Monthly Archives: November 2010

Christmas in Portland: Occupying Afghanistan Does Not Make America Safer

By;Michael Hughes    

The Obama administration’s raison d’etre for the Afghan occupation — the purported dismantling of Al Qaeda and elimination of breeding-ground conditions for transnational militants — is as self-defeating as it is abstruse, an assessment proven out by this past weekend’s terror strike in Portland at the hands of a Somali-born operative who tried to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony (and, although mentionable, said attack’s FBI inducement is a polemic for another day).

Even more chilling and vague is the neoconservative camp’s broader aspirations for perpetual war based on euphemisms such as “taking the fight to the terrorists” and “keeping them on the run”.

The Neocon’s logic, also employed to justify the Iraqi excursion, is that U.S. offensives in Islamic nations will strike fear into the hearts of freedom-hating Muslims wherever they may find sanctuary the world over, while the notion these forays might have an antipodal effect, creating more terrorists than they vanquish, is an incomprehensible absurdity to devout patriots, and nonsense that would only be espoused by liberals who hate America.

Matthew Hoh, former marine captain and foreign officer, laid out in a recent Intelligence Squared debate why Obama’s Afghanistan strategy defies commonsense:

[Al Qaeda] is a collection of individuals. It’s not a formal military organization that we can defeat with conventional forces. And think about it. Look back at the last 10 years of their attacks. Their most recent attack, a lady who took two parcel bombs and FedExed them from Yemen. Look at the attacks of the last three years in this country in the sense that they’re done by individuals, small cells, it’s a decentralized organization that will not be affected by the presence of brigade combat teams occupying Southern Afghanistan. So nine years ago 19 men hijacked four airplanes. We’re now in Afghanistan 109 months later with 100,000 troops spending over $100 billion a year.

Plus, many terrorism experts have claimed most of the 9/11 planning took place in Hamburg and not Afghanistan; thus, it’s fair to wonder why the U.S. is not conducting night raids in Germany.

Meanwhile, out of ignorance, Islamophobia or both, right-wing hawks portray the “war on terror” as a cultural clash between Western Judeo-Christian and Islamic civilizations, while generating a level of fear that makes proactive aggression seem rational: let’s kill the lunatic Muslims before they ruin Christmas.

If anyone doubts this, just ask New Orleans Governor Bobby Jindal, a Christian fundamentalist and an emerging great Republican hope, whose ideas on national security should make every U.S. citizen “Praise Jesus” that Jindal has denied harboring Presidential ambitions (or so he claims).

Jindal endorsed the “take it to them” national security stratagem, stating it clearly on Meet The Press and other news shows, while showing a distaste for empathizing with our “sworn enemies” — them Muslims.

Jindal assaulted Obama for acknowledging America’s past sins when abroad and has had it with the President’s political correctness. He said we do not need to understand our enemy, we do not need to understand what motivates them, and we do not need to understand social justice (his words). Jindal claims “they” hate our way of life (and apparently baby Jesus). He stressed how the war against terror is a fundamental clash of cultures with an enemy who disagrees with our freedoms.

It seems Jindal has done all the due diligence necessary, postulating how “they” hate our freedom — a shallow dictum he finds so definitive it bars further psychoanalysis. And so Jindal rants:

Our current therapeutic approach to national security is dangerous. I’m just not interested in empathizing with the grievances of our sworn enemies. Let’s figure out where they’re vulnerable and destroy them.

The truth is, it is Jindal’s approach, mentality and contempt prior to investigation that is dangerous, not to mention downright stupid. Even if one were to suspend disbelief and pretend the war in Afghanistan is a just cause I think General Petraeus would beg to differ with respect to understanding the adversary. Even with his Ivy League education, seems Jindal neglected to read Sun Tzu.

During an interview with the mentally unbalanced Christian leader Pat Robertson — an act in itself that should disqualify Jindal from higher office in the minds of voters — at least sane voters, that is — for the slightest chance he might share Robertson’s view that 9/11 was God’s punishment for America’s fondness of homosexuals. Jindal mentioned that hope is not a sound homeland security strategy, but neither is repressing gays and praying to the Good Lord not to strike us down again.

I know it sounds crazy, but perhaps actually listening to the reasons why “they” hate us, straight from “their” mouths might be useful. As Glenn Greenwald points out:

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts. Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture: that the U.S. government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, and imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death . Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence. And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse: that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and Combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

America’s preemptive war doctrine, predilection to occupy Muslim countries, our penchant to base national security on a literal interpretation of the Bible and general cultural insensitivity has not worked out so well thus far in our “war against Islam”, a project sorely in need of rebranding.

However, we cannot naïvely think people like Osama bin Laden are going to undergo a change of heart because Americans suddenly care about his feelings. Awaiting a cultural transformation resulting in a more tolerant America in the age of Fox news isn’t a prudent approach either.

What is prudent is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. will fail to protect its homeland against a virtual terrorist organization spread out across one hundred countries by bogging down most of our military in one. More importantly, by continuing to tie up our military might in Central Asia, the U.S. will lack the resources during Christmas to scramble jets in order to ensure Santa’s safety.

(Michael Hughes is a journalist and foreign policy strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), a think tank founded by Afghan natives focused on developing political, economic and cultural solutions for Afghanistan. Mr. Hughes is also the Geopolitics Examiner and the Afghanistan Headlines Examiner for Examiner.com).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

 

‘Karachigate’: panic in Paris

By: Sikander Amani

Now the recent, and very shocking revelations, allege that the attack in Karachi in 2002 is not at all linked to al Qaeda, but rather, appears to be an act of retaliation, pure and simple, from grumbling individuals (or services), who would not have received the promised kickbacks .  

On May 8, 2002, a suicide bomber rammed into a bus in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi, killing 14 people, including 11 Frenchmen. Nothing quite out of the Pakistani ordinary, the alert reader will say. The interesting twist is that this very bomb is now threatening to derail the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and to engulf a large section of French politicians in one of the biggest scandals of the past decades. It could also spell bad news for Asif Ali Zardari, who is alleged to be involved in it up to his neck too.

Up until some months ago, everyone in France was blaming al Qaeda or the Taliban for the bomb, an explanation both likely and convenient. In France, the investigation slumbered along laboriously, led by a high-powered investigative judge who was, together with all the successive governments, seemingly very satisfied with both the al Qaeda hypothesis and the slow progress of the investigation. Now some months ago, this whole theory got severely shaken by new facts that surfaced in the French media: the bomb might have been linked to domestic politics, unpaid bribes, deep political enmity, and a flailing presidential campaign. All the elements of some American thriller, set in romantic Paris and seething Pakistan.

