America’s Dumb-Assed Duplicity In Af/Pak

[Whenever America’s two-faced foreign policy stands exposed to the world, the military’s first response is always to send forth a highly decorated spokesman, to feign hurt feelings that people would ever doubt American military integrity.  The backtracking usually comes later, when war crimes and duplicity stand fully exposed, revealing American CIA or military covert actions which are indistinguishable from other terrorism. 

The direct action missions and irregular warfare actions simulate terrorism, which means that innocent people must die in the process.  To pretend otherwise is asking that we ignore reality itself.  The attack upon the Pakistani border post was clearly one of those “tickling” incidents mentioned by former CIA director Michael Hayden, intended to reveal what Pakistani reactions would be to small air attacks, as a prelude to bigger incursions inside Pakistan.  Our relationship with Pakistan has degenerated into an ongoing psywar against each other. 

How can the US really try to undermine Pakistan’s “clout” in Afghanistan if their help is needed to bring order to Afghanistan?  Generals tend to be braggarts, who often express their disgust with the rest of the male population for perceived weaknesses.  Listening to them is like watching the scene from Patton where he slaps the shell-shocked soldier for cowardice.   US military spokesmen will have a much more difficult job convincing the world that our intentions are above-board and sincere in the future.  The deceptions upon which this war has operated are being revealed one by one.  Each revelation undercuts American claims of integrity and denials of evil intentions.  Until the Beast stands fully exposed to the world he will continue to hide behind the Hollywood “good guy” image that the Pentagon has carefully crafted over the years.]

US needs to tackle Pakistan’s clout in Afghanistan, says Dempsey

Gen. Martin Dempsey speaks as Associate Editor and columnist of the Washington Post David Ignatius looks on in Washington.—AFP

WASHINGTON, Dec 9: The US military chief has said there still are sanctuaries for militants in Pakistan and that the country’s influence in Afghanistan needs to be tackled.

“In Pakistan, the sanctuary for these militants persists. We have to work hard to end  its influence on our Afghan mission,” Gen Martin Dempsey said on Friday.

The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff also said that Pakistan’s decision to block Nato supply routes reflected badly on its relationship with the United States.

The US military chief indicated that the US was already working on alternative routes to reduce its dependence on Pakistan for supplying its troops in Afghanistan. “We can change the percentages of our reliance upon the Pakistani line of communication.

“We can adjust and we can get it done. It will be more expensive. It will be time-consuming but we have the time to do it,” he said.

“The real problem for me is not the cost. What is troubling me is that they would close the route. What it says about the (US-Pakistan) relationship is troubling for us.”

The general insisted that those who were burning Nato fuel trucks in Pakistan were doing little harm to the US. “When they torch fuel, it is not our fuel they are torching. We do not pay for fuel until it gets to us.”

Gen Dempsey claimed the US military had achieved its “intended purpose” in Afghanistan by reversing the Taliban momentum. He noted that a recent loya jirga in Afghanistan had emphasised the need for establishing a long-term relationship with the United States “in a very encouraging way”.

Gen Dempsey insisted that the Nato attack on two Pakistani border posts was not deliberate. “We did not do it intentionally, regrettably the Pakistani military believes that we did,” he said when asked what caused the attack.

“It is incomprehensible to me, based on our relationship, that they believe so, but they do.”

In an earlier statement, he had said the US-Pakistan ties were troubled, but repairable. His latest remarks at Washington’s Atlantic Council, however, reflected a growing disenchantment with an ally that once played a key role in implementing America’s cold war strategy for Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s military said the Nov 26 attack was unprovoked but the US and Afghan officials have claimed that Nato troops were responding to fire from the Pakistani side of the border.

Expressing his exasperation with the Pakistani perception, Gen Dempsey asked: “What in the world we will hope to gain from it? We did not do it intentionally.”

The US military chief said he had spoken to Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was his classmate at a military college in the United States, about the incident and was now waiting for the investigation to conclude. He has also held similar discussions with Nato commanders in Afghanistan, he added.

“We have chosen patience and we are asking them (the Pakistanis) to show some patience too.”

