Written by Zabhiullah Jahanmal
If Pakistan does not allow commercial transit vehicles from Afghanistan to pass directly through to the Waga port in the next three days the Afghan government will begin stopping Pakistani trucks from passing through its borders, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries said on Saturday.
According to Musafer Qoqandi, the spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Pakistani officials agreed during the recent transit and trade cooperation conference that Afghan trucks would be allowed to travel directly to the Waga and Karachi ports after January 20. However, 500 containers of Afghan goods are currently being held in Pakistan.
“Pakistan officials have promised to let Afghan trucks go to Waga port after January 20, otherwise, Afghan government does not have any other way but to give a similar response,” Musafer Qoqandi said.
Documentation issues, high fees and increased cost of Pakistani transit vehicles are among the problems that have stopped Afghan transit vehicles from being able to take advantage of trade routes in Pakistan.
“We have said this several times that Pakistan is not committed to its promises and even after the president’s talks with their officials, Pakistanis still do not stand on their promises,” said Atiqullah Nasrat, the Chairman of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries Board.
Meanwhile, huge amounts of Pakistani goods are transported through Afghanistan to Central Asian countries every day.
Courtesy: Tolo News
Learn more » http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/17867-kabul-to-block-pakistani-trucks-if-islamabad-doesnt-open-routes-to-afghan-traders
Excerpt: Skirmishes in the South China Sea lead to full-scale naval confrontation. Israel bombs Iran, setting off an escalation of violence across the Middle East. Nigeria crumbles as oil prices fall and radicals gain strength. Bloomberg News asked foreign policy analysts, military experts, economists and investors to identify the possible worst-case scenarios, based on current global conflicts, that concern them most heading into 2015.
Afghanistan/ Pakistan – Potential Flashpoint:
Taliban militants in the mountainous Pashtun-dominated regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan link up with Islamic State. They make progress in their quest to take power in Kabul and Islamabad as the U.S. reduces its troop presence.
India/ Pakistan – Potential Flashpoint:
A terrorist attack occurs on the scale of Mumbai in 2008, when luxury hotels and a train station were attacked by a Pakistan-based militant group. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is pressured into a harsh response, triggering a crisis between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Read more » Bloomberg
Learn more » http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-flash-points/?hootPostID=8ac47b59f9f297f5aa7664a1fc7b7a8a
By: Vikram Sood
Pakistan watchers would not find the current spate of terror in that country surprising because there has been a steady escalation in its lethality, its dramatic impact, geographical range and targets for some years. And that this has been mostly within Pakistan except for the attacks against Indian interests in Kabul and Mumbai in recent years. No one perhaps really noticed that Pakistani jihadis nurtured fondly for years, had gone into a catharsis of sorts soon after President Musharraf announced in September 2001 that he was reversing jihad. He was going to support the US in the war on terror in Afghanistan and, by implication, against some Pakistani jihadis. Musharraf had apparently been overawed by Washington’s “either you are with us or against us” message.
Unsurprisingly, for many more familiar with Pakistani behaviour and paranoia, it was known that this was going to be only selective reversal. The cooperation with the US was not meant to apply against the India-specific jihadis nurtured by Pakistan for years. Despite this selective approach to tackling jihadis, there were perhaps half a dozen attempts to assassinate Musaharraf by Islamic radicals between 2001 and 2003 — the most lethal being Christmas Day in 2003 when he had a miraculous escape. The attackers were professionals and they obviously had insider information about Musharraf’s movement that day.
The attack on the Karachi airport with instant media coverage, is perhaps the most high profile attack by Pakistani terrorists in recent years. Over time, Karachi has become a haven for the Taliban, sectarian militants, jihad financiers and Al Qaeda sleeper cells. With a high mix of criminal activity and a large Pukhtun population it is relatively easy for the Taliban to operate here. This would explain the ease with which there were two attacks on the airport on consecutive days.
There have been other, even more sinister and audacious attacks in Pakistan since the Lal Masjid episode in July 2007 in which 156 fundamentalist Islamists were killed in an operation by the elite SSG commandos. Attacks by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorists on the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi in October 2009, the Pak naval base PNS Mehran in Karachi in May 2011 in apparent retaliation against the killing of Osama bin Laden earlier that month, the Kamra airbase in August 2012, and in December 2012 and the Bacha Khan airport in Peshawar were particularly audacious and exhibited a well thought out game-plan. Even the ISI Office in Lahore was attacked by the Taliban in May 2009 and later the ISI office in Sukkur was targeted. SSG commando training headquarters and the Sargodha air base had similarly been targets. These attacks were carried out by highly trained suicide squads armed with sophisticated weapons and aimed at inflicting maximum damage. Besides, high-profile strategic targets derive international publicity and send a message. Meanwhile the world, including Pakistanis, haven’t noticed the killing of 25 Shia pilgrims in Taftan, Balochistan, by Sunni terrorists, the day the airport was attacked.
