Every Afghan Man and His Brother Wanted Asadullah Khalid Dead–Mostly for Good Reasons

Asadullah Khalid

 

Afghan governor’s rights abuses known in ’07

 

Karzai’s choice for Afghan intelligence chief suspected of torture, trafficking

The many faces of Afghanistan’s spy chief

 

 

WHAT’S BARACK OBAMA DOING SITTING NEXT TO ONE OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTALS?

Corruption eats away at Afghan government

DOUG SAUNDERS/ From Saturday’s Globe and Mail

KabulPress


KabulPress editor’s note:
This significant article paints a dismal picture of Afghan officials. A majority of the bitter comments it received on the Globe and Mail’s website see it as justification for Canada to cease all assistance to Afghanistan. They miss the point of this and many other articles critical of the Afghan administration and provincial officials which appear in KabulPress.

A principal role of the press is to reveal facts and initiate positive change. Afghanistan is not a hopeless case. Its current difficulties should be viewed as part of a long process. In today’s connected world, the more developed nations cannot walk away from problems that they have, in many ways, created. This article is a call to action, not abandonment.

KABUL — Among the soldiers, diplomats and aid workers who live in Afghanistan, it is the problem that nobody dares mention.

Among ordinary Afghans, it’s a daily presence, the corruption that is rooted deeply in the Western-backed Afghan government and its appointed officials.

When Afghans are forced by uniformed men to pay large sums of cash in order to travel safely on provincial roads, as they are daily, when their colleagues are arrested and beaten in exchange for ransom payments, when they learn that people pay $150,000 for the job of district police chief in parts of Kandahar province, when entire aid shipments or thousands of police salaries are seized for private use, when world-record heroin exports take place under police watch, everyone in Afghanistan knows where to look.

On heavily guarded streets on the edge of every Afghan city and in the centre of Kabul are the large, wedding-cake houses, surrounded by walls and guards and filled with luxury goods, built in a style popularly known as “narcotecture.”

Inside live the senior officials with top roles in Afghanistan’s government, some of whom have amassed fortunes of hundreds of millions of dollars. Some are governors of provinces, like Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid, reported by Canadian diplomats to have committed torture. Some are top cabinet ministers.

Others wield power through family ties to the President. The man considered by many observers to be the most powerful and feared figure in the Afghan south is not the Kandahar governor but rather Ahmed Wali Karzai, appointed by his brother, President Hamid Karzai, to represent Kandahar province in Kabul.

A U.S. government document leaked to ABC News two years ago accused him of being the central figure in the region’s vast opium-export market, which produces the majority of the world’s opium and heroin. This week, senior U.S. and British officials said in interviews that they believe he enables, and likely profits from, opium shipments across southern Afghanistan to Iran, and prevents opium crops of those who support him from being eradicated. He has repeatedly denied such accusations.

Huge fortunes are being earned by many of these officials, Western sources said. It is customary to charge a 20-per-cent commission on imports or exports brought through their provinces, including opium exports valued at more than $800-million. That means hundreds of millions can be earned each year in a country where many families live on less than a dollar a day.

And there are other avenues for corruption. Last fall, U.S. military officials discovered that in one region of eastern Afghanistan only a third of the 3,300 police officers supposedly serving in the region actually existed; the salaries from the 2,100 “ghost officers” were going straight into the pockets of politicians and senior police figures. This practice is thought to be commonplace across Afghanistan, with as many as 60 to 80 per cent of officers in some districts being “ghosts.”

Indeed, Western-funded programs designed to end corruption can have the opposite effect. British officials said that the governor of Kandahar has used poppy-eradication funds, designed to eliminate the opium-poppy crops of wealthy traffickers at the top of the drug economy, to target his political enemies, usually people who are not on the list for eradication.

“There’s a lot of belief among Afghans that when [the West] turns off the taps, it’s going to go back to 1989, so these warlords are building war chests, big piles of money for guns, tanks, whatever,” a British official said.

Getting to the bottom of the corruption in Afghanistan is nearly impossible. The country does not have conspiracy or racketeering laws, which would allow prosecutors to investigate them. Nor does it have more than a rudimentary banking system, so that ill-gotten funds are difficult to find. U.S. officials said, however, that some moves are being made in this direction, and some senior officials may soon be placed on no-fly lists.

Western officials are becoming increasingly frustrated with the power of such well-connected strongmen as larger areas of Afghanistan fall under Taliban control and the millions in Western spending produces few signs of a sustainable economy.

When Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier made the mistake of telling reporters in Kandahar city last month that Canada had been pressuring President Karzai to have Mr. Khalid, the Kandahar governor, removed from office, it represented the tip of an iceberg of diplomatic and political pressure being put on Mr. Karzai by Western governments.

“It’s our biggest single problem, bigger than the Taliban, bigger than poverty,” a senior British official said.

Mr. Karzai’s close relationship with some warlords and distrusted leaders, possibly including members of his own family, has been a well-known problem since he became President in 2004. But now, as jockeying begins toward a 2009 presidential election and Western officials are increasingly anxious to bring stability to Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai’s acquiescence to violent and deeply corrupt men is increasingly considered unsustainable.

“I think there is an issue of corruption in this government, accepted by everybody, to include President Karzai,” General Dan McNeill, the U.S. commander of the NATO coalition fighting in Afghanistan, said in an interview. “Corruption, in my view, is the symptom, the disease is greed, and that works against what we’re trying to do here.”

But in the run-up to the election, President Karzai appears increasingly unwilling to take action.

“Unfortunately, the corruption now has reached even the highest-ranking elected officials, and that is becoming a constant problem. … What I see in Afghanistan is a weak and corrupt government, and the Afghan people have to deal with this, not the international community,” said Yunus Quanooni, the Speaker of Afghanistan’s parliament and a potential presidential challenger. “The President sees them as an instrument for re-election himself, so he doesn’t dare touch them.”

And when he does touch them, it can be in unhelpful ways.

Last summer, Haji Zahir, the commander of the Nangarhar province border police, was caught shipping 123.5-kilograms of heroin across the Pakistani border. He was removed from his post, but never charged.

In March, after years of international pressure, Mr. Karzai ousted Asadullah Wafa from his job as governor of Helmand province amid allegations that he had profited from that province’s enormous opium exports and enabled large-scale organized crime. Mr. Wafa had expelled two British officials from the province after they had launched a program to get Taliban leaders to surrender. After being fired, Mr. Wafa was promptly appointed last month to a new position: head of the complaints department in the national-security branch of Mr. Karzai’s
office.


Indeed, the current pressure by Canadian and other officials to remove the Kandahar governor from office seems almost identical to a similar campaign, begun five years ago, to get his predecessor, the former mujahedeen fighter Gul Agha Sherzai, removed from the same office.

