Pakistan war fuels international tensions

Pakistan war fuels international tensions

Peter Symonds

11 May 2009

Comments by China’s ambassador in Islamabad last Thursday highlight the reckless character of the Obama administration’s escalating intervention in Pakistan. By pressuring Islamabad to wage an all-out military offensive against Islamic insurgents in the Swat Valley and neighbouring districts, Washington is not only destabilising Pakistan but raising tensions in a highly volatile area.

Speaking to Pakistani business leaders, Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui pointedly voiced concern about the growth of “outside influence” in the region. He singled out the US in particular, saying that China was worried about US policies and the presence of a large number of foreign troops in neighbouring Afghanistan. While reiterating China’s support for “the fight against terror,” Luo declared that US strategies needed some “corrective measures”. He added, “These are issues of serious concern for China.”

Luo’s unusually blunt remarks came just one day after US President Obama spoke to his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao. While a number of issues were discussed, the escalating war in Pakistan was clearly high on the agenda. This first publicised phone call between the two men came as Obama met with the Afghan and Pakistani presidents over US strategy in the two countries. While Hu reportedly offered his cooperation, Luo’s comments express China’s underlying fears over growing US influence in South Asia.

Last week’s tripartite summit in Washington signalled a major upsurge in military violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under intense pressure from the US, the Pakistani army has launched a large-scale offensive against militants in the Swat Valley in which hundreds have already died and hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee. The summit, however, involved more than discussions on military cooperation, outlining comprehensive plans for the closer economic and strategic integration of the two countries into an American sphere of influence.

China, which has longstanding ties with Pakistan, is obviously disturbed by these developments. As Ambassador Luo told his business audience, more than 60 Chinese companies are involved in 122 projects in Pakistan. He noted the “close liaison” with Pakistan over the security of over 10,000 Chinese engineers and technical experts in the country. In fact, Beijing has previously insisted on reprisals over the abduction and killing of Chinese citizens by Pakistani militants as well as military action against Islamic Uighur separatists from western China taking refuge in Pakistan.

More fundamentally, Beijing regards Islamabad as a crucial partner in its own regional strategy. China devoted considerable resources to building up Pakistan as a counterweight to India after the 1962 Sino-Indian border war. Pakistan is the largest purchaser of Chinese arms and, according to the Pentagon, accounted for 36 percent of China’s military exports between 2003 and 2007. Chinese technical assistance was critical to Pakistan’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.

In return, China received the green light to build a major naval/commercial port facility at Gwadar, a coastal town in Baluchistan. The port is the linchpin of Beijing’s “string of pearls” strategy to establish access for its expanding navy to a series of ports along key sea routes across the Indian Ocean—above all, to protect oil and gas supplies from the Middle East and Africa. For its part, the US, which regards China as a rising economic and strategic rival, is determined to maintain its military, including naval, predominance.

US-China tensions over Pakistan only highlight the deeply destabilising role of Washington’s aggressive intervention, firstly in subjugating Afghanistan, and now in seeking to bring Pakistan more directly under its sway. The escalating conflict in Pakistan is a direct product of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, which the Bush administration forced Pakistan to support under the threat of becoming a military target itself. Widespread opposition inside Pakistan and Afghanistan to US actions has fuelled a growing insurgency that threatens not only the US occupation of Afghanistan, but a full-scale civil war in Pakistan.

US imperialism, under the Obama administration, is determined to exploit the very disasters it has created in order to advance its strategic interests throughout the broader region, especially in energy-rich Central Asia. By doing so, Washington is fundamentally altering the precarious strategic balance and threatening to draw the other major powers into the vortex.

China is not alone in its fear of US designs in Central Asia and the presence of large numbers of foreign troops in Afghanistan. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US has been seeking to establish military alliances and economic ties with the newly established Central Asian Republics. Washington exploited its invasion of Afghanistan to establish military bases in Central Asia for the first time. Afghanistan and Pakistan also provided a potential alternate pipeline route to extract energy riches from the region. In response, China and Russia, which both regard the region as their backyard, came together in the Shanghai Cooperation Group to counter expanding American influence.

