US to supply ‘Shadow’ drones to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The United States plans to provide Pakistan with a dozen unarmed drone aircraft that will help bolster its military as it takes on Taliban militants, US defence officials said.

Details of the drones emerged late Thursday during a visit to Pakistan by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was asked in an interview with Pakistani television if Washington would supply Islamabad with the unmanned aircraft.

“There are some tactical UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that we are considering, yes,” Gates said.

Defence officials in his delegation afterward confirmed funds had been set aside to secure 12 Shadow aerial drones for Pakistan.

The Shadow drones, smaller than the armed Predator and Reaper aircraft, are about 11 feet (three metres) long and have a wing-span of 14-feet, with sensors and cameras feeding video images back to operators on the ground.

The Pakistani military already had some less sophisticated drones for surveillance but would need to heavily invest in training specialists to be able to take advantage of the new hardware, said US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The US employs armed drones for missile strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban figures in Pakistan, fuelling anti-American sentiment and drawing public condemnation from the government in Islamabad.

Pakistani officials have previously called for Washington to provide its military with armed drones.

Can US Strategy Stabilise Afghanistan

Sequel to the policy speech on Afghan strategy, various opinions and comments have appeared in the US press indicating that Pakistan needs to expand war against terrorists and extremists to other areas in Pakistan. The New York Times reported in its edition of 8 December that the US has warned Pakistan that its forces would chase Taliban forces in Pakistan if Islamabad does not Then there have been other reports with some acknowledgments of the Pakistani Army’s efforts in confronting the Talibans in South Waziristan. All the reports tantamount to increasing US pressure on Pakistan to expand its efforts against terrorism and extremism elsewhere in Pakistan also.

The proponents of US military venture into Pakistan lack foresight in calculating grave risks that such a venture would pose for both Pakistan and the United States from all angles and that the bilateral relationship might never be able to resurrect itself again. Last time when the US committed such mistake to raid a village inside Pakistan where they thought that the militants were hiding, there was such a political furore in Pakistan that the US was forced to promise never to use boots on ground in Pakistan again. Pakistan Army is very much capable of tackling head on impediments that threaten its sovereignty and security and as such is successfully battling the insurgents in Waziristan and Swat. While doing so, it has the complete backing of its people who sustained numerous merciless bomb killings as Taliban retaliated. Read more of this post

The United States’ Global Agenda, vis-à-vis South Asia

LankaWeb | It is a well-known fact among international security experts that one of the longstanding foreign policy doctrines of the United States is to destabilize countries and regions that are considered hostile to US economic and strategic interests. This policy has been the bedrock of American military and covert operations across the globe throughout the cold war period. When the US fails to win support from countries for its self-interested economic and defense policies, the US undertakes covert operations to overthrow democratically elected leaders in those countries by supporting military juntas and insurgent movements, cut off economic aid, and isolate them internationally until they give in to US pressure.

Since the end of the cold war, the US has inducted a new weapon to its arsenals of destabilization: This new weapon is the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by the West. The US has been openly supporting various nongovernmental organizations to marshal mass support against elected governments that refuse to kowtow the US on the pretext of campaigning to protect human rights, media freedom, and democracy. The US funded international nongovernmental organizations and their local counterparts have been operating as the proxy of the US government across Latin America, the Middle East, and South, and South East Asia. The underline objective of all these covert operations is to cause political upheavals in specific countries, or regions with a long-term global strategy.

Once a nation becomes embroiled in fighting internal rebellions, whether they are ethnic or religiously motivated groups, or involved in cross-border conflicts, that nation soon becomes overwhelmed by the concerns of its survival. This would eventually force the leadership of that country to capitulate to the American strategic and economic interests in that country, and the region. This, in turn, would ensure US economic and political hegemony in the long- run, especially in nonwestern countries. For example, when Saddam Hussein refused to bow down to US pressure they invaded his country and violated all international conventions, rules and norms at will, and killed more than half a million civilians.

