Friday, March 30, 2012

Dear World | Portraits of Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, everyone has a story to tell. Stories about family, friends and hopes for a future with peace and security. Yet most go untold.

Grace Chung has a beautiful album of 97 portraits from Afghanistan. Sadly, for too many, these images are part of Afghanistan’s untold story.

Click here to see the album.

Dear World is an on-line project to unite people through pictures. Regardless of race, religion or language. It began as a simple idea. Photograph the love notes to New Orleans after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. It has become so much more.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Daughters of Afghanistan: Literary Voices of Change

Every one calls you to his own / I call you only to yourself --Rumi

"Classical Persian verse constantly evokes Afghanistan and its glorious history. Poets such as Rumi (from Balkh), Sanai (from Ghazni), and Jami (from Ghor) are still celebrated today. In the province of Balkh alone, there are several literary groups that serve poets and poetry enthusiasts alike, including the Partow Cultural Foundation, the Poets and Writers Organization of Balkh, and the Parwaz Literary Association. Zuzanna Olszewska, a translator of contemporary Afghan verse, writes that "poetry composition and recitation has been and continues to be the most highly prized and widely practiced art form among Afghans of all walks of life, both literate and illiterate." Honoring and emulating the traditions of their culture, young Afghans are establishing their own distinct voices.

Contemporary Afghan poetry reflects the country's sociopolitical circumstances. It echoes the anxieties and realities of a postwar society and the ambitions and aspirations of a generation that attempts to follow the world in the midst of a long, violent struggle colored by religious fanaticism and foreign occupation. Verse after verse, the quest for human dignity and long-enduring peace is heartfelt...."

Link to site

Tag: Poetry, Afghan voices

Why Pakistan Matters | Zia Mian & Sharon K. Weiner

"American policymakers and their advisers are struggling with the question of Pakistan. The last ten years have produced a host of policy reviews, study group reports, congressional hearings and a few academic and more popular books, with more expected as the 2014 deadline for the end of US major combat operations in Afghanistan nears. Much of this literature sees Pakistan as a policy problem and seeks to inform Washington’s debate on how to get Pakistan to do what the United States wants it to do. The literature also reveals the limits of American knowledge and power when it comes to Pakistan." - Zia Mian & Sharon K. Weiner

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production.

America's Pakistan
by Zia Mian , Sharon K. Weiner | March 2012

David Ignatius, Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage (W. W. Norton, 2011).
Anatol Lieven, Pakistan: A Hard Country (Public Affairs, 2011).
Philip Oldenburg, India, Pakistan and Democracy (Routledge, 2010).
Bruce Riedel, Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad (Brookings, 2011).
Howard B. Schaffer and Teresita C. Schaffer, How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States (US Institute of Peace, 2011).

American policymakers and their advisers are struggling with the question of Pakistan. The last ten years have produced a host of policy reviews, study group reports, congressional hearings and a few academic and more popular books, with more expected as the 2014 deadline for the end of US major combat operations in Afghanistan nears. Much of this literature sees Pakistan as a policy problem and seeks to inform Washington’s debate on how to get Pakistan to do what the United States wants it to do. The literature also reveals the limits of American knowledge and power when it comes to Pakistan.

The welter of new material reveals a profound confusion in Washington about Pakistan as a state and society. “Much about Pakistani behavior remains a mystery,” claims Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who has been advising American presidents about Pakistan since 1991 from a series of posts in the National Security Council and the Defense Department. He is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. His book Deadly Embrace offers a detailed participant’s view from the vantage point of policymaking on Pakistan over the past two decades. Riedel says, “Pakistan’s complex behavior and motives are certainly difficult for outsiders -- including US presidents -- to grasp.” As a result, “Pakistan can be frustrating.”

The confusion and frustration are not new: US experts have struggled to understand Pakistan since it became a state in 1947. US policymakers have an almost equally long history of trying to induce Pakistan to fit into their plans. [1] For America, from 1954 to 1969, Pakistan first figured as a possible ally in defense of Middle East oil, then as a staging ground for eavesdropping on the Soviets. Later, from 1979 to 1989, Pakistan was the means of safely managing a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After 2001, Pakistan was to be a comrade in arms, albeit press-ganged, against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In none of these cases, however, have things gone as planned for the United States.

Pakistan clearly has been pursuing its own interests. In the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistan used American support to arm itself for war with India. In the 1980s, under cover of the Afghan war, Pakistan developed nuclear weapons, in contravention of US wishes. Since 2002, Pakistan has diverted direct US military aid and equipment intended for Pakistani counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan to prepare for the next war against India. Pakistan also has been rapidly increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal. Finally, Pakistan’s government continues its support for radical Islamists, evident lately in the mass rallies being organized in major cities by the Difa-e Pakistan (Defense of Pakistan) Council, which brings together 40 Islamist groups and political parties including the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa -- the former Lashkar-e Taiba. This last group was established to fight in Kashmir and was behind the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai.

All of this double-dealing could have been expected. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who had seized power in a coup in 1999, addressed the Pakistani nation and explained that the country faced a critical choice: Support the United States in the imminent war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan or suffer the consequences. He explained, “We have to save our interests. Pakistan comes first; everything else is secondary.” Musharraf said, “Our critical concerns are our sovereignty; second, our economy; third, our strategic assets (nuclear and missiles); and fourth, our Kashmir cause.” It was to defend these interests that Pakistan gave its support to the United States and distanced itself from its Taliban allies.

Terrorism and Trust

For America’s current relationship with Pakistan, the most important issues are the war in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism. The US concern today is the efforts of the Taliban to shake off the American-led occupation, destabilize the government of Hamid Karzai and restore their own authority. A resurgent Taliban could give more secure refuge to al-Qaeda or other extremists, creating a safe haven from which such groups could plot new attacks on the US homeland, or against troops and civilians abroad. Although many analysts remain worried about the al-Qaeda-Taliban connection, questions have been raised about whether years of running and hiding, frequent drone strikes and the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 have ended al-Qaeda’s days as a viable transnational terrorist group.

Despite an estimated $22 billion in US military and economic assistance, Pakistan has choked the delivery of military supplies to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Further, and in defiance of constant US pressure, the Pakistani army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has persisted in supporting, training, financing and manipulating some of the Afghan Taliban groups the United States is fighting. It is a long-standing relationship that goes back to the early 1990s, according to Riedel, when “soon after the movement’s founding, Islamabad, including the ISI and the Ministry of the Interior, began to give it significant support...[including] critical oil supplies...and crucial military advice and assistance.” The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, had received ISI training in the 1980s as part of the mobilization of Afghan mujahideen to battle the Soviets then occupying their country.

The ISI is also responsible for introducing the Taliban leadership to Osama bin Laden. These links came into public view in 1998, when President Bill Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes upon bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan -- a camp built by Pakistani contactors and funded by the ISI, according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The casualties included ISI officers who were training Islamist militants for the war in Kashmir. Retired Gen. Ziauddin Khawaja, an ex-head of ISI, has even claimed that Pervez Musharraf, who held the positions of chief of army staff and president from 1999 to 2008, knew that Pakistani intelligence had sheltered bin Laden before the US raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. [2]

Despite this history, the United States has been forced to rely on a deeply distrusted Pakistani army and ISI to pursue its war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The layer upon layer of suspicion and contrivance involved in this pas de deux are vividly captured in Bloodmoney, the compelling spy novel written by influential Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. It is a tale of kinship, revenge and remorse, replete with drone attacks that kill terrorists and innocents in FATA, off-the-books, plausibly deniable covert operations, and cold-hearted CIA and ISI agents who both cooperate and compete.

