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It’s braver to quit Afghanistan now

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Peter Preston

If the date for withdrawal from Afghanistan is fixed at the end of 2014 then our soldiers may be dying for nothing.

Let’s do what any smart politician does, and reach for the latest polling results. About 92% of young Afghan men in Kandahar and Helmand provinces (via a sample of 1,000 interviewed by researchers from the International Council on Security and Development, with an extra 500 respondents from northern areas of the country) know nothing about 9/11. Mention the twin towers and all you get is blank looks. And 43% can’t find anything good to say about democracy, either.

Forty per cent think Nato forces are there “to destroy Islam” (or Afghanistan itself); 61% believe that Afghan national security forces won’t be able to cope without international support; 56% suspect that Afghan policemen are helping the Taliban, and 25% reckon they’ll join them in the end. The equivalent figures for national army soldiers are 39% helping the enemy and 30% switching sides when that’s possible.

Now, the news since the last bout of similar polling a few months ago isn’t all bleak. Rather greater numbers are backing Nato to win in the end. But that was before the great and good of the alliance met in Lisbon this weekend and decided, after a fashion, to designate 31 December 2014 as “the end” in question. It’s a firm “deadline”, according to David Cameron – or a “provisional” and “aspirational” one, according Nato’s secretary-general, who seems curiously concerned that “conditions have to be right” to let the boys come home.

Of course people talking to pollsters only express opinions rather than facts. Of course circumstances can change. Of course Mr Cameron and, indeed, Barack Obama – both of whom need Afghanistan’s long, bitter war over before they face their electorates again – may be right to set a timetable. But can we pause for a moment, draw a deep breath – and not laugh out loud.

Presumably the Taliban have been consulted, diaries in hand, and circled various windows of opportunity for surrender. Presumably Osama bin Laden has rubber-stamped the agreement. And perhaps Mullah Omar’s nod to join Hamid Karzai in coalition – with Omar as deputy prezza and a deal on tuition fees for ex-insurgent students – hasn’t received quite the publicity it merits.

But let’s not be too blinkered as we look at the panoply of Cameron/Clegg deadlines. Growth surging by New Year’s Day 2015? The Irish economy turning tiger again? Bin Laden up on trial in the Hague? Labour down to 15% in more conventional polls?

If you set the right schedule, excluding factors you can’t control, then naturally such achievements are “very doable” (as the head of Britain’s armed forces says of the PM’s pledges). Anything can be realistic (in the view of our most senior general in Afghanistan) if you leave realism out of the equation.

Politics always dictates its own version of realism, to be sure. Mr Obama needs withdrawal targets to keep General David Petraeus on some kind of leash. Mr Cameron, remembering how the top brass bullied Gordon Brown, probably wants to keep Sir David Richards busy doing the do-able. Getting out of Helmand and quitting Kabul equals votes at home. Democracy may not enthuse 43% of Afghans, but it rules the roost back in Whitehall and Washington.

Yet things don’t look like that in the killing fields. Out there, to the Taliban, Lisbon timetables have no meaning (except to nominate a time of opportunity). Out there, any notional dates on year planners may be dust and delusion one blast later. You can’t be categoric in conditions like these. And if you’re forced to be “firm”, then there’s really only one conclusion: that the men who die between now and 2015 may well die for nothing. That, if you want to get out, then do what is always do-able if you’re brave enough: just get out now.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

November 23, 2010 at 8:15 am

India’s Occupation of Kashmir to end soon

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By: Rohit Kumar

Despite its insensitivity and total ignorance to facts on the ground, Indian security apparatus is less than three months away from a disgraceful retreat from the occupied valley.

The Union Government of India sent a heavily constituted all-party delegation to Kashmir to assess the on-ground situation, meet with all strands of society in Kashmir, and to devise ways and means to overcome the current crisis faced by the Valley. It failed to do all three.

The delegation failed to assess the situation on the ground as it was heavily protected by military, police and Indian J&K government functionaries. It was totally protected from the rioters, the youth of Kashmir which was out on the streets demanding its rights – respect, autonomy, self-determination and the chance for a peaceful life without indiscriminate violence. The delegation, comprising 39 members and led by Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, met with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a spiritual and political leader of the Valley’s majority Muslim population, while the latter was in forced house arrest. Why? Because the Mirwaiz refused to meet with the delegation. So he was forced to stay inside his home, while the delegation paid him a visit there. And everyone is aware of divisions within this delegation over its meeting with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, who proposes the independence of Kashmir. The BJP claimed that it did not want to meet Gilani, while CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury said that the decision was a delegation-based one and approved by the delegation’s head, Mr. Chidambaram, who himself could not meet Geelani as it would violate procotol. Of course. How could the Union Home Minister acknowledge a separatist as a political leader of Kashmir? Finally, the delegation was unable to devise ways and means to rescue Kashmir from the current chaos, even though Mr. Chidambaram claimed that the future of Kashmir is secure as part of India. What wishful thinking, even as his own delegation crumbled and scrambled for any semblance of a unified position on the Kashmir issue.

