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If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

  • At least 27 tankers carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan were destroyed at a fuel station in southern Pakistan, an official said Friday.
  • It was unclear whether the attack was linked to a NATO airstrike Thursday at a border post in Khurram Agency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in which three Pakistani troops died, the BBC said.
  • Pakistan has formally lodged protest with NATO over airstrikes in its tribal region, which Thursday also killed three soldiers, officials said on Friday.
  • “Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani met the Deputy Secretary General of NATO in Brussels to lodge protest over the border violations by NATO/ISAF helicopters,” Pakistani Embassy in Brussels said.
  • Most people in Pakistan’s tribal regions strongly oppose U.S. missile strikes in their territory, with nearly half believing they kill mainly civilians, according to a rare opinion poll that may raise doubts about a key plank of the Obama administration’s anti-terror strategy.
  • Nearly nine of 10 people surveyed opposed the U.S. taking action against militants in the tribal belt.

Following the unwarranted missile firing by two NATO helicopters on Pakistani army posts in Kurram agency Waziristan, the situation has taken a very ugly and ominous turn. In what they claim as hot pursuit option of the militants, the NATO air force has arrogated itself the right to target even the Pakistani soldiers fighting on Pakistani soil in what ostensibly is NATO and American war.

While this is outright an egregious provocation, it lends a new grave dimension to the anti terrorism alliance between Pakistan and America a new bizarre twist. For Pakistan, there are two choices. She should either bear with this disgrace and willingly agree to be killed and come under wanton aerial bombing by the chasing NATO bombers or retaliate in a befitting manner. Being a world class and one of the finest armies, it would be difficult for Pakistan army command to swallow this insult and affront that could be repeated time and again.

The second course would be to withdraw, the Pakistan army from the embattled frontier and tribal regions to allow the NATO troops to deal with the insurgents directly. It is important to do so because NATO and particularly America is bent upon dealing severe blows to the insurgents and Taliban no matter it amounts to grave and naked violation of the territorial integrity of a country which is rendering huge sacrifices by fighting a proxy war for the foreign occupation forces stationed in Afghanistan. It is highly improbable that if NATO cannot succeed in a limited area of Afghanistan, how it can cope with a larger terrain.

Yet it clearly demonstrates that America and NATO are embracing a new strategy in their war again the militants in which the demarcation of boundaries and sanctity of the land do not hold any prominence. By that token, it would not be naïve to speculate that if the border regions of Pakistan can be bombed and intruded either by land or by air, the remaining territory of Pakistan can also be treated as a war zone for chasing the miscreants because there is every possibility of fleeing Taliban to spread across the land of Pakistan. Thus, they can also launch their forays against the NATO forces and retreat to save havens and sanctuaries interspersed all over Pakistan.

This overly alarming development has the seeds of pitting the two allies against each other. The Pakistan army’s top brass must be emergently seized of the freakish and sinister turn of the events and the changing paradigm of fighting and the latest tactics of the NATO forces for counter-terrorism. Hopefully, Pakistan army’s command would be able to persuade the NATO commanders not to indulge in such insane violations,, highly questionable conduct and desperate maneuvers that can deal a fatal blow to the cooperation between Pakistan and NATO in combating terrorism.

While Pakistan army would be mulling over the next step and is believed to be in consultation, it is laudable that the NATO supplies have been suspended by Pakistan as retaliation to this fiasco.

If NAT O does not have the requisite intelligence that can differentiate between friends and foes and militants and the Pakistan army personnel, then this negligence assumed very intriguing dimensions. In the future too, every time the NATO bombers can cross over to Pakistan’s territory, indiscriminately shell the Pakistani soldiers, and then justify it as an act of self-defense. The logic of self-defense is tenable if Pakistan forces infiltrate all the way into the Afghan territory and attack the NATO troops. This is not self-defense and there is no precedent that you can trespass the terrain of a friendly country without giving prior information based on proper and credible intelligence.

The hamstrung government run by the spineless and titular rulers in Pakistan does not have enough courage and dignity to order shooting down the intruding aircrafts or helicopter gunships. If the invaders do not observe any rules of the game then why should Pakistan be imposed with an explanation which is downright audacious, unconvincing and an open declaration for doing such violations even for the future.

