|[Abdol Zaher Faqiri] We have very good ties with the Pakistani civil government and we hope that the military departments of Pakistan will join hands with their civil government and take a firm stance [against terrorists] and avoid being selective [when it comes to deals with the extremist groups]. Using terrorism as a tool for promoting foreign policy is not beneficial for any country. We once again emphasize that the Pakistani military departments should work in unison with the civil departments in the war on terror so that we can put into effect the US government's new strategy in the region, which is to establish a single management against terrorism.
[Correspondent] The spokesman went on to say that Afghanistan has always had good relations with the Pakistani civilian government.
[Description of Source: Kabul Ariana TV in Dari -- private TV network launched in August 2005. Owned by Ehsan Bayat, an Afghan-American entrepreneur who founded Telephone Sytems International (TSI), one of the operators of the cell phone enterprise Afghan Wireless Commnication company (AWCC). Ariana TV is a heavyweight and ambitious operation which rolled out a number of provincial relays shortly after its launch.]
Asia Times: 'Pakistan-US Plan Falls into Place'
CPP20090723715012 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 1035 GMT 22 Jul 09
[By Syed Saleem Shahzad: "Pakistan-US Plan Falls into Place"; headline as provided by source]
KARACHI - The seamless friendship between the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, has cemented the relationship between the military establishments of the two countries to levels not seen since the 1950s, when Pakistan was a frontline state against communism.
The result is that Islamabad and Washington are in a position to implement coordinated, long-term policies in the region, which include action against militants, moves to improve ties between Pakistan and India, especially their dispute over divided Kashmir, and the evolution of a broad-based, stable civilian government in Pakistan.
However, just as the US and Pakistan have forged a united front, so too have the previously splintered militants and groups that oppose them in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, setting the stage for a struggle of unprecedented proportions.
The new relationship between the US and Pakistan, supported by a host of American advisors based in the capital Islamabad, is expected to play out on two main fronts.
First, Pakistan will launch a comprehensive battle against all Taliban groups in the country, irrespective of whether they are perceived as good or bad. Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to split the Taliban by making deals with the good ones, that is, those seen as more moderate, to bring them into a peace process.
Second, an initiative will be made by the Pakistani government, supported by the country's Western allies, for better relations with India, strongly mediated by the Pakistan army. The aim will be to reopen the dialogue process on Kashmir which was stalled following the Pakistani-linked terror attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last November in which 166 people were killed. This could also help in building a joint mechanism for cooperation between India and Pakistan with the US in fighting terror.
In recent months, different militant groups located in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan have united. At the same time, an al-Qaeda group led by Abdullah Saeed is participating in the belated spring offensive in Afghanistan - it marked this by shooting down a US aircraft in Paktia province last week.
The powerful Haqqani network is also flexing its muscles - it is behind the capture of a US soldier who appears on a recently released video that has caused outrage in the US over the abuse of prisoners of war. The prisoner is believed to be at a Haqqani base in North Waziristan. The group is beefing up its military presence in and around the two Waziristans in an area said to be the headquarters of three powerful networks that have allied.
The networks are that of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan, al-Qaeda's at the crossroads of the two Waziristans and Sirajuddin Haqqani's group in North Waziristan.
Asia Times Online has learnt that Pakistan has gradually moved its forces into Bannu, the principal city of Bannu district in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and Dera Ismail Khan, another city in NWFP. It has also stationed troops in the Waziristans. Tension is rising there, with the Taliban having disrupted the supply lines of troops based in North Waziristan.
The deadline for the beginning of an all-out operation is not known. It will be the first time that all Taliban groups are targeted - the Sirajuddin network has traditionally been pro-establishment.
The good and now the bad
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), US intelligence and Arab states have for many years maintained excellent relations with Jalaluddin Haqqani, the legendary Afghan commander against the Soviets in the 1980s. Haqqani, now seriously ill, supported the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s on the instructions of the ISI. But the Taliban never considered him a part of the movement, more as a warlord who had allied with them.
As a result, Haqqani was never given any significant position in the Taliban regime. When the Taliban abandoned Kabul in the face of the US-led invasion in late 2001, Islamabad tried hard to get him to abandon Taliban leader Mullah Omar and become the next head of the Afghan government. He flatly refused the proposal and went to a base in North Waziristan.
In 2006, he was elevated by the Taliban to the number one commander in Afghanistan. Pakistan was not too concerned as Haqqani had never meddled in the internal affairs of Pakistan, never allied with a Pakistani political party or group and he had never supported any mutiny in Pakistan.
But now that Haqqani is ill and bed-ridden, his power has been handed to his son Sirajuddin. Siraj's strength, like his father's, is his Punjabi comrades, but his friendship with al-Qaeda's Arab ideologues has influenced him.
