Af-Pak” is the term introduced in 2009 by the Obama administration
to cover both Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Remarks by President Barack Obama
The White House, 2009-03-27

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

President Barack Obama:

I want the American people to understand that

we have a clear and focused goal:
to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda
in Pakistan and Afghanistan,
and to prevent their return
to either country in the future.

That’s the goal that must be achieved.

Af-Pak Fever
The Obamaites go to war
by Justin Raimondo,
Antiwar.com, 2009-03-29

The Af-Pak muddle
by Stephen M. Walt
ForeignPolicy.com, 2009-04-03

[Emphasis is added.]

President Obama’s approach to Central Asia still strikes me as misguided.
The administration isn’t naïve about
the scope of the task and the potential risks,
and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s warnings about
the futility of trying to create “some sort of Central Asian Valhalla”
suggests that
they have more realistic expectations
about what the United States can accomplish.
But as our prior interventions in the Balkans, Somalia, and Iraq remind us,
it’s easier to walk into a quagmire than it is to walk out,
and the new emphasis on “exit strategies” and “benchmarks”
won’t be of much help
if Pakistan’s internal politics remain chaotic (a safe bet) and
if training more Afghan soldiers isn’t the magic bullet that
keeps the Taliban at bay
and allows the United States to withdraw in a timely fashion....

Our efforts in Central Asia are confounded by two fundamental problems.
our understanding of Pakistani and Afghan society is limited,
which makes it hard to know which groups or leaders to support
and makes it virtually certain that
any effort we undertake will generate lots of unintended consequences.
We were once confident that Hamid Karzai would be a terrific leader,
for example, but he’s proven to be a disappointment.
If we try to engineer his replacement, however,
there’s no guarantee we will end up with anyone better.
[The grass is always greener...]
Ditto Pakistan, where
none of the contenders for power looks particularly promising and where
their own ambitions and interests are partly (and maybe substantially)
at odds with ours.

Look at this way:
We have enough trouble
getting reliable, efficient, and corruption-free government
here at home
(think Rod Blagoevich, Jack Abramoff,
or the State Legislature here in Massachusetts,
where the past two speakers had to resign in the face of scandals).
So what makes us think we can root it out on the other side of the world?
For that matter,
what is the model of political transformation that we are selling to the world,
given our inability to rebuild or restore deteriorating American cities like Detroit,
and the serious problems of governance we observe in states like California?
And that’s in our own country, which we probably understand fairly well.
To imagine that we know how to manage
the politics of more than 200 million people in Afghanistan and Pakistan --
who are themselves divided into a diverse array of clans, tribes, and sects --
is the very definition of hubris.

our leverage in either society (and especially Pakistan) is limited by
our own conviction that “we cannot afford to fail.”
If we are unwilling to walk away and leave either country to its fate,
then President Obama’s assurance that
“we will not, and cannot, provide a blank check”
is meaningless.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf diddled us for years
because he knew we were so committed to his success
that we would keep pouring in money
even when we knew his government was still backing jihadi terrorists
instead of cracking down on them.
If, like AIG, Pakistan is “too important to fail,”
then what’s going to be different now?

Which brings me to the larger question:
What is the strategic rationale for doubling down in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
According to President Obama, the reason we are there is simple:
We want to prevent these territories
from becoming safe havens for terrorists who might attack the United States.
In his words:
“I want the American people to understand that
we have a clear and focused goal:
to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan,
and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”
So the ultimate justification for increasing our effort in Central Asia is
the danger posed by al Qaeda, and in particular,
the need to deny it a “safe haven.”
Agreed, but while it is obvious that al Qaeda is a threat,
is it of sufficient magnitude to warrant
an expensive and possibly open-ended effort
to re-shape the politics of this region?
Although Obama denies that this is his goal,
how do we “defeat al Qaeda”
without doing a lot of social engineering in both places?
Obama clearly doesn’t think that Predator strikes against terrorist cells
would be sufficient,
or he wouldn’t be increasing the U.S. presence in Afghanistan
and vowing to do more with Pakistan too.
Vastly increasing the size of the Afghan army or
convincing the Pakistani government to get serious about Islamic extremism
are not politically neutral acts;
indeed, their stated purpose is
to alter the political environment in a positive way.
Whether we admit or not, we are still engaged in nation-building.

Here we need to take a deep breath,
and consider whether the actual threat we face there
justifies this level of effort and commitment.
In other words, we need some cold-blooded cost-benefit analysis,
weighing the actual risks against the likely costs.
And the latter includes the opportunity costs
(i.e., the things that won’t get done
because we are busy trying to remake the political landscape
for 32 million Afghanis and 178 million Pakistanis).
I’ll address that issue in a subsequent post.

The Afpak muddle (part 2): How serious is the threat?
by Stephen M. Walt
ForeignPolicy.com, 2009-04-07

Does the threat of international terrorism -- specifically al Qaeda --
justify a costly, long-term engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
President Obama and his advisors think so, but I’m still not convinced.
I certainly understand that we have a terrorism problem;
I just don’t believe that it is serious enough
to warrant the level and type of effort
the administration is proposing.


