Wednesday, November 25, 2009

China's rising influence in Afghanistan -- and elsewhere in Central Asia

The world is changing faster than we can keep track of it. This article on China's investment in Afghanistan is one small indication of the shift in power and influence. China -- whatever its methods -- is bearing down on Central Asia. Lots of resources there for a country whose needs will be huge as it grows into a world power with even greater influence. Ben Farmer of the Sydney Morning Herald gives us a glimpse of how things work in this region, and how they are likely to continue to work in the future. RLC

Afghan revenue to balloon as Chinese influence grows
BEN FARMER Sydney Morning Herald - Nov 23 5:21 AM

KABUL: China's growing influence in the Afghan economy has been hailed by the country's mining minister, who has revealed that projects acquired to feed Beijing's industrial base will triple government revenues within five years.

Muhammad Ibrahim Adel said foreign investment in the country's vast mineral deposits would bring $US2 billion ($2.18 billion) a year in taxes and royalties by 2013.

''Within five years I hope the Government will be getting $US2 billion a year from mining, not including the salaries people earn,'' he said.

Afghanistan has the potential to emerge as one of Central Asia's biggest sources of raw materials for manufacturers.

China paid $US800 million to acquire the Aynak copper deposit 48 kilometres south of Kabul two years ago and has emerged as the favourite from a pool of Indian and Saudi firms to gain control of an iron-ore deposit at Hajigak, 100 kilometres west of Kabul, when tenders are considered next year.

Both deposits rank among the world's largest and entail the construction of roads, processing plants and railways in deprived areas that are dominated by the Taliban.

But the burgeoning role of the Chinese in Afghanistan has provoked a backlash, with allegations of corruption emanating from US officials.

A new FBI-style major crimes unit, set up with British and US police involvement, is reported to have gathered enough evidence to issue arrest warrants against Mr Adel and another member of the cabinet, Sediq Chakari, who is the Minister of Haj and Islamic affairs. A new FBI-style major crimes unit, set up with British and US police involvement, is reported to have gathered enough evidence to issue arrest warrants against Mr Adel and another member of the cabinet, Sediq Chakari, who is the Minister of Haj and Islamic affairs.

Last week The Washington Post quoted a US official who alleged Mr Adel had accepted a $US30 million bribe from the Chinese bidders for Aynak. Mr Adel rejected the accusations.

''I am responsible for the revenue and benefit of our people. All the time I'm following the law and the legislation for the benefit of the people.''

The Chinese firm developing Aynak plans to employ 20,000 Afghan workers at the site and has the reassurance of a massive police presence, backed by security assistance from US special forces.

The facility is also barricaded by sandbags, and a wall of iron shipping containers surrounds the perimeter.

Afghanistan recorded government revenues of $US800 million last year. The World Bank concluded that mining revenues are the best hope of building a recurring income stream for the war-torn economy, which has been blighted by corruption and weak government.

International donors have been left with a bill, which is rising sharply, to prop up the state. The tab includes billions of dollars to train and equip a police force and an army seen as critical to defeating the Taliban.

McClatchy: Pakistan still following its own "road"

McClatchy is a good example of a relatively small newspaper that does it's own work and it's own thinking. I'm glad to see whatever they do. Here is a fresh and honest statement of the Pakistani viewpoint. RLC

Despite U.S. pressures, Pakistan continues to follow its own road By Saeed Shah, Mcclatchy Newspapers - Fri Nov 20, 5:12 pm ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The Pakistani government has some advice the Obama administration may not want to hear as it contemplates sending additional U.S. troops to neighboring Afghanistan : Negotiate with Taliban leaders and restrain India .

Pakistan embraces U.S. efforts to stabilize the region and worries that a hasty U.S. withdrawal would create chaos, but Pakistani officials worry that thousands of additional American soldiers and Marines would send Taliban forces retreating into Pakistan , where they're not welcome.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's office said Friday that he told visiting CIA Director Leon Panetta of " Pakistan's concerns relating to the possible surge of the U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan which may entail negative implications for the situation in Baluchistan," the Pakistani province that borders Afghanistan to the south.

The Pakistanis' advice is almost diametrically opposed the strategy outlined by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal , the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan : Don't send additional forces to protect Afghan cities, but send them to outposts along the Pakistani border - where McChrystal has withdrawn troops.

It's just one example of how Pakistan , a critical U.S. ally in the struggle against Islamist extremists and a major recipient of American military aid, continues to deal differently with the violence that threatens not only the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai , but also impoverished, nuclear-armed Pakistan .

The two countries' divergent views of the threat posed by Islamist extremists, and the Obama administration's efforts to press Pakistan to move against groups that menace Afghanistan have produced strains between the two countries and between Pakistan's civilian government and its powerful military and Inter Services Intelligence agency - and a growing drumbeat of Pakistani allegations about alleged nefarious CIA activities in Pakistan . "The Pakistanis say some things in public - often for reasons related to internal politics, it seems - that they don't focus on in private," said a senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because intelligence matters are classified. "That's not to say that we see eye-to-eye on everything behind closed doors, but both sides realize that - whatever the disagreements of the moment might be - the long-term partnership is essential. After all, Pakistani contributions to counterterrorism since 9/11 have been decisive, and our government recognizes that."

Instead of escalating the war in Afghanistan , however, top Pakistani officials are pressing the administration to try to negotiate a political settlement with top Taliban commanders that would allow the U.S. to exit Afghanistan .

Pakistani officials argue that that such a negotiating strategy can't work unless the rebel leadership is involved, right up to Jalaluddin Haqqani , the head of the most dangerous insurgent faction, and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-eyed founder of the Afghan Taliban and Osama bin Laden's ally and host.

Because Pakistan is a longtime patron of the Taliban and of the Haqqani network, Pakistani officials think they could broker a deal to reduce Afghan President Hamid Karzai to a figurehead leader and divide power between the Pashtun Taliban and Afghanistan's Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities.

U.S. and some Pakistani officials, however, are skeptical, arguing that the Taliban have little incentive to negotiate when their strength and sway in Afghanistan is growing and public and international support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is waning.

Najmuddin Shaikh , formerly the top bureaucrat in the Pakistani Foreign Ministry , said the Taliban could be brought to the negotiating table if they saw a greater American military commitment and more investments in the Afghan countryside.

"It's a little premature for talks (with the Taliban )," Shaikh said. "There has to be a change in the ground situation, things happening in the next six to eight months that shows the 'ink spots' strategy (McChrystal's idea of protecting Afghan population centers) is taking hold, that some foot soldiers are being weaned away, then talks become possible."

Nevertheless, behind the scenes talks with mid-level Taliban officials already have begun, and Pakistani officials think they could rapidly accelerate now that Karzai has begun his second term.

"We've already been talking to them (the Taliban )," said a senior Pakistani official in Islamabad , who couldn't be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. "If the U.S. helps the process, some arrangements can be worked out for political reconciliation. I'm not for a moment suggesting that it's an easy task, but otherwise you will be fighting these people for the next hundred years."

The United States and other NATO forces also favor talking to some Taliban , but they focus on "non-ideological" insurgents who can be peeled away, partly through bribery. Retired British general Graeme Lamb was appointed for this task in August, but so far the effort has produced little success.

"The Americans have wasted a lot of time over this 'moderate Taliban ' idea. It is never going to pan out. It misunderstands the Taliban phenomenon," said Simbal Khan, an analyst at Institute of Strategic Studies , a policy institute funded by the Pakistani government. "If you try to break off elements with cash, they'll take your money and still fight you."

The Pakistani military and ISI still consider archrival India , not militant Islam, the main threat, and unlike U.S. officials, Pakistani officials distinguish between the Taliban and other militant groups whose target is Afghanistan and groups that are seeking to impose their extreme brand of Islam on Pakistan .

Pakistan has for eight years declined to mount any serious pursuit of bin Laden and the other top al Qaida leaders who sought shelter in Pakistan after the 2001 U.S. invasion drove them out of Afghanistan .

Pakistan also has quietly tolerated the presence of Mullah Omar, who U.S. officials said is based near the

Baluchistan city of Quetta and shuttling between there and Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and a key financial and logistics center for Islamic militants. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because intelligence on terrorist groups is classified. Officially, Pakistan denies that bin Laden and Omar are in the country.

Pakistan's laissez-faire attitude toward al Qaida , Omar and Afghan militants such as Haqqani doesn't appear likely to change in the face of stepped-up American pressure.

U.S. national security adviser James Jones last week delivered a message to Gilani and other Pakistani officials from President Barack Obama , who urged Pakistan to take action against Afghan militant groups operating from Pakistani soil.

The Pakistanis politely told Jones that Pakistan is doing all it can, and that it must concentrate on groups that are attacking Pakistan , rather than those that are a threat in Afghanistan . Gilani's office said he told Jones that Pakistan's "forces were over-stretched because of continuous tension on the eastern border" with India .

Gilani's office said Friday that, "The new Afghan policy of the U.S. government should not disturb the regional balance in South Asia ."

Pakistani officials say that relations with India remain dangerously strained, requiring military resources on Pakistan's eastern border. Pakistan is also concerned about India's growing influence in Afghanistan , which Islamabad fears is part of a move to encircle Pakistan .

With Pakistani forces already fighting the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan , the country fears opening too many battlefronts and furiously rejects Washington's constant mantra of "do more."

U.S. officials say the Pakistani military is obsessed with the Indian border, where they say there's no active threat, and reluctant to address the threats that are a product of Pakistan's refusal to quash the insurgency on Pakistan's western border with Afghanistan .

