Monthly Archives: October 2010

Ten Years and Still Not Clear?

By: Brig.FB Ali

It is rather remarkable that, ten years after having drawn Pakistan into its war in Afghanistan, the US is still not clear on the motivations that underlie Pakistan’s stance in this war, where they’re coming from, where they’re going. This doesn’t just apply to the self-styled ‘experts’ in Washington’s numerous think tanks; it also seems to apply, surprisingly, to administration policy makers.

Typifying this confusion is the US government’s invention of the AfPak term to describe the theatre in which the war is going on. A term that had to be hastily dropped by officials, at least for public use, after Pakistan made it clear that it wasn’t amused. However, the US still thinks of it as the AfPak war, in which Pakistan’s function is to backstop and bolster US operations in Afghanistan. The generals conducting that war find it convenient to ascribe their lack of success to Pakistan’s failure to deliver, and keep demanding that Washington do something about it.

This has led to the US alternately trying the carrot and the stick to get Pakistan to meet its requirements. Sometimes, money in the billions is offered as aid, on other occasions officials go to Islamabad, pound the table and make dire threats. So far, nothing seems to have really worked. The Pakistanis have been promising to clean up North Waziristan (as the US demands) for a long time, but won’t say exactly when. In public, US officials make sweet talk about strategic partnerships and such, in private, they probably grind their teeth and use unprintable language. It might be more constructive if they understood the problem they are dealing with.

The basic reality is that, in return for the substantial aid that the US is providing it, Pakistan will go along with US needs and requirements as far as it can, but it will not cross the red line where its own security is jeopardised. That line also extends to North Waziristan at present (as discussed below). The other red line for Pakistan, the one it will not let any other country (including the US) cross, is its sovereignty.

Pakistan considers the biggest (perhaps the only) threat to its security comes from India. Its other major border (longer even than the one with India) is that with Afghanistan. Even though this border is not well defined in part, and sometimes disputed, Afghanistan in itself is not considered a security threat by Pakistan. However, it becomes a threat when it is under the control (or even influence) of a hostile power (exactly what the British thought when they ruled India). That is why Pakistan played such an active role in the war to oust Soviet troops from Afghanistan in the 1980s. Not because of the money the US gave it, but for its own security.

The current threat that Pakistan sees arising from Afghanistan is from the influence that India has acquired there, and the possibility of that increasing in the future. Pakistan will do whatever it takes to prevent Afghanistan from becoming an Indian client state. It would like, if possible, to ensure a future Afghanistan that is friendly, and it will do what is possible to bring that about. If that doesn’t happen, it will be content with a neutral Afghanistan. But it will not allow Afghanistan to become a hostile country.

The US AfPak war is over. Everyone knows that ‒ the Afghans, the regional powers, the Europeans, and now even the Americans (though some Permanent Warriors still have difficulty admitting it). So, what did it achieve, this 10-year war that killed and maimed tens of thousands of people, including lots of young Americans, and cost the US billions upon billions of dollars? About all it did was to knock down the Afghan chessboard, which deep war weariness in the country had enabled the Taliban to stabilize.

Now the board is being set up again, the Afghan pieces are manoeuvring to place themselves in the best opening positions, while the outside players are picking the pieces they are going to back. The US finds itself left with little choice but to back Hamid Karzai, upon whom it cannot fully rely. Karzai is also supported by India, which also backs some of the old Northern Alliance leaders. Iran has its players in the Karzai administration, and, possibly, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar in the insurgency. Pakistan will back the Taliban and the Haqqani insurgent groups.

Based upon its past experience, Pakistan would be under no illusion that its protection and support of the Taliban and the Haqqani insurgents would translate into any kind of allegiance if they established themselves in Afghanistan. All it could count on would be their goodwill. The major attraction they have for Pakistan is that they can be relied upon to never come under the influence of India or Russia or the US. An Afghanistan ruled by them, or one in which they had adequate say, would not be a security worry for Pakistan. That is why it has a vital interest in their being strong players in the game about to begin.

Looked at from this angle, what the US is asking Pakistan to do is to attack and weaken its own pieces in the upcoming Afghan power game in order to strengthen the US’s (and India’s) piece ‒ Hamid Karzai. It is quite unrealistic to expect that Pakistan will thus undermine its own future security, whatever bribes and bullying the US resorts to. Impatient with Washington’s inability to get results, Gen Petraeus recently attacked the Haqqani group in North Waziristan ‒ without Pakistani permission. This crossed the second of Pakistan’s red lines ‒ its sovereignty ‒ and the response was immediate, and crushing : the US supply line into Afghanistan was cut. That particular tactic now appears to be effectively closed for the US.

Some time back Pakistan made an interesting proposal to the US : instead of depending on Karzai to protect and further future US interests in Afghanistan, why not support Pakistan, which would undertake to do so? Naturally, the ‘world’s only superpower’ gave that short shrift. That leaves the US playing a weak hand in the coming Great Game. Its player, Karzai, could easily turn rogue, or he could lose effective power. Addicted to the use of military force, the US probably thinks it can restore the balance by employing it again, this time in ‘surgical strikes’. Nothing is more likely to ensure that this whole area remains a continuing threat to US security.

The bottom line about AfPak would appear to be this. The US cannot win there ‒ because nobody can, nobody ever has. And, Pakistan cannot lose ‒ because it cannot afford to, and because geography and history are on its side.

(The writer was a Brigadier in Pakistan Armed Forces ,a free lance writer & a blogger).


Saving Afghansitan Requires Smashing Dangerous Delusions

By: Michael Hughes

T.S. Eliot once posited that “war is not a life: it is a situation, one which may neither be ignored nor accepted”. Yet U.S. policy in Afghanistan, borne out of ignorance and/or willful neglect, appears bent on doing both as America’s miscalculations continue to breathe life into a rag-tag acephalic insurgency – misbegotten strategies that shall likely yield a foreign military presence in Central Asia until the end times.

This same carelessness or purposeful pretermission is evident in recent U.S. efforts to shepherd the negotiations process between the Taliban and the Afghan government, as American policymakers make decisions without weighing predictable blowback and without understanding the core tribal values of Afghan society.

The American public has been trained by the media and U.S. policymakers to digest the world in Manichaen sound bites primarily driven by the election cycle as decision-makers and members of the press seem to be operating based on their own political agendas rather than on finding the most sound and peaceful resolution to the war, which has enabled policies based on unfounded predications to prevail.

It is past time for these false underlying assumptions to be shattered. The biggest of which is the belief that the U.S. must continue its lockstep support for the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, for he is the crux of the problem. Allowing Karzai to lead negotiations is an exercise in futility considering his regime’s illegitimate ascension and consolidation of power via fraudulent elections in combination with rampant corruption has fed the insurgency, hence he is seen as a viable and trustworthy authority by neither the enemy nor the Afghan people.

The U.S. has also somehow failed to project the negative implications of safely escorting certain Taliban elements from their sanctuaries in Pakistan to Kabul to negotiate with Karzai and his newly-appointed peace council, specifically how the overreliance on Karzai to run this show has caused the proceedings to be perceived as a Pashtun power grab.

It’s hard to comprehend how the U.S. would fail to forecast that its enthusiasm for a Taliban power-sharing arrangement might trigger angst amongst the warlords of the Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek minority groups in the north. Former commanders from Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance told theThe Sunday Telegraph that non-Pashtun warlords were rearming their militias in response to these discussions for fear their old enemies might return to power.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke himself denied that this initiative would prove to be any sort of panacea. He accused the media of falsely portraying recent reconciliation talks with Taliban contacts as a formal peace process. Holbrooke explained how the enemy’s composition is so frighteningly labyrinthine the situation defies the construct of a standard settlement process. A typical negotiations framework will not suffice to bring stability to the region like it did in other conflicts he named, each complex in its own right.

“There’s no Ho Chi Minh. There’s no Slobodan Milosevic. There’s no Palestinian authority,” Holbrooke said in reference to well-known peace negotiations involving Vietnam, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Middle East. “There is a widely dispersed group of people that we roughly call the enemy.”

