Archive for the 'Af-Pak' Category

A deadly triangle: India vs Pakistan in Afghanistan

The Brookings Essay by William Dalrymple:

 AT SIX O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING of February 26, 2010, Major Mitali Madhumita was awakened by the ringing of her mobile phone. Mitali, a 35-year-old Indian army officer from Orissa, had been in Kabul less than a year. Fluent in Dari, the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan, she was there to teach English to the first women officer cadets to be recruited to the Afghan National Army.

It was a sensitive posting, not so much because of gender issues as political ones: India’s regional rival, Pakistan, was extremely touchy about India providing military assistance to the government in Afghanistan and had made it very clear that it regarded the presence of any Indian troops or military trainers there as an unacceptable provocation. For this reason everyone on the small Indian army English Language Training Team, including Mitali, and all the Indian army doctors and nurses staffing the new Indira Gandhi Kabul Children’s Hospital, had been sent to Afghanistan unarmed, and in civilian dress. They were being put up not in an army barracks, or at the Indian Embassy, but in a series of small, discreet guest houses dotted around the city’s diplomatic quarter.

The phone call was from a girlfriend of Mitali’s who worked for Air India at Kabul airport. Breathless, she said she had just heard that two of the Indian guest houses, the Park and the Hamid, were under attack by militants. As the only woman on her team, Mitali had been staying in separate lodgings about two miles away from the rest of her colleagues, who were all in the Hamid. Within seconds, Mitali was pulling on her clothes, along with the hijab she was required to wear, and running, alone and unarmed, through the empty morning streets of Kabul toward the Hamid. More:

Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan

In The Washington Post, an excerpt from Rajiv Chandrasekaran‘s “Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan“:

In late March 2010, President Obama’s national security adviser, James L. Jones, summoned Richard C. Holbrooke to the White House for a late-afternoon conversation. The two men rarely had one-on-one meetings, even though Holbrooke, the State Department’s point man for Afghanistan, was a key member of Obama’s war cabinet.

As Holbrooke entered Jones’s West Wing office, he sensed that the discussion was not going to be about policy, but about him. Holbrooke believed his principal mission was to accomplish what he thought Obama wanted: a peace deal with the Taliban. The challenge energized Holbrooke, who had more experience with ending wars than anyone in the administration. In 1968, he served on the U.S. delegation to the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam. And in 1995, he forged a deal in the former Yugoslavia to end three years of bloody sectarian fighting.

The discussion quickly wound to Jones’s main point: He told Holbrooke that he should start considering his “exit strategy” from the administration.

As he left the meeting, Holbrooke pulled out his trump card — a call to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was traveling in Saudi Arabia. More:

And a review in WSJ:

Back in 2006, when the American war effort in Iraq was lurching from one disaster to another, smart reporters began publishing books trying to explain “What went wrong.” One of the most successful was “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone” by the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran. It appeared just after George Packer’s “The Assassin’s Gate” and Thomas E. Ricks’s “Fiasco” and, like them, it traced the war’s woes to a lack of preparation on the part of political and military leaders and to an excess of ideological zeal among the political appointees sent to run things in Baghdad in the early days. It was even made into a silly adventure movie, “Green Zone,” starring Matt Damon.

Mr. Chandrasekaran no doubt hopes to repeat this success with “Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan.” If the title sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because in “Imperial Life” Mr. Chandrasekaran often referred to the Green Zone as “Little America.” But the new book does not focus on the Afghan counterpart to Baghdad’s Green Zone, the luxurious U.S. embassy compound in Kabul. Rather the title refers to attempts by the U.S. Agency for International Development to spur development in southern Afghanistan from the 1950s to 1970s. The city of Lashkar Gah, now the capital of Helmand province, was built to support a giant irrigation project run by expatriate engineers. Locals started calling it “Little America.” Mr. Chandrasekaran’s early chapter on those efforts is fascinating and fresh, but they are far removed from the post-2001 struggle against the Taliban. More:

Afghanistan: The Taliban’s high-tech urban strategy

Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai in Newsweek:

Qari Jamal has returned safely from a reconnaissance mission in Kabul. Short, thin, and immaculately dressed, the fresh-faced 25-year-old relaxes in a house near the Afghan-Pakistan border and tells how he toured the city with his digital camera, looking like an innocent civilian as he scouted sites for future Taliban attacks. “The work is both easy and difficult,” he says. “We have to photograph and survey the area, get the exact GPS coordinates, and note the daily movements of the security forces guarding the installation, without getting caught.” Polishing his glasses on his long, spotlessly white shirttail, he mentions one of the targets he and other undercover Taliban have been casing near NATO headquarters: the Ariana Hotel—a CIA operations center, Jamal calls it. “This is a most attractive target for the fedayeen,” he says. He’s talking about suicide bombers.

