NATO’s perilous Kunar mission

By Tim Lister

The mistaken NATO air attack on Pakistani military outposts at the weekend, in which 24 soldiers were killed, was an accident waiting to happen.

The border between Pakistan and the Afghan province of Kunar is probably the most volatile of the entire 1,500-mile frontier that divides the two countries. It is rugged, remote and home to a variety of insurgent groups – including the Taliban (both Afghan and Pakistani), al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and the Hezbi Islami Group run by veteran warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In the words of one Afghan analyst, Kunar represents “the perfect storm.”

READ also Pakistani-U.S. relations back at the bottom

In addition to the sheer number of insurgents in Kunar, the border with Pakistan – amid peaks and ravines – is not clearly marked, and in some places disputed.

Nor was it the first such accident. On June 10th 2008, US troops and their Afghan allies engaged Taliban fighters some 200 yards inside Afghanistan – along the same stretch of border. Grainy video from a U.S. surveillance drone that day showed a half-dozen Taliban retreating into what the US military said was Pakistani territory. Several air strikes followed using precision bombs. The U.S. military insisted none hit any structure. But Pakistan maintained eleven soldiers were killed and described the attack as “completely unprovoked and cowardly.”

That incident took place in daylight; the firefight at the weekend was at night. And since 2008, the border between Kunar and the Pakistani tribal agency of Mohmand has become even more violent. Attempts by U.S. forces to build combat outposts close to the border have provoked firefights lasting several hours; resupply convoys are greeted with roadside IEDs and ambushes.

To further complicate the picture, Pakistani forces frequently fire artillery into Kunar against Pakistani Taliban elements who use Afghan territory. At least one senior Pakistan Taliban leader, Mullah Fazlullah, is said to take refuge in Kunar after being driven out of Pakistan’s Swat Valley in 2009. …

Read more » http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/28/natos-perilous-kunar-mission/?hpt=hp_bn4

Sindh and Its Sindhiyat – By Geet Chainani, M.D.

Sindh, the land of Sufis, the hope and ultimate destination of my quest!

The time I’ve spent in Sindh, Pakistan over the last year and a half has been life changing. It’s taught me much about the history of South Asia, the cultural heritage of Sindh,  our Sindhi brothers and sisters, the dynamics of the Muhajir- Sindhi relationship among a few things. But I believe these to be the more obvious lessons that every second generation removed Sindhi Indian American would also search for when they visit.

There’s been a deeper and much more personal journey involved for me as well: a spiritual one. I came to the land of Sufis to find myself with the hope to find my God as the grand triumph and ultimate destination of my quest.

I’ve learnt that I’m still learning and still looking. On this journey I’ve found beautiful hidden messages that I’ve read in books or inscribed on the walls of temples and Sufi durgahs:

Vasudeva Kutumbakam”

“Ekam sat viprah bahuda vedanti.”

“Satyam amritasya putrah”

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than bowing your head in prayer a thousand times. -Shaykh Sa’di

*

I believe not in the outer religion,

I live ever in love.

Say Amen! When love comes to you.

Love is neither with the infidels nor with the faithful.

– Sachal Sarmast

*

If you are seeking Allah,

Then keep clear of religious formalities.

Those who have seen Allah

Are away from all religions!

Those who do not see Allah here,

How will they see Him beyond?

– Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

My time in Sindh surrounded by Sindhi Muslims has shown me the other side of Sindh’s story and another side of Sufi Islam. The stories of the Sindhi who provided their Hindu counterparts their homes to hide out in during the violence that broke out, the Muslims that bid a final farewell to their Hindu friends with tears in their eyes, the Sindhis who still hold those memories close to their hearts and feel the loss of the Sindhi Hindus as something Sindh never recovered from.

On November 7, 2011 three Hindus were killed in Shikarpur district of Sindh, Pakistan. As many of you already know, I worked in Shikarpur at the start of my time in Sindh. I still maintain close contact with my co-workers. A member of my family also sits on the board of a Hindu association of Sindh. Here’s what I must say, as it is the other side of the truth that exists.

