Tuesday, October 31, 2006

War on West shifts back to Afghanistan

There are a number of signs that Afghanistan is a locus of increasing concern:
Not only are the Taliban coming back in force but also many
militant Islamists from elsewhere are coming to Pakistan or Afghanistan to join in the Taliban anti-western movement.

War on West shifts back to Afghanistan
Published: October 26, 2006 (Los Angeles Times

Sebastian Rotella [LA Times] says that the insurgents in Iraq are shifting their attention to Afghanistan. "Muslim extremists aspiring to battle the West [are turning] their attention back to the symbolically important and increasingly violent turf of Afghanistan." "Militants played a major role in suicide attacks and kidnap-killings." "Insurgent leaders in Iraq are now mainly interested in foreign recruits ready to die in suicide attacks." "An accelerating Afghan offensive by the resurgent Taliban offers a clearer battleground and a wealth of targets".
The movement of
foreign fighters to Iraq has "significantly declined in recent months, "There is less need for them in Iraq, because there's a need above all for kamikazes and there are not an infinite number of volunteers," accordingto a French authority. "The Iraqi insurgency is now very well organized around Iraqis. Those who want to fight, but not necessarily to die as martyrs, go elsewhere."
"Today they return to the route of Afghanistan,
or the tribal zones of Pakistan, where clearly they are thriving,"
Afghanistan there are certainly many Pakistanis and people from Arab countries and some from North Africa" who have come recently to help the Taliban resistance activities.

See this article in its entirety at LAtimes.com

Monday, October 30, 2006

Armed and defiant: a tour of duty with the Taliban army

The rise of the Taliban is worrisome. We have been reassured that they were recently crushed by the British in a recent battle, but this report by Dave Loyn is not encouraging. Here are some notes from his article:

Armed and defiant: a tour of duty with the Taliban army
Published: October 25, 2006 (The Independent [UK])

"The Taliban were demonstrating their control over a wide region. These are the same Taliban that Brigadier Ed Butler, the commander of British forces in the region, said were "practically defeated" in Helmand.
"Instead, they are confident and well-armed, all with AK-47s, and many of them carry rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
"... Their communications equipment and vehicles are new and they have a constant supply of fresh men from the madrassas, the religious schools in Pakistan. Recently, the "Waziristan accord", which has seen Pakistani forces withdraw from parts of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, has made it even easier for the Taliban to manoeuvre. ... Few carry any possessions other than weapons.

.... They demand and get food and shelter wherever they stop, but it is impossible to say how enthusiastic the villagers really are.
"The Taliban commander said the tactic of suicide bombing, still relatively new to Afghanistan, would be employed far more intensively in the future. "There are thousands waiting at the border," he said. "We are trying to stop them because they would cause chaos if they all came at once."
Â… Driving around the region during the next day with a local commander, Mahmud Khan, was a little like visiting villages in Britain might be with a popular local politician. He knew everybody, and stopped often to chat.He said: "We gained our freedom from the British 160 years ago, and should remain free. We don't accept the claim that they are here to rebuild our country. They have done nothing for us."
... Meanwhile, the scale of institutionalised corruption practised by the Afghan National Army is shocking. They demand money at gunpoint from every driver on the main roads in the south. It was to stop just this kind of casual theft that the Taliban was formed in the first place in 1994."

Bashing Pakistan

One of my Pakistani friends has pointed to a recent editorial in the Pakistani press, in which the author points to the new criticism of Pakistan as a "media's sensationalist herd mentality" in its blaming of Pakistan for the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. For many in the West it is impossible to conceive that Pakistan has been unable to get control of the "anti-Western forces" within its territory. The Pakistani view is that the failures of the West are to blame for the rise of the Taliban. Western policies have alienated many of the Pashtuns. Perhaps this is also a sign of the future, in that the U.S. might be able to externally influence the situation in a post-Karzai Afghanistan only through measured blackmail and intimidation tactics to induce Pakistani cooperation.

Bashing Pakistan
Published: September 2006 (The News International)

It seems no matter what we [Pakistan] do as a country in the context of the war on terror, we will continue to be the West's
whipping boy -- especially the US media.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Karzai's Wild Card

A recent artilc by Dr Roashan sees Karzai's recent proposal to meet with Pushtun tribal leaders on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a promising proposal. It seems to me a possible way to upstage Musharraf's recent deal with the tribes in Waziristan, to leave them alone if they "promise" to behave. And it is conceivable that they will talk with Karzai. But whether their current arrangements will change is problematic; they have few reasons now to consider any major shifts in policy.

Karzai's Wild Card
Published: October 10, 2006 (Afga.com)

President Karzai has taken upon himself to seek a radical solution to the problem of increased violence by Taleban in his country in meeting with tribal leaders on the Pashtun lands. …[B]ecause of the fact that the Taleban emanated from among Pashtun students of the madrassas in Pakistan and because of the shifting of the center of extremist activities from Afghanistan to Pakistan and newly found basis for al-Qaeda within the Pashtun belt in Pakistan, it seems a necessity that Karzai for the first time should play his so far un-played Pashtun card.

During his last month's trip to America, he overshadowed in rudence and diplomacy his Pakistani counterpart, President Musharraf.
… General Musharraf, [for his part] played his role as a general rather than a civilian politician. His statements verged between the two extremes of harsh and blunt military leader's utterances and those of a soft spoken diplomat. Yet … he left many questions unanswered regarding his pet military spy agency, the ISI, Inter-Service Intelligence organization and its role in supporting of Taleban that are carrying out wide range of violence in Afghanistan and especially in the south of the country. President Musharraf did not succeed in defending in any convincing way the treaty he had signed with tribal leaders in north Waziristan. The treaty, some believe, encourages Taleban and al-Qaeda to continue training insurgents, now unhindered and rather freely in the semiautonomous tribal zone. The trained and regrouped Taleban would then easily cross the border into Afghanistan and commit acts of violence.

President Karzai [has] … proposed joint meetings on both sides of the border area with leaders mostly of Pashtun tribes to deal with the annoying issue of the Taleban resurgence and its acts of violence.

This ... is one of the rare proposals that has surfaced regarding [the search for] a non-military solution to the question of insecurity in Afghanistan. ...

Afghanistan much like its neighbor, Pakistan is a tribal society. In both countries Islam has consistently played a unifying role among many ethnic groupings that live within their boundaries. [But in] Pakistan where after a little more than half a century of its life as an artificial nation, the four nationalities of Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun have failed to thoroughly emancipate as a nation that is united. Hypothetically, if you take away the religious factor from Pakistan the country will fall apart. In Afghanistan however, even without consideration of the factor of religion, the Afghans would remain united because of their thousands of years of history. [B]ecause of the shifting of the center of extremist activities from Afghanistan to Pakistan and newly found bases for al-Qaeda within the Pashtun belt in Pakistan, it seems a necessity that Karzai … plays his so far un-played Pashtun card. If [the meeting is] planned thoroughly with ample preparations …, the Afghan President would be in a good position to negotiate with the Pashtun tribal leaders and find a lasting solution to the problem posed by Taleban.

