TALKING TO THE TALIBAN


[Note for WoP readers: Early last year Graeme Smith filed a detailed story for Globe and Mail of Toronto, Canada. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/). The sum up of Graeme’s coverage was his final work called “Talking to the Taliban”.

Not only did Graeme compile a fact based study but also produced a set of videos for his newspaper readers. In conclusion Graeme proved that the ultimate solution to war in Afghanistan was nothing more nothing less but to talk to the Taliban (and when he mentions the Taliban, it is the Taliban of Afghanistan and not of Pakistan).

Graeme’s work was done last year; therefore, naturally did his figures pertain to year 2007 only, to update that work, therefore, I have appended here a report prepared by the CSIS which looks up into the current state of war in Afghanistan.
And this report depicts even a still grimmer picture of what’s happening in Afghanistan.
Conclusion:
US and other allies either will have to talk to the Taliban or otherwise devise a strategy to gradually withdraw from Afghanistan.
P. S.
I have not touched here the Taliban phenomena in Pakistan for I believe the Talbanisation in Pakistan’s north is an outfall of what’s happening in present day Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud  (the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief) is dead  and the remaining planted Taliban fighting against the writ of the state, are loosening their grip. Very soon they will have to pack up, but if the situation in Afghanistan remains in a war like sate, things can turn up much messier in Pakistan as well. Nayyar]

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by GRAEME SMITH

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I’ve been working with a researcher in Kandahar since September of 2006, meeting with him regularly for long sessions of tea and talk. He’s a close friend of The Globe and Mail translators in the city. I often send him on fact-finding trips to places that would be off-limits for anybody without strong connections to the insurgency, and over many months he has learned basic journalism skills. This project involved tasks at which he’s already proven reliable: Find a specific person, point a camera at them, ask questions from a list and, most challengingly, listen to the answers and formulate further questions. He’s still learning the art of follow-up questioning, but otherwise he appeared to be fairly disciplined about obeying the rules described below.

The Taliban researcher was asked:

  • To find small groups of Taliban and try to speak with them individually. They don’t need to show their faces or give their names. (Persuading the insurgents to speak by themselves proved difficult, and clusters of three or four interviews often contain answers that echo each other, as apparently Taliban waited to hear what their comrades would say.)

  • To visit as many districts as possible. (He visited five: Zhari, Panjwai, Maywand, Arghandab and Daman. Access to each district was negotiated by him and a Globe and Mail translator.)

  • Ask a standard list of 20 questions, in the same order every time. (He largely followed this request, with a few exceptions: He sometimes felt it would be dangerous to push insurgents for answers about their loyalty to Mullah Omar, for instance.)

  • Try to get enough elaboration that the interview lasts a minimum of 10 minutes. (This improved during the course of the project, with durations varying from four to 15 minutes.)

The researcher’s work was supervised by a long-time translator for The Globe and Mail, who watched the videos and did the rough translations.

I debriefed the researcher as he returned from his visits to the districts. A professional service was contracted to provide a second verbatim transcript in English, with coding for subtitles, so that we could publish all the material online.

The interviews began in August of 2007 and finished in November. In months that followed, the videos were circulated privately among sources in Kandahar and Kabul to gather opinions about the authenticity of the material and reaction to the Taliban statements.

Face to face with the foot soldiers

He looks like an ordinary Afghan in ragged clothes. He says he’s young, 24 or 25 years old, but his eyes seem older. Somebody he knows, or loves, was killed by a bomb dropped from the sky, he says. The government tried to destroy his farm. His tribe has feuded with the government in recent years, and he feels pushed to the edge of a society that ranks among the poorest in the world.

So he lives by the gun. He cradles the weapon in his arms, saying he will follow the tradition of his ancestors who battled foreign armies. He is not only a Taliban foot soldier, he says. He belongs to the mujahedeen, the holy warriors, who fight any infidel who tries to invade Afghanistan.

He does not care where the foreigners come from. Maybe he knows the word Canada, but he cannot point to the country on a map. When he squints down his rifle at Canadian soldiers, he cannot imagine the faraway land that gave birth to those helmeted figures. He only wants to drive them away. He fervently believes that expelling the foreigners will set things right in his troubled country.

This portrait of an average Taliban fighter emerges from groundbreaking research by The Globe and Mail in Kandahar. The newspaper’s staff, working with a freelance researcher, gained unprecedented access to insurgent groups in five districts of Kandahar province, and finished the dangerous assignment with 42 video recordings of fighters answering a standardized list of questions.

It’s not a scientific survey, but it’s the first public attempt to look at the Taliban in a systematic way.

The translation of the interviews, 517 pages long, suggests the Taliban are more complicated than might be guessed from their usual depiction as religious warriors; they are fierce and frightening, but proud and occasionally poetic. They use the language of radical Islam, but their message often consists of nothing more than xenophobia and a desire to protect their way of life.

