Training offer to Afghan Army

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Dr Raja M Khan:

On January 26-27, 2010, the NATO’s Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Staff (CHODs) held its meeting in Brussels. Sixty-two chiefs of defence staff attended it from NATO as well as other troops contributing countries. As a coalition partner in the global war on terror, the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, was also invited to participate in the meeting. During the meeting, General Kayani adequately highlighted the role played by Pakistan in the war on terror. Indeed, Pakistan lost over twenty five thousand innocent lives during last nine years, since the beginning of this war. The casualties of security forces of Pakistan are many times more than what the coalition and Afghans forces have collectively suffered in these years. General Kayani’s presentation on the Pakistan’s contribution indeed, removed the misperception of the NATO countries about the Pakistani role in the global war on terror. Sequel to this meeting General Kayani, briefed the foreign and domestic press about the outcome of the meeting in Rawalpindi. During the course of the meeting, he categorically said that, “We cannot wish for Afghanistan anything that we don’t wish for Pakistan.” Since Pakistanis desire peace, stability, and economic prosperity for their country, therefore, they ought to wish similar comforts for their brethrens of Afghanistan. Furthermore, three decades of war, factional fighting, and the internal instability in Afghanistan has brought us to the conclusion that, stability and peace in Pakistan is directly proportional to these factors in Afghanistan.
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Welcome to the Stone Age

Samson Simon Sharaf | Did Richard Armitage make an understatement when he threatened to pulp Pakistan to Stone Age? And in reaction, had Pakistani policy makers averted a conflict through unstinted support and secure ultimate national interests? As I have repeatedly asserted, the public through media is merely exposed to a very small fraction of the reality eclipsed with subtle propaganda. The unknown is of grave concern. Eight years hence, after all that has happened, Pakistan’s security perspectives have only deepened.

The ‘shock and awe’ phase of the invasion of Afghanistan witnessed the worse use of violence for global domination. In deciding the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan (Afpak), the Capitol Hill strategists chose to ignore a basic lesson of the American Civil War in which the North despite a ragtag army defeated the more sophisticated South; any use of violence related to hate and revenge will ultimately fail. ISAF, USA and the Afghan Combine, unlike Pakistan have ceded more and more ground to the Afghan resistance. The third surge seems to be lea-ding nowhere and prospects of an imminent US withdrawal look dimmer by the day. The question arises, then why Afghanistan?

In a conflict not of our choosing, but in many ways of our own making, landmarks crucial to a winning national strategy are elusive. Following military operations, Pakistan holds more ground in troubled areas. However, in a counter insurgency operation, ground is not always the most vital. In a conflict lacking manoeuvres and firepower, the insurgent has the option to melt away and float in the milieu like fish in water. The method, time and target to strike are always flexible, invariably punctuated with surprise. In contrast, the security mechanism remains stretched to limits, predictable and static. Devoid of any noteworthy economic and moral support, for how long will the country be able to sustain an ongoing asymmetrical conflict that is now costing more than all the wars in the past combined?

The effects of the Afghan conflict on Pakistan are damaging on all counts. The malaise is like a squamous with tentacles spread to every sinew of our society. The military to some extent may succeed in dominating the geographical and cyber space, but what of the individuals whose mind cannot be reached and tamed and who have the capacity to proliferate? They inevitably matter in a society fractured by poor economic conditions, sectarianism, crime and population explosion. Seen in the context of the ongoing political controversies, economic recession and fault lines within the society, it will take a very long and herculean efforts to restore normalcy. Given the obtaining environments, conditions are most likely to worsen before we could hope for a turn for the positive. What happens during the interim and how, we as a nation contend is the concern of every Pakistani. Tragically, a national policy to win hearts and minds in general and at the grassroots in particular is conspicuously missing. For how long can we play the flute while Pakistan burns?

Barring military operations daringly led by young officers, all other indicators of a national well being have gradually plummeted. Unplanned urbanisation in mega cities is rapidly morphing into bigger pockets of poverty providing breeding grounds for minimalist agendas. Wheat, sugar, rice, cotton, fertilizer, pesticide, cement and communication cartels are on an unchecked loose. Value added exports are being manipulated to dwindle in face of raw exports, pricing issues, time delays, energy shortages, transportation costs and high interest rates. Agricultural products like cane, cotton, wheat and paddy have virtually suffocated through pricing mechanisms, water shortages and energy inputs. Two years of bumper crops are now hampered by lack of winter monsoons and extremely low water particularly in the river systems. The GDP other than the incidental 1.1 is virtually at a halt. Barring the import bill, Pakistan’s economic downturn does not appear to be affected by the global recession. The question arises that despite positive home grown indicators, why Pakistan’s economy is being allowed to slide into shortages, hyperinflation and dependency?