The 11 dead Frenchmen were all employees of the Direction des Constructions Navales (DCN — now DCNS), a French state-held company specialised in naval defence technology. Back in 1994, France was trying to convince Pakistan to buy French, rather than German, submarines — which they did thanks to the euphemistically-called “commissions”, aka bribes (at the time allowed under French law). The deal was for € 826 million in exchange for three Agosta submarines made by DCN, one or two of which would be assembled in Pakistan — hence the presence of French engineers in Karachi. 6.25 percent of the total sum, i.e. € 51.6 million, was allocated to the “commissions” to be distributed via an intermediary, a French state-owned company dealing in arms contracts, Sofma. Henri Guittet, at the time CEO of Sofma, formally stated in his sworn testimony that in this bribing total of 6.25 percent, 4 percent was reserved for Zardari and Bhutto. Funny how things come back to bite us.

Just when the deal was about to be signed with great pomp, the French government, led by pompous Édouard Balladur, whose Minister of Budget and right-hand man is a certain Nicolas Sarkozy, imposed a sudden and very odd change — an extra intermediary, in the form of two shady Lebanese businessmen. (Funnily enough, one is a known acquaintance of Sarkozy, and the other, a friend of Zardari’s). The price-tag for these new intermediaries amounted to an extra 4 percent of the contract, i.e. € 33 million.

So far, so good: a regular, boring corruption story, full of intermediaries and shady Middle-Eastern businessmen; in other words, no big deal.

Now the recent, and very shocking revelations, allege that the attack in Karachi in 2002 is not at all linked to al Qaeda, but rather, appears to be an act of retaliation, pure and simple, from grumbling individuals (or services), who would not have received the promised kickbacks. Indeed, 1994 was a crucial year in French politics, as it witnessed a fierce presidential campaign (bitterly) opposing the eternal contender, Jacques Chirac, and the sitting prime minister, Édouard Balladur. The claim is that the Balladur campaign received “retro-commissions” (commissions taken out of the commissions and sent back to the original sending country) through the Lebanese businessmen, and used as illegal campaign financing. As of now, at least € 10 million appear to have landed in Balladur’s campaign bank accounts, obviously located in some tax haven with an exotic name. The claim, the likelihood of which increases with every new revelation in Paris these days, is that when Chirac was elected in May 1995, he immediately ordered a complete review of all existing arms deals, and in particular, ordered a cessation of all bribes being paid; aware of the retro-commissions, he wanted to make his “friend of 30 years” Balladur pay for the political treachery of having run against him. It seems the bribes were perhaps paid continuously up until 2001, but in any event not in their totality. The working hypothesis is now that the intended recipients of the kickbacks in Pakistan, perhaps served by the ISI, got, err, annoyed about the missing money. And, as alleged by the confidential Nautilus report, commissioned by DCN in the immediate aftermath of the attack, they would have instrumentalised some dimwit to do a suicide bombing as retaliation against the French state. The attack occurred barely a few days after Chirac’s re-election in 2002.

Whatever the sordid details of the story, it is turning into an affaire d’état in France, with old friends turning into foes and old foes confirming their status as old foes. Sarkozy, who allegedly authorised the commissions and the retro-commissions back in 1994, and who strongly supported Balladur as presidential candidate, is doing everything in his power, which is not negligible, to prevent the investigation from proceeding. He publicly called the accusations “grotesque” and a “fable” (give it to him — the guy is good at indignantly and self-righteously posturing about his innocence on everything), but the reluctance of his administration to disclose documents and evidence to the investigators is troubling at best. His arch-enemy, former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, has publicly confirmed the existence of the retro-commissions, which is not very good news for Sarkozy — though the latest update is that Villepin has withdrawn his accusations. Villepin, also former Secretary General of the Elysée Palace under Chirac’s presidency, is himself cited by the judge as a possible co-conspirator in endangering the lives of the French employees in Pakistan: indeed, as soon as the bribes stopped being paid, the French intelligence services notified a heightened risk to all military or civil personnel stationed in Pakistan. The newly-appointed Minister of Defence, Alain Juppé, an old Chirac hand, might be served with a subpoena to disclose what he knew of the kickbacks. Meanwhile, the families of the deceased, who have been treated as annoying irritants over the years until the appointment of the new investigative judge, impress by their dignity and their will to pursue the matter until the truth is out.

So the drama is unfolding in Paris. Sarkozy’s situation is dire. His cabinet seems to go from one crisis to another, from one scandal to another, from one lie to another. His popularity rating has dropped to unparalleled levels. What is called “Karachigate” in Paris could well be his undoing. Another bomb, political this time, waiting to go off.

(The writer is a freelance columnist and this is a cross post from Daily Times).

The War on Terror is a Fraud

By: Prof. Akhbar Navees

The US is today, albeit temporarily, the world’s foremost power. It is a country whose people are blessed with wonderful qualities of the head and heart. They are honest, hardworking problem solvers, large-hearted, decent and deeply innocent. The emergence of the US as a power with the greatest ever reaches in human history is the result of a conscious and sustained effort on the part of Washington to make America a great power.

Central to this nation-building process was the key emphasis on cultivating and creating knowledge of nature, and of the high-level of integrity and commitment of the average American. However, the evolution of the US Public State, as a genuine democracy with the ability to unify mankind on a broad basis, has been derailed consistently, and perhaps irreversibly, by corporate cliques that have taken the US on the path of global conquest and exploitation of the poor but resource-rich countries. This path will eventually lead to USA’s defeat, beginning in Central Asia, and its rapid and bloody decline in a decade or two, unless, of course, the Americans can bring to book those criminal cabals which currently control, chain and exploit this great nation.

The corporations operate secretly, illegally and without regard for the deeper interests of the people or of humanity. Thus, the exploited countries see the US as a power of unprecedented and unmatched ruthlessness. The US is not only the greatest scientific force in history, but it is also the greatest subversive power ever to afflict this globe.

To murder a few million, to destroy countries and cultures, to plunder like no one has ever plundered before, to burn and to ravage the environment beyond imagination, is something that the US forces do in service of its corporate masters. As General “Howling” Jacob Smith told his troops during the Philippine war: “I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better you please me.” Or as the contemporary American writer Michael Ledeen wrote: “Every 10 years or so the US needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.” This “business” is corporate business.

Corporations have gained ascendancy in the White House, the US legislative bodies and judiciary, as well as the US agencies, some of which, such as the CIA, were created on the persuasion of, and for Wall Street. This corporate ascendancy in US power structure is now a constant and deeply embedded feature of the American domestic and international politics. The people of the US are now out of the loop completely, and perhaps permanently. Therein lies the real danger to the future of mankind.

The current eruption of US militarism reflects the desperate urge of corporate cabals to hastily enslave mankind and apportion all its resources for the US elite, in the name of the US “people” and “civilisation” of course. It was Orwell who once wrote: “As I write highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” What took the US into World War I was, more than anything else, the financial interests of the House of Morgan.

