Tag Archive for 'US and Pakistan'

The Pakistanis have a point

Bill Keller examines the relationship between the United States and Pakistan in The New York Times’s Sunday Magazine.

As an American visitor in the power precincts of Pakistan, from the gated enclaves of Islamabad to the manicured lawns of the military garrison in Peshawar, from the luxury fortress of the Serena Hotel to the exclusive apartments of the parliamentary housing blocks, you can expect three time-honored traditions: black tea with milk, obsequious servants and a profound sense of grievance.

Talk to Pakistani politicians, scholars, generals, businessmen, spies and journalists — as I did in October — and before long, you are beyond the realm of politics and diplomacy and into the realm of hurt feelings. Words like “ditch” and “jilt” and “betray” recur. With Americans, they complain, it’s never a commitment, it’s always a transaction. This theme is played to the hilt, for effect, but it is also heartfelt.

“The thing about us,” a Pakistani official told me, “is that we are half emotional and half irrational.”

For a relationship that has oscillated for decades between collaboration and breakdown, this has been an extraordinarily bad year, at an especially inconvenient time. As America settles onto the long path toward withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan has considerable power to determine whether the end of our longest war is seen as a plausible success or a calamitous failure.

There are, of course, other reasons that Pakistan deserves our attention. It has a fast-growing population approaching 190 million, and it hosts a loose conglomerate of terrorist franchises that offer young Pakistanis employment and purpose unavailable in the suffering feudal economy. It has 100-plus nuclear weapons (Americans who monitor the program don’t know the exact number or the exact location) and a tense, heavily armed border with nuclear India. And its president, Asif Ali Zardari, oversees a ruinous kleptocracy that is spiraling deeper into economic crisis. 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:

Pakistan’s “Memogate”

From Foreign Policy:

Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani has become embroiled in a political scandal in Islamabad and offered his resignation today to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, as Adm. Michael Mullen exclusively confirmed to The Cable the existence of a secret memo that the former Joint Chiefs chairman had earlier not recollected receiving.

Haqqani, who has long been a key link between the civilian government in Pakistan and the Obama administration, has also been battling for years with the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s chief spy agency — two organizations whose influence in Washington he has fought to weaken. That battle came to the fore of Pakistani politics this month due to the growing scandal known in Pakistan as “memo-gate,” which relates to a secret backchannel memo that was allegedly conveyed from Zardari to Mullen, through Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz. More:

The memo is authentic: The Cable confirmed that the memo is authentic and that it was received by Mullen. The Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani — the rumored author of the memo — has offered to resign over what has become a full-fledged scandal in Islamabad. The Cable spoke this evening to the man at the center of the controversy and the conduit of the memo, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.

The silver lining: The Mansoor Ijaz “memogate” scandal — in which a Pakistani-American businessman claims to have secretly conveyed the elected government’s plea for U.S. backing against his country’s own military — is sparking debate about everyone’s favorite Pakistan bugaboos: secrecy and backstabbing, coups and the invisible hand. It’s a long and resplendent tradition now; the hackneyed and voluble moral outrage are predictable. Like controversies past, this too will be seen from two extreme angles: a product of a plot hatched by intelligence agencies and their hypernationalist enablers, or of the turpitude of civilian politicians and their ultraliberal enablers.

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

Why they get Pakistan wrong

In the New York Review of Books, Mohsin Hamid reviews

The Scorpion’s Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan—and How It Threatens America by Zahid Hussain (Free Press, 244 pp., $25.00)

Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven (PublicAffairs, 558 pp., $35.00)

The past decade has been devastating for Pakistan. The country’s annual death toll from terrorist attacks rose from 164 in 2003 to 3,318 in 2009, a level exceeding the number of Americans killed on September 11. Some 35,000 Pakistanis, including 3,500 members of security forces, have died in terror and counterterror violence. Millions more have been displaced by fighting. It is difficult to convey how profoundly the country has been wounded. In 1989, my Lahore American School classmates and I (including children from Pakistan, America, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and Korea) were able to go to the beautiful valley of Swat by bus for a weeklong field trip with no security arrangements whatsoever. In 2009, the battle to retake Swat from Taliban militants involved two full divisions of the Pakistani army and hundreds of casualties among Pakistani soldiers. (Similarly, until a few years ago, there had never been a suicide bombing in Lahore. Now one occurs every three or four months.) The Pakistani government puts direct and indirect economic losses from terrorism over the last ten years at $68 billion.