Just like the insurgents need a cause and outside support to sustain themselves, counties fighting them also need a powerhouse to defeat them. Even the best military plans are doomed to fail in the absence of an all encompassing national strategy. So far the entire might of ISAF and USA with full international support and massive resources has only resulted in ceding more areas to Taliban. In contrast, Pakistan despite economic constraints, manipulative political economy and practically non-existent international assistance/support has cleared area after area. In terms of success ratios to economics, the results have been at a fraction of what ISAF and USA spend in Afghanistan. Yet the unending chants of ‘do more’ grows vociferous and threatening by the day. India has been showered far more praises in this WOT than Pakistan that has done the donkey’s work and remains a donkey.

Gratitude to Pakistan in this disowned conflict usually makes headlines in form of leaks by the American and British media reflecting an uneasiness with Pakistan’s nuclear capability and complicity with terrorism. This propaganda is followed by statements of US and UK officials synchronised with threatening statements and posturing from India and their military establishment. With the Baghliar Dam in operation and numerous ‘run of the river’ power generating units on rivers leading to Pakistan in place, India manipulates water flow at will.

What has the government done to formulate a cohesive national policy?

Rather than venture on an all-encompassing national austerity programme, boost domestic growth particularly in the agrarian sector, facilitate value addition of exports and initiate rehabilitation plans for young men exposed to militancy, the government seems to adopt and pursue policies to the contrary. International financial institutions with their unfriendly conditions are back. Price structuring is grossly manipulative and exports discouraged. At the same time the government is involved in serious political differences with its allies, military establishment and the judiciary. Rather than channelise all efforts into the conflict and nation building, resources are being wasted on issues not of immediate significance. It appears that Pakistan’s policy makers have willingly chosen to recluse the nation to backwardness. President’s recent tirades are unequivocal in that ‘if we go, everything goes with us’. This is indeed a very poor reflection of a country and its leadership at war.

Least metaphorically, lanterns and candles are back but expensive. Earthen oil lamps have replaced energy savers and petromax. Raw brown sugar is now a household substitute. In rural areas, donkey carts and bullocks are becoming the preferred mode of transport. A generation bred on consumerism and leasing is rushing to cycle shops.

Being loyal that we are, we will do it ourselves and save USA the bother. Welcome to the Stone Age!

Logic behind “war against terrorism”

It is no new development that almost every week two-three American or even British delegations come to Pakistan in order to deliver the newest instructions not only about how to fight the ‘war on terror’ but even on how to run the country. While the Jewish senator Lieberman was pressurizing Pakistan to launch a military operation in North Waziristan, David Milliband was advising our government on how to deal with the situation in Karachi. Though we have to concede that this government in power even lacks certain professionalism and may need one or the other advice it is unfortunate that it is the former colonial ruler who wants to further mislead us in this melee drama.

The same is the situation with the so-called ‘war on terror’ and our role as allies of the US and the West in this war. While we do have our own problems with extremism in Pakistan those problems are very different from the ones the US and the West are having. Their efforts to use Pakistan in order to fight and win their war in Afghanistan by deliberately pushing the taleban into Pakistani territory and pressurizing with the threat of stopping the money flow and the Pakistani government and army to fight the war according to their rules and principles has acquired an obstinacy during recent weeks which is really amazing. Judging by the latest remarks of special envoy Holbrooke it looks as if they are offering to run the country for us -at least for the time being, because Pakistan has no place in their ultimate agenda of building American Empire.He also seems to think that we have forgotten the treacherous role he had played at that time in Kosovo and Palestine, which reflected his anti-Islam sentiments.

