By: Peter Chamberlin
Obama has begun the tedious work of separating himself from the failed policies of his predecessor. He has halted pending Bush regulations and executive orders and reversed CIA policies on torture and secret prisons. If the President was sincere in his interview with Al-Arabiya, about wanting to assure Muslims that “Americans are not your enemy,” then he must be willing to reexamine all elements of the rogue agency’s terror war, especially the more controversial elements of it.
If President Obama really seeks a fresh start with the Muslim world –establishing a humane new foreign policy for the United States to guide us to an acceptable conclusion of the war– then he must make a visible clean break with all the failed Bush policies. A fresh start with Pakistan, our most important ally in the terror war, would begin by ending CIA Predator strikes and cutting-off all support for their gangs of criminals and terrorists who now plague the country. The illegal CIA actions extend far beyond the widely known abductions and torture, to far more sinister dark programs of abductions and murderous attacks which are indistinguishable from “terrorism.” Obama should understand what most every citizen of Pakistan understands, that the CIA is the source of most of the “terror” that comes out of that region. The CIA is also the source of the terror that our soldiers fight against.
The Bush presidency was an aberration, a deviation from our historical path. Undoing the many mistakes that have been made will represent a long overdue repudiation of a wrong response to a violent attack by, as yet, undetermined organizations. This cannot be avoided or sugar-coated. The United States treated the 911 attack as an opportunity to plunder, in effect, declaring war upon the world because of a militant organization with deep roots in the CIA. The spy agency proceeded to shape the forthcoming military actions by US and coalition forces, setting into motion the plan for total world conquest that Cheney had been carrying-around since 1992. Obama must demolish this war plan and begin the process of rebuilding the destruction left in its wake.
The repercussions from the illegal CIA torture and prison programs have reverberated throughout the world, turning all free-thinking individuals against us. Covert operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to enlist local gangs and tribal militias actually fuel the greater wars, serving to amplify natural anger at American brutality, driving the opposition and guaranteeing a never-ending supply of resisters to our war plans. Other CIA actions, such as “targeted assassinations” using Predator drones and the creation of new terrorist groups such as “Tehreek e-Taliban Pakistan” (TTP), completes the repertoire of crimes and double-crosses which fuel the militant movements involved in fighting against American troops. Reining-in the CIA’s war-making authority completely is the first and most important step towards ending this war or establishing a saner more moral foreign policy.
The CIA program for victory through the maximum abuse of human rights is patterned after the Israeli Mossad model of counter-terrorism which has failed so miserably in Palestine, Lebanon and throughout the Arab world. The Israeli model is based on intimidation through the merciless application of technological superiority, creating a state of permanent conflict in the process. There is no room for “peace” in this version of “counter-terrorism.” One need only look as far as the destruction and suffering inflicted upon Gaza to understand where the Israeli war-fighting policies (abduction, torture, targeted assassinations, walls and waves of genocidal fury) inevitably lead.
We have joined the Israelis in the club of pariah nations because of our inhumane attacks upon Muslim civilians and those by our proxy forces, making us outcasts who vainly seek allies to salvage our losing battles. If Obama insists on following Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Olmert down this road, then he is marking himself as a moral equal to those mental midgets.
If Obama is serious about finishing the wars, he will not continue the invasion of Pakistan that Bush began with last July’s order to escalate covert actions in the Frontier region. The evidence so far speaks volumes about Obama’s plans for our unfortunate ally.
“MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) – Missiles fired from suspected US drones on Friday slammed into presumed militant dens in Pakistan killing 15 people, including three children and at least four civilians, officials said.
The strikes, which pulverized two houses in the northwest tribal belt, were the first since US President Barack Obama took office and one day after he appointed a brand new special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan…
The town, a known Taliban and Al Qaeda hub, is also the main stomping ground of Maulvi Nazir, a key Taliban commander accused by the United States of recruiting and sending fighters to Afghanistan to attack US and NATO forces.”
The secret war in Pakistan, referred to euphemistically as the “counter-insurgency,” is an immoral series of criminal actions. The counter-insurgency is indistinguishable from other “terrorism.” Pakistani civilians and Army personnel are attacked with Predator drones and by groups of CIA-sponsored terrorists (called “neo-Taliban”), in order to terrorize the targeted areas, while the Pakistani Army carries-out a US-induced war in the north, sowing even more terror and creating floods of refugees. The effect is a populace that besieges its own government, seeking relief.
The most visible manifestation of this secret war upon our trusty ally is the ongoing Predator airstrikes in FATA. The new administration is currently trying to ignore the issue by refusing to comment.
The only thing new about the Obama position is this blatant attempt to hide administration intentions in the “war on terror” behind this challenge to First Amendment rights of the free press to report vital truths to the American people. Truth cannot be denied by simple edict or by dismissals from high officials in the age of the Internet. The foreign press is providing grist to American reporters who are brave enough to ask the relevant questions. The reporters in the two press conferences were seeking clarification about the attacks based on the foreign press reports.
