Friday, October 30, 2009

Afghanistan resources: How great are they?

Much is unknown about the natural resources of Afghanistan. Here is an article that refers to some of the resources that might exist in that country. Certainly the neighboring countries to the north and west are very rich. It could be. RLC

Afghan minister seeks justice through exploitation
By Lynne O'Donnell October 19, 2009

(AFP) - KABUL - "My family name means justice and that is what I am determined to get for my country," says Mohammad Ibrahim Adel, Afghanistan's minister of mines.

In his large, plush office in a Soviet-style compound in downtown Kabul, Adel -- whose surname means "just man" in Arabic, Dari and Pashtu -- outlined how he plans to bring economic justice to one of the world's poorest countries.

"People in Afghanistan are like people lying on a bed of gold but going hungry," he told AFP.

"Afghanistan is not known for its natural resources. It is known across the world and in history as a nation of war and violence and poverty.

"But we have a lot: copper, iron ore, gold, natural gas, oil, precious and semi-precious stones, chromite, talc, salt," he said, counting on his fingers.

"Except diamonds," he grinned. "We haven't found diamonds yet, but we might."

Adel has seen other poor countries -- notably in Africa and South America -- allow foreign governments and companies to extract and export their mineral wealth, with the profits rarely remaining at home.

"Afghanistan will never be exploited in this way. The relationship between the company that invests in Afghanistan's mineral resources and the people has to be just," said Adel, who trained as a mining engineer in the former Soviet Union.

"Not more than five percent of Afghanistan's natural resources is known, 95 percent we still don't know. But I hope that in the very near future we can start exploration work.

"We are trying to develop the economy using our natural and mineral resources."

Adel, who spent time in jail and as a refugee in Pakistan before returning to Kabul and joining the ministry after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, has already signed contracts developing a massive copper mine in Logar province, and a medium-sized coal mine in Bamiyan province.

But he said companies interested in Afghanistan's natural resources must make long-term and costly commitments to developing not just the underground resource, but also everything above it.

Exploitation plans must be environmentally sound and based on solid social impact studies, with development including "job creation, schools, hospitals, electricity, water," he said.

In 2007, China's state-owned metals producing giant Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) signed a three-billion-dollar contract to develop the Aynak copper mine -- one of the world's biggest -- over the next 30 years.

First discovered in 1974, the site, 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Kabul in Logar, is estimated to contain 11.3 million tonnes of copper.

The red metal used in plumbing, heating, electrical and telecommunications wiring, is essential to China's breakneck economic development.

The region is becoming increasingly tense and insecure, and is being guarded by US soldiers.

While China's involvement in the mine is another step in its often-controversial forays into resource exploitation abroad, the terms of the contract are very much in Afghanistan's favour.

"The Aynak Copper Mines alone can bring us 500 million dollars a year just in revenues to the government," Adel said.

He said he insisted on conditions binding the Chinese in Aynak to de-mine the area and, effectively, build a city from scratch that will be centred on the mine.

The contract obliges the Chinese partner to develop a smelter, refinery and factory as well as infrastructure such as roads, houses, hospitals and schools -- similar to the cities centred on single industries that were a hallmark of China's centralised economy in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Chinese company will also build a rail link across the country, from the border with Pakistan in the southeast to the border with Uzbekistan in the north.

Thousands of jobs will be created at the Aynak mine, Adel said, adding that the company is also obliged to train Afghan engineers and geologists so that "in 10-15 years Afghans are able to work independently."

On top of these agreements, he said, MCC threw in a bonus of 808 million dollars, to be paid in three installments during the lease.

"How could we refuse that?" Adel asked. "No one else offered us anything like that."

He intends to apply the same principles to the huge Hajigak iron ore mine in Bamiyan province, north of Kabul, which is currently under tender, with one Chinese and half a dozen Indian firms vying for the contract.

The contract for exploitation of almost two billion tonnes of high-grade ore includes processing, smelting, steel production, 200 megawatts of electricity and a coking plant.

In addition, the winning firm -- expected to be announced by next July -- will help develop downstream industries such as machinery plants, he added.

Taliban funding sources

A Variety of Sources Feed Into Taliban's War Chest New York Times By ERIC SCHMITT October 18, 2009

WASHINGTON - The Taliban in Afghanistan are running a sophisticated financial network to pay for their insurgent operations, raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the illicit drug trade, kidnappings, extortion and foreign donations that American officials say they are struggling to cut off.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed an elaborate system to tax the cultivation, processing and shipment of opium, as well as other crops like wheat grown in the territory they control, American and Afghan officials say. In the Middle East, Taliban leaders have sent fund-raisers to Arab countries to keep the insurgency's coffers brimming with cash.

Estimates of the Taliban's annual revenue vary widely. Proceeds from the illicit drug trade alone range from $70 million to $400 million a year, according to Pentagon and United Nations officials. By diversifying their revenue stream beyond opium, the Taliban are frustrating American and NATO efforts to weaken the insurgency by cutting off its economic lifelines, the officials say.

Despite efforts by the United States and its allies in the last year to cripple the Taliban's financing, using the military and intelligence, American officials acknowledge they barely made a dent.

"I don't believe we can significantly alter their effectiveness by cutting off their money right now," said Representative Adam Smith, a Washington State Democrat on the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan last month. "I'm not saying we shouldn't try. It's just bigger and more complex than we can effectively stop."

The Taliban's ability to raise money complicates the Obama administration's decision to deploy more United States troops to Afghanistan. It is unclear, for example, whether the deployment of 10,000 Marines over the summer to Helmand Province, the heart of the opium production, will have a sustaining impact on the insurgency's cash flow. And American officials are debating whether cracking down on the drug trade will anger farmers dependent on it for their livelihood.

But even if the United States and its allies were able to stanch the money flow, it is not clear how much impact it would have. It does not cost much to train, equip and pay for the insurgency in impoverished Afghanistan - fighters typically earn $200 to $500 a month - and to bribe local Afghan security and government officials.

"Their operations are so inexpensive that they can be continued indefinitely even with locally generated resources such as small businesses and donations," said Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East specialist at the Congressional Research Service and a former analyst of the region at the C.I.A.

American officials say that they have been surprised to learn in recent months that foreign donations, rather than opium, are the single largest source of cash for the Taliban.

"In the past there was a kind of a feeling that the money all came from drugs in Afghanistan," Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in June. "That is simply not true."

Supporting this view, in his Aug. 30 strategic assessment, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, voiced skepticism that clamping down on the opium trade would crimp the Taliban's overall finances.

"Eliminating insurgent access to narco-profits - even if possible, and while disruptive - would not destroy their ability to operate so long as other funding sources remained intact," General McChrystal said.

The C.I.A. recently estimated in a classified report that Taliban leaders and their associates had received $106 million in the past year from donors outside Afghanistan, a figure first reported last month by The Washington Post. Private citizens from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and some Persian Gulf nations are the largest individual contributors, an American counterterrorism official said.

Top American intelligence officials and diplomats say there is no evidence so far that the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or other Persian Gulf states are providing direct aid to the Afghan insurgency. But American intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistani intelligence operatives continue to give some financial aid to the Afghan Taliban, a practice the Pakistani government denies.

The United States Treasury Department and the United Nations have for years maintained financial blacklists of those suspected of being donors to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But counterterrorism officials say donors have become savvier about disguising their contributions to avoid detection.

"The sanctions have worked to a certain extent but obviously not to the extent of being able to cut off all funds," said Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence officer now monitoring Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the United Nations.

Still, drugs play an important role. Afghanistan produces more opium than any other country in the world, and the Taliban are widely believed to make money at virtually every stage of the trade.

"It extorts funds from those involved in the heroin trade by demanding `protection' payments from poppy farmers, drug lab operators and the smugglers who transport the chemicals into, and the heroin out of, the country," David S. Cohen, an assistant secretary at the Treasury Department responsible for combating terrorist financing, said in a speech in Washington last week.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a report issued in August, said that Taliban commanders charged poppy farmers a 10 percent tax, and that Taliban fighters supplemented their pay by working in the poppy fields during harvest. The biggest source of drug money for the Taliban is regular payments made by drug traffickers to the Taliban leadership, based in the Pakistani border city of Quetta, according to the report.

Counterterrorism experts say the relationship of the insurgents to drug trafficking is shifting in an ominous direction. A United Nations report issued in August said that some opium-trafficking guerrillas had secretly stockpiled more than 10,000 tons of illegal opium - worth billions of dollars and enough to satisfy at least two years of world demand. The large stockpiles could bolster the insurgency's war chest and further undercut the ability of NATO military operations to curb the flow of drug money to the Taliban.

A third major source of financing for the Taliban is criminal activity, including kidnappings and protection payments from legitimate businesses seeking to operate in Taliban-controlled territory, American authorities say.

The United States has created two new entities aimed at disrupting the trafficking networks and illicit financing. One group, the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, is located at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul. The second group, the Illicit Finance Task Force based in Washington, also aims to identify and disrupt the financial networks supporting terrorists and narcotics traffickers in the region.

American officials say they are working closely with the Afghan government to dry up the Taliban financing, but as one senior American military officer in Afghanistan put it last week, "I won't overstate the progress."

Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghan Taliban cooperate with the Tahrik-Taliban of Pakistan

The article below from the News International reveals how unwise it is to suppose that the Taliban-Pakistan are different from the Taliban-Afghanistan. They are both a part of a common movement. Yes, these groups are essentially factions who, if there were no state to fight on the outside, would probably clash among themselves, but given the situation they now have they have reason to hold together for the time being. RLC

TTP gets Afghan Taliban support
By Mazhar Tufail The News International (Pakistan) October 18, 2009
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani militants based in South Waziristan Agency committed the terrorism acts in the past couple of weeks or so with the help of the
Afghan Taliban, The News learnt here on Saturday.

