Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Hope and Fear at the World Bank

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It was early March and Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner of International Cooperation Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, was traveling in Asia. Her plan was to attend a 7.5 magnitude earthquake simulation that would hit Indonesia and generate a tsunami. A few things, however, changed in her itinerary: The destination turned out to be Japan, the earthquake was 9.0 and it not only generated a huge tsunami, but also a nuclear catastrophe. Plus, it was real.

“Usually our fears are bigger than reality. In this case our reality was worse than our fears,” Georgieva said recently at a World Bank panel on the climate, food and financial crises the world is facing today and the way they all intertwine. Georgieva’s strong Slavic optimism brightened the gloomy panel, but the data she threw in didn’t back up her positive view:

Hold on for a second. How can these disasters have such a devastating impact on us when cutting-edge technology, extensive knowledge and interconnectedness are here to help us mitigate them?

This question left the representatives of Uganda – who followed the event via webcast — puzzled. So they raised the simplest but toughest question for the panel:

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the bin Laden raid

In conducting a raid deep inside Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden, the United States pushed the boundaries of military operations,  inter-state ties and international law, all of which are the subject of a raging debate in the region and beyond. 

 One of the less talked-about issues is that the boots-on-ground operation by the U.S. Special Forces also blows a hole in a long-held argument that states which have nuclear weapons, legitimately or otherwise,  face a lower chance of a foreign strike or invasion than those without them. Thus  the United States didn't think twice before going into Afghanistan within weeks of the September 11 attacks or striking against Libya now because there was no nuclear threat lurking at the back of the mind. Even Iraq was a tempting target because it was not known to have a well-established nuclear arsenal  although the whole point of the invasion was that it had weapons of mass destruction. That only turned out to be untrue.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

U.S.-Pakistan and the phone calls after the bin Laden raid

Who called whom and when on the night that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan? Here's a summary of what has been published so far, with some questions:

Let's start with President Barack Obama's speech on May 1 (May 2 in Pakistan) when he announced that bin Laden had been killed in the town of Abbottabad (note the diplomatic finesse in his suggestion that President Asif Ali Zardari was the first to be informed, as would normally be the case in relations between two countries.)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Extracting Pakistan, bin Laden and its US past

We are unlikely to know the full truth about the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan for months, and probably years. So I have decided to retreat into history, where we have more, though still fragile, hope of understanding what really happened.  Here is one version.

General Khalid Mahmud Arif worked closely with Pakistani military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq, the architect of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. His memoirs, "Khaki Shadows", show how the internal narrative of the Pakistan Army was constructed at a formative time for the current military leadership. I've extracted some details from his chapter on "The Military under Zia" and leave you to judge which remain relevant today:

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

In Pakistan, bewilderment

Cyril Almeida at Dawn has written a powerful and anguished column about the bewilderment among many Pakistanis on discovering that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad, a garrison town in the heart of the country and home to the Pakistan Military Academy.

"It’s too frightening to make sense of. The world’s most-wanted terrorist. A man who triggered the longest war in American history. The terrorist mastermind the world’s only superpower has moved heaven and earth to track down. A decade of hunting. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent. The blood of countless Americans and others spilled. And when he was finally found, he was found wrapped in the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment."

from FaithWorld:

Even without bin Laden, Pakistan’s Islamist militants strike fear

(Supporters of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden shout anti-American slogans, after the news of his death, during a rally in Quetta May 2, 2011/Naseer Ahmed)

The death of Osama bin Laden has robbed Islamist militants of their biggest inspiration and al Qaeda itself has dwindled to a few hundred fighters in the region, but Pakistan remains a haven for militants with both ambition and means to strike overseas. Worse, there are signs that groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure), nurtured by Pakistan's spy agency to advance strategic interests in India and Afghanistan, are no longer entirely under the agency's control.

from Reuters Investigates:

The spies next door to OBL

Our special report "Why the U.S. mistrusts Pakistan's powerful spy agency" examines in the history of the ISI, and what led President Obama to make the decision to keep his supposed allies in the dark about this week's raid on bin Laden's safe house.

The killing of bin Laden exposes just how dysfunctional the relationship has become. The fact that bin Laden seems to have lived for years in a town an hour's drive from Islamabad has U.S. congressmen demanding to know why Washington is paying $1 billion a year in aid to Pakistan. Many of the hardest questions are directed at the ISI. Did it know bin Laden was there? Was it helping him? Is it rotten to the core or is it just a few sympathizers?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan agree to expand trade, rewrite the rules

India and Pakistan have agreed to try to improve trade ties during the first meeting of their commerce secretaries since the November 2008 attack on Mumbai.  The official statement released after the talks in Islamabad suggests the agreement is so far largely aspirational, with working committees set up to look at everything from tariff barriers, to India selling electricity to Pakistan, to visas for businessmen.

But the aspiration in itself represents a dramatic shift in relations between India and Pakistan, who have embarked on what may turn out to be their most organised, if slow, attempt at peace-making in their history.  Pakistan has in the past been wary of a a gradual approach to peace-making, fearing India would try to normalise ties while maintaining the status quo on Kashmir.  The Indian government has said that it is ready to discuss all issues, including Kashmir.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

China-Pakistan-Afghanistan-building economic ties

During a visit to Beijing in late 2009, President Barack Obama asked China to help stabilise Pakistan and Afghanistan. The logic was obvious. China is a long-standing ally of Pakistan with growing investments there and in Afghanistan; it has the money to pay for the economic development and trade both countries need; and with its own worries about its Uighur minority, it is suspicious of militant Islamists.  The challenge was in achieving this without angering India, which fought a border war with China in 1962 and is wary of its alliance with Pakistan.

A year-and-a-half on, efforts to forge that economic cooperation between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan are in full swing - though perhaps not entirely in the way Obama envisaged. The Wall Street quoted Afghan officials as saying that Pakistan was lobbying Afghanistan's president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the United States, urging him instead to look to Pakistan and China for help.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Al Qaeda leader killed in Kunar, Afghanistan’s “safe haven”

For some time, Pakistan has been complaining that it is unfairly criticised for failing to fight al Qaeda-linked insurgents on its side of the border when U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan are also struggling to make headway. This has been particularly the case in Bajaur, where Pakistan said its own military operation against militants were undermined by a decision to pull Western troops back from neighbouring Kunar in Afghanistan. The row over who is to blame for not doing enough to prevent militants moving back and forth across the border between Bajaur and Kunar has been both a reflection of the distrust in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship,  and a persistent source of strain.

The mantra, repeated so often that it is rarely questioned, is that al Qaeda's safe havens are in Pakistan. That is partially true - the organisation is believed to have secure bases in various parts of Pakistan's tribal areas.  But Pakistani officials respond by saying that al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents also have safe havens inside Afghanistan. And just as the Pakistan Army is unwilling to fight in every part of the tribal areas at once - it has resisted U.S. pressure to launch a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan - the U.S. Army is also reluctant to spread out its troops too thinly, choosing instead to focus on populated areas.

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