"When we get into the position of stabilizing, then we can help the other side (the U.S.)," said a senior Pakistani military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly. "There are limits of our power. You cannot be expected to use your force against all (militant) groups because then your power will be diluted. That's exactly what's happening on the other side (to the U.S. in Afghanistan ), they're all over the place and virtually in control of nothing." (Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A revealing interview with Rahimullah Yusufzai on the Taliban and Pakistani sentiment

Kaustav Chakrabarti of Open Security has published an interview on the Taliban and related issues in Pakistan with the deservedly respected journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai. This interview is a treasure trove of valuable information on the situation in Pakistan today. Thanks to Chakrabarti and Open Security for making it available. I reproduce here the latter 80% of this interview. The earlier portion is on material that is generally well known. [Click on the title above for a link to the whole article.]

Links between the Taliban and al Qaeda have grown stronger

Kaustav Chakrabarti, 24 November 2009

. . . .

RY: . . . Osama Bin Laden was given refuge by the Jalalabad shaura (council) of the Mujahideen headed by Haji Qadir. The Taliban inherited these Arabs and Osama Bin Laden. I am witness to the fact that they were initially suspicious of each other. Osama thought that the Taliban was a US-Pakistan creation and that he could not work with them. The Taliban thought that since Osama was working with the Mujahideen earlier he must still be friendly to them.

They had a few meetings, and they resolved their differences; he was allowed to stay on in Jalalabad. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militants and other Central Asian groups were also allowed to stay. They were already there before the Taliban came to power. But their presence in Afghanistan increased after the Taliban came to power because Taliban gave refuge to everyone who wanted to come; Arabs, Central Asians, Chinese Muslims, and Indonesians.

The Taliban's links with al Qaeda, however, have grown over the years, since they have been fighting together for long. They have fought a common enemy in a common trench, given blood to each other; so now the bonds are much stronger. The Taliban would still like to confine themselves to Afghanistan. Maybe they would not be very happy to give refuge to people like Osama. But now that the bonds have been strengthened, I do not know if they can push them out.

KC: Mullah Omar regarded Bamiyan Buddha as an Afghan heritage and wanted to protect it. Then why did he allow it to be destroyed? Was there a change in his outlook?

RY: Regarding the destruction of Bamiyan Buddha, the radical elements within the Taliban movement had their way. Mullah Omar, in spite of being the leader, did not have the power to stop this. What they did was something very unwise; it was a heritage, why destroy them. One incident provoked them. A famine had exasperated the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. People had been displaced because of the fighting. The Taliban had appealed to the world for help including the UN. No one was forthcoming as the Taliban was like a pariah. And this got them angry. They thought that while the world was concerned about the statues, no one was concerned about the Afghans. That there was more concern for the dead than for those who were still alive and could have survived if they were given help.

KC: Saudi Arabia maintains that the Taliban would become moderate in due course of time. Do you agree with it?

RY: I think that's a good point. You know, if you interact with these radical groups and bring them into the mainstream, I think it can moderate their policies. I know at that time [late 90's], there were some NGOs – Danish, Swedish, the Red Cross – they were interacting with the Taliban and they were influencing them. In fact, Swedish NGOs were allowed to run girl schools. The security situation in Afghanistan was very good during the time of the Taliban.

KC: I understand that the Taliban were hugely popular when they came to power. But what was their popularity among the Afghans in later years?

RY: They emerged in the autumn of 1994. I was the first one to go to Kandahar and tell the world about the Taliban. In fact I was there in Kabul immediately after Najibullah [the Soviet -backed president who had taken shelter in a UN compound prior to his execution by the Taliban], was hanged. I did not see the execution but I saw their bodies hanging from the electricity pole. I spent the previous night in Jalalabad. I was told by the Taliban commanders that the next day Kabul will fall. I was with the BBC team. We left Jalalabad at four in the morning, we got special permit to leave before the curfew was relaxed. And there was jubilation, people were happy. It was the grape season and people were distributing grapes to everyone.

The Taliban were able to stop lawlessness in a very short time. During the rule of the Mujahideen, there were about 42 check posts between Chaman (border town in Balochistan) and Kandahar. Under the Taliban there were only three. The security was excellent. I traveled at night and nothing happened. Under the Mujahideen robberies were common, I too was robbed.

They brought peace after so many years of war. Those who claim that the Taliban were a Pakistani creation were missing the whole point. I was there when the Taliban came to power. The people welcomed them since they were tired of the excesses of the Mujahideen. The people thought that they would bring peace, and they wanted nothing of the Mujahideen. A term was used at that time in the Kandahar region ? Topakayan, which is Pashto for gunmen. The Mujahideen were called the gunmen. Things had become to such a pass that Kandahar was divided into five different regions. Kabul was also like that; Dostum was controlling the northern parts, the Palace area was controlled by Ahmed Shah Masood and Rabbani, the south was controlled by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, western Kabul was in the hands of the Hazara-Shiite groups led by Mazari, and the North west was controlled by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. And this was true of every city in Afghanistan. These groups set up numerous checkpoints which made life miserable for the people. That's why the people welcomed the Taliban. Earlier there were at least five to six centres of power. With the Taliban there was only one centre of power. They controlled ninety percent of the land.

Their third achievement was ending drug trafficking. They did it with very few resources, no international help and no alternative crops for the farmers. They simply issued a decree banning poppy. And look now; it is feeding the insurgency and has increased manifolds under the watch of the Americans and their allies. And today, it's not only the Taliban which is benefiting from narcotics trade but others in power also have a share in it.

But this security came at some costs. Their laws were very tough. The non-Pashtuns were a bit apprehensive. The Taliban's biggest criticism was that the fighting never ended. The Taliban in due course of time became like any other armed group. They were unable to transform themselves from an armed group into a political organisation. So the Taliban became another armed faction which wanted power at all costs, especially since they were in war with the Northern Alliance. They never held any peace talks. They wanted to rule alone, there was no effort made to forge alliances. They really never had any socio-economic policies to improve the life of the people.

KC: What was Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban?

RY: The Pakistanis were initially not even aware of the Taliban movement. I was in Kandahar, and in my presence a phone call came from the ISI office in Rawalpindi. The ISI wanted to exchange some pleasantries. Mullah Omar spoke in Pashto and the ISI guy spoke in Urdu. Mullah Omar's response was clear: "I don't know you, I don't have any work with you, I cannot communicate with you in Urdu, and I don't want to talk with you". This was in 1995. People who write about these things have never been to these places, they have never met Mullah Omar or his Shaura. When I came back, the ISI debriefed me about the Taliban. Officers of the rank of Brigadier asked me: “Who are the Taliban, who is Mullah Omar, what kind of person he is.” Had they known, why would they ask me?

At that time, the Taliban were very popular, the movement was spreading like wildfire. And that phone call was the first attempt at contact between the Taliban and the ISI. And then, they thought- wait, hang on, we can offer them support.

The belief that the Taliban were a Pakistani creation is not true, although eventually there were contacts. Pakistan asked the Taliban not to bomb Bamiyan Buddha, they refused. Pakistan asked them to hand over Osama Bin Laden, they refused. Pakistan asked Taliban to hand over Pakistani criminals and militants who had taken refuge in Afghanistan and some of them were with the Taliban, they refused to hand over even one Pakistani. The Taliban were very angry with the transit trade conditions placed on Afghanistan by Pakistan. Pakistan had declared many items as negative which Afghanistan could not longer import through the Pakistani territory since these items, like tires and gadgets, were being smuggled back into Pakistan. This created problems between the two.

Current Situation in Afghanistan

KC: Let us talk about the present situation-How popular is the Taliban now?

RY: Among the Pashtuns they are the strongest group. Western polls suggest that the Taliban control only eleven percent support, I don't believe that. When the Americans wanted to defeat the Taliban initially, they sided with the wrong people, they befriended these warlords. The same warlords who were defeated by the Taliban were brought back to power. These warlords were hated, that's one reason why the people turned against the government in the first place.

However, for many reasons, they are not the most popular movement, majority of Afghans don't like the Taliban. You must understand that it's a very fragmented tribal society. The Taliban militias are heavily armed, well funded and enjoy the requisite manpower. What has the other side [government troops] got? Hamid Karzai, and the Afghan Army is not a very well organized force. There is no organised military force in Afghanistan.

If you live in places like Kandahar or Helmand, the most powerful group are the Taliban. You have no choice, if you want to live in peace and survive, then you have to agree to cooperate with the Taliban. When the government displays authority in some area, the people will support them. The government is not powerful, and that's where the problem lies. The tide will turn if the people realise that now the government and the Americans are winning, and the Taliban are weakening. That can happen.

KC: What do you think of the counterinsurgency strategy suggested by Gen Stanley McChrystal?

RY: The Americans are faltering. They have lost the way; they do not know what to do. They are moving from one disaster to another. Obama came up with a new policy when he came to power. He inserted 21000 new troops and changed the commander. He also started focusing more on Pakistan. Now they are doing another review since the first policy has obviously failed. Now the second review is going on. The Americans are actually trying to extradite themselves from the problem. The memories of Vietnam are still fresh, that is the problem. Obama has been asked for 40,000 more troops, which is going to push Obama deeper into the Afghan problem. Afghanistan is known as a graveyard of empires for a reason.

KC: The counter argument could be that Afghans have got the wrong end of the stick from all those who tried to invade Afghanistan. No one ever really did hearts-and-minds in Afghanistan. Can such a strategy work?

RY: How do you do a hearts-and-minds policy with people in uniform. And that too with foreign troops! The foreign presence is not liked- the way they behave, their cultural and religious ignorance. The way they carry out their search operations, the way they bomb people which cause civilian casualties-- all cause deep resentment.

