Posts Tagged ‘ AfPak ’

Eleven Long Years Of War

As Reported by The Japan Times

Eleven years have passed since America and its coalition allies launched Operation Enduring Freedom against the Taliban government in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, a little less than a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States that killed some 3,000 people.

The Taliban government fell within two months, but the fighting dragged on. As the U.S. turned its attention to Iran, the Taliban regained its strength and took control of the southern and eastern areas of Afghanistan. The U.S. has attempted to engage in peace talks with the Taliban but discussions have soon broken down. Nevertheless, it is clear that a negotiated settlement is the only way to bring peace to Afghanistan. It is hoped that the U.S. will make strenuous efforts to resume talks with the Taliban.

On Sept. 20, the U.S. Defense Department announced that, as President Barack Obama had promised, the U.S. completed the withdrawal of some 33,000 soldiers dispatched by the Obama administration during a surge two years earlier. Now about 68,000 U.S. soldiers remain in Afghanistan and form the core of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The Obama administration plans to fully transfer authority over peace and security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by the end of 2014. Even after foreign combat forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan, about 20,000 foreign soldiers will remain stationed in Afghanistan to train the ANSF.

This year has witnessed a surge of “Green on Blue violence” — attacks on ISAF soldiers by Afghan soldiers and police officers who have fallen under the influence of the Taliban — resulting in the deaths of more than 50 ISAF soldiers.

Combat and other attacks by Afghans, including suicide bombings and the use of improvised explosive devices, have taken the lives of some 2,000 U.S. soldiers and another 1,000 ISAF soldiers since hostilities began. These casualties and the dragging on of a conflict with no possibility of victory in sight has resulted in war fatigue among the public in the U.S. and Europe.

In January, the Taliban announced that it had accepted an invitation to participate in peace talks with the U.S. and agreed to open a contact office in Qatar. But 10 weeks later it announced that it had suspended the talks. Apparently the Taliban did not like Washington’s considerate attitude toward Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had expressed disapproval of the talks.

The Obama administration is also reluctant to appear as being soft on the Taliban during this election year, but it has made it clear that it is willing to engage in talks with the Taliban if the latter severs ties with al-Qaida and accepts the Afghanistan Constitution, which guarantees the rights of women and minorities. This reasonable position at least opens the door to a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan.

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The End of AfPak

By Scott Malcomson for The New York Times

Remember how after 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s attacks on us could be linked to almost anything, from shopping habits to the rediscovery of Western values to carbon-pricing schemes? Something similar appears to be happening with Bin Laden’s death. Jihadism sure isn’t what it used to be. After 10 years, it seems, the time has come to go home. Troops are and will be coming back to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget will be cut. The outgoing secretary of defense feels able to openly mock NATO because, presumably, he thinks he can afford to — because it doesn’t matter all that much. The global war on terror is being downgraded from Armageddon to something more out of Leviticus: a tricked-out police action, just as John Kerry, in this magazine, always said it should be. On Sunday, Helene Cooper and Mark Landler reported that “American success in the counterterrorism campaign would seem to bolster arguments for a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan.” By Tuesday morning, they were reporting that President Obama would announce his withdrawal plans on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a Harris poll revealed that 51 percent of Americans and 54 percent of Britons believed “the death of Bin Laden meant it was time to bring troops from their countries home.”

That isn’t quite how it looked when I was in Washington a few weeks ago and spoke with about a dozen current and former American officials and with Pakistanis. The impression they each gave was that American withdrawal would be speeded not because of Bin Laden’s death but because of Pakistan’s reaction to it. After the initial shock, Pakistan’s (government-influenced) press latched onto a narrative of “national humiliation” as a result of the American raid, rather than, say, one of jubilation at the demise of a killer whose fantasies have brought Pakistan nothing but misery. A younger generation of military officers — Pakistan is dominated by its military — seemed at times about to revolt in reaction to the insult to Pakistan’s sovereignty. And the Inter Services Intelligence (I.S.I.), Pakistan’s ubiquitous military intelligence outfit, reacted, as was subsequently reported, by scouring the neighborhood around Bin Laden’s house for … evidence of how the C.I.A. found out he was there, and to determine who had been helping the Americans.

Finally, the Pakistan government did not respond to the Bin Laden raid by pressing its new advantage and rolling up terrorist networks across the land. No, it did not do that at all. So Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, went to Islamabad and on May 27 presented a list of demands. These included the arrest or elimination of Ayman al-Zawahiri (of Al Qaeda), Ilyas Kashmiri (a long-sought semi-free-agent and former Pakistani military man), Sirajuddin Haqqani (of the AfPak-border based Haqqani network) and Atiya Abdur Rahman (Al Qaeda), and the shutting down of bomb factories in Pakistan.

