[Afghan News] October 25, 2011 - 02-20-2012, 03:45 PM
KABUL, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- More than 2,000 Afghan government officials and elders are scheduled to meet in mid-November in capital Kabul to discuss the pros and cons of an Afghan-US strategic cooperation pact, local media reported on Tuesday.
The traditional Loya Jirga, convening at the Polytechnic University in Kabul, would also confer on a mechanism for peace negotiations with Afghan insurgents, local newspaper Daily Outlook Afghanistan quoted a spokeswoman for the Jirga commission as saying.
Safia Siddiqui indicated the participants might also take up other issues related to peace and stability.
Participants, who will arrive in the capital four days ahead of the event, will be briefed on the objective behind the grand assembly. Beginning on Nov. 16, the deliberations will continue for four days, according to the report.
All sitting parliamentarians, some former MPs, 30 percent members of each provincial council, representatives of civil society and special people, religious scholars and influential tribal elders will attend the Jirga.
She said 230 representatives of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Iran, the United States, Canada and several European countries would also be in attendance. The Jirga, to be also attended by Cabinet ministers and foreign dignitaries as guests, will involve 2,030 people -- 25 percent of them women.
Safeguarding Afghanistan's national interests, an end to nighttime military operations, strict restrictions on international soldiers to avoid harming civilians and legalizing their presence are some of the core conditions set by the government for signing the agreement. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said a draft agreement handed by the US will be sent to Parliament for approval after being discussed by the Jirga.
On September 13, Karzai's national security advisor told lawmakers the U.S. might set up military bases in Afghanistan after the signing of the accord. Testifying before senators after his return from a visit to the US, he said the pact would not be inked unless approved by Parliament.
Senior U.S. officials evinced no interest in having permanent bases in Afghanistan during the three meetings he held with them, Spanta said. But to train and assist Afghan forces, Americans might establish military centers in the country, he indicated.
Night raids and US-controlled jails posed a key hurdle to the agreement, Spanta pointed out, "Our objective is to establish a government based on rule of law and will not allow anyone to run a parallel set-up."
"Concerns of our neighbors (about the agreement) are genuine, but we will not allow our soil to be used against them," Spanta promised.
Afghan leader's office says Pakistan remarks misinterpreted
President Hamid Karzai's office says his comments to Pakistani TV that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a hypothetical war against the U.S. was not intended as a slight to Western governments.
Los Angeles Times By Laura King October 24, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan - Parsing statements by President Hamid Karzai has become something of a parlor game in the Afghan capital.
The Afghan leader's office sought Monday to distance him from his controversial remarks in a weekend television interview, in which he asserted that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a hypothetical war against the United States.
The presidential palace said Karzai's comments to Pakistan's Geo TV, aired Saturday, had been misinterpreted.
The remarks came toward the end of a lengthy interview conducted in English and Urdu, in which the Afghan leader repeatedly urged Pakistan to move against Islamic militants who take refuge on its soil, according to a transcript released by Karzai's office.
In response to a question from the Pakistani reporter about whether Afghanistan would support Islamabad in the event of a conflict between Pakistan and the United States, Karzai initially responded "God forbid," but then went on to pledge his country's backing for its neighbor.
"If a war ever breaks [out] between Pakistan and America, we will side [with] Pakistan," the president said, according to the transcript. "Afghanistan would stand with you. Afghanistan is your brother."
Although relations between the United States and Pakistan have been tense in recent months, particularly in the wake of the raid by elite U.S. forces that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May, the prospect of armed conflict between the two allies is considered remote.
A spokesman for Karzai, Siamak Herawi, said the president had not intended any slight to the Western governments that have spent billions of dollars shoring up the Afghan administration during the 10-year war. At least 1,817 American troops have died in the conflict.
"The media misinterpreted [Karzai's] speech," Herawi said, adding that the president had been trying to express solidarity with Pakistan for having taken in millions of Afghan refugees during decades of war and the rule of the Taliban movement.
Western military officials and diplomats publicly played down the significance of Karzai's comments, even while privately expressing varying degrees of bafflement and dismay.
Christopher Chambers, a spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's civilian representative in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul on Monday that it was important to "focus on the much wider dialogue that is required for peace for both Afghanistan and Pakistan which the people of both countries certainly want and deserve."
