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Kashmir and the Afghan withdrawal

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By Abdul Majid Zargar
TACSTRAT

In-spite of a massive force build-up and despite adoption of ” Shock & awe” theory and thousands of Drone attacks backed up by latest technology, a defeat stares in the face of America in Afghanistan. Its troop withdrawal plan by the end of 2014 is an organized retreat, if not a total surrender.

And this defeat has not made appearance out of thin air. Washington has known for years that it had no hope of destroying the Taliban, and that it would have to settle for compromise and a political solution with an indigenous insurgency that remains sufficiently popular to have survived the longest U.S. military occupation in history. It was also predicted by think tanks & defense experts alike long ago. A 2010 Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), report on Afghanistan predicted:”We have not yet achieved any meaningful form of positive strategic result from over nine years of war in Afghanistan and the conflict may end in a major grand strategic defeat.” Before dying, Richard Holbrooke admitted it, saying “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.” His signal was clear & unambiguous .It is another thing that Washington Post reinterpreted it, saying:”Holbrooke’s death is the latest complication in an effort plagued by unreliable partners, reluctant allies and an increasingly skeptical American public.”In 2012, a New York Times editorial wrote that the U.S. military has had to give up on hopes of inflicting enough pain on the Taliban to set favorable terms for a political settlement. Instead, it will be left up to the Afghan combatants to find their own political solution once the U.S. and its allies take themselves out of the fight.

War has its own vocabulary & dictionary. While its start heralds a destruction, its ends sprouts a hope. Hope not only for people who have been direct victims of war but also for region as a whole. It also emits signals which are taken as precedents for adoption by parties- to- conflict in a near or distant land. And America’s imminent defeat in Afghanistan is already emitting powerful signals that only a Gun can be answer to enforce a decision or solution, how-so-ever powerful the other party might be. It has rekindled a new hope among those propagating armed struggle in Kashmir as the only viable way to solve the long festering problem of Kashmir.

Kashmir is a geopolitical Gordian knot, interwoven by Indian and Pakistani intransigence .The real reason for the Indian State’s obsession with Kashmir is that ‘losing Kashmir’ (whatever that means) will make the Indian state look ‘weak’. For Pakistan the misconception is that Kashmir is its jugular vein ( again whatever that means). Both these narratives are devoid of genuine aspirations of people of J&K. Even after acquiring huge stockpile of nuclear arms both countries are distrustful & fearful of each other.

Kashmir is the longest standing dispute recognized by United Nations & International community. It is the highest militarized zone on earth and according to a fresh entry in the Guinness book of world records, nearly a million of soldiers are continuously staring at each other in a territory which is flanked by three nuclear armed countries. And supposedly the professional armies of both the countries have ceded space to communal & extremist elements within their ranks.

It is a drain on the hopes for prosperity, peace and freedom for people throughout the subcontinent, and the world. There is no moving toward peaceful coexistence between the two countries, no stabilization of the region, no possibility for global nuclear disarmament. This conflict has made a vast majority of population hostages in their own land and a tiny minority refugees in their own State. This conflict of last sixty years has brought so much of death & destruction to countless families that another sixty six years will be insufficient to heal their wounds. One fails to understand What exactly is their fault? Is it that they were born on the wrong side of the globe?

Let India & Pakistan start negotiations not out of fear but let they also not fear to negotiate. And before the signals emanating out of Afghanistan are translated into action by extreme elements, which only means further death & destruction, let those be pre-empted by both Countries finding a lasting solution to the problem by taking genuine representatives of Jammu &Kashmir on board and sooner this happens, the better it is.

Author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Email: abdulmajidzargar@gmail.com

America-Pakistan-India Triangle

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Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, who ironically enjoys the reputation of being American ambassador to Pakistan, based in Washington, has recently quipped, “The most hated country in Pakistan is our top trading partner, top aid donor, top weapon supplier and top remittance source”.

Significant reason behind this anomaly is the snowballing India-US nexus at the cost of Pakistan. De-hyphenating of India-Pakistan in American strategic calculus has indeed created more problems for America and this region than it intended to resolve. Obsession to sponsor the rise of India as a major player on Asian geopolitical canvas has severely curtailed American leverage over India; Obama dare not pronounce ‘K’ for Kashmir once again!

Barrack Obama’s visit to India had left a negative impact on the whole region which has been reinforced by Hillary’s recent rhetoric. By prompting India to bite more than it could chew, America is well on its way to sow the seeds of perpetual destabilization of this region at the expense of China as well as India itself.

While in the past America played effective role to diffuse Pak-India tensions and did not allow the matters to degenerate into tactical showdown, it also winked its eye to allow India maintain strategic pressures through military deployments, diplomatic manoeuvres and resource squeezing.

Pakistan and America differ considerably on issues of vital interest to Pakistan; nuclear policy, energy acquisition from Iran and China, end game in Afghanistan, Kashmir conflict etc are some major areas of divergence. Most of these issues are intricately liked to India. Hence a Pakistan-India-America triangle has emerged; a sort of re-hyphenation in a crude form.

America retains a cunning balancing leverage between India and Pakistan; and uses the pressure points aptly to make Pakistan and India do American bidding.

Recently the US lawmakers have rejected the bill regarding stoppage of aid to Pakistan but have agreed to attach strings. Public opinion is gaining strength that stringed aid may be refused and to make up for the loss, Pakistan should proportionately enhance the transit fee on American supply containers and also impose transit fee on aircraft destined for Afghan war zone through Pakistan.

