Pick your metaphor. The United States has "taken off the gloves" or U.S. officials are playing "good cop-bad cop." Either way, there is no denying that relations with Pakistan are on a downward trajectory, with Washington making increasingly stronger charges of double-dealing against Pakistan's army and intelligence agencies (although the White House has sought to walk back some of the more aggressive charges in the past several days). Given the urgency of resolving the conflicted relationship between the two nominal allies and the implications for Afghanistan's development, South Asian stability, counterterrorism, and the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the absence of imaginative thinking on U.S. Pakistan policy has been pretty remarkable. Which is what makes the recent back-and-forth over at FP's Shadow Government blog so interesting.
My German Marshall Fund colleague Dan Twining kicked it off by making the case that the United States' military aid-based relationship with Pakistan was inadequate, while a package of civilian assistance in order to redress the civil-military imbalance in the country was never designed to have a short-term impact. Both approaches, he argued, are increasingly unsustainable given the United States' fiscal constraints and Pakistan's conflicting objectives in Afghanistan. These realities raise the uncomfortable prospect of a de facto suspension of the alliance. If it chose to pursue that path, the United States would lose its ability to use Pakistan as a conduit for supplies to Afghanistan along with any cooperation with Pakistani intelligence. This scenario would probably necessitate greater U.S. coordination with India and China in the region, and it would risk further radicalizing and isolating Pakistan in a manner reminiscent of the 1990s.
The post elicited a response from former Bush administration official Kori Schake, who argued that the turnaround Twining described would be difficult, particularly in light of the daunting political timeframe for finding a workable solution in Afghanistan. In her view, the United States is set to leave Afghanistan as President Barack Obama has indicated, and curbing Pakistani influence in Afghanistan would require cooperating with Iran, Russia and China, "countries equally or more opposed to the outcomes we want."
Additionally, Schake wrote, building up a supply route through Central Asia would be prohibitively expensive; U.S. intelligence in Pakistan -- which she surmises has not been adequately developed because of a lack of capability -- would suffer; a partnership with India is a long way off; China would not resist filling the void left by the United States in Pakistan; and isolating Pakistan would send the wrong message to other potential U.S. allies. In sum, according to Schake, the United States needs Pakistan more than the other way around, and consequently Washington will have little choice but to settle for the status quo, unsatisfactory as it is.
Former National Security Council Afghanistan director Paul Miller weighed in with another post, warning that playing hardball with Pakistan is dangerous, as it risks plunging the country deeper into a potential civil war, one between a largely secular military and a constellation of radical Islamists. The former, despite its many faults, is in Miller's view preferable: "We need the military autocrats to win...That should be the starting point for U.S. Pakistan policy." Pakistan, he adds, is "too big to fail." Miller suggests continuing counterinsurgency-related military aid, maintaining ties with Pakistani intelligence, cutting civilian aid, calling the Pakistanis' bluff on China picking up the slack in U.S. support, and reevaluating the relationship once the present crisis is over.
What is somewhat striking about this conversation is that it is precisely these kinds of arguments about the status quo being the least-worst option that landed the United States in its present predicament. And on many points, the authors seem to be working off some rather questionable assumptions.
Consider Schake's warnings. Whatever the president's statements about withdrawal, the United States will not be abandoning the region any time soon. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials have made this clear now on a few occasions. Although U.S. relations with Russian and Iran are frosty, in Afghanistan at least their interests converge, and there has occasionally been tactical -- and tacit -- cooperation between Tehran and Washington, despite recent indications that Iran may be carving out its own arrangement with the Taliban. The Northern Distribution Network in Central Asia is now responsible for trucking in an increasing amount of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan, which has slashed the United States' reliance on the Karachi-to-Khyber route to 30-35 percent of supplies, according to figures provided by senior officers at both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Transportation Command. Following the withdrawal of American "surge" forces in Afghanistan, this figure can be expected to fall even lower, and with it Pakistani leverage.
In terms of intelligence, the U.S. has adequately demonstrated its ability to collect intelligence in Pakistan unilaterally, as during the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Moreover, the outsourcing of intelligence-gathering to Pakistan -- rather than simply U.S. inadequacies -- may in fact be the primary reason for the intelligence community's continuing dependence on the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).
As for Schake's points related to other actors, India sees its interests in Afghanistan closely aligned with Washington. New Delhi has been a major booster of a continued U.S. presence in the country and has offered to assist U.S. efforts in the country in several areas. For its own reasons, China may not want the burden of underwriting Pakistani stability, and will be reluctant to fill the supportive role assumed by Washington. In any case, China is already receiving ample credit for being a strong, steadfast ally of Pakistan at the United States' expense without contributing nearly as much to Pakistan's stability. And Pakistan's reputation as an epicenter of global terror means that U.S. displeasure is unlikely to impact other countries' perceptions of Washington's reliability as an ally. In sum, many of Schake's reasons for continuing caution in U.S. Pakistan policy appear largely unfounded.
Much the same can be said about Miller's fears of imminent chaos within Pakistan in the event of a break with the United States. Clearly, violence has been growing, and large swathes of the country -- including major cities -- are inadequately governed or suffer from a stark absence of law and order. But the Pakistani establishment has also frequently exaggerated the risk of failure in the country in order to ensure continued aid and support, in a manner not dissimilar to Hosni Mubarak and other après-moi-le-déluge authoritarian leaders.
There are also moral hazards aplenty in continuing to provide carte blanche support for a weak government that has failed to undertake necessary economic and governance reforms. In many respects, despite its gaping governance deficit, Pakistan is not terribly under-resourced by the standards of fragile states, with a 600,000-man army and a potent central bureaucracy. Pakistan may in fact be better placed to turn the tide against extremism at home if its civilian and military leaders were held accountable to the public, instead of being able to exploit external actors as scapegoats for their failings. Miller is also guilty of presenting a false choice between a secular military and radical insurgency: the Pakistan military is no longer the bastion of secularism it once was. Exposing the extent of this inconvenient truth may recently have cost one journalist his life.
Finally, even Twining may be understating his case. The big difference between the 1990s and today is the presence and role of the United States in South Asia. In the 90s, Washington was completely disengaged from the region, turning a blind eye to the rise of the Taliban and even indicating an interest in doing business with them, all of which resulted in the unfortunate consequences he details. But 9/11 permanently changed all that: the United States can no longer afford to completely disengage from the region. Actively containing Pakistan is an entirely different prospect from ignoring and sanctioning the country. As such, Washington cannot presume that a tougher line on Pakistan today will have the same consequences that it did in the years before 9/11.
On balance, Washington probably underestimates its leverage with Pakistan. The United States has an unparalleled range of military, diplomatic, economic and socio-cultural tools at its disposal, and enjoys global reach and influence. Given the new realities that will mark the relationship by the end of next year -- a diminished U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, continuing unilateral strikes against terrorist targets, and a credible alternate supply route to Afghanistan -- Washington can probably afford to be more bold in employing them. However, the tendency to err on the side of caution, as Schake and Miller argue, may yet prevent Washington from fully exploring viable alternatives to its current dysfunctional relationship with Pakistan. It would be a tragedy if U.S. policymakers were still engaged in similar discussions five years from now.
Dhruva Jaishankar is Program Officer with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in Washington. The views presented here are his own and not necessarily those of GMF.
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
British authorities Sunday chargedfour men in Birmingham with plotting a terrorist bombingcampaign in the United Kingdom, accusing two of the alleged cell members oftravelling to Pakistan for "training in terrorism including bomb making,weapons and poison making" at some point after Christmas Day 2010. The DailyTelegraph reportedlast week that British authorities suspect that al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistanmay have directed the plot.
Underliningthe seriousness of the plot, three of their number were charged with "beingconcerned in the purchase of components and chemicals for a home made explosivedevice," and "construction of a homemade explosive device for terrorist acts."
Thealleged Birmingham plot highlights the fact that despite mounting pressure from dronestrikes on al-Qaeda Central in Pakistan, Westernmilitants receiving terrorist training in the tribal areas of Pakistan arestill a significant homeland security threat to Western countries.
This was the conclusion of an in-depth study Iauthored for the New America Foundation in July, which included a comprehensivesurvey of all the serious terrorist plots against the West since 2004.
The study found that progress against al-Qaedain Pakistan had not yet been reflected in the metric that most counts, that ofreduced plots against the West originating with or involving the FederallyAdministered Tribal Areas, or FATA.
Last year, there were four serious Islamistterrorist plots against the West with training or operational links toestablished groups in Pakistan, the most in any year since al-Qaedaconsolidated its safe-haven in the FATA soon after the 9/11 attacks and theAmerican invasion of Afghanistan. The alleged Birmingham plot is the secondsuch plot thwarted in 2011. In April of this year, German police broke up an alleged plot centered on Dusseldorf by German residents trained and directed by al-Qaedain Pakistan.
Since 2010 there has only been one serious plotdirected against the West from Yemen. While al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)has garnered significant attention from Western officials and analysts, thepresence of several terrorist groups in Pakistan with a track record oftargeting the West, arguably makes the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region stillthe most dangerous terrorist safe haven in the world. For example, FaisalShahzad who attempted to bomb Times Square on May 1, 2010 was trained by thePakistani Taliban earlier that year, and was directed to launch his failedattack by the group.
While drone strikes in FATA have undoubtedlydamaged al-Qaeda, the organization has to some degree adapted by decentralizingits operations and training militants indoors inside small mountain shacks,according to the testimony of Western recruits who recently trained with militant groups in the region. As outlined inthe New America Foundation study, al-Qaeda has also promoted new recruits intosenior positions, including Western recruits with a keen understanding ofWestern vulnerabilities.
For example American-Saudi AdnanShukrijumah allegedly helped al-Qaeda orchestrate the September 2009 plot against NewYork's Subway involving Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi, and is still believedat large in the tribal areas. So is Abdullrahmen Hilal Hussain, an Austrian-bornmilitant of Syrian descent, who hasallegedly helped organize bomb-making instruction for Western recruits, according tocourt documents.
Some operatives who have been killed orarrested will, however, be very difficult to replace. Time will tell if thedeath of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the recent killing of several key alQaeda operatives in drone strikes the tribal areas of Pakistan, including Ilyas Kashmiri and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, aswell as the arrest of senior al-Qaeda operative Younis al-Mauretani in Quetta in August, will reduce the number ofplots being directed against the Westeach year with links to terrorist groups in Pakistan.
Hundreds of Western militants are currentlytraining or operating in Pakistan, according to an official report published by the U.K. Home Office in July.Western-counter-terrorism officials say recruits are still streaming into thetribal areas of Pakistan from the West. While most travel there to fight inAfghanistan, their transit through the area provides al-Qaeda withopportunities to launch terrorist attacks in their home countries.
Furthermore a Pakistani military operation toremove the presence of pro-al-Qaeda militants from North Waziristan -- theepicenter of plots against the West in recent years - appears as remote asever. While groups like the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Networkremain ensconced in these areas, they will likely continue to protect andharbor al-Qaeda.
In a survey of the 32 serious plots against theWest between January 2004 and early July 2011 the study found that 44 percentof these plots had direct operational ties to terrorist groups in Pakistan,throwing into sharp relief the danger posed by the FATA terrorist safe-haven.The proportion of serious plots in which cell members trained with terroristgroups in Pakistan was higher still - 53 percent of all such plots against theWest. By way of contrast, only 6 percent of these plots had operational ortraining ties to terrorists in Yemen, and only 3 percent to Iraq. In only 38percent of serious plots was there no overseas training.
The study categorized "serious" plots as allthose in which weapon components had been obtained without the assistance ofundercover law enforcement agents which had the capacity to kill at least ten.
The full New America Foundation study isavailable here
Paul Cruickshank, an investigative reporterspecializing in al Qaeda, is an alumni Fellow at the NYU Center on Law &Security and a terrorism analyst for CNN. The views expressed in this articleare entirely his own.
FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/AFP/Getty Images
In the rush to judgment following the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Tajik head of the Afghan High PeaceCouncil and a former president of Afghanistan, opponents of pursuing apolitical settlement with the Taliban presented the spectacularattack as proof of the Taliban's perfidy and the misguided naïveté ofproponents of reconciliation. This sentiment was aided by theconfusion surrounding responsibility for the attack, following an initialclaim of responsibility by the Taliban that was retractedthe very next day. Rabbani's killing hasexposed the frailties and vulnerabilities of the incipient Afghan politicalprocess, but the logic of pursuing a political settlement, even if only withfactions within the insurgency, remains. And if this admittedly fraught processfails, the United States, the Afghan government, and their allies will have atthe very least clarified whether a political settlement is practical, and providedclearer guidance as to the futureboundaries of strategic planning in Afghanistan as American and allied forcesaccelerate the transition and withdrawal process.
It has often been repeated, tothe point of cliché, that there is nopurely military solution to the ongoing war. As the conflict settles into aform of military stalemate, this truism is being borne out by the realities ofthe war we are fighting. With the recent series of spectacular attacks in Kabul, Wardak and Kandahar, the insurgency has again demonstrated its resiliencyin spite of the surge of troops and increased tempo of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations, which have taken a serious toll ontheir war-fighting capacity. While a political settlement might not be apossible outcome, all other options represent decidedly sub-optimaleventualities, with unfettered civil war representing a worst-case scenario.Most other alternative strategies also have the distinct disadvantage ofrelying upon two critical factors that will not be satisfied: first, afundamental transformation of the Afghan political order and, second, adefinitive break of the Pakistani security establishment's longstanding ties toAfghan militants.
Beyond the polemics of public rhetoric, some amongthe Taliban view themselves principally as a political movement and they mustbe accepted as a legitimate Afghan actor if a political settlement is to bereached. Recent developments indicate that there are, however, obvious divisionswithin the insurgency regarding the advisability of engaging in political dialogue as a means to achieve the Taliban's political goals.
For a political process to continuethere is now a great deal of pressure on the Taliban and their centralleadership to heighten their level of engagement with the process to reassurethose on all sides who favor a political resolution. The apparent Taliban retraction of the claim of responsibility was a necessary first step todistance the Quetta Shura from an action that would, if definitively linked tothem, undermine any purported claims about Taliban interest in a negotiatedsettlement. If the attack represents a fracturing of the centralized leadership,then the fundamental shape of political outreach would have to adaptaccordingly, with an emphasis on cooptation of portions of the insurgency.
As the weaker party, the Taliban haveoften placed the onus on the United States and its allies in terms of initiatingconfidence-building steps. In light of the current, tenuous circumstances,however, the initiation by the Taliban of appropriate and far-reaching confidence-building measures is also likely a pre-requisite to the continuationof a peace process.
Recent developments, including high-level contacts between U.S. officials and Tayyab Agha, a confidante of Mullah Omar, indicate a serious interest on the part of the Taliban leadership toexplore the parameters of a political settlement. Exemplary among recent developments was the August 2011 statement issued in the name of Mullah Omar commemoratingthe end of Ramadan. While the statement portrayed past contacts with the Afghan government or United States as tactical in nature, it explicitly recognized those contacts and endorsed the possibility for adopting political means to achievethe Taliban's goals. The statement was partly the product of ongoing backchannel talks with the Taliban with various intermediaries who have urgedsuch public signaling. As such, it represented an important indicator regarding the understanding among some Taliban as to the necessity of enunciating theirintent to their enemies and preparing their supporters.
This context, however, raisesimportant questions about the ability of the Quetta Shura to speak for theinsurgency and bind the rank-and-file to any political agreement and cessationof hostilities. This is particularly the case if, in fact, the Rabbani assassination was an unsanctioned military action carried about insurgentsseeking to derail any political process. Michael Semple has describedthe nature of this growing divide within the insurgency, which is largely anoutgrowth of the divergent trajectory of Waziristan-based militants. Even themost optimistic rendering of a political resolution to the conflict should notbe seen as ending all violence and instability in the country. However, theQuetta Shura and Mullah Omar still represent the central node of authoritywithin the insurgency, and Mullah Omar himself still retains substantial moralauthority among Afghan fighters and militants. Of course, it also possible thatthe Shura itself is divided and that the assassination was an unsanctionedreaction by hard-liners among the leadership to recent openings.