It's too late. Hearts and minds means that you go out of your camps and heavily-guarded fortresses and you interact with the locals on a very regular basis. You ask them for their problems and help them with money and other assistance. But they can't go out like that, wherever they go, the roads are mined. Children have been taught how to explode the bombs; IEDs are planted by the Taliban and the remote is given to a child and when they see the vehicle coming, they push the trigger. They might be living in areas under the control of the government but they are not for the government. Because people have lost family members, they have suffered. Their family members have been arrested and they have been jailed in Baghram and Guantanamo Bay. So there are many issues involved here. I think that it's a bit late in the day to revive the policy of wining the ?hearts and minds'.

What they can do is perhaps to buy some people. Which I think is the new policy-- 'to buy' the insurgents. The Americans have come up with a very insulting term ? 'ten dollar a month Taliban'-- the notion that 10-15 percent are committed Taliban and the rest are fighting for money.

The Pakistan Taliban

KC: Can you explain the Taliban's meteoric rise in Pakistan.

RY: Many tribal militant groups were tolerated by the Pakistan army when they took refuge in the tribal areas as they were attacking foreign troops in Afghanistan and not the Pakistani forces. Such arrangements began changing in early 2004 when the Taliban started fighting inside Pakistan . In January 2004, the army launched military operations in Waziristan. That was the turning point. The operation was conducted under the American pressure, hoping to dislodge al Qaeda. It was a shock, the fighting was very tough and the army lost many men. Since then the Taliban's influence has been spreading. Instead of being controlled, it has spread. After every military operation we have seen that the Taliban presence has expanded - from South Waziristan to North Waziristan and then to Bajaur, Mohmand and Swat. The Taliban is spreading in Pakistan largely because the army is using heavy weapons against the people.

KC: Why did Baitullah Mehsud turn against Pakistan Army?

RY: As long as he was concentrating on Afghanistan, Baitullah Mehsud was being tolerated. He told the Pakistan government, "I won't fight you, but you must not stop me". He wanted to send his people to Afghanistan and continue to maintain his base. He could not afford to lose his own centre of power in Waziristan. Under the American pressure, the army acted against him. Subsequently, when he turned against Pakistan, the state's whole focus fell upon his group.

Baitullah was not an al Qaeda member. You can say that Baitullah was pushed into the laps of al Qaeda. Even in the last days of his life he maintained that Mullah Omar was his leader because he was fighting a genuine jihad against the US. He had fought in Afghanistan as a Taliban member. He was very close to the Afghan Taliban. Al Qaeda is asking its fighters to fight on two fronts--If they lose their territory in Waziristan, then where will they find refuge?

KC: Many experts in India and the US feel that Pakistan is still supporting former proxy groups.

RY: The Haqqanis are from Afghanistan, they have been living in Waziristan since 1979. If the Taliban is not interfering in Pakistan, then Pakistan will not like to harm them. I don't know how much support the Taliban are getting from Pakistan, I don't think that the Taliban need much support. They get a lot of money from the Arab countries. But even tolerating them is a support. This is the bone of contention between the US and Pakistan; the US wants Pakistan to take them out.

You know, the jihadi groups like Jaish-e- Mohammad were being tolerated by the Pakistan government. Some of them were being used by the State in Kashmir. Musharraf changed the policy in 2004; it was a turning point. When he made the commitment to root out terror groups, he actually meant it. The backlash after the Lal Masjid operation was also a significant turning point. However, you don't really snap all your contacts. The disengagement has to be gradual. Pakistan has suffered so much, I don't think that there will be any tolerance for these groups. At one time, they were allies. They were used in Kashmir, and Afghanistan. But I think that that policy is now a thing of the past.

If Pakistan is still supporting the Haqqanis and Afghan Taliban, it is because they want to retain some influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is very suspicious of the Northern Alliance and vice versa; its mutual hatred. Pakistan will like to have friends in Afghanistan after having invested so much in Afghanistan.

India-Pakistan Relations

KC: What do people in Pakistan think about India now?

RY: I think that there has been a big change in people's views towards India. People don't have the stomach for any more wars with India or with any body else. There are so many issues ? security, poverty, unemployment. They know that if they have another war, the problems will become even more acute. I don't think that there is any support for any hostility with India. People would want the Kashmir issue to be resolved, that would be a huge sign of relief.

KC: If Pakistan agrees to convert the Line of Control into the International Border, what will be the reaction?

RY: I think anything that is a face-saving solution for both the countries and it will be acceptable. Both will have to give and take. I think there will be greater support for such a move this time around -- we may not get the whole of Kashmir, but still it will be acceptable. Trade, economic relations have taken a priority.

KC: What does the average Lieutenant and Captain of the Pakistan army think?

RY: Their whole training is geared towards India as the enemy. The soldiers and officers who were asked to fight in Waziristan did not like that. They had to obey orders, they have their careers and they can't say no. A very few refused, some were even court-martialed. Privately they say that this [counterinsurgency] is not what they were trained to do. They don't want to fight their own people; they don't want to bomb their own villages. They don't want to become martyrs fighting their own people, that too Muslims and Pakistanis. Their whole orientation was against India. But that is changing now. There has been no war since Kargil. Also, they have a very big fight at hand. This is also affecting their orientation- Ok, India is not the only enemy, we have another enemy.

KC: What can India can do to normalise relations?

RY: India is much bigger, India is much stronger, it has more resources. It can absorb all this. It can put a lot of money on the defence. It can also create a lot of problems for Pakistan. We know that. We realise that if we try to match India, we will actually harm ourselves since we have lesser resources. India has to reassure Pakistan; act like a big brother, like an older brother. I realise that post-Mumbai it was very difficult; Mumbai was actually a very dangerous development.

KC: Who was behind Mumbai?

RY: I have no doubt that it was the Lashkar-e-Tayeeba. Not al Qaeda. I tell you, al Qaeda is not that strong or big [in Pakistan].

KC: Who controls Lashkar-e-Tayeeba?

RY: I don't know. Lashkar-e-Tayyeba had links with the Pakistan Army. I don't know how much of that still persists. But they are not backed the way they were earlier. LeT has been fighting in Kashmir, and it is a very efficient organisation. It has been getting a lot of funds from various people who think that it is fighting a jihad. I don't think that al Qaeda is behind LeT. It has different Islamic beliefs from al Qaeda.

KC: Do you think that it is right to accuse India of supporting the Taliban as Rehman Malik has been suggesting?

RY: We don't have any evidence. But India being a bigger power, why will it sit idle and not take revenge [for Pakistan's support to Kashmiri militants]. There is a feeling that India is supporting the Baloch separatists. I don't know whether India was supporting Baitullah Mehsud, there is no evidence of that, but Baitullah himself would not be willing to get any support from India.

Pakistan Counterinsurgency

KC: Post-Swat operations, do you think Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts are improving?

RY: Where is the success? There is no proper counterinsurgency policy. Only military means are being employed. I think that they are committing a big mistake by using only the army. They are using the army since the Taliban are very strong. They should have instead used Frontier Corps. The army is not trained for counterinsurgency. Frontier Corps, being Pashtun dominated, are better suited. Besides, the use of heavy weapons and air bombing has caused deep resentment. They are not taking prisoners, they are killing all the Taliban, and their bodies are being dumped. They are creating more Talibans. All these people who are losing family members, and their houses, they will never reconcile. There is no policy for reintegration- that's the weakest link.

They are forcing them to form lashkars. Salarazai lashkars in Bajaur was being sustained by the army. Their family members have been killed and they cannot sleep in peace. They are always at risk. I keep asking the big landlords in Swat, " how can you hope to go back and live in your previous grandeur".They can't have soldiers guarding them all times. For how long can you have the lashkars? Nobody is talking about the lack of justice. All the forest land is owned by the landlords, most members of the Parliament are feudal Khans. All the shelter-less, landless and jobless have joined the Taliban. Class war is not the only factor but it is one of the factors.

Many people who are being branded as the Taliban are those who think that they cannot get their political rights peacefully. That's why the army cannot stay there forever. The more it stays there, the more it bombs, more enemies it will create. The army was attacked in its own backyard in GHQ. There is no end to this.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Pakistan’s “help” against the Taliban: It won't materialize

Two recent articles make it plain that the United States will not be able to count on Pakistan in the fight against the Taliban. Some excerpts. RLC

Why Pakistan Won't Fight the Afghan Taliban
By Omar Waraich / Islamabad Friday, Nov. 20, 2009

"The demands of its own domestic counterinsurgency campaign, doubts about the duration of U.S. commitment in Afghanistan and looming political instability in Islamabad have left Pakistan in no hurry to help out."

. . . As a weak and unpopular President scarcely seen in public and now the object of growing vilification at home, Zardari is in no position to lead a popular movement against militancy, much less to redirect his army's focus. As ever, it is the all-powerful military establishment that will make the key decisions in Pakistan.

Pakistan's military has certainly moved decisively against those militants that pose a direct challenge to its authority on home soil. Buoyed by its successes in last May's campaign to drive the Taliban out of the Swat Valley, it has for the past month deployed some 30,000 troops to confront the militants in their main stronghold of South Waziristan, along the Afghan border. . . .

The South Waziristan offensive, however, may be the limit of what the Pakistani military is willing to take on right now. It's priority after clearing the area of Taliban elements will be to hold it - and there are signs that the militants have merely scattered to areas beyond the scope of the current offensive, waiting to stage a return. "We have not been defeated," Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told reporters at a secret location on Wednesday, dismissing the army's claims. "We have voluntarily withdrawn into the mountains under a strategy that will trap the Pakistan army in the area."

. . . "Pakistan army is not going to go to North Waziristan before it completes its operation in South Waziristan." Two of the militant groups that Washington would like to see Islamabad target are based in North Waziristan: the Haqqani network and the one led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, both of whom mount cross-border attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan.

