Pakistan: Now or Never?

From the ground in Afghanistan, an uncertain future

April 23, 2013

 

Arriving into Kabul you are struck by two contrasting images. Streets jammed with noisy traffic, pavements spilling with hawkers and women in sky-blue burqas wending their way through the crush of people. And then just a few metres from this bustle of everyday life are whole streets walled off, defended by layer upon layer of guards with machine guns behind sandbags and blast barriers set up in a zigzag manner to stop or at least slow down the suicide bomber.

At war’s end, ramping up drone strikes in Afghanistan

December 19, 2012

The United States carried out more drone strikes in Afghanistan this year than it has done in all the years put together in Pakistan since it launched the covert air war there eight years ago.  With all the attention and hand wringing  focused on the operations in Pakistan, it’s remarkable that such a ramp-up just over the border has gone virtually unnoticed.

Afghan forces thrown into the deep end in the race to 2014

December 13, 2012

It’s been another brutal year of fighting in Afghanistan. While a spike in green-on-blue attacks has justifiably grabbed attention because of the cracks it has exposed within the military coalition, Afghans themselves are paying an increasingly higher price as they get pitchforked into the centre of the battle.

Russia warming up to Pakistan

November 8, 2012

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Pakistan’s economy, the hidden threat

October 18, 2012

 

Not too long ago, if you were travelling from India to Pakistan, you couldn’t help but notice how well the modern airports, the six-lane motorway linking Islamabad to Lahore, and the well-planned tree-lined capital city compared to the sprawling chaos of New Delhi.  Indeed that motorway was South Asia’s first, long before India started to build its expressways, and in some ways Pakistan, which was a more open economy than India’s Licence Raj system and grew faster for decades until the 1990s, looked more like the developed Islamic states on its west than the poor cousins of South Asia.

Afghan economy: a hard landing ahead

July 5, 2012

If you go to the run-down Desh bazaar in central Kabul – which sells everything from widescreen Samsung televisions to used shoes - it doesn’t matter what currency you use to pay for your shopping. They will accept the afghani, the US dollar or the Pakistani rupee. 

For a fistful of dollars, America and Pakistan wrangle

May 22, 2012

Pakistan’s relationship with the United States can’t get more transactional than the prolonged negotiations over restoration of the Pakistani supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

India, Pakistan detente: don’t trust, verify every step

April 28, 2012

It’s clear for some time now that India and Pakistan are on the cusp of the kind of open  trade relationship they had until the 1965 war when all business links were snapped, border trading posts shut and overland Indian access to Afghanistan blocked. It was never to be the same again, despite fitful progress over the years.

The large cracks in fortress Kabul

April 16, 2012

Arrive in Kabul and you know you are in a war zone, despite the heaving traffic on its crumbling roads. Whole streets are blocked off by concertina wire and sandbags, while a  zig-zag series of  blast walls are designed to stop or at least slow down the suicide bomber.  Indeed, the walls seem to get higher and more neighbourhoods disappear behind this concrete curtain each time you go back. And yet insurgents have repeatedly breached the layer-upon-layer of security, as  happened in September when the vast U.S. embassy compound came under attack, and now on Sunday when the upscale Wazir Akbar Khan diplomatic district was again targeted along with parliament.

From Afghanistan, the countdown to 2014

April 7, 2012

The dusty streets of Kabul are choked with traffic, restaurants selling American fast food are bustling and there is a crowd of students and parents outside a girls’ school in the centre of town trying to slip through the shuttered gates at the start of the school year.