Afghanistan – A deceptive impression

By Professor Ali Sukhanver

While going through the details of suicide attack on Asadullah Khalid, the Intelligence Chief of Afghanistan, one feels that Khalid was strolling somewhere in a public park or enjoying a cup of hot Afghani Qahwa in a café along some deserted highway; he was not at a guesthouse used by the National Directorate of Security in a heavily guarded area of the capital Kabul.

How could it had been possible for a suicide bomber to introduce himself as a peace messenger from Taliban and reach the Intelligence Chief deceiving all security check-points if Asadullah Khalid were really at the National Directorate of Security. The incident no doubt puts a question mark at the abilities and talents of the Afghan security forces as well as at those of the NATO.

The time when the US troops were stepping into the Afghan lands, the US authorities were of the opinion that Afghanistan is suffering badly at the hands of the terrorists and the Afghan security forces dont have ability to counter the terrorist activities. That time they had assured the people of Afghanistan that the only aim of the US forces is to strengthen the Afghan security forces so that they might be able to counter the activities of the terrorists. Now at the end of 2012, the suicidal attack on the Intelligence Chief of Afghanistan is a proof that the Afghan security forces are still incapable of countering the terrorists. It means the situation would become horribly disastrous if the US forces say good-bye to the Afghan lands.

The suicide attack on the Afghan Intelligence Chief Asadullah Khalid is simply the beginning of another story in Afghanistan. Khalid was targeted when a suicide bomber struck at a guesthouse used by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a heavily guarded area of the Afghan capital Kabul.

The incident took lives of many officials present at the scene and left Khalid seriously wounded. Just at the closing of 2012, almost a year before the US proposed date of withdrawal of her troops from the Afghan lands, this incident indicates countless possibilities and probabilities, unfortunately all referring to an extension in US stay in Afghanistan. According to the details, the suicide bomber posed himself as a peace messenger from Taliban and exploded him during the negotiations but most of the analysts are not ready to accept these details.

The concocted stories of befooling the officials of Afghan security and NATO are nothing new. There have been so many occasions when different so-called imposters approached Afghan and NATO officials and claimed that they are the representative of the Taliban and have come to settle matters through table-talk and negotiations though the actual Taliban leaders have always maintained their firm public line that they would never consider any negotiations or table-talk until foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Let us look back at a report published in the New York Times on 22nd November 2010 which said the Afghan and US authorities held face-to-face talks with a man who claimed to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the second highest official in the Taliban movement .but later on it was exposed that the man was lying about his identity. Just after the revelation was made public through western media, Joshua Foust commented the episode in a very logical and impressive way.

He says, The story is moderately shocking: a senior Taliban figure was being flown around the region, talking directly with General Petraeus, President Karzai, and other senior figures in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan government. Think about this for a moment: a man whose identity no one was able to verify was flown, by NATO, for face-to-face meetings with high-ranking members of the coalition.

All this is hugely embarrassing for ISAF, for the war, and for any prospects of ending it soon. Now two years after that episode, same seems the case with the suicide bomber who attacked Asadullah Khalid, the Intelligence Chief of Afghanistan. This incident was planned just to defame the Taliban and Pakistan and to give the world around a deceptive impression that the situation in Afghanistan is still so frightening that even the Intelligence Chief is not safe at the hands of the terrorists.

The fact of the matter is that the US conspirators are trying their utmost to find out some lame excuses which could provide logical justification for extension in the stay of US troops in Afghanistan. It is neither Pakistan nor the Taliban behind the assassination attempt on Asadullah Khalid, it is the handiwork of the US agents who are all time busy in disturbing the law and order situation both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Instead of taking care of his own people, unfortunately Mr. Karzai is also playing in the hands of these agents and safeguarding the US interests in the region. Everyone remembers that just after the suicide attack on Asadullah Khalid, Mr. Karzai abruptly issued his statement in which he blamed that the assassination attempt on the country’s intelligence chief was planned in Pakistan.

He said, We will be seeking a lot of clarifications from Pakistan because we know that this man who came there in the name of a guest to meet with Asadullah Khalid came from Pakistan.” The situation needs a very sympathetic and sincere analysis. Afghanistan could never be a peaceful land unless the foreign troops say farewell to it. Only the people of Afghanistan have ability and skill of dragging Afghanistan back to peace and prosperity and Pakistan is the only force which could give a helping hand to the people of Afghanistan in this regard.