. . . [The army leaders] don't want to open a front with every militant group." The army has long insisted that it does not have the resources to counter the full range of militants based in the tribal areas. Already, military officials argue, heavy numbers are committed all along the tribal areas and in the Swat Valley. It is also forced to commit forces to guard against upsurges of militancy in other parts of Pakistan. And, of course, the army's priority remains guarding the eastern border with India. Indeed, the fact that India continues to be viewed as the principal security challenge by the Pakistani military establishment also dictates a policy toward Afghanistan that does little to help the U.S. there.

Pakistan's generals are concerned by what they perceive as growing Indian influence in Afghanistan, through the Karzai government and massive development projects. They also accuse India of using Afghanistan as a base from which to wage a proxy war on Pakistan. Its priorities make the Pakistan army unlikely to turn its fire on the Haqqani and Hafiz Gul Bahadur networks, as Obama is demanding. Instead, the army has revived a nonaggression pact with Bahadur and with Maulvi Nazir - both of which use Pakistani soil as a base from which to wage war on NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan's priority is simply to get them to agree to stay neutral or join in the fight between the army and the Pakistan Taliban. Nazir, who was freed from Pakistani custody to fight al-Qaeda-linked Uzbek militants, controls the areas of South Waziristan where the Pakistan army has positioned troops to seal off a line of retreat for the Pakistan Taliban. The danger for the U.S. is that such deals involve a nod and a wink for continued cross-border attacks, making the militants an even more potent threat.

The Haqqani network is believed to have long-standing links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization, while senior Western diplomats allege that Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban continues to operate out of the southwestern city of Quetta - a claim furiously denied by Pakistan's military. Many suspect that the reason that the Afghan Taliban manages to operate unmolested on Pakistani soil is Pakistan's need to maintain leverage in Afghanistan, where the U.S. presence is viewed as temporary. Indeed, some Pakistani observers suggest that even if a U.S. surge is successful, it will at best lead to a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, in which Pakistan would play broker.

EXCLUSIVE: Taliban chief hides among Pakistan populace
Friday, November 20, 2009 The Washington Times Eli Lake, Sara A. Carter and Barbara Slavin

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban, has fled a Pakistani city on the border with Afghanistan and found refuge from potential U.S. attacks in the teeming Pakistani port city of Karachi with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence service, three current and former U.S. intelligence officials said.

Mullah Omar, who hosted Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders when they plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, had been residing in Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban shura -- or council -- had moved from Kandahar after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Two senior U.S. intelligence officials and one former senior CIA officer told The Washington Times that Mullah Omar traveled to Karachi last month after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. ....

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI, helped the Taliban leaders move from Quetta, where they were exposed to attacks by unmanned U.S. drones.

The development reinforces suspicions that the ISI, which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s to expand Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, is working against U.S. interests in Afghanistan as the Obama administration prepares to send more U.S. troops to fight there.

Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran and analyst on al Qaeda and the Taliban, confirmed that Mullah Omar had been spotted in Karachi recently.

"Some sources claim the ISI decided to move him further from the battlefield to keep him safe" from U.S. drone attacks, said Mr. Riedel, who headed the Obama administration's review of policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last spring. "There are huge madrassas in Karachi where Mullah Omar could easily be kept."

. . . "There are indications of some kind of bleed-out of Taliban types from Quetta to Karachi, but no one should assume at this point that the entire Afghan Taliban leadership has packed up its bags and headed for another Pakistani city."

. . . The official said that neither Osama bin Laden nor al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri has been spotted in Karachi. The official said the top two al Qaeda figures are still thought to be in the tribal region of Pakistan on Afghanistan's border.

But, the official said, other midlevel al Qaeda operatives who facilitate the travel and training of foreign fighters have moved to the Karachi metropolitan area, which with 18 million people is Pakistan's most populous city.

"One reason, [al Qaeda] and Taliban leaders are relocating to Karachi is because they believe U.S. drones do not strike there," the official said. "It is a densely populated urban area."

. . . In late 2001, a cell likely commanded by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed -- the admitted operational planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- abducted and killed journalist Daniel Pearl.

Mohammed, who was captured by the CIA with ISI help in Pakistan in 2003, was sent to the detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is now set to go on trial in New York. In 2007, at a closed military hearing at Guantanamo, he confessed that he personally beheaded Mr. Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter.

Pakistani officials said they were perplexed by the U.S. reports regarding Mullah Omar and denied that the ISI had facilitated a move by the Quetta shura to Karachi.

. . . "We have no evidence of his presence in Pakistan," Mr. Kiani said. "If anybody in the U.S. government knows of any Quetta shura or Karachi shura, why don't they share that intelligence with Pakistan so we can take care of the issue ourselves? We have not been made aware of any presence of Mullah Omar in the region."

. . . "Our forces are fighting the Taliban in Waziristan and other areas," he said. "The terrorists are now killing and targeting innocent people in Pakistani cities. ISI is a very professional intelligence agency and these allegations are baseless."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The long term costs of middle class flight from the Third World

The reality that many educated people are being drawn to the Western world from their home counties is an old and familiar topic. But there is a back side to this process that seems yet to be identified. This is to try to define some of the implications of the problem. The point: the “drain” of talent into the Western countries [I’m mainly thinking about the United States] means that the social and cultural capital of countries desperately in need of that talent is being lost. That loss could eventually cost not only those countries but also the Western world, which must deal with countries bereft of educated middle classes.

One of the most noticeable entailments in this process of educated middle class movement is a flow of trained physicians to this country from other countries. Many countries in fact pay for their citizens – usually the cream of the crop – to study medicine. So their graduates come out of medical school with no debt. At same time the developing countries have the usual problems of graft and administrative incompetence, so that some of the best medical graduates can become frustrated and jaded. And some of them discover that in the United States [or some other western country] medical practice can be more fulfilling and far more profitable. The barrier is the costs of entering a medical career in the West: usually there are exams to take that often require further study. But the incentive is huge: a life in safety, a comfortable way of life, often a superior income, and the opportunity to actually practice medicine and even excel in the profession.

So some of them come to the United States and qualify to practice medicine. What this means for them is that their lives are much improved; they have a good income – one that can enable them to support family members back home – and a comfortable, safe career. Without debt -- unlike almost every young physician trained in the United States, for doctors trained in this country pay for their own education, almost always by acquiring an astronomical debt. Doctors graduating from medical schools in this country have no other option than to work hard, charge the best fees possible, in order to pay off their debt. Doctors arriving from elsewhere, after qualifying to practice, begin in a position to develop their careers with much less concern about financial obligations.

So much for what happens inside the United States, for instance. But the implications for the countries that trained these physicians is a growing and costly loss. Countries that must have professional communities and a viable middle class are constantly having their middle class, their best citizens, siphoned away. I don’t know any numbers, but I fear that the long term consequences of this process are to undermine social and cultural processes that our country needs to take place in other countries. We have a national interest in seeing middle classes prosper all over the world, but the seductive power of the opportunities that our country offers those classes works against that interest.

That’s a problem we see happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, after 2001, when the American military invaded the country in order to punish Al Qaeda, hundreds of Afghans who had been living abroad and had prospered in their respective professions returned to help develop the country. There was much excitement about finally developing their home country and they came, in many cases at their own expense.

As everyone knows, it hasn’t happened the way they had hoped. I fear that most of them – those for instance that I met at a 2002 conference on how to help the country, have given up. I wonder how many have stayed, continued trying to develop the country, despite the disappointing developments.

And what are the implications of losing that enthusiastic community of willing Afghans? Those who were ready to pay their own way, even to sacrifice, to serve the public interest of the country: doctors, bankers, hydrologists, engineers – educated, well trained professionals. What has been lost? It is easy to guess: A loss no one can assess. An opportunity lost that is unlikely ever to return.

For Afghanistan there is a huge need for them, but for reasons we can all appreciate I fear that most have gone back to the West.

I see the same problem in Pakistan. And there the loss may be just as catastrophic. And it is one many of us in this country can easily see in our own communities. The community I know includes many excellent physicians from Pakistan and other Third World countries. Our county in fact cannot do without them. But what does it do to Pakistan? Every day we read on the front page signs of the tragic failure of that country to develop the powerful and dominant middle class that must be established if it will ever establish a productive modern country. Pakistan’s loss, America’s gain. A gain scarcely appreciated in America; a loss scarcely recognized in Pakistan.

Slackman on Montazeri's challenge to the Iranian government

NYTimes Michael Slackman’s article on Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri indicates again how conflicted, and contradictory the actual practice of administration in Iran has turned out to be. He was one of the original promoters of the concept of “Velayat-e Faqih,” the juristic guardianship, the concept that underlies Iran’s current theocracy, and was, in fact, at one time the teacher of the current leading “faqih,” Ali Khameini – now addressed as “ayatollah” although he never earned such a high level of scholarly achievement. Slackman says that Ayatollah Montazeri has argued for years that even in a religious state legitimacy comes from the people.
“The government will not achieve legitimacy without the support of the people, and as the necessary and obligatory condition for the legitimacy of the ruler is his popularity and the people’s satisfaction with him,”
Once the designated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini until he began to criticize Khomeini’s practice in 1988, he is now a respected voice of opposition to the current regime. “He criticizes this regime purely from a religious point of view, and this is very hurtful. The regime wants to say, ‘If I am not democratic enough that doesn’t matter, I am Islamic.’ He says it is not an Islamic government.” (Mehdi Khalaji).

He has for years challenged the abuses of power in Iran. Even in the time of Khomeini, “He mocked Ayatollah Khomeini’s decision to issue a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses,” saying, “People in the world are getting the idea that our business in Iran is just murdering people.” It was in January, 1988, that Montazeri's objections to a wave of executions of political prisoners and his recoomendations to the leadership that Iran should export the revolution by example, not by violence. For that he was forced to leave government.

