No apologies for hiding Bin Laden

March 25, 2014

By Azmaish Ka Waqt – Newsvine

Article PhotoCarlotta Gall’s piece in the New York Times has caused a firestorm in the media and government circles and given the Pakistani state very bitter pills to swallow. Yet the allegations and assertions she raises, articulately wrapped in personal anecdotes, are nothing new. Analysts and journalists from across the spectrum have been obsessed with making sense of this curry – Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, cross-border terrorist attacks, why the US lost the War on Terror.

While anecdotal evidence is very useful in raising questions and gauging patterns, it cannot be taken at face value or deemed factual. Neither can hearsay.

Gall writes that several of the Afghans she met at bomb sites told her that the organisers of the insurgency were from Pakistan. “Even the Afghan police said the militants had crossed the border”. But she fails to mention that thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans move across the porous Pak-Afghan border daily. Lack of consensus on the demarcation of the border has been a thorn in the sides of both countries since long before the partition. Half-truths can accomplish so much more than the whole truth, which in this case, is that militants from Afghanistan too enter Pakistan, organise attacks and return to their safe havens that have continued to mushroom despite the decades-long scourge by the US and the Afghan National Army. Mullah Fazlullah of Swat fame fled the country to take refuge in Afghanistan and has planned and manned attacks on Pakistan from across the border. On who is providing whom refuge, Gall tells a one-sided tale.

Gall gets straight to the point – it has been the ISI all along. From engendering 9/11 to planning attacks, protecting militants, persecuting citizens under its reign of terror, and single-handedly organising and supplementing a global force of terrorists, the ISI has done it all. If this is truly the case, and if the ISI is indeed capable of such a masquerade, the CIA and the US government should simply resign on grounds of sheer incompetence.

As a war correspondent with the highest credentials, Gall knows the delicate nature of reporting in war zones, the moral ambiguity of war, the need to objectively report the accurate and ensure that every claim is attributable, authentic and far from hearsay. A war correspondent’s report needs to be supplemented with evidence that can hold its own in a court of law. Without its accompanying buttress of proof, the report becomes a mouthpiece with vested interests. Quoting unnamed sources is not enough to pass judgement on an entire country, Gall should know.

One cannot but feel sympathy for the ordeal Gall had to go through at the hands of security agents during her visit to Pashtunabad, Quetta. This is no way to deal with a lady, as the then information minister acknowledged and apologized for. This Gall fails to mention here, but ABC News reported when covering this incident in 2006: Gall said the Minister of State for Information, Tariq Azeem Khan, apologized for the incident and helped secure the release of the photographer and Gall’s belongings. But she says he told her to inform Pakistani authorities ahead of future visits to Quetta “to avoid such difficulties.”

When one is a foreign national war correspondent in a war zone, the least he or she could do is follow legal procedure and register themselves with state authorities before heading out to a notorious madrassah in Pashtunabad. Makes one think what the US or Afghan National Army would do to a Pakistani interviewing people and taking pictures close to Bagram Prison without a permit.

Gall should also know that ISI is not – cannot – be the only intelligence agency in the world with safe havens to interrogate suspects. It’s the tone of incredulous disbelief that throws one off. This cannot be news to Gall, she does after all come from the country that gave us CIA and Guantanamo Bay.

Former ISI chief General (r) Ziauddin has denied saying those things to Gall. In an interview with Dawn, Ziauddin says he was misquoted: ‘I told her that Musharraf should have known that Osama was hiding in Abbottabad. But in a bid to give credence to her thesis, the lady journalist misquoted me as saying that Musharraf knew about Osama’s presence’.

Peter Bergen writes that while US-Pakistan relations have been anything but smooth, Gall’s astonishing claims that the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle bin Laden and that the US had direct evidence that former ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, cannot be proven. Gall cannot quote anyone on this, even when she demands more openness from the US government on the matter. A claim unsupported by even a shadow of evidence is at best a claim.

The bullhorn behind this apocalyptic painting of Pakistan becomes evident by the time Gall says that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s intelligence agency had a mole among General Musharaf’s top ten generals, who in a super-secret meeting, discussed Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Gall’s article, apart from showing that she has no love lost for Musharaf, fails to mention that it was the ISI who warned Bhutto about possible attempts on her life. Furthermore, if the Afghan intelligence service had eyes and ears into Musharaf’s inner circle, the Afghan service should have also known where they were hiding Bin Laden.

The article, adapted from Gall’s upcoming book, has all the ingredients of a thriller Dan Brown would be proud of: intrigue, mystique, a larger-than-life villain, conspiracy theories that sound like new revelations, ending with a flourish. It is thinly sourced, draws inferences from circumstantial evidence and has been written off as a sensational teaser for her upcoming book The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001- 2014. If this article was supposed to be an attention grabbing pre-launcher then it has backfired badly.

A resilient nation

November 4, 2010

Ikram Sehgal

To paraphrase Mark Twain: “Rumours about Pakistan’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.” By any measure, the country has defied the odds, and we are one of the most resilient nations on earth. How many nations are capable of surviving the manmade and natural catastrophes that we are periodically subjected to, not counting the disaster that is our democratic leadership? Even incurable optimists like me do not cease to wonder at our inherent ability to rise from the ashes. Something like Razzak’s amazing century the other day in Abu Dhabi.

In 2009, parliament (which is “supreme”) voluntarily surrendered sovereign authority in Swat, with hardly any debate and in less than one day. The public mask for the evil designs of Fazlullah, his murderous son-in-law, Sufi Mohammad gave away the jihadis’ hand by publicly heaping scorn on the Supreme Court. For good measure, he added that the militants did not recognise the country’s Constitution. Had the media darling of that time not shot off his mouth prematurely, Swat’s population would today be subject to the Fazlullah brand of Shahriah, thanks to parliament that has never revoked that despicable Resolution. With Islamabad only 60 kms away as the crow flies. The “domino theory” was very much a possibility in the adjoining districts. The outraged public reaction and the continuing atrocities perpetuated by Fazlullah was “casus belli,” giving space to the army deal with them effectively.

Once given the green signal and with the population firmly behind its campaign the army showed no reluctance or hesitation in going after the insurgent terrorist menace within our borders. The successful counterinsurgency overcame the psychological barrier, the feeling that the jihadis could not be beaten. The battlefield momentum was thereafter extended to South Waziristan. The Mahsuds provided the supposedly impenetrable outer ring around the non-Pakistani Al-Qaeda stronghold. But the myth of their invincibility, created with the help of uninformed media hype, soon evaporated. Many cadres of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were killed. Some were taken captive but a substantial number melted away, many of them seeking (and receiving) refuge in North Waziristan from the Haqqani group.

