Waziristan a Taliban mini state

The news in recent days is that circumstances in southern Afghanistan are getting worse because the Taliban are more secure and more active. As this writer indicates, it is indeed worrisome that Pakistan is making no attempt to control the growth of the Taliban in the tribal areas. What seems obvious is that to the degree that Pakistan fails to do this, Afghanistan, at least in the south, could fall into more open warfare.

The International News

Northern Waziristan, where Islamic militants recently signed a peace deal with the government, has virtually become a ‘Taliban mini-state’
“Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan”
“The militants,the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross-border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year. The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes”
“cross-border attacks by Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and their foreign allies have increased”
” In recent weeks, Afghan officials say they have uncovered alarming signs of large-scale indoctrination and preparation of suicide bombers in the tribal areas”
” American military officials say they believe much of the training in Waziristan is taking place under the aegis of men like Jalaluddin Haqqani, once one of the most formidable commanders of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen forces who joined the Taliban in the 1990s. Haqqani bases himself in North Waziristan and has a host of other Taliban and foreign commanders”
” ‘Even more worrying is the continued presence of the Taliban and Haqqani leadership networks,’ [a] diplomat said, dismayed at what he characterised as Pakistani passivity in breaking up the networks. ‘They haven’t been addressed at all on the Pakistani side,’ he added. ‘They haven’t been pursued.’ “
“The militants rather than the traditional tribal leaders have the power now [in the region]”

Living under the Taliban

This community is profoundly broken by the clash between the government and the Taliban. That the Taliban have credibility, at least for some people in Musa Qala, cannot be good news for the government.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Fundamentalist rule has returned to Musa Qala – and some residents have never been happier
“Musa Qala formally fell to the Taleban in February, barely four months after a controversial agreement under which village elders promised to keep the fundamentalists out in return for a British withdrawal.”
“While the government tries to decide on its course, local residents have had to continue with their lives.”
“Many say they are happier now than they have been for years – and more than willing to trade a certain amount of freedom for some peace and security.”
” ‘Security is very good: there are no thieves, no kidnappers, everyone lives in safety and is able to get on with their lives. We are all happy.’ “
“His assessment is in sharp contrast to official pronouncements. ‘We have 900 families registered as refugees from Musa Qala,’ said Abdulstar Muzahari, head of the department of refugees. ‘None of them have gone back.’ “
” Sayed Ahmad Akaa, father of three, agrees ‘You could not pay me to go back to Musa Qala,’ he told IWPR. ‘My children cannot go to school there, I cannot live.’ “
“But those who remain say life has never been better.”
“Security concerns among Helmand is are wider than the threat from insurgents. Official corruption and police inaction made the cities unsafe”
” ‘If the government cannot control the situation, we have to let the Taleban rule,’ said one shopkeeper,”

Questions about the fighting in Waziristan

Joshua Foust on Registan.net has also, like David Hoffman [see Ap 10, 07 entry], raised questions about the putative fighting in Waziristan against Uzbeks. He also doubts that we are getting much of the correct story. This seems to me a really significant story: who are the “Uzbeks” and the “Taliban” who oppose each other? Why are there casualty reports but no casulties in the hospitals? How is the Pakistani government involved — assuming that there has to be a connection? What is the connection of this putative war with the local fighting in Khurram district a few days ago? What is its connection to the rise in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan? Is there a connection to the ambush of the ISI officers in Bajaur district? There are so many instances when the official stories in this region[provided by mainly the Pakistani government] seem as contrived and convoluted as those we are getting out of the Bush administration. Such is the world that we live in, that despite the appearance of a plethora of statements — an internet crammed with all kinds of stuff — we in the public remain poorly informed on what is actually happening in the world.

The puppet who cleared the way for Iraq’s destruction

Andrew Cockburn takes out after Wolfowitz in this article. I agree that Wolfowitz had a big part in the blunders of this administration, and that Richard Perle must have had a powerful influence. But now that things are so bad in Iraq, what does it say about these men that they now distance themselves from the Iraq policy?

