Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan Army’

Lip Service to Goodwill

April 25, 2013

FOR PAKISTAN

Over the past few months an ongoing debate about opening the borders to our next door neighbor has engulfed drawing room discussions, economics and politics lectures, the industrialist, the Mazdoor (wage laborer), and of course the talk shows. Those in favor of this upgrade in India’s status have brought to notice a need for better ties. It is now more obvious than ever that on all fronts, economic, social, political and security; India has left Pakistan far behind. While India has been labeled the World’s largest and most multicultural democracy, proud liberals quote Mother India as the torch bearer, pride of the democratic legacy, a success story; Pakistan is equally known for the opposite reasons: Terrorism, conflict, unstable governance, and sectarian and religious strife.

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FP: Pakistan Army set to reveal MRAP vehicle

March 21, 2013

FOR PAKISTAN

ISLAMABAD – Faced with mounting casualties among security forces from roadside bomb attacks in its Tribal Areas, Pakistan is set to reveal an indigenous mine-resistant vehicle.

A spokesperson for Pakistan’s state-owned vehicle manufacturer, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), has confirmed that its Burraq mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle is nearing the end of its prototype phase and will be unveiled in “three to four months.” The announcement comes after years of development and failed efforts to acquire such a vehicle from other sources.

The need for an MRAP is great, and the military has acknowledged the considerable menace improvised explosive devices (IEDs) pose to security forces, particularly in the Tribal Areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border in fighting with the Taliban.

In what was perhaps the largest loss of life from an IED attack to date, 14 soldiers were killed and 25 wounded during a Jan. 13 attack on a Pakistani Army convoy in Waziristan.

Pakistan has reportedly sought better protected vehicles from as far away as Germany, Turkey and the U.S. However, a lack of financial resources seems to have hampered those efforts.

Failure to acquire an off-the-shelf solution ultimately led to the development of an indigenous answer.

However, as of November, with no news of the Burraq entering production and its non-appearance at Pakistan’s biannual exhibition, IDEAS2012, many analysts began to believe it had been quietly shelved. An order for an undetermined number of Poly Group Corporation Type CS/VP3 MRAP vehicles from China at IDEAS2012 reinforced that notion.

Hitherto, HIT has produced mostly tracked armored fighting vehicles, with some lightly armored four-wheel-drive and Toyota Corolla sedans its sole wheeled products.

According to HIT, the wheeled Burraq will carry 12 passengers and a crew of two. It has standard protection features similar to other MRAPs and will be open for export.

The 8-to-10-ton vehicle can withstand IED blasts of up to 10 kilograms, can be armed with a .50-caliber heavy machine gun (protected against fire from a similar weapon), as well as being fitted with bulletproof windows and run-flat tires. The occupants sit on blast-mitigating seats.

A former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, was given a briefing on the Burraq during a visit to HIT last year. He said he was impressed with what he saw.

“It appears that the Burraq is a mid-tech and affordable protective vehicle that should serve the defense forces well,” he said.

He said he was also “impressed with the proposed manufacturing process and with what I was told about its technical parameters, which, while not as advanced as U.S. or European equivalents, which are vastly expensive, seem to be adequate to counter the current IED threat.”

Having garnered a considerable amount of data from IED blasts, it appears Pakistan is able to adapt its designs to meet requirements, which Cloughley said is reflected in the Burraq’s design.

“The high profile is caused by the ‘V’-shaped underside, which is so necessary to minimize the effects of mines and IEDs, and although details of the degree of protection afforded are understandably kept confidential, I was told that analysis of the effects of IED incidents showed that Burraq’s armor configuration could cope well,” he said.

It is, however, less well protected than the Chinese Type CS/VP3, and analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium said the Burraq has not yet been ordered by the military. It cannot meet requirements because, in its present form, it cannot withstand hits from the ubiquitous rocket-propelled grenade-7 (RPG-7), he said.

“Since most resistance in the military’s operations against militants is by IEDs and RPG-7s, Burraq is not designed and is not capable of countering the specific threat posed by the RPG-7. Some of the RPG-7 rounds used by the militants have very destructive warheads, which Burraq will not be able to withstand,” he said.

He said he believes a ready remedy would be bar/slat armor.

Still, Khan acknowledges the Burraq’s benefits, such as being based on a four-wheel-drive cross-country chassis, which is mechanically simple enough for Pakistan’s industry to locally support, and possessed reasonable protection against IEDs.

HIT has fitted bar/slat armor to main battle tanks such as the Type-69 II, and this could readily be applied to the Burraq.

Despite the large numbers of MRAP vehicles required, Khan said the Chinese vehicles could prove to be more affordable than the Burraq if a “soft loan” financial package is provided for their purchase.

Afridi: whistleblower or traitor?

September 11, 2012

ZoneAsia-Pk

Shakil Afridi once again makes headlines with even more controversial statements. The doctor who headed a fake polio vaccination program was responsible for disclosing the hiding location of OBL to the US forces. The entire incident was a great source of embarrassment for the Pakistani government and especially the army. Rumors about ISI’s involvement with militants grew a spine.

Is Afridi a whistleblower or a traitor? Depends on which side of the fence we choose to stand on. For Pakistan Shakil Afridi is guilty of backstabbing his people. By working as a spy with the CIA, instead of helping Pakistan Army (equally involved, if not more, in the war on terror) Dr. Afridi has betrayed his people and nation on more than one level.

Let’s have a look at the background of this controversial interview conducted by FOX News, a news channel notorious for being biased, uninformed and presumptuous in its broadcasts. The interview, CNN claims, was taken inside Peshawar jail. For a detainee like Shakil Afridi who is ‘heavily guarded’ to have a chance to make such bold statements in the presence of guards is highly unlikely. The entire interview seems like a hoax. There is no audio or video footage available to the public yet. Furthermore, when contacted, prison official were unaware of any such interview.

Or perhaps Afridi, and Western media, are exaggerating the level of isolation imposed on Afridi, for even the most liberal democracies (like USA) have known better than to allow ‘traitors’ such liberties. We have the example of Bradley Manning, who was disallowed any contact with media, family or friends. Manning’s example opens us to a broader debate: where do we draw the line between ‘blowing the whistle’ and ‘backstabbing’ your country’?

The timing of this release is also very interesting. The news was introduced on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 which also happened to be the day when AQIP senior leader’s death in a drone attack was confirmed. A perfect way to exploit public emotions for more viewership, and support.