"Leaders of various militant groups active in Pakistan under the banner of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have succeeded in winning support of
the Afghan Taliban for committing terror acts in Pakistan," a source in the security forces disclosed on condition of anonymity.

"They have mounted the deadly attacks in Peshawar, Bannu, Rawalpindi and Lahore with the help of Afghan Taliban," he said.

The source said the top leaders of outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have established links with the Afghan Taliban and all its operatives who have been operating
in the Punjab have reached South Waziristan or Afghanistan to evade arrests as the law-enforcement agencies have launched a crackdown on such elements in the
Punjab province.

"Initially, this group was involved in sectarian violence and has been targeting people belonging to a particular religious sect but now it is targeting the
security forces," the source said.

According to the source, the security forces have, however, launched the operation - codenamed Rah-e-Nijat - in South Waziristan with full determination to
eliminate the terrorists from the restive tribal region. He said majority of the troops participating in the operation have an extensive experience of
warfare in mountainous terrain and have earlier been fighting terrorists in Swat, Malakand and elsewhere.

"As directed by the army chief and other commanders involved in the military operation in South Waziristan, the security forces will exercise utmost care to
avoid collateral damage during the operation. The commanders are very optimistic about the completion of the operation well before the end of the stipulated
time and its positive outcome," the source said.

The Pakistan Army launched operation against the extremists in South Waziristan Agency on the night between Friday and Saturday. According to military
sources, 1,000 to 1,500 militants are present in South Waziristan and the operation has been launched after three-month siege of the militants.

The political administration of South Waziristan has, however, said that over 4,000 to 5000 terrorists are present in the area with most of them hiding in
Mahsuds-inhibited area.

South Waziristan is the nerve centre of the TTP and the main source of terrorism across Pakistan. It is from here that TTP renders support to other terrorist
groups operating from the nearby Khyber, Bajaur, Orakzai and Mohmand agencies.

"The root of the terror is in South Waziristan where this group is present. It is a must to root out this terror and curse," the source said.

After the death of Baitullah Mahsud in a drone strike on August 5, TTP is being led by Hakimullah Mahsud with the assistance of Waliur Rehman and Qari
Hussain, who runs a suicide training camp in Kotkai area of the region.

According to the source, in the last three months, the TTP militants intensified attacks on security forces deployed in South and North Waziristan agencies,
including five suicide missions in Razmak area, kidnapping of 15 security personnel, killing three of them, over 300 rocket attacks and 78 improvised
explosive device (IED) attacks.

"Given all of the recent terrorism acts in various parts of the country, a final showdown against Taliban and their al-Qaeda Uzbek allies in South Waziristan
has become an absolute necessity," the source said.

The source said no doubt the country's security forces were faced with a far stronger enemy in South Waziristan than one they have confronted and overcame in

Gilles Dorronsoro's doubts about a "surge" in Afghanistan

Gilles Dorronsoro is one of the few people who have done extensive anthropological research on the ground in Afghanistan in recent years so he speaks with an authority that we need to listen to. He has come out in support of Matthew Hoh's notable break with American policy. Hoh I have been less sure of. True, he has had military experience in Afghanistan and was then a foreign service officer in Afghanistan, but it is hard to tell how well he understands the wider implications of his position. All along I have been in favor of adding a lot of troops in Afghanistan -- plus forcing Pakistan to clean up their side of the border. Even so, as Dorronsoro points out, there are good reasons to wonder if it is fair to ask American young men and women to die for a regime that still countenances corruption and vote fraud. Below is what Dorronsoro has to say about the situation. RLC

Getting lost in Afghanistan Matthew Hoh's resignation as a US official in Afghanistan delivers a sharp, honest and accurate critique of the war
By Gilles Dorronsoro, Wednesday 28 October 2009

Former US marine and foreign service officer Matthew Hoh's letter of resignation from the US state department delivers a shot across the bow of those who would escalate the American combat presence in Afghanistan. "I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," Hoh wrote. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

With Tuesday's attacks making October the bloodiest month for US troops in the country in the eight years since the war began, Hoh's letter is an expression of deep moral conviction, and senior US officials, from ambassador Karl Eikenberry to vice-president Joe Biden, are taking it seriously. But the statement is more than a cri du coeur. It presents several arguments that are worthy of discussion.

"If honest," Hoh writes, "our strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaida resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc."

Hoh's argument here is weak on two accounts. First, in the other countries mentioned, the US has a degree of co-operation with the local governments, even if they cannot completely control their own territories. Afghanistan is a special case, in that its government cannot survive without western assistance. And if the Taliban succeeds in retaking Afghanistan's cities, al-Qaida could find there a perfect sanctuary, where it would be impervious to counter-terrorism operations. In the other countries Hoh mentions, that is not the case.

"Our presence in Afghanistan has only increased destabilisation and insurgency in Pakistan," Hoh asserts.

This is absolutely correct, the only caveat being that the Pakistani government also supports the Taliban and other radical groups that are destabilising the country. As the Afghan Taliban show with their persistent practice of attacking Indian targets in Kabul, the Pakistani military support them as a weapon against India, and it offers no indication of a new policy. (The offensive in Waziristan is directed against the Pakistan and it offers no indication of a new policy. (The offensive in Waziristan is directed against the Pakistan Taliban, not the Afghan Taliban). Nonetheless, even an American withdrawal from Afghanistan would not give the US or Pakistan any insurance about the future behaviour of these radical groups, Afghan or Pakistani. Afghanistan could still become a sanctuary for groups fighting in Pakistan.

"The threat is not tied to geographic or political boundaries," Hoh says.

Hoh is right. The September 11 attacks were planned mostly in Germany, and the war in Afghanistan does not make the US more secure. At the same time, al-Qaida needs a sanctuary in order to escape from the police and counterterrorism forces. Even a loose network of individuals is vulnerable when it has no protection from police or military strikes. Afghanistan was once instrumental in lending a certain level of security to al-Qaida and similar groups, just as Waziristan is today. Al-Qaida can always move from Pakistan to another base, like Yemen, if the situation there becomes too dangerous, but that will affect its ability to operate, since Pakistan is still the best base they can hope for.

US troops, Hoh writes, were "inadequately prepared and resourced".

This point is also completely accurate, and little has changed. Western troops are not prepared to fight a counter-insurgency. They spend too little time in country, undergo no appreciable linguistic training and the Pashtuns fear their presence and reject their cultures. By contrast, the Iraq surge worked not because of counter-insurgency, but because the local tribes chose to join the US, and the insurgents they were fighting were mostly urban. So the US did not learn how to fight a rural counterinsurgency in Iraq.

Hoh writes that the war could continue for "decades and generations".

If the objective is to crush the Taliban, not to pursue the more realistic goal of leaving an Afghan government that can survive on its own, this is true. The Obama administration has made clear that its objectives are mostly limited to security, and John Kerry's speech on Monday delivered exactly that line. But Hoh has nevertheless a point here, because the strategy General Stanley McChrystal proposes is more ambitious: it aims for total military victory against the Taliban. To accomplish that, McChrystal will need a lot more than the 20,000 to 60,000 troops for which he is asking. The Taliban can continue to strike from Pakistan, and, as the US operation in Helmand showed this summer, even 20,000 soldiers cannot secure the centre of a single province in southern Afghanistan.

To what end, as Hoh asks, are we asking our young men and women to sacrifice? That is the question the White House has to answer.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to get control of South Waziristan -- so they say

A summary by Walter Pincus (Washington Post, 10.27/09) of a paper presented by Frederick Kagan, Reza Jan and Charlie Szrom on how Pakistani military have proceeded in South Waziristan reveals how fluid relations are among the Pashtuns of the Tribal Areas. Pincus presents it as a "Lesson for Afghanistan?" as if the methods used in this case could be used in Afghanistan. What he describes as the new Pakistani methods don't sound very new, but this time it appears to have been done with more resolve and more care in preparation.
My guess is that buying off various parties on the scene, as Pincus describes it here, can work among the Afghanistan folks as well, so long as it is understood that the deal is situational and temporary. Louie Dupree used to say the Afghans can be rented but they can't be bought.
So, if it works that's great, but it cannot be a long term solution to the problem in the Tribal Areas without a continuous and concerted commitment to the enforcement of law and order and the provision of necessary public services. This is another way of saying that if this Pakistani invasion into the Tribal areas is to be effective -- that is, lasting -- the Tribal Areas have to be more closely absorbed into the rest of the country. For that to take place the government must make a large financial commitment: building roads, introducing power lines and air service, and establishing medical care and education for the residents. It would be great if that would happen but it's hard to picture where the money will come from. And anyway there is the problem of whether the tribal leaders would be willing to give up their relative autonomy. Actually, after all they have been going through they just might consent to it, especially if the new arrangement would bring in the beneficial changes I listed above. We hear at least that some are pretty fed up with the intrusive and destructive presence of the Taliban/Al Qaeda fighters in their homelands.
Anyway, Pincus's article is revealing. [Selections from it are below] RLC

A lesson for Afghanistan?
By WALTER PINCUS The Washington Post Tuesday, October 27, 2009

…. The 37-page analysis of the Waziristan operation provides important background for those following Pakistan's long-awaited move against the Taliban, also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) .
… Some preparatory activities were already underway, according to the analysis by Kagan and his associates. With the paramilitary Frontier Corps in support, the Pakistani military gained control of some major road segments in the area, setting up blockades intended to separate Mehsud's Taliban in South Waziristan from its allies in North Waziristan and to block transfer of arms into the south. Aided by U.S. intelligence and Predator drones, air and ground artillery attacks also began on Taliban targets. ….

