Saturday, September 30, 2006

Demonstratons and Muslim Dialogue

Tom Friedman in today's NYTimes asks why there are no demonstrations among Muslims when Muslims blow up innocent people on holy days, "in mosques!," while there are all kinds of demonstrations against cartoons and papal remarks in the West. I think this gets at a fundamental nature of demonstrations. Demonstrations rarely are spontaneous: they are orchestrated. When we were in Pakistan there were occasional demonstrations, always about something offensive that could be tied to the West, led by local leaders of the madrassas. They were means by which a madrassa leader, a teacher, could mobilize his students around a matter of religious interest. And local authorities were used to managing them, controlling them so that they did minimal damage. I don't know all that goes into the recent demonstrations about cartoons or papal remarks in the Middle Eastern countries but I would surmise that many of those demonstrations are orchestrated by local mosque leaders or religious leaders as ways of solidifying their band of supporters, awakening their interest in wider social issues as Muslims. It is not really about "dialogue"; it is more about local influence. This is not to denigrate whatever offenses are being complained about but it is to point to the local dynamics that makes social demonstrations work. But that is also why there is little movement on the local level when Muslims abuse Muslims. Local leaders have nothing to benefit by taking their students on the street for such reasons. Friedman wonders when Muslims will enter into a dialogue on the problem of Muslim abuse of innocent Muslims. There is a context in which debates of this sort take place: that is, in convocations of eminent religious authorities. In such times and places they do debate: there was one such debate when Mullah Muhammad Omar invited all the Taliban religious authorities to convene to decide on whether to turn over Osama Bin Laden to the Americans (they advised him to invite Osama to leave on his own accord; Mullah Omar refused). I'm not sure when such a convocation took place to resolve differences between Muslims abusing Muslims. There are contexts in which authorities of the faith debate what to do about a contemporary problem but that debate is unlikely to turn into public demonstrations.

Islam and the Pope
Published: September 29, 2006 (New York Times)

What is needed now is an honest dialogue between Muslims and Muslims.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Speculation on Iran's pretentions

In an article published a little over a year ago [9/5/05] Amir Taheri pointed out that in 1998 "a pirated translation of Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order" appeared in Tehran. To the publisher's surprise half the print run (1,000 copies) was bought by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Among those who received a copy was Yahya Safavi, now commander in chief of the Guards, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now president of the Islamic republic. According to Taheri "Iran wants to reshape the Middle East in its own image" and in particular it intends to confront the United States over hegemony in the Middle East. Taheri believes that the election of Ahmadinejad as President marks a major shift in power from the clergy to the Revolutionary Guards. In a kind of "creeping coup d'etat" the Guards built an impressive grass-roots network throughout Iran with two political-front organizations: the Usulgara (fundamentalists) and the Itharis (self-sacrificers), each attracting a younger generation of military officers, civil servants, managers and intellectuals. In 2002, the network captured the Tehran city council and elevated Ahmadinejad as mayor. Two years later he emerged as the Guards' presidential candidate, besting former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Taheri presented this election as the beginning of the end of the clerics' dominance.

He is the first non-mullah to become president since 1981. The holder of a Ph.D., he is also the best educated of the six Islamic presidents so far. His humble background and populist discourse have won him a genuine base, especially among the poor who feel let down by corrupt religious leaders.

That's the good news. The bad news is that, if anything, he can be expected to be a far more formidable enemy of the West--and of America in particular.

In August 2005, General Safavi declared before an audience of senior naval officers that Iran's mission was to create "a multipolar world in which Iran plays a leadership role" for Islam. Ahmadinejad at about that time declared that Iran's foreign policy is nothing less than "a government for the whole world" under the leadership of "the Mahdi," the Absent Imam of the Shiites. He regards the United States as being in its "last throes" and will be replaced by the Islamic republic. Geopolitical dominance in the Middle East, says Ahmadenijad, is"the incontestable right of the Iranian nation." Khamenei has said in a speech, "The Americans have their so-called Greater Middle East plan." "We, too, have our plan for the region."

Taheri predicted a year ago, that "the stage is set for a confrontation with the United States." Militant Islamists remember what most Americans forgot: that in 1980 the United States did nothing much when its embassy in Tehran was seized by students, that the Americans retreated from Lebanon after suicide bombers recruited by Tehran killed 241 Marines near Beirut in 1982; and that Bill Clinton did nothing more than fire rockets into Afghanistan after the attacks on American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam. Taheri said the prospects for resolving the nuclear standoff are not good. Iran is convinced America will soon depart the region. "The strategy will most likely be to wait Bush out, stalling on the negotiations while bleeding America to the maximum in Iraq and Afghanistan, working to prevent a settlement in Palestine and sabotaging U.S. hopes for a democratic Middle East."

That prediction is now a year old. So far, pretty good augury.

A Clash of Civilizations
Published: September 5, 2005 (Newsweek)

Eight years ago a pirated translation of Samuel Huntington's celebrated essay "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order" appeared in Tehran. The publisher received an order for 1,000 copies, half the print run. "We wondered who wanted them," recalls Mustafa Tunkaboni...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Critical Issues Facing Afghanistan and Pakistan

Afghan Taliban versus Arab Taliban?

Today's report on the suicide bombings in Afghanistan by Carlotta Gall (New York Times) emphasizes how much more frequent the bombings have become, but tucked in at the end of the article is a curious detail. She says that the Taliban forces who have been operating in the Panjwai district (near Kandahar) have "tried to distance themselves from the suicide bombings that have killed civilians and damaged shops". They have posted fliers saying that outsiders ("foreign Taliban") were responsible for those attacks and they would be subject to capital punishment. This is because they are concerned about their image. Also, local villagers are blaiming "foreigners or outsiders" for the suicide bombings and that "ordinary Taliban" are merely fighting the NATO forces. She also quotes a witness of the Taniwal bombing who claims that the bomber "appeared to be an Arab." Supposition, presumably, but whether true or not, it seems clear that the "Arabs" are being blamed for the suicide bombing. And that the Taliban are divided over suicide bombing -- the typical Afghan point of view versus the militant Arab viewpoint.


