Pakistan: Getting Waziristan right this time

October 6, 2009

U.S. defence officials, in a ringing vote of confidence, said over the weekend that Pakistan had the forces and equipment to launch a long-awaited ground offensive in South Waziristan. It could mount this assault without seeking more reinforcements, a U.S. official said, according to this Reuters report. Yet Pakistan had cited in recent months shortages of helicopters, armoured vehicles and precision weapons in putting off a Waziristan assault.So what has changed? Has the United States,  desperate to turn around a faltering war in Afghanistan, got ahead of itself in nudging Pakistan toward “the mother-of-all battles”? Some people are asking if the Pakistan Army is really ready to start what must be its bigest test yet since the militants turned on the Pakistani state. If the idea is to go in and linflict casualties on the Taliban in the hope of killing senior leaders, then it will be another punitive strike for which the force levels may well be adequate.But if the Pakistan Army plans to go into the Mehsud strongholds and occupy the region then the numbers are a bit worrying, says Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.  A Pakistan Army spokesman has said that  two divisions, or up to 28,000 soldiers, are in place to take on an estimated 10,000 hard-core Taliban. But Roggio says Waliur Rehman Mehsud, who heads the Mehsud Taliban forces in Waziristan, (Hakimullah Mehsud who surfaced at the weekend is the overall head of the Pakistani Taliban) is estimated to command anything between 10,000 to 30,000 forces.  If the army were to wage a full-scale counter-insurgency they and the Frontier Corps “would need to throw multiple divisions against a Taliban force of this size,” he argues. And then there is the Haqqani network, as well as a sizeable contingent of Uzbek and other non-Pakistani fighters in the area. They may well join the fight, according to the Dawn newspaper.Pakistani expert Imtiaz Gul, who heads the  Independent Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, calls Waziristan a “blackhole” for security and intelligence forces. At least 800 pro-government tribal elders and intelligence officials have lost their lives to Taliban and al Qaeda assassins in Waziristan and adjacent tribal areas, most of them in the last four years, eroding Pakistani intelligence from the region and in turn forcing a greater reliance on U.S. drone surveillance and strikes, he says in a piece for the AFPAK channel for Foreign Policy.Gul reckons one of the prime objectives of the impending military assault would be to take out the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan entrenched there and whose powerful leader Tahir Yuldashev is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.Some others are saying there is actually no public estimate of the total number of Waziri fighters, and that the Pakistan Army might end up in a 1:1 ratio with the militants, which is far too low to sustain a counter-insurgency campaign, let alone win it. You can’t help recalling again the oft-quoted words of Lord Curzon, the turn-of-the-century British Viceroy of India, who said : ”No patchwork scheme will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steamroller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine.”And even if Pakistan were willing to run the steamroller it may just not be avaialble to it, not yet at least.Sameer Lalwani in a study for the New America Foundation says that the Pakistan Army is already overstretched with the Swat operation and lacks the capacity to  expand the fight. The study provides a fairly detailed assessment of Pakistani capabilities for a counter-insurgency campaign focussing on  1) the nature of the insurgency, including its strength, capabilities, tactics, and strategic objectives; 2) the terrain challenges posed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and 3) current and potential Pakistani potential military capabilites.  Here is the PDF of the full report.In short, Lalwani argues that 370,000 and 430,000 more troops would be needed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas  and the North West Frontier Province region to meet the minimum force-to-population ratios prescribed by standard counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine, much higher than current Pakistani deployments of 150,000, and even this is no assurance of success given adverse conditions.It is too big for the army alone, and  would need the calling up of reserves and also greater reliance on the poorly-equipped Frontier Corps. And the Pakistan Army would resist redeployment of more forces from the Indian border because for it, the Indians remain an enduring threat.And as Roggio asks is the state ready for the blow back from a full-scale assault? The militants have repeatedly attacked cities each time they have come under pressure. On Monday, a suicide bomber breached the tightly guarded office of the United Nations World Food Programme in a residential part of Islamabad, killing five people.[Photographs of Hakimullah Mehsud and paramilitary soldiers]