A fascinating figure in the story is the hyper-nationalist ISI chief. This character bears a striking similarity to Gen. Shuja Pasha, who stepped down as head of the ISI in 2012. Ignatius describes his fictional spymaster as someone who, like many young army officers of his generation, received training in the United States. Although he disliked the United States, he pretended otherwise; he “knew how to sham, in the way that is an art form for the people of South Asia.” The ISI chief is “a professional liar,” but one who believes “a man’s honor is his most precious possession.” In this cloak-and-dagger world, the ISI boss is aiding the CIA all the while seeking out Pakistanis who were “opening to American eyes the family secrets of Pakistan.” These were traitors, “dung beetles...burrowing into the shit of the motherland and then scurrying away to the West.” In these machinations, Ignatius observes, “To say that the Pakistani was playing a double game did not do him justice; his strategy was far more complicated than that.”

A real-life example of the intrigue that Ignatius describes is the case of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who killed two people in the Pakistani city of Lahore in January 2011, with a third bystander run down by the car sent from the US consulate to aid him. The ISI believed Davis was running his own intelligence operation without Pakistan’s knowledge or approval. The response was outrage in Pakistan, which the ISI then used to gain additional leverage over the scale and scope of American intelligence activities in Pakistan.

As Ignatius recognizes, and Pakistan never tires of repeating, America had a hand in creating this relationship. For six decades, American funding and trust have been vested overwhelmingly in Pakistan’s army and, since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the ISI has been a cheap if not dependable ally. The ISI has taken American training, money and weapons, and been more or less willing to initiate other actors into the black arts to aid the pursuit of US interests, in the process saving American lives and affording Washington some measure of deniability about its involvement.

But the ISI’s help has come at a price: It has also used its resources and influence in quests for Pakistani security goals that are often at odds with American interests. For example, in September 2011 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed that the Haqqani network, a Taliban group based in FATA that carries out attacks across the border in Afghanistan, including the late 2011 bombings of a US base and the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.” [3]

Ignatius’ story follows this narrative except for one crucial difference. Although both Pakistan and the United States are hard-core realists vying for control and influence in South Asia, US interests are short-term and revolve around terrorism. Pakistan, in contrast, is worried about state survival and security against India. As a consequence, the United States and Pakistan have the basis for a temporary alliance, but the United States should expect Pakistan to siphon resources and will away from the fight against the Taliban toward its project of securing a predominant position in Afghanistan. Pakistan also seeks to limit growing Indian influence there, and to renew the six-decade-old fight over Kashmir.

What is often missing from discussions about terrorism is the Pakistan Taliban, which has launched an insurgency in FATA, the area where al-Qaeda and some Afghan Taliban groups found sanctuary after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The Pakistan Taliban (Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan) is a network of mostly Pashtun Islamist militant groups, formed in 2007, that wages war against the Pakistani government with the goal of creating a fundamentalist Islamic state. Taliban gains in Afghanistan would bolster the hopes of the Pakistan Taliban that they can prevail against a deeply divided army and notoriously weak administration in Islamabad. From cross-border hideouts in Afghanistan, the Pakistan Taliban might carry out a drawn-out campaign of their own.

The American Relationship with Pakistan

Yet all of America’s fears converge in one way or another on the prospect of Pakistan falling into the hands of extremist Islamists. This event would lead to instability, and the dreadful possibilities of Pakistan splintering or nuclear weapons coming under the control of terrorists who might target the United States or attack India, plunging the region into war. In Bloodmoney, David Ignatius has the US president’s chief of staff describe Pakistan as “two hundred million pissed-off people, plus nuclear weapons. Scary shit.”

On the Pakistani side, there is widespread anti-Americanism. Many Pakistanis now believe the United States is the hidden hand behind many of the problems that plague their country. A June 2011 Pew poll found that 75 percent of Pakistanis held an unfavorable view of the United States; 70 percent believed the US is an enemy rather than a friend; and 70 percent saw the US as a possible military threat to Pakistan. The November 2011 cross-border attack on a Pakistani military outpost by US and NATO forces, killing 23 soldiers and wounding 13 others, seemed to confirm these fears. It led Pakistan to shut down the conduit for NATO supplies into Afghanistan and end US access to the Shamsi air base, used for CIA drone operations. Some of these restrictions may be easing, but the prospects look grim for the US-Pakistani relationship.

As Bruce Riedel describes it, the US alliance with Pakistan has always been turbulent and destructive: “For the past 60 years, American policy toward Pakistan has oscillated wildly.... In the love-fest years, Washington would build secret relationships (which gave rise to the U2 base in Peshawar and the mujahideen war in the 1980s) and throw billions of dollars at Pakistan with little or no accountability. In the scorned years, Pakistan would be demarched to death, and Washington would cut off military and economic aid. Both approaches failed dismally. Throughout the relationship, America endorsed every Pakistani dictator, despite the fact that they started wars with India and moved their country ever deeper into the jihadist fold.”

The “love-fest” years and the “scorned” years were not a matter of whim, however. In general, when Pakistan was useful as a military ally, the United States has tended to ignore issues related to domestic politics, Pakistan’s relationship with India or nuclear proliferation. During periods without an overwhelming security interest involving Pakistan, the United States has tended to distance itself and bring half-hearted pressure on the country to democratize, make peace with India and forgo nuclear weapons. Throughout these years, leaders and ordinary people in Pakistan knew what was going on and had their own agendas.

One reason why US approaches to Pakistan have crashed and burned so often is that the modern US foreign policy tradition, born out of six decades of superpower status, has an expectation of how easy or hard it should be to elicit the acquiescence of other states. Howard Schaffer and Teresita Schaffer, a husband-and-wife team with long experience in the US Foreign Service, including in Pakistan, explore the US-Pakistani diplomatic relation in How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States. The Schaffers argue that Pakistan seeks to keep America engaged on issues that matter to Pakistan as a means of gaining additional influence both in the region and on topics where US interests diverge from those of Pakistan. Where to exercise this leverage is determined both by what the United States wants and by domestic politics in Pakistan.

In this effort, the Schaffers argue, senior Pakistani officials raised in a very hierarchical society resort to cultural practices of dependency and patronage. Pakistan plays up its weakness and vulnerability to elicit expressions of obligation from a United States that sees itself as powerful and responsible. While playing this role, however, Pakistanis know power can be fickle and have sought to exploit American interests: “Since 9/11 and on previous occasions as well, Pakistan has based its approach to the United States on two assumptions: that Pakistan is vulnerable and that the United States needs Pakistan more than the other way round.” Being played in this way by Pakistan is manageable for the time being, propose the Schaffers, but trouble may come “if Pakistan continues on the democratic path...[where] a resentful public opinion...may place greater limits on what the United States and Pakistan can do together.”

Pakistani weakness and American power dominate Anatol Lieven’s sprawling Pakistan: A Hard Country. For Lieven, a former reporter for the Times of London who spent time at various Washington think tanks and is now a professor in the War Studies Department at Kings College, London, “Pakistan is divided, disorganized, economically backward, corrupt, violent, unjust, often savagely oppressive toward the poor and women, and home to extremely dangerous forms of extremism and terrorism.” It is kept afloat by “islands of successful modernity and of excellent administration...a few impressive modern industries...some fine motorways; a university in Lahore...a powerful, well-trained and well-disciplined army...[and] a number of efficient, honest and devoted public servants.” Above all, though, Pakistan is dominated by kinship, which Lieven claims is “central to the weakness of the Pakistani state, but also to its stability.”

