Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
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?
It was only last week that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there must be somebody in the Pakistani government who knew Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Coming from America’s top diplomat, it couldn’t be more blunt.
Then why is a trove of over 90,000 classified military documents released by WikiLeaks on the war in Afghanistan causing so much consternation? Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, says it is now much more difficult to deny or dodge the truths that everyone has been aware of:
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.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is in China this week, making good his promise to visit the “all weather ally” every three months. During his previous trips, his hosts have sent him off to the provinces to see for himself the booming growth there, but this trip may turn out be a lot more productive.
Zardari may well return with a firm plan by China to build two reactors at Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear plant, as my colleague in Beijing reports in this article, overriding concern in Washington, New Delhi and other capitals that this undermined global non-proliferation objectives.
from Tales from the Trail:
Barack Obama's team running the Afghan war has its issues -- but is it dysfunctional? No, sir, according to Richard Holbrooke.
" I have worked in every Democratic administration since the Kennedy administration, and I know dysfunctionality when I see it," Holbrooke, the administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the PBS NewsHour program.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
According 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.
If you still thought things hadn’t dramatically changed on the Afghan chessboard ever since U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to begin pulling out from mid-2011, you only need to look at President Hamid Karzai’s recent utterances, or more accurately the lack of it, on the Taliban and Pakistan, the other heavyweights on the stage.
For months Karzai has gone noticeably quiet on Pakistan, refusing to excoriate the neighbour for aiding the Taliban as he routinely did in the past, The Guardian quoted a source close to the country’s former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh as saying.
from India Insight:
With initial euphoria over last week's U.S.-India talks on the wane, it may be time to take a long, hard look at what New Delhi actually gained from the first official "strategic dialogue" between the two sides.
The timing was just right as Washington implements its AfPak plan, the correct gestures were made and U.S. officials went out of their way to convince the Indian media all was fine between the world's two biggest democracies.
Walking into a giant tent at the foothills of Kabul, you are conscious of the importance of jirgas throughout Afghanistan’s troubled history. These assemblies of tribal elders have been called at key moments in the country’s history from whether it should participate in the two World Wars to a call for a national uprising against an Iranian invasion in the 18th century.
Next week’s jirga is aimed at building a national consensus behind Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s effort to seek a negotiated settlement of the nine year conflict now that the Taliban have fought U.S. and NATO forces to a virtual stalemate and the clock on a U.S. military withdrawal has begun.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
After the media frenzy following last weekend's failed car bomb attack on Times Square, you would be forgiven for thinking that something dramatic is about to change in Pakistan. The reality, however, is probably going to be much greyer.
Much attention has naturally focused on North Waziristan, a bastion for al Qaeda, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan fighters including those in the Haqqani network, and the so-called "Punjabi Taliban" - militants from Punjab-based groups who have joined the battle either in Afghanistan or against the Pakistani state. The Pakistan Army is expected to come under fresh pressure to launch an offensive in North Waziristan after Faisal Shahzad, who according to U.S. authorities admitted to the failed car-bombing in Times Square, said he had received training in Waziristan. Unlike other parts of the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghan border, North Waziristan has so far been left largely alone.