Some other interesting publications in the last few days:

David Isby, an old hand in the Afghanistan wars, points out thecontradictory messages Musharraf has given out in the last few days.

A Tale of Two Pakistans: Musharraf's Dramatic Claims Unwittingly Highlight Contradictions
Published: September 25, 2006 (The National Interest)

President Pervez Musharraf during his visit to Washington made a series of statements dramatic enough to cheer any book publisher.

Hafizullah Gardesh and Wahidullah Amani report from Kabul that the Afghan leadership is "bemused" by Musharraf's statements to the western press. I think I would use a different word: frustrated.

Afghans Bemused by Mixed Messages from Musharraf
Published: September 17, 2006 (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)

Islamabad is outflanking Kabul in the debate about where the Taleban are based and whose fault it is that they are still there.

Massoud Ansari and Colin Freeman point out that the signature of Mullah Muhammad Omar on the Waziristan deal (between the tribes and Pakistani army) reveals how plainly in sight he is, despite the many claims that the Americans and Pakistanis have been unsuccessfully searching for him for five years!

Omar role in truce reinforces fears that Pakistan 'caved in' to Taliban
Published: September 24, 2006 (The Telegraph UK)

The fugitive Taliban commander Mullah Omar has emerged as the key player behind the movement's controversial peace deal with Pakistan.

A Canadian author notes Karzai's appeal that Islamic schools "teaching hatred" should be abolished - he refers to the schools in Pakistan.

Abolish Islamic schools that teach hatred: Karzai
Published: September, 23, 2006 (Montreal AFP)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday urged the international community to put an end to Islamic schools that teach hatred and produce suicide bombers.

Helen Womack of the Daily Telegraph reports to her British audience the warning of a former Soviet Officer, that the Allied powers will suffer the same embarrassment in Afghanistan as the Red army did. Well do the British in fact know: they lost most of an army there in the mid-nineteenth century.

You will be driven from Afghanistan just as we were, Russian generals warn
Published: September 24, 2006 (The Telegraph UK)

British troops will be forced to flee Afghanistan, say former Soviet commanders who oversaw Moscow's disastrous campaign against the mujahedeen in the 1980s.

Barnett R. Rubin provides information from his last conversation with Hakim Taniwal before his murder by a suicide bomber.

The Death Of an Afghan Optimist
Published: September 17, 2006 (Washington Post)

"We lost a friend today." A suicide bomber had blown up the car of Hakim Taniwal, the governor of Paktia province on Afghanistan's frontier with Pakistan, killing him and two aides.

Craig Pyes and Kevin Sack in a special article for the Los Angeles Times report on abuses of Afghans by American troops. Again, the failure to understand a foreign language trips up our men on the ground. It is tragic all around.

Two Deaths Were a 'Clue That Something's Wrong'
Published: September 25, 2006 (Los Angeles Times)

A Special Forces team in Afghanistan failed to alert its superiors. Witnesses tell of torture.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat

A classified National Intelligence Estimate, published on the basis of leaked information on 9/24/06, has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism. The project to assess the matter began in 2004 and was delayed until April of this year because some government officials were unhappy with earlier versions. National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue.
The most saddening aspect of this story is that it has taken so long to say what has been so evident in the course of events. And it is not really news: it has been said before: a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion, said that "the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives." The House Intelligence Committee released [9/20/06] an even more "ominous report about the terrorist threat" based on unclassified materials. It said that the jihadi movement is growing: Al Qaeda leaders are waiting "patiently for the right opportunity to attack.'" So the news is not news. For anyone paying attention to affairs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan it simply says what one could surmise from the daily reports of violence. How many more "news" reports of this sort will it take for the reality of the monstrous loss of respect for Americans to sink in?

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat
Published: September 25, 2006 (The New York Times)

A stark assessment has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Experienced and Callous: Experts in Wasting Lives

The suicide bombing industry is flourishing. On September 18 in three different places in Afghanistan people were killed by these bombers. In a town near Kandahar Canadian soldiers were handing out pens and notebooks to excited children when a suicide bomber rode up on a bicycle into the middle of the crowd, and detonated his device. "Witnesses ... say the crowd of children gathered around the Canadian soldiers were laughing and shouting as they jostled for the gifts." Four soldiers were killed, and dozens of the children were injured.
A suicide bomber in Herat killed 11 people and wounded 18. He was apparently targeting a high-ranking police official who escaped unharmed. Four of the dead were police officers; one of them was a child. Another suicide blast killed three Afghan policemen in the capital Kabul.
Suicide bombing is new in Afghanistan, but we are told that the number of these attacks in southern Afghanistan has risen four-fold this year. The practice has been rare in Somalia also, but at about the same time as these bombings a bomber killed five people there; it was just after someone shot a nun who had been serving the sick in Africa for 38 years; she died uttering, "I forgive".
The fingerprints of experienced hands are all over these killings. Suicide bombing has been a practice in the Middle East for a long time; in that context it seems to have become a science. On the same day as the above events a bomber in Iraq killed himself and 20 others in a crowded market, and another killed 13 people at a police recruitment center. For those behind it, it was just another day. Iraq, the Middle East: they have had to bear this for a long while.
I still wonder: Who would train bombers to deliberately kill children? To what purpose? What could they be thinking? What could they want? What kind of world would they create? And where does the money come from?
We are told that in the case of the Taliban these measures reveal desperation. They are now throwing themselves into battle and losing their lives in great numbers. How many of them will have to die before their handlers become ashamed of the carnage?

