Al-Qaeda’s shadow over Taliban talks

January 28, 2010

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – With an international conference starting in London on Thursday expected to lay down a framework for the Afghan government to begin taking charge of its own security, in line with a timetable set by United States President Barack Obama to start drawing down US troops in 2011, efforts for reconciliation with the Taliban are also being stepped up.

However, sources directly involved in backchannel negotiations with the Taliban tell Asia Times Online they are skeptical of the Taliban being reconciled as the militants scent victory in Afghanistan and hence are not prepared to show any flexibility in their demands, the key one of which is that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

At the conference in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will unveil a British- and United States-backed plan for “reintegration” of segments of the Taliban. He is also expected to seek international funding to offer jobs and inducements to bring insurgents into the mainstream political process – the amount of US$1 billion has been mentioned. To this end, parliamentary elections in Afghanistan have been postponed from May to September, although ostensibly because the Independent Election Commission said it needed more funds.

Karzai is also pushing for Taliban names to be removed from a United Nations blacklist that imposes travel restrictions and asset freezes. “[They should be] welcome to come back to their country, lay down arms and resume life as citizens of Afghanistan, enjoying the privileges and the rights and the guarantees given by the Afghan constitution,” Karzai said.

He is also reported as saying that his Western allies fully back his plans for reconciliation with the Taliban – provided they are not “key members” of the movement, that they are not allied with al-Qaeda and that they renounce violence.

“The red line is links to al-Qaeda,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was quoted in the media this week as saying.

Herein lies the rub.

A December briefing prepared by the top US intelligence official in Afghanistan, Major General Michael Flynn, concludes that “the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is increasingly effective”. With regard to al-Qaeda, the 23-page briefing quotes Taliban detainees as saying that the Taliban see al-Qaeda as a “handicap”; however, it adds that al-Qaeda “provides facilitation, training and some funding” to the Taliban and predicts that “perceived insurgent success will draw foreign fighters” into Afghanistan.

A former Arab mujahid who fought in Afghanistan and who claims to have been in direct communication with senior al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, has told Asia Times Online that the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban is much deeper.

He said that following the leaking last year of a report by the US’s top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, that tens of thousands more US troops would be sent into Afghanistan, bin Laden met with Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the Afghan province of Helmand in October – apparently their first meeting in a long time.

According to the Arab fighter, the meeting marked a watershed in relations between the Taliban and al-Qaeda as the leaders agreed on closer relations and better coordination in the war against the Western coalition in Afghanistan. Further, they agreed that any invitation for dialogue was a ploy to lure the Taliban into a trap.

While there was apparently some disagreement on the issue of carrying out attacks in Pakistan, the leaders agreed on a joint macro strategy until the “complete defeat” of the foreign forces in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar, the fighter claims, was particularly impressed that bin Laden made the risky journey over the Hindu Kush mountains into southwestern Afghanistan.

Preparing to talk

The Pakistan military is at the forefront of efforts to set up talks with the Taliban, and Peshawar, capital of North-West Frontier Province, Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, and the national capital, Islamabad, have been scheduled as venues.

A next level of dialogue could then take place in the United Arab Emirates, where a former UAE ambassador is attempting to get Taliban representatives to meet with US, British and Saudi Arabian officials.

The Muslim Brotherhood is also expected to be involved in getting people to the dialogue table, as are various individuals. These include Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s. One of them is Iraqi Mehmood al-Samarrai, alias Abul Judh, who was previously wanted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for supporting the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. He currently lives in Pakistan and is working to get some Taliban commanders to talk to Saudi officials.

However, a senior Arab diplomat who has been directly involved in some backchannel negotiations with the Taliban told Asia Times Online that one of the problems any talks faced was that neither side had changed its basic position: the Taliban want an unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops, while Western leaders want the Taliban to immediately stop all hostilities.

The diplomat also said he believed the Barack Obama administration was desperate to slow down the advances of the Taliban, given that the US Democrats had recently suffered a crucial setback in a senate election. Ahead of mid-term elections in the US in November, the party could not afford any more major embarrassments in Afghanistan, such as the suicide attack on a US spy base last year and the recent attacks in the heart of Kabul, the capital.

The dialogue initiative, whether or not motivated in part by the US’s desire to buy time, could, however, turn out to be another embarrassment.

If, as the Arab fighter claims, the links between the Taliban and al-Qaeda now run deeper than is generally reported, it would rule out any chance of senior Taliban commanders being reconciled: firstly, they would not want to switch, given their newfound loyalty to Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda. And secondly, if some did conceivably seek reconciliation, they would presumably be “barred” anyway for having links to al-Qaeda.

Lower-level Taliban could well be lured from the movement, but it is doubtful they would leave in sufficient numbers, and the leadership would still be intact to drive the resistance.

Previous reconciliation attempts have also done little to affect the Taliban’s leadership.

Within the Taliban, the institution of the ameerul momineen (commander of the faithful) plays a vital role. Any defiance towards ameerul momineen (Mullah Omar) means to become an outcast from the Taliban’s ranks and the person immediately loses his following.

An example is former Taliban commander Abdul Salam Rocketi, who was powerful in the southern province of Zabul. Several years ago, he switched sides and he is now a member of parliament. He was quickly replaced by little-known youths, to whom the rank-and file immediately gave their full support. The same would happen now should any commander defy Mullah Omar: he will have to leave his region and move to Kabul.

The dialogue initiative has been started, though, and efforts in this direction can be expected to intensify following this week’s meeting in London.

For the Afghan war theater, the claimed new coordination agreement between al-Qaeda and Taliban will see the Taliban stick to their guns, literally.

In the broader context, al-Qaeda says in the coming months it will concentrate on Saudi Arabia to put Riyadh under immense pressure to pull back from its support of the US-led “war on terror”.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban), which has reorganized in Orakzai Agency after the military operations in the Waziristan tribal areas, will re-engage the army in an effort to force the political leadership not to become involved in the reconciliation efforts between Washington and the Afghan Taliban.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com


A Balochi Beating India’s Manmohan

January 21, 2010

By Ahmed Quraishi

This picture was taken recently in Chaman, the small Pakistani town on the border with southern Afghanistan. While the US and Indian media promote terrorism in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan, a terror which is supported by US and Indian intelligence operatives using the Afghan soil, the reality on the ground is far from the image that American and Indian spinmasters wish to convey. [US think tanks are the latest entrants in the psy-ops against Pakistan, promoting the idea of the separation of resource-rich Balochistan from Pakistan.]

In this picture, a Pakistani Balochi is beating a donkey-shaped effigy of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Indians and Karzai’s intelligence, with tacit approval of CIA operatives in Afghanistan, have been luring young poor Pakistani Balochis to training camps in Afghanistan and brainwashing them to launch a wave of terror inside Pakistan in the guise of a separatist ethnic insurgency. As soon as US military and intelligence landed in Afghanistan, a long-dead terrorist group called BLA, created by the Soviet KGB in the 1970s, was brought back from the dustbin of history and reorganized. The Indians helped by bringing agents from India fluent in the Urdu language. These language experts were tasked with composing press statements and sending them to Pakistani media offices across Pakistan.

To turn this into a real separatist war, unknown terrorists were sent to Quetta, the provincial capital, to target-kill non-Balochi Pakistanis in an effort to stir an ethnic backlash. There isn’t much ‘ethnic’ difference among Pakistanis, but inept politicians have been using minor language differences, which do exist, to create the aura of different ethnicities for political reasons.

Unfortunately, former President Pervez Musharraf turned a blind eye to US, Indian and Karzai puppet regime’s meddling in Pakistani Balochistan. The incumbent pro-US government of President Asif Zardari is doing the same. No one in today’s Pakistani ruling structure appears willing to fend off the Americans and their Indian and Afghan poodles.

But despite all these efforts, Pakistani Balochis remain staunch Pakistanis, just like their fathers and grandfathers who fought off the Indian massacre of Pakistani migrants during Pakistan’s War of Independence in 1947.

The biggest proof of this came last June, when the entire Pakistani Balochi tribe of Mari came out for the funeral of Lieutenant Safiullah Mari, who died fighting the Afghan-backed terrorists in the Pakistani tribal belt. Not only did the Maris chant pro-Pakistan slogans, the father of Lt. Baloch announced he was ready to give his other son to defend Pakistan. This was a slap in the face of terrorist feudal leaders like Harbiyar Mari, who enjoys British protection in London, and Brahamdagh Bugti, who enjoys American and Karzai’s protection in Kabul. Both have been trying to radicalize the Mari tribe against their own country.

[See the video of Lt. Baloch's funeral.]


One day we all will be terrorists!

January 15, 2010

By Dr Haider Mehdi

“Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.”

- Chris Hedges (in an article of the same title)

My generation grew up in a different Pakistan. A different Lahore, a different Karachi, a different Peshawar, a different Quetta, a different Islamabad and an entirely different country.

In Lahore, people sat in Pak Tea House and Coffee House and talked about politics, poetry, religion, culture and friendships gave birth, on a daily basis, to youthful romanticism of our times: the mutual seduction of kindred spirits within the confines of our cultural values and the gentleness of Urdu poetry, songs, geets (lyrics) and the Lahori humour. We celebrated basant (the kite-flying festival), maila-charagha (the festival of lights) and Urs Data Gung-Baksh (the festival of a saint). We observed Muharram with great reverence.

Karachi used to be alive 24 hours a day all year round. It was a city of “lights”, “fashion”, hustle-bustle of a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. Ethnic diversity and tolerance was the hallmark of this city.

Peshawar was a beacon of hospitality, a tribute to human gentleness and an affirmation of a rich community life.

Quetta’s apple-laden trees decorated its roads everywhere and the Balochis colourful existence found its spirit in its music, songs and even in its cuisine. Moreover, Pakistan’s rural society existed in purity, simplicity and the zealousness of hard working people.

Pakistan was a different country then: we lived in relative peace, tolerance and mutual harmony. A delicious puri nashta cost one rupee, petrol was Rs 2.50 a gallon, schooling was cheap, sugar and food were plenty, and a round-trip by PIA from Lahore to Karachi was Rs 250.

