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Tuesday, May 31

Police find body of Syed Saleem Shahzad; say he was tortured, killed

See this May 31 TIME report, published while there was still hope Shahzad was alive, for extensive background; report was updated at 10:00 AM EDT to reflect reports of his death.

June 1, Asia Times Online:
[HONG KONG] Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief for Asia Times Online who went missing on Sunday evening, has been killed, according to police. ...

Police reported that his body was found in a canal in Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab province about 150 kilometers southeast of Islamabad and about 10 kilometers from where his car was found. They said that his body bore marks of torture.

He leaves a wife, two sons aged 14 and seven, and a daughter aged 12. ...

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani expressed his "deep grief and sorrow" over Shahzad's death and ordered an immediate inquiry into his kidnapping and murder, according to Associated Press of Pakistan. ...

Shahzad, who has been writing for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online for nearly 10 years, failed to show up for a scheduled appearance on a television talk show in the capital Islamabad.

Earlier, the International Federation of Journalists released a statement saying it "urgently appeals to the Government of Pakistan to order its security and police agencies to respond immediately to find a senior journalist who disappeared in Islamabad on May 29".

Shahzad, 40, had on several occasions been warned by officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over articles they deemed to be detrimental to Pakistan's national interests or image.

Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan earlier said he suspected ISI officials abducted Shahzad, possibly because of a recent story he wrote on al-Qaeda infiltration in the Pakistani navy. Authorities haven't commented. (Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike.)

Tony Allison, the Editor of Asia Times Online, expressed his deep concern for one of the most fearless journalists with whom he had ever worked. "We will bring the utmost pressure to bear on the authorities over this case. We at Asia Times Online express our deepest sympathies for Saleem's family."

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Human Rights Watch claims Syed Saleem Shahzad in ISI custody (UPDATED 1:30 PM EDT)

UPDATE
10:00 AM update to TIME report I cited below:
Pakistan's main news channels are reporting that Shahzad's dead body has been found. One news channel broadcast what appeared to be a black and white image of Shahzad's face. There were visible signs of torture.
Asia Times Online is also reporting that Shahzad's body has been found by police and that it bears marks of torture.
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Missing Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad
with Giuseppe Marra, chief of AdnKronos International news agency



The Asia Times Online still hasn't commented on their bureau chief's disappearance; a note on the website says that due to the holiday they won't be uploading reports until May 31; perhaps the uploaders are still getting their beauty sleep because the uploads aren't there yet.

Ifnan Khan at Pakistan's Daily Times got the scoop by several hours on the news that Human Rights Watch (HRW) has, through "credible sources," learned Shahzad is in the custody of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). But I'm going to run with the report from TIME, which has much more detail and background than the Daily Times report. See TIME's website for source links in the report:
A Pakistani Journalist Vanishes: Is the I.S.I. Involved?
By Omar Waraich
Islamabad; Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fears are growing for the safety of a well-known Pakistani journalist who has been missing for 39 hours now and, according to an international advocacy group, is believed to be in the custody of the Pakistan's controversial Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Human Rights Watch declared that Saleem Shahzad, a reporter working for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and Adnkronos International, the Italian news agency, could be subject to mistreatment and even torture while in custody.

While the ISI was said to have bristled at previous reports by Shahzad, his disappearance happened two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online that said that al-Qaeda had attacked a naval base in the port city of Karachi on May 22 after talks had broken down between the Pakistan navy and the global terror organization. In his report, Shahzad claimed that al-Qaeda had carried out the attack in retaliation for the arrest of naval officials suspected of links with the terror group.

The 17-hour attack on the Karachi naval base by at least four attackers led to the destruction of two Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion aircraft that had been enhanced with counterterrorism capabilities. An investigation is currently underway. At the time of the attack, former military officers and analysts speculated that it could not have been mounted without some help from the inside.

On Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials told journalists that they had picked up Kamran Ahmed Malik, a former navy commando, in Lahore on Friday. Malik and his brother have been detained in connection with the investigation. While Malik has not been formally charged, it is widely reported that he is being held for questioning about his links to both the terrorists and former colleagues inside the Navy.

Shahzad, the missing journalist, is believed to have been abducted by intelligence agents from the well-heeled F-6/2 area of Islamabad at around 5:45 p.m. At the time, he was on his way to the studios of Pakistan's Dunya News channel to discuss the contents of his latest report about the naval base attack. He had driven there from his house in central Islamabad's leafy F-8/4 neighborhood, some four kilometers away. At quarter to six, Shahzad had responded to a call from a producer at Dunya News and said that he was on his way, says Nasim Zehra, director of current affairs at the channel. No one has heard from him since.

The following morning, Ali Dayan Hasan, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, received a call from Shahzad's wife.

"He had told her that I was one of the people that should be called in case anything happens to him," says Hasan.

"He had feared for sometime that something like this would happen to him."

Later, Human Rights Watch was able to establish that Shahzad was being held by the ISI.

"We were informed through reliable interlocutors that he was detained by the ISI," says Hasan.

Those interlocutors, he adds, had received direct confirmation from the agency that it was detaining Shahzad. In any case, Hasan says, "in a high security zone like Islamabad, it is only the ISI that can effect the disappearance of man and his car without a trace."

Human Rights Watch was also told that Shahzad was supposed to return home on Monday night.

"The relevant people were informed that his telephone would be switched on first, enabling him to communicate with his family," says Hasan.

"They were told that he would return home soon after."

But by 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Shahzad had still not been heard from. At that point, Hasan recalled that Shahzad had sent him an email on Oct. 18, 2010 that was to be released in the event of his disappearance. At the time, says Hasan, he was "fairly sure that sooner or later something was going to happen."

Human Rights Watch says that it has made repeated attempts to contact the Pakistan government and establish Shahzad's whereabouts, but has received no response.

On Oct. 17, Shahzad had been summoned to the ISI's headquarters to discuss the contents of an article published the day before with two officials from the agency's media wing. That report, published in Asia Times Online, alleged that Pakistan had quietly released Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baradar, Mullah Omar's deputy, to take part in talks through the Pakistan Army.

According to the email, labeled "For future reference" and seen by TIME, one of the officials said the following words to Shahzad: "I must give you a favor. We have recently arrested a terrorist and recovered a lot of data, diaries and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know."

Incidentally, the two ISI officials present at the meeting, Rear Admiral Adnan Nawaz and Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, are both from the Navy. Pervaiz has just been appointed the new commander of the Karachi naval base that was attacked.

Hasan of Human Rights Watch says that statement can be read as a threat. "The tone and the manner in which it was issued did constitute a threat," he says. "Shahzad described it to me."

The rest of the meeting, as Shahzad described it in the email, was held in "an extremely polite and friendly atmosphere," but no words were minced. In the email, the ISI official was said to have asked for the source of his story. Shahzad writes that he would not name the source, but said that he had been told the information by an intelligence official and later confirmed the story from "the most credible Taliban source." According to Shahzad's account, he was asked to "write a denial of the story" but "refused to comply with the [ISI] demand."

Many of Shahzad's media colleagues speculate that the ISI is holding him to extract the identities of his sources. "It is very difficult to say what they want from him," says Hasan.

"But when the ISI picks up journalists in this manner, they are often subjected to mistreatment and torture. The longer he stays in their custody, the greater the likelihood is that he will be tortured."

Last September, Umar Cheema, an investigative reporter for The News, an influential Pakistani daily, was kidnapped, blindfolded, stripped naked, had his head and eyebrows shaved, beaten, filmed in humiliating positions, and dumped on the side of the road six hours later.

"If you can't avoid rape," one of his interrogators jeered during the ordeal, "enjoy it."

The perpetrators were never found, but when asked about his suspicions, Cheema told the New York Times: "I have suspicions and every journalist has suspicions that all fingers point to the ISI."

The disappearance of Shahzad is a reminder of the multiple hazards faced by journalists working in Pakistan. In January, Wali Khan Babar, a respected reporter for Geo News, was gunned down in Karachi. [1]

Last month, reporter Abdullah Bhittani cheated death after being shot three times in Rawalpindi, while a radio station in the northwest town of Charsadda was bombed. Bhittani has recovered, but with 10 slain journalists last year, the Washington DC-based Newseum called Pakistan "the deadliest country in the world for journalists." Reporters Without Borders ranked it 151st out of 178 countries when it comes to press freedom.

The principal threats, human rights campaigners say, come from military intelligence agencies and Islamist militants.

"As a consequence, it is becoming difficult for journalists to perform their basic professional duties in the context of a war between the Pakistani state and the militants," Hasan says.

"Both parties target journalists, arbitrarily and with brutality."