America frequently partners Indian effort in maintaining a high pitched tirade against Pakistan’s armed force and the ISI; this has scaled new heights since the cowardly Abbottabad attack. All guns are being directed against Pakistan. Political leadership is being spared of any wrong doing with a clear objective of creating a wedge between the political and military echelons of national leadership.

Timed with Hillary’s recent visit, Americans took a well calculated step to appease India by arresting Kashmiri American Council President, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai. Indian reaction was of joy. Arrest is a setback to the legitimate rights of the people of Kashmir, specially their struggle for self-determination. Pakistani government showed an angry response. Foreign office announced that “A demarche was made to the US embassy in Islamabad to register the concerns, in particular the slander campaign against Pakistan.”

To mitigate the defeat in Afghanistan, the US is working overtime to shift the blame for every wrong to Pakistan. To consolidate towards this end, America is all set to involve India in Afghanistan, militarily. While in India, Hillary Clinton sought to reassure India that the United States has no plan to cut and run when it comes to Afghanistan. Indeed Hillary was bluffing,

those familiar with Obama administration’s thinking are of the view that White House wants to be able to point to concrete achievements in the country in the run-up to 2012 elections, while wrapping things up in Afghanistan “at any cost”.

In the context of terrorism, India needs to understand that militants are well-organised from Somalia to Afghanistan and from Central Asian Republics to the Occupied Kashmir.

International security analysts are already predicting that India is on the brink of becoming a battle ground of these trans-national groups. Outreach of these elements is much broader than Pakistan’s logical capacity to handle them; even America is unable to contain them. Pakistan has already proposed setting up of SAARC police for pooling up regional resources for this purpose.

Hillary Clinton played another pressure card by projecting India as the leading power in Asia. This effort was launched to coax India into a proxy role to counterbalance China. Hillary called upon India to become a more assertive leader in Asia, in South-East Asia, the Pacific Rim, in Central Asia and Pacific Ocean.

The fact is that India is having a hard time holding its own in its immediate neighbourhood, as China is expanding its links with Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal. Hence, to expect India to match China in South-East Asia and the Pacific Rim, where China has built-in advantages, is a pipe dream. India will remain cautious while siding with Americans against the Chinese. It needs China’s nod to realise its aspiration for a permanent UNSC berth.

Under these settings, the fate of Pak-India foreign minister level talks was correctly pre-judged by the analysts of India and Pakistan. There was unanimity of opinion that parleys would remain at the cosmetic level, routines would be discussed and core issues would be sidestepped. Travel, trade, terrorism etc would be in forefront; water and Kashmir in the background.

Mumbai would be highlighted and ‘Samjhota Express’ would get a passing mention. Matters have moved the same way. Nevertheless, some functional dialogue process is always better than none.

In an upbeat assessment after their meeting, Indian Foreign Minister said ties were back “on the right track,” while Pakistani Foreign Minister spoke of a “new era” of cooperation. Nevertheless, there was little in the way of substantive agreements to back up the general mood of optimism. Joint statement was monotonous, envisaging a general bilateral effort to combat terrorism, increase trade and keep the peace dialogue going.

One must understand that now America is in the driving seat of Pak-India interactions; talks are likely to follow the pattern of ‘sound good solve nothing’. After all America has a long experience of sponsoring futile dialogue like process between Palestine and Israel. It remains for India and Pakistan not to get locked into a zero sum game. Both countries need to strengthen their bilateral institutions to absorb the sporadic crises and move on.

Indian parliament attack – what it achieved for India

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By Momin Iftikhar

It might have been overshadowed by the Mumbai terrorist strike in Nov 2008 but attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 Dec 2001, on all accounts, remains a watershed in the jerky evolution of Indo-Pak relations, particularly in shaping the course of the Kashmir resistance movement. With the only accused awarded death penalty still awaiting the disposal of his mercy petition, the nine year old incident in which five unidentified gunmen attacked the building of the Indian Parliament, remains a happening thing, yet to be finally wrapped up.

All the five attackers were killed during the attack while four persons were arrested on charges of abetting the attackers as facilitators. These included Mohammad Afzal, a former JKLF militant who had surrendered in 1994, his cousin Shaukat Hussain Guru, Shaukat’s wife Afsan Guru and SA R Gilani, a lecturer of Arabic at the Delhi University. After a year of trial a POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) Court found all four guilty; awarding death sentence to men while Afsan was given five years’ rigorous imprisonment. On appeal the Delhi High Court acquitted Professor SA.R. Gilani and Afsan Guru on 29 Oct 2003 due to absence of incriminating evidence while upholding the death sentence for the remaining two. The case was raised to the Supreme Court, which in its verdict on Aug 3, 2005 lifted the death sentence for Shaukat leaving him with an imprisonment of ten years while confirming the death sentence for Afzal Guru. It is Afzal, the ultimate fall guy of the incident, who awaits the hangman’s noose pending the disposal of his mercy petition by the President of India for the sixth year running.

Coming within hundred days of the September 11 strike, the Parliament attack seemed fortuitous from an Indian foreign policy perspective; tightly following a well scripted narrative. Two aspects had made this charade compelling for India. First, the Taliban rout by US had opened new vistas for exploitation for India in its search for a foothold in Afghanistan. A marked Indian advantage was the coming to power of an anti Taliban Government in Kabul, lifted into saddle by authority of UN-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany. The new leadership comprised primarily of the Northern Alliance elements- a motley assortment of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara warlords whose desperate survival in face of the Taliban onslaught had only been made possible by a no-holds-barred Indo-Iranian support. Pakistan’s west flank stood exposed and India was bent upon making most of the unexpected opportunity by exploiting Pakistan’s proximity to the Taliban to project it as sponsor of terrorism.