The young Afghan belongs to a dangerous new breed of Taliban militants. He grew up in a city, not in a mud-hut village in the backcountry, and he got his education not only at a madrassa but also at a public high school in Pakistan, and then at a college where he majored in information technology. His beard is neatly trimmed, and he doesn’t even carry a gun. Instead, he says, his weapons are a MacBook computer, a clutch of mobile phones, and an array of IT gadgets, from digital cameras to webcams and GPS devices. Citified techies like him are playing an essential role in helping the guerrillas to reshape their strategy with attention-grabbing surprise assaults in places that previously were spared from the heaviest fighting. More:

Behind Obama’s snub of Pakistan

Bruce Riedel in The Daily Beast:

Zardari wants to reset relations with Washington as well. But his room for maneuver is very limited by the army and the parliament, which are demanding an apology for last November’s deaths and the end to the drone war. The jihadists just want to kill him. Now he has been snubbed by Obama, who would not meet with Zardari without a border deal. He got a session with Secretary Clinton instead.

Given how unpopular America and Obama are in Pakistan, a snub in Chicago may not hurt Zardari’s own abysmal approval rating. Maybe a deal can still be worked out to get the border open in the days ahead. But the imagery of Zardari failing will cast a long shadow.

Many in Pakistan believe NATO is bound to fail in Afghanistan. They read the polls and they noted that French President Francois Hollande has stood by his pledge to pull France’s Task Force Lafayette out of the country by the end of this year. Most European leaders would secretly like to do the same thing with their toops. So do many Americans. Pakistan can also veto any effort to start a political process between the Afghan Taliban and the Karzai government; after all the ISI controls the Taliban’s leadership which lives in Karachi. The army and the ISI will privately be very pleased that Zardari crashed in Chicago.

Read full article here

Power grid by Daniyal Mueenuddin

In The New Yorker:

In Pakistan, in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, I remember seeing high-tension electric pylons that had affixed to them a shield similar to something Captain America might carry, with two muscular arms across the middle, sleeves rolled up, shaking hands against a Stars-and-Stripes background—one arm American, the other presumably Pakistani, although both had pale skin—as if signalling not friendship but a more self-congratulatory mood. These pylons and the accompanying power grid were American gifts, built by American engineers, proof of the two countries’ solidarity. The son of an American mother and a Pakistani father, I found these emblems of the two countries’ amity warming, reassuring.

Pakistan basked in America’s favor. American cars muscled through bazaars tangled with bullock carts and tongas, and American largesse gave us power, one of the largest earth-filled hydroelectric dams in the world, and also F-104 fighters that, we hoped, would prevent the Indians from eating us alive. The earnest Americans who roamed the country doing U.S.A.I.D.’s good works had a benign, roly-poly appearance, as if they lived on jam and honey. The long-haired bachelor Mr. X, from the American Midwest, who taught at the Lahore American School, where I studied, kept an open bar in his living room, stocked with whiskey and Playboy magazines, and offered hospitality to Pakistani Army officers and bon-vivant politicians and the sleeker expats, who late at night poured out their sorrows and secrets to him. His bedroom had a huge Playmate poster that covered an entire wall—Laocoön limbs and golden pelt—a vision imprinted on my tender mind at the age of eleven, consonant with the impression I then had of America as the source of all things good, and more than good. Years later, people said that boozy, hale Mr. X had been C.I.A. More:

What does Pakistan want?

Steve Coll in The New Yorker:

In late February, I travelled to Pakistan and met with a number of military officers there, including several senior ones. They explained how they saw, from their side, the rise and collapse of the strategic dialogue with Washington.

It is a story laced with the generals’ resentments, geopolitical calculations, fears, and aspirations. Listening to them after absorbing the recent months of Pakistan ennui and Pakistan bashing in Washington was like watching one of those movies where a single narrative is told and retold selectively, from irreconcilable points of view.

Some of the basics of the Pakistan Army’s arguments about the Afghan war and the struggle against Al Qaeda-influenced terrorist groups are contained in a twelve-page document called “Ten Years Since 9/11: Our Collective Experience (Pakistan’s Experience).” The document, labelled “Secret,” is below; it has not previously been published.

Despite its classification, the essay is perhaps best understood as part of a Pakistani strategic communications or lobbying campaign. (Presumably, the sources that provided the document to me were undertaking an act in that campaign.) This particular text was a basis for briefings that General Ashfaq Kayani, the powerful Army chief, provided to NATO leaders at closed meetings last September, around the tenth anniversary of the 2001 attacks. It updates a case Pakistani generals have been making in meetings with their counterparts for years: that the casualties, economic disruption, and radicalization Pakistan has suffered from because of spillover from the American military campaign in Afghanistan are deeply underappreciated. The essay declares that Pakistan’s total casualties—dead and wounded—since 2001 in the “fight against terrorism” number about forty thousand. More:

My drone war

Pir Zubair Shah in Foreign Policy:

“We don’t even sit together to chat anymore,” the Taliban fighter told me, his voice hoarse as he combed his beard with his fingers. We were talking in a safe house in Peshawar as the fighter and one of his comrades sketched a picture of life on the run in the borderlands of Waziristan. The deadly American drones buzzing overhead, the two men said, had changed everything for al Qaeda and its local allies.

