Eyeball to Eyeball in Quetta –Will Obama cross Pakistan’s red line?

If the US went ahead with its plan to launch drone strikes in Quetta, that would be ‘the end of the road’ in the fight against extremist groups,’ said a senior Pakistani official.—File photo
[Note for WoP readers: A fellow blogger Moin Ansari of Pakistanledger.com in a recent post sums up the events as they unfold before us these days.
The mainstream media in the west is nowadays full of stories about Pakistan. This country, we are told is under the grip of Taliban extremists and, therefore, the democracy, the country and the whole state of Pakistan is going to crumble at the feet of these religious zealots. The scenario built portrays Pakistan in such a case will go into the hands of fanatics, and so will its nuclear arsenal and these fanatics can play with the lives of the whole human race. This propaganda is being woven with such a finesse that the majority of the western populations, who otherwise too do not get much time to seriously ponder over real situation, a situation which could enable them sift facts from falsehoods and thus become a prey to such propaganda in a perfect way.
A blogger from America (An average American patriot) has also expressed similar views. So are the views also of readers of that blog. I wrote to that blogger and reproduce here my comments: “When you guys in the west, start ringing alarm bells on Pakistani nukes (falling into the hands of the so called Taliban) we in Pakistan, do not take such bells as a mere ‘alarm’ but something still worse. However, this worse has a more probability to come from our friends in the west than these homegrown renegades.
We have on record the US Secretary of State saying one day, that she foresees a real danger of Pakistani nukes falling into the hands of Taliban, but after a few days same SOS ensures the people in the US as well as in Pakistan that Pakistan is fully capable to safeguard its nuclear sites from the Taliban. This is something which puts the US role in this whole affair of nukes into certain amount of doubt.
We very well know, rather we do more than the people in the west, that nukes are no playthings which by a mere run of a gun could be looted upon by some renegades, be they the Taliban (whatever hue and color they may have) or somebody else. There is almost a foolproof system of command and control. As I already said, we in Pakistan know the terribly destructive nature of such devices more than anybody else, because being a relatively small country we cannot afford destruction either on our own soil or somewhere else. Then what is happening in Pakistan is a good amount of lesson for us too.
The extremism whether promoted by foreign powers or by inside forces, is no way acceptable to the people of this land. By and large this land called Pakistan has been more open to different beliefs, different ethnicities and different politico religious philosophies. Three major religions in the subcontinent took roots in this part of the subcontinent because people were more open to newer ideas, newer beliefs.
We are very confident and going along the psyche of our people, the resilience during different ups and down of our history is an ample proof to justify this confidence, that by the grace of Almighty Allah we will be able to defend ourselves from the scourge of neo-imperialism, religious fanaticism and the renegatories prevailing nowadays in this land. .
Unfortunately the religious extremism that we see now in Pakistan is a product of Mullahism which had a state protection during ex dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s period and which had then the full blessings of US administrations in those days. However, this got exacerbated as an outfall of the Afghan war. Prior to Sep. 2001 not a single Mullah could dare order a suicide attack. As a matter of fact the people in Pakistan had heard of the suicide attacks only from places like the Middle East and Sri Lanka, never could such a thing happen in Pakistan then. The war in Afghanistan after 9/11 tragedy spilled over the zealots fighting against the former infidels of Soviet Union who infiltrated into the Pakistani borderlands, causing a havoc to our daily life, particularly in the northern part of this country.
We in Pakistan are of a firm opinion that once the US and NATO forces leave Afghanistan, the so called Taliban will have neither the ground nor the zeal to continue fighting against the state and people of Pakistan.
As far the nukes, we do believe come what may, these will remain intact until and unless US, Russia or China involve themselves in taking a control of Pak nukes on whatever pretext they may do so. Such a possibility, howsoever remote, will put so many questions the answers to which are hardly to be found at present.