The House of Morgan enjoyed a very special relation with the British, who decided to borrow money for its war costs from the J.P. Morgan Bank. Without a British victory these loans would be lost. As noted in 1920 by Morgan’s partner Lamont: “The national debts of the world have increased by 210 billion or about 475 percent in the last six years.” Wilson had been elected on the slogan of keeping America out of the war, but he betrayed his people and entered World War I in the interest of US banking and business. This war, fought secretly for the control of petroleum reserves, resulted in an estimated 16 to 20 million deaths, half of them civilian.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Trilateral Commission (TC) were set up by the Rockefeller family, the latter in 1973. These “think tanks” work perpetually for the interests of “Big Oil” and related businesses owned by the wealthiest families of the planet. Winston Lord, former US Ambassador to China and former CFR member, once said: “The Trilateral Commission does not run the world, the Council on Foreign Relations does that.” In 1973, David Rockefeller met with 27 heads of state, as well as the Pope and representatives of China and the USSR.

However, despite the fact that the US government continues even today to pursue the interests of “Big Oil”, a new cabal involving George Bush Sr, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney et al has emerged – the so-called neocons. This rightwing cabal started gaining influence during the Ford presidency, when Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defence and brought in his unknown 33-year old protégé Dick Cheney. As Professor Peter Dale Scott puts it: “In the November of 1975, the team of Rumsfeld and Cheney roughly occupied the same position of dominance in the Pentagon and White House that they would come to occupy in the George W. Bush administration of 2001.” They sabotaged the policy of détente, forced the US to abandon the policy of peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union and subverted the normal democratic channels of decision making. Much of the woes of the world of today result from the neocon strategy: permanent war and permanent subjugation of US public interests to corporate interests.

The neocon movement was funded by an alternative group of wealthy men, who wanted to “roll back”, and not just contain Russia and eventually to set up a global US empire. The Olin Foundation, which funded this movement, and the American Enterprise Institute became more important as money was spent on propagating the neocon agenda.

With the advent of Reagan the neocons finally had their way and it was the neocon political trajectory that led to 9/11. It is now very clear that 9/11 was staged so that the US could, under the garb of fighting terrorism, scatter military bases worldwide and embark on its programme of military conquest. As Professor Michel Chossudovsky has put it, the war against terrorism is a “fraud”.

(Prof. Akhbar Navees is the Vice Chancellor of the University of the Punjab,Lahore,Pakistan).

Oceans of blood and profits for the mongers of war

By:Robert Fisk

(As casualties continue to mount in Afghanistan, so does the cost of war after nine years).

Since there are now three conflicts in the greater Middle East; Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/”Palestine” and maybe another Lebanese war in the offing, it might be a good idea to take a look at the cost of war.

 

Not the human cost – 80 lives a day in Iraq, unknown numbers in Afghanistan, one a day in Israel/”Palestine” (for now) – but the financial one. I’m still obsessed by the Saudi claim for its money back after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Hadn’t Saudi Arabia, King Fahd reminded Saddam, financed his eight-year war against Iran to the tune of $25,734,469,885.80? For the custodian of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina, to have shelled out $25bn for Saddam to slaughter his fellow Muslims was pretty generous – although asking for that extra 80 cents was surely a bit greedy.

But then again, talking of rapacity, the Arabs spent $84bn underwriting the Anglo-American operation against Saddam in 1990-91 – three times what Fahd gave to Saddam for the Iran war – and the Saudi share alone came to $27.5bn. In all, the Arabs sustained a loss of $620bn because of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – almost all of which was paid over to the United States and its allies. Washington was complaining in August 1991 that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still owed $7.5bn. Western wars in the Middle East, it seemed, could be fought for profit as well as victory. Maybe Iraq could have brought us more treasure if it hadn’t ended in disaster. At least it would help to have paid for America’s constant infusion of cash to Israel’s disastrous wars.

According to Israeli historian Illan Pappé, since 1949, the US has passed to Israel more than $100bn in grants and $10bn in special loans – more than Washington hands out to North Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Over the past 20 years, $5.5bn has been given to Israel for military purchases. But for sheer self-abuse, it’s necessary to read of the Midas-like losses in the entire Middle East since just 1991 – an estimated $12,000,000,000,000. Yup, that’s a cool $12trn and, if you don’t believe me, take a look at an unassuming little booklet that the “Strategic Fortnight Group” published not long ago. Its statistic caught a few headlines, but was then largely forgotten, perhaps because it was published in faraway Mumbai rather than by some preposterous American “tink-thank” (as I call them). But it was funded by, among others, the Norwegian and Swiss foreign ministries. And the Indians are pretty smart about money, as we know as we wait in fear of its new super-economy.

So since there may soon be a new Israel-Hizbollah war, let’s get an idea of the astronomical costs of all those F-16s, missiles, “bunker-busters”, Iranian-made rockets, smashed Lebanese factories, villages, towns, bridges, power stations, oil terminals – we will not soil ourselves with Lebanon’s 1,300 pathetic dead or Israel’s 130 pathetic dead in the 2006 war for these are mere mortals – not to mention the losses in tourism and trade to both sides. Total losses for Lebanon in 2006 came to an estimated $3.6bn, for Israel $1.6bn – so Israel won hands down in terms of money, even if its rabble of an army screwed everything up on the ground. But among those who paid for this were American taxpayers (funding the Israelis) and European taxpayers, Arab potentates and the crackpot of Iran (funding Lebanon). So the American taxpayer destroys what the European taxpayer rebuilds. It’s the same in Gaza; Washington funds the weapons to blow up EU-funded projects and the EU rebuilds them in time for them to be destroyed again. But boy oh boy, in the Lebanese war, US arms manufacturers make a packet – and so, to a lesser extent do the Iranian and Chinese missile dealers.

Let’s break down the 2006 Lebanon war figures. Bridges and roads: $450m. Utilities: $419m. Housing: $2bn. But military “institutions”: a paltry $16m. Hizbollah apparently spent $300m. Overall, rebuilding came to $319m, infrastructure repairs to $454m, oil spill costs to $175m. Just for sadistic fun, you can add forest fires ($4.6m), displaced civilians ($52m) and Beirut airport ($170m). But the biggest cost of all? Tourism, at $3-4bn. Now Israel. Tourism lost $1.4 bn, “government and emergency services” $460n, businesses $1.4bn, compensation paid out $335.4m, forest fires $18m. What have the Israeli army and Hizbollah got against forests? In all, the Israeli losses amounted to 1.5 per cent of GDP, the Lebanese 8 per cent of GDP.

And just look at the Middle East “arms race” – the jockeys being the arms manufacturers, the punters being the countries of the region and, of course, their “huddled masses”. Saudi Arabia, as the Mumbai report said, leaps in a decade between 1996 and 2006 from $18bn to $30bn a year – it’s just negotiating a $60bn deal with the US – and Iran from $3bn to $10bn. Israel has gone from $8bn to $12bn. In fact, there’s an interesting correlation between Israel’s state-of-the-art democratically minded missile-firings between 2000 and 2007 – 34,050 – and Hamas’s evil, terrorist-inspired missile firings: a rather piffling 2,333.