Comments

rexminor.Hello Sir, West and the East were separated by 1,000 mile of hostile territory. Pakistan had no hope of averting the break up of Pakistan. It was more of a political defeat than a military one. It was a huge error in judgement on part of Pakistanis to try to defeat the Bengali separatists. Having said that let me examine your comment that PA never won a war. What would you call a Pakistani victory? Pakistani flag on the Red Fort in Delhi? Let’s talk in terms of 2009 Pakistan. Population-wise Pakistan is 1/7th of India’s. The Indians have always held 2 to 1 advantage in military hardware and head count. India with 400,000 to 500,000 soldiers in Kashmir alone has not been able to significantly change the status quo for the last 60 years. That alone is victory for Pakistan. The only major Indian offensive was on Lahore in 1965 and Pakistan was able to withstand that attack. However Pakistan and India cannot go on fighting forever. I think a solution of Kashmir is close at hand.The “long range” artillery and air power that is being used in SWA is proportionate to the threat. Do you want PA to use grenades and rifles while the Insurgents are using heavy machine guns, rockets and heat-seeking AA weapons? The Government advised the civilians to move out to minimise damage to innocent people. If you take the Swat operation as an example of Pakistani Government’s performance in looking after the displaced persons then I’m sure that you will agree that they will do no less for SWA IDPs. I’m sure you will concede that the Mehsud tribe per se does not have any grouse against the government. It is only the few trouble-mongers who suffer from the delusion that they are soldiers of Islam conducting Jihad for the rest of the Muslims. At best their movement is misguided and destined for defeat. Also their basic locomotion is provided by external help including the presence of Uzbeks, Yemenis and Afghans. PA’s conclusion that the enclave of resistance in SWA is the core of insurgency and once taken care of will defuse their movement. They tried to give an impression by dispersed attacks that the entire FATA or even Punjab was under their control. By the way there are more Pushtoons in Pakistan than in Afghanistan and the population of NWFP is greater than Afghanistan’s. How can Pakistan ever even imagine to undermine Pushtoons! Pakistan IS Pushtoon.

Posted by Mansoor Siddiqui | Report as abusive
 

mr siddique, sorry but the debate will not solve pakistan problems in a short space of time which which the military leaders unfortunately has inflicted on the country over several decades. i do not question the sincerety of pa nor doubt your patriotism.nevertheless, the history of your country states for that somehow for no fault of their own the military generals took upon themselves to run political as well as military affairs of the country not once but several times since the formation of the country.Histor names this sad period as the military rule.sorry but you even question the outcome of wars between pakistan and india.as far as kashmir is concerned it was the wazirs and massuds who took the lead and invaded kashmir.pa was not even allowed to hold the territory gained by voluntiers mainly from swat and waziristan;since their british chief at the time refused to allow it. this is a piece of history now, i thought you must be awre of this. we see that the wealth of any country is its people, one can educate them, motivate them and they become the real stregnth of the nation.On the other hand, you can antagonise them, deny them the human rights and subsequently use the military against them. this will create a very strong oponent of the state from within. this happened in bengal, balochistan now in the heart of the pushtoon territory. This is why in the us pakistan has been declared as a candidate of a failed state, and some military generals have not yet understood this. I hope that pakistan politicians will get the chance to straighten out the mess the previous military president left after hisc forced departure.you are right there are more pushtoons in pakistan. in total there are roughly over sixty millian, and one should not misunderstand them wheather they are in your military, navy and airforce or live across in other state.They disagree with their brothers,fight with their cousins but their primary loyalty is for their family and the tribe they belong to.they defend the land where they live and defend those who take refuge with them!!O’h before i take a break from this explantion,they are also flexable against a suitable payment of cash as long as this does not infringe upon their code of honour.As an observer i would not be surprised if after election mr karzai orders the expulsion of all foreigners from the afghan land on both sides of the border.In any case i wish you all to have peace in your land.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive
 