Holbrooke listed a few of the main disparate components of the opposition including al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), the Haqqani Network and Laskhar-e-Taiba. In a disarmed moment of honesty Holbrooke then uttered:

“Now, I’ve just listed five groups. An expert could add another 30. So the idea of peace talks … doesn’t really add up to the way this thing is going to evolve.”

One would hope Holbrooke would be such an expert, underlining the gist of the dilemma which is, namely, that U.S. ignorance of Afghan history and culture has caused it to prescribe contraindicative remedies, once again, to conditions it helped create in the first place.

Unfortunately, the predilection to internationalize the negotiations process while Afghanizing the war, although understandable considering the Karzai regime’s illegitimate status, is not the answer either because the Afghan people will not accept a foreign-designed settlement.

The biggest misunderstanding on America’s part is found in their inability to grasp that neither Karzai nor the Taliban are seen as indigenous, because Karzai is viewed by Afghans as a U.S. puppet and the Taliban movement is perceived as a Saudi-Pakistani phenomenon. Hence, the only political solution feasible is one that is Afghan in nature.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; hence the New World Strategies Coalition (NWC) has submitted a white paper that outlines an Afghan solution in which a game-changing approach is prescribed that turns convention on its head by advocating a series of All-Afghan Jirgas be held to decide a new leader and a new form of government and to restore Afghanistan’s sacred tribal structure.

The first couple of rounds would be conducted offsite in nonaligned unoccupied countries and the finale held in Afghanistan to announce the new government. This native solution would be 100% designed, developed and implemented by Afghans, for Afghans with zero involvement from any other foreign power.

NATO presence is required not for offensive purposes but to serve as an interim protective force only. As noted by everyone from Holbrooke to Petraeus, the U.S. cannot capture and kill its way to victory. If anything, the current military onslaught is serving to only strengthen the enemy.

The final conventional thinking that must be addressed is this near unanimous obsession on a “regional” agreement that should include countries like Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. First things first – let the Afghans choose their own destiny. Regional economic pacts will be critical to Afghanistan’s long-term future but let’s not make the same mistake made at Bonn, in which Afghanistan’s future was architected under UN auspices which allowed other global actors an opportunity to dictate Afghan affairs.

The bane of Afghan existence for the past 30 years has been the meddling of foreign powers that have imposed non-indigenous ideological and religious doctrines beginning with the U.S. and Soviets using Afghanistan as a Cold War chessboard in the 1970s. Saudi Arabia took advantage of Afghan dislocation from this conflict to fund the rise of Wahhabi Islamic orthodoxy by erecting countless madrassass in Pakistan’s border regions which led to the birth of the Taliban and the flourishing of Al Qaeda, while Pakistan’s intelligence agency used U.S. funds to create themujahideen which eventually led to the warlord avarice that plagues Afghanistan to this day.

The key to Afghanistan’s future thus lies not in forging an unholy alliance after breaking the back of the Taliban, but rather in first smashing asunder devastating assumptions beginning with the misnomer that Afghans would ever choose to live under a regime of corrupt Westernized bureaucrats and religiously psychotic warlords who espouse belief systems anathema to thousands of years of Afghan tribal sensibilities.

(Michael Hughes writes similar articles as the Afghanistan Headlines Examiner and theGeopolitics Examiner for

NOTE:This is a cross post


If Pakistanis thought like Americans

Harlan Ulman

Pakistan has concluded that the US and its allies are losing in Iraq and in Afghanistan where the strategy of killing as many Taliban as possible will fail. Pakistani leaders should understand that the next step in improving relations is a serious and full exchange between the two presidents to clear the air

With the US-Pakistani strategic dialogue resuming in Washington today, the relationship could hardly be worse. The trust deficit, already vast, has been stressed to the breaking point by NATO incursions into Pakistan and the subsequent ten-day closure of the major land supply route from Karachi to Afghanistan in retaliation. But there is a grimmer prospect.

Suppose Pakistanis thought like Americans? That prospect could destroy whatever trust and confidence existed between Washington and Islamabad. Consider why.

The Pakistan government understands that the Obama White House believes its civilian government is dysfunctional and could easily fall either through a Supreme Court ruling or a no-confidence vote. It has been told that the Americans regard the political centre of power in Pakistan as resting in the hands of army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Lt-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s ISI, who are independent of civilian control. Furthermore, President Barack Obama does not believe Pakistan can deliver what the US wants most, namely active support in taking down the Haqqani network operating in North Waziristan. Last, the White House has made it clear that to gain further US financial and military assistance, Pakistan’s government must attack corruption and incompetence at its highest levels.

Reversing this analysis, if Pakistani authorities were to think as Americans, how would they assess the situation in Washington?

First, President Obama is politically weak and increasingly irrelevant. His performance rating is almost at the same low levels as Pakistan’s government. A potential rebellion was taking place in the White House with key advisors from Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, National Security Advisor General Jim Jones and economic czar Lawrence Summers leaving or being forced out.

Second, Pakistan would predict that Obama and the Democrats will certainly lose control of the House of Representatives and very likely the Senate after the November 2nd elections meaning the US government, already dysfunctional and incapable of producing even a budget or doing the nation’s business, will be in total disarray. Obama could be a one-term president.

Third, Pakistan would see real political clout over Pakistan and Afghanistan resting in the Pentagon. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are controlling that foreign policy. The president is too weak or too afraid of confronting the military as a new book, Obama’s Wars, vividly portrays. And CIA director Leon Panetta likewise dominates intelligence and the secret war against al Qaeda, having unseated his nominal boss Admiral Dennis Blair in a coup.

Fourth, while the White House was very critical of Pakistan’s response to the floods, five years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still far from recovered. The president’s own internal review of the BP oil disaster response is very critical of the administration. And their Department of Homeland Security is still unprepared for future crises. Yet, they criticise Pakistan!

Fifth, Congress still refuses to grant any textile tariff relief that is vital to Pakistan’s economic recovery. The tilt is towards India and the $ 3.5 billion arms sale irrespective of President Obama’s planned visit there is very provocative. Worse was the refusal of the US to raise India’s flagrant and recent human rights violations in its violent crackdown in Kashmir. And despite promises of funding through Kerry-Lugar aid and coalition support, only a fraction of the money has been delivered — pennies when compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan — countries with far less strategic importance to the US and about 1/6th of our population.

Sixth, while Pakistan is attacked for corruption and incompetence, the US is just as bad or worse, as are Iraq and Afghanistan, who seem exempted from criticism. Except, in the US it is called secret campaign funding approved by their Supreme Court. Congress is filled with ethics scandals at the highest levels. The so-called car czar paid a huge fine to avoid charges of wrongdoing as an investment banker. And a candidate for the Senate endorses witchcraft. Is this a serious nation?

Finally and according to its own thinking, Pakistan has concluded that the US and its allies are losing in Iraq and in Afghanistan where the strategy of killing as many Taliban as possible will fail.

Pakistani leaders should understand that the next step in improving relations is a serious and full exchange between the two presidents to clear the air. But thinking as Americans, given the weakness of the administration and the Democratic Party, Pakistanis would conclude that the White House cannot deliver. So why not keep the strategic dialogue on hold and after the Republicans win Congress, deal with them?

Hopefully, the Pakistanis will not think as we do!

(The writer is Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business, and Senior Advisor at Washington DC’s Atlantic Council).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

Restoring the Tribal Balance: The only path to Peace!

By Khalil Nouri and Michael Hughes

President Barack Obama doesn’t have a viable Afghanistan exit strategy due to a fatal flaw in America’s policy development process: a complete lack of input from native Afghans. It is time for the U.S.-led coalition to realize there is only one solution for peace in Afghanistan – and that is an Afghan solution.

The alternatives bandied about to date are formulas for state collapse – a nearly 10-year-old failed counterinsurgency effort; a power-sharing arrangement that would divvy up Afghanistan between corrupt government officials, Islamic fundamentalists and mujahideen warlords; and a partition strategy guaranteed to yield perpetual civil war.

However, as paradoxical as this might seem, the U.S. cannot withdraw until an indigenous political solution is in place, because abandoning the field to the Taliban would create dire consequences that make the present military occupation look good by comparison.