He has not, however, ceased to criticize the government, and now his criticisms of the Khameini regime have become exceedingly dangerous to it. A recent statement:
“A political system based on force, oppression, changing people’s votes, killing, closure, arresting and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate.”
He says that the Islamic Republic of Iran is neither Islamic, nor a republic, and the supreme leader has lost his legitimacy.

Dangerous words for a regime now believed guilty of stealing an election and then brutally crushing the thousands of citizens who objected to it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Steve Coll on The price of "failure" in the Afghanistan/Pakistan war

Steve Coll, whose understanding of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan has to be considered superb, has published in the Atlantic an estimate of the consequences of our “failing” in the war against that Taliban and AlQaeda. Anything he says needs to be considered carefully. Here is a fine statement of the implications of giving up or otherwise “failing” in the South Asian war. This, he says, is what would happen:

The Nineties Afghan Civil War on Steroids:

Momentum for a Taliban Revolution in Pakistan:

Increased Islamist Violence Against India, Increasing the Likelihood of Indo-Pakistani War:

Increased Al Qaeda Ambitions Against Britain and the United States:

He concludes this last section with the following:
"As 9/11 and the current creativity of the regionally focussed Taliban amply demonstrate, their potential should not be complacently underestimated. If they did get through and score another lucky goal, it is easy to imagine the prospective consequences for American politics and for the constitution."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mutawakil's hint: Is negotiation possible?

On CNN Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil, former foreign minister for the Taliban, said that negotiation with the Taliban was possible. Also, Taliban commander Mullah Toor Jan has recently said that the Afghan Taliban had no connection with Al Qaida or with Pakistan’s Tehrik-i Taliban, the Taliban that have challenged the Pakistani military. Comments to make us wonder.
As for Mutawakil, what he says is worth taking seriously because he seems to be -- even now -- a key link between the leadership of the Taliban and the American military. I went back to the transcript, to be sure of what he actually said. Not a lot, it turns out, but it is enough to be suggestive: Is it a hint of a chance of a deal with the Taliban? [Click on the title for a link to the CNN site it comes from.] Here are the key statements:

MUTAWAKIL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The common Taliban do not believe in the peace process. They don't trust it.

LAWRENCE: (voice-over): But Mutawakil says its leadership is open to negotiation. ...

MUTAWAKIL: We are not a danger to the world. We can be flexible.

MUTAWAKIL (through translator): Only reconciling with Hekmatyar will not solve the problem. If they do not negotiate with the representative of Mullah Omar, it will be useless.

LAWRENCE: (voice-over): Mutawakil says the Taliban realize they can't turn back the clock to early 2001.

(on camera): Could they accept a government where women are granted rights, women can -- are allowed to go to school?

MUTAWAKIL (through translator): They will won't believe in co- education, but there can be separate education while wearing veils. This will be different.

LAWRENCE: (voice-over): He says the current Taliban leadership is more focused on driving out foreigners than Islamic crusade, but admits a lot of young Afghan fighters have been influenced by years of contact with the foreign jihadists.

MUTAWAKIL (through translator): The new generation of Taliban, the young boys who joined with them, they are different. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: The mullah told me that some American diplomats have already visited him to talk about Afghanistan's future. But he says the price of any deal could be taking the bounty off the heads of some Taliban leaders or even giving them control of some provinces . . . .

This, let us hope, is a possible opening. But it is clear, as Mutawakil intimated, that Mullah Muhammad Omar does not control all of the groups that call themselves "Taliban"; indeed, Mutawakil specifically rejected any point in talking to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Mujahedin leader against the Soviets and now a leader of one of the "Taliban" factions. And he admits that many young people have come under the influence of the more extreme of the Islamists connected with the Taliban; presumably there is no negotiating for them either.

So, if it means anything it means only that some Taliban might be willing to talk.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

BBC interview with a child "suicide bomber"

I have for some time believed that it takes a huge degree of inhumanity, wickedness, to train children to become suicide bombers. It appears to be an industry among the Taliban/Al Qaeda. So many bombers have been produced that the process cannot exist without a number of adults being involved and other numbers being willing to ignore it. For me, it is easy to believe that eventually this activity will create such revulsion among the communities being mined for their children that there will be an extreme reaction. How can a society, once fully aware of the practice, continue to allow it? Given my faith on the subject, I am encouraged by the report of a 14 year old boy who was "recruited" to be a suicide bomber. The whole report follows below. RLC

'I agreed to become a suicide bomber' Thursday, 12 November 2009 BBC News

A 14-year-old boy in the tribal region of Bajaur, in north-west Pakistan, says he was detained by Taliban forces who tried to turn him into a suicide bomber. The boy is now in army hands.

He provided a detailed account to BBC correspondent Orla Guerin. His story cannot be independently verified.

"There were five people who came after me from a place in Bajaur. They tricked me. They told me they were going to behead my father.

I went with them but my father wasn't there. They tied me up.

They said: 'You have two choices. We will behead you, or you will become a suicide bomber.' I refused.

There were two more guys of my age. They were also training to be suicide bombers. If we refused they would tie our hands behind our backs, blindfold us and start beating us.

They brainwashed us and told us we would go to heaven. They said 'there will be honey and juice and God will appear in front of you. You will have a beautiful house in Heaven'.

We used to ask them to let us out to pray. They would reply 'you are already on your way to heaven. You don't need to pray.'

They beat me hard for five days. I wasn't given any food. While they were beating me I agreed to become a suicide bomber. They separated me from the other boys.

Mosque mission

They took me to a dark room and started giving me pills. I was handed over to Maulvi Fakir [the Bajaur Taliban commander]. After all this preparation they said I was to go and do the job in a mosque.

It was an ordinary mosque but the cleric there used to talk against the Taliban, and they declared him their enemy. They told me the cleric was a non-believer, a non-Muslim.

They took off my shirt and put the jacket on my shoulders. There were two hooks on my chest. They told me that when you go there you say'Allahu Akbar' [God is Great] and then you pull apart these two hooks. Then they took me there, showed me the mosque and went off.

I was drugged and I couldn't feel anything. I only came to my senses when I arrived in the mosque. I saw the peaceful kind face of the cleric, and I saw the mosque was full of holy books. I saw the people praying. And I thought, they are all Muslims. How can I do this? I decided not to and I came out.

I sat under a tree outside the mosque and waited for prayers to be over. After that I made my way back to the Taliban. Then they called me 'a son of a bitch' and asked why I had come back without doing it.

I told them I could not do it because they were carrying out body searches of all the people entering the mosque. They took off my vest and handed me over to Maulvi Fakir.

They tied me up but I told them to give me another chance and I would do it. They trusted me. I was roaming around with them for a couple of days. I got to the road, found transport and came home. They followed me to my house. They wanted to know if I was still there or had run somewhere else.

The Taliban had beaten me so harshly my back was scarred. When my parents saw that my mother started to cry, and told me not to go back to them. My father asked them why they were after his son. One day he took his weapon and went after them. But they wanted to kill him so he came back home and closed the door.

Before the Taliban came we used to enjoy freedom. We used to play, and go to our schools. There were no restrictions on us. Morning and evening we used to play games, and sit and chat with friends. We used to listen to music on our mobile phones. They banned that. They stopped us doing anything. They stopped us playing cricket and going to school. We felt like prisoners.

I want to join the army because they are the defenders of the land. They are fighting for the right cause. I want to fight against the Taliban. I have no other intention except to defend my country. The Taliban should be eliminated.

I want to tell the Taliban that they are cruel, and what they did to me was unjust. I can't kill innocent Muslims.

I am not afraid of them. I am only afraid of God. I am answerable only to Him."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pakistani double-speak. Ingress? Dominate?

Former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf has complained that Afghanistan is "under the influence of Indian intelligence." He clearly indicates that the ISI are somehow connected with the Taliban:
"They (ISI) will not support it (terrorists). That was not the government policy. That was not the military policy. However, there was ingress," he said.

"Always, in every group, there is an ingress of the ISI. And that is the efficiency, the effectiveness of the ISI. You must have ingress, so that you can influence all organizations. And it is this ingress of theirs, which doesn't mean that they are supporting them, but they have ingress. They have some contacts, which can be used for their own advantage," Musharraf said.

At the end of this article he says that we should "defeat Al Qaeda" and "dominate Taliban." Hmm. Not defeat the Taliban; only dominate them.
Ingress. Dominate. These terms leave us unsettled as to what Pakistan is really committed to. What the Pakistani military are not fully committed to is a complete defeat of the Taliban. As Musharraf says, some of them are useful.... What follows, at least, is the version of India's Economic Times. The whole article follows below. RLC

Afghan is under influence of Indian intelligence:

The Economic Times (India) - Nov 08 9:21 PM WASHINGTON:

Acknowledging that there is "An ingress of the ISI in every terrorist group", former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has alleged Afghanistan is under influence of Indian intelligence agencies and he has documentary evidence against it.

"Afghan intelligence, Afghan President, Afghan Government. Don't talk of them. I know what they do. They are, by design, they mislead the world. They talk against Pakistan, because they are under the influence of Indian intelligence, all of them," Musharraf said in an interview yesterday.

"The Afghan intelligence (is) entirely under the influence of Indian intelligence. We know that," Musharraf said when asked that Taliban leader Mullah Omar is in the Quetta city of Pakistan.

"Whatever I am saying, I am not saying it here (for the first time). I have given documentary evidence of all this to everyone. There is the documentary evidence. And we know the involvement of Indian intelligence, in India, with their intelligence," Musharraf, currently in London, charged.