It is not the first time that inflammatory remarks from Karzai have caught his Western backers by surprise, but overt verbal clashes had dropped off in recent months.
Last week, at a news conference with visiting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Karzai voiced strong support for her assertion that Pakistan needs to move more strongly against insurgents who use havens on the Pakistani side of the frontier as springboards for attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Even so, in the Geo interview, the Afghan leader reiterated his long-standing concern over wartime civilian casualties, and his often-stated opposition to night raids on Afghan residential compounds by U.S.-led troops.
"I don't want any American soldier entering Afghans' homes anymore," he said.
The centerpiece of Clinton's visit last week was a call for the Pakistani government to rein in the Haqqani network, a Taliban offshoot based in Pakistan's tribal areas. The Western military said Monday that pitched battles over the last week in eastern Afghanistan, the Haqqanis' main area of operations, had left about 200 insurgents captured or dead.
Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a German spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, told reporters in Kabul that the latest military push by Western and Afghan troops "degrades the Haqqani network's ability to coordinate and execute future attacks."
So far, at least 20 of the fighters captured or killed have been linked to the Haqqanis, he said.
Say goodbye, Hamid
Foreign Policy By David Rothkopf Monday, October 24, 2011
I'll spare you the back story, but first thing this morning, in an effort to denigrate New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, one of my colleagues offered up the observation that not only was Brady overrated but that so too was his wife, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Apparently, in the eyes of my colleague (which clearly require medical attention), Bundchen looked quite average without her makeup on. Pressed on this subject, he went further, asserting that the women he runs with are much better looking and that he simply wouldn't be interested in Bundchen.
While I know I run the risk of devastating Ms. Bundchen by posting this story, within minutes after the discussion, it crossed my mind again when I read this weekend's sttement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that, "God forbid, if ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan."
Whew, I'm glad that's settled. My sense is that the prospect of having to contend with the opposition of an opponent of the strategic vision, credibility, and power of Karzai will have roughly the same effect on the United States that the prospect of doing without my colleague will have on Gisele Bundchen. These are both people who are clearly delusional about the impact their derision may have on their intended targets.
The biggest difference of course, is that whereas Gisele Bundchen will never feel the sting of being dissed by my friend because he is utterly invisible to her (with or without his makeup) the United States has once again gotten loud and clear the message from Karzai. He is working hard to win a place among the worst allies America has ever chosen, which is really saying something considering the rogue's gallery of losers and bad guys that the United States has thrown in with -- a list that includes Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, the Shah of Iran, and Josef Stalin. Tellingly, also vying for a spot on that list are at least some members of the Pakistani government with whom Karzai is vowing to work.
Naturally, all this once again sends the message loud and clear that Karzai is part of the problem, not part of the solution in Afghanistan. More importantly, it also reinforces the urgency with which the U.S. approach its principle task in Afghanistan which is folding up its tents, shutting down its bank accounts and getting the heck out of Dodge. If we happen to shut down all forms of financial and other support for Karzai's security first, well, all the better. Once upon a time, he was a necessary evil. Now, having declared himself an enemy of the United States and having demonstrated a marked incapability of ruling within any standards of efficiency, morality or even decency, it's time to cease any pretense of supporting this stooge and simply do what we can to build ties elsewhere in the leadership of this fragmented, tribal society so that once we are out, we have good contacts, useful intelligence, and conduits with whom we can work going forward.
We can then return to paying precisely as much attention to Karzai as he deserves ... which happens to be identical to the amount my buddy is likely to be receiving from Gisele Bundchen or anyone in her aesthetic zip code at any time in the near future.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator detained in Afghanistan: NATO
KABUL, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Afghan and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during a joint operation in Takhar province 245 km north of Afghan capital Kabul captured a militant loyal to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan on Monday, a statement of the military alliance released here Tuesday said.
"A combined Afghan and coalition security force captured an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator in Bangi district, Takhar province, yesterday," the statement asserted.
The facilitator was responsible for coordinating attacks against Afghan government officials in northern Afghanistan, the statement added without giving the name of the suspected insurgent or more details.
It also added that the security forces also detained two other suspected insurgents during the operation in Bangi district on Monday.