Second; India wanted to use the windfall opportunity to paint the freedom struggle in Kashmir with the broad red brush of terrorism. Pakistan’s emergence as an indispensable US partner in the war on terror in Afghanistan didn’t augur well for the Indian designs. There was a need to not only shift the international anti terrorist spotlight on Pakistan itself but also on the Kashmir specific militant organizations whose claims to represent the internationally sanctioned cause of self determination bestowed upon them the status of freedom fighters – a mantle which chagrined India much.

Once the parliament attack materialized India developed the scenario with the alacrity of a preplanned war game. Within hours it had accused ISI – and Pakistan Government of complicity without the benefit of any supporting evidence. For the first time in thirty years it recalled its ambassador to Pakistan. It also ended rail and bus service between the two countries and banned Pakistani commercial aircraft use of India air space. In a most alarming gesture it started the mobilization of troops within a week of the incident along the entire 1800 miles border between the two countries, confronting Pakistan with the largest ever hostile concentration of forces.

The ratcheting up of the coercive diplomacy yielded tangible results for India. On 26 December the US responded by the addition of LeT and JeM, both Kashmir centric militant organizations, to a State Department list of “designated terrorist organizations” – a momentous step that Washington had apparently been trying to avoid. This US action reinforced India’s long sought position that supporting the Kashmiri armed struggle was illegitimate. As summarized by the New York Times; “Pakistan after 50 years of battling India over Kashmir, must now abandon the armed struggle there and rely hence forth on political means of confronting India.”

To divest the Kashmiri armed struggle of its indigenous moorings the term “cross border terrorism” began to circulate immediately following the attack and became inseparable component of any Indian diplomatic interaction related to Kashmir Issue. It is worth recalling that till then Indians had not referred to decade long uprising in Kashmir as terrorism. The Lahore Declaration signed by Indian Premier Vajpaee bears ample testimony to this fact. But following 9/11 the world changed and the line separating freedom struggle from terrorism had vanished, providing India with a great opportunity to project itself as a victim of terrorism instead of being an unabashed oppressor of Kashmiri population.

Immediately following the parliament attack India unleashed a reign of terror to break the back of Kashmiri resistance. To drive home the ‘victim of terror syndrome’, it managed to airlift hundreds of Taliban fighters from Afghanistan jails and used them as clay pigeons to conduct fake encounters in IHK; cashing in on India’s long association with Northern Alliance warlords, now in power in Kabul. The trend become deeply embedded in the Indian army culture whereby fake encounters in Kashmir have become the short cut for the up and coming ambitious Indian army officers intent upon securing a promising career.

India accused Pakistan for it and treated the attack on the Indian parliament as a casus belli; taking the subcontinent to the brink of a war. It would be interesting, though, to note as to what the Indian judicial system found out after four years of deliberations. The Indian Supreme Court, in its verdict of Aug 2005 cast aside charges of a ‘Pakistani Connection’; throwing overboard the story of conspiracy linking ISI, Masood Azhar, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Ghazi Baba, Tariq, and the rest. All that the judgment refers to is that five unidentified armed men attacked Indian parliament and died, and that Mohammad Afzal participated in the conspiracy. Sadly, this aspect has gone unnoticed in India by design and the world at large by default.

Obama stands by US support for Pakistan

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RAHUL BEDI

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has defended Washington’s support for Pakistan and said India was the country with the biggest stake in Islamabad’s stability.


President Obama meets schoolchildren as he visit Humayuns Tomb in New Delhi yesterday.

“My hope is that, over time, trust develops between the two countries, that dialogue begins, perhaps on less controversial issues, building up to more controversial issues,” he told college students in India’s western port city of Bombay (Mumbai) yesterday, on the second day of his three-day visit to India.

Mr Obama, who faces a diplomatic tightrope in fostering ties with India as its economic and geopolitical importance grows while at the same time helping Pakistan with billions of dollars in aid and weaponry, told the students the US could not impose peace on the neighbouring nuclear rivals.

“There are more Pakistanis who’ve been killed by terrorists inside Pakistan than probably anywhere else,” Mr Obama stated, in the city besieged for nearly three days by 10 gunmen from Pakistan almost exactly two years ago.

Many Bombay residents and siege survivors were disappointed with Mr Obama’s remarks, which they considered over conciliatory towards Pakistan.

Mr Obama added that the US had reaffirmed its partnership with Pakistan along with its willingness to help Islamabad stamp out terrorism, but progress had not been as quick as many wanted.

Many Indian officials privately admitted to being frustrated with Mr Obama for not being forthright in condemning Pakistan and its military and intelligence establishment for “sponsoring” terrorism.

The president reiterated his intention to bring US troops home from Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011, depending on ground conditions. He said he supported efforts by the Afghan government to reconcile with current and former Taliban members who agreed to sever ties with al-Qaeda, renounce violence and support their country’s constitution.

Addressing his domestic situation, Mr Obama declared he needed to initiate “mid-course corrections” if he was to win over a frustrated electorate and work with newly empowered Republicans.

However, he said he would not change his determination to move the US forward by investing in education, infrastructure and clean energy, despite mounting pressure in Washington to cut spending.

Mr Obama said the US mid-term elections reflected the “right, obligation and duty” of voters to express their unhappiness with his administration by voting out many incumbents, the majority of whom were Democrats, like Obama.

He said the outcome of his “mid-course corrections” over the coming months would depend on talks with Republicans, who last week won control of the House and eroded the Democrats’ Senate majority.

The Republicans also made major gains at state level, changing the political landscape as Obama looks ahead to his own re-election in 2012.