Uneducated and inarticulate, they mumble their way through monosyllabic answers and avoid hard questions. When asked about money, for instance, the fighters reveal few details about their sources of financing. With repeated questioning, they do eventually open up, however, about their political dreams and the economic rationale for the war. They even dare to question their own leadership.

“These people are the heart of the problem,” said a former mujahedeen commander in Kandahar who reviewed the interview footage. “These are the people you need to deal with: the guys with the guns.”

PORTRAIT OF AN INSURGENT

Strong patterns stood out in the fighters’ answers, some of which will be explored in more detail in The Globe’s series on the insurgents over the coming week.

  • Almost a third of respondents claimed that at least one family member had died in aerial bombings in recent years. Many also described themselves as fighting to defend Afghan villagers from air strikes by foreign troops.
  • Most of them admitted a personal role in the illegal opium industry, and half of them said their poppy fields had been targeted by government eradication efforts, suggesting they suffer more eradication than other Afghan farmers. Several of them voiced frustration that the government officials take bribes for turning a blind eye to the drug trade while punishing poor opium growers.

  • They claimed origins in 19 different Pashtun tribes, but the largest numbers came from Kandahar tribes that have been disenfranchised by the current government. No foreigners or non-Pashtuns were encountered during the survey, supporting the impression that such fighters are extremely rare.
  • Few of them claimed to be fighting a global jihad; most described their goal as the return of a stricter Islamic government in Afghanistan.
  • They showed deep ignorance about the world, even making serious errors in their telling of Afghanistan’s recent history. None of the fighters appeared to know anything about Canada; faced with a multiple-choice question, only one of them correctly guessed that Canada is located north of the United States.
  • Perhaps most surprisingly, 24 of the fighters said it doesn’t matter whether Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar returns to power as the head of Afghanistan’s government. Most claimed to be fighting for principles, not a leader.

Trying to understand the insurgency has become a daily topic of conversation in Afghanistan, as the growing violence increases demands for a negotiated peace.

Some analysts say the opinions of front-line Taliban fighters aren’t relevant in a feudal society where people usually obey their leaders, but others point to indications that the insurgency’s momentum no longer comes from its top organizers. It’s sometimes labelled a “franchise” expansion model, in which groups of Afghans who don’t feel a strong allegiance to Mullah Omar decide to join the insurgency for their own reasons.

“I think the answers of ordinary Taliban do matter, in the context of how strong are their beliefs and how motivated they are,” said Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and other books on Islamic extremism in the region. “But it’s most important in the context of, ‘Can you divide the Taliban, and talk to more moderate ones?’ “

Many kinds of negotiations with the Taliban have sprung up as the insurgents assert their presence in the outlying districts. Aid agencies and cellphone companies regularly negotiate safe passage of their workers across Taliban territory, and negotiations with kidnappers have become chillingly frequent.

Canada’s government publicly refuses to talk with the Taliban, but the Dutch military makes such discussions an explicit part of its strategy in Uruzganprovince. The British have tried, and so far failed, to negotiate local deals that will pacify Helmand province.

President Hamid Karzai issued a public plea last year for one-on-one talks with Mullah Omar, and the United Nations’s internal trend forecasting describes a negotiated political solution as the single thing most likely to dampen the conflict in the foreseeable future.

Uncertainty hangs over all such negotiations, however, because, at the most basic level, the Taliban remain a mystery. Few analysts are willing to predict whether an average fighter would lay down his weapons, and under what circumstances.

Two Western security officials who reviewed The Globe’s survey said the sample reflects the fact that foreign extremists do not have a significant role in the Kandahar insurgency. That could make negotiation more feasible; local Afghan insurgents have a reputation for being more flexible in their allegiance than the Arab or Central Asian extremists who sometimes appear on the battlefield.

“Their goals really aren’t global jihad, and their connections with al-Qaeda aren’t very strong,” one security official said.

FOLLOW THE LEADER?

The insurgents’ apparent lack of loyalty to Mullah Omar might also be interpreted as a positive sign. The Globe’s researcher initially refused to ask the question — “If foreigners leave Afghanistan, would you accept a government without Mullah Omar?” — because he feared the insurgents would threaten him for questioning the importance of the reclusive leader who calls himself Commander of the Faithful. But among the 32 insurgents who answered the question, 24 of them said they would be willing to accept different leadership under certain conditions.

Those conditions varied: The most common demands were for an “Islamic leader” who would enforce “Islamic laws.” The Taliban did not clearly define how such a leader and laws would be different from the present Muslim President and Afghanistan’s current system of laws based on Islamic teachings.

A few suggested that replacing Mullah Omar would require a decision by the leader himself, or even a sign from God. Another fighter declared that a president of Afghanistan would only be acceptable “if that person is like Mullah Omar.” Others said that only the Taliban elders are qualified to choose Afghanistan’s leader.

