Posts Tagged ‘ safe havens ’

Hamid Karzai Is Losing All His Marbles and His Credibility

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Kabul, Afghanistan- President Hamid Karzai’s troubling remarks this past Saturday that he would join the Taliban if he continues to come under pressure to reform by the United States and other “outsiders” has caused a stir in Washington DC.  Karzai’s comments came a week after President Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan at the end of March to pressure Karzai’s government to reform the political system, end corruption, and do a better job of fighting the Taliban.

Instead, what Karza delivered was a threat of the worse kind and quite possibly the most offensive and troubling thing one can say to a country that is risking countless soldiers lives daily to secure the country from the Taliban and other militant warlords in Afghanistan. In 8 short years, Hamid Karzai has gone from being the special guest of honor at George Bush’s State of the Union address to a leader who threatened to join our worst enemy. All because he feels that the US needs to stop badgering him to be a more responsible, fair, and an equitable leader as well as an effective partner in fighting the Taliban.

Karzai apparently made these unusual comments at a closed door meeting of lawmakers on Saturday, just days after accusing “foreigners” presumably the Unites States of being behind the fraud of the disputed elections of 2009. “He said that if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban”, said Farooq Marenai, a lawmaker from the eastern province of Nangarhar.  Mareni also stated that Karzai appeared nervous and demanded to know why parliament last week rejected legal reforms that would have strengthened Karzai’s authority over the country’s electoral institutions. Several other lawmakers confirmed that Karzai twice threatened to join the insurgency and the Taliban.

Karzai’s comments are troubling on many levels. First and foremost, he gives legitimacy and strength to the Taliban as his comments present the Taliban as an alternative option to American support or view on the situation. Karzai’s statement will no doubt have traveled the length and breadth of Afghanistan as word will spread that there is a weakness in the American-Afghan coalition that has been fighting and hunting the Taliban since October of 2001, post 9-11. The remarks by Karzai also puts every American, NATO, and Pakistani soldier at risk as instead of liberators, the foreign armies would be thought of as invaders, literally overnight. Lastly, Karzai’s remarks prove to the fact that Karzai is no longer an ally nor a credible partner for the US , NATO, and Pakistani army that have been fighting the Taliban with all their might.

There are reports of widespread nepotism, corruption, fraud, looting of the treasuries, and even drug trafficking, as Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been alleged to be a prominent figure in Afghanistan’s world leading illegal heroin production, cultivation and its global distribution. These facts along with his inability to rule effectively and assist the United States in its exit strategy out of Afghanistan by end of 2011 has made the Obama administration weary of dealing with Karzai. Also his typically slow response in instituting political and social freedoms along with a renewed focus in fighting the Taliban, has also been a factor in displeasure from Washington.

The Obama administration has refocused on the Afghan war with 30,000 additional troops to help with the war effort and that initial surge has helped the commanders on the ground in running the Taliban out of certain areas. There have also been great recent victories by the Pakistani army to go after the Taliban militants on its side of the border and in helping cut down the bases of support for the Afghan Taliban from the Pakistani tribal areas sympathetic to their cause. So these comments come at the worst possible time when the Taliban are on the run both in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a strong coalition of US-Afghan-Pakistan resistance against them could help eliminate or destroy the militants for good. But instead, the US and its allies are left wondering what to do with Karzai and how much he could be trusted in this tenuous partnership against the Taliban.

US-Pakistan Talks Mark ‘Intensification’ of Partnership

By Suzanne Presto for Voice of America News

The United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington next Wednesday (March 24). U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told reporters at the State Department Friday that these talks mark a “major intensification” of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Wednesday’s talks will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Holbrooke says delegations from both sides will include senior officials of their nation’s defense, diplomacy, finance and agriculture departments. The U.S. delegation will also include aid and trade officials, and Pakistan’s will include officials who handle water, power and social issues.
“This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but security is an important part of it,” he said. Holbrooke told reporters Friday that U.S. officials want to see aid money for Pakistan distributed more quickly.

“We are doing more. We will announce more. We want to do as much as the Congress will support,” Holbrooke said. The Obama administration has made improving and broadening relations with Pakistan a top priority, but U.S. policies and drone strikes targeting militants in the region remain unpopular. Holbrooke said the U.S. supports Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions and economic development, handle energy and water problems, as well as defeat extremists. “Everyone is aware of the popular public-opinion polls, and we think that our support for Pakistan deserves more recognition among the people,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistani and U.S. officials have been talking a lot, and in his words, “the time has come to walk the talk.” Holbrooke responded to Qureshi’s statement that next week’s talks would be a good opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust on both sides. “The first time I went to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi introduced me to the phrase “trust deficit,” and so I have heard it many times,” he said. “The last time I was there, we both said in a press conference that we thought we had made huge advances in that,” Holbrooke added. Secretary of State Clinton last visited Pakistan in October, where she spoke with officials and students alike.