The majority of Pakistanis were poor even then, but there was no mass starvation, deprivation suicides, forced prostitution, massive collective depressive communities, agonising socio-psychological conditions, economic collapse, and no one knew of crippling demoralising inner fears. We did not know of institutional violence and extensive state terror – though police brutality and legal system atrocities were common, bureaucracy was horribly cruel, corrupt, inefficient and unbelievably powerful vis-à-vis the citizenry, commerce thrived on black marketing and the political class wholly and completely indulged in vested interests, inappropriate use of political power and mismanagement of state affairs.

Even though we lived with a million vices as a nation, but strangely enough, life was not as painful as it is in today’s democratic Pakistan. Neither was the entire nation, every one of its citizens, gripped with such forceful, depleting and paralysing fear – a fear that the management of the survival of this country has gone out of control. A fear that we all may be blown away from existence the next moment, if not literally then at least in a metaphorical sense!

Do you realise the seriousness of our contemporary political crisis?

The present state of our deplorable existence is the work of our decade long political leadership inclusive of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship and the incumbent political dispensation in the country.

The fundamental failure of our national policy is this country’s ruling elite’s destructive all time political-economic-military alliance with the US and its allies (now India included).

Even at the time that I have described as the “golden days” of Pakistan’s past, our ruling elite was fully and comprehensively politically engaged with the US and its allies. However the US was in a different political mode then: it was fighting its own self-invented “demons” – the communist ideology and the communist nations (though communism was not a threat – it was a political experiment to solve mass poverty). The objective of American foreign policy was global political-economic and military domination.

In the present day world, the policy objectives of the US and its allies remain same: worldwide imperialist hegemony and exploitation by the west’s multi-national corporations.

However, in the contemporary equation, the west’s enemies have been redefined: Now we are the “demons”. They have declared a war against Muslim nations, their people, their faith, their culture, their traditions, their values and customs, their history and even against their existence as we know it today. Huntington in The Clash of Civilisations warns that if we do not transform our civilisation to a western model, then we must be prepared for an ultimate obliteration through successive wars at the hands of the west: we are given no choices.

Seven hundred Pakistani citizens died in American drone attacks in 2009 alone. It is not accidental!

What the US and its western allies do not understand is that their present war is not against an economic-political ideology (communism). This war is against a people, a faith, a history, an existential reality, an entirety of a civilisation, an actual formidable historical presence and an enduring spiritual entity. They, the US and its allies (which include collaborating political elites in Muslim countries), cannot win this war. Indeed, they can unleash havoc, a wave of destruction (as they are doing now), but they cannot and will not win!

Coming back to the context of Pak-US relations, consider the following most plausible scenario in the immediate future:

Through covertly managed organised violence, collaborations, propaganda, bombings and political manipulations, the US succeeds in destabilising Pakistan to an extent of complete political chaos, limited anarchy and a near civil war situation. Under the pretext of threat to international security, American and NATO forces are moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are seized, a puppet regime is installed: Pakistan is de-nuclearised, India (the newest US ally) becomes a dominant regional power, Iran is contained, China-Russia growing political clout is checked, the US/west’s historical global dominance is achieved – the world is saved!

Is that what the Pakistani nation wants and deserves?

Imran Khan’s perspective on Pakistan’s foreign policy and domestic priorities is correct: we need to politically-militarily disengage Pakistan from the US/west’s global objectives. We need to immediately end this so-called War on Terror against our own citizens. We need to negotiate peace with political dissidents in NWFP, Balochistan and in every corner of Pakistan. We must appreciate the fact that political dissent is not terror!

We ought to, by engaging our own citizens and political dissidents, quietly and secretly do a complete “cleansing” of the foreign elements and local collaborators involved in organised violence in our country. This can only be accomplished by a determined, independent, nationalist and highly efficient political leadership that can make the national policy without American influence and interference. And this is the ultimate requirement of our times.

At last, Mian Nawaz Sharif said something right the other day: the public in Pakistan needs to think in revolutionary ways now.

Allow me to go one step further: what we need is a revolutionary political leadership in this country. We deserve a change in the political mindset and political conduct of this nation’s leaders. We need fresh leadership in Pakistan.

We all do not need to be politically loyal to our contemporary political dispensation or to our present political allies. We must completely reject a global political system of US/west’s dominance.

We all ought to be political dissidents! After all, dissent is a vital element of the democratic political process. It is a duty of an engaged citizenry!

One day we all might be considered terrorists by our western “friends”.

Never mind. So be it!

The writer is an academic, political analyst and conflict-resolution expert.
Email: hl_mehdi@hotmail.com


Blame India For Karachi Terror

December 30, 2009

New clues emerge: Suicide attacks against Pakistani Shias in Karachi and Kashmir are unprecedented. There have been no sectarian or suicide attacks in Kashmir before. The attack in Karachi is the first major sectarian assault in five years. The attack in Karachi is the work of Indians. It cripples Pakistan’s business hub, it aims at a civil war between Pakistanis, it puts Pakistani military on the defensive, it strengthens America’s intention of invading Pakistan, it reinforces US propaganda that war is in Pakistan and not Afghanistan. The Indian role here is critical. India is responsible for poisoning the Afghan well for the Americans and for everyone else. India is the missing part in the story of how US blundered in Afghanistan.

By AHMED QURAISHI
Tuesday, 29 December 2009.
WWW.AHMEDQURAISHI.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Feeding sectarian tension is the last thing Karachi needed after the terrorist attack on a large Shia procession. But that is exactly what Interior Minister Rehman Malk unwittingly did when he quickly blamed ‘religious extremists’ for the attack, which in other words means Sunni militants.

That’s what the enraged crowds wanted to hear to bring Pakistan’s business hub to a halt.

Despite all his experience in the Federal Investigations Agency [FIA], Mr. Malik missed an important clue: In all the sectarian incidents Pakistan witnessed until 2004, none of the feuding Pakistani Shia and Sunni groups used suicide attackers against each other. This method was introduced in Pakistan a couple of years later by a shadowy group called Pakistani Taliban, whose manpower is partially Pakistani but its arms and funding are coming from powerful and organized supporters inside US-controlled Afghanistan.

The US says it’s unable to stop the support for anti-Pakistan terror from a US-controlled territory just as Pakistan is unable or unwilling to help in stopping the attacks by the Afghan Taliban against the US military in Afghanistan.

There are strong reasons why Islamabad should look at India for the terror wave inside Pakistan. It is strange why Mr. Malik won’t consider this possibility. His position becomes more untenable considering how his pro-US government has been reluctant to confront Washington and New Delhi on issues pertaining to Pakistan’s legitimate interests.

The position of Karachi’s largest political party MQM and its UK-based chief Altaf Hussain is worse. His support for the military operation against terrorists on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan should be appreciated. But Mr. Hussain has been exploiting recent terror attacks to get back at his political opponents. Mr. Hussain’s city has seen Indian-instigated terrorism over the years. But MQM chief never once criticized India for its meddling inside Pakistan, not even when Pakistani intelligence officials confronted Washington recently with evidence of Indian terrorism.

Even Mr. Zardari’s ruling PPP tried to use the attack in its own legal battle over corruption charges and its tussle with the country’s powerful military over national security issues. Several of its spokespersons claimed the attack was the work of ‘anti-democracy’ forces.

Sectarian terrorism in Pakistan is linked to Iran and Arab countries. Iran’s new rulers after 1979 began exporting the ‘revolution’ and its Arab neighbors reacted. This clash is not indigenous to Pakistan. It’s not a battle that Pakistanis owned. Both Iran and Arab countries scaled back their support for sectarian Sunni and Shia terror groups in Pakistan over the past decade. Countermeasures by Islamabad helped reduce the footprint of the sectarian groups in Pakistan in recent years. When money from Iran and Arab countries dried up, so did their proxy Sunni-Shia war on Pakistani soil.

That’s why Pakistan saw no major sectarian attack in the past five years. The last major attack occurred in Quetta in March 2004, and it was not a suicide attack.

The Karachi attack is unique in several ways.

The attack in Karachi was preceded by a terrorist explosion two days earlier in a public area with no specific target. It was meant to spread panic and instability. Pakistan saw similar attacks during the 1980s and early 1990s. Our investigators and intelligence analysts are familiar with this footprint. Those attacks were executed by agents working for the Indian intelligence.

But two days before Karachi, there was an attack on a Shia procession in Azad Kashmir. This attack is also of special interest to Pakistani security analysts.

There has not been a suicide attack targeting Shias in Pakistan’s Kashmir before. The region is right next to India but too far away from south Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan, the hub of suicide attackers in Pakistan.

The only other suicide attack in liberated Kashmir’s capital, Muzaffarabad, happened in June this year. It targeted a Pakistan Army truck and killed two soldiers. It is unthinkable for anyone belonging to Pakistan’s religious groups, and especially groups fighting India in the occupied part of Kashmir, to attack Pakistani soldiers stationed there to keep an eye on India.

The June 2009 suicide attack and then Sunday’s attack against the Shias in Pakistani Kashmir confirms a theory gaining currency among Pakistani security analysts. This theory goes back to 2006, when an unknown Pakistani Pashtun named Abdullah Mehsud was released from Gitmo after serving three years there. He was not handed back to Pakistan but sent back to Afghanistan. He was allowed to reenter Pakistan. Once here, he organized a militia and kidnapped Chinese engineers and attacked Chinese interests in Pakistan. In three years, his project has expanded into a major terror operation, well funded and armed. His militia introduced suicide attackers who kill Pakistanis, civilian and military. Former President Musharraf’s blunder of pitching the Pakistani army against its own tribesmen provided the perfect excuse for Abdullah’s terror militia to recruit gullible and poor Pakistanis to kill other Pakistanis. CIA drone attacks, which killed more than 750 innocent civilians so far, indirectly help that militia, which is called the Pakistani Taliban, to recruit suicide attackers from among the affected people and tribesmen.