Negotiations with surrounding tribal groups went on for months. Efforts were aimed at either getting support for the move against the traditional Mehsud area, where the TTP was strongest, or having groups agree to refrain from joining the fight on the Taliban side. …. In the southeast, the Pakistanis worked with Turkistan Bhittani, a pro-government leader whose tribal fighters at least a year before had driven Mehsud Taliban elements from their territory.

Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, once considered the second-most popular militant leader in South Waziristan to Mehsud, was concerned in the past about U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Early last year, he had formed an alliance with Mehsud, according to the Kagan analysis. Since then, U.S. drones had attacked his area at least nine times this year, according to the analysis.

However, over the summer, Pakistani officers, who had years earlier formed an alliance with Nazir Ahmad, bought off his support by guaranteeing that the U.S. drone attacks on his territory would halt, the analysis said. The result: Pakistani army forces gained use of the town of Wana in Nazir Ahmad's territory for their forces moving up from the southwest.

In the north, the deal was struck with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, considered the supreme commander of the North Waziristan Taliban, who has had an on-again, off-again peace deal with the Pakistani government. He agreed to remain neutral, allowing Razmak to be the supply point for troops coming down from the north. The agreement with him was that Pakistani army units could "transit his territory in exchange for fewer bombings and patrols" in his area, according to the analysis.

The Pakistani military's invasion of the Mehsud tribal heartland -- about 40,000 soldiers supported by helicopters and fighter bombers coming from three areas -- has progressed deliberately. Kotkai, the home town of Beitullah Mehsud's successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, and his top lieutenant, Qari Hussain, has been taken and their respective homes destroyed. ….

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The essentializing of "Pashtunwali" is dangerous

[revised and augmented 10/28/09]
Recently, in the discussion about what to do about the war in Afghanistan, there have been several essays on how important Pashtunwali is in Afghanistan. [Outside View: Afghanistan's center of gravity, Oct. 15, 2009 By LAWRENCE SELLIN, UPI; "No Sign until the Burst of Fire -- Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier," Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason] These authors seem to have taken the things they have read about Pashtunwali and essentialized their notion of what is going on in Pashtun society. That terrifies me. What these authors are missing is how much is not known about actual social practice among contemporary Pushtun societies.

The term simply means "the Pashtun way of life" and it works well as a way of describing how in theory the various tribal peoples have managed their affairs in the absence of a state [which seeks to adjudicate disputes in its own terms]. And in that context it is helpful to understand that Pashtuns have for generations had traditions of social and political practice that were more or less coherent and that in theory they could allude to in discussions about what to do about specific situations. But to take it a a stipulated set of rules that are always followed without reference to the ways folks deal with the messy problems of actual situations is a grave mistake. [I have an article "Trouble in Birgilic" in a recent work, "Everyday Life in Central Asia" that describes a whole series of ways that some Hazaras and the presiding official in that region falsified the deals they made and the ways they talked about it. We need similar studies of similar practices among the Pashtuns.]

Much of the work on Pashtunwali was basically an essentializing project from the beginning. The Afghanistan government set up a whole institute to essentialize the concept. Let us take it as the way the Pashtuns tell themselves what their rules are, but it is often referred to after the fact, as a way of legitimizing what has been agreed on among those who have the power to make things happen. It is "orthodoxy" [not "doxa] in Bourdieu's terms. In fact, we have very few actual studies of how social and political affairs [disputes especially] are carried out in actual practice. To decide that Pashtunwali characterizes the way Pashtuns always and in every situation carry on their affairs is dangerous, for the concept has been produced by the Afghan government [in the 1960s] as a self-identifying propaganda device.

Yes, we know of situations when it looked like the "rules" were practiced as they say they should [See the second of Farid's stories at]. But what about the contexts in which the rules are disputed? Or situations in which various and contrary rules could be invoked? Those are the kinds of situations of which we have scarcely any actual record. And anyway, are the rules the same among all the Pashtuns?

Bourdieu has pointed out that maps are made for outsiders; for those who grew up in an area a map is not needed. And indeed a lot of what the local residents know is not on a map -- like where you can cut through for a short-cut, or where you can't go even if it looks like you are supposed to. That is, for those who have grown up with Pashtunwali there is a lot that is known about short cuts you can take and ways you can cheat on the system and contexts in which you do one thing and say you did another -- this is the stuff of actual social life, not the strict obedience to official rules. What we don't have, in fact, is many studies that describe how things actually work in a society. And those studies are, it turns out, not so useful to those who are looking for a neat, quick image of how the society works. They should look at the actual studies of what is going on -- I fear to list any for fear I will omit some of the best but here are some authors who come to mind: David Edwards, Jon Anderson, Nancy Tapper [Lindesfarne], Richard Tapper, Christine Noelle[-Rasuly], Fredrik Barth, Klaus Ferdinand, Charles Lindholm. You won't get much essentializing from these sources but what you will get is a better sense of how Pashtuns actually do things. In fact, the various peoples of Afghanistan, including the Pashtuns, are used to making deals. They make deals of various sorts for specific purposes and often they stick to them [and sometimes they don't]. So, for those who would like to project a neat image on the way of life of the Afghanistan peoples we must warn them that on the ground, in real situations they may have many surprises.

Moreover, the Taliban, a Pashtun movement who are supposed to be explained by Pashtunwali, have renounced tribal rules in favor of Sharia, and they have operationalized that in many Pashtun areas by exterminating all those elders who didn't play along with them.

This nonsense about Pashtunwali is terrifyiing.

The Taliban ask the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for help?

Xinhua news reports are a distinctive news source and sometimes they have surprising things to report. Here is an article about a request by "the Taliban" -- we would assume only one of the several groups by that name -- to the Shanghai Cooperation organization -- which includes China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrghizstan, and Tajikistan -- to help end the war in Afghanistan. If such a request was made, that would be a remarkable step. We wonder who the "Taliban" are. Whoever they are, whichever group, they are savvy enough about the wider world of interested parties to seek their help in working out a solution to the war in Afghanistan. Here is the report.

Taliban seeks SCO support in solving Afghan crisis

KABUL, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Taliban outfit, in a political move, tried to seek support from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in ending the prolonged war in Afghanistan, a letter sent to the address of the body late Wednesday said.

In the open letter, it described the presence of international troops in Afghanistan as the occupation of the post-Taliban country and called on SCO to adopt a tough stance in this regard.

"We call on Shanghai Cooperation Organization to assist countries in the region against colonialists and adopt a strong stance against the occupation of Afghanistan," according to the letter readout to media from undisclosed location.

It also said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (name of ousted Taliban regime) would establish friendly relations with allthe neighboring states after the expulsion of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

In the letter, the Taliban outfit asked the SCO "not to trust the propaganda of the colonial powers as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would not damage any country and would rather open the door for strengthening peace, stability and economic cooperation in the region."

Written in Pashtu -- one of the two official languages of Afghanistan and spoken by the majority of Taliban militants -- the letter also accused the international troops of killing Afghans, adding that "both NATO and U.S. forces in the excuse of fighting terrorists have been killing the people of Afghanistan."

Taliban militants whose regime was ousted by the U.S.-led coalition forces eight years ago have intensified their activities over the past couple of years, forcing NATO and Afghan government to seek negotiating settlement for ensuring durable peace in the war-torn country.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

McClatchy: The Pakistani military are still dealing with the "Afghan" Taliban

In an earlier report McClatchy has reported that, even in these attacks, the Pakistani military is avoiding the Taliban who are harassing the people in Afghanistan.
"The Pakistanis, however, aren't attacking Taliban and other militants who're attacking U.S., Afghan and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Abbas confirmed that Pakistani authorities have an "understanding" with two Taliban factions based in Waziristan, led by warlords Maulvi Nazir and Gul Bahadur, who're fighting in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.
"There was an understanding with them that they will not interfere in this war," Abbas said. "There is always a strategy to isolate your main target." He added that people "sometimes have to talk to the devil in this regard."
[Click on the article for the source.]

McClatchy: Mehsud refugees trust neither Pakistan nor the Taliban

McClatchy's Washington Bureau has published a revealing article on the attitude of some of the Mehsud tribal leaders. They claim to despise and fear the Taliban but also to be unable to trust the Pakistani military leadership.
RLC [Click on the title for the source.]