Pakistan’s intelligence agency hid and protected Osama bin Laden. The chief of the army even knew of the cover up. Some ally.
In the 13 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, $1 trillion has been spent, and 3,400 foreign soldiers (more than 2,300 of them American) have died. Despite our tremendous loss of blood and treasure, Afghanistan remains—even as we prepare to exit the country—”a weak state, prey to the ambitions of its neighbors and extremist Islamists,” as Carlotta Gall notes in “The Wrong Enemy.”
Could we have avoided this outcome? Perhaps so, Ms. Gall argues, if Washington had set its sights slightly southward.
The neighbor that concerns Ms. Gall—the “right” enemy implied by the book’s title—is Pakistan. If you were to boil down her argument into a single sentence, it would be this one: “Pakistan, supposedly an ally, has proved to be perfidious, driving the violence in Afghanistan for its own cynical, hegemonic reasons.” Though formally designated as a major non-NATO U.S. ally, and despite receiving more than $23 billion in American assistance since 9/11, Pakistan only pretended to cut links with the Taliban that it had nurtured in the 1990s. In reality, Pakistan’s ubiquitous spy service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), foments jihad against NATO in Afghanistan much as it did against the Soviets in the 1980s.
At this point, accusations of Pakistani perfidy won’t raise the eyebrows of anyone with even a passing familiarity with the region. For years, a chorus of diplomats, analysts and journalists have concluded that the Taliban and its partners in jihad would be incapable of maintaining an insurgency without active support from across the border. In 2011, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, called the Haqqani network—the group responsible for some of the worst violence in Afghanistan, including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul that year—”a veritable arm” of the ISI.
The Taliban’s War on Women: Taliban violence against women in Afghanistan has never gone away. Disturbing stories of suppression and brutality show a society hanging in the balance.
The recent online video of the Taliban executing a 22-year-old woman in front of a crowd of cheering men shocked the world. As Taliban aggression intensifies, how much has actually changed in Afghanistan?
At the height of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan in 1999, a burqa-clad woman was executed in Kabul’s main football stadium. Footage of the killing shocked the world and galvanised international opposition to the Taliban’s brutal rule. Yet just two months ago, 22-year-old Najiba was mercilessly killed by the Taliban, just one hour’s drive from Kabul. The Taliban created a fake court and once they decided she was guilty, executed her within an hour. “It was tyrannical and barbaric – it is impossible that the law would allow what they did”, says Mullah Badam, who witnessed the killing. Speaking to Afghan women it’s evident that violent abuse is still commonplace. 18-year-old Mumtaz had acid thrown on her face by her would-be husband, who she had refused to marry. “They would not let me look in the mirror. I cried a lot”, she says. But there are women who are fighting back, including MP Fawzia Koofi, who plans to take on Hamid Karzai for the presidency. An outspoken champion of women’s rights, she has faced assassination attempts and numerous death threats. She argues that for her male political opposition, “women’s rights are a matter of sacrifice”. With the Allied forces set to withdraw by 2014, this disturbing report highlights just how precarious the situation remains for the future of Afghan society.
Read more » Journeyman.tv
Jeremy Scahill’s new documentary reveals how dirty wars take innocent lives and make us less safe.
The United States deems Kabul, Afghanistan the center of the “war on terror.” The press corps and other embedded reporters, then, are limited to these borders.
But beyond these green (meaning safe, according to the U.S. govt.) streets of Afghanistan, lies a sea of red (dangerous) and black (Taliban-heavy) streets that go largely unexplored by journalists.
Yet, that’s exactly where investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill begins to delve in his new documentary Dirty Wars, directed by Rick Rowley.
Afghans warned: the taxman is coming after you
KABUL (Reuters) – One of Afghanistan’s most surprising success stories lies tucked away on a potholed street notorious for suicide bombings and lined with rusting construction equipment.
The work of the country’s top tax collector is more inspiring than the view from his office in Kabul. Taxes and customs raised $1.64 billion last financial year, a 14-fold increase on 10 years ago. That means, now, the government can pay just over half of its recurrent costs such as salaries.
Thanks to tougher enforcement procedures, Afghanistan’s tax to GDP ratio today stands above 11 percent – ahead of neighboring Pakistan’s dismal 9 percent.
We should know this more than others. The Pakistan of 1947 is not the Pakistan which exists today, one half of it having broken away to form another country. I served in Moscow in the seventies and nothing seemed more solid or permanent than the Soviet Union, a mighty power which cast a shadow far and wide. Who could have thought that in a few years’ time it would fracture, leaving a trail of small, independent republics behind?
Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall was two countries. Now it is back to being one. Czechoslovakia was one country then. Now it is two. In the UK, of all places, the Scots, or a goodly part of them, are demanding independence. A referendum is set to decide this question in 2014.
After the fall of the Soviet Union it seemed as if American pre-eminence was an assured thing, lasting for the next hundred years. Bright-eyed scholars announced not just the closing of an era but the end of history. As hubris goes, this had few equals. There were other Americans who said that reality would be what America wanted it to be. Yet American power has declined before our eyes, nothing more contributing to this than the wars President Bush ventured upon in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Clash of civilisations was another phrase current just ten years. Something of the sort has happened but not in a way that the US could have intended. Wouldn’t the Taliban, wouldn’t Al-Qaeda, define their struggle as a clash of civilisations?
Ten years ago in a Jamaat-ud-Dawaah mosque in Chakwal (not far from my house) I heard one of their leaders talking of America’s eventual but sure defeat in Afghanistan. I thought his rhetoric too fanciful then. It sounds much closer to home now.
I have just read a longish review of Norman Davies’ ‘Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations’. This book should be required reading for anyone concerned about the future of Pakistan. For the lesson it emphasises is that history does not promise progress. All it promises is change. Nothing is fixed, all is movement, nations rising and falling, the old disappearing to make way for the new, the new in turn becoming the old and morphing into something else – the philosophy of Heraclitus and Hegel, even of Marx.
By Dr Farrukh Saleem
The Kayani Doctrine, built on four pillars, comprises: American troops would have to withdraw from Afghanistan; reconciliation among Afghan factions is not possible without the ISI; the Jalalabad-Torkham-Karachi route remains the most viable for withdrawing American forces and India cannot be allowed to encircle Pakistan. In 2009, General McChrystal, commander Isaf and commander US forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A), refusing to buy the Kayani Doctrine, requested a ‘troop surge’ numbering 30,000-40,000. In 2010, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 187th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team and the 101st Sustainment Brigade were deployed to Afghanistan.
In 2010, General Petraeus, commander Isaf and commander USFOR-A, refusing to buy the Kayani Doctrine, began implementing his “comprehensive counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy”. General Petraeus’ COIN had four pillars: “securing and serving the population, understanding local circumstances, separating irreconcilables from reconcilables and living among the people”.
By 2011, America’s cost of war in Afghanistan hovered around a colossal $500 billion and the US had incurred 1,814 fatalities. By 2011, Petraeus’ four pillars had begun to fall flat – one by one. America could no longer sustain the war in Afghanistan – neither politically nor financially. Finally, President Obama, in a prime time speech, bought into the Kayani Doctrine by announcing a troop drawdown schedule. On December 2, 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with COAS General Ashfaq Kayani. This may have actually been the first formal buy-in of the Kayani Doctrine.
On December 17, the principal deputy assistant attorney general told a federal court in New York: “In the view of the United States, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is entitled to immunity because it is part of a foreign state within the meaning of the FSIA (Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act).” This may have actually been an implicit acceptance by the US of the ISI’s indispensability in the Afghan endgame (the doctrine’s second pillar).
On December 29, Pakistan received $688 million under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). According to the Ministry of Finance, “from May 2010 onwards Pakistan had asked for $2.5 billion under the CSF but only $1.9 billion have been reimbursed.”
On February 10, “two convoys each hauling 25 shipping containers entered Pakistan at the Chaman and Torkham borders” heading back to where they came from. To be certain, these convoys will be followed by a few thousand taking back around 750,000 major military items valued at close to $40 billion (the doctrine’s third pillar).
Indian defence analysts claim that the British have acted as the intermediaries in the latest US-Pakistan rapprochement and that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also involved in the game. Pakistan is once again becoming the centre piece in the Afghan endgame.
India’s Ambassador MK Bhadrakumar, who served in Islamabad, Kabul, Tashkent and Moscow, opines, “Washington is stonewalling India’s requests for the extradition of two key protagonists who are in the US jails – David Headley and Tahawwur Rana” and that “India’s worst fears with regard to the situation in Afghanistan are probably coming true.”
5 Reasons Why Hezb-e Islami Killing Foreigners in Kabul is a Big Deal
By El Snarkistani
Another attack in Kabul today, which (sadly) isn’t that unusual lately.
But today’s reported killing of eight people in Kabul is frighteningly different from the norm here in the Emerald City.
1. This is being claimed by Hezb-e Islami.
Once upon a time, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and friends did a great deal of violence in Kabul. ….
There is heavy fighting between Afghan and Pakistani forces in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan, Afghan officials say.