By Andrew Cockburn
The Guardian

“Rumsfeld was driven from public life thanks to the catastrophe of Iraq, and … his deputy [Wolfowitz] … contributed in almost equal measure to the debacle, yet managed to slide from the Pentagon into the presidency of a leading international institution [the World Bank]”
“To cite just one example … the First Special Interrogation Plan for use at Guantánamo that … cleared the way for prolonged sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, and sexual and religious humiliation, along with other favoured techniques … had earlier been reviewed and approved by … Wolfowitz.”
“…Wolfowitz was even more hands on when it came to Abu Ghraib … testimony from one of the interrogators alleged that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were in direct contact with the prison and received “nightly briefings” on the intelligence being extracted under torture.”
“…Wolfowitz[‘s] … entire career, at least up through his Pentagon service, has been in the service and at the direction of others.”
“…last year Perle and other leading neoconservatives lashed out publicly at Rumsfeld, deriding his mismanagement of the Iraqi enterprise … ‘Interesting they are not going after the puppet,’ “
“Given recent sordid revelations, his role in shredding the reputation of the World Bank and the morale of its employees may be harder to obscure.”

US soldiers sit in on local Afghan councils

This article reveals how difficult it is to be an occupying army. The Americans will never really be welcomed there. They do not know the language and apparently in this area have few contacts, “friends” who can introduce them as friends.

By Jason Straziuso
Associated Press

“To get a foothold in the area, the Americans have to talk with the Taliban.”
” ‘When you roll in here with 800 heavily armed men, it can cause a lot of anxiety. Until you [talk with them] they’re real standoffish,’ said Mennes, who leads the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment”
“US and NATO soldiers are increasingly holstering their weapons and attending traditional Afghan lunches and tribal meetings known as shuras, embracing local customs in a land where conversation over tea is a national pastime”
“The goal: to gather intelligence, advertise the aid and development that NATO and the Afghan government can bring, and talk transitory Taliban fighters into disarming. The counterinsurgency strategy is based on weeding out what NATO calls ‘Tier 2’ Taliban — poor farmers or jobless villagers who are enlisted by hard-core, ideologically minded Taliban.”
“But the American-Afghan lunch showed how tricky such get-togethers can be.”
“The US paratroopers sat down with Afghan elders and police to a shared lunch … But … the Americans made an unnerving discovery: a cache of rocket-propelled grenades , mortars, and a land mine.Soldiers, suspicious that the weapons could belong to militants,removed them from the police storage facility. The pleasant mood fostered over a meal was shattered.”

NATO mulls Afghan poppy legalization

I don’t know if I have noted this move. An aid organization has been pushing this idea. This is the first indication I have seen that the officials in NATO and elsewhere are seriously considering this plan. It would be so helpful if the distribution system could be subverted because these are the guys who are making all the money, and it is said they like the instability so support the Taliban.

United Press International

Key NATO members are mulling the legalization of Afghanistan’s opium poppy industry, according to a German news magazine.”
“Instead of selling the poppies to drug lords who make opium and heroin from the raw material, the farmers under the plan would sell them for the same price to an official institution that would relay the poppies to the international pharmaceutical industry, the magazine said.”
“Afghanistan produces close to 90 percent of the world’s opium, the raw material from which heroin is made. Afghanistan’s farmers depend on the income from the poppy production, but the drug business also finances the Taliban in its war against the West.Recent efforts that included burning down the poppy fields — a U.S.initiative — have failed to bring about change.”

Afghanistan’s Wild West

This report reveals how difficult the situation seems to be on the ground in many parts of the country. Various interests are exerting their power, perhaps in some cases in order to keep the country unstable (some Pakistan officials are accused of this), in other cases because old grudges have inspired violence, in other cases because of ethnic tension,and of course in some cases because the Taliban are trying to break down the social order. In the mean time the government seems impotent.

By Sadeq Behnam and Sudabah Afzali
Institute for war and peace reporting

Herat, once the most stable of Afghan provinces, is now becoming increasingly dangerous, and analysts say not all the violence is sponsored by the Taleban.”
“Herat … stands at the crossroads of history, bordering Iran and Turkmenistan. Because of its location, it has been buffeted by various ethnic and religious influences which … are now contributing to rising tensions.”
“In the past 12 months, more than 50 people have been killed and at least 100 wounded …”
“The Afghan government has sought to blame much of the violence on the Taleban-led insurgency … But local analysts and residents are not convinced.”
” ‘Herat contains jihadi elements who hate the government because they have lost their jobs’ “
“The term ‘jihadis’ applies to the various armed factions which emerged from the anti-Soviet mujahedin to fight first against each other in the early Nineties, and later against the Taleban. Many of their leaders are still prominent political figures.”
” ‘People who have designs against the government are able to cover their tracks, so everything gets blamed on the Taleban’ “
” ‘The most worrying aspect of this is that the police and army also contain elements that are against the government. They have links with the opposition…’ “
“Iranian influence can be felt in the Shia community, and there has been some violence on religious grounds”
” ‘There are political groups besides the Taleban who are attempting to destabilise the situation in Herat,’ said police spokesman Colonel Norkhan Nikzad.”