Not that the army is infallible. The other day someone mentioned that the Pakistani army was working on a new doctrine. One was not surprised that an enquiry about the national security strategy on which the doctrine should be based produced blank looks. One may be forgiven for being rather skeptical. But, after all, who can forget the brilliance (and the after-effects) of the last two “doctrines”: (1) the defence of the East lies in the West, and (2) Afghanistan gives us strategic depth.

In similar vein, when Mian Nawaz Sharif talks about a 25-year charter drawn up by all stakeholders, one wonders what in the world is he talking about. For example, what really is the PML-N chief doing about the electricity and petroleum rates hiked beyond description? Forget the “vision thing.” The PML-N leader should start playing the role that Pakistanis want from the opposition, both within parliament and outside, providing the checks and balances that are the essence of democracy.

The Supreme Court judgment on the 18th Amendment was quite Solomonic, and hopefully parliament would respond in a mature fashion and correct the anomalies that have slipped into an otherwise commendable Raza Rabbani-led achievement. The PML-N’s ineptitude and the Supreme Court inaction have gifted Zardari time and space time and again. The one public official in Pakistan who does not have to declare his assets, the president has used this repeated let-off quite brilliantly, launching an effective attack against the Supreme Court’s credibility. While the Supreme Court has been forced occasionally to take the opposition’s role by default to ensure and/or enforce the rule of law for the hapless people of Pakistan, it has only itself to blame for vacillating in implementing its judgment on the NRO, whose beneficiaries continue to disfigure at will whatever governance there is in Pakistan.

The US is generous in getting material and monetary aid to us whenever we face either manmade and/or natural disasters. The US Chinooks supplementing Pakistan Army Aviation helicopters made the difference between life and death for millions stranded above the snowline in the high mountains during Earthquake 2005. The Chinooks were joined this time around during the devastating Floods 2010 by Sea Stallions in saving thousands upon thousands from the rising floodwaters, as well as delivering timely material aid. The $2 billion in military aid promised by the US recently is rather niggardly (at $500 million a year beginning 2012), when the amount is compared to the $18 billion largesse for the Afghan National Army (ANA). One must not look a gift horse in the mouth, but one feel more than a little aggrieved at what is being poured into a black hole in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has lost more than 3,000 killed in the last 18 months, the ANA less than 300 dead (all the coalition forces put together have lost about 600 killed in action this year).

It is a fact of life that our young men in uniform are being killed in the line of duty at a ratio of 10:1 to the number of coalition casualties put together. Compared to the Afghan civilian casualties, our young and old – men, women and children – are dying at about the same rate at the hands of suicide bombers in the streets of Pakistan. While we must own the war against terrorism, it is ours to fight and win, the disparity in our effort compared to the treatment meted out to us rankles with us.

US ambassador Cameron Munter has hit the ground running. That is good, given the rather large shoes of his predecessor that he has to fill. Ambassador Anne Patterson was a class act and, even though one did disagree with her shoring up an inherently corrupt and ineffective leadership in Pakistan which represents everything that the average American can never stomach, she was outstanding in coalescing the core interests of the US with the concerns of Pakistan.

It is no secret that the US has always had (and continues to have) inordinate influence over our rulers, civil and military included, and while Pakistan may not always carry out their express instructions immediately, either because of a lack of resources and/or long-term core interests: e.g., action against the Haqqani group in North Waziristan, the US can (and must) use its considerable clout, Holbrooke notwithstanding, to ensure that our corrupt-to-the-core rulers adhere to the rule of law.

Let’s call a spade a spade and not insult everybody’s intelligence. We should be content being paid a pittance as mercenaries. What else will be made out to look when President Obama visits the real US “strategic partner” in the next few days? While the security of the US president must be the deciding factor, Obama should be persuaded to put himself in harm’s way for “a country that refuses to fail.” Even a few hours on our soil would be a tremendous vote of confidence.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder


August 19, 2010


With every passing day there is growing perception in international media that President Obama’s Afghan strategy is not working. American public opinion in favour of Afghan war is rapidly eroding and majority of Americans think that situation is worsening in Afghanistan. A number of basic goals were set in Counter Insurgency Strategy (COIN) by President Obama almost a year ago. But none of them is near to be achieved.

The first goal was to stabilize Afghanistan while pursuing a more effective civilian strategy. In it the main focus was on protecting major Afghan population centers along with agricultural areas and transportation routes. It was said that operations will be conducted in this way so that they would result in minimum causalities. But NATO troops have failed to make even a little progress on this front. The number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan has jumped 31 per cent. More than 1250 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2010 and amongst them 176 were children.

The UN figures released recently for civilian causalities were the worst in nine years of war. Afghan people are increasingly squirming at present sorry state of affairs in their country. This has gone a long way in alienate the Afghan population. Moreover the Taliban enter into villages at night and brutalize them for not backing the Afghan government. The surge strategy just opened a new and more gruesome chapter of atrocities in the war-ravaged country. With mounting causalities among the coalition forces, the morale of troops and opposition to protracted war is mounting. In July alone almost 66 soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Now even US soldiers have started talking of futility of way, what to talk of other NATO troops.

The second goal was to make headways in tackle corruption and improve governance. But the ground realities portray a very pathetic scenario. A recent survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) shows a sharp increase in corruption in Afghan society. Every year Afghan people pay millions of dollars in bribe. Even to receive basic public services more than 28 per cent of Afghan people have to pay a bribe that in times of peace should have been easily accessible. Afghan people who have seen life at its most pitiless are suffering from twin handicaps of poverty and militancy for the last three decades.

The survey further indicates that the most impoverished portion of Afghan society appears to be the worst victim of this evil of corruption. Almost 51 per cent of people think that Karzai government is not serious in doing away with this evil and Justice and security have been identified as the most corrupt sectors in Afghanistan. The gross negligence and failure to monitor process of disbursing aid has led to huge sums of money disappearing into the pockets of the powerful people, rather than being used for development purposes like building the roads, schools and hospitals.

The third goal was to outreach to moderate factions of militants that fight alongside the Taliban and to persuade them to lay down their arms in exchange for a role in local governance and other monetary incentives. But the reality that cannot be overlooked is that militants in some parts of Afghanistan who had laid down their weapons and renounced violence in response to government offers of aid and amnesty were treated with much humiliation. So they are rejoining the insurgents because of failure of Karzai government to deliver on its promises.

Nur Gul, an influential Taliban commander, who had surrendered with his armed men, last year, has now again joined the Taliban’s ranks because he was mistreated at the hands of Afghan security forces instead of bringing in mainstream political system and giving money appropriated in 2010 defense bill to found a Taliban reintegration program.

It was said that Afghan National Army (ANA) will be developed to coup with challenges. But thus far poorly equipped soldiers have not even necessary war instruments like planes, helicopters, heavy weapons, tanks and night vision goggles. The combat efficacy of the Afghan National Army (ANA) remains nothing more than mere show. A major military campaign in Afghan city of Marjah in Helmand province has already failed and military operation in Kandahar has been postponed because of overwhelming chances of failure. The level of mistrust between foreign troops and Afghan army can be analyzed from the fact that American soldiers in Kandahar report that, for their own security, they will not tell their ANA colleagues when and where they are going to patrol.

