GMP20081006825015 London Al-Quds al-Arabi (Internet Version-WWW) in Arabic 06 Oct 08
[Article by Chief Editor Abd-al-Bari Atwan: "Taliban Getting Close To Deciding War"]
The US-led Western alliance, which is waging two bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq under the so-called war on terror, is getting closer and closer to the moment of truth and to admitting that it is hard to win this costly war. But the mechanisms which it is thinking of resorting to in order to get out of this crisis continue to reflect lack of thought and the inability to read the situations on the ground correctly.
Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the senior British military commander, said yesterday in statements to the "Sunday Times" newspaper: "The war on the Taliban movement cannot be won because it is not the time of victories but of negotiations with the Taliban movement."
It might be helpful to recall that the war on terror, which was launched exactly seven years ago, aimed to topple the Taliban regime, destroy this movement which provided a safe haven to "Al-Qa'ida" organization, and arrest or kill the two movements' leaders, Mullah Mohammad Omar and Usama Bin Ladin.
This change in Western stands toward the Taliban movement was dictated by several reasons which can be summarized in the following points:
First: The growing Western human and financial losses in Afghanistan due to the military operations waged by the Taliban men with "Al-Qa'ida" organization's backing. These operations have so far resulted in the death of 600 American soldiers and the wounding of hundreds.
Second: The almost total collapse of the Pakistani state which has become a "failed state" incapable of controlling its borders and territories. The Waziristan borders area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, measuring 30,000 square km, has become an independent Islamic emirate under leadership of Major General Jalaluddin Haqqani and Pakistan's Taliban is now in control of almost two thirds of the country's territories.
Third: US military operations inside Pakistani territories to strike "Al-Qa'ida" and Pakistan's Taliban gatherings embarrassed the Pakistani Government and depicted it as a tool in the US administration's hand which does not respect its country's sovereignty. They [the operations] also mobilized the majority of Pakistanis against the United States and made them oppose any war with it against Al-Qa'ida and Taliban (80 percent according to a Gallop poll conducted in June).
Fourth: Failure of Hamed Karzai to control Afghanistan and win its people's trust. This government is confined to one of Kabul's neighborhoods and is incapable of standing fast against the Taliban's advance toward the capital. More than that was the spread of corruption in its ranks which reached its peak when it became evident that the president's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was involved in the drug trade.
Fifth: The return of "Al-Qa'ida" organization to Afghanistan stronger than it was before 9/11/2001 in that it has a better safe haven in the border areas (Waziristan) in the northeast and Helmand in the south where it has set up bases to train its cadres and has the support of all the Taliban movement's wings, including the won which demanded extraditing Bin Ladin over to the Americans or Saudi Arabia so to keep the movement's rule.
Sixth: "Al-Qa'ida" used its military experience in Iraq to serve the Taliban's project in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as the bombs planted on the sides of roads targeting military convoys and the suicide operations which did not exist at all in Afghanistan before the 9/11 events. According to field reports, Al-Qa'ida has carried out around 700 suicide operations in Iraq and 30 in Pakistan since the start of the year.
Seventh: "Al-Qa'ida's" return to Afghanistan and Pakistan now poses a big danger to the internal security of the United States and Europe in particular because the overwhelming majority of the organization's main operations in Europe and the United States were planned in Afghanistan (the attack on the World Trade Center's twin towers in New York, the destruction of the destroyer USS Cole in Aden, the bombing of the American Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the attack on American tourists in Bali, Indonesia, and the bombing of a Jewish synagogue in Jerba, Tunisia). "Al-Qa'ida" organization did not succeed at all in mounting any major operation in the West from Iraq.
Eighth: Afghanistan is Asia's navel and has borders with seven countries and therefore it is difficult to blockade it like Iraq which is surrounded by hostile countries involved in the American alliance, apart from Syria which closed its borders totally in the face of the "mujahidin" thus making made thousands of Islamists join the organization's ranks from the "Muslim Maghreb" countries, Yemen, and Turkey. These will return to their countries and probably Europe and the West after undergoing military training and ideological mobilization.
The growing appeals to open a dialogue with Taliban might outwardly appear to be an admission of defeat but it also could be a clever plan whose aim is to drive a wedge between the movement and "Al-Qa'ida" organization, its strategic ally, or in other words, a repetition of the awakening councils' scenario in Iraq. American funds backed by clever moves by Arab intelligence services succeeded in buying some tribal leaders by focusing on the notion that "Al-Qa'ida" organization is terrorist and alien to Iraq which must be isolated. Some of the organization's tafkiri practices helped this approach succeed, such as cutting off hands and fingers, bombing the innocent, and assassinating the adversaries who disagree with the organization's ideology without examination.