Fighting started at around 0400 (0030 GMT) following an attack on a border police commander’s convoy, according to border police sources. According to Afghan officials in Kunar, one border policeman was killed and five were injured.
The Afghan authorities have since sent hundreds of troops to the area. The attack was from the Pakistani side of the border in the area of Binshay, Dangam District, Afghan police say.
Afghan officials in Kunar province have told the BBC that both sides have been using heavy and small weapons and a Dangam District tribal elder said the fighting was ongoing.
KABUL: The Afghan parliament Saturday voted to dismiss two powerful ministers for failing to act over cross-border shelling blamed on neighbouring Pakistan and over other security issues.
The move obliges President Hamid Karzai to sack Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, who has strong support among Afghanistan’s Western allies, and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, a key Karzai ally.
The men are expected to continue serving in an acting capacity until the president introduces replacements.
General Abdul Rahim Wardak will continue serving in the ministry as the acting defence minister until a new minister is introduced by the president,” defence ministry spokesman General Zaher Azimi told AFP. ….
Read more » The Express Tribune
A rain of 1,300 rockets from Pakistan threatens to spawn a diplomatic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
By Heath Druzin
KABUL — A rain of rockets from Pakistan threatens to spawn a diplomatic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister summoned Pakistan’s ambassador Sunday after shelling killed four civilians and injured several others in Kunar province Friday night.
A provincial official is warning of an “uprising” if the attacks continue. The Foreign Ministry warned that continued shelling “could have significant negative impact” on relations between the two countries.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — A shot rings out, but the burqa-clad woman sitting on the rocky ground does not respond.
The man pointing a rifle at her from a few feet away lets loose another round, but still there is no reaction.
He fires a third shot, and finally the woman slumps backwards.
But the man fires another shot.
And another. And another.
Nine shots in all.
Around him, dozens of men on a hillside cheer: “God is great!”
Ashley Tellis: Pakistan’s Impending Defeat in Afghanistan – Rawalpindi refuses to see the writing on the wall.
Pakistan’s Impending Defeat in Afghanistan
By: Ashley J. Tellis
Pakistan’s Enduring Aim
Ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan has had one simple strategic goal on its western frontier: ensuring that Afghanistan remains a stable but subordinate entity deferential to Pakistan’s sensitivities on all matters of national security. Such deference was sought for a host of reasons. Islamabad wanted a guarantee that Kabul would not reignite the dispute over the countries’ common border (the Durand Line) and would not seek to mobilize the region’s Pashtun populations in support of either absorption into Afghanistan or the creation of a new nation. The Pakistani leadership also aimed to ensure that Afghanistan would not enter into close geopolitical affiliations with other, more powerful countries, such as the United States or India, in order to increase Kabul’s autonomy from Islamabad.
Amid the chaos that emerged after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan settled on supporting the Afghan Taliban as its strategic instrument for securing Kabul’s compliance with its objectives. Although the Taliban were not always dependable surrogates on these matters, they appeared better than other Afghan rivals, and hence Islamabad—despite its denials—has stuck by them to this day.
Whatever the intended benefits of this strategy, it has alienated both the broader Afghan populace and the government in Kabul, which now views Pakistan as a habitually hostile neighbor. It has also undermined the U.S.-led international stabilization effort in Afghanistan, as well as hopes for a peaceful security transition—not to mention infuriating Washington, which now views Pakistan as a perfidious partner. And it has provoked heightened regional rivalry involving Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Iran, India, the Central Asian republics, and Russia, all of whom are determined to prevent a Pakistani-supported Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Worst of all, Islamabad’s strategy promises to fundamentally undermine Pakistani security. Every one of the three possible outcomes of the Afghan security transition leaves Pakistan in a terrible place.
Destined for Failure
Read more » http://m.ceip.org/publications/?fa=48633
WASHINGTON (Dawn) — The U.S.-Pakistan relationship appeared to be heading towards a head-on collision as a U.S. general blamed Friday’s deadly attack on a Kabul hotel on FATA-based militants and the White House vowed to take the steps needed to mitigate this threat.
Earlier on Friday, the U.S. media reported that Washington had considered launching retaliatory attacks at terrorist targets inside Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) but concerns about destabilizing Pakistan prevented it from doing so.
“We’ll take steps necessary to mitigate that threat,” said a White House official, while commenting on AP report.
Why geography — unfortunately — is destiny for South Asia’s troubled heartland.
BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN
The deaths of 15 civilians in a Taleban attack on a hotel outside Kabul is a shocking reminder of why the Afghan government must work with the International Criminal Court to help bring to justice all those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said.
On Thursday night, armed Taleban fighters stormed the Spozhmay Hotel in the Lake Qargha area near the capital, taking dozens of hotel guests and staff hostage.
