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Turkey will start Monday to explore gas and oil in the eastern Mediterranean following a move by Greek Cypriots to press ahead with offshore gas drilling, the Anatolia news agency reported.
“We expect the ship to arrive at noon to the region where exploration will start. The team will start seismological research in the afternoon, after it reaches the region whose (geographical) position was specified,” said Huseyin Avni Benli, the head of the institute that owns the ship, Anatolia reported.
Benli did not elaborate on the ship’s exact destination.
The ship Piri Reis, which embarked on its controversial mission last week, has so far encountered no problems on the Mediterranean, said Benli of Dokuz Eylul University, in the Aegean province of Izmir.
Benli said there was twice-daily communication with the ship through satellite telephone, Anatolia reported. The ship left Urla port near Izmir on Friday.
Regional tensions have been rising after the Cyprus government, recognized internationally but not by Turkey, made a deal with U.S. energy firm Noble, which has already started exploratory drilling for gas off the southern coast of the divided island.
Turkey’s decision to send the seismic ship comes after it signed an accord with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a statelet only recognized by Ankara, to explore energy supplies in designated waters off the island.
The deadline had earlier been set to July 31 but was extended when the four countries could not agree. PHOTO: FILE
In a meeting held on May 17 and 18 earlier this year, Kabul and New Delhi had accepted Islamabad’s suggestion that the three buyers collectively propose a gas-pricing formula based on Turkmenistan’s cost of production, rather than being linked to the price of oil, which is the standard global practise.
Pakistan’s formula would restrict Turkmenistan to a fixed profit margin, rather than the variable rate that is usually offered to countries exporting gas. Pakistan has signed an agreement with Iran that would link the gas import price to the international price of oil.
Sources told The Express Tribune that technical teams from the four countries, in a recent meeting of the Technical Working Group held in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat, had set October 15 as the deadline to finalise pricing details and sign the gas sales purchase agreement.
The deadline had earlier been set to July 31 but was extended when the four countries could not agree. Sources said that the buyer countries may make some concessions to Turkmenistan, including perhaps linking it to the global price of crude oil. The price of Iran’s gas exports to Pakistan are 78% based on the global price of oil.
“The four countries are expected to link the gas price with some percentage of the world crude oil,” sources said.
While no agreement appears to have yet been reached, sources familiar with the negotiations remain hopeful that the deadline for an accord will be met.
“The technical teams of all stakeholder countries have to conclude price of gas to import from Turkmenistan under TAPI gas pipeline project within ten days,” sources said adding that “We are hopeful that GSPA will be signed by October 15 to move forward on gas import project.”
In a bid to economically isolate Tehran, Washington has been pushing Islamabad to accept the TAPI project as an alternative to the Iran pipeline, going so far as to threaten sanctions if Pakistan does not comply.
Published in The Express Tribune
[Excellent piece of work, laying-0ut the crooked ugliness that has brought us to this point in a pretty straight line. This Pakistani author, Aamir Mughal, like so many of the best Indian strategic analysts, is retired from the intelligence services. Despite my own compulsions to discount every word from former intelligence agents as a lie (especially “former” CIA), I often post exposes written by retired Indian and Pakistani spies, knowing that nobody else could possibly describe these insider events for us.
It all began with Brzezinski, before becoming the centerpiece of Reagan’s foreign policy, where it successfully released its plague upon all mankind, in the form of capitalist sponsored “Islamic” terrorism.]
Toasts of President Reagan and President Mobammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan at the State Dinner December 7, 1982 – In the last few years, in particular, your country has come to the forefront of the struggle to construct a framework for peace in your region, an undertaking which includes your strenuous efforts to bring peaceful resolution to the crisis in Afghanistan—a resolution which will enable the millions of refugees currently seeking shelter in Pakistan to go home in peace and honor. Further, you’ve worked to ensure that progress continues toward improving the relationship between Pakistan and India. And in all these efforts the United States has supported your objectives and will applaud your success. And, Mr. President, unfortunately, a new and menacing turbulence has arisen in our region. More than a fifth of the entire population of Afghanistan has been compelled to seek shelter in Pakistan as a result of the armed intervention in that country by a foreign power. We are bending our effort to resolve this tragic situation through a peaceful political settlement, in accordance with the principles enunciated by the international community. The latest manifestation of this was the Resolution of Afghanistan adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, once again with the overwhelming support of the member states. Spread this America, Mr. President, to areas other than the United States of America. Let America be the torchbearer of peace, peace not only on the American continent but peace in Afghanistan, peace in Vietnam, peace in Somalia, and above all, peace in Palestine. We wish you, sir, all the best in your endeavors. And you will never find Pakistanis faltering. We’ll be there right behind you to give you the helping hand, if we can, at the moment that you wish us to do so. REFERENCE: Toasts of President Reagan and President Mobammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan at the State Dinner December 7, 1982http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=42083
Steve Coll ends his important book on Afghanistan — Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to 10 September 2001–by quoting Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “What an unlucky country.” Americans might find this a convenient way to ignore what their government did in Afghanistan between 1979 and the present, but luck had nothing to do with it. Brutal, incompetent, secret operations of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, frequently manipulated by the military intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, caused the catastrophic devastation of this poor country. On the evidence contained in Coll’s book Ghost Wars, neither the Americans nor their victims in numerous Muslim and Third World countries will ever know peace until the Central Intelligence Agency has been abolished. It should by now be generally accepted that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Eve 1979 was deliberately provoked by the United States. In his memoir published in 1996, the former CIA director Robert Gates made it clear that the American intelligence services began to aid the mujahidin guerrillas not after the Soviet invasion, but six months before it. In an interview two years later with Le Nouvel Observateur, President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski proudly confirmed Gates’s assertion. “According to the official version of history,” Brzezinski said, “CIA aid to the mujahidin began during 1980, that’s to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. But the reality, kept secret until now, is completely different: on 3 July 1979 President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And on the same day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained that in my opinion this aid would lead to a Soviet military intervention.”
Asked whether he in any way regretted these actions,
Brzezinski replied: Regret what? The secret operation was an excellent idea. It drew the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.’
Nouvel Observateur: “And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?”
Brzezinski: “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”
Zbigniew Brzezinski to Jihadists: Your cause is right!
