Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

B-minus for war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan ?

- (Afghan boys at a cemetry in Kabul. Picture by Ahmad Masood)

(Afghan boys at a cemetry in Kabul. Picture by Ahmad Masood)

Gallup has a new poll out testing the mood inside Afghanistan and Pakistan and it remains downbeat.  Roughly half of those surveyed in both countries said their governments were not doing enough to fight terrorism, despite the infusion of troops in Afghanistan and military offensives in Pakistan.

The dissatisfaction is  even more pronounced the closer you are to the trouble spots.  Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed in Pakistan’s northwest, which is really the ground zero of the war against militant groups, were unhappy with the government’s efforts.  Afghans were even more impatient, with some 67 percent in the east which faces Pakistan’s troubled  northwest, registering their disappointment.

 So for all the missile strikes by unmanned drones  on leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and successful  ground operations in difficult places such as Pakistan’s south Waziristan, the people’s perceptions about their government’s efforts to fight terrorism haven’t changed much. Gallup says these findings reinforce the view that what happens after a battle is almost as important as the battle itself.   Winning a battle doesn’t necessarily mean people start feeling fully secure. Also as  this Reuters analysis points out, the Pakistani Taliban may be down, but they are not out by any means.  

The poll conducted in November-December 2009 also threw up another key finding: people on either side of the Afghan-Pakistan border have no love lost for the Taliban.  Eight in 10 Afghans, on an average,  said the Taliban had a negative influence. Even in Kandahar, the spiritual centre of the Taliban, the majority of those polled said they had a negative influence although the number of people seeing them in a favourable light increased from a June 2009 poll. 

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s slow path to salvation in Waziristan

Pakistan's militants have unleashed a guerrilla war in cities across the country in retaliation for a military offensive against them in their South Waziristan stronghold. But while they have seized all the attention with their massive bomb and gun attacks, what about the offensive itself  in their mountain redoubt ?

Nearly two weeks into Operation Rah-e-Nijat, or Path of Salvation,  it is hard to make a firm assessment of which way the war is going, given that information is hard to come by and this may yet be still the opening stages of a long and difficult campaign.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan, Pakistan and … all the other countries involved

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have questioned before the value of the "AfPak" label, which implies that an incredibly complicated situation involving many different countries can be reduced to a five-letter word.

Having spent the last couple of days trying to make sense of the suicide bomb attack in Iran which Tehran blamed on Jundollah, an ethnic Baluchi, Sunni insurgent group it says has bases in Pakistan,  I'm more inclined than ever to believe the "AfPak" label blinds us to the broader regional context. Analysts argue that Jundollah has been heavily influenced by hardline Sunni sectarian Islamist thinking within Pakistan which is itself the product of 30 years of proxy wars in the region dating back to the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan towards the end of the same year.