Mr. Sherzai had admitted to receiving $1-million a week from his share of import duties and from the opium trade, and was considered violent and dangerous.

He was immediately made governor of U.S.-led Nangarhar province in the east, where U.S. officials say he has been a useful ally in ending opium-poppy production and establishing law and order. U.S. officials said that they believe he has a net worth of $300-million from his time running Kandahar, but that his level of corruption is fairly minor now. Nevertheless, they hope to see him gone some day.

“I think you’re going to see less and less of the Sherzai-type figure; he’s a transitional type,” said Alison Blosser, an official with the U.S. State Department involved with provincial reconstruction in Nangarhar.

Indeed, many of the current corruption problems date back to the early months of the Afghan war, in 2001, when U.S. Army Special Forces and CIA agents gave millions of dollars to regional fighters such as Mr. Sherzai to battle the Taliban, and then, after the Taliban had been ousted, allowed them to become the de facto government.

They displaced both the traditional system of tribal elders and the emerging national government. Mr. Karzai relied on them to extend his influence beyond his family’s own tribe.

Despite their alarm at some of these developments, officials from the United States, Britain and Canada all say they are maintaining their support for Mr. Karzai. This is partly because they see no viable alternative. None of the dozen-odd prospective presidential challengers seem strong enough to hold the country together.

And it is also because, certainly in the case of Canadian officials, they believe that some progress is being made toward installing non-criminal leadership in key branches of the government, even if it’s happening slowly.

Much of the Canadians’ faith is in the newly created Independent Directorate of Local Governance, or the IDLG, which was created by Mr. Karzai to oversee the appointment of regional and state leaders.

Since it was created last August, the IDLG has fired the governors of eight of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. And in an interview at his Kabul office, IDLG head Barna Karim, who is widely respected by Western and Afghan leaders, said that he hopes to see at least six more governors replaced in the near future.

But his office only has the authority to recommend changes to Mr. Karzai, and the President has lately seemed less interested in ousting officials, perhaps because of the looming election.

“We just have to curb them as much as we can, slowly and surely,” Mr. Karim said. “In those provinces where we changed governors, it wasn’t easy.”

And some officials are still considered untouchable. Ahmed Wali Karzai, the President’s brother in Kandahar, is said to be beyond the reach of any government body.

Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, the Interior Minister, said in an interview that he does not consider the Karzais to be appropriate subjects of investigation. “The President of Afghanistan has sent an official decree to all the offices of the Afghan government, stating that we should not spare any members of his family from investigation,” he said, adding that he therefore did not consider it necessary to look into any such allegations.

Canadian officials are said to have pressed President Karzai hard during the past two years to reduce the power of his brother and of Mr. Khalid.

But they have backed off recently, in the wake of Mr. Bernier’s unguarded remarks and because they are said to believe that such efforts could be counterproductive.

Many observers believe that President Karzai will try to keep loyalists in office, regardless of their problems or ties to criminal activity, until next year’s presidential race is settled. He has not yet declared himself a candidate for re-election.

Gen. McNeill, the U.S. commander of the NATO coalition, likened Mr. Karzai’s position to that of a second-tier soccer club with a weak bench.

He noted that the vast majority of Afghans are illiterate, after enduring almost 30 years without functioning schools. The country has just produced its first batch of university graduates this year. In the view of officials such as Gen. McNeill, the hard men may have to remain in office for a while.

“If a government [such as Canada’s], which has a vested interest in a particular province, goes to President Karzai, and says, ‘This particular governor does not seem to be the person who has the skills to take this thing forward,’ and President Karzai turns to his bench, and what do you think he sees? It’s a tough business. … I think it’s in that line of effort that we have our slowest rate of progress. We think we’re helping, but it’s just a tough business.”

 

Fighting the ally? Karzai orders Afghan forces to capture US detention facility

Fighting the ally? Karzai orders Afghan forces to capture US detention facility

Russia-Today

Parwan detention facility

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the U.S. military for violating an agreement and illegally continuing to hold Afghans as prisoners against the orders of the Afghan government and courts.

The deal, signed in March, gave the US six months to transfer the captured Afghans – an agreement the US has not upheld. Karzai released a statement Monday calling the failure to hand over detainees “a serious breach of the Memorandum of Understanding.” The Afghan president also ordered his forces to seize control of the Parwan detention facility, where US forces continue to hold prisoners in a closed-off section, many of which were recently captured.

Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi told reporters that US troops are illegally holding more than 70 detainees whose release has been ordered by Afghan courts. Afghan courts have acquitted 57 of these prisoners, but the US has still refused to let them go, citing them as a danger to US national security.

The two countries had signed a detainee transfer pact in March, giving the US six months to hand over control of detention facilities and detainees to the Afghans in preparation of the 2014 US withdrawal. Although the official handover occurred in September, the US refused to turn over several hundred prisoners that they felt were too dangerous or that they captured after the deal was signed.

Faizi said hundreds of new prisoners are now being held in the Parwan detention facility and that US night raids have taken in about 100 additional Afghans per month.

US military officials argued that Afghanistan was not ready to take control of all prisoners. They have also demanded that Afghans agree to hold some detainees, who are considered too dangerous to be freed, without a trial. But imprisonment without a trial is against Afghan law, Faizi said. The spokesman told reporters that the Obama administration had been given a two-month extension to make an alternative proposal to holding detainees without trial. But this grace period has now ended.

These acts are completely against the agreement that has been signed between Afghanistan and the US president,”Karzai’s statement read.

“There is nothing by the name of ‘administrative detention’ in our laws, yet the US is insisting that there are a number of people who, while there is not enough evidence against them, are a threat to US national security,” Faizi said.

The US military has not yet made a response to the accusations, but the Karzai’s statement was released at a sensitive time. The two countries started negotiations on a bilateral security agreement last week to come up with cooperation principles that would respect Afghan sovereignty while also reducing the risk for international terrorism. The agreement reached by these negotiations will determine the extent of US military presence in Afghanistan after the majority of troops withdraw in 2014.

The handover of the prison and its detainees is expected to play a significant role in future US-Afghan relations, but has long been a tense subject for both sides.

“It’s an issue of sovereignty for the government of Afghanistan, and to General Allen it’s a matter of security for the coalition troops,” an American official told the New York Times, speaking on condition of anonymity. “You can’t just bring these guys in and let them go.”

And as the two countries continue to discuss Afghan sovereignty this week, Karzai’s frustration is likely to make them awkward.

Islamist proxies

Islamist proxies

Frontline
INDIA’S NATIONAL MAGAZINE
from the publishers of THE HINDU

MAYSSOUN SUKARIEH

The story of how Britain has, for decades, consistently undermined secular forces in the Arab world and colluded with radical forces to maintain its place in the global financial order.