Neighbouring India is also watching events in Pakistan with trepidation. While quietly applauding Washington’s pressure on Islamabad to wage war against “terrorism”, New Delhi is concerned that Pakistan’s closer incorporation under the American umbrella may lead to the downgrading of the US-Indian strategic partnership, which only developed in the late 1990s. The weakening of rival Pakistan, against which India has fought three wars, is no doubt welcomed in New Delhi. But its replacement by a US client state, or worse its collapse into chaos, would only confront the Indian establishment with new uncertainties.

The entire region remains a potential powder keg. The Cold War certainties that divided the world between the Soviet and Western blocs have been replaced by new tensions and rivalries. Tentative steps by India and Pakistan to resolve their longstanding disputes, especially over Kashmir, have all but stalled. Efforts by China and India to improve relations have moved slowly. Each continues to eye the other with suspicion and to intrigue at each other’s expense in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma.

The most explosive ingredient in this volatile mixture is the attempt by US imperialism to use its military superiority to offset its long-term economic decline. Far from easing tensions, the installation of the Obama administration marked an aggressive new turn in the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan aimed at advancing US ambitions. Last week’s comments by China’s ambassador are another sign that Washington’s moves will not go unopposed.


Exposed: MI5’s secret deals in Camp X-ray

[No doubt recruiting for the Mullah Dadullah operation.]

Exposed: MI5’s secret deals in Camp X-ray

How MI5 attempted to recruit prison camp inmates

Exclusive: By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor

MI5 secretly tried to hire British men held in Guantanamo Bay and other US prison camps by promising to protect them from their American captors and help secure their return home to the United Kingdom, The Independent has learnt.

One of the men, Richard Belmar, was told he would be paid “well” for his services if he was willing to work undercover for MI5. A second detainee, Bisher Al Rawi, was told that if he agreed to work for the security service he would be “freed within months”.

Three other detainees were threatened with rendition and harsh detention regimes if they did not co-operate with their British and American interrogators.

But MI5 failed to honour the promises made by its agents, a former agent has told The Independent.

The source, who is close to the MI5 officers who conducted the interviews, has confirmed that “assurances” had been given to the British men while they were held in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. But he said that senior officers in London had cleared the actions of its own officers but later reneged on the promises. This is backed up by sworn testimony lodged in the High Court from the former detainees.

“[The agents] fear they will be hung out to dry. This is not the first time that field agents have been made to carry the can even when there is a paper trail all the way to the top authorising the action and conduct of the agents,” said the source.

The clandestine recruitment operation was being pursued at the same time that the British Government was supporting American claims that those held at the notorious US naval base represented a serious threat to world security.

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman on foreign affairs, said: “These allegations show the extent of MI5’s involvement with those people who were illegally abducted and held in Guantanamo Bay. It’s increasingly clear that Britain must have known much more about American practices at Guantanamo Bay, including water-boarding, than they are prepared to admit.”

According to papers before the High Court two MI5 officers, known as “Andrew and Officer B” tried to recruit Mr Belmar while he was held by the Americans in Pakistan in 2002.

He was told that he would have to attend training courses at Thames House, the headquarters of MI5 in London. And in April 2002 “Andrew and officer B” informed Mr Belmar that he would be returning to England in seven days’ time. Mr Belmar says on hearing this news he was “extremely relieved and started counting down the days”. But on the day of his “releases” he was handed over to US military officers and later transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

Bisher Al Rawi claims that MI5 officers visited him at the US naval base in Cuba to offer him a job working for the security services after his release.