Meantime, Mohammad Sana the police chief of Bangi district in talks with Xinhua confirmed the operation and said all the three arrested had served as teachers in a religious school in Bangi district.
Can Pakistan Deliver the Haqqanis to the Negotiating Table?
TIME.com By Omar Waraich Monday, Oct. 24, 2011
Islamabad - When Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad on Thursday night, Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was wondering why the U.S. Secretary of State had even bothered to stop by and be civil. Earlier in the day, while still in Kabul, Clinton had warned Pakistan's leaders that if they were not willing to take action against Afghan insurgents operating out of Pakistani territory, then they could end up "paying a very big price." Abandoning his customary mumbling, Kayani asked: "If you're going to serve an ultimatum, then what was the point of the visit?"
But four hours later, at 2 a.m., the two fractious allies emerged with the broad outlines of a plan that could see Pakistan play a crucial role in helping the U.S. bring the decade-long war across the border to a close. After weeks of bitter recriminations, both sides say that the relationship has been "stabilized" for the moment. "I think we've done a lot to clear the air," Clinton told reporters on Friday. Quoting Kayani, she added that the two sides are, "90 to 95 percent on the same page."(See pictures of Pakistan's vulnerable North-West Frontier Province.)
Clinton's visit came as relations between Washington and Islamabad had plunged to an all-time low. A series of high-profile terrorist attacks in and around Kabul were traced back to the Haqqani network, whose leadership is believed to be hiding in a safe haven in the Pakistani tribal areas. In testimony before a U.S. senate panel, the recently retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen described the Haqqani network as "a veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. In some ways, the nominal U.S. alliance with Pakistan now hinges on the Haqqani network and what Islamabad can do to stop the group's attacks on U.S. troops.
The decision to entertain talks with the Haqqanis marks a significant shift in U.S. policy after years of deeming the group "irreconcilable." During that time, Washington's calls from Islamabad to do more against the group were met with obstinate refusals. "What has been happening is a game of brinkmanship," says the Pakistani military official, explaining how events were perceived by Islamabad. "They've been pushing and we've been resisting. We have leverage [when it comes to the Haqqani network] and they wanted to neutralize that leverage." Now, after an initial meeting between a member of the Haqqani network and U.S. officials, arranged by the ISI, Washington wants to see if Islamabad can deliver.
In the meetings, Kayani suggested that his army could take some action against the Haqqanis that would "limit" the "space" available to the group. The North Waziristan tribal area, U.S. officials complain, is used as a safe haven and logistical base where wounded fighters return to heal and fresh cross-border attacks are plotted. In recent months, the Pakistanis generals have talked among themselves of possible "surgical operations" in the main North Waziristan towns of Mir Ali, Miranshah, and Datta Khel. But Pakistan is unlikely to take such action, unless a fresh round of attacks by the Haqqani network leave them with no choice.(See pictures of Pakistan subcultures.)
Washington and Islamabad, however, remain divided on whether the Haqqani talks should come with prerequisites. On her visit, Clinton reiterated that the U.S. expects all groups involved in the so-called reconciliation talks with the Afghan government to renounce violence, disavow al-Qaeda and recognize the constitution of Afghanistan. The Pakistanis say that these should instead be "end conditions" for a negotiated settlement. "We know that they are not in our pocket," says the military official, referring to the ISI's murky relationship with the Haqqani network. "If you set down conditions, they'll tell us to go take a hike. They'll say that the U.S. is not winning in the field and so they're not interested." It is for this reason that Pakistan has insisted that it cannot, according to the military official, "guarantee a favorable or successful outcome" of the negotiations. It also helps the Pakistanis evade any blame for any potential breakdown.
But the real question is whether the Pakistanis can deliver the militants to the negotiating table at all. "I have to be very candid with all of you," Clinton told one of her audiences in Islamabad. "We're not sure that there may be no appetite for talking on the other side, that for ideological reasons or whatever other motivations, there may be no willingness."
Nevertheless, Washington and Islamabad have at least put on an appearance of agreeing to work together even if the Haqqanis never make it to any negotiations. The Americans, as Clinton noted, are keeping their options open. During the meeting, U.S. officials said they would calibrate their "military tempo" the pace of the action against the Haqqanis to progress in talks. If there is movement, the U.S. will be prepared to reward that will an easing of pressure. Indeed, the U.S. is mounting a new military offensive against the group.