Unlike his father, Siraj is close to Pakistan militants hostile to the establishment. The intelligence apparatus was prepared to overlook this, but not any more.
Some while ago, Siraj's brother, Dr Naseer Haqqani, was arrested while attending a meeting that included several wanted people. To the surprise of the security forces, Baitullah Mehsud negotiated for his release, agreeing to swap a few Pakistani soldiers for the detained man. Subsequently, Baitullah and Sirajuddin became close.
This explains the failure of the recent operation to get Baitullah. It depended on the cooperation of local anti-Baitullah tribes who happened to be Taliban, such as those of Mullah Nazir and Gul Bahadur and the now slain Qari Zainuddin Mehsud. Sirajuddin quickly sent messages for all commanders to unite in support of Baitullah, and their compliance ended any hope of him being isolated.
It also explains why the Haqqani network is now in the sights of the military as it prepares for a renewed battle against militants.
On the domestic front, the friendship of Kiani and Mullen has led to the acknowledgement that if military goals are to be achieved, the country needs a stable democratic government.
This explains President Asif Zardari's recent visit to opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), at his residence near Lahore. Zardari proposed to bring the PML-N into the ruling coalition government, possibly with Sharif as prime minister.
Sharif's reservations over extensive presidential powers are the main stumbling block. But whether or not Sharif accepts cabinet portfolios for his party or the premiership for himself, his party is completely onboard with the government's national and international policies.
"In principle, Pakistan has agreed on a stable government, cordial ties with India and support of the war on terror. But for the first time, Admiral Mike Mullen and Ashfaq Parvez Kiani have made a joint initiative to implement this principle under a set mechanism so that there can be no deviations," a senior Pakistani diplomat told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity.
The militants, too, have their mechanisms in place, and they too don't plan to deviate. A mighty collision is inevitable.
[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]
Afghan TV Debate Says Pakistan To Fill Vacuum in Afghanistan if US Withdraws
IAP20090726950043 Kabul Tolo Television in Dari 1730 GMT 22 Jul 09
[Updated Version: adding images, amending headline and adding search term "Afghan TV discussion program"]
Pakistan preparing to fill vacuum in Afghanistan if USA pulls out - view
Afghan political experts have said that Pakistan is still pursuing its old policies in relation to Afghanistan, using the Taleban to undermine the West's efforts to bring peace to the country, but also that Pakistan is now preparing to fill a possible vacuum if the USA pulls out. The programme asks why the Pakistani interior minister made a remark seen as provocative during a recent visit to Kabul - that 90 per cent of Taleban arrested in Pakistan are Afghans. The following are excerpts from Tolo TV's weekly "Goftoman", or "Discourse" discussion programme. Subheadings have been inserted editorially:
[Presenter] Hello dear viewers and welcome to our current "Goftoman" programme. As you also know, Colonel Imam, a founder of the Taleban group, has once again appeared on the scene and made some remarks about the Taleban. Likewise, the Pakistan interior minister paid a visit to Afghanistan, and said 90 per cent of Taleban arrested in recent fighting in Pakistan were Afghans. Our programme discusses the latest developments in relations between the two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the impact of these relations on security in the region. The guests are Mohammad Ikram Andishmand, a writer and political affairs expert, Dr Najibollah Yosufi, a political affairs analyst, Nasrollah Stanakzai, a university lecturer, Siamak Herawi, deputy presidential spokesman and Abdol Hamid Mobarez, the head of the National Union of Afghan Journalists. The spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also invited, but was unable to attend the debate. Before beginning the questions, we will first watch the remarks by Afrasiab Khattak and Colonel Imam with our viewers.
[Passage omitted: The presenter plays video footage of a live debate on a Pakistani TV channel in which Afrasiab Khattak, a member of Pakistan's National Army Party, says Pakistan has been trying for the past 20 years to annex Afghanistan and make it its fifth province, while Colonel Imam, a retired ISI officer, says Jalaloddin Haqqani, an Afghan Taleban leader, is a good friend of Pakistan. The presenter plays other footage showing Pakistani interior minister claiming that 90 per cent of Taleban arrested in Pakistan are Afghans]
[Presenter] Mr Herawi, what do you think - what were the positive approaches of the Pakistanis, especially the Pakistani military, in favour of the region, especially Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the past year? How do you see the latest developments, and what was the positive outcome of the recent trip to Afghanistan by Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik?