The two officers, who called themselves “Martin and Matt”, told him they had “specifically come to see you”. The court case alleges: “Mr Al Rawi’s shackles and handcuffs were completely removed during this meeting and Martin and Matt brought Mr Al Rawi a McDonald’s meal. They asked Mr Al Rawi a number of questions, showed him photographs of individuals they were interested in, and had a lengthy discussion with him. During the meeting a request was made by the men to Mr Al Rawi that he would work for the security services upon being released. They promised that if he agreed he would be released within a few months. Mr Al Rawi agreed to these terms.”

The court papers allege that another man, Omar Deghayes, was approached by MI5 while he was detained in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002. The agent, who gave his name as “Andrew”, assured Mr Deghayes that if “he helped him and the United States interrogators he would go back home”. On the basis of Andrew’s assurance, Mr Deghayes agreed to answer Andrew’s questions, it is claimed. Similar claims over British assurances are made by Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo inmate who was released in 2005.

All five men, and two other former Guantanamo detainees, are seeking compensation from the Foreign Office, the Home Office, MI5 and MI6 and the Attorney General.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that the Government could not comment on on-going legal proceedings.

Somali pirates guided by London intelligence team, report says

Somali pirates guided by London intelligence team, report says

Document obtained by Spanish radio station says ‘well-placed informers’ in constant contact by satellite telephone

The Somali pirates attacking shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean are directed to their targets by a “consultant” team in London, according to a European military intelligence document obtained by a Spanish radio station.

The document, obtained by Cadena SER radio, says the team and the pirates remain in contact by satellite telephone.

It says that pirate groups have “well-placed informers” in London who are in regular contact with control centres in Somalia where decisions on which vessels to attack are made. These London-based “consultants” help the pirates select targets, providing information on the ships’ cargoes and courses.

In at least one case the pirates have remained in contact with their London informants from the hijacked ship, according to one targeted shipping company.

The pirates’ information network extends to Yemen, Dubai and the Suez canal.

The intelligence report is understood to have been issued to European navies.

“The information that merchant ships sailing through the area volunteer to various international organisations is ending up in the pirates’ hands,” Cadena SER reported the report as saying.

This enables the more organised pirate groups to study their targets in advance, even spending several days training teams for specific hijacks. Senior pirates then join the vessel once it has been sailed close to Somalia.

Captains of attacked ships have found that pirates know everything from the layout of the vessel to its ports of call. Vessels targeted as a result of this kind of intelligence included the Greek cargo ship Titan, the Turkish merchant ship Karagol and the Spanish trawler Felipe Ruano.

In each case, says the document, the pirates had full knowledge of the cargo, nationality and course of the vessel.

The national flag of a ship is also taken into account when choosing a target, with British vessels being increasingly avoided, according to the report. It was not clear whether this was because pirates did not want to draw the attention of British police to their information sources in London.

European countries have set up Operation Atalanta to co-ordinate their military efforts in the area.