In his so-called interview, Afridi labored on and on about the brutal torture he had to bear at the hands of the ISI. I am pretty sure a traitor is not given the red carpet treatment anywhere in the world especially in the nation which Afridi loves and respects so much. Guantanamo Bay prison is well known for their techniques too like waterboarding. Just because the US chooses to torture prisoners does not make the methods acceptable. Human right activists have protested against interrogation techniques used by security agencies across the world. But let’s face it traitors are never welcome.

Shakil Afridi also stated that the ISI has links with militants including the Haqqani Network, and instead of taking punitive actions chose to release them. Haqqani Network was only recently placed on the list of foreign terrorist organizations by the US. By linking the Haqqanis to the ISI, Afridi has made a strong statement regarding the motives of our government. This is something that is bound to leave an impact on both Americans and Pakistani. Already a US Senator is propagating to shut down US aid to Pakistan.

Afridi also accused Pakistani government for eliciting US funds under the excuse of fighting in the War of Terror. Pakistan has lost too many lives, displaced millions of its people and suffered financially from this war. Having lost more than 35,000 civilians, 4,000 soldiers in the war, it is true that no other country has suffered more in this war against terror than Pakistan. If the war on terror is in itself disputed, then America’s own motives in this campaign are without doubt questionable.

Afridi’s part in the OBL operation is still fuzzy. He refrained from disclosing his recruitment in the CIA or the vaccination program, claims he was unaware that he was collecting DNA samples of OBL. But at the same time feels proud for helping the CIA “out of love for the US”. So which was it Afridi: Did you know or did you not?

The nation he expresses his love for so ardently could have smuggled him out of Pakistan or even arranged some diplomatic status just like the US did in Raymond Davis’s case. However, they left the “hero” doctor in Pakistan and only protested against his imprisonment. He claims to have helped the CIA against OBL. The bigger question is: was his loyalty to America or the cause of anti-terrorism ? Or just the money that we can assume he was getting for the job. Poor Afridi. Hit by a triple whammy. First used and discarded. Then identified and betrayed to add credibility to the US operation and now ‘ interviewed’ and confirmed as a traitor. Finally in tandem with this as if on cue we have the article by C.Fair in Foreign Policy magazine exhorting the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist supporting state.

Why is it that when US war crimes are leaked the man is reduced to impregnable confinement, for his words threaten ‘national security’ and the lives of millions. Is Pakistan less sovereign than the United States? Perhaps poor nations are only on the wrong side of the fence.

One step forward, half step backward…

August 24, 2012

M K Bhadrakumar

Pakistan’s army is drawing the ‘red line’ on the operational front at the commencement of a critical phase of the ‘transition’ in Afghanistan.

When the army chief in Pakistan speaks, there is always a hush in the air. The best brains go into huddle and his words get analyzed threadbare for its meaning(s), hidden and apparent. Given the history of Pakistan’s political economy for the past 6 decades, it can’t be otherwise. Just this week, a highly rated Pakistani commentator and analyst Tanvir Ahmad Khan (former foreign secretary and ambassador to the former Soviet Union) wrote, “Despite Pakistan’s sad experience of military rule in the past, a surprisingly large percentage of its people are once again beginning to look to the army for deliverance from an elected government that has disappointed them deeply.”

To be sure, analytical exercises began almost instantaneously over the remarks by the Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Monday that if militancy is not eliminated, Pakistan’s future will be in jeopardy. Big conclusion have since been drawn that the army chief is preparing his soldiers and the countrymen at large for the imminent launch of a military campaign in North Waziristan where the most irreconcilable Afghan insurgents associated with the so-called Haqqani network and its al-Qaeda affiliates ranging from Uzbek militants to the ‘Pakistani Taliban’ are based.

Far away in the Pentagon in Virginia, United Secretary Leon Panetta too read a meaningful message into Kayani’s words. Panetta lent his powerful voice to articulate Washington’s judgment that in the “near future” – which in coded diplomatic language means a matter of days or few weeks – Pakistani army would launch combat operations in North Waziristan. “They’ve (Pakistan) talked about it for a long time. Frankly, I’d lost hope that they were going to do anything about it. But it does appear that they in fact are going to take that step,” Panetta added optimistically.

It stands to reason that Panetta felt encouraged to voice the optimism also on the basis of the official feedback he received on the recent meeting between the Central Intelligence Agency boss David Petraeus and his visiting Pakistani counterpart Zaheerul ul-Islam, which were apparently “substantive, professional and productive”.

At any rate, Panetta couldn’t be faulted because Kayani had indeed spoken in strong terms: “We [Pakistan] realize that the most difficult task for any army is to fight against its own people. But this happens as a last resort. Our real objective is to restore peace in these areas [North Waziristan] so that people can lead normal lives. No state can afford a parallel system or a militant force.”

The army chief couldn’t have juxtaposed Pakistan’s existential choices more starkly. The Western media promptly took note that top US military commanders have also been frequenting the Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi in the recent days – the last, by the way, being the CENTCOM chief General James Mattis. The US media have since hastened to christen the anticipated joint US-Pakistani military operations against the Afghan insurgent groups in North Waziristan – ‘Tight Screw’.

At this point, things began to unravel. And it is turning out to be an unceremonious unraveling. It all began with the devastating strike by the militants last Thursday on Pakistan’s famous Kamra air base where some of its nuclear missiles and the delivery systems have been kept.

Obviously, the army leadership has sensed that the hype created by Washington and the US’ vocal lobby within Pakistan is creating an explosive mix of anger and resentment in the Pakistani public opinion and creating an impression that something big is going on between the Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Pentagon.

Suffice to say, if Panetta’s hype aimed at hustling the Pakistani military leadership into harmonizing with the US’ regional project in Afghanistan and Central Asia, that has proved counterproductive. Kayani has pulled back the big step he had put forward. At a meeting with Gen. Mattis in Rawalpindi on Thursday, he “categorically dispelled” the speculations regarding ‘Tight Screw’.

Kayani explained to Gen. Mattis the importance of distinguishing between ‘coordinated action’ by the US and Pakistani forces and ‘joint operation’. Whereas ‘coordinated action’ merely “implies that Pakistan Army and ISAF conduct operation on respective sides of Pak-Afghan Border”, a ‘joint operation’ goes much, much further and “implies that the two forces are physically employed jointly on either side of the border.”

Besides, “intelligence sharing is the mainstay of mutual cooperation” in a ‘coordinated action’. In short, ‘coordinated action’ is mere foreplay that holds no guarantee of a full and proper enjoining by the two militaries on the two sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Kayani underlined to Mattis that a ‘joint operation’ between the Pakistani and US forces is simply “unacceptable to the people and Armed Forces of Pakistan, hence, has always been our [Pakistan’s] clearly stated red line.”

