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NATO Expands Afghan War Into Pakistan

September 30, 2010 1 comment

On October 7 the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization military allies will begin the tenth year of their war in Afghanistan, over 3,000 miles from NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

The following month midterm elections will be held in the U.S. and NATO will hold a two-day summit in Portugal. The American administration is eager to achieve, or appear to have achieved, a foreign policy triumph in an effort to retain Democratic Party control of the Congress and NATO something to show for the longest and largest military mission in its 61 years of existence.

President Barack Obama has tripled the amount of American combat troops in Afghanistan to 100,000 and along with forces from other NATO member states and partner nations there are now over 150,000 foreign troops in the nation, the most ever stationed in the war-wracked country. 120,000 of those soldiers are now under the command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the most ever serving in a North Atlantic Alliance-led military operation. NATO Kosovo Force at its peak had 50,000 troops, but they entered the Serbian province after an almost three-month air war had ended.

The 120,000 NATO forces currently in theater – from 50 nations already with more pegged to provide troops – are at the center of the world’s longest-lasting and increasingly deadly hot war. NATO’s first ground war, its first combat operations in Asia.

Last year was the most lethal for the U.S and NATO in what is now a nine-year conflict and this year has already proven even more costly in terms of combat deaths. And there are three more months to go.

Washington and Brussels could decide to save face and end the fighting through some combination of an internal political settlement and a true international peacekeeping arrangement – rather than the subversion of the International Security Assistance Force that was established by a United Nations mandate in December of 2001 but which is now the Pentagon’s and NATO’s vehicle for waging war in Afghanistan. And in neighboring Pakistan.

But the military metaphysic prevalent in Washington over the past 65 years will allow for nothing other than what is seen as victory, with a “Who lost Afghanistan?” legacy tarnishing the president who fails to secure it and the party to which he belongs being branded half-hearted and defeatist.

As for NATO, the Strategic Concept to be adopted in November is predicated upon the bloc’s expansion into a 21st century global expeditionary force for which Afghanistan is the test case. A NATO that loses Afghanistan, that loses in Afghanistan, will be viewed more critically by the populations of its European member states that have sacrificed their sons and daughters at the altar of NATO’s international ambitions. In the words of then-Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer six years ago: “What is NATO doing in Afghanistan? Defending values at the Hindu Kush in the present day international climate. We have to fight terrorism wherever it emerges. If we don’t do it at the Hindu Kush, it will end up at our doorstep. In other words, this perception gap [of the North Atlantic military alliance operating in South Asia] in the long run must be closed and must be healed – that is, for NATO’s future, of the utmost importance.” [1]

Not satisfied with the Vietnam that Afghanistan has become, NATO has now launched its Cambodian incursion. One with implications several orders of magnitude greater than with the prototype, though, into a nation of almost 170 million people, a nation wielding nuclear weapons. Pakistan.

As the U.S. delivered its 20th deadly drone missile attack of the month inside Pakistan on the 27th, five times the amount launched in August and the most in any month since they were started in 2004, NATO conducted a series of attacks with helicopter gunships in Northwest Pakistan. Claiming the “right of self-defense” and in “hot pursuit” of insurgents that had reportedly attacked a NATO camp, Combat Outpost Narizah, in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the Pakistani border, this past weekend NATO attack helicopters conducted two forays into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where U.S. drone strikes have killed a record number of people this month.

Estimates of those killed, dutifully referred to in the Western press as insurgents, militants or terrorists, were 30, then 50, afterward 60, 70 and later “82 or higher.” [2]

The amount, like the identify, of the dead will never be definitively known.

