Times Square Plot Underscores Urgency of Support for Pakistan’s Democracy Movement

The attempted bombing of New York’s Times Square over the past weekend underscores the urgency of our support for the democracy movement in Pakistan. Years of double-dealing by dictatorships that sympathized with jihadi ideology and used militant groups as proxy fighters resulted in an expansive network of terrorists inside the country. The democratic government, elected in 2008, has been working closely with the US to eliminate these groups.

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The Prisoner of Karachi

The New York Times reports that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a "founding father" of the Afghani Taliban and the number two in command behind the blind cleric Mullah Mohammed Omar, the supreme leader of the Taliban, has been captured in a joint US-Pakistani operation in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and commercial capital. According to US government officials, the capture of Mullah Barader occurred "several days" ago and remains in Pakistani custody, with both US and Pakistani intelligence officials taking part in interrogations.

In addition to running the Taliban’s military operations, Mullah Baradar runs the group’s leadership council, the Quetta Shura so called because the Taliban's leaders for years have been thought to be hiding in or near Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, the restive province in southwestern Pakistan. Here some more background on Mullah Adul Ghani Baradar from a Newsweek profile in July 2009:

In more than two dozen interviews for this profile, past and present members of the Afghan insurgency portrayed Baradar as no mere stand-in for the reclusive Omar. They say Baradar appoints and fires the Taliban's commanders and governors; presides over its top military council and central ruling Shura in Quetta, the city in southwestern Pakistan where most of the group's senior leaders are based; and issues the group's most important policy statements in his own name. It is key that he controls the Taliban's treasury—hundreds of millions of dollars in -narcotics protection money, ransom payments, highway tolls, and "charitable donations," largely from the Gulf. "He commands all military, political, religious, and financial power," says Mullah Shah Wali Akhund, a guerrilla subcommander from Helmand province who met Baradar this March in Quetta for the fourth time. "Baradar has the makings of a brilliant commander," says Prof. Thomas Johnson, a longtime expert on Afghanistan and an adviser to Coalition forces. "He's able, charismatic, and knows the land and the people so much better than we can hope to do. He could prove a formidable foe."

No one among the Taliban—least of all Baradar himself—will say he's taken Omar's place. On the contrary, Baradar portrays himself as a loyal lieutenant carrying out the orders of his absent boss. "We are acting on [Omar's] instructions," he told NEWSWEEK via e-mail in a recent exclusive interview. He didn't reveal how or when he gets those instructions, saying only that "continuous contacts are not risk-free because of the situation."

Yet while Taliban fighters are reluctant to be seen criticizing Omar in any way, they clearly imply that his deputy has a more modern, efficient style of command. Baradar is consistently described as more open, more consultative, more consensus-oriented, and more patient than Omar. Taliban operatives say he's less mercurial and more willing to hear different views rather than act on hearsay, emotion, or strict ideology. "Baradar doesn't issue orders without understanding and investigating the problem," says a commander from Zabul province who met with him in March and asked not to be named so he could speak freely. "He is patient and listens to you until the end. He doesn't get angry or lose his temper."

That's raised another question: whether the Americans and the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai might ultimately be able to strike a deal with Baradar. His influence among the insurgents—and with Mullah Omar—is unmatched, and he's not as close-minded as many of the leaders in Quetta are. Back in 2004, according to Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban cabinet minister who now lives in Kabul, Baradar authorized a Taliban delegation that approached Karzai with a peace offer, even paying their travel expenses to Kabul. That outreach fizzled, but earlier this year another two senior Taliban operatives sent out separate peace feelers to Qayyum Karzai, the Afghan president's older brother, apparently with Baradar's approval, according to three ranking Taliban sources. They say the initiatives were quickly rescinded. Still, when NEWSWEEK spoke to the elder Karzai last week and asked him about the story, he did not deny that such contacts had taken place, saying only, "This is a very sensitive time, and a lot of things are going on." Publicly, Baradar, who belongs to the same Pashtun tribe as Karzai, has scoffed at peace efforts, denouncing them as a ploy to split the insurgency. But that may simply reflect his feeling that the insurgents currently have the momentum.

Baradar can take much of the credit for rebuilding the Taliban into an effective fighting force.

There are a number of takeaways to the capture of Mullah Baradar. First it took place in Karachi, a teeming city of over 14 million people, suggesting that much of the Taliban's leadership has migrated away from the border areas. Mullah Barader may have been forced to flee from the increasingly less secure hiding places alongside the Afghan-Pakistani frontier as a result of the increased number and ever more effective strikes by unmanned predator drones.

