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Sunday, 31 August 2008

From Today's Papers - 31 Aug

Four killed in Pakistan missile strike

Indo-Asian News Service

Saturday, August 30, 2008 (Islamabad)

Four people, including two Arab nationals, were killed in a missile strike at a house in Pakistan's tribal region on Saturday.

The private news agency quoted tribesmen as saying that two Arab nationals were among those killed in the attack when the missiles, fired from across the border in Afghanistan, hit the house of tribesman Noor Khan Gangikhel near an army camp at Zari Nur area in Pakistan's South Waziristan.

They said that they saw drones flying in the area before the missiles were launched.

An official also confirmed the incident and said that two Arab militants were killed and that the two others could not be identified. He said that the two injured were taken to a private hospital in Wana, a major town in South Waziristan.

Army spokesman Major Murad said the incident happened near the army camp known as Zari Nur camp but added that the authorities were collecting details.

The tribesmen said Taliban gathered at the site of the attack and did not allow anyone to enter the area.

Missile attacks in Pakistani tribal regions from US drones have increased in recent days to target militants.

Six people, including Arab nationals, were killed in Wana when missiles were fired at a tribesman's house some 10 days ago.

BOOK REVIEW: The inside track on Afghan wars by Khaled Ahmed

Descent into Chaos:

How the War against Islamic Extremism is being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia;

By Ahmed Rashid;

Allen Lane London 2008;

Pp484; Price £12.99

Today, the Taliban and Mullah Umar continue to live in Balochistan, the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda are in the Tribal Areas where they wrested possession of a large territory from the army that favoured them. The US and the EU are under threat. George Bush and Musharraf and Karzai are the most unpopular men in the region. It is clear who has won the war

The greatest compliment one can pay to a writer is to say that his latest book is his best. It indicates a rising graph of excellence rather than descent from the peak. Ahmed Rashid’s best book without a doubt is his latest, Descent into Chaos, a critique of the policies of the United States and Pakistan, the two countries who worked together and separately to convert their war against terror into chaos. President Bush is about to lurch out of the scene next year never to be remembered as a saviour by the West. Pakistan’s ‘schizophrenic chief executive’ President Musharraf is out of his office, universally condemned in Pakistan for having ruined the country in all sorts of ways. Four chapters in part three of the book contain the most comprehensive indictment of the US policy in Afghanistan the reviewer has ever read.

Ahmed Rashid’s friend Hamid Karzai is the president of Afghanistan today. He lived in Quetta starting 1983 and fell foul of the Taliban in 1999 when Mullah Umar had his father assassinated in Quetta, with the help of the ISI, according to Hamid. Ahmed had something in common with him. Both had criticised the Taliban, and in the case of Ahmed, it was his bestseller book Taliban (2000) that had ‘led to threats from the ISI and their extremist supporters’ (p.4). Hamid was in the Mujaddidi government after the Soviets left, but the US had left the Afghan policy in the hands of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the latter looking at Afghanistan as its fifth province.

Hamid was kicked out of the Mujaddidi government by the Tajiks, but later he fell foul of Mullah Umar too by not going along with his extremist sharia. In 1999 he took his dead father’s body to Kandahar to reclaim headship of the Popalzai branch of the Durranis. In 2000, Al Qaeda backed the Taliban against the Northern Alliance with its Brigade 555 culled from North African Arab fighters, IMU from Uzbekistan, Filipino Moros and groups from Chechnya and Xinjiang. Ahmad Shah Masud was the target and his force was besieged in Taluqan. There were 3,000 Pakistanis with the Taliban too, including ‘one hundred Pakistanis from the Frontier Corps to manage artillery and communications’ provided by the ISI (p.17).

Hamid tried to align with Massoud and Hekmatyar (then in Meshed in Iran), because they asserted that they were opposed to the Taliban, but finally decided to be on his own in the south. He told the US about Al Qaeda’s dominance; he warned the British too. No one was keen to pre-empt what was coming. Meanwhile, Musharraf had taken over in Pakistan with the help of his three corps commanders, Mehmood, Aziz and Usmani. After 9/11, Musharraf convinced the three Islamists that Pakistan had to align with America or go under to India. A reference to India is enough to make the Pakistani military mind dysfunctional. The plan was to ‘only partially accept the US demands’ to be able to oust India from the arena (p.29).