Refugees don't think Pakistan's anti-Taliban efforts are serious
Posted on Thu, Oct. 22, 2009. Last updated: October 23, 2009 08:33:37 AM
Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan -- The Pakistani army's latest offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan, probably the country's most significant anti-terror operation since 2001, so far has failed to convince residents of the frontier area that the state is finally determined to wipe out the Islamic extremists.
Tribesmen from the Mehsud clan who are flooding out to escape the fighting in the lawless region that borders Afghanistan, guardedly tell of dreadful subjugation by Taliban extremists and their al Qaida allies, who control the area.
The evacuees also remain unconvinced that the army has turned against militants. None of the roughly dozen people interviewed by McClatchy reported seeing any ground troops in the war zone.
Even the anti-Taliban militia, made up of the few Mehsuds willing to stand up to the extremists, aren't sure whether they can have faith in the army, even though their militia is quietly supported by the state.
"The government has used the people like toilet paper, used them and thrown them away," thundered the spiritual leader and founder of the anti-Taliban Mehsud militia, Maulvi Sher Mohammad, in an interview.
The Mehsud tribesmen have been forced to abandon their homes for the third or fourth time since 2004 to escape periodic army operations against the Taliban, only to see the authorities cut peace deals and to discover upon their return that their area was under even tighter extremist control. The Pakistani Taliban is based in the part of South Waziristan that's occupied by the Mehsuds.
A deep, corrosive cynicism persists even though Pakistan carried out a successful operation earlier this year that largely eliminated the Taliban from the Swat valley. The early indications of the South Waziristan ground offensive, launched on Oct. 17, are that it's more serious than anything the army has undertaken in the past.
Nevertheless, interviews suggest that Pakistan remains a long way from winning the hearts and minds of the people of South Waziristan, although doing so is essential to clearing this rugged area of Islamic extremists, Afghan insurgents and al Qaida commanders, who've all made it their sanctuary.
Many of the refugees from South Waziristan also claim that the homes of ordinary people are being bombed and that civilians are dying in an intense and indiscriminate aerial bombardment, further eroding their support for the operation.
Mohammad, a burly cleric who lives behind high compound walls in the town of Dera Ismail Khan on the edge of South Waziristan, guarded by gun-toting young men, said that he wouldn't ask his fellow tribesmen to rise up yet.
The army is hoping that a traditional militia from the tribe, known as a lashkar, will fight alongside it. Mohammad's outfit, known as the "Abdullah Group" after former Guantanamo Bay prison camp inmate Abdullah Mehsud, is the state's best hope.
"We cannot fight alongside the army because my people do not yet know whether the army and the Taliban are friends or enemies," said Mohammad. "When we see the army crush them (the Taliban), then we'll believe."
Three times in the past, the army has agreed to a ceasefire and peace terms with the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan. Each time, the Taliban took bloody revenge on those who'd sided with the state.
Mehsuds remember bitterly how in 2005, following such a deal, a Pakistani army general literally embraced the then-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, and called him "a soldier of peace." A U.S. missile strike killed the militant leader in August.
The army complains that it was never before given a solid political mandate to rout the Taliban until this year, and that Pakistani public opinion previously didn't favor fighting a movement that claimed it was acting in the name of Islam.
Critics allege that the military, especially its Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, saw strategic benefit in having Taliban guard Pakistan's northwestern border.
Few of the South Waziristan refugees interviewed by McClatchy were willing to candidly speak about the Taliban, out of fear that they'll have to go back to face the militants.
"It is 100 percent wrong to say that the Mehsud are in favor of the Taliban," said a teacher, who asked for his name not to be used and who left his home in the Ladha area of South Waziristan. "We only 'support' the Taliban when we're there (in South Waziristan) to save our lives and our property."
The leadership and foot soldiers of the Taliban are dominated by the Mehsud tribe, whose home territory occupies around half of South Waziristan. The army offensive is confined to that part of South Waziristan occupied by the Mehsud tribe. Under Baitullah, the traditional tribal leaders of the Mehsuds were systematically butchered or driven out of South Waziristan, removing a rival source of authority.
Baitullah also turned the Pakistani Taliban from a group that fought "infidel" international forces in Afghanistan to a movement at war with its own Muslim homeland, a twist of jihadist logic that came straight from al Qaida.
Many Mehsuds said they'd support an operation if they thought it was real. Instead, some of them said that the country's army acts intermittently against the Taliban just to keep U.S. aid flowing.
"This fight (in South Waziristan) is for American dollars. The government always has some deal with the Taliban. It is ordinary people who suffer," said student Zahidullah Mehsud, who thought he was around 19 years old, as he lined up at a registration center for those displaced by the operation. "This is all an ISI game."
(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
Pakistan presses offensive, but not against Afghan Taliban
Pakistan launches crucial assault on militant stronghold
To smooth Pakistan's feathers, Kerry clarifies aid bill
Suicide bomber kills 41 as U.S.-Pakistan relations fray
Terrorist attack in Pakistan shows how vulnerable it is

McClatchy: An attack on a nuclear site in Pakistan

The McClatchy report on a bomb attack on a nuclear site in Pakistan could cause people to worry about setting off such a bomb. I doubt that that is possible, as I understand the various elements that make a bomb are separated. Even so, this is news. RLC [Click on the title for a link to the source page.]

McClatchy Washington Bureau
Print This Article Print This Article

Posted on Fri, Oct. 23, 2009
Bomb hits outside suspected Pakistani nuclear-weapons site
Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: October 23, 2009 11:28:27 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber attacked a suspected nuclear-weapons site Friday in Pakistan, raising fears about the security of the nuclear arsenal, while two other terrorist blasts made it another bloody day in the country’s struggle against extremism.

Increasingly daring and sophisticated attacks by terrorists allied with al Qaida on some of Pakistan’s most sensitive and best-protected installations have led to warnings that extremists could damage a nuclear facility or seize nuclear material.

Pakistan's nuclear sites are mostly in the northwest of the country, close to the capital, Islamabad, to keep them away from the border with archenemy India, but that places them close to Pakistani Taliban extremists, who are massed in the northwest. Al Qaida has made clear its ambitions to get hold of a nuclear bomb or knowledge of nuclear technology. Several other sites associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have been hit previously.

Pakistan is reeling from a wave of terrorist violence that’s coincided with the launch of a U.S.-backed ground operation by the military against the country’s al Qaida and Taliban heartland of South Waziristan, on the Afghan border.

A suicide attacker struck a checkpoint Friday morning on the boundary of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, an air force base at Kamra, about 40 miles outside Islamabad, killing eight people, including two security personnel, and wounding 15.

“There were strict security arrangements, so he (the bomber) was intercepted at the first checkpost,” local Police Chief Fakhar Sultan said.

Many of the attacks have been carried out in a deadly collaboration between Taliban extremists from the northwest and militants from Punjab, the country’s most heavily populated province.

The military is a favorite target. Earlier this month, a team of commando-style assailants shot its way into the military headquarters at Rawalpindi. This week, gunmen ambushed and killed a brigadier general in Islamabad, spraying his army jeep with bullets.

Separately on Friday, a car bomb ripped through a hotel in an upscale residential neighborhood of Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province, wounding more than a dozen people, while a blast also struck a bus that was carrying a wedding party in the Mohmand tribal region, close to the Afghan border. Four women and three children were among the 17 people who were killed.

“Look what’s happening in Islamabad. This (violence) can take place anywhere now,” said Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister for the North West Frontier Province. “We will not bow to terrorists ... whatever sacrifices we have to make.”

At Kamra, the bomber rode up to the checkpoint on a bicycle, explosives strapped to his body. Officials denied that the facility, the major research center for the air force, had links to the nuclear program. However, Pakistan doesn’t specify which sites are involved in the program and many independent experts think that Kamra is a nuclear air base.

The Kamra facility had been struck by a suicide bomber previously, in December 2007. In November 2007, the nuclear-missile storage site at Sargodha was attacked, while in August 2008, a team of suicide bombers blew themselves up at the entrance to the Wah armament factory, which is thought to be one of Pakistan’s main nuclear-weapons assembly locations.

Pakistan’s nuclear sites are tightly guarded, and the country repeatedly has denied any threat to them. While experts don't think that terrorists could seize a nuclear bomb -- the weapons aren't kept in a usable form --it's possible that they could cause a fire or explosion at a nuclear site or perhaps seize radioactive material.

After the attack on the military headquarters earlier this month, Shaun Gregory, a professor at Britain’s Bradford University and an expert on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, told McClatchy: “It is an incredible shock that terrorists can strike at the heart of GHQ (general headquarters). … Terrorists could mount this sort of assault against Pakistan’s nuclear installations.”

After the military headquarters strike, Western officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were forced to calm concerns, saying that “We have confidence in the Pakistani government and military's control over nuclear weapons." (Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


Refugees don't think Pakistan's anti-Taliban efforts are serious

Taliban retake town as Pakistan offensive runs into trouble

Pakistan presses offensive, but not against Afghan Taliban

Najam Sethi's critique of Pakistani leadership

The NewAge Islam site is printing an article by Najam Sethi that strikes very hard at the mindset that has been cultivated by the elite and the military in Pakistan. I have appreciated some of Sethi's writing in the past and became even more admiring of him after he was imprisoned by Pakistan for giving the same lecture in Delhi that he had just given in Karachi [!]. He is not alone in being a fearless Pakistani journalist. There are several and I am so thankful for them. This, in any case is worth our notice, and I hope he and NewAge Islam will not mind that I reproduce the article here; it's worth paying attention to, and encouraging in any way we can. RLC
[Click on the title for a link to the original source.]

Islam,Terrorism and Jihad
23 Oct 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com

The stock back in the bunker, cowering at the misplaced passions aroused by mindless TV anchors and poison pushing columnists fulminating against America even as the enemy within has killed over 170 Pakistanis in the last 10 days and lunged at the very heart of the military establishment in Rawalpindi. Ironically, in the latest Taliban attack on a women’s hostel at the Islamic University in Islamabad — a throwback to the bombing of over 400 girls’ schools in Swat last year — the misguided students vented their anger at the university administration and federal government instead of those who perpetrated the slaughter of innocents.

THERE IS GREATER irony in deconstructing the enemy within. Why doesn’t the Pakistani media highlight the fact that the Taliban, Lashkars and Jihadi organisations that bedevil Pakistan’s very existence as a nation- state ... were created by military dictators and “security organisations” that conjured up “enemies without” to brainwash generations of Pakistanis into giving them legitimacy and longevity? Why don’t the students of the Islamic University who protested the suicide attack by pumping clenched fists in the air against the government instead of the Taliban care to remember that their university, to which the leaders of various jihadi groups still owe allegiance, was a hotbed of radical “ Islamist” thought in the 1980s and 1990s and nurtured leaders like Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian scholar exported from Saudi Arabia who headed the Rabita al Alam al Islami and set up the first Al- Qaeda office in Peshawar? The double irony in this case is that the Taliban group which murdered many Khassadars or local police levies in Khurram Agency during Ramzan last year and took responsibility for the suicide attack was called the Abdullah Azzam Brigade.

BUT THE ENEMY WITHIN Pakistan is not just the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network. It is a national mindset in the ruling elites that refuses to see and fight the enemy within. This is a mindset that harbours conspiracy theories of an “external hand” in every disaster that befalls Pakistan; it is a mindset that hankers for an imagined rather than real “Islamic” past; it is a mindset that is constantly trying to anchor Pakistan’s ideological moorings in the autocratic Islamic Middle East rather than democratic secular South Asia -- Najam Sethi

URL of this Page:


By Najam Sethi

23 October, 2009

PAKISTAN is in a state of siege. But the veritable enemy is not India or Russia or Iran or America.

