Saturday, April 28, 2007

Waziristan a Taliban mini state

The news in recent days is that circumstances in southern Afghanistan are getting worse because the Taliban are more secure and more active. As this writer indicates, it is indeed worrisome that Pakistan is making no attempt to control the growth of the Taliban in the tribal areas. What seems obvious is that to the degree that Pakistan fails to do this, Afghanistan, at least in the south, could fall into more open warfare.

The International News

"Northern Waziristan, where Islamic militants recently signed a peace deal with the government, has virtually become a 'Taliban mini-state' "
"Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan"
"The militants,the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross-border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year. The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes"
"cross-border attacks by Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and their foreign allies have increased"
" In recent weeks, Afghan officials say they have uncovered alarming signs of large-scale indoctrination and preparation of suicide bombers in the tribal areas"
" American military officials say they believe much of the training in Waziristan is taking place under the aegis of men like Jalaluddin Haqqani, once one of the most formidable commanders of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen forces who joined the Taliban in the 1990s. Haqqani bases himself in North Waziristan and has a host of other Taliban and foreign commanders"
" 'Even more worrying is the continued presence of the Taliban and Haqqani leadership networks,' [a] diplomat said, dismayed at what he characterised as Pakistani passivity in breaking up the networks. 'They haven't been addressed at all on the Pakistani side,' he added. 'They haven't been pursued.' "
"The militants rather than the traditional tribal leaders have the power now [in the region]"

Living under the Taliban

This community is profoundly broken by the clash between the government and the Taliban. That the Taliban have credibility, at least for some people in Musa Qala, cannot be good news for the government.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

"Fundamentalist rule has returned to Musa Qala – and some residents have never been happier"
"Musa Qala formally fell to the Taleban in February, barely four months after a controversial agreement under which village elders promised to keep the fundamentalists out in return for a British withdrawal."
"While the government tries to decide on its course, local residents have had to continue with their lives."
"Many say they are happier now than they have been for years – and more than willing to trade a certain amount of freedom for some peace and security."
" 'Security is very good: there are no thieves, no kidnappers, everyone lives in safety and is able to get on with their lives. We are all happy.' "
"His assessment is in sharp contrast to official pronouncements. 'We have 900 families registered as refugees from Musa Qala,' said Abdulstar Muzahari, head of the department of refugees. 'None of them have gone back.' "
" Sayed Ahmad Akaa, father of three, agrees 'You could not pay me to go back to Musa Qala,' he told IWPR. 'My children cannot go to school there, I cannot live.' "
"But those who remain say life has never been better."
"Security concerns among Helmand is are wider than the threat from insurgents. Official corruption and police inaction made the cities unsafe"
" 'If the government cannot control the situation, we have to let the Taleban rule,' said one shopkeeper,"

Questions about the fighting in Waziristan

Joshua Foust on has also, like David Hoffman [see Ap 10, 07 entry], raised questions about the putative fighting in Waziristan against Uzbeks. He also doubts that we are getting much of the correct story. This seems to me a really significant story: who are the "Uzbeks" and the "Taliban" who oppose each other? Why are there casualty reports but no casulties in the hospitals? How is the Pakistani government involved -- assuming that there has to be a connection? What is the connection of this putative war with the local fighting in Khurram district a few days ago? What is its connection to the rise in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan? Is there a connection to the ambush of the ISI officers in Bajaur district? There are so many instances when the official stories in this region[provided by mainly the Pakistani government] seem as contrived and convoluted as those we are getting out of the Bush administration. Such is the world that we live in, that despite the appearance of a plethora of statements -- an internet crammed with all kinds of stuff -- we in the public remain poorly informed on what is actually happening in the world.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The puppet who cleared the way for Iraq's destruction

Andrew Cockburn takes out after Wolfowitz in this article. I agree that Wolfowitz had a big part in the blunders of this administration, and that Richard Perle must have had a powerful influence. But now that things are so bad in Iraq, what does it say about these men that they now distance themselves from the Iraq policy?

By Andrew Cockburn
The Guardian

"Rumsfeld was driven from public life thanks to the catastrophe of Iraq, and ... his deputy [Wolfowitz] ... contributed in almost equal measure to the debacle, yet managed to slide from the Pentagon into the presidency of a leading international institution [the World Bank]"
"To cite just one example ... the First Special Interrogation Plan for use at Guantánamo that ... cleared the way for prolonged sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, and sexual and religious humiliation, along with other favoured techniques ... had earlier been reviewed and approved by ... Wolfowitz."
"...Wolfowitz was even more hands on when it came to Abu Ghraib ... testimony from one of the interrogators alleged that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were in direct contact with the prison and received "nightly briefings" on the intelligence being extracted under torture."
"...Wolfowitz['s] ... entire career, at least up through his Pentagon service, has been in the service and at the direction of others."
"...last year Perle and other leading neoconservatives lashed out publicly at Rumsfeld, deriding his mismanagement of the Iraqi enterprise ... 'Interesting they are not going after the puppet,' "
"Given recent sordid revelations, his role in shredding the reputation of the World Bank and the morale of its employees may be harder to obscure."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

US soldiers sit in on local Afghan councils

This article reveals how difficult it is to be an occupying army. The Americans will never really be welcomed there. They do not know the language and apparently in this area have few contacts, "friends" who can introduce them as friends.

By Jason Straziuso
Associated Press

"To get a foothold in the area, the Americans have to talk with the Taliban."
" 'When you roll in here with 800 heavily armed men, it can cause a lot of anxiety. Until you [talk with them] they're real standoffish,' said Mennes, who leads the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment"
"US and NATO soldiers are increasingly holstering their weapons and attending traditional Afghan lunches and tribal meetings known as shuras, embracing local customs in a land where conversation over tea is a national pastime"
"The goal: to gather intelligence, advertise the aid and development that NATO and the Afghan government can bring, and talk transitory Taliban fighters into disarming. The counterinsurgency strategy is based on weeding out what NATO calls 'Tier 2' Taliban -- poor farmers or jobless villagers who are enlisted by hard-core, ideologically minded Taliban."
"But the American-Afghan lunch showed how tricky such get-togethers can be."
"The US paratroopers sat down with Afghan elders and police to a shared lunch ... But ... the Americans made an unnerving discovery: a cache of rocket-propelled grenades , mortars, and a land mine.Soldiers, suspicious that the weapons could belong to militants,removed them from the police storage facility. The pleasant mood fostered over a meal was shattered."

NATO mulls Afghan poppy legalization

I don't know if I have noted this move. An aid organization has been pushing this idea. This is the first indication I have seen that the officials in NATO and elsewhere are seriously considering this plan. It would be so helpful if the distribution system could be subverted because these are the guys who are making all the money, and it is said they like the instability so support the Taliban.

United Press International

"Key NATO members are mulling the legalization of Afghanistan's opium poppy industry, according to a German news magazine."
"Instead of selling the poppies to drug lords who make opium and heroin from the raw material, the farmers under the plan would sell them for the same price to an official institution that would relay the poppies to the international pharmaceutical industry, the magazine said."
"Afghanistan produces close to 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw material from which heroin is made. Afghanistan's farmers depend on the income from the poppy production, but the drug business also finances the Taliban in its war against the West.Recent efforts that included burning down the poppy fields -- a U.S.initiative -- have failed to bring about change."

Afghanistan's Wild West

This report reveals how difficult the situation seems to be on the ground in many parts of the country. Various interests are exerting their power, perhaps in some cases in order to keep the country unstable (some Pakistan officials are accused of this), in other cases because old grudges have inspired violence, in other cases because of ethnic tension,and of course in some cases because the Taliban are trying to break down the social order. In the mean time the government seems impotent.

By Sadeq Behnam and Sudabah Afzali
Institute for war and peace reporting

"Herat, once the most stable of Afghan provinces, is now becoming increasingly dangerous, and analysts say not all the violence is sponsored by the Taleban."
"Herat ... stands at the crossroads of history, bordering Iran and Turkmenistan. Because of its location, it has been buffeted by various ethnic and religious influences which ... are now contributing to rising tensions."
"In the past 12 months, more than 50 people have been killed and at least 100 wounded ..."
"The Afghan government has sought to blame much of the violence on the Taleban-led insurgency ... But local analysts and residents are not convinced."
" 'Herat contains jihadi elements who hate the government because they have lost their jobs' "
"The term 'jihadis' applies to the various armed factions which emerged from the anti-Soviet mujahedin to fight first against each other in the early Nineties, and later against the Taleban. Many of their leaders are still prominent political figures."
" 'People who have designs against the government are able to cover their tracks, so everything gets blamed on the Taleban' "
" 'The most worrying aspect of this is that the police and army also contain elements that are against the government. They have links with the opposition...' "
"Iranian influence can be felt in the Shia community, and there has been some violence on religious grounds"
" 'There are political groups besides the Taleban who are attempting to destabilise the situation in Herat,' said police spokesman Colonel Norkhan Nikzad."