The whitewashed two-story villa bristled with activity. Down the hall from my Taliban sources sat an aggrieved tribal elder and his son in one room and two officers from Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate in another. I had gathered them all there to make sense of what had become the signature incident of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan: an American drone strike, one of the first ordered on the watch of the new U.S. president, Barack Obama. The early 2009 strike had killed a local elder, along with his son, two nephews, and a guest in the South Waziristan town of Wana. Several sources had told me the family was innocent, with no connections to the Taliban or al Qaeda. But traveling to Waziristan had become too dangerous even for me, a reporter who had grown up there. So instead I had brought Waziristan to Peshawar, renting rooms for my sources in the guesthouse. I had just one night to try to figure out what had happened.

I spent the night running from room to room, assembling the story in pieces. On the first floor sat the dead elder’s brother and nephew, who told me what little they knew of the incident. On the second floor, the ISI officers, over whiskey and lamb tikka, described their work helping U.S. intelligence agents sort out targets from among the images relayed back from the drones. Then there were the two Taliban fighters, whom I had first met in Waziristan in 2007. One had been a fixer for the Haqqani network, skilled at smuggling men and materiel from Pakistan into Afghanistan. The other drew a government salary as an employee of Pakistan’s agriculture department but worked across the border as an explosives expert; he had lost a finger fighting the allied forces in Afghanistan. None of the men in the house knew the others were there.

The two fighters described how the militants were adapting to this new kind of warfare. The Taliban and al Qaeda had stopped using electronic devices, they told me. They would no longer gather in huge numbers, even in mosques to pray, and spent their nights outside for safety, a life that was wearing thin. “We can’t sleep in the jungle the whole of our lives,” one told me. Gradually, a picture of a rare incident came into focus: a deadly strike that had mistakenly taken out a man with no connection to al Qaeda or the Taliban. More:

The ally from hell

Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic:

SHORTLY AFTER AMERICAN NAVY SEALs raided the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May and killed Osama bin Laden, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army staff, spoke with Khalid Kidwai, the retired lieutenant general in charge of securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai, who commands a security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), had been expecting Kayani’s call.

General Kayani, the most powerful man in a country that has only a simulacrum of civilian leadership, had been busy in the tense days that followed the bin Laden raid: he had to assure his American funders (U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military) that the army had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout, located less than a mile from Pakistan’s preeminent military academy; and at the same time he had to subdue the uproar within his ranks over what was seen as a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by an arrogant Barack Obama. But he was also anxious about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and he found time to express this worry to General Kidwai.

Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons. These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen). Western leaders have stated that a paramount goal of their counterterrorism efforts is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists. More:

A new Pakistan policy: Containment

Bruce O. Riedel in NYT:

The generals who run Pakistan have not abandoned their obsession with challenging India. They tolerate terrorists at home, seek a Taliban victory in Afghanistan and are building the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal. They have sidelined and intimidated civilian leaders elected in 2008. They seem to think Pakistan is invulnerable, because they control NATO’s supply line from Karachi to Kabul and have nuclear weapons.

The generals also think time is on their side — that NATO is doomed to give up in Afghanistan, leaving them free to act as they wish there. So they have concluded that the sooner America leaves, the better it will be for Pakistan. They want Americans and Europeans to believe the war is hopeless, so they encourage the Taliban and other militant groups to speed the withdrawal with spectacular attacks, like the Sept. 13 raid on the United States Embassy in Kabul, which killed 16 Afghan police officers and civilians.

It is time to move to a policy of containment, which would mean a more hostile relationship. But it should be a focused hostility, aimed not at hurting Pakistan’s people but at holding its army and intelligence branches accountable. When we learn that an officer from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, is aiding terrorism, whether in Afghanistan or India, we should put him on wanted lists, sanction him at the United Nations and, if he is dangerous enough, track him down. Putting sanctions on organizations in Pakistan has not worked in the past, but sanctioning individuals has — as the nuclear proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan could attest. More:

Talk in Pakistan: When will US attack?

Salman Masood from Islamabad in IHT:

The United States might still be weighing its options about how to deal with Pakistan, but many politicians, retired army generals and popular television talk show hosts here have already made up their minds that America is on the warpath with their country.

Such is the media frenzy and warmongering that popular talk show hosts have even begun discussing possible scenarios of how Pakistan should react if the United States attacks the country. One television news channel has even aired a war anthem.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has called on a conference of opposition political parties and government’s allies for Thursday to discuss the crisis. The government is also enlisting allies.