Detalibanisation of Pakistan

Detalibanisation of Pakistan

By Khalid Iqbal | Published: May 12, 2009

Originally, Taliban were the orphans of mujahideen who embraced martyrdom while struggling against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Once post Soviet government was formed by various mujahideen factions, their infighting lead to an era of non-governance and uncertainty. This frustrated these youngsters, who by now were in their mid teens and beyond. They rose against the sitting government which comprised of legendary mujihadeen leaders turned opportunist warlords.
These angry boys had received their general and religious education in refugee camps; they hardly had any military training of the sort. They did not conquer through gun and moved in flocks towards villages and cities; going by the Afghan tradition, the opposing forces would surrender without fighting. This is how Afghanistan came under the rule of Taliban without any significant military campaign. As Taliban moved from one locality to another, local youngsters from Afghanistan joined them in throngs. Youngsters from Pakistan also crossed over to Afghanistan and joined the melee. This conglomeration came to be known as Taliban. Their composition was however to undergo a radical change in post 9/11 setting.
As a result of mopping up operation by the invading forces (read US forces) a mass exodus of angry and armed militants as well as hardened combatants and outlaws took place. They came and encamped in the tribal belt of Pakistan. From here they started their trans-border tactical intrusions into Afghanistan. After effects of these activities resulted in economic woes of tribal areas as the economic activity came to a standstill. This brought in perpetual hardship to the local population. Ensuing frustration gave rise to sympathy and association of locals with these insurgents.
Conjointly these elements earned their fame under the brand name of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a confederation of various multi-nationality groups with over arching ethnic, sectarian and tribal rivalries; temporarily united against a common enemy. Initially TTP was poised to help their Afghan brethren in evicting occupation forces from Afghanistan; however, later on these groups assumed an anti-Pakistan posture as Pakistan began to identify itself with the American cause in the context of GWOT. Collateral damage, especially due to drone attacks made them as much hostile towards Pakistan as they were against the US.Root cause of rise of Pakistani Taliban is the protracted economic difficulties that pushed the youngsters against the wall. In the broader perspective, this is a manifestation of a dysfunction in the context of Human Resource Management.
Therefore, any solution aimed at detalibanisation will have to be an exercise, primarily in economic revival of the tribal areas. This would indeed be the starting point. Creation of job opportunities would, evolve a new polycentric culture cutting across ethnic, sectarian and tribal alignments. This would promote tolerance and empathy. Though one should not expect transformation of tribal culture into disco style, attitude towards extremism would definitely dilute, as the people gradually move from tribal to semi-urban and semi-corporate environment. Unfortunately, the envisioned setting up of ROZs is not yet in sight. This must commence without further delay. Revival of economic activity would generate jobs for the people of the area and they would find occupation as indeed a preoccupation. They would progressively break off from militant flocks.
However, besides setting up of ROZs, there is a need to follow a multi-dimensional strategy, covering all other contributory factors, to achieve a sustainable detalibanisation in Pakistan.
From political perspective, progressive cooling down in Afghanistan through setting up of a broad-based government and announcement of a timeframe for departure of occupation forces are the initial steps. Broad-based government should include all segments of the Afghan populace. Disenfranchised majority should be made a part of state affairs so that they have a stake in a stable Afghanistan. Likewise, till the time USA withdraw, the resistance is likely to continue. Militants would only keep shifting their venues, in a hide and seek profile, depending upon ease of operability. Their flushing out of Afghanistan has resulted in shifting their activities to Pakistan, further flushing out could shift them to other states of the region. Americans need to announce at least a tentative withdrawal timeframe; this would help in immediate cooling down of tempers. As a follow up, there should be an orderly repatriation of refugees, back to Afghanistan.
Purpose oriented education is another domain that would help in reclaiming the bulk of existing lot of extremists and ensuring that extremism does not pass on to next generations. Education needs to be job related, beside religious education. Imparting of vocational skills should be an essential component of curricula. It should be free of cost including provision of books, accessories, lodging, food etc.
Common man in the tribal areas of Pakistan needs to be brought into mainstream national politics. They need to be enfranchised. Sense of deprivation breeds and perpetuates extremism. We need to proceed in this domain with due regard to cultural and traditional sensitivities of these areas. Likewise, effective social security network would help in loosening the straitjackets of tribal bondages and breed repulsion towards extremism.
Detalibanisation is now overdue. The process must cater for the existing lot as well as the coming generations. It calls for a wholesome and integrated effort of global stature. It is only through curing the underlying causes that would ensure sustained equanimity. Application of military instrument is not likely to bring lasting tranquillity as it curbs the symptoms only.
The writer is a national security analyst and retired air officer of PAF