Afghan hearts and minds refuse to be won

So much depends on what we make of what we hear. This journalist seems to be hearing that people are turning to the Taliban, but the specific information he gives is that people are mainly eager to carry on their lives without the disruption of a war. They would like the Afghanistan government or NATO to stabilize their world. I continue to doubt that many of the people in the southern and eastern part of Afghanistan, the Pushtun areas, really want to return to the days of Taliban control. They would like the stability that for a time at least they enjoyed under the Taliban, but do they really want Taliban rules? I wonder. It is important to recognize that in the north the problems are different.There appears to be no sign there of a yearning for Taliban-like days. But they are likely to say what these Pushtun people say: Why doesn't the government provide services and protection?

By Damien McElroy
Telegraph, UK

"Troops fighting in Afghanistan are meeting resistance not only from the Taliban, but from the people they are there to support."
"Far from being enticed into repudiating the Taliban, elders lined up to complain about the foreign troops in their midst and, more bitterly, the lack of assistance from the Afghan government."
"A combination of patient listening and promises of aid is a well-tried method across conflict zones to win the backing of the locals.But it is a measure of the Taliban's insidious strength to see the combat operation and the community charm offensive in the same walled compound."
"The political adviser to the mission, Ambassador Gulus Schelema,attempted to persuade the elders that the military would not inflict damage to their livelihoods by destroying opium crops."
"Flushing out Taliban and holding the terrain in the Pashtun heartland is proving immeasurably difficult for Nato. In Kandahar, the Canadian army has had to scale back its ambitious plans.Establishing a permanent presence 120 miles north of the city was a point of pride for Nato, evidence that the coalition could drive into the militant heartland.But it proved too dangerous to run supplies to the troops there. The coalition's "assets" have been shifted to corridors around the provincial capital."

Pakistan 'secret agents killed'

The attack on ISI officials in a tribal zone indicates something we have been hearing already: that some people in the tribal areas resent the pressures put on them by the ISI. But that is insufficient to understand what this attack means. That occurs at that particular spot may mean something -- As always, we are unclear what this means.


"Unidentified gunmen have shot dead four officials from Pakistan's secretive ISI intelligence agency in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan"
"No group has said it carried out the attack, a day after tribes vowed not to shelter al-Qaeda or Taleban militants."
"Monday's deal in Bajaur with the government followed other similar controversial accords elsewhere in the tribal region, which critics say have encouraged a Taleban safe haven on the border."
"News of Tuesday's ambush is still emerging and details surrounding it are sketchy.Masked men riding on a motorbike opened fire on the vehicle when theISI officials were coming to Bajaur tribal district from Peshawar Intelligence official Moaz Khan"
"Bajaur was the scene of two major attacks against suspected militants last year, which caused great anger among locals and people elsewhere in Pakistan"
"The officials did not say what the ISI officials were doing in the area.The notorious ISI is a central organ of Pakistan's military machine which has played a major - often dominant - role in the country's often turbulent politics.Critics say it runs "a state within a state", subverts elected governments, supports the Taleban and is even involved in drug smuggling"

History and Sacrificial Death

The tradition and organizational structure of suicide bombing is now so established that it may take years to dismantle it. Here is one more study:

"The mechanism of sacrifice lies at the heart of ideological systems regardless of cultural context. Lives are forfeited and blood spilled-in order to validate the ideology." By Richard A. Koenigsberg
"Surely we imagine--if so many people have killed and died in the name an ideology--there must be something to it"
"Sheikh Abdullah Azzam was an Islamic revolutionary whose thought exerted a significant influence upon Bin Laden."
" 'History,' Azzam writes ... happens when a group produces death and destruction in the name of its ideology. Hitler, Stalin and Mao are remembered--not because of their contributions to civilization--but by virtue of the vast number of people they killed"
" 'Significance' is conferred upon a leader and his ideology based on the number of people killed in the ideology's name. This is why historians are keen to document the 'number of people that died' in a war, battle, genocidal episode,or act of terror."
"Political leaders generate episodes of mass-murder in order to be remembered for the havoc that they have wrought--in the name of ideologies they hope will transform the world."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Behind enemy lines with the Taliban of Helmand

This report reveals how troubled the situation is in the south and east, the Pushtun areas. Note the sense that the "white faces" worry them by invading homes. The Soviets had a much weaker footprint in these areas for much of the period they were at war in Afghanistan. Anyway, not promising news for this part of the country. Reports from the north are different. I have begun to wonder if Afghanistan might be split into two parts by the growing strength of the Taliban in the Pushtun areas.

Independent (UK)

"three members of the Taliban waging war on British troops in Afghanistan tell Chris Sands why they feel they have no choice but to take up arms against the 'foreign invaders'"
"The insurgents' description of life in their home province was far removed from the version Downing Street and Nato officials are keen to promote. As far as these men are concerned, any soldier with a white face is a 'foreigner'. There are no differences between the various countries that make up the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).They spoke of villagers too scared to switch on their lights at night in case their homes are bombed in air strikes; troops deliberately shooting civilians; and members of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance using their new roles in the Afghan army to persecute the Pashtun population."
" 'Everyone has picked up a gun. What else can we do? We cannot bear it any more. When the foreigners first came we thought maybe they wanted to build the country, but what have they done in the last five years?They have done nothing so we have to stand against them. They have killed innocent people, occupied the country and now jihad is demanded of us.' "
" 'We have to fight because even if we don't we will be killed' "
"A recent survey by the Senlis Council think-tank found 80 per cent of men in Helmand and Kandahar believe the international troops are not helping them personally, while 71 per cent believe the Afghangovernment is also unhelpful"
"Ghulam ... is from Lashkar Gah, Helmand, and, like the other two Talibs, he describes the situation in the province as unbearable.'The worst time I have experienced in my life is now,' he said. 'It's worse than when the Russians were here. The Russians treated us well,they never went into our houses. Now the foreigners go into houses,disturb the women and kill innocent people.' "

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Pakistan seems to be ever more conflicted. This story of such criminal use of a child to execute someone -- apparently with no appropriate trial -- offends all notions of virtue. What is worth noting, however, is the reaction of the major news outlets in Pakistan: they are all shocked. The sense of offense and outrage expressed in the Pakistan media represents the true moral sentiment of the Pakistani people generally. It is safe to say that the ordinary Pakistani people -- whatever their opinions about the West or George Bush or Israel or any of the hot button issues invoked by extremists -- have no respect for those criminals who do heinous things in the name of a religious faith. Whatever the faith, none would countenance this use of a child. I suspect that many Pakistanis feel trapped and ashamed of the extreme militants now operating, apparently with impunity, in the Tribal Areas. Musharraf objects to those who blame Pakistan for cross-border incursions by suicide bombers and yet seems unable [unwilling?] to address the criminal behavior of militants who are being sheltered by some of the Pushtun tribes along the Afghanistan border.

Shock in Pakistan at militant video of boy beheading 'US spy'
Asia World News

"Media in Pakistan on Sunday condemned a video in circulation that appears to show Taliban fighters urging on a boy of around 12 as he beheads a Pakistani militant accused of being a US spy."
"Shot at an undisclosed location, the footage dubbed with jihadi songs and tributes to Taliban leaders shows the last minutes of a man identified as a Taliban traitor."
"The video shows the man being blindfolded with a scarf and making a confession. The boy then denounces him as a spy and cuts off his head with a hunting knife to shouts of "Allahu Akbar" - God is great."

Pakistan: 'Child executioner beheads militant'
Irish Examiner

"A grisly video circulating in Pakistan allegedly shows a child beheading Ghulam Nabi, a Pakistani militant accused of betraying a top Taliban official killed in a December air strike in Afghanistan."
"A continuous two and a half-minute shot ... shows the victim lying on his side on a patch of rubble-strewn ground. A man holds Nabi by his beard while the boy ... performs the beheading."
" 'This is outright barbarism,' Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said after seeing the video."
" 'Whosoever has committed this, whether they are Taliban or anybody else or any Afghan or al-Qaida or anybody, they are enemy number one of the Muslims.' "
"The video accuses Nabi of responsibility for a US air strike that killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, who was regarded as one of the top three associates of Omar, the Taliban supreme leader. He was hit while travelling by car in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on December 19."