There’s a host of other goodies in this appalling list of financial and social horrors. On 11 September 2001, just 16 people were on America’s “no-fly” list; by December, it was 594. By August 2008, it had reached an astonishing 100,000. At present rate, the US “terrorist watch list” will reach two million souls in two years’ time. Since 1974, UN peacekeepers on the Golan Heights have cost $47.86m while the UN has forked out $680.93m for its forces in southern Lebanon since 1978.

So coming soon to a war near you; oceans of blood, bodies torn to shreds, of course. But bring your credit card. Or a cheque book. It’s big business. And there may be profits.

(Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent of the The Independent, he has primarily been based in Beirut for more than 30 years.He has published a number of books and has reported from the United States’s attack on Afghanistan and the same country’s 2003 invasion of Iraq).

 

NOTE:This is a cross post from The Independent.

Banquo’s ghost

By: Humayun Gauhar  

Unlike Bengal, there are only a few ways to get into Afghanistan, but like Bengal, there is no way to get out, except with one’s tail between one’s legs. Ask the British. Ask the Russians. Surprise is, the British have gone in again to ingratiate themselves with their American masters and also because they still suffer from Imperial delusions, even though they are on the brink of a collapsed economy. Some people love getting a beating.

 

America’s plan for Afghanistan should have been in five phases, namely, clear, hold, rebuild, transfer and withdraw. They could then still have retained the sort of influence in the country that they wanted, including using it as a monitoring-cum-rapid deployment base as well as controlling access to potential gas pipeline routes. Let us see their report card.

 

Clear: All America has managed is regime change by toppling the Taliban regime and putting Al Qaeda on the run. No more. The regime they have put in its place is ineffective, to say the least. They have not been able to destroy either the Taliban or Al Qaeda or even kill or capture their leaders, Mullah Omar or Osama Bin Laden, though some American sources contend that Bin Laden was killed in Tora Bora on December 13, 2001, which is not unlikely, but we have no confirmation of it. In any case, dead or alive, both Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have become metaphors and it matters little whether he is dead or alive or how disabled Al Qaeda is. It is too late for America to complete this first phase of the job now. However, it does seem that Al Qaeda may have shifted, or is in the process of shifting, its main base of operations to Yemen, which means further trouble for Saudi Arabia, just as proximity to the Afghan Taliban has caused so much trouble for Pakistan.

 

Hold: All America has is a tenuous hold over Kabul and certain Pushtun areas in southern Afghanistan where they mostly hide in their military bases. Yes, they have a hold on the minority non-Pushtun Northern Alliance areas mostly north of the Hindu Kush. The official line is that the Taliban control 25 percent of southern Afghanistan but their reach is greater, as they are an effective mobile guerilla force that doesn’t really need static bases.

 

Rebuild: Since America has failed to hold most of Afghanistan, it can hardly rebuild there. They may have spent a lot of money but they have rebuilt nothing. Their giving a lot of the rebuilding process to India makes matters worse, for a) it alienates vital Pakistan, without which American-NATO forces cannot get out of Afghanistan in one piece, and, b) India is interested less in rebuilding and more in wielding greater influence in Afghanistan than Pakistan (and thereby China) after the US-NATO withdrawal. It will only destabilize the region further, instead of bringing stability.

Transfer: Only after the rebuilding process can power be transferred to an acceptable, effective and preferably representative Afghan government. All they have now is a government headed by a Pushtun stooge installed as president after a dubious election while effective power over the central government still resides with America and even more power resides with the Taliban in the southern regions of Afghanistan. Such a government cannot deliver anything but grief. Their only ‘success’ is that the stooge’s brother has become the world’s largest heroin smuggler.

 

Withdraw: Herein lies a most interesting question, the answer to which will provide us with our most vital assumption. Does America really want to withdraw from Afghanistan? And what does it mean by withdrawal? I think America means somebody pulling their chestnuts out of the fire, which has to be Pakistan. However, they could make this a non-starter if they insist on including India and Iran in it. They certainly want to withdraw fighting troops from there and retain only a strike force, as they do in Germany, but still want Afghanistan to remain within their orbit of influence. They don’t want to lose Afghanistan and thereby their regional base for monitoring, intelligence and sabotage nor control of pipeline routes. What better location could provide a base for them? From Afghanistan, they can monitor China and create trouble there as in Xinjiang recently and Russia too. They can also monitor and be able to rapidly deploy troops to South Asia, Central Asia, Iran and the Middle East. The only better base for them would be Pakistan itself, with three huge ports, multiple air bases and runways and its much better infrastructure, particularly roads and motorways. But Pakistan is not Afghanistan and making it into such a monitoring, intelligence and rapid deployment base is a bigger tale than any America has dreamed so far, unless, of course, Pakistan lets it, which too is not outside the realm of possibility. Depends on the amount of desperation and the amount of money offered.

 

Philip Crowley, US State Department spokesman said as much on the eve of NATO’s Lisbon summit, that his country wished to hand over security duties to Afghanistan by 2014 and withdraw its own troops from the line of fire, but certainly not abandon the region or Pakistan or Afghanistan in 2014. Why else would they be building such a huge embassy, runways and bases there, if not for the long term? Oddly, while only those contributing troops to ISAF have been invited to Lisbon, Pakistan, which holds the key, is not there in any capacity. Said an analyst of the RIA Novosti newswire: “Much like Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Pakistan will be present in the Lisbon summit – uninvited and invisible to all except the US.”

 

In trying to find a solution to the Afghan imbroglio we have to start with keeping five things in mind:

 

.            1.         America wants to withdraw fighting troops from there, only retaining a rapid deployment force, as in Germany. America wants to retain a base there for monitoring, intelligence and sabotage purposes.

 

.            2.         America wants Afghanistan to eject Al Qaeda from the country at all costs, otherwise no deal.

 

.            3.         The above two demands will depend on the new leadership that replaces Karzai. It will have to have the proportionally correct representation from the minority Northern Alliance to be meaningful and effective so that it is taken seriously. One of America’s biggest mistakes was that they didn’t listen to Pakistan and effectively let the Northern Alliance wield power in the Karzai government, something that was hardly likely to placate, leave alone co-opt, the majority Pushtun.

 

.            4.         Where will such a leadership come from? That brings us face-to-face with America’s second demand: throw Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. That’s not easy. Mullah Omar’s position was inflexible before the US invasion; it most certainly will have hardened by now. Ways will have to be found to marginalize him and ensure that the leadership of the Taliban falls into less inflexible hands. That’s easier said than done, certainly not as long as Mullah Omar is alive and able.

 

.            5.         Supposing Pakistan succeeds in achieving the above, troops only from their army and other Muslim armies selected by Pakistan must be sent to Afghanistan not only to keep the peace but also to undertake security assurance, protection and even policing duties, if necessary. Troops from Iran means mischief with the Northern Alliance. Troops from India will mean the immediate exit of Pakistan, and without Pakistan, there can be no solution.

