|Zardari is visiting Washington this week while Biden is rushing to Islamabad. The strange two-way traffic highlights the depth of US anxiety over the slide in US-Pakistan ties as also its admission that Kiani is the key interlocutor. The murder of the governor of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Salman Taseer, and its after-shocks on the Pakistani society and politics has only muddied the waters of the anxiety in the White House over the slide in US-Pakistan relations in the recent months.
Based on briefings by senior US officials, Washington Post has reported on the main elements of Biden's mission. They are:
Biden will seek a "frank exchange of views and priorities" with Kiani in terms of the Afghan endgame and the "long-term strategy for the region".
The US may not press for urgent commencement of Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan.
Biden will categorically assure that the US has no intentions of mounting cross-border military operations into Pakistani territory.
Biden will ascertain what Pakistan's needs, expectations and demands are in return for extending more cooperation in the war.
The US will offer a new assistance package with military, intelligence and economic components.
The US will strengthen troop presence on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan and intensify intelligence-sharing arrangements with Pakistan on India's activities in Afghanistan.
The report estimated a "significant shift in [US] administration thinking" and Obama's inclination to join the peace process and recognize that Pakistan has an important role, "if not a dominant role", in reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
Washington is, in essence, making a virtue out of necessity, which is of course good politics almost always. Ideally, the US would have liked Pakistan to robustly supplement the US war effort. But the heart of the matter is that if and when intra-Afghan peace talks begin stemming from a regional initiative by Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey (and, perhaps, grudging Iranian acquiescence), the entire US position will cave in and the Obama administration will find itself in an absurd and untenable position of adamantly insisting on pursuing a war which neither the Afghan people nor the regional powers want.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
[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: Former Intelligence Officer Col Imam Reported 'Dead' by his Kidnappers
SAP20110124103020 Karachi The Express Tribune Online in English 24 Jan 11
[Report by Qaiser Butt: "Col Imam executed?"]
ISLAMABAD: A former officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Sultan Amir Tarar, better known as Colonel Imam, has reportedly been killed by the Taliban on Sunday.
Though there is no official confirmation of his death, sources close to his family say they were informed about Col Imam's killing by intelligence sources.
Col Imam, along with another former ISI official Squadron Leader (retd) Khawaja Khalid and British journalist Asad Qureshi, was seized by a lesser known Taliban group, Asian Tigers, while travelling to the North Waziristan tribal region on March 26, 2010.
Qureshi was released in September after paying a ransom of Rs20 million, while Khawaja was executed by his captors.
Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, a former ISI chief and a colleague of Col Imam, told the media that the kidnappers wanted to swap the two former spies with the terrorists who were arrested in connection with two high-profile terrorist hits in Rawalpindi.
Gul said the US and its private security firm Blackwater Xe could be involved in Col Imam's abduction. However, he voiced doubt over the news of his killing. "I think it is a drama. The situation will become clear in the next couple of days," he added.
Col Imam was reportedly killed by his captors and the body was dumped in the Dandi Darpakhel area, close to Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency.
Nonetheless, local residents said they have not seen the body.
A senior security official in Peshawar also refused to confirm the slaying. "We also have reports of his death, but we cannot confirm it," the official told The Express Tribune.
Another Peshawar-based intelligence official also refused to confirm the report. "The Dandi Darpakhel area is adjacent to government quarters in the region dotted with security checkpoints. If there was any such thing, it would have been in our knowledge," he added.
However, a relative of Col Imam told the media that intelligence sources had informed them about the incident.
Col Imam and Khawaja said in a video message released by the Taliban a month after their abduction that they were sent to Afghanistan by former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Gen (retd) Hameed Gul.
The abductors had initially demanded the release of two arrested Taliban leaders - Mullah Kabir and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah - in exchange for the freedom of the two former ISI officials. The demand was made in an email sent to several Pakistani media outlets.
But later they added more demands and called for the release of those terrorists who were in custody of Pakistan's security agencies in connection with attacks on the GHQ and Parade Line Mosque of Rawalpindi.
According to reports, Mullah Omar, the reclusive Taliban mentor, himself had campaigned for the release of Col Imam. It was due to Mullah Omar's intervention that the Taliban did not kill Col Imam for several months, a source close to the Taliban told The Express Tribune.
The source also claimed that Col Imam had brokered a peace deal between the military and the Haqqani network chief Jalaluddin Haqqani, much before his arrest.
Col Imam had played a key role in training the Afghan Mujahideen during the Afghan jihad. He was in charge of the Mujahideen activities in different parts of Afghanistan. He maintained close ties with Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Waziristan.
"Mullah Omar and the Taliban are highly respected Muslim leaders," Imam had said in an interview to a television channel, last year.