A Taliban leader in Pakistan says he would aid bin Laden

The news about the struggle in Pakistan's tribal areas now takes a curious turn: Mullah Nazir, said to be the leader of the fight against the "Uzbeks" in the tribal areas, says he was fighting the Uzbeks because they 'refused to fight in Afghanistan.' So the war, he says, was over getting more people to fight the Americans and NATO rather than a diversion from the fight. The Pakistanis have been claiming that the fighting in South Waziristan is a positive result of the deal they made with the Pushtun tribesmen to withdraw their troops from the Tribal Areas if the tribesmen promised to give up their cross-border attacks. Mysteries still abound.

By Carlotta Gall
New York Times

"A Pakistani Taliban leader who has been waging a government-backed campaign to evict Central Asian militants from Pakistan's tribal regions said Friday that he would give Osama bin Laden protection in his area if he sought it"
"Al Qaeda's top leaders ... are widely believed to be ... in Pakistan's seven tribal areas ... along the Afghan border. Much of the area is ... used by pro-Taliban militants to run training camps and mount cross border insurgency operations into Afghanistan"
"The Pakistani government has championed [the Taliban commander] Mr.Nazir and backed him in his campaign against the Central Asian militants in his tribal region of South Waziristan"
"Yet, Mr. Nazir has always supported holy war against foreign forces deployed in Afghanistan. He said he rallied Pakistani tribesmen against the Central Asian militants, predominately Uzbeks, because they refused to fight in Afghanistan."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Taliban flee Afghan-led Nato offensive

Note here the contradictory situation for those fighting for the Afghanistan government: they must oppose the Taliban, and they must protect the poppy crop.

By Tom Coghlan
The Telegraph (UK)

"Complete success is being claimed for the largest Afghan-led operation yet against the Taliban."
"Afghan army forces and police have now purged the Nad Ali district of Helmand of 400 Taliban fighters, following a series of chaotic battles."
"The operation, which began last week ... was also backed by local militias, whose commanders had sworn to remove the Taliban from their land"
"The success means that much needed-reconstruction projects, postponed for months due to the Taliban presence, can now begin as planned."
"Important to the success of the operation was the front line role of the local militias."
"Their fighters have local knowledge ... heavily armed,wild-looking youngsters in local garb and sunglasses"

Music and the Taliban disease

Another report on conditions in the tribal areas. It is important to distinguish this social situation from "freedom". This is not a "lawless" society and it is not "free". There is a hierarchy of influence and authority in place in this society and with it there is a corresponding hierarchy of coercive measures standing behind it. They are operating -- and must be continuously operative in order to keep on producing -- this "Taliban society". Even so, in the face of possible reprisal [?] some individuals, even here, are willing to hint at their rejection of the system in place. If we are to understand social situations we must critically distinguish between the coercive means imposed on collectivities by those in power and [in contrast] the more authentic judgments and voluntary reactions of individuals who must live within the system. Such people well understand the risks entailed in expressing their own opinions; they know the potential costs that may be invisible to the outside observer. Will those who hinted disapproval pay a price for this?

No more music in this town
By Graham Usher
Al-Ahram Weekly

"Six years after the Taliban was removed from Kabul, Talibanisation is reviving -- in Pakistan"
"During its rule in Afghanistan the Taliban banned music and the employment and education of women. Such practices were 'un-Islamic',said its leaders. Others called their prohibitive and primitive interpretation of Islam "Talibanisation". The Taliban regime was ousted in November 2001, when US-led forces invaded Kabul in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. But Talibanisation persists -- not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan."
"Its bases are the remote tribal areas piled up against Pakistan's mountainous border with Afghanistan"
"Two months ago religious students or Taliban began 'vice' patrols. One of their first edicts was to ban music."
"Zai-ul-uddin is a singer from Lakki Marwat. He used to perform at weddings with a full band of flute, drum and harmonium. No longer. 'I didn't receive any notice. I was simply told -- no more music in this town. I complied,' he says guiltily."
"Unchecked by police and state the disease will spread. On 18 March Bashir Hussein's music store in Peshawar was firebombed by a group calling themselves the mujahadeen but assumed to be the Taliban. It was the first time a music store had been hit in this sprawling,ancient city, known, among many other things, for its music. 'It won't be the last,' says Bashir."

NATO troops earn resentment of frustrated Afghans

Here again is more of the same: the populations in eastern and southern Afghanistan are being brutalized by raids from neighboring areas in Pakistan but are disgusted with the NATO and American forces on their side of the border who can't seem to get it right. They are not protecting adequately and when they do do something they end up brutalizing even their friends. For the people on the ground it would seem to be a hopeless situation.

By David Morgan

"Foreign troops deployed in Afghanistan are beginning to draw the resentment of Afghans fed up with growing civilian casualties and the lack of material progress in their lives"
"...villagers who have suffered from Western military firepower have responded to the Taliban's call to arms against foreign troops..."
" 'There is growing resentment because of the kinds of military operations that have been carried out, not because of the international troop presence,' Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director for International Crisis Group think tank"
"Ahmed ... cited bombing raids based on faulty intelligence that have killed innocent villagers and shootings of innocent civilians by panicky troops..."
"Violence in Afghanistan last year was the worst since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001. About one-quarter of the 4,000people killed in 2006 were civilians."
"The warnings about eroding support came as NATO commanders conducted a spring offensive code-named Operation Achilles against Taliban strongholds in a bid to pre-empt an expected warmer weather seasonal campaign by Islamist militants."

Pakistan Tries to Negotiate Peace in Tribal Areas

Here is another report on attempts to bring conditions in the tribal areas under some kind of control, to restrain the cross-border attacks on civilians in Afghanistan. That conditions are as yet not under control seems to be now recognized, or rather admitted, by some officials in Pakistan. We can only hope that these new measures will work.

Voice of America
By Benjamin Sand

"Pakistan is trying a new approach of negotiations and development projects to secure its volatile tribal regions. But U.S. and Afghan officials are concerned it will not be enough to keep Taleban militants from using the area to as a launch pad for attacks in Afghanistan."
"Pakistani authorities this week signed their third peace agreement with local leaders in the often-lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan."
"Army spokesman Major General Wahid Arshad says tribesmen in the Bajur region have agreed to sever ties with foreign militants"
" The Bajur deal is part of a new strategy, using negotiations,development projects and other enticements to break ties between area residents and the Taleban."
"Towns and villages all along the rugged area have been overrun by the Islamist hard-liners. Residents say some villages have become little more than jihadist way stations in the fight against U.S. forces in Afghanistan."
"General Arshad says under the new strategy, 80,000 troops in the tribal area will continue to pressure militants, while the government focuses on wooing residents"
"U.S. officials, however, are among those who are not convinced by the new strategy."
"The concern here is more immediate. U.S. defense experts say Taleban insurgents are massing along the border and could be days away from anew offensive against U.S. and Afghan forces."
"Against that backdrop, the latest peace agreement in the tribal areas is likely to generate more concern, not less, about Pakistan's commitment to securing the tribal region"

Afghanistan: 'Two feet and a lot of skin'

The Pakistan government has consistently denied that there are cross-border excursions of militants into Afghanistan from Pakistan's tribal areas but the detailed reports coming out of Afghanistan about the number of such attacks, and now of suicide bombers, are too numerous to doubt that they are taking place in large numbers. It is hard to conceive of this practice -- the production and deployment of suicide bombers by militant leaders comfortably ensconced in Pakistan -- without wondering what it in fact will do to the public sense of what this radical movement stands for. The incident below of a father hearing the usual platitudes from a mullah to whom he has committed his son for education and care suggests that the father had no idea of and no consent to the way his son was educated and deployed in what some are calling a holy war. What will be this father's judgment of these people? In the end, despite the horror and the brutality and the coercive measures being taken, these measures can only redound the shame of the radical movement itself.