A reliance on the explanatory power of kinship, largely seen as a fixed and uncontested category, leads Lieven to portray Pakistan as a place of tradition, continuity and old social forms, but to miss what is changing and being fought over. [4] At times, Lieven sounds like a British officer trying to parse the peculiar ways of the natives. This impression is strengthened by his repeated citation of nineteenth-century colonial commentaries on South Asian and Muslim notions of honor, loyalty, honesty, the virtues of Islamic law, the role of saints, the withering away of old feudal families, Pashtun leadership and culture, Sindhi architecture and Baloch tribal structure, to give only some examples. The dilemmas of this backward-looking gaze are most striking in his discussion of the Pakistan Taliban, where he resorts to observations on tribal rebellion offered by the last British governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, Olaf Caroe.

When the tribal kinship and tradition explanation falters, to his credit, Lieven concludes that “while certain Pathan cultural and ideological traditions have continued little changed, Pathan society has in some respects changed quite radically.” One wonders why, for Lieven, the rest of Pakistan is assumed not to have changed just as radically.

According to Lieven, Pakistan is a weak state because it has no enduring basis for a national identity and no political processes that can transcend kinship. Even the Pakistani army, otherwise lauded as modern, is described as a clan. Pakistan’s weakness vis-à-vis the United States leads Lieven to evince concern for Pakistan’s wellbeing and to call for US restraint and consideration. Western strategy, he says, “should include recognition, at least in private, that it has above all been the US-led campaign in Afghanistan which has been responsible for increasing Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan since 2001.” The worst thing the United States could do is send troops into FATA to fight the Taliban, thus challenging Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Bruce Riedel, on the other hand, tends to see Pakistan as a capable state that can articulate its foreign policy preferences; the simple fact is that these preferences are at odds with those of the United States. Moreover, he says, “Pakistanis and Americans have entirely different narratives about their bilateral relationship. Pakistan speaks of America’s continual betrayal, of America promising much and delivering little. America finds Pakistan duplicitous, saying one thing and doing another…. These attitudes will not change overnight, or even in a few years. They are the legacy of America’s ties with Pakistan.”

Riedel and others in Washington believe that in time Pakistan will come around. They see the answer in American programs to sponsor democracy and development. Such was the premise of the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package that will end in 2014. The bill suggested the possibility of a second aid tranche of $7.5 billion to run from 2015 to 2019. The hope is that this extended assistance will buy lasting friendships for Washington in Pakistan and facilitate the convergence of interests. In particular, the two countries share the goal of avoiding nuclear confrontation in South Asia. This logic, however, assumes that Pakistan will eventually come to see the error of its ways and embrace US interests, rather than continue to have its own ideas about what it wants. The United States and a more democratic Pakistan may still have irreconcilable differences.

Pakistan’s Troubles

It is a truism that the development of democracy in Pakistan has been hindered by the power of the military. Washington treats the army’s anti-democratic propensities as an unfortunate, if at times useful, fact of life. It has been less concerned about understanding why it has come to pass. This gap is filled by Philip Oldenburg in his very thoughtful study India, Pakistan and Democracy.

Oldenburg argues that geographic and political realities at the time of the partition of British India in 1947 resulted in Pakistan being created without the grassroots political organizing that accompanied independence in India. This history underlies the subsequent failure of democratic institutions, especially mass-based political parties. Pakistan, Oldenburg says, lacks “a political society with a thick layer of institutions and leaders who have forged their identities and capacities in some sort of struggle for democracy, and have then been able to maintain and develop the citizen-politician link, typically through a vigorous party system, once the democracy begins to function.” Critically, he suggests, “Politicians with that base of legitimacy can win the critical battles for authority with the state apparatus, in its bureaucratic and military form.” According to Oldenburg, civilians have been in complete control for only two periods of time: from 1947 through 1958 (for almost half of this time the civilians in control were actually bureaucrats rather than politicians), and from 1972 through 1977 under the authoritarian rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. For the rest of Pakistan’s history, the military has been directly or indirectly in control of the country.

The army has seized power on three occasions, ruling for about a decade after each coup. At other times, it has actively manipulated the political process by supporting right-wing and religious extremist groups to help build pro-military political coalitions or intimidate political opponents. In February 2012, Pakistan’s Supreme Court resumed hearing a case about the ISI’s illegal funding of right-wing political parties and candidates in the 1990 general elections to prevent a possible victory by Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan People’s Party. The head of the ISI at that time, Gen. Asad Durrani, has conceded to the Court that this funding took place, and revealed who was paid and how much, claiming that the operation was ordered by Chief of Army Staff Gen. Aslam Beg and the president of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The hundreds of millions of rupees that were spent were extorted from a leading banker, who has testified to the Supreme Court on how he was arrested and mistreated when he initially refused to cooperate. The case had first been brought to the Court in 1996, but the prime minister at the time, Nawaz Sharif, was among the politicians accused of receiving ISI funds. Sharif’s government was overthrown by Gen. Musharraf.

The failure of democracy in Pakistan is most evident today in the rise of political violence directed against the state. One such threat is the religious sectarian groups that seek an Islamic state. The other is the ethnic movement in Balochistan that demands self-determination and secession. The first has been largely ignored by the state -- and sometimes supported by it. The second has met with brutal repression.

Religion has been present in Pakistani politics since the beginning, a natural outcome of the demand for a homeland for the Muslims of British India that led to its creation. It offered an easy way to bolster a fragile, undeveloped nationalism and foster support for the state. Despite its obvious risks and drawbacks, religion was used by the Pakistani state to try to hold its various major ethnic groups together, all but one of which (the Punjabis) have at one time or another sought to secede. The majority population of the original Pakistan, the Bengalis of East Pakistan, won independence in 1971 and became Bangladesh.

Religion was also used to counter Pashtun ethnic nationalism, which sought to build an identity linking Pakistani Pashtuns and Afghan Pashtuns -- at times expressed as a demand for a Pashtun state. It has also been used to deflect a growing national sentiment in Balochistan.

Islamist parties and Muslim sects have campaigned and fought for their own versions of an Islamic society, often by denouncing others as unbelievers, heretics and infidels worthy of assault and deserving death. In 2011, Islamist militants killed Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti for supporting calls to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which carry a mandatory death penalty. The persecution of religious minorities is now endemic, with the targets being mostly Christians, Hindus and members of the Ahmadi sect of Islam. The more spectacular attacks are directed by Sunni militias against Pakistan’s Shia, fueling revenge attacks by Shiite militants. The death toll is in the hundreds each year. [5]

Over the last five years, Pakistan has seen a sharp increase in attacks by religious extremists across the country. There are now ideological, organizational and individual links between Islamist social and professional organizations, political parties and armed jihadi groups -- some that go all the way to FATA and al-Qaeda. The rise of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan in FATA has brought Punjabi Islamist militants to train and fight in the Tribal Areas. High-profile al-Qaeda members have been captured in Pakistani cities in homes and mosques run by the Jamaat-e Islami, a major Islamist political party.

The result has been an increase in the intensity, sophistication and extent of Islamist violence -- with insider help in some cases. There have been attacks on national leaders, including multiple attempts to kill Pervez Musharraf and the murder of Benazir Bhutto. The Pakistani army’s general headquarters were attacked, as were ISI offices in Peshawar and Lahore. Other prominent targets have included the air force base in Sargodha, the army ordnance factories at Wah, the Mehran naval base in Karachi and the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, as well as the eleventh-century Data Darbar shrine in Lahore and many other shrines, mosques and markets.

The other pressing problem of domestic political violence, one often neglected in America’s view of Pakistan, is the episodic insurgency being waged by the Baloch. Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, bordering Afghanistan, Iran and the Arabian Sea, and the most underdeveloped. It has over 40 percent of Pakistan’s land area but around 5 percent of the total population. Like the tribal areas in Pakistan’s northwest, the Baloch assumed they would be independent in 1947 but were annexed in 1948 and were subsequently never fully integrated into Pakistan’s federal government.