First, Westerners must grasp that Afghanistan’s future lies within its past. Afghanistan experienced forty years of peace, prosperity and stability during the reign of King Zahir Shah. Since then, after 30 years of incessant war, Afghanistan is now one of the most violent, corrupt and poverty-stricken places on earth.

Afghanistan saw stability when its indigenous tribal structure was intact and a national unifying monarch sat on the throne – two essential factors that helped maintain the “tribal balance”. Tribalism and dynastic loyalty cemented the shards of clans and ethnicities together, which enabled intra-tribal and inter-tribal cohesion. When these bonding agents were destroyed, Afghan society spiraled into an ever-darkening chaotic abyss.

The decimation of the tribal structure tilted the center of gravity towards “strongmen” and away from respected tribal elders, because, in a Hobbesian world of “kill or be killed”, might trumps tribal values. Brute force, guns and money replaced tribal moral authority as the source of power, thus marginalizing the voice of the majority of good, moderate Afghans.

The logical solution to this dilemma is to reinstate the tribal equilibrium. This can be accomplished through a series of “All-Afghan Jirgas.” The jirga is a 300-year old mechanism designed to resolve major political issues by assembling Afghan tribal leaders, especially in times of crisis.

A total of three rounds of jirgas would be held, the first two in neutral countries, for security purposes, to design the solution. The finale will be held in Kandahar, the heart of Afghan politics, where a new head of state and form of government will be announced.

This plan might sound similar to the Bonn Process that established Afghanistan’s current system of government, yet no foreign influence will be allowed. The Bonn Accord, in contrast, was crafted under UN auspices with heavy involvement from Westerners and other regional actors.

Unlike Bonn, the opposition will be encouraged to attend; however, groups will not be allowed representation. The likes of President Karzai, Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar may participate as individual citizens only.

This idea has been discussed directly with contacts in Afghanistan along with members of the Afghan diaspora, located in America, Canada and Europe – who all roundly support the concept. This includes influential tribal leaders from the most popular tribes in the South such as the Alokozai and Achakazi; some Ghelzai Pashtuns in the East; and non-Pashtun tribes across the country – including the Hazara, Uzbek, Tajik and Panjshirees in the North. It has even been approved by former Taliban commanders, former members of Hezbi-Islami and retired Pakistani military and intelligence officials.

The U.S. will need to continue to provide security to “level the playing field” and can then begin employing a “reverse mujahideen” strategy by supporting moderate Afghans to fight an insurgency that will surely continue at some level, as irreconcilable remnants of the Taliban conduct jihad to fulfill dreams of establishing a caliphate.

Additionally, it will be critical to prevent Pakistan from interfering in Afghan affairs. Long-term the U.S. must help Pakistan rebuild its country and economy because America, Afghanistan and other neighboring countries will never be secure if Pakistan is unstable.

It is time to re-empower Afghanistan’s “Silent Majority,” but an Afghan solution is not possible until the Obama administration is willing to listen to natives so that Afghans can, finally, choose their own destiny.

(Khalil Nouri is the co-founder of New World Strategies Coalition Inc., a native Afghan think tank for political, economic and cultural solutions for Afghanistan. Michael Hughes is a journalist and blogger for The Huffington Post and He is also a strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition.  The statements and opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of the authors).

NOTE:This is a cross post from a CNN Blog.

Threatening Pakistan?

Justin Raimondo

When the city of Mumbai, India, was attacked by terrorists allegedly from theLashkar-i- Taiba (LeT) group – a Muslim separatist organization fighting for independence for Kashmir from Indian occupiers – the CIA chief at the time, Gen. Michael Hayden, reportedly confronted his Pakistani counterpart, Lieutenant Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and, according to Bob Woodward, said:

“’We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. This is a big deal.’ He urged Pasha to come clean and disclose all.”

With the revelation that David Coleman Headley, the “scout” who visited Mumbai and did reconnaissance work for LeT prior to the attack, was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), one might say pretty much the same thing to Hayden and his successor: come clean and disclose all.

According to a report published in and theWashington Post:

“Three years before Pakistani terrorists struck Mumbai in 2008, federal agents in New York City investigated a tip that an American businessman was training in Pakistan with the group that later executed the attack.”

When Headley’s wife found out that he had another wife in Pakistan, she went to the FBI and reported his activities on behalf of LeT, his presence at Pakistani training camps, and his shopping for night vision goggles and other items that a terrorist might find handy. US government officials claim they investigated, but the accusations were too vague to be acted on. After being arrested as a result of the domestic dispute with his wife, he was freed, whereupon he roamed the world – Pakistan, India, New York, Chicago – meeting with terrorists while still claiming to be a DEA informant.

If ever there was a “terrorist” suspect whose bona fides stunk to high heaven, it was Headley. Born Daood Sayed Gilani, in Washington, D.C., the son of a prominent Pakistani broadcaster and an American mother from a wealthy Philadelphia family, he went to an elite military school in Pakistan. Upon his return to the US, at the age of 17, he married and soon became a heroin addict. He was arrested in 1988, and received a slap on the wrist for smuggling heroin in from Pakistan, getting a mere 4 years in prison while his partner in crime received 10. He was arrested again, in 1997, received a few months in prison, and emerged as a “prized DEA informant,” according to the official story.

Here is where it gets interesting: soon after his arrest and release, but while he was still on probation, he received permission to go to Pakistan to get married. As ProPublica puts it:

“Previously casual about his Muslim faith, he became radicalized. He sought out new recruits and raised funds for Lashkar and began preparing for its mountain training camps, getting corrective eye surgery and taking horse riding lessons, according to a person close to the case who requested anonymity.

“Gilani’s mix of extremism and Pakistani nationalism pushed him toward Lashkar, because of its popularity in Pakistan and its fight against India, anti-terror officials say. Although Lashkar is a longtime al Qaeda ally, it still functions largely unscathed in Pakistan, officials say.”

Let’s stop here and consider: how is it that someone who has been a heroin addict, and a DEA informant, who regularly travels to Pakistan on the US government’s dime, is all of a sudden “radicalized”? Here is someone who has lived in the United States as an adult for years, and works for the government, turning on a dime and becoming enamored with the cause of an obscure Muslim separatist group. It’s a murky picture made murkier by the comments of anonymous “anti-terror” officials, as reported in ProPublica:

“Court documents and interviews depict Headley, who is now 50, as a chameleon-like figure with a taste for risk and a talent for deception. Because of his sophistication and unusual profile, he was a valuable asset to police, spies, criminals and terrorists, officials say. ‘Headley’s a fascinating study,’ the U.S. anti-terror official said. ‘I see him as a mercenary, not ideologically driven. He’s not an Islamic terrorist in the classic sense.’”

So what happened to his “radicalization,” if he wasn’t “ideologically driven”? A mercenary is paid – but who was paying Gilani-Headley? According to him, as ProPublica reports, his paymaster was Uncle Sam:

“After the September 11 attacks, Gilani told associates that he planned to train with Lashkar as part of a secret mission for the U.S. government, [a] person close to the case said. ‘The FBI and DEA have joined forces and I am going to work for them,’ this person quoted him as saying. ‘I want to do something important in my life. I want to do something for my country.’”

Court records seem to verify he’s been doing exactly that since 2001: although scheduled to be released from probation in 2004, he was discharged early – in December 2001. The feds wasted no time in deploying him: “Within two months he was training in Pakistan with Lashkar, which had just been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Pakistan, documents say.”

Mr. Headley, who changed his name just before his leap into terrorist activities, apparently had three wives – simultaneously – two of whom turned him in to US authorities. In 2005, his Moroccan wife went to the US embassy in Pakistan to report him for his association with LeT: she claimed he was planning a terrorist attack. US officials did nothing.

As the New York Times reports:

“In several interviews in her home, Mr. Headley’s Moroccan wife, Faiza Outalha, described the warnings she gave to American officials less than a year before gunmen attacked several popular tourist attractions in Mumbai. She claims she even showed the embassy officials a photo of Mr. Headley and herself in the Taj Mahal Hotel, where they stayed twice in April and May 2007. Hotel records confirm their stay.