Read the article in its entirety at Agha.com

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Captured Taliban say they were sent to fight by Pakistani mullahs

Despite the denials of Pakistan's generals, the indications that Pakistan is providing sanctuary and support for the newly insurgent Taliban are legion.
Here is but one piece of evidence:

Captured Taliban say they were sent to fight by Pakistani mullahs
Published: October 19, 2006 (AFP)

Handcuffed and weary, three confessed Taliban fighters told this week how they crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan to carry out a "jihad" against troops after mullahs said it was their duty as Muslims. … [T]wo Pakistanis and an Afghan -- were captured after a fierce five-hour battle in Paktika province Tuesday, just a few kilometers (miles) from the border. The dead were mostly Afghans but included an Arab, Chechens, Pakistanis, Turks and a man from Yemen… "Mullahs in Pakistan were preaching to us that we are obliged to fight jihad in Afghanistan because there are foreign troops -- there is an Angriz (British) invasion," dishevelled Alahuddin told reporters. …. After five hours of fighting, 24 Taliban and a soldier were dead. Some of the rebels not killed by the troops blew themselves up with their own grenades, soldiers said.… Alahuddin said he was misled into believing that Afghanistan was overrun by foreign "infidels", …"We were sent to Afghanistan blindly. We call on our other friends in Pakistan and say, 'There is no jihad here, everybody is Muslim,'" he told AFP. Alahuddin was from Miranshah in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area that is just on the other side of the border with Afghanistan's Paktika.
[where] The Pakistan government last month signed a truce with the area's pro-Taliban tribal elders … [a deal that] … Political analyst Samina Ahmed, from the International Crisis Group, … called the deal "irresponsible to say the least". For "all practical purposes, now the Taliban are running the show," she told a meeting in Brussels. [Another prisoner said] "We came to Afghanistan to carry out jihad against British forces - as Muslims we are obliged to do jihad against them, this is what we weretold," he said. … "The cooperation of Pakistan with Taliban and Al-Qaeda is visible," [and Afghan general said]. …"They cross into Afghanistan even in areas where Pakistani posts are installed, but they are not prevented. They carry out attacks and then return."

One step forward, two back

I continue to be impressed with the press in Pakistan. This is not a free country, as can be surmised from the article below, and yet some of their news outlets describe the reality of power politics in Pakistan in devastating ways. Surely the generals, and of course especially Musharraf, are embarrassed by such blunt descriptions of the Machiavellian machinations of Pakistan's several power blocs, each working to its own ends, virtually none of them actually displaying a concern for the country. There is, however, little sign that the religious establishment is embarrassed by revelations of what they do. Below are excerpts from an article by an intrepid professor at the Quaid-e-Azam University in
Islamabad that appeared in the Karachi-based newspaper Dawn. Pray that he and the newspaper will stay safe.


One step forward, two back
Published: October 12, 2006 (Dawn)

[T]he present regime … has a single-point agenda - to stay in power at all costs. It, therefore, does whatever it must and Pakistan moves further away from any prospect of acquiring modern values, and of building and strengthening democratic institutions. … On the one hand, the army leadership knows that its critical dependence upon the West requires that it be perceived abroad as a liberal regime pitted against radical Islamists. On the other hand, and in actual fact,to safeguard and extend its grip on power, it must preserve the status quo. The staged conflicts between General Musharraf and the mullahs are, therefore, a regular part of Pakistani politics. … In a nutshell: provoke a fight, get the excitement going, let diplomatic missions in Islamabad make their notes and CNN and BBC get their clips - and then beat a retreat. At the end of it all, the mullahs would get what they want, but so would the general. … [T]he blasphemy law … under which the minimum penalty is death, has frequently been used to harass personal and political opponents. [But] under the watchful glare of the mullahs, Musharraf hastily [abandoned attempts to rescind it]. … [In another instance,] even before the mullahs actually took to the streets, the government lost nerve and announced its volte-face on March 24, 2005. … [Worse was] the astonishing recent retreat over reforming the Hudood Ordinance, … unparalleled both for its cruelty and irrationality. … These laws prescribe death by stoning for married Muslims who are found guilty of extra-marital sex (for unmarried couples or non-Muslims, the penalty is 100 lashes). …Rape is still more problematic. A woman who fails to prove that she has been raped is automatically charged with fornication and adultery. … [S]he is considered guilty unless she can prove her innocence. [which requires her] to provide "at least four Muslim adult male witnesses, about whom the court is satisfied" who saw the actual act of penetration. General Musharraf, and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, proposed amending the Hudood Ordinance [but] outraged the fundamentalists of the MMA, the main Islamic parliamentary opposition, …. The government cowered abjectly and withdrew. ...[Another case:] In 2002, presumably on Washington's instructions, the Pakistan army established military bases in South Waziristan which had become a refuge for Taliban and Al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan. It unleashed artillery and US-supplied Cobra gunships. By 2005, heavy fighting had spread to North Waziristan and the army was bogged down. The generals, safely removed from combat areas, and busy in building their personal empires, ascribed the resistance to "a few hundred foreign militants and terrorists". But the army was taking losses … and soldiers rarely ventured from their forts. Reportedly, local clerics refused to conduct funeral prayers for soldiers killed in action. In 2004, the army made peace with the militants of South Waziristan. It conceded the territory to them, which made the militants immensely stronger. A similar "peace treaty" was signed on September 5, 2006, in the town of Miramshah in North Waziristan, now firmly in the grip of the Pakistani Taliban. [The treaty] met all the demands made by the militants [and] the financial compensation demanded by the Taliban for loss of property and life … [was] "astronomical". …[T]he locals have been left to pay the price. The militants have closed girls' schools and are enforcing harsh Shariah laws in both North and South Waziristan. Barbers have been told "shave and die". Taliban vigilante groups patrol the streets of Miramshah. They check such things as the length of beards, whether the "shalwars" are worn at an appropriate height above the ankles and the attendance of individuals in the mosques. And then there is Balochistan. In 1999, when the army seized power, there was no visible separatist movement in Balochistan, which makes up nearly 44 per cent of Pakistan's land mass and is the repository of its gas and oil resources. Now there is a full-blown insurgency built upon Baloch grievances, … The crisis worsened when the charismatic 79-year old Baloch chieftain and former governor of Balochistan, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, was killed by army bombs. Musharraf outraged the Baloch by calling it "a great victory". Reconciliation in Balochistan now seems a distant dream. Musharraf and his generals are determined to stay in power. … No price is too high for them. They are the reason why Pakistan fails.