The terror militia, despite being surrounded from all sides in Pakistan by Pakistani soldiers, continues to receive state of the art weapons, ammunition, fuel and funding, all from Afghanistan. When Pakistanis confronted senior US military and intelligence officers about this, their answer was that the money is coming from the drug trade controlled by the Afghan Taliban and that the advanced US-made weapons in the hands of the Pakistani Taliban, used to kill Pakistanis, were stolen from the US-trained Afghan National Army.

However, the drug trade in Afghanistan is not controlled by the Afghan Taliban but by the warlord allies of US military and intelligence in that country. These warlords are part of the US-backed government. But more interestingly, their drug trade is supported by the CIA in Afghanistan.

In October, someone in the US intelligence community, probably trying to embarrass CIA, leaked a sensitive piece of information to the New York Times. The information said that Afghan President’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, considered one of the biggest drug traffickers in Afghanistan, is on CIA payroll. The agency’s spokespeople later tried to minimize the damage by justifying it as part of the war effort.

This was a serious leak. This is how CBS News described it, “release of this sensitive information is troublesome and potentially game-changing in a dangerous war.”

Pakistan should have taken up this matter with its US ally but the country is too destabilized right now to focus.

But the implications for Pakistan are deadly. The CIA, or at least rogue elements in the agency, is directly involved in sustaining the terror capability of the militia in south Waziristan. This militia is CIA’s asset. And it is being used to punish Pakistan and its armed forces for not fully endorsing the US plan for the region, including accepting a larger role for India at the expense of Pakistani interests.

INDIA’S ROLE

The Indian role here is critical. India is responsible for poisoning the Afghan well for the Americans and for everyone else. India is the missing part in the story of how US lost Afghanistan.

India’s intelligence officers offered their services to the Americans at the start of the occupation. Their argument was attractive. India is an expert on all things Pakistan. India played the same role with the Soviets, helping them unleash a wave of terror bombings across Pakistani cities during the 1980s.

Except the pro-US government of Mr. Asif Zardari in Islamabad and a few supporters cultivated by the US Embassy here, almost everyone else in Pakistan understands this background to the continuous acts of terror in Pakistan.

In the case of the suicide attack in the capital of Azad Kashmir, the autonomous government there concluded from the available evidence that India’s intelligence agency, RAW, was involved in that attack. Kashmir has not witnessed any sectarian attacks before. Nor has there ever been attacks on the Pakistani military there except by the Indian army across the ceasefire line. This is an important thread that the Pakistani media ignored. But the government of Azad Kashmir didn’t. The Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir directly accused India of masterminding this terror act in Kashmir.

After the attack in Karachi, groups of people unleashed organized vandalism in the heart of the business district. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto this week a year ago, organized groups conducted selective targeting across the province of Sindh. Those targets were carefully chosen to spark language-based riots and divide Pakistanis. On Sunday, the same day of the suicide attack in Kashmir, one of the closest friends of Mr. Zardari and a man with a record of corruption, tried to ignite those tensions again when he revealed that he and some if his colleagues were plotting the breakup of Pakistan during the riots last year and were stopped by Mr. Zardari at the last minute.

These characters have been imposed on the people of Pakistan by the United States and the United Kingdom through a ‘deal’ with Musharraf. This deal allowed Washington to execute a regime-change in Pakistan and install a puppet government without the need for a war and invasion, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Americans are interested in Karachi because it’s the closest fully operational seaport for the use of NATO forces in Afghanistan. But this link is incomplete without Balochistan, because of the new Gwadar port but also because of its proximity to Iran and the Gulf.

Terrorism and destabilization will continue in Pakistan. By the current standards, Pakistan is headed for serious domestic instability if the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military don’t stop the slide.

Pakistan needs to:

1. Openly accuse the United States and its Indian ally of destabilizing Pakistan and the region.

2. Warn India about its direct involvement in terrorism.

3. End Pakistan’s involvement in America’s bungled war in Afghanistan.

4. Launch direct talks between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban in order to stabilize the Pakistani tribal belt.

5. Stop CIA drones and declare them a failure. Over 750 innocent Pakistanis, mostly women and children, were killed in the drone attacks with no first-tier al Qaeda leaders worth mentioning eliminated.

6. Take punitive measures against India for stealing Pakistan’s water supply from the rivers of Kashmir and for supporting terrorism inside Pakistan. These punitive measures must include stopping Afghan land trade with Indian through Pakistan and the prospect of indefinitely closing Pakistani air space for Indian flights until India stops support for terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


THE AMERICAN DECEPTION IN AFGHANISTAN

December 14, 2009

PACKED UP AND TOOK THEIR SHOW “ON THE ROAD”

“AL QAEDA HAS LEFT THE BUILDING”

By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER/Senior Editor

Our intelligence estimates that Al Qaeda is no longer a threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are gone. There are no terrorists for the Taliban to protect, no threat to America from the region and no reason for us to be fighting. It is all a lie, we know it is a lie and we admit it is a lie. Tuesday, Secretary of State Clinton told Congress how money the US pays the Taliban to protect our supply lines is one of their major sources of funding:

“You know, when we are so dependent upon long supply lines … where everything has to be imported … much of the corruption is fueled by the money that has poured into that country over the last eight years. You offload a ship in Karachi, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfast or anti-IED equipment — gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands….one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money.”

The “surge” and the massive supply increase to support it can only make this worse, give more funding to the Taliban, help it grow, recruit and spread. More than that, we were never in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, we were there to stop Al Qaeda and to play “Where’s Waldo” with Osama bin Laden.

Former CIA and Defense analyst, Dr. Philip Giraldi sums up the situation best:

“Monday’s revelation from Defense Secretary Robert Gates that “I think it has been years” since the US government has had any solid information about Osama bin Laden. Many analysts both inside and outside of the government have become convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead and has been so for quite some time.

They base this perception on the same non-evidence that Gates cites, i.e. that there has been no solid information on bin Laden or his whereabouts since late 2001. It is widely believed that videos and recordings featuring his image and voice could well be clever composites.

Even the redoubtable General Stanley McChrystal, relying on the paucity of al-Qaeda sightings and the intelligence void, has estimated that there are likely fewer than 100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Pakistani intelligence sources, who are almost certainly better informed than their American counterparts, believe that there is only a tiny al-Qaeda presence inside their own country

If bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is shadow of what it once was then the whole justification for maintaining 100,000 soldiers and a nearly equal number of contractors in Afghanistan at ruinous expense becomes a fiction.

Most intelligence analysts who follow terrorism issues seriously would admit that the terrorism issue has been consistently overhyped and that it is also receding due to concerted action by a number of governments since 2001 combined with diminishing appeal among young Muslims.

So Secretary Gates has inadvertently let the cat out of the bag even though the mainstream media apparently has not yet figured it out. He has revealed that the war on terror is dead, or at least it should be. But rather than breathe a sigh of relief, rest assured that the word “terrorism” will be trotted out periodically to scare the public and keep the long war going.”

If this analysis, not only by the CIA and Department of Defense, but Pakistani Intelligence is correct, and the observations by Secretary of State Clinton as reported to Congress are also correct, then every aspect of US policy is not only irrational but destructive and even delusional.

screenhunter_04_dec._10_16.51

With the only possible scenario resulting from the “surge” to be strengthening the Taliban and simultaneously creating a 20 year war, as stated by President Karzai, with an 18 month “exit timetable” as stated by President Obama, it is obvious that an agenda neither tied to regional stabilization or defeat of terrorist forces is at the heart of US policymaking.

An analysis of our “nation building” projects under the USAID has proven efforts to have been, not only flawed and self defeating but, in fact, hopeless. An article in the Washington Post states:

In hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Clinton said that there has been a 10-month investigation of what USAID was doing on the ground in Afghanistan, and that “we didn’t particularly come away impressed.” Many of the 300 civilians there were on six-month rotations and did not have well-defined missions, and many spent time out of the country, she said. More important, Clinton added, “most of our civilian aid going into Afghanistan had been contracted out without adequate oversight or accountability.”

With bin Laden long dead, Al Qaeda no longer in the region and the Taliban dependent on the US presence for recruiting and US funding for operations and funds earmarked for “nation building” being misused and falling into the hands of, not only corrupt officials but the Taliban itself, the rationale for, not only our proposed “surge” but our continued presence in the region is in question.

Nearly all terrorism experts agree that any effort to stem the growth of current threats requires a refocus on North Africa, not Afghanistan or Pakistan. Our failure to adequately address real threats based on slavish adherence to failed policy, misinformation and a possible agenda involving a long term plan to support regional destabilization of, not only Iran but Pakistan as well, is believed by many to be more at the root of American interests in the region.

Baluchistan, a separatist region of Pakistan, now heavily involved in the Afghan insurgency along with attacks into Iran lies directly in the path of America’s proposed military operations.

This region, rich in natural gas, coal, copper, uranium and believed to contain massive oil reserves, was originally intended to receive its independence in 1947. Since that time, numerous separatist groups, aided by the CIA, MI-6, the RAW (India’s “CIA”) and, perhaps even the Mossad, have been active there.

Pakistani military analyst, General Asif Haroon Raja believes the US is planning cross border incursions intended to put this region of Pakistan located along the Iranian border under American domination

.

General Raja has indicated that many of the Predator drone attacks launched by US forces operating from airfields in this region are intended to inflame increased insurgency and are not targeted at either Taliban or terrorist groups.

“Areas in Waziristan which are presently quiet and neutral are being provoked through drone attacks to make them restive. The US is pressing Pakistan to shift more troops from its eastern border and to start operations in North and South Waziristan where it alleges most insurgents have fled.

It is trying to create conditions wherein Pakistan Army is compelled to fight the combined force of Maulvi Nazir, Hakimullah Mehsud and Gul Bahadur, thus creating a united front would ease up pressure on Hakimullah led TTP, which is in disarray, a disaster for both Pakistan and the US.

The US also wants the Pakistani Army in Baluchistan to shift its focus from Baluch held areas where RAW-CIA-MI-6 backed separatist movement is raging and to concentrate towards peaceful Pashtun areas including Quetta where it suspects Afghan Shura (Tribal council) is hiding.

The US-NATO forces after their failed operation in Helmand are expected to launch another operation in that province once additional US troops arrive so as to force the militants to flee to neighbouring Pashtun belt of Baluchistan and make it volatile.”