Of the $20.7 billion in US funding allocated to Pakistan from 2002 to 2010, $14.2 billion was for the Pakistani military. On paper, economic assistance came to $6.5 billion, less than a third of the total. In reality the civilian share was even smaller, probably less than a quarter, for the $6.5 billion figure reflects “commitments” (amounts budgeted by the US), not “disbursements” (amounts actually given to Pakistan). The United States Government Accountability Office reports that only 12 percent of the $1.5 billion in economic assistance to Pakistan authorized for 2010 was actually disbursed that year. Independent calculations by the Center for Global Development suggest that $2.2 billion of civilian aid budgeted for Pakistan is currently undisbursed, meaning that total economic assistance actually received from the US over the past nine years is in the vicinity of $4.3 billion, or $480 million per year. (By comparison, Pakistanis abroad remit $11 billion to their families in Pakistan annually, over twenty times the flow of US economic aid.)

Pakistan is a large country, with a population of 180 million and a GDP of $175 billion. Average annual US economic assistance comes to less than 0.3 percent of Pakistan’s current GDP, or $2.67 per Pakistani citizen. Here in Lahore, that’s the price of a six-inch personal-size pizza with no extra toppings from Pizza Hut. More:

After 9/11, hate begat hate

Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and the author of “Taliban” and “Descent into Chaos”, in The New York Times:

In their shock after Sept. 11, 2001, Americans frequently asked, “Why do they hate us so much?” It wasn’t clear just who “they” were — Muslims, Arabs or simply anyone who was not American. The easy answer that many Americans found comforting was equally vague: that “they” were jealous of America’s wealth, opportunities, democracy and what have you.

But in this part of the world — in Pakistan, where I live, and in Afghanistan next door, from which the Sept. 11 attacks were directed — those who detested America were much more identifiable, and so were their reasons. They were a small group of Islamic extremists who supported Al Qaeda; a larger group of students studying at madrasas, which had expanded rapidly since the 1980s; and young militants who had been empowered by years of support from Pakistan’s military intelligence services to fight against India in Kashmir. They were a tiny minority of Pakistan’s 150 million people at the time. In their eyes, America was an imperial, oppressive, heathen power just like the Soviet Union, which they had defeated in Afghanistan.

Now, with the United States about to enter the 11th year of the longest war it has ever fought, far more of my neighbors in Pakistan have joined the list of America’s detractors. The wave of anti-Americanism is rising in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, even among many who once admired the United States, and the short reason for that is plain: the common resentment is that American plans to bring peace and development to Afghanistan have failed, the killing is still going on, and to excuse their failures Americans have now expanded the war into Pakistan, evoking what they did in the 1960s when the Vietnam war moved into Laos and Cambodia. Moreover, while Pakistanis die for an American war, Washington has given favored deals to Pakistan’s archenemy, India. So goes the argument.

The more belligerent detractors of America will tell you that Americans are imperialists who hate Islam, and that Americans’ so-called civilizing instincts have nothing to do with democracy or human rights. A more politically attuned attitude is that the detractor doesn’t hate Americans, just the policies that American leaders pursue.

But both groups feel trapped: Afghanistan is still caught up in war, and my country is on the brink of meltdown. And so now there is something beyond just disliking America. We have begun to ask the question of 9/11 in reverse: why do Americans hate us so much ? 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.

U.S. Admiral ties Pakistan to killing of journalist

Elisabeth Bumiller in NYT:

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that he believed that the government of Pakistan had “sanctioned” the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about the infiltration of Islamic militants into the country’s security services.