In 1998, a UN survey revealed that the mortality rates among children below five years of age in southern Iraq had more than doubled compared to the previous decade, meaning 500,000 excess deaths of children had occurred by that year due to diarrhea and acute respiratory infections because of sanctions imposed by the US and it allies. UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq (1997-98) Denis Halliday called sanctions ‘genocide’ and resigned in protest. His successor Hans von Sponeck followed suit in 2002 citing the same reasons. The UN World Food Program Director in Iraq Jutta Burghardt also registered his protest by fully subscribing to Sponeck’s position and tendering his resignation. That was before the US lead invasion of Iraq in 2003. Following the invasion, at the end of 2006, more than 600,000 civilians had been killed.

The high-ranking retired US government official argued that the “price was worth” considering the importance of US strategic and economic interests in that region.

It was argued that the invasion was necessary to remove “weapons of mass-destruction” that were being amassed by Saddam Hussein. When that was proved untrue, the Anglo-American invaders argued that they wanted to establish democracy in Iraq. Today Iraq is in the midst of a civil war created by the West. The major Western news organizations and the non-governmental organizations such the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which are heavily funded by the West, remain decidedly silence despite daily carnage taking place in that country. There is no moral outrage on the part of these human rights campaigners for the suffering of innocent Iraqis when the culprits were their paymasters.

Iraq is today one of the most dangerous places on Earth, thanks to the global “democracy” campaign of the Anglo-American leaders. Iraqis today not only have no democracy, but most importantly, lack basic security to go about their daily activities. In the meantime, the US has gained a permanent foothold in Iraq as never before with a largest fortified embassy, total control of its oil supply and, most importantly, a puppet regime installed by the US. This has given the US a guaranteed access to Iraq’s market for the supply of both military and consumer goods. The Anglo-American global “democracy” project is now complete, and the Western media and INGO allies are fully satisfied with the outcome of the Iraq war. They have moved on to their next assignment: Afghanistan, which is part the US strategy in South and Southeast Asia.

The South Asia has been particularly important for the US global strategy since the cold war. The creation of Al Quida organization involving Islamic militants against the Soviet backed regime in Afghanistan began in the early 1980s. With the end of the cold war, the key partners of the US strategic alliances broke up, and Al Quida became a sworn enemy of the West. A classic case of the “creature turned against its creator” with vengeance.

Some may think that the purpose of the current war in Afghanistan and Pakistan involving US and NATO troops is to capture Osama Bin Laden, who is hiding somewhere in the tribal area of Pakistan. If that is the real reason, a well equipped, nearly 100,000-man army should have finished the job in a few weeks, if not months. The truth is that they are not interested in Osama Bin Laden per se, but to stir up regional conflicts to prevent countries in that neighborhood from realizing their economic potential.

The longer this conflict lasts, both Afghanistan and Pakistan will have no chance of economic recovery, and will remain impoverished. They would continue to depend on American economic and military aid to carry on with a vicious military campaign, which has no obvious winners, except the US.

Likewise, India will continue to be rattled by periodic cross-border attacks by disaffected Muslims in the region. Moreover, India’s inability to resist the US pressure to get involved in the American geo-political agenda in that region will eventually antagonize not only China, but also many other smaller countries in the region.

Throughout the Cold War, the US kept Pakistan as its ally to undermine India, which was an ally of the Soviet Union. However, today, the US has almost abandoned Pakistan in favor of India, as the new US strategy to contain China requires much larger military and economic cooperation in the region. By bringing India on the side of the US to counter China’s economic and military influence in South Asia, the US foreign policy and military strategists intend to create a much bigger conflict in that region, which would destroy India. The Indian foreign policy mandarins must somehow find a way to cut India free from the “American Rope,” if India is to avoid military confrontation with China.

As recently as last week, Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta warned Indian authorities that India is no match for China when it comes to Chinese military and naval superiority. The US strategists are fully aware of this “sudden” and “perceived” insecurity by the Indian military leaders.

In an attempt to exploit this, the US military strategists and media continue to highlight a perceived so called “military ring” being created by China in South Asia. Although Chinese concerned is purely its own economic and territorial integrity, sovereignty, and national security, the US has its own agenda to weaken China through various insurgent groups including Muslim minority and Tibetan separatists.

By portraying China as a potential military threat to India, two large emerging economies in Asia, and forcing India to spend a large sum of money to build up Indian armed forces annually, the US is going to benefit economically in the short-run by selling military hardware to India. However, in the long-run, the objective is to destroy both China and India, as potential global economic rivals to the US.