Human Rights Watch has called on the Pakistan government to locate Shahzad, return him safely to his home, and hold those who held him "illegally" accountable. "To date, no intelligence personnel have been held accountable for frequently perpetrated abuses against journalists," laments Hasan. "Tolerance for these practices has to end, now."
The International Federation of Journalists has also issued an appeal to Pakistan's government on Shahzad's behalf (press release via New Zealand Scoop news site:
Tuesday, 31 May 2011, 3:11 pm
Press Release: International Federation of Journalists
Appeal to Pakistan Government to Find Missing Journalist

May 31, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urgently appeals to the Government of Pakistan to order its security and police agencies to respond immediately to find a senior journalist who disappeared in Islamabad on May 29.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times Online , went missing in the early evening [around 5 PM Pakistan time] while heading to the office of Dunya TV [a private TV station] to record a program.

The IFJ and its affiliate, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), hold grave fears for the welfare of Shahzad, who published the first of a two-part investigative series into alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistani naval officials on Asia Times Online on May 26.

“The IFJ is deeply worried for the safety of Syed Saleem Shahzad,” IFJ Asia -Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“We appeal as a matter of urgency for Pakistan ’s Government to do all it can to find Shahzad quickly, and to prove a commitment to reverse Pakistan ’s poor track record in investigating abuses against journalists.”
See Shahzad's website for more information about him.

Regarding the controversy generated by his most recent investigative report for Asia Times Online, which is supposed to be a two-parter (the second part hasn't been published yet), his May 27 report opened with this paragraph
Al-Qaeda carried out the brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22 after talks failed between the navy and al-Qaeda over the release of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al-Qaeda links ...
Pakistan's regime had chalked up the attack to the so-called Taliban, and a so-called Taliban group had claimed responsibility for it.

As to how much stock I'm putting in Shahzad's report, I've discussed this kind of question before. He belongs to that category of reporter who specializes in cultivating high-level sources in civilian government/military, many of which are anonymous. (In this case, sources in Pakistan's regime.)

Such sources are a double-edged sword: very useful for gaining inside information but they can also use the reporter as a conduit; i.e., to get into the public domain a point of view among a particular faction in government/military for reasons that are not always clear to the public -- or the reporter. So such reportage is a high-wire act, both for the reporter and the news consumer.

Right now I'm reading Shahzad's report as pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle called 'the present thinking inside Pakistan's military.' But my overriding concern at this time is his safety. Shahzad also cultivated sources among terrorist groups. HRW could have been misled by the informant, or the informant could have been misled. Pea-soup fog.

1) Sultan Hijazi, a TIME reader, asserted in the report's comment section "Wali Khan Babar was killed by his colleague at Geo News; the author should get his facts right." I have not followed the issue and so have no idea whether Hijazi is correct.

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Monday, May 30

OMG Asia Times Pakistan Bureau Chief Saleem Shahzad has gone missing after report he filed alleging ties between al Qaeda and Pakistani navy officials

UPDATE May 31, 1:30 PM EDT
From a 10:00 AM update to May 31 TIME report on Shahzad's disappearance:
Pakistan's main news channels are reporting that Shahzad's dead body has been found. One news channel broadcast what appeared to be a black and white image of Shahzad's face. There were visible signs of torture.
Asia Times Online is also reporting today (June 1 HK time) that police claim to have found Shahzad's body and that it bears marks of torture.
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UPDATE
Human Rights Watch source reports that Shahzad is being detained by the ISI. See my May 31 post for the latest details on the story.
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May 30, 2011 from Pakistan's Dawn:
ISLAMABAD: Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, went missing Sunday evening, DawnNews reported.

Days before his disappearance, Shahzad had authored an article that alleged links between navy officials and al Qaeda.

Ali Imran, a Coordinator at the South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) in an email stated that Mr Shahbaz had left his house in Islamabad to participate in a television program but that he did not reach the TV station.

He did not contact his family and friends either, Mr Imran said, adding that Mr Shahzad’s mobile phone and car had not been traced yet.
A little more from a journalist for India's The Hindu who is stationed in Islamabad:
A journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, has been reported missing from the federal capital since Sunday, leading to speculation of him having been picked up by intelligence agencies for his article suggesting that last week's terrorist attack on the naval airbase, PNS Mehran, was retaliation to the Navy's crackdown on al-Qaeda operatives and sympathisers within the service.

The first of Mr. Shahzad's two-part article appeared on May 27 in the Asia Times Online, of which he is the Pakistan bureau chief. He has been missing since 5 p.m. on Sunday, when he left his home in Islamabad to participate in a programme of the Dunya news channel.

A parallel narrative on Mr. Shahzad's disappearance was he had been picked up by the intelligence agencies on suspicion of writing for the al-Qaeda and would be released by Monday night. Meanwhile, Twitter was abuzz with “Free Saleem Shahzad” messages though there was accompanying scepticism on whether he had been detained by the intelligence agencies.

In the PNS Mehran case, a former naval commando who had been court martialled has been taken into custody along with two others from Lahore as part of ongoing efforts to get to the bottom of the 17-hour-long siege that is widely believed to have been conducted with inside information.
Here is the May 27 report:
AN ASIA TIMES ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

This is the first article in a two-part report.

ISLAMABAD - Al-Qaeda carried out the brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22 after talks failed between the navy and al-Qaeda over the release of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al-Qaeda links, an Asia Times Online investigation reveals.

Pakistani security forces battled for 15 hours to clear the naval base after it had been stormed by a handful of well-armed militants.

At least 10 people were killed and two United States-made P3-C

Orion surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft worth US$36 million each were destroyed before some of the attackers escaped through a cordon of thousands of armed forces.

An official statement placed the number of militants at six, with four killed and two escaping. Unofficial sources, though, claim there were 10 militants with six getting free. Asia Times Online contacts confirm that the attackers were from Ilyas Kashmiri's 313 Brigade, the operational arm of al-Qaeda.

Three attacks on navy buses in which at least nine people were killed last month were warning shots for navy officials to accept al-Qaeda's demands over the detained suspects.

The May 2 killing in Pakistan of Osama bin Laden spurred al-Qaeda groups into developing a consensus for the attack in Karachi, in part as revenge for the death of their leader and also to deal a blow to Pakistan's surveillance capacity against the Indian navy.

The deeper underlying motive, though, was a reaction to massive internal crackdowns on al-Qaeda affiliates within the navy.

Volcano of militancy

Several weeks ago, naval intelligence traced an al-Qaeda cell operating inside several navy bases in Karachi, the country's largest city and key port.

"Islamic sentiments are common in the armed forces," a senior navy official told Asia Times Online on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

"We never felt threatened by that. All armed forces around the world, whether American, British or Indian, take some inspiration from religion to motivate their cadre against the enemy. Pakistan came into existence on the two-nation theory that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and therefore no one can separate Islam and Islamic sentiment from the armed forces of Pakistan," the official said.

"Nonetheless, we observed an uneasy grouping on different naval bases in Karachi. While nobody can obstruct armed forces personnel for rendering religious rituals or studying Islam, the grouping [we observed] was against the discipline of the armed forces. That was the beginning of an intelligence operation in the navy to check for unscrupulous activities."

The official explained the grouping was against the leadership of the armed forces and opposed to its nexus with the United States against Islamic militancy. When some messages were intercepted hinting at attacks on visiting American officials, intelligence had good reason to take action and after careful evaluation at least 10 people - mostly from the lower cadre - were arrested in a series of operations.

"That was the beginning of huge trouble," the official said.

Those arrested were held in a naval intelligence office behind the chief minister's residence in Karachi, but before proper interrogation could begin, the in-charge of the investigation received direct threats from militants who made it clear they knew where the men were being detained.

The detainees were promptly moved to a safer location, but the threats continued. Officials involved in the case believe the militants feared interrogation would lead to the arrest of more of their loyalists in the navy. The militants therefore made it clear that if those detained were not released, naval installations would be attacked.

It was clear the militants were receiving good inside information as they always knew where the suspects were being detained, indicating sizeable al-Qaeda infiltration within the navy's ranks. A senior-level naval conference was called at which an intelligence official insisted that the matter be handled with great care, otherwise the consequences could be disastrous. Everybody present agreed, and it was decided to open a line of communication with al-Qaeda.

Abdul Samad Mansoori, a former student union activist and now part of 313 brigade, who originally hailed from Karachi but now lives in the North Waziristan tribal area was approached and talks begun. Al-Qaeda demanded the immediate release of the officials without further interrogation. This was rejected.

The detainees were allowed to speak to their families and were well treated, but officials were desperate to interrogate them fully to get an idea of the strength of al-Qaeda's penetration. The militants were told that once interrogation was completed, the men would be discharged from the service and freed.

