Posts Tagged ‘ Mullah Omar ’

Going After the Haqqani Network

From the Editors of The Express Tribune

The question of the Haqqani network and how it is to be handled continues to fester. The US special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, this time in London, has suggested that Pakistan needs to go after the group with more force. The warning from Mr Holbrooke will have dashed hopes, raised during Hillary Clinton’s visit, that Washington was prepared to go along with a Pakistani strategy of dialogue with the network — led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin. Links between the Pakistani intelligence forces and the Haqqanis have existed since the Afghan war and they have never been explicitly denied by either party. The elder Haqqani made his name as a formidable mujahideen commander during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when he was a member of Maulvi Yunis Khalis’s Hizb-i-Islami. He was also, according to American investigative journalist Steve Coll (who recently wrote Ghost Wars : The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001), offered a major role in the government by Afghan President Hamid Karzai some years ago.

For Islamabad, the pressure is on again. The Haqqani network is seen in Afghanistan as a key problem; it has carried out numerous attacks there. Washington believes Pakistan needs to do more to support the efforts against the militants in that country. The Pakistan military meanwhile, following its operation in South Waziristan, has avoided any move into North Waziristan – despite some gentle nudging from the US – reportedly following the intervention of the Haqqanis. They are also said to be facilitating talks with other militant factions across the conflict zone.

This brings us to an old issue: that of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants. It is clear that in the minds of the Pakistani military and the agencies allied to it this line of distinction continues to exist. Of course, Washington is in many ways responsible for creating this. The ghosts of the Afghan war, the alliance it formed with the mujahideen fighting the former Soviets and the engagement of Pakistan’s agencies, notably the ISI, are today coming back to haunt it. This is not to say that the CIA didn’t have its own connections to some of these actors in the past, but the point that is missed by most people is that it is America which calls the shots in this part of the world (or perhaps in most other parts as well).

There is a need for Islamabad to think things through. The division of militants into various camps, for example, so-called ‘good’ Taliban versus so-called ‘bad’ Taliban, has to stop. Essentially, these men of violence do more harm than good. The fact that a particular faction directs its wrath outside the country and avoids targeting Pakistani security forces should not be enough to cast it in the role of an ally. The effort against militancy does need to be seen in the wider regional context, and not as a matter of narrow allegiances and temporary agreements. The people who make decisions in Islamabad should keep in mind just how unsuccessful past efforts to do deals with the militants have been — with such attempts giving groups making up the complex Taliban network in the North a chance to reorganise and strengthen themselves on more than one occasion. There is reason to believe that this has contributed to the terrorism that has claimed thousands of lives. Even if the Haqqani network did not itself send out the bombers it has acted to back forces that have played a part in encouraging militant trends. The so-called Quetta Shura, led by the elusive Mullah Omar, is among these.

This having been said, Washington too needs also to review its own demands. There have been mixed signals over recent weeks. It is possible there is a lack of clarity on strategy within the US capital. This of course means the confusion in Islamabad has grown. A clear course of action needs to be planned in unison so the militants that Washington helped nurture can be driven away.

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Clinton, With Initiatives in Hand, Arrives in Pakistan

By Mark Landler for The New York Times

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived here Sunday for high-level deliberations with Pakistani leaders, the latest in a series of encounters that the Obama administration hopes will chip away at decades of suspicion between Pakistan and the United States.

Hillary Rodham ClintonMrs. Clinton will announce a raft of initiatives to help Pakistan in public health, water distribution and agriculture, to be funded by $500 million in American economic aid. Among other things, the United States will build a 60-bed hospital in Karachi and help farmers export their mangoes.

Yet these projects, however beneficial to this economically fragile country, do not disguise several nagging sources of friction between the two sides. American officials still question Pakistan’s commitment to root out Taliban insurgents in its frontier areas, its motives in reaching out to war-torn Afghanistan and its determination to expand its own nuclear program.

Pakistan plans to buy two nuclear reactors from China — a deal that alarms the United States because it is cloaked in secrecy and is being conducted outside the global nonproliferation regime. Administration officials said they did not know if Mrs. Clinton planned to raise the purchase.

Relations could be further tested if the Obama administration decides to place a major Pakistani insurgent group, the Haqqani network, on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Islamabad maintains ties to the group through its intelligence service, and it is seeking to exploit those connections as a way to extend its influence over Afghanistan.

For all that, tensions between the two sides have ebbed since Mrs. Clinton’s last visit here in October, when she was peppered with hostile questions in public meetings and bluntly suggested that people in the Pakistani government know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

“We needed to change the core of the relationship with Pakistan,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The evolution of the strategic dialogue, and the fact that we are delivering, is producing a change in Pakistani attitudes.”

Mr. Holbrooke noted a U-turn in Pakistan’s policy on issuing visas to American diplomats. For months, Pakistani officials had held up those applications, creating a huge backlog and frustrating the United States. But Pakistan issued 450 visas in the last five days, he said.

Mr. Holbrooke conceded that public-opinion polls toward the United States had yet to show much of a change. Mrs. Clinton may receive more criticism on Monday at a town-hall meeting in Islamabad. Her visit, which was not announced due to security concerns, is being conducted under tight security.