Pakistani Government's Duplicity and its "Shadowy Secret Service"

A number of articles have appeared on the duplicity of the Pakistan government and especially of the role of Pakistan's ISI in encouraging and supporting the recent resurgence of the Taliban. Here are several of them.

Pakistan's shadowy secret service
Published: October 9, 2006 (BBC)

Pakistan's directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, usually
called the ISI, is accused of many vices. Critics say it runs "a state within a state", subverts elected governments, supports the Taleban and is even involved in drug smuggling.

Musharraf's misunderstood Afghan strategy
Published: October 10, 2006 (BBC)

Allies in the "war on terror" may want to turn the heat on Pakistan to rein in its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but they may need to be careful not to drive President Pervez Musharraf too hard on the issue in public. The fear is that instability in Islamabad would increase the influence of Islamic hardliners in the region.

Musharraf's Doublespeak
Published: October 2006 (Newsline Pakistan)

Though President Musharraf's latest sojourn to the United States may have reinforced his status as America's favourite dictator, his standing as a credible leader has hit a new low. During his
inordinately long stay in New York, for the United Nations' General Assembly session, and to promote his newly published autobiography, Musharraf became the focus of an unprecedented media blitz, even
appearing on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show," a satirical evening news programme (the first head of state to do so). For America,Musharraf remains an ally of convenience, at least in the war against Al-Qaeda.
But his credibility, as a man who can be trusted, has been critically exposed when confronted with the paradox between his rhetoric and reality. His efforts to promote himself as a standard bearer in the fight against Islamic extremism fell flat in the face of his policies at home.


The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations
Published: October 10, 2006 (Council on Foreign Relations)

Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI), has long received criticism for meddling in the affairs of its neighbors. However, in recent weeks, fresh accusations have been leveled at Pakistani intelligence, alleging active support for terrorism. In late September, the BBC received a leaked copy of a report from the Defense Academy, a think tank run by Britain's Ministry of Defense, which charges, "Indirectly Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism-whether in London on 7/7, or in Afghanistan, or Iraq." Just days later, Mumbai's police chief claimed to have proof that the ISI planned the July 11 bombing of the Indian city's commuter rail system, which was carried out by the Kashmir-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Destruction of Conscience and the Betrayal of the Honor Code from the Top Down

In an article written in 1966 ["The Destruction of Conscience in Vietnam", Originally published in Dissent (Jan.-Feb. 1966) and Reprinted in Culture and Practice: Selected Essays by Marshall Sahlins (Pp. 229-260), Zone Books (2000)] Marshall Sahlins, anthropologist then at Michigan, voiced a concern about the corruption of values among American troops during the Vietnam war. In an article written in 2005 ["The Not-So-Long Gray Line" New York Times, June 28] Lucien K. Truscott IV, a former Army officer who graduated from West Point in 1969, expressed his concern that the misrepresentations of truth in the Iraq war were, as in the Vietnam war, weakening the moral fabric of the American military, especially in the officer corps. I am struck by the similarity of their observations on the corrupting effect of dishonest leadership in war. They were talking about the same subject, only from different reference points, one a professor opposed to the war in 1966 (Sahlins), the other a former officer worried about what the betrayal of the honor code in the military - from the top down - will do to the integrity of the American military in 2005 (Truscott). Here are excerpts from their respective statements:

Sahlins (1966, p. 240-241 in 2000 edition):
I had a number of experiences of this kind, times when I heard a Vietnamese or an American in the presence of another American official report something compromising to American ideals, policy, or the Washington line on Vietnam. …. I was interested in the reaction of the American who was thus suddenly confronted with damning information on which he would have to make some reckoning …. If not exactly a moment of truth, the American's response gives subtle intelligence of the critical battle of this war - of how much of America, of what America has meant to us, can be consumed in Vietnam. The Americans I have seen in this predicament were good men and intelligent; but they blanked out, every one of them. Intellectually, they refused to come to terms with it. Morally, they passed. Some said nothing. Some spoke of Vietcong crimes, as if to justify our own or our South Vietnamese agents'. Some glossed over the reported incident as exceptional, as not happening most of the time. And some shrugged, referred to the feudal-oriental character of the country, then asked what one could do since "we're only advisers here." It is, I repeat, an important point. If we are whored by our commitment, if we must lose ourselves in Vietnam, we lose the war - whatever the military outcome.
...[T]he American military adviser who turns his back on the torture of Vietcong prisoners by South Vietnamese soldiers is the khaki counterpart of the VOA civilian who closes his mind to compromising information. But these seem advanced stages of moral decay, people now dangerously close to a final plunge into brutalization. …

Truscott (2005, June 28, New York Times)
My class, that of 1969, set a record with more than 50 percent resigning within a few years of completing the service commitment. ... And now, ... we may be on the verge of a similar exodus of officers. ...
[M]y classmates were disillusioned with more than being sent to fight an unpopular war. When we became cadets, we were taught that the academy's honor code was what separated West Point from a mere college. ... We were taught that in combat, lies could kill. But the honor code was not just a way to fight a better war. ... The honor code serves as the Bill of Rights of the Army, protecting soldiers from betraying one another and the rest of us from their terrifying power to destroy. It is all that stands between an army and tyranny.
However, the honor code broke down before our eyes as staff and faculty jobs at West Point began filling with officers returning from Vietnam. Some had covered their uniforms with bogus medals and made their careers with lies - inflating body counts, ignoring drug abuse, turning a blind eye to racial discrimination, and worst of all, telling everyone above them in the chain of command that we were winning a war they knew we were losing. The lies became embedded in the curriculum of the academy, and finally in its moral DNA. By the time we were seniors, honor court verdicts could be fixed, and there was organized cheating in some units. A few years later, nearly an entire West Point class was implicated in cheating on an engineering exam; the breakdown was complete.
The mistake the Army made then is the same mistake it is making now: how can you educate a group of handpicked students at one of the best universities in the world and then treat them as if they are too stupid to know when they have been told a lie?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?

Things are going bad in Iraq and Afghanistan: that's not news. But an op-ed piece by Jeff Stein on October 17, 2006 is news: after several years in which our country has been fighting two wars against militant Islamists in the Middle East and Central Asia, many of our country's leaders don't know the difference between Sunni and Shia, and don't know whether Iran is mainly Shia or not. In that part of the world these are fundamental distinctions; elementary. Jeff Stein tells us that with regard to the elementary issue of discerning Sunni from Shiite "most American officials " don't have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies." Specifically he mentions the following: the chief of the FBI's new national security branch, the former chief of the FBI's counterterrorism branch, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence
subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.'s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, and a Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.
If the news in Iraq and Afghanistan was not in itself reason to doubt that anything good can come out of the situation now, the news about how indifferent our leaders are to the social and religious orientations of the peoples they are dealing with is evidence that the chances of success are even worse than anyone could have thought. A war in which the finest fighters in history were asked to risk life and limb for a vaguely conceived boondoggle, has become not only a tragedy but a farce.