Kayani then went on to put the Pakistani army thinking in the correct perspective: “we might, if necessary, undertake operations in NWA [North Waziristan Agency], in the timeframe of our choosing and determined only by our political and military requirements. It will never be a result of any outside pressure. Pakistan’s national interest continues to be the prime consideration for any decision in this regard.”

In sum, Kayani has politely and firmly resiled from whatever notions he might have created in the minds of the Americans regarding any new dimension to the ground level f US-Pakistani military cooperation in the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghan border. From all appearance, he spoke on his own authority. (As is customary, the Pakistani army issued the press release on the Kayani-Mattis meeting.)

How perplexed Gen. Mattis would have been we may never know, but this certainly becomes a mini-setback to the US-Pakistan discourse, which was raring to go following the agreement on the reopening of NATO’s transit routes via Pakistan, and it holds significance for regional security. In the final analysis, what matters is that Pakistani army is drawing the ‘red line’ on the operational front at the commencement of a critical phase of the ‘transition’ in Afghanistan. This is happening at a time when the Afghan insurgents are apparently stepping up their attack on the western forces and Washington is preparing for the next round of negotiations with the Kabul government to formalize the establishment of military bases in Afghanistan.

What prompted Kayani’s retraction? Conceivably, Panetta went way out of line by spilling the beans about what the US and Pakistani military leaders had probably agreed in the recent weeks. At that level, Panetta spoke on authority but he probably unwittingly put Kayani on a spot when he disclosed that the US commanders have discussed with the latter their “concerns” about the Haqqani network’s cross-border activities, whereupon, “General Kayani did indicate that they had developed plans to go into Waziristan. Our [US] understanding is that hopefully they’re going to take that step in the near future. I can’t tell you when. But the indication that we have is that they are prepared to conduct that operation soon.”

However, two days later Panetta also revisited the sensitive topic of the danger of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles falling into the hands of terrorists and militants. “The great danger we’ve always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country, than those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands,” Panetta told reporters at a Pentagon news conference on Wednesday. Strangely, Panetta made these seemingly impromptu remarks right on the eve of the militant attack on the Kamra ‘nuclear base’, which is located hardly 45 kilometers from Islamabad.

Without doubt, the Pakistani public opinion is militating against any form of collaboration by the Pakistan army with the US military operations in Afghanistan. Again, on its part, the military leadership in Rawalpindi has always insisted that the army should be in sync with the public opinion in the matter, which is of course vehemently against the Afghan war and continued US military presence in the region.

Under the circumstances, Kayani is left with no option but to go back by half a step – at least, for the time being. As for Washington, it should be content for the present that ‘coordinated action’ is after all better than no action at all, although its potentials may fall short of a proper ‘Tight Screw’.

What is the Government’s Plan for Rebuilding Swat?

September 5, 2011

By Shaheen Buneri


The Swat Valley in 2011: Locals are wary and distrusting of the Pakistan Army, despite their hatred for the Taliban.

After three years of bloodshed and destruction by Taliban militants in Swat Valley, the Pakistan Army, understanding that more than force was needed to defeat extremists, held a conference on de-radicalisation. In the conference, held this past July, experts, politicians and military officials spoke on the rise of religious fundamentalism in the region and acknowledged the military for its offensive against Taliban militants. Of course, the military operation also killed more than 700 civilians dead and displaced millions from their homes.

In a time when thousands of families need assistance after their houses were destroyed by 2010’s devastating floods and after basic health and education infrastructure in the valley was destroyed during the conflict, people expected the Army to play a lead role in reconstruction and rehabilitation activities. They do not accept that the rise of radical thought is the outcome of their way of life. Rather, they believe they are the victims of the menace of terrorism and radicalism that has swept through the region for the last 30 years.

The conference proceedings were much publicised in the national media and through the public relations wing of the Army, the ISPR. The military claimed it has liberated the scenic valley from the clutches of the Taliban. For some, it was an encouraging step as it was the first time the Army has deemed it necessary to debate the issue in public. However, for many in Swat it was a PR event for the Army, a useless activity, as in their opinion “the sudden rise of Taliban militancy was not possible without the support of state agencies.”

It is an open secret that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment views militant/jihadi groups as ‘strategic assets’ that act as its proxies in Kashmir and Afghanistan. In this context, local communities ask, “From where should the de-radicalisation process be initiated?”

History is testimony to the fact that a majority in Swat never demonstrated militant or radical attitudes until a half-cleric Fazlullah emerged on the scene in 2005. Even then people in the area did not take him serious and made fun of him in their day-to-day gossip. For them, he was just a cleric who earlier worked as lift operator.

The Yousafzai Pashtuns who inhabit the area had centuries-old social and cultural values and traditions that are fundamentally secular and liberal. Though there were tribal feuds, killing in the name of religion is a completely new phenomenon. From 1915 till 1969, when Swat was merged into Pakistan, Swat maintained a secular society where Sikhs and Hindus live side by side with the local Muslim population. There is not a single incident where a local Pashtun killed a Hindu or a Sikh because he believed in a different religion. Since Buddhist times Swat has been famous for its rich artistic heritage and pluralistic society where people sang of peace, love and beauty. Before the rise of the Taliban, every year nature lovers from inside and outside the country would visit the area, and the locals always welcomed them and treated them with respect. The fact is that after the merger, Swat and the surrounding districts became radicalised as the state needed jihadis to fight their war in Afghanistan.

The story of Fazlullah from a lift operator to a fierce and powerful militant commander with all resources of the valley at his hands is not long. It just took two years for him to dictate to state authorities and play havoc with people lives.

There is no denying the fact that the criminal silence of state authorities encouraged him to extend his influence and attract unemployed and neglected youth to his fold. Through his FM radio broadcasts, he lambasted political corruption, delays in justice and Pakistan’s alliance with the US in the war against terror, and then he glorified jihad against “infidels” as the only solution to the problems of the nation.

The radical ideas he advocated were not the result of his life in Swat, but the legacy of the Afghan jihad that was transferred to him from his father-in-law Maulana Sufi Muhammad, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader in Dir who later became the chief of the Movement for the Enforcement of Shariah in Malakand (TNSM). People’s deprivations, the absence of an effective judicial system and the erosion of a strong government in Pakistan’s tribal areas also contributed to the speedy rise of religious militancy in Malakand region.

