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U.S. Refrains From Declaring Haqqani Terrorist Group on Pakistan Concerns

By John Walcott and Viola Gienger for Bloomberg News

The Obama administration isn’t ready to declare the Haqqani group in Pakistan a “foreign terrorist organization” even after Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group attacked the U.S. embassy and American troops in Afghanistan.

“We are continuing to review whether to designate” the Haqqani organization, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday.
Mullen’s declaration in Senate testimony last week that Haqqani operatives acted as a “proxy” for Pakistan’s intelligence service may have further complicated the question.

Taking the first step — adding the Haqqani group to the list of terrorist organizations — would lead to demands that Pakistan be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. That would put at risk Pakistan’s cooperation as the U.S. tries to snuff out al-Qaeda’s core and other militants in the country’s tribal areas.

For now, the U.S. has designated the Haqqani network’s founder and other leaders. It has made clear to Pakistan that clamping down on the group “is job one, that we want to do it together, and that’s the conversation that we’re having now,” Nuland said.
Designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism would put it in the company of only four other countries — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — and might trigger a nationalist backlash in Pakistan. It would require halting U.S. aid to Pakistan, force the U.S. to oppose World Bank loans to Pakistan, and end cooperation between the two countries in fighting terrorism and trying to stabilize Afghanistan.

Pariah State

Naming Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism “would turn it into a pariah state,” Robert Lamb, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “That would complicate a lot of aspects of the relationship, which is complicated enough already. It’s ugly, but it’s not unsalvageable.”

The administration is under new pressure to designate the Haqqanis a terrorist organization alongside 49 others, including al-Qaeda, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

After Mullen testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Haqqani group “meets the standards for designation” as a terrorist organization. So far, said congressional officials, Clinton hasn’t responded.

Congressional Pressure

“I think there’s going to be increasing congressional pressure on them to list the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization,” said Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and now a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation policy group in Washington.
“If we know that the Haqqani network is behind these major attacks on U.S. interests and we fail to confront them, that is a signal of weakness and it simply invites more attacks,” she said.

Nuland and other administration and military officials signaled a reluctance to sanction Pakistan.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said yesterday that the U.S. wants to “maintain a relationship with Pakistan that’s grounded in common interests, to include going after terrorists that threaten both countries.”
“There are differences from time to time,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon. “Those differences have been made public, and we continue to discuss those differences in private. We look forward to working with the Pakistanis to try to resolve them.”

Stretched Thin

Pakistani military officials told reporters in Islamabad on Sept. 25 that they had decided not to take action against the Haqqani group because their forces are stretched too thin.

If tensions escalated, Pakistan might again, as it did in a previous diplomatic confrontation, cut supply lines to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan from its port city of Karachi. Alternative land or air routes are more costly and difficult.
The Pakistanis, said two U.S. intelligence officials, also might abandon secret agreements that permit unmanned U.S. drones to collect intelligence and attack targets in designated areas of Pakistan.

The U.S. already is restricted from operating over the Haqqanis’ suspected base in North Waziristan or the border city of Quetta, home to the main Afghan Taliban group. They also might expel some or all of the classified number of U.S. intelligence officers and special operations forces who are training Pakistani troops and helping target drone attacks, the officials said.

ISI Role

Designating the Haqqani network a terrorist organization would do little to stop the group, said Curtis of the Heritage Foundation. The Haqqanis, she said, probably still would be able to garner financial support from their allies in the Persian Gulf region and backing from the Pakistan spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, known as ISI.
A U.S. designation of the Haqqanis isn’t likely to change Pakistani policy either, said Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

The ISI and the Pakistani military regard the Haqqani network and other militants as allies in their campaign to maintain Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and prevent arch- rival India from getting a toehold on Pakistan’s western border, said Fair and other specialists.
“They believe that the Haqqanis would protect Pakistan’s interest in any future setup in Afghanistan,” Curtis said.
Rejecting the charges that his government uses the Haqqanis as a proxy, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a Sept. 25 statement that U.S. policy on Afghanistan shows “confusion and policy disarray.”

“We may just let this ride,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a former Afghanistan and Pakistan intelligence analyst at the State Department and director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “We know what direction the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is going, and now we have no idea what the bottom looks like.”