Egypt’s future is uncertain after the death or fall of Mubarak and, whether there is a revolution or not, the Brotherhood could play a role in government or in the transition…. Britain is the largest foreign investor in the country, amounting to around $20 billion. British elites want to be in a better position than after the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979, and cultivating the Islamists is likely regarded as critical.

Britain likely sees the Brotherhood—as it did from the 1950s to the 1970s—as counter to the secular, nationalist forces opposition in Egypt and the region….

Pages 308-9,  Secret Affairs.

PUBLISHED a year before the Egyptian revolution, Mark Curtis’ Secret Affairs predicted an alliance between the global elites and the Muslim Brotherhood. This prediction was based on a historical analysis Curtis provides in the book on the cooperation or, more precisely, collusion between the British political elites and radical Islam. He argues that this relationship is not merely historical but affects the social and political landscapes of the world even today and seems to be affecting the new landscapes of the region after the Arab uprising.

Geopolitics and high strategy are specialist areas, subject to infinite shifts, changing alliances, and differing judgments, but  Secret Affairs unearths some coherent policies towards Islamism. In the post-Great War West Asia, Britain, the manager of “‘protectorates” such as Palestine and Iraq, pursued such a complicated strategic course that there will never be a consensus about its course. With the creation of the state of Israel at the end of the Second World War, “there remains disagreement as to whose ‘side’ Britain was really on”(Page 41). One theme, however, did emerge, as Curtis notes: “it was during this period that British officials began to regard Islamists, of various stripes, as ‘bulwarks’ against communism” (page 43).

Main argument

The book argues that both Labour and Conservative British governments have “colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organisations”. “They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them.” This collusion helps promote Britain’s two main foreign policy objectives —“influence and control over key energy resources” and “maintaining Britain’s place within a pro-Western global financial order”. Whether it is working with major state sponsors of Islamist terrorism such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan or non-state actors such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban, Britain has consistently attempted to undermine secular, nationalist forces in the Arab world and South Asia.

Radical Islamic forces have been seen as useful to Whitehall in five specific ways: (1) As a global counter-force to the ideologies of secular nationalism and Soviet communism; (2) in the cases of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the major champions of radical Islam, as “‘conservative muscle” within the countries to undermine secular nationalists and bolster pro-Western regimes; (3) as “shock troops” to destabilise or overthrow governments; (4) as proxy military forces to fight wars; and (5) as “political tools” to leverage change from governments.

When it comes to broader foreign policy, the declassified files are very clear—the two basic goals are to maintain Britain’s power status in the world and to ensure that the global economy functions in the interests of British and other Western corporations. These two goals are sometimes referred to as “national” interests but this is of course misleading—they are the interests of a commercial and political elite. Britain (including under New Labour) has for decades been arguably the world’s leading champion of global trade liberalisation and financial deregulation, precisely to benefit its corporations, and has kept hundreds of millions of people in poverty. The aim has been to ensure the withdrawal of states/governments around the world from public services—thus economic nationalism has been seen as an enemy much like political nationalism. Curtis states that the structure of British foreign policy, and its key alliances, is very largely the product of these interests. Curtis argues that one of the major reasons for London’s special relationship with Washington even when the United States became the leading capitalist state in the world is the huge British financial investment in the U.S., and vice versa, involving various sectors and including arms. (BAE Systems, Britain’s largest arms company, has become increasingly dependent on U.S. military orders and benefits significantly from the U.S.’ military-industrial complex and military adventurism abroad.)

THE HINDU ARCHIVES 

Communist rebels rounded up in central Java in 1965. The Indonesian Army had launched a drive against the Indonesian Communist Party, which it believed was behind the attempted coup on October 1, 1965. An estimated 5,00,000 people were killed in the cleansing that followed.Alongside maintaining its power status and ensuring energy security, Britain also worked to make sure that oil-producing countries invested their petro-dollars in London to shore up the city’s global financial position. To do so, Britain needed to maintain its status as a power broker and to curry favour with regimes, regardless of the means. One example of this is the “fabricated invasion” of Kuwait by Iraq in 1958, during which Britain intervened to protect its newly independent former colony against a threat that they had themselves concocted, as British files explicitly show. “Britain wanted to exaggerate the threat to Kuwait so [Britain] would continue its protection and Kuwait would keep investing revenues in the British banking system,” says Curtis.

Hence, the collusion is an elites’ project; The war in Malaya in the 1950s was partly a war to defend British rubber interests in the country; the 1953 coup in Iran was undertaken to promote the Anglo-Iranian Oil Corporation (the forerunner of BP); and the big British push in Central Asia in the early 1990s was at the behest of oil and gas companies. This collusion has also been dictated by utility. Beyond the special relationships with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—which are deep strategic alliances —Britain’s policy has been a matter of ad hoc opportunism, though it should be said that this has been rather regular. Time and again, declassified documents reveal that British officials were perfectly aware that their collaborators were anti-Western and anti-imperialist and devoid of liberal social values, or were actually terrorists. Whitehall worked with these forces not because it agreed with them but simply because they were useful at specific moments. Islamist groups appear to have collaborated with Britain for the same reasons of expediency and because they shared the same hatred of popular nationalism as the British. “In [my] analysis of British foreign policy, it is not all down to economics,” says Curtis. “The collaboration with Islamist groups in the Middle East [West Asia] has been about power status, to not be relegated to a bit player on the fringes. It has seen those groups as essential allies in a region where Britain has often lacked dependable allies. In a lot of the episodes where Britain collaborated with Islamic groups, it was essentially to do the dirty work that the U.S. couldn’t do due to Congressional oversight and the fear of being found out.” The dirty deeds include assassination attempts (for example, on Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi, and Lebanon’s late Ayatollah Mohammad Fadlallah), military assistance and the dissemination of propaganda tools, such as Korans and Islamic literature. British operatives also orchestrated “false flag” operations, such as the one in Iran in 1953 when mosques and public figures were attacked by agents and paid supporters appearing to be members of the communist Tudeh Party. British intelligence also worked in collaboration with Ayatollah Kashani, the mentor of Ayatollah Khomeini, to stir up sentiment against the nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq.