The fact remains that Kashmir can never be an integral part of India unless and until atrocities committed by Indian forces (military, paramilitary and civil police) are atoned for and unless and until the murderers in uniform are held accountable. The repeal or withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA) has now become a thing of the future, and the past is yet to be reconciled with. The CPI-M’s Gurudas Dasgupta perhaps has the most sound understanding of the Kashmir situation: he stated that the Centre needed to take “calculated risks” to defuse it, and that the anger of the people of the Valley was not “unsubstantiated”. He also held that “the special position of the State has been gradually diluted”, adding that the use of weapons for crowd control was unjustified, whether it was guns, teargas shells, lathis or water cannons. In response to Army Chief Gen. V. K. Singh’s referral of AFSPA as an “enabling provision”, Dasgupta said that “the Army should not be allowed to make political statements. Democracy does not allow it”.

Dasgupta, a leftist MP, in an ominous tone, said “I have no hesitation in saying that the rest of India does not know what is happening in Kashmir and the people of the Valley feel that Indians do not show concern. There is a critical degree of alienation and if we still do not realise that we all need to do something, Kashmir may be lost to India”. An astute observation, but one that will fall on deaf ears.

The Union Government, who was in alliance with leftist parties till its proximity to the US became all too apparent with the nuclear deal, should pay attention to the same leftists who urged Mr. Chidambaram to allow the delegation to meet separatist leaders, including Geelani. While the delegation has fallen woefully short of its expectations, and has left unrequited hope and greater fears in its midst, it has at least interacted with all leaders of the Kashmiri people – including the jailed Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party. Yet, it remains aloof to the demands of autonomy, of freedom, of ‘azadi’; it has shut its ears to the slogans of ‘Go India, Go back’ and is willing to spill the blood of its own soldiers and troopers as far as the territory of Kashmir remains within the confines of the Indian confederation – whether any Kashmiri is left to claim Kashmir or not is a “non-issue”, and whether Kashmir becomes a ghost state or not is irrelevant.

The Indian Government must cease this blood-letting immediately. However, instead of taking a rational approach, the Indian government is preparing to counter Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the UN General Assembly despite multilateral calls (including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the OIC) for concern over the situation in Kashmir, and urges directed towards the Indian establishment to exercise restraint against Kashmiri civilians – which PM Manmohan Singh has called “Indian citizens”. Yet I do not see Indian citizens being shot at anywhere else. I do not see Indian women raped by army officers, soldiers and paramilitary jawans. And I do not see Indian citizens throwing stones at Indian authorities.

Maybe I need new glasses, or maybe the Union Government has actually blinded itself with fake visions of being a superpower that can not and will not “fall prey” to subnationalist motivations.

While more than 400 million Indians suffer in debilitating poverty, a report by the CIA claims that India is (or will be) the third most powerful country in the world. Let me survey a Kashmiri or a Maoist rebel to ask them if they agree with this CIA report. Let me ask a Dalit, or a Muslim in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

India must wake up before it breaks up.

A well-read Indian daily has the most precise, most succinct statement to make regarding the Kashmir situation. It says that Kashmir has become the proverbial hen and egg story: Peace cannot be restored here unless talks are held, and the talks cannot be held unless peace is restored. In this cyclical debate, violence will only beget violence, ignorance will only inflame tempers, and guns can only silence some voices while ten cries are raised for every fallen one.

Reservations: Dilemmas Galore

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By: Ram Puniyan

Heated debate has been generated around women’s reservation bill (WRB) with both sides having their inflexible positions. On one side there are those calling for its implementation and on the other those who are opposing it. This is a superficial view of debate. As such the debate is, on side are those saying that it should be implemented as it is and on the other side are those who say that there should be quota for OBC dalit, minorities within the quota. There are very few who are totally opposed to WRB, there are many willing to support it if quota within quota is accepted, so to paint them as being against Women’s reservation is unfair. The bill is hanging fire from last one and a half decade, and the rigidity of both sides is so obvious. In democracy it need not be just a brute majority which should work; a process of consensus should be tried before polarizing the issue.

One can very well say it is a bit of the reminder of Mandal days. Many of those opposing Mandal are the strongest champions of this bill while the supporters of Mandal are trying to argue that if implemented in the present form, it will increase the hegemony of upper castes, as the upper caste women are in a better position to compete, while the lower castes and Minorities will be left behind. The supporters of reservation as WRB is, rhetorically dismiss the concern of quota within quota by saying that if these parties are so concerned with that section of women, why have they not given them more seats so far? The same argument can be turned up side down to say that those who are strong proponents of the bill as it is; how much they have bothered to give the tickets to women. By present estimates the three major parties Congress, BJP and Communists, if they would have followed this in allotting more tickets to women, by now the composition of parliament would have been very different.