How Dangerous Are the Taliban?
Why Afghanistan Is the Wrong War
by John Mueller
Foreign Affairs (.com), 2009-04-15

The Taliban and al Qaeda may not pose enough of a threat to the United States
to make a long war in Afghanistan worth the costs.

[An excerpt.]

Multiple sources, including Lawrence Wright's book The Looming Tower,
make clear that
the Taliban was a reluctant host to al Qaeda in the 1990s
and felt betrayed when the terrorist group repeatedly violated agreements
to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements and fomenting violence abroad.
Then the al Qaeda-sponsored 9/11 attacks --
which the Taliban had nothing to do with --
led to the toppling of the Taliban’s regime.
Given the Taliban’s limited interest in issues outside the “AfPak” region,
if they came to power again now,
they would be highly unlikely to host provocative terrorist groups
whose actions could lead to another outside intervention.
And even if al Qaeda were able to relocate to Afghanistan
after a Taliban victory there,
it would still have to operate under the same siege situation it presently enjoys
in what Obama calls its “safe haven” in Pakistan.

Now, U.S. Sees Pakistan as a Cause Distinct From Afghanistan
New York Times, 2009-05-01

[Here is an excerpt (not typical of the whole article);
emphasis is added.]

“This is not South Vietnam,” said Husain Haqqani,
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.
“The Taliban need to be fought,
but they’re not about to take over Pakistan
and overcome a one-million-strong military.”

[I am no expert on Pakistan,
and a most unlikely source to contradict Pakistan’s ambassador,
but even so I would point out that,
yes, the Taliban cannot defeat Pakistan’s army in battle,
but the underlying issue is
where the loyalties of Pakistan’s army truly lie:
whether the army, in the long run,
will be more sympathetic to the Islamic cause
represented, imperfectly as it is, by the Taliban
or the Westernized Pakistani elite,
especially as that elite is pressured by Washington
to align with the PC values of America’s elite.]

The Af-Pak War: War for war's sake
by Christopher Dowd
Examiner, 2009-05-07

FB Ali on the Good Soldier Stanley
by Patrick Lang
Sic Semper Tyrannis, 2009-09-22

[Patrick Lang is a retired Army MI full colonel, a specialist in Middle East affairs.
He seems to be widely respected;
his blog attracts numerous, generally agreeing, comments.

I have no idea who “FB Ali” represnts. Google was unsatisfying on this matter.

Here is Lang's post. Emphasis is added.]

Stanley McChrystal, in my estimate, is not a political general,
as Petraeus undoubtedly is.
He appears to be a fine soldier, a great fighting man,
but not overly intelligent.
It was a mistake to appoint him to
a position where he had a role in making policy
instead of just implementing it.

It would not surprise me if this was a clever maneouvre by Gen Petraeus:
getting McChrystal put in the Afghanistan command,
with his first task to recommend the policy for that war,
and suitable advisers made available to him to draft that policy.

Somewhere down the line McChrystal was sold on COIN
(probably as the recipe that turned the Iraq war around,
even though it did nothing of the sort);
he is that intense type who commit themselves totally to things
once they are convinced.
Thus, Petraeus’s preferred policy is put forward by McChrystal,
a general who would probably quit if it wasn’t adopted,
while the former sits back and waits to see
which would be the best way to jump at the right moment.

I have read the Commander’s Summary
of McChrystal’s 30 August report.
The apt term to describe it is: Bullshit!
It is obvious that
some clever people have sold good soldier Stanley a bill of goods.

There is so much nonsense in it
that it is difficult to decide what to point out.

A few examples will suffice.
The aim given by Obama to Petraeus and McChrystal is
to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda (AQ).
But AQ is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.
So, what is the US doing fighting a war in Afghanistan against the Taliban?
The answer given is:
if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban,
Afghanistan COULD again become a base for AQ.
Sez who? Why?
What basis is there for this critical justification of the war in Afghanistan?
None is given
(because the clever people spinning this web
know that if they tried to suggest any,
they’d be shot to pieces;
far better to slip this through as a flat statement).
COIN is going to be implemented by the US/NATO troops
along with increasing numbers of Afghan soldiers and police.
But the aim of COIN is going to be to protect the people from
attacks by the Taliban and
oppression by government forces!
Who’s doing the oppressing and who is doing the protecting?
Are the Afghan forces going to be part of the problem
or part of the solution?