Obama’s Afghan strategy also talked of having a more robust partnership with Pakistan. President Obama had said, “We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target these groups that will threaten our countries. But military relationship between Pakistan and the US remain very fragile and characterized by deep-seated mistrust. Drone attacks in tribal areas of Pakistan remain a major irritant in the mutual relations of Pakistan and the US.

The US invasion of Afghanistan had two objectives i.e., to deny Al-Qaeda safe heavens in Afghanistan and to set up a moderate form of government by replacing the Taliban regime. Al-Qaeda has settled in other countries of the world and still planning attacks on the US land. The Taliban are fearlessly dispensing their brutal form of government in many provinces of Afghanistan and executing people openly in the presence of more than one hundred thousand NATO troops in Afghanistan.

In the nutshell it stands out crystal clear that Obama’s Afghan strategy is failing on every front. President Obama, a dazzling orator and incisive thinker, failed to appreciate the local sensitivities of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s resistance is getting momentum by the day and slowly and gradually Taliban are establishing unchallenged control over Afghan provinces. There are clear dissensions between the Obama administration and US military commanders as to the time of withdrawal. Moreover US failure to make progress against the Taliban has led many war-weary Afghans to believe that the Taliban will once again rule them.

Despite the arrival of thousands of more fresh troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban are on the offensive. American policy makers need to stop burying their heads in the sand and put an end to nine years of trials and tribulations.

Dutch troops leave southern Afghanistan

August 3, 2010

By the CNN Wire Staff

Kabul, Afghanistan – More details about the Dutch withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan emerged on Monday.

The Netherlands became the first NATO ally to pull combat troops out of Afghanistan on Sunday as it handed over its mission in southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province to U.S. and Australian forces.

At the end of this year the Netherlands will have only 60 military personnel in Afghanistan, none in combat, Dutch Ministry of Defense spokeswoman Marloes Visser told CNN on Monday.

At the peak of their commitment, the Dutch had nearly 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. The bulk of that number, 1,500 personnel, were in Uruzgan, with 400 and 100 in Kandahar and Kabul, respectively.

Some staff units remain in Afghanistan, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, but the Air Task Force in Kandahar will pull out in December, emptying the country of Dutch troops. The remaining 60 personnel will work in the international headquarters in Kabul and Kandahar, Visser said.

The International Security Assistance Force-led multinational effort took over the Uruzgan mission Sunday. Combined Team-Uruzgan Commander, Colonel Jim Creighton, led a ceremony attended by acting governor for Uruzgan, Khodai Rahim Kahn, as well as ISAF and Afghan National Army personnel, according to an Australian Defence media release.

“The expansion of roads and bridges, the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces, and enhanced security are examples of the improvements made by the hard work and efforts of Dutch and Australian personnel working with the Uruzgan leaders and people,” Creighton, who is from the United States, said.

More U.S. troops will have to enter the area to fill the void, he said.

“I am looking forward to building on the exceptional work that the Dutch and Australians have undertaken so far in Uruzgan.” Creighton said. Combined Team-Uruzgan includes around 1,800 US, Australian, Singaporean, Slovakian, New Zealand, and French personnel.

A 700-person task force will redeploy Dutch forces in Uruzgan Province back home, Visser said.

“The past four years brought the population of Uruzgan great improvements,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday. “Regrettably, the Netherlands is saddened by its 24 war casualties and 140 wounded.”

The Dutch government already had extended its mission by two years. NATO requested another extension as the United States and its allies beefed up forces at the end of 2009, but opposition to the proposal brought down Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s ruling coalition in February.

U.S. and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in retaliation for the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington that September. Allied and local forces quickly toppled the Taliban, the Islamic militia that ruled most of Afghanistan and allowed al Qaeda to operate within its territory.

But top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders escaped the invasion, and Taliban fighters regrouped along the rugged border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is now battling both coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s government.

Soldiers from the Afghan National Security Forces and Australian Special Forces killed Mullah Dawood, a Taliban insurgent leader in central Uruzgan, on July 14, according to an Australian Defence media release published Monday.

India likely to get role in Afghan military affairs

June 22, 2010

Sikander Shaheen

ISLAMABAD – The ongoing row between the NATO forces and allied European countries regarding provisions of training for Afghan National Army is paving way for Indian ‘legalised’ presence in Afghanistan.

According to the information received from top representatives of the UN Afghanistan, a special delegation on behalf of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen landed in Kabul last week to discuss the situation with Afghan Government in the wake of reluctance of NATO’s European allies to cooperate any further in Afghanistan. Sources say that Indian diplomats were equally involved in these deliberations and the contractors of ‘private security sector,’ presumably the notorious Blackwater, were also present who are likely to be assigned a major role in Afghanistan’s military affairs in collusion with India. The award of lucrative $120 million to Blackwater in Afghanistan by the US Department of State is seen a pertinent move in this regard. The dwindling chances of training of Afghan forces by the European states are to blur further thus giving India all the needed justifications to ‘serve’ in Afghanistan.

The key European countries including the UK and Netherlands have refused to send further troops in Afghanistan. British Premier David Cameron announced earlier this month that the UK did not intend to amass any more British soldiers in Afghanistan while the political atmosphere in Netherlands ‘overcharged’ when the country’s coalition government collapsed last February following the reluctance of Dutch Parliament to give extension to Dutch troops in Afghanistan. Around 2500 Dutch soldiers are serving there, who are likely to pull out by the end of this year.

The only European country that committed to dispatch a ‘peanut’ amount of 80 trainers to Afghanistan in February this year was France. Still, it is not clear if the French trainers have landed in Afghanistan.

The target of International Security Assistance Force to train 134,000 and 171,600 troops of Afghan National Army by October 2010 and 2011 respectively seems to be a far-fetched notion. Likewise, training 80,000 Afghan policemen this year and those of over 100,000 in 2011, as decided in London Conference on Afghanistan, also sounds nothing more than a far cry.

Pertinent quarters say that at least 5000 to 7000 trainers are needed to train the Afghan National Army and Police but complete non-cooperation shown by Western European allies is adding to frustration for American camp.

With the pressure building on Pakistan to launch military offensive in North Waziristan, India is digging its ground to come out of its covert embryo and ‘ legally’ present itself in Afghanistan.

The real story behind Petraeus’s collapse

June 17, 2010

By Malou Innocent

To most people who follow developments in Afghanistan, it was clear that building a viable Afghan state would take more troops, more money, and more patience than the United States and its international partners could ever commit. These long-standing reservations were only intensified last November, when U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans for a 30,000-troop surge that would not only pacify population centers and train Afghan security forces, but also begin to wind down by July 2011-within 18 months of escalation.