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Funding the Fundamentalists
The motives of the White House and the CIA were shaped by the Cold War: a determination to kill as many Soviet soldiers as possible and the desire to restore some aura of rugged machismo as well as credibility that U.S. leaders feared they had lost when the Shah of Iran was overthrown. The CIA had no intricate strategy for the war it was unleashing in Afghanistan. Howard Hart, the agency’s representative in the Pakistani capital, told Coll that he understood his orders as: “You’re a young man; here’s your bag of money, go raise hell. Don’t fuck it up, just go out there and kill Soviets.” These orders came from a most peculiar American. William Casey, the CIA’s director from January 1981 to January 1987, was a Catholic Knight of Malta educated by Jesuits. Statues of the Virgin Mary filled his mansion, called “Maryknoll,” on Long Island. He attended mass daily and urged Christianity on anyone who asked his advice. Once settled as CIA director under Reagan, he began to funnel covert action funds through the Catholic Church to anti-Communists in Poland and Central America, sometimes in violation of American law. He believed fervently that by increasing the Catholic Church’s reach and power he could contain Communism’s advance, or reverse it. From Casey’s convictions grew the most important U.S. foreign policies of the 1980s — support for an international anti-Soviet crusade in Afghanistan and sponsorship of state terrorism in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Casey knew next to nothing about Islamic fundamentalism or the grievances of Middle Eastern nations against Western imperialism. He saw political Islam and the Catholic Church as natural allies in the counter-strategy of covert action to thwart Soviet imperialism. He believed that the USSR was trying to strike at the U.S. in Central America and in the oil-producing states of the Middle East. He supported Islam as a counter to the Soviet Union’s atheism, and Coll suggests that he sometimes conflated lay Catholic organizations such as Opus Dei with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian extremist organization, of which Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenant, was a passionate member. The Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Pakistan, the Jamaat-e-Islami, was strongly backed by the Pakistani army, and Coll writes that Casey, more than any other American, was responsible for welding the alliance of the CIA, Saudi intelligence, and the army of General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military dictator from 1977 to 1988.
On the suggestion of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) organization, Casey went so far as to print thousands of copies of the Koran, which he shipped to the Afghan frontier for distribution in Afghanistan and Soviet Uzbekistan. He also fomented, without presidential authority, Muslim attacks inside the USSR and always held that the CIA’s clandestine officers were too timid. He preferred the type represented by his friend Oliver North. Over time, Casey’s position hardened into CIA dogma, which its agents, protected by secrecy from ever having their ignorance exposed, enforced in every way they could. The agency resolutely refused to help choose winners and losers among the Afghan jihad’s guerrilla leaders. The result, according to Coll, was that “Zia-ul-Haq’s political and religious agenda in Afghanistan gradually became the CIA’s own.” In the era after Casey, some scholars, journalists, and members of Congress questioned the agency’s lavish support of the Pakistan-backed Islamist general Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, especially after he refused to shake hands with Ronald Reagan because he was an infidel. But Milton Bearden, the Islamabad station chief from 1986 to 1989, and Frank Anderson, chief of the Afghan task force at Langley, vehemently defended Hekmatyar on the grounds that “he fielded the most effective anti-Soviet fighters.” Even after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, the CIA continued to follow Pakistani initiatives, such as aiding Hekmatyar’s successor, Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban. When Edmund McWilliams, the State Department’s special envoy to the Afghan resistance in 1988-89, wrote that “American authority and billions of dollars in taxpayer funding had been hijacked at the war’s end by a ruthless anti-American cabal of Islamists and Pakistani intelligence officers determined to impose their will on Afghanistan,” CIA officials denounced him and planted stories in the embassy that he might be homosexual or an alcoholic. Meanwhile, Afghanistan descended into one of the most horrific civil wars of the 20th century. The CIA never fully corrected its naive and ill-informed reading of Afghan politics until after bin Laden bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998. REFERENCE: Are We to Blame for Afghanistan? By Chalmers Johnson 11-22-04 http://hnn.us/articles/8438.html
When neighbors came to Mullah Mohammed Omar in the spring of 1994, they had a story that was shocking even by the grim standards of Afghanistan’ s 18-year-old civil war. Two teen-age girls from the mullah’s village of Singesar had been abducted by one of the gangs of mujahedeen, or ”holy warriors,” who controlled much of the Afghan countryside. The girls’ heads had been shaved, they had been taken to a checkpoint outside the village and they had been repeatedly raped. At the time, Mullah Omar was an obscure figure, a former guerrilla commander against occupying Soviet forces who had returned home in disgust at the terror mujahedeen groups were inflicting on Afghanistan. He was living as a student, or talib, in a mud-walled religious school that centered on rote learning of the Koran. But the girls’ plight moved him to act. Gathering 30 former guerrilla fighters, who mustered between them 16 Kalashnikov rifles, he led an attack on the checkpoint, freed the girls and tied the checkpoint commander by a noose to the barrel of an old Soviet tank. As those around him shouted ”God is Great!” Mullah Omar ordered the tank barrel raised and left the dead man hanging as a grisly warning. The Singesar episode is now part of Afghan folklore. Barely 30 months after taking up his rifle, Mullah Omar is the supreme ruler of most of Afghanistan. The mullah, a heavyset 38-year old who lost his right eye in the war against the Russians, is known to his followers as Prince of All Believers. He leads an Islamic religious movement, the Taliban, that has conquered 20 of Afghanistan’ s 32 provinces.
Mullah Omar’s call to arms in Singesar is only part of the story of the rise of the Taliban that emerged from weeks of traveling across Afghanistan and from scores of interviews with Afghans, diplomats and others who followed the movement from its earliest days in 1994. It is a story that is still unfolding, with the Taliban struggling to consolidate their hold on Kabul, the capital. The city fell three months ago to a Taliban force of a few thousand fighters, who entered the city with barely a shot fired. But the Taliban, despite their protestations of independence, did not score their successes alone. Pakistani leaders saw domestic political gains in supporting the movement, which draws most of support from the ethnic Pashtun who predominate along the Pakistan-Afghanista n border. Perhaps more important, Pakistan’s leaders, in funneling supplies of ammunition, fuel and food to the Taliban, hoped to advance an old Pakistani dream of linking their country, through Afghanistan, to an economic and political alliance with the Muslim states of Central Asia. At crucial moments during the two years of the Taliban’s rise to power, the United States stood aside. It did little to discourage support for the Afghan mullahs both from Pakistan and from another American ally, Saudi Arabia, which found its own reasons for supporting the Taliban in their conservative brand of Islam. American officials emphatically deny the assertion, widely believed among the Taliban’s opponents in Afghanistan, that the United States offered the movement covert support. American diplomats’ frequent visits to Kandahar, headquarters of the Taliban’s governing body, the officials insist, were mainly exploratory. In fact, American policy on the Taliban has seesawed back and forth. The Taliban have found favor with some American officials, who see in their implacable hostility toward Iran an important counterweight in the region. But other officials remain uncomfortable about the Taliban’s policies on women, which they say have created the most backward-looking and intolerant society anywhere in Islam. And they say that the Taliban, despite promises to the contrary, have done nothing to root out the narcotics traffickers and terrorists who have found a haven in Afghanistan under the mujahedeen.