Asked why the Pakistanis were claiming that the attack on their military posts was intentional, Gen Dempsey said: “We are kind of the victims of our own success sometimes. The rest of the world sees (us) as all-knowing, all-seeing and completely precise”.

But this was not always true as “the warfare is not just ugly. It is messy. It is chaotic and it is unpredictable. We are waiting for the investigation to tell us what really happened.”

The killings have served to upend Washington’s attempts to improve ties with Islamabad, which worsened after the secret US raid into Abbottabad to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May. The Nov 26 incident also threatened to undermine US efforts to stabilise the region before a planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.

What the mood shift in Russia means

What the mood shift in Russia means

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR

Police push people out from a square to prevent a protest against alleged vote rigging in Russia's parliamentary elections in Triumphal Square in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo:AP
Police push people out from a square to prevent a protest against alleged vote rigging in Russia’s parliamentary elections in Triumphal Square in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo:AP

Russia is changing, the mood of the electorate is changing, the way the people view the government is changing but the way the political class conducts the business of the state hasn’t changed.

The results of last Sunday’s parliamentary election in Russia underscore that democracy springs surprises when least expected. And the genie once out of the bottle can never be put back sans mayhem. Equally, democracy is doubtless gaining traction in Russia, and the leadership has probably allowed the political space for people to express their discontent in an open election more than at any time before.

The ruling United Russia (UR) suffered a severe setback, securing “only” 50 per cent vote, as against a whopping 64 per cent in 2007. It translates into a drop of 72 seats but the UR will now have to settle for a “mere” 238 seats in the 450-member Parliament. Why “only,” why “mere”? But then, this is Russia. The UR lacks the two-thirds majority needed for making constitutional amendments. In sum, the next government that was expected to be led by Dmitry Medvedev — that is, as things stood yesterday — will have to function in a more accountable legislative and political setting. But consensus building also needs a certain political culture that Russia may not yet possess. Coalition building surely becomes the judicious political course. The Russian Parliament gets a historic opportunity to get out of the trough into which Boris Yeltsin tragically dispatched it 20 years ago when he ordered tanks to open fire at it. But that is simplifying matters. The fact of the matter is that in the steeply vertical post-Soviet power pyramid, Parliament never quite figured out its rightful role.

The UR’s political base continues to be the conservative section of the electorate. The nearest one can compare it would be with Gaullism seen in France in the 1960s — a strange cocktail of the left and the right of the ideological spectrum, statism, nationalism and so on. Interestingly, the “protest votes” have gone to bolster the left parties — the Communist Party (CP) in particular, which now emerges as the main opposition with 92 seats, securing almost 20 per cent of the total vote. Even more important is that the CP is spreading its wings. It got around 25 per cent of the votes in Siberia and the Far East. To quote Itar-Tass, “now one could say that the ‘red belt’ has extended to the Asian part of Russia.” The UR lost ground in the Karelia, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Sverdlovsk and Yaroslavl regions. Russia’s vast “peripheries” seem to be swinging to the left.

Why are people “protesting” in Russia? Obviously, the ruling party that held power during the economic crisis suffers the “anti-incumbency” factor. The UR campaign was run by Dmitry Medvedev, whom Vladimir Putin had named Prime Minister in a new government headed by him if he won the presidential poll in March next. And Mr. Medvedev wasn’t convincing enough in his new role as captain of the UR ship. Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev complemented each other through the past four years but once they publicly confessed in September that they were like Siamese twins, the so-called “tandem” lost its mystique, its élan. The highly literate Russian people apparently didn’t like that they had been taken for granted by the political class. How the UR’s defeat affects Mr. Medvedev’s political future will make an interesting puzzle. He needs to reinvent himself.