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?
By JEFF STEIN Published: October 17, 2006 (New York Times)
Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Bear in the Room that We Forgot About

Sarah Kendzior pointed me to the importance of Russia for the Central Asian states, especially Uzbekistan, alerting me to an issue I have failed to give sufficient attention to. I have been distracted by the demise of the Soviet Union, the wars around its frontiers, the shifting alliances and symbolic representations that have taken form in the states left in the Soviet wake, plus the evident signs of corruption and centralization of powers by Vladimir Putin. But there is an empirical reality in Greater Central Asia that has not gone away: that Russia is the dominant player.

Russia is still the major fuel source for Europe and the potential major fuel source for the Far East. Already Russia is responsible for most of Europe's gas, oil and uranium. In fact it is the largest producer of gas in the world and the second largest producer of oil. Its strategic control of gas was underlined on January 1, 2006, when Russia halted gas supplies to Ukraine for refusing to pay a price that had suddenly been raised from $50 per 1000 cubic meters to $230. Russian owned (51%), Gazprom is the world's largest gas company in output and reserves; in market capital it is the third largest company in the world; and because its shares have more than tripled in the past 12 months, Gazprom could overtake ExxonMobil and General Electric and become the world's largest company. Its gas output in 2005 was, in energy yield, equivalent Saudi Arabia's daily output of oil. And the company is aggressive: it is investing in Western distributors and hiring prominent European figures like Gerhard Schroeder and the officials of other big energy companies (such as E.ON and BASF).

The key market for now is Europe but China's dramatic growth augurs for its becoming another consumer of Russian energy. Which gives Russia leverage in pricing disputes with the Europeans. Gazprom has often hinted that disputes with the Europeans could oblige it to give more attention to China. The obvious trend is competition from West and East, with Russia holding control of -- rather, being -- the prize in the middle. So Russia, already the gas lifeline for Europe, could soon become the vital source of energy, or at least the transit territory, for China and the rest of the Far East.

That means that Russia is in a position to ignore the carping about human rights and democracy by the Western states: Already Russia has $170 billion in foreign reserves (banking 95% of its oil profits above $27 a barrel), and it has a huge budget surplus; moreover, its annual gross domestic product is growing annually at 7%.

The fear of being swallowed up into a new Soviet-scale Russian empire has induced some of Russia's closest neighbors to take active steps to link up with the Europeans. GUUAM (the acronym for Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova - that is, the countries poised to gain from the energy wealth of the Caspian Sea) was founded in 1997 ostensibly to "favor economic multilateral cooperation", but in reality to seek the protection of the EU and NATO. Recognizing their agendas, Russia has imposed restrictions on imports of milk and meat from Ukraine, of wine from Georgia and Moldova, and of mineral water from Georgia. And according to some of these countries Russia is supporting troublesome separatist movements. The looming influence of Russia has induced
President Karimov of Uzbekistan to pull out of the organization (making it now GUAM), a move that will likely enable him to avoid retribution for doubling gas prices in October, 2006 (Gazprom, which pipes it westward, says it will pass the cost on to its European consumers).

So besides the oil money that seems to be flooding into extremist movements in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the drug money that is funding the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, gas money in the hands of rouge leaders may be the next problem for the developed world. According to the BBC "Putin, [is] the undisputed czar of the global gas club - seconded by Iran's Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales."


The Roving Eye: The Gazprom nation
Published: May 26, 2006 (Asia Times Online)

Uzbekistan Vows to Double Its Gas Prices
Published: October 13, 2006 (The Moscow Times)

Uzbekistan warned Russia and its Central Asian neighbors Thursday it would double its gas export price at the start of next year, putting price pressure on a supply chain that stretches to Europe.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Radical Islamism & Talibanism: Tools of Pakistani Politics

Aimal Kahn Faizi reports that the British have videos and satellite pictures of Taliban training camps inside Pakistan, and know the addresses inside Pakistan of Taliban leaders -- none of which does Pakistan admit to.
Published: Kabul Press

In light of the Taliban resurgence, the new commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan, Britain's General David Richards hold, "full and frank" discussions with the Pakistani leader, Pervez Musharaff. According to AFP, Richards had videos and satellite pictures of Taliban training camps inside Pakistan, and had compiled the addresses of senior Taliban figures in Pakistan.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Afghan news organization condemns the murder of journalists

Nai is a fairly new Afghanistan media organization. Their condemnation of the murder of two journalists (on 10/6/06) in Baghlan, northern Afghanistan, represents honest concerns, for this organization is trying to work in a rough neighborhood. Journalists are by definition pitted against those in power because in seeking to know the truth they clash against the interests of those who want "the truth" to be told in a certain way - note Musharraf's recent self-congratulating new book. Politicians and other power holders always have an interest in how the news is told; if there is any interested party in any situation it is the power holder. So an honest attempt to represent what is actually taking place turns out to be dangerous, especially when an affected power holder has no one to be accountable to. In Afghanistan there are places where the government has little writ. So the journalists at Nai can be fearful that they could be next, if something happens to any journalist. Nai has formally issue its concern: "Nai regrets that foreign and local correspondents continue to face a host of dangers while trying to carry out their jobs in Afghanistan. A lack of security and rule of law continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to a free press." On-the-ground reporters who know the language, and the nuances of meaning conveyed in strategic circumstances, are priceless - which is why they are so at risk; they catch the nuances.
In a sense, where there is an involved public, a journalist's defence can be to expose when he/she is threatened. Apropos of that, Nai has recently reported that Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf has made menacing comments against a television station that reported on local demonstrations against him in Paghman. They have also reported that Isteqlal Radio, in Logar Province, has been torched; and that a BBC Pashto reporter was robbed in Khost, his vehicle, equipment and cash stolen.

Taliban frustrated over handling of their amnesty

Paul Workman tells about meeting "five local leaders of the Taliban, ready -- they said -- to accept the Afghanistan government's offer of amnesty, or at least to consider it." They are hoping to see a more normal life by accepting amnesty. One of them says, "Whenever I want to come out from my house, I dress like a woman." If the Taliban know of his connections with the other side he would be killed. In fact, he has "been living under the patronage and protection of the Pakistani intelligence service." He knows "the location of many Taliban safe houses," when Pakistan provides "houses, food, motorcycles, telephones." One of them says he has "fought the NATO forces many times." (Does he know the difference between NATO forces, who are fairly new to area, and American?) "We don't want to hurt civilians, and that's why we're here." They say they didn't come for money, but for a "comfortable life." In the end, it is not clear that these men will accept the amnesty offer: "We've been here for 20 days, and nobody has asked us what we need," complains one of them.

