|[Mobarez, in Dari] You know, Afghanistan's Ministry of National Defence managed to make the world accept the proposal for an increase in the size of the Afghan army with a lot of difficulties.
[Presenter] What do you mean, do the Americans not have this determination?
[Mobarez] The Americans are the friends of Afghanistan, but they are affected by the Pakistanis. I mean the relations of America are more comprehensive with Pakistan than with Afghanistan. The Americans have taken more account of the concerns of Pakistan, because, as you see, the US is giving its aid directly to the government of Pakistan, but it itself spends the aid it has allocated for Afghanistan.
[Passage omitted: Mobarez says Afghans should strengthen themselves and improve unity to make America look at Afghans through the eyes of Afghans and not Pakistanis. Andishmand criticizes Afghan government's "inconsistent" policy towards Pakistan, saying Kabul should call for a national debate to make clear why Pakistan is not stopping its interference in Afghanistan. He also urges the government to think nationally in its programmes. Yosufi says the Kabul government should first improve economic conditions and its security forces and then call for negotiations with Taleban. He says Taleban are recruiting from among poor Afghans. Stanakzai criticizes Afghan Interior Minist ry's plan to set up joint security posts with Pakistan on the border, saying it is actually recognition of the d isputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan]
[Description of Source: Kabul Tolo Television in Dari -- Independent television]
Qureshi Says Pakistan Will Take on Mullah Omar To Stop Taliban Using 'Our Soil'
EUP20090726031001 London Sunday Times Online in English 26 Jul 09
[Report by Christina Lamb: "Afghan Suicide Attack Increases Pressure on Pakistan"]
TALIBAN militants struck at government buildings in the city of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan yesterday with suicide bombs, AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, wounding 14 people, including two police officers, and provoking fears of a bloody election campaign.
At least three suicide bombers blew themselves up during the onslaught, which began in the early afternoon near a US military base. General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a defence ministry spokesman, said later that Afghan forces had surrounded the attackers.
The raid came as the United States asked Pakistan for help in ensuring a peaceful election campaign. Islamabad has been asked to send troops to key points along its border with Helmand to stop Taliban militia crossing back and forth.
For the past two weeks, 4,500 US marines have been engaged in Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword), their largest offensive yet. They have grabbed a swathe of territory in southern Helmand.
Although July has been the deadliest month for foreign troops in the eight-year war, with 66 killed, including 20 British men, military officials say the operation has so far faced less resistance than expected.
But this is because the Taliban faded away and officials are well aware that the militants can be eliminated only if Pakistan stops allowing them sanctuary. Border controls led to surprisingly peaceful polls in 2004 and 2005.
The request to Pakistan was made during a visit to Islamabad last week by General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and General Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Kabul. It was reinforced by President Barack Obama's special envoy Richard Holbrooke, who is visiting the region.
NATO commanders and the Afghan government have long complained about the sanctuary the Taliban enjoy in Pakistan where they send their wounded, train and recruit fighters and raise funds. Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader, and his senior associates operate from Quetta, and journalists often receive calls from Taliban spokesmen in Peshawar.
But Pakistan's military has recently taken a tough new stance after Taliban forces launched a spate of suicide attacks and took over the Swat valley, a former tourist area 70 miles from the capital. "We suddenly realised we could be left an army without a country," said one general.
However, with Swat almost cleared after three months of fighting and Pakistani troops moving into the border areas of Waziristan to pursue Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, there is concern that Islamabad seems to have no interest in taking on militant groups that are using its territory to attack western forces over the border.
A senior US official said: "We still don't see any evidence that Islamabad has politically or militarily made a decision to go after the Afghan Taliban.
"As far as we're concerned, they will only turn the corner when they tell the Quettashura (tribal council), 'You have a choice - go back home and either negotiate or fight, but you're not welcome here'."
McChrystal said last week: "What I would love is for the government of Pakistan to have the ability to eliminate the safe havens that the Afghan Taliban enjoy."
Briefings by senior Pakistani military indicate that they still divide Taliban into good and bad. "They cause no trouble to us," replied one general when asked about Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Waziristan warlord closest to Al-Qaeda [Al-Qa'ida].
"What we have to consider is what happens when the foreign troops leave Afghanistan," said another. "If the Taliban then take over, we don't want to be on the wrong side."
Pakistan has objected that American operations in southern Afghanistan are forcing more militants over its side of the border.
"There is a need for better coordination at the military level," said Shah Mehmud Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister. "Pushing the buck over won't solve the problem as with such a porous border the buck will just go back again."
In an interview with The Sunday Times in Islamabad, Qureshi insisted that his country would no longer give sanctuary to Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban.