Press reports stated the targets were members of the Haqqani network, founded by veteran Afghan Mujahedin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who when he led attacks from Pakistani soil against Afghan targets slightly over a generation ago was an American hero, one of Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters.” Two years ago the New York Times wrote: “In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani was cultivated as a ‘unilateral’ asset of the CIA and received tens of thousands of dollars in cash for his work in fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, according to an account in ‘The Bin Ladens,’ a recent book by Steve Coll. At that time, Haqqani helped and protected Osama bin Laden, who was building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces, Coll wrote.” [3]

As to the regret that the otherwise praiseworthy Haqqani has of late allied himself with the Taliban, one voiced by among other people the late Charlie Wilson who once celebrated Haqqani as “goodness personified,” in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press last year Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told his American audience that the Taliban “was part of your past and our past, and the ISI and the CIA created them together. And I can find you 10 books and 10 philosophers and 10 write-ups on that….” [4]

On September 27 two NATO helicopters attacked the Kurram agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, killing six people and wounding eight. A local Pakistani government official described all the victims as civilians. According to Dawn News, “Nato has also shelled the area before.” [5] Three attacks in three days and as many as 100 deaths.

On the same day a U.S. drone-launched missile strike killed four people in the North Waziristan agency. “The identities of the four people killed in the attack were not known….” [6]

The above events occurred against the backdrop of the revelation in Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars that “a 3,000-strong secret army of Afghan paramilitary forces run by the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted cross-border raids into Pakistan.” [7]

After mounting in intensity for two years and consisting in part – helicopter gunship attacks and special forces assassination team raids – of covert operations, the U.S. and NATO war in Northwest Pakistan is now fully underway and can no longer be denied.

The Pentagon – the helicopters used in the attacks on September 25 and 26 were American Apaches and Kiowas – defended the strikes over the weekend as falling within its rules of engagement and Defense Department spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said the U.S. had adhered to “appropriate protocol” and “Our forces have the right of self-defense.” [8]

A spokesmen for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force initially denied that Alliance forces had launched any attacks inside Pakistani territory, although Afghan police officials had confirmed that they did. On September 27, however, the International Security Assistance Force verified that NATO forces had conducted the deadly strikes. As the third attack by NATO helicopters occurred on the same day, “Coalition officials said the cross-border attacks fell within its rules of engagement because the insurgents had attacked them from across the border.” [9]

A NATO official informed the press that “ISAF forces must and will retain the authority, within their mandate, to defend themselves in carrying out their mission.” [10]

Mehmood Shah, former top security official of the Pakistani government in the region where the helicopter gunship and drone strikes have killed over 200 people so far this month, said of the recent NATO attacks: “This should be considered a watershed event. They [Nato] must be warned: the next time you do this, it can lead to war. Our units should be deployed to fire upon them. This border has sanctity. Nato must realise they have a mandate to operate in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.” [11]

On September 27 Interior Minister Rehman Malik denounced the NATO raids as a violation of Pakistani territorial integrity and national sovereignty and told the nation’s Senate that the Afghan ambassador to Islamabad would be summoned to explain the attacks. Malik and the Pakistani government as a whole know that the Hamid Karzai administration in Kabul has no control over what the U.S. and NATO do in its own country, much less in Pakistan. The interior minister’s comment were solely for internal consumption, for placating Pakistani popular outrage, but as Pakistan itself has become a NATO partner and U.S. surrogate [12] its officials, like those of Afghanistan, will not be notified of any future attacks.

Nevertheless domestic exigencies compelled Malik to denounce the strikes inside his country and assert “I take the drone attacks in Pakistani territory as an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan.” A senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz “asked the government to inform the parliament about any accord it had reached with the US under which drone attacks were being carried out.” [13]

At the same time Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit went further and lodged what was described as a strong protest to NATO Headquarters in Brussels over the weekend’s air strikes, issuing a statement that said in part: “These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” as its mandate “terminates/finishes” at the Afghan border.