In the ensuing siege that lasted almost 12 hours, a fierce gun battle broke out between Taleban fighters and NATO and Afghan troops, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people – including 15 civilians.
It was the most serious single loss of civilian life in Afghanistan since the Taleban attacked Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel a year ago, killing 22 people, again mostly civilians.
“The Taleban’s repeated brazen attacks targeting civilians show an utter disregard for human life and may amount to war crimes which should be investigated and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, as should crimes which may have been committed by NATO and Afghan troops,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Acting Asia and Pacific Programme Director. ….
Read more » Amnesty International
Pentagon chief all but rules out apology for Pakistan
By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON: (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta all but ruled out an apology over an air strike last year that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and badly set back efforts to improve U.S.-Pakistani ties, saying it was “time to move on.”
Pakistan banned trucks from carrying NATO supplies into neighboring Afghanistan after the air strike, a move that costs U.S. taxpayers $100 million a month given the need to use more expensive, longer routes to the north.
To re-open the routes, Pakistan wants to impose high tariffs on NATO supplies and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said last week that Islamabad is still seeking an unconditional apology.
But Panetta, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, suggested that past expressions of regret and condolences were enough and held out hope that troubled talks on re-opening Pakistani supply routes for the NATO war effort could succeed anyway.
Asked whether he would oppose any further apology, Panetta said: “We’ve made clear what our position is, and I think it’s time to move on.”
“If we keep going back to the past, if we keep beating up each other based on past differences, we’ll never get anywhere,” he said.
“The time now is to move forward with this relationship, on the (supply routes), on the safe havens, on dealing with terrorism — on dealing with the issues that frankly both of us are concerned about,” Panetta said. ….
Read more » Reuters
By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
President Barack Obama has ordered a sharp increase in drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan in recent months, anticipating the CIA may soon need to halt such operations in Pakistan’s territory, two U.S. officials said.
His decision reflects mounting U.S. frustration with Pakistan over a growing list of disputes — mirrored by Pakistani grievances with the U.S. — that have soured relations and weakened security cooperation. The U.S. is withholding at least $3 billion in reimbursements for counterinsurgency operations and security-related funding, according to congressional aides and Pakistani officials.
“We are reaching the limits of our patience, and for that reason it’s extremely important that Pakistan take action” to crack down on armed groups based there that attack American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday in Kabul. ….
Read more » Bloomberg
AFP – The United States is running out of patience with Pakistan over safe havens for insurgents who attack US troops across the border in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Thursday.
Panetta was speaking during a brief visit to Kabul overshadowed by Afghan fury over a NATO air strike that allegedly killed 18 civilians — an issue that the Pentagon chief did not mention at a news conference.
Panetta left for the airport just hours after his arrival, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged to cut short a trip to Beijing and head home over the deaths of around 40 civilians Wednesday in the air strike and a suicide bombing.
There are three groups of Pashtuns fighting the US/NATO and Afghan security forces in Afghanistan – the Peshawar Shura led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the North Waziristan based Haqqani Network led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, and the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Omar. All three of them are closely linked with the military establishment of Pakistan.
A section of Hekmatyar’s party has already given up violence and is part of the current Afghan government and parliament. Many of the remaining prominent party leaders are frustrated with Hekmatyar’s rigid stance and have privately said they are willing to give up violence for a peaceful political process.
A strong, independent Afghanistan is perceived as an existential threat to Pakistan
Just why is Pakistan interested in installing a friendly regime in Afghanistan? If you read books and articles written over the last couple of decades, you will come across arguments such as the need for “strategic depth” to counter India, to prevent a pro-India regime in Kabul that will result in the Indian encircling of Pakistan and, even more grandly, to create an Islamic centre of power that stretches from the shores of the Arabian Sea to the Caucasus mountains. Going by the statements of members of the Pakistani establishment and some of its commentators, these are indeed the reasons why Pakistan wants to dominate Afghanistan.
PART THREE – THE LOST HISTORY OF HELMAND
By: Adam Curtis
When you look at footage of the fighting in Helmand today everyone assumes it is being played out against an ancient background of villages and fields built over the centuries.
This is not true. If you look beyond the soldiers, and into the distance, what you are really seeing are the ruins of one of the biggest technological projects the United States has ever undertaken. Its aim was to use science to try and change the course of history and produce a modern utopia in Afghanistan. The city of Lashkar Gah was built by the Americans as a model planned city, and the hundreds of miles of canals that the Taliban now hide in were constructed by the same company that built the San Francisco Bay Bridge and Cape Canaveral. Here is what Helmand province looks like today. ….