Questions about fragmentation and radicalization within the Taliban's ranks, however, cannot be answered intheoretical terms, and require actual testing that can only come through anactive political process. Such a process might result in further fracturing. But, such fracturing would also provide clarity as to the limitations ofpolitical engagement and channel political efforts toward a factional approach tothe insurgency.
Any viable peace process willalso require unanimity of purpose among the Afghan government and its loyalopposition. Despite its manifest limitations, the High Peace Council played animportant role in the delicate task of constructing broad-based politicalsupport for talks. In the wake of Rabbani's assassination, many of those Afghanleaders hostile to the very possibility of a political settlement with theTaliban escalated their rhetoric, with the possibility of civil war lurking not far behind.
The leaders of the formerNorthern Alliance secured their positions of power and influence when theAmericans joined them to oust the Taliban, and their dominance was ratifiedthrough the Bonn process by which the Afghan constitution was written and thecountry's current government structure put in place. However, their position is at present precarious, reflecting the brittleness of the Afghan government and the expansion of the insurgency. The military campaign by the Taliban threatenstheir personal security and, while unlikely, the specter of the Talibanoverthrowing the current regime represents the ultimate threat to their security,authority, and networks of patronage.
The death of Rabbani was also coupled with the political death of M. Masoom Stanekzai, who was seriouslyinjured in the attack. Stanekzai, the director of the Council's secretariat, wasone of the few Afghan advisors trusted by both President Hamid Karzai and theinternational community, and had played a key role in recent attempts toestablish consistent channels of communication with the Taliban, including thecontact that nearly cost him his life. In the wake of the attack, Stanekzai'scredibility is likely damaged beyond repair and the weak leadership guiding thepolitical process has now been further eroded. This growing leadership vacuum highlightsthe continued need for an internationally-designated facilitator to coordinatethe political process. The upcoming December 2011 Bonn conference wouldrepresent the logical forum to announce such an appointment, which could serveto refocus currently faltering efforts.
A peaceful resolutionaccommodating the Taliban within the Afghan state remains the most durable pathfor security and stability for Afghanistan, the region, and the internationalcommunity. A political settlement is a route for limiting the ambitions of theTaliban and securing a sustainable and enduring framework for Afghangovernance. With ongoing discussions regarding a U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement that would entail a post-2014 U.S. military presence inthe country, such a settlement increasingly appears to also be the only avenueby which the Taliban could rid themselves and Afghanistan of foreign forces ontheir soil. As recent events have demonstrated, however, the prospects forreaching such an end-of-conflict political settlement are uncertain. If apolitical settlement is to be attained, it will now require heightened efforton the part of all interested parties, including the Taliban.
Michael Wahid Hanna is a fellowand program officer at the Century Foundation.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
As the deadline approaches for the transition to Afghan control ofsecurity in 2014, the Afghan government and its international backers haveembraced a high-risk strategy of funding and arming militias in the country'snorth (a process that was started by the Afghan intelligence agency, theNational Directorate of Security (NDS), in 2009), as well as a village-levelforce called the "Afghan Local Police" (ALP). But they have done so without providingthe necessary oversight mechanisms, thereby creating instability in the very communitiesthese forces are supposed to protect. Human Rights Watch has found that both government-backed militias in northern Kunduzprovince and some units of the ALP in Baghlan, Herat, and Uruzganprovinces have been implicated in rape, arbitrarydetention, abduction, forcible land grabs, and illegal raids. Those responsiblehave largely avoided accountability, encouraging future abuses.
The Khanabad district governor in Kunduz province told us that there areover 1,500 militia members in his district alone. And militias in Kunduz havebeen implicated in beatings, rape, and killings. In most cases no militia membersare held accountable for their actions because of their affiliation with alocal strongman or government official. For instance, in Khanabad in August 2009, a militia member killedfour men in a family dispute. An NDS official confirmed that the police couldnot arrest anyone involved in the killing because of the militia commander'sconnection to the provincial chief of police and a local strongman who isclosely involved with abusive armed groups. A prosecutor who is also the fatherof one of the men killed told Human Rights Watch, "No one has helped me, and Iwork for the government, so what about the other people? Who will listen tothem?"
Into this mix, the Afghan Local Police -- a U.S.-backed initiative -- wascreated in 2010 as a critical element of the current U.S. strategy inAfghanistan. The formerhead of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Gen. David Petraeus, called the ALP "arguably the most critical element in our effort tohelp Afghanistan develop the capability to secure itself." The use of communitydefense forces is not surprising given the weakness ofAfghanistan's national army and police and the lack of government securityforces in some conflict areas. An advisor to U.S. special operations forces explainedto us: "Local defense forces can be a bottom-up strategy in rural areas, and ifkept small, defensive, and under the control of legitimate elders."
As of August 2011, more than 7,000 men had been inducted into the ALP. TheUnited States is funding the program and is primarily involved in training newmembers. (The United Kingdom is training the ALP in Helmand province.) Despitethe word "police" in its name, the ALP, who receive 21 days of training, haveno law enforcement authority. Instead, they operate in a defensive capacity,inspecting checkpoints and reporting on insurgent activities.
Afghan and international proponents of the ALP point to safeguards suchas nomination and vetting of ALP members by village shuras (councils) and NDS, reporting to the national police, thefact that the program is under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, andtraining and mentoring by U.S. special operations forces. But in the areaswhere the ALP operate, they often outnumber the national police, whose weakcommand and control structures make for poor supervision of the ALP. Moreover,our research found that ALP forces often have separate, informal channels topowerful government officials and local strongmen who can protect them fromofficial accountability.
Interior Ministry officials conceded to Human Rights Watch that similarsafeguards of shura vetting and supervision by the national police had beenapplied to previous community defense forces, many of which ended in failure. An ISAF official acknowledged the weakness in vettingand told us: "I have no confidence in a local vetting process. Who will dare tosay no? That's just not the way things work.Anyone who has experience of working on such projects and is honest about itwill say the same. I was around for ANAP [Afghan National Auxiliary Police]. We've seen again and again that this kind ofvetting does not work."
Afghan officials admitted that the ANAP, created in 2006, was barelytrained, underwent minimal vetting, had poorly defined rules of engagement, andended up being infiltrated by insurgents. Another previouscommunity defense force, the Afghan Public Protection Force (AP3), created in2009 in Wardak province, was hijacked by a local strongman, Ghulam Mohammed. Shuraelders told Human Rights Watch that vetting for AP3 was minimal because ofMohammed's influence, and shura members were simply told to approve a list ofmen who were affiliated with Mohammed rather than nominate people from thecommunity for AP3. Residents of Wardak told Human Rights Watch about beatingsand intimidation they suffered by men working as AP3.
U.S. militaryofficials told us that the ALP has begun todeliver improvements in security in a number of areas including Gizab andArghandab, where they had previously established the "LocalDefense Initiative," (LDI) a precursor to the ALP. (The LDIwas launched in 2009 by the U.S. military and involved U.S. special operations forcesembedding in villages and training village forces vouched by shuras to providesecurity).
Human Rights Watch did not investigatethe ALP in Gizab and Arghandab, but in areas we did investigate there is reasonfor concern regarding oversight of this new force. Although the ALP is just a year old, wefound some of its members implicated in forcible land grabs, rape, abduction, andillegal raids. In Uruzgan province in December 2010, anALP commander forcibly tried to recruit men to the ALP and detained six elders forseveral days, two of them for one month, after they refused to agree to providemen to the ALP. In Baghlanprovince, four armed ALP men are suspected of abducting a 13-year-old boy andgang-raping him in April of this year. Although the assailants' identities arewell-known, no arrests have taken place. The police refused to investigateallegations implicating the ALP members due to their connections with powerfulgovernment officials and with U.S. special operations forces.
Some communities we spoke with acknowledged improvements in security dueto the ALP, but other residents raised concerns that the ALP members had notbeen properly vetted, citing criminal and insurgent elements they said werebeing absorbed into the police force. Many complained that the ALP, like otherirregular armed groups, are not held accountable when implicated in abuses andcould turn into just another militia. Such perceptions undermine support forthe central government -- perceptions that a group of elders from Shindand district in Herat provincetold me "will drive us to the Taliban."
The human rights consequences of supporting irregular armed groups mustbe taken into consideration in executing any military strategy in Afghanistan. Counterinsurgencytheory recognizes the protection of civilians as an integral pillar of itsstrategy. Yet both the Afghan government and its international backers areworking with militias, hastily training and arming men in remote areas, andcalling them "local police," without ensuring that the government has adequateresources to oversee and hold them accountable. The Afghan government isalready struggling to oversee and hold accountable its national police and armedforces. Adding ALP forces to the roster without the resources to supervise themand hold them accountable when they commit abuses is a recipe for disaster.
The Afghan government should investigate allegations of abuse by militiasand the ALP, cease support of militias, and start taking responsibility forprotecting the human rights of its citizens. At the same time, both the U.S.and Afghan governments should avoid the rush to set up ALP units around thecountry without proper vetting, training, and command-and-control structures.The Afghan government should be assisted in setting up adequate accountabilitymechanisms, which include dedicated staff to investigate abuses, and increating an external complaints body to act on reports of abuses by the ALP andother police forces.
Pressures resulting from the drawdown of international troops should not resultin solutions that ease transition at the expense of Afghan civilians. Long-term stability in Afghanistan canonly come if the Afghan government and its international backers implementsustainable policies that will protect local communities from both insurgentsand predatory government-backed forces, no matter which side commits theabuses.
Sahr Muhammedally, a human rightslawyer based in London, co-authored the Human Rights Watch report "'JustDon't Call It a Militia'": Impunity, Militias, and the 'Afghan Local Police.'"
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
During a Senate Armed Services hearing yesterday, Chairmanof the Joint Chiefs ofStaff Adm. Mike alleged what many of us have believed for some time: Elementswithin Pakistan's security services, perhaps most notably current and retired Inter-ServicesIntelligence Directorate (ISI) officials, provide operational support andresources for the Haqqani Network to wage their insurgency against U.S.,coalition and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan.
"With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conductedthat truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy," Mullen toldthe committee, referencing a massive bomb attack on a NATO base September10 as well as last week's attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul. "We also havecredible evidence that they were behind the June 28th attack against theInter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effectiveoperations," he added.
By my count, there have been at least 15 other high-profileattacks going back to 2008 that can be publicly linked to the Haqqani networkbesides the attacks on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul earlierthis month. These include several complex attacks in Afghanistan's southeastthat involved suicide car bombs and gunmen armed with explosives and AK-47s,the bombing of the Indianembassy in Kabul that killed 41 and injured over 130 in July 2008, amulti-pronged attack on Afghan ministriesand the prison directorate in Kabul that killed 26 in February 2009, an assaulton a Kabul Bank branch that killed more than 40 in February of this year, andperhaps most notably, a complex nighttimeassault on Kabul's Intercontinental hotel during the height of this summer'sfighting season. During the attack on the Intercontinental, Afghan intelligenceinterceptedcalls between the attackers and Badruddin Haqqani who was directingthe assault from Pakistan. Furthermore, the Pakistani military has assisted theHaqqani network's expansion from North Waziristan into neighboring KurramAgency over the past year. This will provide the network with even moresanctuary and additional infiltration routes into southeastern Afghanistan.
But what can the United States do about this support for theHaqqanis? While it is important to maintain a relationship with Pakistan, it'salso necessary to distinguish between the civilian and military component ofour support. Pakistan's civilian leadership is not the harbinger of adecades-long policy of support for proxy groups such as the Haqqani network.And although the civilian government nominally controls the military, that'snot the case in practice. Therefore, any restriction on U.S. aid should becareful not to punish civil society.
Senior military leaders, such as army chief Gen. AshfaqParvez Kayani and ISI head Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, are the folks the U.S.need to be talking to. However, pressuring the military (of which ISI is apart) to take action against the Haqqanis is a non-starter. No possiblecombination of aidrestrictions, sanctions or public chastisement is capable of changing the military'srelationship with the Haqqanis at this point, not with U.S. forces inAfghanistan on the decline and the belief in Pakistan's military circles thatthe U.S. is not going to succeed in Afghanistan still prevalent. The onlyconceivable solution at this point is to go after high-value Haqqani targets evenmore aggressively than before. There is a senior leadershipcadre that, if removed from the fight, would have significant effects on thenetwork's command and control infrastructure. The Haqqanis are different fromother groups, such as the Pakistan Taliban, in this regard. The seniorleadership corps is based on familial relations, is extremely closely knit, is directlyresponsible for strategic, operational and often tactical guidance, and is theonly trusted group that liaises with elements of the Pakistani securityservices and the leadership of affiliatedterrorist groups in the tribal areas. The removal of the top-tierleadership, coupled with increased pressure on the group in easternAfghanistan, offers the best chance to degrade and possibly even neutralize thenetwork.
After Mullen's comments, it's pretty clear that some reallytough decisions will have to be made with respect to the Haqqani's sanctuary inPakistan -- despite Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik's recent remarksthat the country will never allow U.S. boots on Pakistani soil. Just today, Kayanistarkly rejected the allegations of a Pakistan-Haqqani relationship in responseto Mullen's testimony. Of course, any possible U.S. action in Pakistan willhave consequences -- but those consequences may not have as serious impact as somebelieve. Pakistan has the ability to shut down critical supply lines runningfrom their port city of Karachi to Afghanistan. However, given the military'sown economicinterests in keeping the lines open and the myriad criminal actors whoselivelihoods depend on taxing and extorting truckers, any long-term shutdown ismost likely a hollow threat. The United States has already explored increasing thecapacity of the northerndistribution network that has expanded significantly over the past severalyears.
Certainly, Pakistan has the ability to respond militarily tounilateral action in their tribal areas, but this would likely cause a completebreak in relations, and with that, an end to all militaryassistance that is critical not only for the Army's strength and survivalbut also their influence over Pakistan's civilian leadership. The United States withheld$800 million in military aid this summer which is only onethird of promised security assistance. Holding back or canceling the totalpackage would be a real blow to Pakistan's armed forces.
Additionally, limited U.S. unilateral action in Pakistan'stribal areas, at least conceptually, is not much different than the currentU.S. drone program that regularly strikes targets in Pakistan's tribal areas.Since the Pakistani military and government have largely ignored sovereigntyclaims and acquiesced to the drone strikes, it isn't a stretch to assume thatthey could treat limited, unilateral raids into the tribal areas in the samemanor -- even after Malik's statement. Speculation aside, the only thing that seemsclear amidst all the confusion is that if the U.S. doesn't follow through, ourwords will have even less meaning than they already do.
Jeffrey Dressler is a senior analyst at the Institute forthe Study of War and author of the ISW report, "The Haqqani Network: FromPakistan to Afghanistan."
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
The brutal, execution-style attack on Shi'a Muslims in the Mastung area of Baluchistan this week was, at once, debilitating, shocking, and instructive.
It was debilitating because it reminded observers and Pakistanis alike that the threat of indiscriminate violence Pakistanis face as a result of domestic militant groups shows no signs of abating.
It was shocking because even by the standards of Pakistani society, where violence is accepted with nonchalance -- or "resilience," depending on your point of view -- the attack represented a new low, mainly because of the method of the killings. As multiple reports have indicated, the militants stopped a bus en route to Iran, forced the pilgrims off, lined them by the side of the road, and shot them. As Dawn noted in its editorial on the killings, the attack showed a "descent into new depths of savagery."
Finally, it was instructive because it shed light on the precise nature of the militant threat the Pakistani state and society face, and the long-term struggle ahead to adequately address the threat.