“There are no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules. Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable.” [14]

By the evening of September 27, after the Pakistani complaints were registered, NATO’s ISAF attempted to conduct damage control and reverted to the military bloc’s original position: That it has not launched attacks inside Pakistan at all. On that very day it had dispatched two more helicopter gunships for the third raid in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

NATO will continue to launch lethal attacks inside Pakistan against whichever targets it sees fit and will proffer neither warnings nor apologies. The U.S. will continue to escalate attacks with Hellfire missiles against whomever it chooses, however inaccurate, anecdotal and self-interested the reports upon which they are based prove to be.

The death toll in Pakistan this month is well over 200 and for this year to date over 2,000. The justification for this carnage offered by the U.S. and NATO is that it is intended to extend the policy of Barack Obama to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” insurgent networks in Afghanistan into Pakistan, supposedly the sooner to end the war.

Forty years ago Obama’s predecessor Richard Nixon began his speech announcing the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia with these words: “Good evening, my fellow Americans. Ten days ago, in my report to the nation on Vietnam, I announced the decision to withdraw an additional 150,000 Americans from Vietnam over the next year. I said then that I was making that decision despite our concern over increased enemy activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam. And at that time I warned that if I concluded that increased enemy activity in any of these areas endangered the lives of Americans remaining in Vietnam, I would not hesitate to take strong and effective measures to deal with that situation.” [15]

He claimed that “enemy sanctuaries” in Cambodia “endanger the lives of Americans who are in Vietnam,” and “if this enemy effort succeeds, Cambodia would become a vast enemy staging area and a springboard for attacks on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier: a refuge where enemy troops could return from combat without fear of retaliation.”

The course he ordered was to “go to the heart of the trouble. And that means cleaning out major North Vietnamese and Vietcong occupied territories, these sanctuaries which serve as bases for attacks on both Cambodia and American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.”

The practical application of the policy was that “attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border.”

In language that has been heard again lately in Washington and Brussels – with nothing but the place names changed – Nixon claimed: “We take this action not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam….”

Washington indeed expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia, with what disastrous effects the world is fully aware, and soon thereafter departed Southeast Asia in defeat, leaving vast stretches of Vietnam and Cambodia in ruins.

Afghanistan and Pakistan will not fare any better.

Most popular Pakistani leader on Facebook?

January 25, 2010 2 comments

LAHORE: The face of Pakistani leadership may be entirely different now compared to a few years back but the Facebook fan club of former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf with over 100,000 fans shows that the former president still rules the roost, at least in the cyberworld, beating President Asif Ali Zardari’s page, which has over 86,000 fans.

However, no other leader is even close to Musharraf and Zardari on the most popular social networking website in the world, as two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif languishes in third place with merely 6,000 fans.

A large number of Pakistanis using the Internet and taking interest in political issues and the future of the country is being seen as a good omen. Although the majority of the people are still deprived of the luxury of using the Internet or even getting an education to participate in online political forums, blogs, groups, discussions and communities. The people believe that such interactive groups not only provide them an opportunity to share their views and get political knowledge but also provide the leadership of the country an opportunity to directly see what the people think about them and what their expectations from their leaders are.

Reasons: Musharraf’s Facebook group consists of members of all ages although majority of the fans comprise the youth. Expert bloggers believe that the key reasons for the former military dictator’s popularity on the web are his liberal thoughts and his stance on extremism.

A large number of fans of President Zardari’s page are also from the youth but they either discuss the ongoing problems in the country or make fun of the government. Only a few of them appreciate the leadership for its services.

Some of Musharraf’s fans also criticise his policies on his Facebook page while some pessimists are of the view that Musharraf, Zardari, the Sharif brothers and other famous politicians are all alike.

It was noticed from the comments on the page that some young fans of Musharraf were keen to see him back in power and had expressed this desire in different ways.

The page also features a brief note from Musharraf on how he felt about leading the country and some of his activities these days.