During his captivity, Col Imam had written several letters to Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and Lt-Gen Hameed Gul and some politicians to plead for his release.
Col Imam was a bitter critic of the United States which, he said, had left the Afghan mujahideen in the lurch after the defeat of the Soviet forces in the late 1980s.
A special warfare operation specialist, Col Imam had also once served as Pakistan's consul general at Herat, in Afghanistan.
With additional reporting by Manzoor Ali in Peshawar
[Description of Source: Karachi The Express Tribune Online in English -- Website of a newspaper partnered with the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times. It is part of the Lakson Group, which includes Daily Express and Express News Television in Urdu and Express 24/7 Television in English. The group's media wing has no known political affiliations and operates as a moderate, independent commercial media organization. The newspaper claims its mission is to defend "liberal values and egalitarian traditions"; URL: http://tribune.com.pk]
Pakistan: TTP Chief To Face Resistance in Area If Col Imam Really Dead
SAP20110124115003 Karachi Ummat in Urdu 24 Jan 11
[Report by Saifullah Khalid: "Demnand of Millions of Rupees and Release of Detained Comrades Made for Handing Over Col Imam's Body"]
Report about the martyrdom of Amir Sultan Tarar alias Colonel Imam, former ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] officer, who was under the detention of Hakimullah Mehsud, chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP], could not be confirmed. Mehsud's negotiators have said over wireless that Col Imam is no more in this world. However, they are neither ready to hand over the dead body nor to show it some impartial party. Rather, they have surprisingly demand 20 million rupees [PRe] and other facilities for handing over the body.
The sources keeping a vigil on FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] situation had received report about the killing of Col Imam on 22 January afternoon but it could not be confirmed. However, a detainee, released from the detention of Mehsud on 22 January, categorically said that no such incident had taken place, because of which the report was treated as a rumor. However, the report again came on 23 January morning and when those remaining in contact with the abductors of Col Imam tried to ascertain the situation by establishing a contact with them, their contact was disconnected with only one sentence: There are rumors afloat in Miran Shah and its surrounding areas that Col Imam has died of heart attack three days ago and he has been buried as a trust Islamic practice of temporary burial. However, the report could not be confirmed.
However, the negotiators of Mehsud have told the group making contacts for Imam's release that the body can be handed over to it if it pays PRe 20 million and release 15 persons from the list, which they have forwarded in this connection. The negotiators were told that talks are not possible on their demand as long as they do not show the body to any impartial person. However, the abductors did not agree to that. This debate was continuing when a body was recovered on a roadside in Darpakhel area [North Waziristan], about which some people spread the rumors that it was that of Col Imam. However, it was the dead body of a person locally abducted and killed on the charge of espionage.
Col Imam was abducted on 26 March 2010 when he had proceeded to North Waziristan with Khalid Khawaja, another former officer of the ISI, and Assad Qureshi, a British TV journalist. They had been abducted by such a militant group in Danday, Darpakhel, which named itself as Asian Tiger and its spokesman, Usman Punjabi, had formerly severed ties with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [LeJ] and later with the Ilyas Kashmiri group.
Later, Khalid Khawaja was killed and his dead body thrown on a roadside on 30 April 2010, which was brought to Islamabad for burial. After the killing of Khalid Khawaja, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, while realizing the sensitivity of the situation, intervened in the matter and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the powerful commander of North Waziristan-based Wazir tribe, besieged the abductors and demanded the release of Colonel Imam and Assad Qureshi but it was not possible due to some reasons. However, the protection of these persons was ensured through a local jirga [assembly of tribal elders].
However, the negotiations continued when a report came that in fact the abductors' group worked under Sabir, a criminal person from Mehsud tribe while Usman was his accomplice. A dispute cropped up among them on the issue that by killing Khalid Khawaja, Usman had spoiled the ransom of PRe 20 million. When the dispute grew further, Sabir called Usman and his accomplices to his hujra [guest house in Pashtun society] and killed them, giving the incident the color of a clash.
After that, the Waziristan-based commanders, including Badr Mansur, Ilyas Kashmiri, Saifullah Akhtar, Qari Zafar, and Asmatullah Muawiya, pressured the TTP that Sabir should be punished for killing his guests after giving them shelter, to which the TTP Shura [council] proposed death penalty for him and the activists of Caravan-e Hakimullah, the personal group of Hakimullah, killed Sabir and another of his accomplices. P rior to his killing, Sabir had released Assad Qureshi and his driver in lieu for PRe 20 million rupees ransom in September and, according to a source, 5 millions of this amount had also been paid to Hakimullah. Later, when the other groups collectively raised the issue in the Shura-e mujahidin [TTP council], Hakimullah decided to kill Sabir, so to avoid the allegation leveled against him and also he got his condition accepted that he would keep Col Imam in his own detention.