“Ms. Outalha, 27, said that in two meetings with American officials at the United States Embassy in Islamabad, she told the authorities that her husband had many friends who were known members of Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said she told them that he was passionately anti-Indian, but that he traveled to India all the time for business deals that never seemed to amount to much.

“And she said she told them Mr. Headley assumed different identities: as a devout Muslim who went by the name Daood when he was in Pakistan, and as an American playboy named David, when he was in India.

“’I told them, he’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you,’ she recalled saying to American officials at the United States Embassy in Islamabad. ‘Indirectly, they told me to get lost.’”

He’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you. Here’s another possibility which you’ll pardon Ms. Outalha for not posing: he’s a terrorist and he’s working for us.

Two warnings from people close to him, and yet US officials do nothing while Headley-Gilani travels all over the world meeting with terrorists, free as a bird, with no visible source of income and plenty of help from various “friends.” The help he received, according to his court testimony, came from ex-officials of Pakistan’s spy agency – a group with longtime ties to the US military and intelligence agencies. Headley, we are told, is “cooperating” with authorities, but isn’t that what he’s always done?

The campaign to target Pakistan, and specifically Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, as the real sponsor of the Mumbai attacks, and the shadowy force behind al-Qaeda, has picked up a lot of steam since President Obama took office. You’ll recall Obama directly threatened Pakistan even before he took office, during the campaign, and once in the White House has escalated attacks on Pakistani sovereignty that provoked arebuke from Islamabad.

If the Headley case isn’t an attempted frame-up of the Pakistanis, then it is a very good imitation. The big problem for the US, however, is that Headley’s wives – who know where the bodies are buried – are talking.

As I write, India’s army of occupation in Kashmir – numbering some 700,000 – ismurdering unarmed civilians, who are protesting in the streets because the Indian army is killing their sons. The ongoing “peace” talks have gotten nowhere, and were broken off by New Delhi in response to the Mumbai incident. The rise of Hindu ultra-nationalism, and the determination of the government to hold on to Muslim-majority Kashmir, have brought the long-simmering conflict between India and Pakistan to the boiling point. Having fought three wars, India and Pakistan are on the brink of fighting a fourth, with the former taking full advantage of US pressure on Islamabad to cement an alliance with Washington against their old enemies. Into this cauldron of bubbling tensions the Mumbai terror attack dropped like a packet of C-4 explosives.

In Obama’s Wars, Woodward relates an episode in which the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, and longtime neoconservative apparatchik Zalmay Khalilzad had a dinner discussion with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, in the course of which Zardari “dropped his diplomatic mask” and revealed his true beliefs about the terrorist attacks that are an everyday occurrence in his country:

“He suggested that one of two countries was arranging the attacks by the Pakistani Taliban inside his country: either India or the US. Zardari didn’t think India could be that clever, but the US could. [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai had told him the US was behind the attacks, confirming claims made by the Pakistani ISI.”

Woodward’s disdain is all too palpable: Khalilzad, he tells us, “listened calmly, even though the claims struck him as madness. The US was using the Taliban to topple the Pakistani government? Ridiculous. But Khalilzad knew Afghanistan’s President Karzai also believed in this conspiracy theory, more evidence that this region of the world and its leaders were dysfunctional.”

So “dysfunctional” that they have to be replaced with more competent – and compliant – sock-puppets. However, in light of the US government’s strong connection to Headley, perhaps Zardari and Karzai are a bit too functional for their own good.

Of course, any imputation of US wrongdoing can always be construed as a “conspiracy theory.” This is meant to divert attention away from the obvious question, which is: how and why was Headley-Gilani allowed to travel freely from Chicago to New York to training camps in the wilds of Pakistan, to Mumbai and other cities in India, all the while in the pay of the US government?

A known US spy turns up as an accomplice in the most dramatic and bloody terrorist attack since 9/11, and no one – not the US media, not a single member of Congress, not one prominent public figure – suspects there may be something to the Zardari-Karzai “conspiracy theory.” Is it something in the water, or are Americans so inured to the crimes of their government that they no longer care?

(The writer is an American author and the editorial director of the website

Report Shows Drones Strikes Based on Scant Evidence

By Gareth Porter       

New information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan directly contradicts the image the Barack Obama administration and the CIA have sought to establish in the news media of a programme based on highly accurate targeting that is effective in disrupting al Qaeda’s terrorist plots against the United States.

A new report on civilian casualties in the war in Pakistan has revealed direct evidence that a house was targeted for a drone attack merely because it had been visited by a group of Taliban soldiers.

The report came shortly after publication of the results of a survey of opinion within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan showing overwhelming popular opposition to the drone strikes and majority support for suicide attacks on U.S. forces under some circumstances.

Meanwhile, data on targeting of the drone strikes in Pakistan indicate that they have now become primarily an adjunct of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, targeting almost entirely militant groups involved in the Afghan insurgency rather than al Qaeda officials involved in plotting global terrorism.

The new report published by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) last week offers the first glimpse of the drone strikes based on actual interviews with civilian victims of the strikes. 

In an interview with a researcher for CIVIC, a civilian victim of a drone strike in North Waziristan carried out during the Obama administration recounted how his home had been visited by Taliban troops asking for lunch. He said he had agreed out of fear of refusing them.

The very next day, he recalled, the house was destroyed by a missile from a drone, killing his only son.

The CIVIC researcher, Christopher Rogers, investigated nine of the 139 drone strikes carried out since the beginning of 2009 and found that a total of 30 civilians had been killed in those strikes, including 14 women and children.

If that average rate of 3.33 civilian casualties for each drone bombing is typical of all the strikes since the rules for the strikes were loosened in early 2008, it would suggest that roughly 460 civilians have been killed in the drone campaign during that period.

The total number of deaths from the drone war in Pakistan since early 2008 is unknown, but has been estimated by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation at between 1,109 and 1,734.

Only 66 leading officials in al Qaeda or other anti-U.S. groups have been killed in the bombings. Reports on the bombings have listed the vast majority of the victims as “militants”, without further explanation.

The victim’s account of a drone attack based on the flimsiest rationale is consistent with the revelation in New York Times reporter David Sanger’s book “The Inheritance” that the CIA was given much greater freedom in early 2008 to hit targets that might well involve killing innocent civilians.

The original rationale of the drone campaign was to “decapitate” al Qaeda by targeting a list of high-ranking al Qaeda officials. The rules of engagement required firm evidence that there were no civilians at the location who would be killed by the strike.

But in January 2008 the CIA persuaded President George W. Bush to approve a set of “permissions” proposed by the CIA that same month which allowed the agency to target locations rather than identified al Qaeda leaders if those locations were linked to a “signature” – a pattern of behaviour on the part of al Qaeda officials that had been observed over time.

That meant the CIA could now bomb a motorcade or a house if it was believed to be linked to al Qaeda, without identifying any particular individual target.

A high-ranking Bush administration national security official told Sanger that Bush later authorised even further widening of the power of the CIA’s operations directorate to make life or death decisions based on inferences rather than hard evidence. The official acknowledged that giving the CIA so much latitude was “risky”, because “you can make more mistakes – you can hit the wrong house, or misidentify the motorcade.”

The extraordinary power ceded to the CIA operations directorate under the programme provoked serious concerns in the intelligence community, according to one former intelligence official. It allowed that directorate to collect the intelligence on potential targets in the FATA, interpret its own intelligence and then make lethal decisions based on that interpretation – all without any outside check on the judgments it was making, even from CIA’s own directorate of intelligence.

Officials from other intelligence agencies have sought repeatedly to learn more about how the operations directorate was making targeting decisions but were rebuffed, according to the source.

Some national security officials, including mid-level officials involved in the drone programme itself, have warned in the past that the drone strikes have increased anti-Americanism and boosted recruitment for the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda. New support for that conclusion has now come from the results of a survey of opinion on the strikes in FATA published by the New American Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow.

The survey shows that 76 percent of the 1,000 FATA residents surveyed oppose drone strikes and that nearly half of those surveyed believe they kill mostly civilians.

Sixty percent of those surveyed believed that suicide bombings against the U.S. military are “often or sometimes justified”.