Their losing position in the Afghan war and especially the recent deadly attack on their CIA operational base in Khost has made all the alarm bells ring in Washington. The panic is so big that whatsoever logic there might have been in the “war against terror” is falling prey to it. While it is an established fact that US and other Western think tanks and intelligence agencies considers that al Quaida has been relocating their “dispensable staff to Yemen after their situation became uncomfortable in Fata and Afghanistan, and it is alleged that several attacks on US installations have been launched earlier from Yemen and Westerners have been abducted for ransom on a regular basis the US states that still Yemen is not so important and the center of activity is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why the pressure on our government and army is mounting to push us into a full fledged civil war.

The consequences of this will be disastrous not only for the US but for this and every coming government which pursues the same policy. Anti-American and anti-Western feelings will rise and that means that on the long run Islamic or Islamist parties and forces will gain influence. Just recently a London think tank making a forecast of political development in Pakistan during the coming three to four years predicted that anti-American feelings and sentiments will rise though probably Islamist forces will not be able to take over the reins of government in Pakistan, as it is nothing but just a propaganda tool for Western media. But the fact that about 70% of the Pakistani population wants the implementation of the Islamic shariah -even if the opinions about what that actually means are quite controversial- should be of course a reason for concern to the government. But the US is not only pressurizing Pakistan to help winning their losing war. They are pressurizing their European allies as well.

By now the Afghan war is thoroughly unpopular in most of the countries of ‘old Europe’ as narrated by former US Secretary of Defense Mr.Rumsfield. Be it Britain or Germany or France, the governments of these countries bound by contracts to the NATO and the US are at loss to explain to their population why and how there is a need to “defend the freedom of their respective countries by waging war in the Hindukush”.

In the situation when all those economies have to deal with a crisis, when the rates of joblessness are going up and the social security systems are under threat, each and every government has to take loans in order to run the economy and re-start it, why there have to be billions of dollars spent on war in Afghanistan and why innocent people have to die there.

Interestingly, the West was never ready to sacrifice the lives of their own soldiers in that war; they always thought that somehow it would be the enemy only who would die – and may be the “collateral damage” of that population that a highly computerized war would cause. That is why it is only the Western dead who are counted, never the dead Iraqis, Afghanis or Pakistanis. And the immediate death toll is only the beginning.

We are just getting first reports about a rising number of children in Iraq being born with birth defects and later developing cancer. The cancer rate in Iraq has gone up manifold as a result of the radiation which has been released in the wake of the carpet bombings. Given the inaccessibility of the Afghan territory such reports may take a while to emerge from there also; but they are bound to come. This situation clearly shows how crazy the logic of this whole ‘war on terror’ is and how physically and politically dangerous its outfall will be on Pakistan, when US and NATO forces leave Afghanistan ultimately.

US allies, NATO & ISAF have murdered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, terrified millions of innocent Pakistani and Afghani through their 9/11 drama to justify attack on Afghanistan & Iraq.

In 1996 US oil Mafia and Unocal were negotiating oil pipeline building project between the Caspian Sea and the markets of East Asia and Europe. At that time US Government welcomed Taliban’s rise to power as a promising source of stability in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance, so the claim that they are waging this war to liberate Afghanis from Taliban is nothing but a white lie.

As an immediate outfall, Pakistan has become a victim of this war because of our spineless rulers. If immediate corrective measures are not taken and those advising to do more are not shown the door, our survival will remain at stake as millions of people are forced to beg for food, clean water, flour, sugar, gas, electricity, safety and security. Pakistani nation has been trapped in the quagmire of an endless war of terror or civil war, which needs to be ended otherwise the wheels of history are going to grind us all without any exceptions.(Ali Ashraf Khan)

“But the mountains are the same”

The subject is a quote from Mark Franchatti’s article in The Sunday Times of January 03 entitled Can the West avoid Russia’s fate in Afghanistan?

Mark recounts his experience of the operation launched by the US forces and the northern alliance in the Shomali Plains against the enemy 30 miles away from Kabul on October 07, 2001. Amid the overstuffed optimism of the attackers, he recalls: “I watched as ‘allied’ war planes and cruise missiles streaked beyond a high ridge separating us from the frontline. Loud explosions echoed into the night…” Having worked on the ongoing war for eight years he now, like all people with a sense of history, has grown cynical about the outcome in Afghanistan. The subject quote is the reply given by the deputy, who suggested caution in view of the discomfiture of the British forces there on three occasions, to the then Soviet foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, in 1980. The Boss had fumed: “Are you comparing our internationalist forces to those of the British imperialists?” Starting with “no sir” he ended up with this historic citation.