Holbrooke said there are plans to hold the next set of strategic talks in Pakistan, likely within the next six months. He underscored that these bilateral talks do not replace the trilateral talks among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan which he said are expected to resume later this year.

Obama to focus on terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan


The new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to meet leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan in Islamabad this week as part of a major US policy review aimed at combating the Taliban and extremists in the region. He is scheduled to meet Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and key military leaders as well as members of the Foreign Ministry.

US President Obama has stated that he is planning on sending an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan and has promised to stabilize the Afghanistan and Pakistan region as this was one of his stated goals during the presidential campaign. He is also hoping for additional troops from NATO in battling a resurgent insurgency in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border areas. Holbrooke will also be holding top level talks with Afghani and Indian leaders before reporting back to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

In his first televised prime time speech Monday evening, President Obama was asked about the safe havens inside Pakistan and what he was doing to root out the terrorists on the Pakistani side of the border. Obama stated that there is “no doubt” that there are safe havens on Pakistan’s side of the border and his envoy Holbrooke is going to try and convince Pakistan’s new government of President Zardari that the Pakistanis are endangered just as much as the United States from the threat presented by the Taliban operating from these areas. He stated that it is important for Pakistan to know that it is “not acceptable” for either the United States or Pakistan to have people in the border region who will act “with impunity” to kill innocent people. He also stated that he believes that the government of Pakistan “cares deeply” about getting control of the situation and that Pakistan will be effective partners in the anti-terror fight against the Taliban and the extremists.

The New York Times reported Monday that the Taliban have set up complex operations in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where Taliban leaders are believed to play a significant role in stirring violence in southern Afghanistan and disrupting the supply of goods and services en route to US forces in Afghanistan. Although there has been some success against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Provience (NWFP) of Pakistan, the city of Quetta has fast become a central operations point for the Taliban in planning and carrying out attacks against the US forces out of this Pakistani city. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that the US will have a tough love approach to Pakistan and will threaten to cut off military aid to Islamabad if it does not cut down on militants operating from inside its territory.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani stated in an interview that if there is actionable intelligence against Al-Qaeda or Taliban in its territory, than Pakistan will act on that intelligence. However he admitted that there is not always good information coming out of Quetta as this is a very “messy area.” The province of Baluchistan where Quetta is the capital has long been hostile to the federal government of Pakistan. In fact, for several years now there has been a low level insurgency against the Pakistani government led by the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) who’s goal is the establishment of a separate Baluchistan government.

The BLA has been listed as a terrorist organization since 2006 by the Pakistani and British governments. It is a partnership of convenience for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters to unite with the BLA and base their operations from Quetta in Pakistan in fighting the American forces in Afghanistan. This new development is very troubling for the US forces as it allows the Taliban to organize and coordinate their attacks without much repercussion from the Americans as they are well inside Pakistani territory. Last week the Talliban was blamed for the execution and brutal beheading of a Polish engineer in the Baluchistan region who was held captive for several months before being savagely killed after negotiation for his release failed. Privately US officials admit that the Pakistani government has their hands full as they have been fighting the BLA for several years in and around Quetta and have not had great luck in building a network of sources and spies in the region as the Baluchi people of the area are sympathetic to the BLA against the Pakistani government.

It is the hope of peaceful groups like Pakistanis for Peace that the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan cooperate fully in their fight against the extremists in the region as they all share a common enemy. Whether the perpetrators of violence are Taliban, Al-Qaeda, or Baluchi separatists, they are the common enemy of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It does not matter if the acts of terrorism are committed against Americans, Afghans, foreigners such as the Polish engineer, or average Pakistani citizens, it is high time that the allies on the war on terror unite and join forces in rooting out this evil from the area. It is going to require the united efforts and resources of all involved to bring the fight to the enemy. Pakistan must understand that the enemy within its borders is a much more serious threat to its sovereignty and statehood than any foreign army operating close to its borders. One hopes that the governments of Pakistan and the US settle their differences regarding terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and are able to find a successful strategy in battling and rooting out the terrorists operating in the region both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan as this is in the best interest for all countries involved in attaining peace and winning the war on terror.

Reported for by Manzer Munir

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