The supportive views of the Afghan people are represented in the report
by a quote from Gen Wardak, the Afghan Defence Minister!
The billions of dollars that the report wants poured into the Afghan army
are going to be funnelled through this gentleman’s ministry;
it does not seem to have struck straight-shooter Stanley that
there may be some cause for bias there.
The success of the COIN strategy being proposed will ultimately depend on
handing over the secured areas to the Afghan army and police.
The critical issue of whether they could measure up to this task,
and when, or at all, are left untouched.
To get a good look at these forces and their prospects,
see http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175116/ann_jones_us_or_them_in_afghanistan_

This is a con on Obama and McChrystal
by all those who want the war to go on and on,
and the billions and billions of dollars to keep flowing.
Good soldier McChrystal has fallen for it.
Will Obama?

FB Ali

The Angst of the Legions...
by Patrick Lang
Sic Semper Tyrannis, 2009-09-25

[Here is an abridged and slightly edited (para. numbers, emphasis added) version
of Lang’s post:]

I am concerned that
the legions and their commanders [read: the U.S. Army]
are becoming more politically active and resistent to civilian authority
than is good for them or the country.

McChrystal’s estimate is a case in point:

This paper presents the president with
only one option on a “take it or leave it” basis.
I realize that Stanley M. is a subordinate theater commander and a full general but
he is still the president’s subordinate
and he serves at the pleasure of the president/commander in chief.
In all the Army schools that I attended
(Infantry Officer Basic Course to the US Army War College),
it was more or less customary
to present the commander with several options
in the way of “courses of action.”
[I flash back to my ROTC days of four decades ago,
and the format of the “Staff Study
that the instructors beat into our heads:
I remember five sections, even now.]

If you do not do that then
you are clearly seeking to limit the freedom of action of the commander.

This is insubordinate in spirit.

There is considerable log-rolling going on
to bring Stanley and Dave back from their commands to Washington
so that they can talk it up around town.
When Petraeus testified before Congress
on behalf of the AEI/Keene Iraq strategy
he was justifying GW Bush’s policy.
That was bad enough in that it made him a player in the political process,
but in this case the Republicans and the AEI crowd
clearly want these two gentlemen back here
so that they can be used to undercut
the possibility of an independent policy decision
by their constitutional civilian commander.
The Republicans seem to have forgotten that the wheel of history is turning
and that soon they will have a Republican president in the White House
whose authority may be challenged on the basis of the precedent they seek.

It has been blogged (not by me) that people on Stanley M’s staff
claim that he has the thought that
he might ask to be relieved if not given what he wants.
I do not know if that is true.
If it is, and he follows through
on that hoping for an “Old Soldiers never die...” moment,
then he ought to be retired in his permanent grade.

Andrea Mitchell reportedly said on Friday that
one of the redacted secret parts of the Stanley M. estimate says that
500,000 troops will be needed in Afghanistan over the next five years
to achieve success in a counterinsurgency campaign.
That appears to means that
some combination of US/NATO troops and Afghan troops
amounting to half a million
would be required.
Does that mean that whatever portion of that half million
is not supplied by the Afghans
must be supplied by the US and NATO?
Someone should ask Stanley M.
what he expects will be the peak “in country” strength for US/NATO forces.


Scott Horton Interviews Eric Margolis
Antiwar.com Radio, 2009-10-30

Eric Margolis discusses
the low quality of traditional media news available to U.S. audiences,
how the Afghanistan election runoff is shaping up to be
just as fraudulent as the first go-round,
U.S. support for mujahedeen
between the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and 9/11,
broad realization that
even the best laid plans could end in defeat in Afghanistan and
allegations that Ahmed Wali Karzai is yet another “made man” CIA asset.

Stop, Look, Listen
Before we jump into the abyss

by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-11-11

The War in Pashtunistan
New York Times Week in Review, 2009-12-06


[Pashtunistan] is not on any map,
but it’s where leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban both hide.
It straddles 1,000 miles of the 1,600-mile Afghan-Pakistani border.
It is inhabited by the ethnic Pashtuns,
a fiercely independent people that number
12 million on the Afghan side and 27 million on the Pakistani side.
[Wikipedia’s figures are slightly lower.]
They have
a language (Pashto),
an elaborate traditional code of legal and moral conduct (Pashtunwali),
a habit of crossing the largely unmarked border at will, and
a centuries-long history of foreign interventions
that ended badly for the foreigners.

Whether Mr. Obama will have better luck there than
President George W. Bush,
the Soviet Politburo and
British prime ministers back to the early 19th century
remains to be seen.


[H]istory offers unnerving precedent for the Americans.
In Waziristan, the patch of Pakistan
where the Central Intelligence Agency
now kills militants with missiles fired from drones,
the British conducted
what may have been history’s first counterinsurgency air campaign,
bombing from biplanes between 1919 and 1925.

[Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center
at the Atlantic Council, a Washington policy group],
whose grandfather fought with the British in Waziristan in 1901,
said he saw in the shifting American policies an echo of the British experience;
the British found themselves caught for decades in a cycle of
rebellion, brutal suppression, payoffs for tribal leaders,
and then a period of peace followed by a new rebellion.

Given the realistic time limits to American involvement, he said,

the best possible outcome may be modest:
“to force the Taliban to come to terms
and allow the U.S. an exit.”