Meanwhile, data on the targeting of drone strikes make it clear that the programme, which the Obama administration and the CIA have justified as effective in disrupting al Qaeda terrorism, is now focused on areas where Afghan and Pakistani militants are engaged in the war in Afghanistan.

Most al Qaeda leaders and the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who has been closely allied with al Qaeda against the Pakistani government, have operated in South Waziristan.

North Waziristan is where the Haqqani network provides safe havens to Pashtun insurgents fighting U.S.-NATO troops in Afghanistan. It is also where Hafiz Gul Bahadur, leader of a Pakistani Taliban faction who has called for supporting the Afghan insurgency rather than jihad against the Pakistani government, operates.

In 2009, just over half the drone strikes were still carried out in South Waziristan. But in 2010, 90 percent of the 86 drone strikes carried out thus far have been in North Waziristan, according to data collected by Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer and published on the website of the Long War Journal, which supports the drone campaign.

The dramatic shift in targeting came after al Qaeda officials were reported to have fled from South Waziristan to Karachi and other major cities.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration was privately acknowledging that the war would be a failure unless the Pakistani military changed its policy of giving the Haqqani network a safe haven in North Waziristan.

When asked whether the drone campaign was now primarily about the war in Afghanistan rather than al Qaeda terrorism, Peter Bergin of the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative told IPS, “I think that’s a reasonable conclusion.”

Bergin has defended the drone campaign in the past as “the only game in town” in combating terrorism by al Qaeda.

*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.

(Dr. Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005). He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

Dr. Porter was both a Vietnam specialist and an anti-war activist during the Vietnam War and was Co-Director of Indochina Resource Center in Washington. Dr. Porter taught international studies at City College of New York and American University. He was the first Academic Director for Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Washington Semester program at American University). 

NOTE:This is a cross post.


Pentagon Author Exposes Zelikow’s Key Role in 9/11 Cover-Up

Maidhc Ó Cathail

In an interview on the Fox Business Network, a retired U.S. intelligence officer accused the official in charge of the 9/11 Commission of a cover-up of intelligence failures leading up to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Appearing on the political talk show Freedom Watch, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and the author of Operation Dark Heart, a much-hyped new book on the war in Afghanistan, spoke about his mid-October 2003 encounter with Dr. Philip Zelikow, then executive director of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.

During a fact-finding mission to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Zelikow’s team was briefed by Shaffer on Able Danger, a DIA data mining project that had allegedly identified Mohammed Atta as a threat to the U.S. a year before 9/11.

Parenthetically, the “Mohammed Atta” identified by Able Danger may have been an imposter operating under a stolen identity, as occurred in the assassination of a senior Hamas official in Dubai. In an interview with a German newspaper, reported by the Guardian, Mohammed Atta’s father claimed that his son had nothing to do with the attacks and was still alive a year after 9/11.

Whichever Mohammed Atta was referred to by Shaffer in Bagram, Zelikow reportedly “fell silent with shock at the news.”

According to Shaffer, Zelikow came to him at the end of the meeting, gave him his card, and said: “What you said today is critically important, very important. Please come see me when you return to Washington D.C.”

On his return to Washington in January 2004, Shaffer immediately contacted Zelikow’s office and was told to “stand by.” After a week passed, Shaffer called again, and this time was told by Zelikow’s staff: “We don’t need you to come in. We have all the information on Able Danger we need. Thank you anyway.”

None of the information provided by Shaffer appeared in the 9/11 Commission’s
585-page report, however.

In September 2005, more than a year after the publication of the 9/11 report, Shaffer said he met with one of the 9/11 commissioners in Philadelphia. Over lunch, he told the commissioner what he had told Zelikow in Afghanistan. The commissioner said that “he had never heard any of this,” adding that, “had he heard of it, it would have been something that was very much of interest to he [sic] and the commission.”

“So there’s a lot of things that never made it in that 9/11 report?” asked Judge Andrew Napolitano, the host of Freedom Watch.

“Things were either by negligence left out, or, and I believe, by purpose left out,” Shaffer replied.

Another guest on the show, Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, spoke of a similarly frustrating experience with the 9/11 Commission staff director.

Describing the 9/11 Commission Report as “a whitewash, and a lie from top to bottom,” Scheuer said he provided Zelikow with over 400 pages of official government documents detailing intelligence failures before 9/11.

“I never heard one word back from Zelikow,” he said.

“They all seemed very interested in what you had to say,” the former CIA officer added, referring to meetings he had with Zelikow and his staff, “but at the end of the day, it didn’t make it into the report.”

This is not the first time that questions have been raised about Zelikow’s handling of the 9/11 Commission.

In his 2009 book, The Commission, Philip Shenon, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, wrote about “how tightly Zelikow was able to control the flow of information on the commission,” and that “everything” was “run through” him.

While Zelikow’s tight control of the commission excluded disturbing evidence from national security experts like Shaffer and Scheuer, a dubious scholar like Laurie Mylroie was afforded ample opportunity to promote the most spurious justification for the Iraq war. Mylroie, whose major booster in government was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, argued that Iraq had been involved in every major terrorist attack against the United States since the early 1990s, including 9/11. During commission hearings on al-Qaeda, Zelikow, writes Shenon, “made sure that she had a prominent place at the witness table.”

And why wouldn’t he? After all, Zelikow had an important role in, as Shenon puts it, “developing the scholarly underpinnings for the Iraq war.” It was Zelikow who had authored a thirty-one-page “preemptive war” doctrine which George W. Bush announced to the world in 2002 as “The National Security Strategy of the United States.”

“Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?” Zelikow asked an audience at the University of Virginia in September 2002. In a rare moment of candour, Zelikow proceeded to explain that the real reason for preemptive war against Iraq was “the threat against Israel.”

Judge Napolitano asked Lt. Col. Shaffer if the commissioner in Philadelphia had said whether anyone on the 9/11 Commission “had an agenda, or was covering up for somebody, or was protecting somebody.” The commissioner’s reply was, according to Shaffer: “Everybody on the commission was covering for someone.”

Given the fatal career implications of broaching such a taboo subject, not to mention Rupert Murdoch’s well-known devotion to the State of Israel, it’s hardly surprising that the Fox presenter didn’t probe too deeply into who Philip Zelikow might have been covering for.

(Maidhc Ó Cathail is a widely published Irish writer living in Japan. Ó Cathail’s articles have appeared in a number of media outlets and newspapers including, Arab News, Foreign Policy Journal, Khaleej Times, Information Clearing House, Palestine Chronicle, Tehran Times and Washington Report).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

Wikileaks, Afghanistan and Pakistan: A Report

Report By: Muhammad Abdullah Gul 


On 25 July 2010, the New York Times carried an explosive story by Mark Mazzetti, Jane
Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Andrew W. Lehren about some 92,000 classified Pentagon
documents which had passed into the hands of Wikileaks, a Sweden-based whistle-
blower website headed by Julian Assange. Ostensibly, the leak sent shock waves through
the US Administration – not just for the sheer volume of the leaked material but also
because the revelations could significantly affect the course of the war in Afghanistan.
The documents comprised a host of field intelligence reports initiated by covert sources,
combat units and the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security
(NDS). Much of the plethora of documents is a compilation of assorted reports known as
“collation” in the intelligence craft. Such stuff is not deemed to be intelligence until it is
sifted, corroborated and analysed for its value, the authenticity of the source and the
plausibility of the information. The documents cover the period from 2004 to 2009. The
fact that that such a large array of reports remained unprocessed for this long is a poor
reflection on the Pentagon’s efficiency.

