2010 the U.S. military had already shipped nearly 30,000 containers to Karachi.

The spike in US supplies through Pakistan has spawned a huge trucking business controlled mostly by Pashtuns from FATA, also known as Pathans, like Shakir Afridi who is quoted at the beginning of this post. His own fleet has grown from a few vehicles in 2001 to nearly 4,000 flatbeds and more than 3,000 fuel tankers that haul military supplies into Afghanistan. His quote is indicative of the depth of anger shared by most Pakistanis at the slaughter of 24 Pakistani soldiers by the US troops last November.

Northern Distribution Network:

The NDN route is longer, slower, and six times more expensive than the PLC route through Pakistan. It involves multiple modes of transport through several countries in Europe and Central Asia. Many are under strong Russian influence, and some do not allow military gear to be transported through their territory, according to a Businessweek report.

A network through Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia that crosses through at least 16 countries, using a combination of roads, railway, air, and water to move supplies in from the north. The chain can be complex and circuitous. One path through the network, for example, might involve military cargo that arrives by sea in Istanbul. From there it travels the width of Turkey on truck and crosses the northern border into Poti, Georgia. In Georgia the equipment goes by rail to Baku in Azerbaijan, where it’s loaded onto a ship bound for the Kazakh Port of Aktau, across the Caspian Sea. Then it’s put on trucks for the 1,000-mile ride through Kazakhstan, then a train through Kyrgyzstan and, finally, into Afghanistan.


This is the most expensive option and it, too, relies heavily on Pakistan's cooperation. US Air Force carriers are already airlifting supplies to Afghanistan, but their use, at this stage, is “imperceptible” given the $14,000-per-ton cost of moving goods this way, according to a US government source. Most of these flights are routed through Pakistani airspace. If the relations get worse, the Pakistanis could shut the air-link to the US military.

Switching Routes:

“If you look at the trajectory, it’s clear which way the [US-Pakistan] relationship is going. It will be difficult to overcome yet another serious problem. The policy implication is that we need to diversify [transit routes] as much as we can and as quickly as we can. That’s what the US government has been all about recently,” an unnamed US government official told Deirdre Tynan of Eurasianet.

“But the real question is whether the NDN can fully compensate for what’s happened in Pakistan. We have a good NDN, but we also have Central Asian roads that are not the best,” he added. The NDN’s rail component is expected to pick up most of the extra freight volume.

Regardless of the rhetoric emanating from Washington, the fact is that the US is very likely to remain heavily dependent on Pakistan for the foreseeable future.

At a congressional hearing this year before the border incident of Nov 26, Lieutenant General Mitchell H. Stevenson, the U.S. Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, was asked what the “long term impact” would be if the supply route through Pakistan was “suddenly shut down.” After explaining that the Army kept a 45-day supply of reserve fuel on the ground in Afghanistan, the general said they could only “last several weeks” without any significant impact.


Pakistan has the longest border with Afghanistan and wields more influence there than any other country. It also provides the nearest seaport to Kabul. That is the fundamental reason why the U.S. has provided more than $20 billion to the country over the past decade, much of it to ensure supply logistics to US troops. “If we want to be successful in Afghanistan,” as General James L. Jones Jr., former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, said in recent congressional testimony, “the roads to that success have a lot to do with Pakistan.” Given these ground realities, the sooner the US apologizes to Pakistan for the Nov 26 incident to try and restore ties, the better it will be to achieve an end to the longest war in US history.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

US Military Undermining Interests in "AfPak"

Northern Distribution Network

From Pakistan to Afghanistan, U.S. Finds Convoy of Chaos

Is US-Pakistan Military Confrontation Inevitable?

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Military Mutiny in Pakistan?

Can US Aid Remake Pakistan?

The Obama Surge Strategy

US War Effort in Afghanistan Relies on Pakistan


satwa gunam said...

Article and the response might give more feedback on what american feels about this incidence.

Anonymous said...

PAkistan is in no position to threaten/blackmail the US.

The US could also blockade PAkistan's sea routes if it is pushed beyond a point.What is Pakistan gonna do then?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "The US could also blockade PAkistan's sea routes if it is pushed beyond a point.What is Pakistan gonna do then? "

If you think it's that simple, I wonder why the US Navy hasn't already blockaded Iran which is seen as a threat to US interests and oil supplies through the Strait of Hormuz?

Or blockaded North Korea which continues to pose a threat to US interests in East Asia?

Akbar said...

Just apologizing is not enough---Sam must compensate at least 10 million dollars per person killed by him throughout the Afghan War. Even with a hundred trillion dollars per head, those lives can never be brought back.

Anonymous said...

Do u think pak can get away by making life difficult for US? If you think so u r living in a world of fantasies. US is and going to be an influential player in south asia for a long time to come. They can and will cause economic hardships in Pakistan. This will lead to social unrest. I hope you know we are not like countries in the middleast with plenty of oil resources. Why do you think we have electricity and fuel supply problems when there is so much of demand?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Do u think pak can get away by making life difficult for US?"

Neither the US nor Pakistan can get away with making life difficult for each other. Recognition of strong mutual dependence will likely help resolve the issues and keep the difficult relationship intact for the foreseeable future.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post piece on US-Pak ties and US elections:

The crises of 2011 are ripping apart a working relationship with Pakistan. Controversy over CIA agent Raymond Davis, the raid on the bin Laden compound, accusations of ISI support for the Taliban, civilian casualties caused by drone attacks, and now NATO airstrikes on Pakistani soldiers have roiled emotions. One must view these events as a whole, not individually. They are tying the hands of Pakistan's military and civilian leaders in cooperating with the U.S. to fight our common enemies. Here, political attitudes and opinions on Capitol Hill and among voters have hardened, complicating our ability to forge policies that enable effective engagement with Pakistan.