But some said they’re not demanding a Taliban government at all. “We are not saying that it should be our government,” he said. “But we want only a Muslim king.”

Even Mr. Karzai, whose troops are fighting the Taliban, was sometimes considered acceptable if the foreign troops leave. “If it is Karzai or Mullah Omar it doesn’t matter,” one said.

Other fighters vehemently disagreed, saying Mr. Karzai is a “slave” of foreign powers.

This variety of opinion among the insurgents has been viewed as a weakness by their opponents. A spokesman for Mr. Karzai has said he’s hoping to sow confusion in the Taliban ranks by pushing the issue of negotiations.

One of the insurgents admitted it’s a topic of debate among his comrades: “We have those who want peace and those who want to fight,” he said.

Their uncertainty about the importance of Mullah Omar may spring from an understanding that he’s not deeply engaged in the day-to-day workings of the insurgency, a senior United Nations official said. The Taliban know their one-eyed master remains isolated somewhere far from the battlefields, he suggested, and this serves as another weak point that might be exploited by negotiators.

But a lack of central authority could also make the Taliban more dangerous, a security analyst said, if their own leaders can’t stop them from fighting.

“They’re not loyal to Mullah Omar, yes, but is that a good thing?” the analyst said. “Because maybe a Taliban leader cuts a deal, but he can’t deliver the fighters because they’re too fanatical.”

A former Afghan government official said the Taliban’s lack of zeal for their leader reflects the same kind of false humility they displayed from 1994 to 1996, when they took power under the guise of a temporary regime. “It’s a trick,” he said. “It’s crap. You can’t believe them.”

The Taliban also seemed skeptical about the Afghan government as a negotiating partner. Several referred to the early days of the Karzai administration, in which some Taliban tried to join the new government but ended up in detention. Mr. Karzai must take orders from the U.S. forces, the insurgents said, and the Americans don’t want to negotiate.

Nor did there appear to be much desire for peace talks among the insurgents. None admitted any willingness to accept money, work, property or immunity from prosecution in exchange for a ceasefire. Only a handful of them added that they’re willing to stop fighting if they get the order from their superiors.

“I personally believe that negotiations are inevitable,” said Thomas Johnson, director of the culture and conflict studies program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and a leading expert on the Pashtun tribal areas.

“The problem of course is finding people willing to negotiate,” Mr. Johnson said. “Pashtuns generally will not negotiate when they sense they are winning. Hence, you see that the Taliban are ‘willing’ to negotiate, but only after international forces leave the country.”

WHY THEY FIGHT

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization says insurgent attacks increased 64 per cent from 2006 to 2007, and very few of the Taliban surveyed showed any sign of respecting the military strength of the Canadians and their allies. Many claimed the foreign troops lack personal courage, and repeatedly told stories of battle that mocked their opponents.

“They are cowardly people,” a fighter said. “If you take away their tanks and airplanes, they are nothing against Muslims.”

They also seemed offended by the suggestion that peace could be bought for a price. Many spoke about the corruption of the Afghan government, and tried to set themselves apart from the regime by claiming their loyalty could not be purchased.

“Even if you give me so much money that I can’t spend it in my entire lifetime, I will not stop,” said one. Another promised to continue fighting even if offered “a million million.”

Their ferocity usually had a limited focus, however. A few talked about global jihad — “This is a world war” — but most of them gave their fight a narrow definition, usually aiming their rage at the foreign troops and their political opponents within the borders of Afghanistan.

“Why are you fighting against this government?” The Globe’s researcher asked a 25-year-old former driver. “Because they are with the non-Muslims,” he replied. “If there were no non-Muslims, we would not fight with them, because one Muslim does not fight with another Muslim. But when we are fighting an Afghan soldier, it is because they are in an American convoy.”

“If they weren’t in a convoy with Americans, you wouldn’t fight with them?” he was asked.

“No,” he said. “Then we wouldn’t fight.”

Some of the most revealing dialogue in the interviews happens when the Taliban stray from the original list of questions. Spontaneously, without prompting, two of them spoke out against the modern way of life that has started to appear in the bustling streets of Kabul. It’s unlikely that these poor foot soldiers had much personal experience in the capital, hundreds of kilometres away, but they obviously had heard stories about how the city has changed since the fall of the Taliban regime.

“There are some things forbidden by Islam and the Koran, like alcohol, adultery and cinemas,” said a 27-year-old farmer, with a belt of machine-gun bullets draped around his neck. “Why don’t they stop these things which are clearly going on in Kabul and some other provinces? Instead they beat those who are poor.”

Another man also singled out movies as a source of moral corruption. Street vendors in Afghanistan have started a black-market trade in recent years, selling video discs of Indian movies and hardcore pornography — sometimes alongside Taliban propaganda videos that denounce the same foreign influences.

“They are enthusiastic about the dollar and cinemas,” a fighter said. “That’s why we are fighting them.”