Al-Qaeda rejected these terms and expressed its displeasure with the attacks on the navy buses in April.

These incidents pointed to more than the one al-Qaeda cell intelligence had tracked in the navy. The fear now was that if the problem was not addressed, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supply lines could face a new threat. NATO convoys are routinely attacked once they begin the journey from Karachi to Afghanistan; now they could be at risk in Karachi port. Americans who often visit naval facilities in the city would also be in danger.

Therefore, another crackdown was conducted and more people were arrested. Those seized had different ethnic backgrounds. One naval commando came from South Waziristan's Mehsud tribe and was believed to have received direct instructions from Hakeemullah Mehsud, the chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban). Others were from Punjab province and Karachi, the capital of Sindh province.

After Bin Laden was killed by American Navy Seals in Abbottabad, 60 kilometers north of Islamabad, militants decided the time was ripe for major action.

Within a week, insiders at PNS Mehran provided maps, pictures of different exit and entry routes taken in daylight and at night, the location of hangers and details of likely reaction from external security forces.

As a result, the militants were able to enter the heavily guarded facility where one group targeted the aircraft, a second group took on the first strike force and a third finally escaped with the others providing covering fire. Those who stayed behind were killed.

Next: Recruitment and training of militants

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief and author of Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 published by Pluto Press, UK. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

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Will a Pakistani military operation in N. Waziristan amount to more than a hill of beans?


The Reuters report I linked to in the last hour suggests that an unconfirmed report earlier today from Pakistan's The News of a planned Pakistani military offensive in North Waziristan is in substance correct. Long War Journal has also linked to The News report but with clear-eyed cautions from Bill Roggio.

I take all Bill's warnings to heart and understand that given the history, irrational exuberance is unwarranted but things might be different this time around. For now I'm going to be a little mysterious about why I think this might be the case -- we don't even have official confirmation yet that the offensive is planned. However, one might be able to read my reason between the lines of my recent warning to Pakistan's government that it shouldn't assume Beijing is going to back to the hilt what is perceived by the international community as a terror-sponsoring regime.

(For more on Beijing's trials playing the role of Islamabad's BFF, see Peter Lee's May 27 analysis, China Drops the Gwadar Hot Potato for Asia Times Online.)

And I note that the Pakistani military had no choice but to "telegraph," as Bill called it, the planned offensive -- particularly if this turns out to be a joint U.S.-Pakistani operation -- if it didn't want every international humanitarian agency working in Pakistan's Northwest to try and haul them into the International Criminal Court for war crimes against civilians. This is warfare in the 21st Century, folks, at least as it's conducted by governments that want to stay on the good side of the 'international community.' Remember the humanitarian disaster in Swat because of all the DPs from the Pakistani military operation there.

Also reference the first paragraph of the Reuters report:
Humanitarian agencies active in Pakistan's northwest have been quietly told to prepare for up to 365,000 displaced people in advance of a military offensive against North Waziristan, a senior official with an international humanitarian agency said Monday.
And the international community aside, the last thing the Pakistani military needs is to get non-combatants in Northwest Pakistan even angrier at them than they already are.

If the operation is well-planned and coordinated, "telegraphing" shouldn't limit its success and could even help it, just because the warning of an impending offensive will flush many terrorists out of hiding as they flee N. Waziristan.

With all that out of the way, here are Bill's points:
[...] If the Pakistani military is indeed planning an operation in North Waziristan (and again, we've all heard this one before), it will be, according to The News, extremely limited in scope. Here are some things to keep in mind, at least based on the report:

1. The primary target is the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. This does not include Taliban groups such as the Haqqani Network and Bahadar's Taliban faction. This would be similar to the limited operation in South Waziristan in the fall of 2009, when the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan was targeted but Mullah Nazir's forces were left intact (Nazir, who recently affirmed he is an al Qaeda commander, openly controls half of South Waziristan to this day, and continues to shelter al Qaeda and other terror groups).

2. The location appears to be limited to Mir Ali, one of two main towns in North Waziristan. Abu Kasha (or Abu Akash) al Iraqi, an al Qaeda commander and vital link to the Taliban, is based in Mir Ali.

3. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is known to operate three major suicide training camps in the Mir Ali area.

4. Mir Ali is one of three major hubs for terror groups, the two others being Miramshah and Datta Khel. Al Qaeda and terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are also based in Mir Ali.

5. The military is telegraphing this operation, giving the top leadership of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, the IMU, and other groups ample time to flee. The report notes that the operation will begin with airstrikes. The same thing happened in South Waziristan in the fall of 2009; the blockade and airstrikes gave the top leaders time to leave, and a rearguard was left behind to attempt to blunt the Pakistani military assault. No senior Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan leaders were killed during the South Waziristan operation.

6. As noted above, the Haqqani Network and Bahadar's Taliban faction, both of which are viewed by Pakistan's military and intelligence services as "good Taliban," will be spared, despite the fact that these two groups have violated a two-year-old peace agreement with the military that prohibited them from hosting the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, and other allied terror groups. The Haqqanis and Bahadar's Taliban faction have violated this agreement from the very beginning, but the Pakistani state has refused to hold the groups accountable.

One other point: Remember when the Pakistani military made the false claim it was conducting a "surgical" operation in North Waziristan? This claim was even repeated by top US commanders. So is the Pakistani military now admitting that the previous "operation" failed, or are Pakistani officials admitting it never occurred in the first place? Don't expect anyone else to ask that question.

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Reuters: Aid agencies in Pakistan's NW told to prepare for Pak military offensive in North Waziristan


May 30, 2011; 11:02 AM EDT:
Reporter: Zeeshan Haider

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Humanitarian agencies active in Pakistan's northwest have been quietly told to prepare for up to 365,000 displaced people in advance of a military offensive against North Waziristan, a senior official with an international humanitarian agency said Monday.

The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, was responding to a media report in a local newspaper that Pakistan will launch a military offensive against al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in the Afghan border regions.


"Humanitarian agencies operating in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were given the heads up two weeks ago by the authorities of a possible displacement of up to 50,000 families," he said, referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the northwest province.

A similar tip-off in 2009 preceded a military offensive in neighboring South Waziristan by about five months, he said.

Other aid agencies were not immediately available for comment.

The report In Pakistan's the News newspaper comes just days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated a U.S. demand to tackle sanctuaries for al Qaeda and the Taliban on the Afghan border.

An understanding for an offensive in North Waziristan, the main sanctuary in Pakistan for militants fighting in Afghanistan, was reached when Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen visited Pakistan last week, the News reported.

The United States has long demanded that Pakistan attack the region to eliminate the Haqqani network, one of the deadliest Afghan militant factions fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been reluctant to do so, but it has come under more pressure and its performance in fighting militancy is under scrutiny again after it was discovered that Osama bin Laden had been living in the country.

The News quoted unidentified "highly placed sources" as saying Pakistan's air force would soften up militant targets under the "targeted military offensive" before ground operations were launched.

The newspaper cited the sources as saying that a strategy for action in North Waziristan had been drawn up some time ago and an "understanding for carrying out the operation was developed" during the Clinton visit.

The target of any North Waziristan operation would be the most violent factions of the Pakistani Taliban, which has strong ties to al Qaeda, the report said.

But the United States would almost certainly push for a move against Haqqani, too.

Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment. A U.S. embassy official had no immediate comment.

The newspaper said a "joint operation" with allies had been discussed but no decision had been taken because of sensitivities.

"In case the two sides agreed to go for a joint action, it would be the first time in the present war (on militancy) that foreign boots will get a chance to be on Pakistani soil with the consent of the host country."

That could be highly risky for Pakistan's generals.

SENSITIVITIES OF U.S.-PAKISTAN COOPERATION

The military, long regarded as the most effective institution in a country with a history of corrupt, inept civilian governments, suffered a major blow to its image when U.S. special forces killed bin Laden deep inside Pakistan.

It was further humiliated on May 22-23 when a group of between four and six militants besieged a naval base for 16 hours and destroyed two P-3C Orion aircraft from the Unites States, crucial for Pakistan's maritime surveillance capabilities.

The assault raised fresh doubts about the military's ability to protect its bases after a similar raid on the army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi in 2009.


Pakistani security officials detained a former navy commando and his brother Friday in connection with the attack, intelligence officials and relatives said.

Some analysts say any joint U.S.-Pakistani operation would subject the army to even more public criticism in a country where anti-U.S. feeling runs deep.

"The reaction could be even more vociferous, just because everybody is so suspicious -- as well as dismissive -- of American interference," said Imtiaz Gul, author of "The Most Dangerous Place," a book about Pakistan's militant strongholds.