There have been insurrections in 1958, in 1962 and from 1973 to 1977; the last proved to be a brutal struggle, with thousands of Baloch militants, soldiers and civilians killed. The current insurgency erupted in 2005 and has seen widespread repression by the Pakistani state, which has resorted to kidnapping, torturing, killing and dumping the bodies of possibly hundreds of Baloch activists and their supporters. [6] Baloch nationalist fighters, for their part, have attacked soldiers, major natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure linking their province to the rest of Pakistan, as well as government workers and immigrant settlers from other provinces. The Baloch argue that Islamabad has proven eager to take the province’s abundant natural resources but provided little in the way of economic development or political empowerment.

When the United States mentions Balochistan, it tends to focus not on the issues raised by the Baloch, but on the possibility that the province is harboring members of al-Qaeda or the Afghan Taliban -- most famously the Quetta shura, which is believed to be a key part of the Taliban leadership in exile. Islamabad, in turn, argues that the Baloch insurgency is largely enabled by India and bent on destabilizing Pakistan. A new generation of Baloch leaders have said they would accept Indian support if that is what it took to gain freedom from Pakistan. The United States was thrust into this struggle in February when Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from California chaired a hearing on Balochistan and introduced a resolution declaring that “the people of Baluchistan, currently divided between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country.” This move has triggered outrage in Pakistan about American interference in Pakistan’s internal issues.

Pakistan in Flux

In trying to understand Pakistan, Washington focuses on security issues and the interests of its interlocutors -- the army, the ISI and select members of the elite -- in the hope of deepening engagement on terms set by America. This approach tends to neglect how much Pakistan is changing and the contests for power that, increasingly, are undermining existing state institutions and elites.

One area where change is clearly noticeable is how Pakistan thinks about India. The army and their political allies have fostered anti-Indianism for decades, since it allows them to offer up a discourse of nationalism, identity and the need for a powerful state. Not all Pakistanis are anti-Indian, of course, and Pakistan was not always anti-Indian in the way it is now. The antipathy, nevertheless, sank deep roots.

But times are changing. Over the past few decades, as governments in India and Pakistan pursued a ruinous arms race, fought wars, developed nuclear weapons and fomented one crisis after another, a determined cross-border, people-to-people peace process began to emerge. This citizens’ diplomacy movement now embraces thousands of activists, scholars, businesspeople and retired government officials. They have carved out common ground on issues ranging from national security and cross-border conflict to economic and trade ties, education reform, ecology, the rights of women and minorities, and arts and culture.

Political leaders now feel obliged to meet delegations of visiting citizens from the other country; visa restrictions have eased; new cross-border transport links have been established; trade is increasing rapidly; cross-border theater, film and music festivals are emerging; and two major mainstream media groups in the two countries have launched a joint campaign to promote peace and better relations.

Polls show that 70 percent of Pakistanis want better relations with India, and about the same majority support further diplomacy and increased trade. In November 2011, after a 15-year delay, Pakistan finally agreed to reciprocate India’s offer of Most Favored Nation trading status. It is expected that the current $2.6 billion of India-Pakistan trade (with another $10 billion in smuggled goods) will grow substantially. The trade potential has been estimated at up to $40 billion a year. Indian vegetables are appearing in the Pakistani bazaar; soon, so will fruit. Pakistan is also about to begin importing gasoline from India.

Pakistan is changing in other ways as well, pointing to basic shifts in social power and relationships. The changes are the result of the increasing presence and mobility of capital, labor and information that have swept over Pakistan, and all of South Asia, in recent decades. These shifts have been made possible by rapid and uneven economic growth, long-running neoliberal policies that have privatized public assets, large amounts of foreign aid, remittances from overseas workers, foreign direct investment, especially from the oil-rich Gulf states, the increase in trade (including from smuggling) and a property boom in Pakistan’s cities.

Pakistan’s population has grown rapidly and people are on the move from the countryside to the city. Manufacturing and service sectors of the economy have grown, and women are more often at work in the formal and informal sectors. The opening of television channels to private companies, the advent of the cell phone, and the growth in literacy and education have changed what people know about each other and the world. All of these processes are forging new identities.

There are also signs of the slow decentralization of the Pakistani state. The eighteenth amendment to Pakistan’s constitution, enacted in 2010, devolves power from Islamabad to the provinces. There is also new legislation increasing the legal protection and rights of women. Parliament has held the first debates over Pakistan’s military spending since the 1960s, and the Supreme Court has increasingly confronted the military and political leadership.

Among ordinary people, there is tremendous frustration about the difficulties of everyday life -- evident in frequent, widespread urban rioting over shortages of electricity and natural gas -- the dire state of the economy, the lack of accountability and the denial of the rights of citizenship. This crisis of democracy and the spiraling political violence have nothing to do with the US war in Afghanistan. These problems would have exploded regardless of the September 11 attacks and the American response thereto, and they pose an internal challenge to Pakistan’s stability and prosperity. US policy, however, will be central in the coming elections, expected sometime in 2012 or early 2013, which may prove to be pivotal for the future of Pakistan.

[1] The best source for the history of this alliance from the US perspective is Dennis Kux, The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2001).
[2] See Khawaja’s December 11, 2011 interview with Dawn News at:
[3] New York Times, September 22, 2011.
[4] A very different view is offered in Arif Hasan, The Unplanned Revolution: Observations on the Process of Socio-Economic Change in Pakistan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
[5] See, for instance, International Crisis Group, Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge (March 2009) and The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan (April 2005).
[6] Human Rights Watch, “We Can Torture, Kill or Keep You for Years”: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan (New York, July 2011); and “Their Future Is at Stake”: Attacks on Teachers and Schools in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province (New York, December 2010).

Tag: Pakistan

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Budget For All to End the War in Afghanistan | CPC

The first step in transforming our engagement into one based on human needs in Afghanistan. It's time to invest in peace. Click above for the link.

“End emergency war funding beginning in FY 2014. The Congressional Progressive Caucus believes that the military’s time in Afghanistan must come to a responsible and expeditious end. The Budget for All maintains Overseas Contingency Operation funding for redeployment in FY 2013, but the funding is zeroed out thereafter, and includes a prohibition on funds being used for any permanent bases in Iraq or Afghanistan. This achieves $1.1 trillion in savings over 10 years.”

The Details
"Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home & Realigns Our National Security Strategy

Our military engagements overseas are currently being financed on borrowed money, fought on borrowed time, and following a strategy unsuited for modern threats. Defense spending has nearly doubled over the last decade, and this approach has strained our military and economy to the brink. The Budget for All responsibly ends operations in Afghanistan, and puts an end to nation building outside the United States.

With two wars drawing to a close, we need a leaner, more agile force to combat 21st century risks. By employing strategies designed for today’s enemies, the CPC budget maintains a smaller, but still unparalleled, armed forces. The CPC budget reduces baseline military spending to ensure defense spending does not continue to contribute significantly to our current fiscal burden and redirects these funds to priorities such as caring for our veterans and smart diplomacy.

In total, the Budget for All achieves nearly $1.9 trillion in savings by bringing our troops home and realigning the Department of Defense. Our budget invests in foreign diplomacy and international aid to stabilize key regions of the world by smarter, more efficient means.

End emergency war funding beginning in FY 2014. The Congressional Progressive Caucus believes that the military’s time in Afghanistan must come to a responsible and expeditious end. The Budget for All maintains Overseas Contingency Operation funding for redeployment in FY 2013, but the funding is zeroed out thereafter, and includes a prohibition on funds being used for any permanent bases in Iraq or Afghanistan. This achieves $1.1trillion in savings over 10 years.

