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The strange case of Doctor CIA and Mister ISI

ANY guesses which intelligence agency is the most damned in the world today? The one that must bear the burden sitting heavy on every cumbersome moment of an indefatigable truth: that the US-led coalition is eons away from winning the war in Afghanistan.

The same that in partnership with the CIA and the Saudi Intelligence helped win the Afghan jihad and gave the Soviets that final push over the tottering edge of their crumbling edifice—the mighty USSR.  As with the law of nature all good things come to an end and thus we reach the happily-ever-after end of the intelligence world’s shortest lived honeymoon for Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency.  More reviled than the Soviet era KGB, the ISI is now the favourite whipping boy for every ill under the sun. From Secretary Clinton to Admiral Mike Mullen, everyone regularly raps it on the knuckles.

The US frustration is mounting by the day. Deeply ensnared in the morass in Afghanistan and clueless how to get out, it must blame somebody. So why not the Pakis? After all, aren’t they the troublemakers who break the bread with the Afghan insurgents telling them on how to launch offensives against the good ol’ coalition forces fighting the terrorists? Tell you what, not only are these treacherous sleuths indulging in a double game and ensuring the defeat of our forces, they are also harbouring the king of terrorists, yes, Osama bin Laden himself!

Wow, makes for an incredible storyline—but one that cannot help proclaim its grade B status. So if bin Laden is in Pakistan why are the US drones shying away from attacking his hideout? If these guys have “credible evidence” pointing to the ISI complicity in aiding the Afghans, why not sock one to ‘em and pull their strings—yes, those green ones hopping a merry little dance. Dear, dear, the truth is that facts speak louder than rhetoric. The blame game is fine but don’t insult your audience’s intelligence, for God’s sake.

The icing on the cake comes in the form of the Afghan War Diary, a trove of dirty secrets divulged by the WikiLeaks that has earned a reputation of sorts with its history of exposes. Apart from the damning evidence against US policies and military strategy not to forget the mind-boggling array of nuggets about the role being played by Afghan government, its allied warlords and national security forces, we come to the parallel narrative about ISI. Before launching into a diatribe against the injustice of it all, let me reflect on the western media’s take on the issue. The New York Times and the London Times have expressed doubts over the veracity of the reports concerning ISI since much of this was provided by the Afghan intelligence.

I guess once you’ve belled the cat, it is best to leave the rest unsaid. But here’s my two-bit. The incredible charges against a former ISI chief General Hameed Gul deserve a good laugh. Yes, the gentleman appears regularly on the television and all but only someone with zero IQ can conjure such a fantastical scenario whereby the ISI is fielding its former chief to represent its interests and help Afghan insurgents launch offensives across the border!

If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would have made a great joke. It is no laughing matter though. The same ISI has paid with its blood as has every other wing of the Pakistan military in helping fight terrorism. It is not ISI that invited bin Laden to come with his comrades to Afghanistan. Rather it was the Americans who are to blame for allowing him to leave Sudan to move to Afghanistan. The past few years have brought Pakistan nothing but terror and huge loss of lives and property. That is something the US cannot compensate with a paltry $7.5 million aid package. So please give the ISI a break, any bomb blast in Kabul or gun battle in Mumbai is visited upon its head like a crown of thorns. It is preposterous and it is time this ridiculous charade ended.

Having contacts with key players in the Afghan insurgency is not a crime and does not mean these contacts are being helped with weapons, funds and logistics to fight the international forces. If blaming a former ISI chief for having past contacts is the criterion then what is next? Who will stop the architects of these malicious rumours from laying the blame at the door of Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani? After all, he was also a former ISI chief from 2004-2007. Does it make sense that a sitting army chief who has earned the respect of every military commander in the coalition, would allow Pakistan’s counterterrorism doctrine to be thus jeopardised? Pakistan is waging its toughest battle against home-grown militants who have used the Afghan card to proliferate and promote their own vested interests. The neighbourhood conflict and the presence of foreign forces is the main reason for the mushrooming of extremism and not vice versa. Anyone with the slightest intelligence should be able to discern the changed environment and the dynamics at play.

To win this war against terrorism, the insurgency must be wrenched away from its embrace with every option available. It should not be too bitter a pill for after all Washington is an old hand at making deals with the unlikeliest of partners. As for Pakistan, the US needs to stop playing coy. Either it should make a break or forge ahead with mutual trust and respect. Wars are not won when allies mistrust and berate each other at every given opportunity.

While US officials have denounced the WikiLeaks report and have assured that cooperation with partners will not be affected, questions are already being raised about the US policy towards Pakistan.  This is why it is important for policy makers in Washington to decide on how to deal with Pakistan. The dual policy that has only created bad blood and affected US credibility needs a complete overhaul.

Faryal Leghari is Assistant Editor of Khaleej Times and can be reached at faryal@khaleejtimes.com

Wikileaks Afghanistan files– INTERACTIVE

Wikileaks Afghanistan files– INTERACTIVE

Wikileaks Afghanistan files– INTERACTIVE

Afghan civilian deaths

(BOTTOM) Afghan friendly fire incidents


Kabul conference highlights Pakistan’s seminal role

Kabul conference highlights Pakistan’s seminal role

It has been a cascading series of events. The Afghan president visited Pakistan and called the countries inseparable conjoined twin brothers. This cleared the way for the Tehran Agreement (Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan), then there was Istanbul Meeting (All the neighbors of Afghanistan and Turkey), then there was London Conference (62 members of the international community). After the London Conference an Afghan jirga was held which approved reconciliation with the Afghan National Resistence (aka Taliban). President Hamid Karzai called the Taliban “Talibjan (Dearest students) and has been talking to the Afghan National Resistance. Now there is the Kabul Meeting with 72 countries represented in Afghanistan’s capital.