As far the hoax that Mullah Omer is in Quetta, this and similar lies are spread every now and then. The idea behind the whole exercise is to practically demonstrate once again “that Pakistan is not doing enough to nab the enemies of America, which now are being termed as enemies of Pakistan as well. Unfortunately certain factions of the so called Taliban too have subscribed to this disinformation and thus have further aggravated the situation. It is something which strengthens the U.S. propaganda mill.
In spite of all these factors, however, we do believe: once the peace in Afghanistan is restored, there will be gradually peace in Pakistan as well. But seeing the things from the angle of the Great Game players, there seems to be hardly a chance that US will vacate Afghanistan, until and unless the Obama administration can see how the Afghan war will ultimately increase the body bags from the war front called Afghanistan. This is an aspect which my friend Fred Reed beautifully depicted in an earlier post titled “Killing America’s kids”. Nayyar]

Eyeball to Eyeball in Quetta

Will Obama cross Pakistan’s red line?


by Moin Ansari

Facing a defeat in Afghanistan and an imminent takeover of Kabul by the Taliban, U.S. is dispatching 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. They will reach Kabul early next year. To hedge its bets, the U.S. is pressuring Pakistan to take action against the so called Quetta Shura. While most news reports say Mr. Obama is leaning against strikes into Pakistan, Mr. Anwar Iqbal’s sensational reporting in the Dawn once again paints the picture of Armageddon. This is not the first effort by  Anwar Iqbal to selectively use the American wording and portray a dark picture for Pakistan and Pakistanis.
Mr. Obama is regurgitating his campaign promises of taking out Al-Qeada leaders. However, this time around he has expanded now to include the “Taliban” also in his policy on Afghan-Pakistan situation. His commanders, Admiral Mike Mullen and General Patraeus have already publicly proclaimed that Mr. Haqqani and Hikmatyar and even Mullah Omar are in Quetta. This repetition of a campaign promise is more of response to a specific question – not an enunciation of a new policy. Hounded by US journalists who are ready to pounce on the president for broken campaign promises – what else is a US president supposed to say? Certainly he cannot say that if the actionable intelligence is available, he would not attack America’s enemies.
Is then a US drone attack on Quetta imminent? Can the US attack the civilian population of a city of 800,000 with absolute impunity? Or is this just an empty threat coming from the frustrated Commander in Chief of an army that has lost 80% of the territory of Afghanistan?

1. ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Demands by the United States for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats. [New York Times]
2. Mr. Obama made the statement when he was reminded that for almost a year, officials in his administration had been saying that the Taliban leadership was now somewhere in Quetta and yet he was reluctant to call in drones to target those leaders. ‘Well I don’t want to comment on certain sensitive aspects to our efforts in this border region. I think it is fair to say, number one, that my principle – and I articulated this in the campaign – is – if we’ve got actual war intelligence on high-ranking Al Qaeda leaders, or for that matter high-ranking Taliban leaders who are directing actions against US troops –then we will take action. [Dawn]
3. NEW YORK: A senior Pakistani official told Los Angeles Times if the US went ahead with its plan to launch drone strikes in Quetta then it would be ‘the end of the road’ for the US-Pakistan cooperation in the fight against extremist groups. [Dawn]
Pakistan is a nuclear armed nation. The US is a superpower with vast resources at its disposal. However Obama has been unable to quell the violence in Afghanistan, and has pushed the war into Pakistan. Not a day goes by when there is not an explosion in Pakistan. The Obama frustration at the incompetence of his Generals is viscerally visible in his bluster towards Pakistan.
America cannot win the war in Afghanistan without Pakistan. The US cannot end the war in Afghanistan by starting one in Pakistan. The US media frenzy seems to indicate that by jettisoning a dozen people out of Quetta, the Afghan war will come to a swift end. Nothing could be farther than the truth. The elimination of Laden, Haqqani, Hikmatyar, even if they were present in Quetta would not make any difference in Afghanistan. The 38 insurgent groups who are fighting the occupation are a loose confederation of autonomous bands. Eliminating some of the named leaders accomplishes nothing, except win a propaganda war for Mr. Obama.