"People already feel so humiliated because of this Osama bin Laden thing and now they will have another reason to react."

But the South Asian nation, dependent on billions of dollars in U.S. aid, is under more pressure than ever to show it is serious about tackling militancy.

Attacking U.S. enemies in North Waziristan may be one way of repairing ties with Washington which were badly damaged by the bin Laden affair.

Pakistan maintains about 140,000 troops in the northwest, including about 34,000 in North Waziristan, but says they are too stretched fighting Pakistani Taliban insurgents in other parts of the region to tackle North Waziristan.

Aside from strategic concerns, an attack on the Haqqani network could further threaten Pakistan's security as it faces a new wave of attacks by the Pakistani Taliban to avenge the killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces on May 2.

Highlighting the dangers in North Waziristan, a blast at a restaurant in its main town Miranshah wounded 12 people on Monday, government officials and residents said.

(Additional reporting by Chris Allbritton, Rebecca Conway, Haji Mujtaba and Augustine Anthony; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Sanjeev Miglani)

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Unconfirmed report: Pakistani military to launch offensive in North Waziristan

UPDATE 11:45 EDT
Unofficial confirmation of sorts. See this Reuters report filed 11:02 EDT today.
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Because the report is unconfirmed I have no comment at this time beyond noting that Reuters picked up on the same report and is trying to get confirmation. "A U.S. embassy official said he was checking into the report. Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment."

From the Pakistani online newspaper The News
Pakistan to launch operation in North Waziristan
Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
May 30, 2011
Updated 45 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to commence a careful and meticulous military offensive in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), the tribal area adjacent to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, where military operation was not earlier conducted.

Pakistan has never refused to undertake the operation but had been insisting that it would first consolidate its position in other parts of the tribal areas where it has carried out military action and achieved tremendous successes.

The government on Friday opened the Razmak military college after its closure for two years and removed all the barricades in the area. It was an indication that things had eased up in the most volatile area in the tribal region. The decision pertaining to the mode of action and its scale has been left with the command of the armed forces. Interestingly, Nato leaders, especially Washington, had been insisting since long to initiate the operation in the tribal areas adjacent to the Taliban stronghold of Khost province.

The understanding for carrying out the operation was developed during the recently-concluded visit of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. Pakistan has always maintained that any such operation would be at its own time of choosing. It argues that its 140,000 troops committed to the northwest are too stretched fighting militants who pose a domestic threat.

Highly-placed sources told that the strategy drawn up for action in North Waziristan had been worked out long ago and accordingly the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will be put in operation in first place. It will be softening the targets already determined and pointed out by the intelligence network and that would be followed by the ground action. A joint operation with the allies has also been discussed but no decision has yet been made for it since it involves numerous sensitivities. In case the two sides agreed to go for a joint action, it would be for the first time in the present war that foreign boots will get a chance to be on Pakistan’s soil with the consent of the host country. It will be done after a careful assessment of the situation and deliberations by the armed forces’ command in Pakistan.

The sources reminded that the armed forces are already present in North Waziristan. The target of such an operation in North Waziristan would be the most violent factions within the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Their leader, Hakimullah Mahsud, is believed to be increasingly isolated after executing a prominent former Pakistani official over the objections of senior militant leaders.

Although, Hakimullah Mahsud has been linked to attacks in tribal areas and Afghanistan, his main focus appears to be in plotting carnage elsewhere in Pakistan. And that makes him a prime target for the Army. Washington has long urged the Pakistanis to launch an operation in North Waziristan, a region overrun by an assortment of militant groups, including al-Qaeda. Most US drone strikes in Pakistan take place in North Waziristan.

The sources pointed out that more than 30,000 soldiers are already present in North Waziristan, and some analysts say the Pakistan Army could quickly redeploy to the area. The Army has 140,000 soldiers in the tribal region that borders Afghanistan.

The fissures among the militants were laid bare in February, when Mahsud released a gruesome video that confirmed the killing of former Pakistani Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar. Mahsud’s group had held Imam for 10 months. The killing confounded Pakistani military officials. The divisions that Imam’s death revealed among the militant groups could provide an opportunity for the Army to hit hard at insurgents in the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali, where Mahsud set up bases after fleeing last year’s military assault on his headquarters in neighbouring South Waziristan. Mir Ali is about 32 kilometres from the town of Miramshah, where the Haqqanis are based.

In recent years, the United States has identified Mir Ali as the site of a reconstituted al-Qaeda. Also on the run in Mir Ali is Ilyas Kashmiri, a confidante of Mahsud’s. The United States this month put a $5 million bounty on Kashmiri’s head.

Incidentally, DG ISPR and spokesperson for the PAF were not available to offer comment on the development. The sources said that the PAF has put in place all precautionary measures to thwart any retaliatory action from North Waziristani elements. The PAF has already started reducing unnecessary non-operational staff at its bases considered possible target of retaliatory attacks by the militants, the sources said.

The sources, on the other hand, had insisted that Pakistani leadership, civilian and military, had in unison given the undertaking to operate against the militants in North Waziristan in barter for the clean chit Clinton had granted to them in Osama bin Laden’s case.

It is also pertinent to note here that American drones have been focusing at targets in North Waziristan during past many months despite protests registered by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. According to sources, the civilian as well as military leadership believes that surgical strikes in North Waziristan would possibly minimise the drone attacks that fuel anti-American sentiments across the country.

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Sunday, May 29

Suicide attack kills top Afghan police official Gen. Mohammed Daoud Daoud and seriously wounds German NATO general

Different press reports cite varying eyewitness claims about the attire of the suicide bomber -- some recount he was in police uniform, another account is that he was dressed in army garb -- but for now I'm going with the New York Times report, which provides the most detail about the question.

I'm also quoting Long War Journal's account of the so-called Taliban's 'Spring Offensive' because it provides background, even though it's not certain that this particular attack was planned as part of the offensive. It's possible the attack was a revenge killing meant to target the German commander and German troops along with the Afghan police commander, Gen. Daoud, for his part in protecting German troops during recent rioting in response to claims that an ISAF night raid had killed civilians.

According to a report on the suicide attack filed yesterday by Hashim Shukoor for McClatchy Newspapers:
On May 19, a dozen protesters were killed in the provincial capital, Taloqan, during a demonstration to protest the killing earlier in the day by ISAF forces of four people, including two women, that Afghan officials said were civilians. ISAF said the four people killed in the raid were members of an Uzbekistan terrorist group that often fights with the Taliban. The demonstrators were shot when German troops opened fire after protesters tried to storm the local Provincial Reconstruction Team offices where ISAF advisers organize assistance to local authorities.
The New York Times report I cite below in full has a slightly different version:
Taliqan, a normally calm city of 200,000, has been rocked by unrest in recent weeks. On May 18, thousands of protesters assaulted the police headquarters and a nearby NATO base. And 12 people were killed during the first of two days of rioting that broke out in reaction to a coalition night raid that killed four people, including two women.
In any event, the death of the police commander is a great tragedy for the Afghans who do not want to live under Pakistani/so-called Taliban rule, and a great setback for the ISAF effort in Afghanistan:
Taliban Bomber Infiltrates Afghan-NATO Meeting, Killing Police Official and Others
By Ray Rivera
Published: May 28, 2011, The New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban suicide bomber on Saturday infiltrated a heavily guarded governor’s compound in northern Afghanistan where top NATO and Afghan officials from the region were meeting, killing several people there, including the highly regarded police commander Gen. Daoud Daoud, Afghan officials said

Two NATO soldiers and the provincial police chief, Shah Jahan Noori, were also killed, NATO officials said. Two senior officials were among the many wounded: the German commander of NATO’s force in the north, Maj. Gen. Markus Kneip, and the governor of Takhar Province, Abdul Jabar Taqwa.

The attack occurred about 4:30 p.m. when a man wearing a police uniform blew himself up during the security meeting inside the governor’s offices in Taliqan, the Takhar capital, Afghan officials said.

Maryam Kofi, a member of Parliament from Takhar, said the bomber entered the meeting as a security guard for one of the guests.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. “This was a very important security meeting and our goal was to target the meeting and we succeeded,” Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said by cellphone.

A former warlord in his native province of Takhar, General Daoud was admired for his role as a fighter against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s and the Taliban the following decade. As a young man he became a close confidant to the legendary Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, who died after being attacked by suicide bombers with Al Qaeda two days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

He was named head of the northern zone police, covering nine northern provinces, about a year ago at a time when security in northern Afghanistan was steadily deteriorating. Now, his death raises concerns about stability in the region as NATO begins turning over security to Afghan forces in July.