How partnering with the U.S. could strengthen Pakistan's sovereignty
By David Ignatius
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2009-12-17

[The only part of this attempt to give advice
to people who probably don't especially feel they need advice from Americans
that I want to discuss is this:]

This war against the Pashtun insurgency
can be a decisive final chapter
in the making of the modern Pakistani and Afghan states.
For a comparison, think of how the Mexican-American War
helped make the United States a continental nation,
or how the European wars of the 19th century helped unify Germany and Italy.

[Those comparisons are both silly and historically ignorant.
For one thing,
the German and Italian people were not divided ethnically, but only politically,
by whatever prince happened to rule the particular territorial region in which they lived.
Both the German and Italian people had long yearned for unification;
it was their rulers who, for reasons of self-interest, refused to allow that.
The situation in Afghanistan/“Pashtunistan”/Pakistan is precisely the opposite.
There at least one group of people, the Pashtuns,
yearn for independence and self-rule.
As to the Mexican-American War,
that was not a war of unification, but purely a war of conquest.]

The alternative,

a de facto “Pashtunistan” that straddles the two countries,
is a recipe for permanent discord.

[This seems to be the default line of the American foreign policy decision-makers,
that any change to the geopolitical status quo is to be resisted.
I don’t understand why that should be.
In particular,
why would an independent Pashtunistan be worse for the United States
than the current situation?
Even more, why would an independent Pashtunistan
be any more “a recipe for permanent discord”
than the current situation?
The Durand line was imposed by a British civil servant in the nineteenth century;
many, if not most, of the Pashtuns ignore it.
Why is it in the U.S. interest to perpetuate it?]

US Contemplates More of the Scarcely Believable in ‘Afpak’
by William Pfaff
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-17


[T]he people who are running the war in Afghanistan
are contemplating an air attack on a Pakistan city in order to kill
one of the most important figures in Pakistan’s own foreign and security policy.

Pakistan, as most sensible people know,
is in the grip of forces that could tear the country apart if that happened —
which would make it the third nation, after Iraq and Afghanistan,
to be devastated by the United States since that fateful day in September 2001
when the so-called war on terror began.

The idea is for the United States to bomb Quetta,
one of Pakistan’s principal cities,
capital of its largest province, Balochistan,
which already experiences separatist forces....

A reported American threat is not just one of
sending drones over this city of 850,000 people, with missiles meant to kill
Mullah Omar, leading figure in at least one branch of the Taliban;
senior al-Qaeda figures also supposedly in Quetta; and
Siraj Haqqani, called the most important Taliban leader in the country,
whose men are supposed to pose
the biggest threat to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Haqqani is also, as it happens,
a major and longstanding Pakistani strategic asset and ally.
He will be a vital factor in
the regional reconciliation and strategic settlement
that will follow America and NATO’s defeat.
That is the most important objection to the supposed plan.

The Pakistanis believe that
the NATO expedition in Afghanistan is an ill-conceived and futile affair
from which,
after killing and being killed in large numbers,
and accomplishing nothing useful,
the Europeans and Americans will depart,
just like the U.S. retreated from Lebanon under Ronald Reagan [40],
after the 1983 attack on the troops’ barracks in Beirut,
and Bill Clinton [42] pulled U.S. troops out of Somalia
not long after losing the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.

After the foreigners leave,
Pakistan will find itself once again
in the awkward geopolitical and militarily dangerous situation
in which nature and the vagaries of man have placed it.
Its avowed great enemy is India,
with which Pakistan shares a very long eastern border,
with Iran to its west, and Afghanistan on its long northwestern frontier.
A friendly Afghanistan therefore offers strategic depth in case of Indian attack,
and access to Central Asia,
while Iran is a corridor to the Middle East.

[At least some on the editorial board at the Washington Post no doubt know this well.
Their answer: A permanent hot war
between American forces and nationalist and religious forces in Afpak.
Unending (until America can no longer afford it) American conflict there.]

The American generals seem to be saying to Pakistan:
You henceforth will ignore your own national security interests
and devote yourself to our interests, whatever the cost to you.
You will hand over all of the Taliban leaders and men in your country,
and place your army under our strategic control.
Otherwise, we will bomb your cities.

[It is a conceit on the left to blame all war on
either “the generals” or “the military-industrial complex.”
Apparently to look for the real causes of the war
might rupture relations with some of their key allies.
Either that, or their blame-game is a pure cover story, myth-making,
to mask their own involvement with and desire for the war.]

Why, according to the Los Angeles Times,
“senior U.S. officials” think this is a good plan,
I cannot for the life of me tell you.
I think it is a way to wreak further havoc in the region
and do fundamental damage to the United States itself.

Pakistan and the Fable of the Hornets
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Hornberger’s Blog at Future of Freedom, 2009-12-21

[This is also posed on my “World War IV” page.]