USA in Afghanistan: a long-term strategic view

USA in Afghanistan: a long-term strategic view

Published: May 12, 2009

While it is still debatable that 9/11 was a deliberate conspiracy to justify a US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq or an act of Al-Qaeda, the United States of America inherited a historical situation in shape of 9/11 and made use of it to justify launching of a major Neo Operation Barbarossa to occupy the fertile east!
This article is based on my experiences of 13 years service in the army, 34 years of study of military history including three stints as editor of three journals in Afghanistan and Pakistan and three years of continuous and many more years of interrupted stay in Afghanistan. During the course of my last continuous stay in Afghanistan from 2004 till 2008 I worked as sub contractor with many donor agencies and repeatedly came into contact with many NATO and US military officials. My projects were located in the heart of Taliban country i.e. Kandahar, Ghazni, Helmand, Farah, Zabul and Kunar.
With the stated experience my perceptions of Afghanistan may be different in finer aspects from many other views, which may be outwardly neat and logical but lack the solid conviction and finesse stemming out of an exhaustive study of military history and an on ground experience not depending on what you may read or hear from the print or the live media.
There is one similarity in US and USSR invasion of Afghanistan. Both happened because of an apparently third party action, which were used by policy makers in both countries to justify an attack. Here the similarity ends. The USSR entered Afghanistan in a bipolar world where major powers decided to oppose the USSR tooth and nail and with equal and subsequently greater might.
The USA entered Afghanistan in a unipolar world when no major power supported anti-US insurgents. Further the USA entered Afghanistan with long-term strategic plans while the USSR entered Afghanistan to support a leftist regime with whom it had a treaty of cooperation. The USSR did not enlarge its offensive after Afghanistan but the USA is continuously enlarging its offensive with the major Phase Two being the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the ongoing 2007-09 mysterious upsurge in Pakistan. Mysterious, because of what I saw in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2008 and till to date.
The USA was lucky to have in Pakistan on the eve of its arrival a military tin pot dictator who was ready to sell his soul to even the devil to preserve his illegitimately won seat of power.

In retrospect as I analyse now, the US-Afghan war followed the following distinct phases:-
An initial arm-twisting manoeuvre of Pakistan’s illegitimate military regime to secure ground, aerial and logistic passage. This happened from October 2001 and continues till to date.
Pressurising the illegitimate Pakistani military regime into launching operation in Waziristan when there was no insurgency in Waziristan from 2002 till 2006, thus destabilising a most strategically sensitive region of Pakistan and internally dividing Pakistan.
Strengthening US military presence in Afghanistan in terms of constructing permanent air bases for possible future long-term use to dominate the region including Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, Chinese Singkiang and India.
Creation of an intelligence operation base from where third party penetration operations could be mounted to infiltrate any extremist or ethnic group in conflict with its parent country’s federal government. The prime immediate target being Pakistan, while Iran, China, Central Asian States may possibly be later phase targets. This phase started from November 2001 and continues till to date.
Forcing the illegitimate Musharraf military regime to mount another military operation in Mohmand and Bajaur, thus destabilising another strategically sensitive region of Pakistan and to discredit the Pakistani armed forces. This started in 2005 and continues till to date.
A dispassionate reader may form his own conclusions but I have the following observations:
At no stage from 2001 till to date did the US or NATO forces mount any major military operation inside Afghanistan against Taliban. Actually the force ratios of US and NATO forces does not allow this in any case.
All major US Army and USAID and NATO construction contracts were sub contracted at third and fourth tiers to contractors who were Taliban after sunset and contractors after sunrise. All this happened with US military officials in full knowledge.
While major Taliban infiltration from Pakistan to Afghanistan takes place in the 1400km tract in between Gomal River and Chaghai Hills the US government at no stage pressurised the Pakistani illegitimate military regime of Musharraf to interdict this influx!
All the US pressure on Pakistan was to take military action in Waziristan from where hardly 10 percent of influx into Afghanistan was taking place! Later the US pressure also expanded to include Bajaur and Mohmand who have a very short less than 300km border with Pakistan.
Thus while major Taliban attacks were taking place on US and NATO forces in Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul who have no border with Waziristan, all along the US government was pressurising the Pakistani government to attack the Taliban in Waziristan which accounts for less than 5 percent damage to any US or NATO forces in Afghanistan in terms of length of border contiguous with provinces where maximum US and NATO casualties took place!
Till 2007 I could travel from Kabul on one end to Herat on the far end via Kandahar in a private car without any weapon safely. But not after 2007. Suddenly everything changed and USA and NATO forces took no action from 2007 till to date to secure this area!
Despite the fact that no major US casualties took place in Khost and Paktika provinces adjacent to Wazisristan and Kunar and Nangarahar provinces adjacent to Khyber Agency, Bajaur and Mohmand and Dir/Swat the USA spent a fortune on bases and infrastructure building in these provinces. Construction profits were made by the very tribes fighting the Pakistan Army in Waziristan, Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand.
No container taking supplies to NATO at the height of Taliban operations in Afghanistan was attacked in any area of Pakistan in between 2001 and 2008 but in 2008 mysterious attacks started!
The deductions that can be drawn from the above are:
The USA did not come to Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban.
The USA by design destabilised Waziristan, Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand to create a war-like situation to justify international action to denuclearise Pakistan.
Pakistan needs to drastically revise its foreign policy making a clean break with USA and NATO and making peace with India and an alliance with Russia, China and Iran while preserving its nuclear deterrent.
It is worthwhile quoting Henry Kissinger who said: It is one thing to have the USA as an enemy but to its friend is deadly!
The USA is part of Pakistan’s problems. Friendship with the United States of America is not the solution. But who will bell the cat. Who will make the resolute decision? No peace in sight until Pakistan’s leaders and top military brass stop sleeping with the devil!
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Kabul, Afghanistan