Vali Nasr, a senior advisor to Mr. Holbrooke, said it was unrealistic to expect “to change 30 years of foreign policy of Pakistan on a dime.” But he said, “On foreign policy issues, we’re seeing a lot more convergence.”

The United States is encouraged by the burgeoning dialogue between President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Pakistani leaders, including the chief of the staff of the army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Any resolution of the war, Mr. Holbrooke said, must involve Pakistan.

While American officials would like to see a more aggressive Pakistani military push in North Waziristan, the stronghold of the Haqqani network, they praise the military’s campaigns in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley, where Taliban insurgents had also made gains.

Pakistan’s battle against insurgents has exacted a fearful civilian toll. Last week, a suicide bomber killed 45 people, and injured 175, in an attack on a 1,000-year-old Sufi shrine in Lahore. Many Pakistanis blame the American-led war in Afghanistan for fomenting anti-Pakistan terrorism.

A coalition of protest groups issued a statement Sunday, timed to Mrs. Clinton’s arrival, which calls for an end to the war in Afghanistan and for Americans and Pakistanis who are involved in clandestine air strikes on Pakistani targets to be tried for war crimes.

Mrs. Clinton is to meet General Kayani on Monday, after meetings on Sunday with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. She was also scheduled to meet Pakistani business leaders and the head of the Pakistani opposition, Nawaz Sharif.

Mrs. Clinton has brought a shopping-bag full of commitments for Pakistan, drawn from the $7.5 billion in non-military aid, over five years, pledged by Congress last year. The emphasis is on basic services like electricity and water, politically-charged issues in this country, particularly during the hot summer.

“Our commitment is broad and deep,” said Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, who is with Mrs. Clinton. “We will not do what we’ve done in the past.”

Administration officials said the project to upgrade Pakistan’s creaky power grid, which involves building hydroelectric dams and rehabilitating power plants, had helped reduce chronic power outages. But on the day Mrs. Clinton landed, television reports here warned of further outages.

American Arrested in Pakistan was on Solo Mission to Hunt Bin Laden

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Gary Brooks Faulkner, a 51 year old construction worker from California was arrested by Pakistani police Monday night with a pistol, night vision goggles, and a 40 inch sword and apparently on a mission to kill Osama Bin Laden in revenge for the September 11 attacks on the US.

Faulkner was captured by the Pakistani police in the city of Chitral in the northwestern region of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. According to a senior police officer, Faulkner was carrying religious Christian books and was reportedly on a mission to avenge the victims of the 9-11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

According to Pakistani officials, Faulkner arrived in Pakistan on June 3 and stayed in a local hotel in an area of Pakistan known for its spring festivals and frequented by foreign tourists also. Apparently this was Mr. Faulkner’s sixth trip to Pakistan since 2002. At a press conference in his present state of Colorado, Faulkner’s brother Scott Faulkner, a physician, stated that his brother Gary was “on a mission.”

“He’s not crazy,” Dr. Faulkner said of his brother. “He’s not a psychopath. He’s not a sociopath.” Because of Osama Bin Laden’s security and Gary Faulkner’s kidney condition, Dr Faulkner did not believe he would see his brother again as he dropped him off at the airport prior to his flight to Pakistan this month. “I did not think I was going to see my brother again,” Dr. Faulkner said. “That’s the nature of going to Pakistan and hunting a wanted man who is surrounded by people with automatic weapons.”

Dr Faulkner stated that his brother underwent kidney dialysis three times a week and that if he killed or capture Bin Laden, he would use the reward money to live the rest of his life in Nicaragua helping build houses for the homeless.

According to Pakistani police, Mr Faulkner disappeared from his hotel Sunday night and away from the posted police guards, who are customarily there for the security of foreigners. When he checked out without informing police, officers began looking for him, according to the top police officer in the Chitral region, Mumtaz Ahmad Khan. He was in custody after a 10 hour search in a forest area in a high security zone close to the border with Afghanistan. He surrendered without any resistance and was flown to Peshawar where members of the United States embassy were notified of the arrest of an American.

“We initially laughed when he told us that he wanted to kill Osama bin Laden,” Khan said. But when officers seized the weapons and night-vision equipment, “our suspicion grew.” He said the American was trying to cross into the nearby Afghan region of Nuristan.

Chitral and Nuristan are among several rumored hiding places for bin Laden along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is currently being questioned by members of Pakistan’s intelligence officials according to reports and is in Peshawar where at present he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Whether Faulkner was there on a half baked suicidal, Rambo style mission or he truly believed he could be successful in finding and infiltrating Osama’s inner circle in order to capture or kill him remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it is a testament to the American “Can-do” spirit that a patriotic yet perhaps disillusioned and aging construction worker could take it upon himself to go to dangerous areas of Pakistan in order to avenge the victims of September 11. Whether he is simply crazy or foolish, one can not deny his desire to capture one of the most wanted man in history. We can only dream of the possibilities of real capture or death of Bin Laden if the majority of people in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region wanted to capture Osama and the terrorist Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar and others who shelter him.

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