Ehsanullah Ehsan

[It is essential for the Pak Army that it maintain the illusion of “two Talibans.”  Even if the Army won’t tell the truth about the militants of the Hindu Kush, the militants themselves have revealed the truth for us, in the public squabble over a TTP spokesman who refused to acknowledge the binding link (SEE: Pak Taliban Fire Spokesman for Dissing Mullah Omar).  There are many groups that the public calls “Taliban,” some who wage war against the Pak Army and some who don’t.  The portion fighting Pakistan is dwarfed by the number of them who only fight the Western invasion, NOT the other way around, as Pakistan needs the world to believe, or to at least accept.  The real Taliban are still an asset of the Army (SEE:  The Bear Trap (Afghanistan’s Untold Story). ]

In Pakistan, army adamant on fighting the other Taliban

Reuters
A soldier creates a barrier using barbed wire at a security checkpoint in the Swat valley region, located in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province, in this March 19, 2010 file photo. REUTERS-Akhtar Soomro-Files

A soldier creates a barrier using barbed wire at a security checkpoint in the Swat valley region, located in Pakistan’s restive North West Frontier Province, in this March 19, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro/Files

 

KALAM, Pakistan

(Reuters) – In the past few years, Pakistan’s Swat valley has been occupied by Islamic insurgents, undergone a bruising counter-offensive by the army and then flooded by waters that washed away acres of fruit orchards and steeply terraced fields.

In October last year, the valley which lies about 250 km (155 miles) north of the capital Islamabad was again in the global spotlight when Islamic gunmen shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.

Now, as villagers try to piece together shattered lives, the military is coming under pressure to talk peace with the Taliban, a ruthless Pakistani offshoot of the Islamic radical movement of the same name in neighboring Afghanistan.

Civilian Pakistani leaders elected in May want to open a dialogue with the homegrown militants set on overthrowing the nuclear-armed state. They say the local people are fed up with the violence and that any talks will be legitimized by U.S. efforts to promote peace with the Afghan Taliban.

But the powerful military, which has spent years chasing the Pakistan Taliban into ever-more remote hideouts, is in no mood to negotiate with militants who have killed thousands of soldiers and who they say cannot be trusted. Some villagers back that stand.

“(The Taliban) doesn’t accept the government’s writ, they are not faithful to the constitution, how can a political party talk to them?” said Abdul Rehman, an elder in the village of Kalam, a former tourist hotspot high in the Swat valley and ringed by snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Khush. The village is famous for repelling Taliban attacks.

“We forced them away, first on our own, then with the help of the army,” Rehman told Reuters during a visit organized by a U.N. organization funding flood relief work in his village, which is set among pine forests and walnut orchards.

The debate over whether to open peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban has taken centerstage in the country as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan after a 12-year war against the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan’s military leaders are at pains to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban, to which Pakistan maintains ties and which they argue can be seen as fighting against occupation, and its local imitators who they see as domestic terrorists.

The Pakistani Taliban pledges allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban but Omar is careful not to be seen to attack the Pakistani state. The Pakistani Taliban’s suddenly sacked its spokesman on Tuesday amid signs of strained ties between the groups.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his prominent rival Imran Khan both offered to talk to the Pakistani militants while campaigning for May’s federal and provincial elections. While Sharif won the federal elections, Khan’s party emerged victorious in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province that includes Swat Valley and remains a hotbed of Pakistani Taliban activity.

The information minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the Northwest Frontier Province, told Reuters that the provincial government had called a meeting of other political parties and stakeholders to prepare for peace talks.

“TIME FOR POLITICIANS”

“The United States has opened up a Taliban office in Qatar and is holding negotiations with them, and we are being told to continue to fight and die,” Khan said last month during a visit to Peshawar, the province’s violence-blighted capital.

“For the last nine years we have relied on the army to bring peace, but instead the situation got worse,” he said. “It’s now time for politicians to resolve the issue.”

Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), says the violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a reaction to U.S. drone strikes and pro-Washington policies by the army, and that talks are the only answer.

But there is no easy solution.

