At the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, Germanylast week, 85 countries affirmed their commitment to Afghanistan for the decadefollowing the 2014 transition, and highlighted gains over the past 10 years inthe areas of security, women's rights and the capacity of governmentinstitutions. They also acknowledged the reversible nature of this progress, aswell as the significant work left to be accomplished. Previousdiscussions on Afghanistanwithin the international community have exclusively addressed the transitionperiod between now and 2014. This conference introduced the concept of a muchneeded blueprint for the years following the transition: the "transformation decade"of 2015-2024. This blueprint details two initial milestones: the May 2012 NATOsummit in Chicago, where an announcement is anticipated regarding long-term AfghanNational Security Force funding (ANSF), and a July 2012 conference in Japan, wheremore details regarding international economic support will be announced. Thoughthe December 5 Bonn conference, eclipsed in part by Pakistan'slast minute withdrawal, fell short of announcing major breakthroughs in thepeace process (against high expectationscreated by Bonn 2001), it was an important first step in acknowledging themagnitude of the task that remains unfinished. Now that we have affirmed our longterm commitment in spirit, tangible demonstrations are essential in order tobuild momentum and avoid the perception of empty promises. The internationalcommunity and Afghanistanshould proceed to the next step of defining the first concrete details in theblueprint's foundation.
As the 2011 Bonn conferenceconclusions stated, "this renewed partnership between Afghanistan and theInternational Community entails firm mutual commitments in the areas ofgovernance, security, the peace process, economic and social development andregional cooperation." The United States should demonstrate this long-termcommitment to Afghanistan in the form of a formal strategic partnershipendorsed by both nations and announced as soon as possible. It should reflect planned troop reductions (33,000by the end of summer 2012), but maintain U.S. advisory and counterterrorismcapabilities beyond 2014, through the next Afghan political administration in2019. This force would sustain the tempo of counterterrorist operations andprovide professional advice and enablers to the Afghan army and police. Itshould number 10,000 to 25,000 personnel and could be reduced as the ANSFdemonstrate their post-transition competence through the 2014 elections andinto the next political administration. U.S. personnel numbers could alsobe reduced by coalition contributions. Counterterrorist operations should focuson al-Qaeda's attempts to relocate in remote areas of Afghanistan, aswell as target the leadership of insurgent groups who refuse to reconcile andcontinue to challenge the stability of the government. Advisory and enablingforces should focus on the professional development and training of the Afghanarmy and police, as well as their effective performance in the field.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,in her openingremarks at Bonn stated: "...the United Statesis prepared to stand with the Afghan people, but Afghans themselves must alsomeet the commitments they have made, and we look forward to working with themto embrace reform, lead their own defense, and strengthen their democracy."Afghans should consider improving their government by empoweringprovincial-level authorities and reducing corruption. Both measures areessential to the condition-setting that must take place prior to seriousnegotiations with insurgents. Each province should be granted the right toselect its own governor and to employ independent fiscal, legislative, andconflict resolution powers. Provincial government employees should be hiredfrom within the province and should answer to provincial leaders. Internationalfinancial aid for projects like medical clinics, roads, schools and electricityshould be funneled directly to the provinces in order to create rapid publicsupport. These measures, over time, would bring the power and resources of thegovernment to parts of the country where Kabul'sleadership is viewed as corrupt and incompetent as a result of nepotism,cronyism and its management of funds. Atthe same time, anti-corruption efforts from within the government must beintensified. Afghans should enact laws consistent with The Afghan NationalAnti-Corruption Strategy. Continuedcoalition and international assistance through this decade in the form ofadvice, investigation, and prosecution is essential. More effective localgovernance and courts would also serve to undermine the appeal of localconflict resolution currently offered by insurgents.
Some reforms empowering provincialand district governance have already been planned. In the spring of 2010, theAfghan Government's Independent Directorate of Local Governance published its Sub-nationalGovernance Policy. This policy is comprehensive and, if resourced,supported, and given time, would significantly enhance the contribution oflocal government to Afghan quality of life. This will take time and require thecontinued commitment of the UnitedStates and the coalition to educate Afghancivil servants. This policy appropriately calls for and schedules elections ofprovincial, district, and village councils and should be modified toincorporate the election of provincial and district governors. Should Afghansdesire these measures, the constitution would have to be modified through theassembly of a constitutional loya jirga. This initiative could be a part of Afghanistan'snational dialogue in the run-up to the 2014 election and perhaps lead to apost-election loya jirga.
Without U.S.and international commitment through the end of this decade, Afghanistan will likely fall backinto the civil war it experienced in the early 1990s. As fighting spreads, India and Pakistan will back their Afghanproxies and the conflict could intensify. This situation would not only createopportunities for safe haven for extremists, but also invite a confrontationbetween adversarial and nuclear-armed states. The potential for such an outcomeruns counter to U.S.and coalition interests.
Bonn 2001 began a journey toward Afghanistan'sstability and representative government that has demanded great sacrifice byAfghans, Americans, and other members of the coalition. Bonn 2011 continues thejourney and acknowledges the requirement for long term international commitmentand Afghan resolve. The journey has come far from its humble beginning, butrequires sustained international support and American leadership to remain oncourse.
COL Mark Fields is aMilitary Fellow at the Center for Strategic Research, part of National DefenseUniversity's Institute for National Strategic Studies. He has served in Afghanistan and is theauthor of "AReview of the 2001 Bonn Conference and Application to the Road Ahead inAfghanistan." The views expressed are his alone, and do not necessarilyrepresent those of National Defense University, the Department of Defense, orthe U.S. Government.
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Relations between the United States and Pakistan continue tospiral downwards following the cross-border incident that resulted in the deathof 24 Pakistani troops along the border with Afghanistan last month. In fact, overthe past several months, Pakistan has, according to some accounts, engaged in aseries of actions that ought to worry U.S. decision makers. Far from shiftingits policy on providing support and sanctuary for externally focused militantgroups, Pakistani officials have potentially sought to strengthen their tieswith militants and have reportedly started negotiations with a key militantcommander Wali ur-Rehman,a Waziristan-based commander on the U.S. State Department's list of foreignterrorists, and MaulviFaqir Mohammad, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in Bajaur Agency. Apeace deal with Rehman and other Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would be atroublesome development, and was noted with some concern by White Housespokesperson Caitlin Hayden over the weekend, although TTPspokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan and Pakistan'spolitical leadership have both issued denials.
In November, reporting indicated that militants havedeclared a nation-wide ceasefirewith the Pakistani government while both sides talked, though again, the TTPand government both deniedthese claims. In past peace deals, the Pakistani government has allowedmilitant commanders to control Taliban "mini-states" in exchange forshifting their jihad across the border into Afghanistan. For Pakistan's seniorleadership, turning anti-state or "bad Taliban" into Afghanistan-focused or"good Taliban" would be a major achievement. For U.S. and coalition forces fightingto stabilize Afghanistan and rid the region of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, itcould be a nightmare.
It is widely believed that influential elements within Pakistan'ssecurity apparatus have unsuccessfully tried to convince the TTPto shift their focus to the fight in Afghanistan -- but their fortunes may be changing.These reported peace talks were a product of the All Parties Conference hostedby Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gailani earlier this fall, which wasconvened to address Pakistan's national security situation following recentU.S. allegations of direct, state-sponsored support for Afghan-focusedterrorist groups, such as the Haqqani network. The conference produced adeclaration seeking peace with militants throughout the tribal areas, evenreferring to militants as "ourown people" -- the same people that are largely responsible for over 200suicide attacks, killing at least 3,600 people since the beginningof 2008. Privately, the declaration reflects the military's long-heldbelief that even anti-state militants, such as the TTP, can be turned into proxies,a key component in the military's policy of state-sponsored exportation ofterror in neighboring territories, such as Afghanistan.
The TTP is a loose confederation of militant organizations primarilyfocused on targeting the Pakistani state, with the shared goal of overthrowingthe government and imposing sharialaw. Anti-state activities in Pakistan's Federally-Administered Tribal Areasregion have a long history, and as early as 2004, some militant groups begandescribing themselves as "PakistaniTaliban." In late 2007, several anti-state militant commanders formallyorganized themselves as the TTP under the leadership of South Waziristan-basedBaitullah Mehsud, launching a series of attacks and suicide bombings throughoutthe country. Rather than a single, unified entity, the TTP is a movementcomposed of independent commanders and their allied fighters. Consequently,factions within the TTP sometimes compete for resources and differ in theirprioritization of jihad against the Pakistani state or combating U.S. andcoalition forces in Afghanistan. In the ongoing peace talks, TTP militants aredemanding the cessation of Pakistani military operations against the TTP, therelease of jailed militants and compensation for civilian hardships duringmilitary operations in exchangefor their pledge to cease attacks against the Pakistani state.
The most troubling figure in the reported talks between thePakistani government and the TTP is Wali ur-Rehman -- who is much morecommitted to the ongoingfight against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan than the fight againstthe Pakistani state. After the death of his cousin and former TTP leaderBaitullah Mehsud by a CIA drone strike in August 2009, Rehman remarked that the TTP and hisfighters in particular werecommitted to helping the fight in Afghanistan and consider U.S. President BarackObama their "No. 1 enemy." Rehman is a Mehsudtribesman leading the TTP in South Waziristan, a role he assumed afterBaitullah was killed. Unlike numerous other TTP commanders in Pakistan's tribalregions, such as current TTP head Hakimullah Mehsud, Rehman is said to have wanted to end the TTP's warwith the Pakistani government, saying it has destroyed the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan. At onepoint, Rehman was reportedly in secret negotiations with elements ofthe Pakistani government in Peshawar or Khyber. Rehman is reported to be afavorite of the reclusive Afghan Taliban chiefMullahMohammad Omar. For years, both Omar and thesenior leadership of the Afghanistan-focused Haqqaninetwork have urged the TTP to abandon their waragainst the Pakistani state and instead throw their weight behind the AfghanTaliban.
Even more troubling than Rehman's links tothe Afghan Taliban is his relationship with al-Qaeda and his support for theirinternational agenda. In a September 2010 interview, Rehman explained how his TTPis in complete agreement with the ideology and agenda of al-Qaeda, claimingthat the TTP would expand their war effort during the nextdecade, presumably in close partnership with al-Qaeda. The following month, theUnited Nations placed Rehman on aninternational sanctions list, for "participating in the financing, planning,facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating activities of Al-Qaida. According tothe State Department, who has issued a five million dollar reward forinformation leading to Rehman's capture, Rehman is directly linked to the suicide bombing thatkilled seven CIA employees at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost,Afghanistan in December 2009, and Faisal Shahzad's failed bombing of TimesSquare by on May 1, 2010. None of this has discouraged Rehman from his agendaor support for al-Qaeda. After the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011,Rehman threatened the West, saying, "soon youwill see attacks against America and NATO countries, and our first prioritiesin Europe will be France and Britain."
Should talks move forward, any eventual peace deal and thesubsequent reorientation of TTP fighters towards the fight against U.S. andcoalition forces in Afghanistan could prove problematic. The TTP has manytrained, hardened fighters which the Afghan Taliban would certainly welcome asforce multipliers -- making the campaign to weaken them all the more difficult,especially as U.S. and coalition forces seek to draw down and transition thefight to the Afghans. Perhaps even more troubling than a growing partnershipbetween Afghanistan and Pakistan Taliban would be a newly established sanctuaryfor al-Qaeda and affiliated movements under the protection of Waliur Rehman inSouth Waziristan and other TTP commanders throughout Pakistan's tribal areas. Ifthe Pakistani government continues to pursue peace with international al-Qaedaaffiliated jihadists such as Rehman, it could potentially negate or evenreverse much of the progress the United States has made against al-Qaeda overthe past several years in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Greater sanctuary andthe ability to communicate and transit the tribal areas under the protection oflocal enablers will allow the continued spread of al-Qaeda and its affiliatedmovements that will be difficult to contain.
Jeffrey Dressler is a senior analyst at the Institute forthe Study of War, where he studies security dynamics in Afghanistan andPakistan.
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My article criticizing certain rituals in the Shi'a Muslimtradition in Pakistan's Express Tribune on December 8 spurred a firestorm ofcontroversy, as a number of commentators deemed it inappropriate or worse. Myargument was that religious adherents need to repudiate rituals that infringeon collective rights, and which can escalate sectarian conflict; these includethe rituals during the commemoration of Muharram, that can involve men and evenchildren flagellating themselves withknives on chains, and processions of bleeding men as a display of adoration forthe martyred Imam Husain (this is byno means reflective of all Shi'a practice, but is widely practiced amongSouth Asian Shi'a).
The controversy grew more intense on Twitter, and evennotable commentators such as NasimZehra asked for an immediate apology from the Tribune on grounds that thearticle was "outrageously offensive."To her credit, Ms. Zehra later noted thatafter the apology the matter should be closed. However, hate mail from all over followed,including several messages to the president of the University of Vermont (whereI teach) asking for my dismissal, a surprising torrent against free speech evenfrom highly educated writers. The university noted that the article was wellwithin the confines of free speech and was in fact condemning violence. Insteadof admonishing me, the university offered me police protection.
Under pressure from sponsors and amid fears that other mediahouses would use this episode to spur a consumer boycott, Tribune decided tofirst edit and then completely remove the article, and noted that I was"banned" from writing in their pages again. My intention was never to rebukeShi'ism itself, but rather such rituals whose practice further leads toacrimony between Shi'a and Sunnis. Furthermore, a ritual with so much bloodbeing spilled in a procession can be a public health issue, and has been repeatedlyquestioned and curtailed in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.
Ireposted the article on my site with a clear apology for specificstatements which were, in retrospect, inflammatory for Pakistan's religioussensibilities. The newspaper's "ban" on my writing was later edited out of the apology statement posted onthe Internet, but this episode left me deeply troubled about the state ofjournalistic independence in Pakistan. The country has a vibrant civil societyand promising career track for journalists and independent writers, but therehas been a rapidrise in abductions and murders of journalists whose views were consideredantithetical to certain religious perspectives.
This episode highlighted for me a larger issue of mediafreedom in a country which often prides itself in having private TV channelswith fiery talk shows blasting politicians. Yet religious debate, often socontentious and even violent in Pakistan, remains off limits. Pakistan as asociety needs to understand that the right to offend in journalism is afundamental right. I don't mind getting hate mail despite the norms of freespeech, but what surprised me was that educated people questioned my right tocriticize a cultural practice by referring to it as "hate speech." I wasrepeatedly asked what my point was if criticism could further cause conflict. Stillanother asked, "could you criticize Jewish rituals the same way in America?" Thiskind of reaction could have taken place in many Muslim societies -- and Sunnisare equally culpable on such matters as Shi'a.
Pakistan's infamous blasphemylaws are a result of exactly this kind of oversensitivity and pattern ofraising ire following any hint of criticism about religious rituals or edicts.The valorization of extreme religious edicts by the State has unfortunatelybeen successful in co-opting the sensibilities of even many educated citizens. Thisin turn has strengthened the religious establishment's efforts toinstitutionalize a radical inertia within the political system. Perhaps unwittingly, liberal commentators whowould rather avoid tougher issues of dissent scorned my article, and by doingso strengthened the same kinds of arguments that fanatics use to marginalizeminorities or their opponents.