Conditional US offer to Pakistan on Kashmir

[Here is confirmation from an unnamed diplomatic source of what I have been saying about Obama’s intentions, If Pakistan will pull their troops together “in one basket” in the Frontier Region, carrying the Swat offensive into S. Waziristan, then the United States will fulfill Pakistan’s every need.  If Pakistan tries to stop fighting this guerilla war after Swat is pacified, then it will be fighting both militants and American Special Forces around Wana in the biggest operation of this type the world has ever seen.]

Conditional US offer to Pakistan on Kashmir

By: Shaiq Hussain | Published: May 12, 2009

ISLAMABAD – The United States will help Pakistan resolve the Kashmir issue if it shifts its focus from the border with India to the country’s frontier with Afghanistan and carries out effective military operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.
“The Obama administration conveyed to President Asif Ali Zardari and other senior officials in his delegation during their trip to Washington that it is willing to use its “good offices” for the durable settlement of Kashmir issue,” said a diplomatic source here on Monday seeking anonymity.
He said that in return what they wanted from Pakistan was to shift its focus from the country’s eastern border to the western frontier with more troops being deployed there to block the cross border movement of al-Qaeda and Taliban militants from the restive tribal areas into Afghanistan for terrorist attacks against the Nato forces.
“The Obama administration also wants the continuation of recently launched operations in Swat, Buner and Dir against the Taliban militants till their elimination,” he said.
According to source, the US authorities also wanted effective military operations against the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in other parts of tribal areas such as Waziristan, so the threat of terrorism could be eliminated forever.
He said that the US help for the resolution of Kashmir issue would be in addition to its pledge to assist Pakistan and India for the settlement of dispute over water.
Moreover, the Obama administration had also reiterated its commitment that Islamabad would be provided with all possible economic assistance to do away with serious financial crunch that it was confronting.
A senior Pakistani official when contacted expressed his unawareness about the US offer to help resolve the Kashmir issue saying he would be able to confirm or deny it when the President and his delegation were back home.
He, however, said that the US help for the durable settlement of Kashmir dispute was long overdue and Pakistan would welcome any such move by Obama administration.

Four bombers arrested with suicide jackets

Four bombers arrested with suicide jackets

Submitted 1 hr 13 mins ago

Four bombers arrested with suicide jackets

Four suicide bombers have been arrested with suicide jackets by a FC team during a search operation on Tuesday. The arrested men are members of an outlawed outfit. Talking to media, concerned high officials have confirmed arrest of the suicide attackers. “They had planned to attack key points of Rawalpindi, Islamabad twin cities,” they added.