The chances of the success of the plans to separate "Al-Qa'ida" from Taliban remain limited, if nonexistent, because the entire Afghan society is a conservative and extremist fundamentalist one which believes in the Hanafi doctrine. Moreover, the majority of Afghanistan's population is Sunni, unlike Iraq, and "Al-Qa'ida" is not an alien organization in Afghanistan and most of its members know the country very well and are married to Afghan women.
More important than all that is that the Pashtun tribes are proud and refuse to abandon those who seek their help in accordance with the "Pashtun wali" principle which considers handing over or expelling Muslims a great shame. This explains Mullah Mohammed Omar's refusal to hand over Usama Bin Ladin under the Saudi Government's pressures and ordered Prince Turki al-Faysal, head of Saudi intelligence, out of his council because he dared to say he would not leave except with Usama Bin Ladin on the same plane as otherwise Taliban would pay a heavy price.
Mullah Omar refused to bring Usama Bin Ladin before an Islamic court and judges who were clerics representing several Muslim countries, saying if they decided Usama did commit terrorist actions and should be extradited he would then do so but he would not if they refused to extradite. He then said his famous words: I will not extradite a Muslim to an infidel country.
Thus the talk about Saudi mediation with the Taliban movement at Karzai's request is not based on any logic. Saudi relations with Taliban are tense and the first is declaring a bloody war against "Al-Qa'ida" organization and took part effectively in the US war to bring down the "Taliban" and "Al-Qa'ida" organizations in Afghanistan.
Taliban feels it is at doorsteps of a big victory in the war against the United States and its allies and therefore it will absolutely refuse to accept to negotiate unless it guarantees a total US-Western withdrawal, takes over power in Kabul, and reestablishes its Islamic emirate.
As to "Al-Qa'ida" organization, it considers itself a partner in this victory and its statements even point out it is behind the current American economic and military collapses. It is no coincidence that the amount of money US President George Bush is asking from Congress ($700 billion) is the same as the cost of the war on terror which the organization claims responsibility for launching it.
The Soviet Union's collapse started with defeat in Afghanistan and the American collapse is starting in the same way. The theory of Professor Paul Kennedy, the history lecturer at the American Yale University, about the rise and fall of the superpowers is materializing clearly at present. He said there are three reasons for the downfall of the great empires. The first is the increase expenditures on internal security; the second is the expansion of military wars abroad; and the third is the emergence of strong commercial and economic competition from nascent superpowers.
All these reasons apply to the United States. The expenditures on internal security are at a peak for fear of terrorist operations and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have depleted the US treasury, and China, Russia, India, and Europe are the new superpowers competing with the United States commercially and economically.
[Description of Source: London Al-Quds al-Arabi (Internet Version-WWW) in Arabic -- London-based independent Arab nationalist daily with an anti-US and anti-Saudi editorial line; generally pro-Palestinian, pro-Iraqi regime, tends to be sympathetic to Bin Ladin. URL: http://www.alquds.co.uk/]
Asia Times: 'A Long, Hot Winter for Pakistan'
CPP20081014715008 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 1018 GMT 10 Oct 08
[By Syed Saleem Shahzad: "A Long, Hot Winter for Pakistan"; headline as provided by source]
The Taliban are escalating the conflict in Pakistan's cities, aiming to strike before the US and its partners can dig in for the all-out war that all quarters - the Western ruling establishments, Afghan government, Pakistani ruling military and political establishment and the two US presidential candidates - tacitly agree must be waged against the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan.
The Taliban's pre-emptive strategy continued on Thursday when a bomb - disguised as a delivery of sweets - destroyed the headquarters of Pakistan's Anti-Terrorist Force in Islamabad. The blast occurred during a special session of parliament at which the director of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was briefing lawmakers on Pakistan's strategy in the "war on terror".
The package of sweets was allegedly sent by Waliur Rehman, a commander of Jaish-i-Islami Pakistan, a militant outfit which is attached to the umbrella organization Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud. Waliur Rahman works out of Pakistan's Bajaur agency - a tribal area situated near the border with the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nooristan. The Pakistan Army is presently conducting a powerful military operation in Bajaur.
A letter recovered from gift basket read, "If Pakistan does not separate itself from the American crusade on Muslims, these sort of attacks shall continue."
According to reports, a vehicle with two occupants entered the Anti-Terrorist headquarters and asked guards to to deliver the package of candies to a top policeman's office. Interestingly, the police official had already given instructions for an employee to carrying the sweets inside for him. Within minutes, the bomb exploded.
Apart from a few guards, nobody was in the office. Some guards were injured, but the whole Anti-Terrorist Force building, where many jihadis have been detained and interrogated, was reduced to rubble.
The bombing comes just as Pakistan has decided to expand its partnership with the US in the "war on terror". Army officials were in the process of bringing parliamentarians on board before the country enters into a major battle against the militants. Similar letters have been sent to members of parliament, warning that if the policy of supporting US forces in the region is not abandoned, the entire country will face dire consequences.