The comments often reflect a deeply insular view of the world, and a revisionist history that would be unrecognizable to an outsider. Many of the fighters would have been too young to fight alongside the Taliban as they conquered the capital in 1996, and they seem to be repeating a legendary version of the old regime as a way of stoking their own ambitions.

“In the time of the Taliban, they captured all Afghanistan; only one corner remained out of our grasp,” said a young man with bushy eyebrows visible between his black turban and the black scarf wrapped around his face. He guessed his age at 21 and said he had been a religious student since he was 6.

“Thus all the world’s non-Muslims were afraid of us and afraid of the Taliban capturing all of Afghanistan,” he said. “It would be a centre of Islamic government for the whole world. So they started a campaign against us and destroyed our government.”

None of the Taliban mention Sept. 11, 2001, in their explanations of the war. Nor do they talk about many other things that muddy their claims of moral superiority: the hundreds of civilians who have died in the conflict, a majority of them killed by the insurgents; the Afghans addicted to the opium that grows in their fields; and the prosperity that people have started to enjoy in the northern regions of Afghanistan that are not plagued by insurgency.

Things are much simpler for the Taliban.

“We are people of war,” a fighter said, “and we want an Islamic government.”

End of Part-I
Courtesy: Afghanistan – The True Story / Globe and Mail Posted: Sep. 10th, 2009
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.

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Obama`s Afghanistan War: When Will It End and Can the U.S. Win?


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by ASHAHED M. MUHAMMAD

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When launched on October 7, 2001, the goals of the War in Afghanistan, dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom,” were to locate, capture or kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the members of his leadership cadre and end the Taliban regime’s stronghold in the region, striking a decisive blow in the Bush administration’s infamous global “War on Terror.”

While many members of Al-Qaeda’s command staff have been captured or killed, and many Taliban members neutralized, Osama bin Laden remains on the loose, suspected of being somewhere in a mountainous remote Pakistani region. Al Qaeda has evolved, spreading to several areas across the globe. The Taliban appears able to strike U.S. military forces at will, and public support for the war is rapidly falling.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released September 1 found that 57 percent of the American people are opposed to the war, up 11 points since April.

Last month was the deadliest for U.S. military personnel since the war began eight years ago and pressure is rising on Pres. Barack Obama and top U.S. military officials to find a quick solution to a very complex problem. Some critics on the left and the right are calling on him to withdraw from Afghanistan completely, while others, including military officials, are suggesting recalibration of troop levels and force deployment.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently described the situation as “serious and deteriorating.” U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan said the situation in Afghanistan requires a “revised implementation strategy.” Even conservative commentator George Will in an opinion piece appearing in the Sept.1 Washington Post suggested “rapidly reversing the trajectory of America’s involvement in Afghanistan.”

“What the last eight years have shown us is that what we need is not a new military strategy, but a new strategy altogether,” said Clare Moen of the War Resisters League and editor-in-chief of their official publication, WIN magazine. “Sending in more troops has not been working. We just finished the deadliest month in the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan,” she added.

Ms. Moen’s group, an 84-year-old nonviolent anti-war organization, plans major anti-war action in cities across the U.S. on October 5 to protest the War in Afghanistan and demand an immediate withdrawal of troops. She said many protesters may have even voted for Pres. Obama in the November 2008 election.

“A lot of people who voted for Obama were hoping that he would reverse a lot of Bush’s policies, specifically on occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, but I’m not sure their hopes were necessarily founded in reality,” said Ms. Moen.

Responding via e-mail from France to questions presented by The Final Call, author, political commentator and co-founder of the online news magazine Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah wrote, “During the campaign, Obama promised to escalate the war in Afghanistan and spread it to Pakistan. By all accounts he is keeping that promise. More bombs, more violence, more displaced people will not produce the conditions for peace. Rather, it will expand the circle of suffering and those willing to take up arms in defense of what they experience as a foreign invasion. So sadly I do see the worst yet to come.”

Obama’s war?

Pres. Obama, immediately upon taking office, said Afghanistan was a “necessary war” and while he has ordered an increase in troop levels and has attempted to work with cooperative allies within Afghanistan and Pakistan to succeed, conflict rages.

On Sept. 2 Afghanistan’s deputy chief of intelligence, Abdullah Laghmani was assassinated after a suicide bombing attack just east of the country’s capital of Kabul. According to the AP a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the assassination.

The results from the recently held Afghan presidential election are still in dispute, with the announcement delayed because of allegations of voter fraud. Even after the results are announced, analysts say the Afghan government is weak and the drug trade threatens what little stability there is.

