Posts Tagged ‘Gen. McChrystal’

Drone Strikes Continue To Fuel Anti-US Sentiment In Pakistan

Drone Strikes Continue To Fuel Anti-US Sentiment In Pakistan

Jason Ditz

US Claims Massive ‘Militant’ Deaths and Almost No Civilian Casualties

The CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, something which has become an enormous issue over the past year and a half, have been an enormous source of controversy, both legal and practical.

The US, for its part, maintains that the drone strikes have caused no more than 30 civilian casualties, while killing over 500 militants. The claims seem common among US officials, in keeping with the narrative of precision drone strikes.

But they are tough to swallow for children killed and maimed in the almost constant bombardment. And for villagers the claims that friends and relatives are “suspected militants” are tough to reconcile with reality, as are the claims of US precision.

They also don’t jibe with figures from Pakistan’s own intelligence agencies, which estimate that the US actually killed 700 civilians in 2009 alone, while killing only a handful of confirmed militants. The number of civilians wounded in all these attacks is unknown, but significant.

It is unsurprising, then, that the strikes continue to inflame anti-US sentiment across Pakistan, and US claims that the victims are almost universally “militants” is likely only making matters worse, in the face of enormous evidence to the contrary.

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Does “CIA Post In Karachi” Mean Blackwater?

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON: Pakistan allowed the US Central Intelligence Agency to set up a post in Karachi and the data collected by this post led to the arrest of a key Taliban commander and two ‘governors’, officials said.

Describing this as “a high-level of cooperation between the United States and Pakistan,” The Washington Post reported on Friday that it signalled a major change in Islamabad’s attitude towards the Taliban movement.

This enhanced cooperation between the CIA and the ISI led to the arrests of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second in command, and two Taliban shadow governors for northern Afghanistan, the report said.

“The ISI and the CIA are working together, with the Americans providing actionable intelligence and the Pakistanis acting together with them” to hunt the insurgency’s leaders, a Pakistani official told the paper.

The Post noted that Pakistan’s decision to aggressively search for Afghan Taliban leadership reflected a shift that had been in the works since autumn last year when US President Barack Obama wrote to President Asif Ali Zardari.

The letter offered additional military and economic assistance and help in easing tensions with India.

The Post noted that with US facilitation, India and Pakistan had agreed to restart their stalled talks. President Obama’s letter also contained a warning that Pakistan’s use of insurgent groups to achieve policy goals would no longer be tolerated.

The arrests of Mullah Baradar and other leaders represented “major progress,” a US intelligence official told the Post. “No one has forgotten Pakistan’s complex history with the Taliban. But they understand how important this is to the United States, the region and to their own security.”

The CIA post in Karachi intercepted communications which were later handed over to ISI officials. The two agencies then planned a joint operation to catch Mullah Baradar and ‘governors’.

Final agreement on the operation came in the last week of January.

The detentions, which have taken place since early last week, were initially kept secret to allow intelligence operatives to use information gleaned from the captured men to reach other militants.

The Post claimed that the arrests offered evidence of something that has long been suspected: Top Afghan Taliban leaders have found refuge across Pakistan, particularly in its cities, something the government long denied.

Coutesy: DAWN

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Pakistan Is Said to Pursue Role in Afghan Talks With U.S.

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Jane Perlez

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan has told the United States it wants a central role in resolving the Afghan war and has offered to mediate with Taliban factions who use its territory and have long served as its allies, American and Pakistani officials said.

The offer, aimed at preserving Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan once the Americans leave, could both help and hurt American interests as Washington debates reconciling with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, made clear Pakistan’s willingness to mediate at a meeting late last month at NATO headquarters with top American military officials, a senior American military official familiar with the meeting said.

It is a departure from Pakistan’s previous reluctance to approach the Taliban. The meeting included the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen; the head of Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus; and the commander of American and allied troops in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the official said.

“The Pakistanis want to be part of discussions that could involve reconciliation,” the official said.

Pakistan’s desire to work with the United States in an Afghanistan endgame is likely to be discussed when the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, visits Islamabad, this week. So far, the United States has been more eager to push Pakistan to fight Taliban than to negotiate with them, and has not endorsed Pakistan’s new approach.