By Philip Smucker
Asia Times Online

"Just in tiny Khost province alone ... there have been two dozen suicide bomb attacks in the past year."
"The figure spiked late in the year because of a 'peace deal' signed between Pakistan's government and tribal elders of North Waziristan..."
"As elsewhere in the Islamic world, al-Qaeda is a facilitator of terror, rarely the direct instigator. Bin Laden's experts corral anti-American sentiment within disparate, home-grown Islamic groups and launch young men over the mountains toward martyrdom. At least some of them are being pushed across the border with a blessing from Egyptian Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's ... ideological lieutenant"
"More than 1,000 persons cross legally every day from Pakistan into Khost. Even if the Afghans knew who the bombers were, they would be hard pressed to "catch up to their Japanese motorcycles on our cheap Pakistani imitations", said Major Bismullah, who travels to and from work with his two heavily armed sons."
"None of the bombers entering Khost has been captured alive, a credit to their well-crafted detonation devices that allow them to blow themselves up by pressing a button - usually positioned on the arm or wrist."
"At a recent rally of tribal elders in the soccer stadium, the governor asked the US military to back off from security detail as away of showing that Afghans are taking the lead in fighting the phenomenon.Authorities in Pakistan, though, take the opposite tack."
"In Waziristan, al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, mimicking similar martyrdom celebrations in the West Bank and parts of the Arab world,throw lavish parties for the families of the bombers, said Afghan intelligence officials."
"But such morbid celebrations for the departed do not necessarily soothe the hearts of relatives. A religious leader in Khost recounts the story of an Afghan father in Waziristan. He had just sent his son off to a madrassa and left to work in Saudi Arabia to support the family. When he returned, he asked the mullah at the madrassa how his son had done in school. The mullah said, "He has done so well that he has been sent to heaven." The father collapsed and began to pull out his hair."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ahmadzai tribe asks Pakistan government for help

The news that the Ahmadzai tribe in the Tribal Areas want's the Pakistan government to come in and help them establish their affairs is an amazing sign of how much seems to be roiling the tribal areas just now. I only wish we had access to reliable information on what is going on there. Again, these are not "lawless" tribes but tribes who have been allowed to govern their internal affairs according to tribal custom -- which claims to be traditional but no doubt is constantly changing with the times. That the elders of the Ahmadzais would ask for help reveals how responsive they can be to circumstancial pressures, and how likely it could be that some of their practices may be changing.

"One of the main tribes in Pakistan's tense border region with Afghanistan has urged Islamabad to resume control of law and order in the area."
" South Waziristan ... Pakistan ceded control of security to pro-Taleban militants in the area after a controversial 2004 peace deal."
"Critics said it gave Taleban and al-Qaeda militants a safe haven..."
"Pakistan's government maintains that most insurgent attacks in Afghanistan are carried out by militants based in that country."
"President Musharraf sent troops into the lawless tribal area to hunt foreign militants and ... More than 700 Pakistani security personnel have been killed since 2002, prompting the government to negotiate the contentious peace deals ... troops were to maintain a reduced presence and tribesmen promised either not to harbour foreign fighters or to ensure they did not engage in militancy."
"But at a meeting on Sunday, the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe reversed the deal and undertook not to shelter Uzbek militants and their supporters..."
"The government has not yet responded to the tribesmen's appeal, but admitted publicly last week that troops were backing local Pashtuns against the Uzbeks."
"The army had until then denied any role in the fighting, saying locals had risen up to drive out foreigners..."
"The authorities say fighting broke out after tribesmen accused Uzbek militants of criminal behaviour."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blood and batons spur Pakistan row

If anything reveals how conflicted the structures of authority are in Pakistan it was the inability of the Media minister to restrain the destruction of the offices of a TV channel by the police. He even formally acknowledged his impotence on TV later that day. So what was the basis of the destruction of property by "14 low ranking police"? Is this what police do in Pakistan? It is hard to believe that it could have taken place without higher authority. The little men are not dumb;they knew what they were doing and they were following orders. Whose orders we may never know.

BBC News
By Masud Alam

"...a contingent of police in riot gear was smashing glass doors and equipment and firing tear gas shells inside the offices of a private TV channel ... the country's media minister was watching helplessly"
"...the minister, Mohammed Ali Durrani, arrived just after the police and tried to intervene - but they wouldn't listen to him."
"Later in the evening Mr Durrani faced the cameras, accepting his impotence and said that all he could do was to offer an apology."
"President Pervez Musharraf himself ... publicly [said he] regretted the police attack. He promised to identify and punish the culprits "
"14 low ranking police officials have been suspended"
"...the police raid looks more like a clear expression of state belligerence towards the media.The same channel had its high-profile discussion programme banned a day earlier. And three TV channels were briefly taken off air earlier in the week for running footage of bloody clashes between police and lawyers."

Competing narratives and critiques of the wars in Yugoslavia

I want to thank Sami S. Siddiq for putting together a list of the many works that have been written recently on the breakup of Yugoslavia. I post it here for the interest of anyone wanting to study these events. As Yugoslavia broke up the established and conventional means of social control broke down. In the process people began to see events in the light of abuses (or at least putative abuses) that had taken place in the past. Fear of what was taking place, and anger at what had been done to folks whom individuals identified with fostered the malice that became "ethnic cleansing," often in the name of patriotism or religious devotion. Such events invite us to decipher now people in various positions can misunderstand and misrepresent each other, with huge costs.