Admiral Mullen, who is due to retire at the end of September, is the first American official to publicly accuse Pakistan, an American ally, of the kidnapping, torture and death of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40. His comments about a case that has intensified criticism of the government in Islamabad are certain to further aggravate the poisoned relationship between the United States and Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed in an American raid in May.

Admiral Mullen said he could not specifically tie Mr. Shahzad’s death to Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, known as the ISI, although Obama administration officials believe that the ISI ordered the killing. But Admiral Mullen made clear that he thought Pakistani officials were complicit in Mr. Shahzad’s death.

“It was sanctioned by the government,” Admiral Mullen told journalists during a Pentagon briefing. “I have not seen anything to disabuse the report that the government knew about this.” More:

Also in NYT:

Pakistani Army linked, in letter, to nuclear sale

The emergence of a single-page letter supposedly written by a senior North Korean official 13 years ago has become the strongest evidence yet suggesting that Pakistan’s top military officials were involved in a secret sale of equipment to North Korea that enabled it, years later, to begin enriching uranium.

The letter is said to have been written to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani who built the world’s largest black market in nuclear weapons technology, by Jon Byong Ho, a North Korean whom American intelligence has long put at the center of the North’s trade in missile and nuclear technologies. It reports that the chief of the Pakistani Army at the time, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, had been paid $3 million and asked that “the agreed documents, components, etc.” be placed on a North Korean plane that was returning to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, after delivering missile parts to Pakistan. More:

The double game: The unintended consequences of American funding in Pakistan

Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker:

It’s the end of the Second World War, and the United States is deciding what to do about two immense, poor, densely populated countries in Asia. America chooses one of the countries, becoming its benefactor. Over the decades, it pours billions of dollars into that country’s economy, training and equipping its military and its intelligence services. The stated goal is to create a reliable ally with strong institutions and a modern, vigorous democracy. The other country, meanwhile, is spurned because it forges alliances with America’s enemies.

The country not chosen was India, which “tilted” toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pakistan became America’s protégé, firmly supporting its fight to contain Communism. The benefits that Pakistan accrued from this relationship were quickly apparent: in the nineteen-sixties, its economy was an exemplar. India, by contrast, was a byword for basket case. Fifty years then went by. What was the result of this social experiment?

India has become the state that we tried to create in Pakistan. It is a rising economic star, militarily powerful and democratic, and it shares American interests. Pakistan, however, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state. And, despite Pakistani avowals to the contrary, America’s worst enemy, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there for years—in strikingly comfortable circumstances—before U.S. commandos finally tracked him down and killed him, on May 2nd.

American aid is hardly the only factor that led these two countries to such disparate outcomes. But, at this pivotal moment, it would be a mistake not to examine the degree to which U.S. dollars have undermined our strategic relationship with Pakistan—and created monstrous contradictions within Pakistan itself. 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:

The double game

Lawrence Wright, author of Looming Tower, on the unintended consequences of American funding in Pakistan. In the New Yorker:

It’s the end of the Second World War, and the United States is deciding what to do about two immense, poor, densely populated countries in Asia. America chooses one of the countries, becoming its benefactor. Over the decades, it pours billions of dollars into that country’s economy, training and equipping its military and its intelligence services. The stated goal is to create a reliable ally with strong institutions and a modern, vigorous democracy. The other country, meanwhile, is spurned because it forges alliances with America’s enemies.

The country not chosen was India, which “tilted” toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pakistan became America’s protégé, firmly supporting its fight to contain Communism. The benefits that Pakistan accrued from this relationship were quickly apparent: in the nineteen-sixties, its economy was an exemplar. India, by contrast, was a byword for basket case. Fifty years then went by. What was the result of this social experiment?

India has become the state that we tried to create in Pakistan. It is a rising economic star, militarily powerful and democratic, and it shares American interests. Pakistan, however, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state. And, despite Pakistani avowals to the contrary, America’s worst enemy, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there for years—in strikingly comfortable circumstances—before U.S. commandos finally tracked him down and killed him, on May 2nd.