Islamabad, the capital, has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity with the visits of Chinese and Saudi officials. The American ambassador, Cameron Munter, has also met with President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. More

Our man in Kandahar

What is the American government’s role in the continuing rise of warlord and suspected drug smuggler Abdul Raziq and how much does it know of his private prisons and alleged abuses? Matthieu Aikins has a damning report in The Atlantic.

SHYLY, AT TIMES smiling with weak adolescent bravado, the two young men recounted to me how they were beaten and tortured. It was July, and we were sitting at a table in the cavernous restaurant where they both work, in the stupefying summer heat. They slouched forward with their arms on their knees, frequently glancing down toward their open sandals, at toes where livid burns from the electrical wires were still visible.

I will call them Najib and Ahmad, though their names, like others in this article, have been changed to protect their safety. Both 23 years old, they looked like gangly young men who should be playing basketball on the street outside their house, or perhaps video games inside. But here in Kandahar City, the linchpin of the U.S. military’s campaign against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, they had found themselves the victims of America’s Afghan allies.

One afternoon in June, two younger boys who worked at the restaurant, ages 12 and 14, had been stopped by the Afghan National Police while carrying home leftovers from an afternoon wedding. The boys, who were each paid about $60 a month, explained that they always took home leftover meals for their families. But this time they were arrested and accused of bringing food to insurgent fighters hiding outside the city. more

The Haqqani clan: the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war

In The New York Times:

They are the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war, a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, even trucking. They have trafficked in precious gems, stolen lumber and demanded protection money from businesses building roads and schools with American reconstruction funds.

They safeguard their mountainous turf by planting deadly roadside bombs and shelling remote American military bases. And they are accused by American officials of being guns for hire: a proxy force used by the Pakistani intelligence service to carry out grisly, high-profile attacks in Kabul and throughout the country.

Today, American intelligence and military officials call the crime clan known as the Haqqani network — led by a wizened militant named Jalaluddin Haqqani who has allied himself over the years with the C.I.A., Saudi Arabia’s spy service and Osama bin Laden — the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan. In the latest of a series of ever bolder strikes, the group staged a daylong assault on the United States Embassy in Kabul, an attack Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged Thursday was aided by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. More: And more here

In Kabul, it’s not MTV, it’s a mission

The man who brought us rock videos is advising a media group in Kabul that is shaking up television in Afghanistan. David Carr in the New York Times:

The missile strike was in Afghanistan, where Mr. Freston lived during the 1970s when he was in the clothing business. Now he is serving as a board member and adviser to the Moby Group, which owns a burgeoning string of television and radio networks in a country where simply owning a television was illegal not so long ago. Forget about wanting their MTV, Afghans just wanted their TVs.

The Moby Group owns Tolo TV, a Dari language network; Lemar TV, which beams out in Pashto; two FM stations; and Farsi1, a joint television venture with the News Corporation that serves millions of Farsi speakers in Iran as well. When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, it all but criminalized most of pop culture, so it’s remarkable that Moby is broadcasting shows in which men and women interact, often to hilarious effect, and the radio station has a male and a female D.J. bantering away the morning. And the audience apparently is there: Tolo TV has a 45 percent market share, according to Saad Mohseni, the head of Moby.

In Afghanistan, many women still wear burqas, and freedoms are limited, so working with the guy who helped bring “Beavis and Butt-Head” into public consciousness would not seem especially helpful. But Mr. Mohseni said Mr. Freston has been critical to the enterprise.

“He is a prolific e-mailer and always available for making connections for even the smallest things,” said Mr. Mohseni, speaking by phone during a visit to the United States last week from Afghanistan. He said that Mr. Freston had introduced him to Rupert Murdoch, among others. “When he comes here, he talks with the producers, the managers, the people doing the work,” Mr. Mohseni said.

In the ’70s, Mr. Freston ran a clothing company called Hindu Kush — “I had no idea what I was doing,” he said — out of Kabul and New Delhi. He developed a lasting crush on Afghanistan and now, more than 30 years later, he’s traveling there about three times a year. More:

Also read: Studio Kabul

The journalist and the spies

In New Yorker, award-winning journalist and author Dexter Filkins on the murder of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, a man who exposed Pakistan’s secrets

On May 30th, as the sun beat down on the plains of eastern Pakistan, a laborer named Muhammad Shafiq walked along the top of a dam on the Upper Jhelum Canal to begin his morning routine of clearing grass and trash that had drifted into the intake grates overnight. The water flow seemed normal, but when he started removing the debris with a crane the machinery seized up. He looked down and saw, trapped in the grates, a human form.