The point is that, precisely because parties give tickets on winnablity criterion, women are not given tickets in proportion to their percentage in population, and so the need for reservation. The opponents of quota within quota argue that this will divide the women! Question is, are all the women united? The upper caste women, do they supp comfortably with the lower caste? What type of unity of women prevails when a large section of Muslim women have been forced into ghettoes in the aftermath of massive carnage, which in turn has created fear amongst minorities and a situation where they are excluded from social space.

One recalls with pain and horror that during communal violence a section of the women from majority community have been bystanders, if not outright assisters, when the women from minority community were raped! What unity we are talking about? There are surely many concerns which are common to all the women, but in our society unfortunately the caste, class and religion divide has affected the concerns of different sections of women.

The empowerment of women is an absolute must for democratization process of society, so rather than polarizing the debate there is a need to pass the bill with some modifications with a consensus, brought in by taking the concerns of its opponents in present form seriously. Those who oppose the women’s reservations in toto can be bypassed but the opinion of quota within quota is a different terrain.

There is another glaring phenomenon taking place in the society since independence. The representation of Muslims in Parliament is on a constant decline. From last Lok Sabha to the present one there is a reduction, from 36 to current just 29 of them. The present number of Muslim MPs is close to half of what it was in the initial period of the republic. One welcomes the move to ensure the improvement of empowerment of women, but what about declining representation of Muslim minority? One is sure with present social dynamics it is going to slide down further. Is it a sign of health of democracy or does it indicate that democratic process is being subverted from deep within the system by the communalization of society.

At another level one can safely talk about the reservation for dalits, OBC’s and women, but when it comes to the question of Muslim minorities; all the antennas are up to sense that it is dividing the nation. What in fact is dividing the nation is the regular occurrence of violence against minorities, what is dividing the nation is the ghettoisation of minorities and the constant propaganda demonizing them on one pretext or the other.

It is in this context that the Judgment of Supreme Court restoring the Andhra Pradesh law for 4 percent quota for backward Muslims in Jobs and colleges is most welcome. We are going through delicate times when there is some superficial concern shown for minorities, Sachar Committee is appointed, Rangnath Mishra Commission is appointed, but the rulers get cold feet when their recommendation are to be implemented. Rangnath Mishra Commission recommends 15% reservation for Muslims, but not much is being heard on this front.

Most hypocritical stance on the issue of reservation has been that of BJP. It has been the constant opponent of reservations for dalits and OBCs on the ground that this is discriminatory, and due to this the meritorious candidates will be left behind. During the speech in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitly of BJP (March 09, 2010) while defending the WRB, stated that it is a myth that reservation creates privileged society. He also said that with WRB politics of tokenism will be replaced by that of representation. Sane words. Only thing is there are double standards in this. So far we heard something totally contrary from BJP worthies as far as reservations were concerned.

Unfortunately the reservation has to be resorted to in our democracy as the proper democratic process has failed to take care of the needs of deprived sections of society. A holistic approach to reservation to all sections of deprived communities is what we need and that’s what will ensure that the gross disparities are done away and justice reaches to all section of society.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

April 8, 2010 at 6:23 am

The Red Corridor: The Maoist Threat To India’s Existence

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Zainulabedin Ameer | PKKH

India, lauded as the largest democracy in the world, comprises a range of ethnic communities. These are held together, feebly, behind the garb of democracy, which has the world believe that all is well at home. For Indians, the harsh reality is that the long concealed fractures are now beginning to show up as large as the Grand Canyon; long term oppression through history that has been horribly justified through hierarchical order [particularly the caste system] cannot endure. The downtrodden are rising and have been doing much more than making their presence known. Amid the havoc that the Maoists have been wreaking, the Indian leadership has been putting up a bold front. However, few statements have come through that are alarming, and they actually highlight how worried India ought to be. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has admitted that the Maoists pose “the single biggest internal security threat to the country.” This is despite the fact that his government has been relentlessly blaming Pakistan for everything that happens on Indian soil. The time for covering up their own mess was over a long time ago, and, the Indian leadership, which has been re-elected, ought to focus on its domestic threats. India’s current regime may have been the sole victors of the General Election of 2009, but they are compelled to accept a competing force on another front; Maoist rebels have also shown that they hold considerable sway in many districts of the country that now form what is known as ‘The Red Corridor.’

The Red Corridor is a wide area in India’s East; it stretches along much of its coast while covering many districts inland that meet central Indian states such as Utter Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, etc. This region has witnessed more than 4000 people losing their lives in a span of less than a decade thanks to the vicious Maoist attacks.

For a movement that holds as much control as the Maoist movement does, it is quite perceivable that it has its ideology firmly rooted in the desire of its people; they wish to break the shackles that have confined and marginalized them for decades. Indeed, this Maoist movement, which is now better known domestically as the Naxal revolution, was initiated as a red peasant uprising around May, 1967. This revolution earned its name because it began at a village in West Bengal, which is known as Naxal Bari. Apparently, this movement was a response to feudalism.