Immediately following the killings the religious (Hindu in this case) spokesperson jumped on the bandwagon to claim religious bias as a cause of the killing.  I turned to my personal network in Shikarpur for answers: there had been an election recently in which the Hindu community had supported the ruling party which won due to the large number of Hindu votes they received. The opposing party didn’t take their loss lightly and instead decided to teach a lesson to the opposite party. The end result of which was the death of the three Sindhi Hindu of whom only one was a doctor. Religious bias was not the reason for their death, politics was. Anyone who follows politics closely shouldnt be shocked to learn of the ways in which politicians use religion as a political strategy. As they say, ” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

What followed next was an absolute uproar within the Sindhi community and an alternate backlash against the government for their inadequate response and towards Sindh warning all Sindhis that this type of violence and is anti Sindhiyat and will not be tolerated by the residents of Sindh. They further emphasized that Sindh is the land of Sufis and believes in living in a tolerant society. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I was in Islamabad on official business. A young activist was kind enough to send me pictures.

Following the killings thousands of Pakistanis, both Hindu and Muslim, gathered publically across Pakistan to stand against the death of the three victims and the inaccurate message of intolerance it displayed. There was also a hunger strike that followed.

Sayings in books thousands of years old that we claim as ours aren’t good enough. It is far more necessary to put those words to action and there is no better time than now. Hate only breeds hate. History is meant to learn from not to regurgitate. It’s wrong to paint today’s canvas with yesterday’s paint. When you reach into the paint jar you may end up with dried out, useless paint. This is perhaps why they say one should not live today in the past of yesterday.

No one is saying that the sentiments of the Hindu Sindhis are wrong. Anger for being removed from motherland and from  sacred river Sindhu is justified. But another truth follows suit: there’s a time for anger and then there’s a time to let go, to change and to move on.

Tides must turn. Peace must prevail.

Only then will their be prosperity in South Asia again.

Praying for peace

Reference reading:

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=76954&Cat=2

http://www.thehansindia.info/News/Article.asp?category=1&subCategory=4&ContentId=17528

http://www.demotix.com/news/924585/civil-society-protest-against-killing-hindu-doctors

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/11/protest-against-killing-of-hindus/

Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mohandas Gandhi

To find out more or to support our work in Sindh, Pakistan please visit our website at www.thelifebridge.us

Shamsi Air base – By Air Marshal Ayaz A Khan (R)

The disused Bhandari airstrip 200 miles south of Quetta in Balochistan was gifted to Shiekh Zahid Al-Nahyan the ruler of Abu Dhabi by the government of Pakistan in the 1990’s. The airstrip called Shamsi was developed by Emirates Shieks into a jet capable airfield , and was used for falcon hunting of rare Bustards in Balochistan. It was leased out to US Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 by UAE with President Musharraf’s approval, and was developed by the United States Air Force as a military air base in great secrecy for bombing of Afghanistan. CIA occupation of the base clearly had his approval. General Pervez Musharraf as President should have comprehended the long time strategic implications of handing over Shamsi air base to Washington! Development of of Shamsi for clandestine operations was kept a highly guarded secret, and Chief Minister Magsi and even Corps Commander were not allowed to visit it, when it was being developed for Drone operations and construction of the required infrastructure for this purpose was taking place. There is no evidence on record that the UAE government handed over Shamsi to the CIA for Drone operations. I was general Musharraf who handed over Shamsi and allowed US Air Force operations against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants from some other PAF bases including the Shahbaz Air Base. ….

Read more » Defence Journal

http://www.defencejournal.com/2011-7/index.asp

Pakistan supply lines closure will have little effect on NATO – New supply lines via Tajikstan and Uzbekistan to NATO

Pakistan border closure will have little effect on Nato’s Afghanistan campaign

New supply lines via Tajikstan and Uzbekistan mean Islamabad will only be able to push up costs and inconvenience war effort

By Jon Boone in Kabul

Pakistan’s government once had the power to bring Nato’s war machine to a shuddering halt through its control of a key route into landlocked Afghanistan. But today it can only aspire to cause inconvenience and slightly push up the cost of a war already running at $120bn a year.

As Washington’s relationship with Islamabad soured in recent years, Nato’s logistics chiefs tried to break their reliance on Pakistan for getting enough food, fuel and other vital supplies to their troops in Afghanistan.