Shafiq called some colleagues, and together they pulled out the body. Occasionally, farmers and water buffalo drown in the canal, float downstream, and get stuck in the grates, but never a man in a suit. “Even his tie and shoes were still on,” Shafiq told me. He called the police, and by the next day they had determined the man’s identity: Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist known for his exposés of the Pakistani military. Shahzad had not shown up the previous afternoon for a television interview that was to be taped in Islamabad, a hundred miles to the northwest. His disappearance was being reported on the morning news, his image flashed on television screens across the country. Meanwhile, the zamindar—feudal lord—of a village twenty miles upstream from the dam called the police about a white Toyota Corolla that had been abandoned by the canal, in the shade of a banyan tree. The police discovered that the car belonged to Shahzad. Its doors were locked, and there was no trace of blood. more

Pakistan: why the US must think outside the ‘military’ box

Manan Ahmed, a historian of Pakistan at Freie Universitat Berlin, in The National. He blogs at Chapati Mystery.

“Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?” In November 1999, the question stymied the US presidential hopeful George W Bush. “The new Pakistani general, he’s just been elected – not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that’s good news for the subcontinent,” he replied, blanking on the name. The oversight was quickly brushed away by an electorate generally uninterested in global foreign policy.

A few months later, in March 2000, President Bill Clinton landed in Islamabad for a brief five-hour visit and gave a televised address to the Pakistani people, wishing them a speedy return to democracy. However, the United States had by then held Pakistan under sanctions for nearly a decade – no aid had been extended during that period and, further, a refund of nearly $700 million (Dh2.6bn), put down by Pakistan as payment for undelivered F16 fighter planes, had been consistently withheld by the US – and Clinton’s words fell on unreceptive ears. The president could offer no incentive to the military regime.

The “chief executive” of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, who had deposed Nawaz Sharif in a military coup, met Clinton, promised elections in another year and shrugged off the threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda as part of a “people’s dynamic” that operated on tribal affiliations. In 2000, Pakistan was unknown. And what was known about it was severely restricted. More here in The National.

Can the Buddhas be restored?

Image: Tracy Hunter / Wiki Commons

Arnie Cooper in The Wall Street Journal:

A decade ago, just six months before the destruction of the twin towers, a pair of monuments of a different sort—the colossal Buddhas in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley—were blown up by the Taliban.

Hoping to rid the country of any trace of “the shrines of Infidels,” the Afghan Supreme Court had decreed on Feb. 26, 2001 that “all statues must be annihilated so that no one can worship or respect them in the future.” The edict had prompted countless protests from numerous heads of state, the International Council of Monuments and Sites, and Unesco, whose director-general at the time, Koïchiro Matsuura, had written a personal letter to Taliban leader Mullah Omar just two days later. Fatwas condemning the Taliban’s order had also been issued by Muslim religious leaders in Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan, but the appeals had all been in vain. In early March, Taliban militiamen used dynamite, antiaircraft guns and antitank mines to bring the 1,400-year-old masterpieces crashing to the valley floor.

In one of humanity’s most notorious cases of art vandalism, the 125-foot-tall Eastern Buddha (“Shamama,” or Queen Mother, carved between 544 and 595) and the 181-foot Western Buddha (“Salsal,” or light shines through the universe, carved between 591 and 644), were decimated along with sections of the niches that enclosed them. Numerous other religious relics were destroyed throughout Afghanistan at the same time. More:

Aid to Pakistan: Advocacy or analysis?

Anjum Altaf at the South Asian Idea weblog:

Beyond Bullets and Bombs is the title of the latest report on aid to Pakistan from the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC. In light of the increasingly anti-Pakistan sentiment in the U.S., the report, addressed to decision and policy makers in Washington, takes on the brief to make the best possible case for the continuation of aid. Hence the subtitle: Fixing the U.S. Approach to Development in Pakistan. The report is a revealing illustration of advocacy over analysis; a more open examination would have begun by questioning the impacts of U.S. aid to Pakistan, before deciding if the total benefits of “fixing” it exceeded the total cost to both sides.

It is to the report’s credit that it is forthright and includes all the relevant pieces of information, but the way it uses that information is determined by the choice it makes. What is highlighted or slighted is entirely a function of the case that is to be advocated, and all the evidence in the report could be interpreted quite differently in order to support quite different conclusions.

The point of departure, based on a review of the history of development assistance to Pakistan, is an uncontested matter of fact: “Since 1960, all OECD and multilateral creditors have given an inflation-adjusted total of over $100 billion in development assistance to Pakistan.” The report goes on to note that there is precious little to show for this assistance, mentions all the problems of the moment, and concludes: “None of these problems—in the power, education, and water sectors, or on the fiscal front—will be resolved unless Pakistan’s political institutions and leaders can tackle them head on.” More:

Who killed Pakistani journalist?

A well-known Pakistani journalist who recently wrote an article about al-Qaeda infiltration in Pakistan’s Navy has been found dead. Saleem Shahzad was abducted over the weekend in an upscale neighborhood in Islamabad. His body was found in a canal in Mandi Baha Uddin in Pakistan’s northern Gujarat district.

After his disappearance, the Human Rights Watch alleged that Shahzad had been picked up by the ISI and that the intelligence agency had threatened him last year as well when he had reported on the quiet release of Mullah Baradar, an aide to Mullah Omar, who had been captured by Pakistan earlier. More in Dawn and in The News.