In my discussions with youth, women, civil society workers and local politicians during a recent trip to Swat, I found three perceptions/theories most common among the locals:

1. Fazlullah was the creation of state agencies. He was allowed space and resources to emerge as a leader so that the military could launch an operation and on the pretext of maintaining security and build military cantonments in the region. The perception was strengthened when President Asif Zardari announced the establishment of military cantonments in Swat immediately after the military operation.

2. Swat is rich in resources and located at the strategically important juncture between China and Central Asian countries via the Luwari Pass (upper Dir). The US wanted the region for military bases, therefore Pakistan encouraged the rise of militancy and thus paved the way for anti-Americanism in the region.

3. The threat of the re-emergence of the Taliban will stay until the military establishment achieves its strategic goals. The people doubt if the military action was against Fazlullah and his main commanders; if so, why were they allowed to escape and establish new bases in Kunar and Nuristan provinces close to the mountainous area of upper Dir.

Police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said that in some cases they were asked from Islamabad to vacate police stations and avoid resistance to Fazlullah militants. Politicians and Taliban opponents whose houses were attacked by Fazlullah fighters in 2007-2009 complain that help did not come even after repeated calls to security officials on duty.


The Pakistan Army does some PR work in Swat: This library was actually constructed by the MMA government, but the army has installed a board in front of it taking all the credit.

The authorities may have their own answers to these burning questions, however, the slow pace of reconstruction and reports of military interference in civilian matters further add to people’s frustration. Despite millions of dollars from the international community, main roads in the valley are still in a shambles and the upper valleys in Kalam and Kohistan are cut off from the rest of the country. On August 24, flash floods washed away Kandian village in Kohistan and left more than 50 people dead. Aid organisations complain there is no road to the valley that can be utilised to provide food and medicine to the affected communities. Thousands of innocent children who suffered during the conflict have yet to see their schools re-constructed, while hundreds of those who were lost in the military operation are remembered with tears and sighs by their families. The locals also feel discouraged when they see the slogan “A gift from Pak Army” on a number of renovated buildings built by the former rulers of Swat in the 1950s.

During my trip I observed that the flag of Pakistan is painted on buildings and shop shutters the whole way leading from Barikot to towns in upper Swat Valley. According to locals, military officials forced them to do so, otherwise they would be considered to be anti-Pakistan. Locals fail to understand why the authorities want to make them more Pakistani? Swati people are so patriotic that they celebrate their religious festivals like Eid and observe fasting with the federal government, and the area’s youth work hard to get commission in the armed forces. The decision of forcing people to demonstrate their patriotism by hoisting Pakistani flags was ill conceived and based on the assumption that Swati people are sympathetic to an enemy.

It is high time for the state authorities to come up with a concrete plan to rebuild lives and resolve the people’s outstanding problems. And if they have a plan, the authorities should educate the people about when and how the reconstruction process will be completed. The development initiatives should be people centric, where locals can decide their fate without any fear and hesitation. The old social structure has been destroyed in Swat by the conflict and the new has yet to find roots. It’s a transitional period that needs a lot of care at every level otherwise the gains of the military operation will be lost and the region will be confronted with a more serious crisis in the future.

Dangers of the Afghan war

June 13, 2011

By Khalid Aziz

THE US Defence Department’s quadrennial review for 2006 defined the security threat facing the US in the following words:

“The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, our nation has fought a global war against violent extremists who use terrorism as their weapon of choice, and who seek to destroy our free way of life. …Currently, the struggle is centred in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we will need to be prepared and arranged to successfully defend our nation and its interests around the globe for years to come….”

The review highlighted areas that required strengthening; one of these advocated the shift of emphasis from “conducting war against nations – to conducting war in countries we are not at war with (safe havens)”.

This means fighting war by stealth, while maintaining the façade of peace. In this sense, the Defence Department has entered an Orwellian construct where we live in a world of, “doublethink [that] means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”.

In 2006, we find the US military seeking a solution to fighting a war within the territory of a country with whom it is at peace – Pakistan. However, by 2011, the US had developed the capacity to execute that kind of war with success, through pilotless aircraft, special forces operations, pursuit teams in Fata, electronic surveillance and false-flag operations – like the Raymond Davis affair. They all add up to a formidable capacity to fight such a war within the territory of an ally.

The operation to kill Osama bin Laden was the latest and not the last example of this new approach. Both the US and Pakistan are allies in the war on terror; that is where the agreement ends, as Pakistan is beginning to lose cohesiveness. If it becomes ungovernable, then the chaos will dwarf any gains made by the new US strategy.

The Pakistani political-military elite supports the overall objective of defeating Taliban radicalism and countering extremism; yet the population is not really concerned with this goal being more worried by the daily business of living under increasingly gruelling conditions. Pakistani public sentiment is seen to largely support the Taliban perceived as fighting a war of liberation against a foreign ‘aggressor’.

As long as the US remains in Afghanistan, it will feed that perception. Therefore, improved US metrics in Afghanistan don’t really add up to much. The situation in some ways resembles the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The US won but ultimately lost the Vietnam War.

Military logic says that if you kill enough of the enemy you can dictate the terms. Yet this is not how it works in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The counterintuitive war on terror creates the following logic. Pakistan is a huge country with a population of 180 million and a military strength of around 500,000.

Large tracts of the country that provide the soldiery for the military are also regions that have over the last 20 years become the hotbed of radicalism and contributed fighters who have battled the US troops in Afghanistan and fought against the Pakistan Army in Fata and Swat. At one time, these forces were used by Pakistan against the Indian forces in Kashmir.

These warriors have now grown numerously over the last three decades and fought first against the Soviet Union and later India. They are now convinced that they are fighting a defensive jihad against the Pakistani and US forces for the freedom of Afghanistan, a Muslim land.

The dangerous consequence is that since 9/11 the contagion of jihad has entered the military at the junior commissioned level, a class whose scions are represented at the highest level in the military thus creating profound doubts and misgivings in this class for launching new operations that the US is demanding so vociferously. They are seen as threatening the unity of the armed forces. Operationally, sympathy for the Taliban cause creates the danger of leakage of battle secrecy.

Secondly, as transpired in the 2009 attack on GHQ and the complicity of some ranks in the Mehran naval base attack last month, there is a real threat of possible fragmentation of the fighting forces. It is these considerations that compel the Pakistan military to avoid new operations. It is this fear that prevents the military from moving against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. The US too faces a dilemma. Should it under these considerations exert pressure on Pakistani decision-makers to launch new operations in North Waziristan or elsewhere? Perhaps the US needs to step back and think. Its unilateral actions in Pakistan may open a can of worms that would be difficult to shut once opened. Pakistanis don’t only live within the country. There is huge diaspora overseas in many countries of the West and the US. They could become a threat.