Pakistan-Afghanistan will keep bleeding

By Brig. (Retd) Asif Haroon RajaL:

Despite Obamas desperation to declare victory in Afghanistan, triumph is not in sight. The US is now striving to end the war in Afghanistan in a manner that its honor doesnt get bruised. It wants the world to believe that its troops are abandoning Afghanistan of their own accord after achieving most objectives. While all the power centers in USA undoubtedly want to end the war on a winning note and are on one page on this count, differences have cropped up between Pentagon-CIA and White House-State Department over the culmination of endgame. The former wants continuation of use of brute force padded up with intrigue and trickery to gain an edge over Taliban, the latter seeks political settlement with Taliban so that troops could return honorably. So far, efforts to make the Taliban agree to hold talks have failed.

The US militarys false claim of gains made against Taliban got a jolt after the big jailbreak in Kandahar in April 2011. Most of jail breakers were Taliban commanders and it was feared that they would give fillip to raids and ambushes during this summer. As predicted, from May onwards the Taliban accelerated their attacks on US-NATO targets as well as against key Afghan personalities engaged in brokering peace at the behest of USA and Karzai. Cases of ANA soldiers killing ISAF soldiers as well as desertions increased, while casualties owing to IEDs mounted. Figure of soldiers suffering from mental diseases also increased sharply. On June 28, 2011, Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a hotel in Kabul. Half-brother of President Karzai, Ahmad Wali Karzai was killed in Kandahar in June. Bigger disasters befell upon ISAF in August and September 2011 during which high profile attacks were carried out by the Taliban.

On August 19, 2011, suicide blast and gun attack occurred at British Council in Kabul. Suicide attack on NATO base in Wardak seriously injured 77 US troops many of whom succumbed to injuries later on. The US helicopter was shot down by the Taliban near Wardak in August killing 38 US troops including 23 NAVY SEALs soldiers who had taken part in Get Geronimo operation in Abbottabad on 2 May. On September 13, the US Embassy, NATO Command HQ and Afghan Central Directorate of Security building were attacked by six Taliban with rocket grenades and machine guns from a nearby building in Kabul and the siege continued for 20 hours. The attackers managed to make good their escape. On 20 September, Chairman Peace Council Burhanuddin Rabbani was killed by a suicide bomber at his home in Kabul. These attacks flabbergasted the US military NATO and ANSF. These occurred at a critical time when military command was changing/had just changed, less volatile regions were being handed over to ANA, the drawdown had just begun and the US military was making tall claims of progress.

The US spelt out three conditions for peace. These were dropping of arms and sitting on negotiating table, detaching from al-Qaeda, and acceptance of constitution framed by Afghan Parliament. The US also expressed its desire that after withdrawing bulk of forces by end 2014, it may continue occupying five military bases for next ten years till complete stability was achieved.

The Taliban rejected all the demands and stuck to their stated position of withdrawal of all occupying forces without condition and leaving the Afghans to sort out matters among themselves. This stance was unacceptable to USA and hence application of force continued to force the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Use of kill teams and night raids and induction of tanks in southern Afghanistan were undertaken to weaken Taliban and wrest the initiative from them. US air attacks were also stepped up in 2011 as was seen in rise of civilian casualties in Helmand, Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan. As per reports of James Cogan, Human Rights Unit of UN assistance to Afghanistan (UNAMA), upsurge in reckless US-NATO aerial attacks soared civilian casualties in Afghanistan by 24% since 2010.

Pakistan which is an important stakeholder has so far not spelled out its role in the endgame although it is often heard that it desires to have a friendly regime in Kabul since it cannot afford to have two hostile fronts in east and west. It is also believed that Pakistan is not in agreement with the policy of pre-conditions and wants that composition of future broad based Afghan government should be proportionate to ethnic demography.

Had the US or Afghan regime been on Pakistans side, it would have been much easier for Islamabad to emphasize its position openly and assertively. Since Indo-US-Afghan nexus has common goals and is jointly playing the endgame so as to terminate it to its advantage and Pakistan doesnt fit into the scheme of things, it makes things that much difficult for Pakistan. Disagreeing with the perception of Pakistan, the US wants the Taliban to be given role of a junior partner in a coalition government so that it can leave behind a regime friendly to USA and India and not so friendly to Pakistan.