Ironically, in my article, I clearly stated that lawsagainst hate speech must be enforced. Speech that directly urges violence towardsany particular person or group of people must be avoided at all costs. Yet tounderstand sectarian conflict, which is often compared to "cancer," we have tolook at both proximate and systemic causes. Just as one treats cancer withchemotherapy, groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LeJ) need to be hunted down for terrorist crimes. But we also need to searchfor systemic causes of sectarian strife, which in Pakistan can be traced totheology in both Shi'a and Sunni doctrines as well as political interventionand alleged statesupport for sectarian groups like LeJ or Sipah-e-Sihaba Pakistan (SSP).
In a pluralistic society, the limits of what is allowed insuch cases can be debated and questioned, and laws can be passed and changedthrough democratic processes. For example, there are laws in some Europeancountries against questioning the historical validity of the Holocaust, but inthe United States, such historical questioning is protected by the firstamendment to the U.S. constitution (despite the repeated accusations by many Pakistanisthat American law and politics reflect undue Jewish influence). While Idisagree with the limitations on free speech in Europe, there is at least aworkable legislative pathway for repeal of these laws. In Pakistan, the prospectof any legislative change to errant laws is stifled by precisely the kindof bullying about religious sensitivity exhibited in this episode.
The duty of any socially conscious writer is to push theenvelope and challenge people to question their assumptions. This will makepeople uncomfortable, but incremental social change always happens through sucha dialectical process. If people were always trying to stray from controversy socialchange would never take place. Cultural sensitivity is far too often used as anexcuse for maintaining the status quo in places like Pakistan, and this needsto change if the country is ever to overcome the polarization that continues toimpede communitarian peace.
Saleem H. Ali is professor ofenvironmental studies at the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School ofEnvironment and Natural Resources and the director of the Institute forEnvironmental Diplomacy and Security at the James Jeffords Center for PolicyResearch. He can be followed @saleem_ali
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The idea of defiance against tyranny and oppression owes a great deal to Hussain ibne Ali, the hero of the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. With just 72 valiant followers and family members, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad faced the military might of the Muslim empire ruled then by a despot, Yazid bin Mu‘awiya. Hussain refused to sanctify Yazid's reign through baya'a (allegiance) and consequently, he and his small contingent were martyred in the most brutal of fashions. The accompanying women and children were imprisoned for months in the dark alleys of Damascus.
On every Ashura, the 10th day of the Muslim calendar month of Muharram (which fell on December 6 this year), many Muslims all across the world commemorate Hussain's great sacrifice, but tragically the central message ofKarbala appears to evade the broader Muslim thinking today. In Western literature and research on Islam, this episode is often viewed through the lens of certain Shi'a rituals practiced on and around Ashura. It is worth probing why that is so. Even more importantly, it is critical to understand why terrorists and extremists like al-Qaeda andthe Taliban often attack the Ashura related gatherings (as is evident from attacks in recent years in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), and what is at the core of their disdain of all the things that Imam Hussain stood for.
A brief historical reference is required to understand the context of Ashura.After Prophet Mohammad's death in 632 AD, the expansion of Islam became a global phenomenon, courtesy of a variety of means. Islam was a rising power in theworld, but in the process, the fabric of Muslim society was also being transformed, as the Muslim outlook was gradually influenced by people from various cultures. New elites that were more interested in power and wealth alone started emerging as more influential, and consequently, Islam's emphasis on egalitarianism, justice and equity started getting diluted. A deliberate attempt to imitate the dynastic empires of the Byzantines and Sasanians was obvious to many observers at the time. The distortion of Islamic ideals became a favorite pastime of Yazid and his coterie. The expansion of influence by way of the sword was a hallmark of his times.
Imam Hussain, the spiritual custodian of Islam at the time, staunchly stood against this shifting tide, and his unprecedented sacrifice was intended to shake the Muslim conscience and expose the misleading path introduced in the name of Islam. It was a matter of principle for him - one of human dignity and honor. Challenging the newly introduced monarchical system of government was another important feature of this struggle. In his last sermon before departing from Madina on his journey towards Karbala, Iraq, he made clear his mission: "I seek to reform the Ummah of my grandfather." An armed struggle for that purpose was never his intended route. He believed in conveying the message through love and compassion. It was a message motivated truly by humanity. The great Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi aptly acknowledged this by saying: "I learned from Hussein how to achieve victory while being oppressed."
This was not a mere political battle, though some Muslim historians try to project it that way so as to cover up not only Yazid's atrocities, but indirectly to defend his school of thought as well. The mainstream view, however, both among Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, is very sympathetic toward Imam Hussain. It would be an absolute travesty of Muslim history to call this a Sunni-Shi'a battle. Some writers still do that, either out of lack of in depth understanding, or in a flawed effort to simplify things for a lay Western reader. On the Muslim side, only a handful of controversial clerics project this version. Still, most Muslims shy away from digging too deep into the matter, and carefully avoid questioning the historical developments leading to the rise of Yazid.
Insightfully, the whole narrative of tragedy at Karbala would have remained unheard of without the tireless struggle of Hussain's sister Zainab ibne Ali, who as an eyewitness of the tragedy propagated details of the event far and wide among Muslims. While in chains, she courageously challenged Yazid's policies on his face in his court in Damascus soon after the battle at Karbala. Many Muslims -- some out of ignorance and others out of bigotry -- avoid appreciating the crucial role of a woman in this grand struggle. Zainab's contribution to fighting for the essence of the Muslim faith was as critical as that of Hussain.
Though Shi'as are often at the forefront of commemorating the tragedy of Karbala, Sunnis, especially those belonging to the Barelvi school of thought in South Asia and almost all Sufi circles in broader Asia and the Middle East, also enthusiastically participate in paying homageto Imam Hussain and his companions. Extremists and terrorists among Muslims want to destroy this element of unity, as sectarianism suits their divisive and violent agenda. Distorting religion to make it dogmatic in outlook and regressive in approach is also what helps them achieve their goals exceedingly well. For them, political power is an end in itself. Hussain's message stands completely contrary to this perspective.
The attack on Shi'a Muslims observing Ashura in Kabul on December 6, which killed 55 people, was a manifestation of the perpetrators' perverse worldview. Next door in Pakistan, where this threat is more pronounced, a heavyprice (in the form of terrorism and violence) is being paid for ignoring the expanding tentacles of religious extremism. Though things remained peaceful on Ashura in Pakistan this year, the Kabul attack was claimed by a splinter wing of a banned Pakistani sectarian group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LeJ). Authorities have yet to uncover solid proof ofwho was responsible. Irrespective of whether the Afghan Taliban was directly involved in this specific attack or not, their policies during the ‘reign of terror' in Afghanistan (1996-2001) indicate that they hold similar views toward those who honor the martyrs of Karbala. Taliban massacres of ethnic Hazara Afghans (of whom the vast majority areShi'a Muslims) in the late 1990s are a case in point. The curse of sectarianism has inhibited spiritual growth of many Muslims.
The remedy to the malady lies in mainstreaming the message of Karbala both within the worldwide Muslim communities and among those who are interested in deciphering the foundational themes of Islamic discourse. At a higher level, Hussain's message of defiance against oppression and personal sacrifice for the cause of humanity is applicable for a broader audience for generations to come.
Dr. Hassan Abbas is a Senior Advisor at the Asia Society and the editor of Watandost blog. He is based in Washington D.C.
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Ten years ago, Afghanistan had one of the world's worsthealth care systems. Most trained health professionals had left the country,and there were few functioning medical facilities. The Taliban had effectivelybanned women from receiving health care. As a result, an estimated one in fourchildren died under the age of five, and maternal mortality was estimated to bethe highest in the world - data collected at that time suggests one in tenwomen died of pregnancy-related complications. Life expectancy was a meager 45 years,according to the United Nations. Afghans were dying from simple, preventableillnesses -- such as diarrhea and bronchitis -- that literally cost pennies to treat.
In 2002, the newly formed Afghan government began workingwith the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and otherinternational donors to restart a viable health care system. The effort wasbased on a few simple premises. First, focus on getting low-cost, low-tech,high-impact treatments to the largest number of Afghans possible, particularlyin rural areas. Second, bring together as many partners as possible -- governmentofficials, international donors, and non-governmental organizations -- tosupport a common ‘blueprint' for primary care delivery and guaranteed access tocare in all parts of the country. Third and most important, ensure Afghanscould develop their own health institutions, so that access to basic health carewould continue in the long term.
With this approach in mind, the Afghan government, withstrong support from the U.S. government and other donors, began to roll out abasic package of health services to millions of Afghans. As a result, access to basic health serviceshas risen from 9 percent in 2001 to more than 60 percent today.
The results are of this effort are documented in the newlyreleased AfghanistanMortality Survey 2010 the first comprehensive, national survey of keyhealth and quality of life indicators. The findings released last week in Kabul paint a clear picture ofremarkable progress.
Whereas maternal health care was effectively unavailableunder the Taliban, today six in ten women see a trained care provider duringpregnancy, family sizes are down from more than six children per mother toapproximately five, and skilled assistance during childbirth has more thandoubled. As a result, significantly fewerwomen are dying from pregnancy-related causes than they did just a decade ago,and life expectancy has risen to about 62 years, up some 15-20 years fromprevious estimates.
While donor contributions will remain critical to thesector's viability for years to come, Afghans themselves are increasinglyshouldering the financial costs of improving and expanding the healthsystem. Government contributions to thehealth sector are growing and the Ministry of Public Health continues to seekways to increase revenues and reduce cost. This spirit of self-reliance is animportant reminder of the sustainable results that development partnerships candeliver, even in places haunted by conflict: longer lives, healthier familiesand the chance for children to live past their fifth birthdays. It also develops faith in government, which iscritical for Afghanistan to overcome its struggle with violent extremism.
Both the Afghan government and the international communitymust build on these remarkable achievements and learn from this successfulpartnership. During a time of continuedviolence and pessimism about Afghanistan's future in some quarters, tens ofthousands of men, women and children who would not have survived continued Talibanrule are alive today because of the partnership between the Afghan people,health care providers and the international community.
Despite these gains, Afghans continue toface serious challenges and a long-term partnership between Afghanistan and theinternational community remains critical. One in 13 children dies before their first birthday, one in 10 childrenin Afghanistan dies before age five, and one Afghan woman dies from pregnancy-relatedcauses every two hours. As Afghansincreasingly assume responsibility for their own welfare, they build on theresults of generous investments from the American people and other allies,coupled with capable, dedicated Afghan leadership in the health sector. The extraordinary gains in Afghanistan'shealth sector over the past decade show us what is possible.
Dr. Suraya Dalil isAfghanistan’s Acting Minister of Public Health.
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We often see thearts as only fit for museums, galleries, and film festivals, cloistered inhalls only for the intellectual elite. But the arts can help build anation, or in the case of Afghanistan, are rebuilding a nation, employing itspeople, and recalling a history forgotten in recent decades of continuousconflict. And a small group of social scientists, architects, and entrepreneursare using culture as a vehicle to restore Afghanistan, challenging theconvention that the arts are only for aesthetics.
"Culturalconservation is directly linked to development and livelihoods here. Thehistoric sites that we're rebuilding are functioning places, generating revue,providing jobs, and are self-sustaining," says Ajmal Maiwandi, anAfghan-American architect who returned to the country nearly a decade ago totake up a post with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) to help rebuildAfghanistan's most historic sites. In that time, Maiwandi explains thatAKTC has preserved nearly a 100 sites, even during tense periods of conflict.
For WashingtonD.C.-based Dr. Cheryl Benard, the desire to revive the arts in Afghanistan cameout of seeing the destruction of Europe following WWII, where monuments werepillaged, destroying not only beautiful edifices but also erasing history withthem. As a young child, growing up in post-war Germany and Austria, shethen saw the resurrection of what had been knocked down and pillaged-- anexperience she explains has made her more sympathetic to those living inconflict-ridden societies. Benard, who founded the Bamiyan Project, anon-profit dedicated to cultural preservation in Central Asia, wants to seethat same movement in Afghanistan.
"[The arts] arenot taken so seriously. It's something that people think about much later, whenthe tourists arrive. But they're fundamental to the process ofreconciliation and reconstructing the nation," she says with urgency.
Maiwandiagrees. As CEO of the AKTC in Afghanistan, he's led numerous successfulprojects, such as the restoration of the gardens of the Mughal emperor Babur, the Mausoleum of Timur Shah, and urban regeneration initiatives in the Asheqan wa Arefan neighborhood of Kabul. In the old city of Herat, the Trusthas revived five notable historic houses, seventeen public buildings, and thegravesite of the Sufi poet, Abdullah Ansari, in Gozarga.
This flurry ofactivity has created a local demand for labor. In Herat alone, therestoration has provided for 60,000 work days of employment. And theapproach to restoration is "holistic," Maiwandi notes, meaning that not onlyare old, crumbling building attended to, but drainage systems are put intoplace, pavements are laid down, and waste is removed. In short,these efforts are not just about beautifying but also redevelopingneighborhoods, investments that have long-term impact, he explains.
AKTC couples thishistorical preservation with more hands-on training, offering courses in tradessuch as carpentry, teaching students how to craft doors, windows, woodcarvings, items that go beyond the classroom and have local demand.
Turquoise Mountain, a social enterprise created by Britishauthor and parliamentarian Rory Stewart, takes the training a step furtherthrough a global market place for handmade Afghan crafts, having sold nearly $1million worth within the country and abroad. While Turquoise also tends tourban regeneration in old Kabul, its Institute of Arts and Architectures givesstudents year-long lessons in calligraphy, woodworking, ceramics, jewelry, andgem cutting -- trades that give them employment in addition to carrying onage-old traditions.
Such pragmaticart is coupled with large-scale preservation, akin to AKTC's work on Bagh-e-Babur,which fuels tourism. Benard's non-profit, for instance, is restoring thelegendary poet Rumi's birthplace in northern Afghanistan. The restorationprocess, Benard explains, has generated not just local employment during andpost construction, but also created an oasis for locals and tourists that willbe sustainable in years to come. And in remembrance of Rumi's poems, whichoften featured lyrical descriptions of nature, the site houses a number ofgardens, something that will keep the locals coming after they've seen thetouristy bits. Benard notes that the Rumi Gardens are located in one ofAfghanistan's "safe pockets," and have never been attacked by militants; evenif security deteriorates in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of troops in 2014,her NGO does not feel particularly concerned about security threats.
Benard originallystarted the non-profit in 2010 to help preserve an expansive site in Bamiyanprovince, one that once housed housing two colossal-sized Buddhas from the 6thcentury, remnants of the country's more pluralist past that were destroyed bythe Taliban in March 2001. Yet in the meantime, another threat arose,diverting her attention again.
In 2007, TheChinese Metallurgical Group Corp, backed by the Chinese government, leasedone of the world's largest untapped copper mines, estimated at $3.5billion, with intentions to begin mining in 2009. A profitable deal forthe Chinese who aspire to tap into Afghanistan's rich minerals, it marks thelargest foreign investment in the country, one that could reap nearly $1.2billion from the mine and the jobs it creates. But the mine sits onanother piece of Afghanistan's Buddhist history: Mes Aynak, home to a 5thcentury Buddhist monastery, whose crumbling statues dot the hilly landscape. To allow for excavation, which would removethe delicate ruins from the site to be placed in a nearby museum, the Chinesehave delayed mining until the process is completed.
