Archive

Posts Tagged ‘afghan army’

New Afghan war commander facing uphill battle

KABUL: US General David Petraeus made his public debut on Saturday as commander of the Afghan war, celebrating US Independence Day in one of the most heavily guarded places in the country.

The four-star general, who arrived in the Afghan capital on Friday, faces a tough task to bring peace and secure a face-saving exit for allied troops fighting the Taliban, observers say.

Replacing the sacked US General Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus has said the war in Afghanistan –now well into its ninth year – is likely to get tougher before significant improvements are seen.

He arrives as deaths of US and Nato soldiers are touching record highs in intensified fighting, along with questions about the wisdom of committing such huge resources in manpower and money to what could yet be a lost cause.

The general wore military fatigues as he stood with the US ambassador to receive some 1,700 US diplomats and guests on the lawn of the sprawling US embassy in Kabul to mark the Fourth of July.

His appointment as commander of the 140,000 US and Nato troops in Afghanistan has been welcomed by local officials, including President Hamid Karzai, who is increasingly seen in the West as a loose cannon.

But analysts urged Petraeus to make immediate adjustments to rapidly turn around a war seen as bogged down to the Taliban’s advantage.

“Petraeus must change the fundamental strategy of the war against the Taliban,” said parliamentarian Ahmad Behzad.

“A change in the leadership of foreign forces can only be effective if we see more serious steps taken against terrorists,” he told AFP.

McChrystal’s reputation had suffered from the failure of foreign forces to secure the poppy-growing district of Marjah, in southern Helmand province, in a massive operation launched in February, said political analyst Haroun Mir.

A planned escalation in operations against the Taliban in Kandahar province, the militants’ heartland, had been postponed to September, Mir noted, adding: “And we don’t know if it will ever go ahead.”

Despite assurances from US President Barack Obama, and Petraeus himself, that the change of command does not mean a change in strategy, the general has already hinted some tweaks could be in the air.

Troops have complained that McChrystal’s “courageous restraint” rule, aimed at minimising civilian casualties, prevents them from properly defending themselves – thus contributing to the spike in casualties.

A total of 102 foreign soldiers died in June, almost triple the May toll and far outstripping the previous highest monthly figure of 77 in August.

So far in 2010, more than 320 troops have died, compared to 520 for 2009, with a British soldier becoming the latest casualty on Thursday.

Petraeus conceded this week that troops were unhappy with the rules of engagement, which limit air strikes and artillery and mortar fire, but he denied he planned changes.

He told a news conference after meeting Nato ambassadors in Brussels on Thursday: “I have a moral imperative as a commander… to bring all force that is available to bear when our troopers, and by the way our Afghan partners, are in a tough position.”

As the architect of the counter-insurgency strategy that helped quell the civil war in Iraq, and which had been largely applied to Afghanistan under McChrystal, Petraeus was “the right man for the job”, a military official said.

But he noted that the general’s arrival coincides with growing calls for talks with Taliban leaders, a timetable for withdrawal and intensifying pressure on Karzai to build the country’s own security capacity as well as cracking down on endemic corruption.

Petraeus’s relationship with Karzai would be central to his success, analysts and diplomats said, noting that McChrystal nurtured Karzai as “commander in chief” and improved his ties with Washington.

“Being able to work with an Afghan partner is key to this war,” said Kabul University law lecturer Wadir Safi.

“Otherwise, given the present situation, if 10 Petraeuses come and go, nothing is going to change, especially when he plans to start withdrawing in July 2011.”

Conjoined twins: Pakistan to train Afghan military

  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to send a Afghan military officers to Pakistan for training.
  • The move is a victory for Pakistan, which seeks a major role in Afghanistan
  • Afghan officials said Karzai has begun to see Pakistan as a necessary ally in ending the war through negotiation with the Taliban or on the battlefield.
  • This is meant to demonstrate confidence to Pakistan.
  • The United States wants to “forge a partnership or further the partnership that has been developing between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • “This is a major move,” Nawaz said. “It will have a powerful signaling effect in both countries.”

As expected Afghanistan will begin sending its troops for training to Pakistan. This is a huge deal, because this gives Pakistan a stake in the success of the Afghan Army, and the success of President Hamid Karzai’s government. While the announcement is couched diplomatic jargon and caveats, the fact remains that President Hamid Karzai is building a very strong and long term relationship with Islamabad. Like the song goes, Mr. Karzai has been looking in all the wrong places–he now banks on Pakistan more than he banks on the US, NATO and ISAF.

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post breaks the story of Afghan-Pakistani cooperation.

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to send a group of military officers to Pakistan for training, a significant policy shift that Afghan and Pakistani officials said signals deepening relations between the long-wary neighbors.

The move is a victory for Pakistan, which seeks a major role in Afghanistan as officials in both countries become increasingly convinced that the U.S. war effort there is faltering. Afghan officials said Karzai has begun to see Pakistan as a necessary ally in ending the war through negotiation with the Taliban or on the battlefield.

