An insight on Pakistan’s gamble with Islamism

Farooq Sulehria of New Age Islam is suggesting in the article below that Pakistan could be risking its essential integrity by its continued dependent on Islamist groups. His notion that the trend is further downward — even further than it has gone so far — is worth looking at carefully. [Click on the title for a link to the source.] RLC

The War within Islam
31 Mar 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com
Pakistan: In Search of Strategic Death
By Farooq Sulehria
Old Eskimos had a clever technique for hunting wolves. They would plant a bloody knife in the snow. Lured by the smell of blood, the wolves would approach the knife and lick the blade, cutting their tongues. Without realizing that they were drinkng their own blood, wolves would continue licking until they had bled to death.
Back in 1980s, Pakistan military adopted a doctrine of strategic depth. This doctrine is proving Eskimos’ knife for Pakistan. The doctrine implies that Pakistan needs Afghanistan as backyard beyond India’s reach. The Afghan-India nexus dominating military’s mind is evident from a recent interaction General Kayani had with media recently. On February 1, he told foreign correspondents: ”“We want Afghanistan to be our strategic depth”. In two days time, he was telling Pakistani journalists:” I am India-centric.”
It is in search of strategic depth that Pakistan military, post-September 11, has been hunting with the American-hound and running with Taliban-hare. Definitely not an easy position. That country’s military establishment has not given up Jihadi assets is evident from media reports.
Woe unto missing Saudi billionaire! He disturbed the order Pakistan military had established in the region. No matter with what horrible consequesnces for the masses.
When the ‘communist’ era came to an end in Afghanistan, mutually combating Mujahideen pillaged Kabul in their bid to outdo each other for the control of government. Gulbadin Hikmatyar was Pakistan’s favourite horse in this race. When he proved futile, Pakistan saddled Taliban.
Back in 1997, objective conditions favoured Pakistan-sponsored Taliban’s seizure of Kabul. It remains Pakistan military’s sole victory at an external front. A disinterested USA welcomed Taliban’s arrival in Kabul. To quote New York Times, the ”State Department was touting the Taliban as the group that might finally bring stability”. A US diplomat, Jon Holtzman, was advised to visit Kabul. Trip was, however, cancelled after media kerfuffle about women rights. Still $125 million were granted in aid (largest foreign aid).
The State Department maintained secret correspondence with Taliban regime. At the time, media were replete with rumours regarding US-backing for Taliban. Unlike the anti-US image Taliban have cultivated in recent years, they were also pretty cozy with infidel Uncle Sam. The US rationale for Taliban support was not merely an over-publicised gas pipeline project that Unocal wanted to pursue. Clinton Administration, it was rumoured, had Iran in mind while welcoming Taliban. Whether these rumours were true or not, Taliban’s second major sponsor, Riyadh, definitely wanted to contain Iran through staunchly anti-Shia Taliban.
Thus, all three infamous As that matter in Pakistan i.e. Army, America and Allah (represented here by Riyadh) were united in seeking, by default, cherished strategic depth. Equally important was the turmoil in Russia and Central Asian Republics (CARs). Following the Soviet dissolution, new regimes in Russia and CARs were struggling to consolidate. Most importantly, Afghans were desperate for peace after years of brutal infighting among Mujahideen gangs. Hoping against hope, at least a section of Afghans pinned their hopes in Taliban even if it meant sacrificing civil liberties.
Fifteen years on, odds are stubbornly going against Taliban. The USA is not merely on the other side of the fence, it in fact is guarding (no matter how unsuccessfully) the fence. Saudi royals, one of them personally humiliated by Mullah Omar on the question of Osama’s expulsion, would find it imprudent to annoy Washington by patronising Taliban. Regimes in CARs and Russia, dealing with confessional militancy, would not sit idle in the face of Taliban take over of Kabul.
Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, facing Uighur uprising, has publicly expressed her disapproval of Taliban. Most importantly, big majority of Afghans, particularly non-Pakhtuns constituting almost 55 percent of the population, having lived Taliban nightmare are not ready to experience it one more time. Though Pakistan’s pro-Taliban media have pretty successfully painted Taliban as popular peace-harbingers ( in 1990s) and popular liberation force (2001 onwards) yet Afghan perception of Taliban is different. Opinion polls find Taliban’s popularity below ten percent. Hence, Taliban march on Kabul, by proxy providing strategic depth to Pakistan, may not be resisted by the USA, Iran, India, China, CARs and Russia but by most Afghans.
However, despite lacking a mass social base, Taliban have the advantage of an unceasing supply of fanatics ready to explode on Afghan streets en route paradise. This factor has shattered early US hopes of a steady occupation in a strategically important country neighbouring Iran, gas-rich Central Asia while China is at stone’s throw. Meantime, not merely Obama administration has staked its political future on Afghanistan, Afghan war is a good war (essential to nip the evil of terror in Afghan bud) hence a good tool to keep NATO united. The NATO fell apart in case of Iraq.
Afghanistan provided Washington the opportunity to discipline European satraps. Hence, to tranquillise the Taliban uproar, Washington has resorted to a multi-pronged policy. An Iraq-style surge (over 30, thousand more troops to Kabul). An aggressive drone-Pakistan-policy to force Islamabad (read Pakistan military) into giving up dual policy on Taliban. Also, by droning Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan,—-particularly targetting leadership—-US wishes to weaken Taliban. Fallujah-style military offensive in Marhaj (Helmend province) to flush Taliban out is an attempt to demoralise Taliban. All this is aimed at bringing a weak Taliban (and Pakistani patrons) to a negotiating table. Caught between the hammer of ”war on terror” and anvil of ”strategic depth”, Pakistan instead of reaching strategic depth, will embrace a strategic death.
Everytime Pakistan military hunts Taliban, there is a boomrang suicidal attack. According to a think tank, in 2009:“If the casualties in terrorist attacks, operational attacks by the security forces and their clashes with the militants, inter-tribal clashes and the cross-border attacks of the US and Nato forces in Fata are counted, the overall casualties amount to 12,632 people dead and 12,815 injured.”

Full Text of the Peshawar Declaration, February 10

A friend of mine has sent me a copy of an interesting declaration prepared in Peshawar last February 10. It is interesting for a number of reasons, but one of them is that this is a formulation by some notable Pushtuns developed presumably on their own and clearly in their own words [although below is merely an English translation]. It is evident from the tone that this meeting was not organized or scripted by the Pakistanis. In that sense it resembles an attempt by a group of Afghanistan notables (I think in 1980; see Kakar’s book on the Soviet war in Afghanistan) to form an organized resistance program against the Soviets who had recently invaded. The Pakistanis, however, shut the affair down in order to establish more direct control over the anti-soviet resistance movement among the Afghans. This one sounds like a similar group of notables, in this case Pakistani Pushtuns, trying to deal with what is obviously a tragic problem in their midst: the continued activity of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which is costing the peoples of FATA and Malakand dearly. Because it is so interesting I reproduce this document here in the form I received it. RLC

The Peshawar Declaration
The documents of *Peshawar Declaration* which is endorsed by Political Parties and Members Amn Tehrik, (an umbrella organization of all walks of civil society), was formally launched in a gathering in a local Hotel on 10 February 2010.

On December 12 and 13, a two days workshop/conference was held in Peshawar with the sole agenda “Terrorism – the ways out.” The workshop was attended by the political parties and civil society organizations that actively opposed terrorism. The participants were keen to contribute and participate in discussions regarding the political, ideological, strategic, economic, and cultural and education/ awareness related aspects of the agenda. The participants were divided into Five Groups and they freely expressed their opinions about the topics they had selected by choice. On the first day every group came up with a rough draft. On the second day final recommendations were drawn from the rough drafts. In a commendable show of unity, members with different political affiliations and shades of opinion succeeded in agreeing upon a single document of consensus. The workshop was attended by the provincial leadership of Awami National Party (ANP), Pukhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party PMAP, Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Pakistan Peoples Party Sherpao PPP(S), National Party (NP) and Awami party Pakistan (APP). Civil society organizations under the banner of Amn Tehrik, (Peace Movement)[1]businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, laborers and intellectuals also participated in the workshop. Representatives from all the agencies of FATA, Swat, Malakand and Buner also participated. A significant number of female participants were also present. Each group presented its report before the Conference. Every report was critically analyzed, objections raised and recommendations for improvement discussed. It was decided that all the reports should be amalgamated into a joint declaration namely Peshawar Declaration. A five member committee was constituted to prepare the documentation. After deliberation it was decided that all the organizations that attended the conference will jointly struggle to translate Peshawar Declaration into actions. For this purpose, ten members Coordination Committee (Rabita Committee) was constituted comprising of members from ANP, PMAP, PPPP, PPP Sherpao, Awami Party, National Party and Amn Tehrik (Peace Movement). After the discussion the participants made political, ideological and strategic aspects as a single/one report.

Defining Terrorism:

Terrorism is to create fear on someone to achieve certain ends. A person can be terrorized by a mere threat or he/she can be beaten, abducted, jailed and killed. An individual, a particular group, a sect, a nation or a country can indulge in terrorism to achieve certain objectives. People can also engage in terrorism for money, property or women.

The Current Wave of Terrorism:

Man has been indulging in the ruthless treatment of other human beings throughout the history. The modes of terrorism were different in different times. In the conference all the participants agreed upon the idea that the current surge of terrorism is the most dangerous, the worst type. This kind of terrorism is a complex mixture of religious extremism, fanatics, sectarian, anti-civilization, anti-humanity and coercive ways of life which are most ruthless one. The aim of this kind of terrorism is to impose a self-proclaimed global agenda by killing humanity. What madness is this that the terrorist teacher issue the ticket of paradise to his soldier and marry him to a Hor (beautiful women in paradise) and the soldier confirms the ticket of the paradise by ruthlessly killing innocent humanity including women and children! The obvious madness and in-human thinking behind the rationale of killing fellow human beings including women and children for ones material and animalistic yearnings (Pure Wines and Beautiful Women) is beyond any comprehension and does not deserve any sympathy or empathy. To defeat this kind of terrorism of our region, it is mandatory to understand its causes and modus operandi, without which cure or elimination will not be possible.