Archival research

The arguments in the book are based on a historical reading of a hundred years of declassified documents from the archives of the British government, all scrupulously referenced in the over 60 pages of footnotes at the back. However, because of the “thirty year rule”, the more recent chapters on Britain’s involvement with radical Islam during the wars in the Balkans rely mainly on newspapers and on drawing together information from an array of publicly available sources. The picture is, therefore, far from complete, and Curtis seems less sure of the terrain. However, there is no doubt that the claim of “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo in 1999 is seriously undermined by the fact that Britain trained the Kosovo Liberation Army, an outfit that worked closely with Al Qaeda and was openly described as a terrorist organisation by British Ministers at the time. Government files housed at the National Archives are meant to be declassified after 30 years, but the reality is that many remain classified (at the whim of the government department) and some, for example those for MI5 and MI6, are completely closed. Still, the book is important for exposing Britain’s historical alliances with state Islamist sponsors and with Islamist groups themselves.

State Islamist sponsors

The thread tying together  Secret Affairs is the account of Britain’s relations with “the two most significant sponsors of radical Islam” —Pakistan, which promoted “the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the terrorist cause in Kashmir and its surge in Central Asia” and Saudi Arabia, “the largest financier of the Islamist cause worldwide” (page 223-4).

Pakistan, Curtis argues, was the state in which this whole policy started. He takes us back to Britain’s colonial empire and its mid-20th century dissolution. The Raj was, he alleges (on the balance of evidence), kept in control by a strategy of divide and rule, between different groups in the subcontinent. In the 19th  century, “promoting communal divisions” was deliberate policy (page 5). Religious identities, all kinds of “multiculturalist” separate developments, were promoted. From its 19th century origins in the Aligraph movement, the British looked favourably on the party that drove the demand for Partition and the formation of Pakistan, the Muslim League. The “Muslim card” was used against the Indian National Congress. After Indian independence, the Pakistani glacis was a “strategic asset” for the Anglo-Americans. “Narenda Sarila notes that ‘the successful use of religion by the British to fulfil political and strategic objectives in India was replicated by the Americans in building up the Islamic jehadis in Afghanistan’” (Page 34). Hence, “Many of the roots of Islamic terrorism sweeping the world today lie buried in the partition of India.” Eager to retain a strategic foothold in South Asia—in Churchill’s words, to “keep a bit of India” after 1947—Britain was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan, an artificial state with little to hold it together except its identity as a Muslim nation.

AFP/GABRIEL DUVAL 

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s Islamic republic. Khomeini’s mentor, Ayatollah Kashani, was propped up by the U.K. and the U.S. to counter the elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq, which was overthrown in a coup in 1953.Closer still has been the British relationship with Saudi Arabia, whose modern form Britain also helped shape, at the close of the colonial era. Seeking to position itself as the leader of the Muslim world, the Saudi state spent, since the 1970s and up to 2007, an estimated $50 billion promoting its fundamentalist brand of “Wahabism” around the globe, in what one U.S. think tank describes as the “largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted”. Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of a galaxy of anti-communist causes (including those of the international Far-Right, and outright anti-Semitism), in tandem with its promotion of the “global Islamic mission” has been given free reign from the Cold War onwards. In positioning the United Kingdom as a favoured trading partner for Saudi oil, arms and, latterly, financial investments, Labour and Conservative governments alike have systematically played down the true character of the regime and its links to global terror. The files show that Britain struck several investment deals with the Saudis in 1973 (around the oil price crisis) and basically appended the British economy to Saudi Arabia’s at this time, from which Britain has never recovered.

Islamist groups

During the Cold War, the overwhelming concern of the Foreign Office to maintain the balance of power produced many secret alliances with Islamist groups as Britain sought to prevent or destabilise nationalist movements in a variety of countries. For example, the U.K., by forging links with the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation involved in terrorism, attempted to combat the “virus of Arab nationalism”, after Nasser came to power in Egypt and nationalised the Suez Canal. But the alliance goes back to the 1940s, when the U.K. funded it. The following decade Britain was conniving with the organisation to kill Nasser (and also to overthrow the nationalist government in Syria). The reason for supporting Islamist organisations in the early post-War period was to counter popular nationalism, and Whitehall regularly sided with the Muslim Brotherhood throughout West Asia. Back in the 1960s, Islamism was also opposed to a far greater perceived threat: Arab nationalism. This is a tangled tale, with the British sometimes trying to use the Muslim Brotherhood against pan-Arabism, yet often being repulsed by the organisation’s ingrained hostility to the “Crusaders”. The pro-Western Egyptian President Anwar Sadat went with the grain in using Islamists to smash his country’s Marxist and nationalist student groups. Islamist parties and groups attracted the “urban poor” and, more significantly, “the devout bourgeoisie, a class hitherto excluded from political power” (page 108). Encouraging Islamisation turned out to be a double-edged sword. Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel further pushed them towards maximalism; he ended up assassinated by Al-Jihad in 1981.

And like in Egypt, and as part of the Cold War, Curtis describes Indonesia’s Western-endorsed massacre of up to a million “communists” in 1966. “Islamist groups, trained and equipped by the Indonesian army, played a critical role in the slaughter” (page 97). And in 1982, the Khomeini regime was brutally repressing the Left, and executing thousands of its members. The British obtained a list of members of the Tudeh (Iranian Communist Party) from a Soviet defector, Vladimir Kuzichkin. MI6 and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) jointly decided to pass on this list to Tehran. Dozens of alleged agents were executed and more than a thousand arrested, while the party was banned. There were show trials of a 100 members (some of whom were sentenced to death). The British operated “in pursuit of specific common interests—the repression of the Left—even though Iran was by now considered a strategic threat and overall anti-Western force” (page 130).

When Iran’s last democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, set about nationalising the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Britain, along with the U.S., sought to replace him with a “dictator”—in the words of the then Ambassador to Tehran—who would “settle the oil question on reasonable terms”. In the process, the Foreign Office actively supported a man they saw as “a complete political reactionary”, Ayatollah Seyyed Kashani, whose hard-line followers organised the large-scale protests that preceded the 1953 coup, which installed the arch-conservative but pro-Western Shah. Kashani went on to mentor Ruhollah Khomeini, who, in 1979, overthrew the Shah and installed the repressive theocracy that continues in power today.

Turning to the present conflict in Afghanistan, Curtis notes that Britain is now fighting Islamist forces it had previously supported in the 1980s against the Soviet Union in what he calls “Whitehall’s most extensive covert operation since the second War”. The media have followed the government’s lead, consigning to the memory hole inconvenient facts like the brutal insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s visit to London in 1988. Or, as one former literary editor of  Tribune famously wrote: “Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.” Curtis points out that two of the most active Islamist commanders carrying out attacks in Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalalludin Haqqani, had particularly close contacts with the U.K. in the past. Hekmatyar met Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street when he was a favourite of MI6 and the CIA in the war against the Russians. Haqqani, while not the “Taliban’s overall military commander fighting the British”, as Curtis says (he runs his own network parallel to the Taliban), was viewed as a highly useful tool in that conflict.