But at a Senate hearing yesterday (before U.S. CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus passed out from dehydration), it became glaringly obvious that “success,” if it’s even still achievable, will take far longer than July 2011. Under intense questioning from both Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain, Gen. Petraeus explained that the drawdown would be based on conditions at the time, adding, “In a perfect world, Mr. Chairman, we have to be very careful with timelines.” (It’s not as if Gen. Petraeus promised the president that he can “train and hand over” the fight to Afghan security forces before next summer… Oh wait, he did.)

Indeed, earlier this year, military leaders hoped to have two successes to put before the White House for review: Kandahar and Marjah. Operations in Kandahar, a key Taliban stronghold, have been delayed until autumn. In Marjah, a village of roughly 80,000, in the southern province of Helmand, results are mixed.

On the eve of the offensive in Marjah, the coalition’s largest military operation since the invasion, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said, “This is all a war of perceptions.” In keeping with that logic, Marjah was hailed as an exemplar of population-centric counterinsurgency, a successful offensive that would be ceaselessly repeated in the media and used as a prop to retain public support for the war. Before the February offensive, the Taliban had been collecting taxes, providing policing and a rudimentary court system, and protecting the opium economy that many residents relied on. After the offensive, Afghanistan-based journalist Anand Gopal found that many residents despised the Afghan police at least as much as the Taliban. Worse, after the coalition cleared the area, there was no judicial system in place to jail suspected Taliban insurgents. With summer approaching, NATO forces-not Afghan troops -still control much of Marjah.

Marjah shined a harsh light on the Afghan National Army (ANA)-the entity that is supposed to take over responsibility for security and allow U.S. forces begin to come home. Despite being one of the war’s very few success stories, a report released last month by the International Crisis Group (ICG) found that ANA training has prioritized quantity over quality. “Kabul powerbrokers are distributing the spoils of increased NATO spending on army development among their constituents in the officer corps, fuelling ethnic and political factionalism within the army ranks,” the report said.

One retired military officer told the ICG: “From the lower officers upward, it is not a national army. It is a political army. You have people working for different factions within the ministry of defense, so today what you have is an army that serves individuals not the nation.”

These developments do not bode well for the coalition’s strategy. In this respect, the Obama administration’s overly ambitious policies do more than needlessly inflate Afghan expectations; they severely erode America reputation in globally. Promising to “end the tragic conflict in Afghanistan and promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights in the country” is absurd. Promising to do so according to an 18-month timetable is laughable. Afghanistan has been in continuous war since the 1970s. Americans should recognize that the Obama-McChrystal-Petraeus strategy grossly overestimates America’s power to spread wealth and stability, and demand a new set of goals that will allow the United States to bring this long war to a swift end.

Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. She recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan.

The Shangri-la dialogue

June 10, 2010

By Ikram Sehgal

Defence personnel tend to be taciturn. Once in a while one is privileged to listen to uninhibited exchanges of views, the Annual IISS (International Institute of Strategic Studies) Summit in Singapore being one such event. Senior national security officials in the region often use the occasion to enunciate fresh thinking about relevant security issues. The Asia-Pacific Security Summit, or the “Shangri-La Dialogue,” is named after the hotel where it is held every year.

As was expected, the South Korean president used his plenary address to condemn North Korea for the unwarranted and devastating torpedo attack that destroyed the naval vessel Cheonan and cost the lives of 46 sailors. Attending his fourth consecutive “Shangri-La Dialogue,” US defence secretary Robert Gates said that the US was a Pacific nation deeply committed to contributing to both individual and collective security to ensure peace and prosperity in the region.

He condemned North Korea strongly for the surprise attack on the South Korean naval vessel, adding that such unwarranted, irrational behaviour could not go without severe censure and/or meaningful reprimand to go with enforceable sanctions. The US defence secretary called on China (and other nations having some say with North Korea) to restrain such rogue actions from threatening regional peace and, given North Korea’s crude nuclear capability, even world peace.

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US-NATO parting kicks to people of Afghanistan

May 10, 2010

By Asif Haroon Raja

Soon after coming to power, Obama approved sending additional 21000 troops to Afghanistan in March 2009. Idea was to use maximum combat power to reverse the rising power of Taliban who had gained influence over nearly 80% of Afghan territory.

Failing to make any progress against resistance forces in Helmand and suffering heaviest casualties as well as reverses such as in Nuristan province, another troop surge of 30000 was approved by Obama by the close of the year in response to personal request from Gen McChrystal. At the same time withdrawal date was also announced.

Purpose behind the second troop surge is to deliver parting kicks to people of Afghanistan before departure. The US wants to win important battles of Helmand and Kandahar which in their assessment would break the back of resistance forces. Kandahar in their view is the heartland of Taliban and its fall will render them weak. It will then become easier for the US to negotiate with the Taliban from a position of strength and force a political solution of its choice.

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Pakistan must be key partner in finding solution in Afghanistan – David Miliband

March 12, 2010

WASHINGTON, March 11 (APP): Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan is close to the core of Islamabad’s national security interests and Pakistan has to be a partner in finding solutions in its western conflict-hit neighbor, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband emphasized Wednesday while also urging Afghans to pursue a political settlement in their country.

Delivering a lecture on how to end the war in Afghanistan, Miliband saw a “vital” opportunity in new expanding US-Pakistan partnership to address Islamabad’s concerns.

“There has been a significant change in Pakistan in the last 18 months under President Zardari’s civilian government. The reality and threat of domestic terrorism has brought new purpose to civilian and military leadership, and new consensus between leaders and led,” he noted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, near Boston.

As a result of Pakistani actions and coalition’s efforts on the Afghan side, he said it is now realistic to talk of complementary pressure on the Taliban insurgencies on both sides of the border.

Miliband spoke as Pakistani leaders hosted talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and as top-level Pakistani political and military leaders prepared to hold a series of meetings in Washington on anti-militancy efforts, broader bilateral relationship and the way forward in Afghanistan.

The British foreign secretary argued in favor of a regional cooperrative effort toward Afghanistan’s solution. He said there needs to be a more honest acknowledgement of the different interests and concerns of Afghanistan neighbours, so that efforts can be made to provide reassurances.

“Pakistan is essential here. It holds many of the keys to security and dialogue. It clearly has to be a partner in finding solutions in Afghanistan.”

Of course, Pakistan will only act according to its own sense of its national interest, he remarked.

“That is only natural. Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan is close to the core of its national security interests. Pakistan fears the build up of a non-Pashtun Afghan National Army on their doorstep.

It is perpetually worried about India’s relationship with Afghanistan.”

Underscoring Pakistan’s importance to the regional peace and security, the British official noted Pakistan is a country of about 170 million people and growing fast.