Though a reminderof the country's Buddhist past, Bernard says that she was impressed by howlocal Afghans have made an effort to preserve it. Being an Islamic nationhasn't stopped them from expressing their support for the preservation of theBuddhas, she says, illustrating that the arts can be a catalyst in redefining acountry's story.
Benard continues,explaining that "one piece of the story that doesn't get covered is the risksthat people go to save their cultural heritage. For example, earlier,when the locals realized that that Taliban were coming to destroy the [NationalFilm Archives of Afghanistan], they erected walls to break up the collectionand reduce the damage. In museums, the staff concealed so many items, taking abig risk on their own safety. This simply shows that the arts are important tolocals -- even in war when more basic needs are at stake."
Benard is nowcollaborating with other preservationists to develop a plan for some of theBuddha statues to remain in their original form at Mes Aynek, and not bewhisked away to museums, so that the site can be visited and admired in itsnative state. The Chinese will still be able to access the site formining, though they may need to use a more "gentle technology" to extract thecopper without damaging the Buddhas, Benard says.
Hamid Naweed, anAfghan art historian, has been working closely with Benard and recentlytraveled with her throughout the country, talking with locals on the BamiyanProject, Mes Aynek, and the cultural heritage of Afghanistan more broadly.
"What amazed mewas the response of the Afghan people," said Benard. "They were moved bythe discussions, crying even, to hear their history presented in a coherent,positive way. The Afghans have a history rich with achievements as well. So,it's a real game changer for them to hear it first-hand."
With morepreservation projects under way for Benard, Turquoise, and AKTC, the Afghanswill not only be hearing it, but will see it unfold in front of them, as thearts becomes a means of employment and a way to reconstruct their nation.
Esha Chhabra is a writer who focuses onsocial innovation and social enterprises. She was recently the RotaryAmbassadorial Scholar at the London School of Economics, where she specializedin Global Politics and Social Enterprise. This piece was completed in partnershipwith Dowser.org.
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You would think that, after ten long and bloody years, there would be little new the Afghan war could offer in terms of brutality. But Tuesday's twin suicide strikes on Shi'a Muslim processions in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, leaving 58 dead and more than a hundred wounded, marks an unprecedented insurgent assault on civilians. Never before in the current war have Afghanistan's Shi'a been deliberately targeted, and rarely has an attack been so completely devoid of a military target.
In the winter of 2009, standing on the mud wall of a border outpost manned by our partnered Afghan Border Police, I was chatting with Commander Aziz, a well-known local police chief commander. Aziz pointed east to the locations of Taliban training camps on a mountain just inside Pakistan, and to their usual infiltration routes around the dusty bordertown of Angor Adda. Suddenly, the high-pitched whoosh of rockets launching screamed across the valley from the direction of Pakistan to our left front towards our main coalition base to our rear. "Incoming!" one of my operators yelled as we dove under the nearest vehicles in a flash. I was only visiting, but they knew that typically the rocket attacks on the coalition base were accompanied by mortar fire on the Afghan border posts. As we dusted ourselves off, and my Air Force combat controller jumped on the radio to call for one of the aircraft continually circling over Afghanistan, I looked off in the distance towards the Pakistani military border post known as Post 41. The white trails of smoke from the rocket launches were coming from the base of the outpost on a small hill several kilometers in the distance. I noticed the launch site for the rockets was within spitting distance of the Pakistani post. The Border Police had established ambushes the night before on several of the typical launch sites, but the Taliban had learned to set up their sites very near Pakistani border positions, as the Afghans wouldn't come near them for fear of being attacked by the Pakistanis.
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After a week of delay, as anger against the United States mounted inside Pakistan over the November 26 attack by U.S. forces that killed two officers and 22 soldiers of the Pakistani army at border posts Volcano and Boulder in Mohmand agency, the President of the United States finally entered the picture directly. He called Pakistan on Sunday to express his sorrow at this incident that is threatening to take the teetering Pakistan-U.S. alliance off the precipice. According to the White House:
Earlier today the President placed a phone call to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to personally express his condolences on the tragic loss of twenty-four Pakistani soldiers this past week along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The President made clear that this regrettable incident was not a deliberate attack on Pakistan and reiterated the United States' strong commitment to a full investigation. The two Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship, which is critical to the security of both nations, and they agreed to stay in close touch.
About time, many would say, that the President got involvedin saving this relationship. The signaling effect of his personal interventionis huge, especially since it follows a "business as usual" approach to the promised investigation up until now. The U.S. Central Command had said it would take three weeks to produce a report on this incendiary incident that has led to the formal closing of the ground line of communication into Afghanistan and theremoval of U.S. personnel from Shamsi air base in Balochistan -- a delay that allowed the wounds to fester inside Pakistan.
But why did President Obama call President Asif Ali Zardari and not Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani? Pakistan has had a parliamentary system of government since April 8, 2010, when President Zardari was reducedto a mere constitutional figurehead. Prime Minister Gilani now heads thegovernment, and indeed has been the point-man in denouncing the United Statesin the days following the Mohmand attack. He should have been the one thatPresident Obama called. By calling President Zardari, President Obama may havebeen led to the source of political power in the Pakistan Peoples Party towhich both Zardari and Gilani belong. A pragmatic move perhaps in light of Zardari's tight hold over the party he took over from his murdered wife BenazirBhutto, but also one that downgrades the prime minister. This call will likely be seen in the eyes of many Pakistanis as a snub of their constitutional system. By this logic, they might ask, would President Obama call President Pratibha Patil or Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in India rather than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?
The United States has been trying to forge a long-term and consistent relationship with Pakistan during the Obama administration. But 2011has been the annus horribilis betweenthese two estranged allies. The Pakistani government has used the recent attackto stoke public anger and garner support for its tough stance against theUnited States, partly to counter the power and prestige of the military in thepublic's eyes. The feedback loop created by government and the army's own toughlanguage against the United States will make it difficult for either to resilefrom its position. The signaling effect of President Obama's call to thePresident of Pakistan and not to the Prime Minister may well magnify thatdivide and be felt in Pakistani politics and on the street, where every nuanceof words coming out of the White House is parsed and debated.
Recall that President Zardari's personal popularity has beensinking, and with it his ability to affect public opinion in Pakistan. The PewGlobal Survey of June 2011 had his popularity at 11 percent. A later GallupPakistan poll of July 2011 had his negative rating 39 percent. Gilani cameout better, with 29 percent negativity rating overall, but also in the red. Inthe same Gallup survey, the Pakistan army got an approval rating of 15 percentin fighting terrorism. But the people of Pakistan also gave it a negativerating of 12 percent in running the country and a 3 percent negative rating inits political activities. Yet the military seems to be calling the shots onforeign policy, especially after its recent losses at the hands of U.S. forces.
If the United States is to mend its relations with Pakistan,it must recognize the need to heed the wishes of the people of Pakistan and toconnect with them more than the political leaders who appear to have lost theconfidence of their citizens. Turning back the clock to the Musharraf regime,when the President of Pakistan was the be-all end-all of decision making, isnot the best move. President Obama can retrieve the situation by acceleratingthe investigation into the November 26 attack and sharing credible evidencewith Pakistan of what happened and why. And, if it turns out that it was amistake on the part of the coalition and U.S. forces that caused the tragedy atVolcano and Boulder, an apology would be in order. Better that than having toput together a new policy for the troubled South Asian region without Pakistan.
Shuja Nawaz isdirector of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
A decade after the first international conference on Afghanistan at Bonn, Germany is hosting a follow-up conference on Monday, widely known as Bonn II. The first Bonn Conference prepared a framework for the newly established Afghan administration and picked Hamid Karzai to lead the interim administration. In 2004 and again in 2009, Karzai was elected President of the country.
As always with this war-torn region, there are voices expressing optimism and others expressing pessimism regarding what can be expected of the conference. The recent NATO air strike along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border has certainly contributed to the voices of pessimism. Islamabad has declared that it will boycott the conference as a protest to what they're calling the "unprovoked" NATO bombing that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Although there's been no change in that official decision, sources have said that Pakistan's Ambassador in Germany will likely attend.
Pakistan's rigid stance against participating in the Bonn conference conveys a clear, but dangerous message -- that it has no desire to bring stability to Afghanistan.
The conference is expected to focus on three main areas: the transfer of security responsibilities to the Afghan government by 2014, the long-term commitment by the international community to Afghanistan beyond the 2014, and the future political stability of the country.
Ashraf Haidari, Deputy Assistant National Security Advisor for Afghanistan was also eager to remind me, "Ten years have passed since the first historic Bonn Conference that helped chart a political road-map for creating the institutions of a permanent democratic government [in Afghanistan]. That central objective of the first Bonn Conference, along with its other major goals, has been achieved. But our collective efforts to secure the future of Afghanistan are still a work in progress."
Haidari then drove his point home. "The main objective of this second Bonn Conference is for the international community and the government of Afghanistan to re-affirm our shared commitment to a solid, long-term partnership beyond 2014. Such partnership must credibly assure the Afghan people that our country will not be abandoned again. Afghanistan's enemies must understand that our nation-partners will continue their solidarity and support with and for the Afghan people, until Afghanistan is no longer vulnerable to security threats from the same state and non-state actors which once undermined international peace and security -- as we experienced in the unchecked events of the 1990s that led to the tragedy of 9/11."
Afghan women's rights activist Najla Ayubi has a decidedly more negative view of what the upcoming conference can accomplish. "It is one of several unproductive, symbolic conferences to be held on Afghanistan. Decisions have already been made. Several international conferences were held in the past ten years, none had tangible and effective outcomes for Afghans -- this one is not an exception. The Afghan people at large are the victim of regional and international politics. The current Afghan government could not effectively use the previous opportunities opened for Afghanistan and will not be able to appropriately use the new opportunity."
She went on to say, "Afghans suffer from unconstitutional acts, systemic corruption, human rights violations, increasing insecurity, poppy boom, extreme poverty, and more." To address these issues, Ayubi suggests, "If the current Afghan administration has any wish to be honest with its people -- which I doubt -- it is time for the Afghan authorities to admit their past mistakes and open the door for a holistic approach to overcome the contemporary challenges facing the country, which include increasing insecurity and systemic corruption."
Like Ayubi, Vahid Mojdeh, political analyst and former member of the Taliban's foreign ministry staff, also voiced pessimism about what the conference can achieve. But Mojdeh is pessimistic for different reasons. He argues that the first Bonn Conference, lacking the presence of the Taliban and not well represented ethnically, triggered the current chaos and insecurity in the country. And he insists that, "the Second Bonn Conference suffers from similar shortcomings." In addition, Pakistan has boycotted the conference, which will potentially prevent the outcomes of the meeting from being implemented.
Asadullah Walwalji, an Afghan writer and analyst told me that the "absence of Pakistan in such a conference means that decisions made there, will not be implemented; i.e. Islamabad will continue to play its destructive and sabotaging role in Afghanistan."
Sayed Zaman Hashemi, an Afghan political
analyst, has a different view about the conference. "I think the first Bonn
Conference was to fight terrorism, establish a democratic system, and rebuild
Afghanistan. Considering the recession and pressure from the public in those
Bonn Conference, indeed, is an exit conference and end point to an active
presence of the West in Afghanistan. The reasons behind such an exit are clear:
systemic corruption within the Afghan administration and the (fact that the)
Afghan government has practically changed democracy to demagogy - both of which
are unacceptable for the West."
Bonn Conference is taking place at a time when the Afghan government is seeking
to sign a binding strategic partnership agreement with the United States, while
to the Afghan government -- the United States insists on signing a
nonbinding declaration. Before signing the strategic agreement, the Afghan
government has set a precondition that U.S. forces stop
carrying out night raids on Afghan homes. The U.S. and NATO have long
considered night raids one of the most effective ways to fight insurgency in
Afghanistan. The Afghan government is also insisting that the U.S. hand over
those prisoners dwelling under the custody of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Some Afghan analysts, however, believe that the Afghan government should be more cautious in this regard. "The Afghan people are in need of cooperation by a superpower like the U.S. The Afghan government should not be so insistent regarding its conditions to the U.S. They both had better come to a mutually acceptable agreement that will potentially benefit both countries." states Ayubi.
Helaluddin Helal, a former Afghanistan Deputy Interior Minister, also believes that the Afghan government should not insist on its position. "At this stage, the Afghan security forces are not acquainted with modern military tools. Considering the effectiveness of night raids and the inabilities of the Afghan security forces, how can the government take a leading role in night raids?" Helal asks, arguing that Afghan troops need more time to be trained in order to lead the assaults. In addition, Helal argues that most Afghan security forces are affiliated with different ethnic allegiances and that in the near term, it will be impossible for them to rise above those allegiances in order to align themselves with the national interest.
Equally important, Helal says, the Afghan security forces are unable to take over responsibility for detainees being held at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan. Two prison breaks in Kandahar, in which hundreds of mostly Taliban prisoners managed to escape, exemplify the incompetence of Afghan forces. Helal predicts that a strategic partnership between the two countries will be signed, but that it will take time.
Considering the acute political, security, and economic situation in Afghanistan and proven incompetence of the Afghan government to use international aid effectively, systematically fight corruption, ensure security, prevent poppy cultivation, provide a better living standard for Afghans, and establish an administration based on the values of good governance, it seems likely that the second Bonn Conference will fail to establish a more durable order. Unless the international community puts increasing pressure on the Afghan government to fight corruption and provide better services for the Afghan people, the insurgents will gain strength, more people will join hands with the Taliban, security will deteriorate, and both the Afghan people and the international community will suffer the consequences.
However, something the conference can accomplish is providing the international community with the opportunity to convey its clear message that Afghanistan will not be abandoned again, and that Pakistan will not be given another chance to set Afghanistan's course, as it did during the Taliban's time in power.
Khalid Mafton is an Afghan writer and analyst.
PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan's knee-jerk reaction to the fatal NATO airstrikes in Mohmand that resulted in the killing of 24 (some accounts suggest 26) soldiers is being seen in Pakistani government and diplomatic circles, behind the scenes, as a face-saving bluff on the part of the country's security establishment. This "bluff" allows the military to dictate its terms to the United States while maintaining the appearance of a strong stance against the Americans by avoiding the Bonn conference on Afghanistan set to open Monday.
Apart from the early days of the anti-terror war in the aftermath of the 9/11, Pakistan and the United States have never been completely on the same page in their fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants and restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Despite being allies in fighting al-Qaeda-linked militants, the two uneasy bed fellows never miss a chance to let the other down and squeeze the other, especially as their interests have increasingly clashed in neighboring Afghanistan.
Indeed, the United States has pushed for action against the Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura Taliban and demanded cooperation in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan, while no one has paid heed to even some of the genuine demands and reservations of the Pakistani state with regards to Afghanistan, be they concern over Pashtun nationalism or India's role across the Durand Line.
The November 26 incident, though tragic, has provided an opportunity for Pakistan's army to muzzle the chattering mouths accusing them of willful neglect in missing bin Laden's presence in the garrison town of Abbottabad and pursuing a double game in fighting some militants in the tribal region of the country while giving others safe haven. The incident has proved ideal in averting international pressure and restoring, to some extent, the army's image at home, allowing them to line up the Pakistani masses, whose anti-Americanism is well known, in the name of patriotism.
The government's decision to boycott Monday's Bonn conference in Germany, as well as the halting of NATO supply convoys and the eviction of American personnel from the Shamsi Airbase have served this purpose quite well.