In December 2001 — three months after the 9/11 attacks —
I wrote an article entitled
A Foreign-Policy Primer for Children: The Fable of the Hornets.”
The article provides a good description of
what is now taking place in Pakistan,
in response to the CIA’s drone assassinations in that country.

In the fable, Oscar the policeman provoked a crisis in the village
by poking a bunch of hornets’ nests in the woods.
The hornets responded to Oscar’s provocations
by attacking people in the village.

In response, Oscar and several deputies entered the woods
and attacked and destroyed the hornets’ nests.
After a grand celebration by the villagers,
Oscar reentered the woods and saw something foreboding:
dozens of new, smaller hornets’ nests
were now under construction throughout the woods.

Last Saturday, the Washington Post reported,
“Militants forced to flee
their havens in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal areas
are establishing new, smaller cells in the heart of the country
and have begun carrying out attacks nationwide,
U.S. and Pakistani officials say.
The spread of fighters is an unintended consequence of
a relatively successful effort by the United States and Pakistan
to disrupt the insurgents’ operations….”

What began with a post-9/11 police action in Afghanistan
to capture the suspected perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks,
especially Osama bin Laden,
morphed into a regime-change operation
when the Taliban government refused
the U.S. government’s unconditional demand
to deliver bin Laden to U.S. officials.

The police action turned out to be unsuccessful,
with bin Laden presumably escaping the country,
but the regime-change operation did succeed in
ousting the Taliban regime from power and
installing a U.S. puppet regime in its stead.

Not surprisingly, the Taliban were determined to regain power,
which has mired the U.S. government in
a brutal 8-year (and counting) occupation of the country and, even worse,
defending a crooked, corrupt, and fraudulent puppet regime.
In the process of defending that regime,
U.S. and Afghan forces continue to kill, torture, and abuse the Afghan people.
That has, in turn,
succeeded in providing the insurgents and the terrorists
with an endless supply of recruits.

Since many of the militants were holing up in neighboring Pakistan,
the CIA has now expanded the conflict with its drone-assassination program,
killing people in a totally separate country.
Additionally, U.S. officials have strong-armed the Pakistani government
into killing its own people,
under the rationale that
anyone opposing the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan
must also be considered an enemy of the Pakistani government.

So, we’ve now got both the Afghan government and the Pakistani government
killing their own people, at the specific behest of the U.S. government.
How can this not bode ill for the American people?
How can there not be simmering, if not boiling, anger and rage
every time an Afghan or Pakistani family
loses a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend, or a countryman?

by placing U.S. fortunes on one side or the other in these foreign countries,
the U.S. Empire risks the possibility that
the side it is opposing will ultimately gain power,
such as what happened during the Iranian Revolution,
when the Iranian people ousted the brutal Shah,
who the CIA had installed into power,
and replaced him with a radical anti-U.S. Islamic regime [cf.].

Consider Switzerland.
The Swiss government is not occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is not policing the world.
It is not propping up crooked, corrupt, and fraudulent rulers.
It isn’t killing, abusing, and destroying people and property around the world.
The Swiss government minds its own business.
Unlike the U.S. Empire,
the Swiss government isn’t poking hornets’ nests around the world.
And unlike the United States, the hornets leave the Swiss people alone.


CIA base attacked in Afghanistan supported airstrikes against al-Qaeda, Taliban
By Joby Warrick and Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2010-01-01

[The end of the article:]

A spokesman for the Afghan National Army in Kabul
denied that the Khost attack was carried out by a member of the army,
but the possibility highlights

growing concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan about
whether it is possible to sustain
the loyalty and unity of their respective armies.

The Afghan army,
a crucial element in the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan,
is young, untested and ethnically diverse.
It is being asked to fight
fellow Muslims from the dominant Afghan tribe
in an unpopular war
on behalf of American forces and policies
that many Afghans deeply resent.

“This attack shows that the Taliban are getting good cooperation from the locals
and that they have better intelligence than the Americans do,”

said Talat Masood,
a Pakistani security analyst and retired general in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.
“It also raises the issue
that has haunted the Afghan National Army from the beginning --
whether or not it is possible to build
a unified army that can overcome ethnic loyalties
in support of broader American goals.”

[Frankly, that question,
particularly the part about “in support of broader American goals,”
when put in the context of Afghan history,
answers itself, with a resounding “No.”
Too bad for America and the world that
the American “elite” is incapable of observing that,
no doubt because it would interfere with
their adamant goal of serving the interests of feminism and Zionism.]

Pakistan Is Said to Pursue Foothold in Afghanistan
New York Times, 2010-06-25

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan —

Pakistan is exploiting the troubled United States military effort in Afghanistan to drive home a political settlement with Afghanistan that would give Pakistan important influence there but is likely to undermine United States interests, Pakistani and American officials said.