 

We have to remember: America, NATO, Karzai, India and Iran are part of the problem. Pakistan and the Taliban are part of the solution. So long as US-NATO forces remain in Afghanistan, neither will the country stabilize nor will the region, from the Middle East to Bangladesh. And militancy in Pakistan will certainly not go away.

 

If all this does not happen, the only option left for America in the not-too-distant future will be to cut and run and let the devil take the hindmost. He will.

(Gauhar is a free lance witer & a political commentator).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

 

WHAT NEXT?

By:Brig. Samson Sharaf(R) 

The visit to India was part of the APEC Arc that President Obama undertook culminating in 19 November NATO Summit at Lisbon. Many Pakistanis who felt that India was accorded preferential treatment need to acknowledge that it was as much part of the mission to garner support for the AFPAK Strategy as it is to seal and contain the Asia Pacific Rim from Russian and Chinese influence or to parry the failures of US policy in Afghanistan.

USA is fast losing long term allies in Afghanistan while the talk of an imminent ‘withdrawal with victory’ doesn’t help to keep its army focused on fighting. As the days pass, USA sees no definite event that could truly provide a firm date of withdrawal. The ten year old policy hinged on destroying Al Qaeda has failed and now must be revised to routing out hostile sanctuaries in Pakistan. Hence the present diplomacy can be seen as seeking greater support from the allies in the game of global domination as also secure sufficient space to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the broader frame work of global dominance, India is considered a long term strategic ally to patrol and identity with US interests in the entire Indian Ocean Rim. Role of Pakistan is restricted to its perceived destructive potential in Afghanistan and to combat and tame the militant outfits in its border regions and rest of the restive country. This message is loud and clear in the intense diplomatic chatter, leaks and interviews.

In words of Rick Rozoff of Global Research President Obama took this whirlwind visit to:

“Receive the plaudits of 27 North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and secure their continued fealty on issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to a continental interceptor missile system, the continued deployment of American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, participation in the Pentagon’s cyber warfare plans and expanded military missions in the planet’s south and east…….. In the first half of November the quadrivirate in charge of U.S. foreign policy – President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen – all toured the Asia-Pacific area.…..The Pentagon has indeed marked this as its Asia-Pacific century”.

While Obama toasted and danced in India, Pakistan was conveyed mixed signals meaning that all had not gone well in the latest strategic dialogue. The regional emissary Mr. Richard Holbrook was quick to support the civilian supremacy and belittle a dictator who was once ranted as America’s most trusted and valuable ally. In his well planned interview, he credited USA with restoration of the judges and rule of civilian law. In the process, he took credit away from Pakistan’s civil society and political activists who forced the dictator into a comedy of errors and the legislators that combined to threaten the dictator with impeachment. Rather a a caution to the military, its primary purpose was to divert attention from the imbroglio that USA had landed itself to rue Pakistan’s military establishment as the villain.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report on “US Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan’ was blown apart by an article by Arnaud De Borchgrave in Washington Post by calling Pakistan a BOMBSHELL. Why and whose behest he did so in anybody’s guess. He coupled his opinion with an earlier off the record interview of a Pakistani Editor who gave his own version of what Pakistan’s security establishment was up to, along with a Pakistani narrative that suits the majority against the rising militancy.

Despite such bad accompaniments, the CFR Report is distinct in its implied threats to Pakistan as also holding out a sign of hope for the people of Pakistan.

The perceptions put forth revolve around three elements of insecurity. First, the like minded Al Qaeda type groups operate freely in Afghanistan and Pakistan posing a threat to USA, India and its allies? Secondly, prospects of a Civil War in Afghanistan threatening stability in Pakistan leading to an Indo-Pak conflict. The third relates to exploitation of Pakistan’s prevailing conditions by terrorists to seize power and take hold of the nuclear weapons and threaten the entire world.

As any strategist would understand, a threat analysis built on vulnerability is unrealistic and exaggerated. This is a scenario called ‘ugly instability’ that has been war gamed by USA many times and whose author is no other but a US opinion maker of Indian descent. The fact that India is central to all three insecurities manifests the importance USA is according to its newest ally in contrast to Pakistan. One Mumbai incident has become a perennial anti Pakistan rhetoric eclipsing numerous such sieges within Pakistan for which USA shows no concern. It also gives a peep into the intense US-India dialogue, in which threat from non state actors to India through the freedom movement in Kashmir is pivotal and factorized. The fact that USA is more sensitive to Indian security concerns than the fissures its policies create in Pakistan to breed a hate that could put the entire region in a tailspin.

It is evident that as USA gets bogged down in Afghanistan, it considers Pakistan a liability to its Central Asian Agenda. However, this liability is of USA’s own making as it does not wish to annoy India by according Pakistan a befitting role in the post USA Afghanistan. In the ultimate analysis, the cost of shrugging off this unwanted, nuclear armed reluctant ally could far outweigh the benefits of appeasing India.

The CFR Study has also considered options to deal with Pakistan.

The first is a stick with no carrots and out rightly rejected.

Secondly, a more hard-line approach than is considered politically destabilizing in the immediate and long term US interests.

The third option seeks to engage Pakistan through investments and partnerships more apt to produce desirable results.  This is an option that most Pakistanis including the recent US Survey in FATA have been envisaging. Supporting this third option, the task force finds that:

“The United States has two vital national security objectives in Pakistan: to degrade and defeat the terrorist groups that threaten U.S. interests from its territory and to prevent turmoil that would imperil the Pakistani state and risk the security of its nuclear program. It will be exceedingly difficult to achieve either of these objectives without the cooperation of the Pakistani state; this requires improving the quality of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship…. which includes the security of Pakistan’s population, the health of its economy, the capacity of its governing institutions, and the character of its relations with other states in the region (meaning India and Afghanistan)”.

Diplomacy of the past few months indicates the crucial status of Pakistan-US relations with each side unable to convince the other of its sincerity and loyalty. Beyond the initial points of convergence and political exigencies, the strategic objectives of both countries are now marred by mutual suspicion and circumspection. These in turn prolong the conflict both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For the time being Pakistan shows no signs of tearing apart; as the conflict intensifies so does the cohesion within ranks and files of all Pakistanis galvanizing around a new national agenda alien to the corridors of power. Some Pakistanis have already begun to consider such an informed upheaval as a better alternative to a bloody revolution.

Michel Kreppon is an informed and learned opinion maker from USA. His note of dissent to the CFR report very aptly sums up the unrealistic assumptions of leaders both in USA and Pakistan.

“To hold out the expectation that, this time around, with such a heavy U.S. military presence in Afghanistan dependent on Pakistani logistical support, Washington can coercively manipulate Pakistan’s orientation…..seems unwise. Pakistan’s security managers have to come to their own realization that their policies have resulted in profound damage to their country. If they do not, the natural result, with no U.S. manipulation necessary, will be the continued mortgaging of Pakistan’s future, its distancing from the West, and its economic decline”.

(Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist).

 

Pakistan bombshell

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE 
Some can’t wait to get out of Afghanistan and some can’t wait to see us leave. NATO allies now want out ASAP. Some have already left (Dutch troops), others are preparing to leave (Canadians) and soon the allied fighting force will be reduced to 100,000 Americans and 9,000 Brits.

And Afghan President Hamid Karzai now wants the United States to reduce its military footprint countrywide — just as U.S. commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus seeks to widen it — and begin negotiations with Taliban.

When NATO allies volunteered military units to assist the United States in rooting out al-Qaida’s infrastructure in Afghanistan after 9/11, they figured they’d be home in a few months. Had their governments known that their troops would be in Afghanistan for a decade, they would have stayed home.

Most troublesome for U.S. and NATO allies is that al-Qaida, the original reason for dispatching troops “out of area,” fled Afghanistan for Pakistan in mid-December 2001.

The prestigious Council on Foreign Relations’ 25 experts-strong, 71-page task force report on the crisis, says, given “the complex political currents of Pakistan and its border regions … it is not clear U.S. interests warrant” the costly war, “nor is it clear that the effort will succeed.”

And if U.S. President Barack Obama’s December strategic review “shows progress is not being made, the U.S. should move quickly to recalculate its military presence in Afghanistan.” 

The same week CFR published its gloomy assessment of the Afghan war, one of Pakistan’s most influential journalists, the editor of a major newspaper, made the “off the record” — which now means go ahead and use it but keep my name out of it — rounds in Washington to deliver a stunning indictment of all the players.

Samples:

– All four wars between India and Pakistan (1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999) were provoked by Pakistan.

– There is no Indian threat to Pakistan, except for what is manufactured by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency.

– Washington says Pakistan must do more to flesh out insurgent safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. As long as the Taliban were the illegitimate children of ISI that was possible. But Taliban are now the enemies of Pakistan, irrespective of whether they are Pakistani Taliban or Afghan Taliban. Assets have become liabilities. We’ve lost 3,000 Pakistani military KIA. All the jihadis terrorist organizations were created by Pakistan — and they have now turned against us.

– Pakistan has a big stake in Afghanistan. And America’s own exit strategy is entirely dependent on Pakistan. Our army has a chokehold on your supply lines through Pakistan. And Pakistan wants to be the U.S. proxy in Afghanistan. ISI wants to make sure Pakistan doesn’t become a liability in Afghanistan.

– The United States should cut its losses in Afghanistan as rapidly as possible.

– There is no chance whatsoever for the United States and its NATO and other allies to prevail in Afghanistan. No big military successes are possible. All U.S. targets are unrealistic. You cannot prevail on the ground. ISI won’t abandon Taliban. And if Taliban doesn’t have a major stake in negotiations with the United States, these will be sabotaged by Pakistan.

– Time is running out for Petraeus — for the United States and for us (Pakistan). Our system is falling apart. The sooner the United States and Pakistan are on the same page, the better it will be for both of us.

– The Kerry-Lugar aid bill ($1.5 billion a year over five years) is too little too late. Only half of U.S. pledges are actually coming in. A huge slice of this bill goes to administration and local bureaucracy. Some $25 million was earmarked for Sesame Street — for Pakistanis! U.S. aid isn’t achieving any of its objectives. Flood relief also caused havoc. 400 bridges were washed away.

– The attacks against U.S./NATO supply lines through Pakistan, which have included the torching of scores of tanker trucks, weren’t the work of Taliban guerrillas; they were all the work of ISI made to look like Taliban. The objective was to demonstrate the extent to which the United States is dependent on Pakistani security.

– U.S. drone strikes? The Pakistani line about “huge provocations” and more civilians killed than Taliban and their partners is pure army invention. Drones play a limited role and should continue.

– One can’t begin to understand the Pakistani crisis until one absorbs the terrifying fact that Pakistan’s 180 million population includes 80 million children under 18 — almost half the population. And only 40 percent of Pakistani children are in school. (Reminder: Pakistan is also one of the world’s eight nuclear powers, counting North Korea).

– India and Pakistan must bury the Kashmir feud. The reason it continues in an off-and-on mode is because that’s what the Pakistani army wants. The army’s corporate interests are at stake. If the crisis is resolved, the army loses its narrative for dominating the economy.

– Pakistan is a work in progress. The war against extremism is our war, too. The stake holders are changing. Urban Pakistan isn’t interested in al-Qaida’s global caliphate narrative.

– The pictures and stories about the public whipping of a young girl sent a wave of revulsion through our middle classes. Alas, they are still a minority.

– Pakistani President Asif Zardari is pilloried in a corner. He has no room to move.

– Anti-Americanism? (The Pew Foundation poll indicates 64 percent of Pakistanis believe the United States is the enemy.) Yet the one thing they all want most of all is a U.S. visa. The anti-U.S. feelings all trace back to the way Washington left us high and dry after we had fought together against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

– China? The Pakistanis see Obama’s visit to India and the warm relations between the old and the new superpower as further evidence it would behoove Islamabad to further enhance its relations with China, which is busy enlarging its footprint in Pakistan.

An Iran-Pakistan-China pipeline is considered a realistic project. Singapore now has rights on Gwadar, the new Pakistani port on the Arabian Sea, which will soon be transferred to China (with some fancy footwork by Pakistan’s Supreme Court that will say the Singapore contract doesn’t hold legal water, which will clear the way for China).

Between the Council on Foreign Relations’ 25 experts-strong, 71-page report and a prominent Pakistani newspaper editor’s confidential musings about his own country’s betrayals, there was a touch of Yogi Berra’s déjà-vu-all-over again.

(Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and of United Press International).
NOTE:This is a cross post from The Washington Times.

America is betting on the wrong horse

By Saeed Qureshi 

On the face of it, the visit of American president Barrack Obama to India appears a rarity. But intrinsically it is going to be counterproductive in the longer run. In the aftermath of the era of the so-called cold war between former Soviet Union and the United State, America has virtually snatched India from the Soviet orbit. The American overweening bid to forge an alliance with India cannot be dismissed as wooing. It is a monumental strategy that primarily aims at the containment of People’s Republic China and to hinder her spreading influence around the world.

America wants to re-play on China, the same containment strategy that it applied to the Soviet Union during the cold war era with epoch-making success. Despite the fact that China is a powerful economic partner of the United State, this anti- China containment policy’s fundamental thrust is to debilitate China as a well-entrenched communist state. As such, the ideological war is still being carried on by the United States as the leader of the free world.

But as the episode of the Soviet Communist Empire’s disintegration bears out, the successor Russian Federation, emerged economically more powerful than before. It is, more geographically and nationally cohesive with less backlog of communism, although it is still embracing a diluted version of socialism. Russian politico-economic system is in a melting pot and would crystallize in several decades to come. This at best can be characterized as a mix of the features of both the free world and of socialism.