Somehow the idea that the British are going to buy these guys to come on to our side - what Christina Lamb says ("British hire anti-Taliban mercenaries" The London Times, 10/09/2006) - makes me wonder. Mercenaries are notoriously problematic (well, mercenary) and that these guys will successfully make the switch seems to me a stretch. Dupree's aphorism "You can rent an Afghan but you can't buy him" seems as true as ever.

Taliban frustrated over handling of their amnesty
Published: October 8, 2006 (CTV News)

We were taken by our translator to a large house in Kandahar's so-called "Green Zone," an area of the city that is more protected, but not necessarily safe. Hidden behind the walls was a lush garden with flowering plants and pomegranate trees, rare in this impoverished, desert climate.

British hire anti-Taliban mercenaries
Published: October 9, 2006 (The London Times)

British forces holed up in isolated outposts of Helmand province in Afghanistan are to be withdrawn over the next two to three weeks and replaced by newly formed tribal police who will be recruited by paying a higher rate than the Taliban.

The Untamable ISI

The ISI, Pakistan's "InterServices Intelligence" Directorate was the institution through which Pakistan provided support for the war against the Soviets and Afghan communists in the 1980s, and in that role it grew into a bloated bureaucracy that rivaled even the Pakistan state. Hassan Abbas has called it "a state within a state". It is widely believe to still be supporting the Islamist activities it supported during the anti-communist war - that is, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The government denies that, but many people see lots signs that the ISI is still involved with these organizations. G. Talwalkar of The Asian Age 10/10/06] in "Taliban's friends in Pakistan" expresses the opinion of many when he expresses doubt that Musharraf is cooperating fully with the powers that want to get control of the Islamists who have found sanctuary in Pakistan. He says that the State Department now believes that "the gravamen of world terrorism has moved from the Middle East to northern Pakistan." Important as this statement is, it somehow feels all too obvious: it has seemed to be "the gravamen" for a long time. According to Peter Tomsen, who has had many years of diplomatic experience in the region, the ISI knows where all the key leaders of the Islamist movement are: Hekmatiyar, Haqqani, Mullah Omar and even Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. He says what other people have said, that Taliban and Al Qaeda activists freely roam around Peshawar and Quetta. The Taliban even their own website, based in Pakistan. There is still plenty of evidence, as President Karzai claims, that "terrorists" are being trained and given sanctuary in Pakistan. Mr Amrullah Saleh, director of National Security of Afghanistan, has said that the "terrorists" have three "pillars": the Quetta Council, which evolved around the Taliban defence minister Mullah Obaidullah and his senior lieutenants; Haqqani's network based in Waziristan; and the Peshawar Council led by Hekmatyar. The most active of these nowadays, he says, is the Quetta Council. The Afghans want Pakistan to close down its madrasas and arrest the Taliban commanders and they have given the Pakistanis a list of individuals actively crossing the border into Afghanistan "terrorist" purposes, but there has been no action. A less critical statement is: "Musharraf's misunderstood Afghan strategy" By Ilyas Khan

Taliban's friends in Pakistan
Published: October 10, 2006 (The Asian Age)

When we hear from Musharraf that he is cooperating with us fully, I don't believe it. I believe that he is following a two-track policy... Various State Department terrorism reports have stated that the gravamen of world terrorism has moved from the Middle East to northern Pakistan. Now those areas too will become a springboard for international terrorism."

Musharraf's misunderstood Afghan strategy
Published: October 10, 2006 (BBC News)

Allies in the "war on terror" may want to turn the heat on Pakistan to rein in its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but they may need to be careful not to drive President Pervez Musharraf too hard on the issue in public.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In Appreciation for The Friday Times

I have come to admire The Friday Times. These people have to live under a government that pretends much and delivers little and threatens its journalists; the editor of TFT was placed in prison for delivering a lecture in India that he had already delivered in Pakistan.

As far as I can see the journalists at TFT are doing their best to call a spade a spade even though the wrath of the Pakistan Army (which rules Pakistan) can be dangerous.

Here are some notes on a recent issue (Oct 6-12, 06).

Najam Sethi's review of Musharraf's new book is not flattering; but then, repeating the statements in the book as they stand may be embarrassing enough for Musharraf. This is what the General says at the end of the book, "We have to consolidate our democracy and ensure the supremacy of the constitution" - this, from the pen of a dictator.
"Don't hold your breath" By NAJAM SETHI' October 12, 2006 (The Friday Times)

Two articles address the rise of the Taliban.

Ejaz Haider says that the "Taliban have not merely learned more sophisticated military tactics from insurgents in Iraq; they are now part of radical Islamism which moves across boundaries with the same ease as global capital. …" "The last time Afghanistan threw out reformers, the effort was called the great battle for the free world.
Disagreement with the PDPA ideology aside, what was the PDPA trying to do if not reform Afghanistan? Now the shoe is on the other foot. The reactionaries of yesterday, called the Mujahideen, are today's Taliban, though arguably a whole lot more reactionary."
"The Taliban are coming..." By EJAZ HAIDER October 12, 2006 (The Friday Times)

The article on the Taliban in Quetta ("Looking for the Taliban: check Quetta") by Malik Siraj Akbar is the most disturbing. The subtitle is "While it is difficult to say who is or is not a Talib, one thing is clear: Quetta and other areas are swarming with people who are rabidly
anti-US." As usual, the officials deny this. It is strange that the officials are prepared to deny what seems evident to people who in Quetta can describe what they see.

Here is what the officials say in Quetta:
"... [T]he allegations of Taliban re-grouping in Quetta as ludicrous and … security on the Pak-Afghan border [will] be tightened by deploying more Frontier Corps (FC) personnel. 'No one, including the Taliban, will be allowed to use Balochistan's territory for terrorist activities.' [Also] Balochistan government has been taking 'stern action' against suspect Taliban in the past and [will] continue to do so in the future. 'Pakistan is actively engaged in the 'war on terrorism' and has contributed much more to this war than any other county in the world. No Taliban or Al Qaeda members are present in Quetta and the government [has] been hunting all suspected terrorists.'"