A senior official in the Pakistan People's Party (PPP)-led government said on the condition of anonymity that the security decisions are made by the army leadership, but when it comes to problems with the United States or the international community, the civilian government tends to be pushed out in front, forcing the government -- and not the army -- to bear the brunt of public protest against the United States and its allies.
The same time, the official said, it is the military leadership and not the civilian government that has a major say in key decisions like the Shamsi Airbase or the silent approval or public disapproval of drone strikes. His comments carry some weight, as a senior Pakistan military officer briefing journalists on the Mohmand attack said, "the rules of engagement have to be formulated by the [civilian] government" when asked about why the Pakistan Air Force did not respond while the attack in Mohmand continued for four hours. However, reports last week indicated that Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had changed the rules to allow Pakistani forces to respond to incursions into Pakistani territory without seeking approval.
The Shamsi airbase decision and the border closing are changes that make for catchy headlines in the Pakistani Urdu media, easy choices that appeal to the patriotism of common Pakistanis attracted to every slogan that goes against the United States.
As for the third decision -- to boycott the Bonn Conference -- a number of key Pakistani politicians and analysts are of the view that Pakistan had nothing to offer at the summit being held to discuss the future of Afghanistan.
When discussing the three major decisions following the November 26 incident, female parliamentarian Bushra Gohar says Pakistan's foreign and security policies are always controlled by the army command. "Why did they [the army] did not show such reaction following the May 2 raid in Abbottabad?" she asked.
In comments to this author, Gohar said some matters have been given undue importance, and it seems that Pakistan is at war with its own self. By this, she was referring to the widening gap between the army and the civilian government where the former is controlling the key policies but shifting the responsibility to the civilian authorities.
Amidst the furor from jingoistic television anchors and panelists of the private television channels in Pakistan, some others raise a genuine question as why the single incident in Mohmand forced the Pakistani policy makers to a point of almost no return despite the fact that over 30,000 Pakistanis have been killed in incidents of terrorism and military operations in the past 10 years.
The answer is simple: Facing humiliation both at home and on the international scene following the May 2 incident, the November 26 raid has provided an opportunity to the Pakistani security establishment to dictate its terms to the U.S. and NATO, who are struggling hard to get out of Afghanistan by announcing victory.
To stage a comeback in the anti-terror alliance and become part of the peace efforts in Afghanistan once again, Pakistan is already working on a list of its future requirements as part of its relationship with the United States, said one government official.
Some of the key demands are likely to be placed on the table by the Pakistani side before re-entering the partnership, including a written agreement with the United States on Pakistan's cooperation in the war against militancy, an end to drone strikes (which have been the most lethal weapon against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants) and a bigger say for Pakistan and the pro-Pakistan Haqqani Network in any future set-up in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is also asking for guarantees that attacks like the one on November 26 would not recur, and that India's role in Afghanistan be restricted. All of those have long been the key demands and concerns of Pakistan, but the country was not in a position to explicitly push for them because of the widespread suspicions about its duplicitous role in the fight against terrorism.
However, the November 26 raid has presented itself as an opportunity for Pakistan to press for its demands and concerns before re-joining the United States' 10-year-old counterterrorism alliance.
Daud Khattak is a journalist currently working for the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Pashto-language station Radio Mashaal.
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
On the tenth anniversary of thehistoric Bonn Agreement that laid the foundation for the post- Talibandemocracy in Afghanistan, the Afghan Government and the international communitywill once again gather in the same venue today to assess the achievements andchallenges of a decade-long joint journey and to reiterate theirmutual commitment to working together on the path forward.
PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images
On December 5, an international conference on Afghanistan will open in Bonn, Germany, 10 years after the first Bonn conference set up the political system that would help govern Afghanistan for the next decade. The AfPak Channel asked a group of experts and practitioners what should have been done at Bonn 10 years ago, what might happen at this conference, and what Afghanistan needs in the future.
-- Peter Bergen and Andrew Lebovich
HENNING KAISER/AFP/Getty Images
I arrived in Kabul in October 2002 to research a rumoured expansion in civil-military affairs by international forces. This turned out to be the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) plan, launched at the U.S. embassy the following month. The effects of the successive traumas that Afghans in Kabul had endured, prior to and under the Taliban, were then still visible in peoples' faces and eyes. Later, following my move to Kabul full-time in January 2003 ,international development professionals who had worked in Afghanistan during the Taliban period of power told me that Afghan colleagues looked ten years younger as the strain lifted from their faces. To understand why Afghans hate uncertainty so much, one must remember how often normal life has been swept aside in living Afghan memory and the psychological legacy this disruption has created.
Finally, the "end state" that informed the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)'s planning matrices, which became ever more complex in configurations between 2002 and 2006, is apparently coming to pass as the West races to meet its politically set timetable for withdrawal by the end of 2014. The leading NATO member states believe they have a realistic plan for a "responsible" transition process that, it is becoming increasingly clear, is irreversibly proceeding on its agreed timeline, whatever the actual conditions on the ground. As one U.S. military expert put it at a recent conference on the transition, "whatever it looks like in Paktika or Badghis on 31 December 2014, that's what transition will look like."
The key difference between now and the planning matrices of ISAF's past is that the phased transition process is not dependent on the achievement of even minimal standards for governance and development conditions by the time the transition process takes place. Virtually all the Afghans (from a range of backgrounds and ethnicities) that I interviewed in July 2011 in Kabul were fully aware of the Afghan government's deficits in its institutional capacities to improve governance and deliver services.
In a context in which the overall security situation continues to deteriorate and the sense of crisis is intensifying, both domestically and regionally, the brief transition timeline merely confirms Afghan impressions of an international determination to get out as soon as possible. Nor did my Afghan interviewees express much confidence in NATO's twin-tracked approach for setting the security conditions for the transition: The reduction of the insurgency to proportions that can be managed by the Afghan government after 2014 and the building up of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) that, since 2009, has been the focus of massively resourced U.S.-led efforts to increase its numbers and to develop its fighting capacity. The insurgency, where currently suppressed, can easily be revived. Questions of morale were linked to the absence of effective security sector reform, as well as initiatives that so far have failed to protect the Afghan army and police from factional and ethnic influences and to genuinely disband illegal armed groups. Many Afghans fear that the U.S.-led creation of the Afghan Local Police will ultimately lead to the nationalization of militias that will operate outside the flimsy command and control of the Interior Ministry.
Independent security analysts based in Afghanistan, as well as Afghans, also question the sustainability of security gains enabled by the U.S. military surge. Indeed, many Afghans expressed little confidence in the aftermath of the ‘transfer,' specifically in terms of the Afghan government and its security forces' ability to manage the insurgency, to prevent a widening civil war, and to protect the people. At the same time, Afghans, along with regional leaders, are waiting to see what withdrawal will actually mean in terms of a U.S. military presence in the country after 2014.
The timing of the international conference in Bonn is anything but fortunate, though it could not have been foreseen when it was planned that the global financial crisis would be escalating even further, nor that regional powers' attendance would be questioned or cancelled, as happened with Pakistan following the accidental bombardment recently of Pakistani border posts by NATO forces, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The World Bank has issued bleak warnings in the run up to Bonn of the destabilizing effects that sharp reductions in donor aid and the military-driven economy could produce in Afghanistan. Financial straits in the West and Afghanistan have as a result brought the question of the fiscal sustainability of the ANSF, the forces that will play a pivotal role in the future, sharply into focus.
As Afghanistan is handed back to theAfghans, many are straining to see around the next corner. Whichever way you cut it the radical change of direction that transition represents is a high-risk strategy. It brings great economic and political pressures to bear on the fragile Afghan polity that has developed on the back of the first Bonn Conference in 2001. The strength of the medicine, some fear, may finally kill off the patient: Given the negative trend lines in security and difficulties facing the Afghan economy, it is hard to see how a transition to Afghan ownership can reverse this situation. The intense pressures and side effects of the transition will be felt at all levels of the country. The risk that declining aid flows will affect subnational governance service delivery by adversely affecting the ability of the Afghan government to attract and retain qualified staff is further increased by the intensifying Taliban assassination campaign targeting government officials.
The underlying strategic calculus may be that a collapse of the Afghan government would not necessarily prove catastrophic to the security concerns of the West. The same cannot be said with regard to Pakistan, Afghanistan's most influential neighbor. If the strategic focus of the United States has already moved on, as some believe, conceivably the consequences could lock the West further in to a country and region in a way that ultimately makes departure, from a Western viewpoint, an impossible option to take.
Barbara J. Stapleton was based in Afghanistan 2002-2010, first as a policy and strategy coordinator for the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR). From 2006 to 2010 she was deputy and senior political advisor to the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
In response to a NATO airstrike on a Pakistani border outpost last week in which 24 Pakistani soldiers troops were killed, the Pakistani government announced that it would boycott Monday's conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany. This announcement set off a flurry of diplomacy aimed at bringing Pakistan back to the table -- and at the time this article is published, it remains unclear whether Pakistan will change its mind.
Pakistan has a clear interest in demonstrating its powerful role in determining Afghanistan's future and publicly signaling the costs it can exact on the United States if continued unilateral military action -- intentional or otherwise -- continues on its territory. But its decision to disengage from the multilateral effort carries risks for Pakistani interests in Afghanistan and worldwide, beyond the confines of Bonn.
The conference, which aims to bring together more than 100 countries, is being held approximately ten years after the first major post-conflict conference in Bonn in 2002, which laid the groundwork for the current Afghan state. The odds of any breakthrough at the conference, with or without Pakistani participation, were already slim, and its agenda and objectives remain unclear. A series of recent diplomatic and political initiatives at various levels -- inside Afghanistan, in the region, and at the international level, are not as interlinked as they could be to produce tangible results.
Conference planners have hoped to provide a forum for countries to demonstrate their long-term commitment to Afghanistan, to coordinate a regional economic integration plan -- the so-called "New Silk Road strategy" -- and to discuss a political settlement for Afghanistan. Taliban representation at the meeting was vetoed early on by President Karzai, however, and the conference now appears to be largely about countries making statements in support of Afghanistan, but without ponying up concrete pledges.
The absence of Pakistan will further diminish the chance of meaningful outcomes at Bonn. While Pakistan's ability to deliver insurgent groups to a peace process remains untested, it possesses significant spoiler powers both for a political settlement and regional economic integration through its ongoing support for Taliban insurgents and ability to curtail significant trade with Afghanistan. With the exception of Afghanistan itself (whose current political system remains highly centralized and not amenable to reforms that could entice insurgent reconciliation), Pakistan, more than any other country, has an ability to determine whether Afghanistan can experience long-term peace or war.
Pakistan is playing a risky game by sitting out the Bonn talks, however. First, it fuels an increasingly strong impression among leaders in the United States, Afghanistan and other countries that Pakistan is not a constructive player in Afghanistan and that it should be confronted directly rather than accommodated. While the deaths of the soldiers in Mohmand is a tragedy, the deaths of American and Afghan soldiers fighting Pakistan's proxies is no less so, and mistrust of Pakistan is already high in both the U.S. Congress and Afghan public opinion. If Pakistan chooses to remove itself from constructive discussions about how to fashion a political settlement in Afghanistan, it may find those discussions dominated by arguments for a containment and isolation strategy of Pakistan worldwide.
Moreover, the breakdown of Bonn would strengthen the argument for rapid disengagement from the mission in Afghanistan, which is increasingly seen as a futile and expensive endeavor with little hope of progress. Publics around the world, especially in Europe and the United States, are increasingly opposed to pouring more money and lives into an endless quagmire. Because most analysts and policymakers see Pakistan as being essential for long-term peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan's rejection of Bonn makes prospects of failure appear even more likely, and thus the patience for engagement less.
For Pakistanis, a complete breakdown of the Afghan state and all-out civil war may be more dangerous than the status quo; rapid international withdrawal and dramatic funding cuts will increase the risk of both. Afghanistan's instability has long-term security implications for Pakistan, including large refugee flows and growing security vacuums where militant groups can operate. The Pakistanis have already complained that Pakistani insurgent groups are using Afghan territory to increase their attacks on Pakistani soil; this would only increase if chaos were to ensue on Pakistan's border following the international withdrawal.
The Pakistani absence from an international forum also prevents them from presenting a set of demands or engagingin a constructive dialogue on Afghanistan. Pakistan has real concerns about the coordination of military operations in Afghanistan, that military operations are not synched with a diplomatic strategy, that Pashtuns are not sufficiently represented within the current power structure in Afghanistan, and that India is utilizing Afghan territory to advance their strategic interests. But ceding the debate to other actors, most of whom have less at stake in Afghanistan than the Pakistanis, will be to the detriment of Pakistani interests in the region.
It is also not clear that their leverage is advanced by such a maneuver. The Obama administration has already elevated Pakistan's centrality in its strategy toward Afghanistan. It has argued that Pakistan is one of the main players in Afghanistan, reducing its pressure on the Pakistanis to mount direct military operations against insurgents based in the frontier areas while asking for their assistance in bringing them to the negotiating table. It has pushed back against Congressional calls to isolate Pakistan further and made the case for engagement, not isolation. But the administration's strategic patience with Pakistan, already strained by mutual mistrust, is not unlimited.
While the Pakistanis have legitimate concerns about the Mohmand attack, taking the ball and walking off the field does not assist them in advancing their desired future in Afghanistan and the region. Rather than presenting a strategy in opposition to NATO, the United States and the 100 countries that are attending, the Pakistanis would be wise to clarify their demands and outline concrete steps that would assuage their fears and advance their interests. Bonn could have been an opportunity for such a presentation; instead it has been used as another way to obstruct.
Caroline Wadhams and Brian Katulis are Senior Fellows at the Center for American Progress.
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
Prolonged conflicts are particularly difficult to resolve, often depending on the opening of a window of opportunity that must be seized before it closes again. Afghanistan has been mired in conflict for the past 32 years, and warring parties, foreign intervention, and imbalances of power among different groups have made finding a negotiated solution to this series of wars difficult to achieve. One opportunity was missed in 1989 when, following the Soviet withdrawal, the United States and Pakistan did not pursue the possibility of reaching a settlement between then-President Najibullah and the anti-Soviet mujahideen. When in early 2000 I was appointed the U.N. Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Afghanistan, the Taliban regime was in control of over 90 percent of the country and, despite their diplomatic isolation, had little incentive to seek a political accommodation with Ahmad Shah Massoud, whose Northern Alliance (NA) was confined to the country's extreme northeast.
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While the upcoming Bonn conference on Afghanistan coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the Bonn Agreement that formally ended the Afghan conflict and formed the basis for a new Afghan government in 2001, its sponsors have spent the past several months stressing that it is neither an assessment of the past ten years, nor a forum for a "Bonn II Agreement" to end the current insurgency. This downplaying of expectations is appropriate, given the recent setbacks to the peace process. But this changed set of goals does not diminish the need for both an honest assessment of how the Bonn Agreement has fared for Afghanistan and a path toward a political settlement that would address its deficiencies.
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On Monday, Germany will play host to the second Bonn international conference, chaired by Afghanistan and attended by more than 100 delegations. The conference's opening comes at a time when, once again, tensions are high between Washington, Islamabad and Kabul over a U.S. airstrike along the Mohmand agency's Salala mountain rangelast Saturday, which claimed the lives of 24 Pakistani soldiers. As a result, Pakistan says it is downgrading its presence at Bonn, opting to send its ambassador in Berlin in place of the Foreign Minister.