NATO Soldiers in Afghanistan Killed in Suicide Bomb Attack
Published: September 19, 2006 (AM Australia)

It was a small moment when the campaign to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan was working. Canadian soldiers were handing out pens and notebooks to excited children in a village in the country's south, a day after NATO had declared the area free of Taliban insurgents.

Several Killed in Three Suicide Bomb Atacks
Published: September 19, 2006 (Gulf Times)

A suicide bomb exploded in Afghanistan's western city of Herat yesterday, killing 11 people and wounding 18, a hospital deputy director said.The blast struck outside the city's main mosque and appeared targeted at a high-ranking police official who escaped unharmed, police said.

Somalia's First Suicide Bomb Misses President
Published: September 18, 2006 (ThreatsWatch)

President Abdullahi Yusuf survived an assassination attempt as Somali leader escapes suicide attack" Somalia’s first suicide bomb attack saw a bomb-laden car drive into Yusuf’s motorcade as he left the Somali parliament.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Extraordinary Rendition" of an Innocent Man

I have been deeply grieved by this brutality which is relevant and troubling.

Canadian Was Falsely Accused, Panel Says
Published: September 19, 2006 (The Washington Post)

TORONTO, Sept. 18 - Canadian intelligence officials passed false warnings and bad information to American agents about a Muslim Canadian citizen, after which U.S. authorities secretly whisked him to Syria, where he was tortured, a judicial report found Monday.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tribal Militias in Both Pakistan and Iraq?

Curiously, the deals that have just been made in Pakistan and Iraq with their respective tribal elements seem very similar:
Pakistan's deal is with the Pushtun tribes in its Federally Administered Tribal Areas (but not with its Baluch tribes, as indicated earlier), and Iraq's is with the Arab Bedawin tribes of al-Anbar province. In both cases, the deal seems to entail the local tribes' agreeing to control "insurgents" (who are presumed to be outsiders and Arab). And it appears in both cases that the deal represents an admission by the respective governments that they are not getting control of the situation in those tribal areas. I have already expressed doubt that anything much will come of the deal in Pakistan. Juan Cole has similar doubts about the deal in Iraq:"Some tribes may develop feuds with some fundamentalists, but the likelihood of it amounting to much on a province-wide scale strikes me as low" (Informed Comment, 9/18/06).


Iraq Chiefs Vow to Fight al-Qaeda
Published: September 18, 2006 (BBC)

Iraqi tribal chiefs in the so-called Sunni Triangle have agreed to join forces to fight al-Qaeda, and have pleaded for US supplies of arms. One leader said tribes in the city of Ramadi had assembled 20,000 men "ready to purge the city of these infidels". Ramadi, in Anbar province, is one of the cities at the heart of the Sunni rebellion against US troops and Iraqis.

Pakistan 'Taleban' in Peace Deal
Published: September 5, 2006 (BBC)

Pakistan has signed a deal with pro-Taleban militants on the Afghan border aimed at ending years of unrest. The North Waziristan accord calls on tribesmen to expel foreign militants and end cross-border attacks in return for a reduced military presence.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Iran: Know Thine Enemy

Bill Berkeley's experience in Mashhad reveals something more about Iran than we can get from the normal sources. One of the most heartening things about his long article on his experience is that the Americans are still welcomed. This comports with what we have heard from others. (And with Liza Baron's report on her experience in Syria.) A member of the Basij militia was proud to have him in his home - and in one of the most conservative cities in Iran. He notes that there seems to be a "challenge of getting it right on Iran." Even though anthropologists were all over Iran in the 1970s they didn't see the Iranian Revolution coming. And again "few American reporters anticipated the election … of Ahmadinejad". We have tended to read too much in what Safdari had called "the gilded youth" who are scornful of those who voted for Ahmadinejad. Steve Coll points out in Ghost Wars to us that in the 1970s the CIA passed by the tables of cassette tapes of sermons by radical clerics all over the Middle East and went to talk to the elite who spoke western languages and paid no attention to what the ordinary public was reading and listening to. Owing to the new issues over nuclear power new concerns are being expressed about Iran, but "on the street" the picture is very different.

Iran: Know Thine Enemy
Published: September 14, 2006 (Columbia Journalism Review)

On a reporting trip to Iran in the spring of 2004, I visited the northeastern city of Mashhad. It's an important pilgrimage destination for Shiite Muslims, a sprawling, low-slung metropolis that fans out from a central plaza built around the gold-domed shrine of the Imam Reza. Imam Reza is believed to have hailed from the family of the prophet Mohammad. He was designated the eighth of the twelve sacred imams of the Shi'a faith, and is the only one buried in Iran. Hundreds of thousands of devout Shiites from across south Asia and the Arab world make pilgrimages to Mashhad each year to worship inside this splendid compound of aqua-tiled spires and arches, luminous chandeliers, and gushing fountains under two glittering domes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Duplicity of Pakistan's "Tribal" Policy

I have come to admire the editors of The Friday Times (Pakistan) because they have continued to articulate the truth as they see it, despite the disapproval of the government, even to the point of (in more than one instance) going to jail. Because this weekly is not easily available to many people in this country I quote extensively from a recent article exposing the contradictions in Musharraf's policies: clamp down on the Baluch insurrection, give the Pushtun tribes a free reign. It is precisely the withdrawal of Pakistan's army from the Pushtun tribal area of Waziristan that Hakim Taniwal (killed a couple days ago, see my earlier entries on him) worried about: It would give the Taliban and Al Qaeda relief from military pressure so that they could concentrate on the damage they could do across the border in Afghanistan. He was right, and he was one of their targets. But as I indicated earlier, the army was not doing well in Waziristan: it is a rough place to fight a war. Baluchistan is easier and also the stakes for the Pakistan government are larger: gas well is there and the new, brand new, port at Gwadar is in place. So Musharraf had to deploy his resources where it would help him and the Pakistan government most. The result is to leave in place the Taliban-infested Pushtun areas. In the article quoted from below Sethi calls his bluff. Note that the popularity of the "mullahs" ["fundamentalists"] in the survey was no greater than 7%.