The story of China is different. Way back between 1978 and 1992, the wise, and wizard Deng Xiaoping, known as paramount leader, fundamentally transformed the essence and character of the Chinese economic system. It was a metamotphosis of the stagnant and closed Chinese socialism based economic paradigm. As a result, China leapt into an aura of economic miracle that converted its economy into a dynamic, vibrant, and progressive form.

China’ economy and industrial sectors have been moving ahead with terrific speed with no let up during the last three decades. Under Deng Xiaoping, China opened its doors to the foreign investors in earmarked regions with unprecedented safeguards, facilities, and tax exemption that brought interminable heavy rainfall of foreign investments into China. Chinese’s labor is one of the cheapest in the world.

The heaviest investment came from the arch capitalist America’s entrepreneurs and investors who produced goods in China in pennies and sold in America in dollars. The socialist market economy that ingenious Deng propelled in China has no cotemporary parallel and is a novel economic theme that integrates the best hallmarks of both the capitalism and socialism.

Chinese has currently, $2.5 trillion in her foreign exchange reserves making this figure as the highest in the world. It lends money to the Unites States. Chinese poltical system leaves no room for dissent and as such, the decisions taken are not stalled or consigned to red tape. Its accountability system has no mercy or tolerance for defaulters, felons, crooks, adulterators, and sideline manipulators. Chinese government does not compromise on quality. The latest instance is the prompt sentence to the people trading in tainted milk. There are no marked interest groups like feudalism and economic robber barons in China thriving on loot and kickbacks. There are billionaires in China but their wealth is all accounted for and the sources of earnings are transparent.

Chinese army is one of the strongest and numerically largest in the world. The Peoples’ Liberation Army ( PLA)  is the world’s largest military force, with approximately 3 million members. China also has the world’s largest standing army, with approximately 2.25 million members. China does not import the military hardware. On the contrary, she manufactures all the military equipment from a rifle to submarines to aircraft carrier ships. It is self sufficient in the military assortment of weaponry, including missiles, nuclear weapons, destroyers, warships, and combat vessels.

To expect that India can prove to be an effective bulwark against the Chinese prodigious military capability and can shape up as a befitting counterpoise nuclear power is simply fanciful and unequivocally far removed from reality. If history is any guide then let us see in the hindsight the 1962 war fought between China and India. The then prime minister of India Pundit jawahar Lal Nehru ordered the India army to throw Chinese out of the Indian soil. What happened in that brief skirmish? Instead, that Indian army could accomplish that mission impossible; it fell like leaves from a tree in a strong wind. It fled from the battlefield and mercifully, the Chinese retreated from the Indian territory voluntary. So much for the prowess and valor of Indian army to fight!

As far equipping India with nuclear arsenal, it is drastically doubtful that a nuclear war can ever take place on earth because such a war can never remain confined to the two belligerents. If India and China start trading nuclear warheads then neither China nor India would survive extinction of both biology and human race for centuries together. The Indian and Chinese leadership is aware of the horrendous outcome of nuclear clash and would never take that ruinous course because the loss would be colossally collateral.

Indian leadership might get all the perks and privileges from the mighty United States but would never act as a proxy or mercenary of the United State, a role that Pakistan has been willfully playing for several decades now. If India wants to destroy mother India it would resort to that irreparable blunder that would neutralize whatever India has gained so far. 

It would, therefore, be in the best interests of United States to come out of the mindset of cold war and discard the erroneous fantasies that by creating protégés and proxies it can annihilate the global rivals. It should also be borne in mind that China is not the Soviet Union and the 21st century is not the 20th century. The attrition and guerrilla war can be an effective strategy to wear down the enemy. But such a war of attrition can be successful only is fought on foreign lands between the adversaries as was done in Afghanistan.

If India or United States intend to start an insurgency against China a la Afghanistan, then it would be not only unattainable but would be a sheer mad man’s dream. China has rather an effective and foolproof domestic mechanism to curb or to foil any attempt for internal disintegration either by the domestic elements or by the foreign agents.

The containment of China and raising a matching Sphinx in the form of India is an extremely flawed proposition and would not be beneficial for either the United States or India. A policy of appeasement between China, Pakistan, and India should constitute the best option that the United States can sponsor and promote in the Far East and South Asian regions. But for goodness sake why at all does United States want China to go the way the former Soviet Union went? Cannot these two power work in tandem for the global peace and jointly undertake and advance such projects as space research, eradication of poverty, hunger, diseases epidemics from the planet earth?

The baits of providing civilian nuclear technology and paving way for India to become the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council are not going to work if these are meant to burden India for posing as anti-China contender in the region at the behest of the United States. If the goal is to make India as an economic partner, spur the bilateral trade, and promote world peace, then those are laudable motives and should be pursued with all the vigor and speed.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States).


Behind Drone Issue in Yemen, a Struggle to Control Covert Ops

By Gareth Porter 

The drone war that has been anticipated in Yemen for the last few months has been delayed by the failure of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) to generate usable intelligence on al Qaeda there.

That failure has given the CIA a new argument for wresting control of the drone war in Yemen from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which now controls the drone assets in the country. But some key administration officials are resisting a CIA takeover of the war in Yemen, as reported by the Washington Post Nov. 7.

The struggle between the CIA’s operations directorate and SOF officials over management of a drone war in Yemen has been a driving force in pushing the war against al Qaeda and affiliated organisations into many more countries – along with President Barack Obama’s eagerness to show that he is doing more than his predecessor on terrorism.

Both the CIA covert operations directorate and SOF brass regard the outcome in Yemen as the key to the larger struggle over control of a series of covert wars that the Obama administration approved in principle last year.

The CIA directorate and the two major figures in the Iraq- Afghanistan wars, Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, lobbied Obama in 2009 to expand covert operations against al Qaeda to a dozen countries in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia.

In spring 2009, McChrystal, then director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, persuaded the White House to give U.S. combatant commanders wider latitude to carry out covert military operations against al Qaeda or other organisations deemed to be terrorists, according to a May 25 report by Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic.

Based on the Obama decision, on Sep. 30, 2009, Petraeus issued an order creating a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force to plan and execute covert intelligence gathering in support of later covert military operations throughout the CENTCOM area.

The Petraeus order was followed within weeks by an influx of surveillance equipment and as many as 100 SOF trainers, as well as additional CIA personnel in Yemen, according to the Post Nov. 7 report.

With the support of McChrystal and Petraeus, who was then still CENTCOM chief, JSOC was given control of the covert operation in Yemen.

But JSOC stumbled badly and failed to generate usable intelligence on al Qaeda targets, as the Post reported Nov. 7.

On Dec. 17, less than three months after the Petraeus order, a cruise missile was launched against what was supposed to have been an al Qaeda training camp in Abyan province in south Yemen.

But the strike, which was supposed to have been attributed to Yemen’s tiny air force, was based on faulty intelligence. The Yemeni parliament found that it had killed 41 members of two families, including 17 women and 23 children. It was known almost immediately to have been a U.S. strike.