American aid is hardly the only factor that led these two countries to such disparate outcomes. But, at this pivotal moment, it would be a mistake not to examine the degree to which U.S. dollars have undermined our strategic relationship with Pakistan—and created monstrous contradictions within Pakistan itself. More:

 

Sesame Street comes to Pakistan

US government aid agency sponsors $20m Pakistani remake of the American kids’ TV show. In The Guardian:

There’s no Cookie Monster, no Big Bird and no Count von Count.

But Pakistani children will soon start experiencing what millions in the west have done for more than four decades – the joys of Sesame Street.

In a $20m (£12m) remake of the classic American children’s programme, the setting for the show has moved from the streets of New York to a lively village in Pakistan with a roadside tea and snacks stall, known as a dhaba, some fancy houses with overhanging balconies along with simple dwellings, and residents hanging out on their verandas.

The Pakistani version, in which characters will speak mostly in Urdu, will feature Rani, a cute six-year-old Muppet, the child of a peasant farmer, with pigtails, flowers in her hair and a smart blue-and-white school uniform. Her curiosity and questions about the world will, it is hoped, make her a role model for Pakistani children. More:

Post-uprisings depression

In The Economist, a review of Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven (PublicAffairs; 558 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £30) and Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad by Bruce Riedel (Brookings Institution Press; 180 pages; $24.95):

IT IS a shame that these books should be published at a time when the world is riveted by events in the Middle East. Pakistan’s population is more than half the size of the entire Arab world; for most of the past three decades it has been involved in a war with a superpower, first against it, and now on the same side as it; it suffers from an Islamic insurgency that has killed 30,000 people over the past four years; it is regarded by students of geopolitics as the most likely location of nuclear conflict; and the reasons why it does not work as a country are many and fascinating.

The trouble with Pakistan’s story is that the country is one rather depressing stage on from the Middle East. Its people have risen up bravely against autocrats (three times over, if you count only the generals, or four if, like some Pakistanis, you count Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as well) and had several unsuccessful attempts at democracy. So it ricochets between military and civilian governments, with a state that does not work very well but has not collapsed, and an insurgency that is not turning into a civil war but won’t go away. Unlike the Middle East, it is not full of hope.

Yet for drama, colour and complexity, the place is hard to beat; and Anatol Lieven captures the richness of the place wonderfully. His book has the virtues of both journalism and scholarship—not surprising, since Mr Lieven used to be a reporter for the Times and is now at King’s College, London. He has travelled extensively and talked widely, to generals, shopkeepers, farmers, lawyers and bureaucrats. More:

A CIA spy, a hail of bullets, three killed and a US-Pakistan diplomatic row

Declan Walsh from Lahore in The Guardian:

On 27 January, Raymond Davis, a bulky 36-year-old CIA agent with a shock of grey hair, was winding through the chaotic Lahore traffic when he stopped at a red light. A motorbike carrying two men, coming from the opposite direction, swerved in front of his Honda Civic. The pillion passenger was carrying a gun. Davis, a former special forces soldier, whipped out his 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol and, still behind the wheel, opened fire. Five shots sliced through the windscreen. Muhammad Faheem, a 19-year-old street criminal, fell dead.

Davis got out of the car and took aim at the motorbike driver, Faizan Haider, who had started running. Another five shots rang out and Haider fell to the ground, having run 30ft; a postmortem indicated he was hit three times in the front and twice in the back.

Davis walked back to his car, called for help on a military-style radio, then started to photograph the dead men. Anwar Khan watched from his restaurant across the street, amazed at the American’s sang-froid. “He was very peaceful and confident. I was wondering how he could be like that after killing two people,” he said.

The American rescue squad consisted of a Toyota Land Cruiser, probably manned by fellow CIA agents, that careened through the streets towards Davis. Nearing Mozang Chowk, where the shooting took place, the driver saw the road jammed with onlookers and traffic so he ramped the vehicle over the central reservation and continued at speed against the flow of vehicles. He hit and killed a cosmetics trader riding his motorcycle, Ibad ur Rehman, then pressed on. But Davis was gone.