Most of the militants seek refuge in the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – districts strung along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and run by central writ – and the provincial government cannot control the process.

FATA is used as a base by the Pakistani Taliban, members of the Afghan Taliban and groups linked to al Qaeda.

Sharif’s federal government can only do so much. Pakistan’s military largely has a free hand regarding internal security, and influences foreign policy, especially relations with neighbours.

It is the army, its intelligence agencies and the Taliban itself who will decide whether to talk or fight.

The Pakistani Taliban has shown interest in talks, but has stepped up attacks after a series of drone strikes on its leaders and also because it doubts the ability of the civilian leadership to convince the military to allow negotiations.

“If we felt that the PTI government or the Nawaz Sharif government were in a position to take a serious step towards peace talks and can oppose the intelligence agencies, then we can seriously think about peace talks,” the group’s then spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a video released in June.

So far, the military has shown no inclination to relax an offensive many officers feel they can win.

“We have to take the fight to them,” said a regional commander flying a helicopter over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Just before the elections, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani made it clear he would not talk to the militants unless they lay down arms and accept Pakistan’s laws.

“There is no room for doubts when it comes to dealing with rebellion against the state,” he said in an April 30 speech.

POST-WAR HUNGER

Locals in Swat said there was good reason to mistrust the militants.

A previous peace deal gave the Pakistani Taliban the breathing space it needed to take power in the valley and then extend influence into neighboring districts just 100 km from Islamabad in 2009.

That summer, worried by the creeping proximity of Taliban territory to Islamabad, the army launched a full air and ground assault and government forces regained control in a month. But the operation displaced 2 million people, and later, many returned to nothing but dead livestock and flattened orchards.

Floods that ripped through Swat the next year made things worse, destroying many of the tightly packed terraces where corn and wheat grow along steep mountainsides. Acute malnutrition among children has jumped by more than a third.

Saifullah Khan Mahsud, an expert on the situation in FATA, says the army believes it has the Pakistani Taliban on the back foot and is biding time for a fatal blow in border areas like North Waziristan, where the militants and other global groups are holed up.

“At the end of the day it is the military stance that is going to prevail,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad and Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by John Chalmers and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Pak Taliban Fire Spokesman for Dissing Mullah Omar

Pak militants sack top member

arab news

 
 
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AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Last Update 10 July 2013 2:16 am

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan-based Taleban sacked their spokesman yesterday for making remarks that angered their Afghan allies, in a move highlighting efforts to patch up divisions within the increasingly fractured insurgency.
Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP), formed in 2007, is an umbrella group uniting various militant factions operating in Pakistan’s volatile northwestern tribal areas along the porous border with Afghanistan.
Any further divisions within the movement are likely to weaken the Afghan Taleban’s fight against Western forces there, making it more difficult to recruit young fighters and disrupting safe havens in Pakistan used by Afghan militants.
The Pakistani Taleban announced the dismissal of Ehsanullah Ehsan — an outspoken and prominent figure close to TTP’s top brass — in a pamphlet distributed by militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on the Afghan border.
“He has made comments that have raised the danger of divisions between the Pakistani Taleban and the Afghan Taleban,” the pamphlet said.
“The Taleban are our foundation and Afghan Taleban leader Mullah Omar is our supreme leader. That is why, from today, Ehsanullah Ehsan is no longer our spokesman.”
One TTP commander told Reuters that the Afghan Taleban were incensed when Ehsan told a local newspaper that US-Taleban peace talks in Doha would have no effect on the TTP, suggesting that the two movements were “totally different.” “After Ehsan’s damaging statements, the Afghan Taleban asked us not to use their stationery or their flag,” he said by telephone from North Waziristan. “This is unacceptable for us.”
Ehsan was replaced by Sheikh Maqbool, a man who is considered close to the Afghan Taleban and has spent much of his time since 2007 in Afghanistan.
But Ehsan’s sacking could also signal yet another chink in the armor of the Pakistani Taleban itself, which last month lost its second-in-command, Wali-ur-Rehman, in a US drone strike in North Waziristan, a militant stronghold.
The Pakistani movement has long struggled to formulate a unified set of goals, with some factions focusing on staging attacks against domestic military and civilian targets and others calling for deeper involvement in the Afghan cause.

