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Officials sent to Afghanistan for Nato intrusion probe

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Pakistani drivers sit on a front bumper of a truck carrying supplies for NATO forces parked with other trucks at a roadside near the boarder crossing with Afghanistan in Torkhum, Some 150 trucks have been still waiting for Pakistan to reopen the border crossing in Torkham so that they can deliver their supplies to Western troops in Afghanistan. – Photo by AP

PESHAWAR: Pakistan has sent a team to Afghanistan to probe a cross-border Nato attack that killed three Pakistani soldiers, officials said on Sunday.

Pakistan has blocked the Torkham route for Nato convoys carrying supplies to Afghanistan since the helicopter attack in Kurram tribal region on Thursday, which Nato claimed was in self-defence but was condemned by Islamabad.

A two-member Pakistan team led by Brigadier Usman Khattak, deputy inspector-general of the Frontier Corps, travelled to Afghanistan on Saturday to join an investigation into the incident by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force and US officials, an official said.

Brigadier Khattak had already visited the site of the attack and held talks with troops deployed in the area, the official said.

The border Torkham remained closed for a fourth day on Sunday.

“We will review the position when the security situation is normalised,” the official said, adding that efforts were continuing to resolve the problem through negotiations.

Queues of more than 200 trucks and oil tankers have formed at the border as they wait to deliver supplies to the 152,000 foreign troops fighting a nine-year Taliban-led resistance in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials indicated on Sunday that the border crossing was a short-term measure and it would be reopened soon.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said that the route had been closed because of public reaction in the area to the Nato strikes, and that it would be reopened once things normalised.

“The supply has been suspended because of security reasons and it will be resumed as soon as these reasons are addressed,” he said.

While Nato and the United States have alternative supply routes into Afghanistan, the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient.

Most of the coalition’s non-lethal supplies are transported over Pakistani soil after being unloaded at docks in Karachi.

Our Correspondent adds from Washington: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States said his country needed only “technical” help from Washington, not US troops on the ground.

Hussain Haqqani also told CNN’s State of the Union programme that Pakistan would reopen the Torkham supply route “relatively quickly,” probably in less than a week.

He also insisted that Pakistan would move against militants on its own schedule, not Washington’s.

“Pakistan is saying we will take care of all terrorists on the Pakistani side of the border, but we will do it on our timeline,” he said. “We cannot always follow a timeline that our allies set for us, because we are allies, not a satellite.”Ambassador Haqqani also said Pakistan couldn’t do everything Washington wanted “because sometimes we don’t have the capacity and sometimes we don’t have the means.”

China looks to Pakistan for access to Afghanistan

The hurly burly is done. Pakistan signed six contracts spanning many area. The details of the six contracts were not published. Too many curios minds want to know. It is none of their business. When the stacks go up in Chasma, the rails are laid in the Karakoram, the housing colonies spout up all over Pakistan, and the industrial zones begin manufacturing Chinese goods, the world will know what happened in Beijing this week. No point in raising hackles in Delhi and Washington. Already Bharat is going trough convulsions about Afghanistan, and spasms about C-3 and C-4 construction.

Voice of America is looking at President Zardari’s visit to China with great trepidation. The US announces a “Strategic Partnership” amid much fanfare, and admits past mistakes in dealing with Pakistan. At the drop of a hat, Hillary Clinton threatens Pakistan. That is not a partnership. The real partnership is with Pakistan—where billions of Dollars worth of stuff happens without fanfare and without crassly reminding the Pakistanis every day about “aid”. These are some of the reasons why China is so popular in Pakistan.

Here is the VOA report

Regional security analysts say a six-day visit by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to China this week – his fifth since stepping into office – highlights the growing ties between the two countries.  They say that in addition to providing a hedge against India in the region, Pakistan is Beijing’s window on Afghanistan and its strategic interests in the war torn country.

For Pakistan, President Zardari’s trip to China seems to be largely focused on drawing Chinese investment to the country.

On Wednesday in Beijing, Mr. Zardari met with Chinese business leaders from industries ranging from banking to defense. The president appealed for Chinese help in developing the country’s energy sector and noted that the true potential of business opportunities between the two countries had yet to be realized.
Mr. Zardari and Chinese President Hu Jintao signed six agreements, but details were not made public.

Sumit Ganguly, a political science professor at Indiana University, says that while Islamabad is looking to Beijing to help build up its infrastructure and address its energy needs, China is looking to Pakistan to understand the future of Afghanistan.