The sources claim that the Gul Bahadur group has told Hakimullah in categorical terms that it will not tolerate any harm caused to the life of Col Imam.
Several months ago, the process of negotiations was again started and Hakimullah group demanded PRe 50 million and release of 50 prisoners for the release of Col Imam, on which negotiations were in progress. The ransom money was reduced to 30 million rupees and the number of prisoners to be released to 15 in the negotiations a week ago. The talks were still continuing and their demands being considered when the report of his Col Imam's] killing came on 22 January.
The present situation is that at local level too, Hakimullah group is trying to keep the issue secret and is demanding ransom for the dead body. In this connection, sources negotiating the issue with Hakimullah group say that the situation is complicated. The circumstances do not endorse the killing of Col Imam, because, number one, their demand was under consideration. Number two, in the case of Col Imam's killing, Hakimullah group would have to face pressure, because in that case, all regional forces, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the Afghan Taliban, would take action against it, where as TTP Chief Mufti Waliur Rehman in Mehsud group, would also not tolerate the killing. Therefore, if Hakimullah group's wireless message is taken as correct that Col Imam is no more alive, it will mean that he has fallen prey to some drone strike, or his death has occurred due to heart attack, as the other members of Hakimullah group are saying repeatedly. The second possibility is more likely, because the team, which had proceeded for negotiations last week, had come to know that Col Imam had suffered from cardiac pain and he had finished his medicines while the abductor group was not providing him with more medicines.
The sources brokering a deal with Hakimullah group say that the issue of confirmation of Col Imam's death is becoming doubtful with the passage of time, because his burial has not been confirmed. They are not showing the body to any one. It is very much possible that they are staging the drama to extort money while Col Imam is still alive. It is also possible that he has died and the group is thinking to extort money in ransom for his dead body.
Local journalistic circles in North Waziristan say that important people of Hakimullah group are not visible on the scene since Saturday. Their wireless sets are silent and other contacts have also vanished while nobody knows as to where these people, including Hakimullah, are. This situation adds to the possibility that Col Imam is no more alive. In addition to Gul Bahadur and Waliur Rehman, the other groups in FATA also view this situation with concern. The worst opposed is the demand for payment of ransom for the dead body. There is a wait unless the situation becomes totally clear and if Col Imam is really not present in this world, then Hakimullah group can face resistance in his area.
In the mean time, people continue to visit the residence of Col Imam to express sorrow over the situation. Gen Hamid Gul and other former senior military officers also visited his house. Major Noman, his son, refuses to accept condolences and is awaiting a final report.
[Description of Source: Karachi Ummat in Urdu -- Sensationalist, pro-Usama Bin Ladin Urdu daily. Harshly critical of the US, Israel, and India. Propagates Muslim unity to counter US/Western influence. Circulation 20,000. Editor-publisher Rafiq Afghan is an Afghan war veteran.]
Pakistan: Mystery Prevails Over Col Imam's Mysterious Death
SAP20110124122029 Rawalpindi Nawa-e Waqt in Urdu 24 Jan 11 1, 5
[Report by Javed Siddiq: "Col Imam Was an Architect of Afghan Jihad Against Soviet Union"]
Islamabad -- Colonel Sultan Amir Tarar, code named Colonel Imam, was an architect of jihad against the erstwhile Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Col Tarar belonged to the Special Services Group [SSG] of Pakistan. He was among the first few ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] officers who were assigned the responsibility of training Afghan mujahidin for guerilla warfare against the Soviet troops when they entered Afghanistan in 1979. It was Col Imam who had trained Mullah Omar and several other renowned Afghan mujahidin who commanded the US and NATO forces [as published].
Col Imam belonged to Chakwal. He got commission in the Pakistan Army in 1974. He joined 15-FF [ 15 Frontier Force] Regiment of the Pakistan Army and later on joined the SSG commandoes. He also served as additional director of the Military Intelligence. Col Imam had also got training as commander of guerilla war. He had got guerilla training from Fort Bragg, a military training institute in North Carolina, the United States. He had got training shoulder to shoulder with the US commandoes in the United States in 1974. Col Imam also got "Green Beret," following commando training in the United States.
Col Imam had played a pivotal role in defeating the Soviet troops at the hands of Islamic mujahidin. Following the Soviet troops'' defeat in Afghanistan, he was invited to the White House and President George Bush Sr gave him a piece of the Berlin Wall with an inscription " To the one who dealt the first blow." This piece of the Berlin Wall is still placed at Col Imam's drawing room.