The interests of both countries mandate that Pakistan's military and elected government unite in fighting violent extremism. One needed step is strong Pakistani communication campaign to marginalize and de-legitimize the extremists. That could lay the political foundation for taking the military battle to militants. They've at time proven they can do that. But the controversies over U.S. actions have instead led Islamabad to adopt policies that obstruct fighting extremists. Success requires that we work together to overcome the widely shared perception that the U.S. deliberately seeks to abuse Pakistani sovereignty and that cooperation with us makes the military or civilians American pawns.

What can the presidential aspirants do? They can go beyond the current rhetoric to register points that resonate with Pakistanis and serve our mutual interests. Turning relations with Pakistan into partisan fodder is not useful. It would send a powerful message for the Pakistanis to hear from both parties the following:

· The U.S. supports the primacy of elected civilian government and democratic institutions even while it works with Pakistan's military leaders to address our interests, especially in Afghanistan.
· While we may have to condition our military aid to Pakistan's cooperation within its borders in fighting Afghan insurgents, we should stand strongly behind pro-democracy forces. That embraces targeted civilian aid that is carefully monitored to ensure proper use and branding so that we receive credit for our contributions.
· The U.S. is ready to expand trade by foregoing the protectionism so hurtful to Pakistan's struggling economy. This assistance as well as creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones will win us more friends than our current aid programs. This will show that in the national interest we are prepared to make difficult domestic political decisions.
· We recognize that Pakistan has legitimate security interests in Afghanistan and that with 35 million Pashtuns, no Pakistan government can support action that fails to address their concerns. But we won't tolerate its using the Pashtun card to meddle, and
won't allow it to obstruct a political settlement that would end the insurgency.
· Whatever suspicion Pakistan may harbor, as journalist Zahid Hussain has noted, only the U.S. offers Pakistanis hope for the future. No other nation does that.

These messages to Pakistan will put the political discourse between Pakistan and the U.S. on a sounder footing. It will vest Pakistani policy makers and military with more flexibility to fight violent extremism and help revitalize ties with the U.S. What the candidates for President say, and how they say it, can make a huge difference in advancing or blocking what is mutually beneficial. Meanwhile, it will require Pakistani leaders who are willing to stand up against the tide of opinion and take their own political risks.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on US supply lines into Afghanistan:

Citing figures from the US Transportation Command, only 29 per cent of cargo goes through Pakistan, whereas 40 per cent goes through the NDN, and the rest is shipped by air. However, the committee report says that the NDN is not an ideal replacement for current supply routes in Pakistan. The NDN only allows goods to be sent to Afghanistan and not back, and also only allows for the transit of non-lethal supplies. “Sensitive and high-technology equipment is transported by airlift.”

The NDN supply route also costs the United States more money. An additional $10,000 is spent on sending a 20-foot container to ship via the NDN as opposed to sending it through Pakistan. Airlifting supplies into Afghanistan is the costliest – with an additional $40,000 per 20-foot container spent on sending it by air.

The report also highlights the challenges faced by the United States in allying with Central Asian states. “In many cases, the United States is forced to rely on highly corrupt, authoritarian governments in countries whose populations are suspicious of US intentions.” Citing fears that Russia and China has about US involvement in the region, the report says that China is “even more nervous about the risk of instability in Afghanistan should the United States and its partners fail to help stabilise the country.”

Recommendations presented in the report including striking a balance between security and political priorities in Central Asia, working on regional cooperation especially in controlling narcotics trafficking, and working on the New Silk Road vision, outlined by Secretary Clinton earlier this year, and helping connect South and Central Asia via Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Jim Koury (Eurasia Review) on the NATO supply situation in Afghanistan:

“It’s almost impossible to succeed in beating al-Qaeda and the Taliban without access to Pakistan or having the Pakistan security forces as a U.S. ally,” said former military intelligence officer and police commander Mike Snopes.

The United States had expressed deep regret over the NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near Afghanistan’s border with that nation November 25-26, and offered to compensate the families of those killed and wounded in the incident, but ground supply routes through Pakistan remained closed to coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to Cheryl Pellerin of the American Forces Press Service.

“We conducted a thorough investigation into the border incident, we have acknowledged and take responsibility for the mistakes we made on 25-26 Nov, [and] … we have expressed our deepest regret to the Pakistani people, to the families of those who were lost and those who were wounded,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

“We are hopeful,” he added, “that our Pakistani partners will reopen the ground supply routes.”

Supplies are adequate to continue the war effort in Afghanistan, Little said, adding that supplies are coming into Afghanistan through air routes and through the northern distribution network, a series of commercially based logistic arrangements connecting Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

“The relationship with Pakistan is important on many levels. They’re an important partner, and we cooperate with them on counterterrorism and other efforts,” the press secretary said.

“That being said, we know there have been rough patches, particularly over the past year,” he added. “But it remains an essential relationship, and we’re committed to improving that relationship over time.”

On Dec. 26, U.S. Central Command released an unclassified version of an investigation report of the cross-border incident by its investigating officer, Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments for Air Force Special Operations Command.

A copy of the report was delivered to the Pakistani government, Little said. Pakistani officials were invited to participate in the investigation, but they declined.

According to the report, on the night of November 25-26, an Afghan army commando company, partnered with U.S. Army Special Forces, landed in the Khas Kunar district of Afghanistan’s Kunar province in an area of operations assigned to the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East.

The ground forces were executing an operation approved by ISAF Joint Command headquarters when they came under fire from positions on a ridge near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In self-defense, the report said, they used air support to engage the ridgeline positions.

The air engagement ended 90 minutes later and had included about 45 minutes of fire. Eventually, it became clear from various information exchanges that those engaged at the ridge were Pakistani military personnel.