ARRIVAL OF SOCIAL NETWORKING

Without doubt, the internet and social networking have arrived in Russia as a catalyst of change. The western media are projecting the parliamentary election results as a “defeat” for Mr. Putin, but that is wishful thinking. A born fighter who grasps the meaning of the UR’s alienation from people, he remains hugely popular. Mr. Putin admitted that the results were an accurate reflection of the mood in the country. So, the question remains: why this “protest” vote? The point is Russia is changing, the mood of the electorate is changing, the way the people view the government is changing, but the way the political class conducts the business of the state hasn’t changed. For an outsider, this mood shift has been evident for quite some time and the only issue was how soon and in what form it was going to manifest.

Public corruption; an indifferent bureaucracy; a pervasive sense of ennui borne out of the feeling that the more things seem to change the more they remain the same; a sense of stagnation and helplessness triggering an overpowering longing for change (especially in the regions of Siberia and Far East which see Moscow as a “distant” capital); uncertainties of various kinds — the Russian economy depends critically on energy prices but Moscow has no control over the world energy market; economic difficulties — Russia relies on energy exports to meet 40 per cent of its budget and an average oil price of $126 a barrel is needed to balance its budget next year; an unfavourable external environment with the U.S.-Russia “reset” in abeyance till 2013 at least — all these seem to have combined in varying measures. However, the most important thing is that the UR hasn’t been “defeated,” rather, it has been given a reprieve. It is not lying prostrate in the boxing ring dazed by a knockout punch, and at least half the audience is still clapping, wanting it to have a go at it no matter the bruises. Which also signals that the Russian people want political stability. Russia’s political stability is not affected since it is only very seldom that the government may need to muster two-thirds support to moot a constitutional amendment or reverse a veto by the Upper House of Parliament. Even then, the UR can negotiate support of smaller parties case by case.

TAME SHOW COME ALIVE

However, Russia’s democratic landscape has changed beyond recognition. CP leader Gennady Zyuganov proposes to challenge Mr. Putin in the presidential poll. This was not unexpected but in the changed circumstances, the March election that was destined to be a tame show has suddenly come alive. The political discourse is changing. And the unthinkable is happening: Mr. Putin may have a fight on his hands to avoid a run-off, which would severely damage his political standing. Mr. Medvedev phoned Mr. Zyuganov and sought “constructive cooperation” as on past occasions. The big question is whether the communists will function as a “constructive” or unforgiving opposition. Mr. Zyuganov is an experienced politician and would sense that there is a continuing bedrock of support still among the Russian people for the ideology his party represents — and it could be growing.

On the other hand, Mr. Putin will feel the compulsion to respond to the growing leftist sentiments. Other than the CP, the left-of-centre A Just Russia also gained, increasing its seats to 64 from 38 in the outgoing parliament. It works closely with the UR. In sum, what is important is that it helps the ruling party that the main opposition is the communist party, rather than the liberals. A major deficiency of the Russian system is the absence of a “popular liberal party or a party of annoyed urban communities,” as the top Kremlin aide and mastermind on Russian politics, Vladislav Surkov, admitted in an interview with a popular radio host. But then, as the prominent Russian think-tanker, Sergei Mikheyev, promptly counterposed: “The election results have clearly shown that liberals are not popular in Russia. How can you create a liberal party if people do not vote for the liberals? And why is it that those who are unhappy with the authorities are not necessarily liberals?”

Good question. But Mr. Surkov offered a great explanation, too. “In closed systems disorder increases … It leads to even greater ‘closedness’ and, as a result, greater chaos. Therefore, in order for the system to preserve itself and develop, it should be opened. New players should be let into it … We can’t allow ourselves to wind up in the situation of ‘solux rex’, the lonely king. There is more turbulence in an open system but however paradoxical it may be, more stability as well … It is wrong to act in 2011 in the same way as in 2001. This is as if a patient has been treated, treated successfully, he has recovered, but he is still being treated. It is enough to treat him. Everyone has been treated. It is time to let go.”

HIGH-STAKES AFFAIR

Suffice it to say, the upcoming presidential election is going to be a high-stakes affair for not only Russia but also world politics. The big powers are circling the wagons in an international environment fraught with great fluidity and a growing threat of war. How Russia goes about it, where indeed Russia stands, with whom Russia chooses to hold hands and in what circumstances — all these would largely depend on who leads the country in the formative period ahead. The March election, therefore, is not going to be Russia’s exclusive indulgence in democracy.