Since Pakistan's alliance with the United States after 9/11 -- I use the term "alliance" loosely here -- Pakistanis have borne extremely high levels of violence; some 35,000 civilians, police and military officials have perished in the last seven years. Within the country, this has led to a sharp debate about the origins of the violence, and the advisability of the partnership with America.
The dominant narrative within Pakistan is that this war is not "our war"; that Pakistani leaders, both military and civilian, have allied with the United States out of a combination of greed and pusillanimity; that the militant violence directed at the Pakistani state and society would not have occurred had Pakistan not signed on to do America's bidding in its war; and that the solution to the terrorist threat lies in the U.S. exiting the region.
The proposition that the death toll from terrorism would be lower had Pakistan not gotten involved in the U.S. war in Afghanistan is likely accurate. But to take that to mean that Pakistan would have been a peaceful society without U.S. intervention in the region is a step too far.
The gruesome events on Tuesday demonstrate this truth, because groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which claimed responsibility for the attack, existed well before 9/11 and will exist well after the U.S. draws down in Afghanistan. Indeed, rather than being strictly being an anti-American group, LeJ's raison d'être is primarily sectarian -- they are an offshoot of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, itself an anti-Shi'a terrorist group. The notion that groups such as LeJ did not threaten Pakistanis until the military and civilian leadership allied with the United States rests on a very narrow understanding of "Pakistani." Shi'a still count as Pakistani, despite the efforts of groups such as SSP and LeJ.
For more than fifteen years, LeJ has carried out attacks against Pakistani religious minorities. In April 2010, the group was responsible for a bombing in Quetta - in a hospital, no less - which killed 11 people. That same month, two LeJ female suicide bombers blew themselves up at a relief camp for internal refugees who were waiting to get registered and receive food, reportedly because Shi'a were receiving food aid. In September 2010, the group was responsible for a suicide bomb and grenade attack in Lahore, targeting a Shi'a procession that killed more than 40 people. This year alone, LeJ has been behind at least four different attacks on Hazara Shi'a in Baluchistan, resulting in dozens of casualties. And this is just a sample of the group's activities in recent times.
LeJ is an extremely daring and dangerous organization. In the late 1990s, then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered a crackdown on it, a move that invited assassination attempts against him. In Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, Owen Bennett-Jones reports a remarkable incident of the group's reach:
The police were told that anyone who managed to arrest or kill Riaz Basra [then head of LeJ] would be given a 5 million-rupee award.
Despite this, the security forces proved incapable of controlling the militants' activities. Riaz Basra showed his contempt for the police's capabilities when he turned up at one of Nawaz Sharif's political surgeries [meetings with party supporters]. Having slipped in with the petitioners who wanted to see the prime minister, Basra positioned himself directly behind Nawaz Sharif and got one of his accomplices to take a picture. Three days later staff at the prime minister's house received a print of the photograph. The faces of Sharif and Basra, within a few feet of each other, had been circled and underneath there was an inscription: ‘It's that easy.'
Those claiming that widespread terrorism in Pakistan is solely a result of U.S. involvement in the region cannot address the existence of groups such as LeJ. Essentially all militant groups operating in Pakistan today, including LeJ, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jaish-e-Muhammad, existed in some form before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That their activities were less widespread before Pakistan backed the United States is neither here nor there, because their very existence on Pakistani soil should be intolerable to Pakistani citizens and the state.
Unfortunately, the aftermath of the Tuesday attack itself sends a signal of the state's woeful capabilities in tackling groups such as LeJ. The organization's leader, Malik Ishaq, was meekly placed under house arrest for ten days due to "security reasons," and authorities followed the next day by placing his key aide Ghulam Rasool Shah under house arrest as well. Malik Ishaq was released from prison earlier this year, despite having 44 court cases against him (he was acquitted in 34, and granted bail in 10). His release was due to a lack of evidence.
Though outsiders may scoff at a publicly recognizable leader of a terrorist group not having sufficient evidence tying him to murder, it is actually quite understandable for those more aware of ground realities in Pakistan. First, witnesses are scared to death -- literally -- of coming forward and testifying. Second, judges themselves are unsafe, and afraid of handing out guilty verdicts in high-profile terrorism cases. Third, police procedures, investigative techniques and equipment are not advanced enough to tie individuals to specific incidents; even if police forces in an area know exactly who is behind a particular incident, proving it in a court of law is not easy, especially since Pakistan's anti-terrorism laws remain flawed. Fourth, there exists a baseline of sympathy for such organizations and their actions even amongst the "educated" legal community, as the reaction to the Salman Taseer assassination so eloquently showed.
All this is to suggest that, unfortunately, the terrorism problem in Pakistan is not going to disappear as U.S. forces leave Afghanistan. To the contrary, it will take dedicated work and long-term reform in the Pakistani legal system, the courts, and the police to rid the country of this scourge.
Most pertinent of all, the Pakistani military must abandon the analytical distinction between "good" and "bad" militant groups, as well as abandoning the hope that "good" militant groups can fulfill regional strategic objectives, such as bringing India to the negotiating table on Kashmir or attaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. If nothing else, the last decade should have put paid to that theory of national interest. Notwithstanding the security establishment's desire to play favorites, the array of militant groups in Pakistan have a lot more that unites them than divides them. Indeed, LeJ -- to take one relevant example -- has deep connections with the Pakistani Taliban as well as al-Qaeda, both of whom have used extraordinary levels of violence against Pakistani targets. The idea that the state can take on one set of elements and leave others untouched is, in the medium- and long-term, completely fanciful.
Ahsan Butt is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Chicago and blogs at Five Rupees.
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker's Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al-Qaeda,traces the evolution since 9/11 of U.S. counterterrorism strategy within themilitary, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement, the results of which are nowat work in combating al-Qaeda and its affiliates worldwide. Schmitt and Shankerdo a thorough job of pulling together all of the bits and pieces of the effortsacross the myriad agencies and departments now dealing with terrorism, and presentingthem in a fast paced, gripping story. The authors personalize the often mundanebureaucratic policy initiatives such as Presidential findings, resources, andauthorities needed to gradually shift our approach to terrorism through thestories of key individuals working on these issues over the last ten years.
The pair further put flesh on the bones of our counterterrorismcampaign by highlighting key milestones such as the raids on al-Qaeda leaders andsafehouses in places like Taji and Sinjar in Iraq. These battlefield detailsshow the reader how policy initiatives and technology developed in Washingtonand elsewhere actually played out on the ground, and how the treasure trove ofintelligence gained from such operations then, in turn, helped our policies shiftand enhanced our knowledge of al-Qaida's operations and leadership.
Shanker and Schmitt describe in detail how people like thePentagon's former Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low IntensityConflict (now Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence) Michael Vickers and then-JointSpecial Operations Command chief Gen. Stanley McChrystal pushed for the droppingof information barriers and the massive influx of resources that allowed forceson the ground to "find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze" information gainedfrom the battlefield. This push in turn made the discovery of al-Qaeda's "Rolodex"at Sinjar and their "database" at Taji possible. The information proved sovaluable that it changed our diplomatic approach to countries producingterrorist recruits and harboring facilitation networks. Rather than keeping theinformation gleaned classified, McChrystal:
Decided to break down more walls.He believed that effective pressure could be mounted by sharing the informationwith the countries of origin for the jihadists -- even those countries withwhich the United States had little or no alliance in the struggle. And, evenmore, he thought the pages of the highly classified intelligence findingsshould be thrust into the very public marketplace of ideas to shape theinternational debate on terrorism.
From my own experience commanding Special Forces unitsduring multiple tours in Afghanistan, the authors' description of how themilitary and intelligence agencies grappled with integrating the various "INTs"(signals intelligence, human intelligence, imagery intelligence, etc) islargely accurate. Throughout my tour in 2006 we had to request these assetsfrom the theater headquarters level. However, by my next tour in 2009, not onlywere the various types of intelligence pushed out to my forces in the field,but we had actual representatives from the various intelligence agencies aswell as the FBI attached directly to my command, representing a sea change inour ability to exploit intelligence and target insurgent leadership.
The pair then turn to how our counterterrorism campaign hasgrown and developed beyond kill-capture missions to executing increasinglysophisticated counter-messaging campaigns, as well as efforts to counter all aspectsof terrorist networks, such as their ability to recruit and train, theirability to raise funds, and the legitimacy of their actions within the broaderMuslim world. The authors are critical of the Bush Administration for itsinitially narrow focus on kinetic missions, the lack of an overall strategy andthe paucity of resources applied to the campaign, and in turn, credit the ObamaAdministration for our now more expansive approach. Yet I would argue, based onmy time in the Pentagon's Office of Special Operations and Low IntensityConflict and later in the White House, that the current, more sophisticatedcounterterrorism campaign is a natural progression that benefitted greatly fromthe trial and error of previous years.
But setting these details and descriptions aside, perhaps thecentral theme running throughout Counterstrikeis the application of deterrence theory from the Cold war to the issue of counteringterrorism. Schmitt and Shanker do a masterful job of explaining the important elementsof the theory and the problems key Bush Administration officials had with usingtraditional tools to possibly deter a person willing to die for a cause. Theearly post-9/11 thinking was that terrorists did not seize or want to hold territoryin the traditional sense, were not afraid of retribution, and did not have resourcesthey needed or wanted to protect. In keeping with that thinking, theintelligence community's initial focus was to shift resources to fill itsinitial intelligence gaps, while the military focused on enhancing its abilityto kill or capture individual al-Qaeda leaders.
However, Schmitt and Shanker trace how a small group of formerCold War theorists slowly began gaining traction with their idea of a "newdeterrence." Douglas Feith, Barry Pavel, Tom Kroenig and others promoted thenotion that terrorists do indeed have issues they care about, issues that canbe used to pressure individual terrorists and whole groups. The advocates ofthe new deterrence argued that the "terrain" extremist organizations need tohold is the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. In a pivotal briefing toPresident Bush, Gen. James Cartwright, then head of America's nuclear arsenal,applied Cold War-era deterrence theory to terrorism, stating "If you canintroduce ambiguity and uncertainty into the minds of the attacker...if you canremove a certainty of success in striking an objective, if you make the pricetoo high, then you increase the opportunity the adversary will notstrike."
Furthermore, terrorist networks hoping for large-scaleaction and sustained campaigns need a constant stream of fresh recruits, fundsto operate, sanctuary in physical locations to train and prepare, and to knowthat their efforts will have an effect on the United States or other targets. Isaw these efforts first hand during my participation in the White House's CounterterrorismSecurity Group, where we worked to develop and implement a whole of government --military, diplomatic, intelligence, homeland defense, and development --approach to pressure, deter, and harden against terrorist groups, techniques thatcould indeed minimize the threat in the short term while slowly eroding it inthe long term. Over the course of time, as Schmitt and Shanker accuratelydescribe, we moved our efforts beyond reforming our bureaucracies andintegrating our streams of information to undermining the legitimacy of the extremists'ideology (later known as counter-messaging), disrupting financial flows, andworking through military or diplomatic means with other countries(as well asextending development aid to ungoverned spaces) to deny terrorists thesanctuary they need to operate.
Schmitt and Shanker, carefully following key individuals inthis process, go on describe how al-Qaeda began metastasizing and reacting toour initiatives by shifting their efforts onto the Internet. The authors giveinsight into enormously complicated issues of military versus intelligenceauthorities and the long-running debates within government about whether todestroy an extremist website facilitating the killing of Americans or continueto monitor the sites for additional information. The authors reference a numberof government sources to describe how we have purportedly gained the ability togo on to radical websites and post information and orders that areindistinguishable from legitimate orders issued by al-Qaeda's leadership,resulting in dissent and confusion among supporters and operators.
Finally, they describe the speed with which the cloak anddagger of counterterrorism on the Web is evolving and changing in chillingdetail. The most dangerous trend to emerge is the recruitment of home-grownfanatics to attack the West from within. Schmitt and Shanker highlight thecases of Najibullah Zazi, Nidal Hassan, and Faisal Shahzad to call attention toal-Qaeda's new dual track strategy of radicalizing individuals in the West throughthe internet to conduct smaller scale and harder to detect attacks with ahigher probability of success while still aiming to repeat a massive 9/11 styleattack.
Counterstrike willbe a revealing and informative read to the average reader, who may have spentthe last ten years only vaguely aware of simplified terms and governmentclichés popularly used in the media, from "drone strikes," to "intelligencefusion," and "connecting the dots." Schmittand Shanker effectively bring to life the confusing vernacular that mycolleagues in Washington national security circles use as part of theireveryday speech. The authors also effectively tell the story of ourcounterterrorism campaign by personalizing the struggles of key individuals whorecognized the need to radically change the way our law enforcement agencies,intelligence agencies, the military and our policy-making bodies did -- andstill do -- business.
Curiously, however, the vitally important issue of detaineeinterrogations and their significant contribution to the counterterrorismcampaign is missing from the book. I was surprised to not see an entire chapterdevoted to the detainee issue, given its centrality to the effort to understandterrorist networks, the important intelligence gained from the capture ofal-Qaeda members and fellow-travelers, and the controversy surrounding detaineetreatment and proper interrogation practices that persists to this day. In my own experience in eastern Afghanistan in2009, the information gained from detainees -- from that dealing with thecomplicity of the Pakistani Army with insurgent networks to tribal motivations behindindividual support for the insurgency -- was critical to our counterinsurgencyand counterterrorism efforts. In fact, at the strategic level, one of the maindrivers behind the push within the last administration to conductcross border raids into Pakistan rather than kinetic strikes, even with theinevitable diplomatic fallout they caused, was to create the possibility forcapturing key al-Qaeda leaders for the information they could provide.
Also left unexamined are the hugely significant implicationsof the Arab Spring on al-Qaeda's legitimacy. Schmitt and Shanker conclude Counterstrikewith a discussion of ‘How this Ends,' and the authors rightly discuss thetransformation of al-Qaeda from being an individual man and highly-ordered butsmall vanguard group to being an inspirational philosophy and a movement. However,I disagree with the authors' conclusion that "you can't destroy the idea of al-Qaeda."The philosophical underpinnings of the organization are currently crumbling inthe midst of peaceful protests in the Middle East rather than the violent jihadit preaches, which by nearly all measures has failed. Most damning is that the protestsmovements have not made the introduction of Islamic law a central point of contention.The much decried corrupt governments in North Africa and the Middle East arefalling one by one, and al-Qaeda is becoming less and less relevant on the ArabStreet. This could be the beginning of ‘How this Ends,' much as perestroika andthe solidarity movement marked the beginning of the end of communism as apopular ideal.
Overall, the educated lay reader who is going to pick upCounterstrike will find this book to be a well reported, well written dive intothe arcane world of counterterrorism over the past decade. It largely comportswith my own experiences both in the field and in Washington, and is asignificant contribution to our body of knowledge regarding our campaign thusfar in the "Long War" against al-Qaeda and affiliated groups.
Michael Waltz formerlyserved as a senior advisor for counterterrorism to Vice President RichardCheney and still serves as a U.S. Army Special Forces officer in the reservecomponent. He is currently Vice President for Strategy at Metis Solutions, LLC.
John Moore/Getty Images
An informed source in Kabul revealed to me that an ominously fateful intelligence tip relayed to several top Afghan political figures last week by an official at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) pointed to a radical Taliban faction planning to target a high-ranking member of the former anti-Taliban coalition in the days to come. Some took the warning seriously and ramped up close-protection measures. Others, like former President and head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council Berhanuddin Rabbani, who had rushed back from an overseas visit for the explicit purpose of meeting a supposed Quetta Shura Taliban emissary, either was not briefed on time, took the warning lightly or was been given strong assurances by facilitators that the emissary was the real deal.
On Tuesday, Ustad (professor) Rabbani, as he was called by most Afghans, paid for his trust, oversight, or overconfidence with his life, as the attacker (named in reports as Esmatullah, a supposed Quetta Shura messenger), detonated his booby-trapped turban when Rabbani greeted him inside his home in the heavily-guarded Wazir Akbar Khan district.