The message reads, “I’ve had the good fortune and privilege to lead my country and serve the people of Pakistan for almost nine years. Since my retirement as president of Pakistan in August 2008, I have been keeping myself busy with a series of lectures worldwide. I’ve found this to be a stimulating experience as I get an opportunity to share my thoughts with audiences of different nationalities and diverse backgrounds.”

Meanwhile, member of Nawaz Sharif’s group mainly discuss issues the country is facing, including the National Reconciliation Ordinance, from an opposition party’s perspective. It also provides personal information about Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders and Nawaz’s contributions in the development of the political system of the country.

Criterion: An expert blogger and danka.com director Foad Nizam told Daily Times that though websites like Facebook provided people an opportunity to interact with each other and a chance to freely express themselves, they were by no means a criterion to judge somebody’s popularity or credibility. He said a fan club was only used as a marketing tool by some people while some joined these groups just for fun. He said the real picture of a situation could only be seen through serious discussion forums and blogs on the Internet where experts commented on various issues in a more intellectual way. Pervez Musharraf most popular Pakistani leader on Facebook

* Zardari follows with Nawaz on third spot
* Bloggers believe key reason for ex-president’s popularity is his liberal ideology

By Afnan Khan

A U.S Counteroffensive In Pakistan

September 29, 2009 Leave a comment

By: Daily.Pk | Ahmed Qureshi

A Loose Coalition Of Pro-American Politicians, Writers, Academics To Promote US Goals, Isolate Pak Military

Forget US diplomacy with the Pakistani government.  The Americans are now setting the policy agenda in Pakistan in direct talks with Pakistani political parties.  To ensure privacy, these talks are being held in Washington, away from prying eyes and ears in Pakistan.  Pakistani politicians, writers and some academicians are being recruited to promote US policies and isolate the

Pakistani military and intelligence.  This is how a superpower occupies a nuclear-armed nation.

US political and military officials go on the offensive inside Pakistan, boldly confronting critics and seeking to build a coalition of pro-American supporters across Pakistani politics, media and the academia.  The goal is to create a domestic counter to the entrenched Pakistani policymaking establishment [read ‘the military’] that is resisting American efforts to force Pakistan to become a voluntary full-fledged second theater of war after Afghanistan.

Signs of the new American aggressiveness abound from increased willingness of US diplomats in Pakistan to confront their local critics, to sweet-talking Pakistani politicians, media and academicians into openly promoting the US agenda through sponsored visits to Washington and Florida.

This is similar to a Plan B:  using local actors to force change from within.  Plan A, which was focused on coercive diplomacy and threats of sending boots on the ground into Pakistan, failed to yield results over the past months.

In essence, the United States is covertly raising an army of special agents and soldiers on Pakistani soil, with the help of local Pakistani accomplices, but without the full knowledge of the Pakistani military to avoid a confrontation.

This counteroffensive began with Ambassador Anne W. Patterson’s attempt to intimidate a Pakistani columnist and a known critic of US policies.  Ms. Patterson did not seek a public debate to counter criticism.  Instead, she resorted to backchannel contacts to have the writer blocked.  In so doing, Ms. Patterson unwittingly broke a new barrier for US influence, creating precedence for how the US embassy deals with the Pakistani media.  This is something that the Ambassador’s counterparts could never imagine pulling off in places like Moscow, Ankara, or Cairo.

Buoyed by this, the Ambassador went on the offensive.  This month, she held a press conference, released a long policy statement, and met Prime Minister Gilani to reassure him after reports suggested her government did not trust Islamabad with the expected aid money.  She also appeared on primetime television, carefully choosing a nonaggressive TV talk show as a platform to address Pakistanis glued to their sets in peak evening hours.

The television appearance coincided with an interview she gave to a US news service accusing Pakistan of refusing to join the US in eliminating one of the Afghan local parties – the Afghan Taliban – whom her own government and military failed to wipe out in Afghanistan in eight years of war.  The statement played on the usual American accusations, backed by no evidence, that seek to explain the growing disenchantment of the Afghan people with the failed American occupation of their country by linking it to alleged Pakistani sanctuaries and covert support.