In all the previous conferences a Pan-Afghan has been suggested and proposed. Now the Kabul Conference is suggesting and advertising a similar message for all Afghans. Even Bharat which was opposing the Pan-Afghan solution or any reconciliation with the Afghan National Resistance–has now accepted the reconciliation formula proposed by Pakistan.

As NATO is seeking deeper links with Pakistan–in a post Afghan phase, and Kabul and Islamabad seem to be drawing closer with trade and access to ports, there has been a transformational improvement in the atmospherics in the two capitals. Pakistan is proposing joint monitoring of the Durand Line and is now training Afghan Army officers in one of the finest military academies in the world–in Kakul.

Pakistan has been a crucial and important player in the reconciliation process.

British and US sources are confirming internal Afghan and NATO documents which outline the beginning of the withdrawal and the end of the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.

As international leaders arrive in Kabul for a key conference on Afghanistan’s future, Channel 4 News has obtained the document on which the Afghan government’s plan to reintegrate the Taliban is based.

As International Editor Lindsey Hilsum writes, it says fighters could be retrained in forestry and literacy skills. … I say it’s a government document, because the front page says “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan National Security Council”, but the 80 pages of management consultant-speak about ‘stakeholders’, ‘change management’, ‘broad strategic vision’ and ‘a menu of conflict recovery options’ suggest that the men from the Afghan ministry were not the ones to write the draft. The flowery paragraphs about “We Afghans desire… a consolidated and sustainable peace”, and statements that it’s all ‘Afghan owned and led’ do not convince. The document says that international donors will spend $772m over five years to retrain former Taliban fighters in forestry, literacy, technical and vocational skills and keep them busy on agricultural conservation and public works.’ – UK Channel 4 News

The Official Chinese media is highlighting Pakistan’s role at the Kabul Conference:

ISLAMABAD, July 21 (Xinhua) — The international conference in Kabul has backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s efforts of reconciliation with Taliban. Representatives of almost every country in their speeches tried to announce the end of its engagement in Afghanistan. This is now a test case for the Afghan security forces as how to deal with the law and order in 2014, the deadline set by President Karzai to hand over security to Afghan forces.

Some 150,000 US-led NATO troops have fought their enemy — the Taliban and remnants of al-Qaeda in nearly nine years, but the fast growing deaths of foreign troops raised concerns over how foreign troops will deal with insurgents.

June was the deadliest month for foreign forces in Afghanistan with 102 deaths including 60 of Americans. Over 50 NATO troops have died this month. Taliban failed to disrupt the Kabul Conference, but their rockets fired at Kabul international airport forced diversion of the plane of the UN Secretary General to the U. S-controlled Bagram airbase north of Kabul. The rocket attack to some extent highlighted Taliban ability that they can attract the world attention.

The conference highlighted the role of Pakistan in any possible political reconciliation and reintegration process as it is strongly believed that Islamabad still has influence on the Afghan Taliban. The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said in Islamabad on Wednesday that Pakistan can play important role in Afghanistan’s political reconciliation. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was quick to add that Islamabad will play role in political reconciliation after the Afghan government formally makes a request for such a role.

When Pakistan announced this January to reach out Afghan Taliban, several Afghan experts and foreign media opined that Islamabad can play a role as it has influence on Afghan Taliban. Pakistan is believed to have strong contacts with Haqqani network, which is based in North Waziristan tribal region and led by Siraj- ud-Haqqani,the son of former Taliban Minister Jalaluddin Haqqani.

No delegate opposed talks with Taliban in the Kabul conference as NATO member countries are anxious to quit Afghanistan as they have not succeeded in defeating their enemy despite spending some 40 billion US dollars and loosing hundreds of soldiers.

After President Obama’s announcement to start withdrawal of forces in July 2011, several other voices emerged for political reconciliation and the Kabul conference endorsed those voices.

Late last month, head of the British army Gen Sir David Richards surprised the world when he suggested politicians and military chiefs to talk to members of the Taliban sooner rather than later. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Australian Defence Minister have also said they could start withdrawal of troops in 2011.

These are among NATO’s important countries and the others will follow them to leave Afghanistan. NATO is confident to train the Afghan forces to take responsibility in 2014, but Afghan experts say it may be very difficult for the Afghan forces to deal with the Taliban and that is why the notion of reconciliation is gaining momentum. Pakistan would play a key role in this process. The Afghan President, on a number of occasions, sought Islamabad’s help to reach out to Taliban.

Many believed that without the help of Pakistan it would be impossible to oust Taliban and it would also be difficult to reconcile with Taliban. Pakistan’s contacts with Afghan Taliban are not a secret. Some local security officials privately defended such contacts as a must as Islamabad needs influence in the neighboring country. Kabul conference highlights Pakistan’s role. English.news.cn 2010-07-21 23:56:13 FeedbackPrintRSS, by Muhammad Tahir