While her husband’s comments on Pakistan annoyed Indian officials and analysts, Michelle Obama won kudos from the Indian media and Mumbai residents by kicking off her shoes and played a boisterous game of hopscotch with under-privileged children on Saturday and later dancing with gusto with them to a ritzy Bollywood tune. Mr Obama joined in the dance, sportingly jumping around and making awkward movements with his arms.

Later in the day the Obamas arrived in Delhi, where they were received by Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, who broke with protocol to personally greet the US president.

6 NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan

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Focus Information Agency

Kabul: A total of six NATO soldiers were killed in attacks in Afghanistan on Wednesday, four of them in a bomb explosion in the insurgent-hit south of the country, the alliance said, AFP reports.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gave no further details of the four soldiers’ deaths in the blast, saying it was a matter of policy not to identify the nationalities of casualties.

The coalition had earlier announced that a soldier was killed in another bomb attack, as military deaths hit new record highs since the war began in 2001.
The sixth soldier died fighting rebels in eastern Afghanistan, the force said.

Afghan Balkanisation: creating more Kashmirs

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By Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat

Normally, when a person faces a serious problem and odds are heavily stacked against him, he takes desperate measures. Some of these measures could be so shocking and scandalous, which instead of helping him out of quagmire land him in another sticky situation, much more serious than the first one. On a grander scale, the same applies to organisations, governments and institutions as well. Consider the idea put up by Robert Blackwell, former US ambassador to India. He recently admitted that the Obama administration’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan seems headed for failure. Blackwell, who was the US deputy national security adviser for strategic planning and presidential envoy to Iraq in the administration of President George Bush, proposed: “Given the alternatives, de facto partition of Afghanistan is the best policy option available to the United States and its allies.” One may assume what he really meant was: “The great US of A can’t win the war. So, let us divide Afghanistan into Pashtun, Uzbek and Tajik areas. Create ethnic and sectarian strife on a large scale. Pit the Afghans against one another. Abandon the Pashtun areas and let’s settle the US forces in safer Tajik or Uzbek enclaves.”

The proposal is outrageous to say the least. This brings certain questions to one’s mind. How in the 21st Century could a foreign country, after invading another sovereign country and then finding it unable to conquer it, decide to divide it? Is this not against what the American founding fathers preached, the UN’s charter and human rights of individuals to name a few.
Would any such proposal not strongly opposed by the Afghans themselves, who have been living together for centuries? Most Afghan provinces have mixed populations and there are hundreds of thousands of mixed marriages among different ethnic groups. What would happen to them? While their country has been ravaged by a civil war, would the Afghans remain silent spectators to their country’s division?

Will it not be a stark admission of failure of mighty American forces? What respect would they have been left with if they implement the idea? Would it be economically, socially and militarily feasible to form new states in Afghanistan? Would the newly formed Afghan states survive in the long term?

Wouldn’t the step further inflame the regional situation? What would be the reaction of Russia, the Central Asian States, China and Iran to the proposal? Most importantly, what would be the impact on Pakistan? Would not all Jihadis and Al-qaeda shift from Fata to the Pakhtun areas in Afghanistan and launch attacks on Pashtun and Tajik entities? Wouldn’t the proposed unnatural Tajik and Uzbek states fall to the Pashtun majority in the long term? How long will the US continue to fund them? The Blackwell proposal has extremely serious implications for the region.

One hopes that sanity would prevail and President Obama, despite his falling popularity and deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, does not adopt such a radical strategy after Afghanistan review in December 2010.

U.S. Tries to Calm Pakistan Over Airstrike

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By: HELENE COOPER & ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration scrambled to halt a sharp deterioration in its troubled relationship with Pakistan on Wednesday, offering Pakistani officials multiple apologies for a helicopter strike on a border post that killed three Pakistani soldiers last week.


Militant gunmen in Nowshera, Pakistan, attacked a convoy of NATO oil tankers that were headed to Afghanistan on Wednesday.

But even as the White House tried to mollify Pakistan, officials acknowledged that the uneasy allies faced looming tensions over a host of issues far larger than the airstrike and the subsequent closing of supply lines into Afghanistan.

American pressure to show progress in Afghanistan is translating into increased pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups. It is also running up against Pakistan’s sensitivity about its sovereignty and its determination to play a crucial role in any reconciliation with the Taliban.

American and NATO officials said privately that the Pakistani government’s closing of a crucial border crossing might have made it easier for militants to attack backed-up tanker trucks carrying fuel through Pakistan to Afghanistan to support the American war effort.

Still, the unusual apologies, officials and outside analysts said, were intended to clear away the debris from the explosive events along the border, in hopes of maintaining Pakistani cooperation.

“We have historically had astonishing sources of resilience in our relations with Pakistan,” said Teresita Schaffer, a South Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “One should not too quickly assume we’re in a breakpoint. But having said that, the time we’re in right now, the intensity of anti-American feeling, the antipathy of militants, all of these things make new crises a little more complicated to get through than the old ones were.”

The overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, has been pulling out all the stops – aggressively using the American troop buildup, greatly expanding Special Operations raids (as many as a dozen commando raids a night) and pressing the Central Intelligence Agency to ramp up Predator and Reaper drone operations in Pakistan.

He has also, through the not-so-veiled threat of cross-border ground operations, put pressure on the Pakistani Army to pursue militants in the tribal areas even as the army has continued to struggle with relief from the catastrophic floods this summer.

The fragility of Pakistan – and the tentativeness of the alliance – were underscored in a White House report to Congress this week, which sharply criticized the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and other insurgents and noted the ineffectiveness of its civilian government.