The gist of this is that the US and “friends” are believed to have designs on this area that can only be realized by gutting Pakistan. Credible sources within Pakistan claim that Blackwater, along with other groups have been tied to terrorist operations against military, intelligence and civilian targets inside Pakistan as part of an operation meant to destabilize Pakistan. Major groups within, not only the military and intelligence community but the current civilian government who normally attribute the daily terrorist acts occurring across Pakistan to India are now reassessing their positions.

One thing is clear. The Bush era policies that appear to be continued, to some degree by the Obama administration, not only under the guise of counter-terrorism but purported to support regional stability and promotion of democracy are now exposed for what they are, serving an agenda of no clear advantage to America or her allies. Thus, we await the real players to show their faces.

Veterans Today Senior Editor Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran and regular contributor on political and social issues.


War against Pakistan

December 10, 2009

Zaheerul Hassan

Desperate and defeated militants started hitting innocents and peaceful men, women and children of Pakistan. On December 7, 2009 four blasts rocked Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta. In the morning at 10 am a suicide bomber came on a rickshaw, killed at least ten people in Peshawar when he blew himself up near the courthouse located on Jail Road. Then, in the noon explosive laden taxi blasted near government officer residence and caused injuries to the individuals. In Moon Market, Lahore at about 0845 pm 44 individuals killed and 100 injured in blasts. One explosion was in front of a bank and other one was in front of a police station. It is feared the toll may rise further as the site of the market was on fire. The fire engulfed a building and shops. In today’s blasts almost 52 individuals killed and more than 130 inured. It is also notable here that more than 400 people have been killed during a string of attacks mounted by foreign sponsored terrorists and so called Taliban. In recent weeks thesemilitants have targeted Muslims offering their Jumma prayers, children, women, Pakistani troops, girls’ schools and vital installations.

The attacks in Lahore just came after the Interior Minister Rehman Malik statement in which he pointed out that evidence of Indian involvement inPakistan has been handed over to the foreign ministry in Islamabad.

According to the media after meeting with clerics at the CM House Malik stated that the evidence of Indian involvement in Pakistan will be shared with New Delhi during composite dialogue between the two countries. He categorically mentioned that arms and ammunitions smuggled into the country from Afghanistan were being used in terrorist activities in Pakistan. He has also said that he was in talks with US and Afghan authorities in this connection and a mechanism is being put in place to stop the arms smuggling.

America and NATO decided to increase their forces in Afghanistan. Washington has acknowledged that Pakistan is facing main blunt of war against terror and success is not possible without her. In fact, US has never taken practical steps of stopping cross border terrorism and infiltration between Pakistan and Afghanistan. She also never tried to impede Indian consulates to discontinue with spreading terrorism in Pakistan.

Rana Sunnaullah Punjab Law Minister and NWFP Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Minister for information, very strongly condemned the brutality ofmilitants against unarmed general public and elements of security forces. Both the leaders stated that Indian notorious intelligence agency “Research and Analysis Wing” and Israel are involved in fomenting terrorism inPakistan. They also stressed that religious leaders should not support and back anti state hired elements.

The method of operandi used in the recent blasts very clearly depicts that terrorists are very well trained and expert in using the latest devices. It alsp proves that guerilla warfare has been launched against Pakistan and Islam by the foreign agencies. Unfortunate part of this ongoing militancy is that local uneducated Muslims are being abducted, brainwashed on the name of Jihad revenge, for launching against own troops and the public. Therefore, it is the need of the time that terrorism and militancy should be condemned openly by all segments of society irrespective of our religious believes and sects. I would also like to mention here that what so ever the cause may be, the action against general public and own motherland can’t be justified by shading away the responsibility on each other. It’s the war againstPakistan and has to be fight collectively. The nation is supporting their brave and determined soldiers in on going war against terror. The army is defending the country’s borders and religious scholars have to guard country’s ideology in true letter and spirit. The political leadership including religious leaders should come out and stand up with the nation and security forces to fight against the war. Qazi Hussain Ahemed, Mullana Munawar Hussain, head of Jammat-e-Islami , Mullan Fazilur Rehman , Imran khan, Nawaz Shirf ,President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani should go to the public to boost the national moral in war againstPakistan. I would also like to suggest our media to work for the integrity of Pakistan instead creating political anarchy in the country. We must know that creating political instability and disintegration of Pakistan are the main objectives of foreign agenda.

According to the media reports many Islamic scholars of the country declared suicidal attacks un-Islamic. On December 6, 2009 famous Pakistani scholar Tahir ul-Qadri and 24 others religious scholars revealed that suicide attacks are not allowed in Islam, They stressed that the slaughter of human beings in any religion or country, and terrorism in all its manifestations, are totally in contradiction with the teachings of Islam. Thus, terrorism on the name of religion cannot be supported and need to be strongly condemned. We must salute our forces, police and intelligence agencies those are scarifying their lives for us. On December 7, 2009 President Zardari along with Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani visited CMH Rawalpindi and enquired about the health of injured person of Parade Line. At this occasion president stated that nation will defeat terrorism and stood shoulders to shoulders with the security forces. On December 6, 2009 General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reaffirmed that the Army would defend, protect and preservePakistan at all costs. He said this while offering condolences to the bereaved families. He expressed that the nation, including the Army, stands united in sharing their grief. He praised their exemplary strength of faith at this moment of trial.

Concluding, I must say that every individual should come out to fight war against Pakistan and Islam. Each one of us has to condemn the actions of brutality against innocent women, children, men, elements of security forces. Washington should force Afghanistan for fencing of border. India be asked to close her consulates and resolve burning Kashmir issue. New Delhi should be forced to refrain from supporting Baloch and FATA elements. Media should press religious leaders to censure and criticise suicidal bombers.


Obama to Chain Asian Watchdog – India

November 24, 2009

Zain Syed

India today is trying to blindly follow the policies of her military Guru Chankiya, where she is frantically driving for fulfillment of her eventual trance of Greater India and emergence of a sole regional power of South East Asia. India has long-standing policies and strategies to make and keep Pakistan as a lame duck and now taking advantage of the current situation she wants to destabilize a sole nuke Muslim power. Perception is there that India in collaborations with USA and Israel is imposing pressure and polices on Pakistan. Manomohan Singh is visiting USA now. Thus, Obama if serious in fighting war against terror has to chain his Asian watchdog (India). He should ask Indian Prime Minister to stop interfering in Pakistan’s domestic affairs.

Following the same motive of “Greater India” RAW has gone all out in destabilizing Pakistan. A Multi pronged strategy is executed through planned combination of overt and covert inventiveness thus shifting the battlefield to Pakistan from Afghanistan. RAW is operating both from Afghanistan and Iran to encircle Pakistan.

A major objective of India in Afghanistan is to use Afghanistan as launching pad to attack Pakistanis by sponsoring dissident / militants. It is on record that India has spent immense amounts over the years to make the Northern Alliance into its stooges. There is the Indian strategy of the encirclement of Pakistan by making Afghanistan into a vocal anti-Pakistan client state, with five very active Indian consulates there. Unfortunately the crooked Afghan government has also fallen pray to RAW policies by providing shelter to Brahamdag Bugti and allowing RAW to operate in Balochistan in collaboration with newly established Afghan intelligence agency RAAM (earlier name KHAD). RAW has organized a network of training schools/ Centres throughout Afghanistan. Some of these training centres are operating in Kabul, Jalalabad, Khawaja Ghar (Takhar Province), Khost, Paktia, Urgun, Khandar, Spin Boldak and Dranj (Badakhshan Province). All these training centres are being used for indoctrinating minds of innocent people of FATA and Balochistan to work against Pakistan. Refugee camps for Balochistan dissidents have been established in bordering towns of Kandahar, Spin, Bodlak, Helmond and Nirmoz where RAW has been given free access to interact for spotting / cultivating them. Raw with the help of local Officials is providing financial support to Brahamdagh Bughti for undertaking terrorist’s activities in Balochistan. Some weeks ago Barahamdag reportedly met Amarullah Saleh and asked for additional money to undertake sabotage activities in Pakistan. He was promised a handsome amount and Commander Raziq Achakzai of Spin Boldak was made instrumental. Funds and explosives have been supplied by a man namely Abdul Sattar. The money is even transferred to such elements in Pakistan through Afghan based militant leaders/”Hawala Business. A number of Afghan officials are facilitating Indian agents in crossing the border. Earlier this year, two border police personnel and one political figure were arrested while crossing the border without documents. Spin Boldak is said to be the main hub of anti-Pakistan activities and the town is being used as a launching pad. RAW-RAAM used to providing weapons via Bajaur, Dir, Pewchar (ex-headquarters for Fazlullah). In order to subvert loyalties of Young Generation, Young Baloch Students are spotted / cultivated through senior Balochistan Student Orginastion (BSO) hardliners, taken to Kabul for indoctrination, issued with Afghan passports and selected individuals then dispatched to training centres in various countries.

According to resources, financial assistance is provided by RAW for publication of propaganda material against Pakistan in Balochi Language, which is later distributed in Quetta, Khuzdar, Turbat, Gawader and Dera Bugti.

In this context, Premier Gillani handed over these proofs to his Indian counterpart in Sharm el-Sheikh and provided pictures of Brahamdag and other terrorists showing them meeting with Indian agents in Afghanistan as well as in India. This was the proof of Indian involvement in recruiting, training, financing and arming terrorists being infiltrated into Pakistan.

It is worth mentioning here that Indians are also operating in Iran through their embassy at Tehran and two consulates at Zahidan and Bandar Abbas. The interesting point to note is the establishment of Indian consulate at Zahidan where Indian population is limited to only few houses (21 x Sikh families).Obviously it is the proximity of Zahidan to Pak-Iran border that is of interest to the Indians. The consulate is a special RAW outpost and is always headed by a RAW officer and is operating freely against Pakistan. RAW is using every possible means to gain her objectives by exploiting Pakistan- Iran border population ethnic, cultural and sectarian bond.