The crossing of the international borders and firing upon an outpost of the Frontier Corps located 200 meters (650 feet) inside Pakistan is either a sign of desperation or willful attempt to give the message that NATO can extend its operations to the Pakistani territory. According to a Pakistan army spokesperson, Troops present at the post manned by six soldiers “retaliated through rifle fire to indicate that the helicopters were crossing into our territory,”. “Instead of heading to the warning, helicopters went to fire two missiles, destroying the post. As a result, three FC soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and three have been injured.”

These patently provocative actions would erode whatever the support and sympathy America and her NATO allies have at the moment in the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps as a retaliation that brazen misadventure by the NATO gunships, the NATO containers were torched at Shiakpur Pakistan emanating a clear yet a portentous message that if such acts are repeated these can have their detrimental reactions in Pakistan’s mainland and perhaps elsewhere.

If United States thinks that the Pakistan’s territory should also be envisaged as the war theatre, a scenario that can prompt Pakistan to withdraw her troops from these war areas to leave the embattled terrain open to NATO and the insurgents, then it can be a good riddance by Pakistan army, fighting under duress. Or else Pakistan army can shoot down the intruding gunships, fight the land troops if these enter Pakistan’s territory and drive away or bring down drones by firing missiles at them.

This very horrendous projected situation neither suits Pakistan nor NATO and America. It would be, therefore, better if NATO leaves the military operations in the Pakistan’s territory to Pakistan army. They can continue focusing on Afghanistan as they are doing now. Pakistan indeed is a scapegoat in this so-called war against terrorism but there is a limit to find faults with such a trustworthy, competent, and brave ally as the Pakistan army is. October 1, 2010, Upright Opinion, Does NATO want to Broaden the War Theatre? By Saeed Qureshi.

(The writer is a freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

For comments or to unsubscribe write us at qureshisa2003@yahoo.com

  • President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said that the Government of Pakistan strongly disapproves any incident of violation of its sovereignty and any violation of internationally agreed principles was counter-productiveand unacceptable.
  • The president made these remarks during a meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday.
  • Panetta also separately met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the PM House and the General Headquarters respectively.
  • Gunmen in southern Pakistan on Friday torched more than two dozen trucks and tankers carrying supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan, police said.
  • Attacks on trucks carrying goods for US and Nato-led forces are routine.
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Pakistan may have tried to thwart Afghan talks: report

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON: January’s capture of top Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar may have been a bid by Pakistani intelligence to thwart talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, The New York Times said late Sunday.

Baradar was a top military strategist and trusted aide of the militia’s shadowy leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

He was arrested in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi reportedly in a secret raid by CIA and Pakistani agents, an operation that was described as a huge blow to the group.

Citing unnamed Pakistani officials, it said Pakistan’s intelligence had set out to capture Baradar with the CIA’s help as it wanted to end secret peace talks between Baradar and the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.

In the weeks after Baradar’s capture, Pakistani security officials detained up to 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying Islamabad’s protection for years, the report said.

These developments resulted in the talks coming to an end.

The events surrounding Baradar’s arrest have been the subject of debate inside military and intelligence circles for months, The Times said.

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” the paper quotes a Pakistani security official as saying.

“We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians,” the official said, referring to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President.

Some US officials say the Pakistanis may be trying to make themselves appear more influential, the report said.

“These are self-serving fairy tales,” The Times quotes one US official as saying on condition of anonymity.

“The people involved in the operation on the ground didn’t know exactly who would be there when they themselves arrived. But it certainly became clear, to Pakistanis and Americans alike, who we’d gotten.”

But other US officials suspect the CIA may have been unwittingly used by the Pakistanis for the larger aims of slowing the pace of any peace talks, the report said. – AFP

India stand alone in opposing Pan-Afghan solution

July 12, 2010 1 comment

Bharat (aka India) stands alone in opposing the Pan-Afghan reconciliation solution in Afghanistan. It is trying to reverse the Afghan Jirga’s desire to make peace among Afghans. Delhi is also attempting to reverse the US and UK sponsored London conference which approved the recommendations of all the neighbors of Afghanistan (Istanbul Conference) for a move to reconcile all the diverse elements in Afghanistan. Earlier still Iran, and Pakistan had agreed to the Afghan proposal for reconciliation and peace.