State of the Nation
Published: September 8, 2006 (The Friday Times)
What follows is a summation of the article "State of the Nation"

"The writ of the state", thunders General Pervez Musharraf, "shall be enforced at all costs in Balochistan where tribalism stands abolished". Then he blithely surrenders the same dubious writ of the state to resurgent Talibanism and entrenched tribalism in Waziristan and celebrates the retreat of the state as a "historic breakthrough". The truth is that General Musharraf is selling pure opportunism as principled constitutionalism. Â…A May 2006 public opinion survey conducted in Pakistan by the International Republican Institute, a reputable research organization of the US Republican Party of General Musharraf's best friend, President Bush, revealed that 66% percent of all Pakistanis wanted their exiled leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif back in Pakistan to contest the next general elections. Indeed, 77% thought that Pakistan needed a strong but popular leader - General Musharraf seems 'strong' by virtue of his uniform but he has admitted his popularity is waning, most respondents in the survey think he shouldn't be army chief and president at the same time, and Ms Bhutto (18%) leads the pack for primeministership. Most interestingly, 60% want a parliamentary system instead of a presidential system, a majority believes that General Musharraf's regime will not hold free and fair elections, and only 7% will want to vote for the mullahs and religious parties.Â…[H]e refuses to extricate himself from the clutches of the unpopular mullahs and embrace the popular political parties, he insists on strong presidential powers in a weak parliamentary system,Â…. The state has to sincerely enable the exiled popular political leaders to return and give them a transparent and level playing field in the next elections under a neutral caretaker government.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Industry from Hell

A suicide bomber killed Hakim Taniwal and two colleagues two days ago, and then at his funeral yesterday another suicide bomber killed seven more, including two boys aged 10 and 12, maiming forty more. Suicide bombing is not typically Afghan; it is an import from elsewhere. And it is not Islamic. But wherever it was invented it was never natural; it is a cultural product: it has to be produced. And as a cultural product it is never the only possible solution to a situation.

It is now an industry: Suicide bombing has come to be practiced - not just as an occasional act of a few (as in London) but as a way of life -in several places: Palestine/Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Kashmir; and it seems to have been practiced in such places as India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines.

For such an industry to exist it has to be conceived and formulated, discussed, promoted. People have to meet and plan and organize. Funds have to be provided. Buildings have to be built or rented for training, teachers have to be trained, explosives and equipment have to be bought and collected, photographs and videos of "martyrs" have to be made, copied, circulated, promoted. Children have to be socialized over a period of years - that is, fed, housed, clothed, trained, taught to believe that to blow themselves up is the highest form of spiritual service. Officials have to turn a blind eye; neighbors have to remain silent. Hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, are implicated in this practice. Although secluded, it is not being done in a corner.

Some crimes are so heinous that one recoils from even describing them. It is too easy to condemn - can this be ourselves? Human beings? What an image of humanity is displayed in such hideous practices. We pray for God to save us from such a scourge. But I also pray for the whole industry with all its ugliness to be exposed for what it is. The ancient wisdom is still true: "men love darkness because their deeds are evil and they will not come into the light lest their deeds be exposed." And a voice with terrifying authority still speaks to the authors of such monstrous practices: "Woe to you teachers of the law ... for you traverse sea and land to make a single disciple and when he becomes a disciple you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Musharraf - Karzai Forum

What follows is someone's summary of the public statements by Musharraf and Karzai after their conference on September 7. Note that Musharraf spoke for 70 minutes -- it must have been a huge drain on the attention span of those present. Karzai spoke for 15 minutes only. There are many interesting details here, reflecting the ways that the two leaders see the world. Musharraf offers to help build a railway from Quetta to Kandahar. A rail system in Afghanistan is inevitable; will it really materialize now? And for it to come into Kandahar, where it is much easier and from where it can continue on to Herat [not Kabul] will be much easier and of course from there into the ex-Soviet Central Asian states, mainly Turkmenistan? -- that will shift the transport focus from Kabul to Kandahar. A road to Jalalabad will be on the way to Kabul, but a railroad will be much more difficult and expensive. Musharraf also renounces support for the Taliban. And for Al Qaeda. We'll see.