Abdullah Abdullah, a former presidential candidate, credited General Daoud with helping to shift the momentum in the region. He inspired trust and confidence among his subordinates, “but also among the people,” Mr. Abdullah said, “because you cannot win it with police; you can only win it with your people.”

“He was my best friend for 26 years now,” Mr. Abdullah added. “He cannot be replaced.”

President Hamid Karzai, who was in Turkmenistan, said in a statement that he was “deeply grieved” by the deaths. “The martyrs of this wild attack were the true sons of this country who have been working tirelessly for the prosperity and honor of this country,” he said.

The Afghan president also offered condolences to the German government for the death of its soldiers, and he included General Kneip in his message, apparently in the belief that he had been killed.

“This general was a real friend of the Afghan people who lost his life to help the security of the Afghanistan people,” Mr. Karzai said.

The attack was the latest in which infiltrators in the Afghan security forces were able to penetrate heavily guarded government compounds and carry out attacks inside.

In one example this month, an Afghan Army soldier helped secure a uniform and fake identification for a bomber, who then blew himself up inside the national military hospital in Kabul, killing six people, according to Afghan intelligence officials.

In April, a police officer who had recently joined the force entered the tightly secured police headquarters in Kandahar city, killing the police chief, another figure who was widely admired.

Dr. Fatima Aziz, a Parliament member from Kunduz Province, which borders Takhar, called Sunday’s attack “a big failure on the part of the government and intelligence” for failing to provide adequate security for the meeting.

“It shows their inability in safeguarding the lives of high value targets for the Taliban insurgents,” she said.

Taliqan, a normally calm city of 200,000, has been rocked by unrest in recent weeks. On May 18, thousands of protesters assaulted the police headquarters and a nearby NATO base. And 12 people were killed during the first of two days of rioting that broke out in reaction to a coalition night raid that killed four people, including two women.

Among the officials who criticized the raid was the provincial police chief, Mr. Noori, who was killed in the attack on Saturday. “These kinds of operations are increasing the gap between the people and the government,” he said at the time.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai ordered his Defense Ministry to take charge of the nighttime raids from the coalition forces. It was his most aggressive attempt yet to stem the use of such operations, which have outraged Afghans but which NATO says are critical in its fight against the Taliban.

In a statement, Mr. Karzai said that in an effort “to avoid arbitrary and uncoordinated operations by foreign forces in Afghanistan,” he had instructed his defense minister to bring the night raids under Afghan control.

What effect the order will have on NATO operations was not immediately clear. Coalition officials say Afghans already plan and lead many nighttime missions, and are always present in NATO-led operations.

NATO defended the operations in a statement on Saturday. “We know we would not have seen the gains and progress made to date without the conduct of targeted, intelligence-driven night operations,” Lt. Cmdr. Kathleen D. Sweetser said.

But she added that NATO “fully supports President Karzai’s intent to have Afghan forces increasingly in the lead for operations.”

Sharifullah Sahak and Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul, and an Afghan employee of The New York Times from Taliqan, Afghanistan.
From Long War Journal's report, Taliban suicide bomber strikes at high-level meeting in Afghan north filed May 28 by Bill Roggio:
[...]
Background on the Taliban's spring offensive

The Taliban are seeking to roll back Afghan and Coalition gains made in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar over the past year, as well as to reinforce the perception that Taliban forces can strike in all areas of Afghanistan. The Taliban are also trying to break the will of the Afghan security forces as well as intimidate local Afghans.

In their announcement of the Badar offensive, the Taliban said the primary targets would be "foreign invading forces, members of their spy networks and (other) spies, high-ranking officials of the Kabul Puppet Administration, both military and civilian, members of the cabinet, members of the parliament, Heads of foreign and local companies working for the enemy and contractors." The Afghan High Peace Council was also singled out.

The Taliban said Badar would focus on "military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country." Their tactics would include "group and martyrdom seeking attacks," or suicide attacks and assaults; "group offensives," or massed assaults; "city attacks," ambushes, and IED attacks.

The Taliban also said that "strict attention must be paid to the protection and safety of civilians during the spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan."

The Taliban maintain they have no shortage of suicide bombers to carry out attacks. In April, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban claimed that more than 1,000 suicide bombers train at camps in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.

The Pakistani government refuses to strike the terror groups in North Waziristan despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations in North Waziristan, as well as requests by the US that action be taken against these groups. The Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan, or the Haqqani Network, which is also based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered "good Taliban" by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly shelter groups that carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Friday, May 27

It's not "de facto" security policy; it's policy; file all the rest under "Deception and Denial"

From Washington Post today Pakistani military worried about collaborators
It is unclear how authentically committed Kayani and other top military leaders are to cleansing their ranks. U.S. officials and Pakistani analysts say support by the nation’s top military spy agency for insurgent groups, particularly those that attack in India and Afghanistan, is de facto security policy in Pakistan, not a matter of a few rogue elements.

But Kayani is under profound pressure, both from a domestic population fed up with the constant insurgent attacks and from a suspicious international community, which views the bin Laden hideout as the strongest evidence yet that Pakistan is playing a double game.

U.S. officials say they have no evidence that top Pakistani military or civilian leaders knew about bin Laden’s redoubt, though they are still examining intelligence gathered during the raid. Some say they doubt Kayani or Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, had direct knowledge; others find it hard to believe they did not, particularly because Kayani was head of the ISI in 2005, when bin Laden is believed to have taken refuge in Abbottabad.

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Why don't you speak louder Sec. Gates, to make sure every terrorist in Afghanistan and Pakistan can hear you?

I don't blame Gates for shooting off his mouth; he's tired of war. But we need fresh reinforcements from the top down at the Pentagon and State. Everyone directly involved in the Afghan War effort. And we need Petraeus or someone else with medals on his chest to read the riot act to the U.S. House of Representatives.
26 Republicans join Democrats on Afghan withdrawal vote

By CHARLES HOSKINSON
5/26/11 4:29 PM EDT Updated: 5/26/11 11:06 PM EDT
POLITICO

In the latest sign that support for military operations in Afghanistan is waning since the death of Osama bin Laden, the House rejected an accelerated U.S. withdrawal in a surprisingly close vote.

Twenty-six Republicans voted for the amendment from Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) as it failed, 204-215. The measure would have required a plan and timeframe leading toward a U.S. withdrawal and negotiations with the Taliban to seek a political solution to the decade-old war.
[...]
Obama is expected to decide soon how many U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan starting in July with an eye toward a total withdrawal by 2014. Since bin Laden’s death in an overnight raid May 1-2 by U.S. Navy SEALs, Obama has been under increasing pressure to accelerate that timetable.

Part of it is public fatigue with a war now in its 10th year. Another part is growing frustration in Congress with Pakistan, whose support is essential to the U.S. effort. But it’s also because Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other officials have publicly stated that bin Laden’s death provides an opportunity to bring U.S. involvement to a quicker end.

In a “60 Minutes” episode aired May 15, Gates said bin Laden’s death could be a “game changer” that could lead to peace talks.

“If we keep the military pressure on and continue to hold what we seized over the last year and expand the security envelope, a change in the relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban could, in fact, this fall or winter, create the circumstances where a reconciliation process could go forward,” he said.

But military leaders are concerned about a potential loss of public support just as the “clear, hold and build” strategy is beginning to show signs of success.

Even though the Taliban have been able to launch a string of successful attacks in their most recent spring offensive, they largely have been unable to reclaim ground lost over the winter.

David Rogers contributed to this story

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Hillary Clinton's surprise visit to Pakistan to grandstand for cooperation (UPDATED)

May 27, 2011:
Clinton in Pakistan, presses for more to quash
By Arshad Mohammed
Fri May 27, 2011 1:06am EDT

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday that Pakistan has failed to grasp just how much more it must do to quash Islamist militancy, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad amid tense relations over the killing of Osama bin Laden.
[...]
"They have cooperated; we have always wanted more," a U.S. official told reporters traveling on Clinton's plane ahead of the surprise visit.

"They have actually, from their perspective, done a lot. What they have never really grasped is how much more they have to do in order to protect themselves and, from our point of view, protect our interests and assist us in ways that are going to facilitate our transition in Afghanistan."
[...]
I wonder if it's occurred to Clinton, et al. that the Obama administration would do better at conveying its points if Rawalpindi didn't know that the U.S. Department of State and the CIA were engaging in 'secret' negotiations with Taliban terrorists.

The U.S. wants Pakistan to get more serious about fighting the terrorists. When is the U.S. going to get more serious? That's a question Hamid Karzai asked for years, until he finally got sick of having his arms twisted out of their sockets by the British and U.S. in the NATO command, who wanted him to negotiate a suicidal peace with the Taliban.