Causes of the Terrorism in our Region:

The current wave of terrorism emanates from two sources i.e. Al-Qaeda and the Strategic Depth policy of Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is a caricature of Arab Expansionism in the disguise of global Islam. Due to the prevalence of Wahabism in the historical hub of Islam, Arabs have dominated the other Muslims. Due to this Al-Qaeda is a specialist of this kind of terrorism including all its ingredient, organizational structure, techniques and strategies. The second ingredient contributing to this kind of terrorism is the Strategic Depth policy of Pakistan army. The purpose of this policy is to use Jihadi Culture in order to counter India and protect nuclear weapons: to subjugate Afghanistan and making it fifth province or like Azad Kashmir model. The policy was advanced further in 1995 and was decided to make Central Asian Muslim states as their clients states. The Strategic Depth policy of Pakistan army has a complete background. The ideology of nationhood on the basis of religion served its foundation. Cantonments were labeled with the slogans of Jihad Fi Sabel-e-La (Jihad in the name of Allah). Big crossing and turn- abouts in cities were furnished with tanks, fighter planes and replica of the Chaghai hills to make a war-like environment. Instead of a welfare state Pakistan was made a security state. The Objective Resolution (1949) gave birth to Mullah-Military Alliance. The same resolution was included, in letter and spirit, in the constitution by General Zia ul Haq. As a result of religious background, war-like environment, security state and Mullah-Military-Alliance, the first terrorist organizations in the names of Al-Shams and Al-Badarwere launched in Bengal. The defeat in Bengal should have been an eye-opener for the establishment and should have signaled end of the military-Jihadist nexus but unfortunately the same policy was practiced in Kashmir, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Terrorist organizations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkatul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayeeba and Jash-e-Muhamamd were installed in Kashmir. In Paksitan Sibah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangwi and in FATA Lashkar-e-Islam, Ansar-ul-Islam, Amarbil-Maroof, Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi and Tahreek-e-Taliban have been operational.[5]All these organizations were termed as strategic assets. In Afghanistan terrorism was started in 1972. First of all Gulbadin Hikmatyar was brought to Peshawar and Colonel Imam was sent to Afghanistan. During that period and till 1978 Gulbadin Hikmat Yar, Professor Mujadidi, Burhan ud Din Rabbani, Pir Gilani and Abdul Rasool Siaf were trained to be the leaders of terrorists organizations.When these people conquered Afghanistan they tried to stop their patrons from interfering in Afghanistan. Thus strategic assets did not help their patrons. Even then the Army did not learn any lesson here and another asset with the name of Taliban was formed which tuned out to be more aggressive and destructive for Afghanistan. During this time the marriage between Taliban and Al-Qaeda took place and they became the rulers of Afghanistan. Due to the policy of strategic assets the country had already plunged deep into the abyss of terrorism even before 9/11. The riots between Shia and Sunni Sects were a common phenomenon. The suicide bombing in the country was started in 1993. The suicide attack that killed Ahmed Shah Masood was carried out just one day before the 9/11. India and Afghanistan had already been suffering from such attacks. But in due time Pakistan religious extremism spread its tentacles in Pakistan and sectarianism grew. Besides Shia, the Barelvi were also targeted. This is a historical fact that the US, China, Arab countries and Europe helped Pakistan in its aggression against Afghanistan. To quote just one example 24 billion petro-dollars were spent to establish seminaries (religious schools).Military aggression was named as Jihad. The whole environment was favorable to nurture the already strong triangular Mullah-Military-Militant nexus. During the rule of the afore-mentioned religious and military components of terrorism, terrorists from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Sin kiang and other parts of the world came to Afghanistan. Thus Afghanistan became the hub of international terrorism. After 9/11, all these peoples were shifted to FATA. No doubt these terrorists are now present in FATA and elsewhere in the country. There is no denying the fact that these terrorists have occupied FATA and some parts of Punjab like central Punjab and Muridke are their strong holds.

A contradictory Perception in the minds towards terrorism by the people of those areas who are under direct control of terrorists and those who are less are not effected:

FATA and Malakand are the most affected areas due to terrorism. Similarly not a single village or city of Pukhtunkhwa province is spared by terrorists. Although the whole country and even the whole world is suffering from terrorism and the fact that central Punjab or Mureedki is also the hub of terrorists, still it remains a bitter fact that the people of FATA and Pukhtunkhwa are virtually hostage to the terrorists. The perception of terrorism and its causes or their opinions about military operations, the involvement of foreign hands in terrorism and drone attacks are poles apart from the rest of the country.

Why is this contradiction?

One of its reasons is a natural one. There is a Pushtu proverb that burns are felt where there is fire. The second reason is the policy of the government. For example the media policy during General Pervez Musharaf allowed massive coverage to those people who were supporting terrorism. This also includes some of the retired generals, a few journalists and analysts. As a result, those living in other parts of the country or those who were not directly affected by terrorism were uninterruptedly indoctrinated with ideas for about eight years which further helped terrorism. Those living in the war zone are eye witness to all that is happening there and they have their own perception of this war of terrorism. A few examples are:
* It was propagated over the media, though in an implied manner, that terrorism is the continuation of Jihad against the Soviet Russia. The fact is that almost all of those who were fighting against the Russians are eagerly and actively painting on the political canvas of Afghanistan in order to bring stability to the democratic process in Afghanistan. They are the foremost opponents of terrorism. They include professor Mujadidi, Burhan ud Din Rabbani, Pir Gilani and Abdul Rasool Siab, Rasheed Dostam and the party of Ahmed Shah Masood late.
* Only two of the anti-Soviet campaigns are now involved in terrorism i.e. Gulbadin Hikmatyar and Jalal ud Din Haqqani. Gulbadins party is almost non-existent. Only one of his commanders Kashmir Khan and a few friends are supporting him. Haqqani had already joined the Taliban.
* Uzbeks, Chechens, Sudanese and terrorists from Sank yang came to Afghanistan during the period of Taliban. At that time the Soviets had withdrawn and Dr. Najeebs government was toppled. These terrorist did not exists during the war against Soviets.
* None of the Pakistani terrorists organization like Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkatul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayeeba, Jash-e-Muhamamd Sibah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jangwi, Lashkar-e-Islam, Ansar-ul-Islam, Amar-bil-Maroof, Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi and Tahreek-e-Taliban had participated in anti-Soviet campaign.
* Even the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have no direct linkage with the anti-Soviet campaign. Despite this, it was propagated over the media that the on-going war is a continuation of the so-called Jihad in Afghanistan. It is propagated that these terrorists were part of the anti-Soviet campaign and they have been living in the tribal areas for thirty years where they had married the local women and thus became part and parcel of the tribal society. The fact is that in the tribal areas a forefinger is never called a native even if had taken asylum and lived there for centuries. Mahsud tribe of South Waziristan had the peculiarity that did not allow a single non local to stay in their area during this whole period.
* Another false propaganda over the media is the number of foreign militants. In the media the number of foreign militants is portrayed as hundred to two hundreds. The reality is that there are 11000 Uzbeks, 6000 Arabs and 9000 Punjabis.From Waziristan to swat the number of Pushtun terrorist is merely 4000 but despite of this fact the whole Pushtun nation is falsely propagated as extremists and terrorist.
* On other issues such as military operations, peace deals and the fighting between army and Taliban the people of war-affected areas have quite a different outlook than those living in the mainland. For example the people of the war-affected areas think that the army and Taliban are not enemies but friends. They have been persistently asking the question why the military failed to target the core leadership of the militants in all the 17 military operations in FATA? This is true that during the military operations the top as well as the second and third cadre leadership were neither killed nor wounded or captured. Moreover, the news of the killing of many terrorist leaders is telecasted several times over the media but they are still alive. Commanders like Ibn-e-Amin, Shah Duran and Ikram ud Din are the prime examples of such false propaganda.In Swat, the news that Fazl Ullah is under a siege was three times telecasted by the ISPR but in the same month it was propagated through media that he had escaped to Afghanistan. Fazl Ullahs close associates Muslim Khan, Haroon and Mahmood were arrested by the militants but six months have passed and nobody knows what happened to them.In the past, Sufi Muhammad was arrested and then released in a so-called peace deal which was imposed upon the political leadership at gunpoint. The valiant police of the province once arrested 28 terrorists with suicide jackets but these terrorists were taken by the intelligence agencies took them away with the plea of further investigation. These people were kept somewhere for few months. They were released on the day when General Pervez Musharaf imposed Emergency Plus.Only a few words came to us about their release. It is due to these reasons that the people of the war-affected areas are neither satisfied with the military operations nor do they entertain false hopes.
* The people of the war-affected areas demand that these terrorists should be hanged in open space like they used to hang innocent civilian or like what they did to Shabana.These people call for a real and targeted military operation and strongly condemn the dramas in the name of military operations. These people do not support any peace deals with the militants but unlike them the rest of Pakistan talk of putting an end to the military operations and resuming the so-called peace deals.
* The issue of Drone attacks is the most important one. If the people of the war-affected areas are satisfied with any counter militancy strategy, it is the Drone attacks which they support the most. According to the people of Waziristan, Drones have never killed any civilian. Even some people in Waziristan compare Drones with Ababels. (The holy swallows send by God to avenge Abraha, the intended conqueror the Khana Kaaba).A component of the Pakistani media, some retired generals, a few journalists/analysts and pro-Taliban political parties never tire in their baseless propaganda against Drone attacks.
* The same is true of the discourse of foreign hands in militancy. In FATA there is either military or the afore-mentioned militant organizations. Majority of the local people have migrated to other parts of the country. Those who could not flee are helpless and nothing is in their control. The questions arises which one of the militant organization is not created by the Pakistan army and which one is serving a foreign agenda? If such is the case Pakistan should raise the issue on UN forum or name the organization which is serving a foreign agenda by using the diplomatic channel. The possibility remains that there is a second or third tier terrorist with a few suicide bombers and he exchanges them for a handsome price. But this is not possible on organizational level and if the chaos persisted for a longer period there is also the possibility that some other countries would jumped into the fray or the UN would bring peace forces to these areas. All the participants agreed that the failure of military operations and the ongoing terrorism which is spreading its tentacles very fast are not because of the inability of the Pakistan army but rather it is a deliberate attempt on the part of our establishment to secure its military assets at every cost.