Obviously, the Afghan capital is rife with conspiracy theories. What is clear, however, is that this assassination, the latest in a series of high-profile attacks targeting senior government officials and former anti-Soviet mujahedeen leaders, has shaken Kabul's political scene to the core. The trust factor that is so desperately needed in any bid for peace has now been irreparably damaged.
Farouq Wardak, the influential Minister of Education and active member of the HPC, admitted to Afghan media that the latest attack has "muddied the situation, and made it difficult to distinguish friend from enemy," an indication that even ardent supporters of the reconciliation process are having misgivings about its sustainability. However, from its inception, many Afghans have been torn about the viability of the HPC and how much it could accomplish when very little incentive exists for pursuing political talks. And the limited developments that have taken place since gave little indication that the talks have made much progress even before Rabbani's murder.
Afghan pundits making the rounds of the country's television talk shows have repeatedly accused the government of ineptitude and wishful thinking, adding that the reconciliation process is flawed and needs to be reviewed. In addition, public frustration and growing anger with Pakistan's unwillingness to help crack down on militant safe-havens on its territory are clear impediments facing any peace initiative.
The ripple effects of these assassinations are also being felt across the country and beyond, at a time when there is a growing concern about NATO's limited military ability to deal with the killings and its own casualties, the slower-than-expected rate of progress to build up an effective Afghan security apparatus, the Pakistani hedging-game that aims to force self-serving negotiating terms for reconciliation, and the Afghan government's inability to make visible headway with political outreach to the Taliban and other disaffected groups.
Initial reactions by Afghan and Western leaders do not give any indication of an immediate strategic reassessment or tactical adjustment. On Tuesday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, President Barack Obama assured the Afghan President, "this will not deter us from continuing on the path that we have, and we'll definitely succeed."
Many in Afghanistan agree that almost a year since the launch of the HPC, there is a need for a serious review of the core political strategy that drives the peace effort, before the threats to social and political stability further erode confidence, and hamper the work that is required in the security and governance sectors.
The Taliban, or at least the powerful segments that consider the momentum to be in their favor, seek to derail the reconciliation process, while waging psychological war that aims to further weaken the negotiating position of the Kabul government, and to continue to dent Western public opinion perceptions.
Sandwiched between suspicious Afghan groups that balk at talks with the Taliban, and splinter groups within the Taliban conglomerate that want to sabotage dialogue by any means, the Karzai administration is left with two choices: 1) to continue along the fledgling path of a complex and incoherent reconciliation process that will increasingly require Pakistani assistance and Taliban accommodation, or 2) call for an intra-Afghan re-assessment of the strategy, but this time with the dual aim of bringing clarity to the strategy, and strengthening the Afghan government's negotiating position if and when the two sides reach that stage to discuss contentious issues such as power-sharing, governance, and democratic and gender rights.
A coherent strategy will need simultaneous work on the following policy tracks:
1. To reassess the strategic objectives at home and with key international partners.
2. To build up Afghan domestic support and consensus through political consultation and dialogue with a broad spectrum of Afghan leaders and communities.
3. To revamp existing mechanisms for reintegration and reconciliation
4. To establish a real-time coordination and verification mechanism embedded within the reconciliation framework to prevent incidents such as imposters and suicide bombers from entering into the system.
5. To push for a range of diplomatic, intelligence and concrete efforts to bring more coherence and active cooperation among regional players, especially Pakistan, in the fight against militant hideouts, transit routes, recruiting, financing and training networks.
Such an initiative also offers an opportunity to end the current political stalemate that has crippled the operations of all three branches of government, and has soured relationships among political forces since the contentious presidential elections were held two years ago. This tension has been exacerbated further by last year's controversial parliamentary election, and the series of controversial interferences by non-mandated governmental organisms in the electoral process, such as Afghan President Hamid Karzai's special election tribunal, that followed.
Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest brazen assassination, it comes on the heels of a series of blistering attacks since the beginning of the year, believed to be the work of the Haqqani group, a brutal ally of the Taliban based in Pakistani-administered North Waziristan.
The U.S. now says it is ready to take unilateral action against the Haqqanis unless Pakistan moves against them. Furthermore, on Tuesday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the Pakistani military intelligence agency (ISI) of using the Haqqani group to wage a "proxy war" in Afghanistan.
With the U.S. showing signs of serious frustration with Pakistani denials and reluctance to take action against lethal groups using cross-border sanctuaries to attack Afghan and NATO troops, it will become increasingly more difficult to make headway with sporadic secret talks that have taken place between U.S. officials and Taliban emissaries.
The assassination of Professor Rabbani, whose controversial appointment as head of the HPC last year came as a surprise due to his past antagonism towards the Taliban, is not only a clear rejection by powerful elements of the peace process, but also an indication that Taliban hardliners may be winning a power struggle within their multi-layered organization.
Even though the so-called "moderate Taliban" now have a window of opportunity to break away before the process collapses altogether, that scenario is less likely to occur now as the pendulum swings in favor of the Taliban's more extreme anti-peace factions. The controversial arrest of the Taliban's number two, Mullah Ghani Baradar, by Pakistani authorities in February 2010, in Karachi, was a clear indication that Afghan elements who are seeking channels of dialogue are dependent on the host-country's whims.
Understanding the uphill challenges that the HPC faced in recent months, Rabbani in recent speeches publicly voiced his displeasure with brutal Taliban tactics. At an Islamic scholars' gathering in Tehran last week, he argued against brutality and the use of suicide attacks.
On Tuesday, the soft-spoken scholar-turned-rebel/politician-turned-peace advocate, became the newest victim of such an attack, dimming further the prospects for a future peace.
Omar Samad is the former ambassador of Afghanistan to France (2009-2011) and Canada (2004-2009) and spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001-2004).
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
The last time I met with Burhanuddin Rabbani, he had just taken up his post as head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council. He was looking unusually fit and energized and was in a jocular mood, his dark eyes laughing as he regaled his visitors with witty appraisals of Afghanistan's nascent peace process. President Hamid Karzai had taken his time in announcing the names of the High Peace Council members, officially announcing them in October 2010, and less than a month later Rabbani was already complaining that the Karzai administration had been dragging its feet on establishing an office for the council.
Holding court in the garishly ornate salon of his mansion in downtown Kabul, Rabbani bitterly joked about the then-recent revelations that the Afghan government and its Western backers had been duped into talking to a Taliban impostor. As details emerged of the Afghan government's efforts to begin brokering a deal with a man they believed to be Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a close adviser of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, it became clear that the Afghan peace process had a long way to go, and that the Taliban and its allies in the Pakistani military were prepared to go to great lengths to derail the peace process.
Mansour -- it turned out -- was not Mansour at all, but variously was believed to be a shopkeeper from Quetta, a Taliban spy, an agent of Pakistan'sintelligence services, or all of the above. The unseemly tale of subterfuge and betrayal was, Rabbani said at the time, a sign of the disarray in the Afghan government and the desperation in Washington to cut a deal that would quickly end America's longest war. The ruse, the former Afghan president declared, was a stain on the peace process.
Rabbani was in rare form then, back in the limelight, relishing being at the center of Afghan politics again -- the place where he always felt the most comfortable. Confident of his position and ever critical of those he called his allies, there was a sense of hope in Rabbani's tone that somehow the four years he spent as president, presiding over the destruction of the Afghan capital in the 1990's, would be erased as he spent his twilight years recasting himself as peacemaker. In many ways, Rabbani's quest to burnish his troubled legacy was emblematic of the entire peace process itself, which has emerged as little more than a theatrical exercise in appeasing the vanities of powerful men.
One of a series this year of assassinations of high-powered Afghan politicians, Rabbani's death at the hands of a suicide bomber in the heart of Kabul should send a strong signal to the Afghan government and its backers in Washington and London that cutting deals with the Taliban is not and never will be the solution for Afghanistan. For many, the death of Rabbani, one of Afghanistan's most towering Tajik leaders, brings tragic punctuation to the pervasive sense of anxiety among non-Pashtun political factions and Afghan civil society actors that the international community is willing to jettison commitments made in the wake of the 2001 Bonn conference to support a model of multi-ethnic inclusive governance in favor of a Pakistani sanctioned quick and dirty deal with the predominantly Pashtun Taliban. The international community has done little to assuage these fears, only occasionally and often reluctantly ceding space to civil society in the reconciliation and transition process. Though a sustainable political settlement will without doubt entail prolonged engagement with a broad range of Afghans -- from civil society activists, to political party leaders, women and youth groups, religious and legal scholars as well as members of the armed opposition -- neither Washington nor Kabul has indicated any genuine interest in expanding the national dialogue on reconciliation since Karzai convened the Consultative Peace Jirga in Kabul in June 2010. Instead of expanding the national conversation about reconciliation, Karzai has narrowed the avenues of public participation by rewarding the mercurial, glorifying the venal, and making a mockery of the peace process by doling out dollars and divvying up patronage positions like a card dealer at a Las Vegas casino.
As a result, conditions on the ground in the wake of the U.S. military surge authorized by President Obama preclude the near term possibility of negotiating a sustainable political settlement in Afghanistan. With Karzai's government in freefall, the insurgency gaining ground across the country, and ethnic divisions deepening, all signs point away from settlement and toward are invigoration of the conflict as NATO and the U.S. enter the final phase of the planned withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Although there is substantial support among Afghans for the cessation of violent conflict in the country, the elements necessary for a sustainable peace are far from being in place or agreed upon. While much has been made of attempts to broker a deal with the Taliban in the lead up to the Bonn II Conference on Afghanistan in December 2011 even Western diplomats involved in the negotiation efforts agree that contacts with Afghan insurgents have so far been insubstantial, amounting to little more than "talks about talks." Afghan government attempts to cut deals with factional leaders within the insurgency have been haphazard and while Pakistani military support for the insurgency remains strong there are few signs that the insurgents are anywhere near prepared to enter into negotiations.
There is also little evidence that the U.S. and its allies have succeeded in breaking al-Qaeda's sway over the most radical elements of jihadist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death in May 2011, there have been no signs that the Taliban is inclined to make a public break with al-Qaeda. Instead, there are stronger indications that Taliban and other Afghan insurgent leaders across the border in Pakistan view their perceived association with al-Qaeda as a strategic trump card critical to strengthening their position at the negotiating table. The Afghan insurgency's backers in Pakistan's military have concurrently managed to preserve their control over their Islamist Afghan proxies in spite of reported frictions among Taliban leaders over the movement's longstanding dependence on the Pakistani militaryfor guidance and support. For Afghan jihadist Sirajuddin Haqqani and his network, in particular, the maintenance of their links with the Pakistanimilitary and al-Qaeda, the network's strongest external source of support for nearly two decades, remains a strategic imperative.
The insurgency's continued reliance on the Pakistani military and surviving elements of al-Qaeda, therefore, raise serious questions about the political import, and, indeed, relevance of the handful of recently reconciled Taliban involved in efforts to broker a deal with the Karzai government. By all accounts -- including their own -- this small cadre of reconciled Taliban is not as yet empowered to negotiate on behalf of the Taliban's leadership council in Quetta, Pakistan. What's more, it is becoming increasingly obvious that no matter how splintered Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura may have become in recent years, it is its very fragmentation that precludes the possibility of the Taliban making a definitive break with the Pakistani military and its other allies.
The attack on the U.S. Embassy last week and Rabbani's assassination on Tuesday comes on the heels of news that the U.S. and its international partners have backed an Afghan plan to open a political office for the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar. It is also notable that within days of these events, the embassy of Saudia Arabia, a state which until recently was viewed as a potentially heavyweight broker in the negotiation process, has decided to pull up stakes and evacuate its staff from Kabul. The Saudi pullout may only be temporary, but it is an important harbinger of things to come as regional states around Afghanistan begin shifting their positions in the run up to the transition. The international community has a long way to go before it will convince states such as Iran, India, Russia and China that the U.S. prescription for peace in South and Central Asia is the cure for what ails the region.
If there is one lesson to be learned, it is that it is time for Washington and Kabul drop their illusions that unconditional appeasement of Taliban demands is the answer to Afghanistan's problems. At the very least, the events of the last few months should put all concerned on notice: it's time to rethink reconciliation and reintegration in Afghanistan. Until the Pakistani military withdraws its support for the Taliban and Haqqani network's safe havens across the border, and until Karzai reconciles himself to putting his government back in order, political settlement will remain out of reach.
If the U.S. and NATO want to ensure the stability of the Afghan republic, more must be done to guard against the return of the Islamic emirate. A switch in orientation will necessitate considerably more high-profile Afghan and international investment in unsexy things like electoral and constitutional reform. Instead of spinning its wheels on cutting deals, the U.S. and its allies need to throw their backs into a whole of government approach that engages Afghans on all levels -- not just a handful of powerful men. No amount of dealmaking will erase 30 years of entrenched conflict. Ensuring that the Afghan public is fully engaged in the peace process from start to finish is the only thing that will prevent the next civil war.
Candace Rondeaux is based in Kabul and is the senior analyst in Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group.
ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images
Because of a suicide attacker with a bomb in his turban, Afghanistan's dim prospects for peace just got dimmer. The assassination of strongman and key historical and present Afghan political figure Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the commission meant to negotiate with the Taliban, the High Peace Council (HPC), signals the massive challenges ahead in efforts to end the war.
For many in the Afghan government, Rabbani's appointment to head the HPC was seen as a way to involve the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and in particular, Rabbani's Jamiat-e-Islami party, in the peace process. Jamiat, which has long been hostile to the Taliban, is an important force in northern Afghanistan, particularly among ethnic Tajiks. But many in the Taliban and in Pakistan met the appointment with derision. As the country's president in the mid-nineties, Rabbani presided over a brutal civil war that killed thousands and helped spawn the rise of the Taliban movement. In the late 90s, Jamiat was one of the Taliban's main foes in the latter's drive to conquer the north. Pakistan, meanwhile, has always viewed the India- and Iran-friendly Rabbani with hostility.
Rabbani, who likely saw the peace process as a way to re-inject himself into the national political scene, initially took to his duties with alacrity. But it was unclear whether he was pursuing a sort of managed surrender (reintegration) or genuine negotiations. In any event, the lack of progress, hostility from the Taliban side and a spate of assassinations appeared to have turned him against a peace deal. He recently told the Afghan newspaper Hasht-e-Sob that the Taliban are a "catastrophe-creating movement" bent on the destruction of the country. "The Taliban's acts have defamed religious scholars and this movement calling itself Taliban creates disaster," he said. "They recruit soldiers among the youth and claim that they are from madrassas."
In a stark message on the anniversary of the death of Afghan national hero and slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, he declared that:
The people are justifying the war they have waged and say that they are fighting the war because of the presence of the foreigners. This is not the case actually. This war was going on prior to the presence of the foreigners here and will continue after the foreigners go from here.
The remarks echo a deep resistance to a peace deal from erstwhile Northern Alliance elements, ranging from former National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Amrullah Saleh to the powerful governor of Balkh province, Ustad Atta, who denounced efforts at negotiations on Afghan television yesterday.
From the Taliban and Pakistani side, Rabbani and other Northern Alliance figures appear to be seen as impediments to a deal. "These people don't represent Afghanistan," a Taliban official in Quetta told me earlier this summer. "We can't ever have peace with them around." In fact, the spate of assassinations in northern Afghanistan in recent months-Kunduz governor Muhammad Omar, Kunduz Police Chief Abdul Rahman Sayedkheli, head of police for Northern Afghanistan Daoud Daoud, and others-could be seen as the steady elimination of elements standing in the way of a deal favorable to the Taliban.
But it could all backfire. Remaining Northern Alliance figures will likely close ranks and conclude that any sort of rapprochement with the Taliban is impossible. Some, like strongman Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf, have reportedly looked to cultivate ties with India as a counterweight to what they see as an assassination drive spurred by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Ex-Alliance commanders, aided by U.S. programs to create local militias, will likely accelerate their drive to rearm, possibly setting the stage for a future civil war.
