Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Pakistan and Afghanistan: strategic allies or sworn enemies?

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The armies of Afghanistan and Pakistan exchanged artillery firing across their border this week in which the Pakistan military said it had lost a soldier while several others including civilians were wounded. Newspaper reports in Pakistan speak of at least three Afghan soldiers killed in the clash near Angoor Adda in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region.

It isn’t new, there was a clash last week when an Afghan militia attacked a Pakistan border post in the Lower Dir district, according to the Pakistani media, in which 14 security personnel were killed besides a large number of the Afghan militiamen. 

But the latest flareup at the disputed border is interesting because it comes at a time when Pakistan is not only trying to mend fences with Afghanistan, but is also said to be seeking a three-way strategic partnership involving Kabul, Beijing and itself and keeping the United States out over the long term.

Indeed as the Wall Street Journal reported, Pakistan’s leaders told their Afghan counterpart this month that America had failed them both and that the only durable relationship could be with its two neighbours – Pakistan and China. Pakistan has rejected the report as groundless, but given the strained ties with the United States, it has gained traction, striking a chord among those who are convinced that the United States and Pakistan are on a path of confrontation. 
 
But if Pakistan is seeking to soften up the Afghans, it looks like it has a mountain to climb.  The leak itself of its overtures to President Hamid Karzai is said to have come from Afghan officials keen to remain on America’s side. Besides embarrassing Pakistan, it can only increase the distrust the neighbours have long held for each other.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan – a list too long

childPakistani journalist Mosharraf Zaidi had a good post up last week attempting to frame the many different challenges Pakistan faces in trying to deal with terrorism.  Definitely worth a read as a counter-balance to the vague "do more" mantra, and as a reminder of how little serious public debate there is out there about the exact nature of the threat posed to a nuclear-armed country of some 180 million people, whose collapse would destabilise the entire region and beyond.

Zaidi has divided the challenges into counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.

Guest Column: Getting Obama’s Afghan policy back on track

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USA/

(C. Uday Bhaskar is a New Delhi-based strategic analyst. The views expressed in the column are his own).

By C. Uday Bhaskar

The May 12 summit meeting in the White House between visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his host, U.S. President Barack Obama comes against the backdrop of the mercifully aborted May 1 terrorist bombing incident in New York’s Times Square.

America expanding its undeclared war in Pakistan?

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- The car packed with explosives at Times Square

(The car packed with explosives at Times Square)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Pakistan of  ‘severe consequences” if a future attack on the U.S. homeland is traced back to Pakistani militant groups.

It’s the kind of language that harks back to the Bush administration when they threatened to  “bomb Pakistan to the Stone Age” if it didn’t cooperate in the war against al  Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks.  Pakistan fell in line, turning on militant groups, some of whom with close ties to the security establishment.

Taliban reconciliation anyone?

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TIMESSQUARE/PACKAGEFaisal Shahzad, the Pakistan-born American charged with trying to bomb New York, may have failed in his objective, but one unintended consequence of his act may well be that a plan to reach out to insurgents in Afghanistan has been blown out of the water.

To be sure the Afghan Taliban which is entirely focused on fighting foreign forces in their homeland has nothing to do with the failed Times Square bombing. It is the Pakistani Taliban that claimed responsibility initially and the suspected bomber’s links to the group and another Pakistan-based group fighting Indian forces in Kashmir are being investigated.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan-despite failed NY attack, change will be slow in coming

karachiAfter 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.

Killing more efficiently: America’s violin-sized missiles

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- A unmanned Predator being rolled out of a hangar.REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

(An unmanned Predator being rolled out of a hangar. REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

The CIA is using smaller, advanced missiles – some of them no longer than a violin-case – to target militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt, according to the Washington Post.

The idea is to limit civilian casualties, the newspaper said quoting defence officials, after months of deadly missile strikes by unmanned Predator aircraft that has so burned Pakistan both in terms of the actual collateral damage and its sense of loss of sovereignty.

Terror index: Iraq down, but Afghanistan and Pakistan red-hot

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- A U.S.military convoy in southern Afghanistan

A U.S.military convoy in southern Afghanistan

Iraqis  are voting today for a new parliament and despite the bombings in the run-up to the election, the over-all trend is down, according to the Brookings Institution. Not so in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, America ‘s other war, which remains red-hot according to a country index that the Washington-based thinktank  puts out for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The index is a statistical compilation of economic, puiblic opinion and security data.

It’s quite instructive just to look at the numbers in the three  countries. Weekly violent incidents in Iraq are  about 90 percent less frequent than in the months just before the surge.  Violent deaths from the vestiges of war are in the range of 100 to 200 civilians a month, meaning that mundane Iraqi crime is probably now a greater threat to most citizens than politically-motivated violence, Brookings says in its latest update.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Targeted killings in Pakistan and elsewhere : official U.S. policy now ?

One of the things U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran into last week during her trip to Pakistan was anger over attacks by unmanned "drone" aircraft inside Pakistan and along the border with Afghanistan.

 One questioner during an interaction with members of the public said the missile strikes by Predator aircraft amounted to "executions without trial" for those killed.  Another asked Clinton to define terrorism and whether she considered the drone attacks to be an act of terrorim like the car bomb that ripped through Peshawar that same week killing more than 100 people.

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