Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

The view from Pakistan: India is a bigger threat than the Taliban, al Qaeda

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A man unloads clay tiles, used for flooring and roofs, from a donkey inside a compound at a makeshift factory in Karachi July 25, 2010. A man unloads clay tiles, used for flooring and roofs, at a makeshift factory in Karachi.

India may have  a bigger problem in Pakistan than previously thought. More than half of Pakistanis surveyed in a Pew poll say India is a bigger threat than al Qaeda or the Taliban.

It’s not just the Pakistani military that believes a bigger, richer India is an existential threat. A majority of ordinary people share that perception as well. That ought to worry Indian policy planners. Of the Pakistanis polled, 23 percent think the Taliban is the greatest threat to their country, and 3 percent think al Qaeda is, despite the rising tide of militant violence in Pakistan’s turbulent northwest region on the Afghan border, and also in the heartland cities.

One must approach all surveys with caution, especially so in countries such as India and Pakistan with very large populations.  Pew conducted face-to-face interviews with 2,000 adults in Pakistan between April 13 and 28 of 2010. It says the sample was disproportionately urban, and parts of the troubled areas of the northwest and Baluchistan were not covered. For a country with a population of over 170 million, drawing hard conclusions based on a sample size that small  must come with a mandatory health warning.

Still, there were some positive take-aways.  Despite the deep-seated tensions between these two countries, most Pakistanis want better relations with India. Roughly 72% say it is important for relations with India to improve and about three-quarters support increased trade with India and further talks between the two rivals.

from Tales from the Trail:

Backlash over WikiLeaks release of Afghan war documents

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There may be more shoes to drop from WikiLeaks if it releases another 15,000 documents on the Afghanistan war that the whistleblower website is reviewing. It is already seeing some backlash after releasing 75,000-plus documents on the Internet.

The Times of London reported Wednesday that the leaked documents expose informers helping U.S. forces and have put hundreds of Afghan lives at risk.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra

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wikileakIn many ways the documents released by WikiLeaks last night merely underscored the bleak assessment of the Afghan war which General Stanley McChrystal issued last August.

At the time McChrystal warned the overall situation was “deteriorating”, complained of “under-resourcing” and called for not just more resources but a “fundamentally new approach” from NATO forces if failure were to be avoided.

WikiLeaks: shaking the foundations of U.S. policy toward Pakistan

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A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Chaman in Pakistan's Balochistan province, along the Afghan border on May 19, 2010.

A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Chaman in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, along the Afghan border on May 19, 2010.

On the face of it, you could ask what’s new about the latest disclosures of Pakistani involvement in the Taliban insurgency while accepting massive U.S. aid to fight Islamic militancy of all hues. Hasn’t this been known all along — something that a succession of top U.S. officials and military leaders have often said, sometimes  couched in diplomatic speech and sometimes rather clearly?

U.S. troops walk a dangerous line in Arghandab

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A member of the U.S. Army's explosive ordinance disposal unit scans the area around a burning M-ATV armored vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Combat Outpost Nolen. Pic by Bob Strong, Reuters

A member of the U.S. Army's explosive ordinance disposal unit scans the area around a burning M-ATV armored vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Combat Outpost Nolen. Pic by Bob Strong, Reuters

The walk to besieged U.S. Combat Outpost Nolen is only 700 metres in a straight line, but for the soldiers who walk it every day it is an extraordinary feat of fitness and defeating their own fear in one of Afghanistan’s riskiest front lines.

Burying the India-Pakistan dialogue for now

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PAKISTAN-INDIA/

The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan have returned home, licking their wounds from their latest failed engagement.  Both sides are blaming each other for not only failing to make any progress, but also souring ties further, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M.Krishna openly sparring at a news conference following the talks in Islamabad.  Qureshi suggested Krishna did not seem to have the full mandate to conduct negotiations because directions were being given from New Delhi throughout the day-long talks, drawing rebuke from India which said the foreign minister had been insulted on Pakistani soil.

Some people are asking why bother  going through this painful exercise  at this time  when the chances of  of the two sides making even the slightest concession are next to zero?  India and Pakistan may actually be doing each other more damage by holding these high-profile, high-pressure meetings where the domestic media and the  opposition  in both the countries  is watching for the slightest sign of capitulation by either government.

2014: Mark it in your diary

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An Afghan  policeman keeps watch from his vehicle on a hill overlooking Kabul. Pic by Omar Sobhani

An Afghan policeman keeps watch from his vehicle on a hill overlooking Kabul. Pic by Omar Sobhani

It was with scarcely disguised sarcasm that a foreign colleague murmured ‘2014’, referring to the year, when I told him earlier last week of first reports of the United Nations Secretary-General and his NATO counterpart having to divert landing at Kabul airport to a nearby military base after a Taliban rocket attack on the Afghan capital.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Richard Haass on Afghanistan – time to scale down U.S. ambitions

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arghandab3Richard Haass, president at the Council on Foreign Relations, has become the latest to urge the United States to change course in Afghanistan and to seek a political settlement to try to bring an end to the war.

"The war the United States is now fighting in Afghanistan is not succeeding and is not worth waging in this way. The time has come to scale back U.S. objectives and sharply reduce U.S. involvement on the ground. Afghanistan is claiming too many American lives, requiring too much attention, and absorbing too many resources. The sooner we accept that Afghanistan is less a problem to be fixed than a situation to be managed, the better,"  he writes in an article in Newsweek.

Taliban rocket attacks rise at Kandahar airbase

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ISAF civilian and military personnel sit in a shelter during a ground and rocket attack by militants at Kandahar Air Field earlier this year. - REUTERS/Nikola Solic

ISAF civilian and military personnel sit in a shelter during a ground and rocket attack by militants at Kandahar Air Field earlier this year. - REUTERS/Nikola Solic

AS U.S. and NATO forces ramp up their operation against Taliban centres in southern Afghanistan, insurgents are fighting back with increasing numbers of rockets fired at the biggest coalition base of them all.

Old spectre of partition sparks new jitters

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great_gameAn analysis by a former U.S. envoy to India has touched off a fire storm in Afghanistan where the world’s super power is struggling along with a 150,000-strong NATO force it leads against a resurgent Taliban it thought it had almost defeated with their ousting in 2001.

It has revived a long-held suspicion among some Afghans that the U.S. wants to divide the country as part of  a wider plan to destabilise the middle east and central Asia in pursuit of world hegemony.

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