The Naxal revolution was initiated in the form of a protest that could have gone by relatively unnoticed. With injustice and oppression of peasants being a normal practice, there was enough fuel to keep the movement going. It is alleged that communism had something to do with galvanizing this movement; it is believed that the peasants have been manipulated by individuals with foreign ideology.

Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal are believed to be the two main communist revolutionaries who have spurred the Maoist movement in India. Their aim is to usurp control through a typical agrarian-based movement. Moreover, these revolutionaries consider communist China to be their inspiration, and graffiti on Kolkata walls stand testimony to this bold and brazen statement.

Perhaps more disturbing than the statements made within India by the Maoist revolutionary leaders are those that are made from beyond its borders; Radio Peking extolled the Naxal Bari uprising, and referred to it as Spring Thunder.

The Naxal peasant uprising became increasingly organized after the establishment of Communist party of by Charu Majumdar in 1969. From this point onwards, the mission appeared to become bold; the ideology began to spread to other parts of the country. However, this initial success was contained when the police killed Charu Majumdar in 1972 while he was in their custody. Without their leader, the rebels became dormant for a while. This was the time for action on the part of the Indian leadership; they could have made an attempt to win over the peasants by considering their demands and bringing justice to them. However, that opportunity was squandered, and by the late 1970s, the Naxal movement had once again gained momentum; it spread as far as Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab, as a fragmented effort, but was effective. Two of the most significant factions were the Peoples War Group that was based in the villages in Andhra Pradesh, and, the Maoist Centre, which was based in the jungles of Bihar. It is these two factions that merged in 2004 to intensify the Maoist movement.

At present, the Maoist movement now operates in more than 220 districts across twenty states of India. This is a shocking fact because of the significance it holds; the Maoists have the ability to strike at targets across 40 % of India. Their main strike zone is known as the Red Corridor, which is an area covering 92,000 sqkms. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) claims that 20,000 armed Maoists are active out of a total of 50,000 that operate under different organizations.

Regardless of how many armed militants are present, the people in India would want stiff and sustained efforts by the Indian leadership to maintain security. However, India’s feeble response to the Maoist movement, operation ‘Green hunt’, has had little success. This operation was met with a backlash in Bengal and Bihar. As a result of little thought put into the strategy to deal with their apparently largest domestic threat, many Indians have perished.

It is evident that any military action has to be accompanied by a follow-up plan by state governments in terms of appeasing the restive people in the troubled areas; concerned authorities must address the needs of those being denied their rights. While this is a rough outline of what ought to be done, the Maoists remain resolved to take control of India.

With such glaring threats in the face of Indian authorities, they ought to re-think their role as a major country in South Asia. Precisely, what they should do is get their act together and deal with their domestic disputes instead of interfering in Pakistan’s Frontier and Baluchistan provinces. This should have been the realization many years ago. However, they have sustained their efforts in the form of insurgent plans carried out by the completely Un-Islamic Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP]. The Indian Research and Analysis Wing [R.A.W] has spent a great deal of its resources running this organization along with other western clandestine intelligence agencies; in a combined effort, they have tried to make the TTP look like an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban. Indeed, there is magnanimous difference between the two, and their game-plan has been exposed along with their ‘Cold Start’ Fourth Generation Warfare Strategy. They have made a spectacle of themselves, and continue to do so, while back home their very existence at stake.

Pakistan security forces have put a lot of short sticks into a lot of hornets’ nests

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Interview with Gen. David Petraeus

By Fareed Zakaria GPS

ZAKARIA: And now, the head of the United States Central Command, General David Petraeus. General Petraeus, honor to have you on.

PETRAEUS: Great to be with you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: What do you hope to see come out of the Iraqi elections?

PETRAEUS: Well, I’d like to see a government that continues to do what this one does, which is to be generally representative of the people, responsive to all the people, and to continue the progress that has been achieved over the course of the last couple of years, again, in the economic, social and political realms. You know, in keeping all of the Iraqis together as well. Hugely important.

ZAKARIA: But — but that part is the crucial part. When I go travel in the Middle East or talk to people from the region, what I’m struck by is that the whole hope that Iraq as a functioning democracy or a quasi-democracy would be a kind of inspiration or have some kind of a opening (ph) effect in the — in the Middle East, has not quite happened largely because in the Middle East, 90 percent of which is Sunni.

They see the fact that the Sunnis of Iraq remain somewhat marginalized as being a proof positive that this is — this is — that either democracy is a terrible thing or this is not real democracy. They don’t know which — which option to choose. And the fact that in this election you had the situation where Sunni candidates have been essentially — some early disbarred from — from being able to participate, including fairly senior politicians.