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Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

The New York Times recently posted a disturbing video on Pakistan. The report addresses the topic of anti-Americanism in the country, specifically with regards to its westernized, well-educated musicians:

While Pakistani journalists, playwrights and even moderate Islamic clerics have boldly condemned the Taliban, the nation’s pop music stars have yet to sing out against the group, which continues to claim responsibility for daily bombings.

This summary doesn’t do justice to the report. One really needs to watch the video – to hear the musicians themselves speak – to get a sense of their anti-Americanism.

This anti-American sentiment is deeply, deeply imbued. These musicians are simply angry at the United States; their voices, their faces reflect profound outrage. They hate the United States for a litany of offenses familiar to most in the Muslim world: Guantanamo Bay, Abu Gharib, the Iraq War, the drone attacks today.

More below.

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Obama's Surge: The Real Reason

Every year on the anniversary of September 11, the same question pops up: where is Osama bin Laden? And for eight years various pundits, who hardly speak a word of Pashto, Dari, Urdu or any other language spoken in the region, play the guessing game, placing him somewhere along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

This week, President Obama took Gen. Stanley McChrystal's advice and ordered a surge in the war in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more American troops there to help battle the Taliban insurgency. In a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, the President set out what he said was a new strategy to bring the war to a "successful conclusion" and reverse the momentum of Taliban gains.

The President did not mention Osama bin Laden, a frequent target of his criticism during the campaign when he criticized President Bush.

"We will kill bin Laden, we will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority," then candidate Barack Obama said during an October 2008 debate.

If the US goal remains to "crush" al Qaeda, then perhaps many Americans would not be as upset with Obama's Afghan surge; however, this is not the case.

As it stands, there will be nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with about 47,000 from allies. This is not to mention contractors, who already outnumber U.S. forces in the war-ravaged country. According to credible intelligence estimates, 100 al Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan, and 300 more have fled to Pakistan. As for the Taliban, conflicting estimates put their numbers anywhere between 7,000 to 25,000. Therefore, this build up does not make sense, and the numbers do not add up.

Also, why do the United States and its allies need close to 150,000 troops if they can negotiate with the Taliban? Mr. Karzai does!

"We must talk to the Taliban as an Afghan necessity. The fight against terrorism and extremism cannot be won by fighting alone," Karzai said. "Personally, I would definitely talk to Mullah Omar. Whatever it takes to bring peace to Afghanistan, I, as the Afghan president, will do it."

Meanwhile, President Obama has increased US pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban in its territories. As an inducement, and a measure of heightened American concern for Pakistan, he has also helped bring a big increase in aid to the country, including $7.5 billion of non-military aid over five years, approved recently by Congress. The problem is that there is no certainty or confidence that the current Pakistani regime is going to last; Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari is one of the country's most discredited politicians and linked to corruption. There is a major question mark on who will be replacing him or what sort of a government Pakistan will have after his imminent fall.

President Obama has not been forthcoming with the American people. He should come clean and explain the real reason behind the surge. It's not because of bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or the Taliban. The real reason is Pakistan, a failed state with nuclear warheads!

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Talibanistan

David Rohde's riveting account of his captivity provides immense detail on the nature of life under the Taliban and the de facto Taliban state that stretches across southern Afghanistan and into northwestern Pakistan.

The trip confirmed suspicions I had harbored for years as a reporter. The Haqqanis oversaw a sprawling Taliban mini-state in the tribal areas with the de facto acquiescence of the Pakistani military. The Haqqanis were so confident of their control of the area that they took me -- a person they considered to be an extraordinarily valuable hostage -- on a three-hour drive in broad daylight to shoot a scene for a video outdoors.

Throughout North Waziristan, Taliban policemen patrolled the streets, and Taliban road crews carried out construction projects. The Haqqani network's commanders and foreign militants freely strolled the bazaars of Miram Shah and other towns. Young Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members revered the foreign fighters, who taught them how to make bombs.

Also the glimpses into the background and the world view of the Taliban are simply extraordinary.

Most of the guards were Afghan men in their late 20s and early 30s. Some had grown up as refugees in Pakistan. All had limited educations from government schools or religious institutions, known as madrasas. Some did not make it past junior high school. None had seen the world beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They all had relatives or friends who had been killed by Soviet or American troops. They grew up in a culture where teenage boys reached manhood and made a name for themselves by showing their bravery.

I tried to get to know one of the guards, who was preparing to be a suicide bomber. A young man in his 20s with a slim build and brown eyes, he said he had studied engineering in high school. He never attended college but was relatively well educated compared with the other fighters.

When I asked him why he wanted to die, he replied that living in this world was a burden for any true Muslim. Heaven was his goal, he said. Earthly relationships with his parents and siblings did not matter.

How does one combat the view that the Earth does not matter?  Or that Earthly relationships do not matter? Changing this world view is a project timed in decades.

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Diaries

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