Apparently panicked by a crowd, the CIA agent had already taken off towards central Lahore, ignoring police who tried to wave him down. At Mozang Chowk, a warden tried to stop the Land Cruiser. Witnesses later told police that one American swung open his door, brandished a rifle and threatened to fire on anyone who got in his way. The Toyota retreated to the US consulate, jettisoning a number of items along the way including 100 bullets, knives, gloves, a blindfold and, oddly, a piece of cloth with an American flag. 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

Mumbai: The plot unfolds, Lashkar strikes and investigators scramble

"After killing 10 people at the historic Leopold Cafe, a second assault team joined the two gunmen at the Taj. "

This is the second part of ProPublica‘s investigation into the plot behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Read the first part. By Sebastian Rotella:

David Coleman Headley seemed like a gregarious, high-rolling American businessman when he set up shop in Mumbai in September 2006.

He opened the office of an immigration consulting firm. He partied at swank locales such as the ornate Taj Mahal Hotel, a 1903 landmark favored by Westerners and the Indian elite. He joined an upscale gym, where he befriended a Bollywood actor. He roamed the booming, squalid city taking photos and shooting video.

But it was all a front. The tall, fast-talking Pakistani American with the slicked-back hair was a fierce extremist, a former drug dealer, a onetime Drug Enforcement Administration informant who became a double agent. He had spent three years refining his clandestine skills in the terrorist training camps of the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group. As Headley confessed in a guilty plea in U.S. federal court this year, he was in Mumbai to begin undercover reconnaissance for a sophisticated attack that would take two years to plan.

In 2006, U.S. counterterrorism agencies still viewed Lashkar primarily as a threat to India. But Headley’s mentor, Sajid Mir, had widened his sights to Western targets years earlier. Mir, a mysterious Lashkar chief with close ties to Pakistani security forces, had deployed operatives who had completed missions and attempted plots in Virginia, Europe and Australia before being captured, according to investigators and court documents.

Now Mir’s experience in international operations and his skills as a handler of Western recruits were about to pay off. Lashkar had chosen him as project manager of its most ambitious, highly choreographed strike to date. More:

FBI was warned years in advance of Mumbai attacker’s terror ties

Newly discovered warnings about Headley reveal a troubling timeline in Mumbai case

The man behind Mumbai

This is an investigation by ProPublica, an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in public interest. The report exposes the conspiracy behind the terror attacks on Mumbai. This is the first of two parts. By Sebastian Rotella

On a November night two years ago, a young American rabbi and his pregnant wife finished dinner at their home in the mega-city of Mumbai.

Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg had come to India on a religious mission. They had established India’s first outpost of Chabad Lubavitch, the Orthodox Jewish organization, in a six-story tower overlooking a shantytown. The Holtzbergs’ guests that evening were two American rabbis, an Israeli grandmother and a Mexican tourist.

Hundreds of miles away in Pakistan, a terrorist chief named Sajid Mir was preparing a different sort of religious mission. Mir had spent two years using a Pakistani-American operative named David Coleman Headley to conduct meticulous reconnaissance on Mumbai, according to investigators and court documents. He had selected iconic targets and the Chabad House, a seemingly obscure choice, but one that ensured that Jews and Americans would be casualties.

On Nov. 26, 2008, Mir sat among militant chiefs in a Pakistani safe house tracking an attack team as its dinghy approached the Mumbai waterfront. The Lashkar-i-Taiba terrorist group had made Mir the project manager of its biggest strike ever, the crowning achievement of his career as a holy warrior.

The 10 gunmen split into five teams. His voice crisp and steady, Mir directed the slaughter by phone, relaying detailed instructions to his fighters. About 10:25 p.m., gunmen stormed the Chabad House. They shot the Holtzbergs and the visiting rabbis, took the Israeli grandmother and Mexican tourist hostage and barricaded themselves on an upper floor.

Mir told his men to try to trade the hostages for a gunman who had been captured. Mir spoke directly to the Mexican hostage, 50-year-old Norma Rabinovich, who had been preparing to move to Israel to join her adult children.

Mir soothed the sobbing woman in accented but smooth English.