"We are clear we have to deal with all elements that are challenging the writ of the government and making Pakistan or other places insecure," he said. "We don't want our soil, our national territory, to be used against anyone."
"We're no more differentiating between good terrorists and bad terrorists. They've created havoc, made our environment insecure, and wherever they are, we'll take them on."
Asked specifically if this would include Mullah Omar and his Quetta shura, which runs the Afghan Taliban, the minister replied: "Absolutely, we'll be taking them on."
[Description of Source: London Sunday Times Online in English -- Website of best-selling center-right Sunday newspaper; in-depth coverage of national and international news and politics; owned by Rupert Murdoch's New International; website only available on Sunday; URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk]
Asia Times: 'US Shrugs Off Pakistan-Taliban Links'
CPP20090806715031 Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English 1017 GMT 05 Aug 09
[Asia Times report by Gareth Porter: "US Shrugs off Pakistan-Taliban Links"; headline as provided by source]
WASHINGTON - Despite evidence implicating current Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani in a major military assistance program for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan over the past few years, senior officials of the Barack Obama administration persuaded the US Congress to extend military assistance to Pakistan for five years without any assurance that the Pakistani assistance to the Taliban had ended.
Those officials, led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, have been arguing that Kiani is committed to ending support the Taliban and other radical Islamic movements receive from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, but that he is not yet able to control ISI operatives.
Late last year, US officials were reportedly pressing Kiani for far-reaching changes in the ISI that would end its role in support of insurgents in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Democratic Senator John Kerry demanded that the ISI be put under civilian control and threatened to introduce legislation making military assistance to Pakistan conditional on evidence that the Pakistani military had ended such support to the Taliban.
But Kerry dropped his proposal for conditioning US military assistance to Pakistan on ending the ISI-Taliban program. In February, Kerry said conversations with Mullen and "other players" had persuaded him that Kiani and his choice for new ISI chief, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, had "a willingness to engage in transformation" of the ISI.
The Kerry-Lugar legislation passed by Congress in June provides US$2 billion in military aid as well as $4 billion in economic assistance to Pakistan over five years and makes no mention of evidence of military aid to the Taliban. It merely requires the secretary of state to certify that the "security forces of Pakistan are making concerted efforts to prevent the Taliban and associated militant groups from using the territory of Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to launch attacks within Afghanistan".
Obama's national security team established a critical basis for its argument to Congress by leaking a story to the New York Times asserting that Kiani would not be able to control the activities of ISI in the short run.
The story, published March 26, acknowledged "direct support from operatives" of the ISI for the Afghan Taliban insurgency, but quoted anonymous US officials saying it is "unlikely that top officials in Islamabad are directly coordinating the clandestine efforts" - a carefully chosen formula that does not deny that they are presiding over a policy of aiding the Taliban.
The story said unnamed US officials "have also said that mid-level ISI operatives occasionally cultivate relationships that are not approved by their bosses". That statement diverted attention away from whether the Pakistani military leadership has approved military assistance to the Taliban.
Mullen has been suggesting that Kiani has demonstrated good faith by purging the ISI. He told Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer in early April that the new head was "handpicked" to change the ISI.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 21, Mullen emphasized that Kiani had changed "almost the entire leadership of ISI" over the previous six months.
After a conversation with Mullen, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius quoted him in a June 29 article as saying that Kiani and his choice for ISI chief "have committed very specifically to change the culture of ISI", but that "that's not going to happen overnight".
Mullen has, however, carefully avoided saying that Kiani has given assurances he intends to halt the military assistance to the Taliban.
The historical evidence on Kiani's past relationship to the issue suggests that he has no intention of changing Pakistani policy toward the Taliban.
Kiani himself served as head of ISI from late 2004 to late 2007 and presided over the development of a major logistical and training program for the Taliban forces operating out o f Pakistan's Balochistan province.
The ISI military assistance program was first revealed in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) report of a two-week battle by NATO forces against a determined Taliban offensive in Kandahar province in September 2006.
During the battle, NATO forces captured a number of Pakistani fighters who detailed the ISI role in supporting the Taliban offensive. The NATO account, reported in The Telegraph by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid on October 6, 2006, described two ISI training camps for the Taliban near Quetta in Pakistan's Balochistan province. It also documented the provision by the ISI of 2,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 400,000 rounds of ammunition - just for that one Taliban campaign.
The size and scope of the program of support described in the report were hardly consistent with the idea that assistance to the Taliban is a rogue operation by ISI operatives.
Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates presumably know about Kiani's past support for the Taliban assistance program. Evidence of continuing ISI assistance to, and safe have for, Taliban forces after Kiani replaced Pervez Musharraf as the top army general was compiled in an intelligence assessment circulated to the top national security officials of the George W Bush administration in mid-2008, according by David Sanger's book The Inheritance .