“This is meant to demonstrate confidence to Pakistan, in the hope of encouraging them to begin a serious consultation and conversation with us on the issue of [the] Taliban,” Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Karzai’s national security adviser, said of the training agreement.

The previously unpublicized training would involve only a small group of officers, variously described as between a handful and a few dozen, but it has enormous symbolic importance as the first tangible outcome of talks between Karzai and Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs that began in May. It is likely to be controversial among some Afghans who see Pakistan as a Taliban puppet-master rather than as a cooperative neighbor, and in India, which is wary of Pakistan’s intentions in Afghanistan.

Some key U.S. officials involved in Afghanistan said they knew nothing of the arrangement. “We are neither aware of nor have we been asked to facilitate training of the Afghan officer corps with the Pakistani military,” Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, head of the NATO training command in Afghanistan, said in an e-mail. But Afghanistan, he said, “is a sovereign nation and can make bilateral agreements with other nations to provide training.”

The United States has spent $27 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces since 2002, and President Obama’s war strategy calls for doubling the strength of both the army and police force there by October 2011 to facilitate the gradual departure of U.S. troops.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, confirmed Wednesday as the new U.S. and NATO war commander, said this week that the United States wants to “forge a partnership or further the partnership that has been developing between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” In addition to taking military action against Taliban sanctuaries inside its borders, Petraeus said, it is “essential” that Pakistan be involved “in some sort of reconciliation agreement” with the insurgents.

U.S. officials are generally pleased with the rapprochement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the rapid progress of the talks has given some an uneasy feeling that events are moving outside U.S. control. Karzai told the Obama administration about his first meeting with Pakistani intelligence chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha when he visited Washington in May, but “he didn’t say what they talked about, what the Pakistanis offered. He just dangled” the information, one U.S. official said.

That session, and at least one follow-up meeting among Karzai, Pasha and the Pakistani army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, included discussion of Pakistan-facilitated talks with Taliban leaders, although the two governments differed on whether the subject was raised with a Pakistan offer or an Afghan request. Both governments denied subsequent reports that Karzai had met face to face with Pakistan-based insurgent leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Hedging their bets

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long held each other at arm’s length. The border between them is disputed, and Afghans resent Pakistan’s support for the Taliban government during the 1990s and its tolerance of insurgent sanctuaries. But as they have assessed coalition prospects in the war, both governments appear to have turned to each other as a way of hedging their bets against a possible U.S. withdrawal.

While building Afghanistan’s weak army is a key component of U.S. strategy, more than 300 Afghan soldiers are currently being trained under bilateral agreements in other countries, including Turkey and India, Pakistan’s traditional adversary. Pakistan has been pushing for months for a training deal, and Spanta said that a “limited” number of officers would be part of the new agreement. Details were still under discussion, but a senior Pakistani government official said the program was expected to begin “soon.”

Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington and an advocate of a Pakistani training program, said the plan could expedite joint operations between the two militaries and reduce suspicions about Pakistan within the Afghan army.

“This is a major move,” Nawaz said. “It will have a powerful signaling effect in both countries.”

Baradar, who reportedly had engaged in talks with the Karzai government, “was interested and more willing to negotiate,” the official said. “He was tired of fighting. Pakistan wants to use the Taliban as a pressure element. They don’t want the Taliban to be in direct contact with the Afghan government.”

Some U.S. officials expressed similar wariness about Pakistan’s intentions. “What the Pakistanis and the Taliban want,” one said, “is a cleaning of the house,” including replacement of the Afghan officer corps, currently dominated by ethnic Tajiks whom Pakistan sees as hostile to its interests.

But other officials in all three countries rejected that analysis and pointed to a broader thaw in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations over the past year. Pakistani scholarships have been accepted by a number of Afghan university students, and Pakistan is training Afghan civilian officials, Spanta said.

“We have seen a paradigm shift in the relationship,” said Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan. “And of course, both sides are benefiting from it.” Some Afghan military officers to get training in Pakistan By Karin Brulliard and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post Staff Writer. Thursday, July 1, 2010; A01. DeYoung reported from Washington.

Myth of South Waziristan Broken: Gen. Kayani

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

PKKH

ISLAMABAD: Sitting under a portrait of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with a huge blazing red calligraphy on his left and an impressive piece of framed Chinese embroidery on his right, recalling the deaths at the Parade Lane of four young sons of his officers who were Hufaz-e-Quran, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani emerged as the first Army chief to resort to speak to the Americans and their Western allies in words and images that they cannot fail to understand.

One of the last few senior generals to have undertaken military training in the US until the Pressler Amendment was slapped on Pakistan, the US and its allies are now not only listening but also understanding as the COAS uses the symbols of American legendary golfer Tiger Woods on his power point display and comparing full bases at a baseball game to some of the war situations on the Pak-Afghan border.