Reduce base discretionary defense spending. With more than a decade of war coming to a close, every dollar spent at the Department of Defense must be reviewed with renewed vigor. A modern defense strategy must focus our armed forces on their strengths of crisis response, defense, and deterrence. Our military needs to adapt to current threats and challenges, particularly on nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The threat of terrorist attacks could be effectively dealt with through cost-effective deployment of Intelligence and Special Operations, while eliminating failed strategies.

To suit the newly formed strategy, the Budget for All gradually achieves a smaller force structure with fewer personnel through attrition. Further, no savings are obtained by reducing military personnel wages or benefits, including TRICARE and pensions. The proportion of private contractor personnel would be significantly reduced, curbing needless “outsourcing” that creates excessive cost overruns. The contraction in force structure would also reduce expensive modernization requirements, especially for older or unnecessary platforms such as the Trident II nuclear missile, F-35, V-22 Osprey and field alternatives, and the Virginia-class submarine, which are ill-suited to handle current threats. Further, the CPC budget limits the modernization of Cold War-era nuclear weapons and infrastructure, as outlined by the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act. In contrast, this budget supports the retention of current Special Operations Forces and their capacities for operations."

You can see the whole budget here.
Click here for the web page of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Unheard Voices: Afghan Views on the Peace Process

An interesting report/survey on Afghan opinions. More than simply a challenge to the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme(APRP), it is in fact, a good measure of what Afghans see as the path forward. There is consensus, that all Afghans need to be at the heart of a peace process, and that process must include concepts of transitional justice. The evidence is captured in the key point summary below.
“Many people see the obstacles to the peace process as external to the country, whereas solutions are more readily identified as internal. Locally, specific conditions in localities such as Marjah and Qadis, in Helmand and Badghis, showed distinct perspectives on questions related to Taliban demands and government strength respectively.”

Unheard Voices – Afghan Views on the Challenges of the Peace Process

"Ordinary Afghans are tired of the fighting and overwhelmingly want peace – but not if it means a loss of hard-won rights, according to a major new survey of nearly 5,000 Afghans.

The survey, outlined in a report released today called Unheard Voices – Afghan Views on the Challenges of the Peace Process, was conducted in 16 provinces, including war-torn Helmand and Kandahar, by the Kabul-based Peace Training and Research Organisation (PTRO.

The future is looking increasingly uncertain with the Taliban’s suspension of negotiations with the US and plans for Afghans to take on the lead combat role next year, yet the survey shows there is widespread support for the national peace process (with an overwhelming 90 per cent hopeful that it could be successful).

The support is not, however, unconditional and the survey shows much more needs to be done by the government and international community to convince the Afghan people it will ultimately lead to a lasting peace.

In fact, 40 per cent fear it could result in a loss of rights instead; and this fear is particularly acute for women in insecure provinces. In Marjah district, Helmand province, 90 per cent of women had concerns over a potential loss of rights. Values seen as under threat included women’s equality, freedom of expression and democracy.

Managing Director of PTRO Mirwais Wardak says: “Afghans are united in their desire to see a just end to the conflict that they have suffered through for three decades. In many cases, they are willing to make compromises to achieve it, including offering amnesty to former insurgents and negotiated changes to the constitution - so long as this does not result in a loss of rights.

“But whilst they are hopeful for the future, many feel excluded from the process. This must change. Ordinary Afghans must be at the heart of the process. This is our country – if we are not all part of it, there is no future for peace. Our voices must be heard.

Key findings
"In spite of the very real obstacles to peace, Afghans are exceptionally hopeful for a future without conflict. This is a view shared irrespective of ethnicity, location, security situation and gender.

A clear majority of respondents (84%) supported the government’s preconditions for the Taliban – that they stop fighting, sever ties with Al Qaeda, and support the constitution. A significant majority (59%) supported the Taliban demand for the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Despite this overall support for the process, divisions were evident over exactly how peace should be achieved, and differences in the approach and detail of the APRP were apparent between ethnicities, genders, and geographic locations. Simply put, the majority of respondents wanted peace, but were divided on how to go about it, and significant differences remain in attitudes towards the prescribed APRP structures.

Many people see the obstacles to the peace process as external to the country, whereas solutions are more readily identified as internal. Locally, specific conditions in localities such as Marjah and Qadis, in Helmand and Badghis, showed distinct perspectives on questions related to Taliban demands and government strength respectively.

While respondents are overwhelming supportive of a political settlement, 40% of all respondents fear that it will result in a loss of rights. These fears were more acute for women, and while overall they were only marginally more fearful, in some insecure provinces (Helmand, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Nagarhar and Paktia) the proportion of women with this fear was approaching double the proportion of men. The most extreme case was in Marjah district, where 90% of women feared a loss of rights.

61% of respondents doubted that the Taliban leadership was interested in reconciliation. However, a similar percentage, 64%, of respondents recognised that armed opposition groups in their area would be interested in reconciling.

Many respondents questioned the credibility of the reintegration programme. More than 50% of all respondents see reintegration events as mostly benefiting criminals. This result also varied by province, with respondents in Herat more likely to associate reintegrees with Mullah Omar Taliban (50%), and those in Helmand and Laghman more likely to identify them as criminals (75%).

The major obstacles to the process were consistently identified, and two thirds of all respondents identified either Pakistan or Iran as the biggest spoilers. These results differed slightly between ethnicities and regions: Hazara respondents more readily identify the Taliban as spoilers, in the east of the country more accuse Pakistan, and in the west, Iran.

The suspicion of “foreigners” also includes the International forces, but although they are seem as a significant obstacle to the peace process, they are at the same time recognised as playing a crucial stabilising role.

Improvements in the government were seen as critical to the success of the process, with 27% stating that it would be a prerequisite for the reintegration of armed groups. Furthermore, a significant proportion of respondents (20% altogether) identified the lack of credibility of both the government and the process itself as major problems.

Communication of every element of the APRP appeared to be lacking, demonstrated by the absence of a clear understanding of the process, particularly in isolated communities. This allows hearsay and rumour to take a much more prominent role, and threatens the credibility of the programme and the institutions involved.

The majority of respondents reported that solutions to the myriad problems associated with the APRP should involve the extensive engagement of local trusted social actors. Religious leaders were most often cited as a credible group to be responsible for leading the peace process. While many respondents believed that the high peace council was the correct body to lead the process they also had strong reservations about the membership structure."

Link to full report here.

Tags: Transitional Justice, Reconciliation

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Military Land Seizures Feed Resentment in Helmand

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting looks at the resentment brewing in Helmand province over the seizure of land and homes by Afghan and International Forces. Unlike night raids and other sensational abuses that receive media attention these actions ignite a slow burn. It’s what occupation looks like.
Officials in Helmand province acknowledged there was a problem, although not all agreed on the scale of the home occupations or whether compensation was paid.

Helmand governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal said that he was aware of the issue and confirmed that both government units and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, made use of private property, including houses and farmlands.

“I have repeatedly told our police and army commanders to avoid damaging private property when they enter these areas, but there have been a number of cases where Afghan and ISAF forces have taken over and used people’s properties…”


Last year the US military commissioned a study on attitudes between US and Afghan soldiers. It reported that Afghan soldiers described their American comrades as rude, disrespectful and reckless with gunfire when civilians were nearby, while US troops saw Afghan personnel as traitorous, lazy, drug-addled and corrupt. It highlighted the deep divisions. A copy of the report is linked below.