Doesn’t that lack of inclusion hurt the central message that we were trying to send out of Iraq?

PETRAEUS: Iraq does have many, many different tensions. There are still lots of strains on the fabric of society, a fabric that indeed was torn by the sectarian violence in 2006 and into early 2007, and, really, so far has only got a few stitches back into it. And that’s another aspect of the way forward, that again, we hope that Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd, Yazidi, Christian, Turkmen — all of these different groups, (INAUDIBLE) and others, can indeed make accommodations and really continue to make accommodations.

Because all progress that has been made to date, all of the legislation that’s been passed and so forth, has all required cross sectarian, cross ethnic coalitions, and I think that actually will continue to be the case, because when you do the math, there’s no way that a prime minister will be elected without a cross sectarian and indeed cross ethnic coalition developing to elect that individual and the other key members that will be part of the package.

ZAKARIA: American troop withdrawals are slated to continue and to be down to zero combat troops at the end of 2011. Is that a pledge you think you will be able to fulfill?

PETRAEUS: Well, first, let’s focus initially on where we’re headed right now. First, we’re about 96,000 or so right now, down from 165,000 or so at the height of the surge and other periods and headed down to 50,000 by the end of August.

Then, of course, with the new government in place, there will be the dialogue about what is it that the sovereign Iraq, with its newly elected government that will be in place for four years, will want in terms of a security relationship with the United States.

There’s some sense that they may want to continue a security assistance relationship at the — at least, something we have with virtually all the other countries in the Central Command region, especially given that they are, of course, they’ve got a lot of American hardware, a lot of American tactics, techniques and procedures. There’s some very good intelligence-sharing arrangements and so forth. But that’s up to that government.

ZAKARIA: But you could foresee —

PETRAEUS: And it will be a sovereign government.

ZAKARIA: But you could foresee a situation where a new status of forces agreement is negotiated and the United States maintains some 10,000, 20,000 troops in a kind of supporting role if the Iraqi government wants it?

PETRAEUS: I’m not sure I would — I would see something anywhere near that large, candidly. I think it would be much more along the lines of the traditional security assistance arrangement, a relationship that may include other countries as well. Indeed, there’s still a NATO training mission in Iraq. There’s — there’s a British element still helping with the Iraqi navy that was a separate bilateral agreement.

ZAKARIA: Would it be legitimate for the American taxpayer to look at what’s happening in Iraq, particularly economically and say what was in it for us? Because you watch Iraq signing oil deals, and the Chinese are doing pretty well, the Brits are doing pretty well. We’re doing all right, but there’s no —

You know, for all those who thought this was a conspiracy for oil, you notice that the United States does not seem to have any privileged position in terms of its access. What did — did we — do we have any influence economically in Iraq?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think we are literally having to compete along with everyone else. There are occasionally some degrees of access that might be provided. But, by and large, this is — it’s capitalism at work.

And, in fact, we used to offer to our Iraqi counterparts who occasionally would toss around the conspiracy theory, that this is all about sewing up Iraq’s oil for the next few decades and say that, gosh, for what we spent in a single year in Iraq, we could have bought all of your oil for the next decade without having to invade you.

So, look, it is legitimate for the American taxpayer to ask that question. And, again, only history can judge at the end of the day whether this was, frankly, a wise investment in — in the enormous amount of — of gold treasure and, indeed, most importantly the lives of our young men and women in uniform and our civilian counterparts and Iraqi civilians and coalition members.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about one of Iraq’s neighbors, Iran. When you were up in the north, one of the things you had to deal with, and even during the surge, was Iranian forces, Quds forces, in many ways fermenting the violence in Iraq by supplying weapons or arms, militias, all kinds of things.

Apparently, these security services are now — the Quds forces, now spending a lot more of its time worrying about what’s going on in Iran, trying to create, put down the opposition movements there.

Has that changed the political dynamic in Iraq? Are you finding that the Iranians have in a sense packed up and gone home?

PETRAEUS: Well, first, I think you’re absolutely right to say that the security elements in Iran, particularly the Revolutionary Guard’s corps, the — the Quds force and the Basij, the militia, have had to focus a great deal more on internal security challenges than they did in the past. And, indeed, I think you’ve heard it said by pundits that Iran has gone from being a theocracy to a thugocracy, that it has frankly become much more of a police state than it ever was in — in the past since the Revolution.

And that is, again, because of the emergence of this reform movement of the — the citizens who are outraged of the hijacking of the election that took place back last summer.

ZAKARIA: Do you think Ahmed Chalabi is an agent of Iran or influenced by Iran or carrying out an Iranian agenda in Iraq?

PETRAEUS: Well, it — I think — again, this is less about what we think. This is about what Iraqi leaders think, and Iraqi leaders have obviously not been overly pleased with some of the political high drama that has been fomented by the Accountability and Justice Committee, which has been orchestrated indeed by Dr. Chalabi. And, again —

ZAKARIA: Again, that he was — that committee was behind this renewed de-Baathification and this attempt to —

PETRAEUS: Yes, sure.