Chaotic Kabul

Afghan security forces gather at the scene of attack in central Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Taliban militants struck the heart of the Afghan government in Kabul on Monday, prompting fierce gunbattles after a suicide bomber blew himself up near the presidential palace. (Ahmad Massoud/AP Photo)

It is quite obvious from yesterday’s incidents that the huge US-led ISAF force of over 100,000, has failed even to secure the Afghan Capital Kabul against attacks from the resistance. All they have done during the past eight years or so in the country is to cause widespread havoc, kill people by the tens of thousands, lay waste vast tracts of land and pulverise mountains.

Characteristic of guerrilla tactics, fighters of the Afghan resistance suddenly emerged from nowhere to strike at principal official buildings in Kabul on Monday, after they had reportedly quietly slipped into the Capital. There were explosions near the southern gate of the Presidency and a huge pall of smoke circled overhead. Smoke was also seen near the Central Bank and the Justice and Finance Ministries, and Kabul’s only four-star hotel Serena and two shopping centres were on fire. There were chaotic scenes, as the people ran away from the directions from where the noises of exploding rockets and grenades and gunshots were being heard. NATO and international forces, working with the Afghan security, were busy trying to secure the area, as the Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid warned that as many as 20 of his men were engaged in the fighting that, latest reports suggest, has left 10 dead and many more injured. Officials maintain that among the dead are four suicide bombers.

To be exact, the resistance fighters did not have to come from anywhere; they are the ordinary Afghan citizens, who are determined to drive out the occupation forces, and might as well be living in the city. To cloud this reality, however, they are called Taliban – terrorists in the US and allies’ terminology.

And if the world had thought that the freezing winter of the country would dampen their fighting spirit, it was badly mistaken. In fact, by the time summer sets in, the 37,000-odd US and NATO surge that would most probably be in place by then to augment the strength, would find a revitalised resistance ready to face the new challenge.

The solution clearly is not the surge but withdrawal without further delay. The resentment caused by the presence of foreign forces in the country has been swelling the ranks of resistance fighters. One hopes that the Americans intend living up to their declarations, as repeated by Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, that negotiations should be held with the Taliban. They must acknowledge the fact that there is little distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban when it comes to the urge for independence. The only right course for them is to leave Afghanistan and let the people work out a system of governance that reflects the country’s ethnic mix and suits them best, and for Pakistan to stop fighting its own people and settle differences through negotiations.(The Nation)

One day we all will be terrorists!

“Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.”

– Chris Hedges (in an article of the same title)

My generation grew up in a different Pakistan. A different Lahore, a different Karachi, a different Peshawar, a different Quetta, a different Islamabad and an entirely different country.

In Lahore, people sat in Pak Tea House and Coffee House and talked about politics, poetry, religion, culture and friendships gave birth, on a daily basis, to youthful romanticism of our times: the mutual seduction of kindred spirits within the confines of our cultural values and the gentleness of Urdu poetry, songs, geets (lyrics) and the Lahori humour. We celebrated basant (the kite-flying festival), maila-charagha (the festival of lights) and Urs Data Gung-Baksh (the festival of a saint). We observed Muharram with great reverence.

Karachi used to be alive 24 hours a day all year round. It was a city of “lights”, “fashion”, hustle-bustle of a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. Ethnic diversity and tolerance was the hallmark of this city.

Peshawar was a beacon of hospitality, a tribute to human gentleness and an affirmation of a rich community life.

Quetta’s apple-laden trees decorated its roads everywhere and the Balochis colourful existence found its spirit in its music, songs and even in its cuisine. Moreover, Pakistan’s rural society existed in purity, simplicity and the zealousness of hard working people.

Pakistan was a different country then: we lived in relative peace, tolerance and mutual harmony. A delicious puri nashta cost one rupee, petrol was Rs 2.50 a gallon, schooling was cheap, sugar and food were plenty, and a round-trip by PIA from Lahore to Karachi was Rs 250.

The majority of Pakistanis were poor even then, but there was no mass starvation, deprivation suicides, forced prostitution, massive collective depressive communities, agonising socio-psychological conditions, economic collapse, and no one knew of crippling demoralising inner fears. We did not know of institutional violence and extensive state terror – though police brutality and legal system atrocities were common, bureaucracy was horribly cruel, corrupt, inefficient and unbelievably powerful vis-à-vis the citizenry, commerce thrived on black marketing and the political class wholly and completely indulged in vested interests, inappropriate use of political power and mismanagement of state affairs.