The ‘partial acceptance’ in the above reference was to protect the policy on the Taliban against resolutions by the UN. Corps commander Peshawar General Imtiaz Shaheen was removed by Musharraf when he demanded change in the Taliban policy. All proposals of change of policy were blocked by generals Mehmood and Aziz. The ISI had funded the JUI of Fazlur Rehman to hold its grand International Deobandi Conference near Peshawar in April 2001 during which a message from Osama bin Laden was also allowed to be read out. The ISI got Lashkar-e Tayba to hold another conference in Lahore, send the UN the message that Pakistan would not kowtow to its resolutions (p.53). UN envoy Brahimi was mentioned as working for the Indians in the planted stories in the Pakistani press.

After 9/11, US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld put in practice the neo-con plan to conquer Al Qaeda without putting troops on the ground and without ‘nation-building’ (reconstruction) (p.173). The plan was to buy off the warlords, isolate Al Qaeda and get Osama bin Laden through paid agents. Warlords Fahim, Rasul Sayyaf and Rashid Dostam got around $14 million and Fahim got $5 million directly from General Tommy Franks, the CENTCOM commander who later botched the Tora Bora operation and let Osama bin Laden escape with the help of Pakistani Pashtuns — who received $1200 per person for 800 Arabs — simply because the American troops were thin on the ground. When NATO wanted to send troops, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz said no thanks (p.65 and 98). Thus Bin Laden landed up in Parachinar, the Shia-majority headquarters of Kurram Agency, and laid the foundation of what is today known as the big sectarian slaughter (p.155).

Ahmed Rashid is fair when he says Musharraf didn’t let go of his policy of backing the Taliban and through them domination of Afghanistan because he thought Americans would cut and run soon enough, leaving Pakistan holding the bag. Rumsfeld was proving him right all the time (p.335). This was the situation when the US got Pakistan to send a delegation to Mullah Umar in Kandahar to warn him to surrender Osama bin Laden or be prepared to face invasion. The ISI delegation led by General Mehmood and containing Mufti Shamzai instead told Mullah Umar to hold fast and face off the invasion. The CIA got to know that General Mehmood was playing a double game. The ISI told Musharraf that US would not commit ground troops and that the Taliban would carry on from the mountains even if ousted from the cities. This convinced Musharraf to double-deal with the US (p.77).

When the invasion came, Musharraf did not abide by his promise to withdraw the elements of his army from Afghanistan. Dozens of FC men stayed on the side of Taliban helping them prepare defences and sending intelligence back to the ISI whose excuse for the double-cross was fear of India coming in riding the Northern Alliance. Ahmed writes: ‘With one hand Musharraf played at helping the war against terrorism, while with the other continued to deal with the Taliban’ (p.78). When he tried to wean the army from supporting Islamism and its extremists after 9/11 he couldn’t convince everyone and a large number of officers remained opposed to it. When the attack came it delivered 50 cruise missiles on 31 military targets. Pakistani cities and Quetta in particular erupted in protest.

For those of us who wonder where the rich people and MPAs of Quetta get their cheap cars, the book says warlord Ismail Khan of Herat receives $5 millions dollars per day for letting hundreds of trucks come into Afghanistan from Iran through the Islam Qila border post. Quetta was host to the Taliban who had ultimately to flee Afghanistan and this continued till 2006 when there was a policy change in the US and Washington began to link Quetta to cross-border raids into Afghanistan. Pakistan gave training facilities to these Taliban in Balochistan, in Dalbandin, Chaghai, Qila Saifullah, Kuchlak, Loralai and Quetta itself (p.251). Mullah Dadullah, the cruellest of the Taliban commanders, had his extended family of 70 living in Kuchlak.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda escaped into South Waziristan and was helped by local warriors trained in its camps in Afghanistan. By 2006, the US was convinced that thousands of Al Qaeda’s foreigners were ensconced in the Tribal Area. Musharraf was caught in the pincers of his own India policy in Afghanistan. Warlords funded by Al Qaeda were targeting him with the help of Punjabi elements demobbed from the jihadi militias the state had put together to fight India in Kashmir. In January 2006, the US hit Damadola in Bajaur with a missile and killed five senior Al Qaeda members. The idea was to get Ayman Al Zawahiri who had his local Pashtun wife living there but he escaped (p.276).

Musharraf was most put off when the Indians began funding the Baloch insurgents. This was the unkindest cut. He had appealed to his generals to join the US after 9/11 on the plea that India would join the war on terror instead and upstage Pakistan in Afghanistan. Not only had India ‘conquered’ Pakistan by investing the largest amount among the allies on nation-building but it also began probing Balochistan with money sent in, not ‘through its 13 consulates in Afghanistan’, but from Dubai, in line with its old policy of supporting all Baloch insurgencies (p.286). Another Pakistani myth the book explodes is the one about the Taliban terminating cultivation of heroin. The Taliban earned their entire money from heroin but after three bumper crops the commodity became cheap. So in 2001 the Taliban simply prohibited the cultivation to bring the price back up (p.320).