“Save your energy for good days,” Mir told her during the call intercepted by Indian intelligence. “If they contact right now, maybe you gonna, you know, celebrate your Sabbath with your family.”

The prisoner swap failed. Mir ordered the gunman to “get rid” of Rabinovich.

“Stand her up on this side of your door,” he said. “Shoot her such that the bullet goes right through her head and out the other side . . . Do it. I’m listening. . . . Do it, in God’s name.” More:

1962: Jackie Kennedy in Pakistan

Via All Things Pakistan: In 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy – the then Frist Lady of America – visited Pakistan. Her trip was widely documented and photographed and now a color video of the visit is also circulating on the internet.

Faisal Shahzad’s anti-Americanism

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:

As anti-US lava spews from the fiery volcanoes of Pakistan’s private television channels and newspapers, a collective psychosis grips the country’s youth. Murderous intent follows with the conviction that the US is responsible for all ills, both in Pakistan and the world of Islam.

Faisal Shahzad, with designer sunglasses and an MBA degree from the University of Bridgeport, acquired that murderous intent. Living his formative years in Pakistan, he typifies the young Pakistani who grew up in the shadow of Ziaul Haq’s hate-based education curriculum. The son of a retired air vice-marshal, life was easy as was getting US citizenship subsequently. But at some point the toxic schooling and media tutoring must have kicked in.

There was guilt as he saw pictures of Gaza’s dead children and related them to US support for Israel. Internet browsing or, perhaps, the local mosque steered him towards the idea of an Islamic caliphate. This solution to the world’s problems would require, of course, the US to be destroyed. Hence Shahzad’s self-confessed trip to Waziristan.

Ideas considered extreme a decade ago are now mainstream. A private survey carried out by a European embassy based in Islamabad found that only four per cent of Pakistanis polled speak well of America; 96 per cent against. More:

South Asia off the table in nuclear arms talks

From the International Herald Tribune:

Washington: Three months ago, American intelligence officials examining satellite photographs of Pakistani nuclear facilities saw the first wisps of steam from the cooling towers of a new nuclear reactor. It was one of three plants being constructed to make fuel for a second generation of nuclear arms.

The message of those photos was clear: While Pakistan struggles to make sure its weapons and nuclear labs are not vulnerable to attack by Al Qaeda, the country is getting ready to greatly expand its production of weapons-grade fuel.

The Pakistanis insist that they have no choice. A nuclear deal that India signed with the United States during the Bush administration ended a long moratorium on providing India with the fuel and technology for desperately needed nuclear power plants.

Now, as critics of the arrangement point out, the agreement frees up older facilities that India can devote to making its own new generation of weapons, escalating one arms race even as President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia sign accords to shrink arsenals built during the cold war. More:

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

World leaders are fast converging on Washington for Barack Obama’s nuclear security summit. Below, from Foreign Policy‘s definitive guide to who they are and what they want:

India

Who’s coming: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

What they want: Help with Pakistan. India is expected to push for greater oversight of loose nuclear material, especially given New Delhi’s constant fear that terrorists could potentially steal some from archrival Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

Pakistan

Who’s coming: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani

What they want: Nuclear cooperation. Pakistan expects considerable U.S. assistance in its fight against Taliban fighters in the country’s restive Northwest Frontier Province. Chief among Pakistani wishes is a U.S.-Pakistani nuclear agreement, similar to the one the U.S. has offered bitter rival India — though the Obama administration seems cold to the idea.

The full list here

Planet Pakistan

Robert M. Hathaway in The Wilson Quarterly. Robert M. Hathaway is the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Program. His most recent book is Powering Pakistan: Meeting Pakistan’s Energy Needs in the 21st Century (2009). [via 3quarksdaily]

An American visitor in Pakistan can’t help thinking at times that he has arrived in a parallel universe. Asked about the presence of Al Qaeda on their country’s soil, Pakistanis deny that there is any evidence of it. They lionize A. Q. Khan, who created the country’s nuclear weapons program and sold essential nuclear technology and knowledge to Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and they are incensed by American worries about the security of their country’s nuclear assets. Suicide bombings and political assassinations are near-daily occurrences, yet many Pakistanis are astonishingly complacent about the murderous groups behind them. They rail instead against the government that is powerless to prevent these attacks and an America that would like nothing better than to see an end to ­them.