The US is bent upon increasing pressure on Pakistan and raising the stakes. The strategy is of course reminiscent of Richard Armitage’s threat to Pervez Musharraf of bombing Pakistan back to the stone ages. Of course that was not the first threat to Pakistan. Henry Kissinger threatened Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with a dire consequence if he continued to pursue a nuclear program, which is why many in Pakistan believe that his judicial hanging was an American orchestration, and most Zia-ul-Haq fans in Pakistan including his son Ejaz-ul-Haq, too blame the US for “case of the exploding mangos” which killed President Zia-ul-Haq in a plane explosion.

SO, IS THE US EXPEDITING AN IRANIAN TYPE ANTI-US REVOLUTION IN PAKISTAN?

In the 1980’s the US presence in Iran was ubiquitous. It was micro-managing all of Iran but the people there rejected that interference and installed a theocracy eliminating all American influences. Today Pakistan too is being ruled by a US compliant government, a government that has no credibility with the people. The daily drone bombing in FATA is creating terror, which is being exacerbated by Indian interference in Pakistan. To see through the crystal ball, we are presenting three stories, one from the LA Times, the other from Pakistani daily Dawn and the third one from The New York Times.
NEW YORK: A senior Pakistani official told Los Angeles Times if the US went ahead with its plan to launch drone strikes in Quetta then it would be ‘the end of the road’ for the US-Pakistan cooperation in the fight against extremist groups.
‘We are not a banana republic,’ said the official involved in discussions on security issues with the Obama administration. The official bristled at the suggestion that Pakistan had been reluctant to target militants in Quetta, saying US assertions about the city’s role as a sanctuary had been exaggerated. ‘We keep hearing that there is a shadow government in Quetta, but we have never been given actionable intelligence.
Pakistan is prepared to pursue Taliban leaders, including Omar, even when the intelligence is imprecise,’ he said. ‘Even if a compound 1km by 1km is identified, we will go and find him.’ But, he added, ‘for the past two years we haven’t heard anything more.’ [Pak cautions US against Quetta strikes by Masood Haider Tuesday, 15 Dec, 2009]
US President has warned that the US would launch strikes inside Pakistan if it had actionable intelligence about the presence of top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in a particular area. — Photo by Reuters
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has warned that the United States would launch strikes inside Pakistan if it had actionable intelligence about the presence of top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in a particular area.
His statement – included in the transcript of an interview released on Monday – contradicts earlier US media reports that President Obama opposed drone attacks at suspected Taliban targets in and around Quetta.
Obama made the statement when he was reminded that for almost a year officials in his administration had been saying that the Taliban leadership was now somewhere in Quetta and yet he was reluctant to call in drones to target those leaders.
‘Well I don’t want to comment on certain sensitive aspects to our efforts in this border region. I think it is fair to say, number one, that my principle – and I articulated this in the campaign – is if we’ve got actual war intelligence on high-ranking Al Qaeda leaders, or for that matter high-ranking Taliban leaders who are directing actions against US troops – then we will take action,’ Mr. Obama told CBS’s Steve Kroft. ’Now, a lot of this border region is big and complicated. And even a city like Quetta is a big city. And, you know, we have to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan as we engage in potential actions that would involve going into a major metropolitan area with a lot of civilians around it. We expect Pakistan to cooperate more effectively in the future than they have in the past,’ he added.
Obama further pointed out that the US would like Pakistan to recognise the degree to which the presence of such elements inside its borders threatened its own stability. ‘This isn’t America’s war. This isn’t the West’s war. This is a situation in which you’ve got a very dangerous, extremist network that is growing, and right now is killing more Pakistanis than anybody else,’ he said.
The Pakistani public and the military were both turning against the militants and it grew with the threat. ‘But it takes some time to operationalise, and our hope is that we see progress over the next couple of years,’ he added.
