Posts Tagged ‘ Gen. David Petraeus ’

Obama Prays for Holbrooke’s Recovery

As Reported by The Associated Press

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s diplomatic point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan, remained in critical condition Saturday night after surgery to repair a tear in his aorta. President Barack Obama Saturday expressed support for Holbrooke’s family in the difficult hour and prayed for his recovery.

“Earlier today, I spoke to Richard Holbrooke’s wife Kati and told her that Michelle and I are praying for Richard. Richard Holbrooke is a towering figure in American foreign policy, a critical member of my Afghanistan and Pakistan team, and a tireless public servant who has won the admiration of the American people and people around the world. I know that Secretary Clinton, Admiral Mullen, Tom Donilon, and other members of our team have been with him at George Washington hospital, and we continue to pray for his recovery, and support his family in this difficult time,” Obama said in the statment.

Holbrooke, 69, was rushed to George Washington University Hospital on Friday morning after he had chest pains during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Washington Post reported. He was almost immediately taken into surgery that extended for 21 hours into Saturday, the paper added.

With Holbrooke in intensive care only blocks away, President Obama’s senior national security advisers met at the White House on Saturday to discuss a major internal assessment of the war in Afghanistan. Obama will review the assessment Monday, with release to the public scheduled for later in the week.

Meanwhile, according to the Post, the U.S. administration officials said that Holbrooke’s condition would not affect the war review, compiled over the past month by the National Security Council staff from assessments made by Holbrooke and his staff and by the military coalition led by Gen Patreaus.

Holbrooke’s long diplomatic experience has given him a unique perspective within the administration and has positioned him perhaps better than anyone to navigate the often messy intersection of diplomacy, counterinsurgency and politics, the newspaper noted. Holbrooke, the newspaper reported, has been a strong advocate of a negotiated settlement of the war and of massive increases in development and governance aid. Under his direction, the number of U.S. civilian officials in Afghanistan has more than tripled, to exceed 1,000. He experienced health problems in August, when he underwent treatment for heart problems.

The Continuous Struggle Along Pakistan’s Frontier

By David Ignatius for The Wall Street Journal

In the same week when U.S. helicopters mistakenly killed three members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps near the Afghan border, American Special Forces were training members of that same force on how to use radios, sniper rifles and other counterinsurgency tools at a remote base here.

Pakistanis and Americans don’t talk much about this joint training camp, northwest of Peshawar about 20 miles from Afghanistan. But the program is a symbol of the weird duality of the relationship — a mix of public distance and private cooperation that’s awkward for both sides.

“We have good relations; it’s going very well,” Col. Ahsan Raza, the camp commander, said when I visited Tuesday afternoon, two days before the fatal U.S. cross-border attack. But the Pakistani commandant was eager not to appear too close to America, stressing that the U.S. trainers were supplying technical skills, not running the show.

Both sides view the program here as a success story. But the joint effort masks a tension that is only likely to deepen in coming months.

Pakistan wants to use the 70,000-strong Frontier Corps to stabilize the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, and halt the domestic Taliban insurgency. The United States, struggling in Afghanistan, wants Pakistan to help seal the border and destroy the sanctuaries used by al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. The two sides talk as if their goals are identical, but they aren’t. The differing priorities became clear in conversations last week with Pakistani commanders.

Warsak is a pet project of Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, the commander of the Frontier Corps. At his headquarters in the ancient Bala Hissar fortress in Peshawar, the traditional garb of the tribal “scouts,” as they’re called, makes you wonder whether the days of the British Raj ever really ended. Behind Khan’s desk is a plaque bearing the names of his predecessors back to 1907.

Khan argues that it’s time for Pakistan to move from big military offensives in the tribal areas to what he calls “policing” actions. “No steamroller operations,” he says.

Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, who commands the Pakistani army in the western border areas and is Khan’s boss, makes the same point. “Don’t expect major new kinetic operations,” he says. “We have changed gears to a softer approach.”