Read more » BBC
KABUL: Afghanistan’s intelligence agency on Thursday said it had prevented a large terrorist attack in the capital, arresting a Pakistani national driving a truck packed with explosives in Kabul.
The agency said in a statement that the man was arrested Thursday on a major road in the east of the city. It said the man was going to use the truck bomb in a suicide attack.
The agency did not say what the suspected target was. It said it would release more details as they became available.
The arrest comes a day after a suicide attack on the same road killed seven people. In that attack one militant detonated his car bomb outside a compound where foreigners live, while two other attackers fought their way inside before being killed.
By Mohammad Hamid, KUNDUZ, Afghanistan
(Reuters) – About 150 Afghan schoolgirls were poisoned on Tuesday after drinking contaminated water at a high school in the country’s north, officials said, blaming it on conservative radicals opposed to female education.
Since the 2001 toppling of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, females have returned to schools, especially in Kabul.
But periodic attacks still occur against girls, teachers and their school buildings, usually in the more conservative south and east of the country, from where the Taliban insurgency draws most support.
“We are 100 percent sure that the water they drunk inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls’ education or irresponsible armed individuals,” said Jan Mohammad Nabizada, a spokesman for education department in northern Takhar province.
Some of the 150 girls, who suffered from headaches and vomiting, were in critical condition, while others were able to go home after treatment in hospital, the officials said.
They said they knew the water had been poisoned because a larger tank used to fill the affected water jugs was not contaminated.
“This is not a natural illness. It’s an intentional act to poison schoolgirls,” said Haffizullah Safi, head of Takhar’s public health department. ….
Read more » Reuters
via – Twitter
Pentagon says Pakistan-based Taliban of the Haqqani group were behind attack on Kabul & other Afghan cities.
Haqqani network behind Afghan attack: Pentagon
WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said Monday a major attack on Afghan government buildings, military bases and foreign embassies was likely carried out by Haqqani militants who operate from sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan.
“Initial indications are that the Haqqani network was involved in this set of attacks that occurred yesterday in Kabul,” press secretary George Little said of Sunday’s assault.
The 18-hour attack was “well-coordinated,” but Afghan security forces “did a very effective job” in quelling the onslaught, Little told reporters. ….
Read more » DAWN.COM
Via – Twitter
Hekmatyar as an engineering student in Kabul University, he became known for throwing acid at women dressed in Western clothes
In Afghanistan: Embracing Gulbuddin Hekmatyar Is No Method at All
By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
…. By the early 1970s Hekmatyar had become radicalized by extremist Islam and joined the Nahzat-e-Jawanane Musalman (Muslim Youth Movement). As an engineering student at Kabul University he became known for throwing acid at women dressed in Western clothes and for murdering a fellow student from a Maoist faction of the PDPA. Imprisoned by King Zahir Shah’s police for the murder, Hekmatyar was freed following a 1973 coup by the King’s cousin Mohammed Daoud and communist PDPA leader Babrak Karmal and fled to Pakistan.
Hekmatyar joined with Ahmad Shah Massoud’s Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Party) in a Pakistani plan designed by their Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to destabilize Afghanistan with cross border raids. Dissatisfied with the radical Jamaat’s political approach after failing to stir an uprising in Afghanistan, Hekmatyar formed his own more radical party, the Hesb-i-Islami (Islamic Party) and came to the attention of the CIA. In 1979, Hekmatyar helped to precipitate the Soviet invasion by engaging Afghanistan’s desperate Marxist President Hafizullah Amin in a power sharing arrangement. According to the April 1981, (No. 282) edition of British publication The Round Table the Soviets panicked when they realized Amin had set December 29th as the date for dissidents of the regime and their tribal supporters to march on Kabul.
Hekmatyar would go on to become the darling of the agency and receive the bulk of the U.S. and Saudi aid coming in for the war against the Soviet Union, including a monopoly on Stinger missiles. Although an ISI and CIA favorite, Hekmatyar’s legitimacy as a fighter, his effectiveness, his loyalties and even his goals raised doubts in the Peshawar-based American press corps. According to CBS News stringer Kurt Lohbeck in his book, Holy War, Unholy Victory, Hekmatyar’s reputation was an elaborate ruse concocted by the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI to elicit Congressional support for the Mujahideen, and little else.
Gulbuddin had no effective fighting organization. He had not a single commander with any military reputation for fighting the Soviets or the Afghan regime. He had made alliances with top regime military figures. And he had killed numerous other Mujahiddin commanders. Yet the United States government and the covert agencies were doing their best to convert that lie into reality.
Via – Twitter
REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Anti-American protests flared for a second day Wednesday over the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. personnel at a military base north of Kabul, and at least seven people were killed in the ongoing violence, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said.
