Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Pakistan and Afghanistan, spoiling for a full-blown fight ?

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With a series of spectacular attacks over the past few months, first in the provinces and then in the Afghan capital Kabul, the Talban have captured attention and even prompted comparisons with the Viet Cong’s Tet offensive. But they are not the only ones attacking Afghanistan, according to The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). It lists a series of attacks from early this year to build the case that Pakistan has joined the Taliban in what it called a “military invasion of Afghanistan”, driving another nail in the faltering U.S. effort in the country.

Beginning from the February bombardment of Afghan  border police posts in Nangarhar and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan by Pakistani planes to the firing of hundreds of rockets last month in Kunar and Nuristan, Pakistani forces have stepped up cross border action, MEMRI  said in a report.  It quoted Afghan officials  as saying the artillery and missile strikes backed by air intrusions were an “act of intrusion.”

 By August there had been 50 incidents of border violation by Pakistani forces, Afghan border police commander Aminullah Amarkhel said. He also made the startling claim that  Pakistani forces had established 16 checkpoints inside the territory of Afghanistan in the east, taken control of some parts and even offered offered citizenship to the local tribes. He said there was proof that Pakistan provided Pakistani citizenship cards to Afghans in the eastern border towns, particularly in Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

It’s hard to tell what is going on in the remote and rugged area straddling the two countries. Pakistan says it has legitimate security concerns with many of the militant groups fighting the state operating from sanctuaries just over the border in Afghanistan.  With foreign forces stretched and focused largely on securing the Afghan south, the eastern region was left largely uncovered, allowing militant groups to reconstitute themselves.  Indeed there is growing concern that some militant groups may have shifted their base from Pakistan’s Waziristan strongholds to provinces such as Kunar.

Pakistan’s journalists won’t be silenced

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The killing of an Islamabad-based Pakistani journalist  ,who went missing a few days ago, has triggered an outpouring of grief and anger.   Pakistani journalists and activists are demanding answers for the murder of Saleem Shahzad, who Human Rights Watch said, told them before he was abducted that he was under threat from the Inter-Services Intelligence, the powerful spy agency.

Shahzad, a reporter for the Asia Times and the Italian news agency Adnkronos International, wrote on security/intelligence issues,  often delving deep into the dangerous world of Islamist militancy . The last story he wrote for the Asia Times  two days before  he was abducted, suggested that a militant attack on the navy’s main base in Karachi on May 22 was carried out because the navy was trying to crack down on cells from Al Qaeda that had infiltrated the force. 

Stirring the hornet’s nest in Pakistan’s northwest

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The United States has a set of expectations  that it wants Pakistan’s government to meet, Secretary of State of  Hillary Clinton said ahead of her short trip to Islamabad  last week, the kind of language Washington has frequently employed to bring its conflicted partner in the war against militant Islam to heel, each time  there has been a crisis. Clinton didn’t elaborate, saying only at the end of her meetings in Islamabad that she expected Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.

But on Monday, Pakistan’s The News reported that the military was preparing to launch an air and ground offensive against militants in North Waziristan, a demand that the United States has repeatedly made over the last two years. It said the decision was taken during discussions that Clinton and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State Admiral Mike Mullen had with Pakistani government and military leaders.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The “sound and fury” of U.S.-Pakistan ties

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rayjmonddavisphotoWith the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the United States and Pakistan have put behind them one of the more public rows of their up-and-down relationship.  It was probably not the worst row -- remember the furore over a raid by U.S. ground troops in Angor Adda in Waziristan in 2008, itself preceded  by a deluge of leaks to the U.S. media about the alleged duplicity of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in its dealings on Afghanistan.

But it was certainly one which by its very nature was guaranteed to get the most attention - an American who shot dead two Pakistanis in what he said was an act of self-defence, denied diplomatic immunity and ultimately released only after the payment of blood money. Adding to the drama were two intelligence agencies battling behind the scenes.

Ahead of Lisbon, soul-searching in Pakistan

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For all of former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf’s faults, the one thing you would have to give him credit for is the emergence of a free press. It’s every bit as fearless, and questioning as its counterpart across the border in India, sometimes even stepping over the line, as some complain.

Indeed east of the Suez, and perhaps all the way to Japan, it would be hard to find a media that is as unrestrained as in India and Pakistan, which is even more remarkable in the case of Pakistan given the threat posed by a deadly militancy.

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?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

New report accuses Pakistan’s ISI of backing Afghan insurgents

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us soldiersAccording to a new report published by the London School of Economics, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency not only funds and trains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially represented on the movement's leadership council, giving it significant influence over operations.

The ISI has long been accused of backing the Taliban - an accusation Pakistan denies, saying this would make no sense when it is already fighting a bloody campaign against Islamist militants at home. But the report is worth reading for its wealth of detail on the perceptions held by Taliban commanders interviewed in the field. You can see the Reuters story on the report here and the full document (pdf) here.

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