ZAKARIA: — to disbar a whole set of people from running.

PETRAEUS: Yes. I mean, indeed, they announced the list. They determined who — who was on it. They had a — a key role in the adjudication of it, later as appeals were issues and so forth. So — and that did indeed, in the — you know, and especially coming so close to the actual elect (INAUDIBLE) quite a bit of political turmoil.

They’ve worked through it. The fact is there are tens of thousands of candidates, of which several hundred now in the end will have been disqualified. They — as with everything in Iraq, there’s — again, with “Iraqracy”, as we have termed it at times, there’s often a considerable degree of emotion. There is, again, drama. But, at the end of the day or perhaps sometimes a little after the end of the day, they managed to work through it.

And, as always, it has required, again, what I talked about earlier, these cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic coalitions and — and deals, which is OK. That’s a good development for Iraq, frankly.

We used to say when I was there, you — you can shout, but please don’t shoot. And shouting is, I think, a — a very acceptable alternative to shooting.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that the Iranian regime has made a decision that they are going to try to get a nuclear weapon, or do you think it is still unclear whether they want a robust nuclear civilian capacity and a robust missile capacity, but — but they haven’t yet decided whether they will join the two?

PETRAEUS: I think it’s something slightly different, actually. I think, first of all, that there can be a debate about whether or not the final decision has been made. I think in fact probably that final decision has not been made by the Supreme Leader, and that will be his decision to take.

But that’s a little bit immaterial at this point in time because all of the components of a program to produce nuclear weapons, to produce the delivery means and — and all the rest of that, all of these components have been proceeding as if they want to be in a position where he can make that decision, having reached the so-called threshold capability. And that is, of course, what is so worrisome to the countries in the region, and, of course, above all, to — to Israel and obviously to the United States and the countries of the west.

They are now transitioning, of course, from what was the diplomacy track for about a year, where everyone made every good faith effort, extended the open hand, and it was not met with an open hand. It was met with intransigence and obfuscation and evasion, and now the result is the transition by not just the United States, but — but with France, with the U.K., even Russia now, all seeing the need to transition to the so-called pressure track which would include much different sanctions and so forth.

ZAKARIA: Don’t you have the beginning of a very robust containment strategy, though, and you would be the one actually who would probably be principally charged with the military operationalization of this. You have the moderate — the Gulf states, the Sunni states, Egypt, Israel, the major European countries, perhaps even Russia, all arrayed, you know, along this common interest that Iran not — not become a nuclear power.

Wouldn’t it be possible to contain it?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think, first of all, you have to ask a country that is most directly concerned about this, and that would be Israel. And, at the end of the day, what we might want with a slightly detached perspective than the other western countries. What the Gulf states and others might be willing to accept —

And by — by the way, there is no uniform or universal acceptance of what you had just laid out. In fact, it’s quite the contrary in many of the countries, and there’s quite a —

ZAKARIA: Meaning what? They — they want the United States to strike?

PETRAEUS: Well, there are some that are very, very, very, very concerned about the developments in Iran and they find that very —


PETRAEUS: — difficult.

ZAKARIA: What does that mean? They want — they want the United States to strike?

PETRAEUS: Well, it’s interesting. I think there — there is almost a slight degree of bipolarity there at times. On the one hand, there are countries that would like to see a strike, us or perhaps Israel, even. And then there’s the worry that someone will strike, and then there’s also the worry that someone will not strike. And, again, reconciling that is — is one of the challenges of operating in the region right now.

Our job right now is to ensure that we’re prepared for any contingencies, that we can support indeed, with the diplomatic efforts, to transition now to the pressure track and so forth. And that’s indeed what we’re endeavoring to do with our partners who, by the way, find that President Ahmadinejad is often our best recruiting officer, because his actions, his rhetoric and his other — the other activities of Iran, in many cases, are causing much more embrace of CENTCOM and — and other activities than otherwise would be the case. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA: We will be back with General Petraeus in just a moment. We haven’t even touched on Afghanistan or Pakistan yet.


PETRAEUS: — and then we have gone forward.

ZAKARIA: Did he at least (ph) publicly endorse the operation?

PETRAEUS: He has. Oh, he has acknowledged it. He is —

ZAKARIA: When? I have — I have followed —

PETRAEUS: He has said that he is the commander in chief of this operation, and indeed there have been articles about that. So he has —

ZAKARIA: You’re satisfied with —

PETRAEUS: — taken this forward.

ZAKARIA: Karzai’s —

PETRAEUS: Well, look —




ZAKARIA: And we are back with David Petraeus, the commanding general of CENTCOM. Thank you so much for joining us.

PETRAEUS: Great to be here.