In the early hours of Nov. 26, the report said, supporting aircraft pulled back from the border area and Pakistani authorities reinforced their border positions and reportedly removed 24 dead and 13 wounded....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on the high cost of alternative routes while NATO supplies thru Pakistan remain shut:

The U.S. is paying six times as much to send war supplies to troops in Afghanistan through alternate routes after Pakistan’s punitive decision in November to close border crossings to NATO convoys, the Associated Press has learned.

Islamabad shut down two key Pakistan border crossings after a U.S. airstrike killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in late November, and it is unclear when the crossings might reopen.

Pentagon figures provided to the AP show it is now costing about $104 million per month to send the supplies through a longer northern route. That is $87 million more per month than when the cargo moved through Pakistan.

While U.S. officials have acknowledged that using alternate transportation routes for Afghan war supplies is more expensive and takes longer, the total costs had not been revealed until now. The Pentagon provided the cost figures to the AP on Thursday.

U.S. officials said Thursday the elevated costs are likely to continue for some time, as U.S.-Pakistan tensions remain high and Pakistan has not yet offered to restore the transport arrangement or to begin negotiations on the matter. Until the closure, the U.S. had relied on Pakistani routes to move about one-third of all war supplies for Afghanistan.

The U.S. has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid since 9/11, including civilian and military assistance. But over the past year, relations with Islamabad have been strained by a series of incidents, including the U.S. assault in Pakistan last May that killed Osama bin Laden.
Pakistani officials say they are sorting through the thousands of stranded vehicles to push through supplies for Afghans. So far, the Pakistanis have given no indication of when they will open the border for NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

There has been limited contact between top U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Last week, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked by phone with his Pakistani counterpart, Army Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, their first contact since Dec. 21. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not spoken to Pakistani leaders since the incident.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Global Post story on NATO using smugglers to supply its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan:

With few other options available to it since Pakistan closed its border crossings almost two months ago, NATO has at times resorted to paying local smugglers to get much-needed supplies to its troops fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials say.

The Pakistani and Afghan smugglers, who must pay bribes to militants to travel safely through some areas, navigate treacherous routes over the 1,800-mile mountainous divide that separates the two countries to bring containers of oil, food and other essential items — all at a price — to soldiers on the other side.

“Borders mean nothing to us. We have been crossing in and out for centuries,” Sahib Khan, a smuggler who said NATO had hired him, told GlobalPost.

The hiring of illegal smugglers came after a failed attempt by NATO to pay private companies, which truck goods across the border under the Pakistan-Afghanistan Free Trade Agreement (PATA). These private companies, Pakistani officials said, were secretly swapping out their normal cargo for NATO supplies until Pakistani security forces caught wind of the scam.

A senior officer for the Frontier Corps, an elite military unit that is responsible for security along the border, told GlobalPost that a total ban on the movement of containers under PATA, which was signed in 2010 to promote bilateral trade, eventually foiled the strategy.

“We had concrete evidence that some of the containers being imported by private companies, under PATA, were being used to smuggle supplies for NATO troops under cover of commercial imports,” the official said.
Smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan has long been a profitable and vibrant business. Various trade agreements have been signed between the two neighbors in a bid to contain the practice, but high import and export taxes coupled with little government oversight, thwarted those attempts.

Mostly items like flour, edible oil, lentils, dried vegetables, contraband cigarettes, and animals for meat are smuggled into Afghanistan, while spare auto parts, electronics and unregistered vehicles are smuggled the other direction.

Smuggling is so widespread that it has become the backbone of the economy in towns and villages along the border, where locally it is treated simply as normal trade. The mountainous terrain provides an edge over security to smugglers who regularly trickle across the border without any trouble.

Sahib said that most of the food and oil supplies he has carried across the border for NATO originate from the southern port city of Karachi, and are moved through Peshawar and Quetta, and finally through Pakistan’s tribal areas, which are largely under the authority of various militant groups.

For those militants, the smugglers have been an important source of income. Smugglers are required to pay “rahdari,” or “passage,” an unofficial tax that allows them safe passage.

“Once we are onto the route, it’s the responsibility of those who receive rahdari to ensure we are able to safely enter into Afghanistan,” Sahib said.

Any smuggling that is done on behalf of NATO can in no way make up for the closed borders, however. Smugglers say they carry between 20 and 25 small containers a day while, when the border crossings were open, NATO shipped an average of 250 large containers a day — making the reopening of the borders essential to the war effort.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Atlantic magazine saying that the"State Department has resurrected the idea after repudiating the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, early on when he pressed for an immediate apology following the incident last November. A Pentagon official, asked about the possibility of a statement of apology or contrition last month, at first said he was unaware there was any discussion going on, then a few days later acknowledged that it was. Now the White House is mulling the language and timing of such a statement, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

The internal disagreement over whether to assuage the Pakistanis with a face-saving expression of apology or contrition is part of a larger debate within the administration as it puzzles its way through the Afghan endgame. With the United States pushing for talks with the Taliban ahead of a planned withdrawal that is to be phased in starting in 2013, Washington knows that without some help from Islamabad, America could end up bequeathing a huge safe haven to the Taliban in Pakistan, which has sought to support the Islamist group as a strategic asset.

Making matters even stickier, the debate comes in an election season when President Obama is being regularly accused of appeasement and, as Mitt Romney regularly puts it, "apologizing for America." Until now the farthest the U.S. government has gone is to "express our deepest regret" for "the loss of life, and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses," according to a Defense Department statement issued after the report.

New rifts have also emerged in the administration over the details of the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some White House officials working on the Afghanistan problem were taken aback when, on Feb. 1, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters about U.S. plans for a partial withdrawal from lead combat roles by mid-2013, before even consulting with other NATO officials. While the plan was generally agreed upon within the administration, the details had still not been clarified.