Competing narratives and critiques of NATO’s war in Yugoslavia
A select bibliography (compiled by Sami S. Siddiq for Professor Robert L. Canfield).
Agüera, Martin. “Air Power Paradox: NATO’s ‘Misuse’ of Military Force in Kosovo and its Consequences.” Small Wars and Insurgencies 12.3 (2001): 115-135.
Alexander, Klinton W. “NATO’s Intervention in Kosovo: The Legal Case for Violating Yugoslavia’s National Sovereignty in the Absence of Security Council Approval.” Houston Journal of International Law 22.3 (2000): 403-449.
Ali, Tariq, ed. Masters of the Universe? NATO’s Balkan Crusade. London: Verso, 2000.
Allin, Dana H. NATO’s Balkan Interventions. London: Oxford University Press/The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2002.
Antonenko, Oksana. “Russia, NATO and European security after Kosovo.” Survival 41.4 (1999): 124-144.
Auerswald, David P. “Explaining Wars of Choice: An Integrated Decision Model of NATO Policy in Kosovo.” International Studies Quarterly 48.3 (2004): 631-662.
Badsey, Stephen, and Paul C. Latawski. Britain, NATO, and the Lessons of the Balkan Conflicts, 1991-1999. London: Frank Cass, 2004.
Bax, Mart. “Planned Policy or Primitive Balkanism? A Local Contribution to the Ethnography of the War in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Ethnos 65.3 (2000): 317-340.
Bax, Mart. “Warlords, priests and the politics of ethnic cleansing: a case-study from rural Bosnia Hercegovina.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 23.1 (2000): 16-36.
Bellamy, Alex J. Kosovo and International Society. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2002.
Bellamy, Alex J. “Kosovo: After the War, the War of Words.” The International Journal of Human Rights 5.3 (2001): 97-110.
Bellamy, Alex J. “Unravelling Balkan Dilemmas?” International Peacekeeping 9.3 (2002): 143-148.
Bennett, Christopher. Yugoslavia’s Bloody Collapse: Causes, Course and Consequences. New York: New York University Press, 1995.
Boose, Lynda E. “Crossing the River Drina: Bosnian Rape Camps, Turkish Impalement, and Serb Cultural Memory.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28.1 (2002): 71-96.
Borinski, Philipp. “NATO towards Double Enlargement: The Case of the Balkans.” Journal of European Integration 24.2 (2002): 113-136.
Bugajski, Janusz. “Balkan in Dependence?” The Washington Quarterly 23.4 (2000): 177-192.
Campbell, David. National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity, and Justice in Bosnia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.
Carpenter, Ted Galen. NATO’s Empty Victory: A Postmortem on the Balkan War. Washington: Cato Institute, 2000.
Catalinotto, John, and Sara Flounders. Hidden Agenda: U.S./NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia. New York: International Action Center, 2002.
Chossudovsky, Michel. “Dismantling former Yugoslavia, recolonising Bosnia.” Development in Practice 7.4 (1997): 375-383.
Coates, Ken. Collateral Damage or Unlawful Killings? Nottingham: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 2000.
Cockburn, Alexander, and Jeffrey St. Clair. Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia: A Diary of Three Wars. London: Verso, 2004.
Cohn, Marjorie. ”Nato Bombing of Kosovo: Humanitarian Intervention or Crime against Humanity?” International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 15.1 (2002): 79-106.
Coles, Kimberley A. “Ambivalent Builders: Europeanization, the Production of Difference, and Internationals in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 25.1 (2002): 1-18.
Conversi, Daniele. “Demo-skepticism and Genocide.” Political Studies Review 4.3 (2006): 247-262.
Cushman, Thomas. “Anthropology and Genocide in the Balkans: An Analysis of Conceptual Practices of Power.” Anthropological Theory 4.1 (2004): 5-28.
Daalder, Ivo H. “Emerging Answers: Kosovo, NATO & the Use of Force.” Brookings Review 17.3 (1999): 22-25.
Daalder, Ivo H., and Michael E. O’Hanlon. Winning Ugly: NATO’s War to Save Kosovo. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2000.
Danilov, Dimitri A. “Implications of the NATO Attack against Yugoslavia for European Security and Russian-Western Relations.” Mediterranean Quarterly 10.3 (1999): 51-69.
de Bens, Els, Laurence Hauttekeete, and Heidi Lagast Ghent. “Disinformation in Coverage of the Kosovo War in the Flemish Daily Press.” Journalism Studies 3.2 (2002): 241-256.
Dekker, Ige F., and Eric P.J. Myjer. “Air Strikes on Bosnian Positions: Is NATO Also Legally the Proper Instrument of the UN?” Leiden Journal of International Law (1996), 9: 411-416
Denich, Bette. “Debate or defamation? Comment on the publication of Cushman’s ‘Anthropology and Genocide in the Balkans’.” Anthropological Theory 5.4 (2005): 555-558.
Denich, Bette. “Dismembering Yugoslavia: Nationalist Ideologies and the Symbolic Revival of Genocide.” American Ethnologist 21.2 (1994): 367-390.
Denich, Bette. “Unmaking Multi-Ethnicity in Yugoslavia: Metamorphosis Observed.” The Anthropology of East Europe Review 11.1/2 (1993): 43-54.
Devic, Ana. “Ethnonationalism, Politics, and the Intellectuals: The Case of Yugoslavia.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 11.3 (1998): 375-409.
Dimitrova, Anelia K. “Nightmares in the Nightly News: CNN Covers Atrocities in Kosovo.” East European Quarterly 35.1 (2001): 1-46.
Domagala, Arkadiusz. Humanitarian Intervention: The Utopia of Just War? The NATO Intervention in Kosovo and the Restraints of Humanitarian Intervention. (SEI Working Papers, no. 76). Brighton: Sussex European Institute, 2004.
Eatwell, Roger. “Explaining Fascism and Ethnic Cleansing: The Three Dimensions of Charisma and the Four Dark Sides of Nationalism.” Political Studies Review 4.3 (2006): 263-278.
Eko, Lyombe. ”Bombs and bombast in the NATO/Yugoslav War of 1999: The attack on Radio Television Serbia and the laws of war.” Communications and the Law 24.3 (2002): 1-45.
Elich, Gregory. Rev. of Masters of the Universe?: NATO’s Balkan Crusade, by Tariq Ali, ed. Science & Society 66.2 (2002): 291-294.
Falk, Richard A. “Kosovo, World Order, and the Future of International Law.” The American Journal of International Law 93.4 (1999): 847-857.
Fotopoulos, Takis. “New World Order and NATO’s War against Yugoslavia.” New Political Science 24.1 (2002): 73-104.
Gentry, John A. “Norms and Military Power: NATO’s War against Yugoslavia.” Security Studies 15.2 (2006): 187-224.
Gowan, Peter. “The NATO Powers and the Balkan Tragedy.” New Left Review I/234 (1999): 83-105.
Gobarev, Victor M. “Kosovo Aftermath: Russia-NATO Relations after the Kosovo Crisis: Strategic Implications.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 12.3 (1999): 1-17.
Grigorian, Arman. “Third-party intervention and escalation in Kosovo: Does moral hazard explain it?” Ethnopolitics 4.2 (2005): 195-213.
Ham, Peter van, and Sergei Medvedev, eds. Mapping European Security after Kosovo. New York: Palgrave/Manchester University Press, 2002.
Hayden, Robert M. “Inaccurate data, spurious issues and editorial failure in Cushman’s ‘Anthropology and Genocide in the Balkans.’” Anthropological Theory 5.4 (2005): 545-554.
Hayden, Robert M. “Moral Vision and Impaired Insight.” Current Anthropology 48 (2007): 105-131.
Hayden, Robert M. “Moralizing about Scholarship about Yugoslavia.” East European Politics & Societies 21.1 (2007): 182-193.
Hayden, Robert M. “The Triumph of Chauvinistic Nationalism in Yugoslavia: Bleak Implications for Anthropology.” The Anthropology of East Europe Review 11.1/2 (1993): 63-69.
Headley, Jim. ”Sarajevo, February 1994: the first Russia-NATO crisis of the post-Cold War era.” Review of International Studies 29.2 (2003): 209-227.
Hehir, Aidan. “The Impact of Analogical Reasoning on US Foreign Policy towards Kosovo.” Journal of Peace Research 43.1 (2006): 67-81.
Herman, Edward S. “The Approved Narrative of the Srebrenica Massacre.” International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 19.4 (2006): 409-434.
Hoare, Marko Atilla. “Genocide in the former Yugoslavia: a critique of left revisionism’s denial.” Journal of Genocide Research 5.4 (2003): 543-563.
Hodge, Carl Cavanagh. “Casual War: NATO’s Intervention in Kosovo.” Ethics & International Affairs 14.1 (2000): 39-54.
Hodge, Carl Cavanagh. “Woodrow Wilson in Our Time: NATO’s Goals in Kosovo.” Parameters 31.1 (2001): 125-35.
Hyde-Price, Adrian. “Germany and the Kosovo war: still a civilian power?” German Politics 10.1 (2001): 19-34.
Ignatieff, Michael. Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond. New York: Henry Holt, 2000.
Janos, Andrew C. “From Eastern Empire to Western Hegemony: East Central Europe under Two International Regimes.” East European Politics and Societies 15.2 (2000): 221-249.
Johnstone, Diana. Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002.
Jokić, Aleksandar. Lessons of Kosovo: The Dangers of Humanitarian Intervention. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2003.
Joksimovich, Vojin. “Militarism and Ecology: NATO Ecocide in Serbia.” Mediterranean Quarterly 11.4 (2000): 140-160.
Jones, Francis R. “Ethics, Aesthetics and Décision: Literary Translating in the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession.” Meta 49.4 (2004): 711-728.
Kapferer, Bruce. “In positions to do great damage: A comment on the Cushman, Denich, Hayden and Wilson debate.” Anthropological Theory 5.4 (2005): 577-581.
Kay, Sean. “After Kosovo: NATO’s Credibility Dilemma.” Security Dialogue 31.1 (2000): 71-84.
Kay, Sean. “Nato, the Kosovo war and neoliberal theory.” Contemporary Security Policy 25.2 (2004): 252-279.
Kideckel, David A. “The ‘Tar Baby’ revisited: War in Former Yugoslavia and anthropological discourses and responsibilities.” Anthropological Theory 5.4 (2005): 571-575.
Kozol, Wendy. “Domesticating NATO’s War in Kosovo/a: (In)Visible Bodies and the Dilemma of Photojournalism.” Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 4.2 (2004): 1-38.
Kritsiotis, Dino. “The Kosovo Crisis and Nato’s Application of Armed Force against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.” The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 49.2 (2000): 330-359.
Layne, Christopher. Blunder in the Balkans: The Clinton Administration’s Bungled War against Serbia. (Policy Analysis, no. 345.) Washington: CATO Institute, 1999.
Magaš, Branka. The Destruction of Yugoslavia: Tracking the Break-Up 1980-92. London: New York, 1993.
Mandelbaum, Michael. “A Perfect Failure: NATO’s War against Yugoslavia.” Foreign Affairs 78.5 (1999): 2-8.
Mccgwire, Michael. “Why did We Bomb Belgrade?” International Affairs 76.1 (2000): 1-23.
Milinkovic, Branislav. “The Kosovo crisis: What about the OSCE’s credibility?” Helsinki Monitor 10.3 (1999): 15-17.
Morus, Christina M. “Slobo the Redeemer: The Rhetoric of Slobodan Milosevic and the Construction of the Serbian ‘People’.” Southern Communication Journal 72.1 (2007): 1-19.
Mueller, John. “The Banality of ‘Ethnic War’.” International Security 25.1 (2000): 42-70.
Murphy, Sean D. “NATO Air Campaign against Serbia and the Laws of War.” The American Journal of International Law 94.4 (2000): 690-692.
Norris, John. Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005.
Owen, John M. “Transnational Liberalism and U.S. Primacy.” International Security 26.3 (2002): 117-152.
O’Loughlin, John, and Vladimir Kolossov. “Still not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier: The geopolitics of the Kosovo war 1999.” Political Geography 21.5 (2002): 573-599.
Ottaway, Marina, and Bethany Lacina. “International Interventions and Imperialism: Lessons from the 1990s.” SAIS Review 23.2 (2003): 71-92.
Papasotiriou, Harry. “The Kosovo War: Kosovar Insurrection, Serbian Retribution and NATO Intervention.” Journal of Strategic Studies 25.1 (2002): 39-62.
Parenti, Michael. Rev. of Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, by Louis Sell. Mediterranean Quarterly 13.4 (2002): 116-122.
Parenti, Michael. To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia. London: Verso, 2000.
Pugh, Michael. “Rubbing Salt into War Wounds: Shadow Economies and Peacebuilding in Bosnia and Kosovo.” Problems of Post-Communism 51.3 (2004): 53-60.
Ramadanovic, Petar. “When Bombs Fall: Becoming American During the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia (excerpts).” Discourse 25.1/2 (2003): 272–293.
Ramet, Sabrina P. Thinking about Yugoslavia: Scholarly Debates about the Yugoslav Breakup and the Wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Schnabel, Albrecht, and Ramesh Chandra Thakur, eds. Kosovo and the Challenge of Humanitarian Intervention: Selective Indignation, Collective Action, and International Citizenship. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2000.
Schrijver, Nico. “NATO in Kosovo: Humanitarian Intervention Turns into Von Clausewitz War.” International Law FORUM du droit international 1.3 (1999): 155-159.
Schulman, Jason. “The NATO–Serbia War and the Left.” Science & Society 67.2 (2003): 223-225
Sell, Louis. Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.
Shank, Gregory. “Not a Just War, Just a War – NATO’s Humanitarian Bombing Mission.” Social Justice 26.1 (1999): 4-48.
Shannon, Vaughn P. “Judge and Executioner: The politics of responding to ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.” Journal of Genocide Research 7.1 (2005): 47-66.
Siani-Davies, Peter. International Intervention in the Balkans since 1995. London: Routledge, 2003.
Sorabji, Cornelia. “Ethnic War in Bosnia?” Radical Philosophy 63 (1993): 33-35.
Sörensen, Jens Stilhoff. “Balkanism and the New Radical Interventionism: A Structural Critique.” International Peacekeeping 9.1 (2002): 1-22.
Sterling-Folker, Jennifer, ed. Making Sense of International Relations Theory. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2006.
Stokes, Gale, John Lampe, Dennison Rusinow, and Julie Mostov. “Instant History: Understanding the Wars of Yugoslav Succession.” Slavic Review 55.1 (1996): 136-160.
Stromberg, Joseph R. “Sovereignty, International Law, and the Triumph of Anglo-American Cunning.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 18.4 (2004): 29-93.
Thussu, Daya Kishan. “Legitimizing ‘Humanitarian Intervention’? CNN, NATO and the Kosovo Crisis.” European Journal of Communication 15.3 (2000): 345-362.
Tziampiris, Aristotle. “Kosovo’s Future Sovereignty: A Role for the European Union.” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 5.2 (2005): 285-299.
Veremēs, Thanos. Action without Foresight: Western Involvement in Yugoslavia. Athens: Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, 2002.
Volčič, Zala. “Blaming the Media: Serbian Narratives of National(ist) Identity.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 20.3 (2006): 313-330.
Vujacic, Veljko. “Perceptions of the State in Russia and Serbia: The Role of Ideas in the Soviet and Yugoslav Collapse.” Post-Soviet Affairs 20.2 (2004): 164-194.
Wallander, Celeste A. “Institutional Assets and Adaptability: NATO after the Cold War.” International Organization 54.4 (2000): 705-735.
Wedgwood, Ruth. “NATO’s Campaign in Yugoslavia.” The American Journal of International Law 93.4 (1999): 828-834.
Woodward, Susan L. Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War. Washington: Brookings Institution, 1995.
Yang, Jin. “Framing the NATO Air Strikes on Kosovo across Countries: Comparison of Chinese and US Newspaper Coverage.” International Communication Gazette 65.3 (2003): 231-249.
Zimmerman, Warren. Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers – America’s Last Ambassador Tells What Happened and Why. New York: Times Books, 1996.
Zimmermann, Warren. “The Last Ambassador: A Memoir of the Collapse of Yugoslavia.” Foreign Affairs 74.2 (1995): 2-20.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Curfew relaxed in Parachinar