The tenth anniversary sequel to the first Bonn conference will attempt to chart a new decade-long (2014-2024) roadmap for engagement between Afghanistan and the world community, as many Afghans are gripped by a sense of uncertainty mixed with frustration, baffled that a decade of staggering investment in their country has yielded such precarious results in areas such as security, political cohesiveness, economic sustainability and neighborly relations.
TheGhost of Bonn
Bonn I has undergone waves of revisionism and debate in the 10 years since it was held, especially among those who claim that it was not inclusive enough, and should have incorporated the then-fleeing Taliban and some of its militant fellow-travelers. But what Bonn I actually lacked -- not unlike the recent Istanbul conference on regional cooperation -- was a binding political accord with an enforcement mechanism that would have put an end to regional proxy interferences in Afghanistan, thus ensuring the shutdown of cross-border sanctuaries once and for all. That was probably easier to attain in 2001, when the Taliban were on the run and regional conditions more conducive to a dismantling of militant support structures.
It is a myth that Bonn I would have been able to cobble together a near-perfect and fair representation of a war-torn society under prevailing conditions on the ground in December 2001. The objective since then has been to create a political tent inclusive enough to accommodate all political forces, including the armed opposition groups. However, the militants have refused thus far to be part of such a structure.
Hence, the focus of any credible political outreach or reconciliation initiative coming out of Bonn II should be on encouraging the armed opposition to join a participatory and pluralistic peace-building structure leading to democratic governance, tightening the parameters for a just settlement that would leave no wiggle room for forces that adhere to violence.
Furthermore, Bonn I's weakest points were less about its benchmarks (the source of much discussion among Afghans over the years) and more about the short delivery timelines of tangible results and reforms prescribed in an environment void of any coherent studies on damage and needs assessment in postwar Afghanistan. This rushed feeling was compounded by a lack of strategic resolve to provide appropriate funding during the first five years of the mission in order to lay the foundational elements to fix a failed state. In a country where agriculture and water form vital arteries of the economy and communal life, it took both Afghan and foreign decision-makers at least six years to realize that those two sectors required priority attention. It took us even longer to consider indigenous energy generation as an essential element of growth. Add to that list weak governance, outdated management practices, burgeoning parallel governance and economic structures, a wasteful contracting regime, a decaying system of patronage and impunity for powerful figures, and the inability to enforce basic laws. These fault lines of the past 10 years should no longer be tolerated by Afghans and those who invest in their future.
The promise of Bonn II
While the Bonn I accords generated a blueprint for a post-Taliban political process, Bonn II, which is not billed as a pledging conference, will represent a moment of political reckoning as the baton passes from transitional work to "transformational responsibilities" in the words of conference organizers. Bonn II aims to restore Afghan sovereignty by 2014, when international forces are scheduled to withdraw. It is also seen as a reality-check moment for all sides concerned, as major donors are expected to commit to continue to stand by Afghans during the upcomingdecade. In other words, to shift the focus from military to civilian work and agree to incur new costs to keep the country's economy and its nascent institutions afloat, especially by providing training and mentoring in securityand governance fields especially, all at a fraction of the colossal expenditures (estimated on the civilian side alone to be more than $50 billion) borne between 2001-2014. The initial yearly financial outlay for the Afghan government beyond 2014 is estimated by Afghan officials to be approximately $8 billion for security and $5 billion for development work. According to a recent World Bank study, unless the international community steps in, aid-reliant Afghanistan will face a yearly budget deficit of $7 billion from 2014 through 2021.
In light of the 2014 drawdown, separate strategic agreements between Afghanistan and members of the international community can also benefit the Bonn process by creating agreements and mechanisms through which Afghanistan will adhere to principles of democratic governance, institution building, and access to economic opportunity, service delivery and resolving outstanding issues on its peripheral flank. It is becoming urgently necessary for Afghans to agree on a legitimate domestic mechanism to discuss the colonial legacy of the Durand Line, and engage Afghanistan's neighbors on key issues,such as the sharing and management of water resources under international law.
Good news, bad news
In my discussions with officials and participants in the new Bonn process, two majorthemes will emerge that Afghans will view favorably:
However, there is also bad news:
Pakistan's boycott of the Bonn conference will not impact the political commitment to help Afghanistan's transformation phase over the next decade. It will, however, be seen as a missed opportunity for Pakistan -- and all concerned parties -- to not be part of important deliberations on issues concerning regional cooperation, terrorism and radicalism, and to explore peace-building opportunities, as well as a chance for Pakistan to show that it wishes to be a productive regional partner, rather than an instigator. Independent views on the subject were best reflected in a sobering editorial published this week in Pakistan's Daily Times that said:
Whilst braving the ‘war on terror' on the domestic front, we [Pakistanis] have been waging a proxy war in Afghanistan for so-called strategic depth. When taking such risks, incidents such as the one on Saturday are likely. Our shock and response at what is essentially the result of our double game is overcooked. It is time we wage this war in a manner that reduces the fatalities on our side and decreases the potential of having our ‘sovereignty' violated, by abandoning the proxy war in Afghanistan.
Bonn I and Bonn II are obviously quite different conferences, convened for different reasons under different circumstances; history will judge both based on the deliberations and outcomes, and the way we think about them will undoubtedly change and shift over time. But what will not change is that fact that they were convened because there was a dire need to jump-start efforts to stabilize Afghanistan at critical times, and in the case of Monday's conference, to absorb the shock of another withdrawal and provide continuity for the vital mission of trying to bring a semblance of order to South Asia's vital crossroads.
Omar Samad is the former Ambassador of Afghanistan to France (2009-2011), Canada (2004-2009) and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001-2004). He worked as CNN's onsite commentator during Bonn I.
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Starting Monday, 85 countries and 15 international organizations will gather in Bonn, Germany, to mark the 10th anniversary of the international conference that convened after the overthrow of the Taliban government. This convening provides an important opportunity to remove Afghanistan as a pawn from the region's chess board.
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Pakistan is once again accusing India of water hegemony. This time, however, the accusation refers not to Indian damming of the Western Rivers in the disputed regions of Jammu and Kashmir, but to Indian support for Afghan development projects along the Kabul River. This accusation indulges in conspiratorial thinking, and distracts from a factual understanding of the water issues between the two countries.
According to Pakistani media reports, Afghanistan (with assistance from India and the World Bank) has plans to build 12 dams on the Kabul River (a tributary of the Indus which runs through Afghanistan and Pakistan), with a combined storage capacity of 4.7 million acre feet (MAF). Pakistan is concerned that these dams will stop crucial water supply from flowing to the Indus River. It is also concerned that Indian support for these dams will increase India's sphere of influence over water issues in the region.
India has not confirmed its support to build all 12 Afghan dams on the Kabul River, though it is currently one of Afghanistan's largest assistance donors; Afghan media report that India has $1.3 billion invested in infrastructure projects. Water infrastructure, including dam building, is an integral part of Afghanistan's 2008 Development Agenda.
In order to understand India's possible participation in Afghan dam-building -- along with that of the U.S. Government, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and others -- one has to understand the context -- namely Afghanistan's lack of hydro-development.
Firstly, due to successive wars in Afghanistan, water infrastructure in the country is incredibly underdeveloped. All 12 of the existing water reservoirs in the country were built between 1920 and 1940. Afghanistan has sufficient water to meet its needs. Overall, around 2,775 cubic meters of water are currently available per capita (an all-inclusive figure accounting for consumption and agricultural needs), which is well above the water threshold of 1,800 cubic meters per capita. However, the country has not been able to harness this water adequately because of a lack of infrastructure and international assistance.
Secondly, even though the Kabul River Basin (KRB) is the most important river basin in Afghanistan -- containing half the country's urban population, including the city of Kabul -- it is one of the most underutilized basins in Afghanistan in terms of overall surface water availability. The proportion of water use in the KRB is 25 percent. In contrast, in the Northern and Helmand basins, water use is 100 percent and 58 percent, respectively, of the available surface water. Such figures refer to the amount of renewable freshwater reserves; any use beyond this will be overutilization as it might not be replenished.
Thirdly, Disaster Management Information systems have revealed that the mountainous north-eastern region of the country where the Kabul River is situated is one of the most flood- and drought-prone areas in Afghanistan. Annual flow is extremely erratic, dropping as low as 11.2MAF and rising as high as 34.8MAF. This makes storage all the more essential in order to provide water in lean periods, and to avoid disasters like flash floods during sudden flow outbursts. (Afghanistan currently has one of the lowest storage capacities in the world.)
It goes almost without saying that development in Afghanistan is essential and unavoidable; a more prosperous and functional Afghanistan will aid security and stability across South Asia. Yet without the assistance it requires to build water infrastructure, Kabul cannot reach its development goals for agriculture, energy, and urban development.
It is also important to understand that the Kabul River, a tributary of the Indus, is a shared river between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Therefore, this challenge of the 12 dams is essentially an Af-Pak issue rather than an Indo-Pak one.
The issue of the 12 Kabul River dams, rather than simply being a reference point for India's development assistance program in Afghanistan, should be the spark for a water agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So far, India/Pakistan is the only Indus Basin riparian pairing that enjoys a treaty or agreement on water sharing. Afghanistan and Pakistan do not enjoy the same advantage -- the two countries came close to drafting a water treaty in 2003 and 2006, but these attempts failed on both accounts.
From a strategic standpoint, the timing could not be better for a water treaty between the two countries. Recent months have seen an increase in tensions between them, reaching an apex with the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. A comprehensive water accord -- one that addresses both the Afghan need for water development and Pakistan's apprehensions about a reduction in water flows -- could do wonders not only for water security, but also for political ties.
Though Indo-Pak water relations are not directly involved in the Kabul River issue, they still hold relevance. The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan can be used to inform an Af-Pak agreement on the Kabul River, and this can subsequently create pressure for a more comprehensive view of water security throughout the Indus River Basin.
The IWT is considered one of the more successful water treaties in the world. The treaty is one of the few on transboundary water that addresses specific water allocations; it provides unique design requirements for run-of-the-river dams that ensure the steady flow of water while at the same time guaranteeing power generation through hydro-electricity. The Indo-Pak water treaty also provides a mechanism for consultation and arbitration in case questions, disagreements, or disputes arise over water sharing. All of these features present in the IWT could be applicable to a similar accord between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also important to note that the IWT, by settling the rights of the upper and lower riparians, also gave India and Pakistan access to billions in World Bank financing. In Pakistan, this money was used to build the Mangla and Tarbela dams, as well as to develop irrigation infrastructure. Afghanistan can take similar steps to secure its national water development plans.
The IWT, however, does have its limitations, as it was formulated decades ago and therefore does not account for more recent challenges to water management.
Accordingly, an Af-Pak water treaty could also factor in more contemporary concepts like climate change and integrated river basin management, for instance. According to the Pacific Institute, "many existing treaties allocate water among the nations on the basis of river banks but very few -- if any -- account for the possibility of a river's flow diminishing over all or at crucial times of the year. Likewise most treaties ignore the possibility of intense floods that are expected to increase as the climate warms." In the institute's most recent report, authors Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley say that new as well as existing transboundary water treaties should be "climate-proofed." An Af-Pak water treaty can factor climate change in its draft, and can even inspire other stakeholders of the Indus River Basin like India and China to create a more comprehensive understanding and transparency over the effects of climate change on the basin as a whole.
Efficient use of existing water resources is another contemporary concept to water management not accounted for in the IWT, which can be included in an Af-Pak water treaty. So far transboundary treaties have been largely focused on the supply side. In other words, they have focused on developing water infrastructure rather than on changing patterns of water use. Adequate demand management has been lacking, and is desperately required in the developing economies of South Asia. An Af-Pak treaty could acknowledge ways in which limited -- and perhaps even diminishing -- water resources can be utilized in a sustainable way to meet the growing agricultural, industrial, and domestic needs of both countries. For example, the treaty could stipulate that each country pledge to undertake a certain percentage of annual repairs on water infrastructure governed by the treaty, in order to minimize wastage and other losses. It could also institute measures that will help Afghanistan and Pakistan shift from flood to drip irrigation.
Additionally, the spirit of sustainability in an Af-Pak water treaty should emphasize the sharing dimension of water resource management rather than one of segregation. In an age and an area of growing populations and limited resources, we can no longer afford to divide water; instead we need to learn how to share it. Why not stipulate that Pakistan, as the lower riparian, purchase hydro-power from the Afghan dams (it would presumably be cheaper than purchasing it from diesel-driven rental power projects)?
An Af-Pak water treaty, if consummated, would represent a rare regional success story in South Asia. A shared interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan -- enhancing water security -- would be addressed through cooperative institutional mechanisms. India's desire to assist Afghanistan with dam construction would be less politically fraught, given that Pakistan would presumably be more willing to accept the existence of these dam projects if its concerns were addressed via treaty. And the United States would welcome an Af-Pak water accord's political implications: A convergence between two nations whose cooperation is essential for Washington's goal of proceeding with reconciliation in the country. Perhaps most importantly, an Af-Pak water accord could eventually be applied to an understanding of water-sharing for the region at large that is founded on cooperation rather than competition.
Michael Kugelman is the South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. Ahmad Rafay Alam is vice president, Pakistan Environmental Law Association, and manager of the Water Program at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Gitanjali Bakshi is co-author of "Indus Equation" and former Coordinator of the South Asia Security Unit at Strategic Foresight Group in Mumbai, India. A version of this piece appeared in The News International.
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When it comes to women's rights, Pakistan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The list of wrongs perpetrated against women, which includes honor killings, domestic violence, sexual assault and acid attacks, is disturbingly lengthy. What is unfortunate is that the current state owes as much to the lawmaking agencies of the country who have been unable to enforce justice for women as those who perpetrate the actual violence.
But tangible progress is underway. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act 2011, a twice-snubbed landmark bill demanding greater social protection for women, passed this November by the Pakistan National Assembly, is a major move in the right direction. Framed and amended by Dr. Donya Aziz, the bill was unanimously passed by the lower house, which is headed by speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza -- the first female parliamentary speaker in the Muslim world. The bill is currently awaiting approval by the Senate, but civil society, women's rights activists and NGOs are optimistic that this bill will become law.
Outside of Pakistan, the bill is being hailed as a show of collective resolve by Pakistani political parties to counter societal taboos against women, dealing with issues such as forced marriages, physical violence against women, or depriving women of their inheritance. The bill deems all of the above as crimes that can lead to three to ten years' imprisonment or a fine of up to up to RS1 million (approximately $11,400). The bill also criminalizes the practice of ‘Haq Bakhshish' -- forcing women into giving up their right to marriage by marrying them to the Quran. While not a mainstream custom and mostly practiced in the rural areas of the country to prevent the loss of property if a woman marries someone who is not a relative, Haq Bakhshish has been an eyesore for women's rights and human rights activists in Pakistan for decades.
But things aren't all that straightforward. While supporters of women's rights in Pakistan revel in the recent development, 2011 also saw a notable setback for their cause. The Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill, passed earlier in the year and signed by President Asif Ali Zardari before becoming the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Act 2011, reversed the right of women to bail. That right was granted under the Women's Protection Act 2006 and signed into law by then-President Pervez Musharraf. But come 2011 and bail can only be granted by the court, putting women again at the mercy of the criminal justice system.