“Its own security and economy has been directly damaged by decades of insecurity in Afghanistan. It is a nuclear power. It has had a difficult relationship with the US for a generation. That is the significance of the US Government’s determination to pursue a new security, economic and political relationship. This is a vital opportunity to address Pakistan’s concerns and ours. The Kerry-Lugar

Act is an important down payment in this regard.

“But progress cannot be achieved simply by a more serious, more equal US-Pakistan strategic security understanding, crucial though that is,” Miliband added.

The British foreign secretary called for early and substantive political negotiations between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups, saying that military successes will never be enough to end the war.

“The idea of political engagement with those who would directly or indirectly attack our troops is difficult,” Miliband said. “But dialogue is not appeasement, and political space is not the same as veto power or domination.”

“Now is the time for the Afghans to pursue a political settlement with as much vigor and energy as we are pursuing the military and civilian effort,” he said.

According to The Washington Post, Miliband’s remarks went far beyond statements by U.S. officials, who have said talks would be better held after the military balance shifts toward the international coalition and the insurgents have agreed to sever ties with al-Qaeda and lay down their arms Miliband voiced support for a peace “jirga,” scheduled by President Karzai at the end of April.

The jirga, he said, offers a chance to reconfigure political representation in the Afghan government, initially apportioned at a conference organized by the West in Bonn, Germany, after the United States and Afghan allies overthrew the Taliban government in late 2001.

“It was right that the Taliban leaders were excluded from Bonn,” Miliband said. “But other, more significant and legitimate groups were seriously underrepresented, most notably the various Pashtun confederations from which the Taliban draws its strength.”

Although Pashtuns make up about 40 percent of the population, and Karzai is a Pashtun, Afghanistan’s smaller ethnic groups play disproportionate roles in the government and the military.

Raise Your Price, Pakistan

March 2, 2010

How about exchanging Taliban Number Two Abdul Ghani Baradar for terror master Brahamdagh Bugti and the dismantling of the terror network targeting Pakistan’s Balochistan?

By Ahmed Quraishi

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Pakistan has agreed to hand over Afghan Taliban’s number 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to Afghanistan. How about asking for Mr. Brahamdagh Bugti in exchange? Or for the dismantling of the Afghan-based terror infrastructure targeting Pakistani Balochistan?

There are signs that Afghanistan’s role as a base for anti-Pakistan operations over the past seven years is gradually shrinking. But it is not completely over yet. The rollback in that role is directly linked to what the United States wants. And Washington’s recent change of heart regarding Pakistan’s role and legitimate regional security interests are the result of the Pakistani military standing its ground, not any genuine change of heart in US policymaking circles. This is why you did not see any US official jumping in excitement at the idea of Pakistani military training the Afghan National Army, which is what our army chief has proposed.

So the change in the US position may be tactical, forced by Pakistani straight talk. Examples abound, including how CIA dragged its feet before it finally began targeting anti-Pakistan terror groups and leaders in the border area. There might have also been some visible decrease in the level of logistical support that the so-called Pakistani Taliban received from the Afghan soil [and not all of it from the proceeds of Afghan Taliban's drug trade, as Afghan and American officials have been trying to convince their Pakistani counterparts]. Pakistani officials are yet to certify this decrease publicly. Granted that Admiral Mike Mullen is someone who genuinely tries to understand Pakistani concerns. And he has been doing his bit with apparent sincerity in the past few months. But there are still some tensions below the surface. A Time magazine story over the weekend tried to delink US connection to the Jundullah terrorist group and throw the entire responsibility at Pakistan, targeting Iranian paranoia by suggesting a Pakistani intelligence support for Jundullah ‘as a tool for strategic depth.’ This type of media leaks and background intelligence briefings have to stop. Enough of the demonization of Pakistan that the US media unfortunately spearheaded over the past three years, apparently through some kind of semi-official patronage. If US officials can bluntly accuse their Pakistani counterparts of sponsoring ‘anti-American articles’ in newspapers, whatever that means [What is 'anti-American articles' anyway?], surely Islamabad can pose the same question, especially when Pakistan’s case is stronger.

The same goes for the admirable US nudge to India to resume peace talks with Pakistan. Had things not gone wrong in Afghanistan for the grand US project, Washington was all set to introduce India as the new regional policeman in Afghanistan following the eventual pullback of NATO and US militaries from that country. Pakistan was being pushed to accept this as fait accompli and Mr. Zardari’s pro-US government was more than willing to play along. Again, a Pakistani public opinion that is not ready for such a major one-sided Pakistani concession probably threw a spanner in the works.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir must be commended along with his team for stating the Pakistani bottom line. Forget the US statements on the need for peace between Pakistan and India. The fact is that the US played the two countries against one another in Afghanistan in the past eight years. If Pakistan accepts, a photo-op would work just fine for Washington as it does for New Delhi. We’d be asking too much if we think anyone in New Delhi or Washington is really itching to help Pakistan resolve its grievances with India. It’s just that the regional dynamic is helping us at this point in time. So let’s make the most out of it while we retain the initiative. Instead of the theatrics, we must ask for something substantial this time. No more prolonged people-to-people exchanges. There is no problem between our peoples. And please, no more equating Pakistan’s responsibility for peace with India’s responsibility. The onus is on India. It is the bigger country. It can change the entire mood in the region by taking small steps to alleviate Pakistani insecurities. It can do so by taking steps in the water dispute, in improving how it treats Pakistani visitors, and by reducing tensions with the Kashmiri people on the ground.

Bottom line: Enough of selling ourselves cheap over the past eight years. Pakistan should secure its interests and accept nothing less.

Al Qaeda: Breaking the backbone

February 15, 2010

By Raven Gale

Many people in Pakistan and across the world question the very existence of Al Qaeda. They claim that it is a complete fabrication. Muslims think that it is West’s plot to capture Muslim territories to disarm them and takeover their resources. There might be some truth in it but 99% is pure hysteria and propaganda. There should be no doubt that a terror organization exists and it is targeting innocent people across the world. This organization has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity. Al Qaeda may have started as a fake entity but today it is very much a reality. It may have been created by secret services but today many terror outfits are using its name to achieve their objectives. It is today a “generic” name being used by different groups with varying agendas to recruit young, depressed, unemployed, poverty stricken and easily influenced people to carry out terrorist activities.

Read Complete Article :

Kayani spells out terms for regional stability

February 3, 2010

By Zahid Hussain

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said on Monday the success of military operations in the tribal regions have caused substantial decline in cross-border attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan and warned that it was essential to address Pakistan’s long-term strategic concerns for stability in the region.

During an address to the foreign media, General Ashfaq Kayani said that peace and stability in Afghanistan were crucial to Pakistan’s long-term interests. -APP File Photo

In a rare press briefing, General Kayani said it would be a cause of worry for Pakistan if Afghanistan’s projected army developed the potential to take on Pakistan.

“We want a strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it,” the general said while talking to a group of journalists at the Army General Headquarters.