Bharat today wants to bifurcate Afghanistan along ethnic lines because it thinks it has sway over Mr. Adbullah Abdullah a Tajik (though his mother was Pakhtun–he cannot speak proper Pushto or Darri). The Bharati plan is to stand in front of the steam roller and try to stop a train which has left the station. Delhi is attempting to thwart the peace plans because of it paranoia about Pakistan. Islamabad is simply facilitating the peace process that has been agreed upon by all the parties. Some recalcitrant opposition figures are smelling victory and may have to be brought to the table kicking and screaming. Others have to be cajoled. Some have to be dealt with. Pakistan is helping the US with a face saving exit. Delhi wants to colonize Afghanistan and thinks of Curzon and his policies as the natural boundary of Greater Bharat.

Sify News reports that Mr. Krishna is now attempting to reverse the tide of history and somehow put the genie back i the bottle. Bharat does not have a foreign policy, it has a plan to disrupt peace, partition Afghanistan and continue the war forever.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will represent India at the July 20 conference of international donors in Kabul that will review reconciliation moves between the Hamid Karzai regime and the Taliban, a cause of anxiety for New Delhi.Krishna goes to Kabul shortly after his July 14-16 trip to Islamabad for the foreign ministers-level talks aimed at reviving dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The focus of the first Kabul-hosted international conference on Afghanistan will be on finding Afghan solutions to the dragging conflict against the Taliban, officials have said.

More than 70 countries are expected to send their representatives for the conference where the Karzai government will seek help to bolster governance and national stability.

The conference will also take up the contentious proposal of reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban, a move backed by the earlier London conference and endorsed by the peace jirga.

India has reiterated its concerns many a time about the reintegration proposal as it fears it may end up propping up anti-India Taliban elements back in the saddle in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Pakistan’s intensified efforts to influence power-sharing negotiations in Afghanistan has added to New Delhi’s worries, specially in view of the July 2011 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from that country.

India has followed closely reports of a recent meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Al Qaeda-linked militant commander Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The meeting was allegedly arranged by Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera, Karzai met Haqqani along with Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha in Kabul for ‘face-to-face talks’. Both Kabul and Islamabad have denied these reports.

Kayani and Pasha, according to sources, tried to influence Karzai to accommodate the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network which has targeted Indian assets in Afghanistan.

India conveyed its unease about the Taliban power-sharing deal when Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Eklil Ahmad Hamiki came to New Delhi this week. Amid Pakistani moves, Krishna to attend Kabul meet 2010-07-10 17:10:00

Delhi is well advised to take care of its problems in Kashmir, Assam, and 40% of the territory which is controlled by the Naxals. Its attempt to cross NATO, ISAF, the US, and the world will cost it dearly in terms of diplomatic jilting and scorn–already seen in Washington, London and Beijing.

Sino-Pak N-deal meets int’l obligations: China

Chinese Embassy in Washington said Sunday, China believes that its agreement to install two new nuclear reactors in Pakistan does not violate international obligations, Geo news reported.

In a statement to the US media, the embassy’s spokesman Wang Baodong told the US media Beijing is convinced the reactor agreement “goes along well with the international obligations China and Pakistan carry in relation to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime”.

A US expert, Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, endorsed the Chinese position but urged Beijing to be careful.

“The US doesn’t really have any options…..the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s guidelines are voluntary. There is nothing the US can do to prevent China from going ahead with this deal,” he said.

“Unless Washington comes up with a very, very attractive offer, the history of Chinese-Pakistani relations is such that it is unlikely that this deal will not go through,” Heritage Foundation researcher Dean Cheng told the US media.

A State Department official disagreed with the suggestion but did so rather meekly.

The United States “suspects” that China would need a waiver from a nuclear export control group to move ahead with the sale of two atomic energy plants to Pakistan, a department official told the Washington Times.

Iran and Pakistan sign gas export agreement

Iran and Pakistan formally signed yesterday an export deal which commits the Islamic republic to supplying its eastern neighbour with natural gas from 2014.

The contract is the latest step in completing a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan within the next four years.

“This is a happy day,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Javad Ouji told reporters at the contract signing ceremony in Tehran. “After decades of negotiations, we are witnessing today the execution of the agreement… to export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan,” he added.

He said that from today, Iran will start building the next 300-kilometre leg of the pipeline from the southeastern city of Iranshahr to the Pakistani border, through the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Iran has already constructed 907km of the pipeline between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, which will carry natural gas from Iran’s giant South Pars field. Pakistan’s Deputy Energy Minister Kamran Lashari, who was present at the signing ceremony, said Islamabad will conduct a one-year feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline.