The US admitted that Mullah Omar led Shura and Haqqani network (HN) were two most important players who could not be ignored, and without their cooperation no political settlement was possible. However, while it strove to hold parleys with them, at the same time it desperately searched them to eliminate them since without their cooperation or riddance; no headway could be made in Afghan imbroglio. It was this inherent desire which impelled US leaders to provoke Pakistan to fight them and earn their enmity rather than befriend them. Finding that HN was unprepared to tow its agenda, it was declared a terrorist outfit.

Mullah Omar and HN are acceptable to USA only if they cede to its three conditions and not otherwise. While Karzai regime, Afghan Peace Council now under Salahuddin Rabbani, moderate Taliban, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Britain, Germany and India are authorized to contact the Taliban, Pakistan is the only country which is debarred. This is despite the fact that out of all the countries claiming to have some access to Taliban, Pakistan is in a far better position to negotiate with them. The reason why Pakistan is being kept out is that the US doesnt want Pakistan to develop camaraderie with Taliban or to play a role in political settlement. The US wants Pak Army to hunt, weaken and isolate HN and elements of Mullah Omar, leaving them with no option but to come to terms with the US. One wonders what would be fate of US-NATO forces stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan if the lone door that has been kept open by Pakistan is also closed and security situation spins out of control.

Irrespective of concerted efforts of US trainers to make the ANA battle worthy, performance of ANA is still not up to the mark. There has not been any drop in desertion and discipline cases including cases of firing upon foreign forces mainly because of their meager pay scale, economic hardships and insulting attitude of US-NATO officers and men. Indiscriminate firing by NATO resulting in heavy deaths of civilians is another cause of their heart burning. Possibility of revolt within ANA cannot be ruled out particularly when larger numbers of Pashtun soldiers are now being recruited to correct the ethnic balance. Surge in green-on-blue attacks is an indication in that direction.

While the Americans do not foresee any possibility of recovering southern and eastern Afghanistan, they still feel that central, northern and possibly western Afghanistan can be retained since the influence of Taliban in these regions is so far not as strong as in Pashtun dominated regions of Afghanistan. In case the Taliban do not come to terms as per US wishes, as a last resort the US intends giving up the two regions dominated by Taliban and consolidate their power base in the north. The other way is to shift responsibility of US failure to Pakistan and to realize its long desired plan to defang Pakistans nuclear capability. The two contingencies will be played by retaining 10,000 US Special forces disguised as trainers and technical advisers in five military bases in Afghanistan till 2024.

As long as foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan, both Afghanistan and Pakistan will keep bleeding. Tragedy is that even after departure of bulk of occupying forces by December 2014, probability of recurrence of civil war in Afghanistan with its spillover effect on Pakistan is quite high. All those who had taken part in destroying Afghanistan would go back to their respective countries but Pakistan alone will have to face the residual impact of 13 year war for times to come.

The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.

Modified objectives of USA in Afghanistan

By Brig. (Retd) Asif Haroon Raja:

Today the US is looked down upon as the most ruthless and biggest terrorist state in the world that has fuelled uncertainty, insecurity and chaos in the world. It is hated because of its unjust and dual faced policies and going to any extent to achieve its strategic and mercantile interests. Its wholehearted support to Israel and India and its penchant to topple regimes and plunder resources has lowered its esteem.

The sole super power which was prancing like a wild elephant at the dawn of new millennium is currently in thick soup since the war on terror it had initiated in the aftermath of 9/11 has not proceeded in accordance with its chalked out plan. US-NATO forces claiming to be invincible have got bogged down in the quagmire of Afghanistan and things have gone topsy-turvy. The rag-tag Taliban living up to their past reputation, have taken the steam out of the elephant by pushing it against the wall and have left it dazed and helpless.

Despite their massive superiority in men, material and technology, and having applied all kinds of covert and overt techniques with the help of Israel, India and ANA, the US-NATO have not only utterly failed to hold back the surge of Taliban, but also have no road-map for safe and honorable exit. Since stalemated position suits the Taliban and disfavors the occupation forces that are pressed for time and are deeply concerned about battle casualties and financial drain, the Taliban are showing little interest in proposed peace talks and that too on US terms.

The sorry plight of USA has not evoked sympathy from any quarter except for fair-weather friends like India, Israel and Karzai regime. The trio values their selfish interests and care little if the Afghanistan becomes a graveyard for the US. Pakistan is the only country which has fought the war with total commitment and sacrificed the most. It still stands by the side of untrustworthy and ungrateful USA despite getting humiliated time and again.