Last October, when I visited, Pakistanis were fuming over the U.S. aid package recently approved by Congress. The $7.5 billion Kerry-­Lugar bill tripled American support for Pakistan over a ­five-­year period and reversed the overwhelmingly ­pro­military slant of previous U.S. aid. Instead of going almost entirely to the armed forces, American dollars will flow to schools and clinics, economic development, and efforts to promote the rule of law and democratic governance. Pakistan’s friends in Washington were jubilant. Yet most Pakistanis I spoke with insisted that because the aid came with ­conditions—­the U.S. secretary of state must certify that Pakistan is working to end government support for extremist and terrorist groups, for ­example—­it was an affront and a threat to their country’s sovereignty. One legislator complained that what Pakistan was being asked to accept was less an aid package than a treaty of ­surrender.

Denial is a national habit in Pakistan. With a long history of failed governance and political leaders who put their personal interests first, Pakistanis point their fingers at the United States, their arch-enemy India, or the ­all-­purpose malefactor often described in the local news media as the “hidden hand”—anyone but themselves to explain their nation’s past failings and precarious ­present. More:

An American admiral, a Pakistani general, and the ultimate anti-terror adventure

Michael Crowley in The New Republic (via 3quarksdaily):

On August 26, 2008, Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, touched down for a secret meeting on an aircraft carrier stationed in the Indian Ocean. The topic: Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The summit had been arranged the previous month. Mullen had grown anxious about the rising danger from Pakistan’s tribal areas, which Islamic militants were using as a base from which to strike American troops in Afghanistan and to plot terrorist attacks against the United States. He flew to Islamabad to see the country’s army chief of staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Kayani is Pakistan’s most important general, commanding its 550,000-man army. By some accounts, he is also the ultimate source of power in a militarized society that reveres its generals more than its politicians. Mullen had been blunt with Kayani: The United States needed Pakistan’s army to take on the militants flourishing along the border, he said. The days of Pakistan looking the other way–cutting deals and playing double games with the radicals–had to end.

It was hardly a painless request; the Pakistani military is organized for warfare against its arch-nemesis India, and many of its mid-level officers are sympathetic to the Taliban and, at best, wary of the United States. More:

A merger of interests

Rajmohan Gandhi in the Hindustan Times:

‘Of course, they will kill me,’ one of the subcontinent’s most-influential Muslim leaders told me the other day. “But first they will flog me.” He was speaking of what would await persons like him if violent extremists took over. But the need to survive is compelling many in Pakistan to fight the jihadists.

The stupid talk of an Indian hand behind suicide attacks is not the real story from Pakistan. That Pakistanis as a society are quietly redrawing their list of friends and enemies.

Violent extremists disgracing Pakistan and Islam are now seen as the nation’s enemy number one as well as danger number one. Certainly the United States is not liked, and there is resentment at the pressure on Pakistanis to do more. Pakistanis think that the US and India should understand what Dawn recently called “the limitations of a sub-optimal state fighting a hydra-headed enemy”.

But the violent extremists who blast women, children and the elderly into body pieces that land in mosques and bazaars have firmly displaced the US from its position as the entity Pakistanis most detest. More:

Tete-a-tete with Hillary Clinton

Hassan Abbas interviews US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Do you think there might be some possibility in future that E.U., China, and United States altogether can take an initiative to bring Pakistan and India together and help them resolve their differences. We continuously hear that peace in the Af-Pak region is considered the most critical issue for the global security concerns. A global approach hence can be relevant. Do you think such an international effort can work?