On Wednesday State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, responding to harsh comments about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship from Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman earlier in the day, said that "divorce is not an option with Pakistan. We have strategic interests in common, we have a lot of work to do together." Nuland added: "We're looking forward to the completion of Pakistan's internal review of our military-to-military relationship so we can get back to all the important work we have together."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's US Army Times on the importance of Pakistani routes for withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan:

Cargo lines through Pakistan need to reopen for the U.S. to bring troops and equipment back on schedule as the war draws down, the top general of Transportation Command told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Despite increased support from European, Central Asian and Baltic countries to open the Northern Distribution Network to Afghanistan, the U.S. and allied forces need the Pakistan Ground Line of Communication, or GLOC, as the drawdown in Afghanistan ramps up, Gen. William Fraser said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“With the amount of equipment we need to move ... we need the Pakistan GLOC open,” Fraser said. “Because of the large numbers that we are talking about that we need to bring out in a timely manner.”

TRANSCOM moved an average of 40 percent of cargo through a network of truck, water, rail and air routes — approximately 27,000 containers in 2011, he said. While this was an increase of 15 percent from 2010, the U.S. moved more than 35,000 containers through Pakistan by ground transportation before the border was closed in November. The governments that agreed to the Northern Distribution Network have given permission to move armored vehicles and other eligible commodities, but not weapons, Fraser said.

In the meantime, Fraser said, the NDN is adequate and airlift crews are identifying and moving excess equipment from Afghanistan now.

“As every aircraft goes in, if it has pallet positions, if it has capacity on it, then we are making sure we put something on that aircraft and bring it back out,” Fraser said.

TRANSCOM is also working with commercial agencies to get around the closed border. In November, 39 ships with hundreds of containers headed for Afghanistan were diverted to Dubai and Aqaba, Jordan, where they were stored and airlifted into Afghanistan, Fraser said in his testimony.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg editorial opinion on Pak parliament's vote on relations with US:

Beyond the drone ban, Parliament resolved to bar the U.S., and other nations, from conducting any overt or covert military operations there. As a rule, of course, sovereign countries don’t allow foreign security agencies to function on their soil without permission. Yet it happens all the time.

The issue is, what are the consequences of their actions, if made public? Parliament’s vote suggests the repercussions will be increasingly painful. That, again, is an argument for the U.S. to tread less heavily on Pakistan. The costs of breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty last year to kill Osama bin Laden were plainly worth it. But can the same be said for the intelligence being pursued by CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who caused a diplomatic furor after killing two Pakistanis on a street in Lahore? We’ll probably never know, but it’s a question we hope the intelligence community is asking.

Pakistan’s Parliament also demanded an “unconditional apology” from the U.S. for the Nov. 25 border clash. Obama, as well as the secretary of State and senior military officials, have already expressed regret and condolences over the loss of life. And the Pakistani military hasn’t invited sympathy with its refusal to participate in the U.S. investigation, its dismissal of the ensuing report blaming a lack of coordination on both sides, and its paranoid charges that the attack was “deliberate at some level.” Still, a clear apology by the Defense secretary would be appropriate given the loss of life; the U.S. military’s responsibility for relying on incorrect maps and failing to communicate timely, accurate information to its counterpart; and the importance of the larger relationship.
Recognizing Sacrifices

That would signal to the Pakistani people that the U.S. military is committed to repairing its relationship with its Pakistani counterpart and recognizes the sacrifices local forces have made in pursuing shared goals, while correctly keeping any blame at the operational rather than the national level.

The parliamentary resolutions do offer one bright spot: They would allow the U.S. to again use Pakistani roads to resupply U.S. troops in Afghanistan with nonlethal equipment. Since the Nov. 25 incident, the U.S. has had to use expensive alternate routes. Parliament did not tie resumption of the traffic to satisfaction on its other decrees. But it might, in the future, or the government might, in its negotiations with the Obama administration. This is an added reason for the U.S. to repair ties with Pakistan before they become irreparable.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Pakistani perspective as published by Deutsche Welle:

Pakistan received a severe snub from US President Obama at the NATO summit that recently concluded in Chicago. Pakistani political analyst Naveed Ahmed talks about the reactions in Pakistan and the implications.

Naveed Ahmed is a political analyst and investigative journalist in Pakistan.

DW: How has Pakistan reacted to the summit in Chicago?

Well, there is a clear-cut position that Pakistan is not going to continue any business with the United States or NATO, for that matter, until they offer an apology. And that was clear in the statement given by President Zardari in Chicago. On the face of it, this is the situation and people are buying it. If Zardari has given any commitment, he is not in a position to fulfil it. The reaction is otherwise very calm, no US flags are being burnt. There was a fear that Pakistan may succumb to US pressure, but this NATO summit has proven that Pakistan can withstand the pressure. The foreign minister also said that Pakistan would seek an apology and then look further.

President Obama did not conduct bilateral talks with President Zardari. Does Pakistan see that as a snub? How has the media reacted?

Again, Asif Ali Zardari's departure to Chicago was criticized in Pakistan because it was a last-minute invitation and he should not have gone. In fact, they should have sent the foreign minister there. And if President Obama did not meet Zardari, it is a kind of embarassment for the Pakistan People's Party in the political point-scoring game in parliament. But on the streets, it does not matter because there is a consensus that there will be no business with the US until our concerns or demands are addressed by the American administration.

What demands does Pakistan have?

For NATO relations to normalize, Pakistan is seeking an apology from NATO and the US for the killing of 26 Pakistani soldiers , who died when US troops leading a NATO convoy attacked Pakistani troops last November. Second, the US and NATO should end their drone attacks inside Pakistani territory. Third, there should be a clear-cut agreement as to how and under what conditions Pakistan should allow NATO supplies through its territory. Since Musharraf gave access to NATO troops in 2002 this has taken place through verbal agreements but there is nothing in writing. Pakistan does not earn any transit fees. Pakistan charges about $5000 per container and there is talk that NATO is ready to pay $1500.