[Siamak Herawi, deputy presidential spokesman, in Dari] The government of Afghanistan, especially the president, has seriously tried to put relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan on his agenda. The president has many times negotiated with the international community and made clear what the causes of insecurity and violence are in Afghanistan and where the roots of terrorism and the safe havens of terrorists actually exist. It has been a very difficult task. The international community eventually realized and agreed in 2008 and 2009 that Afghanistan's problems have external roots. After the establishment of a new government in Pakistan and the election of Zardari, the climate changed to some extent in Pakistan, but since his election and the laying of new foundations in Pakistan, some circles like the ISI and the Pakistan military establishment still think in the old way, which means the latest developments in Pakistan prove that the current condition of Pakistan, stemming from previous administrations, has made vulnerable Pakistani territorial integrity and its survival to a large extent. Given this, Zardari laid the foundation for a new policy and path to improve relations with Afghanistan and to have the security problems of the region solved with joint cooperation of the international community and the government of Afghanistan, but, unfortunately, the clima te making Afghanistan optimistic about Islamabad's approach has not been created in Pakistan yet. The remark the Pakistan interior minister made in Kabul was, for us, cause for great concern.
[Presenter] Why did the interior minister of Afghanistan not react to the remark at the news conference?
[Herawi] Look. The minister should answer this question, but Afghanistan promptly reacted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and if both countries are supposed to accuse each other, I should say Afghanistan has a lot of evidence [to prove Pakistan's support for terrorism in Afghanistan]. There are many suicide bombers being held in Afghanistan's prisons who are all Pakistani nationals. Those who are killed and detained in the fight against the government of Afghanistan are Pakistanis. But this policy of Pakistan is not appropriate for good cooperation and talks [between Afghanistan and Pakistan].
Afghan hopes undermined
[Presenter] The government of Afghanistan has pinned a lot of hopes on the civilian government of Pakistan over the past year. Has the recent remark by the interior minister of Pakistan not undermined these hopes?
[Herawi,] Look. The remark by Afrasiab Khattak which we also heard illustrates the very bitter realities of the past - the realities whose consequences the people of Afghanistan are still suffering. The current insecurity and violence in Afghanistan mostly stem from Pakistan's past wrong policies towards Afghanistan. Pakistan tried to make Afghanistan disintegrate and become dependent. It tried to destroy Afghanistan's culture and eventually set up a puppet government in Afghanistan. But all these conspiracies failed after 9/11 and the world changed its course and Pakistan should have put an end to such policies.
[Presenter] Mr Herawi, the government of Afghanistan was optimistic about the replacement of the Pakistan military government with a civilian administration there. But the interior minister of Pakistan, who is a member of Mr Zardari's cabinet, clearly says that 90 per cent of the Taleban, arrested in Pakistan, are Afghans. You describe the remark as baseless. Is this baseless remark not a continuation of the previous policy of Pakistan?
[Herawi, in Dari] No. We cannot deny that the whole process bega n with Pakistan minister's inappropriate remark and accusations against us. Our efforts are going on, and Pakistan has been cooperating with us these days. We have clear and good examples of cooperation between the two countries, and we are hopeful that conditions will improve with the strong diplomacy we are pursuing and that the tension, which has decreased, will end between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
[Presenter] Mr Stanakzai, you heard the remark by Afrasiab Khattak, an ally of Mr Zardari, who said the Pakistanis have destroyed some of Afghanistan's heritage and pride in order to make Afghanistan the fifth province, such as the destruction of the Buddha giants in Bamian, cancelling the Nowoz [New Year] festival, and so forth. The Pakistani interior minister also claimed in the presence of his Afghan counterpart in a visit to Afghanistan that most or 90 per cent of arrested Taleban are Afghans. The Pakistan army spokesman earlier said they were in contact with Mullah Omar and some Taleban leaders. Why have such remarks been made in recent days? Are the Pakistanis pursuing their previous strategy?
Pakistan pursuing old strategy
[Nasrollah Stanakzai, a university lecturer, in Dari] I think Pakistan is still pursuing the strategy on Afghanistan and the region which was worked out long before, or in other word, the strategy which was devised during the establishment of Pakistan. Pakistan's strategy towards the region, especially Afghanistan, normally includes three points. First of all, Pakistan has always made efforts to have a weak government established in Kabul, and it has always followed this process either peacefully or through war or intelligence warfare. The second point in Pakistan's strategy was to have Afghanista n disintegrate or annexed with Pakistan as its fifth province, especially after Afghanistan was caught in a crisis during jihad and after the withdrawal of Russians from Afghanistan. As Afrasiab Khattak also said, Pakistanis are still working to make Afghanistan fall apart. The third point on which the Pakistanis have focused a lot is to make the West accept Pakistan as its gendarme, and interpret the policies of the region through the eyes of Pakistan, because Islamabad carried out this work in a proper manner for the Americans during the Afghan jihad.