Even though we lived with a million vices as a nation, but strangely enough, life was not as painful as it is in today’s democratic Pakistan. Neither was the entire nation, every one of its citizens, gripped with such forceful, depleting and paralysing fear – a fear that the management of the survival of this country has gone out of control. A fear that we all may be blown away from existence the next moment, if not literally then at least in a metaphorical sense!

Do you realise the seriousness of our contemporary political crisis?

The present state of our deplorable existence is the work of our decade long political leadership inclusive of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship and the incumbent political dispensation in the country.

The fundamental failure of our national policy is this country’s ruling elite’s destructive all time political-economic-military alliance with the US and its allies (now India included).

Even at the time that I have described as the “golden days” of Pakistan’s past, our ruling elite was fully and comprehensively politically engaged with the US and its allies. However the US was in a different political mode then: it was fighting its own self-invented “demons” – the communist ideology and the communist nations (though communism was not a threat – it was a political experiment to solve mass poverty). The objective of American foreign policy was global political-economic and military domination.

In the present day world, the policy objectives of the US and its allies remain same: worldwide imperialist hegemony and exploitation by the west’s multi-national corporations.

However, in the contemporary equation, the west’s enemies have been redefined: Now we are the “demons”. They have declared a war against Muslim nations, their people, their faith, their culture, their traditions, their values and customs, their history and even against their existence as we know it today. Huntington in The Clash of Civilisations warns that if we do not transform our civilisation to a western model, then we must be prepared for an ultimate obliteration through successive wars at the hands of the west: we are given no choices.

Seven hundred Pakistani citizens died in American drone attacks in 2009 alone. It is not accidental!

What the US and its western allies do not understand is that their present war is not against an economic-political ideology (communism). This war is against a people, a faith, a history, an existential reality, an entirety of a civilisation, an actual formidable historical presence and an enduring spiritual entity. They, the US and its allies (which include collaborating political elites in Muslim countries), cannot win this war. Indeed, they can unleash havoc, a wave of destruction (as they are doing now), but they cannot and will not win!

Coming back to the context of Pak-US relations, consider the following most plausible scenario in the immediate future:

Through covertly managed organised violence, collaborations, propaganda, bombings and political manipulations, the US succeeds in destabilising Pakistan to an extent of complete political chaos, limited anarchy and a near civil war situation. Under the pretext of threat to international security, American and NATO forces are moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are seized, a puppet regime is installed: Pakistan is de-nuclearised, India (the newest US ally) becomes a dominant regional power, Iran is contained, China-Russia growing political clout is checked, the US/west’s historical global dominance is achieved – the world is saved!

Is that what the Pakistani nation wants and deserves?

Imran Khan’s perspective on Pakistan’s foreign policy and domestic priorities is correct: we need to politically-militarily disengage Pakistan from the US/west’s global objectives. We need to immediately end this so-called War on Terror against our own citizens. We need to negotiate peace with political dissidents in NWFP, Balochistan and in every corner of Pakistan. We must appreciate the fact that political dissent is not terror!

We ought to, by engaging our own citizens and political dissidents, quietly and secretly do a complete “cleansing” of the foreign elements and local collaborators involved in organised violence in our country. This can only be accomplished by a determined, independent, nationalist and highly efficient political leadership that can make the national policy without American influence and interference. And this is the ultimate requirement of our times.

At last, Mian Nawaz Sharif said something right the other day: the public in Pakistan needs to think in revolutionary ways now.

Allow me to go one step further: what we need is a revolutionary political leadership in this country. We deserve a change in the political mindset and political conduct of this nation’s leaders. We need fresh leadership in Pakistan.

We all do not need to be politically loyal to our contemporary political dispensation or to our present political allies. We must completely reject a global political system of US/west’s dominance.

We all ought to be political dissidents! After all, dissent is a vital element of the democratic political process. It is a duty of an engaged citizenry!

One day we all might be considered terrorists by our western “friends”.

Never mind. So be it!

–By Dr Haider Mehdi
The writer is an academic, political analyst and conflict-resolution expert.

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