In January the NYT’s ran excerpts of the report.
"The 70-page coalition report, titled “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility,” — which was originally distributed as an unclassified document and later changed to classified — goes far beyond anecdotes. It was conducted by a behavioral scientist who surveyed 613 Afghan soldiers and police officers, 215 American soldiers and 30 Afghan interpreters who worked for the Americans.
While the report focused on three areas of eastern Afghanistan, many of the Afghan soldiers interviewed had served elsewhere in Afghanistan and the author believed that they constituted a sample representative of the entire country.

“There are pervasive feelings of animosity and distrust A.N.S.F. personnel have towards U.S. forces,” the report said, using military’s abbreviation for Afghan security forces. The list of Afghan complaints against the Americans ran the gamut from the killing of civilians to urinating in public and cursing.

“U.S. soldiers don’t listen, they are too arrogant,” said one of the Afghan soldiers surveyed, according to the report. “They get upset due to their casualties, so they take it out on civilians during their searches,” said another.

The Americans were equally as scathing. “U.S. soldiers’ perceptions of A.N.A. members were extremely negative across categories,” the report found, using the initials for the Afghan National Army. Those categories included “trustworthiness on patrol,” “honesty and integrity,” and “drug abuse.” The Americans also voiced suspicions about the Afghans being in league with the Taliban, a problem well documented among the Afghan police.

“They are stoned all the time; some even while on patrol with us,” one soldier was quoted as saying. Another said, “They are pretty much gutless in combat; we do most of the fighting.”

A copy of the full report here.

tags: Afghan Voices, Strategic Partnership, Troop Levels

Monday, March 26, 2012

Talking about Talks | International Crisis Group

The International Crisis Group is a policy-oriented think tank focused on conflict and areas of conflict. This detailed report (51 pages) is hard-hitting and critical. What is missing is a focus on the role civil society should play in any comprehensive peace process and the influence of the US military.

You can find a good introduction here on the dangers of a US-Afghanistan strategic partnership here. And a good survey on the need to have civil society organizations involved in all aspects of negotiations here.

Talking about Talks: Toward a Political Settlement in Afghanistan
“No matter how much the U.S. and its NATO allies want to leave Afghanistan, it is unlikely that a Washington-brokered power-sharing agreement will hold long enough to ensure that the achievements of the last decade are not reversed. A lasting peace accord will ultimately require far more structured negotiations, under the imprimatur of the UN, than are presently being pursued. The Security Council should mandate Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a small team of mutually agreeable mediators as soon as possible to ensure that critical stakeholders are fully consulted and will remain engaged in the negotiations process.”

A History of Failure (excerpt)

“For 35 years, Afghanistan has been shaped by repeated failures to negotiate a sustainable political settlement. Each stage of the conflict, starting with the violent coup against Prime Minister Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan in 1978, has been capped by government programs to reconcile parties to the conflict. In each case, the attempt to broker a peace has suffered from intrinsic design flaws and lack of adequate support from the international community that has allowed external actors to undermine it. The root of these repeated failures lies primarily in confusion over the elements of reconciliation and disagreement over the desired end-state of a negotiated settlement. The successive rise and fall of Afghan governments – Daoud’s, the Soviet-backed People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), the mujahidin under Rabbani and the Taliban – also provided little room for manoeuvre, let alone sufficient time to carve out lasting compromises on the political and constitutional contours of the state.”


“However, by September 1987, the Soviets delinked the issue of withdrawal from the shape of the future Afghan government and began bypassing the UN in favour of backchannel bilateral talks with the U.S. The tempo was dictated primarily by the ebb and flow of relations between the superpowers, but the focus was always on a formula for withdrawing Soviet troops and eliminating covert U.S. support for the mujahidin. Despite informal UN efforts to push parties to the conflict toward an agreement that also outlined the status of the government in Kabul following the withdrawal of foreign forces, the Afghan government essentially became a casualty of superpower politics and factional infighting among the seven main mujahidin parties. As agreement on the timetable for Soviet withdrawal began to take shape, political tensions between the mujahidin factions also emerged.”

Link to the full report
Link to Executive Summary and Recommendation

Regional Security Summit in Tajikistan

The President’s of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan began meeting yesterday in the Tajik capital Dushanbe for discussions on regional security.
The four leaders – who were together for Nowruz celebrations hosted by the Tajik leader –discussed matters of mutual interest, including ways and means to strengthen trade and economic cooperation, among their countries.”

In addition to serious regional security concerns, the meetings have been dominated by needs of the participants to produce, sell and purchase critically needed energy supplies.

Turkmenistan has one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas and has long sought access to markets in India and Pakistan. They are also interested in an alternative to the northern route that is controlled by Russia.

The Iran-Pakistan pipeline is in red below. A US-India nuclear deal (done outside the NPT) convinced the government of India to back out of the project. See the link below for more details.

“In a clear snub to the United States over its sanction threats, Pakistan has reassured Iran and other regional countries that the proposed gas pipeline projects will go ahead as planned.

Ahead of a key regional security summit in the Tajik capital, President Asif Ali Zardari told his counterparts from Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan that his country was committed to completing the Iran-Pakistan (IP) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline projects. “I look forward to working with you on all issues of mutual interest,” he added.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned earlier this month that Pakistan could face US sanctions if it pressed ahead with the gas pipeline project with Iran. “[This] would be particularly damaging to Pakistan because their economy is already quite shaky,” Clinton had told a Congressional hearing.

At Sunday’s quadrilateral meeting in Dushanbe, Presidents Asif Zardari, Hamid Karzai, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Emomali Rahmon renewed their resolve to put up a joint fight against terrorism, militancy and drug trafficking for a ‘win-win situation’. They also agreed to tap the full economic potential of the region by strengthening trade and economic cooperation among them.”


“Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar later said that President Zardari underscored the need for enhanced regional cooperation to overcome the drug trafficking-militancy nexus – a major impediment in the trade and economic development of the region. The president said he had taken up the issue at international level and would continue to pursue it adding. “We must work together.”

Additional Resource: Emphasize Regional Diplomacy, AFSC

Friday, March 23, 2012

Week in Review | Pakistan

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) submitted their eagerly awaited report on Tuesday. The recommendations are to serve as the basis/framework for a formal review of relations with the United States.

The Parliamentary debate is scheduled to begin on Monday with a vote expected soon after on whether or not to accept the report.

The key recommendations are far reaching. An unconditional apology from the US over the cross border attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November, an end to drone strikes, no kill/capture campaigns by US forces in Pakistan, strong oversight of foreign security contractors and a tax on US/NATO war supplies going to Afghanistan.

If these demands are satisfied the land border-crossing for war supplies into Afghanistan would be re-opened.

The U.S. is currently paying more than “$500 million a year in transit fees to send military materiel through Central Asian states to Afghanistan.”

In the lead-up to the review, Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington said “We want this relationship to be transparent and predictable…”

The NYT’s covered some of the initial reactions in Pakistan and notes that US sources have already said they will be willing to pay a tax of war supplies but were unwilling to end the CIA drone campaign.
“The recommendations are excellent,” said Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, a senior Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker, outside Parliament. “Sovereignty and territorial integrity are the cornerstone of our foreign policy.”

Kamil Ali Agha, a senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, predicted a “very detailed and very lively” debate next week. “This is a very, very important issue for each and every Pakistani,” he said.

A resumption of full diplomatic relations with the Obama administration now looks unlikely before the middle of next month. American officials say they are ready to negotiate tariffs on NATO transit goods but will not consider an end to the C.I.A. drone campaign, which is viewed as a vital weapon against Al Qaeda and Taliban extremists operating from Pakistani soil.

Additional Resource:

For a good overview of the challenges faced in Pakistan listen to Terry Gross’ interview with Ahmed Rashid. He gives an eloquent defense of the need to engage with the Taliban as part of a political solution to the war. Also see this review of his new book.