Musharraf - Karzai Forum

Ø Afghanis and Pakistanis need each other more than ever before – there is no other option.
Ø There is a need to turn our region into a Tiger economy and this can only happen in the environment of peace and stability.
Ø We need to establish an economic zone in Central Asia /South Asia. Pakistan is willing to help in the following areas:
o Railway link between Quetta and Kandahar
o Jalalabad – Peshawar Road
o Health Sector
Ø He acknowledged Pakistani support of the Mujahideen and then the Taleban (up until 9/11). Pakistan had a need to support the Taleban.
Ø Pakistan no longer sees the Taleban representing the Pashtoons.
Ø We have to somehow forget the past and look to the future.
Ø Pakistan's historical ties to Afghanistan ie Jihad, refugees etc
Ø Afghans continue to blame the Pakistanis for their woes. He is saddened by this accusation as this is not true.
Ø Pakistan would be a fool to support the Taleban as they totally oppose the Talebanisation of their country (like Afghanistan)
Ø No doubts that Al Qaeda / Taleban are active in Pakistan. As they are in Afghanistan.
Ø Pakistan is against terrorism as
a) it will help in the Talebanisation of Pakistan
b) it goes against its `coalition' agenda and
c) it will decrease the likelihood of economic development (or economic zone mentioned above).
Ø Pakistan has limitations in controlling/clamping down on these groups because of a lack of
a) capacity and
b) capability.
Ø Afghans should not doubt the intentions of Pakistan.
Ø Don't blame us for what is going inside of Afghanistan.
Ø Pakistan is willing to wire the border areas (an experience that has worked well between India and Pakistan)
Ø The people of Pakistan too blame Afghanistan for
a) internal Pakistani strife
b) Baloochistan
c) training camps inside of Afghanistan and
d) foreign powers attempting to destabilise Pakistan (meaning India).
Ø Both nations should stop this blame game.
Ø We need to fight terrorism together.
Ø We need to remain united in this fight (blaming each other will lead to defeat)
Ø We need to look at each other's allegations and then eliminate them.
Ø Pakistan acknowledges that there are hundreds of Al Qaeda (foreign) members operating out of Pakistan's major cities ie Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi etc. Already many have been arrested and locked up (some kicked out of the country).
Ø The Taleban are different as:
o They have roots
o They have command structures
o They have better organisation
Ø There are three types of Taleban:
o Moderate religious types (extremists but not terrorists)
o Hard core Taleban
o Charsi Taleban (thugs who are now Talebs) – `Charsi' means hashish smoker
Ø Tactics are adopted to win battles while strategies are utilised to win wars
Ø Pakistan favours talking to the moderate Pashtoons (in order to get them onside so that they fight the Taleban) while isolating the more extremist elements within the group. Pakistan's strategy will entail:
o Defeating the Taleban militarily
o Bolstering its civil administrations in the hot spots
o Raise agency councils through tribal chiefs (or Maliks)
o Massive economic development projects
o Political solutions – cited the recent appointment of General Orakzai (briefly mentioned that locals are tired of fighting in Wazirstan)
Ø Recent agreement (in Wazirstan) entails:
o The expulsion of foreigners from these regions.
o No training camps
o No Taleban infiltration into Afghanistan
Ø Longer term strategy should be to find the root causes of terrorism
Ø Short term strategies will include:
o Curtailing the use of loud speakers that spread hate
o Stopping hate literature ie night letters
o Having a comprehensive Islamic curriculum at school
o Reforming the Madrassa system.

Ø Afghans remain appreciative of Pakistan's hospitality during the Jihad years
Ø Our intention is to have a peaceful and brotherly relations with our Pakistani neighbours
Ø Afghans will never allow foreign elements or regimes to use the Afghan soil for anti Pakistani activity (or incursions into Pakistan)
Ø The Taleban don't represent the Pashtoons – on both sides of the border
Ø Afghans are happy about the deal between the Pakistani gov.'t and N. Wazirstan Taleban – in particular as it may stop Taleban incursions into Afghanistan.
Ø Recognition of the need for stronger ties between the two countries.
Ø We are hurt by extremist activity.
Ø We are seeking Pakistan's assistance as a brother.

Hakim Taniwal

September 11, 2006

The memory of losses on this date five years ago is now overlaid with grief and shame at what our leaders did with the goodwill the world had for us at that moment. In Iran they had vigils in memory of the people lost in the World Trade Center, and all across the world there was broad sympathy for what our country had experienced. Now it is gone. Not only our wealth and the lives of many brave Americans (not to mention the many innocent civilians) but also the world's sympathy, trust, and respect have been squandered. God help us.

On September 10 Hakim Taniwal, governor of Paktia province in Afghanistan was killed by a suicide bomber. I met him when he was involved in the Afghan Writers Union in Peshawar. He was a sociologist and used his knowledge to write
about the Afghanistan situation in critiques of the Afghanistan Communist regime, mostly in Pushtu. He was one of the few scholars who did not leave the area for better opportunities elsewhere. He stayed, along with several other scholars, to represent the war effort as a scholar.

The times were different when I knew him. The Soviets were pulling out their troops and the Afghanistan peoples were exultant. But the mujahedin organizations were on the verge of fighting each other, creating such confusion and grief that the Taliban defeat of the mujahedin would be welcomed a few years later, in the mid-1990s. Taniwal went to Australia in disgust. When Karzai was made provisional head of the Afghanistan government in 2002 he turned to Taniwal as well as other progressives to help him. Taniwal served the new government as governor of Khost, then as Minister of Mines, and in the present post - replacing a particularly culpable "warlord" - in Paktia.

There have been 47 suicide bombings in Afghanistan this year. The name of the one who killed Taniwal is unknown to those on the government's side, but there is no doubt that his name is known and valorized somewhere, probably just across the border in Waziristan. Somewhere there is a place where the pictures of "martyrs" are displayed and their stories told as great exploits in the name of God; videos made by them before their deaths are available. They will be shown to another generation of young men eager to serve God. From this "hero" they will learn how they can give their best, their all for God.


Hakim Taniwal
Published: September 12, 2006 (The Herald)

Governor Hakim Taniwal, who died aged 63 on September 10 in a suicide bombing outside his office in Gardez, Paktia, was very different from the caricature of a rugged Afghan tribal leader.

A sociology professor, educated in Germany and fluent in five languages, Dr Taniwal was a gentle Afghan intellectual with the courage to instil order and spearhead development in the lawless Paktia province, bordering Pakistan.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pakistan "Taliban" in Peace Deal

"Pakistan has signed a deal with pro-Taleban militants on the Afghan border aimed at ending years of unrest. ...The North Waziristan accord calls on tribesmen to expel foreign militants and end cross-border attacks in return for a reduced military presence." "Local Taleban supporters, ...have pledged not tharborur foreign militants, launch cross-border raids or attack Pakistani government troops or facilities." "Observers say meeting these conditions could be difficult, as the Taleban has support on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border."