Under the Women Protection Act 2006, bail became the right of a woman accused of any crime except involvement in terrorism, financial corruption and murder or a crime punishable with death, or a minimum of ten years imprisonment. More simply, they were given the right to bail without going to the courts. Mostly meant to decrease the number of women in jail, especially those accused of zina, or adultery, the WPA 2006 made it harder for the police to hold women in custody. However, with President Zardari's recent amendments, that right has been taken away.
Women's rights activists are raking President Zardari's government over the coals at the hushed, sudden, revision. According to Farzana Bari, a civil rights activist in Pakistan, women may be detained on minor offences and even as a result of family disputes, and women will need to go through court hearings before being able to be bailed out of prison, thanks to the amendment. Speaking to a local English newspaper, Bari called the move a "dangerous reversal, as more than 80 percent of the gains achieved through the Women Protection Act 2006 have been lost."
The WPA 2006 was an attempt by the then-government to amend the heavily-criticized Hudood Ordinance laws in Pakistan enacted by military dictator Zia ul-Haq in 1979, which governed the punishment for rape and adultery in the country for decades.
Take "adultery" and non-marital consensual sex as a case in point -- both criminalized by the Hudood Ordinances. For many years in Pakistan, the laws made female rape victims liable to prosecution for adultery if they could not produce four male witnesses to the assault; however, the WPA 2006 brought rape under the Pakistan Penal Code, which is based on civil law and not Sharia (Islamic law). What that did was take away the right of law-enforcement agencies to detain people suspected of having non-marital consensual sex. Instead they were to require a ‘formal accusation' in court. Even though the amendments still treated adultery and sex outside of marriage as an offence, the judges could now deal with rape cases in criminal rather than Islamic courts. That did away with the practically impossible ‘four witnesses' requirement and allowed convictions to be made on the basis of proper circumstantial and forensic evidence.
Unfortunately, however, the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Act 2011 is a giant step back, almost to the Hudood Ordinances themselves. President Zardari's government believes getting custody of the accused is critical to investigations, especially in the scenario where it becomes easier for criminals to engage women in offences, as the WPA 2006 made it easier for female criminals and their co-conspirators or those who trapped them to get out of jail quickly. However, the civil rights activists in the country remain perplexed as to why bail laws had to be reversed almost completely, especially when amendments could have been introduced to check potential misuse without ‘robbing' women of their previously hard-earned concessions.
Thus, for every step forward with women's rights in Pakistan, we take a giant step back. On the one hand, bills are signed to protect women in Pakistan from early marriages and physical abuse, while on the other, juvenile convicts detained for committing zina are exempted from being granted special remission, a standard practice around the Eid al-Fitr holiday where the President of Pakistan lessens the sentences of juvenile prisoners and others. Exempting those convicted of zina from these remittances puts them on the same level as terrorists, in the eyes of Pakistani law.
While Pakistanis both in Pakistan and in the United States appreciate the role of the Pakistan National Assembly in making this landmark legislation see the light of day, they are also skeptical over the future status of the bill and its implementation by local law enforcement agencies. Pakistani civil society groups have vowed to stage a sit-in demonstration outside the Parliament if the bill is blocked by the Senate. And while activists remain optimistic about this legislation, the fact remains that the gap between the theory of law in Pakistan and its practice has always been enormous. For now, one can only hope that the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act lives up to its name.
Rabail Baig is a Pakistani journalist based in Boston.
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In October 2009, President Obama signed the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) Act into law, thereby authorizing $7.5 billion in civilian assistance to Pakistan.
More than two years later, however, KLB has seemingly produced more acrimony than aid.
With only a relatively small percentage of KLB aid released, and with that aid having a minimal public impact, many Pakistanis complain that Washington's promise of expanded development aid rings hollow. Meanwhile, with the United States mired in economic malaise, many Americans are increasingly uneasy about sending any tax dollars to a nation they believe sheltered Osama Bin Laden and maintains links with other anti-American militants.
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Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has set off a political firestorm in Pakistan with his claims that he was brokering an offer from Pakistan's civilian leaders to the Pentagon to unseat the leadership of the Pakistani military.
Those accusations forced the resignation on Tuesday of Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who Ijaz says orchestrated this proposal, which was delivered in a unsigned memo in May to Adm. Mike Mullen, then-U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state that is home to a number of Taliban groups that attack U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and also is home to what remains of al Qaeda's "core" organization.
Haqqani helped smooth over many tense moments in the important U.S.-Pakistan relationship, including the shooting in January of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis and the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan in May.
Peter Bergen is the director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, where Andrew Lebovich is a policy analyst. They edit the AfPak Channel.
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After spending last month in Afghanistan on my fourth trip this year, the situation can best be described as a glass half full. A multifaceted effort in the south, led by a "surge" of U.S. and Afghan troops, has increased security in the southern Pashtun heartland this year. But a steady drumbeat of high-profile attacks, including a brazen assault on the U.S. embassy and assassinations of key Afghan officials, has had an outsized impact on the population by eroding already weak confidence in the Afghan government and the forces supporting it. As I was ending my trip with a few days in Kabul, an SUV packed with 700 kilos of explosives rammed an armored "Rhino" bus, killing a dozen Americans and inflicting horrific burns on others in a targeted, planned attack reminiscent of the worst days in Baghdad. The U.S. military has adopted the line that these "spectacular attacks" are in fact signs of the Taliban's weakness, and points instead to a notable decline in the number of enemy initiated attacks.
But numbers matter less than perception in these wars -- and shaping perception is precisely how terrorist groups fight and win. The dominant narrative in Afghanistan is: the Americans are leaving, the government is weak, the Taliban is still strong, and Pakistan is the problem. And though the details of the cross-border NATO bombardment Saturday, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, are still murky, it will undoubtedly send U.S.-Pakistan relations into a further downward spiral. Unless the reality underlying these perceptions about the United States in the region are addressed, sustainable momentum on the government side cannot be generated. The U.S. surge may have started to turn around the momentum that is currently favoring the Taliban, but Afghan political and military actions are required to create a perception -- and the reality -- that the Afghan government is capable of surviving and prevailing. Addressing several factors bedeviling the Afghan campaign between now and next summer, when the traditional fighting season resumes and more troops go home, might turn perception and thus momentum in the Afghan government's favor. Six are most critical:
Promptly reaching a strategic partnership agreement in which the United States pledges to continue providing security and economic assistance after 2014 could go a long way toward reducing Afghan fears of abandonment. The U.S. and Afghan governments have been negotiating such an agreement for over a year, and the general idea of a partnership (albeit with a 10-year limit on American forces in Afghanistan after 2014) was approved at President Hamid Karzai's Loya Jirga this week; both sides hope to finalize it before the Bonn summit next month. The sticking points are night raids, which Karzai would like to end, and the transfer of detainees to Afghan control, despite a recent U.N. report cataloguing abusive practices in Afghan intelligence detention centers. The first issue can be postponed or finessed, but the United States is bound by international convention not to turn over detainees if it believes they will be tortured or mistreated. In the run-up to the Bonn Conference, Karzai will hopefully stay focused on the need to reassure Afghans of ongoing U.S. support and assistance as coalition troop levels decline over the coming years.
Forging a common front with his main backer, the United States, would help Karzai repair some of the image of weakness that plagues his government. Veteran U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)'s top commander Gen. John Allen have worked hard to "reset" the relationship with Karzai since they arrived this summer. One of his frequent interlocutors notes that Karzai "is exhausted, and he knows he is irritable and unpredictable." Nader Nadery, a commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, chides Karzai for his "lack of firmness. There is no clarity on where he stands." And, like many Afghans I spoke to, Nadery sees the president's tolerance of corrupt activity as a major weakness. Yet despite these failings, many Afghans I've talked to still see him as currently the only leader who can balance the myriad rivalries and swirling tensions that beset Afghan national politics, in particular the concern that Tajik leaders may be girding for an all-out civil war once the U.S. departs. The assassination of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Tajik head of Karzai's High Peace Council, significantly ratcheted up those concerns.
Afghan security forces need to move demonstrably into the lead. The U.S. plans to push Afghan forces out front in more and more operations, if only to determine just how ready they are to take the lead and where the weak links are. To get them ready, U.S. forces must make partnering with and mentoring their Afghan partners its top priority, which it is not. By the military's own count in the latest DOD report mandated by Congress, 95 Afghan units in critical areas have no coalition partner whatsoever, and many others are only loosely mentored.
Afghans will have to step up if the three stated objectives of the military campaign are to be accomplished -- namely, to secure the south, the populated corridor along Highway One up to Kabul, and key areas of the east, especially the crucial provinces of Paktia, Paktika, and Khost. The south has been greatly stabilized over the past year, but the job is not yet done. I spent ten days in Kandahar province, where the longtime Taliban strongholds of Zhari, Panjwayi and Maiwand are still heavily contested. Returning from Maiwand, which is mostly still Taliban dominated, I passed through the Panjwayi district center, where a car bomb detonated a short while later. We stopped in Kandahar city for dinner -- one of the few times I have been with a U.S. military unit that felt comfortable dining at night in an Afghan city. The company commander ordered roast chickens, pilaf and delicious nan bread for all his men, and we picnicked amid the city's bustling nightlife, surrounded by curious Afghan men and children. Yet that reality coexisted with a frontal assault, hours earlier, on the Kandahar provincial reconstruction team, located just across from the provincial governor's office.
The current priority is to expand the security bubble beyond Kabul to Wardak, Logar and then Ghazni and Zabul provinces, thus securing the country's major highway all the way down to Kandahar. After that, the campaign plans to shift to the east, but it needs to tightly focus on the key population areas. There is a danger of focusing too much on sparsely populated provinces and neglecting the Khost to Gardez corridor, which has a large population and has been both an insurgent stronghold and transit route from the beginning of the war. Attempting to cut every ratline in the country is a sure fire way to fritter away forces. The only way that the campaign objectives can be achieved is if coalition forces focus on the important areas, and if Afghan security forces take more of the lead.
The expanding self-defense initiative may increase security. Security out in the countryside, where the insurgency is based, is starting to get a lift from the year-old Afghan Local Police program, but it is too early to judge the net effect of the program. It now has 8,500 recruits, mostly farmers who have volunteered and been trained to do checkpoint security and patrols in their villages. I've visited a half dozen of the 57 sites, where Special Operations Forces train and mentor the ALP and work with the district police chief, who is the Afghan official charged with their formal command and control, as well as providing them with salaries, trucks, weapons and ammunition. The program, strongly backed by ISAF, is funded and approved to grow to 30,000 in 100 districts, but the painstaking process of gaining community support and ensuring that the government exercises proper oversight means it will be another year or more before the program is fully implemented.
Thus far, RAND quarterly assessments done for the Special Operations Forces command in Afghanistan say that the program is broadly supported by local residents and that security in the sites has improved. The principal concern expressed by the program's critics is that these small groups (limited to 300 per district) will become militias, which historically have been armies of 30,000 or more under the command of a single warlord. The ALP program aims to prevent that by creating a strong link to district and provincial police chiefs from the outset. A recent Human Rights Watch Report catalogued allegations of abuse, disputes and ethnic tensions in some areas, although U.S. officials dispute some of the claims, which are under official investigation.
The ALP program features greater oversight and vetting mechanisms than earlier similar efforts, but continuing vigilance is necessary, as with all security forces. The Special Forces team in Maiwand told me about an ALP member who went AWOL, and along with his brother, started holding up cars for bribes on Highway One, the highway linking Kandahar to Kabul. The Taliban shot him dead. ALP commanders have fired numerous members they feel are not up to snuff. One of the sites, in Baghlan, is a unique case in that the Afghan government asked SOF to form a local police unit out of former insurgents from the small Hezb-e Islami faction; insurgents are not the recruiting base for ALP, unlike the Sons of Iraq program. The tensions in the area are increased by the fact that the area is a pocket of Pashtuns surrounded by a larger Tajik population. The Afghan interior ministry official who has national oversight of the program, Brig. Gen. Ali Shah Ahmadzai, told me that he has put the ALP commander, who is under investigation, on notice that he will be arrested "if he does not behave."
Promises to rural Afghans should be moderated but honored. The reality is that the dysfunctional Afghan bureaucracy cannot deliver funds to individual provinces, let alone the district level where 76 percent of the Afghan population ekes out a subsistence living. At present, most district governments are fig leafs for the distribution of international aid projects. I sat in the Khas Kunar district governor's office as he talked to the provincial governor's secretary about getting funds for a backhoe to dig out canals damaged in recent floods. A U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) official had suggested he seek to tap the $25,000 "performance based" fund that USAID provides each month to provincial governors. The district governor smiled and nodded as the conversation concluded, then turned to us and said, "It will take a year for the necessary paperwork and to get approval from Kabul." Yet there has been progress - in many areas district governors did not even visit, let alone live in, their districts last year. Many areas have now been pacified sufficiently for them to return. During the week I spent in Maiwand, I saw the governor preside over four meetings, although he still returns to Kandahar city each weekend where his family lives. Prioritizing needs is essential, since USAID funds and staff are slated to decline significantly, and the civilian state-building effort will focus on the provincial level rather than the districts. The district delivery program, for example, will end next year after reaching only 45 of the country's 398 districts. This program, which supports training and salary increases for district officials, is current under way in only 12 districts. A number of civilian officials and nongovernmental organizations believe dispute resolution, primarily through the traditional local mediation practices system, should be the highest priority in conflict-ridden areas where land and other disputes often fuel insurgent violence.
Pakistan is the glaring problem that has dramatically worsened and must be addressed. A senior U.S. official in Kabul declared flatly to me, "We will not succeed unless the Pakistan safe havens are reduced." He does not believe Pakistan will come around, despite countless U.S. pleas for more action. Pakistan balks at getting tough on the Afghan insurgent groups that are the central cards in its hedging strategy -- particularly the deadly Haqqani network, based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal agency. And U.S. officials recognize that an assault into the agency simply is not going to happen.
The United States and Afghanistan will have to neutralize the threat from Waziristan through their own efforts, and indeed these efforts have stepped up dramatically. Operation Knife Edge rounded up many Haqqani operatives last month. A senior Haqqani facilitator, Mali Khan, was nabbed as he crossed the border, and another, Janbaz Zadran, was killed by a suspected CIA drone attack on October 13. During the week I spent in Paktika, U.S. forces dropped 33,000 pounds of bombs on the border to close mountain passes that the insurgents use. A U.S. commander there pointed out a dozen "POOs" or points of origin, of artillery or rockets fired from Pakistan into Afghanistan. They were all within sight of Pakistani Frontier Corps outposts - leaving little doubt about active or passive support for militants among some Pakistani forces. U.S. and Afghan forces are under direct attack from Pakistani territory, and Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti assured me that when they take "effective" fire, U.S. forces shoot back. The dilemma, however, is that Pakistan holds a critical trump card, as it demonstrated this week by its ability to close major commercial crossings in retaliation for Saturday's cross-border strike. When I visited that part of the border area last month, Special Forces soldiers told me that an insurgent camp near the two border posts was a major source of attacks in the region.