After Partition India refused to give Pakistan a due share of mlitary assets, consequently Pakistan was founded with an unequipped army. Nearly 95% of defence oriented industry was in India. So the situation was that India had everything (Industry was set up by the Brits to support IIWW) and Pakistan had nothing. The dilapidated aircraft handed over to Pakistan crashed enroute (fuel was sabotaged. this is part of history). Those crash-landing within Pakistani border were made airworthy and formed the first aircraft of the PAF. The IA kept all the heavy guns/ammo, all of the battle-worthy tanks, all the navy except for some IWW vintage ships which were all candidates for the scrap heap. The interesting thing is that Pakistan was able to stare down India because of the nature of its population which is capable of defending itself with or without an army. In 1947 Punjab had its hands full with 5,000,000 refugees from the Indian Punjab and UP. The province was trying to feed and house this influx. The army was only assisted by the lashkars in the Kashmir War. The tribals were not the only non-military people who fought in Kashmir. The people of Gilgit, Chitral, Punjabis, Kashmiris & Balouchis (plus a significant portion of IIWW veterans from all over Pakistan) were all part of the lashkars. The tribals were the only ones who had weapons of any sort. The tribals did it for Pakistan and will do it again for Pakistan. Do you think that the tribals bear allegiance to the Afghan State? You are definitely in the Cuckooland my dear. Where did you hear that? Tribals are fiercest defenders of Pakistan. Any time there is mobilisation the Tribals are always the first who offer their services to the nation. Wait till this SWA thing is over and then see how quickly the situation will normalise proving that tribals are patriotic Pakistanis and would like to live in peace. Nobody, including the army can deny anyone’s rights in Pakistan. This operation is for law & order purposes and once taken care of the civilians will stream back relieved that the trouble-makers have been routed/corrected/punished. Pakistan is a nation of 170,000,000 people who will all stand as one if need arises.You said that Mr Karzai is going to expel all foreigners from Afghan lands from both sides of the border. You have no idea of proportion. So Mr Karzai claims 35,000,000 Pakistani Pathans while he has a total population of 32,000,000 comprising of about 58% of Turkic peoples and only 30% (about 10,000,000) of total speaking Pushto. While Pakistan has 40,000,000 speaking Pushto! At least 5,000,000 Punjabis and Balouchis speak Pushto. In Afghanistan people think it uncivilised to speak in Pushto as against Darri. In Pakistan Pushto is a respected language. Please work on this and see if you come up with different numbers. If you ask anybody in Peshawar, Kohat, Mardan, Swat or even Miramshah in NWA as to their views on being an Afghan rather than a Pakistani then you had better go with a security detail.India will be better advised to spend all the money its spending on the propaganda about Pakistani border with Afghanistan and spend instead on defending its own border with China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Kashmir & Pakistan.And don’t worry about Pakistan as it has already become a powerful, progressive, tolerant and modern country which will eliminate religious intolerance from within its borders and be a shining example for all its neighbours, including India.

Posted by Mansoor Siddiqui | Report as abusive
 

mr siddiqi,you are very much loaded, some facts but most of your statement is made up of causes.i am interested in history and not the excuses,why pa did not fight in kashmir in 1947?it does not matter! i do not believe this is the right place to discuss patriotism slogans or political views.we are all entitled to hold on to our views.i have said before pushtoons loyalty is first for his family then the tribe and the land he lives in, not the voodoo story of alice in the wonderland.PA has overstepped their mission, instead of defending the country they have been exploiting the wealth of the nation taking away the freedom of the country, destroying the political and civil society and the democratically elected govts. bringing thereby the country on the brink of becoming a failed state.you do not have a national army.your own ex president and general implied this in a recent tv intervew. your army is now being asked to support us military efforts in controlling their adventure in afghanistan.you keep giving names to people of your own country who disagree with you.if pa shows that they are stronger than waziris, they will be able to redeem themselves and finally prove to the whole world that they are a force to reckon with. i myself am not so optimist.my forecast is that eventually they will be routed from the tribal terribal land, from waziristan to swat across.Ogf course they will have plenty of excuses, reasons etc. why they had to withdraw. When you deliberate on this chapter of history which we are witnessing then you should raise a single question, why from the popülation equal to or more than that of france and germany they have not been able to construct a simple drone which according to news reports is currently being used by usa in pakistan. have a nice evening sir and good luck.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Rex Minor, (I hope I’m right about your name)Its past midnight Pakistan time. The assault on Kaniguram (main stronghold of Uzbeks) is about to begin by my figuring. If you take the time to follow the PA’s progress in this operation you will concede that this operation has gone on most professionally. They are converging on to the main objective on three axes – North, East and West on to Ladha-Makin complex. I predicted in one of my blogs that the major operations will be done in a coupla weeks(my only update is that its going to take three weeks). That is exactly what is happenning and after Sararogha and Kaniguram ar taken by Nov 1 the main battle will be fought between Nov 5-8. The trouble is you have no idea how professional PA is. Frankly have you seen any Army in this region (Exception US Army) who can put up an action like that? I’m not running away. I’ll be here giving my analysis on this operation.