Afghan hearts and minds refuse to be won

So much depends on what we make of what we hear. This journalist seems to be hearing that people are turning to the Taliban, but the specific information he gives is that people are mainly eager to carry on their lives without the disruption of a war. They would like the Afghanistan government or NATO to stabilize their world. I continue to doubt that many of the people in the southern and eastern part of Afghanistan, the Pushtun areas, really want to return to the days of Taliban control. They would like the stability that for a time at least they enjoyed under the Taliban, but do they really want Taliban rules? I wonder. It is important to recognize that in the north the problems are different.There appears to be no sign there of a yearning for Taliban-like days. But they are likely to say what these Pushtun people say: Why doesn’t the government provide services and protection?

By Damien McElroy
Telegraph, UK

Troops fighting in Afghanistan are meeting resistance not only from the Taliban, but from the people they are there to support.”
“Far from being enticed into repudiating the Taliban, elders lined up to complain about the foreign troops in their midst and, more bitterly, the lack of assistance from the Afghan government.”
“A combination of patient listening and promises of aid is a well-tried method across conflict zones to win the backing of the locals.But it is a measure of the Taliban’s insidious strength to see the combat operation and the community charm offensive in the same walled compound.”
“The political adviser to the mission, Ambassador Gulus Schelema,attempted to persuade the elders that the military would not inflict damage to their livelihoods by destroying opium crops.”
“Flushing out Taliban and holding the terrain in the Pashtun heartland is proving immeasurably difficult for Nato. In Kandahar, the Canadian army has had to scale back its ambitious plans.Establishing a permanent presence 120 miles north of the city was a point of pride for Nato, evidence that the coalition could drive into the militant heartland.But it proved too dangerous to run supplies to the troops there. The coalition’s “assets” have been shifted to corridors around the provincial capital.”

Pakistan ‘secret agents killed’

The attack on ISI officials in a tribal zone indicates something we have been hearing already: that some people in the tribal areas resent the pressures put on them by the ISI. But that is insufficient to understand what this attack means. That occurs at that particular spot may mean something — As always, we are unclear what this means.


Unidentified gunmen have shot dead four officials from Pakistan’s secretive ISI intelligence agency in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan
“No group has said it carried out the attack, a day after tribes vowed not to shelter al-Qaeda or Taleban militants.”
“Monday’s deal in Bajaur with the government followed other similar controversial accords elsewhere in the tribal region, which critics say have encouraged a Taleban safe haven on the border.”
“News of Tuesday’s ambush is still emerging and details surrounding it are sketchy.Masked men riding on a motorbike opened fire on the vehicle when theISI officials were coming to Bajaur tribal district from Peshawar Intelligence official Moaz Khan”
“Bajaur was the scene of two major attacks against suspected militants last year, which caused great anger among locals and people elsewhere in Pakistan”
“The officials did not say what the ISI officials were doing in the area.The notorious ISI is a central organ of Pakistan’s military machine which has played a major – often dominant – role in the country’s often turbulent politics.Critics say it runs “a state within a state”, subverts elected governments, supports the Taleban and is even involved in drug smuggling”

History and Sacrificial Death

The tradition and organizational structure of suicide bombing is now so established that it may take years to dismantle it. Here is one more study:

The mechanism of sacrifice lies at the heart of ideological systems regardless of cultural context. Lives are forfeited and blood spilled-in order to validate the ideology.” By Richard A. Koenigsberg
“Surely we imagine–if so many people have killed and died in the name an ideology–there must be something to it”
“Sheikh Abdullah Azzam was an Islamic revolutionary whose thought exerted a significant influence upon Bin Laden.”
” ‘History,’ Azzam writes … happens when a group produces death and destruction in the name of its ideology. Hitler, Stalin and Mao are remembered–not because of their contributions to civilization–but by virtue of the vast number of people they killed”
” ‘Significance’ is conferred upon a leader and his ideology based on the number of people killed in the ideology’s name. This is why historians are keen to document the ‘number of people that died’ in a war, battle, genocidal episode,or act of terror.”
“Political leaders generate episodes of mass-murder in order to be remembered for the havoc that they have wrought–in the name of ideologies they hope will transform the world.”