Terrorism and the Identification of Friends and Foe:

The conference agreed upon the idea that every individual, writer, intellectual, organization or country who is against the terrorists is our friend. Every individual, organization, party or country that provides sanctuary to the terrorists, extend financial or moral support to them or support them in any way like diverting peoples attention to non-issues by concealing the truth about them is a friend of the terrorists and hence an enemy of the participants of the conferencean enemy of Pushtuns, Pakistan and humanity in general. The conference applied the above mentioned criterion to gauge political parties. The participants unanimously reached the conclusions that Jumat-e-Islami, both factions of Jameet-Ulema-e-Islam, Jumat Al-Hadis Sajid Mir Group, Tahreek-e-Insaf, a component of the Pakistani media and establishment are pro-terrorists. All the Baloch Nationalist Parties are apposing terrorism and supporting Drones so they are our friends. Pakistan Muslim Leg (N, Q) are primarily Punjab based parties, and very closed to establishment. There stand against terrorism is vague so they are on our watch list. MQM in it self is a terrorist organization. Though MQM is apposing terrorist but its because that they see their own terrorism vanishing if the new phenomena enters their constituency.

A) Political Recommendations for the Elimination of Terrorism:

1. The conference agreed upon the decision that the strategic depth policy is not only the cause of terrorism but also it is an end in itself regarding terrorism. The policy caused thousands times greater harm to Pakistan than any NRO or writing off debts could do. Due to this policy hundreds of thousands people killed or injured. The policy has pushed Pakistan into such abysmal depths that its foundations are eroding. The conference agreed upon the idea that the people of Pakistan would still be resolute to oppose terrorist ideology even if the US, NATO or ISAF are defeated in Afghanistan and the terrorist capture the throne of Kabul. If the terrorists succeeded in Afghanistan their next target would be Pakistan. Therefore, this policy is destructive for Pakistan and should be abolished above board.

2. Those who framed this policy should be tried in courts.
3. Interference in Afghanistan should be stopped at one and it should be treated as a sovereign neighbor state.
4. Sanctuaries of terrorism in FATA, Pukhtunkhwa province and other parts of the country like those in Bara, Darra Adam Khel, Mechanai, Mirnashah, Mir Ali, Kurram Agency and central Punjab should be destroyed. A brief and targeted military operation should be launched against the terrorists. A half-hearted military operation is only spreading and helping the terrorists. Therefore, the blunders of the past should not be repeated.

5. NATO and ISAF are sent to Afghanistan under UN mandate. NATO and ISAF should stay in Afghanistan until terrorism is uprooted, foreign interference in Afghanistan must be stopped and the institutions of army and police are established on solid footings. However they should offer a clear time frame for the withdrawal of troops. The US has supported some of the terrorist and it still holds a double standard. Americans are blamed to supporting Jandullah Group. Similarly they are least interested in dealing with the terrorist from Sang kiang. Therefore, no peace loving person would tolerate them after terrorism is uprooted.
6. The conference appeals Saudi Arab and other Arab countries to stop financing the terrorists.
7. The Pakistan army should not indulge it self in registration of the IDPs or Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of affected areas. This job should be done by the civilian authority the army should concentrate on elimination of the terrorist.
8. Some political forces and a component of the media and establishment are supporting terrorists. These people are enemy of Pushtuns and Pakistan. Such anti-human forces should be defeated and uprooted.
9. The conference urged to promote AFPAK people to people contacts and demanded both the countries not to pose obstacles in them.
10. Besides uprooting terrorism in FATA the people of FATA should be compensated for the damage done due to terrorism. A comprehensive developmental package should be planned and the people of FATA should be allowed to choose any administrative system for themselves.
11. The so-called nonfunctional terrorist organizations are still operative in the country. Merely naming them dysfunctional would not help. These organizations should be practically eliminated.
12. The conference demands that Pakistan army and intelligence agencies should not interfere in politics. They should do their jobs for which they have been recruited. Army and intelligence agencies should be made subservient to the parliament and their control should be in civilian hands.
13. The conference believes that every democratic government should complete its term. Any conspiracy to derail democracy will be defeated. The conference condemns the media trial of the politicians and the so-called corruption charges against them. The conference strongly demands that the establishment should stop dividing the political parties.
14. The IDPs as a result of army operations should be treated as per UN resolution.
15. The conference agreed that Pushtuns in FATA and Northern Pukhtoonkhwa are made hostage by the terrorists. The terrorists and security personnel are apparently engaged in fighting but their targets are innocent civilians. Four millions Pushtuns are living as IDPs. Our schools are closed and our youth unemployed. Whether there is chance for festivity or an occasion of mourning terrorism is feared. Our Jargas are the target of terrorism. Jargas and Lashkars are banned in tribal areas. In settled areas gatherings and processions are not possible. Local Pushtuns names like Aimal Khan, Darya Khan and Khushal Khan are changed into Abu Zar and Abu Jandal. Pushtun nation is not only hostage to these terrorists but there is also an organized campaign to Arabize them. The whole world is playing its due role against terrorism but the most affected people of this menace are unable to play their effective historical role. The participants in conference agreed that if Pushtuns are given an opportunity to fight terrorism they would definitely deal with the terrorists in their historical courageous way. It is suggested that a grand Pushtun Jarga of the Pushtun of Pakistan should be called upon under the auspices of United Nations. If possible, Afghanistan should also be given representation. The Jarga should deal with the sole agenda how to eliminate terrorism. The Jarga should not be arranged on the traditional pattern; rather it should be given a broader touch by inviting all the Khels and tribes so that they can discuss the matter for two or three days the participation of women in this Jirga must be mandatory. It should be conveyed to all non-Pushtuns that these Jargas are actually time-tested indigenous workshops. We believe that this Jarga would supersede all effective counter terrorism efforts. If succeeded, the same experiments should be repeated with the Pushtuns of Afghanistan.
16. The conference unanimously analyzed that the ground realities suggest terrorism is on the rise and Pushtuns are drifting along the tides of national, social, educational and psychological hopelessness. If terrorism is not uprooted in the upcoming months or if it further increased, Pushtuns would distrust all state institution vis-à-vis eliminating terrorism. In that case Pushtuns will be forced to invite UN peace keeping forces. To avoid the worst scenario the problem of terrorism should be taken seriously. Participants of the conference were unanimous in their thinking that all responsibility would fall on the shoulders of the Pakistani establishment if UN peace-keeping forces landed in the area are the world finally opted to redraw the marking of various countries in the region.

B) Economic Recommendations to Eliminate Terrorism:

Fata and Pukhtunkwha province are the most deprived areas for the past 62 years. The irony is that despite of having vast natural resources and being the richest nation, Pushtuns are the poorest, the most uneducated, the most unemployed and perhaps the most displaced people of the world. The ongoing surge of terrorism is only adding insult to injury. To defeat terrorism, all the deprivations of Pushtuns should be dealt with and their economic problems should be solved. 1. All the aid and international assistance in the name of counter terrorism should be spent on FATA, Pukhtunkwha province and other terror-affected areas. The aid should not be diverted to other provinces or institution as is the routine in Pakistan.
2. Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (Roz) should be established in FATA and the people of FATA should be given its ownership and they should also be equipped with the relevant technical know how.
3. Pukhtunkwha province should be declared as war-affected area and support should be extended till terrorism is uprooted in the from of exemption from taxes and utility bills.
4. In FATA the damages done due to terrorism should be compensated and a comprehensive developmental package approved to compensate the deprivations of the past.
5. An economic database should be established in FATA and Pukhtunkwha province for planning and keeping record of the economic needs.
6. Small and medium enterprises and large scale industries should be planned with the aim of imparting technical know how to the local population.
7. Fata and Pukhtunkwha province should be granted ownership of the resources of water, electricity, tobacco, gas and petrol and full fiscal autonomy should be granted accordingly.
8. Pushtuns living in four divided administrative unitesshould be merged to be gather and made a single united province. Full national autonomy should be granted to this Pukhtun province named Afghania, Pukhtunkhwa or Pukhtunistan. All the liabilities of this province in regard to their resources that are due to the federal government should be paid immediately.
9. Canals from Indus should be networked in Swabi, Shakardara, Laki Marwat and Dera Ismael Khan in order to irrigate and cultivatable 80% of the land which will contribute to the overall agricultural output of the country.
10. In order to increase the hydroelectricity output, the proposed plans in Pukhtuns land should be materialized.

C) Education and Awareness Related Recommendation to Eliminate Terrorism:

The need of education and awareness to combat terrorism should be overemphasized. Terrorism is a global phenomenon but it has become the core issue of Pakistan. The rulers of Pakistan openly admit that Pakistan is in a state of war but unfortunately an open willingness to declare war on terrorism is still a far cry. Minor and poorly coordinated military operations have aggravated the crisis even further. A close examination reveals that the menace of terrorism is spreading deeper and deeper into the society by eroding the basic social fabric.


* The government of Pakistan should institute and initialize a concentrated media campaign against terrorism and activities such as dramas, educational pictures, documentaries etc against terrorism should be promoted.
* The media should play its due role in the fight against terrorism. Pro-terrorism broadcasts should be banned. The media should also realize that discussion of non-issues further plays into the hands of the terrorists. The political parties, civil personalities and Lashkars constituted against terrorism should be given proper media coverage. Positive portrayal of terrorists should be discouraged.
* Suicide bomber is the most lethal weapon in the hands of the terrorists. The experience of last many years has proved that the age of suicide bomber is from 12 20 years. This age group should be educated that this act is against humanity and Islam. A massive campaign in this regard should be lunched in all the schools, seminaries, every house and village and off course the media should be utilize for this propos and repeatedly re-telecasted. If we are able to educate this age group it would been that the terrorists will use their major weapon.

Education and Religious Seminaries:

1. Budget allocation for education should be increased.
2. Education should be acknowledged as a basic human right.
3. Education till matriculation should be provided free of cost and elementary education up to grade 8 should be made compulsory. Female education should be emphasized.
4. Admission to higher educations should be based on merit while special arrangement should be made to secure the rights of the backward areas and lower classes.
5. Participatory teaching methodology should be introduce in education.
6. Corporal punishment should be banned in educational institutions.
7. The syllabus of education should be renewed. The curriculum should be designed on broader humanistic goals and the aims of good citizenship.
8. Modern scientific knowledge should be imparted on the basis of research and creativity.
9. Laboratories and libraries should be declared necessary for all institutions and all areas.
10. The need to inculcate the qualities of tolerance, peace and democracy should be emphasized and the contributions of people having these qualities should be highlighted to inspire the youth.
11. All the material regarding hate, prejudice and Jihad should be removed from the curriculum.
12. Sectarianism and religious hatred in any form should be termed as terrorism and the persons involved in such activities should be severely punished.
13. All the seminaries that have direct or indirect link with terrorists should be closed and Fatwas (Religious Decree) should be obtained from the remaining against the current terrorists.
14. Orthodox seminaries should be streamlined and made answerable to the government.
15. Old history of the region and the consequent major historical events should be incorporated in the curriculum.
16. The curriculum should cater for broader national, regional and international understanding.
17. Healthy co-curricular activities should be made compulsory.
18. Gender equality should be ensured in Education and it should be taught to the students. Discriminatory customs, traditions, laws and curriculum against women should be undone.
19. Parent Teachers Association/ council should also be made compulsory for every school.
20. Students Unions should be reinstated and literary and cultural activities should be termed mandatory in colleges.