Documentary 2006 – Declassified: The Taliban (Part 1/5)
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In its most recent policy statement on Afghanistan, the State Department called on other nations to ”engage” with the Taliban in hopes of moderating their policies. But the statement came as the Taliban were tightening still further their Islamic social code, particularly the taboos that have banned women from working, closed girls’ schools, and required all women beyond puberty to cloak themselves head to toe in garments called burqas that are the traditional garb of Afghan village women. The result, so far, is that not a single one of the member countries of the United Nations has recognized the Taliban government and none have come forward with offers of the reconstruction aid the Taliban say will be needed to rebuild this shattered country. In the words of Mullah Mohammed Hassan, one of Mullah Omar’s partners in the Taliban’s ruling council, ”We are the pariahs of the world.”
On the Rise
Catching the Tide Of Discontent
How the Taliban succeeded in pacifying much of a country that had spent years spiraling into chaos is not, as their progress from Singesar to Kabul attests, primarily a question of military prowess. Much more, it was a matter of a group of Islamic nationalists catching a high tide of discontent that built up when the mujahedeen turned from fighting Russians to plundering, and just as often killing, their own people. By 1994, after five years of mujahedeen terror, the Taliban was a movement whose time had come. One man who has seen more of the Taliban than any other outsider, Rahimullah Yusufzai, a reporter for The News in Pakistan, put it simply: ”The story of the Taliban is not one of outsiders imposing a solution, but of the Afghans themselves seeking deliverance from mujahedeen groups that had become cruel and inhuman.
Documentary 2006 – Declassified: The Taliban (Part 2/5)
Documentary 2006 – Declassified: The Taliban (Part 3/5)
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”In most places, the people welcomed the Taliban as a deliverance, so there was no need to fight,” recalled Mr. Yusufzai, the Pakistani reporter, who has spent more time with the Taliban than any other outsider. Another event in September 1994 gave the Taliban their most important external backer. Naseerullah Babar, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, had a vision for extricating his wedge-shaped country from the precarious position in which it was placed when it was created in 1947 by the partition of India from territories running along British India’s frontiers with Afghanistan. Mr. Babar saw a Pakistan linked to the newly independent Muslim republics of what had been Soviet Central Asia, along roads and railways running across Afghanistan. He believed that stability in Afghanistan would mean a potential economic bonanza for Pakistan and a strategic breakthrough for the West. ”It was in the West’s overall interest,” he said in an interview in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. ”Unless the Central Asian states have an opening to the sea, they will never be free from Russia.” With the rise of Taliban power around Kandahar, Mr. Babar spied a chance to prove the vision’s practicability. Using Pakistan Government funds, he arranged a ”peace convoy” of heavily loaded trucks to run rice, clothing and other gifts north from Quetta in Pakistan, through Kandahar, and onward to Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan. But outside the American-built airport at Kandahar, a mujahedeen commander guarding one of the thousands of checkpoints that had made an obstacle course of any Afghan journey seized the convoy, demanding ransom. Once again, the Taliban intervened, freeing the convoy and hanging, again from a tank barrel, the commander who hijacked it. Mr. Babar’s subsequent enthusiasm for the Taliban gave rise to a widespread belief among the the group’s opponents that they were a Pakistani creation, or at least that their growing military power was sustained by cash, arms and ammunition from Pakistan. Because of Pakistan’s close ties with the United States, it was a short step for these Taliban opponents to conclude that Washington was also backing the Taliban.
Documentary 2006 – Declassified: The Taliban (Part 4/5)
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After Kabul fell in September, Americans venturing into non-Taliban areas north of Kabul faced a common taunt from soldiers of the ousted Government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. ”The Taliban are American puppets!” they said. But while that was not accurate, there were ties between American officials and the growing movement that were considerably broader than those to any other Western country. From early on, American diplomats in Islamabad had made regular visits to Kandahar to see Taliban leaders. In briefings for reporters, the diplomats cited what they saw as positive aspects of the Taliban, which they listed as a capacity to end the war in Afghanistan and its promises to put an end to the use of Afghanistan as a base for narcotics trafficking and international terrorism. Unmentioned, but probably most important to Washington, was that the Taliban, who are Sunni Muslims, have a deep hostility for Iran, America’s nemesis, where the ruling majority belong to the rival Shiite sect of Islam. Along the way, Washington developed yet another interest in the Taliban as potential backers for a 1,200-mile gas pipeline that an American energy company, Union Oil Company of California, has proposed building from Quetta, in Pakistan, to Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic that sits atop some of the world’s largest gas reserves, but has limited means to export them. The project, which Unocal executives have estimated could cost $5 billion, would be built in conjunction with the Delta Oil Company, a Saudi Arabian concern that also has close links to the Taliban. Among the advisers Unocal has employed to deal with the Taliban is Robert B. Oakley, a former American Ambassador to Pakistan. American officials, however, denied providing any direct assistance, covert or otherwise, to the Taliban. Similar assurances were given to Russia and India, as well as indirectly to Iran, countries that were involved in heavy arms shipments of their own to the Taliban’s main opponents, the armies of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum and President Rabbani that control the 12 northern provinces that continue to resist the Taliban. ”We do not have any relationship with the Taliban, and we never have had,” David Cohen, the Central Intelligence Agency official who directs the agency’s clandestine operations, told Indian officials in New Delhi in November.