The Pakistani offer makes clear that any stable solution to the war will have to take into account Afghanistan’s neighbors, in a region where Pakistan, India, China, Iran and others all jostle for power.

Pakistani officials familiar with General Kayani’s thinking said that even as the United States adds troops to Afghanistan, he has determined that the Americans are looking for a fast exit. The impression, they said, was reinforced by President Obama’s scant mention of the war in his State of the Union address.

What the Pakistanis can offer is their influence over the Taliban network of Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani, whose forces American commanders say are the most lethal battling American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.

From their stronghold in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan, the Haqqanis exert sway over large parts of southern Afghanistan and have staged major terrorist attacks in Kabul, American officials say.

They are close allies of Al Qaeda. But they also have long ties to Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies that have protected them inside Pakistani territory.

In return for trying to rein in the Haqqanis, Pakistan will be looking for a friendly Afghanistan and for ways to stem the growing Indian presence there, Pakistani and American officials said.

In briefings last week with reporters at his army headquarters, the usually reticent General Kayani repeated his offer at NATO to play a constructive role, while making it clear Pakistan was seeking broad influence in southern Afghanistan. The Haqqani network would be one of Pakistan’s strongest levers to do that.

American officials said Washington was still debating the contours of any negotiated solution. But a baseline for Pakistan, they said, would be for it to engineer a separation between the Haqqani network and the Qaeda leadership.

For the moment, the United States has been looking instead for military help from Pakistan to tamp down Taliban and Qaeda strength in southern Afghanistan, where the Haqqanis command an estimated 4,000 fighters, American military officials say.

The Americans have been pushing General Kayani to launch an offensive against the Haqqanis’ base in North Waziristan.

At the Jan. 26 NATO meeting with General Kayani, American military commanders reviewed the list of hardware – MI-17 helicopters, ammunition for Cobra attack helicopters, body armor, armored vehicles – that has been put on a fast track to the Pakistani military as an inducement to take on the Haqqanis.

But General Kayani, who pleased the Americans with an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan last fall, was unmoved. “There is no need at this point to start a steamroller operation in North Waziristan,” he told reporters last week.

Last month he took General McChrystal on a helicopter tour over the mountains of the Swat Valley, where Pakistani paratroopers landed last summer to flush out Taliban insurgents.

The message was that the Pakistani Army still regarded India as its primary enemy and was stretched too thin to open a new front.

The reluctance to take on the Haqqanis preserves them as both a prize to be delivered at the negotiating table and a potential asset for Pakistan in postwar Afghanistan, said Syed Rifaat Hussain, professor of international relations at Islamabad University, who is close to the Pakistani Army.

“Haqqani is the guy we are banking on to regain lost influence in Afghanistan,” Mr. Hussain said. “When Pakistan says we are well positioned to help, that means the Haqqanis.”

One strand of thinking within the Obama administration calls for allowing the Pakistanis to keep the Haqqanis as part of Pakistan’s sphere of influence in southern Afghanistan, but only if Pakistan forces the Haqqanis to break with Al Qaeda and to push militants out of its areas, an American official said.

That would be a tall order for Pakistan, Mr. Hussain said. “The question is, how much influence do we have over Haqqani?” he said. “We have influence but not controlling influence.”

Since Qaeda leaders escaped Afghanistan in 2001, they have used Pakistan’s tribal areas to cement their ties to the Haqqanis and other militants, including the Pakistani Taliban.

A chilling example came on Dec. 30 when, according to American officials, the Haqqanis helped Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban stage a suicide attack at a C.I.A. base in southern Afghanistan, killing seven Americans working for the agency.

Since that attack, the Americans have escalated drone strikes in North Waziristan, with the help of intelligence provided by Pakistan, a demonstration that Pakistan’s ability to shield the Haqqanis extends only so far.

Pakistani efforts to persuade the Haqqanis to break with Al Qaeda have not made much headway, according to Pakistani intelligence and military officials, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to talk about the issue.

According to a Pakistani military official, the Pakistanis would first have to resolve where Qaeda fighters would go and whether they might be given safe passage to Yemen or another location.

As the Pakistani military works out the details of its negotiating stance on Afghanistan, Washington is taking notice, said Daniel Markey, senior fellow for South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The United States side is pretty worried about seeing a deal emerge that suits everyone other than us,” he said.