Everyone seems to see this as an exit strategy for the Pakistani army. And for good reason, there is abundant doubt about whether this will really accomplish anything. The statement by the Afghanistan foreign minister implies that support for the Taliban and Al-Qaida is not limited to Waziristan: "I think it is [in] a lot of other places in our region and a lot of organizationsns and also madrassas [religious schools], that they are the centre of terrorist activity." Indeed some of the most important figures in the organization have been caught elsewhere in Pakistan. And we are hearing that support for them is broadening among the Pakistani citizenry: "a lot of other places -- and a lot of organizations" he says. He specifically points to the madrassas and implies that they are at least one "center of terrorist activity." If he is right, then this deal accomplishes very little, except give the army an excuse to bow out.

The Pakistanis have lost 500 men in attempting to get control of the tribal areas. This is a frontier area between south Asia and Afghanistan, notable for its rugged terrain (it looks like a washboard from the air), as long as the distance from Maine to Georgia, where attempts at sustained control by outsiders, the British earlier and now the Pakistanis, was unfeasible. I had thought that this time, in the era of modern warfare, the Pakistanis would finally get direct control. But it has been too costly.

We can only surmise the nature of the difficulty. When we used to travel through the Khybar pass I would try to find a place along the road that was not covered by a line of fire from at least two directions. I never found a place that was not covered by fire from at least two established, secured positions above the road. Also, the road was already supplied with huge cement blocks that could easily be moved into position to barricade the highway; it would have been easy to shut down all traffic. These fortifications were first developed in British times and no doubt the Pakistanis have maintained them. I have not been further than the northern edge of Waziristan but I surmise that the passes into that area are similarly secured: I suppose that the Pakistani army's problem was multiple installations along the lines of access that covered every point. The Waziri tribesmen would have planned ways of shutting down an army trying to move into the area. And now, after 30 years of war, they are armed with the latest weaponry. The old muzzle-loading jazaeels that once did so much damage to the British and the Lee Enfield rifles of WWI times have been replaced by AK-47s.

Moreover, scarcely anyone believes that Pakistan is fully committed to rooting out the Taliban. The New York Times [9/7/06] quotes an American intelligence source that Pakistanis are still actively supporting the Taliban raids into Afghanistan:
"Pakistani intelligence agents have provided intelligence to the Taliban about coalition plans and tactical operations ...". They have also provided support, housing and security for the Taliban leadership, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, and it is believed that they are providing money and weapons for their attacks on Afghanistan.

Not a good sign.

Pakistani Leader Admits Taliban Cross into Afghanistan

For Musharraf to admit what the world knew all along is important. It isn't news that Pakistan has been nourishing the Taliban and sending them into Afghanistan but it is news that he is willing to admit it. This is the first time he has agreed to go after the Taliban. We live in a world in which leaders - to put it bluntly -- say what works in their interest, not what is true - or at least this is tragically more true than it should ever be. There is, however, a worry about whether this could cost him his office - and there are rumors that he is not to be in office much longer, even than he may not be with us much longer. Lets hope he lives to carry out his pledge.

Pakistani Leader Admits Taliban Cross into Afghanistan
Published: September 7, 2006 (New York Times)

KABUL, Afghanistan - President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, in a conciliatory speech to Afghan officials and members of Parliament today, conceded that Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents have been crossing the border into Afghanistan to mount attacks but denied that he or his government were backing them. In a major policy shift that may cost him support at home, General Musharraf pledged to seek out and destroy the command structure of insurgents apparently linked to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban rulers, who are fighting NATO and Afghan forces in southern Afghanistan.

On the Release of the Truth About the Deception of our Country by Our Own Elected Leadership

"Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qaeda to provide material or operational support" So says the CIA report to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2005. Anyone who knew the region would have known that. It is in fact not news; it was not even news in 2005. This was widely known, and certainly was known by the religious elite in the Muslim world, some of whose associates had been executed by Saddam because he distrusted them. It is tragic that such a report had to be written at all and that it is considered news now, after so much loss of life based on a misrpresentation that was repeatedly made by the President, the Vice President, and their staffs as justification for abandoning the war in Afghanistan and turning attention to Iraq. Would the American people have been willing to put our troops into war in Iraq in 2003 if they had known what the President and his people already knew -- that Saddam had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11/01?

Saddam "Had No Link to al-Qaeda"
Published: September 9, 2006

There is no evidence of formal links between Iraqi ex-leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda leaders prior to the 2003 war, a US Senate report says.
The finding is contained in a 2005 CIA report released by the Senate's Intelligence Committee on Friday.

Captured Taliban Leader Given Amnesty

A former Taliban leader defects, saying, "I want peace and unity in Afghanistan and elsewhere and an Islamic system," and "If I had come to fight, nobody would have defeated me."

Captured Taliban Leader Given Amnesty
Published: June 17, 2006 (CanWest News Service)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Faced with a devil's choice between dealing severely with an arrested Taliban commander or scoring a propaganda coup by allowing him to switch sides, the Afghan government granted amnesty to Mullah Ibrahim on Friday despite allegations that he had fought against Canadian troops in Panjwai District as recently as last month.

What's Wrong with the War on Terror

Soros' critique of the war on terror sheds light on its "self-defeating" aspects.