Majority of the Taliban leaders regard Colonel Imam as their teacher. He turned against the United States following the US attack on Afghanistan in September 2011. He started openly supporting the Taliban. He gave several interviews to media in which he supported the Taliban. When a Taliban faction kidnapped him in 2010, there was a perception that the Taliban would release him. However, Col Imam's murder after that of Khalid Khwaja is quite surprising. Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son also made hectic efforts for Col Imam's release. However, the faction that kidnapped him did not listen to any of them.
Col Imam received Sitara-e-Jurat, Tamgha-e-Basalat, and Sitara-e-Imtiaz Military for his military services. Following his retirement from the Pakistan Army, he also served as Pakistani consular general in Herat.
[Description of Source: Rawalpindi Nawa-e Waqt in Urdu -- Privately owned, widely read, conservative Islamic daily, with circulation around 125,000. Harshly critical of the US and India.]
Afghanistan: Militant Commander Haqqani Says Signs of US Defeat Evident
SAP20110131618004 Taliban Voice of Jihad Online in Pashto 11 Dec 06
[Interview with Alhaj Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, Jihadist Commander of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, by an Unidentified Correspondent]
In connection with the completion of the fifth year of the Crusaders invasion of Afghanistan, we are interviewing Alhaj Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani (May he remain in peace), a well known Jihadist personality, famous Jihadist leader, and an able commander on the southern front of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, about the recent military and political developments in the country. Mr Haqqani has thoroughly analyzed the current situation, along with describing his own Jihadist activities and severe security issues. It is presented here for your attention.
[Correspondent]: Mr Haqqani! It has been five years since the US attack on Afghanistan. What, in your view, are the achievements of the US during these five years in Afghanistan?
[Haqqani]: In the name of God; praise be to God, and peace be upon His prophet and his followers, after that:
First of all, I want to congratulate my Muslim Mujahid nation and the whole Islamic Ummah upon the complete defeat of the United States and its Crusader allies in Afghanistan.
Praise is to God. They have not only faced complete failure on the military and political fronts during the last five years; they have also suffered heavy strikes on a daily basis in every corner of the country at the hands of the Mujahidin of this Muslim nation. Many of their military resources have been destroyed and dozens of soldiers have been sent back in their coffins to their countries at the end of every single day.
In short, it can be said that the United States, fully equipped with advanced resources, has seen its defeat very early as compared to the Russians, who saw it after ten years. This defeat is not only the defeat of the Americans; rather it is the defeat of all of their Crusader colleagues, who have not been able to achieve anything politically or militarily, during their invasion. Their only achievement is the useless spending of a countless number of millions of dollars, and the sending of thousands of soldiers, in their coffins, towards their countries on daily basis. That's all.
[Correspondent]: Mr Haqqani! As you said that dozens of soldiers are being sent back to their countries in their coffins on a daily basis, similarly, they have not achieved anything on the political front in Afghanistan as well. But, the US President Bush and the newly elected authorities of the democratic parties have talked about sending more troops to Afghanistan. How do you analyze this view?
[Haqqani]: Bush and the US political authorities are like that gambler whose blood becomes more passionate for gambling with increasing defeats against their opponent, and who keeps on making more efforts by gambling more and more in pursuit of a degraded victory, but at the end faces defeat and loses his whole self. "The Unbelievers spend their wealth to hinder (man) from the path of Allah, and so will they continue to spend; but in the end they will have (only) regrets and sighs; at length they will be overcome: and the Unbelievers will be gathered together to Hell." [Koranic Verse, Al-Anfal, 8:36]
The defeat of the United States and its allies is an undeniable fact which they themselves acknowledge. It is not a defeat in our words only. In my view, a great secret of God is hidden in this huge stupidity of the United States, because He [God] wants to get yet another proud imperialist, of the present age, defeated at the hands of the oppressed and empty-handed Afghans. In this way, He [God] wants to honor the Afghan Muslims, backward people in the eyes of the whole world, for defeating three infidel civilizations in two adjoining ages. "And We wished to be Gracious to those who were being depressed in the land, to make them leaders (in Faith) and make them heirs." [Koranic Verse, Al-Qasas 28:5]
[Correspondent]: Mr Haqqani! Karzai, head of the puppet government in Kabul, has recently invited you for reconciliation, what is your reaction to that?
[Haqqani]: As I have told you earlier that all these things are the signs of the defeat of the United States. And this defeat has forced them to recall so many things. These people, who are invited for peace talks by the US employee Karzai, were wanted in the black list of the Americans. Millions of dollars were announced for the head of every single person. Efforts were made to arrest them. What happened today, that the Americans have acquitted them from all the accusations, the prize money for their heads has been lifted, and like the real leaders of the nation, invitations of peace and dialogue are offered to them? This is on the one hand, while on the other hand, Karzai does not have the ability to invite anyone for peace; he has been delegated as a mean American employee for the Afghan people. Interference in problems of such grand nature is beyond the capability and authority of Karzai.