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.
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.
The question of whether the links between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda can be broken has been discussed at length over the past year or so, and will be a major factor in any eventual peace settlement with insurgents in Afghanistan.
So it’s interesting to see this post by Alex Strick van Linschoten highlighting what he calls the first semi-official acknowledgement from a Talib – former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef - of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
It’s the kind of language, or perhaps more accurately the tone, that can test the patience of any nation.
You have had eight years, you should have been able to catch Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is reported to have said about Pakistan in an interview with the BBC following a conversation with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari over the weekend.
In the absence of any claims, and a denial of involvement by the main local separatist group, the Indian media is are starting to point the finger at a Bangladeshi militant Islamist group for Thursday’s multiple bombings that left 65 left dead and more than 300 wounded in Assam state.
If it is indeed the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HuJi) Bangladesh that orchestrated one of the most deadly attacks in the far flung northeast state, then it could end up hardening the mood in India against not just Bangladesh, but also once again against Pakistan.
U.S. government and military leaders worry that the next attack on the homeland will emanate from western Pakistan, believing al Qaeda to have reconstituted there.
But Pakistanis worry too for their security and their fear is the U.S. military itself.