“The Pakistanis recently have been talking to the Taliban and have been trying to convince President Karzai to reach an agreement with the Taliban as the U.S. prepares to withdraw in July 2011,” he said.

Gangulay says that Pakistan would like to have a government that incorporates the Taliban in Afghanistan because Islamabad believes such a regime would be sympathetic to Pakistani interests.

“Karzai is under considerable pressure from the Pakistan to fold, and the Chinese are curious probably to know how exactly things will play out,” he said.
Michael Swaine, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, says China looks at the Afghanistan situation through its relationship with Pakistan.

“If there is a problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan is concerned about that problem, China wants to make sure it is on the same wave length as Pakistan,” he said.
Swaine says that such problems could be anything that raise questions and concerns about the stability of Afghanistan – such as the expansion of Indian influence or the emergence of Taliban groups that do not support the Pakistan government.

Dan Blumenthal of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington says both Pakistan and China are using their relationship as a hedge against the possibility that the U.S. does not succeed in Afghanistan.

“That key relationship has always been important for both sides, for the Chinese increasingly so; to have some influence in South Asia and Central Asia, and for the Pakistanis to have options in case things go really south in Afghanistan,” he said.
Professor Gangulay says that Beijing’s close relationship with Islamabad has helped China in Afghanistan and made it possible for the Chinese to avoid working with the U.S. government in any meaningful fashion.

“The Chinese are doing quite well in Afghanistan,” he said. “They have managed to get lucrative contracts to extract copper and other mineral resources from Afghanistan.  And as long as the Pakistanis have a substantial presence after the American withdrawal, why should they care about our [U.S.] interests.”
President Barack Obama has set July 2011 as a date to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, if conditions on the ground permit.

However, analysts like Michael Swaine note that China is not looking for the United States to quickly pull out of Afghanistan, because that could result in more instability that would threaten the region and its economic interests there as well.

“Now that said, I don’t think they [China] want the United States to remain in Afghanistan either for an extended period of time,” said Swaine. “They want a stable regime in Afghanistan that they can work; that will be accepting of and receptive of both their economic interests in Afghanistan – which are growing and are significant – and a regime that will work with Pakistan.”

China has large investments in Afghanistan, including a multi-billion dollar project to develop a copper mine in the Aynak valley, just south of the capital, Kabul.  It has also provided a range of aid to Afghanistan by helping it build a communications infrastructure, hospitals, and irrigation systems among other projects.
Despite concerns voiced by its critics, Chinese officials say Beijing’s relationship with Islamabad benefits peace, stability and prosperity of the region.

Stanley McChrystal’s war path on White House

  • Stanley McChrystal — the Runaway General
  • Excerpts from the Rolling Stone interview with General Stanley McChrystal
  • The White House must decide whether stability in the war effort outweighs the need to discipline the commander.
  • As President Obama weighs whether to relieve his Afghanistan commander over inappropriate comments in a magazine article, he is also wrestling with the future of a war that he has taken on as his own.
  • If he fires Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Obama will be forced to consider revising his strategy, which relies on large numbers of U.S. troops and a far-reaching counterinsurgency effort to promote governance and development in Afghanistan.
  • The White House now has to decide whether stability at the top of the war effort outweighs the need to discipline a commander who twice has seemed to publicly challenge civilian oversight of the war.

The article in this week’s Rolling Stone depicted Gen Stanley McChrystal – the top US military commander in Afghanistan – as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy could win the war.

The interview describes McChrystal as “disappointed” in his first Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. “McChrystal thought Obama looked ‘uncomfortable and intimidated’ by the roomful of military brass,” said the magazine about the general’s first meeting with his new commander-in-chief, a week after the latter took office.

McChrystal’s one-on-one meeting with the president a few months later did not go much better either. “It was a 10-minute photo-op,” the magazine quotes an adviser to McChrystal. “The Boss was pretty disappointed,” the aide had said, referring to the general.

The Rolling Stone article, which quotes several McChrystal aides anonymously, portrays a split between the US military and Obama’s advisers at an extremely sensitive moment for the Pentagon, which is fending off criticism of its strategy to turn around the Afghanistan war.