US President Barack Obama, who inherited the mess, has been haunted by the worsening situation which dates back to 2005. While Obama is fighting to make the US ‘secure’, he is being viciously attacked by the rightwing Republicans for an alleged softening of stance.

Obama being a statesman-like president, his lingo is polished and practical as against the bluster used by the naive. The US is currently plagued by the killing of seven CIA operatives in Khost along with two from the Xe Worldwide (Blackwater) by, reportedly, a “double/triple agent” developed by the US agencies. Many accounts have appeared in the media to decipher as to why should Dr Al-Balawi, the son of a Palestinian family forced to live in Jordan, have gone so desperate. A simple explanation appears to be that the US is paying for the sins of its ally, Israel, and due to domestic pressures the USA’s interest cannot prevail in defining the policy of the beleaguered superpower. It appears that the American good guys, generally, are made to look the other way to absorb the costs debited to the US a la ally’s atrocities.

The other grievous punch was the NW Flight 253 that has also provoked a controversy. While Secretary Napolitano thought “the system worked” by thwarting the offence, subsequent enquiries, virtually supervised by the president, revealed a “systemic” failure. Obama had to warn all concerned to put in their best for ensuring security of their country and people. However, the accused is a Somalian who allegedly was influenced by Al-Qaeda in Yemen. On Christmas Day, he tried to blow up the flight while carrying explosive material which luckily did not explode. The smart response of the crew and fellow passengers saved the day. As politics mars such serious stuff, the interests of genuine passengers get overshadowed. It has been projected that a database of more than half a million ‘suspects’ could have caused a slip which allowed the accused to board the flight, despite his controversial credentials. There are also question marks about the role of hops en route the destination.

Obama, like a great politician, had kept some elbow room for a settlement with the Afghans even as he announced his “surge”, recommended by his generals. While many signals to this effect have been coming from administration officials, Holbrooke of late has been speaking about it vociferously. The burden of argument sees the US at war with Al-Qaeda while the Taliban were only a tool thereof. Now a pattern is fast emerging whereby the Karzai regime would be supported in its efforts to woo those who are not diehard pro-Al-Qaeda. Such ‘fighters’ are considered to have joined the fight due to personal grievances, poverty or having been misled by the hardcore. Holbrooke is visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan this week to spring forward this strategy even while the US forces keep getting inflated.

General Barry McCaffrey in July 2008 after visiting the allied troops in Afghanistan opined that the US can “win the war if it keeps fighting for 25 years.” Insisting on NATO’s full-fledged cooperation for the revival of the Afghan state, he foresees the death toll soon mounting manifold among foreign forces in this “generational war.” Apparently very few in the US have the patience for following such a schedule due to the backbreaking economic meltdown inherited from the last administration.

Moreover the average American, generally, would not keep his focus on such long distance issues. This year would see important elections for the House of Representatives, 36 senators, and 36 governors which matters a lot to both the Democrats and the Republicans. Rants from Cheney are also prompted by the political agenda which gets boosted by the election schedule. The president as such faces all kinds of music on all counts and he has to show results which would win his party the necessary seats in the power structure to fulfil his manifesto.

Hamid Karzai’s moral dilemma appears to have been swept aside by the US for now. He is being treated as an “old donkey with a new saddle” as the Pashto proverb goes.

Meanwhile, drone attacks have swelled in the AfPak which provides the grist to the resentment mills. As civilians get killed, the Taliban turf expands. The same is true on the Pakistani side. One visible result of such tragic aerial bombing is that the US now finds hostility writ large even in the north of Afghanistan whose warlords were its partners since 2001. It appears that the US commanders have consistently used the remote control bombing, despite the damage done to their goodwill.

Recently the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, conceded before a Senate Committee that, “civilian casualties are doing us enormous harm in Afghanistan.” Lately to show sympathy to the victims in Inzeri village in the Tagab valley of Kapisa province, Colonel Greg Julian and Lieutenant Colonel Steven Weir went to make, what the latter termed as “condolence payment.” Luckily, it was a dialogue of the deaf; otherwise the locals would have reacted badly to such an observation due to cultural divide between the two parties.

General Ruslan Aushev, a highly decorated Soviet veteran, emphasises: “Most Afghans loved us. That changed when we sent in the military because inevitably civilians get killed.” The Afghan mounds and traditions stand as invincible!


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