The dismissal of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal will almost certainly embolden the Pakistanis in their plan as they detect increasing American uncertainty, Pakistani officials said. The Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, preferred General McChrystal to his successor, Gen. David H. Petraeus, whom he considers more of a politician than a military strategist, said people who had spoken recently with General Kayani.

Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.

In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.

Washington has watched with some nervousness as General Kayani and Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. In a sign of the shift in momentum, the two Pakistani officials were next scheduled to visit Kabul on Monday, according to Afghan TV.

Despite General McChrystal’s 11 visits to General Kayani in Islamabad in the past year, the Pakistanis have not been altogether forthcoming on details of the conversations in the last two months, making the Pakistani moves even more worrisome for the United States, said an American official involved in the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan deliberations.

“They know this creates a bigger breach between us and Karzai,” the American official said.

Though encouraged by Washington, the thaw heightens the risk that the United States will find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee Washington’s prime objective in the war: denying Al Qaeda a haven.

It also provides another indication of how Pakistan, ostensibly an American ally, has worked many opposing sides in the war to safeguard its ultimate interest in having an Afghanistan that is pliable and free of the influence of its main strategic obsession, its more powerful neighbor, India.

The Haqqani network has long been Pakistan’s crucial anti-India asset and has remained virtually untouched by Pakistani forces in their redoubt inside Pakistan, in the tribal areas on the Afghan border, even as the Americans have pressed Pakistan for an offensive against it.

General Kayani has resisted the American pleas, saying his troops are too busy fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other parts of the tribal areas.

But there have long been suspicions among Afghan, American and other Western officials that the Pakistanis were holding the Haqqanis in reserve for just such a moment, as a lever to shape the outcome of the war in its favor.

On repeated occasions, Pakistan has used the Haqqani fighters to hit Indian targets inside Afghanistan, according to American intelligence officials. The Haqqanis have also hit American ones, a possible signal from the Pakistanis to the Americans that it is in their interest, too, to embrace a deal.

General Petraeus told Congress last week that Haqqani fighters were responsible for recent major attacks in Kabul and the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, adding that he had informed General Kayani.

Some officials in the Obama administration have not ruled out incorporating the Haqqani network in an Afghan settlement, though they stress that President Obama’s policy calls for Al Qaeda to be separated from the network. American officials are skeptical that that can be accomplished.

Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said on a visit to Islamabad last weekend that it was “hard to imagine” the Haqqani network in an Afghan arrangement, but added, “Who knows?”

At a briefing this week at the headquarters of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistani analysts laid out a view of the war that dovetailed neatly with the doubts expressed by Mr. Karzai. They depicted a stark picture of an American military campaign in Afghanistan “that will not succeed.”

They said the Taliban were gaining strength. Despite the impending arrival of new American troops, they concluded the “security situation would become more dangerous,” resulting in an erosion of the American will to fight.

“That is the reason why Karzai is trying to negotiate now,” a senior analyst said.

General Pasha, the head of the intelligence agency, dashed to Kabul on the eve of Mr. Karzai’s visit to Washington in May, an American official said. Neither Mr. Karzai nor the Pakistanis mentioned to the Americans about incorporating the Haqqanis in a postwar Afghanistan, the official said.

Pakistan has already won what it sees as an important concession in Kabul, the resignations this month of the intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, and the interior minister, Hanif Atmar. The two officials, favored by Washington, were viewed by Pakistan as major obstacles to its vision of hard-core Taliban fighters’ being part of an Afghanistan settlement, though the circumstances of their resignations did not suggest any connection to Pakistan.

Coupled with their strategic interests, the Pakistanis say they have chosen this juncture to open talks with Mr. Karzai because, even before the controversy over General McChrystal, they sensed uncertainty — “a lack of fire in the belly,” said one Pakistani — within the Obama administration over the Afghan fight.

“The American timetable for getting out makes it easier for Pakistan to play a more visible role,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the spokesman for the Pakistani Army. He was referring to the July 2011 date set by Mr. Obama for the start of the withdrawal of some American combat troops.

The offer by Pakistan to make the Haqqanis part of the solution in Afghanistan has now been adopted as basic Pakistani policy, said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of international relations at Islamabad University, and a confidant of top military generals.

“The establishment thinks that without getting Haqqani on board, efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan will be doomed,” Mr. Hussain said. “Haqqani has a large fighting force, and by co-opting him into a power-sharing arrangement a lot of bloodshed can be avoided.”

The recent trips by General Kayani and General Pasha to Kabul were an “effort to make this happen,” he said.

Afghan officials said General Kayani had offered to broker a deal with the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and had sent envoys to Kabul from another insurgent leader and longtime Pakistani ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with the offer of a 15-point peace plan in March.

As for the Haqqanis, whose fighters stretch across eastern Afghanistan all the way to Kabul, they are prepared to break with Al Qaeda, Pakistani intelligence and military officials said.

The Taliban, including the Haqqani group, are ready to “do a deal” over Al Qaeda, a senior Pakistani official close to the Pakistani Army said. The Haqqanis could tell Al Qaeda to move elsewhere because it had been given nine years of protection since 9/11, the official said.