But hours before her television appearance, on Sept. 19, Pakistani police raided the Islamabad offices of Inter-Risk, a Pakistani security firm representing American defense contractor DynCorp, where a huge quantity of illegal sophisticated weapons was confiscated.  According to one news report, the Pakistani owner of the firm, retired Captain Ali Jaffar Zaidi, escaped from his house hours before the police arrived.  A Pakistani journalist, Umar Cheema, who works for The News, confirmed in a published statement that Mr. Zaidi told him a day before the raid that “the US embassy in Islamabad had ordered the import of around 140 AK-47 Rifles and other prohibited weapons in the name of Inter-Risk” and that “the payment for the weapons would be made by the embassy.”

[The News reports today that the government has “disbanded” Inter-Risk, voiding its contract with both the US embassy and with DynCorp.  The company director Capt. Zaidi remains at large.]

In other words, Pakistani security authorities have found American and Pakistani citizens working for the US embassy involved in suspicious activities.

What Really Happened?

US ambassador Anne Patterson used her goodwill to seek the personal intervention of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik to obtain licenses for prohibited weapons.

Sixty-one pieces of sophisticated weapons were seized by the police at the Inter-Risk/DynCorp facility.

The question is: Why did the Pakistani police confiscate the weapons if they were duly licensed by the government?

The only logical answer is that the licensing procedure, which includes clearance from the country’s intelligence and security departments, was not followed.

Apparently, Washington’s staunch allies inside Pakistan’s elected government helped their friends with advanced weapons into the country without the knowledge of important national security departments of the government.

This raises serious questions because of several reports recently that implicate Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, in issuing a large number of visas to US citizens without proper clearance from Islamabad.  Since US tourists are not exactly flocking to Pakistan, Amb. Haqqani is suspected of having facilitated private US security agents to enter Pakistan.  A spate of recent reports have exposed the presence of private American security firms on Pakistani soil.

When the country’s security departments finally paid attention to Ambassador Haqqani’s indiscretions, the ambassador, who is a former journalist, is suspected of leaking a protest letter he wrote to his country’s intelligence chief, apparently attempting to clear his name before his American friends.  Of all places, the letter, which is a classified government communication, surfaced in New Delhi, on the screen of an Indian television news channel.

Ambassador Haqqani’s letter secret that blasts the ISI surfaces in New Delhi.  Pakistanis joke that Mr. Haqqani is ‘the US ambassador to the United States, stationed at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC.’

PATTERSON’S LIE EXPOSED

On Sept. 30, Mr. Ansar Abbasi of The News published the full content of a letter written by Ambassador Patterson to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, dated March 30, seeking his “intervention” to grant Inter-Risk and DynCorp “the requisite prohibited bore arms licenses to operate in the territorial limits of Pakistan and as soon as possible.”

The letter creates a new dent in the US embassy’s counteroffensive that seeks to downplay the presence of private US security firms in the country.  A Web news portal, Pak Nationalists/AhmedQuraishi released fresh evidence this month showing the infamous US security firm formerly known as Blackwater recruiting military-trained agents fluent in Urdu and Punjabi.

To quell the controversy, Ambassador Patterson went on record confirming that five million US dollars will be spent by her government to build new living quarters for US Marines within the embassy compound in Islamabad. But the number of marines utilizing this facility will not exceed 20, she assured Pakistanis recently.

The Sept. 19 raid, however, proves there will be a far larger number of armed Americans on Pakistani soil eventually than the figure given by Ambassador Patterson.

US MERCENERARIES IN PAKISTAN?

The strong denials of US officials on the presence of private US security firms in Pakistan do no tally with the circumstantial evidence.  At least three verified incidents have been reported in Islamabad alone over the past few weeks that involve armed US individuals in civilian dresses.  In two incidents, Pakistani police officers arrested and then released armed civilian Americans after intervention from the US embassy.  In one incident, a Pakistani citizen reported being assaulted by armed Americans in civilian clothes.  Police officers refused to register a complaint against the Americans for fear of being reprimanded in case of intervention by the US embassy.