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports that a ceasefire has been negotiated in Kurram Agency, a sector of the Tribal Areas just north of North Waziristan, where there has been fighting for several days. This seems to be a different conflict from the one described as the local Taliban fighting Uzbeks in North Waziritan. It is hard to imagine that there is no connection. Certainly the tribal areas seem to be a in period of restructuring. From a distance it is hard to guess what the outcome will be.


"PARACHINAR, April 13: The [Pakistani] administration relaxed for two hours on Friday a curfew clamped [in Parachinar] a week ago after a jirga brokered a ceasefire between sectarian groups in most parts of the Kurram Agency."
"Officials said the jirga which had negotiated the truce on Thursday continued its meetings with local elders and the political authorities."
"It constituted two committees to expedite the peace process in the region.After the curfew relaxation in Parachinar, people thronged markets to buy essential goods. Army and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets."
"...sporadic clashes continued ... But no casualty was reported. Other parts of the agency were calm but tense."

The ring of fear in Kandahar

I have been reviewing on-the-ground reports from the southern part of Afghanistan where the Taliban presence has become ever more menacing. Take the report of Sarah Chayes’s description of the situation in Kandahar dated just one year ago [March/April, 2006, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 62(2): 17-19]. The Taliban had become a threatening presence among the people of the Kandahar area. Because the Taliban appear at night they were being called “the night faries” appearing with impunity as security has eroded. Chayes wonders if the situation had not, even then, gone beyond the “point of no return.” The visits at night by “armed visitors” demanding provisions and other assistance was profoundly unsettling to a people who had already suffered so much “gruesome bloodletting” for so many years. These people, she says, are “internally injured”; it is “an entire society suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”
One of the most troubling details of her report is the attitude and behavior of government officials: they “act as predators, amassing money and power, treating inhabitants like dirt rather than serving or protecting them.” Unfortunately this is a very familiar practice: individuals assigned to provincial districts have often taken the opportunity to extort in their own behalf, paying the required dues to Kabul and keeping whatever excess they could collect. The consequences of this practice now, however, could be disastrous, for it is leading to the complete disaffection of a population whose loyalty is critical to the wellbeaing of the government. “The Afghan security forces have adopted a war-fighting mentality from their American mentors . . . [but leave] the people alone to deal with the consequences of the ‘fairies who come at night.’”
In the mean time Pakistan is providing offices and weaponry and training camps for the Taliban in the Quetta area. From one side there are imperious Afghan government officials, from the other side there are the night visitors provisioned and supported by Pakistan. The people of Kandahar have come to the conclusion that in fact the Americans are in league with the Taliban: How else to understand the American indifference to their need and their continued support for a Pakistan government that supports the Taliban? Whether there is any factual basis or not in this story “everyone believes it.” A “ring of fear” was closing around the people of Kandahar as long ago as a year. What could be the situation now?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Losing Afghan hearts, minds

What is most interesting here is the statement that as many as half the population do not believe the Canadians will win against the Taliban. This means that that population is in various ways obliged -- or feel they are obliged -- to make deals with the Taliban. Clearly, NATO forces have not yet persuaded enough of the local population that NATO will stay, that they are worth betting on. In fact, so far neither of the "occupying armies" -- in Afghanistan or Iraq -- seem oriented to the long period of time they will have to remain in place in order to "secure" the situation for the local government, more importantly for the local populations. In the early days there was less doubt about whether the government could hold the country. In Afghanistan, at least, there was a time (most of the twentieth century and before) when the army could not muster the combined firepower of the Pushtun tribes on whom it had to rely for support in extremis; the different then was that the tribes never united against the government at the same time. Now, the idea that the Taliban might again take over perhaps with the same pervasive and autocratic control seems be be still alive. That possiblity keeps the future, at least for many in the south, in doubt. Until that possibility is foreclosed some of those people will play their options on both sides.