Indian propaganda which has a connected strategy of stating, again and again, that Pakistan is a terrorist state and needs to be rebuked by USA rather than promoting it . India’s clients in Afghanistan and some in Pakistan, USA and elsewhere also echo these “sentiments”. Moreover, New Delhi while staying all along eastern and western border is almost controlling the terror activities in Pakistan. New Delhi must realize this fact that there are a lot of ethnic, linguistic, religious and territorial separatist movements inside India, instead of destabilizing her neighbouring countries. She must focus her attention in resolving her internal turbulence. By terrorizing the neighboring country neither she can hide her weakness nor can she gain any advantages. So my advice to Indian’s top brass is to refrain from using terrorism as a state tool and come on the table and work for establishing permanent regional peace. Obama must convince Manomohan Singh to stop Indian terrorism in Pakistan. it is the only way that the world can be successful in war against terrorism.


The fallout of Quetta drones

November 18, 2009

By IA Khanzada

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine revealed in October edition, that the number of US predator drone strikes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border by the CIA, has risen dramatically under President Obama. Mayer cited a new study by the New America Foundation, which reported that 42 drone attacks had been authorized by President Obama in his first nine and a half months in office – more than George W Bush authorized in his final three years in office.

The study claims that since 2006, 82 US drone attacks in Pakistan have killed between 760 and 1,000 people, and that about one-third of those killed were civilians. According to Jane Mayer, “there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official US policy.” While questioning the legal status of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Phillip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, has accused US administration of “carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.”

On the domestic front, Pakistan has lodged formal protests to the allies forces in Afghanistan over the use of UAVs and warned that these are likely to affect the on-going military operation in Waziristan. The drone attacks are a violation of Pakistan sovereignty, counter productive and not helpful in the effort to win hearts and minds of people.

However, neo-cons and Hawks in Washington neither consider it a human rights violation nor are bothered of any internal hostile response. Instead, Pentagon is intending of “broadening the target area” to include “a major insurgent sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta” for CIA-operated unmanned drone attacks.

Why Quetta be bombed with drones? On the surface, the US is saying that since “our troops are located just the opposite side of the border with Quetta, they are coming under attack that’s why we need to target Quetta”. According to US Commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, Taliban militants in Balochistan, known as the “Quetta Shura”, are operating openly in Quetta to conduct operations inside Balochistan and Afghanistan.

Vice President Joe Biden and his cronies argue to de-emphasizes troop strength in favor of unmanned drones attacks on Osama bin Laden, Mullah Umar, Ayman al Zawahiri allegedly hiding in Quetta, Pakistan. Pakistan strongly refutes the US intelligence claims about the presence of Mullah Omar in Quetta, terming it baseless and far from reality. The Pak-Afghan border is vast and porous; running for more than 2,400 Km and has 249 known routes where crossing can take place. Pakistan has established more than 1,000 check posts and deployed 1,20,000 troops on the Afghan border to curb illegal movement.

Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Kayani is clear in saying that no such attack on Quetta will be allowed. Nevertheless, US drone strikes in the tribal areas and prospective attacks on Balochistan will bring about dire implications for Pakistan and the US itself. The drone attacks in Balochistan will certainly restrict Pakistan’s efforts in fighting the war on terror with the likelihood of risking more public resentment when the people of Balochistan will be bombed by the US predators.

The military operation against Taliban in Waziristan will also suffer a severe blow. At this critical stage, when Pakistan has been facing a spate of suicide attacks, the drone strikes are triggering furor amongst the general public. This will force the moderate element to join the ranks of radicals to avenge the deaths of their dear ones killed in the drone attacks. In this setting, a steep surge in suicide attacks will likely to multiple all across the country.

Drone attacks in the tribal areas have drawn a strong reaction throughout in Pakistan. Attacking militants on the soil of a longtime US ally, is strongly resented because: (1) The drones kill hundreds of innocent civilians along with few militants, causing widespread resentment against the Americans. (2) It ignores the sovereignty of Pakistan. (3) It irks the government that they are incapable of quelling Taliban from the areas under attack.

US administration alleged, “Though Pakistan has mounted military operations in Swat, Bunner, Lower Dir and Waziristan areas, they are focused on the Taliban who are targeting the Pakistani government, not those who are running operations inside Afghanistan.”

Under the garb of Talibanisation, if the US considers the option of sending US marines in Pakistan, alleging that nuclear weapons are not safe there. The much-talked about the presence of shadowy organization like “Blackwater & Xe Global”, is a point in case. In this changing scenario, armed forces are expected to relinquish the on-going military operations in Waziristan in tatters, and the fledging democratic government will be forced to withdraw from its commitment in the US-led GWOT. The real reason is to completely destabilize Pakistan, create an environment conducive to demand IAEA inspection, dismantle the Pakistani nuclear assets, cutting down the Pakistan army, finishing off the ISI and dismembering the country.

Regarding the controversial Kerry-Lugar Bill, it is anticipated that if Washington does not expunge all the conditionalities associated with the $1.5b per annum Kerry-Lugar aid package and impose sanctions, it will have far reaching consequences on the GWOT in Afghanistan, where Nato/Isaf troops are already facing defeat.

It is worth mentioning that France, Germany, Canada and Australia are already disenchanted and started questioning the moral basis of the conflict. Additionally, many countries contributing allied forces are now advocating talks with the Taliban. In nutshell, by targeting Quetta and expanding the war beyond tribal belt, many of the 28 Nato countries contributing troops could leave the US-led GWOT, creating a wedge between the US and its allies members.

The war is now in its ninth year and is claiming US lives at a record pace as military leaders say the Taliban has the upper hand in many parts of the country. Despite the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in October 2001, the US-led allied forces have failed to uproot the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. The President Obama is remapping “AfPak Strategy towards Afghanistan & Pakistan”, with a view to buy time for the Afghan government’s small & ill-equipped army to take over. The US administration increasingly acknowledges that the insurgency can be suppressed but not defeated outright by force.

The blame of providing safe havens to the Taliban militants in Quetta is totally misconstrued. The disturbances in Afghanistan are not sponsored by Taliban element living in Quetta, rather peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism just because of Afghanistan. One really has to wonder how many times the Pakistani government has to deny the existence of Taliban in Quetta.

The Quetta Shura is not a reality, as al-Qaeda militants do not have any worthwhile sympathisers of like-minded segments in Balochistan. The Baloch and Pashtun in Balochistan are moderate Muslims having secularism as part of their Islamic belief system. The al-Qaeda leadership cannot reorganize in Quetta or elsewhere in Balochistan to embark terror attacks inside Afghanistan.

If the America resorts to strike Quetta with drones, it will not only provide a perfect playground for dissenting forces to join hands with the radicals but also create an environment leading towards destabilizing Pakistan.


Life Threat: A New Weapon To Silence US Critics In Pakistan

November 16, 2009

A small group of Pakistani journalists are protesting because one Pakistani newspaper has accused Mathew Rosenberg, an India-based American correspondent for the Wall Street Journal of being a spy. The editor of Wall Street Journal is ‘disgusted’. Under new directions from Mrs. Clinton, US diplomats are aggressively engaged in a media battle in Pakistan. Part of the game is raising a new class of US apologists – commentators, editors, journalists. Mr. Rosenberg may not be a spy but here is a Pakistani lesson for the US media.

By AHMED QURAISHI
WWW.AHMEDQURAISHI.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-A rumpus is brewing in a small corner of the Pakistani media over the safety of a New Delhi-based American journalist. Being a US citizen has its benefits and Mr. Mathew Rosenberg is lucky to have a few coming to his defense in Pakistan. A couple of months ago a Pakistani journalist’s life came under threat in Swat. He escaped to Washington where he was humiliated on landing , kept in detention for two weeks and is entangled now in a legal mess. Mr. Rosenberg’s self-appointed defenders in the Pakistani media silently watched that story without uttering a word, let alone writing editorials.

Another reporter, Fawad Shah, had to leave Peshawar after breaking the Blackwater story and receiving threats from US personnel. He escaped to Iran and then into Armenia but had to return eventually, choosing to go public than lie low in dear. We saw no one from the US media or the Pakistani media, barring the story in The Nation, take up Fawad’s case.

Obviously, there are benefits to defending a US citizen, like Mathew, as compared to a Pakistani one, like Fawad. Who will reward you for defending Pakistan, right?

Mr. Rosenberg works for Wall Street Journal’s India bureau but has been spending time in our tribal belt for the past few months. Interestingly, the US media, which has been treating Pakistan as the enemy for the past five years, prefers to cover Islamabad from New Delhi. Tells you something about the mindset.

The Nation’s Mr. Kaswar Klasra published a story on Nov. 5 revealing that, ” Agents of notorious spy agencies are using journalistic cover to engage themselves in intelligence activities in NWFP and FATA.” Mr. Rosenberg’s name appeared in the story. To be fair, Mr. Klasra telephoned Mr. Rosenberg in New Delhi as part of his research and gave him space in his story to defend himself, including quoting him say, “Let me tell you that I am not working on any hidden agenda.”

Fair enough, right? Not for the small and loosely knit group of pro-US commentators who have become vocal in Pakistan over the past few months with the rise in US meddling in our affairs. This group includes a few academic types, commentators and those who are paid for providing ‘consultancy’ on how to spend US aid in Pakistan. This group is now raising alarm over Mr. Klasra’s report, accusing his newspaper of ‘endangering the life’ of a US citizen, who is back in the Indian capital anyway.

This has become the weapon of choice to intimidate anyone who criticizes US policies and wrongs in Pakistan. Do this and you are instantly accused of ‘endangering the lives of US citizens’ in the country. I first heard this line when I reported earlier this year how a US diplomat used a house in Islamabad to arrange a private meeting between an Indian diplomat and several senior Pakistani bureaucrats. To my surprise, a Pakistani journalist telephoned me on behalf of the US diplomat to say my reporting endangered the diplomat’s life. The foreign office later issued a statement warning government servants to refrain from attending such meetings without prior permission. [In October, the Foreign Office has written to all embassies and high commissions banning any direct meetings between foreign diplomats and Pakistani ministers without prior clearance from the Foreign Office. The move came after frequent direct meetings between US and British diplomats with two senior federal government ministers.]