“Most often, the central government is criticized for its high level of corruption. To me, that is not the most critical problem. The main problem is that it is weak,” wrote DePaul University political science professor Patrick Callahan in an e-mailed response to The Final Call. “Historically, power in Afghanistan has been highly decentralized. There was a government in Kabul, the capital city, but real control over what happened on the ground rested in tribal leaders and warlords. That is layered on sharp ethnic differences in different parts of the country. In fact, it is misleading to think of Afghanistan as a country or a nation. It is a territory containing several nations and falling woefully short of having the coherence we ordinarily associate with the word ‘country,’” he added.

Though poppy cultivation and opium production has gone down, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s “Afghanistan Opium Survey 2009,” its executive director, Antonio Maria Costa still sees narcotics trafficking as a major problem in the region. According to the report, poppy cultivation dropped 22 percent and opium production by 10 percent and there has been a 33 percent drop in the area of land devoted to poppy cultivation, the report said.

“The bottom is starting to fall out of the Afghan opium market. For the second year in a row, cultivation, production, work-force, prices, revenues, exports and its GDP share are all down, while the number of poppy-free provinces and drug seizures continue to rise. Yet, Afghan drugs still have catastrophic consequences. They fund criminals, insurgents, and terrorists in Afghanistan and abroad. Collusion with corrupt government officials keeps undermining public trust, security, and the law,” said Mr. Costa.

War without end

Robert T. Starks, political science professor at Northeastern Illinois University described Afghanistan as “almost ungovernable” and pointed out that if Pres. Obama continues to ramp up troop levels in an effort to stay the course, he runs the risk of a prolonged conflict appearing to be without end. As the American bodies continue to pile up, public support will continue to decline. However, the major issue, according to Prof. Starks, is the financial drain the war is having on a faltering American economy.

“Economically, this country cannot afford to continue that war.” said Prof. Starks. “The last thing he wants to do is to have a repeat of what went on in Vietnam, that type of long range fight going on in Afghanistan,” said Prof. Starks.

For Pres. Obama and the multinational forces in the region, the bad news keeps on coming.

According to media reports, a NATO air strike in Afghanistan on Sept. 4 caused at least 90 civilian casualties. Constant drone attacks with Hellfire missiles have taken the lives of hundreds of non-combatants in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has not helped matters with locals whom the multinational forces are ostensibly seeking to enlist for support.

A top defense aide to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown resigned on Sept. 3 over disagreements regarding the government’s Afghanistan policy and involvement. According to a recent poll in London’s Daily Telegraph 66 percent of Brits are against the war. Fifty-two British soldiers have been killed in the conflict within the last two months. With four months left, 2009 has already been the deadliest year for troops in Afghanistan. There are currently about 68,000 American troops engaged in combat operations there.

Despite those realities on the ground, Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a Sept. 3 press briefing alongside Adm. Mullen at the Pentagon, reiterated his support for Pres. Obama’s strategy while acknowledging faltering support.

“I don’t believe that the war is slipping through the administration’s fingers. And I think it’s important—first of all, the nation has been at war for eight years. The fact that Americans would be tired of having their sons and daughters at risk and in battle is not surprising,” said Sec. Gates. He also cautioned against determining the success or failure of the military operation based on what may be considered a limited perspective.

“I think what’s important to remember is, the president’s decisions were only made at the—on this strategy were only made at the very end of March. Our new commander (Gen. McChrystal) appeared on the scene in June. We still do not have all of the forces the president has authorized in Afghanistan yet, and we still do not have all the civilian surge that the president has authorized and insisted upon in Afghanistan yet,” said Sec. Gates.

Prof. Starks said in spite of what the generals are saying, the reality is that Pres. Obama is going to be forced to consider a withdrawal “sooner rather than later.”

Leading Islamic scholar Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute, a non-profit, educational religious institute and school based in Berkeley, California agreed. His advice to Pres. Obama would be “blame it on Bush and get out.”

“It’s an unwinnable war, it has nothing to do with stopping terrorists, in fact, if anything, it is going to create more animosity towards this country and it is going to create more people who have reasons to seek revenge against this country,” said Imam Shakir. Pres. Obama should not be deterred by the possibility of being called weak by the right wing, he added.

“It takes more strength to do the right thing. Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away from a fight you shouldn’t be involved in than to display a false sense of macho and a false sense of courage by engaging in that fight. It takes more courage to defy the warmongers, it takes more courage to defy the militarists, it takes more courage to stand up to admit that you made a mistake,” said Imam Shakir.

The writer Ashahed M. Muhammad is Assistant Editor of FinalCall.com

Source: Mathaba.net

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.