Posted by Mansoor Siddiqui | Report as abusive
 

no mr Siddiqi, we have alsö seen the so called professional army surrender when sorrounded by another regional army(not necessarily stronger) following the text book guidelines they were taught.yes,this type of professionalism is not seen in national armies.The soldiers in a national army instead is taught to refuse illegal orders which ask for military campaigns against its own citizens. people who are suspected of crimes are tried in civilian courts(in absentia if necessary) and not executed in their homes or backyards.PA has suffered several defeats and spent shameful time as pows but you remain persistent in your praise for them.i guess it is probably human to make the same mistake over and over again.it would seem that despite the departure of the despot general he has left behind a bag of worms not really healthy for the stability of the country.The civilian govt. is going to face tough times.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive
 

So you are referring to the Great Victorious Indian Army where they did nothing except wait for Bengalis to fight it out and then when the battle was lost and won then declare it the greatest Indian victory & declare Maneckshaw the first Field Marshal. It was definitely a victory for RAW and other Indian spies in E.Pakistan who started their activities with “Agartala Conspiracy”.Why don’t you follow what is happenning under your nose right now in SWA? Now it is reduced to a triangle, 14 miles x 11 miles x 7 miles (Kaniguram – Sararogah – Makin). Nov 6th will mark the cessation of major operations and return of civilians will begin by Nov 20. I’m not running away so keep in touch. Pakistan will prove to the world that it is capable of routing the Islamic radical elements. I will leave it to you to compare the shameful spanking that IA suffered at the hands of the Chinese in the Sino-Indian War with the Pakistan/Bangladesh Civil War. The Chinese chose not to make at least 2 divisions of IA POW because they had no capability of providing Indian Curry and chutney to revive 30,000 underfed soldiers. Do an in-depth study and let me have the comparison. Also please let me know of other great Indian victories that I’m not aware of. May be you think that the Gold & diamond smuggling in Africa of your “peace-keeping” contingent was a great victory too.By the way you should know that Mehsuds, Waziris & Afridis are more patriotic than anybody else and they are not Afghans, they are Pakistani Pathans. I think you should learn about what Pakistan is composed of. Lest you might think that we are a similar bunch as you in India are: we are much, much different than what constitutes India. We don’t have 15% untouchables, 13% semi-untouchable Muslims & 10,000,000 enslaved Kashmiris. We don’t have ANY untouchables, nobody enslaved (by the way people in FATA are the most independent people on Earth and Pakistan is proud of them).On one hand you are against Islamic radicalism and on the other you refuse to support Pakistan when it fights those radicals. What’s going on?