Documentary 2006 – Declassified: The Taliban (Part 5/5)
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Mr. Babar offered similar denials, asserting that ”there has been no financial or material aid to the Taliban from Pakistan.” But Western intelligence officials in Pakistan said the denials were a smokescreen for a policy of covert support that Mr. Babar, a retired Pakistani general, had extended to the Taliban after the convoy episode at Kandahar airport. That support, the intelligence officials said, apart from ammunition and fuel, included the deployment at crucial junctures of Pakistani military advisers. The advisers were easy to hide, since they were almost all ethnic Pashtuns, from the same tribe that make up an overwhelming majority of the Taliban. Gaining Support To U.S. Diplomats A Rosy Picture American officials like Robin Raphel, the top State Department official dealing directly with matters involving Afghanistan, have placed heavy emphasis on the hope that contacts with the new rulers in Kabul will encourage them to soften their policies, especially toward women. They also say that the United States sees the Taliban, with its Islamic conservatism, as the best, and perhaps the only, chance that Afghanistan will halt the poppy growing and opium production that have made Afghanistan, with an estimated 2,500 tons of raw opium a year, the world’s biggest single-country source of the narcotic. A similar argument is made on the issue of the network of international terrorists, many of them Arabs, who have set up bases inside Afghanistan. But as the Taliban consolidate their power in Kabul, the signs of cooperation are not strong. In the week before Christmas, as bitterly cold winds from the 20,000-foot Hindu Kush mountains swept down on Kabul, senior Taliban officials seemed to be in a more pugnacious mood than in October, when a counteroffensive by the Rabbani and Dostum forces came within 10 miles of Kabul.
The attacking forces have since been driven back beyond artillery range, allowing the Taliban to concentrate on tightening their grip on Kabul’s restive population of 1.5-million. The sense that those Taliban leaders now give is that they see little reason to accommodate the West. Reports from United Nations officials monitoring drug flows suggest the Taliban have done nothing to impede the trafficking and that in the key provinces of Helmand and Nangarhar — accounting for more than 90 per cent of the opium production — they are in league with the drug producers, taxing them, and storing some of the opium in Taliban-guarded warehouses. Turning Away Elusive Positions On West’s Concerns Confronted with these reports, Taliban leaders have a stock response. ”We intend to stop the drug trafficking, because it is against Islamic laws,” they have said. ”But until we can rebuild our economy, there are no other jobs, so now is not the time.” The Taliban position on those who support international terrorists is still more elusive. According to Western intelligence estimates, as many as 400 trained terrorists are living in areas under Taliban control, some of them with links to the groups that mounted the bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993 and other major attacks, including the attempted assassination of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Ethiopia in 1995 and attacks in France by Algerian militants. One of the most-wanted men of all, Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian businessman who has been called one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremists in the world by the State Department, has been spotted within the past month at a heavily guarded home in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, held by the Taliban since early September. But it is on their treatment of women that Western governments’ attitudes seem most likely to hinge, and on that matter the Taliban show no sign of relenting. After a Taliban radio bulletin earlier this month celebrated the fact that 250 Kabul women had been beaten by Taliban in a single day for not observing the dress code, an Australian working as a coordinator for private Western aid agencies in Kabul, Ross Everson, visited one of the city’s top Taliban officials, Mullah Mohammed Mutaqi, to appeal for a turn toward what Mr. Everson called ”the doctrine of moderation that the Islamic faith is famous for.” Mullah Mutaqi stood up and waved his fist in Mr. Everson’s face. ”You are insulting us,” he said, Then, snuggling back into the blanket that Taliban officials wear around their shoulders for warmth in the unheated offices of Kabul, he made his clinching argument. ”I must ask you, are you the Muslim here, or am I?” he said. ”If you Westerners want to help us, you are welcome. Otherwise you are free to leave Afghanistan. You may think we cannot survive without you, but I can tell you, God will provide the Taliban with everything we need.” REFERENCE: “How Afghanistan’ s Stern Rulers Took Power,” New York Times, December 31, 1996 by JOHN F. BURNS and STEVE Levine FOR INDEPTH DETAILS: Major General (Retd) Naseerullah Khan Babar, Scandals & Shenanigans http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2009/06/major-general-retd-naseerullah-khan.html
US placed the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996 – CNN’s Crossfire – 09.11.02
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The Taliban invented
But first stability had to be restored to Afghanistan. During the civil war fighting in 1995 the first substantial numbers of Taliban appeared, “invented” by the Pakistani ISI and perhaps funded by the CIA and Saudi Arabia. Unocal and its Saudi partner Delta Oil may have even played a major role in buying off local commanders. Security in Afghanistan was apparently their sole purpose. On 26 September 1996 the Taliban took Kabul. Michael Bearden, a CIA representative in Afghanistan during the war against the USSR and currently the CIA’s unofficial spokesman, recalls how US viewed the situation at the time: the Taliban were not considered the worst: they were young and hot-headed, but that was better than civil war. They controlled all the territory between Pakistan and Turkmenistan’s gas fields, which might be good as it would be possible to build a pipeline across Afghanistan and supply gas and energy to the new market. Everyone was happy (5). Unocal’s vice-president, Chris Taggart, barely bothered to pretend Unocal was not backing the Taliban; he described their advance as a positive development. Claiming that Taliban seizure of power was likely to help the gas pipeline project, he even envisaged US recognition of the Taliban (6). He was wrong, but no matter: this was the honeymoon between the US and the “theology students”. Anything goes where oil and gas are involved. In fact, in November 1997 Unocal invited a Taliban delegation to the US and, in early December, the company opened a training centre at the University of Omaha, Nebraska, to instruct 137 Afghans in pipeline construction technology. The political and military situation showed no improvement, leading some in Washington to consider support for the Taliban and the oil pipeline a political mistake. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott warned in 1997 that the region could become a centre for terrorists, a source of political and religious extremism and a theatre of war (7).
An important new factor was influencing Afghanistan’s internal affairs and external relations: Osama bin Laden had sought refuge in Afghanistan after leaving Saudi Arabia. On 22 February 1998, with the support of the Taliban, he launched al-Qaida, a radical international Islamist movement, from Afghanistan. He also issued a fatwa authorising attacks on US interests and nationals. During a visit to Kabul on 16 April 1998, Bill Richardson, the US representative to the UN, raised the question of Bin Laden with the Taliban. They played down the problem. Tom Simons, ambassador to Pakistan, said that the Taliban assured him that Bin Laden did not have the religious authority to issue a fatwa. But on 8 August 1998 bombs destroyed the US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi, killing 224 people, including 12 Americans. The US responded by launching 70 cruise missiles against Afghanistan and strikes on Sudan. Bin Laden became US public enemy number one, although it was more than six months before an international arrest warrant was issued. Having failed to capture Bin Laden, the US hoped to negotiate with the Taliban to have him expelled from Afghanistan. But the attacks did collateral damage: Unocal announced that it was abandoning the Afghan gas pipeline. In 1997 the Six plus Two Group was set up, made up of Afghanistan’s six neighbours (Iran, Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) with Russia and the US. The group acts under the auspices of the UN and its special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi , a very experienced Algerian diplomat who took the post in July 1998. After the military and political failure of its earlier missions, the UN has again become crucial in the region. There were several diplomatic initiatives in the region in 1998, then on 12 March 1999, following Iran, the US moved closer to Russia on Afghanistan. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth went to Moscow. Very little divided the Russians and the Americans, including the role they envisaged for Teheran. According to Inderfurth, Iran as Afghanistan’s neighbour could help end conflict. Iran could play a positive role and the Six plus Two Group could provide a structure.