George W. Bush led team of neo-cons is solely responsible for the mess. They had masterminded the destruction plan of the Muslim world and had craftily strategized global war on terror as a means to eliminate anti-US Islamists dubbed as extremists and terrorists present in each Muslim state. Subsequently, the 57 Muslim states were to be neo-colonized after redrawing the Middle East boundaries and controlling its resources. In his eight-year inglorious rule, the US and its allies destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq and pitched Muslims against Muslims. This macabre game resulted in deaths of two million Iraqis and one million Afghans.

There was unprecedented excitement all over the world when Barack Hussein Obama took over power in January 2009. He had promised to bring a change and to heal the wounds of the Muslims and to settle the two chronic disputes of Palestine and Kashmir. Shockingly, he proved to be worse than his predecessor. Rather than wrapping up the senseless war, he further ignited and expanded it. The whole military weight was transferred to Afghanistan with the help of two troop surges. Kill teams were activated and drone was made into a choice weapon of war. The covert and overt war was extended to Pakistan through Af-Pak policy. Pakistan was forced to launch series of major operations in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan which resulted in heavy casualties.

In 2011, President Barack Obama and other high officials had repeatedly claimed that Al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan had been smashed and up to 100 or so of its disarrayed activists were left to deal with. He and other senior American leaders had acknowledged the role of Pakistan in emasculating Al-Qaeda. Obama is also on record having said that Al-Qaeda and not Taliban were USAs foe. Most wanted Osama Bin Laden for which a massive hunt had been launched in 2002 was finally killed on 02 May 2011 and with his death the main purpose for which Afghanistan was invaded and occupied was accomplished. Thereon, there was no plausible reason for foreign troops to stay on even for a day.

The draw down plan announced in December 2010 has been unnecessarily stretched up to December 2014 because of Pentagon, CIA, India, Israel and Kabul regimes insistence. Opponents of exit plan want the US-NATO troops to stay put till 2024 and Obama who had promised to put an end to war on terror as soon as possible agreed to leave behind a counter-terrorism force till 2024 to provide back up support as well as to train ANSF. Notwithstanding Obamas approval, he and his challenger Mitt Romney remained on one page as far as final date of withdrawal of troops is concerned. Divergence in perception of Pentagon-CIA backed by Indo-Israeli lobbies and Afghan regime versus Obama administration-State Department and American public is one of the major reasons which has failed Doha initiative and made the endgame dicey and highly vulnerable. Other reason is the tug of war between Karzai and Northern Alliance hawks over peace talks with hard-line Taliban and dealings with Pakistan.

Taking into account that 70% of American public is against the war and want early repatriation of troops and same is the case with European countries, together with sudden surge in green-on-blue attacks, chances are that frontline security duties are wholly handed over to ANSF by mid 2013 and pullout is advanced by one year. In order to induce the Taliban to renew talks, the US no more talks of conditions and is prepared to release the five detained Afghan prisoners in Gitmo Prison at one time. Continuing inside attacks by ANSF members against foreign troops including their trainers and now the after effects of Sandy storm in USA which wrought havoc coupled with sex scandals of Gen Allan and Gen Petraeus resulting in latters resignation have added to the worries of Obama administration. Even the hawks in Pentagon and CIA seem to have mellowed down and are no more raising objections against the exit plan. Having lost the war and with no hope of winning, prolongation of war would be harmful for the occupation forces, but would benefit the resistance forces. The government controlled US media that has all along advocated continuation of war and adoption of harsher methods to degrade the Taliban is also favoring timely withdrawal.

Ambassador Marc Grossman is exploring all possible avenues to restart peace process and in this regard Pakistan has been asked to render all possible assistance. Negotiations with Taliban leading to a negotiated political settlement is considered extremely essential in the backdrop of weak, corrupt and unpopular Kabul regime, slim chances of survivability of Karzai in 2014 presidential election, continued resurgence of Taliban power, frailties within ANSF and now their dependability being doubted as a result of continuing inside attacks, and growing demoralization of occupation troops suffering from homesickness and acute sense of insecurity. In order to meet the demands of obtaining environment, original objectives have been suitably modified which are as follows:

Pullout main body of US-NATO troops preferably by end 2013 and latest by end December 2014.
Leave behind a friendly government in Kabul.
Continue training ANSF till 2017.
Retain five military bases and a counter terrorism force till 2024 to provide backup support to ANA in its fight against Taliban, avert civil war and keep Taliban out of power.
Make maximum use of drones and gunship helicopters to degrade Afghan Taliban and anti-US groups in FATA.
Continue working for a political settlement failing which divide the country on ethnic lines.
Facilitate India to fill the power vacuum in Afghanistan in 2014.
Induce Pakistan to help in facilitating safe and honorable exit of occupying forces and once all troops are out, sideline Pakistan.