The enemy is within Pakistan. It is attacking our policemen and our soldiers.

It is attacking our politicians and our religious leaders. Now it is on the warpath against our students. Nothing is sacred. Who will be next? Where and when will this state of siege end? India’s prime minister has warned that “the regional situation has worsened” and another Mumbai- like attack by state and non- state actors on India is imminent.

He is pointing to a “Pakistani hand” behind the attack by the Haqqani faction of the Taliban on the Indian embassy in Kabul recently. When Mumbai was attacked last November, India seriously thought of military retaliation against allegedly complicit targets and groups in Pakistan.

But it wisely stayed its hand. Any military conflict with Pakistan could mushroom into a nuclear holocaust. However, in the event of another such attack, the pressure on India this time would be greater. If it reacts militarily across the border with Pakistan, the consequences would be unimaginably horrendous for the region. This is exactly the state of anarchy and bloodshed which the enemy within Pakistan would like to achieve because it is in such an atmosphere that it flourishes and grows.

I RAN’S president has warned of non- state actors in Pakistan’s Balochistan province who are suicide- bombing the Revolutionary Guards in Iran’s Siestan- Baloch province. Two such attacks were carried out last week, resulting in the death of 47 Iranian security persons. The chief of the Revolutionary Guards is demanding permission from Teheran to cross the Pakistan border in hot pursuit of the terrorists. Reports say that an organisation named Jundallah has tied up with the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network to destabilise Pakistan’s border with Iran just as the same network has joined hands with various groups in Punjab to foment trouble with India.

Meanwhile, the Americans are digging themselves in and around the main towns of Afghanistan and thinning their pickets on the border with Pakistan. This is CENTCOM General Stanley McChrystal’s new strategy of relocating and protecting his boots- on- the- ground until the Obama administration approves his request for 40,000 more troops. He is using drones to home into high- value targets in Pakistan’s Waziristan belt, and threatening to extend their area of operation into Balochistan while urging a greater operational role for the Pakistani army in Waziristan where Al- Qaeda and the Taliban are holed out. The implied threat is that if the Pakistani military is found wanting, then the CIA and CENTCOM may be compelled to put boots- on ground in hot pursuit of the marauding Taliban in Waziristan.

If Pakistan’s border with Iran, Afghanistan and India should heat up singly or, worse, together, and compel the Pakistan army to dilute attention on the Al- Qaeda- Taliban front, the siege within the country would definitely intensify. Already, Rehman Malik, the interior minister, says the nation is “at war”. As during war time, all schools and colleges are closed. The stock market, which had raised its head cautiously when the Kerry- Lugar Bill’s US$ 7.5 billion (Rs 62,250 crore) aid was announced, is back in the bunker, cowering at the misplaced passions aroused by mindless TV anchors and poison pushing columnists fulminating against

America even as the enemy within has killed over 170 Pakistanis in the last 10 days and lunged at the very heart of the military establishment in Rawalpindi.

Ironically, in the latest Taliban attack on a women’s hostel at the Islamic University in Islamabad — a throwback to the bombing of over 400 girls’ schools in Swat last year — the misguided students vented their anger at the university administration and federal government instead of those who perpetrated the slaughter of innocents.

THERE is greater irony in deconstructing the enemy within. Why doesn’t the Pakistani media highlight the fact that the Taliban, Lashkars and Jihadi organisations that bedevil Pakistan’s very existence as a nation- state [even General (retd) Pervez Musharraf is talking of an existential crisis in Pakistan today created by the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network] were created by military dictators and “security organisations” that conjured up “enemies without” to brainwash generations of Pakistanis into giving them legitimacy and longevity? Why don’t the students of the Islamic University who protested the suicide attack by pumping clenched fists in the air against the government instead of the Taliban care to remember that their university, to which the leaders of various jihadi groups still owe allegiance, was a hotbed of radical “ Islamist” thought in the 1980s and 1990s and nurtured leaders like Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian scholar exported from Saudi Arabia who headed the Rabita al Alam al Islami and set up the first Al- Qaeda office in Peshawar? The double irony in this case is that the Taliban group which murdered many Khassadars or local police levies in Khurram Agency during Ramzan last year and took responsibility for the suicide attack was called the Abdullah Azzam Brigade.

But the enemy within Pakistan is not just the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network. It is a national mindset in the ruling elites that refuses to see and fight the enemy within. This is a mindset that harbours conspiracy theories of an “external hand” in every disaster that befalls Pakistan; it is a mindset that hankers for an imagined rather than real “Islamic” past; it is a mindset that is constantly trying to anchor Pakistan’s ideological moorings in the autocratic Islamic Middle East rather than democratic secular South Asia.

It is a “national” mindset that is based on “tribal” and pre- Islamic notions of honour and justice; it is a campus mindset that is riven with inferiority complexes and insecurities that find expression in false bravado and hollow claims of self- reliance. This mindset is reflected in a shallow national culture of angry exclusivism rather than natural assimilation and integration in the global economy.

Pakistan’s national security apparatus might one day succeed in weeding out the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network. But until Pakistanis can purge their mindset of the ideological demons that reside therein, they shall not be able to lift the siege within.

Source: Mail Today, New Delhi

The writer is editor The Friday Times and The Daily Times (Lahore)

URL of this Page:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Yet again we hear that Pakistan's ISI is still supporting the Taliban

If you are following David Rohde's report of his escape from the Taliban in Miram Shah, Tribal Areas of Pakistan, you will, I hope, have noticed his comment about the connection between the Taliban and Pakistan's InterServices Intelligence Agency [ISI]. This is what he says [NYT 10/22/09], [Click on the title for a link.]
My suspicions about the relationship between the Haqqanis and the Pakistani military proved to be true. Some American officials told my colleagues at The Times that Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, turns a blind eye to the Haqqanis’ activities. Others went further and said the ISI provided money, supplies and strategic planning to the Haqqanis and other Taliban groups.

Pakistani officials told my colleagues that the contacts were part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan to prevent India, Pakistan’s archenemy, from gaining a foothold. One Pakistani official called the Taliban “proxy forces to preserve our interests.”

Meanwhile, the Haqqanis continue to use North Waziristan to train suicide bombers and bomb makers who kill Afghan and American forces. They also continue to take hostages.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Surprise! Dawn is reporting many security breaches in Pakistan.

Dawn is reporting a number of security breaches in Pakistan. It is heartening that the newspaper is revealing all this, but it seems scarcely surprising. It just seems like what we have been hearing about Pakistan for years. [Click on the title for a link.]

Security blunder
Dawn Editorial
Sunday, 18 Oct, 2009

At a time when militants are using all means at their disposal to attack state institutions, there is no room for security lapses. Hence the recent report that police and army uniforms and paraphernalia are being sold in Kohat despite a ban is distressing to say the least. The laxity of the law-enforcement agencies in preventing the sale of these uniforms is confounding. After the attack on GHQ in Rawalpindi, the sale of such items was proscribed. Yet the ban is being taken lightly by the authorities. Private tailors continue to sell uniforms and badges associated with the armed forces and police, while those that have stopped the open sale of these items have started selling them out of their homes instead.

The battle for South Waziristan has begun

The Long War says the Pakistan military attack on the Taliban in South Waziristan. Sounds nasty. Already there are serious losses. Here is some of it. The rest can be reached by clicking on the title.

Pakistan launches South Waziristan operation
By Bill Roggio October 17, 2009 12:18 PM

The Pakistani military has launched its much anticipated ground assault into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan.

"The army has launched an operation after receiving orders from the government," Major General Athar Abbas, the top military spokesman, told AFP. "The operation was launched early in the morning. Both air and ground troops are taking part."

Infantry and armored columns have begun the advance into the Taliban-controlled regions of Lahda, Makeen, and Sararogha in South Waziristan, where forces are under the control of Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsuh.

Large columns of troops have been reported to be moving south from Ramzak, northeast from Wana and Shakai, and northwest from Jandola. Army units are being backed by helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers.

The operation will focus on the eastern areas in South Waziristan that host Hakeemullah Mehsud's Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Other powerful Taliban leaders such as Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Mullah Nazir, and Siraj Haqqani will not be targeted.

"The headquarters of the defunct Tehrik-e-Taliban (the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan) in the agency will be surgically targeted to dismantle the network of the terror outfit," Abbas said.

The Taliban have reportedly struck at Army units as they moved from bases in Ramzak and Jandola. Three soldiers were killed in an IED attack in Ramzak, and another was killed by an IED in Jandola.

Eight Pakistani soldiers were also killed in fierce fighting in Spinkai Raghzai and Sarakai, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

The Pakistani military claimed that 11 Taliban fighters have been killed in airstrikes and only four soldiers have been killed so far.

The military has massed two divisions, an estimated 28,000 troops, to take on the estimated 10,000 Taliban and 1,500 foreign fighters believed to be sheltering in the area.

Some of the Taliban forces are thought to have left South Waziristan to preserve forces, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

"The Taliban appear to want to deny the military a decisive victory so they have pulled up some units and key leaders," the intelligence official said. "A substantial rearguard unit will be left to bleed the Army."

New estimates of Taliban strength: 25,000

The new estimates of the size of the Taliban are worrisome: 25,000, not counting the criminals, of whom there appear to be many [I'm not sure how they tell the difference], and part time volunteers who for cash will plant bombs. Here are the first few lines of the article that appeared in McClatchy Newspapers on October 14, 2009.
[Click on the title above for a link to the source.]