Inderfurth saw the irony: Afghanistan was an area where Russians and Americans could work together to end a war in which the Russians were involved, openly supporting the Northern Alliance. A new diplomatic game The first signs of current concerns also appeared in 1998. They included initiatives by factions close to supporters of former King Zahir Shah, who was ousted in 1973 and lives in exile in Rome. In a report to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed “the Loya Jirgah (grand assembly) as an informal, time-honoured method of settling disputes, advocated by leaders of non-warring Afghan factions.” He suggested encouraging “the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan to maintain useful contacts with them” (8). Other initiatives were taken around the UN, including a meeting of 21 countries influential in Afghanistan (9). The new diplomatic game began with the full meeting of the Six plus Two Group on 19 July 1999 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), the first time representatives of the Taliban and members of the Northern Alliance were to sit at the same table. The Taliban, in control of 90% of Afghan territory, refused to allow the Northern Alliance to be represented. As expected, the meeting was a failure, but from then the Group provided the channel for most diplomatic initiatives. Washington refused to abandon hope that the Taliban would surrender Bin Laden, and continued to maintain contacts and encourage processes directed to a political solution. With US blessing, a meeting to promote the Loya Jirgah was arranged by Zahir Shah and held in Rome, 22-25November 1999. The UN Security Council had adopted a resolution calling upon the Taliban to extradite Bin Laden, and imposing limited sanctions. On 18 January 2000 Spanish diplomat Francesc Vendrell replaced Lakdhar Brahimi, who, dispirited by the lack of progress, had resigned. Two days later, Karl Inderfurth went to Islamabad to meet Pakistan’s new leader, General Pervez Musharraf. He also met two senior Taliban representatives and demanded: “Give us Bin Laden”. In return, he offered to regularise relations between Kabul and the world. Although Washington denied it, the Taliban, internationally condemned for policies towards women, attitudes to human rights and protection of Bin Laden, were still in talks with the US. On 27 November the Taliban deputy minister of foreign affairs, Abdur Rahman Zahid, gave a lecture at the Washington Middle East Institute, calling for political recognition of the Taliban regime and intimating that the Bin Laden affair could then be settled (10). On 30 September 2000, on an Iranian initiative, there were fresh negotiations in Cyprus. Among those present were supporters of the former “butcher of Kabul”, Islamic extremist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had enjoyed the backing of the US and Saudi Arabia against the USSR, but was now in exile in Iran. The Northern Alliance established contacts with the pro-Zahir Shah Rome delegates.
On 6 April 2001 those contacts resulted in an initial joint meeting between the Rome process, in favour of a Loya Jirgah under the auspices of the former King, and the Cyprus process sponsored by the Iranians. Though disagreeing with the pro-Iranian element, the other factions agreed to further meetings. The discussions continued. On 3 November 2000 Vendrell had announced that the Taliban and the Northern Alliance had jointly considered a draft peace plan under the auspices of the Six plus Two Group (11). That coincided with a hardening of attitude within the Taliban as a result of international sanctions. In the spring, tension erupted in the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas. Meanwhile the Six plus Two Group had begun a new, and final, stage — so the Americans thought. A sub-group was secretly set up, supposed to be more effective, of diplomats or specialists with the most up-to-date experience of the region. The delegates’ foreign ministries secretly managed its work. Meetings were held in Berlin, with only the US, Russia, Iran and Pakistan present. The delegates included Robert Oakley, former US ambassador and Unocal lobbyist; Naiz Naik, former foreign minister of Pakistan; Tom Simons, former US ambassador and the most recent official negotiator with the Taliiban; a former Russian special envoy to Afghanistan, Nikolai Kozyrev, and Saeed Rajai Khorassani, formerly the Iranian representative to the UN. Winning the jackpot At the first meetings in November 2000 and March 2001, to prepare for direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, the participants discussed a political undertaking to give the Taliban a way out. According to Naiz Naik, the group wanted to respond to what the Taliban would say about their international approach, a broad-based government and human rights. Naik said the idea was that “we would then try to covey to them that if they did certain things, then, gradually, they could win the jackpot — get something in return from the international community”.
According to the Pakistanis present at the meeting, if the Taliban agreed to review human rights issues within two or three years and accept a transitional government with the Northern Alliance, they would gain massive (financial and technical) international aid to rebuild the country. According to Naik, the objective was to restore peace and stability, and secure the pipeline. It might, he said, be possible to persuade the Taliban that once a broader-based government was in place and the oil pipeline under way, there would be billions of dollars in commission, and the Taliban would have their own resources — the “jackpot” indeed. The US was still determined to get hold of Bin Laden. According to Tom Simons, if the Taliban surrendered him or entered into serious negotiations, the US would be ready to embark on a major reconstruction project. In Washington, the State Department was resolute. The administration had changed and the oil industry was over-represented within government, starting with President George Bush. The task of negotiating with the Taliban was given to Christina Rocca, the new assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, who knew about Afghanistan, a country she had dealt with between 1982 and 1987, when she worked for the CIA. On 12 February the US ambassador to the UN gave an assurance that, at the request of Vendrell, the US would develop a continuing dialogue on humanitarian bases with the Taliban (12). The US believed so firmly in the future of the negotiations that the State Department blocked the FBI investigation into the possible involvement of Bin Laden and his Taliban accomplices in the attack on the USS Cole, in Aden (Yemen) in October 2000. They had John O’Neill, the FBI’s “Mr Bin Laden”, expelled from Yemen to prevent him investigating further (13).