What will Pakistan's role be after the NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014?

Pakistan is a key player in Afghanistan. If Pakistan is comfortable with the withdrawal and the conditions afterwards that are being mapped out, Pakistan can play a very constructive role. If there are concerns and insecurities, because of greater Indian influence, or foreign troops or the proliferation of weapons inside Pakistani territory, then it will be different. That is why Pakistan is in a situation where it has to assert its position, its presence, so that when the troops exit, the post-exit scenario is not detrimental to Pakistan's interests....,,15967826,00.html

Riaz Haq said...

Israeli foreign minister cites US precedent for refusing Turkey apology, according to Jerusalem Post:

f the US adamantly refuses to apologize to Pakistan for the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, Israel certainly need not say sorry to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara deaths, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday.
“The Pakistanis asked the US to apologize, and the Americans said ‘no way,’” Liberman said in reference to the November incident where US forces accidentally fired on two Pakistani border posts.

The US has since expressed regret for the incident, something Israel has also said it was willing to do regarding the killing of nine Turks on the May 2010 flotilla that aimed to break the blockade of Gaza.

“So when they come to us and pressure us to apologize over the Marmara, because of this or that constraint, sometimes even to best friends you must say ‘no.’ Otherwise, no one will respect you,” Liberman declared.

Liberman said the commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara and clashed with those on the ship were clearly exercising their rights of self defense. The Turkish pressure on Israel to apologize now is to “deter us from using the legitimate right for self defense,” he said....
Michele Flournoy, who served as the third top official in the Pentagon before stepping down earlier this year, said last week at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv that it was very important for “Israel to repair its relationship with Turkey.”

Flournoy, who played a key role in shaping US President Barack Obama’s national security policy, hinted that Israel should apologize, saying Turkey was one of the strongest and most influential voices in the region, remained a close and valued NATO ally for the United States, and shared “our interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.”

While acknowledging that “she understands that past events have made concrete steps towards reconciliation quite difficult,” Flournoy said “if there is ever a time for Israel to rise above past differences and recriminations with Turkey, now is that time.

“Israel must act more strategically, and I think there is tremendous opportunity to rebuild its partnership with Turkey and with other partners where it can. This is really important at a time of such [regional] uncertainty.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in May that during discussions last December in Washington over whether it should apologize to the Pakistanis, Flournoy suggested language whereby the US would apologize for the “unintentional and tragic” deaths, but would not accept full responsibility. According to the paper, she argued that the “US risked the issue festering.”

No US apology has yet been forthcoming, and The Wall Street Journal quoted a senior administration official as wondering how Washington could apologize to a country that was providing, at least through some parts of its government, tacit support to those attacking US troops.

“This isn’t about politics,” the official is quoted as saying. “This is about the message that would send to our troops and that is what no one in the military or the White House could countenance.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Counterpunch piece by Brian Cloghley:

With respect to the Sudeten German problem my patience is now exhausted! I have made Mr Benes an offer, which contains nothing but the realization of what he himself assured us would be done. The decision is in his hands! Peace or war!

Adolf Hitler, Berlin, September 26, 1938

We are reaching the limits of our patience here, and for that reason it is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place [sic] and allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces.

Leon Panetta, Kabul, June 7, 2012

So what is Leon Panetta going to do if militant attacks on US forces in Afghanistan continue? Of course it’s easy to blame Pakistan for the outcome of the war begun by America in Afghanistan. After all, somebody has to take the blame for the shambles, and it can’t possibly be Washington. But Mr Panetta and the rest of the blame-shifters had better take care, because if they try to do to Pakistan what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia in 1939 they will find rather stiffer opposition than that offered by the poor bullied Czechs.

Mr Panetta’s complaint is that militants based in Pakistan (mainly tribal Afghans, Arabs of various weird persuasions, and gangs of thugs from the Central Asian Republics) cross into Afghanistan and join their comrades there to conduct attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. But before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 there were no Afghan Taliban or other foreign extremists in Pakistan. There were no militant bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region was hardly tranquil, simply because the tribes continued to be as hot-blooded as they have been for centuries, but there was nothing approaching the insurgency that now exists — that was caused entirely by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Before the US invasion of Afghanistan there had been one single suicide bombing in Pakistan (in 1995, and that was by an Egyptian loony). Last year there were over forty. And since the US invasion of Afghanistan the entire border region has been destabilized and Pakistan’s internal security situation has become dire. In the years after the US invasion of Afghanistan drove Taliban and other militants out of the country the Pakistan army and the para-military Frontier Corps have lost 3,019 soldiers killed in operations against them along the Afghan border. 9,681 have been wounded. (US deaths in Afghanistan: 2,002.)
So, Adolf Panetta, you loud-mouthed bullyboy with eroding patience : Just what are you going to do? Take on the Pakistan army? If you do, you had better expect “full force” against you. I’ve known the Pakistan army for over thirty years and I tell you that every single member of it will fight to the death against any forays you order when you “reach the limits of your patience.”

It’s a pity that you and Obama Hosanna have not the slightest understanding of the front line of combat, with real soldiers. You might alter your views about patience if you had experienced actual fear. But you are both just bullies.

Riaz Haq said...

Senators McCain (R-Az) and Feinstein (D-CA) have both said US should apologize to Pakistan for Salala incident.

Now here's a Counterpunch piece by Brian Cloghley:

With respect to the Sudeten German problem my patience is now exhausted! I have made Mr Benes an offer, which contains nothing but the realization of what he himself assured us would be done. The decision is in his hands! Peace or war!