“A peaceful and friendly Afghanistan can provide Pakistan a strategic depth.” He asked the US and Nato to come out with a clear strategy on Afghanistan.

General Kayani who last week participated in Nato commanders’ conference in Brussels said Pakistan was prepared to train the Afghan National Army which would help improve relations between the two nations. He said he hoped the offer would get a positive response.

“If we get more involved with the ANA (Afghan National Army) there’s more interaction and better understanding,” General Kayani said.

“We have opened all doors … It’s a win-win for Afghanistan, the United States, Isaf and Pakistan,” he said, referring to Nato’s International Security Assistance Force.

He said he believed it would take at least four years to achieve a target of a 140,000-strong Afghan force able to take over security responsibilities.

Pakistan has raised concern over a similar offer by India to train Afghan army, and the issue could become another point of conflict between the two South Asian neighbours.

Pakistan’s offer reflects Islamabad’s rising concern over Indian influence in Afghanistan. “Our strategic paradigm needs to be fully realised,” General Kayani said.

He warned that an environment hostile to Pakistan could strain its battle against militancy and extremism. He said he had conveyed the concerns and constraints of Pakistan to the Nato allies.

“There are some key issues of the conflict that needed to be fully understood and addressed.”

He said there was a need for realisation of Pakistan’s key regional position and its contribution in the war.

General Kayani said more than 140,000 Pakistani troops were now involved in fighting militants in the northwest and deployment along the Afghan border.

He said over the last seven months Pakistani military had launched 209 major and 510 minor operations in 10 regions. He said 2,273 Pakistani army officers and soldiers had been killed in the fighting so far.

General Kayani said that the military operations in South Waziristan and Swat were at present in a transitory phase — from hold to build. “We must consolidate our gains and fully stabilise the area secured lest it fall back to the terrorists,” he said.

He warned against losing sight for future operations. “Public opinion, media support, army’s capability and resolve are fundamental to our war,” he said.

General Kayani rejected the perception that Pakistan did not want to take on the militants in North Waziristan. “There is already one army division deployed there and we have taken action whenever required,” he declared

He said it was important that the military consolidated its hold in South Waziristan and other tribal regions before starting another army offensive.

Last October the army launched a major offensive in South Waziristan which had become the main bastion of Pakistani Taliban movement and Al Qaeda.

More than 30,000 troops have been involved in the operation which is said to be the biggest since Pakistan joined the US war on terror after September 11, 2001.

The troops have cleared most of the region, but there are still pockets of resistance. Many Taliban commanders have taken refuge in neighbouring Waziristan. “We have broken the myth that Waziristan cannot be controlled,” he said.

Pakistan has been facing mounting pressure from the United States to start army operation in North Waziristan which is the base for another Taliban faction.

The US and western intelligence agencies believe the area is also a base of Afghan insurgents led by Sirajuddin Haqqani. Pakistan had signed a peace deal with the Taliban faction in 2006.

General Kayani said Pakistani military’s success in South Waziristan had sent a strong message to the militants operating in North Waziristan and other areas.

“There is, however, no need at this point to start a stream roller operation in North Waziristan.”

The army chief said the large number of casualties suffered by the Pakistani security forces and economic losses had not dented the armed forces’ resolve to fight terrorism and violent extremism. “We will fight and finish the terrorism in our own interest,” General Kayani said.

He said the intelligence sharing and greater cooperation between Pakistani military and US forces had helped improve the situation. “The regular contacts between Pakistani and US military commanders have greatly helped in understanding each others’ position.”

A Two-Front Threat Emerging For Pakistan

January 22, 2010

What was India’s intelligence chief doing in Afghanistan last week? Why did Pakistan support the US war if Pakistani interests were going to be trampled like this?

The moment of truth for those in Islamabad who continue to trust the Americans is nearing and might have already arrived. Pakistan needs to respond to the provocations by India and by those who are supporting India. Pakistan also needs to consider withdrawing from the coming London conference on Afghanistan if its legitimate security interests are further ignored by the United States and the United Kingdom. Additionally, Pakistani forces need to be positioned along the border with southern Afghanistan, where some elements within the US establishment seem to be planning limited incursions.

By Shireeen M Mazari | Published: January 20, 2010
The Nation.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-A nightmare security scenario for Pakistan seems to be emerging – that of a two-front military conflict. Pakistan is already facing an internal militancy aided and abetted from Afghanistan and is threatened with all manner of likely US boots actually coming into Pakistan.

Already, the drone attacks on Pakistani soil have increased. For all these reasons, Pakistan has moved a large chunk of its forces away from its Eastern border with India and along the LoC, and moved them to the Western front along the international border with Afghanistan as well as into FATA.

Now India has upped the military ante against Pakistan after meetings between Indian officials and America’s Holbrooke and Gates. Hence we are seeing the unprovoked Indian military firing at Pakistani forces across the international border, the working boundary and across the LoC, which has resulted in death and injury for Pakistani soldiers. What can possibly be the Indian intent at this time to undertake such military adventurism? Had it been given some go-ahead by the Americans?

This new military provocation comes when there seems to have been a decision made by the British and Americans to give India a major military role in Afghanistan. The two allies are all set to spring this nasty decision onto Pakistan at the international conference on Afghanistan in London at the end of this month when it will be proposed that India train the Afghan National Army – something it is already doing at a small level covertly and on that pretext already has its operatives in Afghanistan. It is these operatives who are conducting the aid and assistance to militants within Pakistan.

In view of these developments, what are the immediate options for Pakistan which will protect its interests as well as signal an effective message to both the US and India?

First and most immediate, Pakistan needs to move its troops back to its Eastern front and cease operations in FATA. We need to distinguish between our militancy problem, which is certainly threatening and very real, but has multiple dimensions, and the misguided US ‘War on Terror’. On the Western front, it needs to realign its forces along the Chaman border area with Afghanistan where it is expected US boots may enter Pakistan on the ground.

Second, it needs to tell the US in no uncertain terms that it will not tolerate these Indian military incitements and may well up the ante also choosing its own time, place and type of response.

Third, Pakistan needs to categorically refuse to participate in the London Conference if the plan to train the Afghan National Army by India is even discussed informally. In fact, under the circumstances, if India participates in the Conference, Pakistan should consider the option of boycotting it. Let us see how far the US and UK get in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s active cooperation!

Fourth, it is time to demand that Indian operatives move out of Afghanistan and Indian consulates in Afghanistan along the border area with Pakistan be closed.

The fact that the Indian aggression has come immediately in the aftermath of the discussions between the Indians and visiting Americans including Defense Secretary Gates, and following on the heels of the visit to Kabul by India’s DG MI, shows only too clearly the Indo-US nexus in terms of presenting Pakistan with a possible two-front threat.