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

Why Someone is Blackmailing Kayani

Why Someone is Blackmailing Kayani

By M K Bhadrakumar

 

Eli Lake ’s column featured by Daily Beast (see below) is intriguing for more reasons than the obvious one that he is one of America ’s ace reporters on the national security beat. Surely, someone in the know of things on the US’s intelligence operations in Pakistan gave him a peep into the secret world of the US’s intelligence network in Pakistan and that ’someone’ must be really ’someone’ very special of the stature of David Petraeus, for instance, for Lake to take him so seriously.

 

I wonder why that someone gave away so much that has a most acute angle to it (which is hard to see except if you look closely), namely, that someone is softly, gently rocking Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani, suggesting it’s time to wake up from the reverie. The reason could be that the Pakistani decision to expel the US from Shamsi airbase and to root out the remaining tentacles of the US ’s parallel intelligence network is hurting.

 

After all, Iran just showed how to shoot down America ’s latest stealth drone aircraft. And Kayani just told his men in the border with Afghanistan that they could shoot at what they want. With Shamsi gone out of US hands, America ’s celebrated drone warfare may be ending in our part of the world till a more sophisticated model if perfected through the trial runs in the Somalian wilds.

 

Lake gives a fascinating insight into how the Americans prised open Pakistan ’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] and played havoc with it ultimately. And Lake reminds us gently that all these deadly US inroads into the ISI’s bowels began when Kayani was heading the ISI under Pervez Musharraf who, of course, according to Lake, gave “valuable assistance” to the Americans from the presidential palace in Islamabad . (My advice to Musharraf is to defer his proposed arrival in Pakistan in January 2012 by at least one year .)

 

With great aplomb, Lake slips in the intriguing thought as well that Musharraf “handpicked Kayani as his replacement as Army chief shortly before stepping down from the presidency in August 2008.”

 

So, the ISI’s pro-American “T-Wing” was formed during Kayani’s stewardship only, which later led to the proliferation of US intelligence activity in Pakistan . In short, it is rubbish to blame Hussain Haqqani as responsible for letting in all those hundreds of CIA operatives into Pakistan by generously granting them diplomatic visas from his ambassadorial chamber in Washington. Haqqani, it seems, was efficiently following up an entire enterprise that began under Kayani.

 

Lake informs us that Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of US joint chiefs of staff, was known back in Washington among the folks as the “Kayani whisperer”. Lake writes admiringly of Mullen as “a man with a special knack for quietly and discreetly influencing Kayani at crucial points.”

 

Just ponder for a few minutes: Why is someone in a key position in the US security establishment in Washington deliberately slandering Kayani at this point? I think, with Haqqani gone out of the loop, with President Asif Zardari probably stepping down soon in whatever strange circumstances, there is great uneasiness bordering on panic in Washington .

 

It seems increasingly that Washington has no Plan B. The setback has come as an avalanche. The Pakistani military has turned the table squarely on the US and the latter needs to yet figure out how to play back into the game. By the way, Shuja Nawaz, who is known to be rather knowledgeable, also makes much the same point.

 

Meanwhile, someone has hinted at a warning to Kayani that he is going too far in rooting out even the last traces of the US intelligence penetration that devastated the Pakistani state structure.

 

The overpowering sense from Lake’s dispatch is of course how the US doesn’t hesitate to degrade the state structures of even its allies if American interests are involved. If this was the ruthless fate that visited ISI – an organisation that is considered second only to Mossad – I shudder to think what would be the case with lesser mortals like, say, we Indians who live on vegetables and fruits. At the end of the historic “defining partnership” between US and India , will anything be left of our Bharat mata?

 

 

America’s Shadow State in Pakistan

U.S.-Pakistani relations may be on the rocks, but the CIA’s secret friends in the country fight on in units, prisons, and bases the United States has been building up since 9/11 to counter the pro-Taliban side of Pakistan ’s military and intelligence services.

Eli Lake reports exclusively.