If the destabilisation of Pakistan is a much more serious danger than the challenge in Afghanistan then does it not call for prudence in handling the situation in Pakistan? Should this not also result in a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Given the threats facing it, Pakistan must seriously undertake de-radicalisation and reintegration of an angry population.

However, a necessary condition for this to happen is leadership.

This analysis suggests that the US needs to phase out of Afghanistan as early as possible. If the fighting continues then Pakistan will become more brittle and the ability of its military on which the US depends heavily will be compromised. This must not happen.

The writer is chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar.

azizkhalid@gmail.com

PNS Mehran: It’s A War On Pakistan, Why Military Leadership Is Quiet?

May 24, 2011

For Pakistan, the writing on the wall is clear. We are in a two-front war: One directly with the US and the other an unconventional war where nonstate actors are being trained by powerful external powers to undermine the military and intelligence organizations from within for the final external assault. But our civil and military leadership seems oblivious to these increasingly overt signals.

SHIREEN M. MAZARI
WWW.PAKNATIONALISTS.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-That Pakistan is facing a two-front war since 9/11 should have been apparent to at least the intelligence and military leadership. After all, the evidence was there from the moment General Musharraf surrendered the country to the Unites States.

There was the publication of the article by a retired US military intelligence officer Ralph Peters in the US Armed Forces Journal titled Blood Borders which envisaged the partitioning of Pakistan and Iran. There was the commencement of US demands to ‘do more’ on the Pakistani state, especially its military, and there was the ‘invasion’ of hordes of American private security contractors and special operatives-most without going through the proper visa clearance process, especially after the coming to power of the Zardari-Gilani combine courtesy the NRO brokered by the US and Pakistan’s military leadership.

Unfortunately, the Pakistani state, especially its military and intelligence leadership miscalculated gravely when they fell in the US trap of a military-centric approach to dealing with terrorism and extremism. The results have been disastrous for the Pakistani state and nation. The US effectively, under international law, declared war on Pakistan’s people with the drone attacks, and the military and intelligence set up neglected to calculate the costs of the US short-term lures of tactical weapons and a few downgraded F-16s. Apart from other fallouts, Pakistan suddenly found itself the victim of suicide bombings, internally displaced people and the Pakistani Taliban whose increasing funding and sophisticated arms should have raised alarm bells.

Additionally the economic costs have now also run into billions and we are today facing a war ravaged nation deeply polarized and totally unable to feel secure in their own territory despite a huge military and intelligence network.

The attack on Mehran Base in Karachi has made it clear that the policy of destroying Pakistan’s military and intelligence set up is being operationalised but the question for us Pakistanis is why our intelligence and military leadership is going along with this scheme of things – or at least why it is unable to develop a viable counter response to this policy.

Some of us had been pointing to the dangers of having US forces embedded within the Pakistan military far before the WikiLeaks made this public. That the May 2nd incident was a major security and intelligence lapse cannot be denied although the cover up has come in the form of the ‘stealth technology’ pretext. But how can one explain the complete CIA covert set up in Abbottabad?

The incident certainly created a disconnect between the military leadership and the younger officers and soldiers and the lack of accountability of the former has done little to restore this equilibrium. As if to ensure that such an eventuality does not come to pass the attack on the Mehran base has taken place. To suggest that it was not a security and intelligence failure is to hide one’s head in the sand. Yes, as usual our soldiers fought bravely and many were martyred but why should they have been exposed to this danger in the first place? It is time some responsibility was accepted and the leadership made accountable.

How long will we continue to place our soldiers and young officers in these lethal situations created by leadership lapses?

What is equally disturbing is to discover that four to six terrorists held the whole base hostage for over sixteen hours and at the end of the operation it was given out that two terrorists may have escaped while four were killed. In comparison eleven of our soldiers were martyred, including our commandos. The terrorists were trained and carrying sophisticated weapons including RPGs. Who has been training these people and where are the money and arms coming from? If they are the Pakistani Taliban, who is behind them? Why did the government not make public the weapons’ makes and origins?

A larger question is how the details of the base and the location of the targets reached the attackers? These terrorists were not targeting the base in a random fashion. They knew where to go to get to their target: the P-3C Orion surveillance planes especially suited for anti-submarine warfare.

Linked to this is the question of why target these planes? Who would benefit from their destruction? The non-state terrorist actors are supposed to be located within Pakistan and Afghanistan; but it is the US and India which could target Pakistan by sea – and both have been threatening to attack Pakistan post-May 2. The US has its bases in Oman and Bahrain while India has a vast blue water navy.

The question that arises then is whether this was a probe attack to check out our defenses?

Just as the May 2 incident exposed our faulty intelligence and military preparedness, this incident has done the same on yet another front. That a few well-trained terrorists can hold up a whole naval base despite inputs from the Rangers and the Army does not bode well for Pakistan’s military preparedness.

The writing on the wall is clear for Pakistan. It is in a two-front war: One directly with the US and the other an unconventional war where nonstate actors are being trained by powerful external powers to undermine the military and intelligence organizations from within for the final external assault. But our civil and military leadership seems oblivious to these increasingly overt signals. Or are they totally mesmerized by US lures?

Our nuclear assets are not under threat militarily for reasons I have already explained at length in an earlier write up. But a security and military environment is being created where a diplomatic and political campaign to take control of the nuclear assets can reach fruition. This is a well thought out strategy that the US has been operationalizing since 9/11 when it gained military and intelligence access into Pakistan and saw how easy it was to seduce the Pakistani military and subsequently the civilian leadership.

While not denying the extremist militancy and terrorism within Pakistan, we need to realize that the targeting of military installations and intelligence vulnerabilities is the handiwork of trained and well-armed operatives who of necessity have strong external backers. Of course we need to counter the extremist threat but to let this bogey blind us to the two-front war being waged against our very existence as a nation and state post-9/11would be to play right into the hands of our very real, very skilled and very powerful external enemies.

Unfortunately, that is what our civil and military leadership is falling prey to so far. In the process the critical cohesiveness and morale of our military and intelligence institutions, the strongest institutions in the country, is being threatened. It is time to arrest this leadership decay through accountability of those responsible. We have already lost over 35 000 Pakistani lives. How many more martyrs can we afford as a result of fatal leadership lapses?