December 24, 2009



US Administration under President Obama, now in the arena for a good length, seems to suffer as if it can no longer be responsive, decisive and swift. The closure of Guantanamo Prison Camp in Cuba vehemently announced by President Obama years back has been allowed to drift to the back-burner. The Administration seems to be less enthusiastic about following words by action and deeds as witnessed by the time taken by the President to approve and order surge in soldiers for Afghanistan. The shortest possible sentences announcing Exit Strategy and withdrawal by July 2011 went almost un-cheered even back home. A couple of voices from Washington favoring a Review of the same have further diluted its impact. The situation on ground clouds its prospects and possibility-being an un-finished Agenda. The questions that surface are:

  • Have Americans achieved their goals?
  • Has Osama been killed or captured?
  • Is Al-Qaeda a history?
  • Has the terror or terrorism ended or have the terrorists been eliminated.
  • Has Afghanistan been stabilized as a democratic viable society with political and economic sustainability?
  • Have the NATO Armies from almost 34 countries led by US Army comprising over one hundred thousand with all the weaponry, munitions and fire power in eight years been able to sub-due or rein in the Taliban?
  • Will the Government of President Karazai be able to grow enough muscles, limbs and legs to stand on in another short span of time?

Much earlier had I said that US intentions and designs in the region (though un-stated so far) are:-

  • Prolonged stay maintaining military presence to contain China.
  • Exploit natural resources to its economic gains.
  • De nuclearise Pakistan and thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Incidentally, I continue to hold the same view with earnest hope that as did leave Mr. Bush, the “crusade ” part of the Expedition must have left the White House too.

In the absence of any higher direction of war (on terror) at the political level, policy statements emerging from Multan instead of Islamabad, the complexities of the situation seemingly have been left for the Generals to solve, settle and salvage. The frequent, successive and un-ending arrivals and departures of Generals McChrystal, Mike Mullen and Petraeus can be a case in point. It is said,” War is too serious a business to be left to the Generals alone”. The conduct of battles can be left to the local pleasures, Wars are fought at national level. And at national level, we do not have the leadership worth its salt. Contrary to sloganeering by political non-entities Pakistan, an ally against terror, has been certainly not taken into confidence, co-opted, consulted, or even fore-informed about the impending US Exit or Surge Strategy. This has caused serious implications for us and the region.

President Obama’s speech at West Point on December 01, 2009 impacting global policies has been under scrutiny and analysis at important capitals. The Government of Pakistan and the Prime Minister himself have commented about need for further clarity. The calculus principles prescribe that the opposites can-not be combined together. Announcing simultaneously in the same breath, both surge and withdrawal sounded strange, if not odd. The seasoned diplomats assert that what has been said is not that important. Of more importance is what has not been said. There has been no word like the “Hot pursuit” or “Increased and expanded Drone Attacks” inside Pakistan. And this is what one is more apprehensive about. Increased “cooperation” being sought from us means more military actions, more deaths and more arrests. The term “Cooperation” implies and includes action by our own security forces as well as unilateral action by US and NATO Armies.

President Obama has, only differed with or resisted the idea of increase in Drone Attacks inside Pakistan (enveloping more targets and more areas like Balochistan) rather than an outright rejection or aversion to the intended increase. This Air War therefore may expand and enlarge in intensity to include areas in Balochistan with reported existence of Quetta Shoora (admitted only recently by the Government). The “Do More” Mantra has been refined and replaced by “Cooperate More” in the recent days – as rightly observed by a former Prime Minister, “Cooperate More” or “Do More” – for us it means “Die More”.

Searching similar sounding Osama, President Obama’s policies have pushed Afghanistan into further factionalizing, Local War Lords, Ethnic Groups and Drug Barons with no central control. Mr. Karazai’s corruption-stained Government’s weak writ does not extend beyond Kabul. Installing Northern Alliance, a Minority over the Majority Pashtun has turned the struggle for power into a National Movement. Raising, training and motivating Afghan National Army in a short period and transforming it into a disciplined potent force capable to quell internal strife and turmoil is an uphill task. Non Pashtun ethnicities cannot procure suitable and enough youth for recruitment. An Army comprising other ethnic groups will not be acceptable to Pashtun populace. Such an Army or Police Force will thus face and foment further hostilities at the peril of peace and tranquility, causing chaos and disharmony.

With its worries compounding each day passing, it appears Pakistan will continue to face the worst. We have failed to evolve our own indigenous Afghan Policy based on national interests and popular aspirations. We have instead been able to formalize a Counter Terrorism Policy only. We seem happy being bracketed as “Af-Pak”. Does it imply that, like Afghanistan, Pakistan, also is under US Military occupation? Does it behove just and befitting a Nuclear armed sovereign State? At best we have been able to create NCTA (National Counter-Terrorism Authority) without credible capacity, capability, qualified manpower, equipment, structure and even the Terms of Reference. It will be a sheer waste of effort and money like many other such under-takings.

Mere announcement of surge has maddened terrorists who are playing havoc even in areas hither-to-fore peaceful in Southern Punjab. The lethal explosive Kgs used for detonation and destruction now runs into four figures raising the casualties correspondingly. Attacks to take over GHQ and at other sensitive installations is meant to announce that they can traverse the most difficult terrain and territory. They are far ahead of our Intelligence mechanism and security apparatus. With relative ease they penetrate into highly protected zones and cordons. The Government claims they are on the run. Instead, with amazing ability and perfect precision, they locate, identify, and engage the high profile targets and disappear at their leisure, leaving lot of blood behind but no track to trace. Surge in US forces will send further fatal shockwaves inside Pakistan.

Despite being UN backed, War against Terror has turned into a US War on Afghanistan. The fight being put up inside Afghanistan by Afghan Taliban has acquired dimensions of a Resistance or Liberation Movement against occupation of their country by US led foreign forces. Afghan Taliban are deeply religious and deplore killing of innocent Muslims. They have publically distanced and dissociated themselves from Pakistani Taliban or TTP fighting against Pakistani security forces. They have an Agenda altogether different. Mulla Omar, Haqqani and Hikmatyar, wherever are they hiding, are all sympathetic towards Pakistan. Then who is providing the TTP with weapons, resources and replenishments to wage war against our valiant soldiers for years? Who is providing them sophisticated weapons, communication devices, gadgetry, intelligence and guidance to our Nerve Centers and sensitive targets? The weapons seized by security forces have been found to be of Indian origin. A plane-load of Weapons meant for some un-specified destination in South Asia has been seized recently by Thai Authorities at Bangkok Airport.

Despite concoct and contrive, India has failed to implicate Pakistan and prove to the world that bombing of Taj Hotel Bombay was state sponsored. Yet the dust kicked and diplomatic offensive launched touched near warlike situation. India took the matter to UN to seek Condemnation and Resolution. We have irrefutable evidence of Indian hand in the mass killings inside our borders. The Interior Minister is specific and conscientious to claim that India is to blame for the mayhem. Chief Minister Punjab, overstepping and over-stretching his domain though, has claimed and confirmed Indian involvement. Yet our Foreign Minister is reluctant to name it. Such ineptitude by us is emboldening the adversary. Luring comments and soothing statements by our rulers cannot deter India’s intentions to violate and weaken our sovereignty.