Does Washington think the Pakistani government doesn't know this? Does it think the military leadership in Rawalpindi doesn't know?

So why doesn't Washington try something new for a change? Lead by actions instead of words. That might also reduce greenhouse gases by a significant amount.
UPDATE
More details from The Washington Post on Clinton's visit. I've highlighted what
I consider to be a key point.
Clinton visits Pakistan to firm up new ties
By Karen deyoung, Friday, May 27, 3:55 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met here this morning with top Pakistani officials on a brief visit designed to establish new ground rules for the shaky U.S.-Pakistani relationship.

With no advance public notice, amid tight security, Clinton traveled directly from the airport for meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs. She was accompanied by Adm. Michael Mullen, who arrived here Thursday night.

At the presidential palace, with only a camera crew allowed to briefly witness the greeting with no sound recording, a grim-faced Clinton was heard repeating what she said was President Obama’s “strong support for the relationship and our commitment to working with and support for Pakistan, and the recognition of the sacrifice that is made ... by your country” in fighting terrorism.

Also present were Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and Pakistan’s acting foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar.

Clinton is the highest-ranking administration official to visit here since Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. commando raid at his hideout in the nearby city of Abbottabad early this month. She postponed a trip scheduled last week as a sign of U.S. displeasure, and Friday’s visit was confirmed only after the Pakistanis agreed this week to allow CIA officials to examine bin laden’s compound and speak to the al-Qaeda leader’s wives and others who came in contact with him during his six year residence.

Officials traveling with Clinton said that her private message would be a stern one, listing four areas of cooperation outlined last week during a visit by Marc Grossman, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Deputy CIA Director Michael J. Morell.

The access now granted to the Abbottabad compound was the first U.S. request. Clinton will also emphasize the need for increased Pakistani cooperation in counterterrorism operations against insurgent safe havens in tribal areas, and in facilitating nascent U.S. and Afghan government reconciliation talks with the Taliban, as well as efforts by Pakistani leaders to counter — rather than encourage — widespread anti-Americanism among the Pakistani public.

A senior administration official said Clinton was looking for “specific signs from Pakistan ... in terms of which way our relationship would go in the future.”

She will also note that Congress has questioned the continuance of U.S. aid to Pakistan in light of the bin Laden discovery and other counterterrorism challenges.

Although she plans to stay on the ground only a few hours, Clinton “wouldn’t be [here] if we didn’t think it will have a positive effect on their thinking,” the official said of the Pakistanis.

Clinton and Mullen will also hold a separate session with Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Sevices Intelligence agency.

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Thursday, May 26

Rawalpindi strikes another blow at US by closing 3 US military intell centers in Pakistan (UPDATED 1:30 AM ET)

May 27, 2011:
David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times, reporting from Washington— In a clear sign of Pakistan's deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.[..]
I do not believe this move is "a clear sign of Pakistan's deepening mistrust of the United States," any more than I believe the raid on Mehran naval air base in Karachi was in revenge for bin Laden's killing.

Dear God, what is it going to take for the U.S. civilian government and military command to grasp the concept that Pakistan's military wants control of Afghanistan and that for years they received assurancs from the highest levels of military and civilian government that this was going to happen?

When in the name of God are American advisors to the White House and military going learn that there are peoples in this world who become extremely angry and wreak horrific vengeance if they feel at the mercy of those who repeatedly change their minds?

When will the people prosecuting this war in Afghanistan come to understand that the simple acts of being unequivocally clear and unfailing consistent are worth more in that part of the world than all the high-tech weapons in their arsenal?

When, when, O Lord tell me when, will Barack Obama, Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton and Mike Mullen stop acting like Antebellum southern belles? [tapping General Parvez Kayani on the chest with their fans] Now, honey, I know I promised you this dance but you just run and get me a mint julep while I squeeze in this one little dance and I'll be yours again in no time.

[throwing up her hands] I don't know what use it is to keep repeating myself but to repeat:
[...] Secondly, while Amrullah Saleh speaks with frankness during the interview he avoids stating the obvious, which is that Afghanistan's 'Pakistan problem' is a U.S. problem spelled backward. The problem is that Washington can't make up its mind from one day to the next about how it deals with Pakistan.

It's because of Washington's incoherence that I don't agree with Saleh's recommendation that the U.S./NATO "bomb" Pakistan, nor do I support the drone strikes. Or rather I think such actions put the cart before the horse.

Washington and its most powerful NATO partners should first change their tune toward Pakistan and make the tune consistent, then see if Pakistan's military/ISI continue to support terrorism in Afghanistan. Then take it to the next level if they don't abandon the support.

But it's only recently that Washington has demonstrated real opposition to the Pakistani military's support of terror sponsoring groups -- and even then the demonstration is part of a passive-aggressive approach that sends conflicting signals to Pakistan's military and civilian leaders.

Let me show you something:

October 8, 2009
US leaders say no intention to interfere in Pakistan's affairs

[...] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States has no intention of interfering in Pakistan's internal affairs through the [civilian] aid programme, as some critics have suggested. "Those who have questions or doubts should read the legislation, which is very clear in its intent. [...]
January 8, 2011
Islamabad - The US has the right to interfere in Pakistan’s economic and governance affairs as Washington provides funds to it, the American envoy here has asserted. US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said the US was the largest aid giver to Pakistan and, therefore, it has the right to interfere in economic and governance affairs, Geo News reported Saturday.[...]
[flipping her pen in the air] Who acts like this? Only crazy people can afford the luxury of changing their minds whenever it suits them. A policy, particularly one that's written into legislation, means an assurance that's consistently applied. Policies can change but if 'change' is the operative term, one is no longer making policy. [...]
UPDATE 1:30 AM ET
If Americans ask what we can do to improve the situation, I would return the question. One doesn't need to be Pakistani to blow a gasket about constantly being jerked around. So what would you do, if you'd spent years flip-flopping in your relationship with someone, lying in your teeth at every turn then saying, 'I wasn't lying to you; I just had to keep changing my mind?'

How would you proceed if you wanted to assure the person that this time, you were sincere and this time, you wouldn't keep changing your mind?

Now I invite you to read or re-read my October 2010 post, Stay out of the bazaar,. Maybe this time around those in Washington who got a chuckle from the first reading will see the advice I gave with new eyes.

Washington needs to get clear on this much: Pakistan's leaders are nearly beside themselves with fury about the following issue because they thought Afghanistan was promised to them and that the U.S. was going to withdraw from the country. So although they're denying they're trying to influence U.S.-Afghan relations, this is all anyone needs to know in order to interpret many recent events in Pakistan. Pakistan's leaders are determined to do everything they can to block or at least heavily influence the final version of this draft agreement:
No permission needed for accord with US: Spanta
The Frontier Post [Pakistan]
May 18, 2011

KABUL (NNI): Signing a strategic agreement with the US does not need any permission from neighbouring countries, a presidential advisor said.

”Afghanistan is an independent country and can sign any strategic agreement with any country it wants to,” Rangin Dadfar Spanta, national security advisor to the president, told parliamentarians.

He added Afghanistan has the right to fight terrorism in partnership with its allies. Under the proposed strategic agreement with the US, he said, Afghanistan would be independent in all activities, including arrest of suspects and search of civilian houses. The US would train and equip Afghan forces as part of the agreement until the country’s security problems were addressed, he explained.

Any decision about the accord would be taken by the Parliament and the traditional Jirga would only advise the Afghan government, he said.

On permanent US military bases in Afghanistan, Spanta said the American government had not yet decided anything in this regard. Foreign minister, Zalmay Rassoul, said it would be the parliament to decide on permanent US military bases in the country. He said the bases would not be allowed to use Afghan soil against its neighbours.The strategic cooperation agreement with America was aimed at bringing political and economical stability and improved security situation, he said.
It's possible that the Pakistani delegation that visited Kabul in April now believes that Karzai misled them -- although if they believe that, from what I know about Karzai, they misled themselves. Karzai probably just listened to their arguments to dump the U.S. and said, 'Uh huh uh huh uh huh.' His family's skill at diplomacy goes back such a long way that he has a diplomat's instincts in his bones and blood. In any case, this report from the Wall Street Journal's April 29 edition bears repeating and merits close attention, if one wants to understand the maneuvering in Pakistan that's happening today (note that the head of the ISI was part of the delegation):
Karzai Told to Dump U.S.
By Matthew Rosenberg

Pakistan Urges Afghanistan to Ally With Islamabad, Beijing

Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan's president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally—for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.

The pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting. Mr. Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country, Mr. Gilani said, according to the Afghans. Pakistan's bid to cut the U.S. out of Afghanistan's future is the clearest sign to date that, as the nearly 10-year war's endgame begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America's prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms.