Click here to read his article in Asia Times Online: Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike

Is the ISI involved? In Time: While the ISI was said to have bristled at previous reports by Shahzad, his disappearance happened two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online that said that al-Qaeda had attacked a naval base in the port city of Karachi on May 22 after talks had broken down between the Pakistan navy and the global terrorist organization.

The hawks of South Asia: in Foreign Policy

The loud silence from Al Qaeda

Scott Shane in The New York Times:

Washington: When Al Qaeda’s online propaganda arm sought to rally supporters this week after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it did not hint that the network had a major terrorist plot in the works. Instead, it proposed do-it-yourself terrorism, urging militants around the world to come up with their own attacks, however modest.

“We say to every mujahid Muslim, if there is an opportunity, do not waste it,” said the statement Monday from Al Fajr Media Center, the terror network’s online voice. “Do not consult anyone about killing Americans or destroying their economy.”

The message praised Bin Laden for his “long-term planning and vision,” but proposed exactly the opposite: “We also incite you to carry out acts of individual terrorism with significant results, which only require basic preparation.”

The message implicitly acknowledged that the demise of Al Qaeda’s founder leaves its core in a weakened position. Even before Bin Laden’s death, the rise of affiliates, notably Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, had shifted attention and energy away from the parent organization in Pakistan.

Now, with a handful of flawed or little-known candidates ready to succeed Bin Laden, but no one with his status and charisma, the future of the network’s old hub is uncertain. Some American intelligence analysts believe that the fact that more than 10 days have passed without the announcement of a successor could be a sign of a power struggle. More:

The curious case of Osama bin Laden

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Express Tribune:

Pervez Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad

Osama bin Laden, the figurehead king of al Qaeda, is gone. His hosts are still rubbing their eyes and wondering how it all happened. Although scooped up from Pakistani soil, shot in the head and then buried at sea, the event was not announced by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani or by President Asif Ali Zardari. Instead, it was the president of the United States of America who told the world that bin Laden’s body was in the custody of US forces.

Suggestions that Pakistan played a significant role ring hollow. President Obama, in his televised speech on May 1, said “our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden”. But no sooner had he stopped speaking that his top national security aides declared that the United States had not told Pakistani leaders about the raid ahead of time. Significantly, Obama did not thank Pakistan. An American official pointedly declared that the information leading to bin Laden’s killing was shared “with no other country” and this top secret operation was such that “only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance”.

Today, Pakistan’s embarrassment is deep. On numerous occasions, our military and civilian leaders had emphatically stated that bin Laden was not in Pakistan. Some suggested that he might be in Sudan or Somalia. Others hinted that he might already have died from a kidney ailment, or perhaps that he was in some intractable area, protected by nature and terrain and thus outside the effective control of the Pakistani state. More:

How Obama lost Karzai

Ahmed Rashid in Foreign Policy:

A few weeks before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an exiled Afghan leader I had known for nearly 20 years paid a visit to my home in Lahore. His name was Hamid Karzai, and his problem, he told me, was that he was rapidly losing faith in the West’s concern for his country.

Karzai was the scion of a prominent Pashtun family in southern Afghanistan, one with a deep-rooted enmity for the Taliban regime. The Taliban, which had ruled the country since 1996, had gunned down Karzai’s father in front of a mosque in the Pakistani city of Quetta two years earlier. Now the younger Karzai was clandestinely sending money and weapons across the Afghan border for an eventual uprising against the ruling regime. But he had just been served notice by Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) that his visa had been revoked — the Taliban, with its close links to the Pakistani intelligence agency, had urged the ISI to get rid of him. Karzai was making the rounds of Western embassies in Islamabad to ask whether anyone would support him if he went inside the country and raised the standard of rebellion. But nobody offered to help. Several ambassadors refused to see him.

By the time U.S. bombers pounded the last remnants of the Taliban out of Kabul just a few months later, everything had changed. Karzai had gone from pariah to president and, in the eyes of the U.S. government, from combatant in an obscure regional conflict to vital strategic partner. Yet when I met with Karzai not long ago at the presidential palace in Kabul for a lengthy conversation, one of many in the decade since our pre-9/11 meeting in Lahore, it was remarkable how much his relationship with the United States seemed to have come full circle. More:

Angelina Jolie visits refugees in Afghanistan

From The Daily Mail:

She was noticeably absent from the Oscars this year.

But is seems that Angelina Jolie was preparing for more pressing engagements at hand.

The actress has once again proved her dedication to charitable causes by travelling to the Middle East for humanitarian efforts.

Today the 35-year-old was in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of her work as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for refugees. more:

A look at the world’s most notorious terrorist

Osama Bin Laden by Michael Scheuer. Oxford University Press, paperback. 278pp. Available from Amazon, US$13.00. Reviewed at Asia Sentinel:

With the secular, pro-Western government in Tunis having fallen and the regime in Cairo then followed suit, the timing of Michael Scheuer’s new biography of Osama bin Laden may seem a little off.