Pakistan has vital interests and serious stakes in Afghanistan. Those detesting Doctrine of Strategic Depth (since abandoned by our so called contemporary strategists) may draw pleasure by playing opposite; the initiative has been wrested by India. Located geographically to our east, India has moved simultaneously, literally, physically and strategically towards our western borders as well. India has also established bases in Central Asia. It has established strong base to cause us afflictions. Twisting our tail it can hit the nail in our head. Only a simpleton could consider India to be a threat no longer. It is an illusion. With North in Snow and South in Sea, India now occupying both its Eastern and Western flanks, Pakistan can ill afford to be content or complacent for its security concerns.

Instead of our fighting US War, sinking further and deeper into the quagmire, Pakistan must:-

  • Evolve its own Afghan Policy based on national interests, popular aspirations and collective wisdom through the parliament.
  • Seek Organisation of Islamic Conference, (OIC’s) assistance as was done in the Eighties against Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia and China can help coordinate and contribute in our efforts for peace in Afghanistan.
  • Approach UN for deployment of its Peace Keeping Force (instead of NATO-ISAF) to stabilize Afghanistan internally. These UN Forces may comprise Non-regional and preferably Muslim countries.
  • Convince USA that by becoming its ally, Pakistan, as in the past, has suffered enough. We have paid a heavy price. It is now their turn to give enough military and economic assistance. US must prevail on India to resolve our long standing mutual disputes including Kashmir.

Americans traveling with un-registered Weapons and Vehicles are ruling our seas and skies as well. Misusing their immunity, the defying Diplomats treat our law enforcement personnel with contempt. Reportedly, taking over and seizure of our nuclear assets by highly trained US Special Forces has already been rehearsed to perfection

Nehru Family in India and Bhutto Clan in Pakistan, have the instinct and an evident air of hereditary regency, Regnancy and Regalia. The latter appeasing the former, occasionally, as if pleasing an akin-ruler or a neighboring king. Remember, Sr Bhutto’s founding declaration of Dynastic Rule by decree “Udhar Tum, Idhar Hum,” ‘you there and we here’ and Begum Nusrat Bhutto (may the ailing elderly lady live long and happy) ordaining “Bhutto Boys are Born to Rule”. Consider and compare Royal lineage and ascent equivalence bar of both Regnant; Indira vs. Bhutto, Indira’s son vs. Bhutto’s daughter and now Indira’s daughter-in-law vs. Bhutto’s son-in-law, both lateral entrants grafted into the respective Royalties!

Musharraf sold and surrendered our sovereignty with stated aims to (a) Safeguard our nuclear assets (b) Keep the Kashmir issue alive. Mr. Zardari and his dispensation, before de-throning and going into oblivion, seem poised to surrender these two, also.

Ijaz-ul-Haq is former Federal Minister and son of former President, General Ziaul Haq. He frequently contributes to Opinion Maker.

Tempering Afghan Optimism

December 15, 2009

Donald M. Snow

The recent announcements and statements of support for President Obama’s “surge” in Afghanistan have left me a bit confused, and I wonder if readers can help me out here. Something just does not compute.

The rationale of the surge is, like Iraq, to improve conditions in Afghanistan enough to turn thcountry back over to the Afghans, notably the Afghan National Army (ANA) and police (ANP), sometimes collectively referred to as the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The idea is that while additional American forces conduct clear and hold operations to secure and maintain control of parts of the country still under Taliban rule, accelerated training of ANSF will yield anative force capable of fending for itself as the United States begins disengagement in 2011.

This whole plan sounds a great deal like Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization program (as Fareed Zakaria points out in this past week’s Newsweek) or possibly David Petraeus’ Iraqification program of 2007. It will be remembered, of course, that Vietnamization succeeded in providing cover for American withdrawal from Southeast Asia but did not, for a variety of reasons still being debated, result in the desired outcome of a non-communist South Vietnam. The outcome in Iraq, being heralded as a great triumph by some, remains up in the air. Iraqification has provided the cover behind which American withdrawal is occurring; what Iraq will look like after we are gone is a matter of pure conjecture. I am not sanguine we are going to like the final outcome, but that is simply one person’s opinion.

Is that all the additional 30,000 troops are about in Afghanistan? Admitting that President Obama inherited a virtually impossible domestic and international situation in Afghanistan (see my recent post. “Obama and Afghanistan: No Good Choices“), this seems a very modest and questionable outcome. Precedent seems unpromising, so why do we think it will work?

The answer, which gets us to my original concern, is that things are different here than in Vietnam, where the parallel policy failed (other than getting us out). We are told that the major difference is that the Taliban, unlike the National Liberation Front (NLF)/Viet Cong (VC), who had widespread political support, the Taliban are almost universally hated in Afghanistan. One poll that is repeatedly cited suggests a mere 6 percent of Afghans support them. Moreover, the South Vietnamese government never had any real popular support, whereas the government of Hamid Karzai has at least the potential for such support. Hold on here!

If the Taliban are as hated as we now maintain, how have they not only kept going but expanded their power and control? Just a couple months ago, American officials were decrying the “almost inexhaustible” supply of potential Taliban recruits that made suppressing them impossible. What has changed? As best one can tell, very little has changed in terms of the basic structure of political loyalties in the country. The Taliban either does have support in the Afghan population (at least among Pashtuns), or it does not. If it lacks support, it may be possible to isolate and “degrade” it. If not, the likelihood of success of the surge is highly questionable, to put it kindly. Which is it?

The other element is the transformation of the ANSF. Developing a native force capable of defending itself from a threat that has been degraded was central to Vietnamization and Iraqification as well: make the task more manageable. It failed in Vietnam, and the outcome in Iraq is still a work in progress. Why should it work in Afghanistan? The official view is that the ANSFcan indeed be developed and that since Karzai himself is not known to be corrupt, maybe his government can gain legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans. The other side os this argument is that it is exactly the lack of popular support for the regime that has fueled the insurgency all along (as is normally the case in insurgencies). What has changed to make people move to support of the regime? That is not clear.

The current optimism over Afghanistanstarts from, it seems to me, some very shaky assessments about what is happening on the ground there. Three months ago, the Taliban appeared to be a virtually unstoppable juggernaut, and now they are a weak and hated canker sore to be excised. During the recent presidential election, the Afghan regime was a hopelessly corrupt bunch of thieves who could only succeed by stealing the election, and now they are a hopeful beacon for the future of Afghanistan. Is this all public relations? Or has something really changed? Help me out here.

Donald M. Snow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama, is the author of over 40 books on foreign policy, international relations and national security topics. This essay was originally published at his blog What After Iraq? Photo credit: Getty Images.


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