By June 3, Kashmiri was dead. But this promising start now seems isolated. The other wanted men are still at large. The bomb-makers might well be getting tipped off. The revolt by younger Pakistani officers seemed only to get worse.

In short, the U.S. and Pakistan are really not getting along. Among members of Congress, beating up Pakistan has become ritualized; Senators McCain and Rogers were doing it again on the Sunday programs. I wondered: How many times can Pakistan be abandoned? As Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer and the head of President Obama’s first major AfPak review, shows in his excellent new book, “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of Islamist Jihad,” embrace and abandonment have formed the pattern of American-Pakistani relations since the majority-Muslim nation was formed out of the breakup of British India in 1947. Harry Truman’s lack of interest yielded to Dwight Eisenhower’s enthusiasm for Pakistan as an anti-Communist bulwark and a base for spying on the Soviets. The relationship was and remained built around security and intelligence. Lyndon Johnson reversed course when India and Pakistan went to war in 1965; he cut off both, but Pakistan had, unlike India, been a strong ally, and it felt betrayed. This set the pattern: ultimately, Pakistan was tactical and India was strategic.

Now, after almost 10 years of intense engagement, Pakistan and the U.S. appear set for another split; at least that was the consensus among the officials I spoke with. There was a pervasive sadness in these conversations. It was due in part to the sheer human effort that has gone into the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. A lot of spies and soldiers and diplomats and politicians have put years of their lives into making “AfPak” work, which requires making Pak work. A lot (not all) of that effort seems to be going down the drain, along with much of the billions of taxpayer dollars that financed it.

There is also personal sadness in that the AfPak effort was associated toward the end with Richard Holbrooke, whose death late last year brought the foreign-policy world up short. Holbrooke did not take great care of himself, so objectively his death could not be entirely a surprise, and among people over 70 the reactions I heard were more of the well-what-did-you-expect variety. But in the 35-to-65 range it was different. Holbrooke represented, very attractively, the assertion of youth and hope against experience. Even at 69 he had a distinct eagerness, even boyishness, alongside the baritone gravitas. He attracted bright young people. He could be young and old at the same time. Once he was gone, that sort of generational bridging disappeared. (Older figures are few in this administration.) The sense of continuity (as well as of optimism) is weakening. There’s something missing now.

There was also a sense of ideological loss of direction. For all their differences, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush shared a tangible optimism about American governmental involvement abroad. President Obama is different, and even if he weren’t the national mood is. The people’s representatives in Congress are vying to bring troops home faster, and if there is an internationalist remaining in the House he or she is keeping quiet. The Republican candidates for president seem to have settled on anti-war isolationism as a winning position. Obama’s great strength in foreign policy — his ability to repackage, and optimize, American power in a multipolar world — is the strategy that dare not speak its name, or it will bring accusations of “declinism.”

Finally, there is the tremendous sadness of Pakistan itself. The country doesn’t have enough water. It lacks the electricity to develop its industries. Literacy, by some reckonings, is actually declining. Democracy has been restored but the government is hardly stable. The one truly semi-stable institution, the military, is struggling against itself, just as Pakistanis are dividing, and attacking each other on an increasing scale (which is saying something).

But, in a way, the saddest thing of all, from a foreign-policy point of view — Pakistani or American — is that the one great card Pakistan has to play is to make itself a problem. Pakistan formed itself into a regional player through building its army, running terrorist proxies in Kashmir and Afghanistan, indulging in enough Islamist millenarianism to make itself frightening, and developing nuclear weapons. None of these strategies have a good future. But in the absence of a long-term committed relationship — what Holbrooke promoted as a “strategic partnership” — with the United States or, perhaps, with China, Pakistan is left with fear as its most successful export.

There was some discussion in Washington as to whether Mullah Omar’s name was on that list that Clinton and Mullen presented in Islamabad. It almost doesn’t matter. The doubt itself is the message: Pakistan stays valuable because it has terrorist “ties” or “links” or “proxies” or whatever. As national existential dilemmas go, Pakistan’s is particularly nightmarish. The U.S. will leave them to it — abandonment again — and choose the happier relationship with India. Secretary Clinton will be at the regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in late July, helping to take her longtime initiative of eastward Indian engagement, and the integration of the United States into East Asian political structures, to a new level. This is part of a long-term strategy of accommodating the rise of China and of India.

And Pakistan, after 10 years, will be left behind; as the line in Washington goes, “There is no good solution.”