‘Do you believe the Pakistanis have any appetite for going into Quetta and finding Mullah Omar?’ he was asked.
‘I think that the Pakistanis recognise that these networks are killing Pakistanis a lot more than they’re killing Americans right now, and that it’s in their interest to start moving in a new direction. How fast they do that in part is gonna depend on how effectively we can partner with them,’ said the president.
Meanwhile, the Newsweek reported on Monday that President Obama had ‘nixed the expansion’ of drone strikes to Quetta.
‘Five administration officials tell Newsweek that the president has sided with political and diplomatic advisers who argue that widening the scope of the drone attacks would be risky and unwise,’ the report said.
‘Mr. Obama is concerned that firing missiles into urban areas like Quetta, where intelligence reports suggest that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and other high-level militants have sometimes taken shelter, would greatly increase the risk of civilian casualties.’
But the Los Angeles Times reported that the Obama administration was leaning towards expanding the drone war to places like Quetta.
‘The concern has created tension among Obama administration officials over whether unmanned aircraft strikes in a city of 850,000 are a realistic option,’ the newspaper noted. ‘Proponents, including some military leaders, argue that attacking the Taliban in Quetta — or at least threatening to do so — is crucial to the success of the revised war strategy President Obama unveiled last week.’
A senior US official involved in the deliberations told LAT that it’s all about sending a message to the Taliban. ‘What the Pakistanis have to do is tell the Taliban that there is too much pressure from the US,’ the officials said. ‘We can’t allow you to have sanctuary inside Pakistan anymore.’
In his interview to CBS, Obama also said that ever since occupying the White House, his administration had been trying to convince Pakistan that it was terrorism and not India which posed a threat to the country and thus impressing upon Islamabad to shift more troops from its eastern border with India to its western front.
‘We have had very detailed and serious conversations with the Pakistani government and the Pakistan military about the fact that their traditional orientation, which has been to compete with India, has now been overtaken by extremists within their own midst that are exploding bombs with impunity throughout Pakistan,’ he said. Obama refuses to rule out drone attacks in Quetta [by Anwar Iqbal, Tuesday, 15 Dec, 2009].
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Demands by  United States for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats.
The Obama administration wants Pakistan to turn on Mr. Haqqani, a longtime asset of Pakistan’s spy agency who uses the tribal area of North Waziristan as his sanctuary. But, the officials said, Pakistan views the entreaties as contrary to its interests in Afghanistan beyond the timetable of President Obama’s surge, which envisions reducing American forces beginning in mid-2011.
The demands, first made by senior American officials before President Obama’s Afghanistan speech and repeated many times since, were renewed in a written message delivered in recent days by the United States Embassy to the head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, according to American officials. Gen. David H. Petraeus followed up on Monday during a visit to Islamabad.
The demands have been accompanied by strong suggestions that if the Pakistanis cannot take care of the problem, including dismantling the Taliban leadership based in Quetta, Pakistan, then the Americans will by resorting to broader and more frequent drone strikes in Pakistan.
But the Pakistani leadership has greeted the refrain with public silence and private anger, according to Pakistani officials and diplomats familiar with the conversations, illustrating the widening gulf between the allies over the Afghan war.
Former Pakistani military officers voice irritation with the Americans daily, on television, which is part of a mounting grievance in Pakistan that the country’s alliance with the United States is too costly to bear.
“It is really beginning to irk and anger us,” said a security official familiar with the deliberations at the senior levels of the Pakistani leadership.
The core reason for Pakistan’s imperviousness is its scant faith in the Obama troop surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave.
It considers Mr. Haqqani and his control of large areas of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran against one another in the post-American Afghan arena, the Pakistani officials said.
Pakistan is particularly eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan. “If America walks away, Pakistan is very worried that it will have India on its eastern border and India on its western border in Afghanistan,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is pro-American in his views.