For where have the Islamists been in all this, let alone jihadis of any stripe? People power appears to have succeeded where al-Qaeda’s murderous violence has not. But Scheuer, the first head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996-99, thinks that the object of his scrutiny will be delighted.

“It’s always been one of his primary goals to get rid of those who he sees as oppressors and apostates and dominate the region,” Scheuer said recently while publicizing his book. “I’m sure this is very welcome news for him.”

It is far too soon to tell what role Islamist groups will play in the wave of change in the Middle East. Scheuer, however, would warn against taking their current absence from the stage as a reason to regard al-Qaeda not only as “an organisation of thugs led by a sociopath” who have “dwindled to a few” but now also as marginal extremists who have been overtaken by history. More:

Opium wars

A key step to securing peace will be to wean Afghan farmers off growing poppies. Robert Draper in National Geographic Magazine:

The chief of police has a memorable way of demonstrating that he’s not afraid of the drug smugglers. He holds up his right hand, revealing the absence of his middle finger. Four years ago, Brig. Gen. Aqa Noor Kintuz was hired as provincial chief of police in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan and charged with destroying its plentiful poppy fields. “After I finished one of the first eradications,” he says, “my vehicle was blown up by a remote-control bomb.” He rolls up his right shirtsleeve. His forearm is badly mangled. In the years since, he has received innumerable death threats. Women and children of poppy farmers have hurled stones at his policemen. One of his eradication tractors was torched.

The grim axiom defining today’s Afghanistan, 85 percent of whose citizens are farmers, is that its economy relies on two dueling revenue streams. One flows from Western aid, in the hopes that the country will renounce the Taliban. The other flows from opium trafficking supported by the Taliban, which use the proceeds to fund attacks on Western troops. Only recently has the Afghan government seemed to take stock of the obvious: For the outside world’s largesse to continue, the national economy’s addiction to opium must end. The poppy fields must be destroyed. But just as this devoutly Muslim nation did not become the world’s leading opium supplier overnight, uprooting Afghanistan’s poppy mind-set promises to be a complicated endeavor.

In Badakhshan, chief of police Kintuz appears to be making some headway against poppies. Five years ago the province was Afghanistan’s second-biggest opium producer, after the Taliban-controlled province of Helmand. For a brief period after a Taliban ban on poppies in 2000, Badakhshan even took the lead in poppy cultivation, because the province was controlled by the Northern Alliance militias, rather than the Taliban. When Kintuz started his job in 2007, 9,000 acres were planted with poppies. Two years later fewer than 1,500 were. More:

What should be done in Afghanistan

Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan, in The Express Tribune:

The first blunder was the abandonment of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the US in 1989. The chaos that followed for the entire decade of the 90s gave birth to al Qaeda and later the Taliban.

The second was the non-recognition of the Taliban government which ruled 90 per cent of Afghanistan after 1997. My idea of the entire world recognising the Taliban government and opening diplomatic missions in Kabul which would be managed from within, was not paid any heed to. Had it been done, maybe we could have saved the Bamiyan Buddha statues and even untangled the Osama bin Laden dispute.

The third blunder was committed after 9/11 when the Taliban, who were all Pashtuns, were defeated with the help of the Northern Alliance composed of three minority ethnic groups (Uzbeks, Hazaras and Tajiks). The Taliban and al Qaeda were dispersed and they ran into the mountains and the cities of Pakistan. Their organisational and command structure was totally dismantled. The military achieved its objective of getting into a dominant position. The logical course of action after this was to change strategy and place a legitimate government in Afghanistan, This implies a government dominated by the Pashtun majority (half of the Afghan population), because historically nobody other than Pashtuns have governed Afghanistan. Not doing this and persisting with a government dominated by a Tajik minority, still in place, was and still is a great blunder. More:

Richard C. Holbrooke, Obama’s Af-Pak envoy, is dead

From The New York Times:

One of his main tasks was to press President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to take responsibility for security in his country and to confront the corruption that imperils the American mission there. At times, Mr. Karzai refused to see him, but Mr. Holbrooke was undeterred.

“He’s an enormously tough customer,” Mr. Holbrooke said during one of the periodic breakfasts he had with reporters who covered his diplomatic exploits. “As you’ve heard,” he added with a smile, “so am I.”

He helped his boss, Mrs. Clinton, whom he had supported in her presidential bid, to persuade President Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan, while pressing for more aid and development projects to improve the United States’ image there. But he died before anyone knew if the experiment would succeed.