Today, by the way is Pakistan day. A national holiday that celebrates the overthrow of colonial rule and the emergence of Pakistan as the world’s first Islamic republic in 1956.

Tags: Drone Strikes, Pakistan

Pakistan on the Brink | New Book by Ahmed Rashid

Former CIA head and current US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, had wanted to establish a parallel spy body inside Pakistan hidden from ISI, a noted Pakistani author said, adding the idea was approved by the Obama Administration.

In his latest book Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ahmed Rashid said such a recommendation by Panetta, who then headed the CIA, was given sometime after September 2009. The book, published by Viking, hit the stands yesterday.

"Starting in September 2009, over several weeks, Obama conducted a long assessment of his options. The military wanted Obama to consider only three: dispatching 10,000 trainers, sending 40,000 troops, or sending 8,000 troops," Rashid wrote.

He said that there was little discussion of Afghanistan's strategic political issues, such as its growing political and ethnic divisions, its economy, relations with Karzai, or the readiness of the Taliban for talks. However, Pakistan occupied a lot of discussion but yielded few political answers, Rashid wrote.

"Instead Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, presented a list of clandestine counterterrorism operations that the CIA wanted to conduct in Pakistan, such as stepping up drone attacks, raising the number of CIA agents and covert contractors, and even setting up a parallel intelligence organisation that would be hidden from the ISI," Rashid said.

"The CIA's recommendations were accepted, but they soon led to a complete breakdown of relations with Pakistan. Once again missing from the White House debates were in-depth consultations with Pakistani and Afghan leaders," writes the Pakistani author. Rashid, the author of bestselling "Taliban" however does not give any detail of such a parallel US intelligence inside Pakistan, but does goes out to say that by 2011, CIA's role inside the country had expanded multiple times.

"In 2011, the CIA is running thirty Predator and Reaper drones, a network of Pakistani agents inside FATA to provide targeting information, and a clandestine Afghan militia that enters Pakistan to provide intelligence on the Taliban."Earlier US agreements with Pakistan about where and how many drones would be fired no longer hold, and in 2011 Pakistan has demanded, futilely, that all drone strikes cease," he wrote. Rashid writes that both the Pakistani and the Afghan governments resented the fact that a major US escalation of troops was being undertaken without consulting them or soliciting their views.

Source: The Indian Express: Journalism of Courage

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Summit for Peace and Economic Justice | 18-19 Chicago

Join us in Chicago for the Counter Summit for Peace and Economic Justice. While NATO meets, we will map campaigns for a future free of wars, occupation and the costs of a militarized foreign policy.

Details on workshops and other activities here.
Workshop proposal form here. Deadline 2 April.

Ending the Afghanistan-Pakistan War, Preventing One with Iran
"President Obama, in a prudent move, has relocated this May’s G8 [One Percent] summit from Chicago’s unpredictable streets to the protected woods of Camp David, leaving NATO to face the demands of the peace movement in a more focused confrontation this May 18-19...."

NATO CALL TO ACTION: March with veterans for justice and reconciliation

“We, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, from around the country will converge in Chicago on May 20th to march to the NATO summit and ceremoniously return our medals to NATO generals. We were awarded these medals for serving in the Global War on Terror, a war based on lies and failed polices.”

Central Asia and Afghanistan: Insulation on the Silk Road, Between Eurasia and the Heart of Asia | PRIO

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) has just released the latest paper in their fascinating series Afghanistan in a neighborhood. The goal of the project is to explore the wider implications of the wars in Afghanistan by looking at root causes, regional implications and paths towards peace and security.

Two papers have already been published, one laying out a general overview and conceptualisation and a second on South Asia and Afghanistan. A fourth will be published on the Persian Gulf.

The third paper, by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, is entitled Central Asia and Afghanistan: Insulation on the Silk Road, Between Eurasia and the Heart of Asia.

She draws energy and history into the paper by quoting a poem by Muhammad Iqbal Lahori (1877–1938), leader of the All-India Muslim League.

“Asia is a body of water and soil, where the Afghan nation is the heart; its prosperity brings prosperity to Asia, and its decay brings decay to Asia.”

Is Afghanistan the heart of Asia, from where regional security can be threatened and cooperation induced? Or is it an artificial heart whose beat does not echo the genuine security interests of neighbouring countries? This question is the essence of the PRIO research project ‘Afghanistan in a Neighbourhood Perspective’, which this third paper in the series aims to answer from the point of view of the Central Asian Regional Security Complex (CA RSC).”


“By the end of the Bush administration, a ‘regional approach’ was commonly viewed as a necessary step toward a durable solution to peace in Afghanistan, with the assumption that neighbouring states would benefit from cooperation given the challenge of non-state actors’ destructive behaviour in the wider region. Because of the presence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, and the influence that Pakistan had on internal dynamics within Afghanistan, the ‘regional approach’ first translated into an AfPak strategy within the US policy circles, formally inaugurated in the administration’s March 2009 review. Focus on Pakistan continued with the new President Obama’s AfPak strategy, which set as its goal the defeat of terrorists and insurgencies through counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. Within this logic, which assumed that change could only come about through the curbing of support for Taliban and insurgents, the Central Asian republics, Russia and other more distant neighbours such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia were seen as secondary actors because they were assumed to have less influence on the internal Afghan power balance. These countries came into the Afghan equation only to the extent that they could support or inhibit US efforts to eliminate al Qaeda and its affiliates, provide logistical support for the US and NATO operations in Afghanistan, or facilitate talks with the Taliban.

By November 2011, it had become clear that limiting the regional approach to Pakistan was not enough. Other countries such as Iran, Russia, India, China, the CA republics, Saudi Arabia and Turkey also had strong stake in the stabilization of Afghanistan. A new concept had to be coined to widen the AfPak strategy and cast a wider net for involving a larger array of states. Thus was born the idea that Afghanistan represents the ‘Heart of Asia’, borrowed from the poem of poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal Lahori (1877–1938), leader of the All-India Muslim League and fundamental in the creation of modern Pakistan, but who was also known for his quest for the revival of Islamic civilization, ‘the East’ and Asia. In a poem penned in Farsi, he had claimed that “Asia is a body of water and soil, where the Afghan nation is the heart; its prosperity brings prosperity to Asia, and its decay brings decay to Asia.”

About the author:

Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh is a Research Associate with PRIO, and directs a specialization on Human Security as part of the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) at L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris. She is co-author (with Anuradha Chenoy) of Human Security: Concepts and Implications (Routledge, 2007) and Editor of Rethinking the Liberal Peace: External Models and Local Alternatives (Routledge, 2011). She holds a PhD and a Master’s degree from Columbia University.

Previous Papers:

Afghanistan in a Neighbourhood Perspective: General Overview and Conceptualisation
“For over three decades, Afghanistan has been a battleground in which many of the states of the larger neighbourhood have been involved. The importance of fostering a concerted effort for Afghan peace and stability is increasingly agreed upon. Some analysts emphasize states and their security relationships and see Afghanistan as an ‘insulator’ caught between different regional state systems, each with a strong dynamic of their own. An alternative perspective – which also seems to inform the new US analysis – emphasizes various transnational networks, and sees Afghanistan as the ‘core’ of a larger conflict formation.

This paper takes the former perspective – codified by Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver in the Regional Security Complex approach – as its starting point. It pursues the security dynamics of each of the core regions surrounding Afghanistan (South Asia, the Persian Gulf and South Asia), taking a comparative and historical perspective, with an emphasis on the period since the late 1970s. It concludes that each of Afghanistan’s three surrounding regions is characterized by deep security concerns that have little to do with Afghanistan. These concerns nonetheless inform their engagement in Afghanistan, which comes to reflect conflicts and cleavages specific to the region. One implication is that for Afghanistan, it may be a more promising strategy to seek a unilateral non-offensive or neutral status, rather than security integration with its neighbours. While this would necessitate a forum of Afghanistan’s neighbours in order to foster understanding for the Afghan position, it suggests a dramatic departure from mainstream policy proposals with their emphasis on an integrated regional approach.”