Those springing to Mr. Rosenberg’s defense never protested when, in September, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson used this very line ["Endangering American lives"] in a private letter to a Pakistani newspaper targeting one of the paper’s longtime critics of US government policies. The ambassador’s argument was accepted without any corroborating evidence or public scrutiny.

The same line is now being used in Mr. Rosenberg’s case to discredit what is a legitimate story from the Pakistani perspective. To generate guilt, Mr. Rosenberg’s few Pakistani defenders are comparing him to Mr. Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter also based in India who flayed personal security guidelines and exposed himself to dangerous terrorists in Pakistan in the inflamed aftermath of the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That gory incident was highly condemnable and unfortunate but is in no way comparable to Mr. Rosenberg’s case as the few Pakistani guilt-inducers are trying to insinuate.

Surely Mr. Rosenberg and his Pakistani defenders understand that Pakistan is not only battling terrorists in the border area with Afghanistan but also organized terror supported by foreign powers from the Afghan soil. Both the Interior Minister and the military spokesperson have publicly confirmed this. Many analysts in the Pakistani strategic community have compiled stacks of hard and circumstantial evidence that does not – to put it diplomatically – absolve the United States of responsibility over the anti-Pakistan terrorism emanating from US-controlled Afghanistan.

Domestically, we have had several incidents involving US and other foreign citizens in unusual activities:

1. A US researcher, Nicholas Schmiddle, who came to Pakistan in 2006 to conduct research, ended up being deported from the country in January 2008 by Pakistani security officials after he was found traveling to sensitive parts of the country without permission and in violation of his stated purpose on his visa application. [Why lie if you are a journalist?]

2. In 2003, two French journalists and one Pakistani journalist traveled to Balochistan and hired local people to produce a fake Afghan Taliban training video. They were arrested en route to Karachi , where the French planned to take a flight back home to break the news on Pakistan’s alleged duplicity in the so-called war on terror.

3. A British journalist, Christina Lamb, was arrested and deported in November 2001 as she tried to a book a Quetta-Islamabad flight in the name of Osama bin Laden, another ‘breaking news’ that was aborted in time by Pakistani authorities.

4. In at least three incidents, US special operations agents have been arrested by Pakistani police. The agents were dressed as Afghan Taliban with beards and the Afghan headgear. In at least one of those incidents, US agents were riding a car with fake Pakistani number plates. In two of those incidents, these US agents entered Islamabad coming from the tribal belt. They were released in all three cases on the orders of the Interior Ministry despite carrying illegal weapons.

5. In July 2009, a group of Americans, carrying diplomatic passports, were arrested in the vicinity of the Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta . They could not explain what they were doing there and said they lost their way. They were released without pressing charges.

Internationally, just this year there have been four incidents where US journalists were accused of spying:

1. American-Iranian Roxana Saberi was arrested in Tehran in possession of confidential documents that belonged to a national security department in the Iranian government. She was released only when Washington offered diplomatic concessions that were not made public, according to the Iranian media.

2. Two US journalists illegally entered North Korea. Washington called it abduction but media reports proved later that the two crossed the border illegally despite warnings from a South Korean translator.

3. In a case that remains unexplained until now, a US citizen mysteriously swam his way to the house of a US-backed opposition leader in Myanmar, where he remains in detention pending negotiations with Washington.

4. Three American ‘hikers’ entered Iran illegally this year. One of them turned out to be a US journalist who speaks local languages. He said he was on a private hiking trip.

None of the above might be a spy, although the evidence in Ms. Saberi’s case was damning and irrefutable. But it is interesting how frequently US journalists find themselves in situations where they are accused of spying. Exhibit A: four cases in less than a year.

An editorial writer in one of the Pakistani newspapers tried yesterday to offer a lesson in correct reporting and mentioned how the editor of the Wall Street Journal felt ‘disgusted’ over the report on Mr. Rosenberg. Ironically, where was the Pakistani editorial writer’s disgust at the New York Times when it practically accused Mr. Ansar Abbasi, a senior investigative journalist from the same paper, of being a Taliban simply because Mr. Abbasi had argued during a meeting with a senior US official in Islamabad?

How about also writing something about the endless stream of ‘falsehoods’ and deliberate misreporting over Pakistan’s nuclear program that the US media has excelled in over the past five years? No one has demonized Pakistan during that period as the US media did, and most of it based on unnamed and unverifiable sources. Is that irresponsible too or do those standards only apply on us where many here submit without raising as much as a whimper?

Pakistan is in a state of war, one that has been gradually imposed on this country in the short span of four years. Instead of siding with outsiders and exposing their inferiority complexes, some of our commentators would do well to advise US media representatives to move to Islamabad instead of reporting on Pakistan from New Delhi. That might help the US media reduce some of its hostility toward Pakistan.

This report was published by The Nation.


Beating the Odds: Distributing Books in Pakistan

November 5, 2009

By Syed Zahid Abbas and Alma Freeman

Late last month, suicide attacks hit Pakistan’s International Islamic University in relatively peaceful Islamabad, killing at least six people – another violent event that continues to pull the capital further into the fray. In even less secure areas, such as Pakistan’s Swat Valley in the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, such targeted violence is well known – militants in mid-January imposed a ban on girls’ schools, claiming that they do not abide by the teachings of Islam. Since then, hundreds of boys’ and girls’ schools have been systematically shuttered or burned down and girls threatened with acid or death for violating the ban and bravely attending school anyway.

This situation, coupled with rising violence as the Pakistani government increases efforts against militant forces, has caused growing security challenges to Books for Asia’s operations in Pakistan. When the program first started back in the 1950s, security posed little risk and books were delivered on the backs of camels across rugged terrain. Now, the danger involved in traveling with a truckload of books to institutions in remote destinations is by far the program’s greatest concern.

Determined not to neglect any part of the country, the Books for Asia program takes books from Islamabad to a central location in far-flung provinces such as Peshawar or Quetta. The idea is to invite institutions in the area to travel short distances to pick out books from the location themselves. These “Book Fairs” help overcome security challenges by providing a centralized, secure location that allows books to reach people in more remote or insecure areas. The fairs are wildly successful and have allowed the program to distribute nearly 40,000 books so far through this model. Currently, more than 40 percent of all books donated in Pakistan go to institutions in the North-West Frontier and Balochistan Provinces.


Representatives from different institutions select books at a Books for Asia Book Fair.

Another Day, Another Challenge

In a warehouse in San Leandro, California, just south of Oakland, stacks of boxes filled with books, shrink-wrapped and methodically tagged by destination – Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan – are balanced atop rows of wooden forklift pallets. It’s hard to imagine that these sparkling new books donated by major publishers – from learning ABCs to Botany 101 – can ever make the arduous journeys that lie ahead. The books are loaded onto container ships at Oakland’s port, from where they travel days, weeks, even months, to their respective destinations: primary schools and universities, libraries, and resource centers across Asia.

Despite often treacherous voyages and head-spinning transportation logistics, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program has been distributing books like these throughout Asia since 1954. Which, despite the challenges, is how more than 3 million books have reached the hands of people in Pakistan, including in some of the country’s most conflict-riddled and remote areas.

Fighting Illiteracy, One Page at a Time

Pakistan’s literacy rate, at around 50 percent, remains an acute development challenge, while the pre-existing gap between girls and boys has only worsened with the recent targeting of girls’ schools. The situation is worse along the Afghan border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where the literacy rate for girls hovers in the single digits, compared to 30 percent for boys.

The battle against illiteracy is partly due to a lack of educational institutions. However, many factors contribute to the problem, including poverty, a lack of skilled teachers, reluctance to send girls to school, fear of attending school due to security concerns, as well as insufficient commitment from the government. These challenges are more severe for children internally displaced by conflict. The past year has seen approximately 2 million people displaced from northwest Pakistan, and now more than 100,000 from South Waziristan. Hundreds of thousands have returned home to northwest Pakistan, but displacement continues, as does violence. Education has been disrupted considerably. Hundreds of thousands of children have been left with no access to schools, and tens of thousands of four- to six-year-olds live in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).


Due to increased conflict in certain areas of Pakistan, hundreds of thousands of children have been displaced, such as these above, and are living temporarily in IDP camps.

Despite these dismal circumstances, it could be said that a silver lining is emerging for some displaced children whose schools were destroyed or who were banned from attending school in their hometown. The Pakistani government and international NGOs are now working together to build tent schools in the camps, providing a semblance of education in a relatively secure environment. In partnership with the Government of Pakistan through the National Commission for Human Development, the Ministry of Women Development, and Islamic Relief, and with local civil society groups, Books for Asia has begun donating books to IDP camps. Plans are in place to donate more books when the new container of books arrives in the coming months from the warehouse in San Leandro.

Since the IDP schools reach children, especially girls, who might otherwise not receive an education, parents living in the camps often express pleasure at the exposure to education, however limited. They also show great interest in continuing their children’s education upon return to their homes. However, challenges remain. These schools need basic supplies and equipment such as desks and chairs. With winter approaching, sitting on the bare floor will no longer be a viable option. The camps are overcrowded and demand for books is very high. Finding funds to pay delivery freight charges for the books is another reality, since host institutions normally pay freight fees and the IDP schools are in no position to take on such a cost.

Reviving the Books for Asia’s “Box Libraries Initiative” could be part of the solution. Running from 1986 to 1990, the initiative provided local-language children’s books as well as new Books for Asia-donated English-language books. These were packaged in large metal boxes for distribution to community schools and resource centers that lacked the sufficient infrastructure to support full shipments of English-language books.

English language education is mandatory in much of Pakistan. Many girls and boys, generally segregated until university, attend English-language track schools that begin English curriculum at age six, or attend regular government schools taught in the local language but which require students to take and pass English-language courses. But in the case of the IDP camps, where education for children has been disrupted, providing such tools as box libraries with local-language books alongside English books could complement the curriculum and better prepare students when – and wherever – they return home.

Syed Zahid Abbas (zabbas@asiafound.org) is the Manager of the Foundation’s Books for Asia Program in Pakistan, and Alma Freeman (afreeman@asiafound.org) works in The Asia Foundation’s Communications office. Read more about The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia Program in Pakistan.