U.S. officials worked to contain the damaging fallout from the incident, which came at a difficult and delicate juncture of the decade-old war.
In demonstrations that spread to several locales across the country, hundreds of Afghans burned tires, threw stones and chanted “Death to America!” Foreign embassies and organizations urged Westerners in the capital and elsewhere to keep a low profile. ….
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
….. In the military’s mind, the Americans are now a threat, equal to or larger than India. They are also considered more of an adversary than even the TTP jihadists who have killed thousands of Pakistani troops and civilians. While the Salala incident was allowed to inflame public opinion, the gory video-taped executions of Pakistani soldiers by the TTP were played down. A further indication is that the LeT/JuD is back in favor (with a mammoth anti-US and anti-India rally scheduled in Karachi next month). Pakistani animosity rises as it sees America tightly embracing India, and standing in the way of a Pakistan-friendly government in Kabul. Once again “strategic defiance” is gaining ground, albeit not through the regional compact suggested by General Mirza Aslam Beg in the early 1990s.
This attitudinal shift has created two strong non-India reasons that favour ramping up bomb production.
First, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are seen to be threatened by America. This perception has been reinforced by the large amount of attention given to the issue in the US mainstream press, and by war-gaming exercises in US military institutes. Thus, redundancy is considered desirable — an American attempt to seize or destroy all warheads would have smaller chances of success if Pakistan had more.
But such an attack is improbable. It is difficult to imagine any circumstances — except possibly the most extreme — in which the US would risk going to war against another nuclear state. Even if Pakistan had just a handful of weapons, no outside power could accurately know the coordinates of the mobile units on which they are located. It is said that an extensive network of underground tunnels exists within which they can be freely moved. Additionally, overground ones are moved from place to place periodically in unmarked trucks. Mobile dummies and decoys can hugely compound difficulties. Moreover, even if a nuclear location was exactly known, it would surely be heavily guarded. This implies many casualties when intruding troops are engaged, thus making a secret bin-Laden type operation impossible.
The second – and perhaps more important — reason for the accelerated nuclear development is left unstated: nukes act as insurance against things going too far wrong. Like North Korea, Pakistan knows that, no matter what, international financial donors will feel compelled to keep pumping in funds. Else a collapsing system may be unable to prevent some of its hundred-plus Hiroshima-sized nukes from disappearing into the darkness.
This insurance could become increasingly important as Pakistan moves deeper into political isolation and economic difficulties mount. Even today, load-shedding and fuel shortages routinely shut down industries and transport for long stretches, imports far exceed exports, inflation is at the double-digit level, foreign direct investment is negligible because of concerns over physical security, tax collection remains minimal, and corruption remains unchecked. An African country like Somalia or Congo would have sunk under this weight long ago.
To conclude: throwing a spanner in the works at the CD (Geneva) may well be popular as an act of defiance. Indeed, many in Pakistan — like Hamid Gul and Imran Khan — derive delicious satisfaction from spiting the world in such ways. But this is not wise for a state that perpetually hovers at the edge of bankruptcy, and which derives most of its worker remittances and export earnings from the very countries it delights in mocking.
To read complete article » The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2012.
U.S. Troops Could Stay in Afghanistan Past Deadline, Envoy Says
By ROD NORDLAND
The ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, speaking at a roundtable event with a small group of journalists, said that if the Afghan government wanted American troops to stay longer, the withdrawal could be slowed. “They would have to ask for it,” he said. “I could certainly see us saying, ‘Yeah, makes sense.’ ” ….
Read more » The New York Times
A state determined to kill – itself
By Khaled Ahmed
By creating just one point of view, Pakistan may entrench itself in dangerous isolation, and may find it difficult to do course-correction to save its already crippled economy from collapsing
A revisionist state called Pakistan is taking all measures possible to immolate itself. The Army finally ran is rival Husain Haqqani to the ground and was helped in this by internecine party politics with everyone mindlessly baying for each other’s blood as the only politics they know. The national economy is gradually crumbling, its infrastructure run down and people willing to attack and burn because the state is unable to run itself. On top of it all, the most fatal hubris of a weak state – ghairat or honour – rules the collective mind.
The Pakistan Army is the only popular institution in the country with processions now carrying portraits of General Kayani because he carries in him the promise of a war of honour, in other words, an honourable death, because living without honour is not living at all. On 26 November 2011, the NATO forces attacked a checkpost on the Pak-Afghan border and killed 24 Pak troops. No one knows what happened except Pakistan that says it was a pre-planned attack. Pakistan significantly got its TV cable operators to ban the BBC for showing its two-hour documentary Secret Pakistan whose facts cannot be denied or at least no one outside Pakistan will reject them. Pakistan should pause and reflect on these facts and then understand the November 26 attack in their light.