Dr. Mazari is an adviser on defense policy to a political party and the former director of Islamabad Institute For Strategic Studies. She wrote this comment for PakNationalists.com Reach her at callstr[at]hotmail.com

No Country for Old Professionals

May 17, 2011

By Khaled Hossain
ZoneAsia-Pk

Pakistan’s treatment of Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the under-pressure DG of the Inter Services Intelligence agency/directorate, reflects how Pakistani heroes are usually vilified while dubious characters are celebrated as assets to society

“The fear that we cannot live without America has taken away our self respect. Are we to live in humiliation out of US fear forever?”

– Gen Pasha to the in-camera session of Parliament

Pakistan is a country with no shortage of heroes. But Pakistan is also a country with no shortage of divisions. Islam, a unifying religion, has become a divisive issue with sects and practice systems causing violent tussles within society. Politics is also divisive – rather than letting people come together on different issues, it perpetuates the social divides between various groups just so that the powers-that-be can continue to benefit and dupe the poor, ignorant and angry masses. So, one man’s hero is another man’s villain. Nobody exemplifies this case more evidently than Mumtaz Qadri, the Elite Force security guard who murdered Governor Salmaan Taseer (instead of performing his professional obligation and religious duty in protecting him) – he has been berated by progressive and liberal segments of society, while the religious elements, the right wing, and even lawyers have come out in support of this heinous murderer, who is being compared to a colonial hero “Ghazi Ilm-ud-Din Shaheed”.

The very same dichotomy is witnessed in the aftermath of Osama’s death: some people are relieved that the Al Qaeda leader is dead, but worry about the consequences for Pakistan; others are absolutely livid at the breach of Pakistani sovereignty by the US – an occupier of Afghanistan and Iraq – to kill a Muslim jihadi ‘hero’. Many funeral prayers were offered for OBL in absentia all over Pakistan – no wonder he found safe haven in Pakistan. Why? Osama’s specific brand of Takfiri Wahabbi Islam has taken hold in Pakistan – thanks to clandestine Saudi funding of mosques and madrassas by the billions – and has eradicated any peaceful characteristic in society that resulted from a thousand-year-old history of Sufiism, open-ness, multi-faith harmony and syncreticism in Pakistan.

From “strategic depth” and funding the religious extremists in South Asia (be they Taliban or terror proxies in Pakistan) to forced disappearances and torture, the ISI is blamed for everything under the sun. When at one time, the ISI was everpresent and all-respected as an institution which is the first line of defence against any aggression, now ISI has become the public’s enemy number one, something that General Pasha himself told the parliament during the in-camera briefing. While targeting Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar – who was revealed to be a favor-seeking kleptocrat – the DG said that CIA chief Panetta asked him how he could be trusted when his parliament’s opposition leader does not trust him. Such a question put the ISI DG in an untenable position, and internal political squabbling led to Chaudhry Nisar putting personal politics before the country, which in turn caused irreparable damage to Pakistan, its intelligence activities, its reputation, and later on, its sovereignty as well.

Of course, Pakistan’s inept politicians who are enjoying their CIA-authorized tenure in parliament will not like to take the blame that is due to them for the breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty – that blame must be squarely put on the ISI and on the Pakistan Army, whose chiefs are trying tooth and nail to save Pakistan from foreign enemies (states as well as terrorists) and domestic threats (which we now know to be Pakistan’s corrupt and inefficient politicians, its religious leaders with vested interests, and the phenomena of religious extremism, intolerance, inequality among the sexes and marginalization of the deprived sections of society). However, the politicians that the Army and ISI are subservient to have themselves been listed as a domestic threat that is far worse than any problem Pakistan is facing.

Can anyone go to the 2001-2007 period in which Pakistan was still facing problems and troubles, but not as much as it is currently facing? Can one relate to how a military autocracy made Pakistani’s feel better off, while a civilian democracy is ruining the lives, stability, progress and psychological sanity of Pakistani’s? That happens because votes can be bought and sold, and elections can be rigged. Do we blame politicians who vested interests, dirty backgrounds, embedded heirarchical power, and a motive to steal a parliamentary seat? Or do we blame the ISI because it has the capacity to not only alter the electoral outcome of Pakistan, but of many other countries as well? (Yes, please wait another thirty years for THOSE archives to be declassified into the public domain).

In the in-camera session of Parliament, DG ISI General Ahmad Shuja Pasha said that he surrendered himself before Parliament, and that he breathed a sigh of relief after accepting responsibility for the ‘intelligence failure’ on May 2 that led to a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. General Pasha also offered his resignation, and amid a roar from parliamentarians who wanted the resignation accepted, the COAS had already dissuaded the ISI chief and the PM – the commanding authority of the ISI – refused to accept General Pasha’s resignation. Many wonder whether this was just a symbol or not; was he resigning his post as DG ISI, or was he resigning his commission as a Lt General of the Pakistan Army along with his post?

But why would General Pasha, a highly decorated three-star general of the Frontier Force Regiment who was also coveted for leading many UN missions, offer his resignation from the powerful post of DG ISI, who is considered as powerful as the Army Chief (especially when it comes to national and international politics)? The answer is simple: you can ridicule a man, you can ridicule an institution, but when you unjustly berate a person who has served his country without wanting anything in return, then that person has all the right to absolve himself of his duty and tender his resignation because ‘enough is enough’.

Everyone has a limit, but the way the Pakistani media and a healthy constituency of Western-educated NGO-funded desi liberals (who have also been called ‘liberal fascists’ by the same inept Pakistani media which was promoting fake Osama death photos as the real deal) has continued to defame, distract and demoralize the ISI really brings tears to the eyes of any nationalist in this country.

Is the ISI or its DG really to blame for all the terrorism in the country? Do you think that out of one or two attacks that happen every day, there were tens or hundreds of others which were stopped or foiled? And who did that – the media and/or the bourgeoisie liberals – or the ISI and other law enforcement agencies? Who is responsible for the situation in Balochistan – rebels stationed in Afghanistan and funded by India, Iran and the UAE – or the ISI? Who is responsible for missing persons and kidnappings for ransom – terrorists and foreign agencies who want to malign Pakistan and paint a picture of insecurity – or the ISI? Who is responsible for the political isolation of the PML-N – Nawaz’s and Shahbaz’s stupid exclusionist policies – or the ISI? Who is responsible for Imran Khan’s increasing popularity – the fact that most Pakistani people want to do something to stop drone attacks (which is the duty of the incumbent government to authorize, as the PAF Vice Chief said in the in-camera session) – or is it the ISI propping him up?