  • Firing McChrystal would also probably ignite fierce debate in Congress, with some Republicans charging that Obama had sacrificed an effective wartime commander because of comments that, while intemperate, did not challenge the course set by civilians.
  • Opponents in Congress of the current strategy would probably respond by pressing even harder for a shift in strategy.
  • In December, Obama essentially sided with McChrystal, who recommended a troop buildup and a dedicated counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.
  • And he rebuffed, at least for the moment, Vice President Joe Biden and other advisors, who expressed skepticism about the strategy.
  • Obama set a July 2011 deadline for beginning a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and promised to review the strategy in December — in effect giving McChrystal a year to show results.
  • McChrystal’s approach already has been under fire, because stabilization efforts have proved less successful than expected in Helmand province and the general has extended an operation around the city of Kandahar because of delays in getting Afghan support.
  • Officials who back the current strategy say that firing McChrystal would set back that effort even further.

Obama appointed McChrystal to lead the Afghan effort in May 2009. He was, however, not happy with the proposals the general was making – calling, among other things, for another 40,000 troops – to avoid a ‘mission failure’, writes the magazine.

“The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president’s ass,” states the Rolling Stone piece.

“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article. “I was selling an un-sellable position,” he added.

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan only after months of study, which many in the military found frustrating. And the White House’s troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counter-insurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

A diplomatic incoherence among several officials in the Obama administration dealing with the war in Afghanistan, opines the magazine, has effectively allowed McChrystal’s team to call the shots and “hampered efforts to build a stable and credible government in Afghanistan”.

The magazine goes on, “part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama’s top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a ‘clown’ who remains ‘stuck in 1985′.”

“Politicians like [John] McCain and [John] Kerry, says another aide, ‘turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticise him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it’s not very helpful,” quotes the magazine.

Only US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystals advisers. “Hillary had Stan’s back during the strategic review,” an adviser tells Rolling Stone, adding, “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs’.”

The assessment of McChrystal’s team of Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the official charged with the reintegration of the Taliban is not nearly as rosy: “‘The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal’,” the magazine quotes a member of the general’s team. “‘Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He’s a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, [and] pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto’,” quotes the magazine.

McChrystal, says the magazine, does not bother concealing his annoyance over the diplomat. “At one point during a trip to Paris, he checks his BlackBerry. ‘Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke’, he groans. ‘I don’t even want to open it’, he says. He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket.”

McChrystal, a widely respected former special operations chief, has enjoyed mostly sympathetic US media coverage since he took over the NATO-led force last year with a mandate from Obama to launch a major counter-insurgency offensive.

In the interview, McChrystal said he felt betrayed by US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner. If Eikenberry had the same doubts, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counter-insurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“‘Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books’,” McChrystal told the magazine, adding, “‘Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so’.”

  • The most logical successor would be Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who is already in Afghanistan serving as McChrystal’s deputy. Replacing McChrystal with Rodriguez would signal continuity, rather than a shift in approach.
  • Another name being mentioned as a possible successor was Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. He has command combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Even if he remains the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, McChrystal is almost certain to emerge from the furor as a damaged figure, less able to defend his war strategy against those in the administration hoping to change it.
  • “I strongly believe McChrystal will return, but the damage is done,” said a senior military official sympathetic to McChrystal.
  • Among the issues Obama will have to decide is whether McChrystal can remain effective as commander in the wake of the furor.
  • “Does he come back weakened or gun shy or hesitant to make that case?” asked one senior official. “We need him engaged.”

The article depicts the strained relationship between McChrystal and Eikenberry. “According to those close to the two men, Eikenberry – a retired three-star general who served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005 – can’t stand that his former subordinate is now calling the shots. He’s also furious that McChrystal, backed by NATO’s allies, refused to put Eikenberry in the pivotal role of viceroy in Afghanistan, which would have made him the diplomatic equivalent of the general.”

The job instead went to British ambassador Mark Sedwill – a move that effectively increased McChrystal’s influence over diplomacy by shutting out a powerful rival.

“‘In reality, that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight’,” the magazine quotes a US official familiar with the negotiations.

The Rolling Stone article appeared to catch him and his staff in unguarded moments, including a drinking session at an Irish pub in Paris.

In the article, McChrystal joked sarcastically about rehearsing an answer for US Vice-president Joe Biden, known as a sceptic of the general’s strategy of hurling thousands more troops into the fray.

“‘Are you asking about Vice President Biden?’ McChrystal says with a laugh.

‘Who’s that?’” the article quotes him as saying. “‘Biden?’ suggests a top adviser. ‘Did you say: Bite Me?’”

Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan – the brainchild of McChrystal – will see NATO and US numbers peak at 150,000 later this year before a draw-down scheduled to start next year.