D) Cultural Recommendation for the Elimination of Terrorism:

Pushtun nation has 6000 years old strong cultural heritage. Pushtun society and culture is the main target of the current wave of terrorism. Jargas, Lashkars and Collective Responsibility are the three hallmarks of social and cultural fabrics in the tribal areas. Terrorism has targeted these three pillars of the tribal structures in a very organized way. As a result the society has become vulnerable.
If we empower Pushtuns socially and culturally it would mean we have won 50% of the war against terror.
1. There is a dire need to instill a new life in Jarga, Hujra and Lashkar and reorganize them on modern modalities.
2. Arts Councils should be established in every district.
3. Community Centers should be set up in every district.
4. Pushtu Literary and Cultural Centers should be organized keeping the Press Clubs modality in view.
5. In this regard the literary organizations which are already contributing should be supported and Peace Committees should be organized in all parts of FATA and Pukhtunkwha province.
6. All illegal FM channels should be closed at once and the perpetrators should be severely dealt with.
7. FM channels should be started by the government to promote peace, development and Pushtun culture.
8. The artists who suffered due to terrorism should be compensated on emergency footings The female artists must also be compensated.
9. Fine Arts departments should be opened in colleges and universities and other educational institutions should be encouraged in this regard.
10. Pakistani media should take measures to discourage the negative trends of presenting Pushtuns as backward, ignorant, extremists and terrorists.
11. A national TV channel for Pushtuns should be started.
12. All those cultural activates should be banned which are against the basic human rights especially against the rights of women.
13. In FATA and Pukhtunkwha museums related to the historical, literary and political personalities should be established for example Khushal Khan Khattak, Aimal Khan Momand, Darya Khan Afridi, Umara Khan, Pir Rokhan, Faqir Ipi, Baacha Khan, Abbdul Samad Khan Achakzai and Sanubar Hussain Kaka Ji.
14. Pushtu should be declared as official language and it should be made the language of education courts and offices.
15. The sign boards should be written in mother tongue.

StrategyPage summary of affairs in Pakistan

The Strategy Page for today [in a strangely mis-titled article], after reporting on the attempts of Pakistani police to find Taliban in Swat, and on one more suicide attack in Pakistan, summarizes some notable events in the country in recent days.  The report reveals something of how wrought the country is by organized armed groups within the country.  

Most of the reporting on Pakistan omits mention that most Pakistani Muslims subscribe to the Barelvi style of Islamic practice, which is an eminently non-violent tradition.  Of course the news media covers the most noteworthy affairs, and the frequent attacks of violence, mainly in the northwestern part of the country, draws lots of media attention.  Deservedly so, I would say, because affairs in Pakistan matter to the world more generally than most observers admit.  If the most violent bands in Afghanistan and Pakistan — united for the time being in their opposition to the Americans — can establish secure bases in the region, some of them would be ready to take their war further.  Even so, these events actually touch relatively few Pakistanis directly.  RLC  [click on the title for a direct link to the source.]

THE BLAME GAME February 27, 2010: 

In Pakistan’s Swat valley, police and troops continue to hunt down Taliban. The terrorists have few places to escape to, given the nationwide crackdown. There are still places in the valley that Taliban can find refuge. The Taliban got control (brief as it was) of the valley because of the endemic corruption, and the inability of the government to do anything about it. The locals soon discovered that the Taliban were a cure worse than the disease, but not everyone agreed. So the Taliban continue to find some people willing to help hide them. But the Taliban made a lot of enemies, and as cell phone service is restored, the police get more tips, and more of the Taliban leadership are caught.
Although the Pakistani tribal territories are largely governed by tribal leaders, the urban areas have plenty of Pakistani government officials. These ineffectiveness and corruption of these guys has not encouraged the tribesmen to seek greater government control. Thus government promises of aid and services are not greeted with great enthusiasm.
In northwest Pakistan, a suicide car bomber rammed into a police station, killing four and wounding 23. Most of the casualties were police.
India is increasing its defense spending four percent in the coming year, to over $32 billion.  That comes after a 34 percent rise last year. The Indian budget is more than four times what Pakistan spends.
February 25, 2010:  In North Waziristan, Pakistan, a U.S. UAV killed 14 Taliban leaders and their bodyguards. Among the dead was Mohammed Qari Zafar, who had planned a 2006 bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, that left an American diplomat, and three Pakistanis, dead.
The first peace talks between India and Pakistan, since the November, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, quickly ended. India accused Pakistan of not shutting down the terror groups that attack India, while Pakistan demanded that Kashmir be pushed to the top of the agenda, and accused India of supporting terrorism in Pakistan. The big problem here is that Pakistan is a mess, and the Pakistani leadership, who are largely responsible for the problems, are reluctant to take responsibility. Blaming India, the United States (in the media, less so officially, lest American aid be cut) and the West in general, is a more popular approach to massive internal problems. But it was the Pakistani government that officially backed Islamic radicalism in the 1970s, as a cure for corruption and similar ills. It was the Pakistani government that supported Islamic terror attacks on India in the 1980s, in an attempt to get control of Kashmir. It was the Pakistani government that created the Taliban in the 1990s, in order to halt the chaos in neighboring Afghanistan. Evidence that India ever supported terrorism in Pakistan has been scant. Why bother, with so many local terrorists already operating there, and attacking each other, as well as the government. But now the major problem is the inability of the government to admit what the main problem (corruption) is, and do something about it, something besides speeches and new laws that aren’t enforced. Many of the current leaders in Pakistan have been convicted of, or investigated for, corrupt acts. Pakistan’s ruling class (and it’s not very large) have long talked about fixing things, but the only things that are carefully attended to are their bank accounts.
Responding to repeated requests from Afghanistan, Pakistan has agreed to turn over the recently captured (in Karachi) Afghan Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Pakistan would like to try Baradar first, but mainly Pakistan would prefer to not have Baradar talk about how much support the Taliban has received from the Pakistani government in the last decade. Over a dozen senior Taliban operatives have been arrested in Pakistan this month, in a major turnaround in Pakistani policy towards Afghan Taliban leaders hiding (often in plain sight) in Pakistan. It’s not known what sort of deal was made with the Pakistani government to make these arrests happen.
February 24, 2010: In Indian Kashmir, a two day running gun battle ended with three Islamic terrorists, and three of the pursuing soldiers, dead. There are still 50-100 Islamic terrorism casualties a month in Kashmir, and the Pakistani government continues to tolerate terrorist camps just across the border, and use Pakistani troops to help the terrorists get across the frontier.
In North Waziristan, Pakistan, U.S. UAVs fired three missiles and killed at least nine Taliban and destroyed a vehicle. Elsewhere in the area, the Taliban beheaded three men suspected of supplying targeting information for the American UAV missile attacks. The Islamic terrorists are uncertain how the Americans are finding their targets (many resources are used), and tend to round up some of the usual suspects from time to time, and murder them publicly. But the American missiles keep finding the terrorist leaders.
February 23, 2010: In Indian Kashmir, a tip from civilians led police to a terrorist safe house. There, five senior terrorists, from three different terrorist organizations, blew up the house they were in, rather than surrender. Three soldiers died in the battle.
February 22, 2010: In Pakistan’s Swat valley, a suicide car bomber hit a military convoy, leaving nine dead and over 30 wounded.
Indian Maoists asked for a 72 day ceasefire, and possible peace talks. After looking into it, the government decided that this was merely a ploy to reduce the damage the anti-Maoist campaign was suffering from the current government anti-Maoist offensive, and turned down the Maoist offer.
February 21, 2010:  In Pakistan’s tribal territories, three Skihs were beheaded, for refusing to convert to Islam. Non-Moslems (there are over six million of them, but only about 20,000 Sikhs) have long been persecuted in Pakistan, despite government efforts to halt the religious violence. There is also a lot of fighting between Islamic groups that don’t get on well. Not just Sunni versus Shia, but many different Sunni terrorist groups.
February 20, 2010: In Indian Kashmir, a terrorist leader was cornered, but refused to surrender and died in a gun battle. Such incidents are the exception these days, with most of the anti-Indian activity being demonstrations by Moslems demanding an end to martial law conditions, and restoration of the prosperity the region had before the Islamic terrorists showed up two decades ago.

In South Waziristan, an air strike hit a Taliban hideout in the mountains, leaving at least 30 terrorists dead. Hundreds of hard core Taliban fled to remote hideouts, after the army moved into South Waziristan last August. The U.S. has been helping the Pakistanis locate these hideouts, by providing electronic eavesdropping and satellite/UAV mapping of remote areas. Elsewhere in the region, two police stations were attacked. In one case, two armed men tried to get in, but one was shot dead and the other fled. In the other attack, a suicide bomber killed one and

Ahmed Rashid’s new review of the Taliban situation

The new article by Ahmed Rashid on the Taliban is very important. To me the most valuable part of it is his review of the book by the former foreign ambassador of the Taliban, who is now out of Guantanamo. He reveals much about the attitude and understanding of the Taliban. The book also pains Mullah M. Omar in more favorable light than we have had from other sources. Whatever Ahmed Rashid has to say we need to pay attention to, as he is a keen observer of the region and seems to have access to critical sources of information.

Images of “heaven” for young suicide bombers

Below is a report by the Pakistan Times on the kind of training (“brainwashing”?) that the Taliban give to young men whom they want to become human bombs. It speaks for itself. RLC

Taliban create artificial ‘jannat’ to lure suicide bombers
PTI – Peshawar, December 12, 2009

Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s lawless South Waziristan tribal region created an artificial “jannat” (heaven) that they used to brainwash teenagers into becoming suicide bombers, describing it as a depiction of the place they would go to after carrying out attacks.

