US asked to remain on Afghan side: – Gen. Kayani’s message loud, clear

Tanvir Siddiqi

Rawalpindi—Ahead of the massive US military offensive in Afghan province of Helmand, Pakistan’s top military leadership made it clear that all US actions should remain on the Afghan side of the border and intelligence information should be shared with Pakistani security forces.

According to sources, the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said this while talking to US National Security Advisor James Jones and ISAF Commander in Kabul General Stanley A. McChrystal who called on him separately at GHQ here on Friday.

General Kayani said sacrifices rendered by Pakistani security forces are much higher than what the coalition forces suffered in Afghanistan.

Kayani briefed the defence officials about progress in the South Waziristan operation and asked for an increase in check posts on other side of the border for strict vigilance on the movement of militants.

Both top defence officials lauded role of Pakistani security forces in the fight against terrorism.

Commander International Security Assistance Forces Afghanistan General Stanley A. McChrystal on Friday visited General Headquarters and called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The visiting dignitary during the meeting with the COAS discussed matters of professional interest, security situation at Pak-Afghan border and issues pertaining to the war against terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Earlier, U.S. National Security Advisor General (Retired) James L. Jones also visited General Headquarters and called on Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The visiting dignitary remained with General Kayani discussed matters of professional interest, new US strategy for Afghanistan, US military aid to Pakistan and enhancing military partnership between the two countries.

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Shredding the Anti-Iran Propaganda

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America has become the Sick Man of the Western hemisphere, Obama certainly cannot continue running a world empire on borrowed money

Eric S. Margolis

President Barack Obama calls the $3.8 trillion budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health. In fact, it’s like giving a drug addict another potent dose of the narcotic to which he is addicted.

The drug is debt. More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself to ruin buying tanks. Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a staggering $1.6 trillion this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, which the US already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion. By 2015 it will consume a third of total federal spending. To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.

Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $ 880 billion. Add $75b (nearly 2.5 times France’s total defense budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama’s Afghan ‘surge’ of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion — more than Germany’s total defense budget. No wonder US defence stocks rose after Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama’s ‘austerity’ budget.

Military and intelligence spending relentlessly increase as unemployment hovers at 9.7 per cent. Critics claim the real figure is closer to 20 per cent. America has become the Sick Man of the Western hemisphere, an economic cripple like the defunct Ottoman Empire that used to be called the Sick Man of Asia. The Pentagon now accounts for half of total world military spending. Add America’s rich NATO allies and Japan, and the figure reaches 75 per cent.

China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10 per cent of what the US spends on defence. There are 750 US military bases in 50 nations and 255,000 US military personnel stationed abroad, 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea. Read more of this post

Waging 10 year war on Taliban then making peace with same Taliban!

Stanley McChrystal, the senior US general in Afghanistan, has told the Financial Times he believes a negotiated settlement would be the right way to end the Afghan conflict. His comments have fuelled a debate on the merits of talking to the Taliban.

Can negotiations end the war?

The appeal of dialogue to end the Afghan conflict has a whiff of alchemy about it: great in theory but extremely difficult in practice. The biggest problem may be that the Taliban feel they are winning. US troop deaths more than doubled in 2009. Gen McChrystal hopes his surge of 30,000 troops will convince his opponents they are better off negotiating but admits that Taliban attacks are likely to spike. “They have got to create the perception that Afghanistan’s on fire,” he told the Financial Times. With Nato allies already eyeing the exit, the Taliban may believe their long-term goal of regaining power in Kabul is within their grasp.

Who could help facilitate dialogue?

Pakistan played midwife at the birth of the Taliban and, along with Saudi Arabia, was one of only three countries to recognise the movement when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Reports of efforts by Islamabad and Riyadh to broker talks have surfaced repeatedly. Both are US allies that would use their leverage over any peace process to expand their influence in Washington. Pakistan, in particular, would want to be rewarded with greater backing in its competition with India.

How would talks happen?

Even contacting the Taliban is a complex process involving intermediaries bearing scraps of paper: the leaders shun telephones that could be used to trace their location. Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador who lives in Kabul, helps facilitate contacts with the Taliban’s leaders, but organising face-to-face talks would be complex. Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, which also recognised the Taliban government when it was in power, might be the most plausible venues for initial meetings between low-level representatives.