For now, the immense divides that plague Afghanistan will be on full display. Among some communities, Rabbani will be hailed as a hero, a wizened Islamic scholar and hero of the war against the Russians. In others, he will be remembered for scores of human rights abuses and widespread devastation during the last civil war. Either way, a peace deal in Afghanistan remains as unlikely as ever.
Anand Gopal is an independent journalist covering Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the author of the New America Foundation paper "The Battle for Afghanistan: Militancy and Conflict in Kandahar."Follow him on twitter @anand_gopal_
ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images
The ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has led tostock-taking of the attacks and their legacy. Even after ten years, debates remain fierce about the scope of thethreat, and the proper nature of any response.
Making sense of the aftermath of 9/11, the subject of JasonBurke's The 9/11 Wars, is amonumental task -- but Burke is up to the job. The 9/11 Wars is insightful, thorough, and at times fascinating. Burkebrings the reader from villages in Afghanistan and Iraq to slums in London andFrance, offering individual portraits of combatants and those overrun by warwhile also weaving in government policies and scholarly research to portray thebroader context. The resulting tapestry leaves the reader more informed, thoughoften appalled by policymakers' ignorance and furious when well-intentionedpolicies backfire.
Burke himself is well-qualified for his ambitious task. Aveteran reporter for The Guardian andThe Observer, he has writtenextensively on al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The 9/11 Wars draws on a wide range of sources and, in contrast tothe works of many journalists, is meticulously documented.
Burke's work is a book big in scope and, weighing in at a hefty752 pages, in substance. Such size is understandable. As he points out, theconflicts associated with 9/11's aftermath are not one but many, and each onehas its own intricacies. Burke is at hisbest giving ground truth to the war on terrorism. He claims his book is aboutpeople, not politicians, and for the most part he stays true to his promise.
The United States and al-Qaeda, Burke contends, repeatedlymisunderstood the complexity of the societies in which they waged their wars. Whetherit was trying to impose Western concepts of women's rights on villages inAfghanistan or viewing the Kurdistan-based terrorist group Ansar al-Islam asfriendly to Saddam Hussein's regime (when it was in fact hostile to the former),the United States frequently was its own worst enemy. Nor do U.S. allies farebetter. Indeed, after the July 2005terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, the discourse in Europe on terrorism becameparticularly absurd. Muslimorganizations had embraced a crude anti-Americanism and made claims that they werereceiving Nazi-like treatment from European governments, while nativistscaricatured Muslims as brutal rapists.
Al-Qaeda, however, fares even worse in Burke's telling. It wasoften disorganized and fractious, held together by personal links rather thanfirm institutional ties. Attacks oncivilians turned locals against al-Qaeda in places like Jordan and Indonesia,squandering the goodwill its fighters had gained from their battles againstU.S. soldiers. Striking at Americans inIraq was seen as heroic, Burke points out, "But when the violence came home itprovoked a very different reaction. Thesight of blood on one's own streets, the dismembered bodies of one's owncompatriots, the grieving parents who could have been one's own ... turnedentire populations away from violence." As they lost popularity, the terroristsrelied more on coercion -- and in so doing made themselves even lesspopular.
Burke's fundamental argument is a simple one: the local isthe enemy of the global. For the United States, this meant that grandiosemissions to transform the Arab world into a mirror image of Western democracyled to insurgency and scorn. For al-Qaeda, attempts to impose an Islamic stateran into stiff opposition from nationalists, practitioners of more traditionalforms of Islam, tribal leaders, and others with a stake in their long-establishedways of life. In the battle against al-Qaeda, "Bloody-minded localparticularism" is America's greatest ally.
Burke at times offers guarded praise for U.S. and alliedpolicies after 2006. The new U.S. counter-insurgency manual, for example,stresses cultural sensitivities and local concerns as a way to win the war,while Burke describes how deradicalization programs in Europe and the MiddleEast offer a softer, but in his view often more effective, form ofcounter-terrorism.
Al-Qaeda, in contrast, remains under siege. To secure aplace to hide its leaders, the group often must avoid training, planning, andrecruiting on a large scale. Conditions forwould-be fighters hiding out in the tribal parts of Pakistan are much worsethan they were before 9/11 under the Taliban in Afghanistan. Burke relates howone Belgian recruit who got malaria was "left in the corner" and "given a jabevery few days by a kid who was the little brother of the local doctor." Even al-Qaeda'smany affiliates, which offer some bench strength to the group, often do notheed the central leadership, or frequently they lack popularity themselves. Asa result, the much-vaunted "network of networks," he argues, is "battered anddisjointed."
Pakistan, which Burke correctly identifies as the mostimportant theater in the 9/11 wars, comes off the most poorly (thoughAfghanistan is a close second). Use of jihadist proxies has long been part ofPakistan's overall strategy, and the Pakistani security establishment remainscommitted to them, even after 9/11 and subsequent violence in Pakistan showedthat the militants were off the leash. Sadly, Burke finds that in this dividedcountry there is more unity than ever on one issue: that the United States and its allies arepart of an anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim conspiracy.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of The 9/11 Wars -- one common to many accounts of counter-terrorism-- is that it misses much of the day-to-day of intelligence gathering andpolice work against suspected jihadists around the world. The CIA is blastedfor its "extensive [program] of kidnapping suspects overseas, illegaldetention, collusion and direct participation in torture." However, thenear-constant, and largely successful, intelligence effort against al-Qaedagets little attention. In countries as far apart (politically as well asgeographically) as Sweden, Malaysia, Morocco, and Russia, security serviceshunt suspected jihadists with U.S. support and guidance. Such behind-the-scenesarrests rarely make good stories, but they put pressure on al-Qaeda and itsallies worldwide, making it far harder for the organization to communicate,plan, and conduct attacks. Indeed, the biggest threats emanate from where counter-terrorismcooperation is poor due to the host country's support for jihadists (Pakistan)or lack of governance (such as in Somalia or Yemen).
In its attempt to be comprehensive, the book at times offerstoo much detail. The story of the U.S. fiasco in Iraq has been told, and toldwell, in other books, and another detailed repetition won't offer most readerstoo much (though the additional attention on the followers of radical Shi'acleric Moqtada al-Sadr is most welcome, as their role in the Iraq conflict isoften poorly understood). While the ups and downs of terrorism andcounterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan are less-known, some of thematerial could be condensed, as the reader may get bogged down in each twistand turn and lose sight of the bigger picture.
The 9/11 Wars wentto press as the Arab Spring broke out and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden waskilled, so understandably Burke doesn't have much to add on thesetransformative events beyond the most general analysis. Such events, however,are in keeping with Burke's theme that local politics and the aspirations ofordinary people shape the battlefield, and that the most profound events areoften the least expected.
Burke ends, appropriately, on a sober and grim note: thebody counts. As he points out, there is no clear winner of the 9/11 wars, but"losers are not hard to identify." Thetens of thousands dead from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan arelikely to be joined by tens of thousands more in the next decade. New theaters,ranging from Yemen to Nigeria, may also become enflamed. Stopping theconflagration is beyond the skill and means of even the best of leaders, but ifthey avoid the mistakes Burke identifies, they can better shield their owncitizens and avoid adding fuel to the fire.
Daniel Byman is theauthor of A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of IsraeliCounterterrorism. He is a professor atGeorgetown University and the research director of the Saban Center atBrookings.
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
Military commanders deciding how toreposition and withdraw U.S. forces in Afghanistan are now confronting decisionswhere mistakes could doom the war effort. NATO has achieved considerablesuccess after brutal combat in the southern Afghan provinces of Helmand andKandahar. Violent incident rates are running in excess of 20 percent lower than during a comparable time period in 2010. Local Afghan government, for all its weakness,is expanding into districts that were long controlled by the Taliban. Even recruitment of southern Pashtuns into local police and security forces is going up in some districts that last year saw the local population watching passively while Americans fought Taliban insurgents. While such recruitment for the army is still well below what is desired, there are scattered reports, both in print and from local sources, of larger numbers of Pashtuns joining local police forces.
However, violence in eastern Afghanistan is not dropping. The threat from the Haqqani Network forces supported from bases in Pakistan has increased, as have Haqqani Network-originated spectacular attacks aimed at Kabul. The combination of apparent success in the south combined with the threat of eastern violence produce a strong argument for rapidly shifting forces east to mount a major campaign there before hard deadlines for U.S.troop withdrawals next year diminish the offensive power international forces can wield. Yet this military logic conceals critical political risks that deserve close attention.
The southern surge was intended to create conditions that would allow Afghan forces to take over population security and the expansion of governance and development. Claims by some serving and retiredAmerican generals that security gains in southern Afghanistan are irreversible seriously overstate the situation. None of my many Afghan contacts fully accept this view. Only half the mission is accomplished. Afghan Army performance has improved, and army units are supported by some police and a few small units of local village defense of varying political and military reliability. But nowhere have Afghan forces yet stood largely on their own. Their ability to do so remains an unproven theory, not an established fact.
The decisive battles for the south have also yet to begin. They will occur as U.S. forces thin out and insurgents try to regain control of the population. The Taliban's inability to confront Afghan security forces backed up by residual U.S. and NATO forces will not be the measure of success. Rather, success will only come when Afghan forces have the ability to maintain security for assistance workers, Afghan civil servants, and tribal leaders who have returned to their districts and cooperated with us and their government. All of them will be targeted by the Taliban, using threats and assassinations to intimidate others who might be on the fence. The struggle for control of the population will be the decisive battle.
The battlefield will also be psychological as much as physical. After 30 years of war, Afghans have a high pain threshold. If they believe they are on a winning side, they can and will put up with sacrifice, and replace assassinated officials. But if they become convinced that overall security is declining then we will again see local officials deserting their posts or living ineffectually in protected compounds.Tribal leaders will again flee to the cities. Confidence that has been slowly built in the south will be quickly destroyed. Worst of all, the word will spread rapidly that those who put their faith in improved Western- and Afghan-created security are taking suicidal risks, especially with the impending NATO force reductions. If this message goes forth it will undercut any possible military gains from repositioning forces.
These dangers do not mean that no forces can be withdrawn or repositioned. Indeed, transfer of control must occur if thewhole strategy of Afghan forces taking over responsibility for security by 2014 is to achieve credibility. Further, it is important to expand secure areas in the east and diminish the threats to Kabul. The need for troops in both the east and the south is real. The time to make decisions has been reduced by President Obama's accelerated withdrawal schedule for 2012. Risk, as my military colleagues always remind me, must be taken somewhere. The point is that the risks must be considered in political and psychological terms far more than on a strictly military basis if we are not to waste the major gains of the last two years. Such considerations demand great prudence in two areas that must be worked out by our civilian and military leaders on the ground.
One is that turn over must be undertaken slowly enough that Afghan security forces can be tested when we still have the ability to correct after setbacks. War is a hard school taught by a capable and reactive enemy. There will be bad days. We must ensure that we retain the margin to work with our Afghan allies to rebound from problems, not let them be shattered by them.
Second, risk must be decided jointly with Afghan civilian and military authorities. They bear the ultimate cost of failure, and their confidence in the possibility of success is crucial to strategic credibility and their willingness to take the losses required to succeed. More progress has been made in the last two years than many Americans recognize. It must be solidified before it is excessively risked.
RonaldE. Neumann was U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 until 2007 and hasvisited regularly since. He is author ofThe Other War; Winning and Losing inAfghanistan.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
Don'tShoot the Mailman
"There are three ways to get into Afghanistan: through
Russia, through Iran, and through Pakistan. You take your choice."
Thesetimeless words were uttered to me by my friend, Frank Anderson, then(1991-1994) chief of the Near East and South Asia Division of the Directorateof Operations of the CIA (the division that ran covert operations inAfghanistan during the Soviet War there) and one of my successors in theposition. His observation was not only his way of saying that this was thepreferred (and only) route for massive shipments of arms to the Afghan mujahideen in their resistance againstthe Soviets in the 1980's. It also spoke of another verity: that Pakistan andits own intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI),held the high ground in this covert action operation -- the CIA was only amailman.
Anumber of U.S. lawmakers, otherwise quite effective in helping provideadditional funding for this operation, were often unsympathetic to the idea ofrelying on Pakistan as the sole channel for arms. Some thought of themanifestly impractical option of air drops. Others, including somepolicymakers, thought that U.S. officials, especially in the CIA, failed to putenough pressure on the Pakistanis to compel them to send more arms to the"moderate" mujahideen and not to more hardline, fundamentalist commanders. Iwill come back to this later.
Inwhat is appearing more and more to have been an awful mistake, Pakistan wastorn away from the body politic of the Indian sub-continent in the 1947partition. Having rejected its former identity as part of India and itsgovernment institutions (and having to build new ones), and, more generally,having rejected its common Muslim and non-Muslim heritage, Pakistan's defaultidentity has gradually moved, for many of its citizens, toward radicalIslamism.
Thisrejection of the pre-partition past has become all the more fraught with thesudden ascension of India as a world power while Pakistan has becomeincreasingly engulfed in sectarian and ideological violence. Whatever earlyambition Pakistan may have had of being a part of a group of regional Muslimnations coalescing with the aim of containing India, has long gone away. Thiscontrast with India is all the more poignant for Pakistan's elites, especiallyits Punjabi elites, who have traditionally regarded themselves, as did many oftheir former colonial rulers, as the cream of the sub-continent's peoples.
AatishTaseer, son of the former governor of Pakistan's Punjab province murderedearlier this year by religious extremists, has summedup one of the psychological dynamics operating in Pakistan:
To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge - its hysteria - it is necessary to understand its rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan's animus against India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.
Inthe summer of 1979, Pakistan approached the U.S. for aid to the mujahideen intheir uprising against the recently installed Communist government. The resultwas a Presidential Finding of July 1979, signed by Jimmy Carter, authorizingthe CIA to provide non-lethal aid to the mujahideen. Immediately after theSoviet invasion at the end of the year, a new finding authorizing lethal aidwas signed.
Fromthe outset, CIA officers charged with carrying out the operation -- at least Ican speak for myself -- saw this as a golden opportunity for revenge: a chance toget back at the Soviets for what they had done to us earlier, in Vietnam, withtheir massive arms support to the North Vietnamese. In the end, and from thispoint of view, the operation in Afghanistan was a success: the Soviets, likethe Americans in Southeast Asia a decade earlier, had to leave the country theyoccupied. For the Soviets, it was a "one quarter Vietnam": 14,000 deathsagainst 58,000 American deaths in Vietnam. No American troops were engaged. Theend of the Cold War was hastened.
Whathappened in Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew in February 1989 hassometimes obscured the fact of this operation's success. What happened in Afghanistanafter the Soviet withdrawal is the main focus of the bookunder review, Peter Tomsen's The Warsof Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures ofGreat Powers.
Butit is not the only focus of this monumental, deeply pondered, and well writtenstudy. Ambassador Tomsen's book is an account of the Afghan historicalexperience, with some epochs getting more detailed treatment than others. Asits title suggests, it is first and foremost a study of foreign interference inAfghanistan, from the 19th-century until today . The author getsinto the story himself at the time of the Soviet withdrawal from the country inFebruary 1989, more than half of the way through the book. At Congressional insistence,he is named special envoy to the Afghan mujahideen with the rank of Ambassador.The Embassy in Kabul is closed during the chaotic situation that accompaniedthe departure of the Soviets, leaving Tomsen to operate mainly out of theAmerican Embassy in Islamabad.
AmbassadorTomsen has poured his energy, his taste for research, and his own recollectionsinto an impressive brick of 849 pages, including footnotes and appendices.Anyone who wants to get up to speed on Afghanistan can profit from reading thisbook. It is particularly useful in presenting documentation from the Sovietside of the conflict (Tomsen was a former deputy chief of mission in Moscow andalso in Beijing). The documents show that the Soviets were as unsuccessful inknocking fractious Afghan heads together as the United States has been over thelast decade. The pleas of both superpowers for party unity among their proxiesfell (or have fallen) on deaf ears.
ButTomsen also has a point of view, one that can be quite strident and incessant.Here I would mention two of his contentions: firstly, that the CIA was thehandmaiden of the ISI, and supported Pakistan's anti-American favorites amongthe mujahideen, notably Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with the result that the CIA wasat times at cross-purposes with the policy arm of the U.S. Government; andsecondly that Pakistan's policy in Afghanistan was in the straight line offormer president Zia-al-Haq, who Tomsen describes as an out-and-out Islamistwho sought to establish a non-democratic and radically religious regime inKabul. I will treat these assertions one by one.
Asfor the issue of CIA support to anti-American mujahideen, most notablyHekmatyar, though it is repeatedly asserted by Tomsen, it is not in keepingwith the facts. Keeping in mind the CIA's role as mailman, it is not realistic,as Tomsen asserts, that the U.S. could have put pressure on the Pakistanis tocease such a policy.
Tomsenaccompanies this charge with the repeated assertions of a CIA animus againstAhmad Shah Masood, whose troops, as well as those of Hekmatyar, were doing mostof the fighting among the seven mujahideen groups. Again, the evidence suggestsotherwise. Throughout the U.S. Government, including the CIA, there wasadmiration for Masood and quite the opposite for Hekmatyar, who was consideredunreliable and even treacherous.
Furthermore,Tomsen asserts that, "the United States should have supported its naturalallies, moderate-nationalist Afghans and traditional tribal structure." But theyardstick used was to give much of the weapons to the groups that were doingmost of the fighting. It was logical, at least in principle, that the groupsdoing most of the fighting (Hekmatyar and Masood) should receive the bulk ofthe arms aid, although it was clear that Masood, an ethnic Tajik, was not afavorite of the Pakistanis. The CIA devoted considerable efforts to confirmingwhich groups were doing effective fighting, and to finding ways to support themore moderate factions, especially Masood's, despite severe logisticaldifficulties.
CIAofficers, motivated by the revenge factor cited above, were interested inseeing the end of the Soviet protégé Mohammad Najib's Government, which held onto power following the departure of Soviet troops in February 1989. The surestmeans to this end was to continue to support the joint operation with the ISI.In any event, U.S. military aid from the CIA through the ISI to the mujahideenended on January 1, 1992 with the coming into effect of the "negative symmetry"agreement, whereby the U.S. and the USSR (which had ceased to formally existwhen the treaty went into effect) agreed to stop military assistance to theirrespective proxies in Afghanistan.
Thosewho sought a mediated arrangement with the Soviets, aimed at a democraticsuccessor government to that of Najib, were playing with a weak hand: thepassive former King, Zahir Shah, and the royalist leaders among the mujahideen,Mojaddedi and Gailani. Among them was Peter Tomsen. In addition, this approachwas not generally supported by the Congress and ranking policymakers. In theend, the zero-sum mentality evident through much of the region prevailed, andthe opposing sides in the Afghan struggle for power could not agree on amediated settlement. Chaos ensued, and it was ended in 1996, after thePakistanis switched their sponsorship from Hekmatyar to Mullah Omar and theTaliban (though, as Tomsen points out on page 531, the ISI was involved in thecreation of the Taliban in 1994)
Therewere hardheads on both sides of the State-CIA divide, which Tomsen returns torepeatedly and which he tends to over-emphasize. Perhaps in a reflection of theadage, "where you stand is where you sit," Tomsen has this assessment of "men of military or intelligence backgrounds,"as he describes the prelude to the most recent invasion of Afghanistan:
When President [George W.] Bush and his advisersgathered at Camp David...to chart America's post-9/11 attack on the Taliban, theadvantages of exploiting the moderate-nationalist and traditional tribalmainstream in Afghanistan did not enter the discussion. Most of theparticipants were men of military or intelligence backgrounds with little or noknowledge of the Afghan context and the country's tribal society. They did notcomment on a long-term post-conflict policy vision for Afghanistan or theregion. They stressed direct employment of American military power and covertaction.
Althoughthe moment called for action, it must be admitted that Tomsen was not entirelyoff the mark in his assessment.
Throughoutthe history of American intervention in Afghanistan since 1979, there hasgenerally been good cooperation between State and CIA, in no small measure dueto the fact that all hands at home -- the Congress, the State Department, theCIA, Defense, and the White House -- favored the covert action operation inAfghanistan against the Soviets.
Andnow, turning back to Zia. As I indicated at the beginning of this review,Pakistan is a country of special origins, and special problems. As theresolution of the country's identity conundrum moved it more and more towardIslamism (and quite contrary to the vision of its founder, Mohammad AliJinnah), Zia recognized the trend and went with it, but mainly to shore up hispolitical base. A devout Muslim, he did sponsor the growth of Islamic schools,or madrassas. But he was also just asmuch a Pakistani nationalist.
Theauthor's disapproval of troubled and troubling Pakistan, and his criticism ofPakistani policy in Afghanistan as "unholy," is patent, and it gives the bookan unfortunate polemic tinge. But overall, this is a useful book, particularlyfor the period when the author describes his own contacts with many Afghanplayers as he tried to bring the conflict in Afghanistan to a negotiatedconclusion. The effort failed, but the account is instructive. The fractioustendencies in Afghan society were too strong. They remain so today.
Charles Cogan spent 37 yearsin the CIA's operations directorate, and is now an associate at the HarvardKennedy School Belfer Center.
On a day of suicide attacks in Quetta and bomb threats againstPakistani airliners, Ali Akbar Salehi's September 7 arrival in Islamabad attracted predictably little media attention in Pakistan.
For Pakistan's government, however, his visit was freighted with importance. Salehi, Iran's foreign minister, was in town for a meeting of thePakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC). The two-day talks produced agreements on technical, financial, and media cooperation, with additional steps taken to strengthen cooperation on energy, money laundering, and trade.
This economic summit came on the heels of intensive efforts by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to reach out to Tehran. He visited Iran in late June for a two-day conference on terrorism, and then returned just a few weeks later. Both times, he was received by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And on both occasions, the rhetoric flowed freely. At the first meeting, Zardari praised Iran as "an important friend and player in the region," noting that bilateral ties "are rooted in historical, cultural, and religious bonds." During the second visit, Khamenei lauded Pakistan for being "a great nation with [a] long and deep background of struggle."
Shortly after the JEC meeting, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani traveled to Tehran. Talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad culminated in outcomes both symbolic (designating Multan and Rashtas sister cities) and substantive (pledging to boost bilateral trade from $1.2to $10 billion -- which would approach the $15 billion trade volume Pakistan seeks with China). On September 12, Gilani declared that his and Zardari's successive visits to Iran underscore the "highest importance"Islamabad places on relations with Tehran.
At first glance, Pakistan's courtship of Iran is puzzling. The two nations have rarely seen eye to eye in Afghanistan; Tehran has sided with the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban elements of the population (particularly Shia Hazaras), while Islamabad was once one of the fewnations to accord the Taliban full diplomatic recognition. Iran has also enjoyed a legacy of strong relations with India. Baluchistan province in Pakistan has long served as a sanctuary for Jundullah, an Iranian Baluch militant organization that Washington designates as a terrorist group and regularly attacks Iran's government and military. Perhaps most importantly, Shia Iran is regional rivals with Sunni Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan's most crucial allies.
However, the strategic sands in South Asia have begun to shift, creating new opportunities for Pakistan and Iran. The latter's view of the Afghan Taliban has softened, with some observers arguing that Tehran now perceives it less as a virulent Wahhabi Sunni threat, and more as a welcome anti-imperialist group that shares Iran's strong desire to expunge America's military footprint in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, India's relations with Iran have taken a tumble. Several times in recent years, India has backed American positions on U.N. Security Council resolutions and International Atomic Energy Agency votes on Iran's nuclear program and human rights violations. Additionally, tighter international sanctions against Tehran have undercut India-Iran energy relations, a pillar of the bilateral relationship. India used to pay Tehran for crude imports through an opaque "clearing house" system, yet last December the sanctions prompted India to renounce this method and to request a more transparent arrangement. Tehran refused, and in July briefly suspended crude supplies to New Delhi. India immediately turned to Riyadh, concluding a deal this past summer that provided Indians with 3 million barrels of Saudi crude in August -- and sparked talk of a potential "strategic energy partnership" that could yield a 30-year oil supply contract.
Against this backdrop, Islamabad's diplomatic forays into Tehran can be seen as both politically and strategically driven. On the one hand, at a time of strained relations with Washington, Pakistan's government undoubtedly relishes the opportunity to thumb its nose at America by embracing what the latter regards as a pariah state. Pakistan may also wish to capitalize on Iran's pro-Pakistan gestures over the last year. These include the withering criticism Khamenei has directed at India's policies in Jammu and Kashmir, and the flood relief aid furnished byIran since last summer (Iran recently vowed to provide support to internally displaced persons (IDPs) until they are "completely rehabilitated").
Strategically speaking, deeper ties with Iran can enhance electricity-starved Pakistan's energy security. Islamabad is well aware that construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline has not begun, and has underscored its desire to expedite the construction of a pipeline with Iran -- which could be operational by 2015. The project is slated to provide 750 million cubic feet of natural gas toPakistan daily, and its power generation capacity is expected to approach 5,000 megawatts -- roughly equivalent to Pakistan's energy shortfall.
Furthermore, Pakistan badly needs allies in its efforts to forge a regional stability arrangement amenable to Pakistani interests, and it sees Iran as a key collaborator in formulating a political solution to the Afghanistan imbroglio.
It would be a mistake, however, to read these developments as the portent of a new strategic partnership. Pakistan's vital relationship with Saudi Arabia--undergirded by five decades of intelligence-sharing, military cooperation, and deep mutual trust -- precludes any such possibility. So does the House of Saud's largesse. According to the Center for Global Development, Riyadh's average annual grant assistance to Pakistan between 2004 and 2009 totaled nearly $140 million -- more than any other country aside from the United States. And the U.N. reported last November that the Saudis had provided $100 million in aid to deal withlast year's crippling floods -- again, more than any nation save America at the time.
The Pakistan-Saudi partnership has stayed strong even amid the geopolitically volatile Arab Spring. Recall how Pakistani organizations likely tied to the state dispatched security forces to Bahrain to help the Saudi-allied Sunni regime suppress anti-government protestors -- members of the country's Shia majority whose demonstrations have drawn strong support from Tehran. According to Al JazeeraEnglish, "at least 2500" former Pakistani servicemen deployed to Manama this spring, enlarging Bahrain's riot police and national guard by about 50 percent.Pakistan's decision reportedly prompted an infuriated Tehran to summon a high-level Iran-based Pakistani diplomat for an explanation.
Predictably, Zardari boarded a plane to Saudi Arabia soon after his return from Iran in July. His visit was billed as an effort to reduce tensions between Tehran and Riyadh, though it was likely also meant to assuage Riyadh's concerns about Pakistan's Iranian embrace. And if there was any lingering doubt about Pakistan's determination to smooth ruffled Saudi feathers, Gilani followed up with his own trip -- with the explicit objective of getting ties back on track. Predictably, he emerged from his meetings gushing rhetoric about the renewal of the partnership. Then, late last month, Riyadh committed 10 billion rupees (justover $114 million) to help repatriate IDPs in Pakistan's tribal areas, a gesture that Pakistani media identified as another sign of a revitalized relationship. And just a few days later, Riyadh officially endorsed the Taliban reconciliation process that Islamabad fervently supports. Tehran has not followed suit.
Tellingly, while Islamabad has soothed Riyadh,it has acted cautiously toward Tehran in recent days -- in deference to Saudi Arabia, but perhaps also to America. At the JEC meeting, Pakistan, "fearing the consequences" of international sanctions, demurred when Iran offered to help construct the Pakistan portion of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline. And Pakistani media reports now speculate that Washington may succeed in persuading Pakistan to abandon the pipeline altogether.
Foreign Minister Salehi and his delegation may have arrived in Pakistan last week laden with gifts and offerings, with Gilani impressively calling on Tehran barely 72 hours later. Yet at the end of the day, the Iranians will continue to play second fiddle to Saudi Arabia in Pakistan's strategic calculus.
MichaelKugelman is the South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Centerfor Scholars. email@example.com
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
The successful conviction in Manchester, Northern England,of Munir Farooqi, Matthew Newton and Israr Malik, highlighted once again (as ifmore proof was needed) the existence of the dark connection between Britainand the war in Afghanistan. A former Taliban fighter who had returned toManchester after being picked up on the battlefield not long after the U.S.invasion by Northern Alliance forces, Farooqi ran a recruitment network inNorthern England that fed an unknown number of fighters to the fight alongsidethe Taliban in Afghanistan. What was most striking about the case, however, wasthe way it exposed the method by which recruitment cells operate in the UnitedKingdom, following a model that is likely emulated elsewhere in the west.
MunirFarooqi first came to the United Kingdom when he was about five years old.Born in Pakistan, he is part of the community of migrants from Pakistan whocame to the West during the first large-scale migrations in the 1960s fromtheir homes in South Asia. Brought up largely in the United Kingdom, he speakswith a pronounced regional British accent and is married with three children. Astrong part of him, however, remained attached to his community in South Asia,and following the American invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 heimmediately headed back to join the Taliban. His experience on the battlefieldwas short lived, and by November he had been captured as part of a NorthernAlliance operation in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Held in one ofGeneral Rashid Dostum's prisons, he was fortunate enough to be moved to aPakistani jail, from where his British wife was able to come and fetch him fora fee in May 2002.
Once back in Britain he maintained his passion for the causein Afghanistan, and travelled back and forth to Pakistan. In 2003, borderagents stopped him as he returned from Pakistan and searching his luggage foundpicturesof him posing alongside armed men in the Swat Valley. Using such images andhis own personal experience as a former Taliban fighter with injuries to showfor it, Farooqi was able to conjure up the joy of jihad to disenfranchisedyoung men he would encounter amongst Manchester's Muslim community. Ashe put it when asked by an undercover officer whether he would want tofight again, "you know when you've tasted the honey....then you only wantmore...until Allah takes you from this earth."
He used two bases of operations to draw young men to hiscause. In public, he ran dawah(propagation) stalls in Manchester and nearby Longsight city centers. Herehe would welcome individuals in and try to share with them information on hisview of the world -- and it was at both of these that on separate occasions inNovember 2008 and January 2009 two undercover officers (who were unaware ofeach other) approached the stalls to make contact with the group. ApproachingFarooqi at the Longsight location, undercover officer "Ray" made contact onNovember 26, 2008. Over the space of the next couple of months, "Ray" convertedto Islam, and then on January 4, 2009, undercover officer "Simon" also madecontact with the cell approaching a stall being run in central Manchester byFarooqi and co-defendent MatthewNetwon, a convert who came across Farooqi in 2008 soon after he became aMuslim. Claiming to be a recovering alcoholic seeking meaning, "Simon" alsoconverted to Islam with the group, and slowly gained their confidence.
In bringing the men gradually into his web, Farooqi wouldtake them to his home from where he ran a massive operation churning outradical videos and books -- he was caught with some 50,000 items of literatureand 5,000 DVDs. Here he would weave them tales about jihad, drawing on his ownexperiences to gradually persuade them of the glory of fighting in Afghanistan.A charismatic figure, he was able to quickly persuade individuals to come tohis views, as characterized by Newton, who was rapidly drawn to Farooqi's wayof thinking after the two met. Newton, like Farooqi, was convicted of of "preparingterror acts, soliciting to murder and disseminating terrorist literature"and was sentenced to six years in jail.
Having drawn people in, Farooqi ensured that they stayedwithin his orbit, telling them which mosques to go to and following up withthem when they got into trouble. When another co-defendant, Israr Malik, wasincarcerated on unrelated charges, Farooqi made a point of visiting him in jailwhere he passed him radical material to share amongst fellow prisoners. A lost soulwho had become involved in criminal activity after breaking up with his girlfriend,Malik was drawn to one of Farooqi's stalls in 2008, only to become another inthe production line of radicals he was helping develop, with the intention ofpersuading them to go and fight in Afghanistan. He was also incarcerated fortwo counts of soliciting murder and preparing for acts of terrorism.
This model of recruitment was one that has been seen beforein the United Kingdom: Mohammed Hamid, the self-proclaimed "Osama bin London"who helped take over hook-handed radical imam Abu Hamza's mosque after he wasincarcerated, used to run dawah stalls in London, where he would make contactwith dispossessed young men and, eventually, another undercover officer. Areformed drug addict himself, Hamid ran discussion groups out of his home, hadbeen to Pakistani training camps, and offered connections for aspiring fighterswho wanted to go abroad. Most prominently, Hamid ran training camps in theU.K.'s Lake District that a number of the July 21, 2005 attempted bombersattended. He is currently finishing up a sentence in prison alongside a networkof young men he recruited, including some who were attempting to go to Somaliato fight and others who did in fact go.
It remains unclear exactly how many people Farooqi was ableto persuade to go and fight in Afghanistan. Oneestimate published in the local press said some 20 people had been sentover, A figure that seems quite low for an operation that could have been goingon for as long as eight years. However, this small number likely reflects thereality of how large the actual number of British citizens being persuaded togo and fight really is. As author and journalist JasonBurke put it recently, quoting British intelligence officials, "the yearsfrom 2004 to 2007 saw the highpoint of the flow of volunteers from the UK to[Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA]. Never more than afew score in any one year, their number has now been reduced to a handful." Butgiven recent stories of Britishmartyrs being praised in jihadi videos, former British prisoners turning up assuicide bombers in Kabul, and a small number of former Taliban fighterscontinuing to live in the United Kingdom, it seems likely that this trickle maycontinue for some time.Raffaello Pantucci is an associate fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) andthe author of the forthcoming WeLove Death As You Love Life: Britain's Suburban Mujahedeen.
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
There is no better way to understand Pakistan's connection to the war in Afghanistan than to travel to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and stand on a spot along the 1,600-mile border, which cuts through the heart of the region's Pashtun tribal belt. Because it isn't a border at all. Pakistan may have gained independence from India in 1947, but in the FATA, being Pashtun took precedence over citizenship. The FATA is often referred to as Pakistan's Wild West, since, despite its name, most control is in the hands of tribal elders, not the federal government. The female literacy rate is about three percent. The fiercely conservative tribesmen live by a strict code of honor -- Pashtunwali -- that above all else dictates that guests must be provided with warm hospitality and protection. That, combined with the fact that the FATA was the jihadi epicentre in the 1980s, made it the perfect place for the Taliban and al-Qaeda to find refuge.
But getting to the border in 2006 was going to require some serious help. This meant tagging along with experienced journalists, or enlisting the aid of the army. In the end, photographer Pete Power and I were fortunate enough to get both.
"You're in luck!" army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told me as we sat in his office in Islamabad. The military was organizing a junket to a remote outpost in Kundi Gar, on the Afghan border, which would give us an excellent view from ten thousand feet-even if it was a view controlled entirely by the Pakistani army. It was going to be hard, Maj. Gen. Sultan said, shaking his head, but he would do his best to secure us a spot. We drank more tea and talked of Canada.
Days later, we were in the company of a handful of journalists, including the BBC's Barbara Plett and the Guardian's Declan Walsh, one of the most respected foreign reporters in the region. Declan had the unassuming and easy-going nature of a foreign correspondent who had talked his way out of more than one precarious situation. Only when he darted around Islamabad in his battleship grey Volkswagen bug he had named Betsy, driving like a true Pakistani, did you see his aggressive side.
With brief stops at staging areas, ostensibly to have a tea-but in fact, we later learned, to repair our helicopter-we eventually arrived at a desolate Shawal Valley post that consisted of little more than well-worn goat paths and stone compounds that looked like they were constructed in the days of Ghengis Khan. The military outnumbered the journalists about five to one.
Maj. Gen. Sultan, an officious and compact officer who had been educated in the United States and had served as the public face of Pakistan's army since 2003, strode up the hill toward the base while some of the cameramen wheezed under the weight of their equipment at such an altitude. "You're the first women up here," he said, delighted. In our honor, an English sign that read "Ladies Urinal" had been erected with an arrow that pointed to a hilltop khaki tent. I went inside, to be polite and show that I appreciated the effort, but changed my mind as I was about to drop my pants over the dugout hole and a fierce wind shook the tent. I feared that I would not be remembered as one of the first women to visit the base, but rather the Canadian reporter who mooned the troops.
The purpose of the trip was clear. The army wanted us to visit the tranquil base and report that its troops had the region under control. "This border is sealed," army Brigadier Imtiaz Wyne pronounced dramatically at a makeshift podium erected for the occasion. As if on cue, thunder began to rumble and the sky turned an angry shade of grey. "We stop any movement across the border from rear to front or front to rear," Wyne continued over the noise, adding that since operations were launched in the area, 325 "miscreants" had been killed, while the army had lost 56 of their own troops.
The visit was cut short as the angry weather rolled in. Although our group had arrived in two khaki Mi-171 helicopters, we all crammed into one for the quick descent. We rocked horribly as the helicopter struggled with the weight, slowly rising like an obese man attempting to stand after sitting cross-legged on the floor for too long. Looking out the windows we could see that the troops below were running, fast. It took a few minutes to realize that they clearly thought we were going to crash, and as we clipped a tree before clearing the ridge, Pete and I thought we would too.
In Rawalpindi at the end of the day, we drank more tea and Major General Sultan presented each of us with a small plastic trophy bearing the words "Gold Army Division." Although this type of formality may have been common in Pakistan, it still felt strange to have soldiers clapping for us, especially since I knew our stories would be unlike the glowing tales of military dominance that some of the local press would write.
The problem was that it was almost impossible to verify the army's claims that they had the upper hand in the area. Foreign journalists were forbidden from going alone, and many local journalists had been killed when they tried. We had been unable to talk to area residents during our escorted visit. We would find out later that in nearby Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, a convoy of paratroopers had been ambushed by Taliban-linked fighters on the outskirts of the city just after we left.
There were other telling and ominous signs. A few months earlier, another attack in Miranshah had shown just how brutal the frontier had become and how ineffective the army had been in protecting its residents. A local gangster named Hakeem Khan had ruthlessly ruled the region for months, but had made a fatal mistake when he killed four members of the local Taliban who refused to pay his required "tax." Vengeance was swift. Truckloads of black-turbaned Talibs arrived and not only was Khan beheaded for the murders, so were his relatives. Their bodies were hung in the centre of town and their houses were burned to the ground. A twenty-eight-minute video recording of the executions spread quickly throughout Pakistan, and a few days after our visit to Waziristan I watched the film at Declan's house. Men shouted, "Long live the Taliban of Waziristan," as the corpses were dragged behind a truck. Hundreds looked on with a mix of disgust and bemusement. The video ended with the words: "This is not drama. This is reality." The reality was that the Taliban was now firmly entrenched in the region.
Despite their claims otherwise, the Pakistani army was breathing its last gasps during our visit. A few months later, in September, the army pulled out of the area after a negotiated settlement with tribal elders known as the "North Waziristan Accord." The agreement amounted to a ceasefire, on the theory that if the army withdrew, the locals would have no trouble cracking down on foreign militants. Without having to worry about attacks from the Pakistani army-which was ill equipped to fight in the region and all too often killed civilians in the crossfire-the old order could resume and fight cross-border Taliban traffic. President Musharraf celebrated the deal during a trip to Washington, even though within Pakistan the Waziristan Accord was widely regarded as an admission of defeat. After a White House meeting President Bush told reporters: "When the president looks me in the eye and says, the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people, and that there won't be a Taliban and won't be al-Qaeda, I believe him."
Gaining a foothold in the FATA region was critical and the Waziristan Accord would ultimately fail. Soon, that wouldn't be the only region of Pakistan in peril.
Michelle Shephard is the national security correspondent for the Toronto Star and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone," from which this piece is excerpted.
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
Thereported killingin late August of Atiyyatullah Abu Abd al-Rahman (sometimes given in jihadisources as Abu Abd al-Rahman Atiyyatullah al-Libi or simply Atiyah Abdal-Rahman) in a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan, if confirmed, deprives al-QaedaCentral (AQC) of one of its most versatile and important leaders andideologues. Known more popularly in jihadi circles as "Sheikh Atiyyatullah," hestraddledthe operational, media, and ideological sides of AQC's global campaign. He wasalso at the forefront on a number of issues, including the militant organization's attempt to embrace and co-opt the uprisings in the Arab world, andintervened forcefully in debates among jihadis, actively counseling against theuse of mass violence against other Muslims.
His losswould be a severe blow to an organization that is already reeling from the lossof its charismatic founder-leader Osama bin Laden, and more recently the arrestof another key operational planner, Younis al-Mauretani. Atiyyatullah's deathhas been claimed by U.S.government sources but has not been confirmed by AQC itself, casting some doubton to whether he was actually killed. Reports surfaced in October 2010 that hehad been killed but were proven wrong when he surfaced in film and audioreleases from al-Qaeda's al-Sahab Media Foundation in mid-March of this year.
Much of Atiyyatullah'scareer, which began in the 1990s, as an AQC envoy and later one of its keyleaders, was spent out of the limelight and in the shadow of the organization'spublic faces, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Despite not being in the publiceye, though, Atiyyatullah played an important role in AQC, first in the 1990sas the organization's envoy to Algeria'sArmed Islamic Group (GIA, in French). He ultimately was unable to convince GIAleaders to modify their positions and was even imprisoned by them for a periodof time, after which he left the country. After the dispersal of AQC leadersfrom Afghanistan in thewinter of 2001, Atiyyatullah reportedly served as AQC's representative in Iran and to regionalaffiliates such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). His career as ajihadi began in the 1980s when he traveled to Afghanistan to participate in theanti-Soviet jihad. Atiyyatullah also reportedlywas in contact with Dr. Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian who carried out theDecember 2009 suicide bombing inside the U.S.military base in Khost, Afghanistan.
For muchof his career his identity as Sheikh Atiyyatullah, a prolific AQC ideologue,was debated by analysts, some of whom argued that Atiyah and the "Sheikh" wereone and the same. Atiyah appeared withhis face fully visible and identified as "Sheikh Atiyyatullah" in The Westand the Dark Tunnel, a two-part video released by al-Sahab in lateSeptember 2009. He has subsequently been featured both solo and with othersenior AQC leaders such as fellow Libyan Abu Yahya al-Libi, who is theorganization's unofficial mufti or chief jurist, in a number of videos,audio messages, and written tracts -- including June's lengthy two-part video Youare Not Responsible Except for Yourself. It is not known for certainwhy AQC decided to connect Atiyah with the mysterious personality it had createdas "Sheikh Atiyyatullah," but it may have decided to cash in on the mystiqueand capital it had built up around him over several years. The organization hasdone this with other ideologues, such as AbuMansur al-Shami, who was killed in a drone missile strike in Waziristan in January 2010.
Mostrecently, Atiyyatullah was one of the voices spearheading AQC's attempt toco-opt the ongoing uprisings against autocratic governments in Arab countries,together with fellow Libyan al-Qaeda leaderAbu Yahya al-Libi and al-Zawahiri. OnMarch 18, as forces loyal to Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi besieged thecity of Misrata,al-Sahab issued an audio message online from Atiyyatullah that purportedlyidentified him by his real name, Jamal Ibrahim Ishtaywi al-Misrati, or the "onefrom Misrata." In this message, ATribute to Our People in Libya, he praised the people of Libya, Tunisia,and Egyptfor revolting against their dictatorial governments, and Libyans to establishan Islamic state. Interestingly, despite AQC leaders' general rejection of democraticsystems of governance and other forms of government they deem "un-Islamic," Atiyyatullahappealed to the Libyan people to ensure the primacy of Islam and Islamic law (shari‘a),and enshrine Islamic law (as defined by al-Qaeda, of course) in the country'snew constitution.
The Libyanideologue also played a major but often overlooked role in internal jihadidebates about the excommunication of (takfir) and violence against otherMuslims, two issues that have long dogged AQC and its affiliates and allies. Atiyyatullahurged other jihadis to be selective in their use of violence, in part becausemass killings of other Muslims has led to a backlash against jihadis in manyparts of the Muslim world. In late 2009 and early 2010, he also participated ina concertedeffort by AQC and its ally Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to shift blameaway from themselves and onto the U.S.and Pakistani governments and the military contractor Blackwater for a seriesof bloody attacks in civilian areas of Pakistan's Pashtun tribal regions.This campaign included the release of an audio message from AQC's then-generalcommander in Afghanistan,Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, and a video message from TTP spokesman Azam Tariq blamingthe attacks on their enemies. A lengthy Urdu e-book was also published onNovember 14 that identified Blackwater as the "Army of the Dajjal," ananti-Christ type figure who features importantly in Islamic apocalyptic literature.
Atiyyatullah'scontribution to this propaganda campaign was a question-and-answer tract thatwas issued to jihadi Internet forums on January 21, 2010, Advice andCompassion in Speaking about the Market Bombings: Questions and Answers aboutthe Bombing of the Peshawar Market. Ina series of responses to questions about whether it is permissible to rejoicein the killing of other Muslims, even if they are allegedly "impious," he bluntlystated that it was not. Such attacks, he continued, are a means of spreadingcorruption and division (fitna) within the Muslim community, and are instark contradiction to Islamic law (shariah). Further, he argued thatthe "mujahideen" could not havecarried out such attacks, because they are the "true followers" of shariah.Logically then, he concluded, the U.S. and its apostate Muslim alliesand mercenaries must be at fault, pointing to their long record of killingMuslims around the world.
He hasaddressed the issue of takfir in Advice and Compassion and asecond question-and-answer tract, Responsesto the Ruling on Leaving for Battle and the Precondition of Takfir,released on August 1, 2010, as well as in a video message, Maximizing theSanctity of Muslim Blood, released on March 18, 2011. While recognizing thewell-established Islamic tenet of "enjoining the good and forbidding the wrong"(amr bi'l ma'ruf wa'l nahy ‘an al-munkar) based on the words of God asexpressed in the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, he cautions Muslimsfrom misinterpreting it as a means of evaluating another Muslim's piety. It isimpossible for anyone to truly know the religious state of being of thoseMuslims killed in such attacks, he said, whether righteous or sinful, and thusit is not permissible for any other Muslim to rejoice in their death. Hiscautious views on violence against other Muslims, including Shi‘ites, who mostSunni jihadis view as being outside the fold of Islam, have also been sharedpublicly by other Sunni jihadis, including Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who is oneof the most influential voices within the Sunni jihadi movement. There is atactical reason for this, namely that such mass excommunication alienates otherMuslims, whom jihadis view as potential supporters.
As I notedbefore, a question mark still hangs over reports of Atiyyatullah's death. Unlikewhen other senior leaders have been killed, AQC has yet to confirm and eulogizehim, casting some doubt as to whether the Libyan is actually dead. The organization confirmed the death of binLaden the same week he was killed and it also acknowledged the killing ofMustafa Abu'l Yazid soon after his death. Additionally, on August 30 whenAl-Sahab released a new audio message from Atiyyatullah, The Promise ofVictory in the Month of Patience (Ramadan) in which his name is followed bythe prayer, "may God protect him," which is only used for living persons.