Here is what informed observers say:
"The Taliban enjoy the overwhelming moral support of some sections of the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal, the second largest partner in the Balochistan government." ... Maulana Noor Mohammad, provincial chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), "has been one of the biggest opponents of operations against suspected Taliban in Quetta. When the government arrested around 200 Taliban suspects in July this year, he organised a large public rally in Quetta to condemn these raids against those he called, 'our Muslim brothers'".
"Musharraf is careful not to crack down too heavily on powerful Islamist radicals - a mix of clerics, army generals and spies - who have retained their Taliban links." Note: Army generals.
"[F]inding the insurgents is a far easier task in neighbouring Pakistan: you just stroll down to the shops in Quetta where you find posters of Osama bin Laden brandishing a Kalashnikov and cassettes with recordings of speeches and poems calling young men to join the jihad or mourning martyrs. Gory covers match the themes - crossed swords dripping with infidel blood, battlewagons loaded with black-turbaned fighters, and beatific images of bearded militants now detained in Guantánamo Bay." "Looking for the Taliban: check Quetta" By MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR October 12, 2006 (The Friday Times)

See also in this issue: Iqbal Khattak's report on doubts about the future:
"Despite the Sept 5 accord and the opening of the area, not many are optimistic about the future" He reports that there are sincere Pakistanis trying to fix the downward spiral in the Tribal Areas. "What has happened [the rise of Taliban] in North Waziristan is all because of lack of education," [said a local man trying to upgrade the girl's school]. "Now that the government has reached an agreement with the Taliban, Kazim says there is no chance that the school would be upgraded." "Asked to comment on President Musharraf's claims in the US that the peace accord was "against" the Taliban, he said: 'If that were true the Taliban would not be moving around openly without any fear of the government.'" "Despite the Sept 5 accord and the opening of the area, not many are optimistic about the future" By IQBAL KHATTAK October 12, 2006 (The Friday Times)

The Friday Times is worth the $25 a year it costs to check in weekly on affairs in one of the most important caldrons of world instability.

Friday, October 06, 2006

After Afghan Battle, a Harder Fight for Peace

There has been a spate of articles on how we are losing out to the Taliban in the south and east of Afghanistan. But after the NATO attack a few days ago, the news is more positive. One of the central issues is popular support, but another is the funding that supports the Taliban. If only that could be shut down – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the drug industry. ??

After Afghan Battle, a Harder Fight for Peace
Pubished: October 3, 2006 (New York Times)

After NATO forces flushed out Taliban insurgents in Pashmul, Afghanistan, a new and more difficult battle began - for the support of the local people.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Afghanistan seems ever more bleak

The news from Afghanistan seems ever more bleak as the Taliban are resurgent. Pakistan’s fingerprints are all over this situation. Syed Saleem Shahzad tells us that Pakistan has crafted the Taliban to fit their own purposes. In fact, many who call themselves “Taliban” are distrusted by the leadership of the original Taliban movement. It is, of course, money that makes it work: Pakistan money has to be involved. With no more evidence than my own biases I would bet there is plenty of Saudi money involved [from private sources]. And we are told by other sources that drug money is supporting it.
This is one war the Western world needs desperately to win. Pakistan needs only to wait: eventually the West will withdraw while Pakistan cannot withdraw; it has too much at stake in Afghanistan. But the Afghanistan peoples, Taliban or not, will quickly get out of Pakistan’s control. As Louie Dupree used to say, “You can rent an Afghan but you can’t buy him.” I don’t know the answer but if there is no effective control of Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, from which much of the Taliban insurgency comes, there will be no solution. Baluchistan is no better, but for other reasons: the Baluch are insurgent against the Pakistan government.
There is another issue that worries me: Given Pakistan’s commitment to supporting the Taliban and dissimulating about it, what risks are reporters like Syed Saleem Shahzad taking by exposing it? A number of journalists have been killed this year: that there are honest journalists in Pakistan at all – and there are many – is a wonder. And I think they should get high praise for telling the truth.


Pakistan reaches into Afghanistan
Published: October 3, 2006 (Asia Times)

[...done to help craft an insurgency that best suits Pakistan's national interests.]
[...Qari Mohammed Yousuf is a purported spokesman of the Taliban. He roams around the Chaman and Quetta regions in Pakistan's Balochistan province]
[Yet prominent Taliban commanders and affiliates who pledge their allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar noticeably keep their distance from Qari Yousuf.]
["Why are his [Qari Yousuf's] calls not traced and why is he not arrested? If I tried to cross the border and go to Quetta I would be immediately arrested," Raza Bacha, a newly famed Taliban commander active in Helmand province in Afghanistan, told Asia Times Online.]
[Obaidullah appears to have a relatively small command, with most of his forces made up of young men from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. They are each paid about Rs10,000 (US$167) to take part in operations running for a maximum of one month. Yet, as with Qari Yousuf, the Taliban openly distance themselves from Mullah Obaidullah.]
[The Taliban leadership is known to be wary about the mushroom growth of such "independent" commanders all over Afghanistan, and is taking rapid steps to reorganize its cadre. Taliban circles are convinced that the Pakistani establishment is again actively pushing its agenda.]
[…they receive their instructions [and money] from the Pakistani establishment," commented Raza Bacha on the various commanders active in southwestern Afghanistan.]
[a direct bid by Islamabad to establish its influence in the Pashtun heartlands of Afghanistan - but this time not through the Taliban but through a new force that will be 100% under Pakistan's control.]
[accused his spies of "supporting terrorism and extremism".]
[the West had turned a blind eye toward "the indirect protection of al-Qaeda and promotion of terrorism" by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.]
[The ISI gathered them into a group called the Jamiatul Khudamul Koran and they all rejected Mullah Omar's policy of harboring Osama bin Laden and his jihadist training camps. They received training in Parachanar, a town near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in North-West Frontier Province, from where they launched operations into Afghanistan against foreign forces. They were pure ISI proxies, and never a part of the Taliban.]
[Similarly, Jaishul Muslim was launched by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the ISI to break Mullah Omar's iron grip over the Taliban. Jaishul Muslim established a network in Afghanistan. However, many of those who had been given a lot of money and training then broke ranks and melted into the Taliban.]
[the Senlis Council, which has covered Afghanistan extensively, asserted that the Taliban regained control of the southern half of the country largely because of misguided international counter-narcotics and military policies that are losing hearts and minds.]
[night messages posted on walls and in mosques asking people to stand up against foreign forces. The addressees in all the messages were the "mujahideen".]
["They command their small groups and their activities are sporadic [and] isolated and do not have any coordination with any bigger command structure, like the Taliban or the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. They are stand-alone - they carry out actions and then go back to their places. This is in fact a mass mutiny against foreign forces."]
[Nearly two centuries ago, they were sufficiently organized to drive out the Soviets. [decades?]]
[they could evolve into a separate movement fueled by Iran or Pakistan, or both, or turn into an independent movement. Alternatively, as in the recent past, they could melt into the Taliban.]

Here is more reason to worry about the future of Afghanistan. Safia Amajan was clearly a brave woman. That she was “working for the government” was reason to kill her, the Taliban said. But another reasons seems to be that she was Shia, a sect they are committed to stamping out.