Although many insurgents loosely pledge allegiance to Mullah Mohammed Omar, the movement’s founder and spiritual head, he was a renowned recluse even before fleeing the 2001 US invasion. Distinguishing key Taliban decision-makers from mid-level commanders who control only small groups of fighters would be tricky.

So what’s the problem?

Too many to list. It is hard to see Mr Omar, who once ruled Afghanistan as emir of an austere theocracy, accepting a role under the current western-style constitution. Although the Taliban has recently stressed it does not pose an international threat, its leaders are conscious of the ire they earned in the west for allowing Osama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda, to organise the September 11 2001 attacks from Afghan soil. Mistrust on all sides runs deep.

What about other insurgent leaders?

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who leads the insurgency in several eastern provinces, is most likely to cut a deal. A former prime minister, he founded a party called Hezb-e-Islami, a faction of which already shares power in Kabul. A father-and-son team from the Haqqani family who run a fiefdom straddling the Pakistan border are less biddable.

Can Taliban fighters simply be bribed?

Maybe. Western countries gathering in London for a conference on Thursday will pledge funds for a scheme outlined by Hamid Karzai, the president, to try to lure Taliban foot soldiers with job offers. Details remain sketchy. Insurgents may simply accept the incentives then return to the fight. The central problem remains: the Taliban may simply believe it can outlast the west. (Q&A: How do you get the Taliban to negotiate By Matthew Green in Kandahar )

A Two-Front Threat Emerging For Pakistan

Dr. Shireeen M Mazari:

The moment of truth for those in Islamabad who continue to trust the Americans is nearing and might have already arrived. Pakistan needs to respond to the provocations by India and by those who are supporting India. Pakistan also needs to consider withdrawing from the coming London conference on Afghanistan if its legitimate security interests are further ignored by the United States and the United Kingdom. Additionally, Pakistani forces need to be positioned along the border with southern Afghanistan, where some elements within the US establishment seem to be planning limited incursions.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A nightmare security scenario for Pakistan seems to be emerging – that of a two-front military conflict. Pakistan is already facing an internal militancy aided and abetted from Afghanistan and is threatened with all manner of likely US boots actually coming into Pakistan.

Already, the drone attacks on Pakistani soil have increased. For all these reasons, Pakistan has moved a large chunk of its forces away from its Eastern border with India and along the LoC, and moved them to the Western front along the international border with Afghanistan as well as into FATA.

Now India has upped the military ante against Pakistan after meetings between Indian officials and America’s Holbrooke and Gates. Hence we are seeing the unprovoked Indian military firing at Pakistani forces across the international border, the working boundary and across the LoC, which has resulted in death and injury for Pakistani soldiers. What can possibly be the Indian intent at this time to undertake such military adventurism? Had it been given some go-ahead by the Americans?

This new military provocation comes when there seems to have been a decision made by the British and Americans to give India a major military role in Afghanistan. The two allies are all set to spring this nasty decision onto Pakistan at the international conference on Afghanistan in London at the end of this month when it will be proposed that India train the Afghan National Army – something it is already doing at a small level covertly and on that pretext already has its operatives in Afghanistan. It is these operatives who are conducting the aid and assistance to militants within Pakistan.

In view of these developments, what are the immediate options for Pakistan which will protect its interests as well as signal an effective message to both the US and India?

First and most immediate, Pakistan needs to move its troops back to its Eastern front and cease operations in FATA. We need to distinguish between our militancy problem, which is certainly threatening and very real, but has multiple dimensions, and the misguided US ‘War on Terror’. On the Western front, it needs to realign its forces along the Chaman border area with Afghanistan where it is expected US boots may enter Pakistan on the ground.

Second, it needs to tell the US in no uncertain terms that it will not tolerate these Indian military incitements and may well up the ante also choosing its own time, place and type of response.

Third, Pakistan needs to categorically refuse to participate in the London Conference if the plan to train the Afghan National Army by India is even discussed informally. In fact, under the circumstances, if India participates in the Conference, Pakistan should consider the option of boycotting it. Let us see how far the US and UK get in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s active cooperation!

Fourth, it is time to demand that Indian operatives move out of Afghanistan and Indian consulates in Afghanistan along the border area with Pakistan be closed.

The fact that the Indian aggression has come immediately in the aftermath of the discussions between the Indians and visiting Americans including Defense Secretary Gates, and following on the heels of the visit to Kabul by India’s DG MI, shows only too clearly the Indo-US nexus in terms of presenting Pakistan with a possible two-front threat.

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!

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