Posted by Mansoor Siddiqui | Report as abusive
 

mrsiddiqi,now you are completely off track. i do neither represent the indian army nor the american interests. i am simply trying to analyse the history and watching with sadness how a country is destroying its individual components one by one by shooting in their own feet.pashtoons or afghans, the two words are synonymous refer to one and the same people.the triangular territory they live in covers an area of approx.250,0000 sq. miles.starts from dir in the north,this so called triangle includes the major portion of the nwfp, a part of quetta divisionand three fourths of afghanistan.in this region th lives the world’s largest group of tribesmen in the world.”if pa would simply educate and informs its officers corp(the soldiers are not at fault)about the history and culture of the entire ethnic mix of pakistan then the disaster the country has faced over the last half a century could have been avoided or at least minimised,and all the causes and explanations elaborated in your note would not be necessary.it is hard to believe but it is a fact that the army general sends a large army to a hostile part of east pakistan in order to suppress the citizens of bengal.it came as a surprise to everyone that he had not contemplated the ndian army taking over the capital of east pakistan which was not defended.he then orders the army to surrender in accordance with the lessons of war games described in english text books”.ention pakistathese tribes have baffled and confused many famous historians including muslim historians from al-biruni onwards.pushtoons will not hold to any agreement written or oral if it is not for his benefits.one cannnot use a spin with them like carey/luger and hillary are trying to influance pa and civilian govt. to accept the aid package.pushtoons loyalty is for his family and tribe and for the land he lives in. i hope pa campaign will be soon over as you are forecasting.i doubt it but still wish that for the sake of piece you are proven right.i would not rely on usa for assistance if things do not work your way.

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Hi there Rex Minor! As I said PA has already overrun Kaniguram and Sararogha and begun cleaning up Makin. It is Nov 3, only 17 days into battle and already ALL the strongpoints have been taken and mopping up begun. Of course the stragglers will continue to be there and be taken care of by the Army in a continuing presence. I want to hear your opinion of this operation.

Posted by Mansoor Siddiqui | Report as abusive
 

mr siddiqui,your pa like all other foreign forces have always fought them to no avail and then retreated with some sort of consolation.in fact most of the btritish units boasted of their campaign in waziri territory and some of these units became a part of the pa.Oh yes they even granted vc’s to their officers for their gallantry, without retaining an inch of waziris land. history is simply being repeated with new actors.can you state what was the purpose of PA to enter swat and then waziristan and did they achieve it?if the purpose is to shed the blood of innocents,old, women and children in order to solicit cash and equpment support from usa?then probably according to cnn debate among us generals they are making headway.In fact they all agreed that usa should eventually withdraw their forces and put pressure on pakistan to deliver.but why sacrifice poor soldiers life if now the govt. is offering rewards for the capture of so called insurgents.only to give the waziris targets for practice.pa ex isi chief sounds more realistic on this episode.i can see one definite outome: the current civilian govt. with sardari and co.will fall, whether a take over by the military elite group as in the past”de ja vou” or by nawaz sharif and co.this is not determined yet.THis is my educated and subjetive prognosis of this sad piece of history.I have witnessed several before!!What is yours ,victory for the pa to redeem itself from the past failures?