The woman who defied the Taliban, and paid with her life
Published: September 26, 2006 (The Independent)

[Safia Amajan promoted women's education and work - a fairly ordinary job in most places - but in the Afghanistan of a resurgent Taliban it was a dangerous path to follow.]
[Yet this support was signally lacking while she lived.]
[Ms Amajan had asked for, and been refused, a protective vehicle, or bodyguards, despite repeated death threats.]
["We have told people again and again that anyone working for the government, and that includes women, will be killed."]
[With the return of the Taliban, as the "war on terror" moved on to Iraq, aid workers - foreign and Afghan, men and women - were intimidated into leaving the region.]
[Ms Amajan was one of the few who refused to flee.]
[ In Kandahar alone she had opened six schools where a thousand women had learnt how to make and then sell their goods at the market. She was also instrumental in setting up tailoring schools for women, with some of the products making their way to markets in the West.]
[female social workers and teachers have been maimed and killed, girls' schools shut down and female workers forced to give up their jobs. The few women out in the streets in Kandahar and other places in the south are covered in burqas]
[Statistics paint a bleak picture of women's lives with 35 female suicides in Kandahar alone and nearly 200 attempted suicides in the Herat region - one third of which were successful. Rights groups estimate that between 60 and 80 per cent of marriages in the country are forced. And the majority of those marriages involve girls under the age of 16.]
[ Ms Amajan's funeral yesterday, in a Shia ceremony]
[There are now entire provinces where there is no girls' education; of the 300 schools shut or burnt down, the majority were for girls. The death rate at childbirth is the second highest in the world, and the number of women who have committed suicide, mainly through self-immolation, has risen by 30 per cent in two years.]
[50 per cent of Afghan women say they have been beaten]
[57 per cent of girls are married before the legal age of 16.]
[ 300 schools were set on fire across the country this year]
[Death rate of mothers in labour is 60 in 1000 - (60 per cent higher than developed world).]
[ 41 per cent of the 10.5 million registered voters are women. Women's registration rates in southern provinces were much lower than the national average: Zabul (9 per cent), Uruzgan (10 per cent) Helmand (16 per cent), and Kandahar (27 per cent)]

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mastermind of Mumbai Attacks Sets Up Explosives Training Center

An Indian newspaper says that "the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief of operations in India who is said to have masterminded the July 11 train blasts in Mumbai, has set up a centre at Bahawalpur in Pakistan to train militants in the manufacture of sophisticated improvised explosive devices".

"Cheema has set up IED centre"
Published: October 1, 2006 (The Hindu)

...Baba, a professor of Islamiat at Zadawalan Degree College at Faislabad, has employed several explosive experts to train newly recruited militants in the manufacture of bombs.

Just whose side is Pakistan on?

For budding suicide bombers all roads seem to lead to Pakistan

Just whose side is Pakistan really on?
Published: August 13, 2006 (Sunday Times)

It was ISI that turned the Taliban from a bunch of religious students into a movement that took over Afghanistan. According to Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, ISI continues to provide a safe haven, training them to fight British soldiers in Helmand.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Significant News

There has been a lot of significant news in the last few days. Here I merely point out some important articles.

Tarek Fatah reports on how Canadians are reacting to General Pervez Musharraf’s scorn for their soldiers serving in Afghanistan. He provides a short introduction to Pakistan; puts the situation in Pakistan well: “Unlike most countries that have an army, in the case of Pakistan, the army has a country. Whereas the armed forces of most countries are created to defend the national interests of its people, in Pakistan, the army uses the country to protect its own interests, often at variance with those of its citizens.
“… The one factor Gen. Musharraf could not understand in Ms. Off's question was her concern for the ordinary Canadian soldier. This was a concept foreign to most elites in Pakistan, including military officers who count among them the world's richest men.

“For Canadians, the ordinary private's life is worth the same as that of General Rick Hillier. We count the names of each dead soldier and grieve with their families. For Gen. Musharraf, this is a foreign concept.
“Pakistanis are never told the names of the 500 soldiers who died fighting al-Qaeda. The only names that appear are those of the officers. In the nearly dozen wars Pakistan has fought against external and internal foes, the dead infantryman is mere gun fodder, unseen, unheard, and with no memorial to his name.”

A Bully in a Military Uniform
Published: October 2, 2006 (The Globe and Mail)

Many Canadians are rightfully upset at the derisive manner with which Pakistan's ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, mocked our soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Others are simply scratching their heads, not knowing what to make of the machismo of the general as he locked horns with Carole Off of CBC Radio.

Peter Symonds tells us the truth about the President’s attempts to reconcile Karzai and Musharraf: nothing worth mentioning happened.

“Karzai triggered the row by declaring that Pakistan should shut down its "sources of hatred"—the country's Islamic schools or madrassas. He followed up by expressing scepticism about a truce signed earlier in the month between the Pakistani government and local tribal leaders in North Waziristan. Under pressure from Washington, the Pakistani military had sent 70,000 troops into the previously autonomous Pashtun tribal areas near the Afghan border to suppress local sympathy and support for anti-occupation militia fighting in Afghanistan.”

"Musharraf hit back publicly at Karzai, declaring that Afghanistan was a failed state and rejecting claims that Al Qaeda and the Taliban were operating from Pakistan. "None of this is true and Karzai knows it," he told CNN. "He knows that the drug trade is financing the Taliban. He knows that this is not a problem created by Pakistan. But he is turning a blind eye. He is like an ostrich with his head buried in the sand." His open contempt for Karzai was an effort to distinguish himself from someone who is viewed throughout the region as a US puppet.

Behind the Rift Between the Afghan and Pakistani Presidents
Published: October 1, 2006 (Axis of Logic)

US President George Bush’s highly publicised attempt on Wednesday to reconcile two American allies—Afghan and Pakistani presidents Hamid Karzai and General Pervez Musharraf—appears to have come to nought.

Also, see the NPR interview with Musharraf. This is NPR’s summary of the interview: “President Musharraf has categorically denied that Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency originates in Pakistan's restive tribal region. Citing a recent United Nations report while appearing on National Public Radio (NPR), Musharraf presented the conclusion that the Afghan insurgency consists of indigenous Afghans and drug traffickers, pointing blame at Karzai's failed central government.”

Robert L. Pollock tells us that even in the Council on Foreign Relations no one dared challenge Musharraf’s status as a dictator.

The Musharraf Exception
Published: September 29, 2006 (The Wall Street Journal)

Pervez Musharraf is America's favorite dictator. The Bush administration seems to consider the Pakistani general--who took power in a 1999 military coup--an indispensable ally, and has yet to publicly pressure him on the democracy front.

Hamid Mir provides an advance review of Musharraf’s new book. Some useful insights:

“It is clear his book is actually meant for the 2007 election. This is his new election agenda. It is not possible for him to take a popular anti-American line like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. There is only one option for Musharraf and that is to attack India for getting votes in the next election. Somebody around him is still advising him that playing the anti- India sentiment will stabilise his position in domestic politics.”
“Musharraf accuses Dr [A. Q.] Khan, … for supplying nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya. … Now the question is, how one man could supply nuclear secrets and centrifuges from Iran to North Korea without the knowledge of the military establishment in Pakistan? How can a single man transport two-dozen centrifuges weighing more than 24 tons to North Korea single handedly?”

