Sunday, July 10, 2011

US pays Taliban to stay longer

US has an interest in prolonging the conflict

It is the common belief among Afghans that the west has no intention of ending the conflict in Afghanistan., Tuesday 25 May 2010 12.00 BST

U.S. Army Conducts Operations In Kandahar Province

It's near-impossible to find anyone in Afghanistan who doesn't believe the US are funding the Taliban: and it's the highly educated Afghan professionals, those employed by ISAF, USAID, international media organisations – and even advising US diplomats – who seem the most convinced.

One Afghan friend, who speaks flawless English and likes to quote Charles Dickens, Bertolt Brecht and Anton Chekhov, says the reason is clear. "The US has an interest in prolonging the conflict so as to stay in Afghanistan for the long term."

The continuing violence between coalition forces and the Taliban is simple proof in itself.

"We say in this country, you need two hands to clap," he says, slapping his hands together in demonstration. "One side can't do it on its own."

His arguments are reasoned:  It's not just the natural assets of Afghanistan but its strategic position.

Commanding this country would give the US power over India, Russia, Pakistan and China, not to mention all the central Asian states.

"The US uses Israel to threaten the Arab states, and they want to make Afghanistan into the same thing," he says. "Whoever controls Asia in the future, controls the world."

"Even a child of five knows this," one Kabuli radio journalist tells me, holding his hand a couple of feet from the ground in illustration. Look at Helmand, he says; how could 15,000 international and Afghan troops fail to crush a couple of thousand of badly equipped Taliban?

And as for the British, apparently they want to stay in Afghanistan even more than the Americans. The reason they want to talk to the Taliban is to bring them into the government, thus consolidating UK influence.

This isn't just some vague prejudice rhere is a highly structured analysis behind this. If the US really wanted to defeat the Taliban, person after person asks me, why don't they tackle them in Pakistan?
The reason is simple, one friend tells me. "As long as you don't get rid of the nest, the problem will continue. If they eliminate the Taliban, the US will have no reason to stay here."

The proof is manifold, they say (although it does tend to include the phrase guaranteed to dismay every journalist: "everybody knows that …").

Among the things everybody knows are that Afghan national army troops report taking over Taliban bases to find identical rations and weapons to their own US-supplied equipment. The US funds the madrasas both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, which produce the young Talibs. US army helicopters regularly deliver supplies behind Taliban lines. The aid organisations are nothing more than intelligence-collecting agencies, going into regions the army cannot easily reach to obtain facts on the ground. Even the humblest midwife-training project is a spying outfit.

One political scientist, who works as an advisor to US agencies in the north of the country, recounts how people fear the continuing influence of the warlords, illustrating his point with descriptions of violence and corruption that extends into the realms of banking, government and trade.

Afghans hate these warlords, he says, but the US wants them kept in place. "If they were removed, and competent and clean people brought in, we would bring in revenues of our own. We could have our own economy, and demand foreign investment with transparency. We would have a true army, to protect us and serve Afghanistan."

So why do these well-educated Afghan professionals work for governments they are convinced want to sink their claws into their country?

There's nothing contrived about their patriotism – with their skills they could easily study or work abroad, but choose to stay to build a better future for their country. Afghans have a historical suspicion towards any foreign power involved in their country and maybe with the resilience of a nation which has seen off one occupier after another, they are willing to wait it out, confident the will of the US will break before their own.

They don't want Nato to leave for 15, maybe 20 years, anyway. It will take that long for Afghan institutions to be able to survive independently. In the meantime, as my literature-loving friend – who works for a number of US agencies – tells me, there is no contradiction in survival. "I like Benjamin Franklin in my pocket," he smiles. So much for hearts and minds.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

USA leaks Pakistan State murderer


Pakistan sanctioned killing of rogue journalist, US claims

Pakistan's government sanctioned the murder of a prominent investigative journalist, a senior US military figure claimed yesterday, escalating the war-of-words that threatens to derail the two countries' co-operation against Islamic militants.

Shahzad, who worked for the Asia Times Online website, was abducted in Islamabad as he travelled to a television studio Photo: (AFP)

Rob Crilly

By Rob Crilly, Islamabad

2:33PM BST 08 Jul 2011

For weeks anonymous officials from both countries have been briefing against each other, putting enormous strain on a relationship which is crucial to fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

On Thursday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, went public with allegations that the Pakistani government approved the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, whose battered body was found in a canal in May.