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive
 

Mr Siddiqui,
I have the impression that are a straight forward gentleman with a military background? Your problem is that you are communicating with a person who thinks quite different to others. I analyse the history, study the culture of the people involved, prior to making any short term or long term prognosis. Your Ex ISI chief stated that PA has never won a war, somewhat similar to what I had observed and included in my comments. You are always looking at the pathology of the reality. I respect your opinion but it is of very restricted use perhaps for future campaigns. PA generals, I am sorry to say, have proven to be incompetent in all their conflicts with the Indian Army. Travelling all the way to East and then spreading all over the territory, making it possible for the Indian miltary to take over the capital, a classic error and has been so recorded in the history of military combats. This was followed by a surrender of the entire army, as the General had learnt in the english military text books and during his staff training, is not something to be proud of nor one should explain this fiasco with political responsibilities. The military at the time was also at the helm of the political leadership. PA needs structural reforms to become a national army instead of continuing the role given to them by the Brits. chasing their own citizens across the country with military pieces and you are justifying this role as your comrade did during the Bengal crisis with similar words” only few trouble mongers”. Are the cable network not transmitting to you that the PA is not able to defend their own military headquarter? And your senoior interior minister is now calling on clergy to give a fatwa against this onslaught on the military which they are unable to prevent. And, Sir, would you give the same explanation if the Indian Army takes over the undefended capital of Pakistan, without disturbing the PA stationed at the kashmir and Afghan borders, exactly the same scenario as that we witnessed in the East?
I guess I have mentioned in my previous commentry that the Pushrtoons first loyalty is for his family, the tribe and the land he lives in. I am aware that PA has very senior pushtoon officers, but sooner or later they will wake up and the people would once again have the so called martial law! What the PA did in Swat tantamounts to war crimes!! The Pushtoons made a serious mistake to vote in refrendum for Pakistan, the only province with a majority vote. The Punjab,Bengal and Sindh provinces left most of their land in India. Most of the today’s generation in Pakistan are not aware that without this majority in the so called NWFP, there would have been no Pakistan today. Now, I have said before that no one in history has ever been able to defeat the waziris, we are watchng on the France 24 cabel net work how the Anerican marines are being pinned down by a single and I repeat a single sniper for several hours before the helicopters arrive and rescure their soldiers. As I forecasted the US and Nato armies are being doubled in stregnth in order to be able to withdraw from the land, the words used by Mr Obama. For PA to talk about the centre of gravity and then to say that there are only few misguided is the greatest blunder of all times. The Pushtoons always start in few niumbers, they are the finest strategist of all times. Yes one sniper engages a platoon of marines and pins them down. I would have wished to have these people on your side. You should look at your country with a birds eye view as I do, and please take the time and travel to cities bórdering Waziristan and you would be able to meet the warriors of the valey who are still able to have kebabs in city restaurants during midday and travel back to the battle front in the evening. They ususally cover over one hundred miles of distance in battles in a day. Can a soldier of a regular army is able to travel such a distance and fight? I am not sure , may be some special units? please do inform when you think the PA is somehow in control f the affairs. By the way I believe that Pakistan should enter into a dialogue, not negotiations, with its citizens and its neighbours. Pakistan has morally lost its stregnth, the Indians might forgive and the Pushtoons and the Baluchis might pity the sad position the country is in.

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive
 

Hallo Mr Siddiqui,
I almost missed you. I have the impression that you are a genuine gentleman and very persistent in your position.I do think differently and therefore our disagreements. What matters for me is facts and not so much the pathology or interpretations:
.PA was defeated in east because of the strategic blunder made by its Commander.He spread his forces throughout the country to suppress its citizens and later was unable to defend the capital against the Indian Force.
. He then followed the text book instructions for surrender of the entire army instead of resisting the invading army. In any case this is now in the military history, A Classic Blunder.
.PA needs to be restructure to become a national army. They do not need to attack its neighbours or civilians to prove their stregnth.
. PA intrusion into Swat is of a criminal nature and should in my view be regarded as war crimes. PA has no business to use air power and artillery destroying houses, hospitals and schools similar to what Israel did in Lebanon and Gaza. Who is going to repair the damage and pay for the costs.
.PA intrusion into the waziri land is illegal and against the agreements made with Brits. and later with successive Pakistan govts.
. PA needs to get out of the Cantonments which the Brits had built to protect their colonial Force and the Families. They have no business residing among the civilian citizens holding an elite status.
Your assertion of few massuds(few Bengalis in Bengal campaign) is misleading, also they do not consider themselves as soldiers of Islam, I watch this phenomina among the PA regarding themselves martyrs, when they loose their lives in combat agaist the Indian Army or their own citizens.
. Pakistan in my view has lost the legitimacy to stay a single unit any more. I do not see any longer a common denominator for Pushtoos or for that matter Baluchis with Punjabis and sindhis to stay within the fedration of Pakistan.
. I mentioned earlier that the Massuds are the fiercest wariors among the waziris.Unfortunately the cable network does not show their performance against the PA because of the military blackout, but we do get the chance to watch how a single sniper pinns down the entire platoon of marines for several hours until the helecopter appears in the sky and the sniper leaves. Sir, You must have seen on the TV that PA is no longer in a position to defend their own Headquarte. A classic scenario, who would you blame now if the Indian parachute regiment lands in the Pakistan capital like they did in the east, and leave the PA intact currently operating in border areas? Have a nice day.

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive
 

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