Ahmed Rashid says he is Hamid Karzai’s friend but he does tell us where he found Karzai lacking in leadership and perhaps in honesty too. He found him subject to strange bouts of inaction and indecision, he found his relative and minister Nurzai involved in heroin trafficking and did nothing. His brother Ahmad Wali Karzai was also said to be involved drug trade but Karzai defended him and did nothing (p.327). But the book blames Musharraf for not backing Karzai and finally not backing Benazir Bhutto because ‘she was very unpopular with the army’ and let her be killed in Rawalpindi (p.379). Today, the Taliban and Mullah Umar continue to live in Balochistan, the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda are in the Tribal Areas where they wrested possession of a large territory from the army that favoured them. The US and the EU are under threat. George Bush and Musharraf and Karzai are the most unpopular men in the region. It is clear who has won the war. *

Bush kept fully briefed on situation in India, Pak

Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 11:08 am Under World News Buzz up!

US President George W Bush has been kept “fully” abreast of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the rise in violence in Pakistan, the White House has said. “Yes, the President is kept fully briefed” on the situation in India and Pakistan, White House spokesperson Dana Perino told reporters on Thursday (August 28).

She was asked if the President is watching or has been briefed about the situation in the two neighbouring countries following the exit of key US ally Pervez Musharraf, who stepped down as Pakistan’s President on August 18.

“I would refer you to Department of Defence, who would have more on their recent conversations with their military,” Perino said. Her comments came as the top US army commander met his Pakistani counterpart secretly on board an American aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean and discussed efforts to slow the infiltration of militants from Pakistan.

The leading actors in the day-long conference yesterday (August 28) were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

After the meeting, Mullen said there is a recognition in Pakistan that the political process is “pretty” challenging but for the US the current issue on hand is dealing with the insurgency and Pakistan’s tribal areas, where Taliban and al-Qaeda militant have regrouped and are plotting attacks against the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. (PTI)

1 comment:

  1. An Escalation of the War in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a Very Bad Policy.

    Conservatives and liberals can argue the merits of the surge in Iraq , or the need to deal with terrorism now rather than later. I want to focus on something else: the impact of the perspective of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. I’m not implying that it is somehow homogeneous, just relevant; more relevant than my opinion at least.

    Taking the war on terror back to Afghanistan (and most likely Pakistan) is bad for a number of reasons: the perspective of the international Muslim community; the fact that a military solution has not worked thus far, so why keep kicking a dead horse (especially when it has the potential to trample you); the delicate balance of power in the immediate theatre and in the broader region; the likely negative reaction of other states; and last but not least, its potential impact on the price and availability of oil.

    Pakistan ’s reaction to the Bush Doctrine has been somewhat mixed. Musharraf was caught in the middle between pleasing the U.S. to ensure continued military and economic support, and the preferences of his constituents who resent the U.S. presence there. The region is already very unstable because of this tension between the US applying pressure from the outside and the internal desire of the populace to rid themselves of the unwanted American presence.

    We can say the exact same thing about Afghanistan , Karzai is in a very similar position as Musharraf was. In 2006, Karzai had to start rearming the warlords to maintain order. Similarly, in September 2006, Pakistan was forced to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan - a loose group of Waziristani chieftains, closely associated with the Taliban, who now serve as the de facto security force in charge of North and South Waziristan .

    If Senator Obama becomes president, and refocuses the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan , the best we can hope for is another five to six years of what we’ve seen in Iraq . But this best-case scenario is very unlikely.

    In addition to a multiple-front war, we would be dealing, not with a fallen state as with Iraq , but with two established states. This could possibly work in our favor as long as they continue to remain on our side. But as already mentioned, the tension is high, and there is a very delicate balance keeping Karzai in power. What if Karzai falls to a coup or assassination? And now with Musharraf stepping down, what happens if Musharraf’s successor plays to the popular demands of the people? We could find ourselves fighting the armies of the sovereign states of Afghanistan and Pakistan , in addition to insurgent forces there. If we consider the history of this region, we realize that this is not as far-fetched as it might sound on the face of it.

    As we all know, the Taliban was comprised of Sunni Islamists and Pashtun nationalists (mostly from southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan ). The Taliban initially enjoyed support from the U.S. , Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , and the United Arab Emirates in the early 1980s to fight the Soviets. By 1996, the Taliban had gained control of most of Afghanistan , but its relationship with the U.S. and most of the rest of the world became strained. Most of the international community supported the Taliban’s rival, the Afghan Northern Alliance .