But this official acknowledged that the Haqqanis and Al Qaeda were too “thick” with each other for a separation to happen. They had provided each other with fighters, money and other resources over a long period of time, he said.

Also, there appeared to be no idea where the Qaeda forces would go, and no answer to whether the Haqqanis would hand over Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, the official said.

The Haqqanis may be playing their own game with their hosts, the Pakistanis, Mr. Hussain said.

“Many believe that Haqqanis’ willingness to cut its links with Al Qaeda is a tactical move which is aimed at thwarting the impending military action by the Pakistani Army in North Waziristan,” he said.

U.S. May Label Pakistan Militants as Terrorists
New York Times, 2010-07-14


The new American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus,
is pushing to have top leaders of a feared insurgent group
designated as terrorists,
a move that could complicate
an eventual Afghan political settlement with the Taliban
and aggravate political tensions in the region.

General Petraeus introduced the idea of blacklisting the group,
known as the Haqqani network,
late last week in discussions with
President Obama’s senior advisers on Pakistan and Afghanistan,
according to several administration officials,
who said it was being seriously considered.

Such a move could risk antagonizing Pakistan,
a critical partner in the war effort,
but one that is closely tied to the Haqqani network.
It could also frustrate the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai,
who is pressing to reconcile with all the insurgent groups
as a way to end the nine-year-old war
and consolidate his own grip on power.

The case of the Haqqani network, run by an old warlord family, underscores the thorny decisions that will have to be made over which Taliban-linked insurgents should win some sort of amnesty and play a role in the future of Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai has already petitioned the United Nations to lift sanctions against dozens of members of the Taliban, and has won conditional support from the Obama administration, so long as these people sever ties to Al Qaeda, forswear violence and accept the Afghan Constitution.

“If they are willing to accept the red lines and come in from the cold, there has to be a place for them,” Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said to reporters at a briefing on Tuesday.

From its base in the frontier area near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani is suspected of running much of the insurgency around Kabul, the Afghan capital, and across eastern Afghanistan, carrying out car bombings and kidnappings, including spectacular attacks on American military installations. It is allied with Al Qaeda and with leaders of the Afghan Taliban branch under Mullah Muhammad Omar, now based near Quetta, Pakistan.

But the group’s real power may lie in its deep connections to Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, which analysts say sees the Haqqani network as a way to exercise its own leverage in Afghanistan. Pakistani leaders have recently offered to broker talks between Mr. Karzai and the network, officials said, arguing that it could be a viable future partner.

American officials remain extremely skeptical that the Haqqani network’s senior leaders could ever be reconciled with the Afghan government, although they say perhaps some midlevel commanders and foot soldiers could. Some officials in Washington and in the region expressed concerns that imposing sanctions on the entire network might drive away some fighters who might be persuaded to lay down their arms.

The idea of putting the Haqqani network on a blacklist was first made public on Tuesday by Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who has just returned from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr. Levin did not disclose any conversations he might have had with General Petraeus on the subject.

The Haqqani network is perhaps the most significant threat to stability in Afghanistan, said Mr. Levin, a powerful voice in Congress on military affairs as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Mr. Levin also advocated increasing attacks against the organization by Pakistan and by the United States, using unmanned drone strikes.

“At the moment, the Haqqani network — and their fighters coming over the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan — is the greatest threat, at least external threat, to Afghanistan,” Mr. Levin said at a morning breakfast with correspondents.

“More needs to be done by Pakistan,” he added. “The Pakistanis have said they now realize, more than ever, that terrorism is a threat to them — not just the terrorists who attack them directly, but the terrorists who attack others from their territory.”

Placement on the State Department’s list would mainly impose legal limits on American citizens and companies, prohibiting trade with the Haqqani network or its leaders and requiring that banks freeze their assets in the United States.

But Mr. Levin noted that the law would also require the United States government to apply pressure on any nation harboring such a group, in this case Pakistan.

In Kabul, a spokesman for General Petraeus said he would not comment on any internal discussions. But in public General Petraeus has expressed alarm about the network and has talked about his desire to see the Pakistani military act more aggressively against the group’s stronghold in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan.

In testimony before Mr. Levin’s committee last month, General Petraeus said he viewed the network as a particular danger to the mission in Afghanistan.

He said he and other senior military officers had shared information with their counterparts in Pakistan that showed the Haqqani network “clearly commanded and controlled” recent attacks in Kabul and against the Bagram Air Base outside Kabul, which is controlled by the United States.

The focus on a political settlement is likely to intensify next week at a conference in Kabul, to be headed by Mr. Karzai and attended by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other officials. Mr. Karzai recently signed a decree authorizing the reintegration of lower-level Taliban fighters, and Mr. Holbrooke said the meeting would kick off that program, which will be financed by $180 million from Japan, Britain and other countries, as well as $100 million in Pentagon funds.