AfPak envoy comes down heavy on Pakistan

Reported by The Press Trust Of India

Making it clear that Pakistan needs to do “more” to deal with the safe havens of terrorists on its soil, US AfPak envoy Marc Grossman on Friday said it will help in bringing peace to Afghanistan. On his maiden trip to New Delhi after being appointed in February as US special representative to Afghanistan-Pakistan, Grossman called on foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and held extensive consultations on the situation in the region.

“There is always more to do and we are encouraging Pakistan to do everything possible to deal with the safe havens…..which will also play a big role in bringing peace to Afghanistan,” Grossman told reporters after his meeting with Rao which lasted for nearly one-and-a-half hours.

Asked about the recent remarks of chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen accusing Pakistan’s ISI of backing the Haqqani network, an Afghan Taliban group, he said, “I have nothing to add or to subtract to whatever Mullen has already said. We do a huge amount of work with Pakistan in countering terrorism and extremism and that’s what we will continue doing.”

Appointed after the sudden death of Richard Holbrooke, Grossman since he was new to the job, it was important for him to come to India and take advantage of the expertise and experience of the “people here”.

Apart from Rao, he will also be meeting other senior officials, including National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon before resuming his journey, which will take him to Kabul, Islamabad and Riyadh. Giving some details of the meeting with Rao, the US envoy said they discussed the Indo-US global partnership, its future and their joint projects in Afghanistan.

“We have a lot of work to do together in Afghanistan and some of that work is very important…,” he said.

Recalling US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s February speech at the Asia Society, Grossman said the military surge in Afghanistan has been effective and Taliban has been degraded but his worry was that being unable to do much militarily, they might resort to terrorist attacks targeting civilians and Afghan police.

Richard Holbrooke: The Death of a Peacemaker

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

President George H.W. Bush once described him as the “most persistent advocate I’ve ever run into.” President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, died earlier today after complications from heart surgery. He was a gifted diplomat and a tough negotiator who was considered one of the superstars of international diplomacy. Richard Holbrooke died Monday evening at George Washington University Hospital after doctors had performed emergency surgery Saturday to repair a tear in his aorta, the largest artery in the human body responsible for carrying blood from the heart to all parts of the body.

Described only days ago by President Obama as a “towering figure in American diplomacy,” Holbrooke was a career diplomat who started his career in 1962 as an officer during the Vietnam War where he initially worked at the US Agency of International Development. He continued to work on Vietnam issues during the war under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was a part of the delegation that presided in Paris for the peace negotiations to end the war. He also served as the director of the Peace Corps in Morocco in the early 1970’s as well as the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Carter administration. He was in charge of US ties with China when relations between the two countries were “normalized” in late 1978.

Later in his career, he also held senior positions at a few prestigious Wall Street firms before returning to diplomacy under the Clinton administration. During this time he was credited with his most illustrious achievement to date when he helped orchestrate the Dayton peace agreement which ended the horrific war and genocide in Bosnia. He later went on to write a memoir titled “To End a War” and become somewhat of a celebrity in the Balkans, and is widely believed to have become the Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton if she had won. He also went on to serve as the US ambassador to Germany as well as the United Nations under President Bill Clinton before being tapped by the incoming Obama administration with the herculean task of being the special envoy of the United States to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

His last assignment was arguably his most difficult as he himself stated that “There’s no Slobodan Milosevic. There’s no Palestinian Authority. There is a widely dispersed group of people that we roughly call the enemy. There’s also al Qaeda, with which there’s no possibility of any discussion at all.” He mentioned that in the AfPak region, (a term he is credited with having coined), there are a range of militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and that “an expert could add another 30.”

Such was the difficulty of his last assignment that some close to him are speculating whether the high level of stress and travels associated with shuttling between Washington, Kabul and Islamabad might have been a factor in causing a tear in his aorta. Certainly the complex and high strung meetings with Karzai and Zardari as well as the delicate balancing acts of diplomacy along with military operations in a region of the world described as “the most dangerous in the world” possibly took a toll on his health.

But to those that knew Richard Holbrooke, he was a man capable of taking on and winning the challenges of this and any difficult assignment as he had done so many times in his career. A New York Times reporter once wrote “if you want somebody to pull the trigger, or close a deal, think Holbrooke.”

Tonight in Washington DC, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the thousands of employees of the US State Department mourn the death of this icon of American diplomacy and celebrate his lifelong service to the United States and the American people in search of peace in troubled spots the world over. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, a job vacancy has sadly opened up in the dangerous AfPak region of the world for an assignment that no one is capable of fulfilling quite like Mr Holbrooke. For the sake of the success in the Afghan war, peace and stability in Pakistan and securing America’s vital national interests in the region and around the world, let us hope that his successor will be half as capable a diplomat and negotiator as the late Richard C. Holbrooke, truly a giant of American diplomacy.

Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

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