American officials lined up to placate Pakistan on intrusions of its sovereignty. General Petraeus offered Pakistan the most explicit American mea culpa yet for the cross-border helicopter strikes, saying that the American-led coalition forces “deeply regret” the “tragic loss of life.”

Anne W. Patterson, the American ambassador to Pakistan, quickly followed suit, calling “Pakistan’s brave security forces” an important ally in the war. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a private, but official, apology to Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in a telephone call on Wednesday afternoon.

Both American and Pakistani officials said that they expected that Wednesday’s apologies would be effective, at least in the short term, and that Pakistan would soon reopen the border crossing at Torkham, a supply route for the NATO coalition in landlocked Afghanistan that runs from the port of Karachi to the Khyber region. The Pakistani government closed that route last week to protest the cross-border strikes.

“It’s obvious that the situation right now ain’t good,” said a senior NATO official, who agreed to speak candidly but only anonymously. “The best thing we could do is to strip away as many of the relatively smaller things as possible so we can focus on the big issues. And crazy as it may seem, the border crossing is a relatively small issue, compared to the others.”

Those other issues were flagged in the latest quarterly report from the White House to Congress on developments in the region. The assessment, first reported in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, takes aim at both the Pakistani military and the government.

For instance, “the Pakistani military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda forces in North Waziristan,” the report said. It also painted Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, as out of touch with his own populace, a disconnect that the report said was exacerbated by Mr. Zardari’s “decision to travel to Europe despite the floods.” The overall Pakistani response to the catastrophic floods this summer, the report said, was viewed by Pakistanis as “slow and inadequate.”

Frustration with Pakistan is growing in the United States in part because “we’re living in the post-Faisal Shahzad era,” said Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the Pakistani-American who was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for the attempted Times Square bombing.

Mr. Markey said that tensions among counterterrorism officials had also mounted because of the unspecified threats of terrorist attacks in Europe. “Frustration has really mounted, so the drumbeat is getting louder,” he said.

Making things worse, the administration is expected to brief Congressional officials on an Internet video, which surfaced last week, that showed men in Pakistani military uniforms executing six young men in civilian clothes, underscoring concerns about unlawful killings by Pakistani soldiers supported by the United States.

A prominent House Democrat warned on Wednesday that American aid to Pakistan could be imperiled. “I am appalled by the horrific contents of the recent video, which appears to show extrajudicial killings by the Pakistani military,” Representative Howard L. Berman, a California Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

“The failure of Pakistani officials to punish those responsible could have implications for future security assistance to Pakistan,” he said.

A joint Pakistan-NATO inquiry on the helicopter strike concluded on Wednesday that Pakistani border soldiers who initially fired on NATO helicopters were “simply firing warning shots after hearing the nearby engagement and hearing the helicopters flying nearby,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy M. Zadalis, a NATO spokesman, in a statement.

“This tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force coordination with the Pakistani military,” he said.

Talk to the Haqqanis, before it’s too late

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Last month Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief Northern Ireland negotiator, argued that “no group should be beyond talking to.” In the context of the current crisis and a shift towards seeking a peace deal in Afghanistan, this is particularly salient. President Hamid Karzai has recently announced the creation of a commission to lead talks with the Taliban. There is also emerging consensus in Washington that stability in Afghanistan can only be achieved by reaching some sort of a political settlement with the Taliban. But not talking to particular insurgent groups will not be a good idea, and a reliance on a policy of “decapitating” them is even worse.

One group that should not “be beyond talking to” is the Haqqani network, named for its leader Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, and now considered one of the most feared insurgent groups in Afghanistan. The network is responsible for attacks against the Afghan government, the U.S. military, and the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Perhaps because of this central role in the Afghan insurgency, in July, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke asserted that the Haqqanis are the Taliban network with the closest ties to al Qaeda and that dealing with them is ‘the most pressing task’ in combating the insurgency. Despite their alleged links to international terrorists, even Secretary Clinton has not ruled out supporting dialogue with them (with caveats). These comments suggest the door on the U.S. side may soon be slightly ajar. However, having spent the past six years talking with members of the network, including some of its senior members, it would appear that the Haqqani’s door is currently open for talks but may soon be firmly shut. The Haqqani network is in the midst of a generational power shift from father to son, which if completed will all but rule out any future talk of peace.

In June 2007, well before the Haqqani terrorist network had found its way into headlines in the western media, chatter spread through the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan that the aging and ill Jalaluddin — insurgent leader, client of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), facilitator of Osama bin Laden’s 2001 escape into Pakistan — had passed away, reportedly due to hepatitis. The intelligence community picked up on this rumor but quickly disproved it. At the time of this report I was living in the tribal areas of southeast Afghanistan and wrote a report titled “Jalaluddin Haqqani: Dead, Alive, Does it Matter?” In short the answer is yes and no. Yes, because had he died at the time, it would have left the network more vulnerable than at anytime since its emergence in late 2004. And no, because today the Haqqanis have nearly completed what could be best described as ‘succession planning’ resulting in a powerful network that many believe jeopardizes Afghanistan’s stability

It is well known that for almost a decade he has suffered from health problems and requires regular medical attention rendering him relatively inactive in the day-to-day workings of the insurgency. Furthermore, as a senior insurgent commander (and former Taliban Minister), Maulavi Haqqani’s profile as a “most wanted” does not permit travel to the Afghan battle space. Consequently, his 36-year-old son Sirajuddin (aka “Khalifa”) has increasingly taken over, with gusto, operational command of his father’s network.