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Pakistan’s Bubbling Water Crisis

By Haider Warraich for Foreign Policy

More than 1 billion people in the developing world lack access to clean water, with this number slated to rise to more than 2 billion by 2020. According to UNESCO, 2.3 billion people suffer from water-related diseases, 5 million of whom die each year. However, the burden of water scarcity is not shared equally. According to Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), “At one level the world’s water is like the world’s wealth. Globally, there is more than enough to go round. The problem is that some countries get a lot more than others. With 31 percent of global freshwater resources, Latin America has 12 times more water per person than South Asia.”

Pakistan is on the dry end of the water stress spectrum. About a third of Pakistanis do not have access to safe drinking water, while a further 46% lack access to proper sanitation. However, this deficiency is not uniformly distributed. Pakistan is populated to a large extent around the Indus River that runs the length of the country. The Indus plains cover about a quarter of the country’s landmass and host two thirds of its people, meaning that people living outside this region are particularly water stressed. Furthermore, according to a World Bank report, Pakistan’s per capita water availability has diminished five-fold from 5000 cubic meters in 1951 to 1100 cubic meters in 2006 due to rising consumption by a growing population coupled with rising water waste.

What is even more worrisome is that of the water that is actually available, very little is safe for consumption. A study of 14,000 water sources in 24 major Pakistani districts conducted by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) over a five-year period found that 82% of sources in Pakistan were unfit for human consumption. The major contaminants noted were bacteria, dissolved solids, nitrates and fluoride.
By Haider Warraich for Foreign Policy

This worsening water crisis is having a drastic impact on public health in Pakistan. According to a UNICEF report, 20-40 percent of hospitalized patients in Pakistan suffer from water-borne infections. Several disease epidemics in Pakistan have been traced back to water contamination, including several outbreaks of the potentially fatal Hepatitis E, rotavirus diarrhea, typhoid fever and dysentery. Polio is also a water-borne infection, and Pakistan is one of the last countries on earth to continue to suffer major problems from the disease.

The sustained high levels of chemical compounds in Pakistan’s drinking water supply have also caused the outbreak of population-wide poisonings. Fluoride toxicity, known to cause bone pain and deformation, has been reported from several areas of Punjab province, with a high occurrence in children. Arsenic poisoning, which causes a wide array of dangerous complications, has been reported to be present in up to 73% of the residents of Sindh province’s Manchar Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan and one of the largest in Asia. Pesticide poisoning, also linked to infiltration into the water supply, has been reported in Pakistani farmers.

Pesticide poisoning, among other problems, stems from the endemic misuse of water in Pakistan. About 97 percent of Pakistan’s freshwater resources are expended in irrigation and agriculture, yet Pakistan has one of the lowest productivities per unit of water and unit of land in the world. Waste is incurred at several stages: Canal heads, water courses and farms themselves all are the sites of considerable leakage. Furthermore, with Pakistan’s major hydroelectric dams losing storage capacity, there is little reserve during times of famine. Pakistan is in dire need of major hydroelectric projects to increase power generation, protect against seasonal flooding, and to have greater control over the water supply. However, provincial politics has stifled this debate, halting any progress in this direction. Concerns abound about the fate and compensation for displaced people, fears of downstream provinces of a reduction in water supply. Another important issue is that most Pakistani rivers originate from Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan and India in 1960 signed the Indus Water Treaty, in which both countries agreed to abstain from any activity that would jeopardize water supply of the other. However, according to a recent U.S. Senate report, India has made several dams in Jammu and Kashmir, which “could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season.” Pakistani officials have argued that in doing so, India has violated the treaty, worsening the water situation in Pakistan.

The lack of access to water in Pakistan only exacerbates the country’s already dire public health situation. Hand washing, for instance, is the most effective step against infection in both homes and hospitals, but hand washing practices prescribed by public health organizations are impractical in water stressed areas, with one study concluding that an extra 20 liters per person per year would be required in order to follow handwashing recommendations. Another review of medical literature found that access to potable water sources has far more of an impact on reduced infections than water quality. With a deficit in both water quality and quantity, then, public health in Pakistan faces an immense burden frrom water-related illness.