"It's been reported recently and I haven't seen anything that would disabuse that report," America's most senior military officer told reporters from the Pentagon Press Association.

Although he said he did not have evidence linking the killing to a specific government agency, he added: "It was sanctioned by the government, yeah."

Analysts said the statement was unprecedented and would drive the two countries further apart, inflaming public sentiment and offering a gift to radical Islamic leaders who stoke anti-American feelings.

The words are all the more damaging coming from an officer who is respected by his Pakistani counterparts and who has long pushed for closer ties.

The fall-out in Pakistan was immediate, with a slew of angry government denials.

Firdous Ashiq Awan, the information minister, described the claims as "irresponsible". She added: "The statement by Admiral Mike Mullen regarding Pakistan will create problems and difficulties in the bilateral ties. It will also impact our joint efforts in war against terrorism."

She refused to describe what action might be taken, but her words immediately prompted speculation that Pakistan might choke off crucial land supply routes to Nato forces in Afghanistan as it did in a separate dispute last year.

Shahzad, who worked for the Asia Times Online website, was abducted in Islamabad as he travelled to a television studio.

He had recently published an investigation claiming al-Qaeda attacked a naval air base in Karachi after talks failed to secure the release of two naval officials accused of having ties to militants.

The manner of his disappearance and death led many Pakistanis to conclude he had been killed by the country's feared spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate — allegations denied repeatedly by security officials.

However, the allegations took on a new life this week, when The New York Times quoted two senior American officials saying they had seen intelligence showing the ISI ordered his killing in order to muzzle criticism.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani analyst based in Lahore, said Admiral Mullen's statement had taken the two countries almost to the point where further co-operation was impossible.

"It looks like Pakistan and the US are tied together by their tails," he said. "They are pulling in different directions but can't quite untie themselves." Pakistan has already expelled dozens of American military trainers as the country's generals expressed their anger at not being told of the bin Laden raid.

This week, a security source told The Daily Telegraph that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had asked the CIA to sign a contract setting out the limits of co-operation.

And diplomats have said they face delays in obtaining visas and have suffered harassment at checkpoints.

At the same time, American officials remain suspicious that the ISI retains links to militant groups it once used as an unofficial arm of foreign policy.

However, both sides know they need each other to combat the threat from militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.

Pakistan remains the main land route used by the United States to send supplies for the 150,000 foreign troops fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan.

And Islamabad is coming under increasing pressure to launch a major military offensive against militants in North Waziristan, who are blamed for cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

Admiral Mullen's new-found sympathy for Pakistani journalists suggests other, underlying strains, according to Imtiaz Gul, head of the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad.

"Never before has America's top military leader talked about the fate of a journalist, so I think it really underscores frustration to crack down on groups in North Waziristan," he said.

DAWN, Pakistani Newspaper

WASHINGTON: The US military's top officer said Thursday Pakistan's government may have sanctioned the killing of a Pakistani journalist, voicing grave concern over the attack.

Asked about media reports that Islamabad sanctioned or approved the killing of the reporter, Admiral Mike Mullen said: "I haven't seen anything that would disabuse that report."

He said he was "concerned" about the incident and suggested other reporters had suffered a similar fate in the past.

"His (death) isn't the first. For whatever reason, it has been used as a method historically."While acknowledging that Pakistani officials have denied the government had any role in the death of Saleem Shahzad, Mullen said the episode raised worrying questions about the country's current course.

"It's not a way to move ahead. It's a way to continue to quite frankly spiral in the wrong direction," said Mullen, who has held numerous meetings with Pakistani counterparts during his tenure as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The New York Times, citing US officials, reported Monday that the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency ordered the killing of the 40-year-old Shahzad to muzzle criticism. Mullen said he could not confirm whether the ISI was behind the killing.

The ISI has denied as "baseless" allegations that it was involved in the murder of Shahzad, who worked for an Italian news agency and a Hong Kong-registered news site.

The Opinion Pages


A Pakistani Journalist's Murder

After the Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad was murdered in May, suspicion fell on Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's powerful spy agency. Mr. Shahzad reported aggressively on the infiltration of militants into Pakistan's military and had received repeated threats from ISI. Other journalists said they, too, have been threatened, even tortured, by security forces.