The third meeting was to take place, again in Berlin, between 17 and 21 July, in the presence of the Taliban representative, foreign minister Mullah Mutawkil, and the representative of the Northern Alliance, foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. In early July, a secret meeting had been held between 21 countries influential in Afghanistan, at Weston Park in the UK. A compromise solution based on the former king was approved, particularly by the Northern Alliance. Naiz Naik explained that it was necessary to tell the Taliban that if they refused to cooperate, the Zahir Shah option would be available. From that point, diplomacy saw Zahir Shah as a possible replacement for the Taliban. Unfortunately, the plan collapsed. The Taliban first rejected it because of the involvement of Vendrell: he represented the UN, responsible for the international sanctions. And an attempt was being made to get them to talk to parties to whom they objected. According to Naik, at this point Tom Simons referred to an open-ended military option against Afghanistan from bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The locations seemed plausible, as these were countries known to have military cooperation agreements with the US. But was a specific threat made? Ambassador Simons dismisses this. He was not there in an official capacity and had no authority to issue threats (but would the Taliban have turned up to meet unofficial delegates with no contact with the State Department?) I He merely stated that the US was looking at evidence relating to the USS Cole, pointing out that if the US established that Bin Laden was behind it, there would be military action. It is worth noting that on 5 July, in the belief that the Taliban were taking part in the negotiations, the US was specifically not looking for evidence in relation to the attack on the USS Cole. The Pakistani delegation reported what had been said to the ministry and the secret services. They, no doubt, informed the Taliban. In late July, Islamabad and Pakistani military circles were buzzing with rumours of war. According to an unofficial source at the French foreign ministry, it is possible that, by exaggerating what Simons had said, the Pakistani secret services were trying to pressure the Taliban to expel Bin Laden.
On one last occasion, on 29 July, Christina Rocca held unsuccessful discussions with the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan. The negotiations were at an end. The FBI began to look for evidence against Bin Laden. A possibility haunts people. What if, convinced the US was going to war, Bin Laden fired the first shot? On 11 September the towers of the World Trade Centre were destroyed by men activated no earlier than mid-August. Three days later, Unocal announced that the suspended proposal for a gas pipeline would remain on ice and it would refuse to negotiate with the Taliban, in the expectation that the Kabul regime would fall. A month later, US bombing began. The Tajiks and Uzbeks “agreed” to provide military facilities to US forces. To combat terrorism, Russia “spontaneously” promised all the assistance necessary to the US, and the anti-Taliban factions finally reached an agreement. All this happened in two months. On 27 November 2001 US energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, and a team from the Energy Department, went to Novosibirsk, in Russia, to facilitate the completion and opening of the oil pipeline of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) — a link costing eight companies, including Chevron, Texaco and Exxonmobil, $2.5bn. It was, according to Abraham, a fresh start for relations between Russia and the US (14) — and a further foothold for the US in exploiting the vast oil resources of the former Soviet Union. Hamid Karzai was appointed head of the Afghan interim government agreed at the Bonn meetings. It then emerged that during the negotiations over the Afghan oil pipeline, Karzai had been a consultant for Unocal. Brzezinski must be very amused. REFERENCE: The US and the Taliban: a done deal By Pierre Abramovici http://chagataikhan.blogspot.com/2008/10/taliban-phenomenon-20.html
THE MASSACRE IN MAZAR-I SHARIF On August 8, 1998, Taliban militia forces captured the city of Mazar-i Sharif in northwest Afghanistan, the only major city controlled by the United Front, the coalition of forces opposed to the Taliban. The fall of Mazar was part of a successful offensive that gave the Taliban control of almost every major city and important significant territory in northern and central Afghanistan. Within the first few hours of seizing control of the city, Taliban troops killed scores of civilians in indiscriminate attacks, shooting noncombatants and suspected combatants alike in residential areas, city street sand markets. Witnesses described it as a “killing frenzy” as the advancing forces shot at “anything that moved.” Retreating opposition forces may also have engaged in indiscriminate shooting as they fled the city. Human Rights Watch believes that at least hundreds of civilians were among those killed as the panicked population of Mazar-i Sharif tried to evade the gunfire or escape the city. REFERENCE: AFGHANISTAN: http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/afghan/
MASSACRES OF HAZARAS IN AFGHANISTAN This report documents two massacres committed by Taliban forces in the central highlands of Afghanistan, in January 2001 and May 2000. In both cases the victims were primarily Hazaras, a Shia Muslim ethnic group that has been the target of previous massacres and other serious human rights violations by Taliban forces. These massacres took place in the context of the six-year war between the Taliban and parties now grouped in the United National Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (the “United Front”), in which international human rights and humanitarian law have been repeatedly violated by the warring factions. Ethnic and religious minorities, and the Hazaras in particular, have been especially vulnerable in areas of conflict, and Taliban forces have committed large-scale abuses against Hazara civilians with impunity. In this report Human Rights Watch calls upon the United Nations to investigate both massacres and to systematically monitor human rights and humanitarian law violations by all parties to Afghanistan’s civil war. The massacre in Yakaolang district began on January 8, 2001 and continued for four days. In the course of conducting search operations following the recapture of the district from two Hazara-based parties in the United Front, the Taliban detained about 300 civilian adult males, including staff members of local humanitarian organizations. The men were herded to assembly points in the center of the district and several outlying areas, and then shot by firing squad in public view. About 170 men are confirmed to have been killed.