By all accounts, it was major political gift to AQAP, which has its sights set on toppling the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. AQAP seized on videos of the carnage to step up its attack on Saleh as a U.S. stooge.

Al Qaeda has also been able to justify targeting the United States as revenge for the Dec. 17 attack. In June and July, the AQAP announced that it was planning a “catastrophe for the enemies of God” in response to the Abyan attack, according to Gregory Johnsen, a Princeton doctoral candidate who has done research in Yemen.

That may have been a reference to the two parcels from Yemen to an address in Chicago intercepted Oct. 29, one of which was discovered to have “explosive material”.

On May 27, another cruise missile strike killed a popular deputy province chief who was apparently mediating between the Yemeni government and al Qaeda officials. Local tribesmen retaliated by attacking an oil pipeline in the vicinity.

After that strike, the CIA went on the offensive to get the administration to take control of the drones away from the SOF. A series of articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press in mid- to late August cited unnamed officials referring to the possibility of CIA drone operations in Yemen.

Col. Pat Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East with operational experience in Yemen, told IPS the CIA had benefited from JSOC stumbling.

“The agency has taken advantage of every criticism of the performance of the SOF as an argument to regain control over cover operations,” said Lang.

“The competition between the military clandestine services and the CIA is greater than ever before,” Lang told IPS.

But according to U.S. officials quoted in Sunday’s Post, ever since the errant late May strike, U.S. drones have been present in the skies over Yemen searching for AQAP targets. The Post reported that the drones are still under the control of JSOC, operating under the overall command of the chief of the Central Command.

The Post article quoted a “senior Obama administration official” as hinting strongly that the CIA’s operations branch is lobbying the White House hard for control over the drones in Yemen but not convincing some key officials.

“There are a lot of people who are really feeling good about what they’re doing in certain parts of the world,” said the official. That was an apparent reference to the drone war in Pakistan, which is run by the CIA’s operations directorate.

“But that doesn’t mean that, oh, if you’ll just let us do this over here, you’re going to have a different picture or different results” than the past in Yemen, the official said, clearly referring to the lack of actionable intelligence.

The report suggests that key officials now realise that neither JSOC nor the CIA is going to be able to obtain actionable intelligence on al Qaeda under present circumstances.

Former DIA intelligence officer Lang agrees. He believes the Yemeni Intelligence Service, which is a “very effective secret police force” with “considerable penetration capability”, is not fully sharing the intelligence it has on al Qaeda with U.S. officials.

“I’m sure Saleh is concerned about AQAP,” Lang said, “but he can’t allow himself to be seen as serving the United States.” And Saleh may figure that AQAP has penetrated his intelligence service as well, according to Lang.

For the time being, it appears the drone war in Yemen is abeyance. But powerful bureaucratic forces will be continuing to make the case that they can justify the beginning of drone strikes there.

AQAP leaders are hoping to see the U.S. use more military force in Yemen, according to Johnsen. “They would like nothing better than for the U.S. to invade Yemen,” Johnsen told IPS. “The more they can show active U.S. intervention, the better it is for them.”

(Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006). 

NOTE:This is a cross post.

General Kayani’s Calculus

By: Michael Hughes  

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, certainly holds all the cards with respect to regional security in Central Asia, which is why the General occupies the 29th position on Forbes’s annual list of the world’s most powerful people.  But, as Michael O’Hanlon alluded to in a Foreign Policyarticle on Monday, the U.S. doesn’t have any idea how Kayani is going to use that power because after nine years of war, Americans still aren’t sure if Pakistan is with us or against us.

O’Hanlon also clearly lays out how the three major Afghan insurgent groups have sanctuaries in Pakistan that are generally beyond NATO’s reach:

Pakistan tolerates sanctuaries on its soil for the major insurgencies fighting in Afghanistan. These include the Afghan Taliban (otherwise known as the Quetta Shura Taliban because its principle base remains in Quetta in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan) as well as the Haqqani and Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG) networks. The Haqqanis straddle the border between the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika as well as North Waziristan and other tribal areas within Pakistan; HiG is further north, operating in and around the Khyber Pass connecting Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan with Peshawar and points east in Pakistan.

Since the war began in 2001 the U.S. has asked Pakistan to attack these safe havens, however, Kayani maintains that his forces are too bogged down fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other provinces.  As an Afghan intelligence analystassessed for me back in July:

The Pakistan army consists of 500,000 active duty troops and another 500,000 on reserve. If Pakistan truly wanted to capture the Haqqani Network they would be able to drag them out of their caves by their beards within a few days.

The operating term being wanted, because although many believe Pakistan could root-out the extremist leaders of these networks, there currently isn’t enough incentive to do so.  Pakistan believes the U.S. is highly-likely to begin withdrawing, as Obama has announced, in July 2011, which they believe will cause Afghanistan to descend further into chaos.  O’Hanlon provides insight into Pakistan’s strategic thinking:

Pakistan worries that President Barack Obama’s promise to start reducing U.S. troops in Afghanistan come July will lead to anarchy and civil conflict next door, and it is retaining proxies that it can use to ensure that its top goal in Afghanistan — keeping India out — can be accomplished come what may.

Pakistan would rather have the Taliban and the Haqqanis back in power, especially in the country’s south and east, than any group like the former Northern Alliance, which it views as too close to New Delhi.

It is this strategic calculation, more than constrained Pakistani resources, that constitutes Obama’s main challenge in Afghanistan. And it could cost him the war.

The question for the ages then becomes: what will it take to influence the General’s calculus and get him to attack the Haqqanis and the Quetta Shura?  The author suggests Obama should make certain that Pakistan is confident that the U.S. will not abandon the region, and believes Obama should get creative and offer Pakistan free trade and civilian nuclear deals as the ultimate carrots.

This approach can work, but is dependent on the trust factor on two fronts:  the U.S. building trust with Kayani, while Pakistan and India repair or at least work towards improving their trust deficit. Other factors feeding into this equation include the fragile post-flood economic and political state of Pakistan, highlighted by elites starting to demand that Kayani intervene to shake-up the civilian government which appears ready to collapse.  Kayani also cannot afford to risk billions in U.S. aid at a time like this.

Ideological fear cannot be underestimated, however, because Pakistan might be dead-set on controlling southern and eastern Afghanistan – not only for purposes of strategic depth against India – but concern that traditional Pashtun leadership in those areas strongly reject the Durand Line and support the formation of a ‘Pashtunistan’.  Hence, Kayani might cling to Haqqani as an asset at what seems like any cost.

(Michael Hughes is a journalist and foreign policy strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), a think tank founded by Afghan natives focused on developing political, economic and cultural solutions for Afghanistan. Mr. Hughes writes regularly for The Huffington Post and his work has appeared in CNN.com and Ruse the magazine. Michael graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in History).

NOTE:This is a cross post from examiner.com

 

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