Toronto Star
By Olivia Ward

"...Western countries are losing the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan while the Taliban is seizing the advantage, says a survey from a European-based think-tank [the Senis Council]."
"...nearly half of the men in Afghanistan's southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar where
Canadian troops are based believe the international community will lose the war against the Taliban. "
" 'The military forces are doing a remarkable job in extremely difficult circumstances,' said ... Senlis's Canadian founder, 'But woefully inadequate aid and development, and misguided counter-narcotics policies, are turning people against them and making their work much more dangerous.' "
"In Kandahar and Helmand provinces, 80 per cent of respondents said the international troops were not helping them personally, and 71 per cent believed the Afghan government was also unhelpful. "

The Jamia Hafsa flip-flop

Another note from the Friday Times reveals how conflicted affairs are in Pakistan. Many forces are pulling and pushing at cross-purposes on the Pakistani leadership. This is one of them. RLC

The Friday Times
By Mehreen Zahra-Malik

"Less than two months ago, female students of [the religious school] Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad occupied a children’s library to protest the demolition of some mosques and madrassas built without permission on government land."
"Last week, [they] struck again. Not only ... going around threatening video and music shop owners to close down their ‘vulgar’ businesses, they also kidnapped three women from a house for allegedly running a brothel. "
"...the Jamia Hafsa madrassa [is] attended by hundreds of students from all over Pakistan ... armed men with AK-47s stand guard [outside]"
"...diplomats ... wonder why Musharraf cannot close down this 'obvious incubator of radicalism at the heart of his capital' "
"...analysts question whether the government’s inability to control the situation has something to do with infighting within the establishment, some of whose factions have a not-so-secret soft corner for their former Islamist allies"
" the ... town of Tank, things are even worse. There, pro-Taliban militants attacked government forces last week, killing a policeman and abducting a school principal who resisted attempts to recruit his students as suicide bombers."
" 'Talibanisation is creeping into the cities also and is in fact a reality across the country,' says one observer. "
"After what has already happened ... authorities are still reluctant to take action."

A return to terrorism of the 1990s?

Marc Lynch has observed that the recent attacks of groups claiming to be part of Al Qaeda are in fact returning to a strategy they had abandoned earlier -- that is, to wage their conflict locally. If Marc is right, I wonder if these groups have really given up on their war against the "far enemy." I would think the 'far enemy' war is still on; merely that some of these groups have found opportunity to carry on their local conflicts as before. Even so, a very interesting insight.

Abu Aardvark
"... in terms of al-Qaeda itself it's worth noting the extent to which attacks like this mark a return to the insurgencies of the 1990s rather than a notably new development. The innovation of al-Qaeda Central, as has been widely noted, was to shift the attention of the jihad away from the 'near enemy' (local apostate regimes) to the 'far enemy' (the United States). One of the notable trends we're seeing in al-Qaeda 2.0, or al-Qaeda TNG, or whatever you prefer to call it, has been local cells hitting local targets under the banner of al-Qaeda... i.e. a return to hitting the 'near enemy'. The brand name is new, and gives a veneer of globalism to the attacks, but the terrorism itself looks more like the (failed) insurgencies of the 1990s:
attacks on local regime targets which kill a lot of local citizens along the way, carried out by local cells which may or may not include returnees from Iraq or people directly linked to AQ Central. This isn't to discount the very real changes in the organization of the transnational jihad, or the
importance of the jihadist rhetoric and images and identities forged over the last few years, or the opportunity to regularly attack the 'far enemy' provided by the presence of American troops in Iraq. But operationally, it is striking the extent to which these kind of terror attacks resemble the earlier period of jihadist terrorism in the 1990s rather than some kind of a qualitative leap forward."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The coming horror in Iraq

Recently an interview with John Burns was placed on the NYTimes website. What is curious is how little has been made of it. Burns is a valuable resource because he is so experienced: he has made a career of reporting on hot-spots around the world: Beijing, Bosnia, Afghanistan, now Iraq. I once was able to meet him in Islamabad; he had already been covering the Soviet-Mujahedin war in Afghanistan for several years. I got a sense of how difficult it sometimes has been to persuade people – even his editors – of what is actually happening on the ground.

We need to listen to what Burns has been saying: for some reason it is not being highlighted even by the New York Times. Burns has recently (Charlie Rose interview January 24, 2007) said that if things go as they seem to be going in Iraq the results will be “disastrous.” In another interview available on a Times video Burns reports that all the Iraqis he knows, Sunni and Shia, all want the Americans to stay in Iraq.

This is so contrary to appearances. The Democrats think they have been given a mandate to get out of Iraq immediately because, as they infer, the American people voted to get out. The public demonstrations against the Americans by the al-Sadr followings in Baghdad present an image of broad support for expelling the Americans immediately. As always, things are never quite what they seem.

As frustrated with the Bush administration as I have been for starting a pre-emptive war under false pretences – it was not a mistake that they conflated Saddam with Osama but a deliberate fabrication in order mislead the American people – I have to wonder whether it really makes sense to withdraw from Iraq precipitously, as the Democrats seem committed to doing.

It is again a confusion of tongues. The Americans told themselves they were liberators, given their heroic mythology about World War II (and WWI). The Iraqis quickly came to see the Americans as occupiers, given their long history of subjection under the Ottomans and the British. Now that the Americans have realized how grossly they have bungled, they have decided to get out (the only debate is how soon) and leave it to the Iraqis to sort out. Now that it is clear to the Iraqis that the Americans are leaving soon (no doubt about that) many of them are wondering what their lives will be like under, not foreign colonialists, but their own autocratic and brutal “internal colonialists.”

What John F Burns is telling us, if we will listen, is that things, which we thought couldn’t get worse, will in fact get much worse. Can Americans live with the world they leave behind? Will they pay enough attention even to notice? Certainly the Iraqis will remember that the world they are left to sort out was a creation of American hubris.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The IMU in Pakistan: A Phoenix Reborn, or a Tired Scarecrow?

The people most famiar with the Uzbekistan situation have had many questions about how there could be such a large number of Uzbeks fighting an intense battle with local tribesmen in Pakistan. Where did they come from, given that they were effectively wiped out when the Americans attacked the Taliban forces. Could Uzbeks have revived themselves so quickly? Now we wonder if the whole story could have even been contrived for reasons suiting the Musharraf administration. Could it be that once again an administration in power has been giving journalists carefully crafted pieces of information that serves its own interests? The more we come to know, the more we wonder what the whole truth is. What's missing here? We would so much prefer a report by a disinterested source that has had a chance to check out the claims of the administration. Here is a comment on the questions that need to be answered in order for us to be convinced that such a war is actually going on in the tribal areas. RLC

The Roberts Report on Central Asia and Kazakhstan
By David Hoffman

"...since 2001, [there has been a] rise of a veritable cottage industry promoting the image of the IMU [the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan] as an immediate, virile and offensive threat to stability in Central Asia"
"... story has dominated the headlines as the violence that has gripped South Waziristan, fighting that pits local tribesmen against ... the IMU"
"[this] news may seem odd ... because, by 2002, the IMU was already understood to be a spent force: small groups ... were seen fleeing from the American aerial assault on northern Afghanistan in late 2001, after which verified sightings of the organization virtually ceased."
"Given the pitiful state of the IMU ... in 2002, and the organization’s ensuing silence, the fighting that has erupted in and around Wana has caught observers off-guard."
"According to ... the Pakistani press, “thousands” ... of Uzbek militants are engaged in pitched battles with local Pashtun tribal militias."
"A closer examination of the facts on the ground cast serious doubt on the current narrative being promoted through the Pakistani media, and – by extension – the international press."
"Pakistani news outlets have, as noted, been detailing the battle based on secondhand reports from government sources"
"Moreover, two separate sources insides Waziristan have confirmed that, in fact, they have not actually seen any actual Uzbeks, live or dead, during this latest conflagration."
"In battles whose casualty figures speak to its intensity, scale and duration, conventional military wisdom holds that hundreds of dead should be matched by several times as many wounded."
"Again, curiously – local hospitals and clinics have been unable to report the presence of large numbers of Uzbeks admitted for care."
"And while the press has dutifully reported dozens of captured IMU fighters, these prisoners have failed thus far to materialize."
"Finally ... the numbers just don’t add-up: barring a spectacular burst of recruiting, it would be difficult to imagine how an organization that numbered, at most, in the hundreds has, after suffering a crushing defeat and dangerous passage into remote exile in 2002, managed to blossom into an organization capable of fielding a fighting force several thousand strong in Pakistan five years later."
"...while the Pakistani press continues to produce an enormous amount of ... coverage on the situation ... No hard evidence has emerged to point to the presence of actual Uzbek IMU fighters in the recent fighting."