One needs to revisit all these conspiracy theories and realize that allegations – yes, rumours and allegations – against General Pasha, the ISI, the Pakistan Armed Forces, and Pakistan, are all designed for one main purpose: to destroy any credibility in these institutions, their government, and their country; to demoralize any morale in its security forces by making the general public suspicious of those who protect them; to drive a wedge between the civilian leadership and military leadership of Pakistan – one who is inept and inefficient, the other who is helpless and bound by dubious international obligations to not initiate a fifth coup, no matter how necessary it becomes.

General Pasha, being a soldier, has every right to offer his resignation, and to even stop serving as the DG ISI. After being berated and ridiculed for so long, it is his right to stop facing such unwarranted attacks from all quarters and let another, possibly ‘better’ replacement take charge (maybe under Gilani and Rehman Malik, not Kayani) and try to deal with the public and media pressure.

The Pakistani people – with all their hypocrisies and failure to study their own misgivings before allocating blame on others – do not deserve a DG ISI the likes of General Pasha, who gave up a coveted posting as Military Adviser to Secretary-General of United Nations to continue as Pakistan Army’s Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) and later DG ISI. To those working in/with the security establishment, it is clear that despite the admonishments and lack of appreciation from all sides, General Pasha has done a commendable job in maintaining Pakistan’s freedom, independence and sovereignty. General Pasha accurately projected Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, while tackling the TTP and other Al Qaeda proxies in the settled and tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also dealt with terror threats posed by various local elements and proxies to Pakistan’s homeland. General Pasha also identified the Indian ‘hand’ in Balochistan, Swat, Bajaur and Lyari, while uncovering strategic interests that Russia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are pursuing in Pakistan – from Gwadar to Karachi. General Pasha also dealt with the severe blowback and credibility crisis that the ISI faced – from a preconcieved lack of trust between the CIA and ISI (not that the CIA has always been truthful with the ISI, or trustworthy in general) to the blame on it for the Indian embassy attacks in Kabul as well as the so-called 26/11 LeT attacks in Mumbai.

General Pasha has, however, not concerned himself fully with the fourth-generation psyops that are being deployed against Pakistan – while General Pasha remains a dutiful and traditionalist soldier, he has avoided conspiracies and ignored rumours while focusing on verifiable and actionable intelligence that can be utilized by the ISI and/or Pakistan. Because of this, General Pasha seems to have become victim to the psywar being conducted against Pakistan, its heroes, its institutions and its assets.

The wishes of this scribe are similar to those of the PM; General Pasha should continue serving Pakistan with the same vigour and vitality as he did before. But seeing as how that will be difficult, and how this old professional will (rightfully) think that Pakistan does not deserve a patriot like him, it is also apparent that future ridicule and undue attacks on his person and professional duties might lead to another resignation attempt by the DG ISI – or even the Army Chief, who was reportedly threatened by the US if there was any attempt to engage US Navy choppers in sovereign Pakistani territory. Of course, if civilian leaders can’t support and back up their military counterparts, then there is no point to wearing the khaki uniform no matter how many stars you have. Military leaders – despite the prevalent notion in Pakistan – indeed look to their civilian heads of guidance, advice, and even for orders. Just like Nawaz Sharif might have ordered the Kargil operation, thinking it to be a masterstroke, but blaming his Army Chief when everything went awry. Currently, Pakistan’s civilian leaders are the most corrupt of any period in history – they are not only engaged in financial malfeasance, but are actively selling out their country and its assets, while doing and saying anything that their foreign masters want. General Pasha, being an intelligent man, knows this, and has stated that the ISI has a record of how international powers are using and manipulating important Pakistani’s to achieve their own ends and cause damage to Pakistan; the real question is how far can you push his selflessness and patriotism in the pursuit of correcting a country whose very people are beyond hope and repair?

Americans Are Living In 1984

May 13, 2011

By Paul Craig Roberts

The White House’s “death of bin Laden” story has come apart at the seams. Will it make any difference that before 48 hours had passed the story had changed so much that it no longer bore any resemblance to President Obama’s Sunday evening broadcast and has lost all credibility?

So far it has made no difference to the once-fabled news organization, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which on May 9, eight days later, is still repeating the propaganda that the SEALs killed bin Laden in his Pakistani compound, where bin Laden lived next door to the Pakistani Military Academy surrounded by the Pakistani army.

Not even the president of Pakistan finds the story implausible. The BBC reports that the president is launching a full-scale investigation of how bin Laden managed to live for years in an army garrison town without being noticed.

For most Americans the story began and ended with four words: “we got bin Laden.” The celebrations, the sweet taste of revenge, of triumph and victory over “the most dangerous man on the planet” are akin to the thrill experienced by sports fans when their football team defeats the unspeakable rival or their baseball team wins the World Series. No fan wants to hear the next day that it is not so, that it is all a mistake. If these Americans years from now come across a story that the killing of bin Laden was
an orchestrated news event to boost other agendas, they will dismiss the report as the ravings of a pinko-liberal-commie.

Everyone knows we killed bin Laden. How could it be otherwise? We–the indispensable people, the virtuous nation, the world’s only superpower, the white hats–
were destined to prevail. No other outcome was possible.

No one will notice that those who fabricated the story forgot to show the kidney dialysis machine that, somehow, kept bin Laden alive for a decade. No doctors were on the premises.

No one will remember that Fox News reported in December, 2001, that Osama bin Laden had passed away from his illnesses. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,41576,00.html

If bin Laden beat all odds and managed to live another decade to await, unarmed and undefended, the arrival of the Navy SEALS last week, how it is possible that the “terror mastermind,” who defeated not merely the CIA and FBI, but all 16 US intelligence agencies along with those of America’s European allies and Israel, the National Security Council, the Pentagon, NORAD, Air Traffic Control, airport security four times on the same morning, etc. etc., never enjoyed another success, not even a little, very minor one? What was the “terror mastermind” doing for a decade after 9/11?

The “death of bin Laden” serves too many agendas that cover the political spectrum for the obvious falsity of the story to be recognized by very many. Patriots are euphoric that America won over bin Laden. Progressives have seized on the story to excoriate the United States for extra-judicial murder that brutalizes us all. Some on the left-wing bought into the 9/11 story because of the emotional satisfaction they received from oppressed Arabs striking back at their imperialist oppressors. These left-wingers are delighted that it took the incompetent Americans an entire decade to find bin Laden, who was hiding in plain view. The American incompetence in finding bin Laden simply, in their minds, proves the incompetence of the US government, which failed to protect Americans against the 9/11 attack.