A Self-Defeating War
Published: August 15, 2006 (Wall Street Journal)

The war on terror is a false metaphor that has led to counterproductive and self-defeating policies. Five years after 9/11, a misleading figure of speech applied literally has unleashed a real war fought on several fronts -- Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia -- a war that has killed thousands of innocent civilians and enraged millions around the world. Yet al Qaeda has not been subdued; a plot that could have claimed more victims than 9/11 has just been foiled by the vigilance of British intelligence.
Unfortunately, the "war on terror" metaphor was uncritically accepted by the American public as the obvious response to 9/11. It is now widely admitted that the invasion of Iraq was a blunder. But the war on terror remains the frame into which American policy has to fit. Most Democratic politicians subscribe to it for fear of being tagged as weak on defense.


Pakistani Tribal Leader's Killing Touches a Nerve

Two important events have taken place this week, the deal by the Pakistani army with the Waziris, by which the Waziris would [pretend to?] control the Taliban in their midst from attacking Afghanistan, and the killing of Akbar Bugti, major voice of the Baluch for many years. He was 79 years old; could the Pakistani army not wait for him to pass away? This article by one of the most savvy observers of the area, Amin Tarzi, tells you about how leaders in neighboring countries are reacting. The enduring question will be, how will people in Balichistan react?

Pakistan: A Country Unravels
Published: August 28, 2006 (International Herald Tribune)

LAHORE, Pakistan - Killing political opponents rather than talking to them is a sure signal of a government's weakness and desperation. Such is the case with the killing of the Baluch tribal chief Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on Saturday by the Pakistan Army.

Afghanistan: Pakistani Tribal Leader's Killing Touches Nerve
Published: August 31, 2006 (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty)

WASHINGTON -- As Pakistan faces a backlash after the killing of Baluch tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti on August 26, Islamabad has rejected criticism from New Delhi and Kabul, calling the incident an internal affair.
Violent protests have raged in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan, since Baluch tribal leader Bugti was killed in unclear circumstances during an attack by Pakistani security forces on his cave hideout on ...

EDITORIAL: Bugti's killing is the biggest blunder since Bhutto's execution
Published: August 28, 2006 (Daily Times)

Regrets and recriminations are going to fly thick and fast in Islamabad after a military operation on Saturday killed Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in the Bhambore Hills in an area between Dera Bugti and Kohlu in Balochistan.

Pakistan's Awkward Balancing Act on Islamic Militant Groups

This is a nice summary of Pakistan's janus-faced politics. What it will produce over the long run is very unsettling.

Pakistan's Awkward Balancing Act on Islamic Militant Groups
Published: August 26, 2006 (Washington Post)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- For the past five years, Pakistan has pursued a risky, two-sided policy toward Islamic militancy, positioning itself as a major ally in the Western-led war against global terrorism while reportedly allowing homegrown Muslim insurgent groups to meddle in neighboring India and Afghanistan.
Now, two high-profile cases of terrorism -- a day of gruesome, sophisticated train bombings in India in mid-July and a plot foiled this month to blow up planes leaving Britain for the United States -- have cast a new spotlight on Pakistan's ambiguous, often starkly contradictory roles as both a source and suppressor of Islamic violence, according to Pakistani and foreign experts.

Drug Abuse on the Rise in the Helmand, Afghanistan

The abuse of drugs in Pakistan, Iran, and now Afghanistan is reason for alarm. Can it reflect the growing sense of dispair in the region? When hope vanishes how can social life be possible?

AFGHANISTAN: Drug abuse on the rise in Helmand
Published: July 27, 2006 (

LASHKAR GAH - Halima's drug addiction started with a toothache. "Some of my relatives told me to put a piece of opium in my mouth to relieve the pain. After a while I soon became addicted to this evil,” the 30-year-old mother-of-four said as she sat in a long queue of women waiting for treatment at a drug addiction clinic in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand.

Helmand, the largest opium-producing province in a country that produces nearly 90 percent of the world’s illicit opium, has seen a steady increase in addiction.

Afghanistan: Interview with regional analyst Barnet Rubin

"What has gone right and what has gone wrong". We need to avoid assuming that Afghanistan is like Iraq or any other of the Arab states. And, contrary to the general viewpoint of Pakistanis, Afghanistan is not now dominated solely by Pushtuns and so cannot be regarded as a Pushtun state in the sense that it historically was until the 1980s. There are still possibilities there -- unlike Iraq, for which hope seems to have faded. Barnett Rubin's perceptions of the situation should be taken very seriously.

AFGHANISTAN: Interview with regional analyst Barnet Rubin
Published: June 20, 2006 (

ANKARA - Almost five years since the US-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime from Afghanistan, observers say security is at an all-time low outside the capital and confidence in the international effort to rebuild the country is questionable.

Despite presidential and parliamentary elections leading to the country’s first democratically elected legislature in more than three decades, economic progress has been painfully slow with opium production remaining widespread.

Barnet Rubin is an acknowledged expert on the country and wider region and spoke to IRIN in Ankara about the challenges Afghanistan faces in consolidating reconstruction and extending governance beyond Kabul.

Lost in Translation?

I have just been told something very disconcerting: On the BBC site on Afghanistan there is an article about how NATO is doing well in their battle against the Taliban. They believe they have destroyed over a 1,000 Taliban and now will have to deal with smaller units because they have so severely crushed the Taliban.