The big problem with studying foreign media is in learning to get past the national filters, to get past the clarifying lenses of the national character that shapes each report, in order to understand the facts contained therein. This has probably never been truer than it is in reading the foreign press reports on the Predator attacks in Pakistan. Consider the following report on the target of Obama’s Predator attack from Dawn:
“Khalil Dawar was reported to be associated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan of Baitullah Mehsud.”
It may be understandable that a reporter for a local newspaper like Dawn would not understand who’s who in the local militancy and confuse Maulvi Nazir and Baitullah Mehsud, or fear to report the truth in the dangerous Frontier region, but for the military intelligence of the world’s only superpower to consistently mistake known enemies is inexcusably shoddy spymanship, or worse, sheer deception. What does this say about the American/Western media that promotes the fiction that our forces are attacking “public enemy number one” in Pakistan, afraid to do a reporter’s job and ask the question—why are Predators targeting his enemies instead?
Most of the recent Predator attacks in Pakistan have been in South Waziristan against Maulvi Nazir’s forces. Why are the Western media and subservient Pakistani press outlets reporting that these attacks are upon Mehsud’s rivals? That is the question that Obama’s White House must answer. Why carry-on with the failed Bush policies that have squandered the war that was nearly won?
Baitullah Mehsud is “public enemy number one.” According to Army investigators, he is considered to be responsible for 75-80% of all suicide bombers in Pakistan and has been implicated in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the bombing of the Islamabad Marriott.
Approximately 12,000 civilians and 200 security forces have died in Pakistani Army operations against Mehsud and his allies in Swat and Bajaur, while killing only 75 “neo-Taliban” in the process. Curiously, the United States has sent no Predators to attack him or allied militant leaders since Bush proclaimed the Frontier region to be the new “third front” in the terror war, not even when Pakistan provided the exact coordinates for Mehsud.
Brigadier Mahmood Shah, who served as secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and chief of security until 2005, says Mehsud is unimpressive. Brig. Mahmood Shah,
“He is not much of a man, inconsistent government policy has made him so important. I don’t think people respect him because they think that all their troubles are because of him.”
“He is very clever, he is very cool-minded, he is very calculating. He is not a jumpy character.”
Shah believes that Mehsud has been able to rule over fellow tribesmen who are sick of conflict through a campaign of intimidation.
Baitullah has built his reputation as a powerful warlord by building on the work of his predecessor, distant cousin, Abdullah Mehsud. An early veteran of Guantanamo’s torture and indoctrination program, Abdullah was mysteriously released back onto the battlefield in early 2004, where he somehow managed to immediately muster a small army of well-equipped Afghan and Uzbek mercenaries (“neo-Taliban”) around him. He moved back to Pakistan and began serving American/”al Qaida” interests by kidnapping Chinese engineers working in FATA. Because of the military heat that Abdullah’s actions brought down on the region, the real Taliban leadership in Afghanistan rebuked him, forcing him to turn-over command of his “new Taliban” force to Baitullah. He returned to the fight in Afghanistan in shame.
According to defense analyst Hassan Abbas:
“Baitullah Mahsud, the most powerful pro-Taliban commander in that area, is unlikely to play the kind of role played by Maulvi Nazeer. He was publicly blamed by President Musharraf for sending fighters to Afghanistan against US-led coalition forces, and warned him to desist from the practice.”
Baitullah came into conflict with neighboring Waziri warlord Nazir because of Sharia-enforcing attacks that were being carried-out by his Uzbek “al Qaida” forces under Mehsud’s command. The foreigners under his command appear to be the “al Qaida” forces that the US insists it is seeking to eliminate in FATA.
After laying down his arms in the 2004 amnesty program, Nazir became Pakistan’s great hope in 2006. He is an ally of the Pakistani government and has helped it by evicting Uzbek militants from his territory around Wana. He failed to fill the role that the Army had anticipated for him by refusing to lead further attacks on “al Qaida” forces outside of his home turf. The Army had hoped to replicate the “Sunni awakening” anti-Qaida movement from Anbar province in Iraq. All the elements were in place, Sharia enforcers, terrorist attacks, Sunni militants, military support; only one thing was missing, tribal division. Unlike the tribal situation in Iraq, the Pashtuns are one people, with very tight familial loyalties.
Even though Nazir did not step into the leadership of the counter-insurgency, the pattern he had set, of tribal self-defenders forming tribal lashkars to confront foreign troublemakers has been somewhat effective at bringing peace and order to parts of their wild land.
“The organizers of these lashkars were further discouraged when the Taliban began targeting all those tribal elders who had been part of the militias. Since then, more than 300 tribal elders have been killed in targeted killings in the tribal belt alongside the Afghanistan border, stretching from South Waziristan to the Bajaur area (Aaj TV, October 28).”
Nazir’s great mistake was in challenging Baitullah Mehsud’s “neo-Taliban” Uzbek forces in South Waziristan and by extension, the powerful forces who sponsor him. Was it Maulvi’s attacks upon the fake “Taliban” that put him in the CIA’s sights, or was it his willingness to make peace with the Army?