The killings were apparently intended as a collective punishment for local residents whom the Taliban suspected of cooperating with United Front forces, and to deter the local population from doing so in the future. The findings concerning events in Yakaolang are based on the record of interviews with eyewitnesses that were made available to Human Rights Watch and other corroborating evidence. The May 2000 massacre took place near the Robatak pass on the border between Baghlan and Samangan provinces. Thirty-one bodies were found at one site to the northwest of the pass. Twenty-six of the dead were positively identified as civilians from Baghlan province. Of the latter, all were unlawfully detained for four months and some were tortured before they were killed. Human Rights Watch’s findings in this case are based in large part on interviews with a worker who participated in the burials and with a relative of a detainee who was executed at Robatak. These accounts have been further corroborated by other independent sources. With respect to both massacres, all names of sources, witnesses, and survivors have been withheld. Mullah Mohammad Omar, the head of the Taliban movement, has stated that there is no evidence of a civilian massacre in Yakaolang and blocked journalists from visiting the district, until recently accessible only by crossing Taliban-held territory. On the night of February 13-14, 2001, however, United Front forces recaptured Bamiyan city, the provincial capital. The offensive secured an airport and a road link to Yakaolang. On January 19, 2001, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement expressing concern about “numerous credible reports” that civilians were deliberately targeted and killed in Yakaolang. The secretary-general called on the Taliban to take “immediate steps to control their forces,” adding that the reports required “prompt investigation” and that those responsible should “be brought to justice.”1
On February 16, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into human rights violations in Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch is concerned that such a commission would take too long to establish; the need is for a small team of experts that could be deployed immediately. The Taliban’s denial of responsibility for the Yakaolang massacre, and its failure to hold its commanders accountable for these and other abuses against civilians by its forces, make it critical that the U.N. itself investigate both cases. There have been preliminary discussions within the U.N. on the feasibility of investigating the Yakaolang massacre; a similar discussion also took place after the Robatak massacre, although no further action was taken. These discussions should be resumed. In doing so, however, the U.N. should not repeat the missteps that resulted in an inconclusive 1999 field investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, into the 1997 killing of Taliban prisoners by United Front forces in Mazar-i Sharif and the reprisal massacre of Hazara civilians by Taliban forces the following year. To allow an effective investigation into the cases documented in this report, the U.N. should adopt the measures outlined below. REFERENCE: 1 Secretary-General, United Nations, “Secretary-General very concerned about reports of civilians deliberately targeted and killed in Afghanistan,” January 19, 2001, as posted on Relief Web, http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf
Dec. 15, 1997 A Taliban delegation has visited Washington and was received by some State Department officials. The Talib delegation’s meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State for South Asia Karl Inderforth was arranged by the Unocal, which is eager to build a pipeline to pump gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghan territory. “We made our position clear, namely that the pipeline could be useful for Afghanistan’s rehabilitation, but only if the situation was settled there by political means”, a State Department official said on condition of anonymity. He stated that the Taliban representatives were told that they should form “a broadly-based government together with their rivals before the ambitious project to build an oil and gas pipeline is launched”. According to Taliban assessments, only one pipeline could yield almost $ 300 mm for rehabilitating the war-ravaged Afghanistan. The Taliban delegation included Acting Minister for Mines and Industry Ahmed Jan, Acting Minister for Culture and Information Amir Muttaqi, Acting Minister for Planning Din Muhammad, and recently appointed Taliban Permanent Delegate on the United Nations Mujahid. A State Department official described the talks as “open and useful”. He said that they also touched on the production of opium and open poppy on the Taliban-controlled territory, human rights, treatment of women, and on America’s attitude to the projected pipeline. Asked whether there could be problems for the U.S. government if it backed the commercial investments into a country, which is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, who, according to western standards, are oppressing women, the State Department official said that any real “political settlement” would resolve this problem. In the meantime, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described the Talib government only a month ago as something quite disgusting due to its policy of oppressing women. FOR FURTHER READING: Taliban visit Washington Volume 3, issue #6 – 25-02-1998 http://www.gasandoil.com/goc/news/ntn80956.htm
And while the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi stand officially disbanded, their most militant son and leader, Maulana Azam Tariq, an accused in several cases of sectarian killing, contested elections from jail – albeit as an independent candidate – won his seat, and was released on bail shortly thereafter. Musharraf rewrote election rules to disqualify former Prime Ministers Mohammed Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, and threatened to toss them in jail if they returned from abroad, which badly undermined both Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Musharraf has plainly given the religious groups more free rein in the campaign than he has allowed the two big parties that were his main rivals. In Jhang city, in Punjab province, Maulana Azam Tariq, leader of an outlawed extremist group called Sipah-e-Sahaba, which has been linked to numerous sectarian killings, is being allowed to run as an independent despite election laws that disqualify any candidate who has criminal charges pending, or even those who did not earn a college degree. “It makes no sense that Benazir can’t run in the election,” says one Islamabad-based diplomat, “and this nasty guy can.” References: And this takes me back to Pervez Musharraf’s first visit to the US after his coup. At a meeting with a group of journalists among whom I was present, my dear and much lamented friend Tahir Mirza, then the Dawn correspondent, asked Musharraf why he was not acting against Lashkar-e Tayba and Jaish-e Muhammad. Musharraf went red in the face and shot back, “They are not doing anything in Pakistan. They are doing jihad outside.” Pakistani neocons and UN sanctions Khalid Hasan This entry was posted on Sunday, December 28th, 2008 at 6:00 pm.http://www.khalidhasan.net/2008/12/28/pakistani-neocons-and-un-sanctions/ For The ‘General’ Good By Sairah Irshad Khan Monthly Newsline January 2003http://www.newsline.com.pk/newsJan2003/cover1jan2003.htm – General’s Election By TIM MCGIRK / KHANA-KHEL Monday, Oct. 07, 2002http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,361788,00.html
RIGHT UNDER THE NOSE OF GENERAL MUSHARRAF AND GEORGE W BUSH!!!
In interviews, however, American intelligence officials and high-ranking military officers said that Pakistanis were indeed flown to safety, in a series of nighttime airlifts that were approved by the Bush Administration. The Americans also said that what was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control, and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus. “Dirt got through the screen,” a senior intelligence official told me. Last week, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment. Musharraf won American support for the airlift by warning that the humiliation of losing hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of Pakistani Army men and intelligence operatives would jeopardize his political survival. “Clearly, there is a great willingness to help Musharraf,” an American intelligence official told me. A C.I.A. analyst said that it was his understanding that the decision to permit the airlift was made by the White House and was indeed driven by a desire to protect the Pakistani leader. The airlift “made sense at the time,” the C.I.A. analyst said. “Many of the people they spirited away were the Taliban leadership”—who Pakistan hoped could play a role in a postwar Afghan government. According to this person, “Musharraf wanted to have these people to put another card on the table” in future political negotiations. “We were supposed to have access to them,” he said, but “it didn’t happen,” and the rescued Taliban remain unavailable to American intelligence. According to a former high-level American defense official, the airlift was approved because of representations by the Pakistanis that “there were guys— intelligence agents and underground guys—who needed to get out.” REFERENCE: The Getaway Questions surround a secret Pakistani airlift. by Seymour M. Hersh January 28, 2002http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/01/28/020128fa_FACT
President Dervis Eroglu of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) met the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Saturday.
Following the meeting, Eroglu told reporters that they discussed Cyprus talks as well as recent developments regarding oil and natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean which was directly related with the Cyprus talks.