In a meeting at the GHQ, with analysts and retired senior generals, some under whose command he had served, the COAS opened up his mind and heart to dwell on the dangers facing Pakistan militarily, and the region, and ways and means that the military leadership thinks are the solutions to ensure that at the end of the war, Pakistan does not find itself in the ‘wrong corner of the room’. The interaction continued for nearly three hours.

Speaking on and off the record, the COAS shared with the participants the presentation that he had made at Nato headquarters in Brussels, where generals from 45 countries heard him, and which many Western military analysts told The News, was a “make and break” presentation, which got the Western military leadership not only ‘educated’, but confess amongst themselves “all” that they were doing “wrong” inside Afghanistan.

One of the direct results of this Brussels presentation, which even the Foreign Office agrees, resulted in the final push which made India coming reluctantly to the negotiating table. The COAS had convinced Nato and others why it was important for him to have his eastern border peaceful.

The proudest moment for any Pakistani was to hear and readily believe that the ‘myth’ of South Waziristan had been broken and the military operations before that in Swat and Malakand in the words of the Army chief, “We did it with no help from the United States. Daily I would receive calls if we needed any help and we replied we needed nothing”.

He was very clear about what was best for Pakistan in these days of turmoil. “Partnership (with the US) does not mean you desire and I start doing it,” said the COAS. He said with the US military aid still in the pipeline, “In many cases I have eaten into my reserves.” While acknowledging he said there has to be a balance for a military budget and one for development as well.

The fear was, said Kayani, even if his military had accepted 5%, it would have been blown up to 50%. The COAS earlier had met General Stanley A McChrystal, Commander International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, at a time when everyone in the region was still waiting for the US to explain in detail the policies that will take them up to the time that they are ready to leave the region.

“I told McChrystal that the acid test of a policy is that options should increase,” he said, adding that he believed that the only way to measure success inside Afghanistan was to gauge the public support and not the number of people you kill.

“Today, this is McCrystal’s policy inside Afghanistan, where they talk of a political process and reconciliation. Finally, there is realisation today,” added the chief. Looking at the US Afghan strategy, Kayani says he has clearly told the US that raising an Afghan Army in the stipulated time is not possible, and weaning away of the Taliban will only happen if the US is seen willing inside Afghanistan.

“This has not happened and the perception has not been formed. Only when you win over 70%, you are really winning,” he added. He also does not shy away from telling his US visitors that the bulk of Nato supplies are still going through Pakistan and they will continue to do so, and threats of looking for alternative routes do not impress him.

South Waziristan “We had a history of mismanaged operations in South Waziristan and there was a myth that no-one has ever come here and controlled the area. If we had turned back, we would have destroyed the credibility of the military”.

The victory in South Waziristan, the chief said, was because of motivation of the troops, changed tactics of engaging the adversaries from the dangerous ridges of mountains instead of the customary land routes which also resulted in fewer casualties.

Swat operation The COAS said there was no example in history of what the Pakistan military accomplished in the Swat operation and which successfully changed the public opinion. It was the largest heliborne operation.

“So when we send foreign defence chiefs to Swat, we have a story to tell. When I accompanied Admiral Mike Mullen and showed him how we had done the operation, including showing him the gorges there, his response was, “I will send General McChrystal to see this”.

The last visitor was US National Security Advisor James Jones, who heard for himself from educated locals how unpopular the Americans were.

India-centric

Kayani says he did not mince his words when he told Nato that he was India-centric and there was logic behind this. There was no way he could relax on his eastern border to concentrate fully on the west.

“We have unresolved issues, a history of conflict and now the Cold Start doctrine. Help us resolve these issues. We want peaceful co-existence with India. India has the capability and intentions can change overnight,” Kayani had told his audience in Brussels.

Nato is also realising why it is important for Pakistan to help train the Afghan Army because Pakistan could strategically simply not tolerate an Afghan Army trained by the Indians and having an Indian mindset.

Pak-Nato ratio

It is not easy for any commander to count his dead when the killing fields are still alive. But Kayani told Nato how Pakistan in 2009, lost 2,273 soldiers with another 6,512 being wounded.

“Pakistan as one nation lost 2,273 soldiers while US/Nato in the same period lost 1,582. We have 10,000 troops on UN missions,” recalled the COAS. Pakistan has contributed 147,000 troops to its “silent surge” while 43 nations in Afghanistan have sent a mere 100,000.

Pakistan mans 82 posts at the Pak-Afghan border while the coalition and Afghan Army have only 112. “Pakistan’s operations have decreased cross border movements, there is control of areas, squeezing of spaces, and continuous flow of logistic flow,” pointed the COAS. For a man of “few words” when he was DG ISI, today Kayani is saying a lot more. All of which has to be heard loud and clear by the people of Pakistan.