Kiani was also overheard in a conversation intercepted by US intelligence referring to a high-ranking Taliban leader, Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, as a "strategic asset", according to Sanger's account. Haqqani was a Taliban minister during that organization's brief period in power during the late 1990s, and his network has been a key target for the US campaign of Predator drone strikes in Pakistan during 2008 and 2009.
Kiani is not the first Pakistani military leader to assure the US that he is purging the ISI of pro-Taliban elements. President Musharraf did the same thing to ease pressure from Washington to toe the line on Afghanistan in early October 2001.
Musharraf claimed he had made far-reaching changes in the ISI by removing its director, Mahmood Ahmad - who he said had been affiliated with Islamic extremists. But Musharraf never changed his pro-Taliban policy; despite his pledge to do so immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks.
The March 26 New York Times story reported Pakistani officials as portraying their Taliban policy as "part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan for the day when American forces would withdraw" leaving "a power vacuum to be filled by India".
After the Times story, Gates began arguing that the US must convince Pakistani leaders that it will not abandon the war in Afghanistan.
In a March 29 interview with Fox News, Gates said the Pakistanis had ties with the Taliban "partly as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever". The US has to convince the Pakistanis that "they can count on us and that they don't need that hedge", Gates said.
Mullen and other US military leaders have an interest other than Afghanistan - which appears to driving their willingness to overlook Kiani's past and present support for the Taliban. They once had close ties with the Pakistani military, which they touted for decades as a basis for US influence in the country, despite persistent and sharp divergences in US and Pakistani strategic interests.
Those ties were cut off in the 1990s because of legislation requiring an end to military cooperation over Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. Mullen and other military leaders now argue that close relations must be a top US priority.
As Mullen told the Inquirer's Rubin, "One of my strategic objectives is to close this gap in the relationship with the Pakistani military."
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Ro a d to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.
[Description of Source: Hong Kong Asia Times Online in English -- Online newspaper focusing on political and economic issues from an "Asian perspective," with over 50 contributors in 17 Asian countries, the United States, and Europe, and a branch office in Bangkok; 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, with 65% of the audience based in North America, and 22% in the Asia-Pacific region; tends to be critical of the United States; URL: http://www.atimes.com]
Pakistan: Analyst Sees No Immediate Change in Taliban Strategy After Baitullah
SAP20090807008004 Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu 1500 GMT 07 Aug 09
[Anchor Masood Raza] According to some reports, Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has been killed in a US drone attack. Let us talk to senior analyst and journalist Saleem Safi. Mr Safi, if Baitullah Mehsud is indeed dead, what will be the Taliban's reaction?
[Begin live relay] [Safi over video link] The Taliban's reaction will be severe because Baitullah Mehsud was important in many ways. First, he had been the chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for many years. Second, he was important because of having close links with Al-Qa'ida and the Afghan Taliban. He had also developed strong links with the banned organizations of Pakistan and hundreds of members of those banned organizations supported him. In this way, Baitullah's personality had become important for all of them, and he enjoyed extraordinary importance. His death is a major setback for Al-Qa'ida, the Afghan Taliban, and the Pakistani Taliban.
[Anchor Ayesha Bakhsh] Mr Safi, you are calling it a setback. Can you tell us whether your sources have confirmed Baitullah's death in the drone strike? If yes, what kind of reaction is expected from the Taliban?
[Safi] In fact, there is no government or media presence in the area where this drone attack was carried out. That entire region has been totally under Taliban control for several years. Therefore, in this regard, only Taliban's word will be authentic, and so far, the Taliban have not formally confirmed his death. Taliban leader Kifayatullah, who spoke with AP, is also not present in that area; he hails from North Waziristan. I have talked to the Afghan reporter of AP who spoke to Kifayatullah. As a Taliban spokesman, Kifayatullah has not confirmed Mehsud's death. There is no doubt that the sources of the Army as well as the Interior Ministry are saying that Mehsud has been killed. The Governor Secretariat, which directly deals with the tribal areas, has also confirmed his death unofficially. Since in the past, government had made similar claims about Baitullah Mehsud, Fazlullah, and a Taliban leader of Mohmand Agency, which proved to be incorrect later, this time, the government agencies are extremely careful. Majority of our sources say that he is dead. Local journalists also say that he has been killed and that his funeral has been carried out. However, at the same time, two of my sources have denied his death. But one thing is different from the past. Whenever similar reports came in the past, the Taliban used to deny them within a few hours. This has not happened this time. Moreover, the Taliban quarters on the Pakistani as well as the Afghan side have been extremely worried for the last [?one] day. Keeping in view these things, we can say that this time, there is stronger evidence that Baitullah Mehsud is probably dead, but since so far no government official or media representative has directly confirmed his death in that area, his body has been seen, and the Taliban have not formally announced it, we cannot say with certainty in spite of the evidence that he is dead.