Those who ordered, and those who wrote, totally incompetent legal memos that torture was permissible under US and international law, thereby setting up George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for the possibility of prosecution, are riding the euphoria of bin Laden’s death by declaring that it was torture that led the American assassins to bin Laden. All of a sudden, torture, which had fallen back into the disrepute in which it had been for centuries, is again in the clear. Anything that leads to the elimination of bin Laden is a valid instrument.

Those, who want to increase the pressure on Pakistan to shut up about Americans murdering Pakistani citizens in Pakistan from the air and from troops on the ground, have gained a new club with which to beat the Pakistani government into submission: “you hid bin Laden from us.”

Those who want to continue to fatten the profits of the military/security complex and the powers of Homeland Security, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, use bin Laden’s second, or ninth, death as proof that America is being successful in its war on terror and that the war must continue on such a successful path until all enemies are slain.

Most ominous of all was the statement by the CIA director that bin Laden’s death would lead to new attacks on America and new 9/11s from al Qaeda seeking revenge. This warning, issued within a few hours of President Obama’s Sunday evening address, telegraphed the inevitable “al Qaeda” Internet posting that America would suffer new 9/11s for killing their leader.

If the Taliban knew in December 2001 that bin Laden was dead, does anyone think that al Qaeda didn’t know it? Indeed, no member of the public has any way of knowing if al Qaeda is anything more than a bogyman organization created by the CIA which issues “al Qaeda” announcements. The evidence that al Qaeda’s announcements are issued by the CIA is very strong. The various videos of bin Laden for the last nine years have been shown by experts to be fakes. Why would bin Laden issue a fake video? Why did bin Laden cease issuing videos and only issue audios? A person running a world-wide terrorist organization should be able to produce videos. He would also be surrounded by better protectors than a couple of women. Where was al Qaeda, which according to former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, consists of “the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth.” Had these most dangerous men alive abandoned their leader?

The CIA director’s warning of future terrorist attacks, followed by a suspect “al Qaeda” threat of the same, suggests that if the American public continues to lose its enthusiasm for the governments open-ended wars, which are conducted at the expense of the US budget deficit, the dollar’s exchange value, inflation, Social Security, Medicare, income support programs, jobs, recovery, and so forth, “al Qaeda” will again outwit all 16 US intelligence agencies, those of our allies, NORAD, airport security, Air Traffic Control, etc. etc., and inflict the world’s only superpower with another humiliating defeat that will invigorate American support for “the war on terror.”

I believe that “al Qaeda” could blow up the White House or Congress or both and that the majority of Americans would fall for the story, just as the Germans, a better educated and more intelligent population, fell for the Reichstag Fire–as did a number of historians.

The reason I say this is that Americans have succumbed to propaganda that has conditioned them to believe that they are under attack by practically omnipotent adversaries. Proof of this is broadcast every day. For example, on March 9, I heard over National Public Radio in Atlanta that Emory University, a private university of some distinction, treated its 3,500 graduating class to a commencement address by Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security.

This is the agency that has goons feeling the genitals of young children and adults and which has announced that it intends to expand this practice from air travelers to shopping malls, bus and train stations. That a serious university invited such a low-lifer, who clearly has no respect for American civil liberty and is devoid of any sort of sense of what is appropriate, to address a graduating class of southern elite is a clear indication that the Ministry of Truth has prevailed. Americans are living in George Orwell’s 1984.

For those who haven’t read Orwell’s classic prediction of our time, Big Brother, the government, could tell the “citizens” any lie and it was accepted unquestioningly. As a perceptive reader pointed out to me, we Americans, with our “free press,” are at this point today: “What is really alarming is the increasingly arrogant sloppiness of these lies, as though the government has become so profoundly confident of its ability to deceive people that they make virtually no effort to even appear credible.”

A people as gullible as Americans have no future.

The author was Assistant Treasury Secretary in Reagan administration.

Afghan officials say Pakistan should have known about bin Laden

May 11, 2011

By Hamid Shalizi

Pakistan’s spy agency should have known Osama bin Laden was hiding not far from its capital, Afghan officials said on Wednesday, the first direct comments from Kabul about its neighbour’s apparent inability to track the al Qaeda leader.

The case also raised questions about Pakistan’s ability to protect its nuclear weapons adequately, said Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimy.

Bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, was killed by a U.S. strike team in a military garrison town about 60 km (35 miles) north of Islamabad on Monday.

U.S. legislators have demanded a review of aid to Pakistan after the disclosure that bin Laden could have been living in the house, which is not far from Pakistan’s main military academy, for five or six years.

“When we talk about the location of the house and a military academy nearby … at the very least it should be known about the activities inside the house and who is living there,” Azimy told a news conference.

“If Pakistan’s spy agency was not aware of the house near the academy, it brings the agency under question. If I was a security analyst, I would raise these very important questions.”

Afghan and U.S. officials have expressed concern that bin Laden’s killing might cause a short-term spike in violence as militants make retaliatory attacks.

But there has been no major violence in Afghanistan since Monday, although at least two rocket attacks were reported in and around the capital, Kabul, overnight. There were no major casualties, officials said.

“UNBELIEVABLE”

Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency and the army have been conspicuously silent about the raid, which has raised questions about whether they knew all along where bin Laden has been hiding.

The ISI has also been accused of maintaining ties with fighters targeting U.S. troops across the border in Afghanistan. Kabul and Islamabad have long had a difficult relationship.

Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s former foreign minister and a presidential candidate in 2009, also said it was no surprise bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan.

“I would say that some groups in the establishment definitely knew that they were there,” Abdullah told BBC television.

“A few hundred metres from the military academy? That’s unbelievable that this could happen without anybody knowing in the establishment,” he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani defended the failure to spot bin Laden saying fighting terrorism was the whole world’s responsibility.

“There is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone,” Gilani told reporters in Paris where he was due to meet French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

Azimy said the killing of bin Laden also raised broader questions about the ISI and the Pakistan military, including its ability to safeguard its nuclear arsenal.

“If the agency was not aware that the biggest terrorist had been living there for six long years, how can it protect its strategic weapons?” he said.

“How can the world be assured that the strategic and atomic weapons would not be in danger in the future?”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was far less direct in his first comments about bin Laden’s killing on Monday, saying that it proved the global fight against Islamist militants was “not in Afghan villages.”

(Additional reporting by Rob Taylor and Jonathon Burch; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)