Dubious veracity

Wikileaks has, thus far, released 77,000 of the documents, of which 180 reports – mostly
originating from Afghan intelligence – pertain to the dubious role of Pakistan, its Inter-
Services Intelligence (ISI), and, especially, of retired General Hamid Gul who headed the
ISI in the crucial years of the Afghan jihad during the Soviet Union’s occupation of
Afghanistan. Gul earned a reputation as the architect of the Soviet defeat and the
ignominious withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
Once a darling of US strategists and intelligence big-wigs, Gul later became a bitter critic
of the post-Reagan policies of the US. He routinely charges America of betraying the
Afghan nation and causing an airplane crash in which then-president of Pakistan, General
Zia ul-Haq, and dozens of Pakistan’s top military brass died. Gul also claimed that the
9/11 events were an inside job and openly supported the Afghan resistance against what
he described as the US-led occupation of Afghanistan which was not dissimilar to that of
the Soviet Union.
He has repeatedly refuted the charges against him on various international media
channels such as Al Jazeera, CNN, and BBC (for example, on the 25, 26, 27 and 28 July
2010), and labelled the reports as “preposterous”, “fictional” and deliberate
“disinformation” to demonise him and the ISI in an attempt to find a scapegoat for the US
military’s failures in Afghanistan. In these interviews, Gul also offered to travel to the US
to face charges in court or be heard by the US Senate or Congress. In 2008, the US
proposed a motion at the United Nations 1267 Committee to have him placed on the
UN’s international terrorist list. He was saved by China, which blocked the move by
applying a technical hold for lack of evidence.
The Pakistani government also strongly rebutted the Wikileaks reports regarding the
alleged double role of the ISI in the Afghan war. Interestingly, a Pakistani official
revealed that days before the New York Times story, US defence officials had advised
their Pakistani counterparts to disregard the Wikileaks documents release.

Human rights and military discipline

Apart from documents relating to Pakistan, the rest of the 77,000 documents cover a vast
spectrum of excesses and human rights abuses committed by US and NATO forces, and
narrate a harrowing tale of atrocities against innocent civilians. No less than 20,000
fatalities have been documented, painting a heart-rending picture of a callous disregard of
Geneva Conventions and US laws. Task Force 373, a secret force, stands out as the most 

trigger-happy, ruthless bunch of soldiers who seem to have exceeded every limit. It is not
clear whether this force was ever authorised by the US Congress. If not, it would cast a
negative light on the Pentagon, raising questions as to whether the Pentagon (or a certain
element within it) had turned into a “rogue” institution.


Wikileaks is still holding back some 15,000 documents. There are tremendous efforts by
the US administration to block the release of these documents or, at least, to expunge the
identities of sources and other named figures lest their security be jeopardised.
The whole sordid affair begs many a thorny question, and points to yawning cavities in
the US systems of defence and intelligence. The more glaring of these questions, each of
which warrants a separate query, are:
a. Is the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) overly dependent on security
contractors and largely amateurish Afghan intelligence operatives?
b. Is there an attitudinal conflict among American policy makers on Afghanistan?
That is, is there a conflict between those advocating winning the hearts and minds
of Afghan people and those operators on the ground who are bent on the
systematic and wilful alienation of the Afghan people?
c. Does a dichotomy really exist between the stated US position of Pakistan as a
front-line ally without whose support victory cannot be perceived, and the real
perception of its role as a double crosser playing both sides? Or is this dichotomy
inspired by extraneous influences which wish to drive a wedge into US-Pakistan
d. How will the leaks impact on US-Pakistan and Pakistan-Karzai government
e. How will they affect the war in Afghanistan and determine its outcome?
f. Were the leaks deliberate and purposeful a la My Lai in Vietnam, which set in
motion the public demand for withdrawal?

US intelligence methodology

Over the years, the mammoth US intelligence establishment has shown deficiencies,
fissures and failures. If glaring ones such as 9/11, Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction,
and the failure to capture the world’s most wanted terrorists are not enough evidence of
its inherent flaws, Wikileaks has exposed it to the core. The human intelligence (humint)
aspect of the US is well-known to have suffered from protracted neglect, poor funding,
and the absence of a cogent cause to inspire enthusiasm.
As a consequence, the US substituted security contractors for regular and disciplined
operatives. Most of these security contractors were former employees of the CIA, FBI
and other agencies which thrived on old-buddy cronyism. Their only motivation was
money. They are a tired and lacklustre group of people who rely mostly on “paper
milling” – intelligence parlance for the production of make-believe reports. The bulk of
the reports on Pakistan is the handiwork of Afghan intelligence agencies which are
infested by communist die-hards looking to avenge their humiliation at the hands of 

Pakistan and the ISI. To top it off, the Indian external intelligence agency – the Research
and Analysis Wing (RAW) – has established a strong field intelligence network in
Afghanistan. Its insidious influence on Afghan intelligence agencies in an effort to malign
Pakistan is an open secret.
Task Force 373 uses tactics and methods which run counter to the explicit purpose of the
military high command. About 100,000 US security contractors have proven to be loose
cannons. They disregard operational instructions, and are only in pursuit of quick results
to earn more dollars. It was a disaster ab initio to mix mercenaries and burnt-out
intelligence veterans with regular troops. The architects of this harebrained idea will
realise the consequences of their folly.

Between policy and posture

The US and NATO official position on Pakistan as a front-line state in the war against
terrorism is a euphemism. In reality, Pakistan has always been suspected either of doing
less than it could, or, worse, of complicity with some Taliban factions fighting US and
NATO troops. No wonder, then, that each category and tier of the US leadership – from
the Bush to the Obama administrations – continued to press Pakistan to do more.
While analysing the nature and extent of Pakistan’s cooperation, one must bear in mind
the circumstances under which Pakistan was recruited into this war. It was literally forced
on board the American warship. The Pakistan leadership wrongly assumed that the war
would be a short, swift retribution which would end in a few months. They failed to
fathom the latent and long-term intentions of the Bush administration’s war hawks. It was
only after the Karzai government was foisted on Afghanistan, as a result of the Bonn
dispensation and the induction of India, Pakistan’s arch-rival, into the Afghan game that
Pakistani authorities realised their mistake in unconditionally giving in to US demands.
They felt cheated but could do little to redress the situation. Then-President Pervez
Musharraf’s quick surrender to US diktat had left the Pakistani nation and its institutions
dazed and bewildered. They were torn between the demands of the US agenda and their
national interests. The military and the ISI were hard put to maintain equilibrium. Drone
attacks by the CIA in Pakistan’s tribal regions, and clandestine deployment of US Special
Forces and security contractors inside Pakistan further exacerbated frayed sentiments. To
the Pakistani masses, from where most of the soldiers are drawn, it was somebody else’s
dirty war which Pakistan had to fight under duress. It reflects positively on the army and
the ISI that there was no serious breach of discipline. But to expect an enthusiastic and
wholesome participation under these conditions would be asking for too much.

Impact on US-Pakistan relations

That the invaders would fail in Afghanistan was axiomatic for even elementary students
of Afghan affairs; and no one is better educated on this subject than the ISI. Should the
ISI not have maintained liaison with the real soul of the Afghan people, which is
manifested in the national resistance symbolised by the Taliban? Let no one be duped into
believing otherwise! But material support to the resistance is quite another matter. With
US spies all over Pakistan, having logged deep into its systems, such an audacity cannot
even be imagined, save by Pentagon stalwarts.
The US policy towards Pakistan was described aptly – though insultingly – by
Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton as a “carrot and stick” doctrine that would keep
Pakistan on the leash and aligned to US objectives. This policy seems to have worked
reasonably well for America. Pakistan has been held to the course by the US promoting a
dictator, and then imposing a truncated democracy through an externally-brokered deal 

called the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). America’s whip hand, however,
began to test the limits of national tolerance after the Mumbai attacks, when the US
started openly to promote India’s brow-beating tactics against Pakistan on
unsubstantiated charges. Following Obama’s 1 December 2009 policy speech, the US
attitude began to change. It is now less belligerent, and often placatory, towards Pakistan.
There is also a perceptible shift in the policy from dealing with government to addressing
the people of Pakistan. This is a healthy change indicative of a possible focus on an exit
The recent floods in Pakistan have enhanced the need for a fresh approach. Currently,
there seem to be two overriding American concerns. Firstly, to create an environment for
the graceful exit of the US from Afghanistan, while safeguarding its core interests and
making room for India in a post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Secondly, to thwart a populist –
inevitably anti-American ground-swell – in the wake of the catastrophic deluge in
Pakistan. How these can objectives be achieved with the help of a tottering and largely
dysfunctional democracy in Pakistan will be a daunting challenge for American policy
Pakistan and the US need each other for their own good reasons, but India is the obstacle,
and it will remain so until the Kashmir issue is dealt with.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai began to lean towards Pakistan after Obama’s 1
December 2009 speech. To show his altered preferences, he fired his Pakistan-hating
intelligence czar, Amrullah Saleh. After the Wikileaks affair, however, Karzai revealed
his true intentions when he demanded that the US bomb Pakistan. But that simmered
down rather quickly. Perhaps the Americans whispered the same gospel in his ears as
they did for Pakistan: “Don’t take it too seriously.”