Additionally, shopkeepers in the cultural capital of the country, Lahore, received letters, widely distributed in the markets under an organized campaign, instructing them to abide by Islamic norms and remove all "vulgar" movies from their shelves.
Last week, in a special briefing session of a Senate committee, Pakistani Secretary of Defense Kamran Rasool briefed lawmakers on the recent dynamics of Pakistani support for the "war on terror". Rasool openly admitted that Pakistan does not have any option but to follow US dictates, whatever they may be, because the country would collapse within three days if US financial assistance was withdrawn. His statement was widely criticized by the media and opposition parties.
Despite sparring over Pakistan in their second televised debate on Tuesday night, the two US presidential candidates ended up saying the same thing, though in somewhat different ways. While Democrat hopeful Senator Barack Obama said the US should only take action inside Pakistan if the government there was unable, or unwilling, to do so, Republican Senator John McCain was more conciliatory, recommending that the US use soft language with Pakistan, but carry a big stick.
This presidential posturing suggests that the focus of war in South Asia will eventually shift to Pakistan from Afghanistan and that before launching any final strategy, Pakistan's leaders must make adequate arrangements.
The main American asset in the North-West Frontier Province is Asfanyar Wali Khan, the leader of the Awami National Party which governs the province. Asfanyar has made Islamabad his home after a failed suicide attack on h is life last week in his town. He is not the only one taking security precautions. Official premises in the present "Red Zone" - the president's quarters, prime minister's house, parliament, supreme court and the diplomatic enclave - are to be secured in a highly protected "Green City". This new complex will reportedly be separated from the rest of Islamabad by an enormous wall.
All this is in preparation for Pakistan's emergence as the main theater of the "war on terror". This comes as the long winter begins and war goes cold in neighboring Afghanistan.
The war in Pakistan
The recent thread of events seems to start from a huge training program which the US has called an essential component in fighting the militancy in Pakistan. US Admiral Mike Mullen told the Los Angeles Times that American forces have secured bases north of Islamabad to train Pakistani soldiers. However, sources have told Asia Times Online that the situation on the ground reveals much more than a training program.
Hasanpur, a small town situated along the Ghazi Brotha Canal six kilometers from Tarbella Ghazi, is the center of activity. Sources in Pakistani security agencies told Asia Times Online that the airstrip in Hasanpur has been upgraded to war readiness in the last few weeks and new hangars have been built for military aircraft. Underground shelters, bunkers and tunnels have also been constructed. Following the arrival of American "training advisory groups", British military personnel were flown in and have reportedly taken over management of the facility.
Sources claim that the logistical capabilities of the US and British personnel, and extraordinary measures they have taken to upgrade the airstrip, suggest something far more advanced than a simple training site.
The security sources also maintain that new installations in the Hasanpur mountains are geared for direct participation in military operations. At the least, they are said to be capable of conducting independent drone operations from the high-altitude Hasanpur area.
As earlier reported, (See The gloves are off in Pakistan , Asia Times Online, September 23, 2008), US preparations are also underway at Tarbella, the brigade headquarters of Pakistan's Special Operation Task Force approximately 20km from Islamabad. In September, 300 American officials landed at this facility, with the official designation as a "training advisory group", according to documents viewed by Asia Times Online.
The report was widely reproduced in the Pakistani press and discussed in parliamentary committees. The main concern of the parliamentarians was that US activity so close to a Pakistani nuclear facility could jeopardize Pakistan's nuclear assets.
Supposedly, the frenzied US military preparations have an aspect of "October Surprise" - a longstanding term for unexpected twists that can help or hinder candidates in the month before US presidential elections.
For example, there is now an increased focus on attacks in areas where al-Qaeda leaders could potentially be spotted, arrested or killed. Rather than destroying Taliban sanctuaries or attacking the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Taliban center in South Waziristan, all focus has been on Bajaur - where a huge battle continues, causing the displacement of 500,000 residents.
Although the Pakistani military has failed to control the ground in Bajaur, preparations are now being made to assault North Waziristan, where most high-profile al-Qaeda leaders are believed to have shifted. Any al-Qaeda "successes" by US or Western forces would likely be used to the advantage of Republican candidate McCain.
The battle for 'October Surprise'
Lieutenant General Pasha told the recent session of parliament that Bajuar agency has been cleared of all militants and that state policy on the area will be established in coming weeks. Sources in the security agencies, however, maintain that so far Pakistan has only used fighter aircraft to bomb the militants. The army, according to sources, wa s not deployed on the ground because it is not prepared to take casualties. Until the army gains control of the ground, military operations in Bajaur will remain in limbo.
But the Pakistan Army is convinced, without any substantial proof, that it has displaced al-Qaeda leaders from Bajaur and that they have fled to North Waziristan.