Adolf Hitler, Berlin, September 26, 1938

We are reaching the limits of our patience here, and for that reason it is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place [sic] and allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces.

Leon Panetta, Kabul, June 7, 2012

So what is Leon Panetta going to do if militant attacks on US forces in Afghanistan continue? Of course it’s easy to blame Pakistan for the outcome of the war begun by America in Afghanistan. After all, somebody has to take the blame for the shambles, and it can’t possibly be Washington. But Mr Panetta and the rest of the blame-shifters had better take care, because if they try to do to Pakistan what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia in 1939 they will find rather stiffer opposition than that offered by the poor bullied Czechs.

Mr Panetta’s complaint is that militants based in Pakistan (mainly tribal Afghans, Arabs of various weird persuasions, and gangs of thugs from the Central Asian Republics) cross into Afghanistan and join their comrades there to conduct attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. But before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 there were no Afghan Taliban or other foreign extremists in Pakistan. There were no militant bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region was hardly tranquil, simply because the tribes continued to be as hot-blooded as they have been for centuries, but there was nothing approaching the insurgency that now exists — that was caused entirely by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Before the US invasion of Afghanistan there had been one single suicide bombing in Pakistan (in 1995, and that was by an Egyptian loony). Last year there were over forty. And since the US invasion of Afghanistan the entire border region has been destabilized and Pakistan’s internal security situation has become dire. In the years after the US invasion of Afghanistan drove Taliban and other militants out of the country the Pakistan army and the para-military Frontier Corps have lost 3,019 soldiers killed in operations against them along the Afghan border. 9,681 have been wounded. (US deaths in Afghanistan: 2,002.)
So, Adolf Panetta, you loud-mouthed bullyboy with eroding patience : Just what are you going to do? Take on the Pakistan army? If you do, you had better expect “full force” against you. I’ve known the Pakistan army for over thirty years and I tell you that every single member of it will fight to the death against any forays you order when you “reach the limits of your patience.”

It’s a pity that you and Obama Hosanna have not the slightest understanding of the front line of combat, with real soldiers. You might alter your views about patience if you had experienced actual fear. But you are both just bullies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a German review by Dr. Ludwing Watzal of a book titled "Pakistan: The US, Geopolitics and Grand Strategies":

The killing of Osama Bin Laden highlighted the already shattered relationship between the American and Pakistani governments. This incursion, the illegal drone war and other encroachments upon the Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US have brought the “special” relationship to square one. Yet, “the post 9/11 US-Pakistan relationship is not as special it is often portrayed as being. It reflects a complex combination of the phenomena of the war on terror, regional alliances and geopolitical realities, and Indian-Pakistani arch rivalries.” The skillful balancing of this political mélange is seen by the US and its Western cronies as a double game. Despite its close relationship with China and its difficult political and geopolitical maneuvering, Pakistan is still perceived as a key Western ally.

The book’s editors, Usama Butt, director of the Institute of Islamic Sociopolitical and Strategic Affair (IISA), and Julian Schofield, deputy director of the Centre d’études des politoques étrangères et de sécurité (CEPES) at the Université du Québec in Montréal, have gathered leading scholars from Pakistan and some Western countries. Even a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute, a neo-conservative think tank, is on board.

The book is divided into two parts: The first one deals exclusively with Pakistan-US relations; the second part discusses Pakistan´s foreign relations with other states. Pakistan’s domestic setting is as complex as its geopolitical situation and cannot be reduced to the decade of the “war on terror” or solely explained by its complicated relation to India. Both sections of the book are based on the paradigm that the country’s foreign policy should not be defined by the war on terror. Beside the US, Pakistan’s staunchest allies are Saudi Arabia and China, and the relations with Iran and Afghanistan are also excellent.

The book leaves the reader with the strong impression that the US Empire is not sensitive enough to the regional interests of its “ally” Pakistan, let alone of other actors. US President Obama’s drone war that causes many more deaths among civilians than among alleged terrorists infuriates the Pakistani people and contributes to the instability of the country. The global war on terror has badly affected the central Asian region. It serves only the hegemonic interests of the US and is directed against China and Russia.

Unfortunately, some authors use the phrase “global war on terror” to describe the havoc that is caused by the US Empire in the region. However, this terminology is a language construction. First, it is not a “war” and secondly, the operations going under this heading are not directed against “terrorists” but aim at US hegemony. The current discussions in the US show that the “drone war” and President Obama’s “hit list” are seen by some pundits as “state terrorism”. Unfortunately, the authors do not render these issues problematic.

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.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dexter Filkins' piece in the New Yorker on America's Afghan end game:

President Barack Obama, in his June 22nd speech announcing the beginning of the end of the American war in Afghanistan, couched the conflict in the most constricted terms. This is no great surprise. Obama’s discomfort with the Afghan war is visible whenever he talks about it. Last week, he spoke with a palpable lack of passion, and indicated no long-term commitment to the country. His message was clinical: Osama bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is disabled, and American troops can begin coming home. “We are meeting our goals,’’ the President said, in his most expansive description of American progress. Certainly, the large majority of Americans who believe that the war isn’t worth fighting will have little inclination to doubt him.

The President’s terseness had a purpose: it allowed him to skirt a more exhaustive, and dispiriting, discussion of Afghan realities. Two years ago, Obama signed off on the surge, which deployed an additional thirty-three thousand marines and soldiers to Afghanistan. Though the surge is now at its peak, almost every aspect of the American campaign is either deeply troubled or too fragile to justify substantial reductions in military support. It’s true that, with the help of extra forces, the Americans have cleared large areas of Taliban insurgents, many of whom had been operating without opposition. This success has opened the parts of the country that are dominated by Pashtuns—its main ethnic group—to Afghan government control, but it hardly constitutes victory. According to American officers, the level of violence in Afghanistan this year is fifteen per cent higher than it was at this time last year. The insurgents, far from being degraded, appear to be as resilient as ever. And their sanctuaries in Pakistan, where the Taliban leadership resides mostly unmolested, remain more or less intact.