Meanwhile, the Pakistanis feel gratified that their concerns regarding Afghanistan are now being heard. The U.S. has, says a senior Pakistani military official who was briefed on the meeting, "more or less accepted our stance on Afghanistan." The Pakistanis are pleased that U.S. officials like Lieut. Gen. Douglas Lute, a special advisor to President Barack Obama, are sensitive to their concerns about the sustainability of the Afghan National Army and police force that are being trained. The military official says Pakistan fears the creation of Afghan security forces that are too large and too pricey to maintain. Without adequate funding, the official adds, the force could break down into warring militias. And without greater Pashtun representation, the Pakistanis fear that a security force of over 400,000 could be vulnerable to Indian influence. A recent security agreement between Kabul and New Delhi had heightened that alarm.(See pictures from the suicide bombings in Islamabad.)
The Pakistanis, says the military official, told their U.S. counterparts that they would like to see Washington speak with "one voice." They say they are frustrated by what they see as "mixed messages" on the region emanating from different arms of government in Washington. Kayani also expects "clarity" in the process. "Each side," says the military official, "should be clear on what we expect from each other, so our efforts can complement each other." Another Pakistani demand is for "timelines" to be drawn up, establishing when the process will begin and how long it is expected to last.
The tentative agreements were made between the two high-powered delegations at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad. On the Pakistani side, Kayani was joined by the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Lieut. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, and the Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. On the U.S. side, Clinton's team included Gen. Martin Dempsey, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, David Petraeus, the new CIA director, Mark Grossman, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Lieut. Gen. Lute.
Afghans rally behind policeman's rare act of bravery
Reuters By Hamid Shalizi October 25, 2011
KABUL - Policeman Abdul Sameh drew his gun when he saw a suicide bomber approaching the Kabul base he was paid to protect. They fired at each other and Sameh brought down his man, but took a bullet to the head himself. The shot was fatal.
Hundreds of Afghan police officers are killed each year, but Sameh's self-sacrificing heroism in the line of duty was rare.
Many Afghans are deeply cynical about the fast-growing police force, often decried as corrupt and inept. Police posts, the first line of defense against militant attacks in rural areas, are often easily overrun by better-armed, more committed insurgents.
So since Sameh's death last month, government officials have been queuing up to associate themselves with his memory, and to use him as an example of how they want the police to be seen.
Posters of the slain policeman have been printed and stuck up on the road leading to the Interior Ministry and around the ministry building in Kabul, great parts of which are under constant surveillance by armed guards, and where the memory of September's assault by rocket-firing insurgents is fresh.
"This is part of a campaign for us to promote the image of the police force among the public," a senior police official said at the weekend, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We mention these rare acts of heroism whenever we can."
The deputy interior minister helped pay for Sameh's burial, the governor of his home province Wardak gave the family a plot of land, and officers at the national intelligence agency donated a month's salary to his family.
In a statement from the presidential palace, President Hamid Karzai offered land to the families of shot police officers, and praised the heroism of three other police who were killed on the same day as Sameh.
Winning the confidence of the public is critical at a time when violence is at record levels and foreign forces have already started a security handover in parts of the country before a full withdrawal of foreign combat troops by late 2014.
"Sameh is a hero, I hope the government help his family and respect his sacrifice," said Mohammad Gul, a 40-year-old shopkeeper in Kabul city.
"This was a brave act by a single officer. If there were other officers like Sameh, people would trust their government and their security forces," he said.
The public show of support for his family may also help convince ordinary Afghans that they are not risking poverty by having a breadwinner on the frontline.
The relatives of others killed in the line of duty are unlikely to do as well in life or death.
The country lacks proper programs to provide for dependents and, as an elite policeman, Saleh earned 15,000 Afghanis ($300) a month, around three times the average salary.
According to one police official, most of the families of those killed in the line of duty get only 100,000 Afghanis, handed over to the family when they pick up their loved one's corpse for burial.
"Sameh's case is exceptional, there are tens of thousands of people who have lost their loved ones in the line of duty but received little assistance," the official said.
(Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Paul Tait)
Afghans find little to praise in new U.S.-led offensive
McClatchy Newspapers By Habib Zohori and Shashank Bengali Monday, October 24, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan - As U.S.-led coalition forces intensify their battle against insurgents in rugged eastern Afghanistan, many residents there remain skeptical of the chances for military success and worry about the fallout from increased fighting.
NATO and Afghan forces announced Monday that two recent operations had captured or killed approximately 200 insurgents including 20 directly tied to the Haqqani network, the Taliban-allied insurgent group blamed for some of the most devastating attacks this year in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
A separate six-day operation against the Haqqanis in Musa Khail, along the border of insurgent-plagued Khost and Paktiya provinces, resulted in the capture of 11 insurgents and six weapons caches and was "one of the greatest successes to date," according to a coalition press release.
But residents of Musa Khail said they feared that the military gains would be fleeting and that the operations could result in the closure of the Pakistani border, the lifeline for the region. NATO officials believe that the Haqqanis and other insurgent groups enjoy safe havens in Pakistan and that fighters move back and forth freely across the porous border. But Pakistani leaders have been unwilling to crack down on the groups despite repeated urgings by U.S. officials.
"People started worrying when the Americans announced that they would shift the war from the south to the southeast of Afghanistan," Haji Gulab Mangal, a tribal leader in Musa Khail, said by telephone.
If it continues, the military campaign "can cause a lot of problems for the local population," he said. "Instead of launching military operations on this side of the border, the Americans should put pressure on Pakistan and the Taliban on the other side of the border."
In its first official acknowledgment of the operation in Musa Khail, NATO said that Afghan forces had rarely had a presence in the area until recently. The U.S.-led coalition is shifting more energy to eastern Afghanistan even as international forces begin drawing down their troops and prepare to announce the transfer of security responsibilities in several more districts nationwide to Afghan forces.
Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said Monday that the operations had driven insurgents and their leaders into hiding and significantly disrupted their ability to manufacture and deploy roadside bombs, which have become a favorite tactic.
The offensives "significantly disrupted insurgent operations and degraded the Haqqani network's ability to coordinate and execute future attacks against combined forces and the people of Afghanistan," Jacobson said.
Residents in Musa Khail were less certain. They said that Afghan and NATO forces had set up outposts in the area, and they were bracing for the fallout from further clashes.
Gulab Khan, a resident of Musa Khail, said by telephone that Afghan and NATO forces had searched the homes of suspected insurgents and made several arrests but were not stopping civilian vehicles along the roads.
"They had some success in this operation, but the real question that remains is whether or not they will be able keep it when the new fighting season starts in the summer," he said, a reference to the fact that fighting in Afghanistan typically wanes as winter approaches.
Among the locals, there was a deep-rooted fear of being caught between two armed groups. The lack of a strong government presence for years has allowed insurgents to establish themselves, and residents now acknowledge their reluctance to cooperate with coalition forces for fear of retribution by the insurgents who they say hack off the noses and ears of anyone suspected of talking with coalition forces.
"Let's not blame the local population for not supporting government and foreign efforts here," Mohammed Ali Zadran, a tribal leader in Khost province, said by telephone. "They are afraid of the Taliban. If they cooperate with the government the Taliban will kill them.
"Normally the government forces launch an operation and clear the area from the Taliban for a week," he said. "And then they leave and the Taliban come back."
Some residents said that they expected increased nighttime raids and arrests by coalition forces, practices that have stirred resentment of government forces.
"I don't know about the rest of the tribes, but my tribesmen will not support any side's efforts because we don't want to antagonize any of them," said Mangal, the Musa Khail tribal leader.
Others said that the operations stood a limited chance of success because many Afghans believe that international forces are preparing to leave the country after the planned handover of security to Afghan forces in 2014.
"Military gains are not permanent," Mohammed Ali Zadran, a tribal leader, said by telephone. "You will achieve some success by launching a military operation, but you won't be able to keep those gains for a long time."