Afghan Unemployment

 

[Karzai’s refusal to handover his country on a silver platter has motivated Obama to play his final diplomatic card “no US troops after 2014.”  If Karzai still refuses to bend, then Obama will probably follow through with his threat, just like he did in Iraq.  Afghanistan will explode from instant, massive social pressure from the widespread unemployment and drop in government revenue (SEE: Military dumps $34M into Afghanistan HQ that US forces won’t use).  If help from some caring, beneficent government is not forthcoming, then the result will benefit the Taliban, who rely upon local support, while pouring gasoline on the fires of a renewed Afghan civil war.  If Obama was a decent man then he would do whatever is necessary to help heal the wounds of Afghanistan, even if that means continuing to pour billions into a country that despises us.]

Unemployment spike in Afghanistan leaves locals more open to Taliban

rawanews

Haq said killings such as the recent murder and robbery of a Bagram hotelier are becoming more common, and residents are afraid to go out at night, giving insurgents free reign in the streets after dark

By Heath Druzin

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — A new and dreaded word has crept into the local lingo of this bustling town in the shadow of one of NATO’s main logistical hubs: “layoff.”

It was inevitable that thousands of civilian employees would be made redundant as NATO’s military operation in Afghanistan winds down after nearly 12 years of war. But some are questioning the handling of mass layoffs, and whether the result might be to strengthen the Taliban at a time when the guerrillas are escalating their operations ahead of next year’s withdrawal of foreign combat troops.

This sudden spike in unemployment has left towns like Bagram, adjacent to Bagram Air Field, contending with poverty, rising crime and drug use, and there are concerns about a possible boon for insurgent recruitment among the young and jobless. The potential danger was underscored June 18, when several rockets slammed into Bagram Air Field, killing four U.S. troops. Rocket attacks at the air field, about 40 miles north of Kabul, often come from the surrounding villages that rely heavily on the base for employment.

“This base is very important for locals here because there are a lot of people who used to be jobless who got jobs at the base,” said Haji Shamsul Haq, the head of Bagram’s development and solidarity council, which tackles local economic and reconstruction issues. “If the young men are jobless [again] they will get involved in violent acts.”

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force had about 800 military bases across Afghanistan. But it has been rapidly shutting them down in recent months, putting in peril an already fragile Afghan economy heavily dependent on international aid and military contracts. There are only about 100 coalition bases left, according to a military spokesman.

The ripple effects are being felt throughout Afghanistan, but are especially acute in towns near bases.

Laborers work on a road project near Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan
Laborers work on a road project near Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Unemployment in the area has skyrocketed in the past six months as many residents have been laid off from jobs at the base, a scenario unfolding throughout Afghanistan as international forces withdraw from the country. (Photo: Heath Druzin/Stars and Stripes)

Haq said killings such as the recent murder and robbery of a Bagram hotelier are becoming more common, and residents are afraid to go out at night, giving insurgents free reign in the streets after dark. Heroin use, once almost unknown in Bagram, is on the rise, he said.

About 2,000 people in Bagram and outlying villages have lost their jobs at the base in the past six months, Haq said, and during a walk around the town it was not hard to find those who had been laid off.

All had the same story: One day a supervisor escorted them to the base gate without explanation, took away their entrance badges, which were then cut up, and sent them on their way.

“I’m angry because I worked there for six and a half years,” said Sheryala, who used to make crates for logistics trucks at the air field and now works at his father’s vegetable stand. “No one complained about my work, so when they fired me, at least I should have been told why.”

Jan Baz, 30, fit pipes to water tankers on Bagram Air Field for six years, but lost his job in March. He now struggles to support five children, while running a small appliance shop across from the base perimeter.

“Me and my family are losing our savings,” he said. “I opened this shop but there is no business here.”

A similar scenario has unfolded in Kandahar province, the cradle of the Taliban and one of the most violent corners of Afghanistan.