While U.S. debates Afghanistan policy, Taliban beefs up
By Jonathan S. Landay and Hal Bernton | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- A recent U.S. intelligence assessment has raised the estimated number of full-time Taliban-led insurgents fighting in Afghanistan to at least
25,000, underscoring how the crisis has worsened even as the U.S. and its allies have beefed up their military forces, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The U.S. official, who requested anonymity because the assessment is classified, said the estimate represented an increase of at least 5,000 fighters, or 25 percent, over what an estimate found last year.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry assured Afghans that America would continue to fight until "extremists and insurgents" were defeated in the war-torn nation.

The new intelligence estimate suggests that such a fight would be difficult. Not included in the 25,000 tally are the part-time fighters -- those Afghans who plant bombs or support the insurgents in other ways in return for money -- and also the criminal gangs who sometimes make common cause with the Taliban or other Pakistan-based groups.

The assessment attributed the growth in the Taliban and their major allies, such as the Haqqani Network and Hezb-e-Islami, to a number of factors, including a growing sense among many Afghans that the insurgents are gaining ground over U.S.-led NATO troops and Afghan security forces.

"The rise can be attributed to, among other things, a sense that the central government in Kabul isn't delivering (on services), increased local support for insurgent groups, and the perception that the Taliban and others are gaining a firmer foothold and expanding their capabilities," the U.S. official said.

"They (the insurgents) don't need to win a popularity contest," said Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the center-left Brookings Institution in Washington. "They are actually doing a good job in creating a complex psychological brew. The first part is building on frustration with the government. The second part is increasing their own appeal or at least taking the edge off of the hatred that people had felt for them before. But on top of that they are selectively using intimidation to stoke a climate of fear. And on top of that they have momentum."

James Dobbins, a retired ambassador who served as the first U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, said the new estimate shows how the war, which entered its
ninth year this month, has been intensifying.

"It tells you that things are getting worse, and that would suggest that the current (U.S.-led troop) levels are inadequate," Dobbins said. "But it doesn't lead you to a formula that tells you what the adequate troop levels should be."

New Details about the Taliban from David Rohde

So much nonsense about Afghanistan and the war with the Taliban and AlQaeda are being circulated in the public media these days that it is hard to know how to counter it with at least a modicum of reliable information. David Rohde's new series (NY Times beginning today) on his experience with the Taliban promises to reveal some reliable details about the Taliban who captured him and held him for over seven months. Here I note a couple of statements that stood out to me.

For one thing, much has been said [even by me] about the narrow horizons and agendas of the Taliban. I have been aware of the statements of Taliban about their concern for affairs elsewhere around the world [Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia] but I have viewed them as mere signs of the influence of Al Qaeda on the leadership of the Taliban. I did not suppose that the ordinary Taliban troops would have a horizon that reached beyond the Pashtun speaking parts of Afghanistan or Pakistan. Rohde's report suggests that by now the Taliban [at least those who took him captive] have now internalized a much larger moral project with a much wider horizon than I had supposed. Here is what he says:

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.

Further down in the article he says these Taliban were far better informed on American activities than I would have guessed.

My captors harbored many delusions about Westerners. But I also saw how some of the consequences of Washington’s antiterrorism policies had galvanized the Taliban. Commanders fixated on the deaths of Afghan, Iraqi and Palestinian civilians in military airstrikes, as well as the American detention of Muslim prisoners who had been held for years without being charged. America, Europe and Israel preached democracy, human rights and impartial justice to the Muslim world, they said, but failed to follow those principles themselves.

Also, my conception of the infrastructure of tribal areas in Pakistan was as I knew it in the 1960s: a rugged terrain with poor roads, only one telephone line along which there were few phones, only in the larger towns, etc., the tribal populations essentially living as they had been for many centuries. But Rohde's description of the Tribal Areas where he was kept reveals that much has changed there.

But I was astonished by what I encountered firsthand: a Taliban mini-state that flourished openly and with impunity. The Taliban government that had supposedly been eliminated by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was alive and thriving. … And I found the tribal areas — widely perceived as impoverished and isolated — to have superior roads, electricity and infrastructure compared with what exists in much of Afghanistan. ...

There is more to come in Rohde's report, so we will follow it with a close eye for signs of the world that the Taliban live in. As usual, the world keeps on changing faster than we can adequately follow it or assess the significance of affairs as they take place, at an ever accelerating pace. If there is any point I would emphasize to those who are so sure of how to deal with the situation in Afghanistan, it is that we must watch and listen carefully if we are ever to catch a clear picture of it on the wing. And even when we get it we are out of date.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Can there be any doubt about it? The Taliban are a criminal extension of Pakistan’s military.

The announcement by the Taliban that they were behind the attack in Kabul outside the Indian Embassy, and that the target was the embassy, reveals how the Taliban, or at least some of them, are clearly allied with Pakistan’s military interests. The Taliban otherwise have no reason to make the Indian Embassy a target. Their problem is not, in theory, India, unless in some way their viewpoint has been influenced by Pakistan’s larger geopolitical projects, which include Pakistan's war with India over Kashmir.
Note also that the Taliban have their own tally of the numbers killed. How did they get that? They must fully realize, every time a bomb is detonated in a crowded street, that civilians will be killed, perhaps many. Yet there seems to be no remorse that civilians were killed.
Without justifying those killed by American bombing we must note and condemn the murder of many innocent civilians – the number has to be in the thousands – who have been killed by suicide bombs. That the Taliban can give us the number means they know they are killing many civilians and apparently take it to be fitting to their agendas. Yes, as Karzai said, this was vicious and malicious abuse of many Afghan Muslims, in fact Afghan Muslims like the Taliban themselves, who were quite undeserving of this cruelty.
And if the Taliban are in fact carrying out Pakistan’s military projects in such a manner, what does it say of the readiness of Pakistan’s military leadership to allow, even encourage [and fund?], such criminal behavior?
This is another way to say that the issue to be resolved above all else is Pakistan's persistent struggle against India. Surge or no surge, the problem in Pakistan has to be resolved.
[Below is the CNN report on the event.] RLC

“Taliban claims responsibility for deadly suicide attack in Kabul KABUL, Afghanistan” (CNN) -- A suicide car bomb attack near the Indian Embassy killed at least 13 people and wounded 60 others on Thursday, officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying an Afghan national in a sports-utility vehicle carried out the attack.

Indian officials said the bomber had intended to strike the embassy.

"The suicide attack(er) ... attempted (to go) through one of the embassy gates," Vishnu Prakash, spokesman for India's external affairs ministry, told CNN on Thursday. "The embassy was the target."

The bomb went off at about 8:30 a.m. (4:00 a.m. GMT), just as offices and shops were opening for the day. …

There were conflicting figures on casualties from Thursday's attack. Hospital officials said 13 people were killed and 83 wounded -- including several in critical condition. Interior Ministry spokesman Ezmary Bashary said 17 were killed -- most of them civilians -- and 63 others were wounded.

The Taliban said the attack killed 35 people, including high-ranking Indian embassy officials, as well as international and Afghan police officers.

The embassy is in the center of Kabul, in a shop-lined street across from the Interior Ministry and several other government buildings.

The blast damaged a security checkpoint outside the embassy, said staffer J.P. Singh, but "there were no casualties on the Indian side." …

A statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office called the blast an obvious assault on civilians and said "the perpetrators of this attack and those who planned it were vicious terrorists who killed innocent people for their malicious goals."

About a year ago, another suicide car bomb detonated outside the embassy. Among the 58 people killed in the July 7 attack were two Indian diplomats and 14 students at a nearby school. More than 100 were wounded in that blast.

Afghan and Indian officials accused Pakistan's spy agency of involvement in that attack. Pakistan denied the accusation. …

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Carol Conn's list of reasons to stick it out in Afghanistan

This statement has been around for a little while but I want to make sure it is more widely viewed. RLC

19 Reasons To Win In Afghanistan
By Carol Conn 03 Oct 2009

There have been many arguments in the past four weeks to withdraw. We have compiled a short review of other social network debates to summarize the basic arguments for staying in the Afghanistan. The 19th reason has been added at the bottom.

1. Afghanistan and Pakistan - This Region is Ground Zero for Anti-U.S. Radical Islamic Violence. As the host nations for the primary terrorist organization that successfully conducted multiple attacks against the U.S. personnel and facilities, this region, by definition, is important to U.S. national security interests. Between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the preponderance of radical Islamic combatants, their recruitment base, and Al Qaeda central headquarters are current adversaries. Allowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda to return to power in Afghanistan, without their proper acceptance of a clear political defeat, can only: 1) embolden other U.S. adversaries, 2) increase radical Islamic recruitment, 3) undermine those Afghan civilians who supported the U.S., and 4) set back the notion of moderate Muslim governance for decades to come. This is not just a conflict to terminate Bin Laden but to ultimately diminish the future recruiting base of radical Islam. With realistic projections for a significant youth bulge Afghanistan and Pakistan, the potential for future violence is high for the near future.

2. U.S. Credibility is at stake. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations support the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan. Over 500 coalition soldiers from countries other than the U.S. have died in Afghanistan. Abandoning Afghanistan could lead to significant weakening of NATO cohesion/structure and undermine potential future requests for security assistance. The Fallout from a Afghanistan withdrawal can potentially be far worse than remaining. Following the Fall of Vietnam, U.S. experienced setbacks in Cambodia, Philippines, Fall of Iran, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Egypt-Israeli conflict, Angola, Lebanon, Libya, El Salvador, Colombia, and Nicaragua due to the loss of U.S. credibility.

3. U.S. Presence in Afghanistan has served as a proximity deterrent for Al Qaeda. >From a severely weakened position, Al Qaeda has been forced to accept the condition of awaiting more opportune circumstances before relaunching its campaign against the U.S. Having U.S. soldiers on the border of Waziristan, is a realistic deterrent from initiating offense operations that are so close to cross-border retaliation. Crossing the border into Pakistan is only one nuclear incident away. If, on the other hand, U.S. soldiers are ordered to abandoned Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will then have the freedom of action to recommence operations.