ZAKARIA: Afghanistan. The larger offensive seems to have gone well, certainly from a military point of view. But there is some question as to whether the Taliban melted away to come back to fight another day.

There are some reports that there is another area in Afghanistan, Nawa in Helmand, where you — the United States had an operation like this. The Taliban seemed to melt away. It seemed like a victory. But they are now coming back.

Do you worry that these fighters have melted away to — and, you know, and that once the United States tries to itself withdraw the large footprint it has — it has put, you will find a resurgence of Taliban in places like Marjah?

PETRAEUS: Well, that’s always a concern with this kind of approach, and — and you should know that explicitly we went into Marjah having announced what we were going to do there. General McChrystal was very clear about this. And that was so that we didn’t end up in a massive slug fest that destroys Marjah to save it.

So those that wanted to melt away and don’t want to fight, all well and good, because the objective is — is secure the population. We’ll kill or capture bad guys that stand up to us, but the key is, again, to get that city as intact as is possible with as little loss of innocent civilian life, and then to erect the security apparatus and so forth, keeping in mind that a lot of this depends again on — on who the civilians side with.

You know, there is a shura held there yesterday. General McChrystal, in fact, observed it. A number of Afghan leaders attended it from — from Kabul. And we freely acknowledged that there are individuals in there who tacitly or perhaps even actively may have supported the Taliban in the past when they held sway.

The key is now is of course to turn them into part of the solution.

ZAKARIA: General McChrystal used a phrase to describe how he — part of the process, which is effectively a clearer hold, and then he said and then we’ll have government in a box —


ZAKARIA: — ready to bring out. I — I was struck by the expression because if only Afghanistan had government in a box. I mean, you — here you have — the big problem in Afghanistan is that the government is weak, indecisive, corrupt, often of the wrong ethnicity, and the idea that you could just bring a pre-packaged gift item from Amazon and put it in the middle of Marjah and it was going to work.

So isn’t this the central challenge, which is you clear the area —

PETRAEUS: Absolutely.

ZAKARIA: American troops will do it.

PETRAEUS: It absolutely is. Sure.

ZAKARIA: But then what you get in — in place there — I mean, look at this last shura you were mentioning. The second vice president of Afghanistan who was brought in there to speak there spoke in a language nobody there could understand.

PETRAEUS: He did. Yes.

ZAKARIA: He was speaking in Dari, those people speak Pashto.

PETRAEUS: That’s exactly right.

ZAKARIA: He’s a Hazara, which is a-

PETRAEUS: You’ve got a good research assistant.

ZAKARIA: I don’t. This is all me, believe it or not. And, you know, isn’t that part of the problem, the political problem?

PETRAEUS: It is. There’s no question about it. Again — and it’s — let’s be real clear, this is clear hold, build or rebuild, depending on the damage done, and transition. And the key in the hold, build and, above all, transition phases of this activity are indeed Afghan governance, and that governance, to be successful, has to be seen as serving the people, as providing a better future for them, not being predatory or corrupt as has been the case in a number of instances in past years, without question.

ZAKARIA: So I look at our Afghan partner, in talking about governance, Hamid Karzai. You have taken great pains to give him some say, inclusion, include him in the process, in the — in the operation. And yet, he has never publicly supported it. He has never publicly endorsed it, and he has twice criticized your forces for reckless civilian casualties, never pointing out that the Taliban is, of course, using human shields to — to make it very difficult to not have collateral damage.

Is this — this does not strike me as an improvement in governance in Afghanistan. In other words, this is a pretty big political problem.

PETRAEUS: Well, actually I met with President Karzai last week, in fact. And for what it’s worth, he has —

ZAKARIA: Did you tell him what I just said?

PETRAEUS: Not — not quite exactly, but — look, we have candid conversations, both directions, by the way. And I think they’re very, very constructive and very good, and I’ve been doing this now, obviously, for a year and a half or so with him. And, frankly, there have been developments this time that are unique to this time.

First of all, he was actually consulted and asked that ultimately to give the order to carry out the operation. And indeed he provided guidance and he — he held some things up until he was back briefed on how his concepts were going to be operationalized. He has, rightly, I think, actually, when there have been incidents of innocent loss of life, called into question what was done in those cases, and then we have gone forward.

ZAKARIA: Did he at least (ph) publicly endorse the operation?

PETRAEUS: He has. Oh, he has acknowledged it. He has —

ZAKARIA: When? I have — I have followed —

PETRAEUS: He has said that he is the commander in chief of this operation, and indeed there have been articles about that. So he has —

ZAKARIA: You’re satisfied with —

PETRAEUS: — taken this forward.

ZAKARIA: Karzai’s —

PETRAEUS: Well, look, I don’t think in a relationship, even in a friendship, that anyone is ever, you know, 100 percent satisfied with everything that takes place, and indeed, that’s why you have good constructive dialogue. And, again, he’s not completely satisfied with everything that we’re doing either —

ZAKARIA: You’re very good at this because you —

PETRAEUS: — so that’s OK.