(Bengali reported from Forward Operating Base Ghazni, Afghanistan. Zohori is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
The United States, Pakistan, and the perils of brinkmanship
Foreign Policy By Haider Ali Hussein Mullick Monday, October 24, 2011
Last May I asked Major General Niaz Muhammad Khan Khattak, the Deputy Director of the ISI, Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, about his organization's links with the Haqqani Network. "If you always focus on the mosaic," he said, pointing to the Afghan rug in his sumptuous office, "that's all you'll see." Today it doesn't matter how Washington looks at this mosaic - as transnational terrorism or as Pakistan's anti-India partner in Afghanistan - one thing is certain: elements within the ISI help fighters belonging to the Haqqani Network who kill American soldiers. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is a tinderbox, one spark - U.S. soldiers on Pakistani territory or the Haqqanis killing dozens of American troops - could ignite war.
That spark may be more plausible than we think. Recent dιtente is encouraging but only a Band-Aid over a gaping wound. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the ISI to facilitate talks between Washington and reconcilable Haqqanis, and yet warned of "dire consequences" for Islamabad if the Pakistani military did not take action against the Haqqanis who are unwilling to negotiate. The Pakistani response was "yes" to talks, but "no" to military operations. Today, thousands of American troops are in the Haqqani Network's crosshairs in eastern Afghanistan during efforts to root out Haqqani militants, such as Operation Steel Rain in Khowst. Unless Pakistani generals act against the Haqqani Network's sanctuary in North Waziristan, which they have refused to do so far, American casualties will increase. In that case, there will be tremendous pressure on Congress and the White House to act unilaterally, quite possibly by putting boots on the ground.
What will happen if helicopters carrying American Seals are shot down in North Waziristan? How will America respond to a major attack that kills 100 troops in Afghanistan, like the September attack that wounded 77 soldiers in east Kabul? What if the perpetrators escape to Karachi, beyond the range of drones? What if American boots trigger a mutiny in the Pakistani army, leading to civil war? How will Washington secure Pakistani nuclear weapons?
Unfortunately, many of these dangerous scenarios are increasingly likely. A Pakistani official has told me that American-supplied Pakistani F-16 fighters are on high alert against a probable US raid. In March, Pakistani Air Force had orders to shoot down US predator and reaper drones. Last year, Islamabad shut down NATO's largest supply line for days, and three years ago, General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistani military, ordered fire on a US helicopter carrying U.S. Special Forces that had crossed into North Waziristan. The Pakistani parliament, political parties and the media are supportive of the army's sentiments against the United States, but not against the Haqqanis. Anti-Americanism, always high, has reached unprecedented levels within the military's ranks, especially amongst junior officers. This is because most young officers are unaware of the past deals their generals have made with the Americans, and some may act independently in the name of national pride against an American incursion into Pa
kistan to target militants.
The United States is failing to change Pakistani public opinion because many Pakistanis are oblivious to American good will, and ambivalent about American aid as well as reconciliation with the insurgents. They hear about aid cuts and Americans talking to the same insurgents Pakistanis are asked to kill. Pakistani generals and politicians support such public confusion and often blame Washington for Pakistan's problems in order to cover up their own incompetence and corruption. More than 10 years and $20 billion worth of military and civilian aid has bought Washington the heads of top al-Qaeda leaders, the elimination of critical safe havens (Swat valley and South Waziristan), but not the Quetta Shura in Balochistan or the Haqqanis in North Waziristan.
At the same time, since 9/11 more than 30,000 Pakistanis have been victims of terrorism, of which 6,000 were soldiers and policemen. The city of Karachi, which contributes half of Pakistan's national income, is home to a brutal ethnic war, and resurgent Balochi militants and Sindhi flood victims are overstretching the military and an incompetent civilian government. Hyperinflation of food and energy prices, water shortages, massive floods, proliferating terrorists groups, and a fast-growing nuclear program are fast making Pakistan a threat to itself and the world.
To make matters worse, the Pakistan-based Haqqanis are killing American soldiers and disrupting the Afghan peace process, with what the United States says is support from the ISI. Clearly, US military aid cuts have done little to alter the ISI's support for the Haqqanis. Instead, General Kayani is rallying troops and political parties against expected U.S. raids into North Waziristan. He is pressing Washington's weakest point: threatening to close crucial supply routes to Afghanistan, without which there would be massive NATO fuel and ammunition shortages. It would take months, and improbable negotiations with the Russians, to get a viable alternative to the "Northern Supply Network."