If the Afghan and U.S. governments can agree on a common plan, backed by a lower but sustainable level of U.S. troops, they just might start winning the battle of perceptions. Given the insurgents' lack of popularity -- they rely on intimidation -- the Afghan government should be able to prevail in either defeating the insurgency or forcing them into a political accommodation if the United States remains willing to lend a hand. It might take five or ten years. But the alternative is not a pretty one to contemplate: the U.S. departs, Afghanistan crumbles, and the war fought to avenge the 9/11 attacks is perceived to be a failure. As I wrote in my last book on the Iraq war, Americans need to be prepared for wars to last a decade. The Afghan war, which the United States attempted to fight largely through a counterterrorism approach for the first seven years, has only begun in earnest in the last three. There is a third choice between the current large-scale U.S. counterinsurgency campaign and reverting to a counter-terrorism approach, and that is an Afghan-led counterinsurgency effort that that the United States can support in a sustainable way.
Linda Robinson is Adjunct Senior Fellow for U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is writing a book on the war in Afghanistan.
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images
Last month, Afghanistan's Chamber of Commerce, the ACCI, elected its new leadership. The process was not without controversy. A lively pre-election trade in ACCI membership* cards allowed large numbers of underage children and people who had nothing to do with running a business to participate in the vote at the provincial level. And at the national level there were allegations of deal-making, money transfers and ethnic politicking. The fact that highly powerful individuals and networks find these positions worth competing over illustrates their importance. The controversies surrounding the vote also underscore how deeply problematic elections - of any kind - have become, and how the involvement of the Independent Electoral Commission is no guarantee for a serious vote.
The ACCI's leadership elections, organized by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), took place between September 11 and October 14, 2011 in the 21 provinces that have their own ACCI departments. It was followed by the election of the national Executive Board on October 24, 2011. Most of the provincial-level elections went unreported, with the exception of Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif where there were at least some echoes of the tumult going on behind the scenes.
In Mazar the vote was postponed for weeks due to complaints over the irregular distribution of ACCI cards and the high number of candidates. Local traders hinted that they expected Governor Atta to step in and solve the problem (read: pre-select the members of the provincial ACCI board) and, indeed, by the time the Mazar election took place there were exactly the same number of candidates as there were seats. In Kabul the Chamber's CEO, Mohammad Qorban Haqju, assured the media that the electoral procedures had been fully transparent and that all allegations of fraud were baseless. A video obtained by AAN, however, suggests otherwise.
This video is a collection of short recordings, 15 minutes in total, taken in one of Kabul's polling centers in what appears to be a large tent.** It shows, among other things, considerable chaos, with multiple voters behind the cardboard voting booths (which can be partially explained by the complexity of the vote; in Kabul voters could mark up to 19 candidates).
More seriously, the footage also shows a large variety of obviously ineligible voters, who were nevertheless allowed to vote. This included men and women who indicated that they were not involved in any kind of business (in some cases whole groups of what appeared to be family members of candidates were brought to the polling center, receiving last-minute voting instructions) and large numbers of under-age voters. The video shows groups of students, some of them in identical uniforms, and interviews with boys and girls as young as 14 years old, all of them holding ACCI membership cards. There is a recording of a member of the ACCI leadership, who is shown a very young boy and asked whether the boy should be allowed to vote, telling the staff that it is alright as long as he holds a card.
The footage confirms allegations, including by businessmen who chose to boycott the vote for this reason, that there had been a lively and uncontrolled trade in ACCI cards in the run-up to the election (in an ironic parallel to the country's presidential and parliamentary elections, which have become increasingly impossible to control due to the massive over-registration of voters). This is also borne out by the figures, as described with an admirable lack of irony by the ACCI in their own report of the election:
‘During this period [i.e. during the weeks of the provincial level elections] membership in the Chamber increased from approximately 35,000 to an estimated 62,000 as individuals and enterprises sought to exercise their right to vote for the future of ACCI.'
A total of around 29,000 members are said to have voted countrywide.
There were also complaints of ethnic campaigning, for instance in Kabul (and during the national-level vote), alleging that separate lists with either Pashtun or non-Pashtun (Northern Alliance-linked) candidates had been created and distributed, and that candidates and their backers were encouraging voters to vote along these lines. The video footage does indeed show voters holding photocopied pieces of paper with selected candidates and using them while filling in the ballot (there were 57 candidates in Kabul and voters were allowed to mark up to 19 candidates, given that there were 19 seats).
The national-level election of the ACCI Board took place during the High Council Congress on October 23 and 24. It was not plagued by the same level of controversy, if only because the number of voters was fixed and limited to the 319 provincial representatives that had been voted in at the provincial level. There were, however, allegations of behind-the scenes deal-making, money transfers and a similar kind of ethnic politicking as took place on the provincial level (with candidates and their backers seeking to secure bloc votes along ethnic and factional lines).
The ACCI in its current form is a relatively recent institution and was established after the merger of two initially competing bodies. The pre-existing body, the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) was a Soviet-era government institution, whose main function had been the valuing of imported goods against a fee to facilitate the government's collection of custom taxes. The second, much more recent body - the Afghan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) - was an independent, market-oriented business association. It was established in 2004 by none other than Sher Khan Farnod and Mahmud Karzai, two protagonists in the Kabul Bank scandal. The two chambers were supported by competing donors with diverging agendas: GTZ, the government-owned German development agency (now renamed GIZ), and USAID.
The new ACCI that was established in 2008 represented a compromise: the old-style chamber was reformed rather than dissolved, but its character is much closer to what the U.S. had in mind than what the Germans and the Afghan government had initially been working toward (a government-led single point of contact for all businesses). When the new ACCI held its first leadership elections in 2009, Sher Khan Farnod and Mahmud Karzai were re-elected as chairman and first vice chairman, as they had been in the U.S.-supported association.
The ACCI's second leadership election in October resulted in a national board in which half of the members are newcomers. Sher Khan Farnod and Mahmud Karzai, the leaders of the first hour, have both gone (neither of them were candidates) and the new ACCI chairman is Hassin Fahim, another leading protagonist in the Kabul Bank saga and brother of Vice President Qasem Fahim. His main competitor for the seat of chairperson was Dr. Faridun Noorzad of the Maiwand Bank, who also has deep roots in the Kabul Bank network (originally a medical doctor, Noorzad started his banking career in the hawala businesses of Shaheen Exchange and Kabul Exchange, after which he became deputy CEO for Kabul Bank and Azizi Bank, before taking over Maiwand Bank. Shaheen Exchange was founded by Sher Khan Farnod and was instrumental to the irregular financial transactions of the Kabul Bank).
The backgrounds and business interests of the ACCI board members provide an overview of where money can currently be made and influence peddled: banking, construction, oil and gas, and trade (mainly import of consumer goods, fuel and construction materials). Much of this is related to the international presence, which has allowed newcomers to rise to prominence and in some cases outflank the more established businessmen. A case in point is the election of the head of the Transport Committee, Ajmal Rahmani, a young Bagram contractor and son of Parwan MP Rahman Rahmani.***
Many of Afghanistan's large businessmen run groups of companies, allowing them to be involved in multiple sectors at the same time, in an effort to maximize influence and profit. This is also the case for several of the ACCI board members, including most prominently the Zahed Walid Group (Hassin Fahim), the Ghazanfar Group (Ismail Ghazanfar), Kamgar Group, which includes Kam Air (Zmaray Kamgar), the Javid Jaihoon Group(headed by ‘Lala Javid' now also head of the Afghan United Bank), and the Zamindar Group (headed by Latif Khan Zhwanday, son of former Azizi Bank vice chairman, Ali Akbar Zhwanday). Some of these business groups have their roots in generations of cross-border trading, such as for instance Ghazanfar, while others, such as for instance Jaihoon, became well-established in the years of war and resistance. Others are newcomers and rose to prominence through their ties to government and international contracting, like Hassin Fahim or Ajmal Rahmani. Many of them have headquarters abroad.
The new board also has a few remarkable omissions, for instance Abdul Ghaffar Dawi of Dawi Oil, who used to be on the board as previously the Deputy for Services. But also some of the other big name companies are unrepresented, such the Azizi Hotak Group, known for its banks (Azizi and Bakhtar), fuel, import of cars and watches, and real estate investments; Habib Gulzar, known for its Coca Cola plant and cigarette imports; or the Alokozay Group, famous for its tea, but also cooking oil, fuel, cigarette imports, real estate, biscuits and tissues.**** None of them, incidentally, were candidates, at least not in the national election. There were no women elected to the board this time. Last time there was one: Hossay Andar, known to many as an unsuccessful, but very active and vocal parliamentary candidate. She was one of the three female candidates but failed to secure sufficient votes.
Serving on an ACCI board is clearly not just a matter of prestige. Although the Chamber of Commerce has no direct executive powers, it is an influential body that can help shape policies, legislation and business practices. It also provides its members with important opportunities to raise their profile. Several senior government officials, including former Ministers Rahimi, Qaderi and Eilaghi, are believed to have started their rise to prominence here.
It will be interesting to watch how the new ACCI board uses its influence. There is a great need, not just for an improved investment climate and better legislation, but also for greater self-regulation in the various sectors - as was rather dramatically illustrated by the Kabul Bank crisis (and the fact that many of Afghanistan's other banks remain shaky in their own ways). The controversies surrounding the ACCI election, however, seem to suggest that we should not be holding our breath just yet.
* Acquiring ACCI membership does not require much more than a copy of a valid business license and a yearly fee (and even that may have been recently ‘waived'). ‘Ordinary membership' costs 500 Afghanis (10 USD) per year according to the website - although this may also be an outdated figure, given that the membership form mentions 2000 Afs (40 USD) as the yearly ordinary fee. Silver, Gold, Platinum and VIP memberships cost 200, 500, 1000, and 5000 USD per year respectively and provide an increasing scale of privileges, including invitations to conferences and matchmaking events, visa recommendation letters, legal services, access to credit, VIP vehicle passes, and invitations to regular meetings with the President, donors and other high-level officials.
** The quality of the footage strongly suggests that it was recorded by a professional journalist, and there is evidence on the video of a considerable and active media presence during the Kabul vote. The lack of media reporting, despite the obvious and on-tape irregularities, can probably be explained by the ongoing parliamentary scuffle and hunger strike of Semin Barakzai at the time, which probably took precedence.
*** The company name given, Ahmad Rashed Rahmani Ltd, does not appear in an internet search, but his other companies do, including Ajmal Rahmani Construction and Road Building and Afghan International Transport and Logistics (the company briefly featured on what appears to be a blacklist - the EPLS; Excluded Parties List System - before it was apparently removed again).
*** The Alokozay Group has also secured the exclusive bottling rights for Pepsi and the acquisition of Brac Bank. The group is not to be confused with Khan Jan Alkozay Ltd, the company of ACCI First Deputy Khan Jan Alkozay. Alikozai is a wide-spread tribal name (and the variations in spelling here follow the transcriptions used by the companies themselves).
The newly elected ACCI national board (with company names as given by ACCI, and * signifies that the person is a new member):
1. Hassin Fahim (Zahed Walid Construction Company); Chairman (previously ACCI Deputy for Industries and Mines)
2. Khan Jan Alkozay (Khan Jan Alkozay Ltd); First Vice Chairman (previously Deputy for Commerce)
3. Mohammad Ismail Ghazanfar (Ghazanfar Oil and Gas Trade Company); Deputy for Services
4. Mohammad Yunus Momand (Shadab Zafar Construction Company); Deputy for Commerce*
5. Baz Mohammad (Afsar Khan Ltd); Deputy for Industries and Mines*
6. Zamarai Kamgar (Kamgar Trade Company); Adviser International Affairs*
7. Ajmal Rahmani (Ahmad Rashed Rahmani Ltd); Head of the Transport Committee*
8. Mohammad Daud Yusufzai (Afghan Petrol Group Ltd.); Head of the Oil Committee*
9. Azarkhash Hafizi (Afghan-German Company and on the Board of Directors of Azizi Bank); re-elected as Head of the International Relations Committee
10. Sadullah Haqyar (Khalid Jaihoon Construction Company); re-elected as Head of the Secretariat
11. Javid Jaihoon (Afghan United Bank); re-elected as Treasurer
12. Gholam Nabi Eidizadah (Nabi Akbar Ltd); Member
13. Mohammad Ebrahim Zarif (Arif Zarif Ltd); Member
14. Esmatullah Wardak (Kabul Fulad); Member
15. Assadullah Faruqyar (Rahim Farid Ltd.); Member
16. Khairuldin Mayel (Bashir Nawid Group); Member
17. Latif Khan Zhwandai (Zamindar Group); Member*
18. Nezamuldin Tajzadah (Ettehad Aftab); Member*
19. Jamaludin Ishaq (IRAA Ishaq Construction Company); Member*
20. Mohammad Latif Ghanawizian [sic] (Super Cola); Member*
21. Faridun Nurzad (Maiwand Bank); Member*
A total of 46 candidates, including three women, competed for 21 seats. The electoral results can be found here.
Martine van Bijlert is the co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, from which this piece was adapted. The original article can be found here.
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Awar of words erupted in Pakistan this week, following reportsthat the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had declared a ceasefire with thePakistani government, as part of allegedly ongoing talks between the two sides.TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan deniedany ceasefire Wednesday, but the prospect of negotiations require that weexamine the TTP's current orientation, and how the group's outlook on its fightagainst Pakistan and the West has changed.
OnNovember 8, a written messagefrom Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP's amir, was released on jihadi Internetforums on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic holiday that ends the annualHajj pilgrimage season. The message was released simultaneously in Urdu,Pashtu, Arabic, and English on Internet forums used by transnational Sunnijihadis and their supporters. It was distributed by the GlobalIslamic Media Front (GIMF), a shadowy network of translators and media operatives whoproduce numerous translations of key jihadi texts, videos, and songs, as wellas original material. Earlier this year new videos and written statements fromthe TTP were being distributed by a branch of the GIMF, Al-Qadisiyyah MediaFoundation, which is devoted to translating jihadi texts, primarily fromArabic, into languages of the Indian Subcontinent including Urdu, Bangla,Pashtu, Hindi, and Persian. The shift to GIMF distribution earlier this year suggeststhat the TTP continues to draw upon the transnational Sunni jihadi rhetoricdeployed by groups like al-Qaeda Central (AQC) and its regional affiliateswhile continuing to maintain a strong focus on waging a domestic insurgency inPakistan. The result is a type of "glocal"militancy that combines both elements of transnational jihadism with the TTP's morecountry- and region-specific goals.
Inhis message, the TTP amir addresses four main groups: the worldwideMuslim community (Ummah), the Pashtuns living in Pakistan's Khyber-Pukhtunkhwaprovince and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Pakistani peoplegenerally, and the Pakistani military and security agencies. Mehsud alsoreaffirms the TTP's allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar,and delivers an overview of his movement's widespread targeting of Pakistanimilitary, security, and other government agencies as well as targets connectedto the United States. Mehsud further claims that the TTP has regained controlof many Pashtun tribal areas and have launched an "open war" in others,including Dir, Swat, and Buner, after the movement made a "strategic"withdrawal earlier in order to draw the Pakistani state into a costly guerillawar.
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For Sherry Rehman, her birthday present may have come one month early.
In a move that surprised many (including myself) who were playing the Pakistan's Next Ambassador to the U.S. guessing game, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani appointed Rehman to the post, hours after Husain Haqqani resigned in the wake of the Memogate scandal.
A former journalist and now Chairperson of Jinnah Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad, 50-year old Rehman has been through a rough two years. After resigning from her post in 2009 as Minister for Information following the tussle between the government and the judiciary over the government's clampdown on television coverage, Rehman set up her think tank while retaining her position in the National Assembly.
