Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
We have known for months that the United States has begun direct talks with representatives of the Taliban. And as I wrote in this story, the death of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on May 2 should make it easier for the Taliban to break with al Qaeda, a fundamental requirement for including them in any eventual political settlement in Afghanistan. But lest anyone should think these talks, combined with bin Laden’s death, would somehow produce an early end to the Afghan war, it is important to remember that engaging with the Taliban is only a necessary but far from sufficient condition for a political settlement.
As Thomas Ruttig writes at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, any deal between the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai that was simply meant to open the exit door for foreign troops would not serve the interests of Afghans. ”… they need an end of the bloodshed that will also physically reopen spaces for economic and political activities, a debate about where their country is going. A deal which does not address the main causes of the conflict (namely the monopoly over power of resources concentrated in the hands of a small elite, then possibly with some additional Taleban players) will not bring peace.
”Therefore, the ‘political process’ … needs to involve a representative cross-section of Afghan society, including former anti-Taleban mujahedin, the ethnic minorities … and what usually is called civil society … They need to hammer out a much broader political compromise that will guarantee, finally, the political stabilisation of Afghanistan where everyone has to concede something but finally everyone gains.”
The Taliban led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, described by Washington as the Quetta shura Taliban (QST), are not comparable to a national liberation movement with whom a peace deal can be struck and the war ended. Even among the Pashtun community, their support is patchy; and they are regarded with deep suspicion by other groups, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, with bad memories of Taliban rule from 1996 – 2001. Already there are signs that some of the Taliban’s most bitter opponents are mobilising to scupper any peace talks - among them Amrullah Saleh, former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency.
from Afghan Journal:
Pakistan has launched four separate investigations into the life and death of Osama bin Laden on its soil, according to U.S. Senator John Kerry. The army, the air force and the intelligence establishment are running a probe each while parliament last week ordered an investigation by an independent commission to be set up for the purpose.
It's not entirely clear who is investigating what but a common theme running through the probes is to find out how did the United States launch a heliborne operation so deep in the country, hunt bin Laden down in his compound after a shootout in the outer wing and fly away with his corpse, without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities. Indeed the military and the government only got to know about it after the Americans told them once they were safely out of Pakistani airspace.
from Afghan Journal:
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.
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.)
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:
Our liveblog on Pakistan and what’s next for the country after Osama bin Laden’s death starts at 10a.m. EST/3 p.m. BST tomorrow (Tuesday, May 10). We’ve already received some comments and queries for Myra MacDonald. Here is one: Myra, In Pakistan there is a lot of resentment in the relationship with USA and a sense of betrayal. Also, the troubled relations with India, means that Pakistan is besieged by many problems at different fronts at the same time. My concern and also the question to you is, is Pakistan heading towards isolation? given the strategic implications of the OBL raid and killing, will Pakistan manage to control the damage to its credibility and emerge as a normal country?
Please keep sending in your questions by posting them below in the comments section.
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.”
On Tuesday, May 10 at 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. EST, Reuters is hosting a liveblog about Pakistan and what’s next for it after Osama bin Laden’s death. Reuters journalist Myra MacDonald, who runs the “Pakistan: Now or Never?” blog on Reuters.com, will answer your queries and respond to your comments so please leave them below in the “comments” section at the bottom of this post.
More specifically, Myra will discuss the role of the military in Pakistan, and its relations with both the United States and India. Her latest piece, “Pakistan’s mixed messages on bin Laden sow confusion”, tries to get to the bottom of whether Pakistan was involved with the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. For more of her pieces, click here.
from Reuters Investigates:
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 Lauren Young:
"This is actually Twitter's defining moment."
That's what I tweeted on Sunday evening as I watched the news unfold about the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden...on Twitter, which didn't even exist when the hunt for the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks began nearly a decade ago.
I was sitting in my home office, helping my husband file our, um, overdue taxes when I noticed a Tweet from Reuters at 21:54 ET that the president would "make a statement shortly."