Nor is there any sign that Afghanistan’s Army will be able to maintain control as the Americans leave. Although Afghan forces are growing in number, they are virtually incapable of planning and executing operations on their own. Exactly one Afghan battalion—about six hundred soldiers—is currently classified as “independent.” Ethnic divisions have made the situation even worse: some units, packed with ethnic Tajiks from the north, are said to need translators to operate in the Pashto-speaking areas of southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban predominate. The number of Afghan soldiers who quit or go AWOL remains alarmingly high. Most recruits are illiterate. It is these men, along with members of Afghanistan’s hapless police force, whom Obama expects to take the lead from the Americans three years from now.
For the moment, the prospect of all-out civil war in Afghanistan rests safely on a distant horizon. Even after the thirty-three thousand troops have departed, by the end of 2012, the Americans and their NATO partners will have nearly a hundred thousand soldiers there. The effects of the drawdown might not be visible for years. But the moment of maximum American influence is passing without very much to show for it. “These long wars will come to a responsible end,” the President said toward the end of his speech. That’s an appropriately tortured construction for two badly managed occupations. As a prediction for Afghanistan, though, it seems more like a prayer.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times' behind-the-scenes story on re-opening of NATO supply lines thru Pakistan:

The breakthrough, American and Pakistani officials say now, was not won through the high diplomacy efforts that dominated headlines through that stretch, but rather through an unconventional back channel run by a low-key duo: Thomas R. Nides, a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Pakistan’s finance minister.
“The bean counters did it,” said a senior American official, in comments intended to convey admiration rather than disparagement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as did several others interviewed about the talks.

The channel between Mr. Nides and Mr. Shaikh was established in late May amid secrecy after months of mishaps and missed opportunities on the part of more seasoned players. Much of it revolved around the vexed notion of an American apology.

At first Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, asked the Americans to stall their apology until Parliament met. But by the time she met Mrs. Clinton in London in February, anti-American riots had seized Afghanistan after an episode in which American troops burned copies of the Koran. Mr. Obama’s expression of regret for that caused his aides to caution against a similar gesture to Pakistan, amid fears that the president’s rivals could label him as “apologizer-in-chief.”

A major NATO conference in Chicago in May stirred hopes of a breakthrough. But on the first day of the meeting, an article in The Chicago Tribune by the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Sherry Rehman, listed five Pakistani demands, annoying Mr. Obama, said senior officials on both sides. “It really set us back,” one American said.

A day later, Mrs. Clinton and President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the channel between Mr. Nides and Mr. Shaikh. “Make it happen” she told Mr. Nides. Secrecy was paramount: only a tiny group of insiders on both sides was privy to the talks.

Through e-mails, conference calls and discreet meetings, at least four drafts of the American apology went back and forth. The two men played on their personal chemistry and shared business background, often eschewing the traditional posturing of diplomacy. They also had to contend with significant resistance in their own camps.

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, rejected early American offers of an apology for deaths “on both sides.” Mr. Nides pushed to bring around skeptics in the White House, where anti-Pakistan sentiment was hardening.

The president and his advisers were swayed, however, by money and geopolitics. The alternate supply route, through Central Asia, was costing the American military an extra $100 million per month, or about $17,000 per truck. That route was also, to some degree, hostage to the dissipating good will of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Positions shifted. At a barbecue at Pakistan’s Washington embassy residence in late June, the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, signaled to Ms. Rehman that the White House was ready to move. Mr. Shaikh invited Mr. Nides and an American team to Islamabad. On July 1, the two sides gathered in Ms. Khar’s Islamabad home for a fateful five-hour meeting.

It got off to a rocky start. General Kayani opened the meeting with a new draft apology that the Americans had not seen; Mr. Nides exploded with anger in protest, according to several people present, and officials from both sides took a break, venturing into the garden for fresh air.

On resuming, both sides calmed down and reworked the text, line by line. Two days later, in a carefully orchestrated maneuver, Mrs. Clinton phoned Ms. Khar and said “sorry” for the deaths of the 24 soldiers.

Days later, the first trucks rumbled out of a Karachi port, headed for Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Indian Business Standard's report on US leaving some hardware for Pakistan after withdrawal from Afghanistan:

Along with the Taliban, Pakistan will be a massive gainer from America's troop drawdown from Afghanistan by end-2014. A top-level US official, speaking off-the-record, has told Business Standard that Pakistan will get first call on all the American military equipment that costs too much to be transported back to the US.

Washington believes it is obligated to Islamabad for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table at Qatar, for discussions aimed at reducing violence in Afghanistan, which would smoothen the American troop drawdown this year and the next. Furthermore, Washington relies on Pakistan for overland transit from Afghanistan to Karachi, where heavy equipment is loaded onto cargo vessels bound for the US.

Uzbekistan, which also provides transit routes to the US, had earlier sought to buy the surplus US equipment in Afghanistan. But routing through Uzbekistan, and then over a road and rail network in Central Asia and Russia called the Northern Distribution Network, is four to five times more expensive and time consuming than transiting through Pakistan. Washington has now decided conclusively in favour of Pakistan.

An earlier report in The Washington Post had estimated that the US military would leave behind some $7 billion worth of defence equipment, one-fifth of what is deployed in Afghanistan. US military officials tell Business Standard that aircraft, heavy weapons, vehicles and equipment are likely to be repatriated to the US. Much of what Pakistan will benefit from will be ammunition, vehicles, construction material, air-conditioners, etc.