The “jannat” was part of a sprawling militant-held compound in Nawazkot area that was recently captured by security forces after intense fighting.

A group of journalists were yesterday shown the facility where boys aged 12 to 18 years were turned into human suicide bombs under the supervision of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

The “heaven” consisted of four rooms, each with crude paintings of “jannat” or paradise, which is depicted as a place with lush green fields and trees, flowing rivers of milk and honey, lofty mountains and homes with red roofs and blue walls.

The “jannat” also depicted other heavenly pleasures awaiting suicide bombers after their “martyrdom”, army officials told the journalists.

Some paintings showed “hoors” (angels) who live in heaven.

The walls of the rooms had slogans saluting the Taliban and the names of would-be suicide bombers were written in blood on them.

Syed Saleem Shahzad on the unsettled life of Al Qaeda leaders

Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online has the fullest treatment of the location of major leaders of AlQaeda that I have seen in a long time. RLC

Osama can run, how long can he hide?
Asia Times By Syed Saleem Shahzad 12/11/2009

“I believe that al-Qaeda can be defeated overall but I believe it is an ideology and he [Osama bin Laden] is an iconic leader, so I think to complete the destruction of that organization, it does mean that he needs to be either captured or killed, or brought to justice.”- General Stanley McChrystal, United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization commander in Afghanistan

“We don’t know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is, if we did, we’d go get him.” Robert Gates, a former US Central Intelligence Agency director and the current defense secretary.

ISLAMABAD – General Stanley McChrystal, as in the testimony quoted above to United States congressional committees this week, is unequivocal on the need to first roll back Taliban gains in Afghanistan as a prerequisite for the capture or elimination of Osama bin Laden and then the “ultimate defeat of al-Qaeda”.

Apart from the difficulty of rolling back the Taliban, despite an additional 30,000 US troops surging into the country, US intelligence, as per admissions this month, are further away from catching bin Laden than they were eight years ago, when US forces notoriously let him slip through their grasp in the Tora Bora mountains.

There is little dispute that bin Laden and his close associates, including his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, move around in the vast and inhospitable mountainous territory that straddles the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; the porous border exists only as a line on a map.

“Intelligence reports suggest that the al-Qaeda chief is somewhere inside North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border,” US National Security Adviser James Jones said this week. The US has a US$50 million bounty for the “capture, killing or information leading to the capture or killing” of bin Laden. This had been doubled from $25 million in 2007. He remains on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list.

Apart from one legal border crossing, 15 mountain passes are frequently used to travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan, by militants, traders, smugglers and innocent travelers. These paths originate in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and feed into the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan, Khost, Pakita and Paktika.

It is this area that will become the stage for the next chapter in the hunt for bin Laden, with US forces on the Afghan side and Pakistan troops on the other. The theory is that al-Qaeda and its allies will be caught in the middle.

Interaction with generally well-connected militant sources leads Asia Times Online to believe that bin Laden, 52, is alive and healthy, despite a history of kidney trouble. Since the construction of a US base in 2007 at the intersection of the Afghan province of Kunar and Bajaur Agency in Pakistan, bin Laden is confirmed to have flitted from place to place on either side of the border.

He is definitely known to have spent time in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, but all sources say that nowadays he is more often than not in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden has numerous safe houses and is protected by a strong network of diehards in the Pakistani tribal areas, in addition to an intelligence network on both sides of the border that has to date managed to stay a step ahead of both Western and Pakistani intelligence.

Top Taliban and other commanders adopt a similar pattern in avoiding the attention of unwelcome visitors. Even though a former Afghan premier, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is known to move around Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan, he remains at large. Hekmatyar also makes brief trips into the adjacent Pakistani regions of Chitral and Dir.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of legendary Afghan commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, runs the largest and most effective Taliban network in Afghanistan. He moves in the provinces of Khost and Paktia, and also in North Waziristan, always one step ahead of his pursuers – including drones.

Similarly, Ilyas Kashmiri, now one of al-Qaeda’s most wanted men as he is intimately involved in defining and directing al-Qaeda’s and the Taliban’s struggle, moves between bases of operation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, never staying in one place for more than a night or two.

Not so fortunate was Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban leader killed in a drone attack earlier this year. He stayed only in the districts of Ladha and Makeen in South Waziristan and did not have other sanctuaries, making it easier to track him down.

The difficulty in trying to trace bin Laden is that he moves across such a broad area, and that, unlike even the Taliban, there is no defined target. Coalition forces have a broad idea of where the Taliban’s command centers are and in which areas to expect resistance.

By comparison, bin Laden and his few dozen al-Qaeda deputies are shadows shifting across an endless landscape on which Taliban fighters, Pakistani tribal people and jihadi youths are more visible.

There is no recent credible first-hand information on when bin Laden was last seen. A few Taliban fighters who were arrested a few weeks ago could only share with their American interrogators what they had heard from their contacts – that bin Laden had moved between North Waziristan and South Waziristan.

It is safe to assume that he has not been in South Waziristan since the Pakistani military began major operations there about two months ago to take on the Pakistani Taliban. His most likely immediate destination would have been Khost, directly across the border.

Such speculation, though, has been around for years and bin Laden is nowhere nearer to being caught, let alone his chasers seeing his dust trail. Indeed, from the Pakistani perspective, their last verifiable sighting was in September 2003 near Bush Mountain in the Shawal Valley of North Waziristan. By the time the army arrived, he had long gone; all that was left were first-hand accounts of his having resided in the area.

All the same, the net might be getting tighter. Late on Thursday night, CBS News reported that a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone had killed a top al-Qaeda official in the Pakistani border area. Unnamed officials said the person killed was not bin Laden or Zawahiri, but that he was “one of the top five terrorists on the US wanted list”, according to the report.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief.

An Anthropologist’s insights on the Taliban and Al Qaeda

It’s a joy to read an informed statement of the situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan by someone who has both a sense of the situation on the ground and a detailed grasp of the history that relates to that situation. Scott Atran is an anthropologist who has been helping the American military think about the situation they have to deal with in the South Asian war. I’m thankful that the New York Times would publish his perspectyive. RLC

To Beat Al Qaeda, Look to the East

Published: December 12, 2009

IN testimony last week before Congress, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, insisted that President Obama’s revised war strategy will “build support for the Afghan government,” while Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander there, vowed that it will “absolutely” succeed in disrupting and degrading the Taliban.

Confidence is important, but we also have to recognize that the decision to commit 30,000 more troops to a counterinsurgency effort against a good segment of the Afghan population, with the focus on converting a deeply unpopular and corrupt regime into a unified, centralized state for the first time in that country’s history, is far from a slam dunk. In the worst case, the surge may push General McChrystal’s “core goal of defeating Al Qaeda” further away.

Al Qaeda is already on the ropes globally, with ever-dwindling financial and popular support, and a drastically diminished ability to work with other extremists worldwide, much less command them in major operations. Its lethal agents are being systematically hunted down, while those Muslims whose souls it seeks to save are increasingly revolted by its methods.

Unfortunately, this weakening viral movement may have a new lease on life in Afghanistan and Pakistan because we are pushing the Taliban into its arms. By overestimating the threat from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, we are making it a greater threat to Pakistan and the world. Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan are unlike Iraq, the ancient birthplace of central government, or 1960s Vietnam, where a strong state was backing the Communist insurgents. Afghanistan and Pakistan must be dealt with on their own terms.

We’re winning against Al Qaeda and its kin in places where antiterrorism efforts are local and built on an understanding that the ties binding terrorist networks today are more cultural and familial than political. Consider recent events in Southeast Asia.

In September, Indonesian security forces killed Noordin Muhammad Top, then on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted terrorist list. Implicated in the region’s worst suicide bombings — including the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombings in Jakarta last July 17 — Noordin Top headed a splinter group of the extremist religious organization Jemaah Islamiyah (he called it Al Qaeda for the Malaysian Archipelago). Research by my colleagues and me, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Department, reveals three critical factors in such groups inspired by Al Qaeda, all of which local security forces implicitly grasp but American counterintelligence workers seem to underestimate.

What binds these groups together? First is friendship forged through fighting: the Indonesian volunteers who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan styled themselves the Afghan Alumni, and many kept in contact when they returned home after the war. The second is school ties and discipleship: many leading operatives in Southeast Asia come from a handful of religious schools affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah. Out of some 30,000 religious schools in Indonesia, only about 50 have a deadly legacy of producing violent extremists. Third is family ties; as anyone who has watched the opening scene from “The Godfather” knows, weddings can be terrific opportunities for networking and plotting.

Understanding these three aspects of terrorist networking has given law enforcement a leg up on the jihadists. Gen. Tito Karnavian, the leader of the strike team that tracked down Noordin Top, told me that “knowledge of the interconnected networks of Afghan Alumni, kinship and marriage groups was very crucial to uncovering the inner circle of Noordin.”

Consider Noordin Top’s third marriage, which cemented ties to key suspects in the lead-up to the recent hotel bombings. His father-in-law, who founded a Jemaah Islamiyah-related boarding school, stashed explosives in his garden with the aid of another teacher at the school. Using electronic intercepts and tracing family, school and alumni ties, police officers found the cache in late June 2009. That discovery may have prompted Noordin Top to initiate the hotel attacks ahead of a planned simultaneous attack on the residence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In addition, an Afghan Alumnus and nephew of Noordin Top’s father-in-law was being pursued by the police for his role in a failed plot to blow up a tourist cafe on Sumatra. Unfortunately, Noordin Top struck the hotels before the Indonesian police could penetrate the entire network, in part because another family group was still operating under the police radar. This group included a florist who smuggled the bombs into the hotels and a man whose eventual arrest led to discovery of the plot against the president. Both terrorists were married to sisters of a Yemeni-trained imam who recruited the hotel suicide bombers, and of another brother who had infiltrated Indonesia’s national airline.

Had the police pulled harder on the pieces of social yarn they had in hand, they might have unraveled the hotel plot earlier. Still, their work thwarted attacks planned for the future, including that on the president.

Similarly, security officials in the Philippines have combined intelligence from American and Australian sources with similar tracking efforts to crack down on their terrorist networks, and as a result most extremist groups are either seeking reconciliation with the government — including the deadly Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao — or have devolved into kidnapping-and-extortion gangs with no ideological focus. The separatist Abu Sayyaf Group, once the most feared force in the region, now has no overall spiritual or military leaders, few weapons and only a hundred or so fighters.