The Western use of the Mujahideen as proxy fighters is well documented. It resulted in the spawning of Al Qaeda, the spread of international terrorism, and the empowering of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Pakistani intelligence agency, who became their sponsors. Curtis examines the lesser known by-products of this jehad: the dispatch of Afghan Islamist veterans, with the connivance of Britain and the U.S., to the wars in the Balkans and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and the ethnic Muslim areas of China. Vast sums of money from the West’s great ally, Saudi Arabia, helped fund the Reagan administration’s clandestine war in support of repressive military juntas in Latin America while buttressing the aggressive Wahabi faith embraced by many terrorist groups.

As for Pakistan’s continuing support for the Taliban, highlighted by the recently leaked Afghan War Logs, he simply says: “The situation is truly absurd: in order to defeat the forces of the Taliban, Britain is dependent on their main ally.” The author argues that Britain has “long connived with Islamist forces and their Pakistani state sponsors” (page 293). He cites Martin Bright: “It is depressing that so few of the Left have been prepared to engage with the issue of the Foreign Office appeasement of radical Islam except to minimise its significance” (page 307). He comments that this is not so much appeasement, as an effort to “achieve key British foreign policy goals” (page 307).

The “war on terror” has clearly been a war on targets specially designated by London and Washington, not a war on terrorism. After 9/11, the objective case for bombing Riyadh and Islamabad was as strong as bombing Kabul and infinitely stronger than bombing Baghdad.

REUTERS 

Former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar(left) and the Haqqani network’s founder Jalaluddin Haqqani. Both men had the active support of Britain in the 1980s and 1990s.The fact that Britain’s allies have been at the centre of global terrorism for at least three decades is simply a fact, and is rarely mentioned in the mainstream. The U.S. and British “war” has left many of the real sources of terrorism in the world untouched. In my view, there is a strong argument for promoting a war on terrorism (although I don’t like the word war), but if taken seriously, it would focus on some interesting places, including London.

As impressive as these sections are, by far the most remarkable but also enraging elements of Secret Affairs are the parts that deal with the state’s relationship with so-called Islamic fundamentalist groups and individuals across the world, but especially in what Curtis refers to as “Londonistan”. In Londonistan, the state provides “welfare to Islamic extremists on the unspoken assumption that if we give them a safe haven here they will not attack us on these shores”. Clearly, since 7/7 that attitude is changing, but not as rapidly as you might think.

Sobering conclusions

Up to date, comprehensive and clearly written,  Secret Affairs is a masterly work of great importance and sobering conclusions. The book is not the first that tracks British Foreign Policy: it is preceded by his 1995 book  The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy Since 1945. Bypassing the establishment-friendly analysis of mainstream media and academia, Curtis argues: “The basic fact is that Britain is a major, systematic contributor to much of the world’s suffering and horrors”, carrying out brutal military interventions, large-scale human rights abuses and opposing economic development that benefits the poor. Previously the Director of the World Development Movement and a Research Fellow at Chatham House, Curtis has continued his evidence-based critique of U.K’s foreign policy with 2003’s Web of Deceit and, more recently, Unpeople, in which he maintains Britain “bears significant responsibility” for around 10 million deaths since 1945.

Back to Egypt, Curtis argues that strong parties, notably those like the Muslim Brotherhood, which intend to use the state as a moral actor to enforce Islamisation on people’s private lives, may find some minor advantage in encouraging a radical veneer. Justice, as is often the case with political religions of all faiths, is a slogan that only lightly covers a commitment to free markets. The Brotherhood’s apparent liberal and democratic constitutionalism has made it politically acceptable, and its liberal economic policies has potential partners. Though it has some support from the urban poor, it is its base in the pious bourgeoisie that counts. The Brotherhood plays little role in the social unrest sweeping the working class. It is much more likely that it will return, strengthened by the crises sweeping West Asia, to the high table of global politics, to negotiate, this time openly, with the British and Americans.

The first hundred days of Mohamad Morsy rule have proved that this is the path the Muslim Brotherhood is taking, a path Curtis predicted by closely reading the archives and analysing documents with a critical eye without falling into conspiracy theories. “If it sounds conspiratorial, it is spelled out in the planning files,” says Curtis. “The most obvious is dividing the Middle East after 1918, but throughout the 1950s and 1960s—which I refer to in the book—by keeping oil countries under separate political control so no one can gang up on the West. One should follow the elites’ interest and not resort to conspiracy to understand the situation.”

The book, thus, is a must read not only for those who are interested in this historical account, but also for those who want to analyse the rise to power of the Islamists parties in Egypt and Tunisia despite their cautious participation in the revolutions.

Mayssoun Sukarieh teaches anthropology at the American University of Cairo.

Afghanistan Peace Plan Would Cede Eastern Afghanistan and Bring Taliban Into Government

“’The negotiating parties to agree on modalities for the inclusion of Taliban and other armed opposition leaders in the power structure of the state, to include non-elected positions at different levels with due consideration of legal and governance principles,’ the plan says.

That provision, combined with one for an agreement ‘creating immediate space for education and humanitarian and development aid and public services,’ could effectively cede political control of the Taliban’s southern and eastern heartland to the insurgents.”

[(SEE:Plan B for Afghanistan, the One for a Second Civil War ; Afghan civil war)  Will Pakistan really honor a commitment that cedes territory to its Taliban, as well?]

FATA Tribal Area pakistan 2

Afghanistan peace plan would increase Pakistan’s role Stay Connected

McClatchy

By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The Afghan government is pursuing an ambitious new peace initiative in which Pakistan would replace the United States in arranging direct talks between the warring sides and the Taliban would be granted government posts that effectively could cede to them political control of their southern and eastern strongholds.

If implemented, the plan would diminish the role of the United States in the peace process, but would still leave Washington with input on a number of critical issues, including the terms for initiating negotiations. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Great Britain also would be involved.

The plan envisions ending the war by 2015 through a ceasefire and negotiations in the second half of next year, most likely in Saudi Arabia. Pakistan would help select the leaders of the Taliban and other rebel groups who would take part in the negotiations with the Afghan government. The effort, the plan says, should be conducted “through one consistent and coherent channel,” a measure that would secure a role for Afghan President Hamid Karzai after the end of his term following April 2014 elections.

Another provision would give the insurgents a voice on “issues related . . . to the withdrawal” of the U.S.-led NATO force by the end of 2014.

The plan foresees the United States working with Kabul and Islamabad in determining which insurgent leaders would participate. The United States also would be critical to approving the removal of the insurgent negotiators from the U.N.’s list of terrorists.