Now the Obama administration has evidence implicating the ISI in this brutal killing. According to The Times's Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt (see below****), American officials say new intelligence indicates that senior ISI officials ordered the attack on Mr. Shahzad to silence him. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed on Thursday that Pakistan's government "sanctioned" the killing, but he did not tie it directly to ISI. The murder will make journalists and other critics of the regime even more reluctant to expose politically sensitive news. The ISI is also proving to be an increasingly dangerous counterterrorism partner for the United States.

After Mr. Shahzad's killing, ISI insisted it had no role, contending the death would be "used to target and malign" its reputation. The ISI and the army, which oversees the intelligence agency, were once considered Pakistan's most respected institutions. Now they are sharply criticized at home for malfeasance and incompetence.

There is evidence that they were complicit in hiding Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and that the ISI helped plan the Mumbai attack in 2008. They failed to prevent the recent attack on a naval base in Karachi. Mr. Shahzad disappeared two days after publishing an article suggesting the attack was retaliation for the navy's attempt to crack down on Al Qaeda militants in the armed forces.

It's not clear how high up the culpability for Mr. Shahzad's murder goes — or whether there are any officials left in the ISI or the army who have the power and desire to reform the spy agency. President Asif Ali Zardari and his government, while not implicated in these heinous acts, have been a disappointment, largely letting the military go its own way. They need to find Mr. Shahzad's murderers and hold them accountable. And they must find the courage to assert civilian control over security services that have too much power and are running amok.

Mr. Zardari needs to speak out firmly against abuses, insist on adherence to the rule of law and join his political rival, Nawaz Sharif, in pressing the security services to change. That can start by insisting on the retirement of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief, and the appointment of a more credible successor.

The United States needs to use its influence to hasten Mr. Pasha's departure. It should tell Pakistan's security leadership that if Washington identifies anyone in ISI or the army as abetting terrorists, those individuals will face sanctions like travel bans or other measures. The ISI has become inimical to Pakistani and American interests.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on July 8, 2011, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: A Pakistani Journalist's Murder: Implicated in the killing, Pakistan's spy agency urgently needs reform
According to The Times's Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt...  ****

Pakistan's Spies Tied to Slaying of a Journalist

A vigil in Islamabad in June for Saleem Shahzad, who wrote scathing reports about the infiltration of militants in the army.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Obama administration officials believe that Pakistan's powerful spy agency ordered the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about the infiltration of militants in the country's military, according to American officials.

New classified intelligence obtained before the May 29 disappearance of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40, from the capital, Islamabad, and after the discovery of his mortally wounded body, showed that senior officials of the spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, directed the attack on him in an effort to silence criticism, two senior administration officials said.

The intelligence, which several administration officials said they believed was reliable and conclusive, showed that the actions of the ISI, as it is known, were "barbaric and unacceptable," one of the officials said. They would not disclose further details about the intelligence.

But the disclosure of the information in itself could further aggravate the badly fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan, which worsened significantly with the American commando raid two months ago that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistan safehouse and deeply embarrassed the Pakistani government, military and intelligence hierarchy. Obama administration officials will deliberate in the coming days how to present the information about Mr. Shahzad to the Pakistani government, an administration official said.

The disclosure of the intelligence was made in answer to questions about the possibility of its existence, and was reluctantly confirmed by the two officials. "There is a lot of high-level concern about the murder; no one is too busy not to look at this," said one.

A third senior American official said there was enough other intelligence and indicators immediately after Mr. Shahzad's death for the Americans to conclude that the ISI had ordered him killed.

"Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan's journalist community and civil society," said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the information.

A spokesman for the Pakistan intelligence agency said in Islamabad on Monday night that "I am not commenting on this." George Little, a spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, declined to comment.

In a statement the day after Mr. Shahzad's waterlogged body was retrieved from a canal 60 miles from Islamabad, the ISI publicly denied accusations in the Pakistani news media that it had been responsible, calling them "totally unfounded."

The ISI said the journalist's death was "unfortunate and tragic," and should not be "used to target and malign the country's security agency."

The killing of Mr. Shahzad, a contributor to the Web site Asia Times Online, aroused an immediate furor in the freewheeling news media in Pakistan.

Mr. Shahzad was the 37th journalist killed in Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Pakistan's civilian government, under pressure from the media, established a commission headed by a Supreme Court justice to investigate Mr. Shahzad's death. The findings are scheduled to be released early next month.