So, how does this relate to a strategy against Al Qaeda in the West and in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Al Qaeda’s main focus is harming the United States and Europe, but there hasn’t been a successful attack in these places directly commanded by Osama bin Laden and company since 9/11. The American invasion of Afghanistan devastated Al Qaeda’s core of top personnel and its training camps. In a recent briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. case officer, said that recent history “refutes claims by some heads of the intelligence community that all Islamist plots in the West can be traced back to the Afghan-Pakistani border.” The real threat is homegrown youths who gain inspiration from Osama bin Laden but little else beyond an occasional self-financed spell at a degraded Qaeda-linked training facility.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq encouraged many of these local plots, including the train bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. In their aftermaths, European law and security forces stopped plots from coming to fruition by stepping up coordination and tracking links among local extremists, their friends and friends of friends, while also improving relations with young Muslim immigrants through community outreach. Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have taken similar steps.

Now we need to bring this perspective to Afghanistan and Pakistan — one that is smart about cultures, customs and connections. The present policy of focusing on troop strength and drones, and trying to win over people by improving their lives with Western-style aid programs, only continues a long history of foreign involvement and failure. Reading a thousand years of Arab and Muslim history would show little in the way of patterns that would have helped to predict 9/11, but our predicament in Afghanistan rhymes with the past like a limerick.

A key factor helping the Taliban is the moral outrage of the Pashtun tribes against those who deny them autonomy, including a right to bear arms to defend their tribal code, known as Pashtunwali. Its sacred tenets include protecting women’s purity (namus), the right to personal revenge (badal), the sanctity of the guest (melmastia) and sanctuary (nanawateh). Among all Pashtun tribes, inheritance, wealth, social prestige and political status accrue through the father’s line.

This social structure means that there can be no suspicion that the male pedigree (often traceable in lineages spanning centuries) is “corrupted” by doubtful paternity. Thus, revenge for sexual misbehavior (rape, adultery, abduction) warrants killing seven members of the offending group and often the “offending” woman. Yet hospitality trumps vengeance: if a group accepts a guest, all must honor him, even if prior grounds justify revenge. That’s one reason American offers of millions for betraying Osama bin Laden fail.

Afghan hill societies have withstood centuries of would-be conquests by keeping order with Pashtunwali in the absence of central authority. When seemingly intractable conflicts arise, rival parties convene councils, or jirgas, of elders and third parties to seek solutions through consensus.

After 9/11, the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, assembled a council of clerics to judge his claim that Mr. bin Laden was the country’s guest and could not be surrendered. The clerics countered that because a guest should not cause his host problems, Mr. bin Laden should leave. But instead of keeping pressure on the Taliban to resolve the issue in ways they could live with, the United States ridiculed their deliberation and bombed them into a closer alliance with Al Qaeda. Pakistani Pashtuns then offered to help out their Afghan brethren.

American-sponsored “reconciliation” efforts between the Afghan government and the Taliban may be fatally flawed if they include demands that Pashtun hill tribes give up their arms and support a Constitution that values Western-inspired rights and judicial institutions over traditions that have sustained the tribes against all enemies.

THE secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, suggest that victory in Afghanistan is possible if the Taliban who pursue self-interest rather than ideology can be co-opted with material incentives. But as the veteran war reporter Jason Burke of The Observer of London told me: “Today, the logical thing for the Pashtun conservatives is to stop fighting and get rich through narcotics or Western aid, the latter being much lower risk. But many won’t sell out.”

Why? In part because outsiders who ignore local group dynamics tend to ride roughshod over values they don’t grasp. My research with colleagues on group conflict in India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories found that helping to improve lives materially does little to reduce support for violence, and can even increase it if people feel such help compromises their most cherished values.

The original alliance between the Taliban and Al Qaeda was largely one of convenience between a poverty-stricken national movement and a transnational cause that brought it material help. American pressure on Pakistan to attack the Taliban and Al Qaeda in their sanctuary gave birth to the Pakistani Taliban, who forged their own ties to Al Qaeda to fight the Pakistani state.

While some Taliban groups use the rhetoric of global jihad to inspire ranks or enlist foreign fighters, the Pakistani Taliban show no inclination to go after Western interests abroad. Their attacks, which have included at least three assaults near nuclear facilities, warrant concerted action — but in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan. As Mr. Sageman, the former C.I.A. officer, puts it: “There’s no Qaeda in Afghanistan and no Afghans in Qaeda.”

Pakistan has long preferred a policy of “respect for the independence and sentiment of the tribes” that was advised in 1908 by Lord Curzon, the British viceroy of India who established the North-West Frontier Province as a buffer zone to “conciliate and contain” the Pashtun hill tribes. In 1948, Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, removed all troops from brigade level up in Waziristan and other tribal areas in a plan aptly called Operation Curzon.

The problem today is that Al Qaeda is prodding the Pakistani Taliban to hit state institutions in the hopes of provoking a full-scale invasion of the tribal areas by the Pakistani Army; the idea is that such an assault would rally the tribes to Al Qaeda’s cause and threaten the state. The United States has been pushing for exactly that sort of potentially disastrous action by Islamabad. But holding to Curzon’s line may still be Pakistan’s best bet. The key in the Afghan-Pakistani area, as in Southeast Asia, is to use local customs and networks to our advantage. Of course, counterterrorism measures are only as effective as local governments that execute them. Afghanistan’s government is corrupt, unpopular and inept.

Besides, there’s really no Taliban central authority to talk to. To be Taliban today means little more than to be a Pashtun tribesman who believes that his fundamental beliefs and customary way of life are threatened. Although most Taliban claim loyalty to Afghanistan’s Mullah Omar, this allegiance varies greatly. Many Pakistani Taliban leaders — including Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by an American drone in August, and his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud — rejected Mullah Omar’s call to forgo suicide bombings against Pakistani civilians.

In fact, it is the United States that holds today’s Taliban together. Without us, their deeply divided coalition could well fragment. Taliban resurgence depends on support from those notoriously unruly hill tribes in Pakistan’s border regions, who are unsympathetic to the original Taliban program of homogenizing tribal custom and politics under one rule.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Taliban were to sever ties to Mr. bin Laden if he became a bigger headache to them than America. Al Qaeda may have close relations to the network of Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan Taliban leader living in Pakistan, and the Shabi Khel branch of the Mehsud tribe in Waziristan, but it isn’t wildly popular with many other Taliban factions and forces.

Unlike Al Qaeda, the Taliban are interested in their homeland, not ours. Things are different now than before 9/11. The Taliban know how costly Osama bin Laden’s friendship can be. There’s a good chance that enough factions in the loose Taliban coalition would opt to disinvite their troublesome guest if we forget about trying to subdue them or hold their territory. This would unwind the Taliban coalition into a lot of straggling, loosely networked groups that could be eliminated or contained using the lessons learned in Indonesia and elsewhere. This means tracking down family and tribal networks, gaining a better understanding of family ties and intervening only when we see actions by Taliban and other groups to aid Al Qaeda or act outside their region.

To defeat violent extremism in Afghanistan, less may be more — just as it has been elsewhere in Asia.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, John Jay College and the University of Michigan, is the author of the forthcoming “Listen to the Devil.”

A great article by Newsweek on the Afghanistan/Pakistan war

It’s great that some of our journalists are addressing some of the fantasies that have been promoted about the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova of Newsweek provide a helpful response to those who promote the notion that the current war is like the Soviet/ Mujahedin war of the 1980s. RLC

Learning From the Soviets
By Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova | NEWSWEEK Dec 11, 2009 [From the magazine
issue dated Dec 21, 2009]

Talk to Russian veterans of Afghanistan and it’s hard not to think that
they’re rooting for the U.S. to lose. For these proud men, seeing NATO
succeed at a job they botched would deepen the humiliation of defeat. Easier
to affirm that if the Soviets couldn’t win there, no one can. “We did not
succeed and you will not either,” says Gen. Victor Yermakov, who commanded
Soviet forces in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1983. “They didn’t trust us. They
won’t trust you.” Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, who served in Afghanistan under
the occupation and has just completed a four-year term as Russia’s envoy in
the country, is no more optimistic. “We tried to impose communism. You are
trying to impose democracy,” he says. “There is no mistake made by the
Soviet Union that the international community has not repeated.”

Such unrelenting bearishness is hardly encouraging, and there are undeniably
echoes of the Soviet experience in President Barack Obama’s new Afghan
surge. Obama is doubling down on his attempt to do what no foreign power
ever has: defeat an Afghan insurgency and leave behind a stable and
legitimate local regime. The Soviets’ misadventures in Afghanistan—begun 30
years ago this Christmas Eve—faced many similar challenges: managing tribal
politics, stemming support for insurgents from over the border in Pakistan,
creating a credible government in Kabul and viable local security forces,
and containing civilian casualties. Yet the differences are equally
profound, and they suggest that America may just manage to succeed where
Russia failed—in part by learning from its own and the Soviets’ mistakes.

Moscow’s troubles in Afghanistan started nearly the moment the war began,
with a deluge of international condemnation far stronger than the Soviet
leaders ever expected. The U.S. imposed trade sanctions and boycotted the
1980 Moscow Olympics. Obama today finds himself in a very different
position. The NATO campaign enjoys wide international support—including from
Russia, in spirit at least.

But the most important difference between then and now is that the Taliban
isn’t backed by a superpower supplying it with money and deadly weapons.
That makes it a far less formidable enemy than the mujahedin of the 1980s,
who were enthusiastically supported and armed by the U.S. and Pakistan.
Washington suspects, with reason, that many of the old insurgents still
fighting today—notably Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani—are getting
covert support from elements in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence
agency. But even if that’s true, the ISI’s current involvement is nothing
like that of the old days, not least because Pakistan’s civilian government
officially opposes the Taliban and had even made sporadic attempts to fight
it. A generation ago, Stinger missiles, supplied to the rebels in large
numbers after 1986 thanks to a campaign by U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson,
effectively robbed the Soviets of their air superiority. Today’s Taliban has
no such technological advantage, and few friends. As a result, “the
Americans are in a much better position than we ever were,” says Yuri
Krupnov, director of Russia’s Institute of Regional Development, which
promotes Russian-Afghan ties. “This will not be a second Vietnam.”