A brilliant, sometimes abrasive infighter, he used a formidable arsenal of facts, bluffs, whispers, implied threats and, when necessary, pyrotechnic fits of anger to press his positions. Mr. Obama, who praised Mr. Holbrooke on Monday afternoon at the State Department as “simply one of the giants of American foreign policy,” was sometimes driven to distraction by his lectures. More:

WikiLeaks: Diplomatic cables highlight US-Pakistan differences

Jane Perlez, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt in The New York Times:

Islamabad: Less than a month after President Obama testily assured reporters in 2009 that Pakistan’s nuclear materials “will remain out of militant hands,” his ambassador here sent a secret message to Washington suggesting that she remained deeply worried.

The ambassador’s concern was a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, sitting for years near an aging research nuclear reactor in Pakistan. There was enough to build several “dirty bombs” or, in skilled hands, possibly enough for an actual nuclear bomb.

In the cable, dated May 27, 2009, the ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, reported that the Pakistani government was yet again dragging its feet on an agreement reached two years earlier to have the United States remove the material.

She wrote to senior American officials that the Pakistani government had concluded that “the ‘sensational’ international and local media coverage of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons made it impossible to proceed at this time.” A senior Pakistani official, she said, warned that if word leaked out that Americans were helping remove the fuel, the local press would certainly “portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”

The fuel is still there. More:

And read The Indian Express: Washington, we have a problem

Pakistan’s drones

Pervez Hoodbhoy at Viewpoint:

Pervez Hoodbhoy Pakistan has many more drones than America . These are mullah-trained and mass-produced in madrassas and militant training camps. Their handlers are in Waziristan, not in Nevada . Like their aerial counterparts, they do not ask why they must kill. However, their targets lie among their own people, not in some distant country. Collateral damage does not matter.

The human drone is infinitely better manufactured than its aerial counterpart. The motor, feedback, and control systems have been engineered to high precision by natural evolution over a million years. This drone never misses its target, which could be a mosque, Muslim shrine, hospital, funeral, or market. But military and intelligence headquarters have been targeted with deadly precision as well.

The walking (or driving) drone’s trail is far bloodier than that of the MQ-1B or MQ-9; body parts lie scattered across Pakistan . Detection is almost impossible. The destructive power has steadily increased. The earlier version had a simple bomb strapped on the back but the newer one carries plastic explosives packed into vests both on the front and back of the chest. For additional killing power, the explosives are surrounded with ball bearings and nails. This killing machine is far cheaper than anything General Dynamics can make. Part payment is made by monthly installments to the family, and the rest is in hoor-credits, encashable in janat-al-firdous.

What must be the last thoughts of the bomber as he sits in the eight row of mosque worshippers, moments before he reduces dozens of his fellow Muslims to bloodied corpses? Can he think beyond instrumental terms? As a murder weapon, the human drone has no room for moral judgment, doubt, remorse, or conscience. More:

A new Cold War in Asia?

Pankaj Mishra at NYR Blog:

Is Asia about to enter a new cold war? Accusing the United States of undervaluing the dollar, China has, after its mainly “peaceful” rise, recently assumed an aggressive posture toward its neighbors. In recent visits both to longstanding American allies (Korea, Japan) and to erstwhile enemies (Vietnam, Cambodia), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has proposed the US as a counterpoint to China. Seeking to match the Bush administration’s landmark nuclear agreement with India in 2005, Barack Obama is also supporting India’s case for permanent membership on the UN Security Council.

The columnist Thomas Friedman interprets such moves as “containment-lite,” invoking George Kennan’s proposal in 1947 that Soviet expansionism “be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” Apparently, such counter-force against China is already being applied. An Indonesian political scientist told the New York Times last week that his government feels the US is putting “too much pressure” on Indonesia and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “to choose sides.”

Battered by the midterm elections, and aware of America’s diminished economic clout, Obama himself has been more circumspect in his pronouncements. The US, he said in Indonesia last week, is “not interested in containing China.” But many politicians, journalists, and strategists seem excited by the prospect of a dramatic new standoff, especially as the “war on terror” and the “struggle against Islamofascism”—campaigns deeply shaped by nostalgia for the cold war’s ideological certainties—enter an uncertain phase. More:

Afghan war hero is put down by mistake

Julius Cavendish in Kabul. In The Independent:

Target, a tawny-coloured mongrel bitch, defied an Afghan suicide bomber, gunshot wounds and an attempted hit-and-run, but fate finally caught up with her in middle America, where an animal control agent put her to sleep in a heartbreaking case of mistaken identity.

US soldiers serving in Afghanistan rescued the dog after she alerted them to an attack in February, by barking at a suicide bomber about to blow them up with 25 pounds of explosives. From that day on Target was treated like royalty by US soldiers in Dand Patan, near the Pakistan border. Five soldiers were slightly injured in the attack and it was suggested at the time that the bombing could have killed as many as 50 troops without Target’s intervention.

Sergeant Terry Young – one of the soldiers whose lives she saved – took the two-year-old German Shepherd cross home with him after he finished his tour of duty earlier this year. She was feted as a war hero and even appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. More: