A New Battle Begins in Pakistan

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – Despite serious reservations, Pakistan’s military at the weekend began an all-out offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

The deployment of about 30,000 troops in South Waziristan, backed by the air force, shifts the main theater of the South Asian battlefield from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

That Pakistan has become a focal point was underscored on Sunday when six Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders were killed, as well as 37 other people, in an attack in Iran’s restive Sistan-Balochistan province.

Iranian state television said the Foreign Ministry summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat in Tehran, saying there was evidence

“the perpetrators of this attack came to Iran from Pakistan”. The Pakistani government was asked not to delay “in the apprehension of the main elements in this terrorist attack”.

The attack has been blamed on the group Jundallah, which is believed to operate from Pakistan’s Balochistan province and which recently established a link with al-Qaeda. (See Al-Qaeda seeks a new alliance Asia Times Online, May 21, 2009.)

On Monday, clashes between the Pakistan military and the militants continued for the third day in South Waziristan. Islamabad says that 60 militants have been killed, with 11 soldiers dead.

The army had serious reservations about sending ground troops into South Waziristan, firstly for fear of a strong militant backlash in other parts of the country and secondly because there is no guarantee of success. However, under pressure from the United States, and with the carrot of US$1.5 billion a year for the next fives years in additional non-military aid, Pakistan’s political government has bitten the bullet. The timing might have been influenced by a string of militant attacks in the country over the past few days.

The offensive is concentrated in the areas of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, which is also the headquarters of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

In preparation for the assault, the army made ceasefire deals with several influential Taliban warlords who run large networks against coalition troops in Afghanistan. They include Mullah Nazir, the chief of the Taliban in Wana, South Waziristan, who operates the largest Taliban network in the Afghan province of Paktika. Mullah Nazir is neutral in this Pakistani conflict and agreed to allow passage to the army to enter Mehsud territory.

In North Waziristan, two top Taliban commanders, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Sadiq Noor, also agreed to remain neutral. They are members of the Shura of the Mujahideen and a main component of the Taliban’s insurgency in the Afghan province of Khost.

This leaves a few thousand Mehsud tribal fighters along with their Uzbek and Punjabi militant allies to fight against the military. Thousands of civilians have fled the area.

However, Hakimullah Mehsud of the TTP, according to Asia Times Online contacts, has apparently adopted a strategy that will not expend too many resources on protecting the Mehsud area. Instead, he aims to spread chaos by attacking security personnel in the cities. Hakimullah was the architect of successful attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s supply lines in the Khyber Agency, which began in 2007.

The same contacts say that when thousands of people left South Waziristan last week under the military’s directives, a majority of the militants melted away to the Shawal region, situated at the crossroads of South Waziristan, Afghanistan and North Waziristan, besides going to Pakistani cities.

A very limited force is entrenched in the Mehsud tribal area, and by all accounts it is putting up fierce resistance.

In the cities, the TTP will be assisted by Punjabis, who will aim to replicate the audacious and well-planned attack on the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi on October 10.

This attack and subsequent siege in which a number of hostages were held exposed loopholes in the security mechanisms of the armed forces as well as the deep penetration of militants in the security forces.

A transcript of the militants’ calls, intercepted by the security forces and read by Asia Times Online, shows that the militants had noticed a damaged wall at General Headquarters Rawalpindi. They therefore engaged security personnel at the main gate, while at the same time sending about 10 men through the breach in the wall. These militants were given support by insiders.

The attackers made directly for the barracks of Military Intelligence and took several senior officials hostage, including the director general of Military Intelligence. They then presented a list of demands. According to some reports which have not been authenticated by independent sources, six prisoners were released on the militants’ demands before the hostages were released after a commando operation on October 11.

Washington has been keen to extend the war into Pakistan since early 2008. To reflect this, this year it coined “AfPak”, and even appointed a special representative, Richard Holbrooke, to handle this portfolio. The focus in Pakistan was to be the militant bases in the tribal areas which feed directly into the insurgency across the border.

The aim was to create breathing space for coalition troops in Afghanistan and eventually pave the way for an honorable exit strategy after initiating talks with sections of the Taliban.

This year, the US also stepped up its presence in Pakistan by acquiring new bases and the Americans developed a joint intelligence mechanism with Pakistan to hit al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan with Predator drones. These missile attacks have proved particularly successful in taking out key targets, including Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP leader.

The US also coordinated ground military operations such as Lion Heart, which saw coalition troops on the Afghan side working with Pakistani troops on the other side to squeeze militants. (Asia Times Online documented this last year – see US forces the terror issue with Pakistan September 16, 2008.)

There are parallels in what the US is doing with Pakistan to what happened during the Vietnam War, when that war was extended into Laos and Cambodia.

Beyond the South Waziristan operation

Washington is watching developments in Waziristan with keen interest. Both General Stanley A McChrystal, the top US general in Afghanistan, and US Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, are currently in Pakistan.

They will be pleased that Pakistan has committed its biggest-ever force for such an operation – 30,000 troops with another 30,000 in reserve. Yet the chances of a decisive military victory remain remote.

Given the nature of the opposition and the tough territory, there is a high probability of extensive casualties in the army, with resultant desertions and dissent. There is also no guarantee that if the conflict drags on, the warlords with whom ceasefires have been agreed will not go back on their deals.

At the same time, there are signals that the Taliban in the Swat area in North-West Frontier Province are regrouping after being pushed back by the army this year. It is likely that by the time the snow chokes major supply routes, the Taliban will have seized all lost ground in the Swat Valley. By marching into South Waziristan, the military has taken something of a gamble as it is highly unlikely to eliminate the militant threat. Indeed, the past seven or so years have shown that after any operation against militants, the militants have always gained from the situation. By the same token, the militants don’t have the capacity to permanently control ground beyond their areas in South Waziristan and North Waziristan.

In this situation, in which the militants and the military can’t defeat one another, and if the fighting continues, a political crisis could be provoked. This would weaken the state of Pakistan and its institutions. Alternatively, the authorities could accept the fact that Pakistan is a tribal society which always operates through bargains and deals, and move quickly to contain this conflict.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief.

12-9

Is, or Was, the CIA Engaged Against Pakistan’s ISI and Military?

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sandra Johnson in Washington DC, Christina Palmer in New Delhi, Jamal Afghani in Kabul, Makhdoom Babar in Islamabad

www.ahmedquraishi.com

http://pakalert.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/must-read-cia-versus-isi/

Capture9-17-2009-3.17.02 PM

The American CIA almost killed Musharraf. The ISI is familiar with terrorism inside Pakistan by the spy agencies of many countries. Even Libya’s Gaddafi once ordered a couple of bombings here after the execution of his friend Mr. Bhutto. But this is the first time that the CIA is found directly involved in working against Pakistani interests. The U.S. spy organization is sponsoring the multibillion dollar Afghan drug trade, helped by the Indians. CIA’s latest trash is a statement by a U.S. congresswoman and a book by a third-rate American journalist both aimed at discrediting the ISI in the eyes of its own people. The million dollar question is this: Why is CIA sponsoring the campaign to tarnish Pakistani image worldwide, from the nuclear scare to the breakup scare to the `terrorist’ scare? The answer is astonishing.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Coffee and aspirin, aspirin and coffee. This is what the Chief of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. General Ehsan-ul-Haque was repeating after he went through the news on the website of a U.S. newspaper in which a news report filed by a U.S. news agency claimed quoting "U.S. intelligence sources" that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf survived the bomb attack on his motorcade because the President’s limousine was equipped with state-of-the-art jamming devices.

The news appeared on Dec. 18, 2003, shortly after former President Musharraf’s motorcade was attacked through a remote controlled device connected to a cell phone on a bridge in Rawalpindi.

"What the hell is this, we discussed this jamming device thing with them just a day before and they have leaked it to the media straight away? What are they up to? Are they helping us or al-Qaeda by telling them that President’s car cannot be bombed through a remote device? Are they trying to guide these killers so that they go for a suicide attack next time?" Gen. Ehsan asked his aides, sitting there to discuss the issue.

And true to his prediction, after a gap some 15 to 20 days, Musharraf’s motorcade was subjected to a high profile suicide attack on the same road a just a few yards away from the previous incident. However the Pakistani President survived again.

This has been the biggest dilemma of Pakistan’s ISI ever since Islamabad decided to be an ally in America’s global war on terror. Right from day one, Pakistan’s Foreign Office and the ISI sleuths have been complaining about the constant leaking in the U.S. media by `U.S. intelligence sources’ of intelligence reports and highly classified. The former President of the Islamic Republic, Pervez Musharraf, who was also the head of the country’s army, conveyed these reservations about intelligence leakages many times to U.S. officials and made it very clear to the former U.S. President George W. Bush that Pakistan and particularly the ISI were not comfortable at all with such a state of affairs. The U.S. was told in clear terms that this menace of constant leakages of classified material to the U.S. media had become a very big hardship for the continuation of anti-terror operations.

Terrorism in nothing new to Pakistan, neither is its top security agency, the ISI, an alien to the operations of foreign intelligence services against Pakistan. Starting from 1960s, when neighboring India’s counterpart of ISI, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), commonly know as RAW, started small- scale sabotage activities in border towns like Sialkot, Shakar Garh and parts of Balochistan, the ISI and other security agencies of Pakistan have been through a lot of encounters to prevent and counter anti-Pakistan sabotage activities by India’s R&AW, former Soviet Union’s KGB, former communist Afghanistan’s Khaad, Iran’s former Savak, Israel’s Mosaad and even the Libyan MIF that carried out some sabotage operations after the hanging of the former Prime Mini ster of the country, Mr. Z. A. Bhutto, who was a very special friend of Libya’s Gaddafi.

In sharp contrast, the ISI or the country’s other security agencies never had a problem with the American CIA and in fact developed an amazing level of understanding and professional collaboration during the USSR’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. It appears that suddenly, after the demise of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and with the growing influence of India’s R&AW in Afghanistan, the CIA preferred to become hand in glove with R&AW in Afghanistan. Both R&AW and CIA are banking on the three trillion U.S. Dollars worth of drug money every year that is generated through heroin production and its subsequent sale across the world.

According to The Daily Mail’s investigations, certain wings of both the R&AW and CIA generate millions of dollars by providing or arranging safe passages for drug traffickers of Afghanistan and India at many points across the world. They generate these funds to carry out certain unapproved operations. It was the Pakistani Army and ISI that unfolded some proofs of the same in this direction after which the CIA got extremely annoyed and finally opted to launch motivated campaigns against Pakistan’s ISI and Pakistani Army with the generous collaboration of India’s R&AW.

A former official of the UN office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) says that despite the fact that the cultivation of poppy crop across Afghanistan has risen dramatically after the Taliban era and=2 0dozens of heroin production factories have been established across the country, the CIA never showed any interest in recommending to the U.S. government to launch a crackdown on heroin factories across Afghanistan that feed and finance militants and warlords. The annoyance of CIA with Pakistani ISI and Army, according to some reports, peaked when an Indian defense official posted at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, who was a lynchpin between the Indian and Afghan drug operations, was killed in a suicide attack last year. The said Indian official was killed in an attack carried out, according to our investigations, by Afghan President’s brother and the world’s biggest heroin producer Izzat Ullah Wasifi after he developed doubts that the Indian officer was betraying him to America’s DEA (Drugs Enforcement Agency). And despite leads in this direction, R&AW convinced the CIA that the Indian officer was killed by attackers sent by ISI.

The recent blitzkrieg on Pakistan Army and the ISI are clear gifts of CIA. In the first attack, the Chairperson of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Intelligence Diane Feinstein came up with a very ridiculous and rather childish `disclosure’ that U.S. Drones, named Predators, were flying from certain ISI air bases within Pakistan and that the USAF or U.S. Army had nothing to do with this activity. "Even a child knows that these Predators fly from the U.S. base in Bagram in Afghanistan and there are no air bases owned by the ISI as ISI is an intelligence agency that relies on Pakista n Air Force and its bases for any air space or avionic support. Coming out with such a ridiculous statement and that too, publicly, by the head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence committee is very surprising", commented a senior defense analyst when contacted by The Daily Mail. He said this was nothing but a bid to generate feelings of hatred among Pakistanis against their own premier intelligence service, when the ISI is busy protecting the interests of the Pakistanis people.

In a second example, an ordinary U.S. journalist, working for the CIA-blessed U.S. daily The New York Times; named David E. Sanger, has come out with a book that can be described as nothing but a perfect piece of trash and a very mediocre work on intelligence. In the book, titled The Inheritance, Sanger claims, attributing to some highly classified files of the CIA and NSA that former Pakistani President Musharraf was playing a double game and making a double deal, on one side with America and on other side with the Taliban. This is not the start of the great Sanger-CIA trash but he claims a little down the road that the CIA had been bugging or tapping the telephones of top Pakistani Army Generals including the Chief of the Army Staff and head of the top spy agency, the ISI, and that during these tapped calls, it was revealed to the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA) that top Generals of Pakistan were protecting the [Afghan] Taliban.

"This Sanger trash is nothing but a double bullshit with a cherry on top. First of all in the Pakistan Army establishment, the Generals and Commanders do not use the ordinary telephone lines or the cellular or satellite phones. The Armed forces have their own, secured and dedicated phone lines and most of the time, dedicated for person to person conversation and no one from the outside can, through any means, tape or bug these highly secured and sophisticated phone lines. Secondly, I must tell you that conversations of such a highly sensitive nature are never made on telephone lines anywhere in the world, a fact that makes this Sanger stuff a complete piece of trash and bullshit," said a former Chief of ISI, adding that in no intelligence set up across the world, such advanced warnings are issued to any ally, the way Sanger has narrated in his book while mentioning an advance warning by some ISI officials to Taliban before launching an attack on a school in tribal areas of the country, where Pakistani Army and the ISI are battling militants.

According to certain Western intelligence observers and media commentators, if for a minute it is assumed that Sanger’s book was based on facts, this would raise alarming questions about the state of security and secrecy within CIA and NSA where a journalist like Sanger can lay his hands on information that supposedly cost the two organizations millions of dollars to attain and secure.

"In that case, the ISI’s complaints and Islamabad’s protests over the constant leakages of classified information to the media by U.S. intelligence authorities are one hundred percent accurate," says David Smith, a senior journalist at a Washington-based news organization. Diplomatic analysts and intelligence observers say that it was surprising to see how that whenever it has something against Pakistan, the first thing the CIA does is to reach out straight away to the journalists of New York Times, Washington Post or CNN. How come the reporters of these media organizations get easy access to highly classified CIA reports in no time?

Taking exceptional note of the Sanger trash, former President Pervez Musharraf, for the first time after he left the Presidency, appeared before the media and brushed aside all the accusations made in the Sanger-CIA trash. He clearly stated that if the Pakistan Army and the ISI were not sincere in the global anti terror war, then it was a big intelligence lapse on part the U.S. spymasters who could not detect this alleged duplicity earlier. He also snubbed Sanger for his baseless accusations but said he would not press charges against the American journalist because the said journalist was that important and such mischief is not unusual. But Musharraf was clear about one thing: That there is a motivated campaign against Pakistan Army and ISI by U.S. quarters. He said the military and the ISI are custodians of Pakistan’s security and solidarity. He urged the Pakistani media to expose the hands behind this anti-ISI and anti-Pak Army campaign.

The Daily Mail is based in Islamabad and Beijing. Makhdoom Babar Sultan can be reached at macbaburAThotmail.com

11-39

How the Serenity of Swat Was Vandalized

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Javed Akbar, The Canadian Charger

Nightmarish scenes in the valley of Swat in northern Pakistan – a major tourist attraction known for its ‘indescribable beauty and serenity’ mark the latest stage of that nation’s crisis, brought to a boil by the U.S. escalation of its war in Afghanistan, which is spilling across the border.

But the turmoil is also a sign of the deepening contradictions of Pakistani politics following the downfall of the U.S.-backed strongman, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, last year amid growing unrest.

The rise of extremism, militancy and the Taliban are a reaction to the American-led “war on terror” and the occupation of Afghanistan. So big has been the displacement of people (1.7 million according to the UN) due to the latest military operations in Swat that UN officials are already comparing the unfortunate situation prevailing in Pakistan with that of Rwanda, the Central African country where genocide in 1994 forced large-scale dislocation of communities.

The resulting disequilibrium of Pakistani society has as its latest consequence an increasing influx of the internally displaced people of Swat.

The refugees from Swat are victims of a Pakistani Army offensive, backed by the U.S., against forces of the Taliban, which operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Under pressure from the U.S., the Pakistani military broke a ceasefire arrangement with the Taliban and carried out a scorched-earth assault — with the excuse that this is the only way to flush out Taliban fighters.

But the civilian population is paying a terrible price. The Pakistani military will never be able to win over those people who actually experienced what is happening on the ground. And certainly those people are not Taliban supporters either, since they have experienced their terror.

The U.S. has created the bizarre new moniker “Af/Pak” as a way to cover over its expansion of the war from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Building consent for this expansion has been what all the State Department, Pentagon and media propaganda has been about before the onslaught of this military expedition.
Leading counterinsurgency theorist John Nagl, an Iraq combat veteran and now the head of the Center for a New American Security, writes that “there is a growing realization that the most likely conflicts of the next fifty years will be irregular warfare in an ‘Arc of Instability’ that encompasses much of the greater Middle East and parts of Africa and Central and South Asia.”

That goes a long way towards explaining U.S. strategic planning.

The U.S. wants to wind down its occupation in Iraq, which it sees as a distraction, and push ahead with a much larger scenario — ‘in the arc of instability’ from North Africa to the Middle East to South and Central Asia. The U.S. is gearing up for, in the shocking words of Nagl, 50 years of warfare in this area.

Such imperial-style strategic concepts echo the “Great Game” of rivalries in the region over who’s going to control the oil and natural gas resources. Beyond that geopolitical battle, the military industrial complex has a material interest in perpetual warfare.

This is the new Great Game involving the U.S., Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran. It’s all about the resources that we have been observing since the beginning of the war in 2001. The U.S. had planned a pipeline to go from Central Asia through the Pakistani province of Balochistan. Planners saw Afghanistan as strategically important in these designs. The strategic importance was considered high enough to open a new front on its open-ended “war on terror.”

Despite eight years of war, occupation and counter-insurgency, and seeing that war and occupation aren’t working and are, in fact, backfiring, U.S. thinking doesn’t seem to be shifting at all. The Obama administration is certainly trying to repackage its essential continuity with the Bush administration’s policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But there isn’t a whole lot of finessing that needs to be done to sell this to the American public, since there is a widespread impression that the Afghan war is a moral war, a necessary response to the 9/ll attackers, and that Pakistan is an untrustworthy and reluctant ally that is crawling with militants.
The real alternative for President Obama should be to maintain a deterrent posture while immediately accelerating diplomacy to address legitimate Muslim concerns, from a Palestinian state to genuine progress on Kashmir.

By not recognizing that the unresolved Kashmir issue is a cause for promoting militancy in the region, Washington has opted for selective engagement with the underlying causes of militancy and terrorism in the region.

The anti-war movement should not let Obama continue this imperial policy of aggression into Afghanistan and Pakistan (and potentially many other states).

The heart of the crisis is that this has become a multiple-front war, and the main theater has spawned a second, more diffused arena for potentially disastrous outcomes.

Meanwhile the sufferings of the people of the Northern Pakistan continue, with the rest of country adversely affected due to a war imposed upon its people.
Barack Obama has been bombing Pakistan since the third day of his presidency, and on the ground the Pakistani army has been acting as his country’s mercenaries.

* Javed Akbar is a freelance writer based in Toronto.