"I have given documentary evidence to everyone from top to bottom. Everyone knows it. And we have the documentary evidence," the former Pakistan Army chief said.

Musharraf denied reports and statements coming from the US leaders that ISI still has contacts with the terrorists.

"They (ISI) will not support it (terrorists). That was not the government policy. That was not the military policy. However, there was ingress," he said.

"Always, in every group, there is an ingress of the ISI. And that is the efficiency, the effectiveness of the ISI. You must have ingress, so that you can influence all organizations. And it is this ingress of theirs, which doesn't mean that they are supporting them, but they have ingress. They have some contacts, which can be used for their own advantage," Musharraf said.

He said foreign troops are not welcome in Afghanistan, but now since they are there, they should win the battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban.

"Foreign troops are not welcome there (in Afghanistan). But now that they are there, we have to win. And quitting is not an option at all," he said.

"Anyone who is talking of quitting doesn't understand the ramifications of quitting. He must sit down and analyze what will happen if he were to quit there without a solution.

We have to defeat the al-Qaida, we have to dominate the Taliban, and we have to introduce a credible, legitimate government in Afghanistan. But we cannot leave before that," he said.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sober Foresight: The International Energy Agency Report, 2009

Human beings are the most sentient creatures on the earth, the most capable of foresight and planning, the most adaptable and adjustable. At least so we tell ourselves.

The reality may be otherwise. We seem able to see ahead but as a species we – the industrial world especially -- seem unable to correct our social practices enough to spare our planet from ecological collapse. Could Jared Diamond be a prophet? Is it because we are unable or unwilling?

Anyway, I wonder how many people will read the just-released executive summary of the International Energy Agency’s “World Energy Outlook 2009”. Sobering as it is, the industrial world is likely to go on more or less as it has, primarily driven by immediate and local practical interests. That seems to me the most sobering, and unstated, features of the report.

In order to help circulate the sense of how serious the world ecological trend is I reproduce here merely the topic sentences of the executive summary. Actually the whole report is not long and the details are the most sobering feature of the report; click on the title for a link to the whole Executive Summary.

Just so you don't miss it: Here is how it ends:
Saving the planet cannot wait. For every year that passes, the window for action on emissions over a given period becomes narrower — and the costs of transforming the energy sector increase. We calculate that each year of delay before moving onto the emissions path consistent with a 2°C temperature increase would add approximately $500 billion to the global incremental investment cost of $10.5 trillion for the period 2010-2030. A delay of just a few years would probably render that goal completely out of reach. If this were the case, the additional adaptation costs would be many times this figure. Countries attending the UN Climate Change Conference must not lose sight of this. The time has come to make the hard choices needed to turn promises into action.

Read, and wonder. Some of us also will pray.

International Energy Agency, “World Energy Outlook 2009” [executive summary]

The past 12 months have seen enormous upheavals in energy markets around the world, yet the challenges of transforming the global energy system remain urgent and daunting. How we rise to that challenge will have far-reaching consequences for energy markets. The scale and breadth of the energy challenge is enormous — far greater than many people realise. But it can and must be met.

Households and businesses are largely responsible for making the required investments, but governments hold the key to changing the mix of energy investment. This Outlook presents the results of two scenarios: a Reference Scenario, which provides a baseline picture of how global energy markets would evolve if governments make no changes to their existing policies and measures; and a 450 Scenario, which depicts a world in which collective policy action is taken to limit the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent (ppm CO2-eq), an objective that is gaining widespread support around the world. © OECD/IEA, 2009 World Energy Outlook 2009

The financial crisis brings a temporary reprieve from rising fossil energy
• Global energy use is set to fall in 2009 — for the first time since 1981 on any significant scale — as a result of the financial and economic crisis; but, on current policies, it would quickly resume its long-term upward trend once economic recovery is underway.
• Fossil fuels remain the dominant sources of primary energy worldwide in the
Reference Scenario, accounting for more than three-quarters of the overall increase in energy use between 2007 and 2030.
• The main driver of demand for coal and gas is the inexorable growth in energy needs for power generation.
• The use of non-hydro modern renewable energy technologies (including wind, solar, geothermal, tide and wave energy, and bio-energy) sees the fastest rate of increase in the Reference Scenario.

Falling energy investment will have far-reaching consequences
• Energy investment worldwide has plunged over the past year in the face of a tougher financing environment, weakening final demand for energy and lower cash flow.
• In the oil and gas sector, most companies have announced cutbacks in capital spending, as well as project delays and cancellations, mainly as a result of lower cash flow.
• Falling energy investment will have far-reaching and, depending on how governments respond, potentially serious consequences for energy security, climate change and energy poverty.
• The financial crisis has cast a shadow over whether all the energy investment needed to meet growing energy needs can be mobilised. Current policies put us on an alarming fossil-energy path
• Continuing on today’s energy path, without any change in government policy, would mean rapidly increasing dependence on fossil fuels, with alarming consequences for climate change and energy security.
• Non-OECD countries account for all of the projected growth in energy-related CO2 emissions to 2030.
• These trends would lead to a rapid increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
• The Reference Scenario trends also heighten concerns about the security of energy supplies.
• Expanding access to modern energy for the world’s poor remains a pressing matter.

Limiting temperature rise to 2°C requires a low-carbon energy revolution
• Although opinion is mixed on what might be considered a sustainable, long-term level of annual CO2 emissions for the energy sector, a consensus on the need to limit the global temperature increase to 2°C is emerging.
• The reductions in energy-related CO2 emissions required in the 450 Scenario (relative to the Reference Scenario) by 2020 — just a decade away — are formidable, but the financial crisis offers what may be a unique opportunity to take the necessary steps as the political mood shifts.
• With a new international climate policy agreement, a comprehensive and rapid transformation in the way we produce, transport and use energy — a veritable lowcarbon revolution — could put the world onto this 450-ppm trajectory.

Energy efficiency offers the biggest scope for cutting emissions
• End-use efficiency is the largest contributor to CO2 emissions abatement in 2030, accounting for more than half of total savings in the 450 Scenario, compared with the Reference Scenario.
• Measures in the transport sector to improve fuel economy, expand biofuels and romote the uptake of new vehicle technologies — notably hybrid and electric vehicles — lead to a big reduction in oil demand.
New financing mechanisms will be critical to achieving
low-carbon growth
• The 450 Scenario entails $10.5 trillion more investment in energy infrastructure and energy-related capital stock globally than in the Reference Scenario through to the end of the projection period.
• The cost of the additional investments needed to put the world onto a 450-ppm path is at least partly offset by economic, health and energy-security benefits.
• It is widely agreed that developed countries must provide more financial support to developing countries in reducing their emissions; but the level of support, the mechanisms for providing it and the relative burden across countries are matters for negotiation.

Natural gas will play a key role whatever the policy landscape
• With the assumed resumption of global economic growth from 2010, demand for natural gas worldwide is set to resume its long-term upwards trend, though the pace of demand growth hinges critically on the strength of climate policy action.
• The outlook to 2015 differs markedly from the longer-term picture.
• In the 450 Scenario, world primary gas demand grows by 17% between 2007 and 2030, but is 17% lower in 2030 compared with the Reference Scenario.

Gas resources are huge but exploiting them will be challenging
• The world’s remaining resources of natural gas are easily large enough to cover any conceivable rate of increase in demand through to 2030 and well beyond, though the cost of developing new resources is set to rise over the long term.
• The non-OECD countries as a whole are projected to account for almost all of the projected increase in global natural gas production between 2007 and 2030.
• The rate of decline in production from existing gas fields is the prime factor determining the amount of new capacity and investment needed to meet projected demand.

Unconventional gas changes the game in North America
and elsewhere
• The recent rapid development of unconventional gas resources in the United States and Canada, particularly in the last three years, has transformed the gas-market outlook, both in North America and in other parts of the world.
• The extent to which the boom in unconventional gas production in North America can be replicated in other parts of the world endowed with such resources remains highly uncertain.

A glut of gas is looming
• The unexpected boom in North American unconventional gas production, together with the current recession’s depressive impact on demand, is expected to contribute to an acute glut of gas supply in the next few years.
• The looming gas glut could have far-reaching consequences for the structure of gas markets and for the way gas is priced in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
ASEAN countries will become a key energy market
• The ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to play an increasingly important role in global energy markets in the decades ahead.
• Many hurdles will need to be overcome if Southeast Asia is to secure access to the energy required to meet its growing needs at affordable prices and in a sustainable manner.
Turning promises into results
• The upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will provide important pointers to the kind of energy future that awaits us.
• A critical ingredient in the success of efforts to prevent climate change will be the speed with which governments act on their commitments.

The final comment:
Saving the planet cannot wait. For every year that passes, the window for action on emissions over a given period becomes narrower — and the costs of transforming the energy sector increase. We calculate that each year of delay before moving onto the emissions path consistent with a 2°C temperature increase would add approximately $500 billion to the global incremental investment cost of $10.5 trillion for the period 2010-2030. A delay of just a few years would probably render that goal completely out of reach. If this were the case, the additional adaptation costs would be many times this figure. Countries attending the UN Climate Change Conference must not lose sight of this. The time has come to make the hard choices needed to turn promises into action.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Nemat Sadat's creative case for pursuing the project in Afghanistan

As people search for analogies by which to interpret developments in Afghanistan they have often turned to ones that seem to me quite useless -- suggestions that "empires" have always been bogged down there [they forget the Mongols and Babur's Moghals, and Tamerlane, etc.]. Nemat Sadat has provided a different analogy by which to make the case for how significant the Afghanistan war is for the world in general. Because his argument is so crucial I reproduce it entirely here. It is refreshing to read someone who has original things to say about a world that is changing fast and careening into the future rather than into the past. [The source page can be reached by clicking on the title above.] RLC

Why Afghanistan is the new post-Cold War Berlin

From the OhMyGov! website

By Nemat Sadat Oct 30 2009, 11:04 AM

Twenty years ago today, the fall of the Berlin Wall, brought German re-unification, revolutionary marches throughout Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union's disintegration. While the war of ideas that shattered the Iron Curtain was waged in Europe, Afghans fought the bloody battle against communism and demoralized the Brezhnev doctrine.