However, these limitations speak nothing of the influence Maulavi Haqqani continues to enjoy as a tribal leader, religious scholar, ISI associate and close ally of Gulf Arab financiers. Indeed, the success of the Haqqani network rests with these social/religious/political connections that Maulavi Haqqani has carefully nurtured over the past 30-plus years; indeed, it was these very factors that also made him so popular with the CIA during the anti-Soviet jihad). It can be assumed that these networks, particularly with Arab financiers and the ISI, have been “inherited” by Sirajuddin. However, the same cannot be said about Maulavi Haqqani’s tribal, religious and mujahideen credentials. Sirajuddin is in his early 30’s, grew up in Miram Shah, Pakistan and, prior to 2001, only occasionally traveled to his native village of Garde Serai, nestled in the rugged mountains of Paktia province. In Miram Shah he was involved in Islamic Studies but, unlike his father, did not graduate from a prestigious madrassah and is too young to have been a well-known fighter during the anti-Soviet jihad.

Hence, the very elements that have contributed to the success of Maulavi Haqqani’s activities in eastern Afghanistan (and that could be used to assist in a peace process) — his personal influence as a tribal leader, mujahideen commander and religious elder — will be lost after he dies or passes control to Siraj.

Moreover, the respect of Maulavi Haqqani within Afghanistan as a mujahideen leader is matched by the respect he derives from being a prominent tribal and religious elder. As a result, it has been difficult for the various Zadran sub tribes of Paktia, Paktika and Khost to actively oppose his network’s activities in their respective tribal regions.

Indeed, today the Haqqani network is spreading its influence geographically into areas previously dominated by other insurgent groups (such as the Mansoor network in Zurmat district of Paktia). It has also, for the first time since the beginning of the Haqqani-led insurgency in late 2004-early 2005, recently embarked upon the systematic targeting and killing of moderate tribal leaders from within the Zadran tribe. This all looks like succession planning. Tactically, Sirajuddin must know that when his father dies (be it of natural causes or otherwise), the tribes would certainly be better positioned to oppose him, should they choose (and be empowered) to do so.

Added to this equation is the knowledge that U.S. pressure on Islamabad to tackle the Haqqani network could see their safe havens in North Waziristan come under increased pressure in the future. Maulavi Haqqani had the necessary contacts and influence to navigate his way through policy shifts in Islamabad. A question mark remains over whether Siraj, in the absence of his father, would be as adept at maneuvering between possible future policy shifts.

The time is ripe, therefore, for a dialogue to take place, one that will be easier to negotiate while the older generation of fighters that knows the benefits of peace is still alive. From my discussions with representatives of Maulavi Haqqani, he still claims to be fighting in Afghanistan for ‘peace.’ Sirajuddin, on the other hand, does not know the meaning of the word. He has been brought up in war, has never lived as a citizen of a functioning nation state, has little to no experience of government, is not a tribal elder and is not even a credible religious leader. In this regard he is motivated more by a radical Islamist ideology than his father, and less obviously constrained by a desire to maintain good relations with the local tribal leaders.

For example, on a visit to Afghanistan this year I met with a prominent Zadran tribesman who had returned from North Waziristan the previous week and had spent the night with Siraj. He had taken a message to the commander that the latter’s insurgent activities in the Zadran tribal area were having negative consequences for his fellow tribesman. Upon relaying this message, the elder was informed by Siraj that he was welcome to stay the night and receive his hospitality but that if he ever returned again with such a message he would not leave with his head on his shoulders. Such a blunt message to a respected Zadran tribal elder could not and would not have come from his father.

Despite appearances, my years of working closely with various tribal and religious leaders of the Zadran tribe has convinced me that there is a pro-peace middle majority that has hitherto been marginalized by the political process, the military intervention in the region and the insurgency. Sadly, some of the best of these leaders have already been targeted by the insurgents or have wrongfully been detained by the International Military Forces. Unless greater security and political space is afforded to the current Zadran tribal and religious leadership in Paktia, Paktika and Khost, the outcome of the Haqqani network’s succession planning will go ahead unchallenged.

In order to prevent this scenario from transpiring the United States must make a clear distinction between the current Haqqani network and al Qaeda. The Haqqani network is an Afghan network focused on Afghanistan. There is no evidence that the objective of the Haqqani network is to support an international jihadist agenda. To this end, Washington and Kabul should embark upon a policy of engagement (as part of a broader political outreach effort to all various elements of the Taliban) to separate the two. Locally, U.S. forces must pay greater attention to the local tribal dynamics as part of its counterinsurgency approach. In the southeast, this should include support to the tribal police (or arbakai) and ensuring that the pro-peace tribal majority is not subjected to intimidation, detention (or worse) by the international military presence.

However, should we fail to capitalize on this opportunity for dialogue, a more radical network, combined with the absence of the tribal and religious constraints that Maulavi Haqqani must regularly negotiate, will mark the beginning of a new, more violent generation of the insurgency in eastern Afghanistan. And this new insurgency will leave no prospects for dialogue or peace.

‘Betrayed Pakistan doesn’t trust us’

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WASHINGTON: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US and Pakistan can resolve issues that led to the closure of a major supply route for US and Nato operations in Afghanistan, and he hasn’t yet seen any major impact from the closure.

The US military has analysed the situation to determine what the effects would be if the route was closed for a longer period, the Admiral told reporters between speaking engagements this week in Tucson, Arizona, but officials are hoping such a closure can be averted, the Pentagon reported on Sunday.

“I believe we will figure a way to work our way through this,” Mullen said, emphasising Pakistanís importance as a strategic partner. Mullen, who has visited Pakistan 20 times since taking the top military post in 2007, said the United States had been working to rebuild Pakistani trust. How thatís resolved, hesaid, will go a long way towards shaping the future US-Pakistani relationship.