But Mr. Karzai is eager to extend an olive branch to higher-level figures as well. His government wants to remove up to 50 of the 137 Taliban names on the United Nations Security Council’s blacklist. Mr. Holbrooke, the special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the administration supported efforts to cull the list, but would approve names only on a case-by-case basis. Certain figures, like Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, remain out of bounds, he said.

For its part, the United States is trying to keep the emphasis on the low-level fighters, rather than the leadership. The planned American military campaign in Kandahar, officials said, could weaken the position of Taliban leaders, making them more amenable to a settlement.

Still, the United States backs “Afghan-led reconciliation,” Mr. Holbrooke said. And he said the administration was encouraged by recent meetings between Mr. Karzai and Pakistani leaders, which he said were slowly building trust between these often-suspicious neighbors.

“Nothing could be more important to the resolution of the war in Afghanistan,”
he said,
“than a common understanding between Afghanistan and Pakistan on
what their strategic purpose is.”

U.S. General Wants Afghan Militants Branded Terrorists
By REUTERS, 2010-07-27

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

President Barack Obama's pick to lead the U.S. military command overseeing operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere said on Tuesday
he wanted top leaders of two major insurgent groups designated as terrorists.

The Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network
oppose U.S. forces in Afghanistan
and officially blacklisting their leaders
could trigger punitive measures, like freezing assets.
Advocates say it would also send a strong message to Pakistan,
under pressure to go after insurgents inside its borders.

“Both those groups have engaged in terrorism and I believe
the leaders of both groups should be placed on the State Department list,”
General James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.


The Quetta Shura, headed by Mullah Omar,
is the remains of the Afghan Taliban government
which was overthrown and driven into Pakistan
by the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network, headed by a hero of the 1980s guerrilla war against the Soviet Union, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and his son,
is based mainly in Pakistan’s North Waziristan
and adjoining provinces in Afghanistan.

The chairman of the Senate committee, Senator Carl Levin, said
“these groups and their senior leaders
are involved deeply in supporting the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan.”

Beyond providing tools to limit their financial and logistical support,
Levin said, the designation would also send a signal -- including to Pakistan --
“regarding the United States’ serious concern with their ongoing activities.”


Afghan War Is Being Lost, Pakistani President Says
New York Times, 2010-08-04


On the eve of an official visit to Britain,
Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari,
was quoted in a French newspaper on Tuesday as saying that
coalition forces were losing the war in Afghanistan because they had
“lost the battle to win hearts and minds” of Afghans, and that
the Taliban’s success lay “in knowing how to wait” for NATO forces to withdraw.

The interview in Le Monde appeared as
Mr. Zardari headed for a four-day visit to Britain
after talks in France,
including a meeting at the Élysée Palace with President Nicolas Sarkozy,
that officials on both sides described as harmonious.

But the Paris interview set the stage for what promised to be
tense discussions between Mr. Zardari and his hosts in Britain,
a country with deep historic, economic and cultural ties to Pakistan,
and with a deep investment in the Afghan war,
where Britain has the second-highest number of foreign troops
after the United States.


“The international community, to which Pakistan belongs,
is losing the war against the Taliban,”
Mr. Zardari said in the Le Monde interview.
“This is above all because
we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds.”

On the Taliban, he struck an ambiguous chord, saying at one point that
“they have no chance of regaining power, though their influence is growing,”
and at another that their ability to be patient means
“time is on their side.”

In a reference to President Obama’s decision to
virtually triple American strength in Afghanistan over the past 18 months,
to a current level of about 95,000,
Mr. Zardari added:
“Military reinforcements are only a small part of the response.
To win the support of the Afghan people,
we must bring them economic development,
and prove that we can not only change their lives, but improve them.”


Pakistanis Tell of Motive in Taliban Leader’s Arrest
New York Times, 2010-08-23

[The plot thickens.
Boil, boil, toil and trouble ...]


Now, seven months later,
Pakistani officials are telling a very different story.
They say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar,
and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because
they wanted to shut down secret peace talks
that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government
that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.

In the weeks after Mr. Baradar’s capture,
Pakistani security officials detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders,
many of whom had been enjoying
the protection of the Pakistani government for years.
The talks came to an end.

[T]he account offered in Islamabad
highlights Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan:
retaining decisive influence over the Taliban,
thwarting archenemy India, and
putting Pakistan in a position to shape
Afghanistan’s postwar political order.

“We picked up Baradar and the others because
they were trying to make a deal without us,”

said a Pakistani security official,
who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation,
spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations
between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States.
“We protect the Taliban.
They are dependent on us.
We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.”


How the U.S. military fell in love with ‘Three Cups of Tea’
By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post, 2011-04-22

Ticket to Pakistan: Who Are the Haqqanis Anyway?
Is Former Reagan-Era Ally Really Number One Militant Threat?

by Jason Ditz
Antiwar.com, 2011-09-23

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