This can’t be comforting to Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. He is said to have concluded, after several months in Kabul, that more Pakistani pressure on the havens is crucial for American success. That’s the basic conflict — an overstretched America wants a Pakistani surge in the tribal areas; an overstretched Pakistan just wants to keep the peace.

Khan’s strategy is an updated version of the old British approach: work through the tribal chiefs, or maliks, keep the roads open and pound any renegades back into line. He wants to maintain order through three tiers of force: local militias, known as “levies,” recruited by the maliks; the Frontier Corps dispersed across the FATA; and the big guns of the Pakistani army.

Working with the American trainers at Warsak, Khan has devised some smart tactics: Private vehicles in the FATA will have electronic chips that register their movements. The scouts will report suspicious activities on their American-made radios, and the snipers will blow away any miscreants using their American-made sniper rifles. To demonstrate that order is returning, the burly Khan, the scion of a princely Pashtun family, took a car trip last summer through the FATA with his wife and daughter.

Khan’s enthusiasm is infectious: “There are no safe havens in my area of responsibility — I can take you anywhere, any place, anytime.” That sidesteps the fact that North and South Waziristan, the main trouble spots, are still the responsibility of the army.

Driving down the roads of the border areas, you sometimes have the sense that you are traveling back in time. But that “back to the future” strategy is a temporary fix, at best. Pakistan, with U.S. support, should be moving forward, not in reverse. The years of war have shattered the old tribal order, and the long-run goal should be to bring the tribal areas into a modern Pakistan, rather than let them fester on their own.

U.S. drone attacks and other firepower can keep the insurgents on the run, but they won’t bring stability. Neither will Tariq Khan’s snipers. Somehow, the people in this desolate region have to feel they have a stake in a future that’s something other than continuous warfare.

Pakistan Extends Gen. Kayani’s Term

By Zahid Hussain for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan’s civilian government late Thursday extended the term of army chief General Ashfaq Kayani for three more years to ensure continuity in the military leadership at a crucial stage in the country’s battle against Islamic militants.  The announcement was made by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in a televised speech.

“The decision is taken to maintain continuity in the military’s command as the country is passing through very critical times,” Mr. Gilani said. Gen. Kayani, 58 years old, was appointed army chief in December 2007 and was to retire at the end of the year under normal tenure limitations.

The general has won praise for leading two successful military operations against Islamic militants last year in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and South Waziristan tribal region. But militants have regrouped in many areas and continue to unleash suicide strikes across the country.

More than 50,000 Pakistani troops are still engaged in fighting al Qaeda backed Islamic militants in the Pakistan’s troubled northwestern region, which borders Afghanistan. They are aided by unmanned U.S. drone strikes.

The war is seen as a crucial piece of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan as many Taliban fighters use Pakistan’s tribal regions as a safe haven.

A senior government official said Gen. Kayani’s good rapport with Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, and other American military leaders was a major factor in the decision to extend his term.

“He has worked closely with the current American military leadership and it is important for both Pakistan and the U.S. at this point for Gen. Kayani to stay at the helm,” said the official.

Other analysts agreed continuity was important at the current juncture of the war. “His leadership is crucial at the time when Pakistani army is fighting a decisive battle against the militants,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, an independent defense analyst.

Still, the extension of his tenure is likely to raise concerns among some pro-democracy activists about the pre-eminent role of the military in Pakistan.

The country has a democratically elected civilian government under President Asif Ali Zardari. But the country has been ruled more by military leaders in its 63-year history, most recently between 1999 and 2008.

Mr. Zardari’s government faces growing opposition and some analysts fear the army may step in again if they deem it necessary. Gen. Kayani, though, has focused on fighting militants. “We have to defeat them decisively,” he said during a recent discussion with a group of journalists.

Gen. Kayani received his commission in the Pakistani army in 1971. He served as the chief of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, before his elevation to army chief.

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