In the light of USAs exit plan, Pakistan should also devise its strategy to remain relevant in the endgame.

The writer is a retired Brig, former Defence Attaché and a defence analyst.

War against Pakistan

Desperate and defeated militants started hitting innocents and peaceful men, women and children of Pakistan. On December 7, 2009 four blasts rocked Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta. In the morning at 10 am a suicide bomber came on a rickshaw, killed at least ten people in Peshawar when he blew himself up near the courthouse located on Jail Road. Then, in the noon explosive laden taxi blasted near government officer residence and caused injuries to the individuals. In Moon Market, Lahore at about 0845 pm   44 individuals killed and 100 injured in blasts. One explosion was in front of a bank and other one was in front of a police station. It is feared the toll may rise further as the site of the market was on fire. The fire engulfed a building and shops. In today’s blasts almost 52 individuals killed and more than 130 inured. It is also notable here that more than 400 people have been killed during a string of attacks mounted by foreign sponsored terrorists and so called Taliban.   In recent weeks these militants have targeted Muslims offering their Jumma prayers, children, women, Pakistani troops, girls’ schools and vital installations.

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Conspiracy of Equating Militancy and Islam

It is quite fashionable to use the term “Islamic Militants” even by local print media to identify “Muslims” who perpetrate acts of terror in the country and around the world. Of course,people responsible for such acts need to be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but, heedless use of the expression “Islamic Militants” has far reaching negative implications. The use of such phrase reflects the influence of thinking and writings of Bernard Lewis who studied interaction between Islam and West for around sixty years. He presented a broad thesis, that, “Islamic civilization is profoundly ill at its heart” and coined the famous phrase “the clash of civilizations”. The axiom was borrowed and made popular by Samuel Huntington. The disseminator of Lewis’s thinking propagate that violence is caused by Muslim due to their own “sick” socio-psychological formation and has got nothing to do with the atrocities committed by the West.

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The Myth of Quetta Shura

As the US and NATO leadership struggle to find a way out of the Afghan quicksand, amid a growing concern caused by the mounting casualties and enhancing strength of Afghan resistance, the US rhetoric seems to be getting focused on the city of Quetta. According to US assessment, the city houses the top echelon of the Taliban leadership, the Quetta Shura who are not only providing the ideological orientation to the insurgency in Southern Afghanistan but also arranging for the logistical support for the fighters owing allegiance to Mullah Omar. Quetta Shura finds a mention on the assessment forwarded by General Stanley McChrystal to the US Government, duly leaked to the Washington Post and now available to all and sundry on the internet.

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India-Israel selfishly restraining USA from abandoning Afghanistan

The British, German and the French military commanders in Afghanistan as well as of other Nato countries having fought the resistance forces in Afghanistan for the last eight years to subdue militancy are now having second thoughts. They say that force is not the answer and a political settlement through process of dialogue should be found to end insurgency. Despite rapidly rising number of Americans disfavouring war and opposing troop increase in Afghanistan and Obamas approval rating dipping, Obama Administration is still favouring continuation of Bush aggressive policies. Obama says it is war of necessity and has repeatedly expressed his resolve to dismantle, disrupt and defeat al-Qaeda and is still optimistic that war will be won. In pursuance of the stated objectives, Af-Pak policy was framed in February and approval for increase in troop level by 21000 given. These troops were to be shifted from Iraq toAfghanistan by December 2009 to take the total of US troops to 68000. Border belt astride Pak-Afghan border was declared as the battle zone since in US reckoning, bulk of Al-Qaeda leadership and other operatives were hiding in this area.

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US & NATO Forces Silence over Terrorist’s Border Crossing



Zaheerul Hassan

Pakistan Security Forces are successfully fighting an enforced battle all along her western boundaries since 2001. In the on going operation, the Security forces killed more than 1300 militants till May 27, 2009 and taken over the control of eight Mingora city intersections after intense clashes with the Taliban. As per Army Spokes man, Major General Athar Abbas, during the operation and clashes with the militants, security forces have encountered with number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) besides hitting suicide bombers in various areas. The whole nation is supporting…

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