202 Blackwater Personnel Arrive In Islamabad?

November 5, 2009

More US military personnel arrive in Islamabad. Is the PPP government seeking US support against a possible Pakistani military action against the unpopular pro-US government in Pakistan?

By NISAR MEHDI
Wednesday, 4 November 2009.
The Nation
WWW.AHMEDQURAISHI.COM

KARACHI, Pakistan-Foreigners affiliated with the notorious private military contractor Blackwater, later renamed as Xe Services LLC, arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday through a PIA flight, sources told TheNation.

“Of the 274 passengers, who boarded Pakistan’s national flag carrier-PIA, flight PK-786 from Heathrow Airport UK, 202 were foreigners but they were fluently speaking Urdu language,” disclosed the sources.

The officials on duty at Shaheed Benazir International Airport Islamabad said, “We had instructions to allow the foreigners entry without custom procedure.”

The sources said that the plane reached Islamabad airport at 4:08am PST, and they had received official instructions from the authorities not to inspect any of them and clear them immediately from the airport.

An official of PIA confirmed that the PIA flight PK-786 from Heathrow reached Islamabad at its destination at 04:08 am and said that the plane had the capacity of 358 passengers but total 274 passengers travelled on the flight.

He declined to comment the presence of large number of foreigners in the flight saying that they had no information in this regard.

Former Chief of Army Staff Mirza Aslam Baig has accused former President Pervez Musharraf of giving Blackwater a green signal to carry out its terrorist operations in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta.

According to a August 20, 2009 report in the New York Times by Mark Mazzetti, the Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret programme to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al-Qaeda.

“Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating licence,” wrote Mazzetti.

“Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified programme,” the NYT reported.

The newspaper report said that despite publicly breaking with it, the State Department continued to award the company, formerly known as Blackwater, more than $400 million in contracts to fly its diplomats around Iraq, guard them in Afghanistan, and train security forces in anti-terrorism tactics at its remote camp in North Carolina.

Every indication suggests that the US Embassy in Islamabad, which is being expanded into the world’s largest US embassy, has brought in Blackwater without clearance from Pakistani security authorities and with direct help from the unpopular pro-US government in Islamabad.

This report was originally published by The Nation.


11 Iranian revolutionary guards held in Balochistan

October 28, 2009

By Muhammad Ejaz Khan

QUETTA: The law-enforcement agencies have taken into custody 11 personnel of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who crossed the border into Pakistan on Monday.

Sources said personnel of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards intruded 10 kilometres into Pakistani territory where the Pakistani security agencies arrested them. The Iranians were in two vehicles.

During the preliminary investigation, it was learnt that the Iranian personnel launched an operation against the activists of Jundallah near the Pak-Iran border inside the Iranian territory. The personnel crossed the border in an attempt to apprehend the activists.

Agencies add: The 11 officers were taken into custody in Mashkel, close to the countries’ border in Balochistan, police officer Dadur Raman said. He said officers were interrogating the men and had seized two vehicles.

Another security official said the guards had no travel documents. ìWe need to probe that,î said Murtaza Baig, a spokesman for the paramilitary border force. The Guard is Iran’s strongest military force, which is directly linked to the ruling clerics. The 120,000-strong Guard also controls Iran’s missile programme and guards its nuclear facilities.


Blackwater involved in Bhutto and Hariri hits: former Pakistani army chief

October 26, 2009

Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN – Pakistan’s former chief of army staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg (ret.), has said the U.S. private security company Blackwater was directly involved in the assassinations of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Blackwater later changed its name and is now known as Xe.

General Beg recently told the Saudi Arabian daily Al Watan that former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had given Blackwater the green light to carry out terrorist operations in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Quetta.

General Beg, who was chief of army staff during Benazir Bhutto’s first administration, said U.S. officials always kept the presence of Blackwater in Pakistan secret because they were afraid of possible attacks on the U.S. Embassy and its consulates in Pakistan.

During an interview with a Pakistani TV network last Sunday, Beg claimed that the United States killed Benazir Bhutto.

Beg stated that the former Pakistani prime minister was killed in an international conspiracy because she had decided to back out of the deal through which she had returned to the country after nine years in exile.

Beg also said he believes that the former director general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence was not an accomplice in the conspiracy against Benazir Bhutto, although she did not trust him.

The retired Pakistani general also stated that Benazir Bhutto was a sharp politician but was not as prudent as her father.

On September 2, the U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, Anne W. Patterson, intervened with one of the largest newspaper groups in Pakistan, The News International, to force it to block a decade-old weekly column by Dr. Shireen Mazari scheduled for publication on September 3 in which Mazari, the former director of the Islamabad Institute of Strategic Studies, broke the story of Blackwater/Xe’s presence in Pakistan.

The management of The News International dismissed one of the country’s most prominent academics and journalists due to U.S. pressure. She joined the more independent daily The Nation last week as an editor.

On September 9, in her first column in The Nation, Dr. Mazari wrote:

“Now, even if one were to ignore the massive purchases of land by the U.S., the questionable manner in which the expansion of the U.S. Embassy is taking place and the threatening covert activities of the U.S. and its ‘partner in crime’ Blackwater; the unregistered comings and goings of U.S. personnel on chartered flights; we would still find it difficult to see the whole aid disbursement issue as anything other than a sign of U.S. gradual occupation. It is no wonder we have the term Af-Pak: Afghanistan they control through direct occupation loosely premised on a UN resolution; Pakistan they are occupying as a result of willingly ceded sovereignty by the past and present leadership.”

According to Al Watan, Washington even used Blackwater forces to protect its consulate in the city of Peshawar.

In addition, U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh has accused former U.S vice president Dick Cheney of being involved in the Hariri assassination.

He said Cheney was in charge of a secret team that was tasked with assassinating prominent political figures.

After the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005, the U.S. and a number of other countries pointed the finger at Syria, although conclusive evidence has never been presented proving Syrian involvement in the murder.


Pakistan: Trapped In The US Game

October 23, 2009

Musharraf proved excessively compliant from the beginning and this came as a shock even to the Bush Administration, but they realised his limitations in terms of compromises at the tactical level because of the military – which often put a spanner in the US agenda for Pakistan. Hence the constant critique of the Pakistan military and its intelligence outfits – especially once the CIA fell out with the ISI two years ago over whom to target in FATA.

Shireen M Mazari

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-There is a dangerous pattern connecting the events happening in and around Pakistan today. Unless we can see this larger picture, we will be overwhelmed by the fallout and our detractors like the US will have fulfilled their agenda for this nuclear capable country.

The roots of this US agenda go back to Musharraf’s hasty embrace of the US “war on terror”. What was not realised at the time was the psychological trauma the US had undergone as a result of 9/11, which had led to the bolstering of the already suspicion-tinted view the US had of the Muslim world. Of course, some pliant Muslim leaders were reluctantly embraced as “allies”, but always on a tight leash, but by and large nationalist Muslim leaders and their nations were something the Americans never felt comfortable with. If these nations were also militarily or economically strong, the US felt even more uncomfortable. In this context, Mahathir’s Malaysia, Revolutionary Iran and nuclear Pakistan certainly stood out as irritants in one way or another. So when 9/11 happened, even though it was Saudi citizens who were responsible for the actions, Pakistan was brought centre-stage and the US saw this as the opportunity to cut the country down to size and finally gain control of its nuclear assets.

That Musharraf proved excessively compliant from the beginning came as a shock even to the Bush Administration, but they realised his limitations in terms of compromises at the tactical level because of the military – which often put a spanner in the US agenda for Pakistan. Hence the constant critique of the Pakistan military and its intelligence outfits – especially once the CIA fell out with the ISI two years ago over whom to target in FATA!

So what is this US agenda that bodes ill for Pakistan? An article published in the US Army Journal entitled “Blood Borders” captured the broad outline a few years earlier. The main components that can now be identified are: One, to restructure Pakistan and its state institutions according to US wishes; two, to take control of its nuclear assets since they cannot really be “taken out”; and, three, to move it towards accepting Indian hegemony in the region and to distance it from its strategic partnership with China.

What has been the strategy for implementing this agenda? To create enough chaos and violence in Pakistan so as to be able to justify coming in and seizing control of the nuclear assets, restructuring a new state model for the country, which would include bringing it under Indian hegemony. How would this agenda be implemented?

First, through shifting the centre of gravity of the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan. This has finally been accomplished through a number of interesting tactics. The beginning was made by allowing the Al-Qaeda and Taliban to escape from Afghanistan during the Tora Bora bombings. Then the internal destabilisation of Pakistan began through drone attacks, which caused the traditionally highly patriotic tribal population of FATA to gradually turn against the state especially when the US pressured the army into moving into this area. Also, India was given a free run in Afghanistan so money and weapons for terrorists flowed in from Afghanistan into Balochistan and FATA as well as NWFP. In addition, a new entity emerged with its own violent agenda – the TTP with a huge stock of weapons that clearly had come from across the border since some of them were of US origin. Meanwhile, the US gradually increased its covert presence in Pakistan – beginning with Tarbela and the so-called “trainers” as well as the private US security concerns that have traditionally worked as mercenaries for the US government in places like Iraq. Balochistan also saw an increase in the US presence, especially as the US also sought to operationalise its covert operations against Iran through this province and the bases Musharraf had so generously handed over to the US. There was also the Bandari air base in an area 78 kilometres south of Kharan, near a place called Shimsi – not Shamsi base which is on the border with Iran near Dalbandin – from where the drones have been flying.

This is the only airport that is not listed as being under CAA control.

All along, the US at the diplomatic and political levels was continuing with its “do more” mantra and undermining the credibility of the military in terms of its intent vis-à-vis fighting extremism and terrorism. The ISI especially was singled out for attack while the nuclear assets kept coming in for periodic targeting by the US media. As the US became more bogged down in Afghanistan, it sought to shift its failures on to Pakistan so that in the end many assume that it is this reason that has forced the US to shift the war to Pakistan. However, that may only be an offshoot of the larger original game plan to destabilise Pakistan from within by taking the war to the heart of the country – which is where the situation stands poised right now. The Musharraf-US alliance would have continued, but for the people of Pakistan’s desire for justice and freedom which spurred the judicial movement when Musharraf overplayed his hand. But once again the nation was short-changed because the US cleverly managed a new partner linked through the NRO. In Zardari they found an even more cooperative leader – and with democratic credentials to boot! If Musharraf had begun the granting of unfettered access to the US, the Zardari regime has taken it beyond all limits.