Other than Nazir, only Jalaluddin Haqqani in North Waziristan has come under CIA Predator attack since last summer. Both men share a common guilt for having opted for peace with the Pakistani government. The other thing that these two warlords have in common is that each of them occupies land on the Pakistani side situated in the headlands of one of only two mountain passes that lead into south-eastern Afghanistan. The US has judged people as terrorists simply because militants pass through their neighbourhoods, once again, following the Israeli model of scapegoating entire populations for events beyond their control.
Pakistan has been set-up as the “fall guy,” the all-purpose excuse for the failed war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was lost because of the foolish decisions made by the previous administration. Obama cannot win this war with an Iraqi-type surge; he can only add to the death and the destruction of the nation that so many people have invested so much in its survival over the past thirty years. Pakistan has been a faithful and steadfast ally through the entire thirty year “war on terror.” It is time to end this war by reaching across the borders and calming the beast that we have together unleashed.
If Obama is serious about all the reassuring things that he has said, then he will stop the terror and turn the money saved into reconstruction funds. He will stop offensive actions on both sides of the Durand Line and place the troops in defensive positions at the mouths of the handful of mountain passes which slope down into Afghanistan. If the Taliban choose to mount an offensive against these defensive positions then they will meet the full force of combined US/Pakistani forces, with all available satellites and attack drones focused on the real leaders of the false “Taliban” by the Pakistani Army. Instead of accepting the will of Pakistan and maintaining a defensive posture along the border (guarding the Afghan side of the narrow passes more efficiently to eliminate the infiltration into Afghanistan), we prefer a bloodier more simple solution.
Haqqani is an old veteran of the Soviet war and an old friend of the CIA. At the beginning of the current Afghan war he made a peace offer to his old friends, only to witness the kidnapping of his brother Ibrahim by US Special Forces, under pressure from another local warlord rival, Pacha Khan Zadran.
Zadran is a powerful Pashtun leader, who bears a grudge against Pakistan over an arrest and against the US for killing one of his sons and sending another one (plus a brother and a neighbour) to Guantanamo. Even though he was somehow elected to the Afghan legislature in 2005, Zadran is considered by US forces to be a troublemaker, known for setting-off fire fights with local rivals and setting-up illegal checkpoints on local highways to extort money from truckers. If the US Army “intelligence” squelched the rapprochement with Haqqani on Zadran’s word, then their motives are even more foolish, or more sinister than those of the CIA.
Haqqani was targeted because he too, like Maulvi Nazir, dared to express an interest in peace negotiations, instead of fighting against us. The Predator and terror attacks are psywar experiments in the strategy of tension, part of the diabolical plan to destabilize Pakistan.
The covert war plan began to fall-apart on June 11, 2008, when the TTP forces of Baitullah Mehsud staged a preemptive attack on US Special Forces who were attempting to set-up a secret command post near the Pakistani Frontier Scout outpost at Gora Prai. The US forces called in a Predator airstrike which killed 11 Pakistani soldiers.
One month later, on July 11, unidentified coalition forces fired up to sixty mortar rounds into Angoor Adda, South Waziristan. The turning point in US/Pakistan relations came the next day on July 12, 2008, when military and intelligence officials from both governments sat down in Rawalpindi to confront their counterparts with proof that the other side was supporting terrorism in the area. Pakistan did their best to get US technical assistance:
“The top US military commander and the CIA official were also asked why the CIA-run predator and the US military did not swing into action when they were provided the exact location of Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan’s enemy number one and the mastermind of almost every suicide operation against the Pakistan Army and the ISI since June 2006.
One such precise piece of information was made available to the CIA on May 24 when Baitullah Mehsud drove to a remote South Waziristan mountain post in his Toyota Land Cruiser to address the press and returned back to his safe abode.”
The US side made another serious error that day by presenting “evidence” from an Indian source of Pakistani involvement in the Jul 7, 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.
On July 13, the day after the fateful meeting, over 200 militants attacked a US outpost, Forward Operating Base Blessing, in a battle near Wanat, Afghanistan, killing 9 US soldiers. After that “the gloves came off” and a series of cross-border incidents took place, culminating on September 3 in a Special Forces helicopter assault of Angoor Adda in South Waziristan, killing 20 Pakistani citizens. On Sept. 25, Army forces fired on the next helicopters to enter the area.
Since the day of confrontation, all CIA Predator attacks have been against the peace-seeking Pashtun leaders of North and South Waziristan, not against the forces allied with Baitullah Mehsud, even though TTP’s actions in the north had just embarrassed the US, extracting a heavy toll on US forces. Making new enemies in the terror war seems to be so much more important to American commanders than dealing decisively with the hardcore killers who terrorize Pakistan. It is much easier to point fingers of blame than to admit our own errors.
The biggest error in the Afghan conflict has been Pentagon/CIA insistence that the Pashtuns in Pakistan are all guilty of providing material support to terrorists, Taliban, or “al Qaida.” Taliban commander Zabihullah Mujahid set the record straight when he denied to a reporter from Dawn that the Taliban had expelled Baitullah Mehsud, separating themselves from the actions of his TTP:
“Baitullah is a Pakistani and we as the Afghan Taliban have nothing to do with his appointment or his expulsion. We did not appoint him and we have not expelled him,”
“We do not support any militant activity and operation in Pakistan,”