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Published in: on 10/09/2009 at 7:36 pm  Comments (3)  

Ex-ISI Chief Says Purpose of New Afghan Intelligence Agency RAMA Is ‘to destabilize Pakistan


Lt. Gen. Retired Hamid Gul

by Jeremy R. Hammond


[Note for WoP readers: Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of Pakistan’s ISI, has been a key player of once the US-Pakistani covert operations in Afghanistan. At that time all three actors on the Afghan stage, the US, Pakistan and the Mujahideen, were all united against the Soviets.
Gen. Hamid Gul’s views on US involvement in Afghanistan during the Afghan resistance, the Pakistani support to the Mujahideen, the 9/11 tragedy (which he quite frequently refers to “as an inside job”) are already well known. We covered his two previous sessions, one with Alex Jones (here, here, here and the other with Ahmed Quraishi already in our issues of April and June 2009.
The most startling part, however, of his current interview to Jeremy R. Hammond of Foreign Policy Journal is his disclosure on record production of opium in today’s Afghanistan, right under the nose of US and NATO forces as well as the puppet regime of Hamid Karzai, all going unchecked!
When he describes the involvement of President’s brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, who is also the governor of Kandahar province, his wheeling dealing in poppy trade, one cannot overlook the role of White House staffers in propping up a regime that from head to toe is smeared in the sleaze of Afghanistan’s narco trade.
Another sensation is his statement that heroin is being smuggled out of Afghanistan in jet aircrafts as well. Now this is a very serious issue; not even a warlord or a narco smuggler would dare or afford to indulge in such an operation. Obviously this can happen only under the protection and or with the connivance of the regime in power. Question now arises: who benefits from this large scale production and smuggling of poppy thing from Afghanistan, the Taliban or the regime or the forces that oppose them? Go through the following post and you will get the answer from none else than General Gul himself. Nayyar]
In his current interview with Foreign Policy Journal, retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul responds to charges that he supports terrorism, discusses 9/11 and ulterior motives for the war on Afghanistan, claims that the U.S., Israel, and India are behind efforts to destabilize Pakistan, and charges the U.S. and its allies with responsibility for the lucrative Afghan drug trade.
Retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul was the Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1987 to 1989, during which time he worked closely with the CIA to provide support for the mujahedeen fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Though once deemed a close ally of the United States, in more recent years his name has been the subject of considerable controversy. He has been outspoken with the claim that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were an “inside job”. He has been called “the most dangerous man in Pakistan”, and the U.S. government has accused him of supporting the Taliban, even recommending him to the United Nations Security Council for inclusion on the list of international terrorists.
In an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy Journal, I asked the former ISI chief what his response was to these allegations. He replied, “Well, it’s laughable I would say, because I’ve worked with the CIA and I know they were never so bad as they are now.” He said this was “a pity for the American people” since the CIA is supposed to act “as the eyes and ears” of the country. As for the charge of him supporting the Taliban, “it is utterly baseless. I have no contact with the Taliban, nor with Osama bin Laden and his colleagues.” He added, “I have no means, I have no way that I could support them, that I could help them.”
After the Clinton administration’s failed attempt to assassinate Osama bin Laden in 1998, some U.S. officials alleged that bin Laden had been tipped off by someone in Pakistan to the fact that the U.S. was able to track his movements through his satellite phone. Counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council Richard Clarke said, “I have reason to believe that a retired head of the ISI was able to pass information along to Al Qaeda that the attack was coming.” And some have speculated that this “retired head of the ISI” was none other than Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul.
When I put this charge to him, General Gul pointed out to me that he had retired from the ISI on June 1, 1989, and from the army in January, 1992. “Did you share this information with the ISI?” he asked. “And why haven’t you taken the ISI to task for parting this information to its ex-head?” The U.S. had not informed the Pakistan army chief, Jehangir Karamat, of its intentions, he said. So how could he have learned of the plan to be able to warn bin Laden? “Do I have a mole in the CIA? If that is the case, then they should look into the CIA to carry out a probe, find out the mole, rather than trying to charge me. I think these are all baseless charges, and there’s no truth in it…. And if they feel that their failures are to be rubbed off on somebody else, then I think they’re the ones who are guilty, not me.”
General Gul turned our conversation to the subject of 9/11 and the war on Afghanistan. “You know, my position is very clear,” he said. “It’s a moral position that I have taken. And I say that America has launched this aggression without sufficient reasons. They haven’t even proved the case that 9/11 was done by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.” He argued that “There are many unanswered questions about 9/11,” citing examples such as the failure to intercept any of the four planes after it had become clear that they had been hijacked. He questioned how Mohammed Atta, “who had had training on a light aircraft in Miami for six months” could have maneuvered a jumbo jet “so accurately” to hit his target (Atta was reportedly the hijacker in control of American Airlines Flight 11, which was the first plane to hit its target, striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 am). And he made reference to the flight that hit the Pentagon and the maneuver its pilot had performed, dropping thousands of feet while doing a near 360 degree turn before plowing into its target. “And then, above all,” he added, “why have no heads been rolled? The FBI, the CIA, the air traffic control — why have they not been put to question, put to task?” Describing the 9/11 Commission as a “cover up”, the general added, “I think the American people have been made fools of. I have my sympathies with them. I like Americans. I like America. I appreciate them. I’ve gone there several times.”
At this point in our discussion, General Gul explained how both the U.S. and United Kingdom stopped granting him an entry visa. He said after he was banned from the U.K., “I wrote a letter to the British government, through the High Commissioner here in Islamabad, asking ‘Why do you think that — if I’m a security risk, then it is paradoxical that you should exclude me from your jurisdiction. You should rather nab me, interrogate me, haul me up, take me to the court, whatever you like. I mean, why are you excluding me from the U.K., it’s not understandable.’ I did not receive a reply to that.” He says he sent a second letter inviting the U.K. to send someone to question him in Pakistan, if they had questions about him they wanted to know. If the U.S. wants to include him on the list of international terrorists, Gul reasons, “I am still prepared to let them grant me the visa. And I will go…. If they think that there is something very seriously wrong with me, why don’t you give me the visa and catch me then?”