4. Counterterrorist campaigns cannot be waged from a distance. Critics of the U.S. force presence claim that there are alternatives to holding Al Qaeda at bay such as intensive intelligence, Predator drones, cruise missiles, Special Operations raids, and monetary payments to Warlords to deny safe havens. However, most specialists on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism claim terrorists cannot be confronted at a distance.
5. Abandoning Afghanistan will move the War's Frontline from Overseas to the Homeland. U.S. military forces in Afghanistan are essentially hardened targets that can easily kill far more Taliban than can be similarly inflicted on U.S. troops. Moving the frontlines from overseas to CONUS will expose the soft underbelly of the U.S. civilian population to potentially horrific casualties. While one American casualty is too many; the scope and scale of potential casualties would remain far less in relative comparison by continuing the fight overseas.

6. Cost-Benefit Analysis favors Forward Presence. Alan Greenspan recently claimed that the long term repercussions of the 9/11 attack contributed to the making of the 2008 global economic crisis, large federal government deficit spending, and the current recession. Greenspan indicated that to stimulate the economy immediately after the 9/11 attack the Federal Reserve needed to cut interest rates dramatically to spur domestic spending. Rates quickly moved from 3.5% to 1%. This reduced Federal Reserve rate helped to fuel speculative borrowing to homeowners who would not normally qualify for home mortgages. Post 9/11 interest rates were also a contributing factor leading to the real estate bubble that burst in 2007. The recent economic crisis has cost the global economy over $11.9 trillion dollars. Can the U.S. taxpayer afford another 9/11 type of attack, which coupled with nuclear devices, could have far worse second and third order effects? Spending $60 billion annually is a far less expense than a potential $11.9 trillion dollar impact related to another 9/11 incident.

7. President Obama and GEN Stanley McChrystal have both claimed that the fight to stabilize Afghanistan is winnable.

8. Today's U.S. All Volunteer force is qualitatively a more capable military force than Vietnam predecessor. Despite the challenges of facing multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, the All Volunteer force still retains advantages in education, training, hard-won experience, superior leadership and proven equipment compared to its Vietnam counterparts. Joint, Interagency and multi-national coordination has improved.

9. U.S. Precedent for Bringing Stability in Iraq and Kosovo. The U.S. government has experienced recent successes against hostile adversaries during transition phase of war. Although skeptics denounced the potential for U.S. success in these recent conflicts, the track record for success resides with the U.S. government.

10. Afghanistan provides the venue to Learn about the Long Term Adversary. If observers believe that Al Qaeda is a long term enemy of the United States, where is the best location to study the threat than in the actual region? Residing in Afghanistan provides the opportunity to develop language skills, foster culture apperception, discern tribal networks, study vulnerabilities, learn weaknesses, and to recruit the next generation of informants to eventually penetrate Islamic networks. The intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) begins with cultural appreciation that can be gained first-hand by living in the region.

11. U.S. Presence Denies Sanctuary of the Adversary within Ungoverned Spaces. The Al Qaeda selection of Afghanistan is no accident. Terrorist networks have managed to find the ungoverned spaces in Somalia and Afghanistan to construct training camps for future terrorists. Remaining in Afghanistan denies this remote country from becoming a host for terrorist training activities.

12. U.S. Presence, if managed properly, can serve to Drain the Terrorist Recruitment Swamp. This is a delicate balance. Merely occupying a country, does not guaranteed setting the conditions to diminish hostile recruitment. Nonetheless, if presence can be performed in a manner which engenders hope, fosters rule of law, exhibits benefits of governance and development, then the seeds of peace can be sown into a war torn region.

13. The Germany Precedent. Unless a determined adversary is convinced of defeat, the second war becomes much more pronounced, highly probable, and devastating. World Wars I and II were the same war. Germany merely brought about a strategic pause to regroup and refine its war winning strategy. The Peace treaty of 1918 was nothing more a temporary cessation of conflict. Germany convinced the world that it was militarily weakened. A strategic deception plan was underway that only became apparent in 1939. The Wehrmacht's "stab in the back" thesis led by WWI veterans kept the interwar sentiments strong and thriving. Similarly, Al Qaeda must be taught that it has been defeated to prevent a far worst catastrophy. If, as a decentralized network, it cannot be made to accept defeat, then a generational strategy to await the natural death of key Al Qaeda leadership may be a more thorough and calculating approach.

14. Loss of Superior Force and Infrastructure Posture against Iran. If Iran is truly one of the most likely and most dangerous near-term adversaries of the United States, it makes little sense to abandon a mature base infrastructure and a means for a Second Front against a potential War with Iran. Multiple Lines of Communications complicates Iranian defense planning, splits their leadership focus, undermines soldier morale, and can lead to a much shorter Iran war with superior U.S. force posture.

15. Strategic rhetoric of an early withdrawal prolongs any conflict. During later phases of a war (Phases 4 and 5), one of the greatest challenges is to cause the mid-level managerial "fence sitters" to choose sides. The Fence sitters are the local leaders who will eventually make a support decision, encourage the reporting of concealed identification of Taliban adversaries, and buttress a regime when it becomes apparent that the presence is for the long term. The irony is that public indecision and senior official debate weakens the U.S. position. A firm strategic communications plan to express long-term presence will speed the commitment of mid-level managerial fence-sitters to align with U.S. supporters.

16. Other Models of U.S. Occupation Beyond Vietnam. Although Vietnam resulted in a failed U.S. position, there are other examples of successful U.S. presence with a much smaller footprint. Following the Spanish-American War, U.S. military presence existed in the Philippines from 1899 through the 1980s. A violent insurgency Following the Spanish-American War, U.S. military presence existed in the Philippines from 1899 through the 1980s. A violent insurgency existed but was able to be overcome. General Blackjack Pershing, General Arthur MacArthur and others were participants in this long term presence. The strategic key is to minimize the Army's footprint and scale of presence to be capable of sustaining posture for the long term. Still other examples include Kosovo, Germany, Japan and Liberia. Liberia is particularly interesting. LURD and MODEL combatants remained fence sitters for nearly two years after the Civil War ended in 2003. When they became convinced that U.S. and U.N. presence was for the long term, their leaders accepted political positions working for the central Monrovian government.

17. U.S. Needs to Honor the Ultimate Sacrifice of U.S. soldiers on the fields of Afghanistan by staying the course. Dedicated families, friends, and communities have stood behind the very real sacrifices of sons and daughters to fight for defense of the nation. Woe to the nation that forgets the sacrifices of its heroes- will there be a next generation that are willing to commit its defense.

18. Whole of Government Approach A whole of government approach is being implemented in Afghanistan in an unprecedented way, offering a better chance of success than in previous engagments of this type. According to a State Department blog, "In Afghanistan, the new Interagency Civil-Military Action Group (ICMAG) within the U.S. Embassy is the lead body for policy implementation and problem solving. Already, ICMAG has facilitated integrated guidance and geographically-based plans for Regional Command-East and is now moving to Regional Command-South. It has supported development of functional sectoral efforts in areas such as health and focused district development and is increasingly coordinating with international actors such as the International Security Assistance Force (on metrics), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (on district mapping) and with the United Kingdom (Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team). ICMAG is also working on developing an integrated metrics system in-country." Moreover the U.S. military is continuing to leverage the knowledge and expertise of various kinds of civilian social scientists in winning the hearts and minds campaign. Parts of this approach were obviously used in other ewcwnt conflicts, but perhaps with less emphasis and resources.

19. The Taliban is largely unpopular and can be defeated. While the Taliban have some following among their Pashtun co-ethnics, especially in the southern part of the country, the Taliban are generally hated by the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazarra and other non-Pashtun groups that together make up a numerical majority in Afghanistan. The memory of Taliban persecution is fresh and motivational for all the non-Pashtun groups. Wherever they have gone since 2004, the Taliban have used barbaric tactics to win the obedience of the local populations. They win "hearts and minds" by murder, violence and coercion. Nearly all opinion polls indicate very little support for the Taliban. The Taliban can be defeated and blocked by strategies that protect the population and build up the security capacity of the Afghan state, its provinces and its districts. Counter-sanctuary activities by Pakistani forces could easily disrupt their base areas and training grounds. Better coordination with Persian Gulf allies and stronger counternarcotics efforts could dry up their financial base. The Taliban cannot win unless the West quits.

In Summary, multiple threats are being addressed by the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. They include: dealing with the primary threats of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, preparing for a destabilized Pakistan with nuclear weapons, posturing for a future hostile Iran, and reducing the long-term recruitment of radical Islamic terrorists from this region. At the center of debate, however, is the question of whether the average U.S. voter truly believes that Al Qaeda and Taliban can seriously pose a threat to U.S. national security interests at home and abroad? If yes, then it becomes questionable for a decision to willfully deliver strategic victory to a weakened terrorist network by pulling out of Afghanistan.

There are significant ramifications for U.S. credibility abroad to our detriment. When the first nuclear device explodes in a heavily populated U.S. city, who will be held responsible for this incident?

More signs of a conflicted Pakistan -- at such a dangerout time

It’s hard for many of us to fathom Pakistan. So many of the stories we read on that country make us wonder how it holds together. We know of course that the army is the actual glue that binds the many contrary influences into what appears to be “a country”. But underneath that appearance there are disparate and clashing views of the world, so that, to the mind of some Pakistanis at least, nothing is what it appears; and to the mind of some officials maybe it shouldn't be.

In yesterday’s Guardian Saleem Vaillancourt tells of visiting the offices of the World Food Program in Islamabad, where shortly afterwards a suicide bomber killed [again] several Muslims. And during his time in Pakistan Vaillancourt had a meal with “a lovely man” who said of the Taliban that they “are people of the Qur'an. These explosions were by the government." Such a sense of what is going on can only weaken the resolve of those who must make costly decisions in Pakistan.