Entitled “Peace Process Roadmap to 2015,” the blueprint represents a decision by Karzai – in close coordination with Pakistan – to assume the lead in peace-making efforts following the collapse earlier this year of an Obama administration bid to persuade the Taliban to participate in direct talks with Kabul.

The new initiative comes amid persistent distrust between Karzai and the Obama administration and deep insecurity in Kabul over future U.S. support. Those concerns and the U.S. failure to arrange peace talks appear to have pushed Karzai closer to Pakistan, whose army and main intelligence service are widely believed to exercise significant influence over Taliban and other militant leaders based in Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan.

The plan also comes as the ongoing U.S. combat troop pullout and cuts in U.S. financial aid to Afghanistan are fueling fears in both countries that violence and instability could worsen, spurring them to take matters into their own hands.

The blueprint, a copy of which was obtained by McClatchy, officially is the work of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which is charged with overseeing government peace efforts. But it was drafted by Karzai and his inner circle over the past six months in coordination with Pakistan, according to a person familiar with the document who requested anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

The plan was presented to Pakistan and the United States during visits last month by High Peace Council Chairman Salauddin Rabbani, who Karzai named to the post after Rabbani’s father, former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in September 2011.

The State Department declined to comment on the plan, refusing even to confirm its existence. However, a State Department official, who requested anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity, was authorized to say that, “The United States continues to support an Afghan-led peace process and welcomes initiatives through which Afghans sit down with other Afghans in pursuit of that goal.”

The Afghan embassy did not respond to a request to discuss the plan.

“By 2015, Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami and other armed groups will have given up armed opposition, transformed from military entities into political parties, and are actively participating in the country’s political and constitutional processes, including national elections,” says the plan’s preamble. “NATO/ISAF forces will have departed from Afghanistan, leaving the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) as the only legitimate armed forces delivering security and protection to the Afghan population.”

Despite that optimistic forecast, however, the plan may rest on shaky legs. Its far-reaching assumptions not only could doom it to failure, but risk an all-out civil war before the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, completes its pullout.

“This is living in a dream world of wishful thinking,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a Middle East Institute scholar who served as a State Department intelligence analyst on Afghanistan. “It is not based on anything that the Taliban has given us reason to expect.”

A major assumption is that all insurgent leaders and their fighters will participate even though the Taliban have consistently rejected negotiations with Karzai, who they denounce as an American puppet. Moreover, the insurgency is far from being monolithic and many leaders are known to distrust each other and Pakistan.

Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar and other leaders based in Pakistan could come under pressure from the Pakistani military to take part if they balk. But such pressure could backfire, risking Afghan militants joining Pakistani Islamists fighting to topple their government.

In an incident underscoring the hurdles, two Taliban factions claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on Thursday that wounded Asadullah Khalid, the chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence service. Karzai on Saturday alleged that the attack was planned in Pakistan, but he denied that the Taliban were responsible.

The new plan would preserve Afghanistan as a parliamentary democracy, denying the militants the Islamic rule for which they’ve spent years fighting.

It also appears to ignore warnings from politicians of the former Northern Alliance against giving the Taliban and their allies power that they hadn’t won in elections. The Northern Alliance, dominated by ethnic minorities, battled the Taliban, which is made up primarily of the dominant Pashtun ethnic group, until the 2001 U.S. invasion. Many former alliance members now head Karzai’s political opposition and hold key army, police and intelligence posts.

“Any Afghanistan reconciliation effort will have to address varied and complex ethnic concerns,” acknowledged a U.S. official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the issue.

Finally, the key role that the plan confers on Pakistan could inflame suspicion among many Afghans that Islamabad plans to exert influence in a post-war Afghanistan – especially to block a pro-India tilt – by placing former insurgents in cabinet posts, ministries, provincial governorships and positions like police chiefs and district administrators.

“The northerners won’t buy this,” said Weinbaum, referring to former Northern Alliance leaders. “So what you get then is the beginning of a civil war.”

Pakistan is widely despised in Afghanistan, particularly by minorities who dominate the country’s north, because of its sponsorship of the Taliban’s bloody nationwide takeover in the mid-1990s and the support and sanctuary that they and other insurgents allegedly still receive from the Pakistani army and the army-run Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI.

In principles governing the new peace process, the plan reiterates Afghan and U.S. demands that the Taliban and other insurgents cut ties with al Qaida and renounce violence.

But in a shift that could raise concerns among human rights and women’s groups, the plan changes what had been a demand for the insurgents “accept” the Afghan Constitution to one that they “respect” it.

“Any outcome of the peace process must respect the Afghan Constitution and must not jeopardize the rights and freedoms that the citizens of Afghanistan, both men and women, enjoy under the Constitution,” the plan says.

The plan comprises five steps. The first step, which now appears underway, calls for Pakistan to end cross-border shelling of Afghan villages and to free Taliban detainees. Nine were released last month after Rabbani’s visit, and Pakistan has agreed to free more.

In the first half of 2013, Afghan, U.S. and Pakistani officials are to agree on terms for removing Taliban leaders “willing to engage in peace talks” from a U.N. terrorism list and giving them safe passage. Pakistan would “facilitate direct contact” between Afghan officials “and identified leaders of the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.”

Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. officials would “explore and agree to terms for initiating direct peace talks “ between the sides “with a focus on Saudi Arabia as the venue.”

The negotiations would begin in the second half of 2013 “preferably through one consistent and coherent channel, with the aim of securing agreements on priority issues, such as ending violence, allowing space for the provision of basic public services, e.g. education, humanitarian aid, and security the conduct of the upcoming elections,” the plan says.

The sides would agree to a ceasefire and terms for the release of Taliban prisoners by the government “in return for their agreement to disengage and renounce violence.”

The sides also would “reach an understanding on issues related to security and the withdrawal of international forces.” and agree on rules for the insurgents’ participation in 2014 provincial council and 2015 parliamentary elections.

Another provision would confer considerable political power on the insurgents by allowing them to become cabinet members, provincial governors, district administrators, police chiefs and other key officials.

“The negotiating parties to agree on modalities for the inclusion of Taliban and other armed opposition leaders in the power structure of the state, to include non-elected positions at different levels with due consideration of legal and governance principles,” the plan says.

That provision, combined with one for an agreement “creating immediate space for education and humanitarian and development aid and public services,” could effectively cede political control of the Taliban’s southern and eastern heartland to the insurgents.

The agreements would be implemented in the first half of 2014, and the final phase, set for the second half of 2014, would be used to build international cooperation on preserving the long-term stability of Afghanistan and the region, the plan says.

CORRECTION: Paragraph 10 of this version has been revised to provide the correct date for the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Email: jlanday@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @jonathanlanday

Pakistan’s Wahhabi Institutes of Higher Learning

[The Saudis and the other Gulf monarchies not only fund the Taliban and nearly all “Islamist” militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they have also purchased control over the entire area’s educational system, from madrassa to university level (SEE:  $100 Million Wahhabi Mosque In Kabul Will Undermine Entire War Effort).]