(more…)

The Sneaking US Occupation Of Islamabad -II-


Pakistan was reported to have expelled the head of an American NGO providing cover to Blackwater operations on Pakistani soil.  Now this deported American, Crag Davis, is back in Pakistan.  And he is not alone.  Close to 2,000 Hummers have arrived at a Pakistani port that are not destined for Afghanistan.  The world’s biggest US embassy is under construction in Islamabad.  As if this is not enough, the US embassy has hired a huge number of houses across the Pakistani capital to serve as unofficial local franchises.  Welcome to the silent American occupation of Pakistan, with the blessing of the elected Pakistani politicians and a silent Pakistani military.

*

SHIREEN M. MAZARI

*

Before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was given orders to the contrary, press reports of August 6 show that its spokesman, Mr. Basit, on August 5, at the Karachi Press Club, had already given out the fact of the 1,000 US Marines coming to Pakistan for the protection of the new, imperial US embassy in Islamabad.

Now we are seeing houses being barricaded for US personnel all across the capital and we know of the 300 plus ‘military trainers’ already ensconced in Tarbela.

In addition we have the notorious Blackwater (now hiding under a new label, Xe Worldwide) and the rather obvious CIA front-company, Creative Associates International, Inc. (CAII), operating not only in Peshawar but now in Islamabad also it transpires – and a recent reflection of this was the sealing off of the road in Super Market [a stone throw away from the houses of senior Pakistani officials] last week right in front of a school!

Whatever the US embassy gives out or the terrified Pakistani leadership echoes, the reality is that there is a questionable and increasingly threatening US armed presence in Pakistan and this may be augmented soon by an ISAF/NATO presence.  Incidentally, to add to the suspicions of the US presence, reports are coming in of around 3,000 Hummer vehicles, fully loaded, awaiting transportation from Port Qasim.

Will some of these go to the Pentagon’s assassination squads, who may take up residence in some of the barricaded Islamabad houses and with whom the present US commander in Afghanistan was directly associated? Ordinary officials at Pakistani airports have also been muttering their concerns over chartered flights flying in Americans whose entry is not recorded – even the flight crews are not checked for visas and so there is now no record-keeping of exactly how many Americans are coming into or going out of Pakistan.  Incidentally the CAII’s Craig Davis who was deported has now returned to Peshawar! And let us not be fooled by the cry that numbers reflect friendship since we know what numbers meant to Soviet satellites.

Govt. Selling Pakistan’s Agri Land To Foreigners


Now another threat, in the making for some time, is becoming more overt.  Pakistan’s precious and fertile agricultural land is up for grabs to the highest foreign bidder.  Pakistan is not alone in being targeted thus by rich countries with little or no food resources.  The UN has already condemned this purchase of agricultural land as a form of neo-colonialism.  Over the past five years in a hardly-noticed wave of investment, rich agricultural land and forests in poor countries are being snapped up by buyers from cash-rich countries.  Leading this grab of poor country resources are the rapidly industrialising states and the oil-rich countries who have, between 2006-2009, either directly through governments or through sovereign wealth funds and companies, already grabbed or are in the process of grabbing between 37 to 49 million acres of developing countries’ farmland (a July 2009 report by Robert Schubert of Food and Water Watch).

Wealthy countries like Japan and South Korea are acquiring farmlands abroad for food security while oil-rich countries are seeking cheap water and cultivated crops to be shipped home. The land buyers from the oil-rich arid countries are seeking water as much as land because by buying or leasing land with sufficient water, they can divert their own domestic irrigation water to municipal water supplies.

The foreign land purchases destabilize food security since land given to foreign investors cannot be used to produce food for local communities – the foreign investors’ intent being to take the food back to their own food-scarce countries. Many of the land purchases comprise tens of thousands of acres which are then turned into single-crop farms – and these dwarf the small-scale farms common in the developing world, where nearly nine out of ten farms (85 per cent) are less than five acres. Such land grabs have now been recognised as harming the local communities by dislodging smallholder farmers, aggravating rural poverty and food insecurity.