With the bulk of U.S.-led coalition troops slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the country's neighbors, including Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia, are beginning to jockey for influence, positioning themselves for Afghanistan's post-American era.

Pakistan enjoys particular leverage in Afghanistan because of its historic role in fostering the Taliban movement and its continuing support for the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Washington's relations with Pakistan, ostensibly an ally, have reached their lowest point in years following a series of missteps on both sides.

Pakistani officials say they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard. "Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest," said a senior Pakistani official. "We're not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the U.S. If they're leaving, they're leaving and they should go."

Mr. Karzai is wavering on Pakistan's overtures, according to Afghans familiar with his thinking, with pro- and anti-American factions at the presidential palace trying to sway him to their sides.

The leaks about what went on at the April 16 meeting officials appear to be part of that effort. Afghans in the pro-U.S. camp who shared details of the meeting with The Wall Street Journal said they did so to prompt the U.S. to move faster toward securing the strategic partnership agreement, which is intended to spell out the relationship between the two countries after 2014. "The longer they wait…the more time Pakistan has to secure its interests," said one of the pro-U.S. Afghan officials.

A spokesman for Mr. Karzai, Waheed Omar, said: "Pakistan would not make such demands. But even if they did, the Afghan government would never accept it."

Some U.S. officials said they had heard details of the Kabul meeting, and presumed they were informed about Mr. Gilani's entreaties in part, as one official put it, to "raise Afghanistan's asking price" in the partnership talks. That asking price could include high levels of U.S. aid after 2014. The U.S. officials sought to play down the significance of the Pakistani proposal. Such overtures were to be expected at the start of any negotiations, they said; the idea of China taking a leading role in Afghanistan was fanciful at best, they noted.

Yet in a reflection of U.S. concerns about Pakistan's overtures, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Gen. David Petraeus, has met Mr. Karzai three times since April 16, in part to reassure the Afghan leader that he has America's support, and to nudge forward progress on the partnership deal, said Afghan and U.S. officials.

The Afghan president, meanwhile, has expressed distrust of American intentions in his country, and has increasingly lashed out against the behavior of the U.S. military. Afghanistan's relations with Pakistani are similarly fraught, though Mr. Karzai has grown closer to Pakistan's leaders over the past year. Still, many Afghans see their neighbor as meddlesome and controlling and fear Pakistani domination once America departs.

Formal negotiations on the so-called Strategic Partnership Declaration began in March. Details of talks between U.S. and Afghan negotiators so far remain sketchy. The most hotly contested issue is the possibility of long-term U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to buttress and continue training Afghan forces and carry on the fight against al Qaeda.

U.S. officials fear that without a stabilizing U.S. hand in Afghanistan after 2014, the country would be at risk for again becoming a haven for Islamist militants seeking to strike the West.

The opening of talks in March was enough to raise alarms among Afghanistan's neighbors. Senior Iranian and Russian officials quickly made treks to Kabul to express their displeasure at the possibility of a U.S. military presence after 2014, Afghan officials said. The Taliban have always said they wouldn't sign on to any peace process as long as foreign forces remain.

Yet no other party has been as direct, and as actively hostile to the planned U.S.-Afghan pact, as the Pakistanis. Along with Prime Minister Gilani, the Pakistani delegation at the April 16 meeting included Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. U.S. officials accuse the ISI of aiding the Taliban, despite it being the Central Intelligence Agency's partner in the fight against Islamist militants in Pakistan. Pakistani officials deny the accusations.

After routine pleasantries about improving bilateral ties and trade, Mr. Gilani told Mr. Karzai that the U.S. had failed both their countries, and that its policy of trying to open peace talks while at the same time fighting the Taliban made no sense, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Gilani repeatedly referred to America's "imperial designs," playing to a theme that Mr. Karzai has himself often embraced in speeches. He also said that, to end the war, Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to take "ownership" of the peace process, according to Afghans familiar with what was said at the meeting. Mr. Gilani added that America's economic problems meant it couldn't be expected to support long-term regional development. A better partner would be China, which Pakistanis call their "all-weather" friend, he said, according to participants in the meeting. He said the strategic partnership deal was ultimately an Afghan decision. But, he added, neither Pakistan nor other neighbors were likely to accept such a pact.

Mr. Gilani's office didn't return calls seeking comment. A senior ISI official, speaking about the meeting, said: "It is us who should be cheesed because we are totally out of the loop on what the Americans are doing in Afghanistan.…We have been telling President Karzai that we will support any and all decisions that you take for Afghanistan as long as the process is Afghan-led and not dictated by outside interests."

Although a U.S. ally, Pakistan has its own interests in Afghanistan, believing it needs a pliant government in Kabul to protect its rear flank from India. Pakistani officials regularly complain of how India's influence over Afghanistan has grown in the past decade. Some Pakistani officials say the presence of U.S. and allied forces is the true problem in the region, not the Taliban.

—Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.
Got all that? So fasten your seat belts because we're in for a wild ride until this issue shakes out.

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Why are Bibi Netanyahu, ISAF Command, New America Foundation and U.S. State Dept. all crazy in exactly the same way? Euism is the answer.


Euism - Definition: The philosophy that negotiation and compromise supersede all other factors in human relations and the maintenance of civilization.

From the acronym for European Union, "EU." Pronunciation: E-Uism

History of the term

The basis of Euism arose in Western Europe in the wake of World War 2 when the protection of the U.S. military made it less necessary for European governments in the NATO pact to view foreign enemies as existential threats.

The view evolved into a philosophy with the establishment of the European Union and the success of its negotiation-based expansion, which was backed by the power of the U.S. military.

Today Euism dominates Western foreign-policy views and to such extent that, eerily, the U.S. Department of State is dominated by it. Even factions in the Pentagon that have confused Natoism (U.S. defense policy predicated on serving the NATO alliance) with Euism are dominated by Euist thinking.

(Due to the influence of Euism on international pop music and academic and corporate cultures, many young Americans who believe themselves to be socialists, radical centrists, pacifists or multiculturalists are actually Euists.)

Major benefits of Euism

There aren't any because Euism is based on a fallacy; i.e. that negotiated compromises are the solution to resolving life-threatening situations and conflicts. The fallacy is rooted in the highly illusory success of the European Union, which is actually based not on negotiation and compromise but on the unyielding principle of U.S. armed response to aggression against European nations in the NATO pact.

Major drawbacks of Euism

1. In its most extreme form it creates in the believer a schizoid break with reality including the inability to factor human nature into the human equation.

2. Because Euism is based on a fallacy it requires governments to take increasingly coercive measures to persuade their domestic populations to accept it, with an attendant backlash and increased coercion in response, thereby setting up a vicious cycle that leads to greater and great repression.

See the British National Party in the U.K. and concerns of even many Britons who abhor the BNP that the nation is becoming a de facto police state, the extreme 'rightward' turn of several political parties in EU nations, and growing EU-skepticism in the EU.

See also the uproar over French and Danish government violations of the Schengen Agreement and the Italian government's manipulation of the agreement to deal with its large influx of North African immigrants. (The Schengen Agreement represents one of the four pillars of the European Union.)

Or spend a couple hours going through the archives of the American anti-jihad blog, Gates of Vienna, which reports on many issues in the European Union that the American press quashes, and which has a large roster of European correspondents, tipsters, translators and readers.

In short, the greatest downside of Euism is that even when applied within the hothouse environment of the European Union it inexorably leads to the very conditions it seeks to overcome though elevating negotiated compromise to the supreme value in human affairs.

Examples of people who went insane practicing Euism

1. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who started in his political career as a reasonably sane Israeli right-wing hawk and ended up telling the U.S. Congress that he was willing to make "painful compromises" with people who practice Mao Zedong's "Fight Fight Talk Talk" tactic for obtaining Israel's destruction.

2. Every opinion expert at the Afghanistan Analysts Network gongo (government funded non-government nonprofit organization) and the New America Foundation who honestly believes that peace in Afghanistan can be achieved by negotiating with people who are so sadistic they would make a Nazi war criminal blanch.(1)

3. All ISAF commanders who hail from EU countries with the exception of Hungarians.

4. Vali Nasr, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University who served as senior State Department adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan 2009-11. See Nasr's May 18 op-ed for the (London) Financial Times, America must hug Pakistan ever closer.

5. Everyone at the U.S. Department of State, White House National Security Council and the Pentagon who listened to Vali Nasr.

Is there a cure for the mental state arising from Euism?

No.

Is there a way to protect one's children from adopting Euist philosophy?

Yes.

1. Write on the back of the child's hand that human nature, which is rooted in mammalian nature, exists to further the survival of the human race and thus it's madness to attempt to force it to accept compromises it senses are suicidal.