Mr. Shahzad suffered 17 lacerated wounds delivered by a blunt instrument, a ruptured liver and two broken ribs, said Dr. Mohammed Farrukh Kamal, one of the three physicians who conducted the post-mortem.

The anger over Mr. Shahzad's death followed unprecedented questioning in the media about the professionalism of the army and the ISI, a military-controlled spy agency, in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.

Since that initial volley of questioning, the ISI has mounted a steady counter-campaign. Senior ISI officials have called and visited journalists, warning them to douse their criticisms and rally around the theme of a united country, according to three journalists who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.

Mr. Shahzad, who wrote articles over the last several years that illuminated the relationship between the militants and the military, was abducted from the capital three days after publication of his article that said Al Qaeda was responsible for an audacious 16-hour commando attack on Pakistan's main naval base in Karachi on May 22.

The attack was a reprisal for the navy's arresting up to 10 naval personnel who had belonged to a Qaeda cell, Mr. Shahzad said.

The article, published by Asia Times Online, detailed how the attackers were guided by maps and logistical information provided from personnel inside the base.

Particularly embarrassing for the military, Mr. Shahzad described negotiations before the raid between the navy and a Qaeda representative, Abdul Samad Mansoor. The navy refused to release the detainees, Mr. Shahzad wrote. The Pakistani military maintains that it does not negotiate with militants.

Mr. Shahzad prided himself on staying out of the mainstream press, preferring, he wrote in a preface to his recently published book, "Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban," to challenge the "conventional wisdom."

He had submitted articles to Asia Times Online, which claims 150,000 readers, since 2001, when he was a reporter in Karachi uncovering corruption in the public utility, the editor of the Web site, Tony Allison, said.

He broke into the limelight two years ago with an interview with Ilyas Kashmiri, a highly trained Pakistani militant allied to Al Qaeda. Mr. Kashmiri is believed to have been killed in a drone attack in early June.

According to associates, Mr. Shahzad cultivated contacts inside the military and the intelligence agency and members of militant groups, some from his student days in Jamaat Islami, a religious political party.

Some of his stories were threaded with embellishments. Soon after the Bin Laden raid, Mr. Shahzad wrote that Gen. David H. Petraeus visited the chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and informed him, an account the White House strongly disputes. Pakistani journalists questioned the authenticity of some of Mr. Shahzad's reporting: whether those doubts arose from professional jealousy or were well founded was never clear.

But the ISI had been interested in Mr. Shahzad for some time. In an e-mail written to Ali Dayan Hasan, the head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, which Mr. Shahzad instructed Mr. Hasan to release if something happened to him, Mr. Shahzad gave details of an Oct. 17 meeting at ISI headquarters, where two senior officials in the press section wanted to discuss an article he had written about the release of an interrogated Afghan Taliban commander, Abdul Ghani Baradar.

At the end, Mr. Shahzad said, he had been given what Mr. Hasan said he understood to be a veiled death threat from the head of the press section, Rear Adm. Adnan Nazir. "We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation," Mr. Shahzad quoted Admiral Nazir saying. "The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know."

In its statement after the death of Mr. Shahzad, the ISI said the agency notifies "institutions and individuals alike of any threat warning received about them." There were no "veiled or unveiled threats" in the e-mail, the ISI said.

Hameed Haroon, the publisher of Dawn, an English-language newspaper and the head of the newspaper publishers' association in Pakistan, said that the journalist had confided to him that "he had received death threats from various officers of the ISI on at least three occasions in the past five years."

It was possible that Mr. Shahzad had become too cavalier, said Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani columnist and author.

"The rules of the game are not completely well defined," she said. "Sometimes friendly elements cross an imaginary threshold and it is felt they must be taught a lesson."

The efforts by the ISI to constrain the Pakistani news media have, to a degree, worked in recent days. The virulent criticism after Mr. Shahzad's death has tempered a bit.

A Pakistani reporter, Waqar Kiani, who works for the British newspaper The Guardian, was beaten in the capital after Mr. Shahzad's death with wooden batons and a rubber whip, by men who said: "You want to be a hero. We'll make you a hero," the newspaper reported. Mr. Kiani had just published an account of his abduction two years earlier at the hands of intelligence agents.

Jane Perlez reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting from Washington.

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