South Asia and Afghanistan: The Robust India-Pakistan Rivalry
“Is Afghanistan a playground for the India-Pakistan conflict? Or, are the countries in South Asia – Pakistan in particular – the recipients of unrest that spills over from Afghanistan? Alternatively, is the larger neighbourhood, South Asia and Afghanistan included, simply a victim of rivalry between global powers? Views on the relationship between Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries vary widely. The different views have fundamental consequences for how one understands the conflict, and for what policies one finds constructive. Cognizant of the roles of actors in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf region, and excluding neither the importance of Afghan domestic factors nor global forces, this paper emphasizes the way that the India-Pakistan conflict – the overwhelming security issue in the South Asian region – informs the two countries’ engagement in Afghanistan.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nowruz | Afghan New Year and First Day of Spring

Nowruz also known as the Persian New Year, has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. Coinciding with the spring equinox, it is marked in parts of the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and other regions.

Celebrating with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project
Nowruz means a new day and for the coming of Nowruz we have to make ready our homes, the streets, and every corner. The thoughts, the clothes, everything is about becoming new. The gift of Nowruz is smiling and happiness. — Fatima Hu

We are making haft mewa—seven fruits—and we’ll go together with ten families to green places. — Zahra

We sit down with haft mewa on the tablecloth, make a wish, and then we go outdoors to have fun. But there is a traditional belief that on the last day of Nowruz—Sizdah Bedar—if you go outside it will bring misfortune the rest of the year. —Fatima H.

We celebrate with orange flowers in Nangarhar. — Seema

We make haft mewa and eat this sweet dish with seven kinds of fruit with the whole family. We go to the Naranj Gul Mela festival, which means Festival of Orange Flowers, in Nangarhar. —Hila

We celebrate by making wishes for ourselves and for others. — Fatima Ha

Everyone makes something new—clothes or food. We make haft mewa and seven dishes that start with the letter S. We go to relatives’ houses and our family goes for a picnic in Mazar-e-Sharif or Kapisa. Having Nowruz once a year makes me happier than ever. — Basirah

More images on the MSNBC Photoblog.

Organizing to Stop the War | Bring WAM to Your Town

The Windows and Mirrors exhibit is a touring mural arts project. The goal is to stimulate dialogue, discussion, and action to end the war.

To compliment the full display, currently in Washington DC, we have created two ‘community’ exhibits that feature stunning vinyl reproductions of the murals and replicas of the Afghan high school student drawings. The article and images above is from one of the community exhibits. It was a front page story in the Burlington County Times yesterday.

If you are interested in bringing this resource to your community send a note to It's a great way to reach new audiences.

You will be in good company. Upcoming locations include Indianapolis, Albuquerque, Fort Collins, Charleston, Chicago, Dayton and Coralville. See the full schedule here.

Background: The unique panels created by international artists and US students help us imagine the experience of Afghan civilians - from death and destruction to hopes for peace. Drawings by Afghan students in Kabul – collected in June 2010 – provide an up close look at life in a war zone. At over 900 square feet, this mural is not a single painting, but an oversized statement on the human cost of war. It is not the voice of one person, but that of an engaged artistic community. Their collective voice comes through with power and volume, speaking to us on both intellectual and emotional levels.

In addition to the murals we have a new partnership with Community Supported Films. Together we will make available the powerful documentary shorts The Fruit of Our Labor.

Each short documentary offers a personal and first-hand Afghan point of view rarely seen or heard in the US, even after 10 years of intense media coverage. As a series, these films bring to life Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions – providing an insider perspective beyond the battlefront coverage that dominates western media.

Tags: Windows and Mirrors

Monday, March 19, 2012

U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership on the Rocks

M K Bhadrakumar, a former diplomat from India, breaks down the motives on why the US is seeking to establish a bi-lateral agreement with the government of Afghanistan and abandon the constraints of a UN mandate. The second article, by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers with Kathy Kelly, gives an on-the-ground perspective.

“The renewal of the mandate of the ISAF - multinational force leading the campaign in Afghanistan - comes up for renewal in the UN Security Council this week. The ensuing debate can be expected to bring into focus the issues of the proposed ‘transition’ in 2013, the ending of the ‘combat mission’ in 2014 and the post-2014 scenario itself. I am keenly awaiting the Indian statement.

The United States and NATO are hoping to change ships — move out of the UN mandate to a more comfortable bilateral framework with the government in Kabul so that they are not accountable to the UN and can pursue their geo-strategies in the region with impunity. The US and NATO’s expectation is to formalize a long-term military presence in the region. Simultaneously, NATO is also probing the scope for expanding its presence in Central Asia.

But the best-laid plans can go awry in Afghanistan. The present moment is one such, full of imponderables. A new, unexpected and yet compelling factor has surged, which was always there lurking below the surface but the US found it expedient to ignore — Afghan nationalism. After having taken decades of battering and with its economy in shambles, somehow a notion had crept in the Western mind that the Afghans are up for sale to the highest bidder…”

Read full blog here.

Debating the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement
“Currently, citizens of Syria and the world can at least discuss Mr Kofi Annan’s warning that the situation in Syria should be handled “very, very carefully” to avoid an escalation that would de-stabilize the region, after an earlier warning against further militarization of the Syrian crisis. The crisis in Afghanistan is as severe as the one in Syria, and it is more chronic. 2 million Afghans have been killed in the wars of the past 4 decades. But not a single diplomat is warning against the further militarization of the Afghan crisis.

The previous UN Envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, did try. “The most important reason for my bitterness was my ever-growing disagreement with Washington’s strategy in Afghanistan,” Kai Eide writes, in his book Power Struggle over Afghanistan. “It had become increasingly dominated by military strategies, forces, and offensives. Urgent civilian and political requirements were treated as appendices to the military tasks. The UN had never been really involved or consulted by Washington on critical strategy-related questions, nor had even the closest NATO partners. More importantly, Afghan authorities had mostly been spectators to the formation of a strategy aimed at solving the conflict in their own country.

It has taken the killing of 16 civilians in Kandahar for the world to notice the anger that the war has inflamed in the hearts of both U.S. soldiers and Afghan mothers.

Military and foreign policy elites in Washington have encouraged a conventional presumption that the ‘war on terror’ requires a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Underlying that presumption is a deeper assumption that ‘terrorism’ can be resolved through war, that is, a supposition that humanity can somehow counter ‘terrorism’ by killing as many ‘terrorists’ as possible, regardless of the deadly anger these killings, so similar in themselves to terrorist acts, must necessarily fuel, not to mention the costly ‘collateral damage.’

Tax-payers from the 50 coalition countries involved in the Afghan war should be alarmed at how and where their money is spent. They should be considering how they would feel were they offered $2000 in compensation for the murder of a child, husband, father or mother, the compensation NATO handed out ‘ex-gratia’ (with no admission of its own wrongdoing) to the families of the 16 children, women and men slaughtered in their sleep on March 11, 2012.

Will the Afghan Parliament, the U.S. public or the UN debate the 10 year U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan?

Will the Afghan Parliament, the U.S. public or the UN debate the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement?...”

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The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers are a grassroots group of multi-ethnic, ordinary Afghans working towards non-military solutions for Afghanistan, based on non-violence, unity, equality and self-reliance. and

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Loya Jirga to Approve Long-Term US Military Presence

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