It will then “take three years for constructing the 700km pipeline” from the Iranian border to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, he added. The pipeline was originally planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter pulled out of the project last year. Pakistan plans to use the gas for its power sector.

Turkish Navy to escort next flotilla: PM Erdogan on board

Turkish Navy to escort next flotilla: PM Erdogan on board

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was considering sailing to the Gaza Strip as part of an aid flotilla backed by the Turkish Navy.

Lebanese newspaper al Mustaqbal quoted security sources as saying that Mr Erdogan was pondering the move in order to break the barrier imposed against Gaza by Israel.

It said that “as part of the open conflict between Turkey and Israel following the massacre against the ‘freedom sail’ to Gaza and the protest sparked in the world, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is considering going to Gaza himself in order to break the blockade imposed on the Strip.”

The sources said Erdogan raised the option in discussions with associates.

The report added that the Turkish leader also told the U.S. that he planned to ask his navy to escort another aid flotilla – but officials in Washington asked him to delay the plan in order to look into the matter.

The move followed strong criticism of Israel by Erdogan after Israeli armed forces killed several people on board an aid flotilla Monday, sparking widespread international condemnation.

When the possibility of Erdogan joining a flotilla was posed to Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, he said such a move was not a “realistic scenario” and dismissed it outright.

“Some of these reports must be taken with a grain of salt … I am not sure that is a realistic scenario,” he told Sky News.

“I prefer that we sort these things out peacefully. Nobody wants any saber-rattling. It does not do any good,” said Regev.

US President Barack Obama Not Ready to condemn Israel over Gaza ship attack

THE US has declined to condemn Israel for its raid on a humanitarian flotilla headed for Gaza, but said the incident showed Middle East peace talks were needed “more than ever”.

The White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did describe the situation in Gaza as “untenable” and “unacceptable,” but Washington’s reaction to the raid did not match the explicit rebukes of Israel of some of its allies.

As diplomatic fallout multiplied, and threatened to derail a bid to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, President Barack Obama also called key regional power broker, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs was earlier asked directly whether his boss would condemn Israel over the drama in international waters in which nine people were killed by Israeli commandos.

Speaking carefully, Gibbs stuck to the language of a UN Security Council statement issued late Sunday (local time) on the raid.

The statement condemned “those acts which resulted in the loss of at least ten civilians and many wounded”, but did not specifically say whether the Israeli raid or actions of pro-Palestinian supporters caused the violence.

It also called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent” probe into the incident conforming to international standards, Mr Gibbs said.

“We’re obviously supportive of that.”

Mrs Clinton said Washington supported an “Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation”.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley explained why Washington thought Israel should carry out the investigation rather than an independent international body.

“These were Israeli forces that carried out this action and we think they’re in the best position to investigate what instructions were given to these forces, how was the situation when they approached the flotilla, and what transpired onboard that ship,” he said.

The deadly maritime confrontation threatens to stymie US peace moves again at a time when the Obama administration has just restarted “proximity” peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Mr Gibbs said that he did not think the incident, which triggered global fury, would have “a great impact” on Washington’s ties with the Muslim world, despite staunch US support for Israel.

Israel has blamed activists on a Turkish vessel, Mavi Marmara, for the confrontation, saying its troops were attacked as they boarded the ship and that nine passengers were killed in the ensuing fight.

But passengers disputed that version of events, saying that those on board were not armed with anything more threatening than a few wooden batons.

The showdown provoked a crisis in Israel’s relations with Turkey – once its closest Muslim ally – as diplomatic sources in Ankara confirmed at least four of the dead were Turkish.

It also provoked another diplomatic headache for Washington, as Mr Obama had expended considerable effort trying to maintain good relations with Turkey, a rising regional power which is also key in the confrontation with Iran.

In his call with Mr  Erdogan, who earlier branded the raid a “bloody massacre” Mr Obama expressed his “deep condolences for the loss of life and injuries resulting from the Israeli military operation against the Turkish-flagged ship bound for Gaza”, the White House said.

“The President affirmed the importance of finding better ways to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza without undermining Israel’s security,” a White House statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been due at the White House on Tuesday (local time) for talks seen as an effort to move on from recent and rare public disagreements with Mr Obama.

But he cancelled the visit to return home to deal with the crisis. The White House said that Mr Obama’s talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas next week here were still on as scheduled.