Pakistan closed the crossing at Torkham Gate along its northwestern border with Afghanistan after Nato helicopters ‘mistakenly’ killed several Pakistani border guards September 30, the Pentagon news report said.

“We left them in a dark hole from about 1990 to 2002, and they donít trust us,” the US military leader said. “We are trying to rebuild that trust. And itís basically coming, but you donít rebuild it overnight,” Mullen remarked.

This effort, Mullen noted, comes at a time of enormous challenge for Pakistan, whose border with Afghanistan, he claimed, is the epicenter of terrorism. This summer’s unprecedented monsoon flooding – that submerged one fifth of the country’s land and affected around 21 million people – has compounded Pakistanís struggles.

They have just been devastated, said Mullen, who toured flood-stricken areas of Pakistan last month with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff. Meanwhile, the American military continues to provide relief to flood victims in northwestern Pakistan. US military aid operations began August 5 with Army helicopters from Afghanistan delivering supplies and rescuing those trapped by flooding.

Marine helicopters from the USS Peleliu replaced the Army aircraft, and together they have delivered more than 8 million pounds or relief supplies, reported Department of Defense spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan.

Air Force C-130s and C-17s have been delivering aid since Aug. 16. As of last week, airmen have delivered more than 5.5 million pounds of aid. This brings the total to almost 13.7 million pounds of aid, Lapan said.

The US military aircraft have rescued more than 20,000 displaced Pakistanis, the Pentagon said. Flood relief efforts continue, Lapan said. It has not been curbed, but there are ongoing discussions about what the need is, because there are now roads open that were not previously.

Key Karzai Aide in Graft Inquiry Is Linked to C.I.A.

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KABUL, Afghanistan – The aide to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at the center of a politically sensitive corruption investigation is being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Afghan and American officials.


Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts met last Saturday in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Kerry said he believed that he had won a commitment from the Afghan president to allow an American-backed anticorruption unit to work unhindered.

Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for the National Security Council, appears to have been on the payroll for many years, according to officials in Kabul and Washington. It is unclear exactly what Mr. Salehi does in exchange for his money, whether providing information to the spy agency, advancing American views inside the presidential palace, or both.

Mr. Salehi’s relationship with the C.I.A. underscores deep contradictions at the heart of the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, with American officials simultaneously demanding that Mr. Karzai root out the corruption that pervades his government while sometimes subsidizing the very people suspected of perpetrating it.

Mr. Salehi was arrested in July and released after Mr. Karzai intervened. There has been no suggestion that Mr. Salehi’s ties to the C.I.A. played a role in his release; rather, officials say, it is the fear that Mr. Salehi knows about corrupt dealings inside the Karzai administration.

The ties underscore doubts about how seriously the Obama administration intends to fight corruption here. The anticorruption drive, though strongly backed by the United States, is still vigorously debated inside the administration. Some argue it should be a centerpiece of American strategy, and others say that attacking corrupt officials who are crucial to the war effort could destabilize the Karzai government.

The Obama administration is also racing to show progress in Afghanistan by December, when the White House will evaluate its mission there. Some administration officials argue that any comprehensive campaign to fight corruption inside Afghanistan is overly ambitious, with less than a year to go before the American military is set to begin withdrawing troops.

“Fighting corruption is the very definition of mission creep,” one Obama administration official said.

Others in the administration view public corruption as the single greatest threat to the Afghan government and the American mission; it is the corrupt nature of the Karzai government, these officials say, that drives ordinary Afghans into the arms of the Taliban. Other prominent Afghans who American officials have said were on the C.I.A.’s payroll include the president’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, suspected by investigators of playing a role in Afghanistan’s booming opium trade. Earlier this year, American officials did not press Mr. Karzai to remove his brother from his post as the chairman of the Kandahar provincial council. Mr. Karzai denies any monetary relationship with the C.I.A. and any links to the drug trade.

Mr. Salehi was arrested by the Afghan police after, investigators say, they wiretapped him soliciting a bribe – in the form of a car for his son – in exchange for impeding an American-backed investigation into a company suspected of shipping billions of dollars out of the country for Afghan officials, drug smugglers and insurgents.

Mr. Salehi was released seven hours later, after telephoning Mr. Karzai from his jail cell to demand help, officials said, and after Mr. Karzai forcefully intervened on his behalf.

The president sent aides to get him and has since threatened to limit the power of the anticorruption unit that carried out the arrest. Mr. Salehi could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. A spokesman for President Karzai did not respond to a list of questions sent to his office, including whether Mr. Karzai knew that Mr. Salehi was a C.I.A. informant.

A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to comment on any relationship with Mr. Salehi.

“The C.I.A. works hard to advance the full range of U.S. policy objectives in Afghanistan,” said Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the agency. “Reckless allegations from anonymous sources don’t change that reality in the slightest.”

An American official said the practice of paying government officials was sensible, even if they turn out to be corrupt or unsavory.

“If we decide as a country that we’ll never deal with anyone in Afghanistan who might down the road – and certainly not at our behest – put his hand in the till, we can all come home right now,” the American official said. “If you want intelligence in a war zone, you’re not going to get it from Mother Teresa or Mary Poppins.”

Last week, Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, flew to Kabul in part to discuss the Salehi case with Mr. Karzai. In an interview afterward, Mr. Kerry expressed concern about Mr. Salehi’s ties to the American government. Mr. Kerry appeared to allude to the C.I.A., though he did not mention it.

“We are going to have to examine that relationship,” Mr. Kerry said. “We are going to have to look at that very carefully.”

