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from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

It’s still the economy, stupid, in Pakistan

A few weeks ago I asked a Pakistani diplomat what was, among the multiple threats facing the country, the single biggest challenge?

It wasn't al Qaeda or the Taliban, it wasn't the United States as many Pakistanis believe. And it wasn't even India, for long the existential threat the military and succeeding generations of politicians have invested blood and treasure to checkmate.

It was the economy which has virtually ground to a halt as the global recession erodes exports and investment, the diplomat said. Fix the power shortages, win investors back and get the economy moving, the tide of militancy could begin to be pushed back.

You could of course argue that the miitancy itself has sapped the economy and if it weren't for the militants, Pakistan would have done far better . So tackle them first, and the economy would take care of itself. In the light of the attacks of last week and this, that certainly would seem to be an overiding immediate objective.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan and Pakistan: is it time to ditch “AfPak”?

One of the arguments frequently put forward for sending more western troops to Afghanistan is that western failure there will destabilise Pakistan.

Very roughly summarised, this 21st century version of the domino theory suggests that a victory for Islamist militants in Afghanistan would so embolden them that they might then overrun Pakistan - a far more dangerous proposition given its nuclear weapons.

Afghanistan’s angry Norwegian bites back

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It is both fascinating and horrifying to overhear a bad argument between two old friends. The drama is compelling but you shudder at the pain of each wounding criticism.

I doubt Kai Eide, the U.N.’s top man in Afghanistan, will be holidaying again with his former deputy, Peter Galbraith, after a lacerating row between them over electoral fraud. Once the best of friends, the two have fallen out spectacularly over what should have been done to prevent the ballot stuffing, vote rigging and intrigue that Western powers now publicly admit badly marred the August 20 poll in Afghanistan. Were the stakes not so high, the fight could be brushed off as the consequence of clashing egos and the vagaries of human nature. But the dispute has cast doubt on whether any outcome of the vote can be considered legitimate. A second round may still happen, depending on a recount of suspect votes likely to conclude in a few days. On current trends President Hamid Karzai will emerge the winner, but will look like spoiled goods in the eyes of many in the Obama administration. Obama needs a credible political partner in Kabul to help him sell to Americans the cost in blood and treasure of whatever approach he eventually decides to take on continuing the counter-insurgency fight in Afghanistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Attack in Rawalpindi: are Pakistan’s militant groups uniting?

An attack on the headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the city of Rawalpindi has highlighted the country's vulnerability to a backlash from Islamist militants in the Pakistani Taliban as it prepares an offensive against their stronghold in South Waziristan. It follows a suicide bombing in Peshawar which prompted Interior Minister Rehman Malik to say that "all roads are leading to South Waziristan."

But what is perhaps more troubling about the attack is not so much the backlash from the Pakistani Taliban (the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP)  holed up in the Waziristan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, but rather suggestions of growing co-operation between al Qaeda-linked groups there and those based in Punjab, the heartland of Pakistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan blames Pakistan for embassy bombing; India holds fire

Afghanistan has wasted little time in accusing Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency of being behind a bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on Thursday.

Asked by PBS news channel whether Kabul blamed Pakistan for the bombing, Afghan ambassador to the United States Said Jawad said: "Yes, we do. We are pointing the finger at the Pakistan intelligence agency, based on the evidence on the ground and similar attacks taking place in Afghanistan."

Are Pentagon contracts funding the Taliban?

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An Afghan contractor stitches name badges for German armed forces Bundeswehr and NATO allied forces at his shop at Camp Marmal, in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan April 15, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Jean MacKenzie covers Afghanistan for GlobalPost. She is program director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Afghanistan, which she’s held for four years. This article originally appeared in GlobalPost.
KABUL — It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Western Afghanistan, a new worry ?

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       By Golnar Motevalli

Herat province in west Afghanistan is seen as one of the country’s safest areas. It is one of the largest, most prosperous Afghan provinces — its capital’s wide, smooth and tree-lined boulevards are a far cry from Kabul’s crumbling skyline.

But the past few months have seen a sharp increase in violence.

Last month a cabinet minister and former militia leader, Ismail Khan, was the target of a bomb attack in Herat city. A day earlier, Herati traders took to the streets to protest against rising insecurity in the province.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Talk of Waziristan offensive picks up in Pakistan

According to Dawn newspaper, the Pakistan Army is poised to launch a major military operation in South Waziristan, stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.

It quotes senior military and security officials as saying that the army would launch what it called "the mother of all battles" in the coming days.

from Jeffrey Jones:

Dalai Lama: Afghan war a failure

    The Dalai Lama believes the war in Afghanistan has so far been a failure, saying military intervention creates additional complications for the country.
    The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, making his first visit to the Western Canadian city of Calgary in 30 years, said foreign military intervention against Taliban insurgents has only served to make the fundamentalist group more determined.  
    The war has been "so far, I think, a failure," he told reporters, adding that he could not yet judge its outcome. "Using military forces, the other hard-liners become even more hard ... and due to civilian casualties the other side also sometimes is getting more sympathy from local people." 
    U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing calls to boost troop levels and alter strategy to reverse what officials have said is a deteriorating military situation. But the Dalai Lama said it would all have been unnecessary had the United States and the European Union spent more on aid to the region.
    "Instead of spending billions and billions of dollars for killing they should have spent billions .... on education and health in rural areas and underdeveloped areas. (If they had) I think the picture would be different."

-- Written by Scott Haggett

(Photo: The Dalai Lama speaks at a conference in Calgary, Alberta, on October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistani Taliban’s new chief:more ambitious, more ruthless?

The first big suicide bombing in Pakistan this week since the slaying of Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S.-missile strike had a particularly nasty edge to it.

The attack in Torkham, a post on the main route for moving supplies to NATO and American forces in Afghanistan, took place just before dusk, as a group of tribal police officers prepared to break the Ramadan fast on the lawn outside their barracks.

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