In “An Enemy We Created,” authors Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn described assumptions about a supposedly unbreakable link between the Taliban and al Qaeda as “the principal strategic blunder of the war in Afghanistan.” Al Qaeda’s leadership, they wrote, relied on and coordinated closely with Jalaluddin Haqqani rather than the younger and less experienced Kandahari Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
When tribal elders reportedly ordered five girls killed in remote northern Pakistan for singing and clapping, outraged media coverage prompted the Supreme Court to order an investigation.
Pakistan has been facing gun and bomb attacks for so long, it is tempting to think it will continue to muddle along, the situation never becoming so bad as to galvanise it into action. And maybe it will.
Beneath the din of shouted exchange rates, trilling mobiles and the clink-clink of tea glasses ricocheting around Kandahar’s money market, there is a barely-audible backbeat: the electric purr of counting machines gobbling dollars, Afghanis and rupees.
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.
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.
In Pakistan, no one calls troublesome journalists and warns they may be killed. There’s no reason to point out the obvious. So when investigative journalist Umar Cheema started getting late-night anonymous phone calls, gently suggesting he stop investigating a particular story, he knew what was at stake. Since then, he has been kidnapped and tortured. He has survived a hit-and-run that laid him out for six months.
The late Richard Holbrooke’s widow, Kati Marton, once recalled that by the summer of 2010 the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan had worked out how the United States might settle the Afghan war. “He said, ‘I think I’ve got it. I think I can see how all the pieces can fit together,’’” the National Journal quoted her as saying. “It looked like he was working a Rubik’s cube in his head.”
On the foreign policy front, if Pakistan ever had aspirations to play the central role as the leader of Muslim unity, it had a salutary lesson in the way Egypt played its cards. Barely a week ago, Pakistan was looking forward to hosting Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, who was to be given the rare honour of addressing a joint session of parliament.