Noting that they presented a new proposal including four topics to Ban within that scope, Eroglu said that the proposal was presented to the UN as a way of solution to the problem regarding Greek Cypriot efforts to explore oil and natural gas in the Mediterranean.
Listing the topics, Eroglu said, “1-Let’s suspend the oil and natural gas exploration simultaneously until a comprehensive solution is found to Cyprus problem, 2-If this is not going to happen, then we shall set up an ad-hoc committee shaped by representatives of both peoples. We shall give some authorities to the committee such as; explorations, agreements and licences depend on written approval of both sides, and we will negotiate the ratio of sharing the richness which will be found, 3-We shall use the income to finance the comprehensive talks, 4-Adoption of the plan shall not harm the positions of both sides.”
Eroglu said that Ban was pleased with the proposal.
Earlier this week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Eroglu signed in New York an agreement on the delineation of the continental shelf between two countries in the East Mediterranean following a Greek Cypriot move to start offshore drilling for natural gas and oil in the southeast of the Eastern Mediterranean island.
In 2010, Greek Cypriot administration and Israel signed an accord demarcating their maritime borders to facilitate a search for mineral deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Greek Cypriot administration has recently begun oil and natural gas exploration and drilling.
The Greek Cypriot side had signed a deal with U.S.-based Noble Energy to start drilling in an 324,000-hectare economic zone.
When asked whether TRNC could give authorization to explore oil and natural gas only for north of the island after signing the agreement on the delineation of continental shelf with Turkey, Eroglu said that Turkish Cypriots had rights on all underwater richness around Cyprus island so that TRNC had the right to give authorization both north and the south of the island.
When asked how this process would affect the intensified Cyprus talks, Eroglu said that TRNC wanted to pursue talks, adding that the talks would continue on Tuesday.
Eroglu then held a bilateral meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday said that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States not Pakistan created the Haqqani network and trained its members.
Talking to media representatives at a ceremony here, Malik said that the Haqqani network was present in Afghanistan and those claiming otherwise should provide evidence of its presence in Pakistan.
“We will fight the terrorists as our forces are capable of handling them and countering any challenge,” the minister said.
Ten years after the Pervez Musharraf government abruptly reversed Pakistan’s policy of helping the United States topple the Taleban government in Afghanistan, Islamabad’s ties with Washington are hitting new lows with each passing day.
The chief reason has to do with the Pakistan establishment’s unflinching support for the groups of tribal militants loosely banded as the Quetta Shura.
Angered and frustrated at the repeated attacks on American and Nato forces by Pakistan-backed militants, the US is threatening to ignore Pakistani sensitivities and mount hot pursuits in the barely governed tribal badlands of Pakistan.
There are even murmurs of the unthinkable — Pakistan being branded a state sponsor of terrorism — if ties deteriorate further.
Meanwhile, the US is actively looking to expand alternate supply routes into Afghanistan to cut its dependence on the Pakistani port of Karachi.
Taken together, dark clouds are looming over US ties with Pakistan, once so tight that US pilot Gary Powers, whose U-2 spy plane was brought down over Russia in 1960, had taken off from a Pakistani airfield for his mission. When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan two decades later, Pakistan was the staging point for the US-backed Afghan resistance.
Now, their interests are completely misaligned and as American frustration grows, hot words are flying.
Last week, US envoy Cameron Munter went on Pakistan radio to decry Islamabad’s support for the Haqqani militant network, directly accusing it of targeting US and Nato offices in Kabul in a bid to control Afghanistan’s post-2014 future.
On Wednesday, his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave her young Pakistani counterpart, the designer-clothed Hina Rabbani Khar, a dressing down.
And just the day before, Admiral Mike Mullen, the soon-to-retire chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pakistani state was using the Haqqanis as “proxies.”
The US Senate Appropriations Committee also voted to make aid to Pakistan conditional on its cooperation to fight militants. Islamabad yesterday promised to take action against the Haqqanis if Washington provides sufficient intelligence, but denied that they were in Pakistan.
Admiral Mullen said he raised the need for Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to sever ties with the Haqqani network during talks with Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Kayani last Friday.
“The ISI has been… supporting proxies for an extended period of time. I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future,” he said.
The blunt remarks raised eyebrows because Admiral Mullen claims a personal friendship with General Kayani. But for those following the steady decline in US-Pakistani ties, it came as no surprise.
“The US-Pakistani partnership has been steadily marching to a meltdown ever since it was resuscitated, thanks to divergent objectives, poor alternatives and endless illusions,” said respected analyst Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Although the US was aware of Pakistan’s active support for the Taleban resurgence as early as 2003, and for anti-Indian jihadi groups even earlier, they did not receive serious attention as long as Afghanistan remained stable. The real strains emerged when the Pakistani backing of the Quetta Shura began to dangerously undermine US operations in Afghanistan.”
The Quetta Shura — shura means council — is a coalition of anti-US groups comprising the Haqqani brothers, Mullah Omar’s Taleban and others. The Haqqanis were blamed for staging the 17-hour stand-off in Kabul last week when militants attacked the US Embassy and Nato headquarters. The US thinks the ISI directly ordered the assault.
Interestingly, the US has not yet classified the Haqqanis as a foreign terrorist organisation.
“The reason is that doing so would mean it will have to also categorise Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism,” said a Western diplomatic source. “There would be many consequences and Washington has to think through all of them carefully. But this is something not to be ruled out for the future. Pakistan must decide whether it wants to be on the side of the problem or the solution.”
Although some of the Shura’s key leaders have been picked up by Pakistani forces in recent months, the US is convinced that it continues to be backed by the ISI.
A string of Indian consulates set up in Afghanistan — all allowed by the India-friendly Hamid Karzai regime — has exacerbated Pakistani insecurities. And it has not helped that India has excellent ties with Tajikistan, on Afghanistan’s northern border, whose Ayni airbase is India’s only foreign military asset.
Meanwhile, the US is desperately building up alternate supply routes.
This month, it was revealed that President Barack Obama was planning to push Congress to lift a seven-year-old arms embargo on Uzbekistan. The idea is to woo Tashkent into closer cooperation with the overland supply route from Europe to Afghanistan, called the Northern Distribution Network (NDN).
Currently, the dominant supply route is through Karachi, from where the supplies pass overland and through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.
But the US move suggests that Washington expects that route to get more and more dangerous. Hence the need to get the Uzbeks’ cooperation, never mind that the NDN is a far more expensive route.