It ispossible that AQC's surviving leaders, who were already reeling from the majorsetback of bin Laden's death, are seeking to minimize the fallout from Atiyyatullah'sdeath before announcing it publicly (something made especially important by thecapture al-Mauritani in Pakistanon Monday). The Promise of Victory features nearly identical backgroundto the previously released A Tribute to Our People in Libya with theexception of the text identifying him and the message's title. This may bebecause al-Sahab released the new message ahead of schedule in an attempt tocounter reports of his death. But if his death is confirmed, it will be anenormous blow to al-Qaeda; he was truly a jihadi renaissance man, combiningboth strategic and ideological savvy. Atiyyatullah will be very difficult, ifnot impossible, to replace, and his loss will further damage an alreadyhandicapped AQC.
ChristopherAnzalone is a doctoral student in the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill Universitywhere he studies modern Muslim socio-political movements, Shi'ite Islam, andIslamist visual culture. He blogs at Views from the Occident and Al-Wasat.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Less than a month after the horrible attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan, in a quest to find Osama bin Laden and punish the Taliban for harboring him.
At the time, women's progress was touted as both a reason for and a powerful and positive product of the U.S. invasion. But while Washington showered attention on the plight of Afghan women going into the war, officials have gone largely silent on the fate of Afghan women as they look to its exit.
In November 2001, First Lady Laura Bush took to the airwaves on behalf of her husband -- marking the first time a president's wife has delivered the entire President's weekly radio address on her own -- to highlight the plight of Afghan women and girls.
"The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women," Mrs. Bush said.
"Afghan women know, through hard experience, what the rest of the world is discovering: The brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists...In Afghanistan we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us."
She concluded, "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment. Yet the terrorists who helped rule that country now plot and plan in many countries. And they must be stopped." The State Department issued an accompanying report on the Taliban's "War Against Women," which stated that "restricting women's access to work is an attack on women today."
A month later, the President himself signed the "Afghan Women and Children Relief Act" and pledged that "America and our allies will do our part in the rebuilding Afghanistan. We learned our lessons from the past. We will not leave until the mission is complete."
In signing the bill, which funded health and education programs for Afghan women and children, the President told reporters that, "a central goal of the terrorists is the brutal oppression of women, and not only the women of Afghanistan. The terrorists who helped rule Afghanistan are found in dozens of countries around the world, and that is the reason this great nation with our friends and allies will not rest until we bring them all to justice."
President Bush even brought the first Afghan Minister of Women's Affairs, Sima Samar, to his first post-9/11 State of the Union.
"The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school," Bush said. "Today women are free, and are part of Afghanistan's new government."
Later in his speech, the President said that "We have no intention of imposing our culture, but America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice and religious tolerance."
And the Bush Administration was hardly alone in embracing the cause of Afghanistan's women in the context of America's fight for justice. Then-Senator Hillary Clinton also shined her powerful spotlight on the women whose lives changed with the American invasion.
"Thanks to the courage and bravery of America's military and our allies, hope is being restored to many women and families in much of Afghanistan," Clinton wrote in TIME Magazine.
And then she went further. "There is an immoral link between the way women were treated by the oppressive Taliban in Afghanistan and the hateful actions of the al-Qaeda terrorists," Clinton said. "The mistreatment of women in Afghanistan was like an early warning signal of the kind of terrorism that culminated in the attacks of September 11. Similarly, the proper treatment of women in post-Taliban Afghanistan can be a harbinger of a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic future for that war-torn nation."
Noted Clinton, "We, as liberators, have an interest in what follows the Taliban in Afghanistan. We cannot simply drop our bombs and depart with our best wishes, lest we find ourselves returning some years down the road to root out another terrorist regime."
Now, a decade later, talk of bringing terrorists to justice has given way to talk of Taliban reconciliation. No one sees another answer when it comes to ending America's longest-ever war. And, simultaneously and not surprisingly, nearly all talk of women has faded from hearing.
President Barack Obama offered no mention of women in his 2009 West Point speech on the war in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, in a telling quote to journalist Rajiv Chandrasekran, a senior administration official said, "Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities...There's no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down."
Privately, State Department officials I speak with say they are doing what they can, but acknowledge that Secretary Clinton's fight to keep women in the conversation about what comes next in Afghanistan is a lonely one. The upcoming 2012 presidential race looms large for Obama's policy and political staff. And with Clinton already promising to leave her post at the end of next year, Afghan women are losing their largest advocate within the Obama administration.
Today the question which looms large is, will women's rights be negotiated away in the quest to reach a graceful exit - or, in fact, any kind of exit, in Afghanistan? And if successful negotiations with the Taliban are a desirable inevitability for the United States, what are the lines (if any) that the U.S. must not cross if America is to keep Clinton's pledge to Afghan women that they will not be abandoned once more?
Women received much attention going into the war in Afghanistan. A new generation seized the opportunities created by the international community's presence to serve as midwives, teachers, parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, governors, army officers and civil society leaders. Today they fear a return to a time in which the world sat by while their government stripped them of their rights to work, to be educated, and to leave their homes unaccompanied.
The international community now seems to see Afghan women as unfortunate collateral damage along the path to peace, not valuable contributors who make stability possible. Meanwhile, women are fighting for a voice in the upcoming Bonn conference and a say in their future, including on the team negotiating with the Taliban for the country's future. Women I talk to say they try not to be despondent, but it is not easy to be hopeful given the facts on the ground and the talk of the future.
"Only Afghans can determine the future government of their country," the State Department said in its 2001 Taliban report. "And Afghan women should have the right to choose their role in that future."
Those words remain true today.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
In a lengthy message on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday released last week under Mullah Mohammad Omar's name, the fugitive Taliban leader used a mix of "jihad-light" bravado and toned-down political rhetoric to express his group's position on key issues, as part of a push to influence public opinion that has garnered a variety of reactions from different Western and South Asian quarters.
Yet despite the hype among AfPak watchers, the message is more a reflection of an emerging dual-track strategy that promotes Omar as a credible interlocutor while masking his flaws, and is directly tied to the NATO decision to end its military engagement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The world shook when Osama bin Laden was killed, but it has taken less notice of reports that a CIA drone in Pakistan reportedly killed Atiyah abd al-Rahman al-Libi, now ubiquitously referred to as "al-Qaeda's number two." And while there is no doubt that bin Laden's death was the more significant blow politically, Atiyah's death may have a larger impact on how the al-Qaeda network functions.
Since 2001, al-Qaeda has evolved from being structured hierarchically -- with bin Laden at the top -- into a network with bin Laden as one branch of the overall organization. Bin Laden's continued authority was a function of his reputation within the network and, critically, his ability to communicate effectively. That ability to communicate is where Atiyah came in: if bin Laden was the most politically important branch of the al-Qaeda network, Atiyah was the node that connected his branch to the others. That also meant coordinating between al-Qaeda's central leadership and potential al-Qaeda operators, such as Bryant Neal Vinas, in Europe and the United States.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
The first tweet I saw was late at night on Thursday, already early morning in Kabul. It was a short, to-the-point burst of information from Sarah-Jane Cunningham, a British-Egyptian woman working in Kabul: "British Council being attacked in #Kabul. Fight ongoing. No reports of casualties yet."
From there it was almost embarrassingly easy to cobble together a real-time update, almost minute-by-minute of a Taliban gun-and-bomb attack in Karteh Parwan district of Kabul against the British Council - a cultural institution where, among other things, many Afghans have learned English. Bilal Sarwary; Jerome Starkey; Erin Cunningham; Massoud Hossaini; and Mustafa Kazemi were just some of the English-speaking reporters posting information via Twitter.
WAHEED AFRIDI/AFP/Getty Images
Hammad Khan was once a man with a cinematic vision for Pakistan. His self-assigned mission saw him returning to his homeland every year to make a film. The idea was that after five years of traveling between London, where he now lives, and Pakistan, he would have done his bit to help put the country on the world cinema map. Yet nearly a year after the world premiere of Slackistan, his independent debut feature, he is no longer so ready to seal the deal. Made in Pakistan productions have, for the time being, lost their allure.
Premiering at London's Raindance Film Festival last October, Slackistan went on to play international film festivals in Cannes, New York and Abu Dhabi to rave reviews. It successfully beat off competition from more than 2,000 entries - 200 of which came from South Asia alone - to secure a place at the latter. Festival head Peter Scarlett introduced it as "one of the most surprising and unexpected new films we've seen all year."
This makes it all the more surprising, then, that the 35-year-old Khan has chosen to swap Pakistan for Britain as the backdrop of his next few ventures. Explaining the move, he told me, "I've found a complete lack of support for independent filmmakers and film in Pakistan, from private investors to corporations to film companies to the government." The situation is not helped, he stresses, by a punitive 65-percent-entertainment tax that makes independent filmmaking in the country nearly impossible.
The following is a statement provided to the AfPak Channel by the family of Jared Day, a member of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group killed in Afghanistan Saturday when a helicopter carrying Day and his teammates was shot down in Wardak Province.
This weekend we lost our son, brother, friend, and hero. Jared William Day was killed doing what he loved. He died alongside his friends, some of the bravest men this world has ever known.
Jared joined the United States Navy because he loved this country, the people who live here, and the freedoms we all have. Jared was incredibly brave and determined, with a fierce sense of humor. Upon enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 2002, Jared successfully and honorably served in various commands and task forces in support of the Global War on Terrorism. This culminated with him making the ultimate sacrifice while deployed to Afghanistan. In the service of his country, Jared deployed numerous times to Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East, earning many personal awards and decorations for valor, combat, and meritorious service. Jared was an Information Systems Technician First Class. Jared's skill and expertise led to his selection as an elite member of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, where he was a Tactical Communicator. He was truly special, not only to our family, but to this country.
We were invited to Dover Air Force Base to welcome Jared and his fallen brothers home from Afghanistan. There we had the honor of meeting the President of the United States of America, many other members of the Department of Defense, and other dignitaries. Receiving a hug from President Obama was impactful, as well as having a few minutes of his undivided attention to talk about Jared and our love for him. It was an honor to hear praise for our son and brother, as well as for his friends from the Commander in Chief himself.
We are providing no details because we want to protect those brave men and women who are still fighting for all of us. We request that our privacy be respected, as well as the privacy of all of the families affected by this tragic loss.
We are deeply appreciative of the support we have received from family, friends, and the incredible U.S. Navy. We are eternally grateful to the servicemen that have been with us from the beginning of this tragedy. They have given us the support we need in order to be strong for each other, as well as for Jared. Jared meant the world to us and to his teammates. The loss of our son and brother is indescribable, and our love and pride for him is unmatched and cannot be measured. Jared's memory will live in our hearts forever.
The first good news in a long time has emerged from Kabul in the ongoing dispute over the 2010 Afghanistan Parliamentary Election results. Afghan president Hamid Karzai issued a decree on Tuesday that dissolved the Special Election Tribunal he had created to investigate reports of fraud during last September's vote, and confirmed that the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC) has the final word on determining who was legitimately elected.
This decree represents a significant step back from the brink of a Constitutional crisis that had been escalating between the President, the Parliament, and the courts. As such, it is a victory for the rule of law in Afghanistan, where politics has been winning the battle over the letter of the law and the Constitution in most disputes concerning the distribution of political power.
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
When I was in Kabul in June, I found the various embassies and military installations about as easy to get into as a nuclear bunker. And I would guess that government probably seems that impenetrable, too, to the outsider -- protected by secrecy and omerta that is as strong as any concrete blast wall.
Cables From Kabul, the recently-released book from Sherard Cowper-Coles, is the equivalent of a guided tour around the inner workings of the international community in Afghanistan. It is a warts-and-all tour, with institutional failings laid bare. It is written by a man who knows those institutions well, having been British Ambassador to Kabul 2007-2009, and then the British equivalent to deceased U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke (to whom the book is dedicated) between 2009 and 2010. The book has caused controversy in Britain -- and also been greatly praised -- for its pessimism about the war in Afghanistan, its trenchant attacks on Britain's military leadership, and its unprecedented frankness about the inner workings of diplomacy. Although it will be of less interest to the American reader, it is rare to hear any senior figure with such experience of Afghanistan speak out so candidly, and at the end he addresses himself to specifically American questions.
Paula Bronstein /Getty Images
On Aug. 1, Pakistan's military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the Army and its intelligence agencies are not involved in so-called "kill-and-dump" operations in the restive province of Baluchistan. Kayani was speaking in Quetta, the provincial capital, where Human Rights Watch said in a recent report that Islamabad "should immediately end widespread disappearances of suspected militants and activists by the military, intelligence agencies, and the paramilitary Frontier Corps."
The report follows similar findings by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Human rights watchdogs have repeatedly called on Islamabad to stop unlawful killings in Baluchistan, where hundreds of political activists have been killed in separatist and sectarian violence involving both homegrown and regional insurgents.
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
In November 2008, ten gunmen from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) rampaged through India's commercial capital, Mumbai, killing 166 people and injuring hundreds more. It took approximately 60 hours before Indian commandos were certain they had killed the last of the remaining terrorists, and by the time the ordeal ended, it appeared as though the world was facing a new menace. Yet LeT was already familiar to many in South Asia, where it had been leveraging Pakistani state support since the early 1990s to become among the most powerful militant groups in the region.
Like many other jihadist outfits, LeT's origins are found in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Its parent, the Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (MDI), was born in 1986 in Afghanistan when Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi merged his militant outfit with a preaching organization run by Hafiz Saeed. The former is currently on trial for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the latter remains LeT's amir. Both are adherents to Ahl-e-Hadith Islam, which is Salafist in orientation. MDI's leaders aimed to unite the Pakistani Ahl-e-Hadith movement and purify society through dawa and jihad. From the outset it was a missionary and a militant organization that for most of its history has placed an equivalent emphasis on reshaping society at home (through preaching and social welfare) and to waging violent jihad abroad. Not long after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, MDI launched LeT as its military wing. Technically, MDI was responsible for dawa (preaching) and Lashkar for jihad, but as one of its former members observed, "If you know their philosophy then you cannot differentiate between MDI and Lashkar."
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
A family of sixteen Afghans is killed by an improvised explosive device. A hospital is attacked by a suicide bomber. An innocent eight-year old girl is told to carry a package which detonates just outside a military base. While all of this terror and destruction is wrought by the Taliban on Afghans, where is President Hamid Karzai? Missing in action.
Karzai is a smart man; he didn't simply forget to condemn these horrors. In fact, he seems hyperaware of civilian casualties within his borders. When international forces cause harm, the Afghan president passionately decries their actions. In May, after NATO mistakenly killed fourteen civilians, Karzai said "...[if] they still continue to bomb our homes, then their presence will change from a force that fights terrorism to a force against the Afghan people and an occupying force." What President Karzai didn't mention is that so far this year, the Taliban killed four civilians for every one that NATO killed.
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Were Shakespeare alive, he would find ample material for a high tragedy among the players in veteran intelligence correspondent Joby Warrick's new book, The Triple Agent. All the ingredients are there, including betrayal, shame, heroism, and more than one person with a recklessly determined hubris worthy of King Lear himself. Yet as those who have operated in the world of human intelligence will viscerally feel, this is not cathartic fiction, but a factual account of a modern day human intelligence operation gone terribly wrong, involving real men and women, with all the failings thereof. The Triple Agent provides a riveting look at the disastrous attempt by the CIA and their partners in the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID) to maneuver the Jordanian doctor-cum-cyber-jihadist, Humam al-Balawi, into penetrating the leadership of al-Qaeda.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Britain's connection to jihad in South Asia was once again cast into the spotlight with the capture of two British nationals with alleged links to the Taliban in Herat. The man and woman remain unidentified, and the British Ministry of Defense and Foreign Office have both merely confirmed that they were British nationals. Stories have started to circulate in the press that they were plotting an attack back in the U.K. and it seems that they were dual Afghan-British nationals known to MI5, though other reports indicate they may be of Pakistani origin. Whether they were planning an attack in the U.K. or not, the prospect of British nationals fighting British soldiers in Afghanistan is something that has long worried British officials. Either way, their presence shows the connection between the U.K. and fighting in Afghanistan continues to exist, a demonstration of how ingrained extreme ideas continue to be in the U.K.
Lefteris Pitarakis-Pool/Getty Images