Several measures need to be taken to ward off this crisis. Water policy, currently a minor issue in Pakistan, needs to be brought to the center stage of national debate. It will remain easy for politicians to defer the contentious issue of building dams unless the masses realize the extent to which they are needed. The good work conducted by the PCRWR should be better-funded and -promoted in order to highlight problems as well as evaluate possible solutions. Water waste in agriculture and irrigation also needs to be addressed; the government must make more of an effort to line canals to prevent leakage, and further promote water efficiency on farms. To increase access of rural populations to potable water, India has developed a successful project to provide piped water and hand pumps, with a particular emphasis on improving child health — Pakistan needs to develop a similar program. Pakistan should also make the most of the post-Cricket World Cup diplomatic thaw with India, insofar as it still exists, and ensure equitable implementation of the Indus Water Treaty. Access in arid areas such as desert regions of Sindh and practically all of Baluchistan need to be particularly improved. Promotion of hygienic practices such as boiling water to kill bacteria and appropriate sanitary practices needs to be increased to reduce water-borne infections. This can be conducted on both a national level using television programs, and on a grass root level using community health workers and prominent locals. Finally, the most long-lasting solution to improving water supply will be to slow Pakistan’s population growth, which will only put further strain on reduced water supplies. Unless measures are taken now, this bubbling crisis might reach the point of overflowing.

Haider Warraich, MD, is a research fellow at Harvard Medical School. He is a graduate of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, and the author of the forthcoming novel, Auras of the Jinn.

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan

By James Risen for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.” The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines. American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact. Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.

“The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.” Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted. The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers. “On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”

Pakistan Seeks Resolution of India Water Dispute

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan told India it wants to begin formal arbitration proceedings over an Indian dam project in Kashmir, threatening to heighten tensions ahead of high-level bilateral talks. Pakistan says India’s planned hydropower dam on the Kishanganga River would violate a 50-year-old water-sharing treaty between the two neighbors by diverting water Pakistan needs for agriculture and power generation.

India denies its project would violate the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. It has received Pakistan’s request for arbitration and is examining it, an Indian official said. Water disputes have become a growing point of controversy between the rivals in recent months, and could become an impediment as they seek to re-establish diplomatic ties. India cut off dialogue with Pakistan after the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, but has shown an interest in restarting talks if Pakistan cracks down on terrorists on its soil.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met last month at a regional summit and agreed to move forward with dialogue. The countries’ chief foreign-policy bureaucrats will meet in late June to prepare an agenda for mid-July, when their external affairs ministers are expected to meet in Islamabad. In previous rounds of diplomacy, India and Pakistan have discussed issues ranging from trade to the fate of Kashmir, the disputed territory that is two-thirds controlled by India and over which the countries have fought two of their three wars. India has said it is open to discussing all issues in the current talks, though shutting down terrorist groups and getting Pakistan to more aggressively prosecute Mumbai suspects are its core objectives.

 India has said river-sharing disputes should be settled through the 1960 treaty, rather than in the bilateral talks. The accord split six Himalayan rivers between the countries, with the three Western ones going to Pakistan, the three Eastern ones to India, and each side retaining the right to the other side’s resources for uses such as run-of-river hydropower and irrigation. Under the treaty, the countries nominate commissioners who share data and try to resolve problems as they arise. If the commissioners can’t agree, they can seek a World Bank-appointed expert to intervene, which happened in 2005 when Pakistan objected to another big dam.

India was told to make minor changes to its design. Jamaat Ali Shah, Pakistan’s Indus waters commissioner, said the country is now seeking formal arbitration proceedings—a treaty mechanism that neither side has used before—because it feels India is stalling on the Kishanganga dispute. Pakistan on Wednesday named two members that would sit on a seven-person arbitration panel. Under the treaty, India has 30 days to name its own two members, and the countries are supposed to jointly name the three other participants. If they can’t agree, the World Bank would step in to name them.

Pakistani farmers and Islamist groups have staged protests against India’s 330-megawatt hydroelectric project on the Kishanganga, which is a tributary to one of the rivers Pakistan was allotted under the treaty. Water availability in Pakistan has fallen 70% since the early 1950s to 1,500 cubic meters per capita, according to a report last year by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. India says Pakistan’s poor water management is responsible for the water shortages it is experiencing in some regions.

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