For that reason, Mr. Fatemi said, the Pakistani Army is “very reluctant” to jettison Mr. Haqqani, Pakistan’s strong card in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Pakistanis do not want to alienate Mr. Haqqani because they consider him an important player in reconciliation efforts that they would like to see get under way in Afghanistan immediately, the officials said.
Because Mr. Haqqani shelters Qaeda leaders and operatives in North Waziristan, Washington is opposed to including Mr. Haqqani among the possible reconcilable Taliban, at least for the moment, a Western diplomat said.
In his reply to the Americans, General Kayani stressed a short-term argument, according to two Pakistani officials familiar with the response.
Pakistan currently has its hands full fighting the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan and other places, and it is beyond its capacity to open another front against the Afghan Taliban, the officials said of General Kayani’s response. The offensive has had the secondary effect of constraining the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and driving some of its commanders and fighters across the border to Afghanistan, senior American military officials in Afghanistan said.
But implicit in General Kayani’s reply was the fact that the homegrown Pakistani Taliban represent the real threat to Pakistan. General Kayani argued that they are the ones carrying out attacks against security installations and civilian markets in Pakistan’s cities and must be the army’s top priority, the officials said.
For his part, Mr. Haqqani fights in Afghanistan, and is considered more of an asset than a threat by the Pakistanis. But he is the most potent force fighting the United States, American and Pakistani officials agree.
He has sub commanders threaded throughout eastern and southern Afghanistan. His fighters control Paktika, Paktia and Khost Provinces in Afghanistan, which lie close to North Waziristan. His men are also strong in Ghazni, Logar and Wardak Provinces, the officials said.
Because Mr. Haqqani now spends so much time in Afghanistan — about three weeks of every month, according to a Pakistani security official — if the Americans want to eliminate him, their troops should have ample opportunity to capture him, Pakistani security officials argue.
As a son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a leading mujahedeen fighter against the Soviets who is now aged and apparently confined to bed, Siraj Haqqani is keeper of a formidable lineage and history.
In the early 1970s, the father attended a well-known madrassa, Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqaniya in the Pakistani town of Akora Khattack in North-West Frontier Province.
In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani received money and arms from the C.I.A. routed through Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, to fight the Soviets, according to Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Afghan Taliban and the author of “Descent Into Chaos.”
In the 1990s, when the Taliban ran Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani served as governor of Paktia Province.
The relationship between the Haqqanis and Osama bin Laden dates back to the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, according to Kamran Bokhari, the South Asia director for Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.
When the Taliban government collapsed at the end of 2001 and Qaeda operatives fled from Tora Bora to Pakistan, the Haqqanis relocated their command structure to North Waziristan and welcomed Al Qaeda, Mr. Bokhari said.
The biggest gift of the Pakistanis to the Haqqanis was the use of North Waziristan as their fief, he said.
The Pakistani Army did not appear to be assisting the Haqqanis with training or equipment, he said. More than 20 members of the Haqqani family were killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan last year, showing the limits of how far the Pakistanis could protect them, Mr. Bokhari said.
Today, Siraj Haqqani has anywhere from 4,000 to 12,000 Taliban under his command. He is technically a member of the Afghan Taliban leadership based in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province.
Though Mullah Omar heads the Taliban, Mr. Haqqani operates fairly independently of him inside Afghanistan.
He finances his operations in part through kidnappings and other illicit activities. The Haqqani network held David Rohde, a correspondent for The New York Times, for seven months, seeking ransom until he escaped in June.
Siraj Haqqani maintains an uneasy relationship with the Pakistani Taliban, said Maulana Yousaf Shah, the administrator of the madrassa at Akora Khattack.
Mr. Haqqani believed that the chief jihadi objective should be forcing the foreigners out of Afghanistan, and had tried but failed to redirect the Pakistani Taliban to fight in Afghanistan as well, he said.
Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan; Pir Zubair Shah from Islamabad; and Eric Schmitt from Kabul, Afghanistan. New York Times. December 15, 2009 Rebuffing U.S., Pakistan Balks at Crackdown By JANE PERLEZ
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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