Outcomes and purposes

It is too early to pass judgement, but there are unerring similarities between My Lai and
the Wikileaks affair. Lieutenant William Calley and Captain Ernest L. Medina’s
misconduct then, and the TF-373’s misdemeanour now reflect the same propensity for
frustration spawned by failures. How close are the parallels of General Westmoreland’s
demand for more troops and General Stanley McChrystal’s urge for the surge,
intelligence failures, and search for scapegoats – Cambodia then and Pakistan now? It’s
an uncanny match of the scenarios, a rebirth of the tragedy that was Vietnam.
Afghanistan is a wrong war at a wrong place against a wrong enemy. Not a single Afghan
has been found involved in terrorism outside the war zone. “Reversing Taliban’s
momentum” was not the original aim of the NATO war. At this stage, it would be like
defeating the Afghan nation; it would be mission impossible. The initial goal was to
disperse Al-Qaeda and capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. All western intelligence sources
believe Osama Bin Laden is not in Afghanistan, or, at least, not in the southern part of
Afghanistan where much of the US and NATO forces are committed. Leon E. Panetta
said there were no more than 60 to 100 Al-Qaeda operatives in that part of the world.
That many may be present in any European country. The reality is that Al-Qaeda has long
since migrated to the Red Sea area to be in closer proximity to its strategic “centre of
gravity” – the Middle East.
The hard truth is that the war in Afghanistan is a lost cause for America. The problem is
how to convince the Pentagon and the self-indulgent, bigoted neo-cons who would not let
reason get the better of their unrealistic ambitions. Obama’s heart is in the right place. He
knows he came into the Oval Office on the promise of change, and he was aware of the
stumbling blocks on his way to change. As a master chess player, he let the Pentagon
have its say (two surges since his inauguration) but asked for results. The Pentagon
merely reinforced failure and could not deliver.
Operation Moshtarak, in February 2010, was an unmitigated disaster, and the Kandahar
operation is a non-starter. One obstacle in Obama’s march towards his objective has been
removed. If allowed to operate with freedom, Wikileaks will remove the other. Its
publication of the remaining 15,000 documents is bound to whip up a public debate
reminiscent of the Nixon years. Already, the antiwar opinion has climbed to 62 percent. A
“moratorium” – as in the case of Vietnam – may well be in the offing, thanks to
Wikileaks. Is Obama playing Nixon? If yes, Wikileaks is a gift to him. Or, did he manage
the gift? Whatever the case, the draw-down from Afghanistan is likely to begin as per
schedule, if not earlier. Conventional wisdom commands that losses be cut.
(The writer is researcher whose work focuses on Indo-Pak Sub-Continent).

NOTE:This was initially carried by Al Jazeera.



Small men

By Nauman Asghar

We live in an age of great events and small men. The gigantic challenges our country faces today demand a visionary leadership that will be willing to give top priority to public interest. One-fifth of the country’s population has been affected by the floods while millions wracked by sorrows of poverty are waging a daily battle for survival. The dream of Pakistan’s founders, of a progressive and democratic welfare state, has been shattered to pieces by successive inept rulers. Under the current lot things have gone from bad to worse.
A recent PILDAT report made the shocking revelation that the assets of members of parliament have increased three-fold in five years.
In the 2010-11 budget, the Presidency has been allocated Rs447 million, against the previous year’s expenditure of Rs349 million, a hike of 14.615 per cent. The expenditure at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat has increased by 13.08 per cent, to a total of Rs484 million. On the other hand, the already insignificant education budget has been slashed.
The government has approved a plan to erect a statue in honour of Benazir Bhutto. The construction of the monument will cost Rs400 million, while the land provided by Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority (CDA) for the project is said to be worth above Rs500 million.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani gave the permission for the purchase of a Mercedes Benz for Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, costing more than Rs25 million. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spent more than $20,000 during his recent stay in New York while British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had come to attend the same meeting, stayed at the British consulate general. Amid the luxurious and pompous lifestyle of our rulers, 6,000 to 8,000 people commit suicides every year in Pakistan to escape poverty and the runaway inflation.


Pakistani child spend their late afternoon at a poor neighborhood on outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, June 1, 2010. AP / Vincent Thian

It is not surprising that the present rulers have lost the moral legitimacy to continue exercising power. Lack of transparency in government affairs has added much to the resentment of the powerless citizens. The president is the most controversial political figure in the country. The continuance of NRO beneficiaries in their offices gives an impression of a culture of legalised corruption.

Some months ago, a Bulgarian minister resigned after he was accused of choosing the more expensive of two offers for the delivery of a vaccine, which put extra burden on the budget. In Pakistan politics has become a dirty business in which only the unscrupulous and the corrupt can achieve the heights of power.
Our leaders have never learnt from history.
Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) is remembered as the most benevolent and wise ruler in China’s history. He used to eat two meals a day and wear the most ordinary clothing. At one time during his reign, a part of the Great Wall collapsed. The ministry of public works discussed the reconstruction project.
The emperor told his officials: “When an emperor rules a nation, he relies on internal sources and does not solely depend on barricades. The Great Wall was built during the Qin Dynasty and constantly repaired during the Han, Tang, and Song Dynasties. Yet, this did not prevent foreign invasions. At the end of the Ming Dynasty, my ancestor led his army through it, destroying any obstruction. No one could stop them! Therefore, to defend a nation is to cultivate one’s virtues and treat the people respectfully. When people are happy, the nation is in harmony and the frontier is fortified.”

(The writer is a lawyer & free lance writer).

NOTE:This is a cross post from THE NEWS.

Confine Your Operations to Afghanistan, Islamabad Tells Washington.

By Shahid R. Siddiqi

Fears have been expressed for a long time that successful resistance by the Pashtun Taliban against American occupation of Afghanistan and the imminent defeat of the “International Security Assistance Force” (ISAF which amounts to NATO led by the U.S.)  would force Pentagon to broaden the theatre of war into Pakistan citing the presence of Taliban and Al Qaeda in its tribal areas to prolong the war.

If, as the polls indicate, the Republicans gain control of the US Senate in the coming mid terms, the Neocons, Tea Partiers and the conservatives can push for more attacks inside Pakistan on the plea that Taliban cannot be defeated unless their sanctuaries in Pakistan are not destroyed, a line that Pentagon takes.

Some American writers opine that Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (or FATA) would likely become the war zone on the pattern of ‘mission creep’ of Vietnam. Just as the Americans blundered into Cambodia and Laos to destroy the communist camps and lost the war, they are itching to make a similar mistake again.

Civilian Control of US Military in Question

But the Pentagon seems to be in no mood to wind down the Afghan war in compliance with President Obama’s plans. Its escalation into Pakistan would enable the Pentagon to put off America’s Soviet-style humiliation for another day and try to save its international power from being undermined. And then one must not forget it is wars that feed the American ‘military industrial complex’, as President Eisenhower pointed out in his famous speech.

The danger of such an eventuality is real, despite President Obama’s assurances of a lasting friendly relationship with Pakistan, unless the Obama White House reigns in its military leadership, which has shown signs of defiance, and assert civilian control over the nation’s war policies.

A Declaration of War on Pakistan

If Pentagon gets its way, this would be an extremely dangerous development. Amounting to a declaration of war on Pakistan, there is no way the Pakistan Army can sit back and watch US/NATO troops initiate action inside its borders. ISAF would then be pitched against half a million strong battle hardened Pakistan Army, in addition to the Taliban and same Pashtun tribes that straddle both sides of Pak-Afghan border.

If the US/NATO forces have not been able to subdue a far lesser number of Taliban fighters, how would they fare against such a force, remains to be seen?

One thing is certain though. This will give a new dimension to the American-led war in the so called AF-PAK region, send South and South West Asia up in flames and cause a huge set-back to American regional interests.