US DOLLARS RECRUITING PAKISTANIS TO WORK AGAINST PAKISTANI MILITARY

Private US security agents sneaking into Pakistan is one level of the current US engagement with Pakistan.  Another level is political and seeks to isolate the Pakistani policymaking establishment, and especially the Pakistani military and the country’s powerful intelligence agencies, from within, after months of incessant one-sided US media campaign demonizing the country’s military and intelligence services.

On the political front, Washington’s Pakistan handlers have launched a new bout of US meddling in domestic Pakistani politics.  The US government has put into high gear its contacts with Pakistani political parties.  Washington is now conducting direct diplomacy with these parties.

A high level delegation of MQM, which controls the port city of Karachi, the starting point of US and NATO supplies headed for Afghanistan, is in Washington meeting US political and military officials.

A similar exercise is planned with the ANP, the small ex-Soviet communist ally currently governing the NWFP, the Pakistani province bordering Afghanistan.

Both parties came to power thanks to former President Musharraf’s secret ‘deal’ brokered by Vice President Dick Cheney and his State Department officials in 2007.  The deal sought to create a pro-American ruling coalition in the country that would ensure that the Pakistani military is aligned with the US strategic goals in the region.

The Americans are trying to accentuate what they see as pro-Indian, pro-American strains within the two parties.

Washington began this program quietly in 2007 after getting a green signal from President Musharraf to increase US involvement in Pakistani politics.  There are reports that nazims of several districts in Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP were invited to Washington to meet US government and military officials over the past thirty months.  But these were very low key visits.  In fact, they were so secretive that ANP chief Asfandyar Wali refused in early 2008 to confirm or deny a visit he made to Washington after the Feb. 2008 elections in Pakistan.  In contrast, no effort was made this time to downplay the current visits by MQM and ANP delegations to Washington and their meetings with US and NATO officials.  And as in all of these covert visits, the federal Pakistani government, the Foreign Office and the country’s security departments are not privy to what is being discussed between US officials and the leaders of the two Pakistani political parties on US soil.  In fact, US officials arranged the meetings on US soil precisely in order to circumvent the Pakistani government.

While there is no immediate evidence that Pakistan should be alarmed by Washington’s direct diplomacy with Pakistani political parties outside Pakistan’s territory, Islamabad needs to be wary of strong strains within Washington’s policy establishment that have been focusing on exploiting Pakistan’s ethnic and linguistic fissures in order to support its so-called ‘Af-Pak’ agenda.

A lot of work has been done over the past three years in several Washington think tanks on Pakistan’s linguistic and ethnic fissures and how these can be exploited by Washington to weaken Islamabad and force it to follow the US agenda in Afghanistan and the region.

During Pakistan’s worst domestic instability in 2007, mainstream US media outlets were leaking policy and intelligence reports focusing on alleged separatism in several Pakistani regions.  This week, some of the most ardent American supporters of separatism inside Pakistan – the usual suspects from the US think-tank circuit – came together in Washington to launch a political action committee that seeks independent status for a Pakistani province, Sindh.  The ceremony for the launch of the ‘Sindhi American Political Action Committee’ was addressed by Selig Harrison and Marvin Weinbaum, two think-tank types with extensive links to the US intelligence community and both advocates of engagement with Pakistani separatists as a leverage against Islamabad.

The new American confidence in openly meddling in Pakistani politics should raise alarm bells in the Pakistani capital.  This is the strongest sign yet of how weak the federal Pakistani government, and in turn Pakistan itself, appears to outsiders.

The weakness of Pakistan’s ruling elite is inviting American hounding at a time when the American bully is on the retreat elsewhere.