BBC said on its website: ‘Filmed largely in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this documentary explored how a supposed ally stands accused by top CIA officers and Western diplomats of causing the deaths of thousands of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. It is a charge denied by Pakistan’s military establishment, but the documentary makers meet serving Taliban commanders who describe the support they get from Pakistan in terms of weapons, training and a place to hide’.
Pak Army is not willing to look at the non state actors despoiling the country from the inside. It defies the world asking that they be banned and brought to account and feels itself totally blameless for what happened in Mumbai in 2008 while it focuses on what has happened at Salala in 2011. If you kill others or get them killed by your non state actors, they are prone to make the kind of mistake that was made at Salala. But Pakistan welcomes war even though it has never won one and has been defeated again and again fighting India, the last one being the battle of Kargil. General Kayani has familiarly thrown the gauntlet to the US: do it again and see what happens. The world knows that nothing will happen, except that Pakistan, already in dire economic straits, will be crushed.
Nawaz Sharif has gone to the Supreme Court as the one forum where the PPP government can be pulled down as a corollary to defeating the United States. (Get the traitor for joining enemy America!) He wants to get at the root of the Memogate scandal and is sure that the PPP leader Zardari was trying to double-cross the Pak Army which Nawaz Sharif now wants to stand up for. He wants the PPP government gone in short order before its tenure is up.
It appears that the PMLN, with fresh warpaint on its face, the maximalist Supreme Court, intent on getting Zardari to commit hara-kiri in Switzerland, and a revengeful Army aspiring to defeat the US, are on the same page: Suspend efforts to free-trade with India, defeat the US as an obstacle to Pakistan getting its fair share of leverage in Afghanistan, and stop fighting the war against terrorists because it was never Pakistan’s war, slyly hoping that the Taliban will be on Pakistan’s side in the war against the US.
Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has pledged a crushing retaliation if the US-ISAF forces attacked inside Pakistani territory again, ‘regardless of consequences’ (sic!). He told his troops, ‘Be assured that we will not let the aggressor walk away easily; I have clearly directed that any act of aggression will be responded to with full force, regardless of the cost and consequences’. He wants the troops on the border with Afghanistan to take their own on-the-spot decision against any future NATO attacks without waiting for orders from the GHQ. Now they will fight the US-ISAF forces instead of the Taliban terrorists.
This is a very rash approach to the situation triggered by the November 26 incident, even if it is directed as a morale-booster at the troops and meant to be interpreted differently as strategy for civil society which is obviously not prepared for war on the western front. The Americans are offering regrets even before their formal inquiry into the Salala incident is completed on 21 December. President Obama too has expressed sorrow at the death of Pakistani troops while a formal apology pends till the inquiry reveals NATO’s guilt. There are however statements issuing from Washington saying the attack was unintended and that some fire had come from around the Salala checkpost.
The nation is of one mind, a kind of pre-war symptom that Pakistan experienced in 1965 and 1971 when the Army painted the country into a corner through the hubris of isolationism. It is not natural that the entire nation be of uniform thinking in favour of conflict, especially if this conflict is against an immeasurably stronger adversary. If after the anger felt in the GHQ subsides and more realistic decisions are required to be taken, the disappointment among the public will take the shape of an emotional boomerang of self-disgust. We have seen that happen in the Raymond Davis case after the CIA agent was let off on diyat instead of being publicly hanged. If the common man has succumbed to an attack of ‘ghairat’ and is spoiling for a fight with the US, the state cannot afford to indulge in the bravado of an unequal war.
If the pro-war mind is presuming that the Taliban will fight the NATO-US forces side by side with the Pak Army, putting an end to the problem of law and order in Pakistan, it is sadly deceived. It will in fact be a two-front war, one front being at the back of the Pakistani troops. The Taliban and their master al Qaeda have an agenda that will be fulfilled only by removing our brave Army Chief from his post and then using the Army to take over the country and its nuclear assets. Wisdom demands that we challenge the US realistically rather than rashly, compelling it to make amends for the Salala incident to the benefit of Pakistan.
A consensus of national self-damage can occur even in democracies and it has recently taken place in the US too but in Pakistan one institution of the state dominates all decision-making functions, and those who should be ruling and not allowing this domination are busy in a lethal war of self-diminution.
The fact is that there are two versions of the truth. Unfortunately the American version is what is credited at the international level while the Pakistani version can only hold if the news channels are prevented from puncturing it. Our asymmetric proxy war against India was rejected by the world while the Pakistanis were force-fed with justifiable jihad by non state actors. Its fallout was experienced by Pakistan’s neighbours whose fear of what Pakistan may do next has isolated Pakistan in the region too. ….
Read more » The Friday Times