The Afghan vs. Soviet proxy war paralyzed Afghanistan with a million dead, millions of displaced refugees, and countless millions disabled. As the Red Army withdrew forces, the U.S. in turn shifted its attention away from Afghanistan. Who would have imagined that sole remaining superpower would return to Afghanistan and find itself bogged down in a long military conflict? Or that this landlocked nation would become the new schwer punkt, the new focal or resistant point of the post-Cold war battle against terrorism - in short, the new Berlin.

When the Berlin Wall fell, many predicted market expansion into former Eastern bloc states, but few would have predicted the nexus of events converging on Afghanistan. The arms race between India and Pakistan resulting in nuclear testing, energy rich Central Asian states proclaiming independence. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda network launching terrorist operations in Afghanistan. Iran's drive for nuclear enrichment, India and China's growing influence in Asia. And the re-emergence of a market-oriented Russian Federation. Landlocked Afghanistan, flanked by resource-rich and nuclear-armed neighbors transitioned as the center of gravity.

The anarchy in Afghanistan beginning in the post-Cold War created unmitigated desperation, and soon Afghanistan emerged as the world largest exporter of opium and refugees. In the vacuum of the chaotic fighting between mujahideen warlords, the Taliban rose to power. Sure enough, the Taliban brought security but with no semblance of civilization - no basic rights, no civic institutions, no functioning economy, no freedom of religion, and no recovery from war.

Plain and simple: No front is more important than Afghanistan where the stakes of descent into chaos poses a severe threat to the region and U.S. strategic interests. An Afghanistan or nuclear-armed Pakistan overrun by extremists endangers the entire world. The potential loss in human life and treasures from a nuclear strike is unquantifiable. I'm no economist by any means but I can assure you that nuclear fallout will be more than the $243 billion price tag on Afghanistan since 2001 and more than the $2 trillion cost of the September 11 attacks.

But misguided pundits have been sold on the tactical idea of Afghanistan as not worth the fight. Dismissing the necessary war as a 35-year civil war, or blindly making the Vietnam analogy ignores the facts. The Afghanistan War is the central front in a cross-border and global conflict. It is by no means a local war. How can the foreign intervention and militarization of Afghanistan during the Cold War, the rise of Islamic extremism that rose out of the ashes of the Afghan-Soviet War, and the 9/11 terrorist planning on Afghan soil that targeted the symbols of world commerce and U.S. national security murdering thousands en masse, only make it an Afghan conundrum?

Afghanistan has more in common with Cold War Berlin than it does with Vietnam. The Vietnam comparison of the Taliban insurgency and Al Qaeda neglects the fundamental difference that the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese never posed any direct threat to the U.S. homeland. The U.S. was able to strike a peace accord with the Vietnamese in Paris, but is it possible to negotiate with leaders Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders whom we've labeled terrorists and targeted for the last eight years? Maybe, if we could only find them.

In the last decade, the Taliban's brand of Islamic doctrine has evolved to a transnational jihadi movement, bent on chasing out the international community out of the region and establishing a pan-Islamic state. That would certainly give Al Qaeda an unfettered safe haven. Allowing the Taliban to return to power would be an enormous victory for Al Qaeda's propaganda and Islamists around the world.

Battling terrorism with aerial bombings into the Afghan plains or in neighboring Pakistan is not going to address the issues that breed extremism and recruit the next generation of extremists. In western Europe, communism was "contained" with a Marshall Plan that rebuilt the continent. Addressing human rights issues and building the civil capacity of the region with a viable development plan will quell the insurgency. Sustainable peace is possible but it will take time for a new generation to transform the breeding ground of terror into a beacon of freedom.

In August 2008, while running for president, Barack Obama warned a Berlin crowd of 250,000 of the dangerous currents in Afghanistan. "For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now," Obama said. Americans, with British and French allies, created a miracle in fortress Berlin and rescued a devastated Europe after World War II. Today with NATO's first mission outside of Europe, a UN mandate, a majority of Afghans' support, and nearly all the world powers supporting the U.S. led mission in Afghanistan, we have an opportunity to remake the world as the post-World War II generation did so a half century ago.

For the Taliban/Al Qaeda smaller training camps

One of the features of the Al Qaeda / Taliban movement in Pakistan is its ability to produce recruits, most strikingly recruits for suicide bombing. Now we hear that the units of training are getting ever smaller, and thus less easily discovered and targeted.
Lolita Baldor of AP reports on the new trend [11/9/09; click on the title for a link; highlights follow below].

> Training camps are growing smaller and more mobile, inside small compounds.

> The trainers are from al-Qaida who take their instruction on the road.

> Altogether the trainers number between 100 and 200 "hard-core al-Qaida leaders and operatives" who filter in and out of these small bases near the border.

> They are even active in Punjab province, where some militant groups have stronger ties to the Pakistani government.

> Their agendas are not primarily to train insurgents but to train "terrorists for deployment to the west."

> Some madrassas are part of the insurgent network in the sense that they will pass on information to prospective participants: "People within those nonviolent organizations, he said, will say, "if you want to be violent, you have to leave us, but here's an address and a letter of introduction" for a recruiter from one of the militant groups."

> Perhaps as many as 100 to 150 westerners have gone to the Pakistan border region for terror training in the last year.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A view of Pakistan by a Muslim from India: Giving thanks

A medieval state
Zafar Agha
October 16, 2009

Thank God, I am not a citizen of the Islamic state of Pakistan. Imagine if my parents had been enamoured of Jaswant Singh's newfound hero Mohammad Ali Jinnah and migrated to the Islamic State of Pakistan.

What a tragedy could have befallen my family and me! I could have either myself turned into a bigot or my kids could have taken up guns in the pursuit of a puritanical Islamic state like Saudi Arabia. I am extremely indebted to my parents for sticking to their roots in Allahabad and happily accepting the citizenship of 'Hindu India' instead of saltanat-e-khudadad-e-Pakistan (godly kingdom of Pakistan. Ironically, there is nothing godly or saintly about Pakistan today. Pakistan could never become a modern republican state. So the state eventually withered away and got out of everyone's control. There was a time not too long ago when the world believed that it was the Pakistan army whose writ ran the country. How naive was this understanding.

Once considered the most powerful power centre, the Pakistan army headquarters in Rawalpindi is now under attack from Pakistani jihadis. The world also thought that the Punjabi elite had a tight grip over Pakistan establishment. Now the Punjabis themselves are not secure in their beloved town of Lahore where terrorists' strike at will.

Who then controls Pakistan? Is it the democratic establishment led by Asif Zardari? No, not at all! There is no consensus between Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif, the two leading rival democratic parties, even in these moments of grave internal crisis. Are the executive and judiciary now acting as the watchdog? Well, both sympathise with the likes of Hafiz Saeed and nuclear technology smuggler AQ Khan more than the state of Pakistan. Saeed and Khan are the two ideological masters of Pakistani jihadi philosophy.

All the Pakistani terror groups revere them. So it is neither army, nor the Punjabi elite that controls Pakistan any longer. Instead it is men like Saeed and Khan who do, ideologically at least.

You cannot arrest Saeed in Pakistan because he is the ideological pope of jihad. You cannot prosecute him either. The police would make such a weak case that it won't stand in a court of law for a minute. The judiciary would let him walk out because of his 'heroic services' in 'destabilising India'. And even America cannot harm Khan.

After all, he delivered a nuclear bomb to the insecure Pakistanis, stealing and smuggling nuclear technology from all over the world. The world is convinced that he smuggled dreaded technology to North Korea and Iran. He is the last hope of the jihadis who believe that Khan would one day deliver them a nuclear device to destroy their hated enemy, America.

Pakistan is today controlled by the syndicate of Taliban, al Qaeda and Punjabi terror outfits like Jaish e Mohammad. But why is it that Pakistan has failed in modern sense of the word state? A modern state in the post renaissance and post industrial revolution world is essentially run by the will of the people through democracy.

Pakistan has nothing to do both with renaissance and industrial revolution. Its ideological frontier very soon after its inception was a medieval Islamic state whose only function was to destroy India.

So the people were always kept at the margin of state affairs. Pakistan elite facilitated the military takeover of the establishment to fight India and 'liberate Muslim Kashmir from Hindu hands'.

When the entire Pakistani establishment failed to harm an emerging modern Indian state and got truncated in 1971, it vengefully came up with the idea of jihad against India 'to bleed India in Kashmir'.

A jihad genie like Jaish e Mohammed was created with the ideological training from men like Saeed and Talibani madrasas spread across the tribal belt of Pakistan to harm India. The genie is now out of the bottle consuming the state that created it.
A medieval Pakistani state, run by an army and ideologically driven by myopic people like Saeed and terror outfits like Jaish, has had to finally come to this pass where no one now understands who runs Pakistan.

Pakistan shunned renaissance wisdom and post-industrial democratic institutions. Such a medieval state has had to run out of steam sooner or later. So it is now imploding and being consumed by the medieval and tribal hatred it nurtured against India.

Thank you mom and pop, for not migrating to Islamic state of Pakistan because I would have also exploded if not imploded by the jihadi forces that are consuming Pakistan now.