2. Teach the child the history of World War 2 and the post-war period and the history of major multilateral institutions (e.g., World Bank, United Nations) founded in the spirit of negotiation, but which were created by the United States and backed by its military might.

1) See Cautious Optimism: Germany Mediates Secret US-Taliban Talks; Spiegel, May 24, 2011

The AAN "operates on core funding. In 2009 core funding was provided by the government of Sweden, in 2010 by the governments of Sweden and Norway. For 2011 funding will be provided by the governments of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands."

See New America Foundation's Afghanistan Study Group and its report A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan.

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Rana trial Day 3: Thank Chicago Tribune for an amazing turn of events

Just when I thought nothing of great import was going to come out of this trial:
Rana trial judge orders release of some sealed documents on 26/11
PTI via Times of India
May 25, 2011, 08.28pm IST

CHICAGO: The District court conducting the Mumbai attack trial in the US today ordered that some of the over dozen sealed documents presented in the court as key evidences be made public.

Some of the documents are believed to have key evidence of links between Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency ISI and LeT and other terrorist outfits blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai carnage in which 166 persons were killed.

The order by U S District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber came on a plea by The Chicago Tribune newspaper which sought public access to over a dozen sealed documents in the Tahawwur Rana case. Details of which of the documents would be released was not immediately available.

The news daily had argued that keeping the documents under secrecy undermines the benefits of public scrutiny.

Invoking the First Amendment and common law rights, the paper asked the court to give it access to at least the redacted versions of the documents that have been presented under seals in the court and are believed to have key evidence of links between ISI and LeT and other terrorist outfits.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights and covers the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The documents have not been made available to anyone. In fact, some of these documents are not even available to Rana's attorneys. Rana is the co-accused in the Mumbai attack case and his trial is likely to throw light on ISI's links to the incident.
Yes, the defense had tried earlier and failed to get some of those documents unsealed. But neither the prosecution nor the judge would want to see the Chicago Tribune launch a huge campaign over being denied access to the documents. I guess I shouldn't get my hopes up; the documents might be so heavily redacted as to throw no new light on the ISI connection to 26/11 or David Headley's work as an informant for the U.S. But at least the Tribune tried -- which is more than all the other U.S. news organizations did.

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Wednesday, May 25

Counting on his fingers and toes Bill Roggio figures there are more al Qaeda in Afghanistan than ISAF's official total; Batchelor drops verbal JDAM

ISAF strategy for integrating 'good' Taliban into Afghan government


Over the years Long War Journal's Bill Roggio has tracked the numbers of al Qaeda that ISAF reports killed or captured and compared the numbers with the official NATO count of all al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan then noted that for some strange reason the official total is always the same, year in and year out.

On John Batchelor's May 20 show Roggio again reported on the anomaly and made this observation:
... our top military leaders won't explain how they come up with their estimate of al Qaeda in Afghanistan -- 35 al Qaeda killed last month but the official number hasn't changed ... Al Qaeda has a far wider reach inside Afghanistan than what the US military is saying ...
The dog ate the rest of my notes and I can't remember offhand the exact number ISAF keeps putting out for the grand total but rather than listen to the podcast for the show segment (between 9 and 10 PM) I vaguely recall that the official count is a range, with 50 at the highest end of the range although don't quote me on that.

Meanwhile, over in Nuristan:

Taliban seize district in eastern Afghan province blares a BBC headline today. (H/T John Batchelor Show blog); Batchelor added the snarky comment: "Clearly ready to negotiate?")

I have no idea why the Beeb editor labeled what is clearly Al Qaeda, Inc. as "Taliban" but the reporter, Jill McGivering, manages to convey that the Governor of Nuristan and Afghan security officials are hopping mad at NATO about the situation over there:
Local officials say they are trying to re-take the western district of Doab which Nato denies is in Taliban hands.

At least three districts in Nuristan are now under Taliban control. In others, the government presence is either weak or limited.

"We had intelligence reports that close to 500 Arabs, Chechen, Pakistani and Afghan fighters wanted to attack and take the districts," [Nuristan Governor Jamaludin Badar] told the BBC.
[...]
Afghan intelligence officials in Nuristan say that they have repeatedly warned the government and Nato about the worsening security situation.

"If you don't come and deal with this mess. You will be dealing with another Waziristan and al-Qaeda's next home inside Afghanistan," one official told the BBC.
I will pass lightly over why the Beeb (and the rest of the Western press not to mention ISAF and just about everyone else) continues to insist against all evidence that what is going on in Afghanistan is an "insurgency" IT'S A PROXY WAR MEMO TO WASHINGTON PRESS CORPS HAVE YOU NOTICED THE WAR HAS HEATED UP SINCE PAKISTAN'S MILITARY LEARNED THAT KARZAI WAS GOING AGAINST THEIR 'ADVICE' AND PREPARING TO SIGN A STRATEGIC AGREEMENT WITH THE USA YOU TOADYING WHERE ARE MY SHOES oh that's right I've already thrown every pair at the Washington press corps and must now suffer the indignity of picketing Washington think tanks while shod in bunny slippers where was I?

Returning to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Long War Journal reported yesterday:
A Moroccan al Qaeda operative who was based in Germany and helped "foreign fighters" enter Afghanistan was captured during a raid in the southeastern Afghan province of Zabul earlier this month. The operative is now providing intelligence on al Qaeda's movements into Afghanistan.
[...]
Several foreign fighters were among those killed during the raid. Security forces "found passports and identification cards from France, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia amongst ten insurgents killed during the operation," ISAF said.
[...]
Ah yes, the Taliban insurgent strongholds in France and Saudi Arabia; silly Pundita not to have noticed how far the borders of Afghanistan stretch.

Here is another LWJ report that should but won't be noted by members of Thinktanistan: ISAF spokesman bungles Haqqani Network's relationship with the Taliban although I think Bill is being charitable or at least circumspect when he calls it a bungle. It's open knowledge that ISAF is desperate to downplay the size of the conglomerate that terms itself "Taliban." Now why is that? Here I pass along some remarks about how the ISAF strategies for dealing with Pakistan and the Taliban are bubbling along:

May 19: Over at Chicago Boyz, the ladylike On Park Street blogger, Doctor Madhu, finally blew a gasket about Washington's deadly policies on Pakistan and Afghanistan and fired off this salvo:
According to Col. Patrick Lang’s site ... Pakistan now has missiles whose range includes Israel. Any of the “checkmating Iran and Russia” geniuses [in Washington] who want to keep Pakistan in the fold thought that through?
She was just getting warmed up.

May 20: Over at the John Batchelor Show blog, Batchelor nonchalantly dropped this verbal JDAM:
USAID is forbidden to build lodgings or in any way assist [Afghans] who want to abandon Taliban and work with the US and international forces. Nonetheless, a 're-integration program' is working excellently in Colombia right now. What are USAID and State doing?
All this is by way of saying that the rumbling you've been feeling under your feet since the raid on Abbottabad is coming from Washington, as thousands of defense lobbyists, opinion experts, policy advisors, congressionals, Pentagon brass and State Department officials scramble to get on the winning side of what Reuters analyst Missy Ryan terms the "Hit Them" vs "Hug Them" debate in Washington about how the U.S. should proceed on Pakistan.

Missy Ryan does not miss much. She does an superb job of summarizing the debate and the "Counterterrorism" vs "Counterinsurgency" sides in the Coalition debate on what to do next in the Afghan War, which flows into the Pakistan debate. However, it would be forlorn hope to look for clarity about how to proceed on Afghanistan or Pakistan among the viewpoints she describes. Ryan is simply chronicling thought processes of people who're trying to save their jobs, political skin or ranking in Washington's policy-establishment pecking order, not any serious considerations about waging the war and dealing with Pakistan.

That's part of the reason ISAF is desperate to downplay the size and makeup of the 'Afghan Taliban.'

To return to Nuristan, a Beeb correspondent stationed in Kabul, Bilal Sawary, added this cheery analysis to accompany McGivering's report:
The fear of Afghan intelligence is that the loss of territory in Nuristan will enable militant groups including the Taliban and al-Qaeda to turn parts of the north-east of Afghanistan in a lawless area similar to North Waziristan in Pakistan.

This will be a huge blow both to the Afghan government and to the US - which has spent millions of dollars on security improvements in the area.

The terrain of the province - mountainous with thick forests - is perfectly suited for insurgent groups who will now be looking to expand their area of operations into neighbouring Laghman province - one hour from Kabul - and the strategically important provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar.
[...]
Have a nice night or day, as the case may be. I'm now headed to Payless to stock up on more shoes to hurl at toads in suits.

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