Haji Mukhtar, a member of Kandahar’s provincial council, said 70 percent of Kandaharis who used to work at bases in the province have lost their jobs in the past year. The city of Kandahar, the second-largest in Afghanistan, is home to the major ISAF air hub, Kandahar Air Field, as well as many smaller bases.

Mukhtar echoed the complaints from Bagram of rising crime and stepped-up insurgent recruitment of jobless men.

“Villagers come to us and say they don’t have any other option than to join the Taliban,” he said. “The government has done nothing about this issue.”

Brian Lobo, a senior manager at Central Asian Development Group, a major military contractor in Afghanistan, said strict security restrictions placed on Afghan employees — they must go through lengthy security screenings, have an escort at all times on base and cannot stay overnight — make it much more convenient to hire workers from other countries, like Nepal, the Phillipines and India.

Because of this, Lobo said, Afghan employees are the first to be laid off when contractors scale back operations.

Ali Iftekhari, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, said the government is trying to increase sustainable employment options in sectors like mining and agriculture, though he didn’t offer specifics. More immediately, he said, competition for base jobs from non-Afghan workers is making a grim employment picture worse.

“Our main concern is that some foreign companies are bringing foreign workers to Afghanistan legally and illegally,” Iftekhari said.

Spokesmen for the NATO-led military coalition in Afghanistan and the command for U.S. forces in the country said no programs were in place to transition Afghan workers who are laid off from jobs at international military bases in Afghanistan.

Local leaders interviewed for this story had little to offer in terms of long-term economic planning for a post-international future, other than hope for new factories or continued international aid.

The official unemployment rate in Afghanistan is 35 percent, but when factoring in rampant underemployment, that number jumps closer to 50 percent, according to Hamidullah Farooqi, a professor of economics at Kabul University. These numbers are likely to rise as international troops and organizations leave Afghanistan.

Many young Afghans have vaulted into the middle class working for foreigners, and as those jobs dry up many will face a stark new reality, Farooqi said.

“Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, they must lose their jobs and we will be facing another disaster in that area,” he said. “These people were getting high incomes … and unfortunately the local job market is not able to hire them and not able to pay them a high wage.”

The difficulty of finding jobs for the newly unemployed is complicated by corruption and criminality in government and the business sector, which discourages investment in the country, Farooqi said.

Afghan leaders “don’t understand economic issues,” he said. “They are only thinking about the political and how to create the political environment” to continue their lifestyle.

Meanwhile, in towns like Bagram, local leaders like Haq see the crumbling economy and rising violence as reminiscent of the early 1990s, when Afghanistan plunged into a bloody civil war after a guerilla campaign against the Soviet army.

“We are people who have suffered a lot of fighting, and the worst future is to live like we lived in the past.”

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

Saudi Arabia planning to assassinate fugitive Iraqi VP Tariq al-Hashemi

Saudi Arabia planning to assassinate fugitive Iraqi VP Tariq al-Hashemi

Islam times
Islam Times – The Saudi regime is reportedly planning to assassinate fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi over fears that he might disclose Saudi Arabia’s role in cooperation with al-Qaeda militants in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia planning to assassinate fugitive Iraqi VP Tariq al-Hashemi

According to a report published by Al-Medina which was cited by Al-Awamiyah website, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has ordered the country’s spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud to assassinate Tariq al-Hashemi.

Saudi authorities fear that Hashemi will reveal ties between the Riyadh regime, Baath party elements and Iraqi terrorist groups if he is arrested and put on trial in Baghdad.

Hashemi is accused of being involved in bomb attacks against the government and security officials over the past years, including a November 2011 car bombing in the capital Baghdad that apparently targeted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The fugitive vice president and his bodyguards also face accusations of killing six judges.

On December 19, 2011, an investigative committee within the Iraqi Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi after three of his bodyguards confessed to having taken orders from him to carry out the terrorist attacks.

Hashemi fled to the Kurdistan Region after the arrest warrant was issued, and is currently in Turkey.

In May 2012, Interpol also issued an international Red Notice alert for the arrest of Hashemi “on suspicion of guiding and financing terrorist attacks.”