Pakistan Needs a Democracy not a Military President
Published: September 29, 2006 (REDIFF)

Many Pakistanis believe the Kargil operation was a disaster for the 'Kashmir movement' because India was provided an opportunity to say that there were no freedom fighters in Kashmir, they were terrorists.
After 9/11, Musharraf himself declared them terrorists but now, once again, he calls them 'freedom fighters' (in his book). Why?

Charles Sennott describes the continued reality of radical teaching in Pakistan’s madrassas:
"The school starkly illustrates just how radicalized Pakistan has become and how widespread is the support for both bin Laden and the Taliban,… Just before prayers on a recent Friday, Mullah Mohammed Yousef Qureshi, the chief cleric at the Peshawar mosque, railed against American policy and offered the popular theory that Israel orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to draw the United States into a war against Islam. Qureshi is a judge and is regarded as an expert on Sharia, or Islamic law.
'Osama's fatwa [religious edict] regarding war against America is right,' said Qureshi, dressed in the traditional clerical robes and black kohl eyeliner often worn in Pashtun culture as a sign of piety. 'What the US is doing in Iraq and Lebanon and Afghanistan is an attack against all Muslims,' he added.
'We are friends of Osama because he is a friend of Islam and is standing up to the Western world. . . . We are friends of the Taliban because they are working on behalf of Islam.'
…. During the US offensive in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, a Pakistani militia in Dir called the Movement for the Implementation of the Shari'a of Mohammed dispatched some 4,000 jihadists -- a ragtag brigade of shotgun-wielding villagers -- to help the Taliban and Al Qaeda resist the American forces. More than half were killed or captured, according to the No. 2 man in the organization, Maulana Alam Khan. In a small mosque in the remote village of Batkhela , Khan, wearing the black turban of the Taliban, told a visitor last month, 'It is America's actions that have made so many despise it. Before five years ago, you did not hear this hatred for America, not until it began attacking Muslims. And now it is required that we resist.' "

Radical teachings in Pakistan schools
Published: September, 29 2006 (Boston Globe)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- In a bustling, prosperous corner of this capital city stands the gated campus of a religious school, or madrassa, where some 10,000 students study the teachings of the Koran every day.
Abdul Rashid Ghazi, assistant headmaster at the school, sat cross-legged on the floor flanked by a Koran and a Kalashnikov, and asked that a reporter not photograph the weapon because it would ``give the wrong impression."

Afghan Attacks Way Up Since Truce
Published: September 27, 2006 (ABC News)

A U.S. military official said Wednesday that American troops on Afghanistan's eastern border have seen a threefold increase in attacks since a recent truce between Pakistani troops and pro-Taliban tribesmen that was supposed to have stopped cross-border raids by the militants.

Karzai, Musharraf Spar Ahead Of Bush Meeting

Published: September 26, 2006 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf are continuing a public dispute about who is responsible for terrorism in South Asia. The two have been trading accusations in the United States since each made his respective speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Al Qaeda Increasingly Reliant on Media

"This is an open-ended war, and they use media as part of their jihad against Western and Arab regimes."

Al Qaeda Increasingly Reliant on Media
Published: September 30, 2006 (New York Times)

In the West virtually every social scientist I know is reluctant to give Samuel P. Huntington his due, to recognize his claim that the emerging world will entail the clash of "civilizations": Western, Islamic,"Sinic", Hindu, Japanese, etc. We have recently noted how a thousand copies of his book were snapped up by the Revolutionary Guards in Iran in 1998, and how the leader of one of the most violent of the Islamist groups in Pakistan, Lashkar-e Taiba, has declared his agreement with Huntington. His book, "The Clash of Civilizations," resonates with some Muslims. Most of us would prefer to talk about the specific interactive contexts in which people make claims about their interests through the use of symbolic forms - that is, by specifying more precisely the mechanisms by which cultural forms are constructed, deployed, propagated, for practical purposes. An article by Hassan M. Fattah in the New York Times [9/30/06],on the way the internet is being used to enable activist Muslims to connect up and coordinate their activities helps me to understand how the moral frames of reference Huntington talked about are being promoted and propagated. Fattah mentions a young man who through the internet has been inspired by Osama Bin Laden's call for jihad. This young man is "part of a growing army of young men who may not seek to take violent action, but who help spread jihadist philosophy, shape its message and hope to inspire others to their cause." According to Fattah this suits Al Qaeda's agendas, because it is transforming itself into "an ideological umbrella that encourages local movements." The web provides frustrated, alienated young men - of which there is a growing number, owing to the shortage of employment - with a means of connecting up. A video in which Ayman Zawahri, "number two" in Al Qaeda, threatens attacks "on Israel and the Persian Gulf" gets passed around to friends. Al Qaeda is providing on the web "a video library featuring everything from taped suicide messages by the Sept. 11 hijackers to images of gun battles and bombings spearheaded by Al Qaeda and others." In fact, more such recordings are available than ever. Fattah says Al Qaeda is now preoccupied with "putting out disinformation". Disinformation is being produced on all sides. And the consequence of their work is the gradual commitment of young men, like those described in the article, to "jihadist" ideology. Here at least is something of how information is getting distributed. What is most interesting is the reason for this young man's commitment to Al Qaeda: What led him to the movement was his "anger over the death of his father, a fighter with the Palestinian faction Fatah when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982." The real reasons for commitment to a movement that aims at establishing a new social order, that will correct the "humiliations" of the last "more than eighty years," are local and personal. He no longer trusts television news, seeks to get the latest information on the web. He goes to an Internet cafe several times a week. And even though Jordan's Internet cafes have begun taking increased security measures, he still can find a "sympathetic cafe owners" who will allow him to surf anonymously. To keep out of sight he "never uses his own computer to search for jihadi content," he stays on line only a short time, changes his e-mail address frequently, and "carries software that can delete details of his actions from a computer." It is tempting to regard young men like this one as relatively harmless; he is, like many of us have been, merely seeking to find a cause worth giving his life to. But the internet is a late equivalent of the cassette tapes that carried the sermons of Ruhollah Khomeini in the late 1970s to the people of Iran. It has tremendous potential as device for mobilizing the moral imagination of a collectivity. The Iranian Revolution was born of such practical systems of information distribution. Cassettes enabled Khomeini's articulate attacks against the Shah to become the voice of a nation that was fed up with the terrifying brutality of SAVAK. Could the internet become the vehicle of the mobilization of the imagination of young men throughout the Middle East who are angry because of abuses to people they care about? Even if the motivations for joining holy war are individual, many individuals can be brought into connection and a collective sense of "community" through modern devices of communication. But in the end, systems of communication have a life of their own, and the social consequences of any movement can exceed everyone's imagination. The internet is, as we well know, creating a new world - or perhaps several new worlds. What they will become, however, lies beyond everyone's horizon.