Secretary Clinton: I think it could be a guarantor or it could be a positive force for implementation. But I think that the impetus must come from the two countries themselves. And at some point, both countries might say we’ve gotten as far as we can get; therefore we need some support, we need some new energy. But we have to start with the two countries and with their commitment to pursuing this dialogue first. More:

Pakistan and the global war on terror

An interview with Tariq Ali by Mara Ahmed and Judith Bello in CounterPunch. [via 3quarksdaily]

tariq_aliWhat is the role of Islamophobia in the Global War on Terror. Many American war veterans have described the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as imperialistic, racist and genocidal. Your comments?

Tariq: Well, I think Islamophobia plays an important part in things, because it creates an atmosphere in which people feel, “Oh, we’re just killing Muslims, so that’s alright.” And this situation is becoming quite serious in the United States and in large parts of Europe, where people feel that the fact that a million Iraqis have died is fine because they’re not like us, they’re Muslims. So, Islamophobia is becoming a very poisonous and dangerous ideological construct which has to be fought against.

It sometimes irritates people but I do compare it to the anti-Semitism that existed in the 20s and 30s and 40s of the last century. And I do wonder whether all the education that people are being given, and rightly so, about the killing of the Jews and the Judeocide of the Second World War is having an impact. What sort of education is it if they can’t relate what happened then to some of the things that are happening now. Education which just centers on one atrocity and that’s all, where people feel very opposed to that [one atrocity], but they can support other atrocities, is in my opinion not a proper education. And some of the level of ignorant comment on Islam and the Islamic world in the United States is deeply shocking. That’s all it is. It’s ignorance. More:


CIA says it gets its money’s worth from Pakistani spy agency

Greg Miller in the New York Times:

The CIA has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan’s intelligence service since the Sept. 11 attacks, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency’s annual budget, current and former U.S. officials say.

The Inter-Services Intelligence agency also has collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA program that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the State Department, officials said.

The payments have triggered intense debate within the U.S. government, officials said, because of long-standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan.

But U.S. officials have continued the funding because the ISI’s assistance is considered crucial: Almost every major terrorist plot this decade has originated in Pakistan’s tribal belt, where ISI informant networks are a primary source of intelligence. More:

Beat extremists you can: Obama to Dawn

Dawn correspondent Anwar Iqbal interviews President Obama:

obama‘Some people say that it is still too early to push Pakistan into a military offensive in South Waziristan; that the Pakistan army, and the Pakistani state, is not strong enough to win this war and that it may break up the country.

What do you say?’

‘Well, let me make two points. Number one, nobody can or should push the Pakistani government. The Pakistani government is accountable to the people of Pakistan,’ said Mr Obama.

‘I think the Pakistani government and the people of Pakistan recognise that when you have extremists who are assassinating moderate clerics like Dr Naeemi, when you have explosions that are killing innocent women and children, that that can’t be the path for development and prosperity for Pakistan,’ he said.

‘And so there’s been a decision that’s made that we support, that the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government will not stand by idly as extremists attempt to disrupt the country,’ Mr Obama said.

‘But ultimately these are decisions to be made by the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people. What the United States believes is, is that we are a partner in the process of peace-loving nations seeking to root out extremism, increase development, and that is the kind of role that we want to play with Pakistan.’ More:

[Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy / CC]

The Taliban tightens hold in Pakistan’s Swat region

Pamela Constable from Islamabad in the Washington Post:

Taliban forces tightened their grip on Pakistan’s Swat region Monday and continued resisting the military’s efforts to dislodge them from neighboring Buner, bringing a fragile peace accord closer to collapse and the volatile northwest region nearer to full-fledged conflict.

Yet even as the Taliban continued their rampage and rejected the government’s latest concession to their demands — the appointment of Islamic-law judges in Swat — Pakistan’s military leaders clung to hopes for a nonviolent solution, saying that security forces were “still exercising restraint to honor the peace agreement.”

Behind this strained hope for a peaceful solution lie an array of factors — competing military priorities, reluctance to fight fellow Muslims, lack of strong executive leadership and some internal sympathy for the insurgents — that analysts say have long prevented the Pakistani army from making a full-fledged assault on violent Islamist groups. More:

Also in the Washington Post, U.S. options in Pakistan are limited