Another reason he’s probably right is that NATO is proving better at
learning from Moscow’s mistakes than the Soviets were. Take civilian
casualties. Initial military victory came almost effortlessly for both the
Soviets and NATO. But both powers soon stepped on the same rake: losing
hearts and minds by accidentally hitting civilian targets. Yermakov recalls
ordering his troops to mine the irrigation channels around the town of
Gardez in 1983. Many dushmany (a pejorative local term for the mujahedin)
were blown up, but so were channels essential for local farmers. “At one
point our aviation destroyed half of Kandahar because somebody did not get
the right instructions,” says Alexander Shkirando, a fluent Pashto and Farsi
speaker who spent 10 years in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a political and
military adviser. NATO has made similar blunders—notably two bombings of
wedding parties in Kunduz and Uruzgan—but on nothing like the same scale.
The exact number of Afghan civilian casualties during the Soviet campaign is
hard to come by, but estimates range from 700,000 to more than a million.
According to the United Nations, combined civilian deaths directly and
indirectly caused by the latest war range from 12,000 to 30,000.

The Americans have been careful to avoid the wanton brutality of the Soviets
not only on the battlefield but in their treatment of prisoners too. Even
before U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal commissioned a review earlier
this year, the Abu Ghraib scandal of 2004 led to an improvement in the
treatment of detainees at the U.S. interrogation camp at Bagram. And as dire
as conditions at Bagram may have been, they were nothing compared with the
abuse committed by the Soviets’ proxy force of Afghan secret police, who
murdered at least 27,000 political prisoners at their notorious detention
center at Pul-e-Charkhi. Russians like to compare the Soviet and U.S.
occupations: Krupnov asks, “Who is more imperialist, the Soviets or the
Americans?” In reality, however, there’s a world of difference in the two
armies’ behavior.

The Soviets tried a surge of their own in 1984–85, boosting troop levels to
118,000 to clear rebel areas like the lower Panjshir Valley and the
strategic road to Khost. But it didn’t work. The mujahedin would “melt away
like mist,” recalls Paulius Purickis, an ethnic Lithuanian draftee who
served as a sergeant. “We were never able to engage them in a head-on
battle,” he says. General McChrystal hopes to avoid that problem with the
extra troops being made available to him, which will allow him to “clear and
hold” whole provinces, with small forward posts used to befriend and gather
intelligence from locals.

The Soviets also tried to win hearts and minds, of course. But they left
that job to the KGB, with dismal results. Today, rather than run a network
of secret torture centers as the Soviets’ proxy Mohammad Najibullah did,
President Hamid Karzai has set himself up as a defender of the rights of
Afghans detained in U.S.-run prisons, something that plays well with the

The Soviets also bungled the process of building relations with tribal
leaders. Vasily Kravtsov spent 12 years in Afghanistan, rising to become the
ranking KGB officer in Kandahar responsible for establishing an Afghan
security and intelligence service in the area. Pashtun tribal politics were
Kravtsov’s specialty, and the bane of his life. The problem was, in part, a
communist agenda to enlighten the Afghans by replacing religious schools
with secular ones and to undermine the authority of local mullahs. “We made
stupid ideological mistakes,” says Gen. Ruslan Aushev, one of the most
decorated Russian commanders of the Afghan war. “We told the Muslim people
that religion was the opium of the masses!” U.S. officials have tried to be
more culturally sensitive: as McChrystal put it in a recently leaked report,
the American military is shifting away from “an excessively defensive
posture to enable the troops to engage with the Afghan people.”

Perhaps the closest parallel—and the area with the most lessons for
Washington today—is in how to shore up the local government. And here again
there is reason for optimism. Moscow’s puppet Najibullah was weak and
unpopular and ended up hanging from a lamppost soon after his patrons went
home. Karzai is also little loved. But for all his troubles, he’s in a far
better position than his predecessor, for despite electoral gerrymandering
and allegations of corruption, Karzai is still more popular than any other
politician in the country.

That’s a huge asset, for getting local government right is probably the
ultimate key to success or failure. To do that, Washington should probably
make a point of ignoring the Russians’ advice. Today Russian veterans insist
that the main reason for their failure was their attempt to impose a foreign
mindset on an age-old system of tribal alliances: “Forget your ideas of
bringing democracy there,” says Yermakov. But communism wasn’t the real
problem, and neither is democracy. Indeed, democracy may be the solution.
Najibullah’s government fell not because it was secular and socialist but
because it disintegrated under the twin evils of tribalism and corruption.
Moscow grafted a veneer of communism onto a narrow, repressive, and widely
hated Pashtun tribal clique that was no match for the mujahedin. This
suggests that the key today is to support a government that’s as inclusive,
democratic, and accountable as possible. That means doing everything in
Washington’s power to get Karzai to clean up his act. The United States,
with its rapid adaptation, has already shown it is in better shape than any
previous invader to win the Afghan war on the ground. The challenge now is
to also avoid repeating Russia’s mistakes on the way out—and to become the
first foreign force to leave Afghanistan in better shape than it found it.

Olivier Roy on the problem of the Taliban

We have to listen when Olivier Roy talks because he has had so much experience on the ground in Afghanistan and Central Asia generally. The other day I copied his recent piece from the NYTimes. Here is another similar statement written for the Christian Science Monitor. Here I preserve a few details worth taking close note of. RLC

Obama agenda in Afghanistan: Don’t forget about Pakistan
By Oliver Roy – The Christian Science Monitor – Wed Dec 2, 4:00 am ET Florence, Italy –

It is true that, at a time when the Taliban are on the move and the Kabul government embodies more than ever a failed state, nothing can be done without a military surge. The Taliban smell victory and have no interest in negotiating. The only alternative is to leave or to escalate the fighting.

But can the new counterinsurgency work? ….

The Taliban insurrection is both an ethnic and a social movement. The Taliban embody both a Pashtun irredentism and a shift in the traditional tribal system. The insurgency is limited to Pashtun-populated areas or pockets: the south; and, in the north, Baghlan, Kunduz, Balkh and Badghis, often delivered by the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In Pakistan, too, the “liberated Islamic areas” are all Pashtun. Non-Pashtun Islamic militants choose other ways to act.

The issue of Pashtun frustration at being shut out of power has not been ignored by the Western powers. . . . .

But now the non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan have no more military means to protect themselves from a bloody Taliban comeback, and they cannot rely on an Afghan national army. Thus the quandary is how to placate the Pashtuns without weakening further the other ethnic groups whose fears of a Taliban comeback make them the best allies of the NATO troops.

President Hamid Karzai was appointed largely because he could embody a traditional Pashtun identity. . . . Yet, this has been to no avail because the tribal aristocracy he represents has lost its roots in the tribal areas. . . .

[I]n Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan, traditional [tribal] leaders of this [Iraqi] kind have almost disappeared. They have been replaced by a new elite of young madrasa-educated Taliban, more connected to Pakistan and the Gulf than to the West.

What of the role of Pakistan? . . . Until now the Pakistani Army has used both Taliban and Islamist militants as a proxy tool of its regional policy of “strategic depth” vis-à-vis India. It still wants a Pashtun Islamist government in Kabul.

This complex and dangerous cooperation between the Army and the Taliban was based on a deal: The Taliban, Afghan or Pakistani, might push their agenda in Afghanistan or in the northwest territories in Pakistan but should not contest the leadership of the Pakistani Army. Islamabad is off limits.

The Taliban broke this deal when they made a foray from their Swat stronghold through Buner in the direction of Islamabad. The Army had no choice than to counterattack. But the objective of the Pakistani Army is not to destroy the Taliban. It is to bring them back into the fold after a red line has been crossed.

. . . Pakistan has been fighting through proxies in Afghanistan for more than 30 years. It can wait for American and NATO troops to leave the region.

Only finding a way to alleviate Pashtun frustration in Afghanistan and getting Pakistan to give up its decades-old policy of supporting Islamists in power there will change anything fundamental.

Today’s gold-mine of insight on the Taliban: NYTimes

Today’s New York Times Op-Ed section is a gold mine of insight on the situation in Afghanistan-Pakistan and the problems of dealing with the Taliban. Articles by Olivier Roy, Graham Fuller, and Seth Jones provide in one narrow space more informed insight on the problems and possible solutions — no, feasible ways of dealing with the problems — than I have seen. Thanks to them — all of them quite familiar with Afghanistan on the ground — and to the Times for providing these comments at such a critical time. I hope our congress bothers to read them. RLC

December 4, 2009
Then There’s Pakistan and the Pashtun

FLORENCE — President Obama is betting that sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will rapidly change the balance of power in the field, erode local support for the Taliban, give breathing space to the Kabul government to clean up its act, allow humanitarian aid and development to reach the countryside and possibly bring some war-wearied Taliban to the negotiating table. Al Qaeda would thus be deprived of any sanctuary, and the U.S. mission there would be accomplished.

In essence, the president announced a short-term military surge in Afghanistan to lay the ground for implementing a long-term political agenda — one first put in place by the Bush administration in 2002 — that focuses on good governance, fighting corruption, training a professional police and promoting economic and social development.

Since the political project has failed over the last eight years, the logic goes, only military action can revive the conditions for it. So everything depends on a military progress in counterinsurgency.

It is true that, at a time when the Taliban are on the move and the Kabul government embodies more than ever a failed state, nothing can be done without a military surge. The Taliban smell victory and have no interest in negotiating. The only alternative is to leave or to escalate the fighting.

The idea seems to be to use tactics that worked in northern Iraq: playing traditional tribal leaders against extremists, offering them incentives and hoping that the large strata of the population who don’t share the radicals’ agenda will turn against them.

In this perspective, the corrupt and distrusted Kabul government is more a liability than an asset, which means that the American and NATO troops would have to be politically involved at the local levels instead of handing over the keys to Kabul once the field has been cleared.

For such a policy to work, the Taliban insurrection must be correctly understood and Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan must be at least neutralized.

The Taliban insurrection is both an ethnic and a social movement. The Taliban embody both a Pashtun irredentism and a shift in the traditional tribal system. The insurgency is limited to Pashtun-populated areas; in Pakistan, too, the “liberated Islamic areas” are all Pashtun. Non-Pashtun Islamic militants choose other ways to act.

The issue of Pashtun frustration at being shut out of power has not been ignored by the Western powers. They supported the dismantling of the ethnically non-Pashtun Northern Alliance forces that took Kabul in November 2001 — a rather easy task after the assassination of their charismatic leader Ahmed Shah Massoud.