The writer is a commentator on political affairs
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President of World Bank has a scheme for Afghanistan

Here is the World Bank’s proposal for how to help the situation in Afghanistan.

What we can achieve in Afghanistan

Washington Post By Robert B. Zoellick Friday, October 30, 2009

As governments reconsider strategies in Afghanistan, stories abound about why achieving progress in this "graveyard of empires" is so challenging: The country is racked by violence and opium production; confidence in the government is weak; its neighbors meddle; and fiercely independent tribes distrust any intruder -- whether from Britain, the Soviet Union, NATO or Kabul.

The World Bank Group's experience in Afghanistan reflects all these problems. This is one of the most difficult environments in which we work. Yet we have seen real, measurable progress: in the health sector, education, community development, microfinance and telecommunications. Since 2002, the World Bank has committed nearly $2 billion to these and other projects and manages, with partners, a $3.2 billion trust fund for 30 donor countries.

Here are some of the lessons we have learned:

First, we need to "secure development" -- that is, create a strong link between security and development. Each reinforces the other, especially when we focus on communities and on resolving local-level conflict. A dysfunctional police force, justice and prison system feeds a lawlessness that breeds disillusionment with the government and sympathy for its opponents.

Second, corruption can be fought better through design than through calls for virtue or even a slew of investigations. Afghanistan's drug trade risks the criminalization of the state. But there are steps one can take to make corruption harder and less likely. Afghanistan's reform-minded finance ministers have taken practical steps to simplify government processes and add transparency to reduce opportunities for corruption, already raising government revenue 75 percent in the first part of this year. Recently the government slashed the number of steps to register vehicles from some 55 to just a few, reducing opportunities for bribes and increasing revenue.

Third, locally led projects are the most effective. The National Solidarity Program, which the World Bank helped launch in 2003, empowers more than 22,000 elected, village-level councils to decide on their development priorities -- from building a school to irrigation to electrification. So far, the program has reached more than 19 million Afghans in 34 provinces, with grants averaging $33,000. Development owned by the community can survive amid conflict: When an NSP-funded school was attacked in August 2006, the villagers defended it. The community councils also help build cooperation among villages and with the government.

Fourth, while local progress matters, government responsibility and capacity must be built at the national level. Currently, two-thirds of aid to Afghanistan flows outside the government because donors lack confidence in its competence and transparency. But this undermines those trying to build legitimate Afghan institutions. It can also grossly distort resource allocation: Some relatively secure areas are starved of money when they could be producing results. We can work with Afghans to strengthen public financial management. That said, in the absence of strong institutions, and facing considerable corruption, good results have been dependent on one-by-one partnerships with honest, reformist ministers. The new cabinet must include more such individuals.

Fifth, Afghans need to see measurable improvements to their lives, or they will not feel they owe anything to Kabul or local governments. There are success stories: More than 12,000 miles of all-weather rural roads have been built, connecting communities to markets; today, 80 percent of Afghans have access to basic health services, compared with only 9 percent in 2003; 6 million children are enrolled in school, nearly 35 percent of whom are girls, compared with about 1 million students and no girls seven years ago; competitive telecommunications networks now serve about 10 million subscribers. But a lot remains to be done.

Stability in Afghanistan also depends on good leadership -- especially in critical areas that have lagged behind, such as agriculture, energy, mining and private-sector development. The challenges of securing development so that it is self-sustaining are formidable. But progress is possible if safety is strengthened, the Afghan government assumes ownership, its partners build development through the choices of the Afghan people, and Afghanistan's neighbors decide they are better off with a successful state than with a perilous buffer zone that could send trouble back across their borders.

The writer is president of the World Bank Group.

The relation between Al Qaeda and the various Taliban groups

A lot of nonsense has recently been written about how distinguishable Al Qaeda is from the Taliban. This article, drawing from some knowledgeable sources, reveals several ways the two are interlinked and emphasizes how mutually dependent they are. RLC

Al-Qaida and the Taliban: Knowing your enemy

By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Senior al-Qaida leaders are forging deeper relationships with Pakistani militants and often operating from their camps inside the Pakistan border, fueling Obama administration arguments for a shift in the Afghan war strategy that more narrowly targets the terrorists.

For eight years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has focused mostly on Afghanistan's Taliban as an unabashed ally of al-Qaida.

Now, however, forced to choose between sending more troops in an intensified counterinsurgency campaign against Afghanistan's Taliban or largely maintaining troop levels and using more drone strikes to take out al-Qaida along the border, U.S. officials must first determine which enemy is the greater priority.

That dilemma is complicated by the recent rise of a Pakistani faction of the Taliban that operates in close proximity with al-Qaida - even as al-Qaida has lessened activities with its former Afghan Taliban hosts, according to some administration officials.

U.S. officials face a tough challenge in dissecting the structure and leanings of the militant organizations on both sides of the often indiscernible Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and understanding their murky and evolving ties to al-Qaida.

"You cannot meaningfully distinguish between al-Qaida and the co-linked (militant) networks - either in terms of understanding the landscape or crafting a policy response," said Vahid Brown, a researcher at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

"If you think you can kill al-Qaida leaders, as opposed to doing a broader scale effort against the militant environment, that notion is based on a fundamental misapprehension of the nature of the terrain," said Brown, describing the complexity of the networks along the border and their threat.

With concerns about Pakistani militants growing, an influential faction inside the administration that includes Vice President Joe Biden is pushing for the U.S. to concentrate more on al-Qaida and less on the Afghan Taliban.

But the push for that strategy butts up against the long-perceived union between al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban, ingrained in America's consciousness since the Sept. 11 attacks and the ensuing war in Afghanistan.

The 19 al-Qaida members behind the hijackings that sent planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside plotted their attacks from Taliban-protected safe havens in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996. United in Islamic ideology, they sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida followers. Al-Qaida terrorist training camps flourished openly in the 1990s and the two groups shared weapons, financing and tactics.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration repeatedly linked al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban in rhetoric and policy, pairing them in enemies' lists and economic penalties.

President Barack Obama and his advisers are debating whether U.S. policy should sever that linkage and target al-Qaida, which has appeared to have found new allies inside the Pakistani border.

Over the past 18 months, according to analysts and U.S. counterterrorism officials, al-Qaida leaders have deepened and solidified their relationship with Pakistan's Taliban and with other violent homegrown militant groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Janghvi, that are based in the northeastern Punjab province.

Al-Qaida also has strong ties with the network run by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj, who direct the fight against U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan from the Waziristan tribal region in Pakistan.

Brown pointed to the Haqqani network operating in Pakistan's tribal areas as an example of militants linked to al-Qaida who have demonstrated a growth in technical innovation. Its increased use of roadside bombs and different types of suicide attacks, and the employment of other international jihadists are evidence of the al-Qaida influence, he said.

According to U.S. officials and analysts, al-Qaida leaders have provided training and resources to these groups in camps along the border.

The stronger ties are also evident, the analysts said, in suicide bombings and other violent battlefield tactics long known to be associated with al-Qaida that are showing up more frequently in attacks staged by those Pakistan-based groups.

Pakistan's Taliban have unloosed a spree of violence inside the country over the past year, attempting to take over the Swat Valley region before being ousted by Pakistan's army.

In recent weeks, the Pakistani Taliban, aided by other militants, have targeted military and government installations in suicide bombings aimed at forcing the government to back off from its recent push into South Waziristan, the border area where many militants are based. Despite those attacks, the offensive began last week.

At the same time, said Richard Barrett, coordinator of the monitoring team for the U.N.'s Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, said there are hints of fracture between al-Qaida and its longtime Afghan Taliban allies.

Barrett said that Afghan Taliban leaders, including the reclusive, one-eyed Mullah Omar, may have changed their once-approving view of al-Qaida. Barrett said the Afghan Taliban may worry about U.S. repercussions if they "are seen as very closely wedded to al-Qaida" and likely to allow that group tore-establish sanctuaries there.

While the Afghan Taliban share many of al-Qaida's violent goals, including the defeat of the Kabul government, Barrett said, they are more regionally focused and do not hold the same global jihadist views.

Some U.S. military and intelligence officials, however, warn against underestimating the relationship between al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban.

While the Taliban and al-Qaida may have differences, senior counterterrorism officials say that al-Qaida still has strong historical ties to Mullah Omar and that is not likely to go away. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is arguing for an additional 10,000 and 80,000 troops to mount a counterinsurgency campaign against the Afghan Taliban to stabilize the country and boost Afghan security forces.

But rising U.S. casualties, escalating violence and declining American support for the war have put political pressure on the White House to rethink that strategy. The counterproposal urged by Biden and others would maintain current troop levels and use special operations forces and targeted unmanned aircraft strikes against al-Qaida and other insurgents.

Recent U.S. government estimates put the number of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan at about 25,000, while analysts and other officials say there are only about 100 al-Qaida members in the country. Totals for al-Qaida in Pakistan are more difficult to pin down, but estimates are in the low hundreds, while Taliban there number also in the thousands.

Biden and others argue that if the aim is to prevent future attacks against the United States, then the goal must be to defeat al-Qaida.

Military analyst Frederick Kagan told Congress this past week that any move to defeat al-Qaida cannot be separated from efforts to defeat its allies and proxies. The Afghan Taliban may not be planning attacks terrorist against the United States now, but he said that, with continued association with al-Qaida, the Taliban eventually may pursue global jihad.

Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University and a longtime government adviser, said al-Qaida continues to work with the Taliban and other insurgents on both sides of the border, providing resources and training to bolster their fight.

He and others argue that to narrowly focus the fight on al-Qaida leaders, particularly those targeted by drone strikes inside the Pakistan border, would be to oversimplify a complex enemy, and ultimately fail.