In the mean time even the government officials in Pakistan display a double-sided agenda. While they are supposed to be friends of America they don’t want the Americans messing with Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of “their Taliban” – the ones who are fighting the American/NATO forces in Afghanistan. [New York Times today].
No wonder the Obama administration halts over what to do.

[Below are the two articles mentioned above. The first is a significant reading of the situation in Pakistan; the second is useful for what it reveals about real human beings in that setting.]

New York Times October 6, 2009
U.S. Push to Expand in Pakistan Meets Resistance
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Steps by the United States to vastly expand its aid to Pakistan, as well as the footprint of its embassy and private security contractors here, are aggravating an already volatile anti-American mood as Washington pushes for greater action by the government against the Taliban.
An aid package of $1.5 billion a year for the next five years passed by Congress last week asks Pakistan to cease supporting terrorist groups on its soil and to ensure that the military does not interfere with civilian politics. President Asif Ali Zardari, whose association with the United States has added to his unpopularity, agreed to the stipulations in the aid package.
But many here, especially in the powerful army, object to the conditions as interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, and they are interpreting the larger American footprint in more sinister ways.
American officials say the embassy and its security presence must expand in order to monitor how the new money is spent. They also have real security concerns, which were underscored Monday when a suicide bomber, dressed in the uniform of a Pakistani security force, killed five people at a United Nations office in the heart of Islamabad, the capital.
The United States Embassy has publicized plans for a vast new building in Islamabad for about 1,000 people, with security for some diplomats provided through a Washington-based private contracting company, DynCorp.
The embassy setup, with American demands for importing more armored vehicles, is a significant expansion over the last 15 years. It comes at a time of intense discussion in Washington over whether to widen American operations and aid to Pakistan — a base for Al Qaeda — as an alternative to deeper American involvement in Afghanistan with the addition of more forces.
The fierce opposition here is revealing deep strains in the alliance. Even at its current levels, the American presence was fueling a sense of occupation among Pakistani politicians and security officials, said several Pakistani officials, who did not want to be named for fear of antagonizing the United States. The United States was now seen as behaving in Pakistan much as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, they said.
In particular, the Pakistani military and the intelligence agencies are concerned that DynCorp is being used by Washington to develop a parallel network of security and intelligence personnel within Pakistan, officials and politicians close to the army said.
The concerns are serious enough that last month a local company hired by DynCorp to provide Pakistani men to be trained as security guards for American diplomats was raided by the Islamabad police. The owner of the company, the Inter-Risk Security Company, Capt. Syed Ali Ja Zaidi, was later arrested.
The action against Inter-Risk, apparently intended to cripple the DynCorp program, was taken on orders from the senior levels of the Pakistani government, said an official familiar with the raid, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
The entire workings of DynCorp within Pakistan are now under review by the Pakistani government, said a senior government official directly involved with the Americans, who spoke candidly on condition of anonymity.
The tensions are erupting as the United States is pressing Pakistan to take on not only those Taliban groups that have threatened the government, but also the Taliban leadership that uses Pakistan as a base to organize and conduct their insurgency against American forces in Afghanistan.
In a public statement, the American ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, suggested last week that Pakistan should eliminate the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, a onetime ally of the Pakistanis who Washington says is now based in Baluchistan, a province on the Afghanistan border. If Pakistan did not get rid of Mullah Omar, the United States would, she suggested.
Reinforcing the ambassador, the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, said Sunday that the United States regarded tackling Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan as “the next step” in the conflict in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in an unusually stern reaction last week, said that missile attacks by American drones in Baluchistan, as implied by the Americans, “would not be allowed.”
The Pakistanis also complain that they are not being sufficiently consulted over the pending White House decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The head of Pakistan’s chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, met with senior officials at the Central Intelligence Agency last week in Washington, where he argued against sending more troops to Afghanistan, a Pakistani official familiar with the visit said.
The Pakistani Army, riding high after its campaign to wrench back control of the Swat Valley from the Taliban, remains nervous about Washington’s intentions and the push against the new aid is reflective of that anxiety, Pakistani officials said.
Though the Zardari government is trumpeting the new aid as a triumph, officials say the language in the legislation ignores long-held prerogatives about Pakistani sovereignty, making the $1.5 billion a tough sell.
“Now everyone has a handle they can use to rip into the Zardari government,” said a senior Pakistani official involved in the American-Pakistani dialogue but who declined to be named because he did not want to inflame the discussion.
The expanding American security presence has become another club. DynCorp has attracted particular scrutiny after the Pakistani news media reported that Blackwater, the contractor that has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, was also in Pakistan.
Recently, there have been a series of complaints by Islamabad residents who said they had been “roughed up” by hefty, plainclothes American men bearing weapons, presumably from DynCorp, one of the senior Pakistani officials involved with the Americans said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office had sent two formal diplomatic complaints in the past few weeks to the American Embassy about such episodes, the official said.
The embassy had received complaints, and confirmed two instances, an embassy official said, but the embassy denied receiving any formal protests from the Foreign Office. It also declined to comment about the presence of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, in Pakistan.
American officials have said that Blackwater employees worked at a remote base in Shamsi, in Baluchistan, where they loaded missiles and bombs onto drones used to strike Taliban and Qaeda militants.
The operation of the drones at Shamsi had been shifted by the Americans to Afghanistan this year, a senior Pakistani military official said.
Several Blackwater employees also worked in the North-West Frontier Province supervising the construction of a training center for Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a Pakistani official from the region said.
There was considerable unease about the American diplomatic presence in Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, one of the senior government officials said. Politicians were asking why the United States needed a consulate in Peshawar, which borders the tribal areas, when that office did not issue visas, he said.
Another question, he said, was why did the consulate plan to buy the biggest, and most modern building in the city, the Pearl Continental hotel — which was bombed in a terrorist attack this year — as its new headquarters.
As Parliament prepared to discuss the American aid package Wednesday, the tone of the debate was expected to be scathing. On a television talk show, Senator Tariq Aziz, a member of the opposition party, called the legislation “the charter for new colonization.”
“People think this government has sold us to the Americans again for their own selfish interests,” said Jahangir Tareen, a former cabinet minister and a member of Parliament, in an interview. “Some people think the United States is out to get Pakistan, to defang Pakistan, to destroy the army as it exists so it can’t fight India and to break down the ISI’s ability to influence events in India and Afghanistan. Everyone is saying about the Americans, ‘Told you so.’ ”

by Saleem Vaillancourt, Monday 5 October 2009 16.08 BST

“Islamabad bomb targets people in need”

The UN World Food Programme is one of the few agencies able to help deprived Pakistanis, as I saw for myself just last week

Last week in Pakistan I met a receptionist at the World Food Programme in Islamabad. It was brief – I was presenting myself for an appointment, and I do not know if she was Gulrukh Tahir, one of five people killed there today by a suicide bomber.

But I can picture her foyer; it must be wreckage now. I remember smiling at the guards who checked my bag when I entered the fortified compound, the same guards who were evaded by a man suspected to be Pakistani Taliban. His target was a United Nations agency charged with getting food to disaster zones and preventing hunger in poor communities. In Pakistan, some of its beneficiaries are the millions displaced by the Taliban's conflict with the government.

Perhaps it was the success of WFP's work that motivated the attack. In May, when the military engaged the Taliban in the Swat valley in north-west Pakistan, over 2.5 million people fled their homes. WFP's team near Swat, all Pakistani nationals, was confronted with a crisis. Deprived of their incomes and farming livelihoods, hundreds of thousands of families were in danger of starvation. Most had sought shelter with relatives or friends and were not in refugee camps.

Azim Khan, a programme officer for WFP's emergency relief work, has an office smelling of cigarettes, with books such as Kenneth Clark's Civilisation on his shelves. He says that "the challenge was to feed those 85-90% of internally displaced people who were off-camp". His team established several "humanitarian hubs" in communities where displaced people had taken refuge.

At a humanitarian hub in Mardan, roughly 70km from Swat, hundreds of men were queuing last week for their rations. They wore the traditional shalwar kameez, long shirt and baggy trousers, and were mostly ethnic Pashtuns. In my interviews I was surprised, when asking each person's age, to find that men with lined and haggard faces were younger than my 29 years.

Before collecting their food, every displaced person verified their identity through an online database built by WFP with the local government, a system designed to prevent the repeat rations and re-sales that threatened the relief work in its first weeks. The aid facility was housed in a large warehouse, the former premises of a tobacco firm, one of the industries that suffered during the conflict. The irony of displacing a tobacco firm was not lost on the aid workers.

Nor was the importance of their work. After months of distributing food to the displaced, 1.5 million people have returned to their homes and continue to receive food as they rebuild their lives. Rehmat Wali of WFP says, "I am satisfied, to the best of my ability, that I have worked for the displaced people." His attitude was not unique. Mohammad Ali, a displaced man from Buner, 30km from Swat, spoke of a professor who hosted his family of 15 over four months.

The UN's aid agencies grind away without much fanfare. Even as its secretary-general labours under opprobrium for being too quiet, and last month's parade of world leaders in New York made nothing but headlines, WFP and other agencies doggedly do work that would otherwise be left almost undone.

During my time in Pakistan I shared some rice pudding with a man named Shabir, a lovely man with a long beard who tried to buy me lunch. After we had fought over the bill he mentioned recent explosions in Peshawar, near his home in the north-west. "The Taliban are people of the Qur'an," he said. "These explosions were by the government." I kept quiet. But Taliban sympathies had never looked so human.

As for the WFP, it does not fret over who collects food. "There are people who are registered [for rations] who are militants … but we are impartial," says Rehmat Wali. What an injustice that Monday's suicide bomber did not feel the same.