 

by Eli Lake | December 5, 2011

 

Officially, America ’s relations Pakistan ’s military and intelligence services were in a tailspin in August. Furious at having been kept in the dark ahead of the Americans’ May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, Pakistan’s military had kept U.S. investigators out of the place until it was scrubbed for evidence and had refused them access to bin Laden’s wives for some time. And the Pakistanis had outed the CIA’s Islamabad station chief, putting his life at risk. Meanwhile, back in America , fears were rising over possible al Qaeda attacks on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

 

But in the shadows, far from the public rancor, Pakistani-U.S. cooperation quietly continued. In Quetta , the Taliban’s capital in exile, U.S. intelligence was monitoring the cellphone of the presumed planner of any Qaeda anniversary attacks, Younis al-Mauritani, the group’s newly named external operations chief. The Americans’ tracking data—signals intelligence, or sigint, as it’s known in the profession—was being shared in real time with the local branch of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps. When his exact location was discovered, the Pakistanis smashed through the doors of his safe house and grabbed him along with two deputies.

 

Soon he was hundreds of miles away, at a special detention center in Punjab province, under intensive interrogation by a pro-U.S. faction of Pakistan ’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. The Americans began getting regular reports on potential threats connected to the anniversary. CIA officials were even given an “unofficial” visit to question Mauritani directly.

 

Many in the U.S. government regarded the capture as a crowning achievement of a decade-long, multibillion-dollar effort to build a secret network of Pakistani security forces, intelligence operatives, counterterrorism fighters, and detention centers. Its objective had been to create a friendlier, more trustworthy alternative to Pakistan ’s military and intelligence services.

 

Now, however, just three months after Mauritani’s capture, the partnership is facing its most dire challenge. Relations between the two countries have been rocked by back-to-back incidents. First came what the media are calling “memogate,” in which President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration is accused of plotting with the U.S. to replace the leadership of Pakistan ’s military and intelligence services. And then, on Thanksgiving weekend, a NATO helicopter reported being fired upon by a Pakistani military outpost near the Afghanistan border. The chopper returned fire, killing two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

 

The reaction inside Pakistan has been white hot, and current and former U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast they worry the CIA’s alternate security network will be the ultimate casualty. If that happens, America could be left blind to future threats emanating from Pakistan , and the task of rounding up or killing high-value Qaeda remnants could become more difficult, if not impossible.

 

“We’ve been trying desperately for the last 10 years to build elements of Pakistani society and its national security bureaucracy to support U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region,” says Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a former manager at the National Counterterrorism Center . “This latest incident is a major test of that strategy.”

 

Former CIA director Mike Hayden says he has feared such an outcome for years as he watched U.S.-Pakistani relations drifting apart. “The space where American perceptions of strategic interests and Pakistani perceptions of strategic interests overlap has been diminishing,” he says.

 

In recent years, the relationship was kept afloat largely by the efforts of one man: Adm. Mike Mullen. Before his retirement as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman this September, he maintained a personal friendship with his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. At tense moments for the two countries, such as the arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis for killing two armed men in Lahore this past January, Mullen would be sent to smooth things over with Pakistan ’s Army chief. One U.S. intelligence officer who works on Pakistan refers to Mullen as “the Kayani whisperer”: a man with a special knack for quietly and discreetly influencing Kayani at crucial points.

 

But the friendship soured in Mullen’s final days. The four-star admiral accused the ISI of supporting direct attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the Haqqani network, a deadly faction and support network for the Afghan Taliban, according to most accounts. The accusation left a shocked Kayani insisting to the Pakistani media that his old friend was simply misinformed. But things had been unraveling ever since the Davis shooting. The CIA contractor was one of numerous U.S. operatives who worked with elements of the U.S.-aligned shadow forces in Pakistan to target and apprehend terrorists— Pakistan , after all, was the country where bin Laden had been living unmolested for years. Before the shooting, current and recently retired U.S. intelligence officials say, the pro-American shadow network in Pakistan was capturing on average one Qaeda suspect a month. Still, those captures were seldom cleared through the chain of command of the ISI or the Pakistani military, and since the Davis incident the job has gotten much harder and riskier, U.S. officials say.