For the last nine years, Pakistan’s forced involvement in the American war in Afghanistan, which the deranged Neocons called the ‘war on terror’, has brought nothing but death, destruction and suffering for the people of this country. It destroyed peace and stability and promoted a culture of violence and religious extremism. People are up to their necks with the consequences of this American adventure. Not content with what Pakistan has been through, the Americans continue to insist upon it to ‘do more’.

The recent threat by General Petraeus to undertake unilateral military operations inside Pakistan if the Pakistan Army failed to comply with the demand to eliminate the militant groups in North Waziristan, particularly the Haqqani Network, was followed through by NATO gunship helicopters, which violated Pakistan’s airspace in Waziristan’s Kurram Agency and attacked a border outpost on September 30, killing three Pakistani soldiers and injuring two.

Petraeus’ ‘Get Tough Policy’ and ‘Testing the Waters’

American media reports say that Gen. Petraeus, supported by President Obama’s national security advisor James Jones, strongly pushed for these attacks and convinced Obama administration to follow a “Get Tough Policy” towards Pakistan. This also resulted in an unusually high number of drone attacks recently.

These incursions and attack by gunship helicopters were interpreted as an attempt to test the waters and gauge the response of Pakistan Army. The justification advanced for these violations – “hot pursuit” of insurgents, was rejected as mere cover up. The Pakistan Army argues that ISAF commanders in Afghanistan know very well, and so should their pilots, that there is no agreement with Pakistan over the rules of “hot pursuit” and this meant that pursuit, no matter how hot, ends where the ‘red line’ of Pakistan’s border begins.

Islamabad Retaliates

To firmly nip in the bud any ISAF ambitions of building up on this little adventure, the Pakistan Army lodged a strong protest calling for an inquiry and so did the pliant, US installed, Zardari government in its own feeble way. ISAF agreed and the inquiry found the firing incident and earlier helicopter intrusions to be violations of Pakistan’s air space and deaths of Pakistani soldiers an avoidable mistake.

Islamabad demanded public apology, assurances that this would not happen again and action against those responsible for the deaths of Pakistani troops. Pakistan Army made it clear that these acts on the part of ISAF constituted a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates and this would not be acceptable in the future. Military sources also clarified that the said mandate “terminates” at the Afghanistan border and any impression being created by ISAF about the existence of an agreement over rules of “hot pursuit” is not factually correct.

Coming on the back of intensifying public criticism of drone attacks, the helicopter attack caused the public anger to boil over. Both the army and the government had to act, and act they did. As a retaliatory measure, one of the two supply route crossings at Pak-Afghan border was shut down indefinitely, only to be opened ten days later after hectic efforts, apologies and assurances by ISAF.

ISAF imports 80% of its crucial supplies, from food to oil, through Karachi port which are trucked to Afghanistan after travelling over a thousand miles through Pakistan to two border crossings at Torkham and Chaman. At any given time 3000-4000 ISAF containers and tankers, reportedly guarded by undercover Blackwater operatives, are on Pakistani roads, tearing up the roads and causing traffic jams.

The route closure caused a supply chain fiasco for ISAF. In no time, over 10,000 containers and fuel tankers were lined up on Pakistani side of the border, while stocks ran low in Afghanistan. Pakistan was well within its right to withhold a facility it provides to ISAF, not under any contractual obligation but as a gesture of support. During the 10-day wait, about 150 oil tankers and containers were torched by suspected Taliban and angry Pakistanis.

When launching their ‘get tough policy’ General Petraeus and the Pentagon underestimated the response of Pakistan Army that came to them as a surprise. According to Washington Post they even expected the border crossing to reopen within three days. Although in his book “Obama’s war” Bob Woodward says that US intelligence had “indicated the Pakistanis believed the US would not jeopardize their relationship” because of its dependence on Pakistan for its supply routes to Afghanistan, this was not taken into account.

Strained IR, Distrust and Forced Apologies

This strained relations between Pentagon and the Pakistan Army. Reportedly the crisis in US-Pakistan relations and the supply chain trauma that the ISAF had to face on account of route closure led to Jones’s departure ahead of his planned retirement later this year. Gareth Porter, writing for Inter Press Service, reports that “President Obama has clearly abandoned the tough line toward Pakistan represented by cross-border helicopter attacks and accelerated drone strikes in an effort to reduce tensions.”

In pushing his unilateral escalation of force General Petraeus allowed the element of distrust to creep back into US-Pakistan relations which President Obama had taken pains to remove after a long period of strained relations.

NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen was the first to regret the incident, pleading that the killing of three Pakistani soldiers was unintended. Initially dragging their feet but later under White House directive the US Ambassador in Islamabad – Ms Anne Peterson and ISAF Commander – General David Petraeus, made public apologies. This was followed by a letter from Admiral Mike Mullen to Pakistan’s army chief General Kayani expressing his deep regrets over the incident.

Pakistan’s Gains Leverage Over ISAF

By closing the border crossing, Pakistan established a powerful leverage over Washington and US/NATO command, one it can use in future to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty, stop cross-border raids and curtail drone attacks.

By forcing Washington to back off, Pakistan conveyed several clear messages. Pakistan is no Afghanistan and could not be taken for granted; its sovereignty and its national boundaries must be respected; its patience also had limits despite its close alliance with the US; and carrying the war into this country of 175 million people would, after all, not be a piece of cake. It also carried the reminder that Pakistan’s assistance remained a key element in ISAF’s operations in Afghanistan and is dependent upon respect for its sensitivities.

Although US/NATO command pretends that alternate supply routes via Central Asian countries could be used, the fact is that this will involve massive airlifts and time delays and has not been found very viable.

Pakistan Defends its Sovereignty. May force drawdown of Foreign Troops in Afghanistan.

This episode also made clear that the term AF-PAK coined by the Americans was a misnomer and should not be misinterpreted to mean that Afghanistan and Pakistan can be lumped together by ISAF for operational purposes. Pakistan is a separate entity, a sovereign country, which jealously guards it geographical boundaries. The mandate that ISAF was given for Afghanistan neither applied to Pakistan nor could it be extended to it.

The resulting scenario might even influence Obama administration’s thinking towards the war in another way. US officials have concluded that the war will remain unwinnable unless Pakistan changes its policy towards suspected Taliban sanctuaries in FATA. But if Pakistan refuses to change its policy and persists with a firm stand like the one it took recently, and if this forces Washington to back off like it did now, this might strengthen President Obama’s hand in insisting on a drawdown of troops to begin in July 2011.

There are wide spread concerns about a spiraling rise in CIA drones strikes in Waziristan that are inflicting heavy casualties. For several years CIA drones have attacked targets within FATA that were labeled as insurgent sanctuaries. While the US calls every one killed to be a terrorist, the fact is that numerous innocent men, women and children have lost their lives or have been injured and maimed. The seething tribesmen who suffer these losses become Taliban sympathizers, some even joining their ranks. In the end, the backlash translates into growing militancy in Pakistan.

America indulges in Extra Judicial Killings in Pakistan

The US has no legal mandate for drone attacks within the borders of another sovereign country and these amount to state terrorism that is in grave violation of human rights and of international law. The Zardari government remains completely unresponsive. A former chief of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, has demanded of the Pakistan Air Force to shoot down US drones – sentiments that are widely shared by the people and the rank and file of the armed forces.

Word has been leaked by Zardari government that it follows an agreement between the former regime of President Musharraf and the US administration in allowing these attacks. Being an extremely important issue of public interest this agreement, if there is one, must be released to the public.

The government is bound by the Constitution to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens and is therefore under obligation to revoke this unlawful agreement, unilaterally if necessary, as it illegally allows a foreign government to slaughter non combatant Pakistani citizens on mere suspicion of being terrorists, without apportioning blame or giving them a fair trial.

And if the Zardari government deliberately turns a blind eye to the killings of its citizens by a foreign power in exchange for the $2 billion in US aid annually and tens of millions of dollars in “black” payments it receives from CIA, it becomes an accomplice in the extra judicial killings of its citizens and must be held accountable.

(Shahid is a free lance writer based in Lahore).

NOTE:This is a cross post.