However, on the same date [today] in Farsi is a BBC article that says that two provinces of Afghanistan have fallen to the Taliban, Helmand and Zabul. And in fact, the article, even on the Farsi site, is not foregrounded. I find it incredible, if true, that these two sites should be saying such different things on the same day about the situation in Helmand and Zabul. And it seems strange that the article, important as this news is, would not be given prominence. Something strange here. Perhaps an English translation of the Farsi article is coming?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Fall Guy for the US Retreat from Afghanistan

The following article by Simon Jenkins appears to have been written originally for the Guardian [I have it through Khaleej Times]. It tells us much more about the context of the riots that took place in Kabul in June: finally, it is possible to picture how it happened. RLC

"Britain is the Fall Guy for the US Retreat from Aghanistan"
Published: June 7, 2006 (The Guardian)

Last week an American military convoy on a road into Kabul crashed in a traffic jam. What happened next is confused. It appears the American soldiers, whose drug consumption is reputedly prodigious, lost their heads and fired into the crowd. The result was half a dozen deaths and the worst riot Kabul has seen since the occupation four and a half years ago.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Guest's Concerns: Iraqi Museum Sealed

By Carrie Hritz
Ph.D. Anthropolgy, University of Chicago 2005
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Washington University in St Louis

This article appeared in the August 26th edition of the Washington Post and in NYT on the same date. According to the article, the national museum in Baghdad has been sealed again with concrete to prevent damage to antiquities dating back to the origins of civilizations in Mesopotamia (although many reports from Baghdad in the recent year claimed the museum to already have been almost totally closed since its grand one day opening in 2004). It is important to note that this article states that the small funds allotted to the protection of archaeological sites in Iraq since 2003-4 is set to run out sometime this month. The director of Iraqi's antiquities board, a well respected archaeologist, has fled the country, due to threats against him and his family. While the rising violence in Iraq is a humanitarian disaster and human life is most important, this is a terrible development for Iraq's cultural heritage.

Understandably, the protection of archaeological sites in Iraq has been difficult since the disastrous American invasion and occupation in 2003. Large-scale, wide spread damage has occurred to sites that held the key to our understanding of the rise of the earliest civilizations in the world. The evidence is clearly visible on the free and publicly available Google Earth website. Before we lay blame squarely on the Iraqi people, let us not forget that the near total destruction of the economic infrastructure of the country of Iraq has left its people in a dire situation and often unable to provide for even their most basic subsistence needs. Looting and selling artifacts to a willing and eager antiquities market abroad is a rare source of income. The following is from the Washington post article:

"I can tell you the situation regarding antiquities is horrible," McGuire Gibson, an authority on Mesopotamian archaeology at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, said by telephone from Chicago. "There was a lot of attention paid to the looting of the museum the very same days the war started," Gibson said. "It hasn't stopped. There has been looting of sites on an industrial scale. Some of the greatest Sumerian sites have gone."

In the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion, Gibson worked to alert the U.S. military to the thousands of ancient sites across Iraq. The work helped save Iraq's heritage from U.S. bombs, but not from the looting -- unforeseen by U.S. military and civilian war planners -- that broke out after the collapse of Hussein's government.

Another disturbing statement comes directly from Donnie George. "George, an Iraqi Christian, cited what he said was growing pressure by officials of Iraq's ruling Shiite parties to emphasize Iraq's Islamic heritage and ignore the earlier civilizations that stretched back to Babylon and beyond. "A lot of people have been sent to our institutions," the Art Newspaper quoted him as saying. "They are only interested in Islamic sites and not Iraq's earlier heritage." Mesopotamia has evidence for the earliest cities in the ancient world, development of long distance trade, earliest empires, domestication of plants and animals, earliest writing; All the processes of cultural and societal change that make us who we are today. Are these not as important? This, too, is part of our cultural heritage.

"Iraqi Museum Sealed Against Looters"
Published: August 27, 2006 (Washington Post)

BAGHDAD, Aug. 26 -- Before he quit as head of Iraq's antiquities board, Donny George made a final desperate attempt this summer to safeguard the relics of 5,000 years of history: He ordered the doors of the National Museum plugged with concrete against the near-unbridled looting of ancient artifacts.

Friday, September 01, 2006

"Where's Mao? Chinese Revise History Books"

When I was in high school I thought I was learning "history" - what really happened in the past. The topic was obvious, the questions and the answers were cut and dried. There were right answers that I had to learn to pass. Now I am finding out how much the topics, the questions and the"right answers" were constructions of "truth." The experts were trying to prepare me for the world I lived in -- that of course is what education should do. But determination of what "the world" was that I would be living in and what "really happened" in the past was a contested issue. People had to decide what was "true" and important enough to go in the textbooks. People had to decide what events in the past were worth putting in the textbooks, and what the view of those events would be. The "truth" that societies live by is always constructed - which means that it is also disputed and debated. Textbooks are a major site for debate over "truth" and "the past." And for states they are major vehicles for establishing a popular consensus on matters of state interest: who we are, where we came from, how we do things together, etc. As always, politics is the business of defining situations, and education is a critical area for how public situations are to be defined. This point is much easier to see in other societies than in our own.

So the Chinese attempts to reconstruct their past in their textbooks helps us think about the way "the past" is being constructed in our own social worlds. According to Joseph Kahn in today's New York Times, "socialism has been reduced to a single, short chapter in the senior high school history course. Chinese Communism before the economic reform that began in1979 is covered in a sentence. The text mentions Mao only once - in a chapter on etiquette." This new construction of China's past in high school textbooks has apparently been vetted by senior authorities as "part of a broader effort to promote a more stable, less violent view of Chinese history that serves today's economic and political goals." Here is another carefully calibrated attempt to define the public situation - the contemporary situation - through the education of youth about "their" past. The past is always with us and continues to inform how we understand events as they take place - but it is a constructed past. RLC

"Where's Mao? Chinese Revise History Books"
Published: September 1, 2006 (The New York Times)

BEIJING, Aug. 31 — When high school students in Shanghai crack their history textbooks this fall they may be in for a surprise. The new standard world history text drops wars, dynasties and Communist revolutions in favor of colorful tutorials on economics, technology, social customs and globalization.