Such goods used to arrive almost entirely through what is known as the southern distribution network, which runs from Pakistani container ports on the Arabian Sea over road and rail links to the border towns of Torkham and Chaman.

Those two crossing points are currently closed to Nato traffic following the killing of at least 24 Pakistani soldiers in a US air strike on Saturday.

The supply line has also proved vulnerable to attack from insurgents inside Afghanistan, who have attacked convoys, blowing up dozens of fuel tankers at a time and looting goods intended for troops.

In 2008, Pakistani television showed shots of gleeful insurgents driving around in bullet proof Humvees that had literally fallen off the back of a truck. The vehicles had been en route to Afghan security forces.

Many of the lorry drivers currently stuck in Pakistan because of the closed borders have complained that they are vulnerable to Taliban attacks.

Pakistan has used its power to shut down the supply line before. Last year it did so for 10 days after Nato forces ….

Read more » guardian.co.uk

Bruce Riedel : America’s Pakistan Mess Gets Worse With Alleged NATO Strike

Even before NATO allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, this alliance was a wreck. Bruce Riedel on the decades of deceit that have put Obama in diplomatic hell—and why Pakistan holds all the cards.

America’s relationship with Pakistan is crashing. Decades of mistrust and duplicity on both sides are coming to the surface. The Pakistani Army has an agenda that is at odds with ours. At bottom, we are on opposite sides of the war in Afghanistan, and that poisons everything.

The death of two dozen Pakistani jawans, or soldiers, allegedly due to NATO airstrikes, is the latest crisis in a year of crises along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of course, we need to let the two armies investigate what exactly happened and apportion blame. But the facts won’t change the downward slide in the relationship. In 2011 we have argued over drones, a CIA contractor named Raymond Davis, Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, the assassination of Afghan peace negotiator and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, and the Taliban attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in September, which the Pakistani Army orchestrated. In every case, the details were disputed, but the big takeaway is clear—we just don’t trust each other. Two of the six biggest countries in the world simply have no faith in each other’s word.

This trust gap is the result of decades of mutual deceit and lying. Pakistan proclaimed it was our ally against communism or Al Qaeda or whatever when what it really just wanted was arms and help to fight India. America promised to help democracy in Pakistan and instead backed four brutal military dictators. Ironically, the Army believes we have betrayed it over and over again. We have.

Now we are at war in Afghanistan. Since at least 2005, Pakistan’s Army has been assisting the Afghan Taliban in fighting the Afghan government we support and the world accepts as the legitimate government of the country. Pakistan’s Army backs a medieval monstrosity that would impose a reprise of the Taliban hell of the 1990s. It prefers this to what it dreads: a pro-India regime on its western border. It tries to hide its hand, but regularly its troops along the border shelter the Taliban and even provide artillery support. It harbors their leaders, including Mullah Mohammed Omar in Quetta. It gives training and advice to those who kill Americans. Former Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who knows Pakistan well, said it clearly: it backs our enemy.

This is the fundamental problem that all the diplomatic niceties can’t ignore. NATO supports the Karzai government. Pakistan’s Army (not its civilian government) backs the Afghan Taliban. The Army has politically neutered the civilians elected to run Pakistan in 2008. Three years ago it used the Nov. 26 terror attack on Mumbai to neuter President Asif Ali Zardari; he wanted to cooperate with India’s investigation of the terrorists, and it didn’t. It won. Now it has engineered the ouster of Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, whom it has long despised because he literally wrote the book on their lying and deceit. It won again.

Now it is interfering with NATO’s supply line from Karachi. About half our supplies come through there. The Pakistani Army controls both our logistics and the Taliban’s. It’s a good place to be in war. The Army knows it. Now it also has threatened (again) to shut down a drone base.

America has to engage Pakistan. It is too important not to engage. It is on track to have the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. But we also need to help Pakistan’s weak democracy and contain its generals. It is a tough balance. A year ago, President Obama promised he would visit Pakistan in 2011. The visit is not even on the agenda anymore. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship is in tatters. It is likely to get even worse now.

Courtesy » The Daily Beast