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pakistan's Strategic Goals and the Deteriorating Situation in Afghanistan

This is a fairly extensive summary of the dilemmas Pakistan now faces. For those who have followed the situation closely not much will be new here, but in a fairly short space it identifies several critical issues the Pakistani leadership faces right now. More and more analysts are seeing the situation in Pakistan as pivotal. And indeed it has been for some time. Despite the support the Americans have given Pakistan it is still a place where political interests that compete with American interests are active, perhaps to the point of threatening even the stability of the country. However events move in the Middle East and Central Asia, Pakistan's affairs will play a significant part.

Pakistan's Strategic Goals and the Deteriorating Situation in Afghanistan
By Dr. Harsh V. Pant

"Pakistan is reeling under a host of problems and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf seems unable to tackle them."
"The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has been openly blaming Pakistan for the deteriorating security environment in his country"
"...during a recent trip to Islamabad U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney invoked ... the Democratic Party's threat to make aid conditional on a crackdown of Islamic militants"
"Musharraf's decision to sack the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, has ignited widespread public protests around the country "
"While Pakistan has apprehended some key al-Qaeda leaders and has acquired actionable intelligence, it has also not done enough to crack down on al-Qaeda's rear base on the border with Afghanistan."
"rising Western casualty rates in Afghanistan are ... encouraging a rethink about Pakistan's relationship with the West and its role in the global war on terrorism."
"former U.S.Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte cautioned the U.S.Congress that Pakistan remains a major source of Islamic extremism and that al-Qaeda leaders have found sanctuary in secure Pakistani hideouts."
"Tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan has intensified sharply recently amid growing concern about the implications of Islamabad's failure to crack down on cross-border militancy"
"Competition between New Delhi and Islamabad for influence in Afghanistan poses a threat to their peace process and to Afghan development. An improvement in ties between India and Pakistan could help to stabilize the situation, but peace talks are unlikely to yield substantial results in the short- to medium-term. "

CIA hires terrorist group to operate inside Iran

If it is true that the CIA is funding and abetting the terrorist activities of Jundullah it is another embarrassment for the US government and the American people. Surely such news would induce our administration to denounce such a practice and force the CIA to desist from it -- and the American people to declare their revulsion of it. This is an embarrassment for the CIA, an embarrassment for the American people, an embarrassment for the Baluch people, and embarrassment for Pakistan. What else can our administration do to diminish itself and the American people?

Islamic Republic News Agency

"Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has hired a Pakistani terrorist group that has carried out a series of deadly terrorist attacks inside Iran"
"The group, members of the Baluchi tribe, operates from Pakistan's province of Baluchestan, just across the border from Iran."
"The group, called Jundullah, has carried out raids, resulting in the deaths or kidnapping of Iranian ordinary people as well as soldiers and officials"
"Regi [the group's leader] admitted to have personally executed some of the Iranian captives"
"Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center [said] 'He is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera.' "
"The group claimed responsibility for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan."
"Iranian television last month broadcast confessions by those responsible for the bus attack."
"They admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan."
"The only relationship with the group that US intelligence acknowledges is cooperation in tracking al-Qaeda figures in that part of Pakistan."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What is actually going on in Pakistan's tribal areas

The Friday Times has published three articles that provide more detail on what is actually going on in Pakistan's tribal areas [$25 / year for an online subscription]. What they reveal is that, as usual, the reality is much more complex and convoluted than might be surmised from other reports. We here provide a digest of three articles from the March 30-5, 2007 issue. Collectively they suggest that the government's attempts to influence the situation in the tribal areas may be working but that much that is transpiring actually is arising from local disputes [surprise, surprise]. What the situation really means for the attempts of the Taliban to influence affairs in Afghanistan is unclear. But I think the Pakistan government sees these as positive developments.

Wazirs battling Uzbeks for control of 'motherland'
Iqbal Khattak
The Friday Times

"By all indications, the current drive against the Uzbeks seems a planned operation"
"Four days of clashing till the filing of this report last Monday had left 160 dead and hundreds of others wounded."
"Uzbek militants, supported by key commanders of slain Nek Muhammad group,have been battling a popular revolt from the Ahmedzai Wazir tribes under the leadership of Maulvi Muhammad Nazir, who enjoys the blessings of senior Taliban leaders..."
"There are two versions of what might have triggered the clashes. One version is that Maulvi Nazir demanded explanation from the Uzbeks after an Arab fighter was found dead; the second version says law and order went from bad to worse and the Uzbeks were blamed for target killings,kidnappings and car-snatching, activities that were making the Taliban look bad before the local population."
"Sources say paramilitary forces are taking part in the clashes against the Uzbeks in civvies. "
"Military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad, however, denies the army's involvement."

Who is Maulvi Nazir?
By Iqbal Khattak
The Friday Times

"Maulvi Nazir has almost popped up from nowhere. He wasn't much heard of until the last quarter of 2006 when he emerged as ameer (leader) of the pro-Taliban Wazir tribes in South Waziristan. He was ostensibly given the task of re-organising the tribal forces so they could operate more effectively against the US-NATO forces in the coming summer."
"But the Taliban ameer is facing serious threat from a local tribal commander, Haji Omar. Omar, a Taliban commander in South Waziristan, is the backer of Uzbek fighters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other foreign militants. He is challenging the authority of Nazir and the rivalry has resulted in bloody clashes near Wana since early March."
"Nazir was on the government's most-wanted list and surrendered to the authorities in 2004. Interrogators declared him 'white' (clean and clear)and he was released in late 2004 around the time the top five commanders of the Nek Muhammad group inked a peace accord with the government in Wana."
"The Wazir population was getting increasingly impatient with the 'misbehaviour' of Uzbek militants"
"The problem for the government is that Nazir has chalked out rules of engagement that rely on selective use of violence and also forbid the militants from attacking Pakistani troops. As one senior official put it:'The good thing about the new Taliban commander is that he avoids engaging Pakistani forces. He believes attacking Pakistani security forces is akin to attacking his own people.' "
"However, while Nazir has made it easier for Pakistan army and paramilitary troops, under his command the unified splinter groups make no bones about their intention to launch attacks across the border and establish a single chain of command to increase combat effectiveness."
"Nazir's background and story evinces the difficult choices Islamabad has to make to bring moderates on its side and isolate hardliners. The plan appears to be working at the moment."

From guns to talks
By Iqbal Khattak
The Friday Times
"The idea is to alienate the renegades by increasing the costs all round and getting the local chieftains to put down the miscreants because the latter's existence threatens an arrangement that, overall, suits the tribes"
"Innovation is what you require when something is not happening in the way that you want it to happen.After 9/11 and the US attack on Afghanistan, Islamabad had to face a new problem - presence of foreign militants in the tribal lands which have never been directly ruled by Islamabad. To avoid incursions into Pakistani territory and to put down trained, armed and highly motivated militants,Pakistan inducted military and paramilitary troops in the area. The deployment was the first of its kind since 1947."
"Since then, South Waziristan has seen three major and dozens of smaller operations; there have been at least three major peace accords and the region has generally been quiet since the second was inked with commanders of pro-Taliban militant Nek Muhammad who was killed six months earlier in a guided missile attack by the military."
"The government made the local militants agree to two very important points: No presence of foreign terrorists and no cross-border movement.Yet, what is missing in the accord is a verifiable implementation mechanism to ensure that no foreigners are in the area and no one is crossing over into Afghanistan to attack US-NATO forces.The North Waziristan accord comes after the military suffered the highest casualties. "
"But efforts for peace accords did not stop and three major tribes of Bajaur - Mamoond, Utmankhel and Salarzai - pledged to not host foreign militants. They all gave an undertaking to the administration that anyone found sheltering foreigners would be fined heavily, would have his house demolished and would be sent on forced exile.'The problem with our army is that it is fighting its own people and no army can do that. Our emphasis is on resolving the issue peacefully,' a military source told TFT."