Now, with American elections scheduled next month, the Pakistan Army will go to North Waziristan for the battle of "October Surprise". Fresh contingents of the army have been mobilized and action appears to be expected next week.
Sources said that the main target of the operation is Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri. However, NATO allegedly favors the operation in North Waziristan because, like Bajaur, it is a nest of Afghan resistance, mainly of pro-Pakistan Jalaluddin Haqqani, a legendary Afghan mujahideen leader who has run the most effective militant network against NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Militants' winter offensive
Militants have their eyes set on November when they aim to spin the web of world events according to their will. Sources privy to their plans refused to reveal the details of global operations, but categorically refer to an extremely hot winter for Pakistan. Asia Times Online has learned on good authority that militants have planned attacks which would exceed this January's suicide attacks - which outnumbered those in war-torn Iraq.
As a source involved in the upcoming winter offensive told Asia Times Online: "Let October pass, then comes the mujahadeen's turn and then these mercenaries who bow down either for money or American might (will) have to decide whether we are more powerful or their American masters, and hence would have to decide whether they are with the American crusade in the name of war on terror, or with the global Muslim resistance against Western occupation forces."
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English - - Hong Kong-based online newspaper with a Bangkok branch office focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe. Successor of the Hong Kong/Bangkok based print daily Asia Times that closed in 1997, it claims an average of 100,000 daily site visitors as of Feb 2006, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region. URL: http://www.atimes.com]
Article Analyzes Battle Against Taliban, Al Qa'ida in Pakistan's Bajaur Region
SAP20081022494014 New Delhi Outlook India.com in English 17 Oct 08
[Article by Kanchan Lakshman is research fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; assistant editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict and Resolution: "The Battle For Bajaur" -- text in boldface as formatted by source]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
It is now the nerve centre for military operations targeting the Taliban- al Qaeda combine. It would have its impact not only on how Pakistan prosecutes its campaign against terrorism and on the trajectory of conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan, but also on the future of Islamist terrorism and extremism across the world.
Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is now the nerve centre for military operations targeting the Taliban-al Qaeda combine. This extended battle in Bajaur will have a significant impact, not only on how Pakistan prosecutes its campaign against terrorism and on the trajectory of conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan, but also on the future of Islamist terrorism and extremism across the world.
Operation Sherdil (Lion Heart) began in August 2008 and was initially aimed at preventing the imminent fall of Khar, headquarters of Bajaur Agency, to the Taliban. While the military operations are intended to reclaim the whole of Bajaur from the Taliban - al Qaeda axis, particular emphasis has been focused on Salarzai Revenue Division (primarily in the Dara, Mullah Syed and Banda areas), Rashakai, Tang Khatta, Mamoond, Bai Cheena, Bicheena, Delay, Nisarabad, Niag Banda, Charmang and Khazana, the areas of largest concentration of the militant Islamist forces.
During the ongoing military operations in Bajaur, some 2,744 'terrorists' have already been killed, including 321 foreigners, and 1,400 injured, according to a military briefing during the joint session of Parliament in Islamabad on October 8 (since most of the 'terrorist' kills have been the result of aerial strikes, there is no authoritative separation of terrorist and 'collateral' fatalities). The military reportedly briefed the legislators about the worsening situation in FATA, NWFP and Balochistan and the US-led "war on terror" during the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament held in camera. This was only the third secret session of Parliament in Pakistan's history.
After Waziristan, Bajaur is arguably the most significant stronghold of militants who have entrenched themselves in the FATA, transforming the Agency into a nerve centre of the Taliban - al Qaeda network. Sources indicate that foreign al Qaeda militants are converging on Bajaur to bolster the ranks of the jihadis during the all-out military action against them. In fact, foreign militants are reportedly leading the counter-attack, since the Army action cannot be opposed solely by the local jihadis. The foreign militants - Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and Afghans - are reportedly led by an Afghan commander identified as Qari Ziaur Rehman. The militants' strength in Bajaur is estimated at about 2,000, including both foreigners and the Pakistani Taliban, according to Major General Tariq Khan, the Frontier Corps (FC) chief in the region. He said the Taliban's fighting strength had not decreased appreciably, despite heavy casualties, due to reinforcements coming in from the northwest and Afghanistan. "I personally feel that trained squads have been moved in," Khan added.
Ever since militants of different nationalities began using Bajaur as a safe haven, they have transformed the region into a well secured fortress, constructing tunnel systems and trenches across the Agency. Network of tunnels have been discovered in the Taliban strongholds of Tankkhata, Rashakai and Loyesam, and sources disclosed to the Daily Times that "They [militants] would fire at the Forces from some house and then use the tunnel to escape the Army's return fire." According to the report, "these foreigners were interested in renting houses by the roadside, and paid Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 in rent per month. The purpose of renting houses along the roadside was to attack the Forces if they launched action against the militants."