[Passage omitted: Stanakzai alleges that Colonel Imam, a retired Pakistani intelligence official, is pursuing a secret US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying he has appeared in the media and politics after a decade. He also criticized Pakistani interior minister's remark, saying it is a warning to the government of Afghanistan that the USA would now like to once again look at Afghanistan through the eyes of Pakistan. Dr Najibollah Yosufi, a political affairs analyst, says the US army's unilateral air strikes on Pakistan's tribal regions and Washington's latest major military cooperation with India have worried Pakistan and it is now making emotional remarks. He blasts the West and Kabul for not having a uniform approach in dealing with the Taleban].
[Presenter] Mr Andishmand, what do the contradictory remarks and moves made by the Pakistanis over the past couple of weeks stem from? What do the Pakistanis want to prove, and what do they want to achieve with such remarks?
Pakistan wants to fill US vacuum
[Andishmand, a political affairs analyst, in Dari] I think the contradiction in the remarks by the Pakistanis stems from the policy Islamabad has been pursuing on Afghanistan in the past three decades. The main issue the Pakistanis would like to present with their contradictory remarks is that they want to tell the Americans and the countries supporting the government of Afghanistan and fighting the war here that the West cannot make any achievements in Afghanistan without taking into account the goals and interests of Pakistan. The Pakistanis even want to convince the Americans to once again hand over Afghanistan to Pakistan and manage Afghanistan through Pakistan. If you remember, Obama said two or three days ago that if security improved in Afghanistan after the elections and positive changes were brought to the Afghan army and police structure, he would consider an exit strategy from Afghanistan. This is, indeed, a green light for the Pakistanis to enable them to make arrangements to again control Afghanistan in case of an American pullout.
[Presenter] You mean the Pakistanis made the recent remarks in order to ascertain their position or take privilege and money?
[Andishmand] The Pakistanis are thinking about both points and want to make certain their position and take privilege from the Western world and Americans.
[Presenter] But reports suggest that Pakistan is suffering a huge crisis and it will be a big achievement if Islamabad manages to take itself out of the crisis? Is Pakistan really suffering an internal crisis and is the crisis out of control?
[Andishmand] I believe the crisis is not too out of the control of the government of Pakistan and its army and intelligence, and it is perceived to a great extent that the Pakistanis have launched a very calculated game to get more money and privileges from major countries.
[Presenter] You mean the crisis in Pakistan is part of a tactic and can be contained?
[Andishmand] That is mostly the case.
[Presenter] Mr Mobarez, what was the reason for the latest developments, or why did the Pakistanis, including the Taleban supporters, the spokesman for the Pakistani army and Pakistani interior minister, make the unexpected remarks. The Pakistani army spokesman first said the army was in contact with Taleban leaders and later retracted his words. What do the Pakistanis want to achieve through this?
[Abdol Hamid Mobarez, head of National Union of Afghan Journalists, in Dari] I think America's decision to choose India and become closer with that country has caused a kind of confusion within Pakistan. We are seeing that there is no consensus among Pakistani politicians, because the internal developments in Pakistan show clear rivalries within Pakistan. The remark by Afrasiab Khattak shows that the objectives of the national army party are different from those of the Pakistan's People's Party and the Muslim League. These two parties are trying to take advantage of the game for their own interests. I think the fact that Colonel Imam has once again emerged after many years is mostly linked to the new stance of America, because the Americans, either NATO or US commanders, are making remarks that strengthen the morale of Taleban and weaken the morale of Afghans and the countries involved in Afghanistan.
[Passage omitted: Mobarez says Afghanistan will not find peace and Pakistan will not stop supporting terrorism in this country until the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and between Afghanistan and Pakistan over the Durand Line are resolved. Afghan president's deputy spokesman says Pakistan is not meeting its commitment on Afghanistan, stressing that the West should work in parallel with Afghanistan in dealing with Pakistan's alleged vast support for terrorism and Taleban in Afghanistan. He dispels the notion that the West would once again abandon Afghanistan as it did after the Red Army's pullout from Afghanistan].
[Presenter] Mr Mobarez, what is your suggestion for Afghan government leaders to help defend Afghanistan against foreign interference, especially Pakistan's meddling?
[Mobarez, in Dari] You know the fact that a government speaks from a position of weakness and not strength is one of its weak points. The government of Afghanistan still lacks a strong army, because an army with no air power will never prove its effectiveness in modern times. It was the decision of the Bonn Conference to make Afghanistan remain weak, and I do not blame Afghans for this, as they made the decision due to pressure.
[Presenter] Who is to blame for the weakness of the Afghans? Some countries led by the US have troops in Afghanistan to at least fight terrorism. On the other hand, you said efforts are being made to keep the Afghan army weak. What is the reason for this?
[Mobarez] I think there is still no political determination to help Afghanistan have a strong security force capable of defending Afghanistan.
[Presenter] Who is there no determination?