    Still, even after the U.S. began to distance itself from the Taliban in late 1997, Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , and the United Arab Emirates continued to officially recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Even after 9/11 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates officially stopped recognizing the Taliban, Pakistan continued to support it. The Taliban in turn, had tremendous influence in Pakistani politics, especially among lobby groups- as it virtually controlled areas such as the Pashtun Belt ( Southeast Afghanistan , and Northwest Pakistan ) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir .

    Going back to the perception of the international Muslim community … When the U.S. demanded that the Taliban turn Bin Laden over, it initially offered to turn Bin Laden over to Pakistan to be tried by an international tribunal operating according to Sharia law. But Pakistan was urged by the U.S. to refuse. Again, prior to the beginning of U.S. air strikes against Afghanistan , the Taliban offered to try Bin Laden according to Islamic law, but the U.S. refused. After the U.S. began air strikes, the Taliban offered to hand Bin Laden over to a neutral state to be tried under Islamic law, but the U.S. again refused. This is important because in the eyes of the greater international community, the war in Afghanistan was justified (at least initially). But in the eyes of the international Muslim community, especially given the Taliban’s offer to turn over Bin Laden, it was an unnecessary war. This, combined with the preemptive war in Iraq , has led many Muslims to equate the war on terror with a war on Islam. Senator Obama’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan will only serve to reinforce that impression.

    Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an Islamic political party in Pakistan , won elections in two out of four provinces in 2003, and became the third largest political party in the Pakistani parliament – with substantial support from urban areas (not just border regions). This speaks to the tremendous influence Islamic groups enjoy in Pakistan .

    This strong influence is fueled by the fact that the Pashtun tribal group is over 40 million strong. The Taliban continues to receive many of its members from this group today. In fact, the Pakistani army suffered humiliating defeat at the hand of these so-called “insurgents.” Finally, in September 2006, Pakistan was forced to officially recognize the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan. Many saw the Pakistani government’s acknowledgment of the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan as not only a military necessity, but also a political one as well – a concession in response to the growing internal pressure on the Musharraf administration from the people of Pakistan who resent the U.S. presence and involvement in the region.

    Just consider the many, many public protests against the Pakistani government’s compliance with the United States . For instance, on January 13, 2006 , the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola , Pakistan . Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area.

    On October 30, 2006 , the Pakistani military, under pressure from the U.S. , attacked a madrasah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan . Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced the U.S. military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted “Death to America !” Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam. On November 7, 2006a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, without ever offering their condolences to the families of the slaughtered children.

    Last year troubles escalated surrounding the Pakistani government’s siege of the Red Mosque where more than 100 people were killed. Even before Musharraf’s soldiers took the Lal Masjid the retaliations began. Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center.

    There are countless more examples; too many to mention in detail. Likewise in Afghanistan ; April 30, 2007 for example, when hundreds of Afghans protested US soldiers killing Afghan civilians. Why can’t the powers that be recognize that we’ve been in Afghanistan for nearly seven years, and in Iraq for over five; a military approach is not working. If we must focus the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan , let’s focus on winning the hearts and minds of the beautiful people of these countries, rather than filling their hearts with bitterness and hatred toward us. With their support, we can offer them the financial and technical assistance that they need to rebuild their infrastructure, their agriculture and their economy. With their support, we can offer them the needed resources to rebuild their human capital and start attracting foreign direct investment. But without their support, we cannot possibly have any positive influence in this region at all; our only influence will be that of brute force, bribery of corrupt officials, and outright coercion. It will be a long, hard, costly and bloody endeavor, and the people of these countries will continue to suffer.

    Let’s not forget that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Let’s not also forget that this is a highly Muslim-concentrated area, the Islamic concept of duty to come to the aid of fellow Muslims would no doubt ensure a huge influx of jihadists in this type of a scenario. Why on earth would we want to intentionally provoke a situation that would not only radicalize existing moderates in the region, but could also potentially cause the influx of a concentration of radical jihadists from elsewhere into an already unstable region (that has nuclear weapons no less)? We would be begging for a nuclear proliferation problem.

    We like to assume that we would have the upper hand in such a scenario. But we have been in Afghanistan since October of 2001. And we have yet to assume the upper hand. The fight in Afghanistan has the potential to become much more difficult than it already is. Nor would it be unheard of to expect other major powers to back these radical jihadists with economic and military assistance in much the same way that the US backed the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union . Beyond the fact that roughly 1/5 of the world’s population is Muslim (approximately 1.5 billion people- 85% Sunni, 15% Shia, Ibadiyyas, Ahmadis and Druze), we have to remember that Muslims are the majority in 57 states (out of 195). Most of these have Sunni majorities, which gives them added political power.