ZAKARIA: You’re very good at this because you have to live with him. All right.

Let me ask you about Pakistan. Do you see what is going on right now in Pakistan? They’re — they’re — having helped us capture some senior Taliban figures and ones that appear to have been fairly central, is this the sign of a fundamental reorientation of the Pakistani military or is it too early to say that and this is just — you know, this is — this is encouraging news, but we still have a long way to go?

PETRAEUS: The more important development, actually, is the one that has taken place internal to Pakistan. And this is the decision, as you know, that was reached some 10 months or so ago after the Pakistani people, all of the Pakistani leaders, including the major opposition figure and Sharif and others, and the clerics all recognized that the threat of the internal extremists to the Pakistani state was reaching existential proportions, that — that the Pakistani Taliban and Swat districts, Swat valley in particular, in the Malakand division of the northwest frontier province were threatening the very writ of governance.

By the way, I was in both lower and upper Swat this past week, and I have to say that that has been a very impressive counterinsurgency operation.

ZAKARIA: They are taking on very ferociously those elements, those militants who attack Pakistanis by and large. They have been reluctant to take on those militants who attack in Afghanistan.

PETRAEUS: Well, as I said, this is very much a work in progress. This is the beginning of a campaign there, and the important development is that this is the Pakistanis fighting their war against internal extremists that threaten them.

Now, the development that I found interesting on this latest trip, and I’ve been in there almost every two months now and — or meet with General Kayani or the other leaders somewhere else, on quite a frequent basis. I think the development most recently is that there is emerging a recognition of what Secretary Gates has called the symbiotic relationship between all of the extremist elements in the Fatah, not just —

ZAKARIA: Do you think they get that? Do you think the Pakistanis (INAUDIBLE)? PETRAEUS: This is increasingly — increasingly, I think, obvious to — to those who are watching this.

The challenge, though — and, first of all, look, we have to recognize, number one, the enormous loss of life that the Pakistani military has sustained, and even more, Pakistani civilians. Because of course, as always, when a force takes away a sanctuary or a safe haven from an enemy, that enemy will fight back, and it will go in other areas where you are more vulnerable, perhaps, than in the areas where the actual fighting is taking place. And, in fact, that’s why it’s significant that indeed some of these Taliban leaders were picked up down in Karachi and other settled areas, as they — as they’re termed, of Pakistan.

But we also have to recognize that the Pakistani army, the frontier corps, the security forces, have put a lot of short sticks into a lot of hornets’ nests over the course of that last 10 months. There’s a limit to how much you can do that without consolidating the gains in some areas and then, over time, as I mentioned, thinning out to enable you to go into other areas, but leaving behind a sustainable security, a sustainable economic, social, political situation, so that you wouldn’t have to go back there in the future, but it’s something that can — can be sustained just by the forces that have been left behind.


ZAKARIA: We will be back with General Petraeus in a moment.


PETRAEUS: — served with some CIA officer, actually, who were known to be gay and one who’s known to be a lesbian, and, you know, after the 10 seconds of awareness wore off, the focus was on the professional attributes of these individuals.


ZAKARIA: Finally, General Petraeus, let me ask you, you said recently in an interview that you didn’t mind serving alongside many women who happen to be gay. Does that mean that you would be comfortable with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

PETRAEUS: I would like to clarify what I did say. What I said is I served with CIA officers actually who were known to be gay and one who was known to be lesbian. After the ten seconds of awareness wore off, the focus was on the professional attributes of these individuals. So given, again, standards of personal conduct, focus on human behavior, a focus on proper implementation, you know, I think that this is something that can be worked through, frankly.

I’ll lay this out to Congress. My thinking on this matter, I’ve been wrestling with this. A lot of us have. We’ve done a lot of personal soundings. We’ve looked at the 25 or so countries, including Australia, U.K., Canada, Israel. Some pretty good militaries that have all integrated, if you will, gays and lesbians into their militaries, but had very sensible and pragmatic policies. I think that has been the key to the success of their efforts.

But again, when I talk to the — probably the Senate armed services committee, if asked, I’ll lay out a pretty comprehensive view, my personal view at least on this particular issue.

ZAKARIA: It sounds to me, though, if these — if the review process of scouting out the opinions of soldiers, if they were to go to this soldier, that is, you, it sounds like what you would tell them is that under — as long as it was carefully implemented, you would be comfortable?

PETRAEUS: I’ll lay that out, again, to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

ZAKARIA: What, you don’t want to tell it to a TV show first?

PETRAEUS: I know you’d love to have that. I think we’ll allow the scoop to go to our members of Congress.

ZAKARIA: General Petraeus, honor to have you on. Thank you so much.

PETRAEUS: It’s really been good to be with you, Fareed. Thanks a lot.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 11, 2010 at 10:03 am