[Raza] If Mehsud's death is confirmed, what can you say about new leadership of the Taliban?
[Safi] At present, the list includes Mufti Waliur Rehman, who was present with Baitullah Mehsud. The Taliban consider him even more important than Baitullah Mehsud. From the military point of view, the second most important person is Hakeemullah Mehsud. It is also being said that since Qari Hussain, who leads the suicide squad, and Hakeemullah Mehsud are related, they will form a group, but Mufti Waliur Rehman is more popular among the common Taliban. Our reports say that this time the Wazir tribe will have an important voice in the selection of the new Taliban leadership. Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gulbahadar, who is in North Waziristan, also enjoy great importance. But I believe that the key role in this [determining the new leadership] will be played by Al-Qa'ida. Abu Yahya al-Libbi looks after the affairs of the Pakistani Taliban, and the second most important role will be played by Jalaluddin Haqqani and Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Afghan Taliban leaders highly respected by all Taliban groups on the Pakistani side. Let us see whom Al-Qa'ida, the Afghan Taliban, and Jalaluddin Haqqani will support and nominate.
[Bakhsh] Mr Safi, there are also reports of Qari Hussain's death. Tell us how big loss it is for the Taliban? Will the change in the Taliban leadership be followed by a change in the Pakistani Government's policy?
[Safi] No change in the Pakistani Government's policy is in sight in the near future. Similarly, I do not foresee any change in the US and Afghan Governments' policies. There is also no possibility of any immediate change in the Taliban's strategy. We must keep in mind that Baitullah Mehsud was a very important person, and the factors contributing to his importance have already been explained by me. Leaders are of two types: those who initiate a movement, such as Mullah Omar and Usama Bin Ladin and those who are a product of circumstances. Baitullah Mehsud does not enjoy the status like that of Usama Bin Ladin or Mullah Omar. He did not initiate this movement. A few years ago, Naik Muhammad enjoyed this kind of importance, and after him, Abdullah Mehsud did. I believe that soon whoever is supported by the Afghan Taliban will attain the same status as Baitullah Mehsud had enjoyed. However, Qari Hussain has his own extraordinary importance because he leads the suicide squad. There are unconfirmed reports that he has probably been killed in an operation by the Pakistani military forces conducted two days ago.
[Raza] Thank you very much, Mr Safi, for talking to Geo News. [End of live relay]
[Description of Source: Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu -- 24-hour satellite news TV channel owned by Pakistan's Jang publishing group, broadcast from Dubayy. Known for providing quick and detailed reports of events. Programs include some Indian shows and dramas which the group claims are aimed at promoting people-to-people contact and friendly relations with India.]
Pakistan: Security Official Confirms Taliban Chief Killed in US Drone Attack
SAP20090808101003 Karachi Dawn Online in English 08 Aug 09
[Report by Ismail Khan: Good riddance, killer Baitullah]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
PESHAWAR, Aug 7: Pakistan's most dreaded Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US Predator strike, a senior security official confirmed.
"This is one hundred per cent. We have no doubt about his death," the official said, requesting he not be named. "He is dead and buried."
The US is believed to have shared with the Pakistani authorities a video feed of the drone strike which, according to credible sources, has left no room for doubt that the most feared man in Pakistan was indeed dead.
One of the missiles, according to the sources, hit the roof of the upper-storey of the house, killing Baitullah and his younger wife for less than a year.
"He was clearly visible with his wife," a senior security official, who saw the video footage, said. "And the missile hit the target as it was. His torso remained, while half of the body was blown up."
The strike also hit the vehicle that had brought Baitullah to the house of his father-in-law Malik Ikramuddin who had been shuttling between his son-in-law and the government to negotiate a new peace deal.
The Taliban immediately shut down the three telephone lines in Zanghara and threw a five-kilometre security cordon around the area to block the leakage of news about the death of their leader.
The news of Baitullah's possible death was in the air since Wednesday's drone attack that according to initial reports had killed his wife and father-in-law. On Thursday night information that he too had been killed had started coming out of the Mehsud territory in bits and pieces, and throughout the day it remained the only topic of discussion within the country.
Initially, the government was quite reluctant to openly confirm the news. In his uncharacteristically cautious remarks Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he had information but no evidence to suggest that the TTP leader had in fact been killed. A few hours later, the first confirmation of sorts came from the foreign minister.