 

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, America got valuable assistance from the military under Pakistan ’s then-president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. (It was Musharraf who handpicked Kayani as his replacement as Army chief shortly before stepping down from the presidency in August 2008.) Musharraf’s support enabled the Americans to bring a number of major Qaeda fugitives to justice, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

 

But Pakistan ’s cooperation gradually petered out as Qaeda-instigated insurgencies erupted around the country, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the wild mountain region along the Afghan border. Hundreds of Pakistani soldiers were killed before Musharraf finally caved in and signed peace deals with FATA warlords in 2006 and 2007, effectively creating a sanctuary where al Qaeda’s leadership could regroup.

 

“We’ve been trying desperately for the last 10 years to build elements of Pakistani society and its national security bureaucracy to support U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region.”

 

America’s current partnership with the Frontier Corps dates back to the summer of 2008, when U.S. special forces began frequent cross-border raids into the FATA. (Before 2008 such raids were rare.) Since then the corps has helped target senior Taliban and Qaeda leaders for drone strikes, in addition to helping capture senior Qaeda operatives such as Mauritani and providing security for the Shamsi drone base, the headquarters of the CIA’s Pakistan drone operations. This is risky work as well. On Sept. 8, two suicide bombers killed 23 people at the home of Farrukh Shahzad, the deputy commander of the Baluchistan Frontier Corps that captured Mauritani.

 

Within the ISI, America ’s most reliable ally has been the spy service’s division known as the T Wing. It was created largely from scratch in 2006 and 2007, after the Americans mostly gave up trying to work with the ISI’s uncooperative leadership. U.S. officials say their hope was that the T Wing, which conducted Mauritani’s interrogation, might help to offset the pernicious influence of the ISI’s S Wing, the division in charge of managing the Pakistani government’s relationship with Islamic extremist groups such as the Kashmiri separatist Lashkar-e-Taiba and Afghanistan ’s Taliban. According to the same officials, America also has embraced and funded units connected to Pakistan ’s Interior Ministry, particularly in the corruption-ridden megalopolis of Karachi, where the local police are not considered reliable counterterrorism partners.

 

Over the past 10 years, Pakistan has received more than $20 billion in public U.S. funding for military and economic assistance. Washington’s secret subsidy of Pakistan ’s intelligence and military could be much higher. Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called attention to the CIA’s extensive secret funding during a recent Republican debate. “The money that we are spending right now is primarily intelligence money to Pakistan ,” she declared. “It is helping the United States . Whatever our action is, it must ultimately be about helping the United States and our sovereignty, our safety, and our security.”

 

That’s not as easy as it may sound. It’s been necessary to pick and choose which elements of Pakistan ’s security apparatus America should engage with, says Mark Lowenthal, a former House Intelligence Committee staff director and former CIA assistant director for analysis. “We do this because of the nature of the Pakistani state,” he says. “If it was a coherent government, then when we made a deal with the president or the prime minister, you would know as the orders come down the line they would be obeyed.” Nevertheless, he says, “That is not the nature of Pakistan . You have all these competing power centers. We are not doing this because we are trying to be too clever by half, we are doing this because this is the nature of the state we are dealing with.”

 

The death of two dozen Pakistani soldiers has made that challenge tougher than ever. “As bad as the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is now, it’s only likely to get worse,” saysBruce Riedel, a former senior CIA official and one of the co-authors of President Obama’s initial Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. So far, however, no one on either side knows what else to do but keep on.

BBC Arabic shamelessly posting a fake photo of RQ-170 Sentinel Stealth Aircraft

Washington: No indication yet that the Iranians are shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane–

Model of a U.S. drone crashed in Pakistan recentlyUse of U.S. forces and the CIA to use this kind of reconnaissance aircraft to monitor military activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen

A U.S. official said Sunday that there is not yet any indications that the U.S. reconnaissance plane without a pilot, which crashed in Iran, has been dropped as a result of the fire by the Iranian Army