The second phase of the US implementation strategy has now begun to be operat-ionalised – that is, to destabilise Pakistan from within by increasing acts of terror carried out in Pakistani cities through well-trained and well-equipped groups centring on TTP – which finds no mention in the Kerry-Lugar Act. Alongside, the military has been tied down in military operations, first in Swat and now in SWA – which has its own fallouts in terms of terrorism and displacement of the population. It has also become necessary to isolate Pakistan from its neighbours and hence the extensive terrorist attacks on Iran’s security forces in Sistan province bordering Pakistan’s Balochistan, so that Iran-Pakistan relations are destroyed – Iran being the only friendly neighbour apart from China. The US covert presence in Pakistan has also now been put in place like a web – beginning from Sindh and Balochistan in the south and southwest, to Punjab to the Capital to Peshawar. There are now US armed covert operatives along with overt marines surrounding the Pakistanis and their nuclear assets. The Kerry-Lugar Act merely gives formal recognition to what has already happened in practice – submission to US diktat.

Only one last phase of the US agenda has to be operat-ionalised, but that will be the toughest. This is to push the country into a civil war-like situation by threatening to target Quetta and southern Punjab as well as Muridke. First there was pressure on the army to move into Swat; now it is SWA and the new mantra of moving the army into southern Punjab has already begun! Overstretch the military and create civil-military fissures so as to totally destabilise the country. When there is a state of total chaos, the US can pressure the UNSC into allowing it to takeover Pakistan’s nuclear assets – what will euphemistically be termed “under international control”. But the big problem now is that too many in the corridors of power in Pakistan are beginning to see the light while the people have also woken up to the lethal American agenda for Pakistan. Unless we can see the whole US game plan, and connect all the dots we will continue to fall prey to this destructive design.


India-Israel selfishly restraining USA from abandoning Afghanistan

October 16, 2009

Asif Haroon Raja

The British, German and the French military commanders in Afghanistan as well as of other Nato countries having fought the resistance forces in Afghanistan for the last eight years to subdue militancy are now having second thoughts. They say that force is not the answer and a political settlement through process of dialogue should be found to end insurgency. Despite rapidly rising number of Americans disfavouring war and opposing troop increase in Afghanistan and Obama’s approval rating dipping, Obama Administration is still favouring continuation of Bush aggressive policies. Obama says it is war of necessity and has repeatedly expressed his resolve to dismantle, disrupt and defeat al-Qaeda and is still optimistic that war will be won. In pursuance of the stated objectives, Af-Pak policy was framed in February and approval for increase in troop level by 21000 given. These troops were to be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan by December 2009 to take the total of US troops to 68000. Border belt astride Pak-Afghan border was declared as the battle zone since in US reckoning, bulk of Al-Qaeda leadership and other operatives were hiding in this area.

While Pakistan was pressed to deal with militants on its side of the border, US-Nato forces launched operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan in July with greater focus on Helmand province. In late August, it was announced that Pentagon was reassigning its 3rd Special Forces Group, presently deployed in Africa and Caribbean to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Adoption of aggressive posture proved costly since US and other allied troops suffered more casualties from July to September than what they had suffered from 2001 onwards. In August casualty of ISAF was 77 out of which toll of US soldiers was 51. Allegations of rigging and fraud during presidential election in Afghanistan further compounded the woes of US-Nato. On 3 October, two US outposts in Nuristan province were attacked by Taliban fighters killing eight US and 30 Afghan soldiers and capturing as many Afghan soldiers. It was deadliest battle in last 15 months. Taliban are now gaining strength in northern and western Afghanistan as well which has become a serious cause of worry for US military commanders in Afghanistan.

In spite of troop surge taking the total to 107000, Gen Stanley McChrystal pleaded for 40,000 additional troops saying that war will be lost if he didn’t get more troops. He wants carte blanche to intensify killings in order to drown popular opposition to US occupation in blood. He vehemently rejected Joe Biden’s plan of reduction of troops terming it as unworkable. He has mustered support of Republicans, Blue Dogs, New Democrats and media. Crying over spilt milk, McChrystal among several reasons he listed of Afghanistan getting out of hand, he has once again drummed up ISI-Taliban linkage fed to him by CIA, RAW, RAAM. USA has added Quetta on its hit list on the plea that Afghan Taliban Shura is stationed there. Threat of drone attacks on Quetta is meant to spread the fires of insurgency into Pashtun belt as well and to force settlers to abandon the capital city.

It is not the alleged linkage of ISI with Taliban that has complicated military situation in Afghanistan but it is continued occupation of Afghanistan together with disruptive role of RAW that has caused extreme turbulence in Pakistan with its spillback effects on Afghanistan. While feeling upset over ISI-Taliban nexus, Chrystal has no compunction over Pakistan specific Indo-US-Israeli axis that has and is causing immense harm to Pakistan. Weapons are still flowing in from Afghanistan for the militants to prevent stabilisation of restive areas. India and Israel are playing the devil’s role to create mistrust between USA and Pakistan by continuously feeding concocted stories and even faking incidents to mar their relations. Anderson Cooper of CNN showed video of snipers (Mossad or Israeli soldiers) killing American soldiers in Iraq in 2006. Purpose was to enrage US troops so that slaughter continues. Both RAW and Mossad are master at false flag operations. Israeli company Rafael has promoted IEDs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan soldiers are now being trained by Blackwater to kill US soldiers while conducting joint operations so as to justify troop surge.

Gen McChrystal’s recent admission that insurgency in Afghanistan is predominantly Afghan flustered Indian leaders. His warning on 23 September that Indian increasing political and economic influence in Afghanistan is exacerbating regional tensions gave stomach cramps to them. His apprehensions are however against Af-Pak policy in which India has been assigned a key position by USA. Without US blessing, India could not have expanded its influence in Afghanistan in such a big way. Saner elements within India have now begun to question the wisdom behind investing such huge amounts in Afghanistan when over 70% Indian population are living in utter poverty.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee and 21 Congressional colleagues in the meanwhile introduced a bill HR 3699, which would bar funding to the increased troop level in Afghanistan beyond current level. Gordon Duff has termed Afghanistan as another Vietnam. More and more western analysts and security experts are giving similar assessments. Call for quitting Afghanistan is getting louder. Sensing the fast changing mood both in Afghanistan and within USA, Obama resignedly admitted on 8 October that the US accepts political role of Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ignoring the changing sentiments of people of USA and western countries, India, Karzai regime in Kabul, Israel, weapons merchants in USA and those involved in drug trade are constantly airing frightening scenarios about US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. They caution the US leaders that the vacuum created would not only result in victory of religious extremist forces but also would have a profound impact on the entire Muslim world thereby making USA more vulnerable. They advise them not to abandon Afghanistan till the elimination of terrorism irrespective of human and financial costs incurred. In their selfish urge to fulfil respective ambitions, they don’t care if USA ruins its economy, loses soldiers in futile war, and smudges its prestige and status as a sole super power. India and ruling cabal in Kabul would be biggest losers in case USA decides to quit since it would result in exit of Karzai and his team and return of Taliban and roll back of rising influence of India. India has invested over $1.2 billion in various development projects in Afghanistan and has managed to make deep inroads in all spheres. It is now keen to increase its military presence and become a key player in Afghan affairs to be able to encircle Pakistan and spread its influence in mineral rich Central Asian states.

India established an airbase in Tajikistan which became operational in 2007 and where 14 Indian MiG-31 bombers are parked. Farkhor base gives IAF option to strike Pakistan from the rear. It has also helped Afghanistan in connecting Kandahar with Chahbahar Port in Sistan province of Iran thereby removing dependence of landlocked Afghanistan on Pakistan. India would therefore not like to lose these strategic benefits and in consonance with Israel, which has huge influence over Washington would keep advising USA to convert Afghanistan into a permanent military base. Both are digging the grave of USA but myopic US leadership is so dumb that it is totally banking upon the two grave diggers. Zionism and Hindutva are global movements with a history of fascism and pro-imperialism. Israel which practices apartheid and commits atrocities on daily basis with no restraint on barbarity is called democratic friend by USA. Same is true for India. Both Israel and India serve as proverbial glove to hide the US hand and its hypocrisy.

Staggered by changing events RAW sprung into action and once again resorted to its old trick of terrorism in Kabul on 8 October. A huge explosion occurred near Indian Embassy in Kabul killing 17 and injuring about 83 persons. Some Indian guards also got killed or injured. Future course will be exactly in line with suicide attack on Indian Embassy Kabul in July 2008 the blame of which was put on ISI. Purpose is to force Obama Administration to send additional troops to Afghanistan as requested by Chrystal rather than opting for a troop cut and eventual withdrawal. The other is to project ISI as a rogue outfit which refuses to mend its ways; to mar Pak-US relations that have begun to warm up and get Pakistan declared a terrorist state; to torpedo Kerry-Lugar bill or force Pakistan to accept it in its present form; force Pakistan to expedite operation in Waziristan. Lastly, create a situation justifying heating up of eastern border.

Some mechanised battalions have reportedly been moved towards eastern border and Adampur airbase has been beefed up by placing MiG-29 jets facing Pakistan. Another notable and surprising development is Indian support offered to Pakistani Taliban. Display of video of dead body of Baitullah and sudden appearance of Hakimullah and Waliur Rahman on 4 October are consequential. Last winters, call given by late Baitullah and other warring militant leaders that they would fight the Indian aggression along side Pak army had taken the wind out of the sails of Indian aggressive designs. This time they have schemed to neutralise this threat by making them their allies. In all likelihood, India with the blessing of USA would once again create another crisis situation in November-December for which we must be mentally and physically prepared.

The writer is a defence and security analyst based at Rawalpindi and author of several books.


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