With Gulf countries importing 60 per cent of their food on average, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading the investments into Asia and Africa to secure supplies of cereals, meat and vegetables. The rise in demand for food imports for the GCC comes at a time when exportable agricultural surplus worldwide has declined.

How does all this impact Pakistan? Pakistan has rich agricultural land and adequate water although the latter’s distribution has been subject to political machinations. There has also been a seemingly deliberate effort by successive ruling elites to undermine the country’s agricultural potential and nowhere is this more brazenly evident than at present with power outages preventing crucial water supply through tubewells; and many rich lands being converted into housing colonies! Then we have had artificially created sugar and wheat shortages – ‘artificial’ because for the last few years our wheat and sugarcane crops have been bountiful. As for the wonderful local fruit, that is also being diverted to feed external populations through exports that are not only depriving the locals of their land’s bounty but also raising local prices so only the rich elite can consume what is left.

Now it has come out that we are selling land to the Gulf states, thereby undermining our local agriculture further.  Abraaj Capital and other UAE entities have acquired 800,000 acres of farmland in Pakistan (we have learnt no lessons from the sale of the KESC and the PTCL).  Qatar Livestock is investing $1 billion in corporate farms in Pakistan. But all this produce will be taken out, so the argument that this foreign investment will bring in new technologies into our agricultural sector does not hold. In any case, one does not have to sell one’s land to foreign forces to acquire new technology which is available in the open market and the government can help local farmers acquire it.

Not surprisingly, the Gulf countries are pleased with Pakistan’s rulers bending over backwards to accommodate their needs at the expense of the ordinary Pakistani – for none of the food produced on these lands will be available cheaply for Pakistanis; it will go to feed the Gulf populations.  Gulf countries are happy because their imported food bill will cost 20-25 per cent less, positively impacting on their present high inflation rate. We may import this food from them for a price, just as our government has now decided to import sugar from the UAE. Of course the UAE itself imports sugar so the absurdity should be abundantly clear to all, including our profiteers!

In the visibly servile mindset of our leaders, instead of offering incentives on a similar scale to local farmers, Islamabad is offering legal and tax concessions, with legislative cover, to foreign investors in the form of specialized agricultural and livestock ‘free zones’ and may also introduce legislation to exempt such investors from government-imposed tax bans. The most worrisome aspect of such wheeling-dealing is the government’s decision to develop a new security force of 100,000 men spread across the four provinces to ensure stability of the Arab investments. This will cost the Pakistani state around $2 billion in terms of training and salaries and the real fear is that this force will be used to forcibly eject local small farmers from their lands. Concerns have been further heightened because no labour laws will be applicable to corporate agricultural companies and there will be no sales tax or customs duties on import of agricultural machinery by these investors. Nor will their dividends be taxed and 100 per cent remittances of capital and profits will be permitted. So where is there even an iota of advantage for the ordinary Pakistani as opposed to the rulers?

With the US increasingly occupying Pakistan with their covert and overt armed presence, and the Gulf states taking over our rich agricultural lands our rulers are voluntarily making us a colony again – as we were under the British who used our men to fight their wars and our cheap labor to ship the finished produce back to Britain!

Have we come full circle after 62 years of our creation?

______________

This article first appeared in The News International on Aug. 26, 2009.  Dr. Mazari can be reached at callstr@hotmail.com
Source: pakalert.wordpress.com
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The Sneaking US Occupation Of Islamabad -I-


Note for WoP readers: Before you go to the main post by the noted Pakistani analyst and a political activist, Dr. Shireen M. Mazari, here is a Youtube video being put up courtesy Inforwars.com (http://www.infowars.com/madsen-on-rt-u-s-contractors-in-pakistan-are-u-s-troops-next/). The caption of the video reads:

Madsen on RT: U.S. Contractors in Pakistan. Are U.S. Troops Next?

Russia Today
September 8, 2009

Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen discusses a new recruitment process to bring private military contractors into Pakistan.
And on Wayne Madsen Report (http://www.waynemadsenreport.com/) there is a brief note on the reported expansion of the US Embassy in Islamabad. It says…..
Pakistanis charge U.S. expands security presence in Pakistan. Jang, Sep. 6 — “The expansion of the US Embassy in Islamabad, extraordinary increase in the mysterious activities of the US officers, and the movement of vehicles without number plates on the roads of Islamabad, have caused concern to the patriotic Pakistanis . . .
Gen (ret) Aslam Beg said: “The establishment of a military cantonment in the name of expansion of the US Embassy is a big blow to the national sovereignty. Everybody knows that the foreign embassies are used for espionage purposes and they also buy loyalty of people. . . one should think as to why the military cantonment is being set up 500 m. away from the President’s House and Prime Minister’s House in the name of the expansion of the US Embassy.
It will be a big US spy center and its marines and the FBI will also be stationed there, while the Blackwater assassins will carry out such activities as the assassins of Hassan Bin Sabah.” URL n/a.

Contd….

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