People care for a person injured in a blast on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 in Peshawar, Pakistan. A bomb ripped through a police van as it was patrolling in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing several officers and wounding others, police said. (Mohammad Sajjad /AP)

Pakistan a fertile ground for grassroots Islamist causes – and conflicts

STEPHANIE NOLEN

ISLAMABAD — The Globe and Mail

There is an angry silent protest under way at the International Islamic University in the Pakistani capital these days, and it takes the form of hair: shiny, long, black hair, defiantly visible, as female students refuse to hide it under voluminous burkas.

The new president of the university recently ordered the nearly 9,000 students in its female college to cover up, and male students to grow out their beards and wear their trousers at ankle-bone level, a practice believed to be “more Islamic” by some conservative theologians.

The new president, Ahmad Yousif Al-Draiweesh, is from Saudi Arabia, and his interactions with students and faculty to date suggest he subscribes to the deeply conservative Saudi Wahabist school of Islam, says Ayesha Salim, a professor of Arabic in the women’s college. His student body would appear not to share his politics – defiant girls in brightly coloured shalwar kameez fill the halls.

Mr. Al-Draiweesh might seem an odd appointment for the university: He was not one of the 10 candidates interviewed or short-listed by the search committee. Nor did he even apply. But the Saudis offered money, with the condition that this president be installed, according to Prof. Salim.

In this small transaction – conservative scholar in exchange for financial bailout – lies one important clue to much of what is happening in Pakistan today. Players in transnational conservative Islamist movements, such as the Saudis, see unstable Pakistan as an arena in which to advance their own agenda. At the same time, there is a long history in Pakistan of accommodation of Islamists by both government and the public, a sense of mutual interests nurtured over decades, and very little public will to oppose them, defiantly unveiled undergraduates notwithstanding.

The shooting by a Taliban gunmen in early October of 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai, a campaigner for girls’ education, told the world – and Pakistanis – that Islamist militancy is alive and well. A lower-profile but savage campaign of violence targeting the country’s Shiite minority – at least 350 Shias have been killed this year, including 50 people who died in five separate bomb attacks during the mourning festival of Muharram late last month – is another sign, as Wahabi fundamentalists consider them heretics.

Because there have been few attacks in Pakistan’s main cities in the past 18 months, many people had developed a comforting but false belief that the level of violence had fallen. But, in fact, the Taliban and al Qaeda affiliates carry out attacks on civilians and the Pakistani military almost daily, in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan and in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunwa, and with increasing frequency in Shiite communities.

In the furious debate that followed the attempt to kill Malala, there has been intense focus on whether the army will or should carry out an operation aimed at eliminating militants in the territory of North Waziristan and how effective a campaign would be.

But the larger question is the perennial one: Is the military and intelligence establishment, a patron of Islamic militants, really interested in wiping them out? And who are the deep-pocketed players behind the scenes, encouraging the alliances?

The militant groups were created and financed by the intelligence agencies to serve first as a proxy against India; the Taliban were cultivated in Afghanistan as a “strategic asset,” in the words of retired security officials. Even now, the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has said openly that the Taliban will be a significant power in Afghanistan, even if not the government, after the U.S. withdrawal, and that Pakistan must cultivate its relationship with them. He draws a distinction between the Afghan Taliban and his country’s own militants, a distinction that most security analysts say is specious.

“The army is divided,” said I. A. Rehman, who chairs the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and is a veteran analyst of national politics. “There is a very strong element which is sympathetic [to the Taliban.] This army is a religious one, religion is an instrument of indoctrination – there is no other national ideology.”

General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, the former president who ruled for 11 years, made sure only devout and conservative Muslims like him were promoted in the army. The effects are still felt today, Mr. Rehman said in an interview in his office in Lahore. And even less religious officers find themselves conflicted. “Our constitution says this is an Islamic state and the Taliban also want that, so why should we fight them?” he characterized that argument.

The obvious answer to that might be – because they are killing you. The Taliban does not share the military’s ambivalence, and has killed some 8,000 military personnel in the past six years, as well as 45,000 civilians.

“There ought to be a limit on stupidity,” Mr. Rehman said. But to many ordinary Pakistanis, he added, the Taliban are considered “legitimate claimants to power.

Most mainstream political parties, with a few exceptions including the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, do not seem to have much of a problem with the Taliban. Only two politicians actually identified them as Malala’s shooters, despite the Taliban itself having claimed the act. The leading opposition figure Imran Khan talks about bringing them into government; his political movement, in turn, is widely believed to be bankrolled by the intelligence agencies.

The relationship remains, at a minimum, opaque. There have been no arrests in any of the Shiite murders, for example, even though the killers’ identities are widely known in the community; the bombings at Muharram took place despite the government ostensibly taking elaborate security measures.

“We are basically a society held hostage,” said Ghazalah Minallah, a prominent human rights activist in Islamabad. “The civilian government are puppets, the army is in partial control. It boils down to that invisible power lurking in the background that’s been there since Zia’s time if not before. The Taliban are not just bearded men running around in the mountains – they’re in every institution in the country.”

The Taliban have also been able to cultivate a romanticized image to a population with limited access to education and lacking a critical media. “The Taliban are associated with certain myths, of having stood against the British in the 18 th century,” said General Talat Masood, a retired army commander. “It’s romantic, and people find an identity with them.”

Russia criticises US recognition of Syrian opposition

Russia criticises US recognition of Syrian opposition

livemint

The US move contradicts the Geneva communique that proposes a political transition in Syria, says Russia
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he was surprised by the move and that it appeared the US was betting on ‘armed victory’ of the opposition over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Photo: Reuters
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he was surprised by the move and that it appeared the US was betting on ‘armed victory’ of the opposition over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Photo: Reuters

 

Moscow: Russia lashed out at the United States on Wednesday for recognising an opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, saying it ran against agreements to seek political transition in the Middle Eastern nation.