It is not just a matter of Pakistani will, but also Pakistani capabilities. There is great need for American helicopters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and yes, some American boots on the ground in the form of trainers and advisers. Even if Pakistani generals decide to attack the Haqqanis, they no longer have resources to clear and hold North Waziristan, and contain the blowback that could come in the form of a national suicide bombing wave.
In 2009, suicide attacks increased by 220 percent from the previous year (from ten to 32), targeting major cities: Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. This placed massive strains on poorly equipped national police forces. The same year, riding on an anti-insurgent public opinion wave, Pakistani commandoes, Frontier Scouts and 11th Corps infantry men - many trained and equipped by the United States - broke the insurgents' back in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan. Today the Pakistani Army has no public support for a military operation against the Haqqanis. Furthermore, the population's opposition to the Pakistani Taliban - public enemy no. 1 in 2009 - is fading.
That was not always the case. In the summer of 2010, Pakistan's Commanding General for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, told me, "like Swat and South Waziristan [in 2009] with the help of the Pakistani public we will clean out North Waziristan this winter ." However, Pakistani intransigence regarding the Haqqanis, devastating floods, the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and the killing of two Pakistanis in Lahore by an American spy made the operation in North Waziristan impossible.
To renew ties we must start by replicating the 2009 conditions. American development dollars, weapons and trainers were flying in and al-Qaeda members were flying out or shot dead. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, who rightly chides Pakistan today, said referring to the Pakistani surge against Pakistani Taliban that he "couldn't give the Pakistani Army anything but an 'A'." But absent a national narrative against the Haqqanis that unites Pakistanis, carved out of a transparent partnership with the United States, both countries may slip into war. Time is running out.
Haider Ali Hussein Mullick is the author of Pakistan's Security Paradox: Countering & Fomenting Insurgencies. Mullick advised General (r) David H. Petraeus on Pakistan in 2009 and 2010. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program.
Afghanistan must open up about its tragedies
Blaming deaths from addiction, violent crime and self-immolation on political conflict creates a heavy burden of unresolved grief
Guardian.co.uk By Nushin Arbabzadah Monday 24 October 2011
The small, passport-size picture showed a strikingly handsome young man. "He was killed by the Taliban the night before the first day of his new job at an NGO office," said the bereaved Afghan father who turned to me for comfort. The father had been helping me with my research in Kabul, quietly going through documents and putting them on the desk for me to read. His young son had led an active life, studying, working, socialising and going to the gym every day. "We hardly saw him, that's how busy he was. He would come home happy and hungry," his father said.
"How was he killed?" I asked the father. "He was stabbed on our street at night," he replied. "I know his killers. They lived on our street and had connections with the Taliban. They fled to Paktia [a province on the eastern border of Afghanistan] the same night. They told the Taliban that he spoke English and was spying for foreigners. We went to courts in search of justice but it was to no avail. His killers had already fled to Pakistan and then India."
My only way to comfort this grieving father was to tell him about the recent death of my own father. "I know what you are going through," I told him as he put the picture of his son back into his wallet, staring out of the window into a solemn afternoon in Kabul.
There was a question about this brutal and untimely death of a young civilian Afghan that kept me preoccupied but I didn't dare to put it to the father. The question was: given that the Taliban focus on killing high-profile individuals for maximum publicity, what were the chances of their killing a young graduate from an ordinary, apolitical family that was neither rich nor powerful? Since the young man had not even started his first job, the only power that he could possibly have had would have been his strikingly handsome looks he had a strong body and the face of a film star. My suspicion grew that the cause of his death was something personal: a love story in all probability involving the family whose sons ended up stabbing him. But I kept this suspicion to myself.
When I left the office, the father was watching the news on television. There had been yet another suicide bombing, killing dozens of people. "The Taliban are so brutal," he shook his head, probably thinking of his son. I suspected that it comforted him to think that his son's murder had something to do with Afghan politics rather than the Afghan honour system which allows for punishing love affairs deemed illicit with murder. I began to wonder just how many murders disguised as political assassination were in fact pure personal crimes caused by jealousy, business rivalry and sometimes just perceived slights to someone's honour. After all, blaming criminal murder on the Taliban served all parties involved.