    China has traditionally backed Pakistan . What would China do if the US were to find itself at war with Pakistan ?

    India has tremendous economic and security interests in the region. Let’s not forget that while India has been in nearly continual conflict with Pakistan , primarily over the Kashmir issue, it has the second largest Muslim population in the world next to Indonesia . What happens if India were to side with the U.S. in a potential conflict with Pakistan ? It will have a very difficult task justifying that position with its very large Muslim population. A U.S.-Indian alliance could also spark more terrorist attacks in the Kashmir region; it could also create added tension to the already tenuous relationship between India and Iran , which has a long history of support for Pakistan . Or, if radicals gained control of Pakistan ’s nuclear arsenal, a nuclear attack against India could spark a nuclear altercation between the two nuclear powers. Or, what if radicals then gained control of India ’s nuclear arsenal?

    On the other hand, what happens if India for some reason (either via a coup or due to Muslims gaining the upper hand in the long-running Hindu-Muslim conflict) were to side with Pakistan against the United States ? It seems unlikely now, but not completely unrealistic considering the on-again, off-again relationship between the U.S. and every country in that region. We constantly flip-flop in our foreign policy. An attack on Pakistani soil would be a perfect example of this type of wishy-washy foreign policy, as the Bush administration guaranteed Musharraf that the U.S. would never do such a thing (as much as Karzai wants us to). Speaking of Karzai, what if he is ousted and we find ourselves at war with Afghanistan . What would India do then, given its friendship with Afghanistan ?

    Also consider the U.S. position on Kashmir , which has a predominantly Muslim population. Pakistan wants a plebiscite, as called for in a 1949 UN resolution, to essentially allow the people to decide which state the region should belong to. India refuses a plebiscite, claiming Kashmir and Jammu as an integral part of India . The U.S. is arming both sides through billions in aid to Pakistan and selective proliferation to India , but insists Pakistan stem terrorist activities flowing from inside its borders, and at the same time discourages India from attacking Pakistan . Yet an escalation of war in the area could backfire badly.

    Beyond all that we still have to consider a slew of other states such as Saudi Arabia , Iran , and Russia – not to mention the central Asian states - all of which have economic and/or political and security interests in the region. How will they react to an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan ?

    Finally, what would such a scenario do to oil prices and availability? I’m 100% in favor of America developing alternative energy sources, but again that’s my opinion, and the oil conglomerates have not been listening to me. Unfortunately, the facts are that the oil lobby is a very powerful entity. Even more to the point, our country could not ween itself off of oil overnight, even if it wanted to. We have to consider what such an escalation would do to oil prices, and the overall availability of oil.

    The oil embargo of 1974 (in support of Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur war against Israel ), in retaliation against the U.S. for its support of Israel had devastating economic and political consequences on the U.S. and much of Europe . Also, the more recent boycott of Danish products across the Muslim world, in retaliation for the 2005 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, demonstrates the ability of the international Muslim community to act collectively.

    Escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan would also demonstrate the fickle and hypocritical nature of America ’s foreign policy. We supported the Taliban when it served our interests (to oppose the Soviets in Afghanistan ) in spite of clear human rights abuses. But now we condemn the Taliban (and much of the Muslim world) over the very same human rights abuses (against women … etc.), while we also continue to ignore similar or same human rights abuses in China, Saudi Arabia, Israel … etc., when it’s convenient for us to do so. We did the same thing with Saddam Hussein; arming him in spite of clear and egregious human rights abuses when he was our ally, and condemning the same actions when he wasn’t.

    The U.S. practices selective proliferation with India , and selective sovereignty with those it chooses (today Pakistan , tomorrow someone other than Pakistan ), while at the same time violating the sovereignty of other states- depending on its whim at the time.

    The United States government insisted that the Taliban turn over Bin Laden, but the United States itself has refused on several occasions to return foreign nationals (being held on death row in America) to their state of domicile because the U.S. wanted them to face execution, and the home state did not uphold the death penalty. We also continue to refuse to acknowledge the ICC because we don’t want American military personnel tried in an international court. How is that so different from the Taliban wanting Bin Laden tried in an Islamic court?

    Rather than blindly accepting that America holds some God-given moral superiority over the rest of the planet, we need to realize that everywhere, humanity has a God-given right to live, love and prosper. Our children have the right to grow up in an environment free of air strikes and constant assault from an external enemy. They have the right to attend schools without fear of being maimed and killed inside of them. And they have the right to be children, instead of orphans. No state has the right to take that away from your children, or from mine. Imagine now that Senator Obama is planning to escalate the war on terror where you live.



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