But now the non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan have no more military means to protect themselves from a Taliban comeback, and they cannot rely on an Afghan National Army. Thus the quandary is how to placate the Pashtuns without weakening further the other ethnic groups whose fears of a Taliban comeback make them the best allies of the NATO troops.

President Hamid Karzai was appointed largely because he embidied a traditional Pashtun identity. He appointed Pashtun governors and has played on Pashtun traditions. Yet this has been to no avail because the tribal aristocracy he represents has lost its roots in the tribal areas.

In northern Iraq, traditional tribal leaders happily answered Gen. David Petraeus’ opening toward them to get rid of the threat of non-Iraqi Al Qaeda fighters who ignored or even tried to suppress them. But in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan, traditional leaders of this kind have almost disappeared. They have been replaced by a new elite of young madrassa-educated Taliban, more connected to Pakistan and the Gulf than to the West.

What of the role of Pakistan? If they find a shelter in Pakistan, the Taliban could easily escape the brunt of the two coming years of a military surge. They can expect that the U.S. will be unable to bolster a counter power in the Afghan tribal belt or strengthen the Kabul government. So they just have to wait.

Pressure on Pakistan will yield very little — the arrest or the killing of some Taliban leaders or Al Qaeda cadres.

Until, now the Pakistan Army has used both Taliban and Islamist militants as a proxy tool of its regional policy of “strategic depth” vis-à-vis India. It still wants a Pashtun Islamist government in Kabul.

This complex and dangerous cooperation between the army and the Taliban was based on a deal: The Taliban, Afghan or Pakistani, might push their agenda in Afghanistan or in the northwest territories in Pakistan, but should not contest the leadership of the Pakistan Army. Islamabad is off-limits.

The Taliban broke this deal when they made a foray from their Swat stronghold through Buner in the direction of Islamabad. The army had no choice than to counterattack. But the objective of the Pakistan Army is not to destroy the Taliban. It is to bring them back into the fold after a red line has been crossed.

As long as the Pakistan Army does not consider its campaign against the Taliban as a matter of life and death for itself, it will not help in any serious way with the American and NATO agenda in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been fighting through proxies in Afghanistan for more than 30 years. It can wait for American and NATO troops to leave the region.

As far as I can see, only finding a way to alleviate Pashtun frustration in Afghanistan and getting Pakistan to give up its decades-old policy of supporting Islamists in power there will change anything fundamental. Unless a broader and more coherent policy is defined that includes these elements, 30,000 additional U.S. troops plus more from NATO are not going to make a difference.

Olivier Roy is a research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research and the author of “Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah.”
Tribune Media Services

December 4, 2009
Take the War to Pakistan

Kabul, Afghanistan
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S decision on a timetable for withdrawal of American troops only makes official what everyone here has known for a while: the clock is ticking in Afghanistan. The Taliban have long recognized this, and many captured militants have reminded their interrogators that “you have the watches, but we have the time.”

As we quicken the pace, the top American commander here, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has repeatedly noted that there are many issues to focus on: building more competent Afghan Army and police forces, adopting more effective anticorruption measures and reintegrating “moderate” Taliban and other insurgent fighters into Afghan society and politics.
But perhaps the most difficult issue is largely outside of General McChrystal’s control (and got short shrift in President Obama’s speech at West Point): undermining the Taliban’s sanctuary in Pakistan. Thus far, there has been no substantive action taken against the Taliban leadership in Baluchistan Province, south of the Pashtun-dominated areas of Afghanistan. This is the same mistake the Soviets made in the 1980s, when they failed to act against the seven major mujahadeen groups headquartered in Pakistan.
This sanctuary is critical because the Afghan war is organized and run out of Baluchistan. Virtually all significant meetings of the Taliban take place in that province, and many of the group’s senior leaders and military commanders are based there. “The Taliban sanctuary in Baluchistan is catastrophic for us,” a Marine told me on a recent trip to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, across the border from Baluchistan. “Local Taliban fighters get strategic and operational guidance from across the border, as well as supplies and technical components for their improvised explosive devices.”

Like a typical business, the Taliban in Pakistan have an organizational structure divided into functional committees. It has a media committee; a military committee; a finance committee responsible for acquiring and managing funds; and so forth. The Taliban’s inner shura, or governing council, exerts authority over lower-level Taliban fighters. It is composed of the supreme Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, his principal deputy, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, his military commander, Abdullah Zakir, and roughly a dozen other key leaders. Many Taliban leaders have moved their families to Baluchistan, and their children attend Pakistani schools.

Mullah Baradar is particularly important because he runs many of the shuras involving senior Taliban commanders, virtually all of which are in Pakistan. “Omar is reclusive and unpolished,” one Taliban figure recently said to me, “and has preferred to confide in a small number of trusted advisers rather than address larger groups.”

Yet Pakistan and the United States have failed to target them systematically. Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps forces have conducted operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas to the north, and the United States has conducted many drone strikes there. But relatively little has been done in Baluchistan.

The United States and Pakistan must target Taliban leaders in Baluchistan. There are several ways to do it, and none requires military forces.

The first is to conduct raids to capture Taliban leaders in Baluchistan. Most Taliban are in or near Baluchi cities like Quetta. These should be police and intelligence operations, much like American-Pakistani efforts to capture Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other Qaeda operatives after 9/11. The second is to hit Taliban leaders with drone strikes, as the United States and Pakistan have done so effectively in the tribal areas.

The cost of failing to act in Baluchistan will be enormous. As one Russian diplomat who served in the Soviet Army in Afghanistan recently told me: “You are running out of time. You must balance counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan by targeting the leadership nodes in Pakistan. Don’t make the same mistake we did.”

Seth G. Jones, the author of “In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan,” is a civilian adviser to the American military.

December 4, 2009
Stretching Out an Ugly Struggle

Many decades ago as a fledgling C.I.A. officer in the field, I was naïvely convinced that if the facts were reported back to Washington correctly, everything else would take care of itself in policymaking. The first loss of innocence comes with the harsh recognition that “all politics are local” and that overseas realities bear only a partial relationship to foreign-policy formulation back home.

So in looking at President Obama’s new policy directions for Afghanistan, what goes down in Washington politics far outweighs analyses of local conditions.

I had hoped that Obama would level with the American people that the war in Afghanistan is not being won, indeed is not winnable within any practicable framework. But such an admission — however accurate — would sign the political death warrant of a president to be portrayed as having snatched defeat out of the jaws of “victory.”

The “objective” situation in Afghanistan remains a mess. Senior commanders acknowledge that we are not now winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan; indeed, we never can, and certainly not at gunpoint. Most Pashtuns will never accept a U.S. plan for Afghanistan’s future. The non-Pashtuns — Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, etc. — naturally welcome any outside support in what is a virtual civil war.

America has inadvertently ended up choosing sides in this war. U.S. forces are perceived by large numbers of Afghans as an occupying army inflicting large civilian casualties. The struggle has now metastasized into Pakistan — with even higher stakes.
Obama’s policies would seem an unsatisfying compromise among contending arguments. Thirty thousand more troops are less than called for and will not turn the tide; arguably they present more American targets for attack.

They will heighten traditional xenophobia against foreigners traipsing through Pashtun villages and homes. It is a fool’s errand to persuade the locals in Pashtun territory that the Taliban are the enemy and the U.S. is their friend. Whatever mixed feelings Pashtuns have toward the Taliban, they know the Taliban will be among them long after Washington tires with this mission.

The strategy of the Bush era envisioned Afghanistan as a vital imperial outpost in a post-Soviet dream world. That world vision is gone — except to a few Washington diehards who haven’t grasped the new emerging global architectures of power, economics, prestige and influence.

The Taliban will inevitably figure significantly in the governance of almost any future Afghanistan, like it or not. Future Taliban leaders, once rid of foreign occupation, will have little incentive to support global jihadi schemes — they never really have by choice. The Taliban inherited Osama bin Laden as a poison pill from the past when they came to power in 1996 and have learned a bitter lesson about what it means to lend state support to a prominent terrorist group.

The Taliban with a voice in power will have every incentive to welcome foreign money and expertise into the country, including the Pashtun regions —as long as it is not part of a Western strategic package.

An austere Islamic regime is not the ideal outcome for Afghanistan, but it is by far the most realistic. To reverse ground realities and achieve a markedly different outcome is not in the cards and will pose Obama with the same dilemma next year.

Meanwhile, Pakistan will never be willing or able to solve Washington’s Afghanistan dilemma. Pakistan’s own stability has been brought to the brink by U.S. demands that it solve America’s self-created problem in Afghanistan. Pakistan will eventually be forced to resolve Afghanistan itself — but only after the U.S. has gone, and only by making a pact with Taliban forces both inside Afghanistan and in Pakistan itself.

Washington will not accept that for now, but it will be forced to fairly soon. Maybe the Pakistanis can root out bin Laden, but meanwhile, Al Qaeda has extended its autonomous franchises around the world, and terrorists can train and plan almost anywhere in the world; they do not need Afghanistan.

By now, as in so many other elements of the Global War on Terror, the U.S. has become more part of the problem than part of the solution. We are sending troops to defend troops that themselves constitute an affront to Afghan nationalism. Only expeditious American withdrawal from Afghanistan will prevent exacerbation of the problem.

Afghans must themselves face the complex mechanics of internal struggle and reconciliation. They have done so over long periods of their history. The ultimate outcome is of greater strategic consequence to Pakistan, Russia, China, Iran, India and others in the region than to the United States.

Europe and Canada have lost all stomach for this mission that is now promoted primarily in terms of “saving NATO” for future (and obsolescent) “out of area” struggles in a world in which Western strategic preferences can no longer predominate.

In a counterbalance to the mini-surge, Obama wisely establishes a date for genuine withdrawal in 2011. The surge may just be worth it if it enables Obama to put the U.S. military and Kabul on notice that time is quickly running out to demonstrate genuine political and military progress.

So the ugly struggle continues with little prospect for genuine improvement. There are no good choices. Obama has only kicked the can down the road.

Only with immense luck will his real goal — creation of the minimally acceptable terms for an American withdrawal — come into sight, providing a tiny fig leaf to mask what will essentially constitute a strategic American failure that was inherent nearly from the beginning in America’s global military response to the challenge of 9/11.

Graham E. Fuller is a former C.I.A. station chief in Kabul and a former vice-chairman of the C.I.A.’s National Intelligence Council. He is author of numerous books on the Middle East, including “The Future of Political Islam.”
Tribune Media Services