The Taliban readily claimed any murder because the publicity increased fear of their power and brutality among the population. The perpetrators, in turn, distracted attention away from themselves by placing the blame on the Taliban. The families of the victims were also spared the uncomfortable realisation that the victim might have crossed the perceived boundaries of decency or had personal enemies among his friends, colleagues and even family members. The denial allowed them to grieve for the lost son, brother and friend as a political martyr rather than the victim of a crime, especially since criminal cases hardly ever get solved in Afghanistan's chaotic and corrupt justice system.
When it came to death, Afghans were world masters in covering up the true causes of death, tending to fabricate stories to make dealing with death easier for the victims' families. In reality, what the stories did was to create confusion and avoidance of the grieving process.
The consequence of this is unresolved grief, which can lead to depression, anger and rage and in turn trigger new acts of violence against others or its opposite, self-harm. The suffering often lasts for generations, with children growing up confused as they hear conflicting stories about a family member's death without ever learning the true cause, or perhaps more importantly, finding justice.
Last week, yet another mass grave was discovered by Rustaq villagers in the northern Takhar province of Afghanistan. By the time the news reached the international press, speculation was already high as to the grave's date, the number of the bodies found and the possible perpetrators of the mass murder. Given the unimpressive record of the Afghan people and state in dealing with such violent deaths, the chances of ever finding out the truth about this new mass grave are exceedingly small and the villagers' unresolved grief is bound to carry on for yet another generation.
It is true that Afghans find comfort in the theological notion that we are all guests in this world and that our real, eternal life only begins after death. But the thousands of cases of drug addiction, female self-immolation, violent crime and mental illness speak of a very different reality that is grounded in the brutality of life here and now.
Afghan security better than expected-US official
Reuters Oct 24, 2011
WASHINGTON - Security in Afghanistan is improving even more quickly than anticipated, a senior U.S. defense official said, despite concerns that a brisk troop drawdown might handicap the effort to build lasting stability.
The official, speaking in an interview last week, said that estimates earlier this year from the U.S. intelligence community had not predicted the decline in violence documented in select security trend figures released last week by the U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan.
"What we're seeing is that things are going not just as well as we expected, but in many cases better than we had expected," said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
The official said the increase in the monthly number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, which had been climbing steadily since 2005 and peaked at over 4,000 in August 2010 alone, had decreased during the last fighting season.
He credited that trend to the extra 33,000 troops that President Barack Obama deployed following his 2009 overhaul of Afghan war policy, along with the strides made by Afghanistan's own security forces.
Obama is now pulling those surge forces from Afghanistan -- withdrawing 10,000 this year and the remainder by the end of September 2012 -- as Americans' attention turns to their ailing economy and and the presidential election on the horizon.
Yet the trend of overall security across Afghanistan after a decade of war remains a subject of dispute. Even the most confident military officials recognize the obstacles to sustaining improvements made in places like southern Helmand, including a surge in high-profile attacks and insurgents' ability to shelter and resupply in western Pakistan.
While foreign forces have touted improved security in the Taliban's southern heartland, the picture is much less encouraging in the Afghan east, where militants from the Haqqani network, blamed for a series of bold attacks on American targets, take advantage of rugged terrain and the porous border to the east.
The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO), which advises aid and other groups on security, warned this month that the war appeared to be "escalating, not diminishing."
The Pentagon is expected to release its latest security trend figures for Afghanistan in greater detail later this week.
The U.S. official said that the surge troops' focus not just on battling the Taliban but also shoring up the local soldiers who will take over from them had been important in turning around the tempo of enemy attacks over the last fighting season.
"The narrative is wrong if people think that U.S. forces went in and did the fighting and pushed the Taliban back and left," he said.
Still, he said, "We still want to be very cautious about that, because it's a war and in a war the enemy gets a vote." (Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Swiss couple held by Taliban in Pakistan appear in video, say they risk being killed
By Associated Press, October 25
ISLAMABAD Two Swiss tourists held by the Pakistani Taliban have appeared in a video, saying their captors are threatening to kill them.
The man and woman, whose names have not been released, are shown holding a newspaper dated Sept. 15 with armed, masked men behind them.
The pair are being held in northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border. They were seized in July in nearby Baluchistan province.
The video was given to The Associated Press on Tuesday by a local resident who is purportedly in contact with the militants. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
Militants often kidnap wealthy Pakistanis and less commonly foreigners. Large ransoms are often paid.
|2011, afghan, news, october|