Much more could be left behind if the situation deteriorates; Taliban resistance would determine what could feasibly be transported. Sceptics in New Delhi point out that Pakistan controls the spigot of violence.

It has not been revealed how much Pakistan would pay for the equipment left behind, but US officials say it would be a fraction of the real value. Given that the US is paying billions of dollars each year to build up the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), it remains unclear why Washington has not given Kabul the first call on the surplus equipment being left behind.

The cost of repatriation, says Bloomberg News, could be about $7 billion. Danish container giant, Moeller-Maersk A/S, Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, and German company, Hapag-Lloyd AG will ship out some 22,000 container-loads of equipment, says US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Logistics, Alan Estevez.

Riaz Haq said...

PESHAWAR: Posters of turbaned Afghan presidential candidates are rolling off the presses in Pakistan, which will be keeping close watch on the election in its strategic backyard.
Helped by cheaper labour and a favourable exchange rate, printers in Peshawar, less than 60 kilometres from the border, have been busy making Afghan election banners.
“We have been swamped with work for the past two weeks because of the Afghan elections. One candidate has asked me to print 200,000 posters,” said printer Mohammad Sajid.
Business links with Afghanistan have grown in recent years and analysts say Pakistan wants a stable northwestern neighbour, shifting from the interference of the past.
Fear of encirclement by arch-rival India led generations of Pakistani military thinkers to view Afghanistan as a zone of potential risk – and thus legitimate space for covert intervention.
Afghan officials still regularly accuse Pakistan of colluding with militants, most recently over an assault on a luxury Kabul hotel that left nine people dead.
Pakistan vigorously denies the claims and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has worked hard to improve ties with President Hamid Karzai, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms in office.
“I think this change started in the previous government and Pakistan sticks to the policy because probably they have realised this ‘one favourite’ policy has been a disaster,” author and defence analyst Imtiaz Gul of Islamabad’s Centre for Research and Security Studies told AFP.
During the last Afghan presidential election, some Pakistani officials were more favourably disposed towards incumbent Karzai, who shared a good rapport with his then-Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari.
This time, however, Islamabad has been careful not to side with any candidate in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic transition of power.
Pakistan may be reluctant to antagonise whoever might emerge victorious by backing an opponent, but as Gul noted, it also does not have an obvious ally among the three leading candidates.
Zalmai Rassoul is seen as the preferred choice of Karzai, with whom Islamabad’s relations are at a low ebb. Former minister Abdullah Abdullah draws support from the Tajik ethnic group, who have not favoured Pakistan, and economist Ashraf Ghani has “no connection” with Islamabad, Gul said.
Though it may not have a candidate of choice, Pakistan remains a significant player in the election because its border areas serve as a rear base for the Taliban, who have vowed to disrupt the ballot and already claimed a series of attacks.
“They (the Pakistani government) want peace and stability on the Afghan border because it has a direct impact on peace and security in Pakistan,” said Saifullah Khan Mehsud, an expert on Pakistan’s restive tribal border regions at the FATA Research Centre.
Pakistan also fears a new wave of Afghan refugees, who currently number some 1.6 million having fled in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989.
While the refugees were able to vote in 2004, no arrangements have been made this time around.
“We’re frustrated, we’d like to have a say about the future of our country,” said Haji Jumaa Gul, an elderly man at a refugee camp in Peshawar, who says the situation at home is still too volatile to return.

Riaz Haq said...

Father of #Orlando shooter hosted political show on #Afghanistan-#Pakistan issues, #OrlandoShooting via Reuters

Omar Khatab, the owner of the California-based satellite channel Payam-e-Afghan, said in an interview that Seddique Mateen occasionally bought time on his channel to broadcast a show called "Durand Jirga," which focused in part on the disputed Durand Line, the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan demarcated by the Indian subcontinent's former British rulers.


Khatab said Seddique Mateen's political views were largely anti-Pakistan. A YouTube channel under Mateen's name had more than 100 videos posted between 2012 and 2015.

One of the videos refers to the "killer ISI" - the acronym for Pakistan's main military-run intelligence service - and says the agency is the "creator and father of the world's terrorism."

U.S. officials have accused Pakistani intelligence of backing violence against U.S. targets in Afghanistan, although Pakistan denies the allegations.

U.S. officials cautioned that they had no immediate evidence of any direct connection between the Florida attack and Islamic State or other foreign extremist group, nor had they uncovered any contacts between Omar Mateen and any such group.

Fifty-three people were wounded in the rampage. It was the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech university.

Seddique Mateen interviewed Ghani in January 2014, eight months before Ghani became president, according to a video posted on his YouTube channel. The interview touched on economic development and youth unemployment in Afghanistan. Khatab said Mateen conducted the interview in Kabul and brought it to California for broadcast.

During the interview Mateen praised Ghani but by the following year had changed his views, apparently angered by Ghani's outreach to Pakistan in his bid to start peace talks with the Taliban. In a 2015 video, Mateen declared his own candidacy for the Afghan presidency, even though there was no election at that time.

In the videos, he wears a Western suit and tie and speaks Dari, a dialect of Persian spoken in northern Afghanistan. He harshly criticizes Ghani's policies both at home and abroad and lashes out at Pakistan, its intelligence service, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and some senior Afghan government officials and jihadist figures.

In a February video on his Facebook page, he addresses Taliban members and castigates them for being the "servants" of the ISI.

In a June 11 video posted on Facebook, Mateen is dressed in military fatigues and says Afghanistan must "punish the traitors."

"I wish a hero one day removes Ashraf Ghani's turban and slaps this crazy man," he said in the video. "This traitor has rolled up his sleeves to destroy our country."

On Twitter, Ghani condemned the Orlando attack and called it an "act of terror."