Mr. Kerry said he pressed Mr. Karzai to allow the anticorruption unit pursuing Mr. Salehi and others to move forward unhindered, and said he believed he had secured a commitment from him to do so.

“Corruption matters to us,” a senior Obama administration official said. “The fact that Salehi may have been on our payroll does not necessarily change any of the basic issues here.”

Mr. Salehi is a political survivor, who, like many Afghans, navigated shifting alliances through 31 years of war. He is a former interpreter for Abdul Rashid Dostum, the ethnic Uzbek with perhaps the most ruthless reputation among all Afghan warlords.

Mr. Dostum, a Karzai ally, was one of the C.I.A.’s leading allies on the ground in Afghanistan in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The agency employed his militia to help rout the Taliban from northern Afghanistan.

Over the course of the nine-year-old war, the C.I.A. has enmeshed itself in the inner workings of Afghanistan’s national security establishment. From 2002 until just last year, the C.I.A. paid the entire budget of Afghanistan’s spy service, the National Directorate of Security.

Mr. Salehi often acts as a courier of money to other Afghans, according to an Afghan politician who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation.

Among the targets of the continuing Afghan anticorruption investigation is a secret fund of cash from which payments were made to various individuals, officials here said.

Despite Mr. Salehi’s status as a low-level functionary, the Afghan politician predicted that Mr. Karzai would never allow his prosecution to go forward, whatever the pressure from the United States. Mr. Salehi knows too much about the inner workings of the palace, he said.

“Karzai will protect him,” the politician said, “because by going after him, you are opening the gates.”

Mr. Salehi is a confidant of some of the most powerful people in the Afghan government, including Engineer Ibrahim, who until recently was the deputy chief of the Afghan intelligence service. Earlier this year, Mr. Salehi accompanied Mr. Ibrahim to Dubai to meet leaders of the Taliban to explore prospects for peace, according to a prominent Afghan with knowledge of the meeting.

Mr. Salehi was arrested last month in the course of a sprawling investigation into New Ansari, a money transfer firm that relies on couriers and other rudimentary means to move cash in and out of Afghanistan.

New Ansari was founded in the 1990s when the Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan. In the years since 2001, New Ansari grew into one of the most important financial hubs in Afghanistan, transferring billions of dollars in cash for prominent Afghans out of the country, most of it to Dubai.

New Ansari’s offices were raided by Afghan agents, with American backing, in January. An American official familiar with the investigation said New Ansari appeared to have been transferring money for wealthy Afghans of every sort, including politicians, insurgents and drug traffickers.

“They were moving money for everybody,” the American official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The flow of capital out of Afghanistan is so large that it makes up a substantial portion of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. In an interview, a United Arab Emirates customs official said it received about $1 billion from Afghanistan in 2009. But the American official said the amount might be closer to $2.5 billion – about a quarter of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product.

Much of the New Ansari cash was carried by couriers flying from Kabul and Kandahar, usually to Dubai, where many Afghan officials maintain second homes and live in splendorous wealth.

An American official familiar with the investigation said the examination of New Ansari’s books was providing rich insights into the culture of Afghan corruption.

“It’s a gold mine,” the official said.

Following the arrest, Mr. Salehi called Mr. Karzai directly from his cell to demand that he be freed. Mr. Karzai twice sent delegations to the detention center where Mr. Salehi was held. After seven hours, Mr. Salehi was let go.

Afterward, Gen. Nazar Mohammed Nikzad, the head of the Afghan unit investigating Mr. Salehi, was summoned to the Presidential Palace and asked by Mr. Karzai to explain his actions.

“Everything is lawful and by the book,” a Western official said of the Afghan anticorruption investigators. “They gather the evidence, they get the warrant signed off – and then the plug gets pulled every time.”

This is not the first time that Afghan prosecutors have run into resistance when they have tried to pursue an Afghan official on corruption charges related to New Ansari.

Sediq Chekari, the minister for Hajj and Religious Affairs, was allowed to flee the country as investigators prepared to charge him with accepting bribes in exchange for steering business to tour operators who ferry people to Saudi Arabia each year. Mr. Chekari fled to Britain, officials said. Afghanistan’s attorney general issued an arrest warrant through Interpol.

American officials say a key player in the scandal is Hajji Rafi Azimi, the vice chairman of Afghan United Bank. The bank’s chairman, Hajji Mohammed Jan, is a founder of New Ansari. According to American officials, Afghan prosecutors would like to arrest Mr. Azimi but so far have run into political interference they did not specify. He has not been formally charged.

In the past, some Western officials have expressed frustration at the political resistance that Afghan prosecutors have encountered when they have tried to investigate Afghan officials. Earlier this year, the American official said that the Obama administration was considering extraordinary measures to bring corrupt Afghan officials to justice, including extradition.

“We are pushing some high-level public corruption cases right now, and they are just constantly stalling and stalling and stalling,” the American official said of the Karzai administration.

Another Western official said he was growing increasingly concerned about the morale – and safety – of the Afghan anticorruption prosecutors.

So far, the Afghan prosecutors have not folded. The Salehi case is likely to resurface – and very soon. Under Afghan law, prosecutors have a maximum of 33 days to indict a person after his arrest. Mr. Salehi was arrested in late July.

That means Afghan prosecutors may soon come before the Afghan attorney general, Mohammed Ishaq Aloko, to seek an indictment. It will be up to Mr. Aloko, who owes his job to Mr. Karzai, to sign it.

“They are all just doing their jobs,” the Western official said. “They are scared for their lives. They are scared for their families. If it continues, they will eventually give up the fight.”