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he was surprised by the move and that it appeared the United States was betting on “armed victory” of the opposition over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
“This contradicts the agreements set in the Geneva communique that proposes the start of all-Syrian dialogue between the representatives named by the government on the one side and the opposition on the other,” Lavrov said.
Brahimi is seeking a solution based on the June 30 Geneva Declaration, which called for a transitional government to defuse a 20-month-old uprising against Assad.
“During consultations that took place three days ago in Geneva, we thought the Americans understood the necessity of creating conditions for all-Syrian dialogue to include government members too,” Lavrov said.
“So for us it is quite an unexpected turn and we will seek to clarify what exactly they (the United States) have in mind.”
Speaking days after meetings between officials from veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council members Russia, the United States and international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Lavrov suggested it would undermine diplomatic efforts to end the conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people.
World powers meeting in Marrakech recognised Syria’s new opposition coalition as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people” and called on President Bashar al-Assad to “stand aside”, according to a draft declaration obtained on Wednesday.
The declaration by 130 international representatives comprising the “Friends of Syria” group of nations warned that any use by Assad’s government of chemical or biological weapons would be met by a “serious response”.
“Participants acknowledge the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and the umbrella organisation under which the Syrian opposition are gathering,” said the draft declaration obtained before the meeting of major powers, excluding Russia and China. REUTERS

USA’s retreat from Afghanistan

[SEE:  A NEW WAY FORWARD: RETHINKING U.S. STRATEGY IN AFGHANISTAN]

USA’s retreat from Afghanistan

the nation pakistan

It is said that a clever general in the face of an imminent defeat declares victory and orders retreat. The US plan for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 is more in the nature of an organised retreat than anything else.

The exclusive reliance by the US on the use of force in Afghanistan in the past did decimate al-Qaeda and its leadership, thus, achieving, to a large extent, the primary objective of the American military intervention in Afghanistan. But, despite having overthrown the Taliban regime and imposing a government of its own choice on the Afghans, the US has not succeeded in restoring durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. The armed conflict in Afghanistan continues unabated.

The surge of the American troops in Afghanistan ordered by President Barack Obama failed to quell the Taliban insurgency. The high frequency of green-on-blue attacks reflects the general disenchantment of the Afghans vis-a-vis foreign soldiers, who are increasingly seen as an occupation force. The disregard by the US of the ethnic and tribal divisions in Afghanistan and its traditional conservative values has exacerbated its difficulties.

It also appears that despite all the heavy investment by the US and its allies in the Afghan national security forces, the latter are in no position to enforce the writ of the state in the country. The prospects of the survival of the Karzai regime, which has a narrow political base, without foreign military support remain extremely bleak.

The turn of events has forced the US to review its force-based strategy targeting the Taliban, particularly because of the growing domestic political opposition to the 11-year long war in Afghanistan. It appears that while Washington would continue its campaign through military and non-military means to dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda, it would pursue a more subtle approach regarding Afghanistan’s internal situation.

Henceforth, it is likely to place greater reliance on political means than on the use of force to restore durable peace in Afghanistan and deny al-Qaeda a sanctuary in the country. This is inevitable as the process of the withdrawal of American troops gradually unfolds and the balance of power within Afghanistan definitely shifts against the current US-imposed political dispensation.

The initiation of an intra-Afghan dialogue among the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and other important political Afghan groups would be an indispensable condition for the success of any plan for the restoration of durable peace in Afghanistan. Therefore, the resumption of contacts with the Afghan Taliban, which were interrupted earlier this year, would be an important part of the new American strategy. Besides other factors, the US would need Pakistan’s help for reopening channels of communications with the Afghan Taliban and the commencement of the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Washington is now engaged in rear guard action, as it implements its plans for military retreat with a view to ensuring the safe return passage of its soldiers and military equipment from Afghanistan and the survival as much as possible of the political order that it had established in that country. While the former is entirely possible with the help of Pakistan, the successful realisation of the latter is becoming more and more doubtful as the number of the US and other Isaf troops draws down.

Washington must, therefore, make significant new political moves as early as possible to retain the initiative in its hands, if it does not wish to leave a chaotic situation in Afghanistan in the wake of its military withdrawal.

It appears that now when President Obama is no longer restricted by the compulsions of winning re-election to the presidency, this is precisely what the US administration is likely to do. There are several straws in the wind, which indicate moves in that direction.

Pakistan was subjected to intense pressure in the past by the US government, generals and politicians asking it to “do more” in fighting the Afghan Taliban in its tribal areas. Islamabad was also frequently criticised for its unwillingness to start a military operation against the Haqqani group in North Waziristan.

A pleasant change in the tone and content of the American statements is now discernible. One now comes across instead statements appreciating Pakistan’s contribution in defeating al-Qaeda and recognising the importance of its future role as a facilitator in the restoration of durable peace in Afghanistan.

According to media reports, a senior US official stated in Brussels on the 3rd of this month that Pakistan was pressing forward with facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan and had showed no hesitation in enabling talks between the Afghan and Taliban leaders. He also noted that Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US had already formed a group for providing safe passage to the Taliban leaders for talks with Afghan officials.

It was also pointed out that earlier in response to a request from the Afghanistan High Peace Council, Pakistan released a group of Taliban prisoners in November to push forward an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.

Separately in Brussels, the Secretary General of Nato, reflecting undoubtedly the US views, told Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on December 3, 2012, that Nato understood well that “Pakistan has paid a high price” in the efforts to defeat terrorism.

The changing mood in the US academic and official circles is also reflected in a recent report issued by the Afghan Study Group. The report points out that the surge of American troops in Afghanistan, instead of eliminating the insurgency in Afghanistan, had the opposite effect. From 2009 to 2012, the number of militant attacks in Afghanistan increased.

It also notes that the war in Afghanistan was becoming increasingly unpopular in the US. According to a recent Pew poll, 60 percent of the respondents supported the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Noting the unpopularity of the war in the US, its long duration and its high cost, the report opposes continued US military intervention in Afghanistan. It emphasises that “prosecuting the war in Afghanistan is not essential to US security.”

The report also rejects the notion that the conflict in Afghanistan is a struggle between the Karzai government and an insurgent Taliban movement allied with international terrorists. It correctly points out that the conflict in Afghanistan is a civil war about power-sharing with lines of contention that are “partly ethnic, chiefly, but not exclusively between Pashtuns, who dominate the south, and other ethnicities such as Tajiks and Uzbeks, who are more prevalent in the north.”

Because of the US military intervention, the conflict in Afghanistan also includes the “resistance to what is seen as foreign military occupation.” The report suggests the resolution of the conflict through negotiations aimed at an agreed distribution of power among the various Afghan factions.

America’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan is the compulsion of the ground realities. It is important, however, that this withdrawal takes place in an orderly fashion leaving behind a political structure, which is capable of sustaining durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and preventing al-Qaeda from regaining a foothold in that country. Such a political structure can be established only through an agreement among the various Afghan factions free from foreign interference.

Pakistan must play its own role in facilitating the dialogue among the Afghan parties in the interest of peace in Afghanistan and the region. We must also strengthen bonds of cooperation with Iran in view of its critical importance for Pakistan’s security and economic well being as well as for the successful conclusion of the intra-Afghan dialogue.

The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com