But in 2010, all of that changed. Sherry Rehman campaigned for amendments to the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan, after Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death in Punjab.
Pakistan's right wing went into overdrive. Rehman received death threats, and a fatwa was issued calling for her to be killed. She was confined to her house, under a self-imposed house arrest. After Punjab Governor and flamboyant liberal Salmaan Taseer was murdered by his guard for supporting Aasia Bibi, and months later the Christian Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated by gunmen, fears for Rehman's safety became more urgent. A court case was filed against Rehman by Saleem Akhtar, a shopkeeper in Multan, accusing her of committing blasphemy; in fact, all Rehman had called for was a change in the laws.
Rehman was forced to withdraw her bill calling for amendments in the Blasphemy Law. She resumed work on a number of initiatives being undertaken by the Jinnah Institute including working on a Track II India-Pakistan peace process and publishing reports on the Afghanistan peace process.
Rehman comes from a prominent Sindhi family; her father was a well-known lawyer and judge, while her mother was the first female vice president of Pakistan's Central Bank. A graduate of Smith College in Massachusetts, she began her career as a journalist in the 1980s. Rehman went on to become at age 26 the youngest editor of the Herald magazine, a major Pakistani monthly. During her ten-year stint as editor, she was arrested and briefly held after the magazine ran a story critical of a government minister. After leaving the Herald, she wrote a book on Kashmiri shawls, The Kashmiri Shawl: From Jamawar to Paisley.
Rehman had met and became close to the late Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto during the former's time at the Herald. After Rehman left the Herald and published her book, she officially joined the party. In a 2009 interview with me, Rehman said, "A force of nature called Benazir Bhutto had decided that I would be in politics and it was virtually impossible to resist."
In 2002, she became a member of the parliament, taking one of the seats reserved for women, and was re-elected in the 2008 elections. In her own words, she describes the late Ms. Bhutto as "the guru." Rehman remained a close confidante of Bhutto, and as part of the core group of the PPP, helped formulate the party's election manifesto. Rehman accompanied Bhutto in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, when Bhutto was assassinated. It was in Rehman's car that Bhutto was rushed to hospital.
Rehman's relationship with the PPP has been an uneasy one in the years after Bhutto's death. She became Minister for Information in 2008 but resigneda year later after a clampdown on TV channels that were broadcasting the campaign to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry as Chief Justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court. In 2010, after she appeared on a television show for Geo News, rabid PPP supporters surrounded her residence in Karachi. The party issued a show-cause notice (asking her to explain herself) to her for appearing on the show against party orders.
While there are murmurs that her relationship with those controlling the PPP has taken a turn for the better, her appointment as ambassador has made many, including some in Pakistan's military establishment, heave a sigh of relief. A liberal, eloquent, politically suave and stylish, Rehman may just be the dose of stability required in Pakistan's civil-military relationship, and with Pakistan's relationship with the United States. However,her appointment has already made the religious right-wing parties scream bloody murder -- a leader of the religious party the
Sunni Tehreek said, "Rehman was already following "policies of the U.S. and the Jewish lobby as she tried to abolish the country's blasphemy laws." A petition has also reportedly been filed in a court in Multan against her appointment as ambassador, accusing Rehman of committing blasphemy in a TV show aired in 2010. How these objections play out in the coming days remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the Embassy of Pakistan awaits their new representative.
Huma Imtiaz works as a correspondent for Express News in Washington DC, and can be reached at email@example.com.
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
I first met Husain Haqqani in 2007 when I served on the Pakistan Desk at the Department of State. At that time, he was a Boston University professor known for his very public criticism of Pervez Musharraf's government and pointed analysis of the military's role in fomenting Islamic militancy in Pakistan, most notably in his 2005 book "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military." So, when he became Ambassador under the new Asif Ali Zardari-led government in 2008, many in Washington wondered how the newly minted Ambassador Haqqani might reconcile his strong views on Pakistan's military with a U.S.-Pakistan policy so heavily centered on the security establishment. Turns out he never did.
Haqqani resigned on November 22 over his alleged involvement in preparing a secret memo to the United States offering to replace Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership in the aftermath of May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Haqqani continues to deny any involvement in the memo, but his longstanding views on civil-military relations render his participation plausible. The question of responsibility is an important one for the Government of Pakistan and its citizens. Pakistan's democracy is still stifled by its history of military dictatorships, but its active civil society and media continues to push for an explanation, as a legal debate unfolds over whether Haqqani's alleged involvement in dragging the U.S. into Pakistan's internal affairs constitutes treason.
It remains to be seen whether Haqqani will face a legal inquiry. Any elaborate proceedings, however, are not in the interest of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government. President Zardari no doubt faces a risk that with Haqqani's resignation, the political opposition and military may begin to question the possibility of his involvement in "Memogate," as was suggested, then denied,then suggested again by Mansoor Ijaz, the Pakistani-American businessman at the center of the scandal. The Supreme Court and the activist-minded Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry could also take up this issue as part of its agenda against PPP's corruption and bad governance. The government must strike a balance between accommodating public calls for justice and maintaining its strength in the lead up to the March 2012 Senate elections, during which the PPP is expected to win a majority of seats.
The government must also contend with public perceptions, especially among the Western foreign policy community, that the military is so incensed by this incident that it will overthrow the government. In substance, this argument has no legs. At least under Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's leadership, the military continues to avoid overt involvement in civilian affairs, primarily due to Kayani's desire to improve the military's image following the bin Laden raid. However, if Pakistan's civilian leadership continues to disappoint, Kayani will have a harder time convincing the rest of the senior military leadership,which views the civilians as corrupt and inept, to stay out of domestic politics.
But it's not just the military that needs to stay out of politics. The memo shows how much the U.S. government is pulled into domestic affairs in Pakistan, whether it chooses to be or not. The United States smartly stayedout of it this time, with the White House, Department of State, and the embassyin Islamabad issuing statements that the memo issue was an internal matter for Pakistan's democratic institutions to address. The United States should push for more balanced civil-military relations in Pakistan, but it should limit how it exerts its influence to resolve those civil-military conflicts. Doing so under the circumstances of "Memogate" would have only confirmed the views of Haqqani's critics, who identify him as an American stooge, and of his supporters, who credit him with holding together a broken bilateral relationship. Both views exaggerate Haqqani's influence on the United States and Pakistan, which are bound together by forces greater than personalities, namely the ability of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to conduct attacks on the United States from Pakistani territory.
Haqqani's weakness was not that he was too close to theU.S., or underperforming as Ambassador. Rather, it was his inability to convince the military establishment that he represented the entire Pakistani government, and not just the civilian leadership. Do not forget that before "Memogate,"the 2009 scandal over the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid legislation pulled the United States into another domestic conflict that revolved around Haqqani. At the time, the military blamed Haqqani for the legislation's attempts to contain the military's role in civilian affairs. What was intended to be a historic moment in U.S.-Pakistan relations and an effort to focus on the needs of the Pakistani people become mired in a decades old imbalance in civil-military relations.
The job of Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States hasnever been easy. Over the past year, during which time I served as Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan at the White House National Security Council, the United States cooperated with Haqqani on many unexpected developments; the shooting of two Pakistanis by American contractor Raymond Davis, managing the aftermath of the bin Laden raid, the unfortunate death of key interlocutor Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, a tremendous expansion of U.S. counterterrorism operations in Pakistan, as well as attempts to revitalize civilian engagement in the country.
No one can doubt Haqqani's appetite for politics, or his feisty attempts to attack challenges or seize opportunities in his path. I am reminded of a story he told me from his time as a 24-year old Karachi-based journalist for the Far Eastern Economic Review. During his first meeting with General Zia-ul-Haq, Chief Martial Law Administrator and 6th President of Pakistan, Haqqani asked him when he would "step down and implement democracy?" Zia's response was that Pakistan needed democracy but also stability. For someone who started his career in politics in the student wing of the conservative religious party Jamaat-e-Islami, this was no doubt a bold move on Haqqani's part, and propelled him into a career that would analyze the hard realities ofthe Pakistan military's stronghold on civilian politics.
However, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship now faces some of the most challenging policy questions it has faced in decades, related todefining Pakistan's role in an eventual reconciliation process with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the impact of the 2014 international troop drawdown in Afghanistan on Pakistan's national security interests. Because of the high risks these questions pose for both the United States and Pakistan, the next envoy to Washington must be able to speak to the whole gamut of bilateral issues, including Pakistan's security priorities, which will remain front and center to U.S. national security interests in the foreseeable future.
Shamila N. Chaudhary is a South Asia Analyst at the Eurasia Group and a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. She served as Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan at the White House National Security Council from 2010-2011.
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This morning Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, resigned his post over the scandal known as "Memogate," whereby Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz alleged that he was asked by Amb. Haqqani to pass a memo to former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, asking for help in reigning in Pakistan's military establishment. But while Haqqani's resignation may signal an end to this episode, the prior evolution of events was nothing short of a witch hunt.
The ‘witch' in question varies depending on whom you speak to. If you're a member of Pakistan's opposition parties, Haqqani's actions were an act of treason, and his resignation is only a further admission of guilt. How dare he, they demand to know, ask for foreign (American) help to control Pakistan's military? How dare he be secretive about said actions?
If you're one of those in the ruling party, Mansoor Ijaz is a lying conspirator, a man not to be trusted. The revelation of the memo, they claimed, was really just an excuse to target democracy, to vilify the PPP government. Haqqani's resignation was not an admission of guilt, but a sacrifice in honor of said democracy.
In the serial drama also known as Pakistani politics, all the key elements have been in place - intrigue, cloak-and-dagger conspiracy, treason, and secrecy. From the outset, it plays out much like an episode of Game of Thrones, where in their thirst for power, the main actors all simultaneously destroy each other (or themselves). Except this is real life, and we've seen this episode numerous times before. Politicians are intent on leveraging "Memogate" for their own party ambitions in anticipation of the upcoming elections, while the military sits pretty on the sideline, their hands clean of the public mudslinging. As is often the case, dangling a threat to sovereignty or to Pakistan's security is enough to stir a feeding frenzy.
For those of us who read the memo in question, who perused through the BlackBerry messages exchanged between Haqqani and Ijaz, and who have read every imaginable op-ed and interview on the controversy, one thing is abundantly clear: even with Haqqani's resignation, we still are not entirely sure what happened. It is possible that we may never know. We should concern ourselves not with asking hypothetical questions, but asking the right questions. What constitutes treason within the Pakistani narrative? And why are many challenges to the current civil-military status quo met with such accusations?
In the case of this incident, Haqqani's alleged actions were called treasonous and unpatriotic because he is said to have attempted to challenge the security establishment, to hand over Pakistan's sovereignty to America. As Fasi Zaka noted in his op-ed for the Express Tribune the memo sought to allow "another state a unilateral deal of internal policy actions without any legal authority [that] bypasses all codes of conduct." Extra negative points if that foreign hand happens to be American.
But shouldn't we then place other purported back door dealings under similar scrutiny? Why do we continue to be incensed by the alleged attempts by a civilian politician to undermine the security establishment but fail to express similar outrage if the same security establishment undermines a civilian government, whether it be through military coups, backchannel talks with militants to retain strategic depth in Pakistan, or even purported deals permitting a U.S. operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.
The civil-military imbalance, as also noted by Mosharraf Zaidi for Foreign Policy, is the primary reason behind this disconnect. Pakistan's military, despite its flaws, has historically projected a stronger and more resolute image than any civilian regime. The national sentiment has long bought into this perception. The charge of treason against former Ambassador Haqqani is, therefore, subjective, laced with emotion, and used conveniently in the semantics of political pot shots to desperately curry favor among the masses. Treason makes for a good sound bite. But in throwing around such accusations, we lose sight of the bigger picture.
Haqqani's resignation today will be viewed as an admission of guilt to some and a sacrifice to others. But the bigger issue has been left untouched. In terms of Pakistan's broader civil-military relations, the sign is clear -- cross the military, and you will get burned. And as the mudslinging continued, it became increasingly clear that the only players getting dirty and tainted were the politicians. Long live democracy.
Kalsoom Lakhani is the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate (i2i), a start-up that aims to grow the social entrepreneurship space in new markets, beginning in Pakistan. She is based in Washington, D.C., and blogs at CHUP, or Changing Up Pakistan.
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In his last official event as an ambassador, barely an hour after the un-redacted transcripts of his alleged Blackberry Messenger (BBM) conversations with Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz were released, Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani bore a grim expression as authors read out from short stories and poetry at the Pakistan Embassy (in the interest of full disclosure, I frequently cover issues relating to U.S.-Pakistan relations, and have interviewed Ambassador Haqqani a number of times).
Later that evening, he lost his cool with the media after they harassed him for a sound byte on Ijaz's accusations that Haqqani was the "senior diplomat" who led a plan following the death of Osama bin Laden to solicit American assistance to prevent a coup in Pakistan, and to help remove the country's senior military and intelligence personnel, by means of a "backchannel" memo to then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. At the time he denied any involvement and said his fate was in President Asif Ali Zardari's hands, a position he maintains.
A day later, he boarded a flight to Islamabad.
This morning, news outlets reported on a meeting taking place at the Prime Minister's House with President Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and intelligence head honcho Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha with the ambassador. Not long after the meeting, Haqqani tendered his resignation, which was then accepted by the PM. According to Pakistani news channels, the Prime Minister asked for the Ambassador's resignation. In an official statement, a spokesperson for Gilani said, "As a result of controversy generated by the alleged memo which had been drafted, formulated and further admitted to have been received by Authority in USA, it has become necessary in National interest to formally arrive at the actual and true facts." Further details on what really happened in the meeting weren't available, but for days, many had speculated that this would be the expected outcome.
Several names for replacements for Haqqani have been making the rounds since he offered to resign last week, in light of the "memogate" disclosures. These include current Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, former ambassador to the United States Maleeha Lodhi, the current Pakistani representative to the United Nations Hussain Haroon, and former Pakistani Army chief Gen. Jehangir Karamat.
Lodhi, when asked about whether she would want to be ambassador, said at an event at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) last week that she had picked up the American expression, "three strikes and you're out." Lodhi has twice served as Pakistan's Ambassador to Washington under Benazir Bhutto and General Musharraf's governments respectively.
Bashir, who at 59 years old is due to the reach the age of retirement soon, could be asked to resign from the Foreign Office and become a political appointee to the United States. Bashir's brother is Admiral Noman Bashir, the former Chief of Naval Staff, and he is viewed as being close to the military and establishment. He was also part of the Pakistani delegation that met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York in September.
But beyond the rumours on Ambassador Haqqani's replacement, there are dozens of unanswered questions about "memogate." Who was responsible for the contents of the memo, which did not reflect Haqqani's polished and erudite English prose? (Though by all accounts the alleged BBM transcripts closely resemble Haqqani's style). Why did they decide to use Mansoor Ijaz, who has a history of making extravagant and sometimes false public claims? And lastly -- what motive did all the players have for their roles in this episode?
More importantly though, it is unclear how this affair will impact civilian and military relations within Pakistan. It is no secret that the Pakistani Army was not Haqqani's biggest fan -- and if it turns out they insisted on his resignation, one can expect that they plan to call the shots with Pakistan's next emissary to Washington.
Huma Imtiaz works as a correspondent for Express News in Washington DC, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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